No Matter What

Psalm 39….that’s what was on my mind when the opportunity clock started beeping at me to rise and shine this morning. Huh. Psalm 39 or is it Psalm 59?  I’m confused.  I think Psalm 139 is what I should read this morning.  You know the Psalm that starts out “Lord, you examine me and know.  You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do.” That would make sense, wouldn’t it?  Don’t we all find hope in knowing that God knows all about us and loves us anyway?  Then add on Psalm 139 where in verses 7 thru 12 we realize that God who knows all is also everywhere.  “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I run from where you are?” Even in the darkest night, we are never hidden from God.  But then I remembered Psalm 39 and began to read.  Then I flipped over to Psalm 59.

Last night as I was checking my email I noticed one that came from Lea Mulder’s Care Page.  I didn’t want to open it because I was afraid it would be the last post about sweet Lea. But I got through all the clicks to these words from her mom, “I don’t even know what to say, but “the boy that cried wolf” comes to my mind right now!!! After a long emotional day of thinking we were saying good bye to Lea yesterday, Lea started to “come around” today little by little
and by late afternoon she wanted to get up . . .” When I was 8 years old my favorite verses were John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be trouble, you believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions…..I go to prepare a place for you…so I can receive you to myself…so that where I am, you will be there with me.” Lea’s mansion is not ready yet; her crown of righteousness is still in the ‘create’ stage.

By the time I read Psalm 39 and Psalm 59 it was understandable why I was thinking of both, especially since I have neither of them memorized.  But hey, if something sticks in my head, why not rabbit trail the path and see where it goes.  Right?  So let’s scurry along this path together and pick up a few hopes and helps for today.  I hope you don’t care which translation I use because I have three of them this morning.  From Psalm 39 “I decided, “I will watch what I say and make sure I do not sin with my tongue….“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure….O Lord, upon what am I relying? You are my only hope!… Hear my prayer, O Lord!”  Then in Psalm 59:16-17 “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. You are my Strength; to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

Do you feel loved today? Psalm 59:17 God shows unfailing love. Do you feel in the dark? Open up to God’s light. Psalm 139:12 “even the darkness will not be dark to you; for darkness is as light to you, God.” No matter what, no matter where, life is better when God is there.  No matter what.


Where is your strong place?

I just can’t write my usual Up Up Up Rise and shine message this morning. I woke up with a song on my heart and Bible passage to read. I planned but my plan has changed. I just read the care page of a sweet girl who just celebrated her 27th birthday a few days ago on Earth and now she is close to leaving her family behind and spending eternity with her heavenly father.  This was sad news to wake up to today.

If you know Lea Mulder you will know that she was diagnosed with brain cancer in October of 2008. Since then she and her mom, dad, and sister along with her hundreds of friends have been on a wild roller coaster ride of bad news, exciting recovery news, sad set-back news, and ecstatic healing news . . . then a few months ago the nastiest news of all – her cancer was back and today, well today Sherri, here mom says “Our precious Lea has slipped into a coma during the night and while it seems that she’s nearer to her heavenly home, we cry for ourselves here. Lea is very comfortable and very peaceful. We are cherishing every minute we have left with her. Thank you for your prayers.”  Unshakable faith, unbroken by sorrow, blessed for what was and is to come.

When I read that I had just been reading Psalm 59 where David is crying out to God for safety from physical enemies. Cancer is the most contemptuous enemy of our day. It’s like the ravages of war turned inward; cells warring against themselves.  Starting at Psalm 59:9-16  you can read for yourself, but these excerpts spoke to me this morning.  “O my Strength, I will watch for You. For God is my strong place. My God in His loving-kindness will meet me. God will let me look at those who come against me and know that I will win the fight. Let it be known that God rules in Jacob and to the ends of the earth. But as for me, I will sing of Your strength. Yes, I will sing with joy of Your loving-kindness in the morning. For You have been a strong and safe place for me in times of trouble. O my Strength, I will sing praises to You. For God is my strong place and the God Who shows me loving-kindness.”

