Write 31 Days: Comparisons Always Change Our Focus

31 days of JoyWrite 31 Days.  Am I trusting God?  Or does my complaining and grumbling show my unbelief?

My next stop during this month of no grumbling took me to the book of Numbers in the Bible.  I am not going to go into all the details of chapter 16 as I really only want to use a portion of my 500 words (that is the maximum number of 132322145words in any article before your eyes glaze over and you lose all interest in the point of the post ).

Chapter 16 is filled with jealousy and comparisons, and the awful price a disgruntled people paid for not listening to God.

It all started when a few people got jealous of their leaders, of God’s anointed leaders; they gathered a few more into their fold with their complaining and comparisons.  Then others became unhappy with this and that.  It was an opposition against Moses and Aaron.

Really?  No, Moses and his brother were  anointed by God so the uprising was actually rebellion against Him.

Jealousy is a poison. Comparisons can be deadly.  When we look at others and long for their talents, and their gifts, we become discontent with our own.  In God’s Word, we’re told that we all have gifts.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…”  Romans 12:6.   But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift”   Ephesians 4:7.

Yet we neglect to nurture our own if we keep looking around us at others.

Not only do comparisons cause us to grumble, but our complaining is often contagious.   God dealt gravely with those who rebelled in that book of Numbers, but let’s read the last sentence in that very same chapter, “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron…”. (Numbers 16:41)

Poison.  Spreading to others.  The rebellion of some had caused discontentment in the”whole Israelite community“.

But , “The very next day...”?  The very same chapter, the very next day.  How can that happen?  How can memories be so short?  Unfortunately, as a fallen people, they didn’t always learn the lessons God put in their lives.  We don’t either.

your-talent-is-gods-gift-to-you_what-you-do-with-it-is-your-gift-back-to-god-srqqkb“I wish I could sing like you”

“I want to speak like her”

“I would love to write like him”

“Why can’t I teach like her”

Comparisons. Grumbles.  Discontentment.

We sometimes  see the error in our way, and ask God to forgive us.  And we are happy with our own talents and gifts…. for about 2 days.   Then we do it all over again.

We are those people.  At least I am those people.

Friend, stop looking around.  Look up and then look within.   What is your talent?  What are you good at?  Where are your passions?  Find those things and nurture those things.  When you are doing what God created you to do, you will find satisfaction and contentment.

And God will be glorified in you.

Oops, I used all 500 words;  I hope you stayed with me!

 

 

Write 31 Days: Did God Bring Us Here to Die?

31 days of Joy31 days of JOY — Grumble or Trust?

The Hebrew’s exodus out of Egypt is a very well-known Bible story.  It makes for a great cast of characters in children’s Sunday School class or any drama presentation:   A powerful Pharaoh, an adopted son-turned-enemy, and an enslaved people… all lend to an amazing narrative.

But those of us familiar with the history know that those very same freed people were not such great travelers.  It’s not a surprise that the first mention of grumbling in the Bible appears in the book of Exodus (even though I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve did their share of complaining after their little snack in the garden, nothing is recorded about their discontent).

“But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left”.  (Exodus 14:29)  Can God get any more REAL?  The Hebrew people had seen wonders, they had seen God.

They saw God when Moses rescued them from 400 years of slavery.  (Exodus 3:10-12)

They saw God when He “gave them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians”  so they walked away with their Moses-and-the-Divided-Red-Sea-Explained-Revealed-East-Wind-Parting-Israel-Hebrew-Egyptians-Crossing-Exodus-14-21-Bible-Story-Science-Scientific-Explanaticaptors’ silver, gold, and clothing.  (Exodus 12:35-37)

They saw God as He guided the Hebrews around in that unfamiliar territory with a cloud by day and a fire by night.  (Exodus 13:21)

They saw God dry up the Red Sea and allow for their miraculous crossing.  The Pharaoh and his army weren’t so lucky. (Exodus 14:27-29)

And as the people stepped onto dry ground, they were ecstatic and they danced and sang songs to the Lord.  They recognized God’s control and gave Him praise.  (Exodus 15:1-21)

GUWG-GRUMBLINGHowever….   almost before the water was dry between their toes, there was some grumbling.  It most likely began with one or two, spread to a few, and before he knew what happened, the whole crowd was yelling at Moses, “We need water to drink; this water is bitter!  We need food to eat!  Did you bring us out here to kill us?  We should have just died in Egypt!”  (Exodus 16:1-7)

We read that story, and we are shocked:  ‘Seriously?  How can those people be so spoiled.  So forgetful.  So disrespectful.  So ungrateful.’

