Category Archives: God

God

a lighter load

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My mom gave me this book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young for Christmas.  Last year a local Christian radio station read from it daily and I was often so encouraged by her words.  She took her own prayer journal and her increased awareness God’s daily presence in her life and created a devotional filled with Jesus’ words to her and us that we would have a greater sense of “God with us.”  Each day is written as if Jesus were speaking directly to us.  Because He is.

Today’s words are taken from Isaiah 41:10, Zephaniah 3:17 and Psalm 34:19

The world is too much with you, My child.  Your mind leaps from problem to problem to problem, tangling your thoughts in anxious knots.  When you think like that, you leave Me out of your world-view and your mind becomes darkened.  Though I yearn to help, I will not violate your freedom.  I stand silently in the background of your mind, waiting for you  to remember that I am with you.

When you turn from your problems to My Presence, your load is immediately lighter.  Circumstances may not have changed, but we carry your burdens together.  Your compulsion to ‘fix’ everything gives way to deep, satisfying connection with Me.  Together we can handle whatever this day brings.

I love this reminder from some of my favorite passages of scripture.  I will travel lighter today, sharing my burdens with the One who carries them with me.

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Known

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Along the same lines . . .  (as my previous post)

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2012/03/13/a-prayer-about-the-joy-of-being-completely-known-and-loved/

A Prayer about the Joy of Being Completely Known and Loved

by Scotty Smith

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” John 4:29

Lord Jesus, I wish I could have been present to watch this liberated Samaritan woman recount the tale of her collision with the gospel—her story of meeting you and coming alive to the transforming power of grace (John 4:1-42). Water from Jacob’s well was superseded by the water you alone can give—the living water that alone can slake our death-doling thirst.

You exposed her sequential affairs—her penchant to look to men to satisfy the deepest longings of her soul. Yet instead of ridiculing her, you redeemed her; instead of condemning her, you cherished her; instead of shaming her, you saved her; instead of sending her away empty, you sent her on her way full—full of peace, hope and love.

En route to the nations, you brought the gospel to the dark continent of this broken woman’s heart. I wonder if some of the six men with whom she’d been heard her proclaim, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” Standing vulnerable in the public square of her community, she’d never been so free. The gospel dealt a fatal blow to her need to pose or pretend.

I want more of that freedom, Jesus, much more. Freedom from the approval of men. Freedom from wanting to look better than I am. Freedom from minimizing and marginalizing my present need of you.

Nothing but the gospel can free us for being thoroughly known without fear. Jesus, your love is unlike anything else we can experience in this life. In fact, your love is better than life itself. We adore and praise you this day as the Christ—the Messiah, our Lenten Lord, the heart-knower, our holy lover, our righteousness from God, our only hope of glory!

You know every vain, foolish, and evil thought we’ve ever conceived; every lustful, greedy fantasy in which we engage. Only you hear every grace-robbing, grandstanding, gossipy word we speak. Only you know the broken cisterns of our choices—our idols, the many things to which we turn to find life other than in you. Yet you pursue us, you welcome us, and you love us… and you are changing us.

What a wonderful, merciful Savior you are, Jesus. Life—temporal and eternal, can only be found in you. So very Amen we joyfully pray in your transcendent and transforming name.

the wise sunflowers

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This was my view during a leg of the bike portion of a triathlon I did this past weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I was struck how all the sunflowers had their back to me as I was riding by.  What I quickly realized was that while they had their backs to me, they had their eyes on the sun as it was rising in the eastern sky.  They would keep their eyes on the sun all day, moving with it until it sets in the western sky late in the evening.  They know what gives them life.Picture of Sunflower - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

How often do I have my back to God, looking at the bikers riding by when the sun is behind me?  I easily forget what gives me life.  These dear sunflowers were a great reminder to me, (on my 25 mile ride), to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith and to stop looking around at what passes by, here for a second and then gone.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Hebrews 12:2
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

poolside reading

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Freshly copied from Justin Taylor’s blog today .. from my iPhone, while reading at the pool .. a great word for me today & hopefully an encouragement to many …

 

JUSTIN TAYLOR|12:55 PM CT

Wanderlust, Flights of Fancy, and the Goodness of God

From a post from my younger brother:

I have a confession to make. A lot of my fantasies don’t turn out that great. Throughout middle school (and even high school), I always wanted to run away from home. Did I have a terrible home life and parents who beat me? No, in fact I had a great high school experience of being involved after a bad middle school experience of being excluded. I wasn’t running from something—I was running to it.

