Life This Week

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In January 2003, I went to San Diego for the first time. I could not believe such a place existed – perfect temperatures, beautiful beaches, breathtaking sunsets. I thought it might be a good place to bring my daughter for a little vacation in the Spring, so I asked a woman working at the front desk of the hotel what it was like there in May. She barely looked up at me from what she was working on in front of her, and with extreme annoyance said, “It’s the same, ma’am.” I refrained from responding, “The same as in absolutely perfect in every way?” I am, like the woman in San Diego, incredibly skilled at taking things for granted. Surround me with beautiful things and before long, I lose my ability to see them. I take pictures as a way of putting on new eyes and intentionally opening to the beauty all around.

This weekend I spent some time in Michigan and was overwhelmed by the beauty all around. There were majestic, eye-catching things like the sunset…

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And the angry waves pushing violently toward me on the rocky beach…

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But there were also small beauties. Water droplets on a yellowing leaf…

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The glint of the sun on a ripening apple…

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Two hands, a mother’s and a daughter’s, holding abundance…

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A single rose among weeds…

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And a moment when you see that time has indeed passed…

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This week,

I’m praying for eyes that see the beauty. As soon as Monday gets rolling, I can tend to become like the woman at the front desk of that hotel in San Diego. But, I don’t want to miss a single thing, let me see all the beauty my soul can take!

I’m meditating on 1 Corinthians 10:1-10. I am not the first to take something for granted. There is a long history of us humans doing this. In the Message version of this passage, one verse says “But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much – most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.” Am I fully experiencing God’s wonder and grace?

I’m thanking God for his majestic displays and the smallest beauties. Sometimes beauty is inescapable – full harvest moons that draw your eyes and catch your breath or red sunsets that must be a reflection of heaven. Sometimes, though, beauty is smaller and less obvious. Oh, that I would see both and thank God for every single beautiful thing he puts on my path.

What does your week look like?

Do you notice the beauty around you?

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Life This Week

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I know this is not something I’m supposed to say, but God does not satisfy me. I still look for other things that will do a better job. People, activities, books, food, poems, music. And each time I think, maybe this is finally it. Maybe this will satisfy me once and for all. But the longing is still there, pulling, drilling, rising, aching. Oh, I have had moments of satisfaction, days even, and it is hard to believe they are real in the hours when the longing returns. In those hours, I beat myself up – God is enough, what’s wrong with you? As Tenth Avenue North sings, “You’re all I need, but you never seem to be enough.” (Lovesick)  Psalm 103:5 says that the LORD “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”  Jesus said “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:35) So, why the longing and thirst? I don’t know. But I know I’m not the only one. My practice this week is a simple one. Just two prayers.

I’m praying Psalm 90:14-17:

Satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love, that I may sing for joy and be glad in all my days. Make me glad for as many days as you have afflicted me, for as many years as I have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord my God rest upon me; establish the work of my hands for me – yes, establish the work of my hands.

I’m praying Psalm 63:1-5:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

What does your week look like?

Have you ever asked God to satisfy you with his love?

Photo Credit:  http://jmitchloves.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/open-hands/

How to Hear God (Part 3)

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Over the last few weeks, I have been writing this series called How to Hear God. I’m not professing to have many answers, but just want to explore what Scripture says about this topic and what my learning has been over the last several years from others and my own experience. Still using Jesus’ words recorded in John 10:27 (“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”), this week, I’m focused on “my voice.”

If you’re like me, you have voices talking in your head all the time. Wait, that sounds weird. You know what I mean. You have your own voice that reminds you to do stuff, or that you’ve forgotten something. Sometimes that voice soothes you (“everything is going to be okay,” “I’m okay,” “I’ll get through this.”) You have the shaming voice that points out stuff you have done wrong or pretends to tell you truth about yourself even though it’s not truth at all (“that person would never like you;” “you’re a failure”). Sometimes that voice is a parent’s voice, or a teacher’s voice.

Then, there is this other voice. God’s voice. I believe there are ways to distinguish God’s voice from the other voices bouncing around inside. Here are a few of the identifiers for me:

God’s voice leads me to glorify only him.  Any voice that glorifies me or another person, or deifies a problem I am having, is not God’s voice. (Is 45)

God’s voice is consistent with Scripture. When Scripture speaks to a particular issue and I hear a voice that contradicts what Scripture says, it is not God’s voice. (John 14:26)

God’s voice aligns with his character.  God is holy, merciful, loving, present, faithful, great and awesome, mighty, grace-giving, and good. (Psalm 99; Deut. 4-7; John 3:16; 2 Th 2:16; Psalm 100) A voice that is inconsistent with these character traits is not God’s voice.