Please, please pray for the Mulder family.  Please pray for Lea’s friends.  These days of being with Lea are in need of God’s blanket of comfort and peace to cover them.  “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16


A Question of Ownership

I was having a blue day yesterday. Maybe not dark blue, but not the sunny sky blue that lights up the sky and feels like summer. It was more like the gray blue that’s tinged with sadness and muted joy.  It’s not unusual to make the rounds multiple times in a week visiting gas station, grocery, other stores, church, workplace, restaurants and other places where people meet and greet.  It’s not unusual to hear complaints or see people in subtle conflict. You know that last straw; that last nerve; that hair-thin filament …well it broke.  I stopped letting all those situations rent temporary space in my head and I started to own those feelings projected by others until my own attitude was affected.  Stop!  Just stop it! I don’t own those issues nor do I want to own them.  Proverbs 17:9 says “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” All those episodes had nothing to do with my close friends, but some of the conflict was between friends, especially co-workers.  What if instead of griping about a situation, and gossiping about someone who isn’t there to defend themselves, that displaced energy was used to actually solve a problem? Love covers over an offense.  I’d rather own an attitude of love.  Proverbs 10:12 makes that same statement, but with a little more audacity. “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

I was lamenting to Tim (my husband for those who don’t know me) that I was buried in such negativity everywhere I went. It seems that there is unrest everywhere and petty grievances turn into little earthquakes that erupt in dissension. My positive attitude was getting a little tarnished. Sad.  Then I read a Facebook post by a friend of mine, Bryce Roth who helped two complete strangers at a store where he was simply customer but is also a young man with a big heart. Thank you, God, for people who turn thoughts into actions and bad situations into victories.

That story taught me something about ownership. There are many things in life that we don’t have to own: complaints of others, their criticisms, their ridicule, and their attitudes.  What we do own is our own attitude and what we harbor in our hearts.  Remember the cycle. What we put into our minds becomes a thought, a thought seeps into our hearts, our hearts produce the actions. I don’t know about you, but I want to own the thoughts that produce good actions.  Remember what we own as Proverbs 23:7 tells us, as we think in our heart, that’s how we really are.  Our Pastor Frank Snyder has repeated to us over and over you can’t do right if you don’t think right.  We need to own right thinking.  Let’s skip through Philippians 4 “Be full of joy always because you belong to the Lord. Let all people see how gentle you are. Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God. The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. Be at peace. Keep your minds thinking about whatever is true, whatever is respected, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever can be loved, and whatever is well thought of. Be thankful for everything.  Keep on doing good deeds. The Lord gives me a reason to be full of joy. “

Let’s own this day and make it full of joy and as Philippians 4:10 says “God Who gives peace will be with you.”

Always Seeking

I must have had a full day yesterday because when I woke up this morning I couldn’t remember what day it was. I also woke up with the song for today playing in my mind. ‘The More I Seek You”.  I could hear the clear voice of Kari Jobe  singing, “I want to sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand, lay back against you and breathe, feel your heartbeat ….” and then the verse in Isaiah 55:6 started churning me to fully awake “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” It has to be Sunday.

Someone in the past came up with a catchy cliché’ “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Or “Seven days without Bible reading makes one weak.”  Or “Seven days without fellowship makes one weak.” You get the picture.  Even those strongest in their faith will become weak if they coast in their relationship with God.  Psalm 34:10 says “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. “ Even the king of the jungle gets weak and hungry without food. We have access to the Word of God, we can read scripture, we can study the Bible 24/7/365 and many do just that.  I would love to be like God tells us in 1Samuel 12:24 “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”  I don’t always do that … then there is Sunday!

Sunday is the opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries in a way unlike isolated Bible reading and meditation. Those times, just me and God, are calming and fortifying; they center me. Attending church though and hearing someone read to me from the Bible opens another avenue of applying God’s word to my life in the week ahead.  Some people are unable to attend a church service. They lack the benefit of personal interactions and fellowship. If this defines your situation I hope you can tune into a fundamental, Bible teaching, Christ-follower on television or the Internet. Message me if you want suggestions.  I will send suggestions.  Jeremiah 29:13 makes this promise “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Isn’t that what we want?  To seek the Lord and find him so we can be in fellowship with him?

Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” This morning when I prayed there were some burdens on my heart that I have been harboring. I had to give them to God and confess that I’m just out of resources and need him to just take over.  “Lord, I am seeking you. I’m out of ideas, out of resources, and running low on hope. I give these things to you. Please take over and Lord, if I take them back, please remind me that I gave them to you.”

Deuteronomy 4:29-31 “If from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.”

Where’s Your Security Blanket?

Due to technical difficulties this morning, I hope you enjoy this rerun of this First Day of Spring post …. on the cusp of the First Day of Summer.  Yes! Almost here.

We are a blanket family. I’m literally mesmerized by stores where walls breathe thick towels, floors are spongy with throw rugs, and blankets spill off shelves. Blankets, though, entice me and even though my family laughs at me over it, they are all blanket people too. Walk into my house, it doesn’t have to be winter; it doesn’t even have to be a cold spring, or cool fall.  In any season we cocoon in plush, wraparound blankets, the ultimate comfort zone.  My whole family might not be quite as enamored with blankets as  I am, but if you ask, they will agree that blankets are cherished gifts – I think blankets are like comfort food for the soul.

I wonder if that’s why I love Linus. You know, the philosophical character in the Peanuts gang whose blue blanket seems to be part of his anatomy. Linus is rarely without the icon of security enveloped in his arms. He is faithfully devoted to it.  Snoopy is often on a quest to persuade Linus to give up his blanket, and sometimes he reaches the line of possession, but Linus, realizes his adoration and dependence on his treasured blanket and pulls back before Snoopy can claim victory.

I can relate to Linus; not just because he is captivated by his blanket, but because of his passionate belief in his need for it.  It’s not the same, but Linus and his unshakable faith in his security blanket paints a picture of the unshakable faith I should have in the God of the universe;  the one who is in control of every detail.  Ephesians 1:20 (the Message)  “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.”

When I feel perplexed and uncertain, I can be like Linus and grasp onto the Lord for security because he isn’t just powerful, he is power. And God is not of questionable character, nor does he ever make mistakes.  Look at these verses in Job 36:22-25 “Do you have any idea how powerful God is? Have you ever heard of a teacher like him? Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do, or correct him, saying, ‘You did that all wrong!’? Remember, then, to praise his workmanship, which is so often celebrated in song. Everybody sees it; nobody is too far away to see it.”  I don’t know about you, but when things start migrating downward to the pit, I remember job.  His adversity caused his friends and even his wife to blame God. But Job didn’t. Job latched onto his security blanket and made it part of his spiritual anatomy.  Jeremiah recognized God’s power too and wrote about it in Jeremiah 32:16-17 “Dear God, my Master, you created earth and sky by your great power—by merely stretching out your arm! There is nothing you can’t do. You’re loyal in your steadfast love to thousands upon thousands.” God can do more than I could ever ask.

One of my favorite things to do is help others.   I took a class on spiritual gifts a while ago and discovered why my natural tendency is to help, and it doesn’t feel like work to me at all. I have the gift of helping. I’m still working on the strong faith part but I like what Romans 15:1-2 says in the Message translation.  “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”  When I’m criticized for helping too much, I remember the One I am really doing it for and who I am serving.

Today, what can we do to wrap ourselves in the spiritual security blanket so evident in the character of Linus? Remember what David prayed in Psalms 139.  Go ahead and read the entire chapter, but here is Psalm 138:7-8 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

And now here is a special verse for those of us who are celebrating the first day of spring with a snowstorm.  I couldn’t resist sharing this with you.  Job 37:6-7 “He orders the snow, ‘Blanket the earth!’ and the rain, ‘Soak the whole countryside!’ No one can escape the weather—it’s there. And no one can escape from God.”

Be true to who?

Shakespeare said “To thine own self be true.”
Last night we went with our motorcycle friends on long, leisurely, calm, dry ride to dinner.  Now flip what I just described 180 degrees and you will know what the trip home was like. It was none of the above.  I jumped off the bike and headed straight to a HOT shower!   Let me just say my own true self came through.  I was definitely exercising my spirit of fear on the back of that motorcycle.  Standing in the shower letting the water cascade over me I realized I had not prayed during those treacherous minutes when I was gripped by panic.  What happened there?  I know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart “For the Spirit God gave us does give us a spirit of fear, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. “ I could have prayed instead of being true to my own self.

