Monday, December 31, 2012

Concordances

Romans 12:6a
"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly..."


Most anyone can appreciate the usefulness of a concordance. They help you find a verse you were trying to remember, or give 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 it's 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 verse you thought said one thing, but when you look it up, meant something slightly different.

I use an online concordance (biblestudytools.com) constantly. I love the online access, too, because it’s right here on my computer while I’m working on my blog. It has a built-in feature to look up the meaning of the original greek and hebrew words, and see where else those words are used in the Bible. This can really shed light on something you're studying, and can even change or give a deeper meaning to a passage!

I am incredibly thankful God gifted certain people with the passion to index and organize so we have things like concordances at our fingertips. The better we understand His Word, the better we can know and nurture our relationship with Christ!

What was your last discovery in your relationship with Him? What would you like to learn about next?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Fear

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.”


God is in the process of teaching me how to deal with expectations. He's shown me not to prioritize others’ expectations of me too highly. I still struggle with this, but I can better and more quickly recognize when it is happening. Right now, He is bringing home the importance of my own expectations.

For instance, I 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 you didn’t get to do something as long as you are still trusting God to orchestrate your life. My hope is in God, not in getting what I want. My frustration is my indication of the fact I want to control the situation. (I’m not saying it’s always sinful to be frustrated, but it does cause me to question my motives. More often than not, it’s because of a sin issue.) So why do I want to control the situation? Fear.

Fear I won't be able to do this or that because I didn't get this or that; fear of letting others down; fear of rejection... I am afraid of a great many things. I need to take that fear and place it on God in two ways: 1) to realize God is in control and will work all things to make me more like Christ (which is for my good), and 2) to be afraid of God, not what I originally feared. God is so much more powerful than anything I could be afraid of, and He loves me with a perfect love. Once I recognize this, I can replace my fear with praise of God.

I love Isaiah 51, particularly 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 to be able to place my fear on God, because, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) God's love bestows grace and discipline (for our good) rather than punishment. Where I lack of control, He excels!

What have you been fearing lately, and how can you shift your fear to God?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Photos

Philippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."


Whether your photos are stored digitally or in photo albums, it’s fun to browse through them and walk down memory lane. It can be nice to remember where we were in a photo and see how far we have come personally (which can also help offset the wish we still looked that young!). It’s also just fun to reminisce. I am thankful we can take photos - and for the ready accessibility of cameras.

Am I the only one who needs to be reminded that “He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”? (Philippians 1:6) I sometimes need to look back to see I truly have progressed for the better. I can get so wrapped up in this legalistic worry I need to do something, I forget God is the one ultimately in control of my progression. Therefore, I have no need to worry; I have only to follow Him. When I think I need to do something, it's usually because I'm trying to lead. It isn't about doing, it's about being obedient. There's a fine line between those, and I've come to recognize it in myself as the difference between pride and humility. Life is so much sweeter when I'm humble!

May God grant you the ability to see how far He has brought you today. What helps you remember how far He's brought you?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snuggles

Psalm 91:4b,c
"...and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a 
shield and bulwark."


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

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 showing him my love and helping him feel safe by snuggling with him!

Though it might be a bit different, I also love to snuggle with my husband for much the same reason. It tells me he loves and protects me, and it’s a way for me to tell him the same (though I think my protection for him runs a little more on the support side!). I am so thankful God created snuggling! Sometimes, God gives me a glimpse of how He snuggles me - often with something I’m thankful for, such as jackets, or rain. Thankfulness helps us see His faithfulness, like it mentions in the psalm above, and "His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." (Psalm 91:4c)

What shows you God's faithfulness?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughtfulness

Philippians 2:4
"...do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."


Receiving presents on Christmas can be fun and exciting! It’s even better when the people who give them are thoughtful about what they give and how they give 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. We found a place where the price doesn’t change for the amount of doors you do, so we could do a few at a time, and they fabricate just the door, so you can install them yourself. One of our gift-givers went to this 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 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). However, I thought it was so thoughtful they personally went down there and also made sure everything could be tracked for our convenience. The fact there’s an open account even provides for the possibility of others contributing to it.

I thank God He created thoughtfulness, so people can better show His love by going above and beyond. It makes a person feel truly cared for. I am also thankful and glad for the thoughtfulness God shows me. May I be more thoughtful toward God, and through Him, toward His people.

Who would be a great candidate in your life to provide something thoughtful, and what would it be?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jesus

1 Peter 1:3-5
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who through His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."



