Monday, December 31, 2012

Concordances


Anyone will find a concordance to be a useful tool.  It’s one of the reasons that very abridged versions are found in the back of almost all Bibles.  A concordance allows you to find a verse that you were trying to remember, but it also gives you a starting place for a topical study.  

If you want to know what the Bible says about fear, for instance, you could look up the word fear and see every time that word is mentioned in the Bible.  Now not all of those references are going to be useful, but as I said, it gives you a starting place.  It also helps when you’re looking for a specific verse that you thought said one thing, but when you look it up, it meant something slightly different.  

I use an online concordance (biblegateway.com) constantly.  I love the fact that it’s online, too, because it’s right here on my computer while I’m working on my blog.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is actually a little more useful if you’re willing to take the time to look the word up in the book.  (I don’t know if there’s an online version or not.)  The reason is that this particular concordance gives you the original greek or hebrew word that is used, as well as the meaning of that word.  Then, it will give you cross-references for other places that that particular greek or hebrew word was used.  This can be invaluable to show you the intended connotation.  It can really help when you’re trying to understand a passage.

So I am incredibly thankful that God gifted certain people with the passion to index and organize so that we have things like concordances at our fingertips, in order to better understand His Word.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Fear


One thing that God is in the process of Teaching me, is how to deal with expectations.  He has led me toward being able to not prioritize others’ expectations upon me too highly.  I still struggle with this, but I can better and more quickly recognize when it is happening.  Currently, He is bringing home the importance of my own expectations.

For instance, I currently have a week off from work and have badly needed a vacation.  I have certain expectations of what a vacation is.  Some of those have been frustrated simply because this is Christmastime and family has been allotted much of my time according to their own structure, which is not what I expect from a vacation.  

God is Teaching me to recognize when I am disappointed as opposed to being selfish, and how expectations should and should not play a role in my planning and living.  It is okay to be disappointed that you didn’t get to do something as long as you are still trusting God to orchestrate your life.  My frustration is my indication of the fact that I want to control the situation.  (I’m not saying that it’s always sinful to be frustrated, but it does cause me to question why I’m frustrated.  More often than not, it’s because of a sin issue.)  So why do I want to control the situation?  Fear.

I am afraid of a great many things.  I need to place that fear on God in two ways:  1) to realize that God is in control and will take care of me, and 2) to be afraid of God, not of what I was originally fearing.  Then I can replace my fear with praise of God.  

I love Isaiah 51, and the passage that often comes to mind is verses 12b-13a:  “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass, that you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth...”

I almost always pair it in my mind with Matthew 10:28:  “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

I am so thankful and glad that the One I fear loves me with a Love far greater than my own fear, and is worthy of more than all I can give.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Photos


Whether your photos are stored digitally or in photo albums, it’s fun to browse through them and walk down memory lane.  Since we shouldn’t compare ourselves to one another, it is nice to remember where we were in a photo and see how far we have come personally.  (That can also help offset the wish that we still looked that young.)  It’s also just fun to reminisce.

I am thankful that we can take photos nowadays - and that cameras are so readily accessible - for the reminder that “He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6)  I sometimes need the reminder that I truly have progressed for the better, and that God is the one in control of my progression.  Therefore, I have no need to worry; I have only to follow Him.  May God grant you the ability to see how far He has brought you today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snuggles


One of my love languages is touch, so snuggles and cuddles mean a lot to me.  I love snuggling with my little man (my son), and he doesn’t do it very often, because he’s always on the go.  As a result, I enjoy putting him to bed, because I get to hold him (read snuggle) - and he’s still! - for about fifteen minutes while he drinks from his bottle to go to bed.

Tonight, my husband and I went in to watch him sleep, and he woke up enough that my husband pulled him out of the crib to cuddle a little.  He ended up reaching for me, so I got to rock him awhile again.  I really enjoy being able to show him I love him through snuggling with him like that!

Though it might be a little different, I also love to snuggle with my husband for much the same reason.  It tells me that he loves me, and it’s a way for me to tell him the same.  I am so thankful that God created us to be able to snuggle!  Sometimes, God gives me a glimpse of how He snuggles me - often with something that I’m thankful for, such as Jackets, or Rain.  

I pray that you feel God’s arms wrapped around you in a giant warm snuggle!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughtfulness


Receiving presents on Christmas can be fun and exciting!  It’s even better when the people who procured your gifts were thoughtful about what they gave and how they gave them.  My husband and I have been wanting to get cabinet doors for our home for a few years, now, and the desire has only been heightened by our very mobile one-year-old.  

To that end, we have been trying to work out how to get the very large expense of all of the cabinet doors down to small bite-size pieces - and were recently successful.  We found a place where the price doesn’t change for the amount of doors that you do, and they will fabricate just the door, so that you can install them yourself.  One of our gift-givers went to that place, opened an account for us, and put some money in it toward our cabinet doors.  We were so totally stoked!

I, personally, would never have thought to go to the place and open an account for the recipient.  It just wouldn’t have crossed my mind.  I would have given them the money and called it good, which I’m not dissing - I still think that’s totally cool.  However, I thought it was so thoughtful that they personally went down there and also made sure that everything could be tracked for our convenience.  The fact that there’s an open account even provides for the possibility of others contributing to it.

