Sunday, June 26, 2016

Filled Up!



My family of six has dwindled over the last couple of years as children have grown up and moved out to experience life on their own.  A few weeks ago, it happened to be a week where it was just my husband and me.  I am one of those people who tends to enjoy going grocery shopping - as long as it is on a Saturday morning at 7AM when nobody else is in the store.  I enjoy going up and down the aisles to see what new items may have been added.  When a new grocery store opens in the area - guess who is there within the first week?  I can hear many of you out there sighing, "She has a problem"!  I would argue that my home is always filled with groceries for that "just in case" moment - you know - when the entire neighborhood may show up for Saturday dinner (that has yet to happen)!  On this particular Saturday, I went to the store with a specific goal - getting just what Juan and I would need for the week.  

I came home to a willing husband who assisted in bringing the groceries into the house.  As he continued to go back and forth to the car, in a very caring yet quizzical tone, he asked, "Honey, may I ask how much you might have spent on groceries this week?"  In a sheepish voice I needed to reply, "Almost $250".  He had every right to gasp, as did I when the cashier shared the amount.  $250 - for TWO people.  Really?  It wasn't as if I had NOTHING at the house to begin with.  I probably didn't even need to go to the grocery store.  I felt that I was justified to spend the amount on all these groceries - but I wasn't.  I had no need for $250 worth of groceries.  I wanted - I wanted to buy some new things I saw, I wanted to make this and make that, I wanted to . . . . . 

I wanted - two difficult words that make up much of our culture these days.  We tend to go after the latest trends in fashion and technology because "I want".  We tend to hunger and thirst for items to fill up a place of emptiness.  That emptiness could be jealousy for what others around us have.  It could be emptiness for things we couldn't have before.  It could be emptiness due to that sense of wanting.  The problem is that many times we say to ourselves, "If I just have a new car, I'll be happy."  Or it could be, "If I just had that new dress, I'll be pretty."  Maybe it is, "If I just have that new phone, I'll be popular."  Taking it a step further, it could be, "If I flirt with this person, then maybe I will feel loved."  We tend to believe that "things" will satisfy us - will fill us up.  In my case on that fateful Saturday morning, it was, "If I just try these few things, I'll really show my family I am a great cook."  To be honest, my loving family already shares with me that they like my cooking - I didn't need to go out and spend an enormous amount of money on food we really didn't need for them to fill up my ego!

So how does this tie into our beatitude for this week?  When we fill ourselves up with Jesus, we don't have to hunger or thirst anymore.  When we take time to be with our Lord, we fill ourselves up with all the goodness that Jesus has to offer.  When we read His words, we know we are beautiful because He made us just the way He wanted us to be (I don't need a new dress to feel pretty).  When we read His words, we know we are loved - more than anything in this world.  What a great way to be filled up!  When we read His words, we know that Jesus provides us just what we need - we don't need to gain any more toys.  When we immerse ourselves in Jesus, we are filled up - to the brim.  When we read His precious words and talk with Him in prayer, we are filled with his everlasting hope.

I have to share, I am much more careful these days when I go to the grocery store.  I also am careful when my thoughts go to things that I want.  Do I really need to have that item or am I trying to fill a gap somewhere.  I find if it is a gap - that gap can be filled with my Savior.  For He gives me the love, the truth, the things, and the hope that I need to be happy.  If you are looking to fill that empty space, may I suggest a little "kneelin' and readin'" (praying and Bible).  It truly can be a very satisfying combination.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for being all I truly need to fill me up.  When my thoughts and desires turn to things that are materialistic, may I turn my attentions back to you - the great Provider.  In you I find all that I need to be "filled up" and satisfied.  In your name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Meekness?


As we continue our series on The Beatitudes, we are at one of my favorite verses, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5).   When I try to define the word meek, the first word that tends to come to mind is submissive.  I then think of the world around me and the word meek is not one that is often used.  In fact, it's not a word that would be considered a "blessing" for many.  Many look at being meek as a weakness.  If you are meek, then you aren't strong - you aren't in command - you don't have power.  In our world today, isn't power and strength everything?  If you are in business, you are encouraged to be assertive, to stand your ground, to make your voice heard.  If you are in society, you are encouraged to take a stand, be bold, be heard.  Certainly these are the ways to get ahead, especially if we want to inherit the earth!

Yet, here, from God's word, we see that being meek will truly bring to us all that we need on this earth.  How can that be?  Well, let's look at the word meek a little closer.  Meek can mean submissive, but it can also mean slow to anger, patient, gentle, and humble.  If I had a choice to be described by the those words versus power, assertive, loud, etc, I think I would rather to be known as humble.  Here, Jesus tells us that when one possesses the characteristic of being meek, they will have everything they need in this earthly life.  Let's take a view of a couple of "meek" people to see what type of life they had.

