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Archive for February, 2011

Happy Birthday Pappa Bear

Today is my dad’s birthday and he is sure on my mind and heart today. He was such a wonderful father; funny. quiet. gentle. kind. thoughtful.

His sense of humor was understated and hilarious. He would laugh until tears filled his eyes; he adored all of us kids and each of us knew we were his “favorite” in some way.

A lifelong farmer, he knew the rhythm of life and was very tuned into the seasons. He loved farming, growing, harvesting.

He loved fishing, walking, sitting on the screened porch with a cup of coffee and listening to the birds, whistling back to them to see if they would reply.

I loved waking up at night after he’d come in from the field to the smell of popcorn, and sneaking out to sit on his lap and eat a little with him. I loved walking with him, looking for Easter flowers or mushrooms. I loved the way he smelled; I loved laying my head on his chest and hearing his artificial heart valves clicking away. I loved when he would cup his hands around his eyes in the little game he played with me as a child, waiting for me to walk up closer and peer up to see what was hidden within – his beautiful brown eyes.

I miss him so much.

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Today’s reading was about Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abiu, who offered “strange smoke” and were struck down.

In his book, The Holiness of God, RC Sproul talks about this event and how harsh it seems. But Sproul goes on to make the point that God either treats us with justice, or with mercy. He is so generous with His mercy, forgiving us time and time and time again, that when he treats us with justice, it can seem harsh.

Sproul gives the example of a teacher who tells his students at the beginning of the year that they will have three big projects; each is due a certain day and if it is not turned in by noon that day, it is an automatic “F.” The first project comes due, and a few students don’t have it to turn in. The teacher reacts with mercy and gives them an extra day to earn full credit. The second project comes due and more students are not prepared. Again, the teacher extends mercy. The final project comes due and of course, many students don’t have their finished project. When the teacher responds justly and gives the “F” he promised, they decry how harsh and unfair that was.

It’s just given me a lot to ponder … I know God never treats us unjustly. And the book of Wisdom tells us how very patient God is, punishing little-by-little to give people time to repent.

I really loved this passage:

17 Why did you not eat in the holy place the sacrifice for sin, which is most holy, and given to you, that you may bear the iniquity of the people, and may pray for them in the sight of the Lord (Leviticus 10)

Aaron explains that this day his sons have died: “how could I eat it, or please the Lord in the ceremonies, having a sorrowful heart?”

And Moses accepted that. That really just touches my heart.

But looking at verse 17 again, I think it applies today to people of prayer … “that you may bear the iniquity of the people, and may pray for them in the sight of the Lord.”

I know that I have a gift of great empathy; when I pray for people who are hurting, I hurt for them. I know I’m not bearing their iniquity as Jesus bore our sins, but in a way I am bearing their sorrow and pain. I’m still learning about prayer and its power; I just thought that was interesting and adds another layer of insight.

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I woke up still feeling a little bummed and sat down with my coffee to read today’s scriptures. My son’s little dog is stretched out on my lap, keeping me warm … and I read a passage that comforts and blesses, and then another that humbles my soul deeply.

Isn’t God so wonderful in the ways He does that?

In this Psalm 56, I saw myself in relation to yesterday’s post. I know the people who have hurt me and/or attacked me aren’t literally after my life as they were David’s; and I know they aren’t “evil” people … only human, trying to understand God’s Word as well. I don’t wish them ill in any measure.

But still, so much of this is how I feel sometimes. And I’ve often thought verse 8 is soooooo, so precious … God keeps our tears in a bottle!

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.

2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.

3 When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.

4 In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid
What can mere man do to me?

5 All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.

6 They attack, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life.

7 Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!

8 You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle
Are they not in Your book?

9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.

10 In God, whose word I praise,
In the LORD, whose word I praise,

11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

12 Your vows are binding upon me, O God;
I will render thank offerings to You.

13 For You have delivered my soul from death,
Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living.

What a beautiful, comforting balm the LORD has given me in reading that.  And my next reading was deeply humbling. I do struggle often; I do suffer pain. But it cannot compare to the pain my LORD and God endured, for my sake. His precious body hung on a tree, to the point even of death.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47 And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias.
48 And immediately one of them running took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar; and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 And the others said: Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him.
50 And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. (Matthew 27)

Oh, my dear, sweet Lord … how I long to tenderly touch your face. If I had been there with you, would I have had the courage to wash your feet with my tears? To try to comfort you? To follow?

I am still homesick. I eagerly await my time, when I can see His face and hear His voice and be in His presence.

And I am also strengthened. Thank you for your precious Word oh God.

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Sometimes … doubts just creep in and threaten to consume me.

