Saturday, July 28, 2012

6 Hard Things - God never said it would be easy

I may not ever know for sure who was doing the misbehaving at the beginning of James chapter 5, but I do know what James has to say to me about what my behaviour should look like when I am being mistreated - or when I think I am being mistreated. This may be the end of his letter, but James doesn't pull any punches; he doesn't sugar coat; he makes no effort to ease me into what God's standard for me as a believer. It's almost like we are sitting on my couch sipping coffee and James has just heard my long list of "I've been done wrongs" and then he takes a deep breath, says a quick pray and hits me with this!
  • Be patient and don't be swayed by others (vs 7-8). God's timing isn't Trisha's timing and it's not your timing either. I can't see all of Gods plan, and sometimes I can see very little of God's plan or my place in it. God never shows up late to the party. My responsibility is to wait for God, in God's time, to do what He is going to do - and to live the way He has called me to live in the mean time.
  • Don't grumble against sisters and brothers in Christ (vs 9). Pretty much that means SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Hmmmm What about when I am right and the other guy is wrong? SHUT YOUR MOUTH.  What about when my way is better, smarter, faster, more logical, or more fun. SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Grumbling comes from anger, frustration and selfishness. It is never rooted in wanting to see God's best in another person. It's meant to tear down, belittle or devalue. It expresses personal dissatisfaction ant not spiritual concern.  SHUT YOUR MOUTH.
  • Learn from Spiritual Mentors (vs 10-11). The Bible, and even our home church, is full of examples of people who faced hard, unfair, and sometimes cruel circumstance without compromising God's standards for holy living. Waiting on God isn't the easy path. Hearing the stories of Gods ultimate faithfulness that's often revealed on the other side of difficulty has benefit. Embracing wisdom, support and encouragement from others who have also journeyed thru struggles and pain can give me strength as I am facing my own trails. God's tenderness and concern for His children is limitless, and He will not fail me. It may take time, but God will reveal His ultimate love and faithfulness.
  • Watch your mouth (vs12) Be a person who's word can be trusted. Be careful making or taking oaths.
  • Pray and offer Praise (vs 13-18). Instead of fighting, how about we pray. Pray when you are concerned or sick; offer prayers of praise when you are happy or well.  Be honest with each other about your shortcomings and failures and then pray (and not judge or gossip) for each other over those things too.
  • Hold each other accountable (vs 19-20). Accountability is not judgement. Don't write off people who are wandering off from God. Love them enough to fight for them. Love them enough to speak the truth IN love.

So they they are - 6 hard things. But now I have an action plan. A way to be proactive in my times of trail. Something to do while I learn to patiently wait! God never said it would be easy. But the Bible does say "The Lord is gracious an compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love" Psalms 145:8  AMEN - and Praise God for that!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The love of money...

And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You'll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you've piled up is judgment. All the workers you've exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You've looted the earth and lived it up. But all you'll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you've done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.
James 5:1-6  (The Message)

I am not sure if James was speaking to "rich" inside the body of believers or if he was addressing others that were "rich" and mistreating those within the church family. In either case, what was happening was bad stuff.  Money was being stock piled thru less than honorable means, fair wages were not being paid in a timely manner, and earthly wealth at all costs was being perused regardless of the eternal ramifications. Not good at all. If these "arrogant rich" were within the body of believers then they were not doing a very good job of embracing the character of Christ.

One of the most misquoted scriptures of the Bible is "money is the root of evil"  1Timothy 6:10 actually says that the "love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." Money isn't a bad thing. It's important in many ways; it puts food on the table, clothes on the kiddies and a roof over our heads to provide shade from the hot sun. Also, it often takes real money to provide real ministry in the lives of real and hurting people. But what happens when money becomes too important? What happens when the amount in the savings account is what provides the feeling of safety and security that I long for? Or when the cutest new clothes or gadgets are what makes me smile. How does it make God feel when vacation and play time, fun toys and fast food use up the money that I had in obedience pledged to Him as a part of my "first fruit" tithe? I wonder how God feels about retirement plans. In an effort to be a good steward and plan for things to come, can I lose sight of the idea and belief that God will in fact "give us this day our daily bread"?  Can I miss using my resources now for some possible future benefit?  It's only money. It will not last. We cannot take it with us. We will make more and we will spend more. I need to be faithful and responsible with all of God's blessings. 