Joseph - yes the technicolor dream coat Joseph.  Here is a very young man, with many brothers, who was a bit boastful in his youth.  He was assertive, he wanted his voice heard, and he made sure that his brothers knew who the favored one was.  Then, his life took a turn.  Through events that weren't so pleasant (being thrown into a well by his brothers, sold as a slave, etc.), he made dramatic changes in his character.  He became a person that showed characteristics of meekness.  He knew he had a place in God's  plans.  Yet, God was certainly taking His time to show Joseph all that was going to be his.  Yet, Joseph was patient.  He had every reason to retaliate against his brothers when he had the chance (I would think withholding some grain/food from them to retaliate for selling him as a slave is a fair trade), but he didn't show anger against his brothers.  He invited them into his "new and improved" world and they truly benefited.  Through the meekness he showed, he definitely inherited the earth.

I see meekness in the face of people I work with.  There are some that are patient, waiting for the right moment for something positive to be seen in their work.  There are some that are slow to anger, willing to forgive a co-worker for an unkind word.  There are some who are gentle WITH their words to others, and there are also some who are humble.  They never take the credit for success on a project.  They are quick to give the team credit for work that was done by them.  

These can all be seen as a sign of meekness.  It is in that level of being meek that people see strength.  The strength to "hold their tongue" when they had the opportunity to lash out.  The strength to smile and move forward with new plans, although the plans may not be what they want.  The strength to be patient, knowing that their time will come and good will prevail.  You know what?  It does!  Just like Joseph, people see this quality with affection, with strength, with determination, and with hope.  

I know I have some work to do in being meek.  I will continue to strive to become a person who is meek, who can be quiet, be humble, be patient.  For I know that when I have shown these qualities throughout my life, good things happened.  No, maybe earthly people may not recognize us behaving in that manner, but God does.  Ultimately, HE is the one that I want to live for.  HE is the one I want to impress.  HE is my Savior.

"Dearest Jesus, help me to be a person filled with meekness.  Help me to see the qualities associated with one who is meek is far stronger than any "earthly" qualities.  May I trust you that when I respond in being meek, YOU will truly provide for me, as you did with Joseph.  Thank you, Jesus, for the world around me and all the goodness I experience every day.  In your name I pray.  Amen."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Is There Comfort?

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  (NIV)  Matthew 5:4

Above is the second beatitude.  Out of all the beatitudes, I believe that this is one that people tend to understand the most.  It seems simple enough - those who mourn will be comforted.  Yet, there is much behind this particular beatitude that I know I needed to learn, and I hope it is helpful for you as well.

Mourning can take on many faces in many facets.  Usually, mourning is associated with a death of a dear loved one, family or friend, who was close to us.  Those of us who have lost a person dear to us may have experienced this OVERWHELMING sense of loss - the kind where our hearts break.  I consider this to be mourning.  It is more than sad, and it tends to last a bit longer.  I pray that many of you haven't had to experience mourning, yet sadly, I'm sure many of you have experienced this emotion.

Mourning surrounding those things that Jesus holds dear to him, like each and every one of His children, is consider "blessing worthy".  Yet there is other mourning in this world that people take to great extents - mourning that seems greater than those who leave this earthly life.  People can mourn over many things like a loss of material things (a beloved car that they feel can't be replaced, a piece of jewelry that has gone missing,) or even things that were not good for us to begin with (a difficult job with a lack of values, a toxic relationship, etc.).  When we mourn over things that are NOT Godly, things that we don't have in a correct priority in our lives or continue the mourning of a sad situation and refuse to do something about it - that type of mourning can be self induced.

Jesus blesses the mourning of what HE would mourn, because there is only one way to comfort for those things - God's promise of everlasting life.  Our place in heaven has already been selected for us.  Our time in heaven with our Jesus has already been pre-determined.  Our joy and happiness in eternity is waiting for you and me.  It is also the same for all those who have gone before us.  The good news of the Gospel shares with us that although me may mourn, there is great comfort in knowing that Jesus has prepared a room in heaven for us and for each member of this earthly world who has received Him.  In doing so, we get the grace of comfort.  When our mourning takes us past loved ones and we mourn about certain situations in life, Jesus can bring comfort there, too.

What we mourn over is seen to Jesus.  He brings comfort, as promised above, to those who mourn.  Where can someone who has incredible and overwhelming sorrow due to a loss of that magnitude find comfort?  Jesus, the rock where many answers can be seen.  When my dad passed to heaven, the loss and mourning seemed unbearable.  Although I tried very hard to be a strong person on the outside and share all the things that I knew were correct to say, "He's in a better place, I know he has no pain, etc.", (all of which are true by the way), that didn't seem to take away from the overwhelming sadness I felt in my soul.  The many nights of crying, the many nights of questioning, the many nights of hope gone array.  It seemed too much to bear - too much to comprehend.  Although Daddy had been quite sick, he always seemed to get better - why was it THIS time that he had to go.