It was already 10:00 and I should have been in bed by then.  You know how Ben Franklin admonishes us with his, Early to bed, early to rise philosophy. “I still had to rewrite my resume and apply for a job I heard about yesterday.  My own self told me to wait till morning and dash through it, but the other side of my own self told me to pray about it first and then get started.  I learned my lesson on the back of that bike when I was paralyzed with fear.  I should have prayed.  So I prayed about it and dove in.  Finally at 1:00, I was done and off to the land of sleep.

It’s morning! My allergies are giving me fits or I’ve got a cold trying to burrow down and take root in my immune system.  “To thine own self be true. “  You see, Shakespeare, that’s not going to work for me here.  My own self says to have a pity party.  But you know what’s wrong with pity parties?  Nobody wants to go.  Instead, I didn’t exactly bound out of bed, but I did a little bounce to get started.  I could have peeked out from under the blanket and tested the emotional atmosphere to see if it was safe to venture out. I could have mumbled something like “Good Lord, it’s morning!” But “Good morning, Lord!” has a much better ring to it.

I’m sure Shakespeare’s intended “To thine own self be true.” was not meant to be derogatory in anyway; however, I know that my own true self can be.  I don’t want to be fearful, I don’t want to be a procrastinator, I don’t want to be a person who gripes her way through the day because of rain that pelts against me and winds that come at me with monsoon force at times.  Instead, I want to be able to say what David says in Psalm 130:5 “I pray to God—my life a prayer— and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.” Life is tough; pray hard.  I have a choice.



Leaving Normal

Many years ago there was a movie titled ‘Leaving Normal’.  I remember the premise was life changes in advancing years and the name of the town the actress lived in was ‘Normal’.  Sort of play on words. Last week I left ‘Normal’.  I exchanged a 3:45 am alarm for no alarm at all. I exchanged $100 in fuel burning through my car for $20.  I exchanged sitting at my desk all day for running from room to room and up and downstairs all day – cleaning and organizing a house that had for months looked like the remains of a demolition project. Oh wait! It was the remains of a construction project.  How could I so easily make those exchanges? I left normal.  I took a week off work to live outside of normal so I could refresh, renew, and return to a new normal.  Back to work this morning . . . but first, this word from our sponsor, the God who created normal.

I put a lot of blame on the construction project that really wasn’t 100% at fault. Romans 7 has been convicting me of that lately.  I’m probably taking it all out of context when I compare the clutter and turmoil overwhelming my physical life with the clutter and turmoil in my spiritual life.  I don’t know about you, but I can tolerate clutter and chaos more than many people I know, but at the tipping point when tolerance is traded for turmoil, I fall completely into confusion, not knowing how to break out of the pattern.  While it might not be recognizable on the outside, my old sinful nature is clamoring to break out.  How do I know where that comes from? It’s pretty much spelled out in Romans 7:18 “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Nothing good ever comes from allowing turmoil to continue.  I was blessed by being able to take vacation to get back on track and bring order back to my physical life.  Some days I felt like if someone touched me I would crack in million pieces because everything hurt from all the work.

While I was cleaning and organizing my physical house I was cleaning and organizing my spiritual house too. I know that is was only the enabling I received through God working alongside me that gave me the strength and the attitude to keep going.  After all – wasn’t this supposed to be vacation? But the joy of the Lord, and the vision of getting back to a pleasing normal, kept me on the right path.  Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Deliverance!  God and I had some good conversations last week.  One of the best factors in working through the clutter of life is recognizing that it’s not that much different than the clutter in our spiritual life. We need to be sorting out what to keep and what to get rid of on a basis consistent with what is pleasing to God.  Psalm 18:16 in the Message translations says it just about right.  “But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.”  Around the passage in Psalm 51:10 describes what my prayer is now in the new normal as I go back to work and that schedule. “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!”

I recently read this passage that I also want to share today from 2 Peter 1:3-4 “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a corrupted world.”  What I want is to turn my back on a corrupted world and live the life God created me to live.  It’s not in chaos or turmoil.  It’s a life of order and inner peace.