I don't use unfair scales. I don't cheat workers out of fair pay for hard work. Does that mean that none of this applies to me?  Well, what about when my greed, selfishness and lust for more, means someone else (like my husband or kids) will have less. Or how about when I justify spending money on some of those expensive "conveniences" of life because I am lazy, or tired, or hot, or in a rush? How many things do I classify as a "need" that really are not "needs" at all? Is living a life in constant debt being a good steward?

My take away here is this - God wants to be reflected in every part of my life. When God is not my focus, when He is not my filter - everything else gets tainted, twisted and messed up. I cannot change the poor financial choices of my past. But I can do things different from this day forward. I can honor God in how I pay back my debt, in how I live within the blessings that He has provided, in how I obey Him with my first fruit tithe.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I feel like a bug

Some days you're the windshield and some days you are the bug.
Ever had a day where you thought you were one and then later determined that you are in fact the other?
That was my yesterday.

It started off with great promise - as most every day can. Time with Matt and time with God in quiet study and prayer. I was directed to Psalms 147. I hung out there for quite a while.

Psalm 147:1-6 NIV

Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, 
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; is understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

As I read these words all my heart could process was - God has my back. He builds up His people and draws them close to Him.  He is the healer of the broken hearted - not a band aid - but the cure. He created the stars and has named them all. His understanding is limitless. He's got it. He already knows the details of my day and He has it covered, no matter what. I sent out some texts to a few friends. God just laid their name on my heart and I really wanted them to know that God had their days covered too. Now here's the truth...I had a plan for the day and I knew, I just knew it was gonna be great. But isn't it nice that God is gonna be there holding my hand on this sunshine day! 

 Fed the chickens (we are chicken sitting for the neighbors who are in Jamaica), dropped off stuff at Good Will, went to Kmart (the most poorly staffed store in the greater QCA) and then went to a meeting that was GREAT! Cleaned up the church and headed home. Cranked up the a/c and the radio and headed home. Road construction, pot holes-most of which I missed and all the other normal things a girl faces on the drive home.  Was gonna call Matt and touch base but Verizon was down - so no chatting for me. Pulled into the driveway and headed inside. Quick dinner, made a few notes for another meeting and headed out the door 30 minutes after my arrival for a night at the church. As we backed out we heard it - an awful noise. Matt pulled back in and we did the quick car shuffle into the faithful van - 180,000 miles and no a/c but the windows all roll down - and we headed off to church for the evening. When got home last night and were able to look a bit more closely, Matt discovered that the rear shock on the passenger side of the Pilot had shear off at the wheel base. The Pilot is our good car. It has working A/C. It only has 118,000 miles on it. It's not drivable.





Can we fix it? Can someone else fix it?  Is it fixable? How are we gonna pay for this?

As we lay in bed later that night we talked it through and we prayed. Matt prays us into the day, I pray us out - that's our norm and it has become a treasured part of our life. This was pretty much my prayer. Matt has a great job. Praise God. We are all safe. Praise God. We have an abundance of blessing in our life. Praise God. We have a great support system, church and family. Praise God. Many great things happened for your Kingdom and in the hearts of your people tonight. Praise God. The car is broke. This sucks God. It is the good car. This sucks God. We don't know who to trust to fix the car. This sucks God. We are trying to pay off debt and set aside money for a missions trip X 4. This sucks God. Why does it seem like we never really catch up? This sucks God. Settle our spirits and our minds. Amen.

Then it happened. As I lay quietly and continued to process the day, God brought back to my mind the text I sent out so early that morning. And I felt God ask "Do you really believe I have your back? Do you really believe I've got this? Do you really trust that my understanding is limitless? Can you imagine for a moment that I can work good from this? Can you see at all my simple girl that your day was not all what you thought it would be because you couldn't see all the facts? Can you see how my hand was on you? Can you see how I protected you?" Turns out that Psalms 147 wasn't for anyone else yesterday but me. I was just slow.
Sorry about that God. Grow my faith. Grow my belief. Grow my ability to see you in the moment and not after it. Help me to remember that each of my days is actually yours. Help keep my eyes fixed on the eternal. And help us seek and hear your voice as we figure out what to do next.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stupid Calendar !