They had been given so much.  God was taking care of them.  Yes, they needed food and water, but surely they knew God wouldn’t bring them this far only to let them die.  He would provide.

Trust?  Faith?  Nope, grumble, grumble, grumble.

Wait.  What?  Am I any different?  I have a house, food, water, clothes, and so much more.  I am blessed.  God has been faithful.  Yet I grumble because I have to load a dishwasher, yet those very dishes are proof that I have food.  I complain about the laundry, yet those are the clothes that keep me warm.  I don’t like dusting my sturdy, lovely furniture.  I whine because I have appointments conflicting on my calendar — I have to choose between two good friends!

No, I am no different.

I am that people.

I am so spoiled.  So forgetful.  So disrespectful.  So ungrateful.

“…your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”  (Exodus 16: 8)

Ouch.

When I protest to my husband, my children, or my friend, it is a complaint that God hears loud and clear, and takes personally.   I am talking directly to Him — the Giver of all that I have.  Whew.  That’s pretty heavy stuff.

50576f919e08719fb8d22dca0585afa9I’m so glad I’m living under God’s grace, and that He is always willing to forgive.  I’m thankful He’s given us His word, and placed stories within those pages that speak to us and teach us His ways.   We fail sometimes, yes, but we have His Spirit available to us, to help us be gracious and thankful.

The idea that grumbling is the opposite of trust has just started to resonate with me.  And I’ve bitten my tongue more than once today, and then offered up a prayer, ” I know You’ve got this.  Thank you for what You are doing in this situation.”   

 

 

Write 31 Days: Two Choices: Grumble or Trust

31 days of JoyI grumble.

I don’t want to be a grumbler.

But I am.

Evidently.

As a woman who looks for Divine intervention in her life, I read my Bible, study my Bible and journal from my Bible.   And lately the word, grumble, has come up way too open-bibleoften for me to ignore any longer.  Once, I hardly even saw it.  Twice, I read back over the phrase.  But after I saw it (and heard it) 4 or 5 times,  I knew God was trying to get my attention.

When I grumble, I allow my circumstances to steal my joy.  And my trust.

Psalm 106: 24-25 “Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word,  but grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord.”

When I complain and whine about anything (and everything) in my life, I am not listening to the voice of the Lord.

GUWG-GRUMBLINGGrumbling, complaining, and whining are not attributes of Christ.

They are not Fruits of the Spirit.

They hamper the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.

Can I go 31 days without grumbling?  Can I replace that grouchy attitude with sweet gratitude?  They are opposite.  I can’t be grumbling and offering thanksgiving at the thSL3UBJNAsame time.

I want to be a woman who trusts God when life is merry, and when life is tough.  I don’t want my circumstances to define who I am.

I am a woman of God.  I trust God.  I believe God.

Do I?

Hmm…  does my grumbling attest to my trust?

Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

trustSo am I going to grumble?  Or am I going to trust God?  I think it’s either/or — can’t be both.

 

Big challenge.

31 days!  I’m taking the challenge!

Seems daunting — both for writing, and for…. well, trusting.

Here we go….  hope you join me!

Are you going to grumble?  Or are you going to trust?

31 days of Joy

 

 

 

 

 

Soaring, Part 2 of Finding My Joy

If you’re just joining me, I hope you take the time to read the previous post where I expressed my struggle to find joy in my Christian walk.    I think I left you with something like, “Being a Christian isn’t joyful, it’s hard work”.

You can read it here.

God did indeed have my attention.  He knows that trials are often the engine that drivepraying us to our knees.  In my loneliness and frustration, I prayed.  I’m sure it wasn’t anything eloquent or pretty.   It probably went something like, “God, help me find you!  I don’t want to do this anymore.”

There was no bolt of lightening or great big sign in the sky.  And God didn’t take all my problems away, but He did answer that prayer…

I joined a Bible study at a large church close to our home.  Those ladies will never know the life-line they threw to me, and how it literally saved my “spiritual” life.   It was my first introduction to a 51klv5FZX+L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Beth Moore Bible study.  We would be studying the Old Testament tabernacle in her book,  A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place.  I had never heard of Beth Moore, but I had always been intrigued by the tabernacle, and I just thought it would be an interesting study.

