Tuesday, May 26, 2020

speaking fear or faith

Psalm 34:1-3
In moments of great fear, we respond in ways that might not be characteristic of us. Fear brings out deep places within us that we might not even know are there. Whether fear comes from a diagnosis, a pandemic, or even something that has played out a "what if story" in our minds.
As I was coming home from work one afternoon, I noticed what seemed to be a small alligator about 10 feet from me. I immediately panicked. I did what any freaked out person would do, called Animal Control. I also called my husband who raced home from work only to discover, in my embarrassment, that it was *toy* alligator. Thankfully Animal Control had not yet arrived to rescue me from the plastic squeak toy, so my dignity was spared when we called them off.
Though most fear is unreasonable or even unnecessary, it is often unwilling to obey our reasoning until proven otherwise.
David felt great fear in 1 Samuel 21 when faced with the king of Gath. He thought surely he was good as dead. The king was far more frightening than a toy alligator. Regardless that David had single-handedly killed the giant everyone else had feared not long ago, yet in this moment his fear wasn't listening to the voice of truth from the past. That was then, this is now. In the moment
David reacted as he never had before. He didn't take up the sword, pray to God and fight. No, this time, he turned his behavior into that of a madman it tells us in verse 13. And even in his odd response, he is spared by the evil king. On the other side of the fear, David recognizes God's sovereign hand and thus Psalm 34 is penned.
The Psalm opens with praise. "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth," says the opening line.
Blessing here is from the original word also meaning to kneel. The psalmist takes the right position before his God and his mouth offers praise.  He came through a difficult season or fearful trial and his first response is praise to God.
David goes on to say, "My soul makes its boast in the LORD, let the humble hear and be glad."
The psalmist's soul does not pride himself in himself and his own ingenuity rather he makes his boasting in Yahweh, the covenant keeping God who protected him from what he greatly feared; in this moment it was death. He speaks of it so others hear what happened and it is a testimony of what God did, not what man did.
Finally in verse 3 we see the invitation to others, "Oh magnify the LORD with me, let us exalt his name together!"
Misery loves company, but so does praise and gratitude. When we speak complaints and irritations and pessimism, we invite others to the same. But when we speak praise and gratitude and marvel over what God has done in our lives, we also invite others to the same.
So today, whether we are facing a real fear or a perceived fear. Will we remember the One Who is sovereign? When we have come through the trial what are you and I going to speak of? Are we going to praise God with the same passion that we used when we begged for safety or release from fears? When He shows Himself to be God in and through our trial will we speak of all *we* did and how wise we were or will we point to the life giving grace of God? Will we speak fear or faith?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

five minute friday: forward

2019 crept in without much fan fare as we huddled close in the wake of the storm that had swept us into an unfamiliar town and a painful season of grief over the greatest loss we had felt to date. But 2019 brought healing in the form of a family vacation brimming with excitement, joy and bonding followed by the sweetest 20th anniversary trip to Jamaica we could have ever imagined. As the year closed with new traditions and remembrances, we could feel the healing that was being worked into the fabric of our lives.
Enter 2020. As my oldest celebrated big at The Passion Conference, we no sooner toasted the new year that we ran to the shore to make the first day count with the salt water spraying its foam confetti all around us. New hopes, fresh starts, a new decade ahead with such promise. What could go wrong?

I'll spare you the rehashing of these last three months having not been what we expected. An understatement.
Even if you have been living under a rock, you certainly have felt the effects of this season. But where do we go from here. How do we possibly move forward?

Abraham lived a life of forward going. He certainly had no idea things would work out as they did. He just trusted the One from whose hand it came. How could he trust so fully?
I think and overthink until I have successfully stirred my own anxious thoughts and grown my own false stories from those seeds. From that patch of weeds I then end up drawing others around me into second guessing too.

Did God really say..? How can you be so sure? What if...? Or what if...? 

Not Abraham. Hebrews 11:10 tells us "he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." He wasn't looking mourning the end of previous joys. He wasn't looking to Sarah for clarity. He wasn't even spending time, it seems, hemming and hawing over the pros and cons list. Nope. Hebrews 11:8 says, "by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going."