Let’s talk about money, or sex, or attitudes, kids, family, unsurrendered anger, pride . . .  anything . . . absolutely anything but my calendar! Before I do anything, me and my calendar have a chat. I feel lost – seriously lost – when we are apart. I am not a spontaneous girl. I am a plan it out well and have a backup plan just in case kind of girl. Go big or go home. Sleep when you’re dead. Work hard – Play hard. Isn’t that how everybody lives? Our schedule is full of things we love – or at least it’s full of things we are supposed to love. Work, school, kids, church, camps, marching band, track, cross country, soccer, basketball, PRC, meetings, family get-togethers, small group, fellowship, date nights, programs, PTA, bible studies, concerts, play dates, book fairs, vacations, trips, workdays. We even schedule days off – seriously – every once in a while we will ‘schedule’ a ‘don’t plan or commit to do anything on this day because we need a break’ day. Doesn’t everybody?  

 “What is the biggest obstacle facing the family right now? It is over-commitment; time pressure. There is nothing that will destroy family life more insidiously than hectic schedules and busy lives, where spouses are too exhausted to communicate, too worn out to have sex, too fatigued to talk to the kids. That frantic lifestyle is just as destructive as one involving outbroken sin. If Satan can't make you sin, he'll make you busy, and that's just about the same thing.” ~ James Dobson

"If Satan can’t make you bad, he makes you busy. If we learn to say ‘No’ to good things, we are able to say ‘Yes’ to better things God sends our way."  ~ Nationally-renowned speaker Phyllis Wallace
”Hurry is not of the Devil; hurry is the Devil.” ~ Carl Jung

 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:13-17(NIV)

Today God, as I read this passage the question I hear from you is this, “Are you honoring Me and humbling yourself with the way you spend your time? Are you focused on the earthly or the eternal?”

As I ponder this question from you God – there are a few hard questions I must also ask myself:
·         Do I leave openings in my daily plan for the things that you God want to have be a part of my day?
·         In my rush to keep my chore list in check do I miss seeing the people you place on my path that need a little taste of your love, mercy and grace?
·         In my race to be ‘supermom’ or "wonder wife" every evening do I miss hearing the heartache of my child that has suffered thru a rough day, or the stress my spouse is carrying on his shoulders?
·         Does the noise of my radio, my keyboard, my tv or my vacuum drown out the name you are whispering in my ear of a friend that needs compassion and encouragement?  
·         Do I know how to do life with my husband and kids without having to be doing ‘things’ with them?
·         Do I use a busy schedule as a way to minimize my ability to invest in people the way you want me to Lord?  
·         Do I keep myself busy because I think that business (and not you God) means I matter? 
·         Do I choose to be stressed because of an underlying fear of stillness or emptiness?
·         Am I content with who I am and where I am with you God when I am still?

And what about that last verse! I know it well – but don’t think I have ever thought of how it relates to how You feel about how I spend my time. I never thought my calendar would be a physical manifestation of my sin. But if it doesn’t honor You, if it’s just one more way that my will tries to flex itself over Your will – well that’s not good.

Hard Prayer – God help me to be faithful to you with my time. Every day you give me 24 hours. Help me to think to listen to you before I check my calendar. I want to hear your voice. I want my day to match your plan. Help me to see clearly what matters most to You. It’s gonna be uncomfortable for me, but I know Your first concern is not at all about me being comfortable. Please give me peace as I learn to walk in uncomfortable obedience.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mud Slinging

I was thinking I could move on to the next verses in James 4, but God had other plans. Yeah. Love it when that happens and yes, it is ironic given the topic of the next set of verses! But for today, this is where God wants me to camp out and meditate on truth.

