The Opposite of Love?

I have been reading a book by Philip Yancey called “Prayer – Does it Make any Difference?” and I ran across a familiar story which is so profound. We’ve been studying the Old Testament in a study group at church and in our session on Job, we discussed honesty in prayer. The conclusion we came to is that since God knows everything already, to come to him with anything but complete honesty would be an affront to our relationship with him. No amount of anger or frustration, no honest expression of feelings of hate or anything else would come as a shock, or hurt God’s feelings like being fake and dishonest would, since it would indicate our lack of trust in him, our lack of concern for real relationship.

The story is about a chaplain at a hospice who is approached by a man who has spent the previous night ranting, raving and swearing at God. He now feels dreadful and is worried that his chances at eternal life are lost forever and that God would never forgive one who had so cursed and abused him. The chaplain asks the patient “What do you think is the opposite of love?” to which the man replies, “hate.”

Very wisely, the chaplain replied, “No, the opposite of love is indifference. You have not been indifferent to God, or you never would have spent the night talking to him, honestly telling him what was in your heart and mind. Do you know the Christian word that describes what you have been doing? The word is ‘prayer.’ You have spent the night praying.”

God, I want to always remember to be honest with you in prayer – I know that I can rest assured that you are big enough to handle any feelings I have and that you want to hear them. I am amazed and humbled at the fact that you care for me and want my honest, open dialogue… Thank you for teaching me more about you and how I am to relate to my creator and king. What an awesome blessing it is to be loved by you.

Strong Tower…

As I drove into work this morning, I had a wonderful time of prayer and this song kept running around and around in my head. Not the whole song, just the chorus and bridge and back to the chorus. I even tried to remember the rest of the song, since I kept singing those parts over and over, but that was all I could recall. I felt so happy in the promises there, the statement of faith, that God is my shelter, my shield – no matter what befalls me, I will trust in his care and plan.

Strong tower
High and glorious
Strong tower
Mighty in love
Our refuge
Our defender
Strong tower
Lord above

You are my shelter, my shield
You are the home I could never deserve
Here I will serve, ever under Your gaze
Here I will serve, ever singing Your praise

And, to top it all off, God laid on my heart a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while, so I called her just to tell her that I loved her and was thinking of her, hoping she was well… she didn’t answer and I left a message. A bit later, she called back and told me of the difficult week she and her family had last week and said what an encouragement it was to hear from me. God is so good…

Thank you for leading me, Father. Help me to always remember who I am in you and to be attentive to opportunities to do your work.

Whose battle is it?

The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”
Exodus 14:14

I am reminded this morning that sometimes (probably most of the time) the battle is not ours to fight. Sure, there are times when something needs to be said in truth tempered with love. There are times when we need to take action to correct a situation. But there are also times when we’ve already said all there is to say. There are times when we worry or stress about things that are beyond our control. Discerning which is which is a matter of prayer, but remembering whose battle it is encourages me and leads me to pray, not worry.

This verse was meant for the Israelites as they were about to cross the Red Sea. They were scared of Pharaoh and his army and feeling like slavery was a better choice than dying in the desert. How many times in our lives do we choose slavery to a habit, or a vice, or brokenness in a relationship because we feel like the battle just can’t be won? Whose battle is it? Because in any battle, my money’s on God. He is always with us, within us, and we need only to remember that when conflict comes. We can draw on his strength when we are weak, his courage when we are scared, and trust that in all things He will work it for the good of us, who love him.

Lord, help me to remember that you are always near. Its something I know, but when conflict comes, I tend to defend myself as if I were on my own. Help me to remember that you not only “have my back” but you go before me. Help me to choose your way when things get sticky and I feel threatened or scared.

Not Better, Just Different

Recently, God’s been showing me that I shouldn’t compare myself to others, or feel like somehow I’m less useful to him than they are (or even useless) as the day may make me feel. He has me where he needs me – and what he has for me to do is no less important than anyone else’s efforts. He can use even seemingly small and insignificant things mightily for his Kingdom.

I have a tendency to hear other people’s stories about the conversations they have with people, or the opportunities they have to pray with or share their faith with people they come into contact with at work or in their travels and bemoan my mostly homebound situation. Add to that the fact that I am naturally introverted, so outgoing conversation with strangers is something that makes my palms sweat and I start to stammer and say stupid things. So obviously, at this point, traveling witness is probably not the best mission field for me. 🙂

However, that logic doesn’t stop me from feeling like I “should” be more like this person or that person… But what blew me away was the realization that others felt the same way about aspects of my life. I don’t feel like someone who others would aspire to be more like, or see as an inspiration to do kingdom work. Apparently, I am. Huh. Requires me to reconsider and simply be inspired by those around me rather than compare myself; we are all parts of a diverse and varied body of Christ and all have a different job to do. Hey, wait just one minute. That sounds familiar…

1 Corinthians 12:14-18 CEB

Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted.

I am a silly girl sometimes, needing to learn and relearn the same lessons (albeit in slightly different ways) and God is so patient with me. He gently reminds me how I am special and loved and needed in so many ways, large and small. Don’t we all need to feel that? One of the ways I’m needed, as I am learning, is to be inspiring to others through just being who God made me to be, just like others are inspiring to me.

Rolling out of the fire… And then back in.

I was reminded this weekend of the importance of spending time with other “on fire” Christians, working toward kingdom goals – and how that fellowship renews your strength and course-corrects your path.

There is a great illustration of a pastor visiting a man who has not been attending worship and not saying a word, only removing a coal from the fire, watching it cool and then putting it back in, making it flare back to life. Without a word, he showed the man the importance of staying connected.

I think we all have a tendency to get stuck in a rut, to forget lessons we’ve learned or to drift from where we want to be… Spending time doing things that can only be accomplished in God’s strength and with the guidance of the Spirit has a way of reminding you whose you are, and what you are called to do. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and patience, teaching and reteaching me your love and truth.

Without Love…

If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.

These are some pretty impressive sounding abilities and accomplishments, and yet, in God’s economy, they are worthless. Without love as motivation, even the most amazing acts are meaningless to God. I guess its only right – the reason we’d be so impressed is that we look at the appearance of things. By necessity, of course. We don’t have the ability to see the heart of another person, to see why they do what they do. I wonder how that would change the way we treat others, if suddenly we could see the heart behind their actions. Would it change the things we do if others could see why we do them?

In the end, its most important to please God, not man, and He CAN see why you do what you do… Be motivated by love. Love for God, and love for your fellow man.

It’s all About the Baby

I’ve really struggled with various things this year in this busy season of preparing for Christmas. And right in the midst of it all, I had a moment of clarity today. I remembered the reason we celebrate, and realized that none of this busy-ness truly matters. At least not enough to lose my joy or distract me from worshipping God for who he is and what he’s done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many things are good and worthy things to do, but none of it matters if it makes you lose sight of what is TRULY worthy of your time and attention.

We celebrate Christmas because of the amazing gift given to us all in Jesus… It’s all because of who he is, how he came to be our Emmanuel, God with us, and what he did in restoring us to right relationship with God, our creator. So, when you find yourself adrift and frustrated, or upset and spread too thin, stop and consider why you’re doing what you’re doing and decide to either change your attitude, or change what you’re doing. Remember that we have received a gift that is too amazing for words – better than anything you could find under a tree, and its joy lasts forever.