I cannot generate God’s voice. There are times when I need or want to hear from God and I don’t. I have tried really hard to generate God’s voice so I would be comforted or guided. But, I cannot generate his voice. If I have generated it, it is my voice, not his.

God’s voice does not use words I use.  Any of the times I have heard God’s voice in my heart or spirit (not sure where it actually touches in), the words are not my words. If someone else heard them, they would not claim, “That sounds like something you would say.”

God’s voice points me toward love and servanthood. God’s voice has always pointed me to him or others in love and in service. He does not ask me to seek revenge, hold a grudge, turn my back, or judge. (1 John 4:7-21)  He corrects me, yes, but he does not shame or condemn me.

Why does knowing God’s voice matter? Because I want to follow him. Knowing his voice is the first step. Next week: how do I follow?

Have you heard God’s voice?

How do you distinguish it from other voices?

Life This Week

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I always forget. That I am loved. Even though my hands sweat when I’m nervous, and I’m not sure I have the most stylish shoes as fall begins, I am loved. But I forget.  Even though I stop being able to pay attention after about an hour, and I can’t throw a great meal together at the last minute, I am loved.  But I forget.  I don’t really get why I forget so often and so easily. I’m always comparing myself and making these silent judgments about myself and others. How do I rate, rank, hold up? All the while forgetting that I’m loved already, even though, in spite of, because of.

Not too long ago, I was in a work meeting about something I have now forgotten. One of my friends and members of our team was talking about something I have now forgotten. And, then, suddenly, something happened that I will never forget. I saw her as Jesus sees her. It came and went in a millisecond. But I am sure of it. I looked at her and tears formed in my eyes. The words that came to mind were “If she only knew.” Oh, if she only knew. All of her fears, her insecurities, her measurements of success would vanish. If she only knew how loved, how deeply, enduringly, unendingly loved she is. If she only knew.

I’m praying that I would know. I am praying that I “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that [I] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

I’m reminding myself. This weekend, I heard a talk by Jeff Manion from Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids. He said that when he journals his prayers, he ends by writing, “This is your beloved son, Jeff.” And he signs that way not to remind God, but to remind himself. Today, at the end of my prayer that I wrote in my journal, I signed at the bottom, “This is your beloved daughter, Kellye.”

I’m reminding someone else. I know I’m not the only one who forgets. So, I’m reminding someone else that she is loved. That he is loved.

What does your week look like?

Have you forgotten that you are loved?

Life This Week

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Yesterday, my daughter and I went to a favorite diner for lunch and the zoo. We had a great, slow time, enjoying each other’s company and admiring incredible animals, like the two-hump camel, rhinoceros, giraffe, seal, tiger, flamingo, gorilla, and zebra. There is a way to go to the zoo that is amazing and a way to go that is a hassle. I have done both. Yesterday, was one of those amazing times. There were tons of people, crying kids, whining kids, irritated parents, and arguing couples. I have been to the zoo and been so annoyed at the sea of humanity that I have forgotten to be amazed. How could this be? Come on, have you ever seen a rhinoceros? What in the world? I could have stared at it all day. And the giraffes!  I don’t know, they are just amazing.

Later, after we had gotten home and eaten dinner, my daughter and I stood in the kitchen, leaned up against the counter sharing a snack. We just looked at each other and talked. As I looked at her, I scanned her eyes, all the light behind them, and her small, but growing hands holding the spoon. And I was amazed. Just as I was about to say something, she said, “Mom, I just love you. Your brown eyes are so big and I love them!”

I want to live in amazement, not in hassle. It’s about opening my eyes. So, this week:

I’m praying that I would see with amazement. In Habakkuk, the prophet complains to God about all the injustice he sees and how the wicked prevail. God responds by saying: “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Hab 1:5) God goes on to explain what he will do to bring justice and how the earth will be filled with his glory. There is injustice and crime, hatred and despair. I don’t want to ignore these. But there are so many things, even little things, that reflect the glory of God. And, I want to see these with amazement.

I’m worshipping God for all he has made. The animals at the zoo reminded me of the incredible things God has made. Not just the animals themselves, all of the things in creation. What a creator! As love as I have breath, I will praise him. (Psalm 150:6)

I’m telling people in my life what they mean to me. There is no reason to hold back. My daughter’s words to me inspire me to tell the people in my life who I love, who amaze me, who challenge me, what they mean.