I thank God that He created thoughtfulness, so that people can better show His Love by going above and beyond.  I am thankful and glad for the thoughtfulness that He shows me.  May I be more thoughtful toward God, and through Him, toward His people.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jesus


Dear Lord,

Thank You for Your Son.  Thank you that You humbled yourself and *“wrapped our injured flesh around You,” so that Jesus could be the perfect sacrificial Lamb for our sins.    Thank You that no matter how much He would have rathered not face suffering on the cross, He did anyway, because of Your will and Love.  Thank You for the example that Jesus set before us of how to follow You.  Thank you for the miracles that He performed while He was here, and for the miracles that You perform today.  Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to continue the miracles of Jesus Christ to the furtherance of Your will and good pleasure.

Thank You, Lord, for Loving me.

(*quoted from the song “Welcome to Our World” by Chris Rice)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nails


God gifted me with strong nails.  I’m not particularly fashion-conscious, and I don’t take measures to care for my nails beyond chewing them off if they get a tear, so they’re often varying lengths.  This can be useful, since each length - short, medium, or long - has its uses.  I can often forgo having to drop what I’m doing to grab a tool, because I was able to use my nail instead.

For instance, a short nail allows you to do more with the point of your finger, like more accurate texting.  A medium nail can often be used to scrape things off or even to screw things that have a slit.  Long nails look nice, but can also allow you to better reach or scrape things in tight spaces.

I am thankful that God gave us nails, because we can use them for so many different things.  He built a useful tool straight into our makeup.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekly Impressions - The Upward Spiral


I’m noticing a trend.  A great trend.  The more I try to focus on things that I’m thankful for, the more thankful I am.  Imagine that.  The more thankful I am, the more I think about things that I’m thankful for.  I shouldn’t be amazed to find that there’s an upward spiral, but it did take me by surprise... and I am very thankful for it.

When my focus is on myself, I am relying on my circumstances for my joy, since I am thinking about how things affect me.  If I begin to get depressed as a result of my circumstances, my depressing thoughts feed on themselves and spiral downward.  When my focus is on God, circumstances don’t matter, because God Himself is unchanging.  I am very fickle, but God is the I AM.  With Him there is no variation or shifting shadow.  Just as my focus on myself brings the downward spiral of depression, Meditation upon God brings the upward spiral of Joy through thankfulness and humility.

I don’t claim to have it all down.  I simply claim that I AM is my strength, my worth, and my Joy.  Through His Divine Power, I have enduring hope.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beds


Beds are truly a gift from God.  Not that other things aren’t, but I think beds are one of the more obvious gifts.  Being able to rest in my comfortable bed is quite the luxury.  I am thankful that God gave me a bed upon which to sleep so that He can rejuvenate me for the next day.

Beds can be quite versatile in their usefulness.  When I didn’t own my own home, but had my own room in my parents’ house, I would do everything on my bed.  I did my homework on it (in favor of the desk), read on it, knitted on it, and even slept on it (well... in it).  However, I think ushering sleep in to overtake my tired senses is the most useful thing that a bed can aid in.

Sleep beckons as I write upon my bed.  Must... resist... ... or not.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heat


I find it relaxing while lying in bed to hear the heater kick on.  It produces that really low Brown Noise to help turn your brain off, and you know that it heralds the comfort of that luxuriant commodity of heat.  

I have very poor circulation, so warmth is one of my best friends.  I really don’t care for being cold, and cold for other people can mean a small measure of freezing pain for me.  This is another reason that I am thankful for heat.  There are different sources of heat, too.  My Husband, for instance is another - and very gracious - source of warmth for my freezing feet in bed.

Heat is necessary for survival, and God knows that I need it.  However, it is an example of His Love that He has blessed me with as much heat as I want.  More heat means more money, and while we aren’t rich by any means, we are certainly provided for by our Heavenly Father.  I am thankful for His blessing of heat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Date Nights


I am so glad that God designed it so that spouses are supposed to take time away to be with just each other.  It isn’t that I want to be away from my child, it’s that I want to be alone with my sweetheart sometimes; and that’s a very good thing.  It enables us to nurture our relationship, which helps on many different levels, not least of which is to help us stay unified.  

It is important for us to purposely set time aside to spend with our spouse and no one else.  Spending time with My Husband is a way that my husband and I can bond closer together, which allows us to better show the love of Christ to others.  

Just as it’s important to spend time alone with your spouse, it is also important to set time aside to spend alone with each child in order to get to know them better.  It is also important to set aside time to spend alone with God.  You could even think of it as dating God.  Do you date God regularly? 

I have been too lax lately in setting aside enough time to be with Him.  Yet time with Him is vital to His and my relationship.  That relationship is the most important relationship in my life.  Thus it has moved up in my priority list.  The more we love God, the more we love each other.  The more we love each other, the better God’s love is shown through us to the world.  I am thankful that God gave mankind the tool of a date night to help us show His Love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Electricity


Lord, I thank you for electricity and for the technology to be able to tap into it.  It makes it so much easier to do things, and with better efficiency.  We can get electricity from a variety of sources - some more reliable than others.  I think, however, that when Your kingdom comes, we will be using the light that You exude from the radiance of Your glory.  I can’t wait to see that.

Sunlight can be an unreliable source, but Your light never fades.  Help me to see Your light more than the darkness of this world.  Let it be so obvious to Your children that we cannot take our eyes off of You.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My iPhone


I have an iPhone 4, and I use it constantly.  I love being able to Text someone and to not worry about when they get to it.  I have a Bible on it that I also use fairly regularly.  I can get email immediately, I can set locational reminders, entertain myself while waiting for the doctor, check my bank accounts, find my way to an unfamiliar place, track my walking (“workout”) statistics, create an internet hotspot if I need to upload something on my computer, and do most anything you can imagine.  It may be the most useful tool I own, shy of my car (if you consider that a tool).