But God had something else in mind … after all, I had prayed for Him to show himself to me.  Why would he not answer THAT prayer?

As I began to study those lessons, I can remember waking up at 5 a.m. many days, and almost hearing God whisper in my ear, “Come, I have something to show you”.  5 a.m.!!  Seriously?  But God had NEVER woke me up before, and it was exciting.  I was loving this study.  I was loving God’s Word.  Something was happening.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I was changing.

Slowly I was finding my joy, my peace….my God.  How?  In ancient text about the Old Testament tabernacle, of all places?  But I discovered in those pages that God’s Word was alive and active and relevant.   Words written thousands of years ago were helping me cope with distraught daughters.  Those words were helping me encourage my husband.  Those words were helping me get through my days with a new contentment.  The weariness had lifted.

I found joy not by my doing, acting, or working, but by seeking Him; studying His word, praying and keeping my focus on Him.   Were my girls still unhappy?  Oh yeah.  Was I still sick and tired and sometimes stressed-out in our new situation?  Absolutely.  Did Jon’s job go “south”?  Well, yes, it did.  But still, I had this inner joy that circumstances couldn’t take away.

Throughout that study and the next one, I continued to wake up early and run down the stairs!  Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”    …wait upon the Lord.isaiah_40_31_niv2My focus needs to be on God.

My perspective had always been wrong.

I still go to church every Sunday.  In fact, I still DO many of things I did when I was that young, frustrated woman.  But my motivation has changed.

And my perspective has changed.

I’m looking UP these days — not out and about.

Do you have a joy that can’t be shaken by your circumstances?  Are you looking out into the world to find a contentment that can only be found in God?

There is a open-door-blue-sky1promise in the book of Matthew, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  

“God, help me find you!” 

Listen, can you hear it?  He’s whispering…

“Come, I have something to show you…”

“Being a Christian Is Work” Part 1 of Finding My Joy

20150811_123136Hey there!  Do you ever just feel kind of bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life?  Just trying to make it through the day?  Even as you’re checking things off on your to-do list, does it still feel like drudgery instead of accomplishment.

Is there any joy in all that doing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy this week as I am preparing to teach a Bible study this fall in my church.  The study will be on the book of Philippians, a book about joy.

Joy.  It’s kind of illusive at times, isn’t it?

Years ago, we were attending a rather legalistic church.   The Bible was taught in this church, and as a young Christian, I was devouring the sermons and teaching.  However, looking back, I see that the sermons stressed action, doing, and works, but rarely talked about feelings, love and motives.

As a young mother of 4 young girls, I was DOING; I was ACTING; I was WORKING.  I 08111501was attending every church service — Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and you better believe if there was a Missionary Week, we were there EVERY single night.  I attended a women’s meeting every Tuesday morning.  Even if the girls were exhausted, even if I was stressed, even if other things were left undone.   We were there.

Or we weren’t “good Christians”.

I was saved by grace, but living under the umbrella of works.

I remember feeling the weariness;  I remember doing all the “right” things; checking off boxes on that list.  One day, feeling stressed out and blue, I asked to meet with the wife of our traveling evangelist (they were home on sabbatical).  This family was held in high regard in our church, and I admired this woman from afar many times.  She was the mother of 5 children and taught Bible studies all over the country.   She had it altogether, and I wanted her secret!

We arranged to meet in her small, humble kitchen over coffee.  Uncomfortable at first, I finally explained to her that I was frustrated, weary and tired.  I was doing everything o-COFFEE-TEA-TASTE-facebookthat was expected of me and I felt worn out, used and — anything but joyful.

“I have no joy.  Being a Christian is not joyful; it’s work!”

I don’t remember much more about the conversation.   I only know when I left her house that day, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  This woman had no idea what to tell me.  She, too, was doing, acting, working.

And she had no joy.