Dear Lord,

Thank You for Your Son. Thank you for humbling Yourself and *wrapping our injured flesh around You, so Jesus could be the perfect sacrificial Lamb for our sins. Thank You that, no matter how much He would rather have not faced suffering on the cross, He did anyway, because of Your will and love. Thank You for the example Jesus set before us of how to follow You. Thank you for the miracles He performed while He was here, and for the miracles 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.
In Jesus' Name, amen.


The above verses are so encouraging to me! God "...has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which... will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." There are amazing promises here! We have a living hope because of Christ's resurrection. He is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1)! He has an inheritance for us, His children, waiting for us in heaven, and it cannot be taken away. Also, we are protected for salvation by the power of God Himself. A salvation to be revealed when Christ returns.

In the day-to-day, I forget to view everything through this lens. When I'm struggling with anxiety or anger, when I've lost hope, or when I feel I've had enough, it's usually because I've forgotten about my living hope in Christ. The entire Bible relates back to Christ. "For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36) It isn't about me, it's about Him. "Every good thing given and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." (James 1:17) Everything I have - the air I breathe, the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the ground I walk on, every moment - is a gift from God, not my right. Those are the gifts I have now. When Christ comes, and we receive our inheritance? It will be so much better! When I remember this, I am so humbled and so thankful! Praise the Lord for His gift of Jesus Christ!


What could help remind you that Jesus Christ is our living hope?


*"wrap our injured flesh around you" is a quote from the song “Welcome to Our World” by Chris Rice)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fingernails

Psalm 139:14
"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well."


God gifted me with strong fingernails. 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 actually be helpful, 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.

Hear me out! 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 with a slit. Long nails look nice, but can also allow you to better reach or scrape things in tight spaces.

I am thankful God gave us fingernails, because we can use them for so many different things. He knew what He was doing when He molded us, and built a useful tool straight into our makeup.

What has God given you that may not always look nice, but is helpful and gets the job done?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekly Impressions - The Upward Spiral

Psalm 19:14
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."


I’m noticing a trend. A great trend. The more I try to focus on things I’m thankful for, the more thankful I am. (Imagine that!) The more thankful I am, the more I think about things I’m thankful for. I shouldn’t be amazed to find 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 rely 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 fickle, but God is the I AM. With Him "...there is no variation or shifting shadow." (James 1:17) 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 I AM is my strength, my worth, and my joy. Through His divine power, I have enduring hope.

What thankful things would you add to a small list to help start your upward spiral?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beds

Proverbs 3:21,22,24
"My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck... When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie 
down, your sleep will be sweet."


Beds are truly a gift from God. Being able to rest in my comfortable bed instead of a street corner is quite the luxury. I am thankful God gave me a bed upon which to sleep so He can rejuvenate me for the next day.

Beds can be quite versatile, too. I used to do everything on my bed: homework, reading, knitting, and of course, sleeping. In fact, sleep beckons as I write upon my bed!

I used to have trouble sleeping, and I sought aid in the above verse in Proverbs. Sound wisdom and discretion seemed (and often still do seem) like such a nebulous and unreachable thing. Yet they also seemed to be the key to no fear and sweet dreams. There can be many reasons for poor sleep, but anxiety can certainly be one of them, and I definitely struggled with anxiety. As time has progressed, it wasn't really until a biblical counselor helped me unpack how to use Philippians 4:6-8 - to approach God with my requests with thanksgiving, that I noticed a true difference in my sleep. It wasn't a complete fix, but it definitely had an impact.

It's interesting to see how God's wisdom changes everything. Writing about something I was thankful for every day kept God's goodness at the forefront of my mind. The intentionality, consistency, and frequency helped me to change my perspective. It's not only the truths we learn, but our practice of them in daily life that changes us. This practice proved my knowledge of the truth of God's abundant gifts and love. Every breath is a gift, everything we wear, touch, see, feel, etc. Our entire reality is God's gift, and every moment is another spent in His benevolence. This wisdom is the source of great peace... and often good sleep.

What truth do you need to prove to yourself in daily practice, thought, and/or meditation? What are some ways you can do so daily?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heat

Ephesians 3:20
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."



I find it relaxing while lying in bed to hear the heater kick on. It produces really low brown noise to help turn my brain off, and I know 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 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 I need it. However, the blessing of as much heat as I want is an example of His love. 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.

What is something He's provided for you in abundance (it doesn't have to be a commodity)?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Date Nights

Ephesians 5:28
"In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."


I am so glad God designed spouses to take time away to be with just each other. I don't want to be away from my child, but I do want to be alone with my sweetheart sometimes, which is a good thing to desire. It enables us to nurture our relationship. Time set purposely aside to spend with my husband and no one else is a way we can bond closer together, which allows us to better show the love of Christ to others.

