Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Songs in the Night: I'm Just a Person

Songs in the Night: I'm Just a Person

I'm Just a Person

I am a person--just a person like anyone else--an imperfect person who has made mistakes, who has hurt people, who has failed others, who has made wrong decisions, who has screwed up. That's me. I have done all those things. And, as a person, I have cried, felt guilty, had remorse , been angry, experienced disappointments, been abused, suffered both pain and grief, become bitter and resentful, and taken my feelings out on others. Yes, that's me too.
But, I am something else.
I am a Christian. A Christian is an imperfect person who has made mistakes, who has hurt people, who has failed others, who has made wrong decisions, who has screwed up. 
Both a person and a Christian--a Christian person. 
The reason I am a Christian is because I discovered that Jesus was also a person who lived in this same place that we do--was hurt, deceived, rejected, scorned, laughed at, mocked,  abused, and ultimately killed. He experienced joy, friendship, grief, anger, disappointment, rejection, betrayal, agony, pain, and even death-- the same feelings and experiences that all of us go through as we walk this earth. But,  his reaction to all the insults that were hurled at him, to all the disbelief, to all the resentment, to the lies, to the ignorance, and to the betrayal  was to love, was to have compassion, was to forgive, was to heal. While he was here, he taught us, he loved us, he was patient with us.  
We have the story of how he lived and what he said and the promises he gave us in a book called The Bible. In it we learn that He sacrificed himself for me and for you by dying on a cross so that you and I could have, not just salvation, not just heaven, but a relationship with him every day and a way to live this life, while we are on this earth,  with freedom and joy and peace . And, He wants to be our friend. He wants to be our family. He loves me. And, he loves you. 
The way I became a Christian is by realizing that I am not perfect, that I have screwed up, and that I want something different. I want the freedom and joy in living that Christ teaches about. He said, 
"The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. John 10:10AMP
I found that the way to get that kind of life is to believe  that Jesus is who He says He is, to ask Him for forgiveness for the things I have done (and often still DO) wrong, and then to ask Him to help me to do them differently. That's just a prayer, directed to the person Jesus, asking Him to come into my life and change me. 
He's right there, ready to listen, when we ask him:
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
Rev 3:20 NIV
You may think that kind of freedom and acceptance won't work for you.  Well, it did, and it does, for me. God says,
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
— Jeremiah 32:27
I decided to believe Him and Take Him at His word.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NLT

I am writing this today so that you may know, undoubtedly, where I stand and what I believe. I stand with Jesus, my friend, my Savior, my brother. My Lord. He gives me peace and purpose and joy. I love Him, and I want more of Him every single day. 

New Living Translation
"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes--the Jew first and also the Gentile." Romans 1:16

Monday, July 10, 2017

First Cup, Second Cup (Part Two)

"Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."
Psalm 143:8 ESV

    In my last blog entry, I began writing about my thoughts on "second cup"--that rare bonus time of the day when  I get to enjoy a fresh cup of tea as well as fresh insights during my quiet time with God. If I am fortunate enough to have the luxury of that second cup, it is a relaxing and renewing time, when I breathe more deeply and pray more fervently. On a good day, it's also when I listen more quietly. It doesn't happen every day, but, when it does, I am grateful for it.
      As I was writing that blog entry, God was allowing me to see that cup of tea and that time more metaphorically--not only as a literal cup of tea that I sometimes get to enjoy in the mornings with the birds and the Lord, but also as a symbol for this period in my life. It has taken me awhile to mull over this idea, as evidenced by the two weeks that have transpired since my last entry.
     This is a time of transitions for our family--sort of a second chapter. Our youngest child was graduated from her university  recently, and we no longer have college bills to pay. Hallelujah! I saw an ad for a back-to-school sale and realized it doesn't apply to us. And, for the first time since 1981, there is no need to plan our family calendar around those dates delineated by the school calendar. How different this is from all my years of actively "mothering".
     Our loved ones don't seem to need us in the same ways they have in the past. For example, our parenting role, though not over, certainly is changing in its function. Our children no longer need us in the way they used to. They are all grown and have their own lives to lead. My aging parents need us at times, but they remain independent. I am grateful that we get to spend time with them. What a source of wise counsel they are to us!
      Even our living arrangements have changed. My husband works in Austin, yet I work in Tyler. Since we work in different places, we maintain two homes while trying to spend as much time together as we can. We would like to be able to spend more time in the same place--together!  Although we love our homes, we are challenged by their upkeep.  Frankly, we need to downsize.   While I still continue to practice medicine, I also actively serve on a governing board in Austin. One or the other of us is on the road traveling between the two places nearly every weekend.
     Our lives, however, are not solely about work and responsibilities. We want time for rest and for creativity. We also want to visit all our children and grandchildren whenever we can, and those grandchildren live far away. Although we would love to spend more time with friends, we find it difficult to do so since we are not in the same place at the same time for very long. Those who know me well would affirm that I would rather be singing, no matter where I am. The frequent traveling often precludes that. My suitcase is nearly always out. I unpack and wash the things from my last trip, only to be preparing and packing my clothes for the next.
      I find myself wondering what God has in store for us during this part of our lives. It seems awfully chaotic for me to make any sense of it. I can't help but wonder, "Where are we going with this, Lord?"  Above all, we want to be in the place that He wants, doing what He desires of us. Fortunately for us, we don't need to "lean on our own understanding". Perhaps He is preparing us for our "second cup". 
      I think about the beautiful old song, "Fill My Cup, Lord", and how I've sung it many times:

"Fill my cup, Lord.
I lift it up,Lord.
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven,
Feed me 'til I want no more.
Fill my cup.
Fill it up,
And make me whole."

      God has filled my cup. He has quenched my thirst and fed me with the bread of life. I have been satisfied with Jesus. But, instead of that being my only cup, I am realizing that finishing a "first cup" may mean there is now room for a second. God is able and wanting to fill it. He's offering us a second helping.  
      We don't know where God is directing us, but we do know that He is. God has a second cup for us – – the second chapter during which he wants us to be active and fruitful. 
Lord, here is my cup. I'm holding it out to you.

" For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are He who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you."
"My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent."
"But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come."
"You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, oh my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, oh holy one of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long."
Psalm 71: 5-6, 8-9, 14-18, 20-24. ESV


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

First Cup, Second Cup (Part One)

    I usually start my day with a cup of tea. I try, though I am not always able, to do my Bible reading soon after waking up in the morning also. First, I do the boring, but familiar, mundane rituals: I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, take medication, put on my robe and slippers, then go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. This will be "first cup".
     While, in my morning stupor, I am waiting for the tea to brew, I clumsily tidy up in the kitchen – – emptying the dishwasher or loading it, wiping off the counters, and opening the blinds to let the sunshine pour into my breakfast nook. Bright light is an essential part of getting going in the morning for me. I then remove the teabag from my cup, add the milk  and sugar to my tea, wipe up the inevitable spill on the counter, turn off the kitchen light, and gingerly (hoping not to spill) make my way back to my bedroom to my quiet-time chair where I am able  to open my Bible while I savor my first cup. This is the simple daily routine that prepares me for my time with God.
     "First cup" typically involves reading five Psalms, one chapter of Proverbs, and whatever section of the New Testament I'm currently in. (When I finish the New Testament,  I plan to start over in the Old.) During "first cup" I read, underline passages that speak to me, write notes in the margins of my journaling ESV Bible, and record  favorite scriptures on cards that I keep near my chair. If I have time, I also write in my prayer journal where I make notes about the date, time, and place, my prayer requests, the requests of others, answered prayer, and thankful praises. Usually, by the time I do this, I have finished my first cup of tea, and I have to get busy, get dressed, and ready myself to face the day. I don't always finish what I hoped to do during "first cup", and it ends up being my only cup and sometimes even just a half-cup!
     The temperature of my tea often gauges the attentiveness I have toward making the "first cup" be for my time in the Word. If I let it get cold, it is usually because I have done too many little tasks before getting back to my quiet-time chair. I am distracted and have made myself busy before I stopped to be quiet. I have to make sure that my priority is God-book, not Facebook, and leave my smart phone on silent--elsewhere, where it is plugged into its charger and not demanding my attention. I need to plug-in to my Charger before I look at the phone.
     There is sometimes a blessed interval in  the morning when I have already read my Bible and am anticipating settling down with a second cup of tea to listen to God and focus on writing in my journal the practical application of what I have read.  It is after I do other tasks necessary to get the day started and only on days I don't have to go in to the office. It is when I am able to return to my quiet place for more--more tea and more of what God has for me. 
     Today, I didn't think I would be able to have that second cup because I had an appointment with my trainer to work out at the gym. However, she cancelled because her son is sick. Instead of bemoaning the time I didn't have to stretch out my sore muscles, I gladly settled down with my second cup after letting out and feeding the dog, sorting and starting a load of laundry, washing more dishes in the sink, and answering one call from my secretary and another from a physician's office. Whew.
     Now I sit here, guiltily relieved that I don't have to exercise, feeling privileged to sit sipping my second cup of tea, listening to His still, quiet voice, and writing in my journal. It is a sacred time, a place of refuge and renewal, a portion of peace that I don't often get. The more I ponder about this second cup, the more I realize that there is more to say about it. I will save that for next time.

"Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you,  for you answer me."
Psalm 86:4-7
"Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol."
Psalm 86: 11-13
"Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that may tell of all your works." Psalm 73:23-28

Monday, June 19, 2017

Relationship Idolatry

What follows is a story I shared in the context of teaching a Bible study on forgiveness and relationships. Even in the midst of losing an important relationship, God may be able to teach us something so that we may draw nearer to him.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24

Susan married a man whom she considered better than herself. She had poor self-esteem from her childhood, and wrong decisions in her young adult life made it even worse. When she found someone whom she considered "good" who loved her, she based her worth on his opinion of her.
She married the man and trusted him implicitly, believing everything he said about life, principles, and even God and the Bible. She put him on a pedestal. Then, when he left her after several years of marriage, Susan was shattered to the point of feeling suicidal. Susan had made her husband her idol; she valued his opinion more than God's.
Idolatry is like spiritual adultery; it is loving someone or something more than God. God says Susan is forgiven for whatever she has done wrong, but her husband, by rejecting her, showed unforgiveness. Susan, therefore, did not feel truly forgiven. Her husband's rejection would not have been so devastating had she not put him in God's place in her life. If her husband, knowing everything about her, rejected her, then how could God truly accept her? Obviously, her self image was based more on what her husband thought of her than what God thought of her.
When another person is given the position that only God should have in our lives, many things can happen. When Susan idealized her husband, she put an unbearable burden on him. She subconsciously expected him to be godlike – – perfect, incapable of failure, able to know and fulfill her every need. He was her all in all – – husband, father, and even savior. No human can withstand those types of expectations; he is a failure just by being human. Being someone else's everything is too much pressure.
If you have allowed the rejection of another to shake your faith, to separate you from God, to deeply damage your own self image, then perhaps you have placed that person above God in your life. Tell God about it; ask him to reveal to you His truth.

Lord, I confess that I have been guilty of idolatry, that I have put someone or something else ahead of You. I ask You to forgive me and to take first place in my life. I accept what You say that I am: fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and precious in Your sight. Father, take away any hidden idols in my home or in my life – – anything that would keep my loyalty from You or stand in the way of our relationship. Thank You for revealing these blind spots in my life and for cleansing me from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 19, 2015

Songs in the Night: The Promise of Winter Wheat

Songs in the Night: The Promise of Winter Wheat:      I love the green blush of winter wheat tinging a dull brown field in cold January. I start thinking of seeds and growing things, young...