As the days, months, and years have gone by, I have come to realize that it was the perfect time for God to bring my Dad home.  The events that took place in my life and in our family's life from that point forward may have been very difficult for Daddy to comprehend.  I am so very glad that he didn't have to see any of that.  There is true comfort in that.  When God shared His plan for my Dad with me (and no, unfortunately, He didn't have dinner with me and tell me that), I was truly comforted.  That plan was revealed to me day by day, moment by moment.  When I found myself saying, "I'm glad Daddy wasn't here for that," it helped, it comforted.  That combined with knowing where Daddy is, well, who can't find complete joy in that.

Mourning and comfort are difficult emotions to comprehend together.  Yet they are most appropriate to be seen together.  I pray, for anyone who is truly mourning today, to know that the plan God has for you is a perfect plan.  His plan will pick you up out of the mourning bed and rise you to new and wonderful heights.  Take time to see it.  Stop crying just long enough to see the good.  Stop being bitter long enough to hear His word.  Stop the constant movement just long enough to read of His goodness.  You, too, will find the comfort amidst the mourning.

"Dearest Jesus, we thank you that you love us enough to bless those who mourn.  When our mourning gets overwhelming, we know that you are there, Lord, to pull us out of it and bring us comfort and hope.  If we are not the ones right now who are mourning, may we pray this prayer for someone who is.  May they see your light, and rest their head on your pillow of comfort.  Thank you for always knowing exactly what we need Jesus.  Amen" 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Humble in Spirit


Starting a new series in a blog is like starting a new chapter of a book.  There is so much to explore, so much to get excited about - where will it take us?  I will be starting a summer series on the beatitudes.  I've always enjoyed reading them, but never took a deep dive - so I hope you will indulge me for the next few weeks.  The beatitudes are taken from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount - his longest sermon.

Right out of the gate, there is challenge for us.  The beatitudes are the wonderful way Jesus shared how to live out our lives here on earth.  I don't know about you, but I know I need to be challenged each day to be a better person.  As I read the first one, listed above,I immediately found it difficult to understand.  How are people blessed who are "poor" in spirit?  As I took time to research this, though, Jesus meant for us to be humble in spirit.  In replacing "poor" with "humble", this takes on a challenge I know I need.

Truth be told, I am not always humble in spirit - in my relationship with God.  There are many times when my pride takes over and my walk with my Lord is not as close as it should be.  I have said to myself, "I've got this God thing", and have gone on with my day with no reflection on His word, no thought of my sinful nature, no prayer.  Yes, I can excuse it out that I was busy, or there were more pressing things that needed my attention.  What is more important than time with the One who created me, who gave me everything that I have?  

Days, such as I shared above, become difficult days.  I remember back a few months when I had such a particular day.  My thoughts got sidetracked first thing in the morning and my "verse for the day", which literally takes less than a minute to read, was put to the side.  My morning devotion from home, which takes roughly 5 minutes, was put to the side.  Off to work I went and instead of reflecting and praying on the way to work, I focused more on what I needed to do that day - and that list seemed to get increasingly long.  Yes, prayer was put to the side.  Are you seeing a pattern - I wasn't!!  The day ahead was filled with tension and a lack of patience.  It was a busy day, but nothing that hadn't happened before.  Little things that were "no big deal" found me frustrated and bitter.  The ride home was no better.  Traffic was all around me.  That's not any different than any other commute home, but I was getting more and more irritated.  

That's life when we put important things, such as a focus on God, aside for other things.  Life gets difficult, frustrated, just plain yucky.  Believe it or not, I don't have this "God thing".  Praying one day a week, going to church one day a week is just not enough - at least not for me.  All that heaven has to offer can be seen in a lifestyle where we focus on God.  We can't see the goodness without seeing God.  We can't feel the peace without spending time with God.  At least I can't.  When I humbly start my day in the Word, when I pray to Jesus all day long, my day goes better.  No, it's not usually perfect, but there is a peace and an understanding that puts a smile on my face.  It's going to be okay because I have a Partner with me throughout the day.

I hope that you look to be "humble in spirit".  Take the time, some time, and be in the moment - share the spirit that God gave us.  The rewards of a heavenly state of mind, a heavenly state in our soul, will quickly be upon us and we can soon realize the importance of His grace.  

"Heavenly Father, help me to focus on bringing you into my life every day and often throughout the day.  There are times when I think it's "not necessary" to take the time to be with you.  Yet, when I don't, my life quickly turns to chaos.  Bring your light to my world, Jesus, and help me to be that light to others.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.