Marriage is a beautiful relationship God created to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church. Ephesians 5:22-33 has a fair amount to say about it. I honed in a bit on verse 28, where it tells husbands, "He who loves his wife loves himself," because it shows the importance given to the relationship. We are caring for ourselves when we care for our spouse. Spending time to get to know each other, hearing about each other's day, and finding out where the other is at helps us know how better to care for the other, which in turn, cares for us. 

All relationships require time to get to know the other. I have been too lax lately in setting aside enough time to be with God. Yet time with Him is vital to His and my relationship. That relationship is the most important relationship in my life - even more so than my marriage. Thus it has moved up in my priority list. The more my husband and I 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 God gave mankind the tool of a date night to help us show His love. Have you set God first in your marriage?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Electricity

John 8:12
"Then Jesus again spoke to them saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'"


Lord, I thank you for electricity and 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, when Your kingdom comes, we will be using the light 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. Help Your children to look for Your light - make it so obvious, we cannot take our eyes off of You.

What creation of God's reminds you of one of His truths that shines His light into a dark part of your world?

Monday, December 17, 2012

My iPhone


Lamentations 3:22
"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions 
never fail."



I have an iPhone and I use it constantly. I love being able to text someone and not worry about when they get to it. I use my Bible app fairly regularly. I can get email immediately; 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; 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 my iPhone is a convenience 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 lovingkindness extending even to conveniences!

What convenience haven't thanked God for, yet?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Prayer with Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6-7
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 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."


I wonder sometimes if God grows tired of reminding us of things He's already taught us. How quickly we forget! I’ve struggled a little more with anxiety recently, and realized I forgot what it was I needed to replace the anxiety 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 God pointed me to was the verse above, which partially spurred the genesis of this blog in the first place: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (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. Right. I am to replace those with humility and thankfulness. And the first thing I should do when I’m headed that way is pray.

Praying first is an act of humility, because to pray is to recognize 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 - and 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. It points me to the good God has done in my life (the good I can see). It shows God has been faithful, and makes it easier to see God will always be faithful. Proof of His faithfulness helps in the hard times.

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 I’m struggling, including the following four elements: recognize the temptation to sin; ask for help with it; trust God; and thank God. So here is the prayer I wrote:

“Lord I see this temptation to [insert sin here] 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 short list of thankful things.  

I specifically chose Answered Prayer, because it reminds me God hears my prayer, and chooses how to answer. The best part is, His choice is the best for me. This helps me trust Him and be thankful I can trust Him.  

I memorized this little prayer, but my counselor suggested I keep it in my phone (along with my thankful things list) so 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 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 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 I am thankful God is God, and I am not.

What lesson has God been reminding you of lately? What might help you remember?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jackets

Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; 
yes, wait for the Lord."


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 persevere in my daily walk around the lake, to strive toward better health in my chronic ailments. This means I must brave the weather and cold. I have poor circulation and don’t do so well in the chill, so I am thankful for God’s provision of jackets!

I don't have a jacket in which I can walk in the rain, yet, but am thankful I have something that allows me to walk most days. If I miss walks on occasion due to rain, I can rest in the knowledge God didn’t want me walking that day, because, despite my efforts, He hasn’t yet provided me with something to allow me to do so. My hope is not in my jacket, or my daily walk, or even my health, but in the Lord... and I will wait on His timing.

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 God provides us with the means to do so. (Do they make warm waterproof cloaks? That’s awfully tempting. I love cloaks!) I pray God leads me to just the right jacket and blesses its use.

Are you waiting on the Lord for something? How is He (or might He be) using the wait in your life?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Harmonies

Colossians 1:9-12
"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light."


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 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, too.

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 God continues to show me how to stay in tune. How to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.


What helps you stay in tune with Him?

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 an unfathomable omnipotence capable of anything. That isn’t wrong, but it’s applied a bit differently here. Note 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 what He has called us to do. Through God’s power, we will one day behold His face.

What a humbling and exciting thought! God allows us to “...become partakers of [His] divine nature...” (2 Peter 1:4). 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 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 I need.


Is there something keeping you from a godly life? Have you sought, or can you seek, biblical counsel?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brown Noise

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Brown noise seems to help shut my 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 the lower pitched brown noise.

I find it amazing and helpful God chose to create something to help to turn my mind off. Brown noise has also been an amazing tool to help get my son to sleep and to keep him there. I tell you it was invaluable. Even my husband and I go to sleep to the sound of a fan, now. It’s 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. The static low sound reminds me of His unchanging love, from which nothing can separate me.