 Don't bad-mouth each other, friends. It's God's Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You're supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?  James 4:11-12  The Message (MSG)
This translation puts a slant on these verses that I had not considered - maybe ever. The Message is not a word by word translation from the original Hebrew or Arabic text, but it does a pretty good job of putting a current language and life slant on God's holy word.  When I memorize scripture, it is not from this translation, but God does use it to speak to me. My old faithful Bible is the side by side KJV/NIV that I have read thru, worked thru and grown with for the last 10 years. It is tattered. It is worn. Like me, it shows it's age just a bit. The thought of getting a new Bible makes my stomach hurt. Thank goodness for online resources!  In the past, my life application of these two verses focused on this truth...God is God, I am not God, let God handle the stuff in the lives of other believers that is His to handle in the first place and lets have me continue to work on keeping my focus on me. Good stuff. All true. Not at all what jumped off the page and into my heart on this cool July morning.
Today this was my take away. When I use my mouth as a weapon against other sisters and brothers in Christ, it is not that person but my Lord that takes the beating.  When I behave badly, it muddies the view and understanding other people have of my Savior. When I allow my words to belittle, undermine, devalue or embarrass another  then I do not reflect the love, mercy and compassion that God has given me. As God transforms my heart, that should be reflected in all area's of my life including how I treat, speak to and do life with others on the journey to Christ likeness. Will it be perfect - probably not. But the more I honor God in this area, then the more my character will reflect His.
So maybe just this once I will adapt another verse just a bit . . .  "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your WORDS (thoughts) on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. SPEAK (Think) about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Phil 4:8 NLV

Monday, July 9, 2012

Slow Dance With God

How many times do I need to hear the same thoughts from God before I take a hint and slow down enough to really apply it to myself?  I guess for me the answer is three messages in four weeks (Teen Camp, Kids Camp and Vital Beliefs) and one devotional day with God! The theme - holiness matters and God doesn't want me playing the field, He wants me all for Himself.  God created me for relationship with Him. God's plan is for me to know Him not just as my Savior but also as my Lord.  He wants me to be holy, because He is HOLY. He wants every part of me - every last little bit. God doesn't want me to hold back anything from Him. If I want to grow, then I am going to have to move on thru salvation and into purposeful full submission of my will and way to God's will and way.
James 4:4-12    The Message (MSG)
 4-6You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."
 7-10So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.
 11-12Don't bad-mouth each other, friends. It's God's Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You're supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

As I read thru the above verses I began to think of my marriage.  God has blessed me with an amazing Godly husband. Matt has been my best friend (besides God) for more than 20 years. We are not perfect, and we have made our share of mistakes along the way. We dated and fell in love while we were still very young, and God has graciously grown us up together with a generous dose of His love and mercy. It is not luck (do not say we are lucky) and it was not always easy (real life and real relationships are never easy and uncomplicated); for us it was the choice to grow deeper in love with God and each other every day. With God's grace we are perfect together for Him.

Now for a fun little fact about Trisha. When it comes to my husband I do not share well with others - especially women, not even a little.  Flirting may not be cheating - but I am still not cool with it. There are things that are reserved just for us...go with me now beyond sex...that could be shared with others, but should not be.  There is the way Matt looks and me from across the room and gives me a head nod and a wink - that's for me...and the message varies within the context of the moment. Quiet moments together when we share thoughts, dreams, fears, burdens or divine inspirations; the lingering hug that offers comfort, compassion and strength; the way we can smile at each other in a crowd and understand the shared humor of a words needed...the smile means we both understand. There are things we have set aside - actions, words, expressions of tenderness - that are just for sharing with each other. To watch Matt treat another woman with the tenderness he has set aside for me, well that would hurt me. What we have is special. It is set apart. So we protect it and we grow it on purpose. There are things we don't do, because it could lead to problems or misunderstandings later; and there are investments that we make right now on purpose in our relationship because we believe it matters. 

So when I think that relationship that God has given me with Matt and then compare it with what I think God feels when I flirt with the world and dabble with It must wound Him so much. Flirting may not exactly be cheating, but they are both steps on the same destructive path.  God doesn't want me to slow dance with sin. God wants me. All of me. It's not something I can do on my own, so it's a good thing that God doesn't expect that.

My bold prayer for the day, God show me where I am flirting with the world. Help me to yell no to the things that tempt me away from you. I don't want to play the field, I want to slow dance with you. Amen.