What does your week look like?

How to Hear God (Part 2)

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Based on John 10:27, we know that those who hear God:

  1. Have a relationship with Jesus. (My sheep; I know them)
  2. Are receptive to hearing from him. (listen to my voice)
  3. Are willing to walk in faith to follow him. (they follow me)

Last week I explored having a relationship with Jesus and this week, I’m exploring what it means to be receptive to hearing from him. The best way for me to understand this is to think about conversations with my daughter. What comes to mind is the difference between trying to have a conversation with her at the airport as we are about to get on a plane and trying to have a conversation with her at the beach while we are on vacation.

At the airport, I am pulling my suitcase and carrying a backpack and my purse. There are people rushing all around us to catch their flights. I’m trying to find our flight number on the big electronic board so we can get to the right gate. We arrived at the airport a little late and so we are in a hurry to make it in time for our seating area to board. The flight is a couple hours and we don’t have anything to eat. My daughter’s hand is in mine, but I’m practically dragging her, forcing her little legs to keep pace. If, in the midst of all this, she were to start a conversation with me, I would be distracted, half-listening and looking away, as I continued to chart our course to the gate, perhaps missing a word here and there, and asking her to speak louder so I could hear her over the noise coming from every direction.

On the beach, we are alone. The sun is rising and we can hear every step on the damp sand. We carry nothing, simply walking hand-in-hand, breathing deeply, with nowhere to be. I can feel the shape and temperature of her hand. When she lets go to throw a rock into the water, I feel the last touch and sudden emptiness. I notice she has a tiny scratch on her cheek and that she has grown taller. When I hug her, I flash back to the moment I held her first. If she were to say something, it would be effortless for me to listen, I have been so in tune with her already. I could look at her full-on and there would be nothing pulling me away. I would absorb every word and all the feeling behind each one. I would be able to respond with love and the fullest attention.

So much of hearing God is about getting out of the airport. Most of us live there – metaphorically, I mean. We rush around, distracted, fists wrapped around our baggage. I most often hear God when I’m in the busyness of life, but only because I have been with him in the slowness of time. Here are some things I do to be receptive to hearing God no matter where I am:

  • Set aside time to be with him. Alone. Where I feel every movement and notice his presence. Otherwise, I’m always in the airport.
  • Read Scripture every day. Not like it’s the newspaper or my Facebook news feed. My goal isn’t to get through it as fast as possible, but to read it and then just be quiet. I don’t have a major revelation every day and there are days when I am distracted, don’t understand, or feel disconnected from what I’m reading.
  • Pray. This looks more like a conversation than a grocery list. Sometimes I use a Psalm and just read it aloud slowly. Sometimes I just say, “Father in heaven,” and nothing more. Things that most often keep me from praying: unbelief, fear, pride, busyness.
  • Walk with expectation. I expect to hear from God every day. And I do, through Scripture, through other people, through circumstances, and through whispers in my soul.

Have you heard from God? What were you doing?

Is there something you could take out of your schedule so you can make time and space to hear God?

Life This Week

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Have you ever wondered if Jesus had a cold during his 33 years on earth? Apparently, the common cold has been around since ancient times, so he must have at some point, right? There is no mention of it in Scripture, but he was a baby, and a toddler, and an elementary-aged kid. He interacted with and touched many people. All before hand sanitizer. Hebrews 2 says Jesus was made fully human in every way for a little while so that he might, by the grace of God, taste death for everyone. He must have gotten colds. When I have a cold, I become very self-focused. It is as if deep down I believe no one else in the history of the world has ever suffered with a cold. At least not one like this. I also tend to withdraw from God simply because I’m so focused on my sore throat and runny nose.

My week is beginning with a cold and I’m at risk of withdrawing from God. Just a couple things I’m doing to stay connected:

I’m reading Hebrews 2. This is such a rich chapter of Scripture and reading it draws me into knowing the person of Jesus when he was here on earth. He must have had colds.

I’m asking others to pray for me. I don’t do this very often, but I don’t know why. My request is not just that the cold would go away, but also that God would reveal himself to me in the midst of it and be glorified somehow in my weakness and sickness.

I’m extending extra grace to and praying for those who are sick. So many people have such greater illnesses than a cold. I realize this. I pray that God would give me a special tenderness and dose of grace and compassion to extend to those who are really sick. I’m praying that I am able to serve someone who is sick with the love of Jesus this week.

What does your week look like?