I fully recognize that my iPhone is a convenience that God didn’t have to provide for.  Yet He did.  I am thankful for His good gift, and for My Husband, without whom I never would have sprang for the expense.  Thank you, Lord, for your abounding mercy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Prayer with Thanksgiving

I wonder sometimes if God grows tired of reminding us things that He has already taught us.  How quickly and easily we forget!  I’ve been struggling a little more with anxiety recently, and realized that I had forgotten what it was that I needed to replace it with.  (I get this idea from verses like “...lay aside the old self... and put on the new self...” in Ephesians 4:22b, 24a.  We are to lay aside our old practices and put on the new practices.)  

The verse that God pointed me back to was the passage that partially spurred the institution of this blog in the first place:  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [emphasis added] let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7  (See my About page for more.)

I am to pray with humility (supplication) and thankfulness.  What are my two main struggles right now?  Pride and anxiety.  Oh... right.  I am to replace those with humility and thankfulness.  And the first thing that I should do when I see that I’m headed that way is to pray.

It occurs to me that praying first is an act of humility, because prayer is recognizing that I am not in control.  In prayer, I am not to demand things of God.  I am to make my request known and to submit to His will.  I am to do this with thankfulness.  It isn’t a side note.  Being thankful is another act of humility for me, as I see being thankful as searching for God’s work in my life.  One reason that being thankful is the new act or “self” with which to replace the old, is that being thankful points you to the good that God has done in your life (the good that you can see).  It shows you that God has been faithful, and makes it easier to see that God will always be faithful.  I always like a faith booster.

To help remind me of this, my Biblical Counselor gave me an assignment to write out a short prayer to immediately lift up when I realize that I’m struggling.  It was to have the following four elements:  recognize the temptation to sin, ask for help with it, trust God, and thank God.  So here is the prayer that I wrote:

“Lord I see this temptation to [sin] and I pray for Your help and guidance.  Help me to entrust control of this situation to You.  Thank you for Answered Prayer.”  (After this, I have a note to look at my (shortened) list of thankful things.)  

I specifically chose Answered Prayer, because it points out to me the fact that God is hearing my prayer, and will choose how to answer.  The best part is that His choice will be the best for me.  That helps to put me in a mindset of trusting Him, and being thankful that I can trust Him.  

I plan on memorizing this little prayer, but my counselor had the brilliant idea of me having it in my phone (along with my thankful things list) so that I couldn’t forget each of those four elements.  My phone goes with me everywhere I go.  If it didn’t, he would have had me write it on a card to carry with me.  If you’ve ever been anxious, you know that it can be difficult to recall things.  (This isn’t an excuse not to memorize, but it is a valid point to not only memorize.)

I am glad that God has the Patience to remind us of what He has already taught us.  He will even help us come up with new ways not to forget.  The endurance of His patience is simply unfathomable to me.  I would have kicked myself to the curb long ago.  Which is another reason why I am thankful that God is God, and I am not.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jackets


Winter has officially made its entrance where I live, and the days usher in a brisk cold.  Tucked away in my office with the heater blasting, I’m pretty well protected.  However, I am determined to keep up my daily walk around the lake, which means I have to brave the weather and the cold.  I have poor circulation and don’t do so well in the chill.  This is why I am thankful for God’s provision of jackets!

There are so many types of jackets, and in the past, the only difference for me has been looks.  Now I am faced with functionality.  I have a warm jacket, and a rain jacket, but I’m looking for a warm, somewhat fashionable rain (or water resistant) jacket that will protect me while walking.  (My current rain jacket has a hood, but doesn’t cover my legs.)  I’m undecided between a full-length jacket and a 3/4 length jacket.  A 3/4 length jacket can be worn anywhere, while a full-length jacket is a bit more formal, but would protect all of my legs from the rain.  Choices, choices.  I am open to suggestions.

I may not already have precisely what I'm looking for, but I am thankful that I have something that will allow me to walk most days.  If I miss walks on occasion due to rain, then I can rest in the knowledge that God didn't want me walking that day, because He hasn't yet provided me with something to allow me to do so.

I’m looking forward to saving the money up to buy just the right one.  It’s a rather rewarding and satisfying feeling, and I am glad and thankful that God provides us with the means to do so.  (Do they make warm waterproof cloaks?  That’s awfully tempting.  I love cloaks!)  I pray that God leads me to just the right jacket and blesses its use.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Harmonies


I love Music for several reasons, and one of those is harmony.  When it’s time for the harmonies to join in, I relish the experience, whether I’m singing the melody or on harmony myself.  It’s like a dance in which the dancers perform with fluid motion, perhaps crossing one another at times, but never touching, unless to dance in unison for a time.  I also liken it to the feeling of Camaraderie in sports, when everyone is in sync with one another - in harmony.

Imagine the camaraderie when we are in harmony with God.  When we are so in tune with His will that we don’t hesitate for a second.  If we were a melody, God would be a harmony on either side.  He encircles us with His Love and Grace and never lets us go.  He dances through life with us, and will join us on the melody from time to time if we lack the strength to sing loud enough.  In His Divine Power, He can still sing all of the harmonies.

God doesn’t need me to sing His melody, but He chooses to share it with me.  He chooses to show me how to resonate with Him.  For this, I am extremely thankful.  I pray that God continues to show me how to stay in tune.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

His Divine Power


2 Peter 1:3
“...His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

The above verse sank a little deeper with me in my quiet time today.  In the Christian world, we have many many terms to describe concepts.  Grace, sanctification, holiness, baptism, sin, idolatry, faith, the body of Christ.  This is a fairly tame list, but we (I) have a tendency to gloss over the terms and not to consider - or perhaps fully understand - the concepts behind them.  In the verse above, we see mention of God’s divine power.