What reminds you of His loving presence and protection?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Cat

Colossians 1:17
"[Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."


Our cat is a silver bengal, received from a friend. He’s a bit small for the breed from what I understand, but it makes for 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. He'll even leave my knitting alone!

I can definitely see God’s hand in our cat’s temperament. He has never bitten (love-bites aside), nor clawed us. The only times he’s scratched me are when he’ll plop himself down in my lap, but be so off-center he slips off (lol!). I wasn’t worried when our son was born, 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 (which the little tyke fully deserved). My son will often give him a hug - especially if he’s mewing.

I am thankful for our cat, for God's gift of his even temper, God's gift of his soothing purr, and for God's gift of safety and "exposure" to an animal for my son. It reminds me of how God holds all things together and works all things for the good of His children.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Control

Philippians 2:3-4
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."


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 what 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 I'd put this behind me in my adult years, but God has shown me my manipulation goes far deeper than I'd thought.

My manipulation and 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.

Let me show you just how convoluted this gets.


One aspect of manipulation means I’m not entirely honest. It’s harder to see this part because of how I've 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, I have developed what I call “filters” on my communication. I have various filters, but I’ll just mention a couple of examples. One 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.

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 this sentence; let me explain how this all fits together.  
Tongue-in-cheek, let's say 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 what's reflected back, rather than absorbed into it. So I would be lying if I said the sky was blue. Instead, I start to say 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 this doesn’t actually 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 you'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.

Why am I so worried? I'm trying to control the situation with manipulation to achieve my desired outcome. What is the root of this 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 I don’t know best, which is why I worry about being in control.) Yet isn’t this exactly what we do? By taking control, we are literally saying we can do it better (than God, in most cases).

So what is the truth? The truth is, I shouldn’t be worried about the outcome because God is fully in control of every detail. The truth is, 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, all I’m really thinking about in the end is myself, and 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. I am incredibly thankful to rest in the peace of Christ, in His faithfulness, and in His sovereign control.

Do you worry? Is your struggle about control like mine (even though it took me some time to understand)? What helps you change your desire for control into an understanding of and peace about your lack of control, and into a desire for God to use you as He wills?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dreams

Isaiah 55:8-9
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"


The night before last, I had a dream 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 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 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” on the Lord. I was not relying on the Lord. I was just freaking out about whether or not the plan would come off and hoping/praying 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 that type of control anyway. Only God does. It is a sin against Him to try to wrest His control away from Him (which I 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? I cannot fully answer that, yet, but I am thankful God pointed out to me that it needed to be addressed. I am thankful God used my dream to help alert me, and that He didn’t feel the need to actually put me in such a situation to teach me. I am thankful the dream produced anxiety in me so I would stop and analyze it. I am thankful that sometimes, God uses dreams.

Are you trying to control something He hasn't really given you to control?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joy

Romans 8:28-29
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren..."


It's so easy to think life with God is easier than without, but this will often lead us to the idea that the purpose of becoming a christian is to be happier. God definitely brings joy to those He loves and love Him, and He delights in our happiness, but it is not His ultimate purpose, it is a byproduct. If we focus on the byproduct, we lose what created it in the first place.

Joy - as separate from happiness - can be present even in the midst of great sorrow. Joy is the peace and thankfulness born of faith that God will always work all things for your good and His glory. Happiness can come and go, 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 you won’t experience happiness in your walk with God. Joy leads quite frequently to happiness (though joy can be difficult to hold on to in many circumstances). I only mean to stress that happiness is not the goal of a relationship with Jesus Christ. The goal is the relationship itself, born of the joy of His love for us, shown most extravagantly through Jesus’ sacrifice for our 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 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 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?

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

Philippians 4:19
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in 
Christ Jesus."


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. 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 God chose to give us the gift of infant carseats.

What is one of your needs (or desires!) for which He has provided?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pack 'n Plays

2 Corinthians 12:9
"And He has said to Me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."


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 brings a total change to life. Praise the Lord He's sovereign over it! I'm thankful for God's provision of a pack 'n play so I can get out of the house while still getting Little Man down for a nap around nap time (or to sleep). 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 feel a little more normal. His Grace is sufficient for me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What is God using in your life to show you grace?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekly Impressions - Worry and Meditation

Romans 11:36
"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."


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 when I see 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 everythingLiterally.

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 He is over all things. This practice of writing thankful things 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 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? 

How is God glorifying Himself through you?