We don't yet know where we are going from here. We don't yet know the world we will live in as we step out of our homes from this shelter in place. But God does. The city Abraham's eyes were fixed on was not of this world. He was looking towards the City he was made for, the Celestial City, designed and built by God.  So can we. This world and all it's viruses, hornets, earthquakes, and fires will pass away. But the City God is preparing for those who are His is eternal. What if the story we told ourselves was True? What if we fixed our eyes on the City we are made for?

a new perspective

Perspective is everything. Isn't it?
When we see from the perspective before us, we will think from our vantage point and thus live out of that. What other perspective is there? I only have but my own eyes and story from which to proceed so how can I shift to any other perspective? Sometimes that shift requires a reframing of our mind, a whole new focus.
When my son, who is a hobby photographer, takes a picture he often crouches down, shifting his perspective, getting closer or farther from the object he is framing. By contrast, I take the same picture framed from my own 5 foot height stance. In failing to shift, I miss much of the beauty my son is capturing. He then edits pictures from yet another perspective by removing entire backgrounds and adding filters and color. The scene is a fresh creation that I completely missed by failing to alter my perspective.
The Word of God tells us when we surrender to the Lord, coming to salvation, we are made new. We are now in the likeness of God created in true righteousness and holiness as Ephesians 4 teaches. Our perspective is to shift to accommodate this Truth. But this doesn't come naturally to us, it must be supernatural. A perspective shift requires a renewed spirit of our mind. When Truth determines our thinking, then our mind is renewed and our behavior is altered to reflect that truth. Much like my son's pictures reflect a unique,
artistic perspective.
Ephesians 4 illustrates this shift by highlighting certain behaviors that reflect the new angle. We speak truth. We may be angry but do not sin in that anger. We no longer steal but work honestly and share with others rather than take. Our talk is no longer corrupt but rather encouraging and grace filled. We live kindly, tenderheartedly and forgiving. Why? Our perspective has shifted and we remember we are made in His likeness, we are forgiven and we are new creations.

From what perspective are you thinking and behaving?
In what way do you need to shift your perspective today?
Let's let His truth reframe our minds and thus give us the framework of grace from which to live.

Monday, May 18, 2020

dare to reimagine

Life has a glorious, thrilling and often times hair-raising way of turning out so very differently than we imagined, doesn't it? When, as a young girl of six, I watched my parents divorce and move to separate states, I never imagined I would be walked down the isle with my arm linked in my Dad's sixteen years later. As I watched my mother marry my stepfather who I spent years loathing and being loathed in return,  I certainly never dared to imagine my Dad would return to our family and remarry my mother.  But in God's glorious providence and grace, that is exactly what happened. My life was reimagined by a good God.

Not every turn ends in what feels good. Life certainly has a way of beating us up, too. Burying my sweet Daddy after only getting him back in our life for twenty-three short years was a blow to the gut from which we are all still recovering. But in God's abundant grace, it was not before he placed his faith in Jesus and walked a fruit bearing season of life with his Savior for whom he was ready to meet face to face when called Home.

Sitting in the pew next to my dearest people one Easter Sunday, watching the artist paint the empty tomb and enormous rolled away stone, I silently begged the Lord for the salvation of my Dad. Open his eyes, oh God, to his need for you and his willingness to turn to you!

If I can move the stone from that tomb, I can move the stone from his heart, Came the response in my soul so clearly I had to look around to see if anyone else felt it.

And sure enough, two more years passed and my Daddy came home one evening to my mother with the words she had longed to hear since her own recent conversion, I placed my faith in Jesus today and surrendered my life to my Savior.

It was after supper when my phone rang with my mother's joy-filled words of eternal hope and answered prayer. Life was being reimagined by a faithful God, yet again.

Pondering the turns life has taken in 43 short years of experience, it seems to mimic a roller coaster more than a scenic stroll. But around every bend and in the midst of every plummet, my God has been so faithful just as 2 Thessalonians 3:3 promises and He will continue to be for always. We can entrust this life to His imagining and reimagining because He alone works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) So let's dare to reimagine and then dare to let Him amaze us.

Friday, May 15, 2020

five minute friday: normal

normalHow can there be a normal in the midst of an ever changing life? How can we find norm when everything keeps changing? These men-children keep growing and going. This man keeps graying, reminding me of my own roots. The bills ebb and flow and, by God's grace, the provision flows along with them.

In a season where all the world is pleading like beggars for normalcy, we are reminded there is no such thing.

Standing at the shore and watching the waves plummet the sand only to pull back again, I call to mind that normalcy of change. Maybe that in itself is our normalcy. Aren't we just fooling ourselves to think anything else will be the norm?

At that time, His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of things that are shaken-- that is things that have been made-- in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:26-29

The shaking of this world, the lack of sameness in our lives, the constant upheavals and trials that consume us stand as proof that the only normalcy is change. We think "when things get back to normal" and then quickly feel the weight of that lack of real normal. Just because restaurants open, schools are in session and jobs feel secure does not guard us from the next trial, the next hurricane, the next diagnosis, the next virus.

Jesus alone is the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. He stands in sharp contrast to our ever changing, ever shifting sandy soil. He alone is the stability of our times, the Prophet Isaiah points out (33:6).

So while we look for a return to normal, maybe what we really long for is a return to the one who is the Unchanging Stability we truly long for. Take hold of Him and He will not let go.