Life is More than a Vending Machine

vending machine

The other day my youngest daughter and I had dashed out of the house without eating any breakfast.  Our place of destination that morning happened to have a vending machine full of junk food that could provide a very short lived satisfaction to hunger pains (with no nutritional value I must add).   My daughter asked if I had change so she could get a snack until we can get some “real food”.  With those big blue eyes softening my heart I of course  caved and told her to go ahead and get some change from my wallet for  a snack.  Her first try to obtain a snack of her choice the tasty treat became entangled in the spiral mechanics of the machine and would not drop below to her reach.    Upon her second try for another choice the snack once again became stuck between the spiral grasp and the glass door of the machine.   After the second try  the only thing being fed was the machine with mom’s change instead of her belly so she decided to call it quits and just count her/our losses.

 

This encounter reminded me so much of the world we live in.  Some give and give yet never seem to get ahead or become successful according to the standards of our world.  There are some who may give a little and get what someone else paid for and lost.  There are some who may just shake life and make demands and the demands are granted without any work or effort.    Sometimes worldly systems work  sufficiently and one can get what they have worked/paid for.  Life can really seem unfair and meaningless.

Life of one who has a relationship with Jesus provides so much more than the give and take of this world we live in.  The things that are so fleeting and superficial, beauty, money, power, fame, attention, etc… start to become just that, superficial, as one’s relationship deepens with Jesus.   A quote caught my attention in Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s Bible Commentary of the New Testament.  “God’s love for His own is not a pampering love; it is a perfecting love.”    It seems all anyone wants to hear is what God will give give give.  Our lives are so much more than what we can get.  The world is so focused on “self” and what God and others can do for “me me me”.    God’s plan for us is to perfect us.  Not in a way the world sees perfection.  It is a perfection of faith and love.  The more He perfects our faith the more of His light and love can flow through us.   The stronger our faith the more God can work through us to love others perfectly.  The stronger our faith the less we let ourselves get in God’s way.  Sometimes deepening our faith means we have to go through a lot of pain, suffering, sorrow, and mistakes in this life.  When it comes down to it I would much rather be perfected than to have everything perfect.  When I look back on what may seem a complete mess in my own life I can see God’s perfect plan and how it evolved and refined my faith.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– His good, pleasing and perfect will. “

What is There To Look Forward To?

sun rise

What a crazy last couple of weeks.  Lots of illnesses, tragedies, accidents, evil acts, etc… so many life hurts moments for so many.  During a conversation with a loved one the statement “this world is going to hell” was made.  As well as “it just seems like there is not anything to look forward to”.  These two sentences have resonated with me all week.

There is a lot of truth in these words.  It is true that the world is going to hell and the only way to avoid eternal death and punishment is through Jesus.  “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16  No matter how “good” we think we are we have all fallen short of God’s standard, perfect and sinless.  God knew that as soon as his creation became broken by sin.  He planned and offers the remedy to cover all our imperfections, Jesus.

Lack of sleep and continual bad news had me in quite a funk this week.  It is hard not to sin when physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  My attitude and words have not been what they should.  Why? Because I am human and I fall short.  As a Christian the only difference in me than the rest of the world is that I know I fall short and need saving.  I need God’s forgiveness of my sin through his Son.  By giving my life to Christ he dwells within me (the Holy Spirit) and there is conviction when I am focusing on myself and not on God and others.  By God’s grace I have eternal life to look forward to.  There may come a point where there is such devastation that there literally is nothing on this earth and in life to look forward to other than how magnificent heaven will be.  Other parts of the world and some in our own country can’t even look forward to getting another meal.  When we have given our life to Jesus we do indeed ALWAYS and FOREVER have something to look forward to.

Life is not Meant to be Lived out Alone

Not a lot of time to type out thoughts lately, but this has been heavily on my mind.   Whatever our circumstances married or single, a parent or not a parent, and whatever our age we were not designed to make it through this life on our own.  We need others to survive for even our basic necessities like our food and water.  No one person can truly provide everything needed physically,definitely not emotionally, and most of all spiritually for their own selves.

