Tag Archives: God

Generosity (2 Corinthians 9)

This year is hard. It’s affected pretty much every aspect of our lives. We have lost loved ones, our rhythms are completely interrupted, and social media feels like a powder keg on most days.

But one of the things that has kept me upright is acknowledging the blessings of God. I’m thankful for the health our family does have. I’m thankful for the roof over our heads and food on our table. I’m thankful for the many growth moments in my relationships. And I’m really grateful to get to be a mom to my kid, watching him adjust to a new normal and new experiences with excitement and curiosity.

In response to these blessings, we are called as Christians to express gratitude through generosity. I know that there are people who financially struggling in a lot of ways, but in the verse below, I feel like Paul is talking about more than just money.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

2 Corinthains 9:11-12

“You will be enriched.” God is going to give you the things that you can share. Whether that is time, or skill, or even presence in someone’s life, God is providing the margins for you to give to others in different ways.

“Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Everything will point back to God, not to our own abilities or resources. This is paramount in our generosity. We give because it has been given to us.

“Not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” The really cool thing is that even if what we have to give is small, God can do amazing things with it. He will multiply our generosity over and over again. We may never know the complete effect of our giving.

These verses have encouraged me this week to look for ways to be generous. Maybe it’s being generous with my time with my toddler – turning off the screens and playing games with him. Maybe it’s being generous with my love for reading by helping others find books they might enjoy. Maybe it’s being generous with my writing, by encouraging others with handwritten notes or texts or comments on their posts.

I am so grateful to God for all that He has done for me. I want to be a person who is generous to others so that my actions and words point back to God. Because that is what I want my life to be about.

Participate (Genesis 18)

There’s a story in Genesis about Abraham pleading with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, and this verse popped out at me.  Right before God lets Abraham in on his plan for these two cities, he says:

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?  Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Gen 18:17-19

So, God tells Abraham that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so grievous that he was going destroy the cities.  Abraham asks God if he would save the city if God could find 50 righteous people.  God agrees, then Abraham goes down to 45, 40, 30, 20, even just 10 people that God would avoid destroying these cities.  God agrees and then leaves.

God brings Abraham alongside him in this plan.  He doesn’t just let him in on the plan, but actually lets him participate in the conversation.  So, what does that mean for us now?

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:7-9

Just like Abraham, we are chosen by God.  And just like Abraham, God wants us to know the plan, and he wants us to be an active participant in that plan, even if that means we ask questions and plead for specific outcomes or knowledge.  We can ask these things in faith because even though God sees the bigger picture and plan, he also hears our whispered prayers and proclamations of longing. 

Abraham knew that the cities were corrupted (as evidenced in Genesis 14 and his conversation with the King of Sodom).  And he knew that God’s plan was bigger and better than he would ever understand.   Today we know our world is broken and full of death and destruction, and we can plead with God all of our struggles and worries.  He not only hears, but he listens and considers and patiently walks through it with us.  How good it is to have a God who is not only in control and knows where this is all going but wants to stand beside us, walking through it with us, every step of the way!

COVID-19

The Coronavirus, as it is commonly called.  What a week, or should I say month, huh friends?

I’ve gone back and forth about what I would actually say, if I would actually say anything about what is going on in our country, let alone the world.  But for my little corner of the internet, I thought it would be appropriate to tell my story, my experience, so far, as a little memory capsule for years to come.

So, in my normal routine, I get supplies for the house about once a month and groceries once a week.  Starting at the end of February, Michael and I decided to go ahead and get March’s supplies and two weeks’ worth of food for the pantry, plus a few nonperishables.  At the time, I’ll admit I thought I was being a little overreactive, but even at that point, there was no hand sanitizer on the shelves and very little Clorox wipes available either.

Then last week happened.  The Stock Market started tanking.  The first states to be hit with the virus started shutting down and taking more extreme measures.  The President addressed the public several times.  The CDC went from just washing hands to social distancing recommendations.  And the number of people affected by this virus in our area started to climb.

My dad works at one of the biggest grocery chains in the country.  He told me stories of people waiting by the stock room door for pallets of toilet paper to come on to the floor.  They get picked up before they even make it to the shelves.  By Saturday, every department was hit with empty shelves as people continued to buy in double the normal average amounts.

But the reality is this.  We are not running out of food.  Employees are working overtime to make sure we can get the things we need.  And I am so grateful for them.  And I’m also reminded that I need to not let myself succumb to the hysteria while still being alert and informed.

There is a lot of unknown and scary right now.  Anxieties are high.  My anxiety has gotten the best of me several times.  I’ve had to designate phone-free times during my day.  I’ve also had to designate clean-free times as well, because I will stress-clean (as my husband calls it) obsessively.  I have to be really intentional about down time and self-care.  I haven’t finished a book in over a week because every time I try to sit down and read; my brain won’t turn off.