When I think of God’s divine power, I think of this unfathomable omnipotence that can do anything.  That isn’t wrong, but it’s applied a bit differently here.  Note that it’s His divine power that has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.  The NIV translates it as, “everything we need for a godly life[.]”  It is all-encompassing, and is the source of strength for us to draw upon.  Through God’s power, we can overcome our sin.  Through God’s power, we can do that which He has called us to do.  Through God’s power, we will one day behold His face.

That is such a humbling and exciting thought.  That God would allow us to “...become partakers of [His] divine nature...” (2 Peter 1:4).  And how can we tap into that source?  It is “...through the true knowledge of Him[.]”  It isn’t bad to read the Bible to learn the answers to life issues - but if that’s all you read it for, how can you get to know Him?  If you read it with the intent of knowing God, He will reveal Himself to you, and all of the rest will follow.

I am thankful for His divine power, that through the true knowledge of Him, I don’t have to worry.  He has granted to me everything that I need.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brown Noise


I’m not sure what it is about brown noise, but it seems to me that it helps to shut your brain off a little.  It doesn’t work if there’s any discernible pattern - for instance, if a fan has a tick.  However, that low, rumbling, perfectly static noise can make it a little difficult to think.  Those cheap white noise makers won’t do it for me.  I feel assaulted by white noise.  It has to be brown noise.  

There are three types of that sort of static noise (that I know of):  white noise, pink noise, and brown noise.  (Feel free to click each of them to see their definitions on Wikipedia.  It’s actually pretty interesting, just look past some of the jargon.)  They go from higher pitch to lower pitch in that order.  I didn’t know that pink or brown noise existed until I downloaded an app for my son to help put him to sleep.

Brown noise has been an amazing tool to help get my son to sleep and to keep him there.  I tell you it was invaluable.  We got to the point where my husband missed when he used to go to sleep to “white” noise (I use it as a general term).  So now, we go to sleep to the sound of a fan (without a tick, and low enough that I would call it brown noise - which might be incorrect).

I have trouble getting to sleep.  While it hasn’t been a cure-all, the brown noise of the fan has helped a little.  I find it amazing and helpful that God created something that can help to turn your mind off.  It is just one example of His mercy and Grace in my life - and, in the lives of others.  In some ways, I feel a little safer with the brown noise.  It is a reminder of His unchanging Love for us.

What are some things that remind you of His loving presence and protection?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Cat


Our cat is a silver bengal that we got from a friend.  He’s a bit small for the breed from what I understand, but that just means he’s a bit of a lean normal cat-size.  When we first got him as a kitten, we couldn’t keep him where we lived (we were planning on moving very soon), but I was able to keep him where I slept for one night.  He slept on my shoulder and purred.  It was a bit of an anxious time for me, and I’ll never forget how God used that purr to soothe me.  It was also an awesomely cute experience.

He’s rather large to sleep on my shoulder now, but he does often sleep with us when he’s not out cruising town.  These past winter nights have found him inside more often - which I enjoy, because I love having his little purr-box to go to sleep to.

I can definitely see God’s hand in our cat’s temperament.  He has never bitten us (love-bites aside), nor has he clawed us.  The only times he’s scratched me are when he’ll plop himself down in my lap, but be so off-center that he slips off.  He never does anything about it until he’s falling.  Occasionally, if I don’t grab him first, he’ll dig his claws in so as not to fall.  I find it to be a pretty funny quirk.  

I wasn’t worried when our son came along, but I was curious to see how my cat would handle the newcomer.  I have found him in the crib a few times, but never while my son was in it.  He’s been the perfect gentleman.  He’s very gentle and incredibly patient.  We receive a few looks, and sometimes he’ll bow himself out, but he’s only love-bit my son once as a warning (that the little tyke fully deserved).  My son will often give him a hug - especially if he’s mewing.

I am thankful for our cat, that God gave him such an even temper, that God uses him to soothe me, and that my son can have the experience without any painful “side-effects.”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Control


This past week has been a difficult one.  I had a very disturbing dream that I was trapped in a cult, and have had several difficult arguments with my husband.  I am incredibly thankful to rest in the peace of Christ, in His faithfulness, and in His sovereign control.

I learned early on in life how to read a person and the mood in the room, which helped me to be cognizant of when I approached certain boundaries in the things that I said and did.  I developed the skill to school my reactions in order to get a desired (or more desirable) effect from those around me.  In short, I was manipulative.  I thought that I had put that behind me in my adult years, but God has shown me that my manipulation goes far deeper than I had thought.

My manipulation and my worry tie in very closely with one another and affect all areas of my life.  I am constantly assessing things, noting eye movements and body language, listening to tone of voice, and evaluating how I should act in order to affect or not affect the situation.  As a result, my mind is always in high gear (it’s like walking on eggshells); I project what someone is thinking and feeling, which leads to a lot of miscommunication; and I am worried about how well I’m doing it.  I am trying to control things, and at the same time, am worried about controlling them.

What is the root of a desire for control?  Self-centeredness and pride.  I want things to go my way, and, of course, it should go my way, because I know best.  (I find this quite humorous, because I know that I don’t know best, which is why I worry about being in control.)  Yet isn’t that exactly what we do?  By taking control, we are literally saying that we can do it better.