Here was the vision. Leave in the middle of the night with a wonderful note to my family explaining everything, fly a helicopter made out ofPopular Science magazine (the kit cost $195), take beef jerky and rations for 6 months to a year, fly into the deep forest and crash land my plane, read a lot of books and learn another language, lift logs in order to build a shelter, come back with a beard, tanned, and to the amazement of those who saw how fit I was, deeper, wiser, and more self-fulfilled. . . .

OK, so it was a combination of self-indulgent fantasy, one too many Gary Paulsen Hatchet books, and an immature romanticism. Mark Twain wrote poignantly of the difference between theory and reality in Life on the Mississippi. The Mississippi was better when it was mysterious and imaginative to the rough kid rather than scientific and dissectable to the seasoned gentleman pilot.

So it was with my adventure. Feeling overwhelmed with school, I almost got away in the night only to have a friend tell my parents what I was up to. They sent me with some harsh words, forgiveness, and $20 to Applebee’s for milkshakes with my brother and sister.

In college in New York, I again caught that bug and traveled several hours upstate to probably one of the remotest places I found with wildly labyrinthine roads to a friend’s cabin–it was in the middle of nowhere. Now I’m from Iowa so I don’t use that phrase lightly. My goals were more modest: read a few novels, commune with God, be one with nature for three days.

What happened? Darn Reality raised her ugly head with knowing spectacles, furrowed brows, and the ol’ school marm hairdo. The forest was magnificent but the black mosquitoes swarmed in my eyes, ears, and even tickled the back of my throat making it nearly unbearable. Knowing that if there was a bear, that would be the end of me, my tough guy Grizzly Adams, Nebuchadnezzar, Crocodile Dundee persona faded into Timmy the Pampered looking for mother. In the river, I slipped on a mossy rock and gravity, another rock, and my head made for a perfect storm of pain. At night, an eerie mounted deer head and the darkest black (yes, I have never ever seen pitch black like it), made my all-too-tiny heart palpitate. Velvet black air combined with weird visions of the curtains being drawn back and a hand coming in at the window. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but I could hear one. Was it my imagination? No—it was real! I was not alone in the room.The footsteps and the presence came closer as I frantically struggled to light the lantern to discover him there in the room as we were miles and miles from any living soul if he indeed had one…

A mouse. What would be the worst thing that could happen? Well, I suppose getting a few scampering fleshy pink feet up the old groin would be fairly uncomfortable. MacGyver-like, I filled a bucket with three inches of water, a board leading up to it, and a swab of peanut butter just inside the bucket. Ten minutes later, I heard a ‘splash,’ followed by thirty seconds of struggle, and then silence. I felt guilty all night.

It is good to be able to look back and smile at our flights of fancy and our foibles.

But it also made me think of this C. S. Lewis quote on Ray Ortlund’s blog:

I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion—which raises its head in every temptation—that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it.

The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . .

The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply goodspoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.

—C. S. Lewis, They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963), ed. Walter Hooper (New York, 1979), p. 465. Italics original.

 

the One to whom God looks

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Even though my weekly, formal study in Isaiah is over, thankfully I never have to move on from God’s amazing words in this book … the Gospel of the Old Testament.  And thankfully He promises to keep doing a work in my heart as I humble myself before him.
Our church family at Grace Evangelical Free Church in LaMirada, California just concluded their studies in Isaiah as well.  My dear friend and brother in Christ, Erik Thoennes, delivers a power message on the final chapter of this book.
Isaiah 66

The Humble and Contrite in Spirit

66 Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is my throne,

and the earth is my footstool;

what is the house that you would build for me,

and what is the place of my rest?

2 All these things my hand has made,

and so all these things came to be,

declares the Lord.

But this is the one to whom I will look:

he who is humble and contrite in spirit

and trembles at my word.

3 “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;

he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;

he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers fpig’s blood;

he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.

These have chosen their own ways,

and their soul delights in their abominations;

4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them

and bring itheir fears upon them,

because when I called, no one answered,

when I spoke, they did not listen;

but they did what was evil in my eyes

and chose that in which I did not delight.”