One funny example from last week, I made myself some tea and was going to curl up in bed with a book while my son napped.  But first, I needed to clean off my bedside table, and then my headboard, and the other bedside table, and might as well wipe down the dresser.  I knew I was in trouble when I found myself kneeling on a chest wiping down the frames on the wall.  So, I have started using timers. I also bought myself some puzzles.  For some reason, puzzles can take that obsessive aspect of my brain and keep it occupied.

And of course, I’m leaning on God.  He is revealing things about His nature through this experience.  His faithfulness to our family, His love and strength.  I am so thankful that He is in control, and no matter what happens in the next few weeks and months, I know He won’t leave my side.

I hope you are finding ways to bring calm and sanity into your life.  Whether it’s gratitude for the hard-working men and women at the grocery stores or organizing and structuring your life to keep you from obsessively cleaning (or is that just me), or leaning on God morning, noon, and night.  I hope you stay safe and healthy and find new ways to stay connected to both God and the people around you.

And as always, wash your hands.

Watched Vs Seen

I remember a song that we sang in Bible School, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see….For the Father up above is looking down below.” We didn’t sing it often, but it was enough to give me spiritual paranoia. God is watching. All. The. Time.

When I know I’m being watched, the walls go up. One time at the grocery store, I picked up and promptly dropped a jar of preserves. It was an accident, but I felt every eye in that store watching me. I wanted the aisle to swallow me up in that moment, or at the very least I wanted to quickly develop an invisibility superpower.

But most of the time, I don’t think about it. When I put up a post or picture online, I don’t really think about all the people who view that post. I usually think of a few people who might read it, but not much beyond that. However, if I realize just how many people are looking at something I wrote, all I can think about are all the flaws in that post, or flaws in other things I have posted that people might also be looking at. It can be paralyzing!

While being watched is a kind of exposure that gives way to paralyzing fear, being seen means being made vulnerable in a safe, non-judgmental place. Being watched is passive while being seen seems more active. And I think that is what God does, instead of just watching us, he truly sees us.

Yes, God sees your flaws and your brokenness. But he also sees your broken heart as well. He didn’t just watch his creation from afar. He came down close to it. In Jesus, we see a God who looks us in our eyes and sees us. Really sees us.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Like the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus watched her approach, but in conversation with her, showed her that he truly saw who she was. He listed her living reality with no judgment and allowed her to respond. She was a woman used to being watched. Why do you think she went to that well at the hottest part of the day? But when she was truly seen, her life changed. Transformed.

So, if I’m suppose to be a Jesus-follower, then I need to learn how to see, not watch. It’s so easy, even in social media, to scroll through and consume the stories of other people, making easy, fast judgments, instead of taking the time to really see people for who they are.

It means prioritizing my time and my relationships with other people. It means that I focus less on the number of followers I have and more on the people God has sent into my life. It’s being open. It’s not putting too much stake in what people think when they watch me. It’s slowing down. It’s trusting God to pull down some of my own walls that are blocking my ability to see others.

Sure, God is watching. But more importantly, God is seeing. He walks with me. He guides me. And I pray that I can continue to embrace vulnerability and humility in the same way Jesus did, trying to be more and more like him every day.

Psalm 40: 1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

When I was in middle school, there was a huge storm that came through our town. I mean, thunder and lightning and heavy raindrops. When we woke up the next morning, the street in front of our house had turned into a river, and the backyard had turned into a lake. School was canceled.

My friends came over and we were exploring everything (Though we did not play in the water. That would have been nasty.). As we were walking around the side of our house, my foot got caught in some mud. This wasn’t like a little mud you might slip in, it was more like quicksand you sink in. And I started to sink. I has to cry for help and my friends pulled me to out.

I think about that day when I read these verses. Mud clings and wraps and pulls. You can’t pull yourself out, you have to be pulled out. When God pulls us out, three things happen.

When you are placed on solid ground, it gives you a different perspective than when you are sinking in the mire. From that perspective, you are given hope and faith that can be shared with the people around you (singing a new song). And by sharing that hope and faith, others can put their trust in God and find their new perspective on their own solid ground.

It’s amazing to see the power of God in the struggle. How he can equip us to do the hard stuff. God did not create you to sink, but to sing.

Sustaining: Thankful for God

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. Psalms 36:5-6
Six years ago, Michael and I went to Paris, France for our wedding anniversary.  I remember the first full day, we got on the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.  We entered a tunnel during the trip into the heart of the city.  As we left the tunnel, the Tower came into view.  We were in a train car with other Americans, and there was an audible gasp as we all looked at it. We left the metro and walked to the tower.  We stood under it and looked up.  The sheer size of it left me speechless and overwhelmed.  I’ve had similar experiences underneath the Arizona sky at night, how the entire sky seems massive, stretching from one end of the earth to the other.  Also, looking out over the ocean on a cruise ship, how tiny the boat feels (which isn’t tiny in the least) compared to the unending water around us. This verse reminds me just how small I am compared to the love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice of God.  It is the tall tower, the evening sky, the expansive ocean.  It’s overwhelming and awe-inspiring.  I am so thankful we serve a God like our God.  