I haven’t ever seen it quite this clearly before, since I don’t like being in control, because I worry about it.  I despise making decisions.  And yet I am all too willing to make a myriad split-second decisions about how I act in order to make a good impression on someone.  (Most of them aren’t even conscious anymore, it’s so second-nature.)

Another aspect of manipulation is that it means that I’m not entirely honest.  It’s harder to see this part because of how I have pitched it to myself, but it’s true.  In my manipulation, I sometimes withhold certain information (or, more accurately, certain aspects of information) from my communication.  I may not have strictly lied, but neither did I tell the whole truth.  

Also, as a result of my manipulation, I have developed what I call “filters” on my communication.  I have various filters, but I’ll mention a couple of examples.  One of my filters is one that I have dubbed my “fear of man” filter, which is when I’m afraid of harming my reputation or of harming someone with how I communicate.  (I use the word communicate, because I’m not only worried about what I say, but also what body language I employ, and - to a lesser degree - what I write.)  It isn’t bad to not want to hurt people, and neither is it bad to want to keep a good reputation, but it is bad when you sacrifice the truth - including the whole truth - in order to achieve that end.  

Now there are a multitude of other factors at play in this - such as the attitude with which you are doing something (which should always be with love), and tools like tact (which, as with all tools, is not evil in and of itself, but can be used for good or ill) - that can muddy up the waters of how you say what you say and why you say it.  I won’t go down that road at this time.

Another of my filters is my “truth” filter (recognize the irony).  I try very hard (usually when not under the influence of my “fear of man” filter) to say exactly what I mean and to not be misconstrued.  In this, I also worry so much about being “right” and speaking the “truth” that what I actually end up saying is too far removed from the original thought to be intelligibly related to my original meaning.  Kind of like that sentence; let me explain.  

Tongue-in-cheek, we’ll use the example that you ask me what color the sky is.  Insert my truth filter.  Well... the sky isn’t actually blue, it’s every color except blue because blue is the only color that it reflects back to the human eye.  So I would be lying if I said that the sky was blue.  So instead, I start to say that the sun’s light is scattering on the earth’s atmosphere in such a way as to reflect blue light.  Then I stop myself, because that doesn’t tell you what color the sky is, because the sky isn’t blue.  

Ordinarily, my fear of man filter would kick in about now because a) I’m taking too much time to answer what should be a simple question, b) I’m in danger of sounding prideful about being brainy, and c) the answer they’re probably looking for is just that the sky is blue.  I say all of this tongue-in-cheek because I wouldn’t worry this much about a simple question like that... unless, of course, a scientist were asking the question.  So you can see how far down the worry goes, and how convoluted the truth ends up getting.

So what is the truth?  The truth is, that I shouldn’t be worried about the outcome because God is fully in control of every detail.  The truth is, that I shouldn’t be so prideful as to try to take control from God, because He really does know better than I do, and is already looking out for my best interests.  The truth is, that all I’m really thinking about in the end is myself, and that God should be the One upon whom I meditate.  I cannot know His will for me if I am not dwelling on Him and His Word, and instead am dwelling upon my short-sighted self.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dreams


The night before last, I had a dream that I was trapped in a cult.  This was not, as you can imagine, a pleasant dream.  This cult used drugs to help keep its members compliant, and there was also a fair amount of demonic activity.  My greatest fear was that I would be “turned,” or brainwashed or something.  So, in order to keep my faith and my sanity, I utilized my ability to manipulate people - and I must say, I did it in top form.  Members of the cult came to me for “wisdom,” because they respected my opinion, despite my very unstable position, and the fact that they didn’t trust me to stay.  I always had my own dedicated guard.  

Manipulation, however, breeds a great deal of anxiety, and the effect didn’t wear off when I woke.  My Husband helped me to take it slow that morning in order to counteract the effects.  I started to think about how well I had manipulated the members of the cult, and how in every moment I was relying upon the Lord to help make my plan work.  Did you catch that?  It took me awhile, but I finally did.  I was taking control into my own hands first and then “relying” upon the Lord.  I wasn’t relying upon the Lord.  I was just freaking out about whether or not the plan would come off and hoping/praying that God would make it come through.

That got me thinking.  It is wrong to manipulate, even people like that, and even when I can’t see how else I would be taken care of.  Manipulation is born of wanting to control a situation, and no matter what, I don’t have control of the situation anyway.  God does.  It is a sin against Him to try to take that away from Him (which you can’t).  And here I had almost been congratulating myself, even if it was rigged in my own dream.

So if manipulation is taking control away from God, then what is my part in following His will?  What should I have done in that situation?  I cannot fully answer that, yet, but I am  thankful that God pointed out to me that it needed to be addressed.  I am thankful that God used that specific dream to help alert me, and that He didn’t feel the need to actually put me in that situation to teach me.  I am thankful that the dream produced anxiety in me so that I would stop and analyze it.  I am thankful that sometimes, God uses dreams.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joy


So many times we leave out the message that to walk with the Lord doesn’t make life easier.  Certainly, there are advantages in the wisdom that He imparts.  Yet people think that the purpose of becoming a Christian is to be happier.  God definitely brings joy to those He loves and love Him, but joy and happiness are a little different.  If happiness is your only reason, you won’t find what you’re looking for.

Joy can be present even in the midst of great sorrow.  Joy is the peace and thankfulness born of faith that God is always in control with your good in mind - no matter what.  Happiness comes and goes, but joy remains.  It is born of the fact that Jesus is Lord, and I am saved.  (See more on that in Weekly Impressions - Big Picture Check.)

I am not saying that you won’t experience happiness in your walk with God.  I have personally had more happy experiences than I can count.  I only mean to stress that happiness is not the goal of a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The goal is the relationship itself that can only come through Jesus’ salvation.

