Escape

When life seems too frustrating, I like to dream about escaping to a beach with the soft sound of waves contiually rolling over sand, sitting in the shade under an impossibly blue sky, the occasional sounds of seagulls squawking and other people’s laughter nearby. Aaahh! So soothing. The ocean is definitely a very happy place for me.

But too soon I have to wake up from my daydream to live out my mid-western, landlocked life with all its responsibilities and chores. I look around and see a house that needs to be cleaned, projects waiting to be started and many more left half-done. I think about the day ahead and begin to tense up as I see an endless to-do list and far too many choices to navigate. On top of it all, I have put myself on a “healthy eating plan” (not a diet–never even say that despicable word to me). By choosing to eat healthier and move more, I have confronted the temptations of junk food, mindless overeating, and couch potato slothfulness. Before this choice, I was always tempted, but I rarely allowed myself to think about those temptations before giving in to them. Now, I am trying and often succeeding in confronting those temptations as they occur. Much more often than before, I now make a healthier choice and avoid the unhealthy temptation.

A huge part of why I have been able to more successfully manuever through these temptations this time around (attempt # 10,469), is the word of God, living and powerful as a two-edged sword. The verse that I am trying to live out is this: (from The Passion Translation)

“We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust Him more, for along with every trial God has provided a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

I’d still love to escape to the beach this winter, but for now I am happy to escape the temptations of potato chips and ice cream so that I’ll get the far better reward of trusting God more in a life of victory. No more defeat from giving in to temptations I’m not willing to face.

More next week on how God sends His angels to help us escape from temptations. Love to all who read this.

Amen and amen.

Answer Yes or No

A direct question calls for a direct answer. If Jesus comes to me and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” the answer is either “yes” or “no.” I either want to allow Him to change me from broken to healed, or I want to continue doing things my own way.

If my answer to His question, “Do you want to be healed?” is to explain why I can’t be healed, then I have not only avoided the question like a true politician, but I’ve also set up my own method for dealing with the problem as superior to His. Now that I am in the sixth decade of this life God has graced me with, I can look back on far too many times I’ve avoided seeing and hearing from Jesus because that would mess up my plan for taking care of the problem myself.

In John 5:1-15, a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years had a plan to heal himself. He got himself to the place where other people went for healing called the pool of Bethesda where he believed an angel would heal him if he could crawl into the water before the others. When Jesus came there, He asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” But the lame man did not answer the question. Instead he explained to Jesus all the reasons why he could not be healed. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” John 5:6-7.

Jesus chose to bless that man with a miracle despite his unwillingness to let go of his own plan–a plan he knew would never work. All it took for that man to be healed was to hear Jesus say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8. But that man didn’t even know who had healed him until Jesus found him again, revealed Himself, and rebuked him to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14.

These days, I am trying to listen better, watch closer, and answer more directly when the Holy Spirit tries to get through to me. I want to be healed of my selfishness, my complacency, my willfulness, and especially any belief that is contrary to the word of God. Yes! I want to be healed of all physical and mental and emotional illnesses in me. And I want to allow Jesus to heal me much more than I want to stick to my own foolish plan that clearly has never worked anyway.

What is your answer? I pray it is a simple and humble Yes!

Amen and amen.

More Than Enough

Whatever vision God gives us is more than enough to accomplish His purpose.

Even if we can’t see our hand in front of our face, it is enough.

However much time we have for Him today is much more than enough if we give it away.

Whoever is willing to worship Him, only Him, in spirit and truth, gets the job He’s always posting.

Whatever part of truth we’re willing to see today is more than enough to light the path He gives us.

However much we delight ourselves in Him is more than enough for the desires of our heart to come true.

Whoever kneels down as a camel to roll his own burden off his back receives more than enough to thrive.

The key is so simple, so natural and clear, hiding in plain sight in the palm of our hand.

We mostly look elsewhere for what is always right here.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.

Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:3-4

Whoever does just that without worrying that we’re not getting it right gets it right because it’s not ours to get right; it’s His.

Wherever He leads, whatever He says, however it works, His will is more than enough.

Amen and amen.

I Have No Strength

My weakness is always before me, taunting me, telling me I can’t do that. But God’s grace surrounds even my weakness, deadening those taunts. Even though I have no strength of my own, my friend and Savior Jesus increases my strength. I had none before He came to save me, and still, on my own have none. But as He lives through me, His strength becomes mine. Although the taunts are true, the truth of my salvation trumps them, cancelling the taunt with the higher truth: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might, He increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29.

Amen and amen.

Plan

With the new year come many new plans. Personally, I have rejoined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. Don’t worry. I am not plugging any program here. I am only being honest about what’s going on with me. When I have followed the WW plan in the past (instead of the Ellen plan), I have felt my healthiest, most energetic and satisfied best, which always leads me to the question of why I don’t just stay on it? But that is far beyond this post.