One thing I have observed in life is that people that completely focus on their own selves and issues are clearly the most miserable.  Then there is the other end of the spectrum of people that are so concerned about bothering others that they don’t want to ask for or accept any help when they truly need it.  We fail to realize how much we are needed by others and that on occasion we really need other people.

God gave us one life to live.  He has surrounded us by other human beings whether or not we shut them out or embrace them is up to us.  There are moments in time that completely change our perspective and priorities.  A clean house, fancy cars, the latest technology, etc…what does it really get us? Stuff leaves us empty, but people make our life full.  God created us to desire a relationship with him as well as others.  He also created us to be the most happy when we are giving our all to him and to loving other people.  Life is so hard and we were never meant to face it and live it on our own.  I love the people God has blessed my life with to share in the happy times, sad times, and scary times.  Most of all I am thankful that God is bigger than everything that we face in this life and he has given us the gift of eternal life through Jesus.

Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

When Christians Treat Your Dad Bad

So those who follow this blog know that my father who was a pastor passed away a year and a half ago.  He was ordained as a pastor when I was three years old and he started right into full time pastoring by the time I was four.  He was a full time pastor for 37 years and still pastoring before he passed.  He ministered to a total of 4 small churches during this time.  For some unknown reason  I had about 2-3 weeks that I have missed him more than I have since he passed recently.  During this time I attended a conference our church had and purchased books from our speaker.  One of his books was “The Coffee Shop that Changed a Church” by Steve Parr.  As I began reading this book the tears started flowing as the story developed and the characters of the narrative evolved.  One of my first thoughts was “my dad could have written this book”  there were so many similar experiences that he and our family had through the years.  Another thought was “I have a deeper understanding of a pastor’s life and heart than I even realized”.  The book left me with an even greater determination to pray for my pastors as well as all TRUE Bible preaching, Jesus following men of God throughout the world.

One sentence tucked away in the middle of this book caught my attention.  I should have had my pen in hand to mark it, but it was a narrative and I am always anxious to see what happens next.  There is no time for pens and no time for sleep when I am reading a good book!!!   In other words this may not be a direct quote because I can not find the tiny hidden sentence.   It referred to the fact that many children of pastors are turned off of the faith because they see Christians treat their dad bad.  This smacked me in the face and had me praying prayers of gratitude that God did not give up on me.   I went through a stage where I was sick of trying to be perfect and please everyone else.  It wasn’t really direct rebellion toward God or my parents.  It was more of the fact that people would actually try to get rid of my dad because of choices his children made or could make.  As a kid my dad and mom tried to keep the drama from me, but I still caught bits and pieces and would even hear comments made directly to my dad.  I would see the strain and stress in his eyes.  I would see him work 60 hours plus a week, come home from vacation to be with people in need, get called out in the middle of the night.  I saw him give and give and I would hear  people say things like “we pay your salary”, “we pay for your house”, “we pay your power bill”.   As I child I could see my father working very very hard for his sparse salary.   I always thought “Isn’t what we give actually God’s to begin with?”  I saw my father and mother give at least ten percent plus right back.

As I look back on my life I have many regrets, but those regrets led to much needed consequences to guide me back into God’s will.  My choices gave me a deeper understanding of sin and a deeper gratitude for the grace Jesus gave to me from that cross.  Being a preacher’s kid gave me the perspective that the church is full of sinners needing God’s grace as well as the whole world.  The temptations of pride and attacks from Satan are very real and a marvelous tool Satan uses to get people focused on how Christians act instead of focusing on Jesus.  I wonder how many millions have been turned off of the faith because of priests, pastors, and parishioners sin?   We compare ourselves to the hypocrisy of others to find excuse to not believe or behave how we “think” we want.  The greatest lesson in life I have learned through growing up as a preacher’s kid is that no one is perfect other than Jesus.  No one is “Holier than thou”.  It is about a personal relationship with Jesus.  The deeper my relationship the more I hunger to read God’s word more, pray more, to worship corporately in church, and hear the Word of God preached.  It is enjoyable to just be a regular church member as an adult, but I still see Satan attack.  There are times my own pride will tempt me and steal what God is trying to do in my own life.  There are times I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak up firmly, but with love when I see pride tempting church members to focus on “self” instead of Christ.

