Monday, January 30, 2012

A New Song

I will sing a new song to you, O the One who gives victory...
(Psalm 144:9a, 10a)

As is my new habit, I went running this morning.  However, along the way, in spite of the music pumping through my ear phones, the song of a bird melted away what I was hearing.  As I looked around to see where it was coming from, I took note that the little guy was perched on top a saguaro.  In spite of the prickles, his little beak was lifted to the sky and his song rang clear and true.  His was obviously a song of trust (even if I didn't understand his words).  So, without any prodding, I stopped running and snapped a picture on my phone.

That's about the time, I had a thought.  So, here it is:  why am I not more like this little cactus wren when I'm in the midst of the saguaros of life, and feeling the prickles of problems attacking me?  King David learned how.  As I read Psalm 144, I recognized that he was still singing, even though the mighty waters of deceit were threatening to overwhelm him.  He sang a new song even though people attacked him on all sides.  His was a song of trust, a song of deliverance...even before the delivery came, because he trusted in the One who gives victory!

In Psalm 144, verse 8, David said this, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you."  As I started running once again, I noticed the words to the song this little cactus wren had drowned out - words from Mercy Me's, Spoken For.  Let me share them with you:
Covered by your love divine
Child of the risen Lord...
To hear you say, "This one's mine!"
My heart is spoken for!

Even to me, this morning, God  brought me word of his unfailing love...I am his; my heart is spoken for!  I have a new song to sing at the top of the cactus when life is the prickliest!  I have much to be thankful for...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where Gratitude Begins...

I jotted down the following quote this week.  I don't know who said it, or even where I found it.  Perhaps it was on someone's FaceBook page, among the many pearls of wisdom I read (and some not so gem-like).  Oh, here's the quote:  Gratitude begins where entitlement ends. 

I didn't like that quote.  Pondering it made me think of how "ungrateful" I can be, as there are times when I think I deserve something that I don't get, and that sense of entitlement leaves me spiraling downward.  Immediately the following scenario came to mind.  I just boarded the plane home after a weekend of speaking - a GREAT WEEKEND.  God had moved.  I settled into my bulkhead seat, grateful for a little stretchy-room.  Though the doors had not closed, everyone seemed to be aboard.  The seat next to me was open, and the excitement grew that I could stretch out and maybe sleep a bit. The word describing me that morning - tired!  I started to close my eyes and sensed some movement.  A very bulky gentleman arrived and moved into the seat next to me.  When I say very bulky, I mean, he had to put up the arm rest between us, and his right leg took up 1/2 my seat, as well as his, because he couldn't fit otherwise.  As I readjusted myself in my seat, my attitude also readjusted, but in a negative direction.  Not only did I not get to spread out, I really had to scrunch.  Not only did I not have extra room, I didn't even have the space for which I had paid...and every time the stewardess walked by, the cart hit my arm.  Instead of seeing this as an "opportunity" to give thanks for the flight carrying me home, or the great weekend past, or a friend-yet-to-meet, I turned the flight into the ride-from-down-under.  As Yoda would say, "Miserable I was..."  The bad attitude didn't just affect me emotionally, it affected me physically: headache, tight muscles, exhaustion...  I thought I deserved more...

Read carefully these words from the Psalmist:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High; to declare Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night...for Thou hast made me glad by what Thou hast done (Ps 92:1-2, 4).

I just want to focus on the word "good."  In the Hebrew the word translated good, also incorporates the following translations: well-pleasing, appealing, pleasing to the senses, useful, profitable, a general sense of well-being and happiness.  Stick those words in that verse and ponder.  Do you, like me, ever find yourself in life-events that start you on the downward spiral, which, then, affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically?  You just seem to live there in that place of frustration?  The soul-medicine, the road to well-being, and the journey upward to happiness and peace is to find the road sign that takes you on a detour of THANKSGIVING.  Nothing is more personally profitable than taking that detour, when life sticks a roadblock in the way.

Indeed, the problem begins when I think I deserve something.  Certainly, I paid for an entire seat.  Certainly, I didn't get my whole seat.  Yet...on this side of that ride, I made the flight much more miserable than it could have been.  It was my choice, my sense of entitlement, that kept me from finding true joy and peace, in spite of...  Life just happens...but I have a choice how I am affected by it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Woman of One Thing

As the New Year unfolded, I was challenged anew, with Jesus’ instruction to Martha (I am a Martha) in Luke 10:41-42:

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things (who me?); but only one thing is necessary (really only One!), and Mary has chosen that one…
(italics are either my words or my emphasis).

The message I’ve taken away after yet another reading of this story (who hasn’t read the story of Mary and Martha a kazillion times?) is the concept of one thing.  I am ADHD enough to have a number of thoughts floating around my brain at any given time, and, as shocking as it may be to you, this Christian worries and is bothered about many things (true confession).  Not all the time, mind you, but it’s significant enough to be a problem. 

I want to be a woman of one thing.  I have wanted to be ever since reading this story the first time.  Mostly, like Mary, I want to find peace and calm at the feet of Jesus.  Yet, that’s not my take away from this story, this time.  I really sensed the Lord asking me to prayerfully consider one word, one concept, one over-arching theme to develop and focus on in my own walk with Him.  That’s not easy to do.  I have prayerfully contemplated this for weeks.