5 Hear the word of the Lord,

you who tremble at his word:

“Your brothers who hate you

and cast you out for my name’s sake

have said, l‘Let the Lord be glorified,

that we may see your joy’;

but it is they who shall be put to shame.

6 “The sound of an uproar from the city!

A sound from the temple!

The sound of the Lord,

rendering recompense to his enemies!

Rejoice with Jerusalem

7 “Before she was in labor

she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her

she delivered a son.

8 Who has heard such a thing?

Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one day?

Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?

For as soon as Zion was in labor

she brought forth her children.

9 Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”

says the Lord;

“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”

says your God.

10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy,

all you who mourn over her;

11 that you may nurse and be satisfied

from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight

from her glorious abundance.”

12 For thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,

and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,

and bounced upon her knees.

13 As one whom his mother comforts,

so I will comfort you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

your bones shall flourish like the grass;

and tthe hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,

and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

Final Judgment and Glory of the Lord

15 “For behold, the Lord will come in fire,

and his chariots like the whirlwind,

to render his anger in fury,

and his rebuke with flames of fire.

16 For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment,

and by his sword, with all flesh;

and those slain by the Lord shall be many.

17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, zeating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.

18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming<a id=”fb3-1″ title=”Hebrew and it is coming” to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.

22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth

that I make

shall remain before me, says the Lord,

so shall your offspring and your name remain.

23 From new moon to new moon,

and from Sabbath to Sabbath,

all flesh shall come to worship before me,

declares the Lord.

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”


the race

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This Saturday, I finished my first 1/2 marathon!  It really was my first as my training never included more than an 11 mile run!

It was an early morning … we rose around 4am and were on the road up to Kenosha (about an hour north of Chicago) by 4:40am.  Jon and the girls had packed the car with all the essentials the night before, while I had gone to bed before 9, to get a bit more sleep!

We arrived in record time, but not being familiar with this venue, I wanted to be there an hour before the race start to check things out, use the potty, scope out the course, etc.  It was an absolutely beautiful morning and a rare privilege to watch the sun rise over lake Michigan.  We saw the transformation from blue to hot pink to orange as it peaked up over the lake and as the clouds cleared to an absolutely perfect morning for a long run!

Jon, the girls and Baxter were all well equipped to cheer me on with great signs and even a loud cow bell .. just in case I couldn’t see them in their bright yellow ‘team laila’ tshirts!  You couldn’t ask for a better cheering section!  I felt very loved and supported.

For me personally, I had to overcome more than a few obstacles around this particular race.  The details /content and circumstances of those obstacles are not as important as the process of the overcoming.  We must create what we want with what we have.  We don’t always have what we want, but we do have the ability to create our own experience.  I knew that would be my work for this race!

I was so happy with the outcome of this race.  I loved having my family there to support me.  They were at the start, the 5 mile, 10 mile and finish line!  Perfect!

As it turned out, I ran this race without any running buddies of any kind.  I knew just the day before that this would be the case, so I collected a community of friends and family via text to support me while I ran with my iPhone as my Ipod.  I loved hearing from so many, encouragement to keep going and finish strong.  I had a specific time goal that I knew I would have to work very hard to meet, especially running alone and not experienced in pacing myself BY myself.  I’m so happy that I beat my goal by 5 minutes!  I had specific plans around water stations and fueling throughout the race, that worked really well.

What do I take away?

Gratitude for Jon and the girls for their support.  I often take that for granted, and it meant so much to me in this particular race.  I’m so grateful!

I feel empowered to do hard things.  This race was hard.  The training was hard.  Overcoming fear and obstacles was hard.  But, I did it, and I can move forward in life and face hard things in other areas too.

Community.  We were not designed to do life alone.  Again, family was key . . . as were the community of friends that also wanted and expected me to do my best.  I felt their support and wanted to honor it, by actually doing my best!  I believe I did that, and I was so pleased.

Additionally, running alone gives me time to be with myself .. to listen to myself and also to talk to myself ..  I did a bit of both on this run.  Being alone is most importantly an opportunity to listen to God.  I’m thankful for what I heard and for what I said.

Thankful to God that my body works well enough to run, for a beautiful day to enjoy pushing myself physically, soaking in a beautiful morning on Lake Michigan and thankful for many lessons learned.