I have previously fallen into the trap of only pursuing happiness in my walk with God.  It changed my prayer life and the amount of time that I spent with Him.  My prayers became my list of desires, and I spent less and less time with Him.  In fact, it contributed to bitterness.  Once I was able to take my personal happiness off of the throne where God belonged, my life became so much richer, because my relationship with God was so much richer.

When I find myself asking, “Why can’t I have this?” or “Why didn’t God do that?” I have to ask myself why I’m asking those questions.  Is it to learn more about Him and how to follow Him, or have I let my desires take God’s throne?  Have I let my own desires rob me of my joy?

I am thankful for the joy that God gives.  It is always there to draw upon, and is one of the ways that He provides us with a rock solid foundation that will never be moved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bridges


There are all kinds of bridges, from simple rope bridges that make you wonder if they’re safe to the huge engineering marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge to the concrete overpasses of a freeway.  One way or another, bridges were created to connect people.  Some might argue that it’s to make the path shorter, but that’s really just making it easier for people to travel and connect.  I am thankful that God designed engineering to give us bridges that make it faster and easier to connect with people.  

The visual explanation of Jesus Christ is that He is the bridge between humanity and God over the gap of sin.  He is the only bridge that leads to God and salvation, but He made it available to everyone.  We have a decision to make, however.  Do we want to take that bridge?  Do we want to walk that way?

I do.  I am so thankful for Jesus Christ forming the bridge for me.  His love has changed my life and given me a Purpose.  He is what I live for and the One whom I serve.  My relationship with Him is the most important one I have ever had and will ever have.

Do you truly know my Savior, Jesus Christ?  (You can see more about walking with Christ under Weekly Impressions - Success and Failure.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Infant Carseats


We were incredibly blessed to receive an infant carseat before our son was born.  I cannot tell you how useful it has been.  I am referring to the feature of a handle to pull the whole seat out of the car instead of having to get the baby out.  This way, our son can stay asleep, and the transfer to the bed is as little time as possible.

The other handy aspect is that, since he falls asleep in it in the car, it has also worked as a makeshift portable bed.  If we’re traveling to a friend’s house or some such, we can just leave him in the carseat until he wakes up.  A full nap is a wonderful thing.

This is just another example of God’s provision in our lives.  He knows our every need, and our every desire.  I am thankful that God chose to give us the gift of infant carseats.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pack 'n Plays


What traveling mother of a baby doesn’t appreciate a pack ‘n play?  It folds up into this neat little package with a handle, is a ready-made bed anywhere you go, and is its own case.  Can I get an “Amen, sista!”

Bringing up a baby is no small undertaking, and requires a bit of a schedule around said baby.  A pack ‘n play allows you to get out of the house while still getting your baby down for a nap around nap time (or to sleep, and hopefully the child makes an easy transfer to the carseat).  I don’t know about you, but just being able to get out of the house and go over to a friend’s while still caring for my baby helps me to feel a little more normal.  Many inventions for babies do so well because they aid this purpose.  So I am thankful that God provided pack ‘n plays to help ease the total change to life that a baby brings.  His Grace is sufficient for me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Worry and Meditation


One of my main struggles is worry.  I know that worry is a sin against God because it is not trusting in Him.  While I knew this, I couldn’t fully understand why.  I didn’t see my worry as lack of trust, because if I see that God is in control of what I’m worrying about, I no longer feel the need to worry.  If God is in charge of something, I know to my core that I don’t need to worry about it.  You may have already guessed where my lack of trust has been:  in not acknowledging that God is in control of everything.  Literally.

So what is the best way not to worry?  God has been impressing upon me the importance of Meditation on Him, because when I do, I am mindful of the fact that He is over all things.  This blog has been highly instrumental, because by looking for something to be thankful for, I need to focus on the Giver of that thing.  In so doing, I am seeking God.  The more thankful things that I write, the more I see His hand in all things.  The more I see His hand, the less I worry, and the more I can rest in my Creator.

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3)
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
The more I meditate on Him, the easier it is to live in the constant knowledge of His presence.  The more I live in His presence, the more time I spend with Him.  The more time I spend with Him, the more Christ-like I become.  I love how that works.
So as you can see, my struggle with worry is really about what I’m looking for in life.  If I’m constantly focused on myself and meeting my needs and desires, then I’m not living in the presence of God.  By focusing on His desires, I not only meet my own needs, but I have the amazing opportunity to be used by God, the Creator of the universe.  How awesome is that?  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Financial Peace University


Money can become quite an issue if you don’t know how to handle it.  If you are married, however, the greater issue is knowing how to communicate with each other and come to an agreement about how to handle it.  Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a great resource to help learn how to do this.  (No, this isn’t sponsored.)

My husband and I went through the course soon after we bought a house and I had quit an unhealthy job.  We weren’t bad at budgeting, and had handled our finances fairly well, considering.  However, we wanted to learn more about doing it God’s way, and it never hurts to get pointers.

FPU (Financial Peace University) started out by giving us some great guidelines for getting on the same page, as well as how to negotiate.  (It also helps that he’s fun to watch and listen to.)  He talks about a wide variety of financial subjects (like mutual funds, insurances, bargaining, budgeting, giving, etc.) that give you a well-rounded foundational knowledge to get going.

I am thankful that God gave Dave Ramsey a passion for this kind of thing, so that we could enjoy learning how to be good stewards of His money.  We are now out of debt (except for the house), and have three months of expenses saved up.  This is despite the fact that my husband is no longer working and is, instead, going to school.  This was not due to an increase in wages, it was due to a change in perspective.