As I reflected, a repetitive theme from 2011 emerged.  For the past nine months, I’ve been reading the Psalms slowly and very conscientiously.   Do you know how many times I have read the words, “Give thanks to the Lord…”  A lot!  On top of that, it seems every time I read those words, it was right in the middle of a time of struggle.  Not an easy concept to do at those times…  Then, I read a book in which I read something to this effect, “The problem with the American church is that we’ve become consumers of the church, not committed partners.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is our sense of entitlement.”  The cure for entitlement:  gratitude.  I read another book and the theme of this one was that we, as followers of Christ, have become so self-centered, we are no longer others focused.  Self-centeredness has three key components:  pride, foolishness, and greed.  The one component, greed, is overcome by, yes, gratitude.  A third book was given to me, and every chapter was on giving thanks…  So there’s my word for 2012:  gratitude.  For a while at least, I want to focus on the giving of thanks. 

So, I challenge you.  If God were to ask you to become a woman focused on one thing in 2012, what would be your word?  I’d love to hear it!  I might borrow it in 2013!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Another New Year Thought

I’m afraid I’m still in a New-Year –reflection-mode... and still working on that action plan that we talked about last week.  This morning I read through Psalm 145.  From David’s pen, I formed a spiritual roadmap for 2012.  I thought I’d share this plan just to give you something to chew on through this week.  David gives us four items to focus on.  Four is a good number:  not too many things that cause me to be overwhelmed, but not too few that I’m not challenged.  At the end of 2012, I want to come back and ask myself if I accomplished these, and if I did how they impacted my life.  Because I have a feeling that if I make these a regular Monday to Friday/Saturday/Sunday thing, I’ll be the one transformed.   Isn’t this what we’re about?  Being transformed by the truth.  I want to keep growing; keep looking more and more like Jesus and less and less like Peg.  Obviously, you don’t have to make my action plan your own, I just wanted to throw these “thoughts” out there...

To begin, please take a few minutes to read Psalm 145:1-13.  Here are David’s items that he proposes working toward.  He says he will (the word “will” indicates intentionality):
1)      Extol the Lord, and bless His name daily.  David intentionally plans to meditate on who His God is (vv. 1-3).  What a tremendous goal to spend a little time each day focusing on your God.  There are some great books available to help if you want them...

2)      Speak of God’s works and declare His mighty acts to OTHER GENERATIONS (vv.4-7).  As we talk about God-stories, His work in our life and in the lives of others, the ground for growth is fertilized for faith to develop.  As a mom, and a grand-mother, I long for others to come alongside of those I love, and share God’s might, His faithfulness, His sovereignty, His grace, His action on our behalf...  It might even be someone from an older generation who needs to hear...  Make it part of your plan to share God-stories with others from all generations.

3)      Thank God for His grace and goodness in your life (vv.8-10)  - #1 is about WHO HE IS; #2 is about WHAT HE’S DONE.

4)      Share of God’s Kingdom – His rule and reign right now on earth, but also the Kingdom to come.  God’s Kingdom is eternal...I pray I can share that Kingdom and bring as many as possible into it with me.  It’s one great place (vv.11-13)

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's a New Year...Welcome, 2012!

In the beginning God created…And by the seventh day God completed His work, which He had done; and He rested (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 2:2)

The past couple of weeks have provided a much needed, restful vacation following a full, busy year. I've enjoyed some down time, and for me that means allowing myself to do some mindless activities. Bay and I have watched a few movies, and read a few new novels, and eaten out a lot...  For me, entering a new year is much like opening the initial pages of a new novel. I can't wait to see what is written and how the story will end. I typically like happy endings…but not every story has one, that's for sure.

More than making resolutions for a new year, I appreciate starting January 1 of the coming year with some kind of action plan.  While not every story has a happy ending, it does help accomplish a "happier" one, when there is a plan.  So, ushering in a new year is generally done with much reflection.  I have my own mini-traditions.  One of those is to get some time alone with the Lord, and sift through the good and the bad of the old year, seeking what life lessons I can walk away with to make the new year a better year (there are some lessons I'd rather not repeat). I like to ask myself a few follow-up questions as I close out the year.  Questions like:  What were some of my personally defining moments of this last year? What did I learn from someone else that impacted me in a positive way?  Is there something I neglected this year - projects, standards, or goals that I did not complete?  How are my relationships?  I tend to need "closure" and this process allows that to happen.

Then, I intentionally check in on the following areas (please note, I did not come up with these questions on my own, but borrowed them from a friend who is much smarter, and more diligent than I):

What do I hope to accomplish in this next year?  Dreams/Visions? Projects?  How do I personally wish to grow?
Are there standards/goals to improve my soul health?  my emotional health?  my physical healthy?  my relationships? my finances?  With these things in mind - what action steps will I take; what books can I read; are there people who could mentor me; events I could attend; classes I could take; podcasts I could listen to…  In other words, what can I do Monday through Friday to be intentional about these things? 

As we're still on the threshold of 2012, this is an invitation to carve out a day alone with God (DAWG), or a half-DAWG, and do a little strategic planning for a happier ending when the pages close on the story of 2012 next December 31.