Sometimes God has to MOVE us to enable us to see things differently.   Nothing like a new perspective from a new perspective!   A few years after that wife-to-wife encounter, our family relocated to Denver, Colorado.  We left behind two “just-grown” daughters; we took two very unhappy daughters with us, a 7 year old and a 15 year old.8444803021_dfc2bcfe5f_z

My life was a hot mess:   I had unhappy children, trying to adjust to a new school, feeling lonely and betrayed.  I think both girls cried themselves to sleep for the first 6 months.   I had developed undiagnosed bronchial pneumonia and was sick for weeks.  My husband was trying to adjust to a new job situation, and things were not going as planned in the office.   I had no support system, but I was doing everything in my power to make this place home.  I was scared.  I was tired.  And I was lonely.

And God had my attention.

The time in Colorado was challenging, but it was a life-changing experience, and I often refer to it as “the best year of my life, and the worst year of my life” (why we stayed only one year is for another post at a later time).

Tomorrow, and I’ll share how God took that lonely time in my life to change me forever.  Join me here for, Finding My Joy, Part 2.

 

 

 

 

Do I Need More Blessings?

harvest

 — dedicated in memory of my dear friend, Susi, who found her joy, and taught me to see my blessings.

My farmer husband is testing the waters today.  Are the beans ready?  Will they process through the combine without problems?  Or should he wait a few more days.  Harvest has begun, and with it, a hopefulness is in the air.  What will the crops yield?  Will the corn be dry enough?  Will the beans be a “bumper” this year?  Throughout the summer, I have heard, “the corn is doing well” and “the beans are suffering“.  My Farmer talks about his fields like they are dear friends.  He has planted, watered, nurtured, and prayed.

Now that harvest is here, what blessings lie around the corner?

Blessings. 

That word has been rattling around in my brain for weeks, months even.  And it has come up in countless books, devotions, lessons and videos.   I even made a “blessing jar” at the beginning of the year.  I prepared little blank cards to record any new blessings.  The cards are dropped into my jar, with hopes of filling it up throughout the year.

I look for blessings every day.  Don’t you?

I want to be blessed.

Once when I was talking on the phone with a friend, we were just chit-chatting about the small things.  I began to complain about the mountain of laundry and the dirty floors.  I grumbled about having to sweep and mop… again.  My sweet friend replied, ‘Oh, I so wish I could sweep your floors for you’.  Immediatelaundryly, I was humbled… and ashamed.    You see, when she was just a young mother, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and her disease was severe.  Most days, she was in bed, not able to do the laundry or cook meals for her family.  These everyday chores I dreaded, she counted as blessings.

Even the mundane tasks are evidence of God’s favor.  I wash the dishes because God has given us food.  I do SO much laundry because we have an abundance of clothes.  I sweep the floor because I have the health and strength to do so.  I make the beds because I have a home, a beautiful shelter, more than I need.   Am I in want of yet more blessings?

I AM blessed.

I am completely, totally, abundantly blessed.

Even when we pray, almost every prayer —  from everyone —  begins with “God, please bless us”.  What?  There are well over 350 verses in the Bible with some form of the word bless, and most of them have to do with God blessing us!   Our Bible is completely laced with God’s blessings on his people.  We are exceedingly blessed.   In Matthew, those counted as blessed are the poor, the mourners, the gentle, those who are thirsting for God as well as those who are pure in God, the merciful, those who keep the peace and those who are persecuted.  I’m on that list.  How about you?

Maybe itblessingss time we blessed God.

I have gotten way too comfortable with my blessings.  They have become my normal; my expectation.  I am living in a paradise compared to 90% of the population.   I am enjoying the “favor”, but often not remembering The Blesser.  He has already given me much — over and over again.

I could spend the rest of today and tomorrow filling out cards for my blessing jar.  Shame on me!  It should be overflowing with cards!  I should need another jar, and then another.

‘Let us bless you, God’ should be our prayer.

My phone chirps, after one morning of field work, I receive a text from my husband: ‘problems’ (he has always been a man of few words).  I lean over and tell my “anxious-to-ride-the-combine” three-year-old grandson, ‘Papa is having trouble with the beans today’.  This little man who has been listening to farmer-speak replies, ‘thats cuz the beans are p’bly not brown enough’.  His wisdom makes me smile.   And he is right, the beans are not dry enough, and our harvest will have to wait a day or two.

But whether the corn and the beans yield an abundance or not, we are blessed.

Yes, we are.    

Dear Lord, may we bless you in whatever we do this day.