God is in the business of changing our worldly perspective.  What perspective shift has He been working on in you lately?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rain


I love the rain.  I love the tinkling sound it makes on the roof in the car, and the designs it makes on windows.  I love the roaring sound of it pouring down on a building’s rooftop, and the earthy smell that greets your nostrils when you step outside.  Colors are more vibrant, which is made more apparent by the relaxing overcast grey.

After entering work this morning, I heard the wind press up against the sliding door beside me and immediately opened the blinds in excitement to find that it was, in fact, raining.  I have this child-like desire to watch the rain when I hear it, and to just listen when it’s pouring down.  It lights my face with a smile, relaxes me, and somehow gives me a child-like energy at the same time.  I just want to enjoy it.

In answer to why it makes me relax, the best I can figure is that it reminds me that I am not in control, and that the God who controls the mighty force of the weather is.  He creates those infinite designs on the windows.  He creates the force that makes that same water bear down upon the roof.  He created the ecological system that needed it, and the gravitational forces that make the colorful leaves heavier with water to fall to the ground faster.

And that same God knows that I’m in the middle of that weather, and is protecting me from it.  To be outside in the wind is to be braced by His hand against the gusts.  To be inside during a deluge is to be sheltered under His wing.  To watch the designs of the water on the window is God sharing His creativity with me, and letting me smile and marvel at His “magic tricks.”  I am thankful for the rain and the reminder of God’s protection and love within it.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warning Signals


I am thankful that God created things so that there’s usually a warning signal before something dangerous occurs.  We see it in wear and tear on items, in the pain from touching something hot, and in the quickening of our heartbeat with anger or worry.  

The trouble comes more when we don’t heed the warnings.  If you use something that’s well-worn, it’s likely to break.  If you don’t heed the pain of the heat, you’ll burn yourself.  If you don’t don’t pay attention to the signs of anger or worry, you will explode or have a panic-attack.

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself not paying attention to my emotions.  It’s like checking for wear and tear.  If you don’t do it, you won’t know that the frayed rope will break, or the bald tire will blow out.

God has begun to give me a warning signal of negativity when I start to Brood, which leads to depression.  He has identified my quickened heart rate and sometimes that sick feeling in my chest as the precursor to anxiety.  Almost always, the immediate reaction that helps the most is to ask myself, “What am I thinking about?”

I’m thinking about my needs, or my wants, or what someone did to me.  I’m thinking about my failures, what I should have done, or what if this or that.  The center of my thoughts is on myself, not on God.  If I shift my focus - if I’m thankful for what God has given me, or if I think of how to serve God with what I’m worried about (ie finances, etc.), or even just to quote Scripture back to myself - then God will calm my anxieties, lift me up, and remind me that He will take care of me.

Sometimes shifting my focus is easy, and sometimes it is incredibly difficult.  God encourages me to keep at it, and He will be faithful.  He already has been.  I don’t need the verse in Philippians 1 to tell me that God has already made me more like Christ than I was.  

Have you identified some of your own warning signals?  Have you asked Him for help lately?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fall


Fall is filled with such vibrant colors.  The contrasts of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens catch your eye for the simple fact that the landscape isn’t usually that color.  Each season has its own visual differences, but fall is the most eye-catching.  I am thankful for fall and that God grabs my attention with His beautiful work.

Sometimes God has to catch our attention.  I personally find it quite difficult to keep His presence in mind all the time.  I lose sight of that rather often during the day-to-day tasks.  God uses things like the fall colors to catch my attention and remind me that He is there, that He loves me, and that I am His.  He doesn’t always use such a pleasant method, but if He always used the same way, it would no longer catch my attention.  Neither would fall be so pretty to us if the landscape always looked that way.

How has God grabbed your attention lately?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beautiful Views


There’s just something about looking out your window and seeing a beautiful view.  I smile and relax every time I’m at someone’s house and am able to do that.  It doesn’t matter that it isn’t my view.  I just love seeing what God has wrought.

I think it’s a reminder of His awesome Creation, and the fact that He is big enough to make that - and so much more.  My God made all the earth and everything in it, as well as every planet, star, solar system, galaxy, nebula, black hole, and thing in the universe.  He didn’t just stop there, though.  My God maintains it.  This is no small feat - especially when He gave some of His creation minds of their own.

Yet He knows every bird, leaf, and ray of light that comprises that view, and orchestrated every microscopic detail that made that view exactly what it is.  And here I stand gazing out to be able to enjoy that.  It’s like God is sharing just a little of Himself with me.

Have you stopped to enjoy the view lately?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Success and Failure


Lamentations 3:22-23
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

God has a different definition of success and failure than we humans do.  Success as the world sees it, is more about what we do and how we do it, whereas in God, there is always success, because God is the one upon Whom things rely - and God never fails.  There is always Victory in Christ.  God uses our “failures” just as much, if not more than, our “successes.”  

Struggling with worry about failing is one of my weaknesses.  I am so afraid of man and of being rejected by man that I have let man take the throne of God.  It is self-defeating because as soon as I put something other than God on the throne of my heart, I can no longer have Victory.  

One of the verses that I cherish is Isaiah 51:12-13:  “I, even I, am He who comforts you.  Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass, that you have forgotten the LORD your maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, as he makes ready to destroy?  But where is the fury of the oppressor?”

I have to ask myself that very question:  Where is the fury of the oppressor?  By fearing the oppressor, I give the oppressor the throne, which grants him power over me.  (You can also replace the word “oppressor” with “sin.”)  By fearing God, I give God the throne, which grants Him power over me.  Would you rather serve God or the oppressor?  My flesh answers, “Neither!  I will serve myself!”