It is all about Jesus.  I am a sinner saved by Grace who happened to be raised by a preacher.  My dad couldn’t save me, my church couldn’t save my soul, only the blood of Jesus saved my soul!!  If all Christians and churches focused on what we should, Jesus, think of how this world would change.

2 Corinthians 5:21″God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The Things we Hang on to

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The other day I was searching through my closet and stumbled upon this old dress of mine.  I bought this dress in high school and graduated 24 years ago so it is at least that old.  The last time I put it on and thought of wearing it my youngest daughter and self proclaimed fashion expert told me it looked weird.  She said the dress was cute, but that I looked like an old lady trying to be a teenager in it.  Hey it still fits so personally I think that is half of the battle, but alas I followed the little diva’s advice and hung it back in the closet.  The bright pattern of this dress is what I love most and for some reason I simply can not part with it.  I figure if my husband and I ever get to go to Hawaii I will wear it there.  Even if I am NINETY I shall wear it!!

How many of us have things or areas of our lives we just do not want to give up?  That is the hardest obstacle I think there is for a person to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Satan puts it in our head that we would have to give up too much.  Looking back on my life what I have given to Jesus was what was weighing my life down.  My sins, grudges against others, etc…   When giving him the best of me he even takes that and makes it better.   Giving Jesus my all, the good, the bad, and the ugly has been the best decision of my life.  He gave everything for me, how can I not fully surrender everything to him?

What are you hanging on to?  What is so much more important than a life of freedom, joy, peace, hope, and that is eternal?

Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

“But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

One thing I love so much about the bible is that every word and sentence has a distinct purpose for God including it.  As a mother reading the four gospels I often find myself paying close attention to Mary.  A simple young woman that God planned to use to change the world.  Just recently I mentioned to the middle school girls in Sunday school how much I loved the verses that say “Mary pondered and treasured these things in her heart”.   There is a specific purpose for Luke chapter 2 to mention that Mary intentionally paused, pondered, marveled, and took time to treasure distinct happenings in the young Jesus’ life.  She knew that his conception was of God and that there was something special and miraculous about this child she bore.  She didn’t have the full picture and understanding until this child grew to a man, died, and rose again of what God’s purpose was for this child.

Little by little Jesus grew and revealed himself and his purpose to Mary.  Each special moment, each little hint of who this son really was, Mary stopped and recognized it.  She kept these moments in her memory until eventually God revealed to her that the son she bore was God in the flesh who had come to save the world from sin.

These scriptures are a reminder for me to stop, ponder, marvel, and treasure the moments in my life that God reveals himself.  Each answered prayer, each “perfect timing”,  each time I see His divine protection, and with every miracle.  He is always there and patiently waiting.  He reveals himself and his plan little bits at a time, as much as my maturity and faith can handle.  I am so grateful for the blessings of those moments.

Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

What I Use as Life’s Measuring Stick

Jesus-on-the-cross

It is hard to even count how many times the subject of “why do the innocent suffer?” comes up in conversations.  The nicest people seem to be the ones who suffer from cancer.  Why do sweet children ever have to suffer?   Why does it seem that evil can have the upper hand torturing and murdering ones who follow the true living God? The measuring stick that brings me comfort and hope when asking the darkest questions of this life is Jesus.  When I look at what He endured on that cross for us it brings about a whole different perspective.  We often think of how undeserving the suffering of so many innocent lives actually is.  There has never walked a human being on this earth more undeserving of suffering than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, fully human yet fully God, perfect and sinless.  Why would God do that?  Why would He come to earth to be rejected, tortured, and murdered?  Did you ever think that what He has planned beyond this life on earth for those who believe in Him is totally worth any suffering we face in our short lifetime?  He conquered sin and death by dying and proved that He is God by rising on the third day just as He said.  He fulfilled all prophecy and has kept every promise thus far.  Do you think the promise of eternal life is where the true blessing is at?  I do. When I compare everything to the cross nothing ever measures up to Jesus.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Cheerleaders in Heaven