I also have a few other plans for this year. The biggest is that I am finishing a novel that will be published later this year. I have been writing it for over four years now. I decided late last year that it’s high time to let it go. My part is to write and finish the story. When it’s published, the result will be out of my hands.

However, I’m mostly trying to keep myself focused on God’s plan instead of my own for everything I do. I have had to learn, over and over, that when I put myself first, thinking mostly about what benefits me and makes me comfortable, I get lazy, fat, miserable, and depressed. But if I focus on God and His love for me and others, I feel hope and joy. Not the fleeting happiness that comes and goes even more quickly based on the whim of changing circumstances. The joyful peace that surpasses understanding.

This morning, as I began to make my “to do” list for the weekend, I read Romans 12 because this chapter, particularly verses 1-2 and 21, have intrigued and challenged me for decades. I urge you to find your Bible and read these verses. If you don’t have one, get one. If you can’t get one, let me know. I will find a way to get one to you.

Here is what jumped off the page to me today: “…plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.” Romans 12:17 (The Passion Translation) I wept with joy reading those words because that is what I want to do even though it seems ridiculously beyond my ability. And where do I come off thinking any plan of mine could ever be noble?! But that’s it! If I make the plan, it fails. If I submit my plans to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct them, then they will be noble in the truest sense of the word: excellent, worthy, gracious, great-hearted.

That’s the plan. What’s yours?

For the Love of Pete!

I don’t know who this Pete fellow is, but please, ladies, we’ve got to stop trying to look 25 when we’re 65. Yes, I’m on a bit of a rant, but you all know what I’m talking about–women (and some men) who won’t accept that they we all look different as we get older. I’m not talking about trying to be your healthiest best. I’m talking about radically and usually surgically, desperately trying to show the world a face that doesn’t exist anymore. And in trying so hard to look like someone we no longer are, we lose out on the real beauty that only comes with age.

We’ve all seen the aging actresses who’ve bought into the Hollywood lie that they have to look like a Barbie doll to get parts, with the result being a face that should only appear in a movie about the Joker from Batman. This is the extreme example that comes from an exclusive environment most of us don’t live in. But how many of us have also bought into the lie that we’re not as good, pretty, useful, or interesting because we have wrinkles and age spots?

Come on! Let’s get real. Every year we live, if we’re willing, we get the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. By now, at age 62, I have the equivalent of several Ph.D’s in mistake correction. And I am done buying into the lie that I should try to look younger than my actual age. I earned these crows feet and laugh lines and intend to be grateful for who I am today. Even more, I plan to embrace my true self–every pudgy-bulged, thick-ankled, puffy-eyed square inch of me–as I get older every year.

I firmly believe that if we older women would embrace our real, true, authentic beauty, we could teach the world that beauty is ageless. Every year we live is a gift. We’re all just a flash away from going to meet our maker, and down deep, everyone knows that’s true. We don’t have a second to waste on the futility of trying to stop time. Instead, let’s start a revolution that proudly says, “I once was young (sigh) (head hung low), but now I’m old!” (glee in our voices, heads held high, smiles on our beautiful old faces, and twinkles in our eyes). Psalm 37:25.

Pete will be so proud.

Amen and amen.

Persist

Jesus teaches those who follow Him to pray. Praying as He teaches means to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking on that door you want opened. Luke 11. To persist in prayer is to ask boldly and urgently and to not give up.

The need to persist is ours alone. Our Father God does not need us to repeat a single prayer. We can’t manipulate Him into doing what we want by turning up the volume of our whining or throwing a fit like a frustrated toddler. He knows all we need before we ask. Matthew 6:8. He knows far more about us than we know ourselves. Matthew 10:30.

Persistence is necessary for us because every cry of our heart for something we want or someone we love has at its core a lesson we desperately need to learn. Sometimes the lesson is to unlearn a lie we thought was the truth. Often, He shows us another delightful aspect of who He is. He blesses us most richly when we learn who we really are in Him, His beloved children.

When we keep praying for that need that never seems to be fulfilled, we build our faith as we wait on God to do what only He can. Isaiah 40:27-31. If we don’t give up on God, our prayer in the waiting gives us wings to soar above our sorrow. When we keep praying for what we know God wills, He strengthens our legs to willingly run toward the fire of doubt and confusion until we break through into fire-quenching truth. As we simply trust in the provision of His goodness, He holds our hand, giving us endurance to walk across the longest, loneliest desert and through the darkest, most evil forest.

Having persisted in prayer, the answer comes swiftly, suddenly, and so naturally we could easily miss it if our hope was not settled on God. When we have persisted, God’s answer is always exceedingly, abundantly better than anything we could have ever thought of or dared ask for. Ephesians 3:20.

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3.

Amen and amen.