This is a smart answer in the eyes of the world, but consider - do you oppress yourself?  I do.  I crush myself under my own thumb because my desires require perfection, and I am not perfect.  I must submit to God, and He will take care of me as I need to be taken care of.

I am reminded of the scene in C.S. Lewis’ allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children ask the beavers if Aslan is safe.  The famous truncated reply is, “ ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”

It isn’t safe to put God on the throne of your heart.  Just ask Christian missionaries in the Middle East.  But, once put there, He will never do anything that isn’t for your good.  (Romans 8:28)

So how do we put Him on the throne of our heart?  

First, you must invite Him, and accept the gift of His son, Jesus, who was crucified in order to forgive your sins and bridge the gap between you and God that sin created.  (If you’d like to learn how, click here.)  This will also allow the Holy Spirit to begin a good work in you (Philippians 1:6), and will enable you to perform God’s two greatest commandments:  1) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37), and  2) “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)  

Second, you must “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness...” (Matthew 6:33).  Now if you’re like me, you’re wondering what exactly this phrase looks like in action.  A friend recently put it to me this way:  in whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “How can I serve the Lord in this?”  

For example, I am not seeking Christ first when I am worrying about something - say finances.  So how can I serve the Lord in my finances?  I can tithe, I can be a good steward of His money (because it really isn’t mine), and I can use it to care for God’s family.  (How you specifically use your money is between you and God, and will look different for every individual and family.  He doesn’t call us all to the same plan, but tailors it according to the giftings He has given us and circumstances in which He has placed us.)

So what does success look like for the Christian?  It is serving God for His purposes.  Will we fail?  Yes.  But God is greater than our failures, and will turn them for our good.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Answered Prayer


My husband, my son, and I went to my sister’s house to spend Thanksgiving with family.  She lives nearly two hours away, which isn’t a big deal, but I’d never driven it before, and was a little leery of driving it in Thanksgiving traffic.  My biggest fear was that there might be tule fog on the way back.  I had been a passenger in a car in tule fog before... I did not want to drive in tule fog.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving found me answering the common question, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” with the request to pray that there wouldn’t be any tule fog, and for a safe trip.  As you can tell, I was a little anxious about it.

Thanksgiving came and it was time to make the drive up.  We got my one-year-old and his peripherals all packed into the car and set off.  All-in-all, I don’t think there was really enough traffic to slow us down on the way up, and I didn’t see anyone swerving, so God put my mind at ease about Thanksgiving traffic on our particular trek.  The hardest part about it was likely trying to find a parking spot - which was really quite easy as soon as I noticed that my sister was trying to direct me into her driveway.

To make a long story short, we had a wonderful and blessed time at their home, and enjoyed meeting her husband’s side of the family.  My son got to meet a cousin who was only a couple months younger than he.  He melted hearts when he reached over and hugged his cousin.  Time flew by and it was now time to make the drive back.

Here came the moment I had been anxious about... would there be any fog?  Worse, would there be tule fog?  My family was a little worried, too.  We stepped outside of their comfortable home and into a mist... of fog.  I looked about in worry and dismay, trying to gage how thick it was.  The street lights lit the fog in a damp yellow haze and I found it difficult to make out the house across the street.

Well... it wasn’t as bad as tule fog, but it certainly wasn’t a light fog.  I didn’t know what it would be like on the road.  My sister offered her home to stay the night, and I was tempted to accept, but my husband wanted to go home.  So we headed out with the promise that we’d return if we encountered tule fog.

I could feel my anxiety rising into my chest as my husband navigated me out of the neighborhood.  The fog wasn’t getting any better.  What if I couldn’t see someone walking across the street?  What if we got far enough that we couldn’t turn back?  What if the fog thickened around us instead of being a wall in front that we could turn around and avoid?  I tried to keep calm and not think of the what-ifs as I drove; an anxious driver isn’t a very good driver.

We got onto the highway.  I could see the car in front of me... I could see a car a fair way behind me... I could see the street lights lighting other city streets with their yellow glow.  This wasn’t so bad.  But what if... no.  Don’t think about the what-ifs.

About a minute later, the fog cleared, and the yellow lights made pools on the black streets instead of in the air.  I could see the moon like another yellow pool of light in the sky.  We left the city behind and the stars shone tiny points of light through my window to form their constellations.  No fog.

I breathed deeply, trying to rid myself of the effects of my anxiety.  I could just see God smiling down at me and saying, “You see?  I know what you need.  I could have taken care of you in the fog, too.  But just to show you that I love you, I took it all away.”

We didn’t encounter a single bit of fog the rest of the two hours home.  In fact, it didn’t even take two hours, because there was so little traffic.  Not only did He answer prayer about the fog, but for most of the ride home, I had only two other cars around me, and they were even going about my speed.  It was an easier drive back than it had been up.  God is so good.

The fact is, He always answers our prayers.  Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes (often it seems to be most of the time) His answer is the hardest one to take:  wait.

God knows my fears, my cares, my desires, and my needs.  He also knows just how to allay my fears, take on my cares, align my desires with His, and meet my needs.  It is toward these ends, as well as for His purposes and glory, that He will answer yes, no, or wait.  I have no reason to be anxious.  So I am thankful for answered prayer.

But just to show me His love, He didn’t prove to me yet again, that He can lead me through what I am fearing.  This time, He let me off the hook, and just said, “I love you.”  Because it was His good will.