jesus-with-the-angels

This week has brought me back to the place of continuously thinking of life, death, heaven, and relying fully on God’s strength.  As another dear family member fights for life I keep thinking of heaven’s cheerleaders.  I reminded our loved one that many people are praying and that he has a cheerleader in heaven, my dad.  A single tear came from our loved one laying there unable to communicate with me.  Little movements of his fingers at mine, a small nod of the head, “yes”, and the single tear were the signs given that he was still there and listening to my words.

The thought of heaven’s cheerleaders has overwhelmed me over this past year since my own father’s death.  There is a humbling gratitude I feel for the blessing of being the offspring of a legacy of Jesus followers and having come to my own personal decision to follow Jesus.  I know who is on my side and I am on the winning side.  I am never alone.  There are many saints who have gone on to be with Jesus who are cheering in heaven.  God’s angel army is cheering and fighting for and with me.  Best of all my greatest cheerleader, Jesus Christ, who fought my battle over sin!   How awesome it is that when I feel darkness of sorrow trying to swallow me whole I just cry out to Jesus and joy overcomes the dark. The light of Jesus stomps out every hint of the darkness of despair.  With God all things are possible and I am watching and waiting with great anticipation to see how God is going to answer my prayers in the next days and weeks.  I can not imagine living life without Jesus and without my cheerleaders in heaven!!!  Is Jesus your cheerleader or are you trying to rely on your own strength to get through this life?

Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Isaiah 41:10 ” Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Jeremiah 32:17 “‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. “

I Really Don’t Want the Easy Button

easy button

It is good to reflect on one’s life from time to time.  Reflecting on my own life journey I remember the road that led me to my sweet husband. A poster that I had as a kid of a big frog read “Sometimes you have to kiss a few toads before you find your prince.”  I guess I took that poster to heart.  That journey was not easy.

School and my teen years weren’t always the easiest many times filled with lots of learning from mistakes and disappointments.

Nursing school was far from easy and there are days as a nurse that I have to wonder how many challenges can possibly occur and one still survive with some sanity.

Motherhood oh how does one even summarize the difficulties as a parent.  Pregnancy and childbirth…easy is definitely not the word to describe the physical strain this ensues on the human body.  There is no pain so worth every minute even though it was not easy.

To stand one’s ground as a toddler throws a fit in a public environment.  Not easy, but worth every ounce of embarrassment and strained ears to raise a child that realizes the world is not all about them and that they will have disappointments.

To say no to a teenager or preteen who may scream “I hate you”.   Not easy, but at some point in time they will thank you for loving them enough to protect them by saying “no”.

Being a follower of Jesus is not always easy.  There can be opposition, ridicule, persecution, and possibly death for staying true to one’s faith in Jesus Christ.  Eternal life and knowing that I can do nothing near of what Jesus did for me makes any little bit of rejection seem very miniscule.

Anything worth anything in this life doesn’t come easy.  If it does then maybe it is actually something that is not worth having.  Life is hard, it is work, it can be painful, it can be sad, it can be disappointing.  Why would God allow this?  It is what we become on the other side of the struggle that is truly valuable. Through every trial and challenge God has brought me through wiser, stronger, and with greater faith in who He is.

There are so many things I look back on and wonder how did I ever do that?  The answer is always by the Grace of God that is how.  It was never “I” got “me” through.  It has always been God has carried me through.

One day as I leave this life on earth there will be a flash of all that this journey of mine has entailed.  I will look back and realize though life was not always easy the journey was worth it.

James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 ” In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘well done, good and faithful servant:  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put your in charge of many things.  Come and share in your master’s happiness!”

No, I really don’t want life’s easy button.  The journey God has planned is what I truly want because He knows what is in store on the other side.