Not doubts about God … whether He is real, or loves me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a shadow of a doubt about those.

But doubts about me. Do I really know what I think I know? Have I really heard His voice, or have I deceived myself? No question in my mind that no person has ever had it 100% right except Jesus; we all are in error about some things. So I know I’m surely wrong on some things.

But constant pounding by people with different opinions sure gets to me: Catholics aren’t real Christians; if you don’t believe “xyz” you don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear; if you haven’t come to believe “abc” yet it’s because the Holy Spirit hasn’t revealed it to you; you are too brainwashed by your church; you are too afraid to give up your own beliefs.

Is it really that difficult? If we’re told to seek and knock and by doing so we will find … does God keep hidden things that are important? I mean seriously … if (for example) universal salvation is THE good news … and if I’ve asked and asked and studied and considered … am I really just stubborn, or so brainwashed that I can’t “see” the Truth?

It’s discouraging. It makes me sad. Why is it so easy to see when other people are basically deceiving themselves … but I don’t know if I am deceiving myself? I don’t think I am – I constantly ask the LORD to search me and to show me. If He is silent, is that my answer? If He has shown me and told me several times (just within this blog I’ve mentioned confirmation-after-confirmation) why do I second-guess myself and doubt? Why do I care, anyway?

No answers to any of that today; I don’t want to wallow in a pity party but I sure could use some encouragement. I feel so out-of-place sometimes, not really fitting in anywhere.

I’m homesick … I want to go Home.

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Behold I send my angel

I can go so many days without having anything to post, then have two posts the same morning. Hey, it’s my blog and I started it for this purpose – to journal as I read the Bible.

I loved reading this passage this morning – what a beautiful way to start a Monday!

20 Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared.
21 Take notice of him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned: for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and my name is in him.
22 But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee. Exodus 23

That just sounds like a prayer, a blessing and a promise all in one! “Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared.”

Thank you Father for your promise, your provision, your protection, your plan! I ask you sent an angel before us today as you did before. Protect us all body, mind and spirit; help us to take notice of your Spirit and hear His voice and to follow Him.  In the name of Jesus I pray!

 

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As I continue my “read the Bible in a year” plan, I’m still amazed that even though I’ve read every word of this before over my lifetime, and even though I did a read-in-a-year plan just last year, I am still seeing new things.

As I read the story of Joseph again, I understood why he especially loved Benjamin. His father Jacob had especially loved Rachel, but also had other children by Leah and by maidservants of both Leah and Rachel. Benjamin and Joseph were full brothers, both sons of Rachel and Jacob.

And I spent more time pondering what it must have been like for Joseph, betrayed and sold by his own brothers; thrown into prison by false accusation; interpreting dreams of two men, one who might have helped him gain release from prison but instead forgot him for several more years. Countless times, Joseph must have wondered, “Why me? What did I do? Has God abandoned me, or is He even real?”

But eventually he was able to say in complete humility and honesty and genuine forgiveness:

19 And he answered them: Fear not: can we resist the will of God?
20 You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people.
21 Fear not: I will feed you and your children. And he comforted them, and spoke gently and mildly. (Genesis 50)

May we all see the wisdom in those words.

 

 

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Is your mind stayed on God?

I read the online page, My Utmost for His Highest, daily. Some days the writings of Oswald Chambers really speak to my heart and make it sing … today is one of those days. The home page changes daily so I’m copying the entire devotional here; it really is awesome!

Is Your Mind Stayed on God?
Feb112011

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You —Isaiah 26:3

Is your mind stayed on God or is it starved? Starvation of the mind, caused by neglect, is one of the chief sources of exhaustion and weakness in a servant’s life. If you have never used your mind to place yourself before God, begin to do it now. There is no reason to wait for God to come to you. You must turn your thoughts and your eyes away from the face of idols and look to Him and be saved (see Isaiah 45:22).

Your mind is the greatest gift God has given you and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. You should seek to be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This will be one of the greatest assets of your faith when a time of trial comes, because then your faith and the Spirit of God will work together. When you have thoughts and ideas that are worthy of credit to God, learn to compare and associate them with all that happens in nature-the rising and the setting of the sun, the shining of the moon and the stars, and the changing of the seasons. You will begin to see that your thoughts are from God as well, and your mind will no longer be at the mercy of your impulsive thinking, but will always be used in service to God.

“We have sinned with our fathers . . . [and] . . . did not remember . . .” (Psalm 106:6-7). Then prod your memory and wake up immediately. Don’t say to yourself, “But God is not talking to me right now.” He ought to be. Remember whose you are and whom you serve. Encourage yourself to remember, and your affection for God will increase tenfold.

Your mind will no longer be starved, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.

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