Sustaining: Thankful for Hope

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf.

Hebrews 6: 19-20

I like the idea of hope being an anchor, something that remains steadfast in the winds and waves of life and its cruelties.  But the next part of it is pretty amazing too.

The inner sanctuary was one that not a whole lot of people could get to in Jewish times.  You were going into the presence of God and had to follow a number of rules and requirements in order to be there.

But our hope is that Jesus took care of that.  He is our forerunner.  According to dictionary.com, a forerunner can be a sign or warning of something to come.  It is an advance messenger.

The glorious wonder is that one day we will enter into the inner sanctuary into the presence of God.  Jesus has prepared that way for us.  And we can have a close and intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  All the rules and regulations have been taken care of by Jesus.  The invitation is there.

And that’s pretty cool.

Memories

memories.jpgToday, Facebook will remind me of when I went to the hospital to confirm that our daughter had passed.  Facebook will remind me of how I numbly pulled out my laptop and typed words on a screen.  Facebook will remind me of how I got back onto the familiar road of grief one year ago.

Screenshot_2017-08-28-07-20-24-1

I know that you can remove memory reminders on Facebook.  You can remove whole chunks of time if you want to.  But I don’t want to.  I want to remember the sweet nurse that kept hope for us as each medical device came back negative for a heartbeat.  I want to remember how the moment the ultrasound confirmed our worst fears, my OB turned around and created a new game plan.  If her sleeves weren’t already rolled up, I know she would have in that moment.  I want to remember my talk with Jesus, how I re-engaged my stubborn and desperate love in the middle of chaotic grief.

I thought I would be pregnant by now, though.  I hoped I would be, that maybe a new pregnancy would lessen the blow of grief that this week will bring.  But I do have my husband, God, friends, family.  And I’m so thankful that God has created these hedges of protection during one of the dark moments in my history.

God is good.  All the time.  Even in the darkened sad moments.  Especially then.

Summer Study: Philippians 4

The final chapter of the final book of my summer study.  I can’t believe I’ve already arrived here.  This has been fun, fascinating, convicting, and amazing.  So let’s get into chapter 4 of Philippians!

Philippians4.jpg

In this final chapter, Paul is saying his farewells.  In this letter, he’s covered how to remember the big picture, of the spiritual warfare that is prevalent though unseen, how to stand firm but be humble, knowing that we don’t have it all figured out.  But instead stay steadfast in Christ.  He continues along these lines pleading with specific people to stop fighting and unify for the sake of the kingdom.

But if I were to boil down the last chapter into one word, it would be “contentment”.  And there were two things that Paul felt would help the people of this church find contentment.  Praying with thanksgiving (meaning asking requests to God in the same breath as thanking him for what you have already received) and leaning on the strength of God.

He even uses himself as an example.  In whatever situation he is in, he has learned to be content.  But he also recognizes with thankfulness the generosity from this church that has enabled him to reach so many others.  But even in that gratitude, he acknowledges that his contentment comes with the help of his Heavenly Father.

philippians413.jpg

Because it’s not always easy to be content in our circumstances.  And while gratitude journals or using other ways to instill gratitude into our lives is helpful, I think it’s also helpful to acknowledge that we are weak in our humanity.  We are not going to have this all figured out.  We are not going to be perfect, even through practice.  And when we come up short, God’s grace and strength can fill in the gap.

I don’t really like thinking of myself this way.  Weak.  Failure.  Chaos.  Fumbling.  I like to think that if I follow the rules long enough, make the right choices every time, and envelope myself in the right environment, that I will have it figured out.  But if anyone could have filled out that resume, it would be Paul.  And as I learned in chapter 2, he considered all of his abilities and gifts and strength rubbish compared to what God had.

And God knows this, and he wants to use this.  He’s like “Give me your weakness and I will give you my strength.”  Because he doesn’t want people who have it all figured out because those people’s followers will just want to follow those people.  But when our weakness is exposed and God’s strength shines through, the followers and onlookers see only God.

It lifts off some of that responsibility we try to hold on to.  I thought for years that it was my job to convert the hearts of others, but instead, I’ve learned that I just need to love them.  But in order to do that, I have to get that love from God, so I need to be in a relationship with him so that he fills me up with love to the point that it overflows to others in my life.  Hence, love God, love others.

Thank you so much for following me through this summer study.  It’s amazing the little things, little reminders, that shine through the text that I’ve read so many times before. I look forward to new things and ideas this fall!