The Shortest Distance

15 07 2014

When I was a pilot, I learned that in order to go north, sometimes you must point the nose of the aircraft northwest. If the wind is coming from the southwest and you aim for north on the compass, you’ll end up far east of your destination. This is known as “crabbing.”

Life is no different. We get a goal in mind. As a passenger, we think we should be headed north toward that goal. Looking out the window of our mind, we keep seeing the sun at 10:30 when it should be at 9:00. We begin to get a little nervous. Surely we will miss our mark at this rate!

This is when we begin to question the Lord, and even to suggest that we take over the joystick for a while.

What we fail to realize is that the winds of adversity are blowing strong, steering us off course. Because we can’t see or feel it, or even see its effects, a glance at the compass causes us to fear. The reading isn’t zero (straight toward our destination); but is three hundred degrees. This will never do!

However, like an aircraft, sometimes we must move toward our goal sideways, like a crab.

This has been my experience over the last few months. At long last, I knew what my purpose was in this world – write songs that would impact lives.

Then I glanced at the “compass” and saw that I was flying over the land of relationships and learning to love well. This is a worthy destination, but not the one I was positive belonged to me!

We’ve flown through some heavy storms. The thunder was loud, and the lightening threatened to fry us to a crisp. Our heading was completely contrary to where I thought I was supposed to go.

One thing about Jesus, though. When He says, “Let’s go to the other side,” He doesn’t mean, “Let’s fly into this storm and end up as a plane crash.”

Little by little, He is disclosing the need for some of the detours. He’s shown the mountain peak that was barely missed, hidden in the clouds, and the radio tower that would have split us asunder.

The storm is beginning to abate, but there is damage control to be done. There were times when I refused to let the Lord lead my life, but also refused to take the wheel myself. Life was tossed here and there like a piece of paper in the wind. This is never a good plan, by the way.

The Lord is faithful, however. He is beginning the restoration process. I’m thankful that He never quits on anything He begins (Philippians 1:6). There is the promise of the return of the years the locusts have eaten as well (Joel 2:5).

So, when our lives appear to have veered off course, we must keep our eyes on the Pilot, and not the compass. He knows the path we should take, and what we will need in the way of preparation to reach our destiny. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but unseen obstacles along the way may keep us from arriving!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths…even when it looks like you’re taking the long way ’round!





Who’s Idea Was This?

23 05 2014

When God asks us to obey, He doesn’t make us responsible for the outcome…merely for our obedience.

Sometimes, what follows when we obey looks like a train wreck. That’s when we begin to second-guess what we thought we heard.

Then we set about to fix our *mistake.*

However, from God’s perspective, everything is heading toward His desired end.

We have a situation that looks very much like this at the moment.

God asked us to make room in our home for two other families.

That’s all we were asked to do.

Love them.

Not fix them, not correct them, not have an opinion about their separate issues, take sides, or get involved.

House them.

Love them.

We obeyed.

All hell broke loose.

Oddly enough, not in our home.

Despite the various trials each of us is going through, there is a level of peace that can only be from the Lord. Each person has their own volatile test which affords enough stress to float an aircraft carrier. Thrown in with four other like people, the opportunities for conflict abound. Nevertheless, even after a couple of months we continue to enjoy the calming mantle of God’s Presence.

We fight for one another’s heart, instead of fighting one another.

Further, the Lord is providing extra funds to help cover expenses. We’ve had money drop out of nowhere unexpectedly several times.

At the same time, there have been repercussions in external relationships.

Apparently, association equals approval and support of a person’s behavior.

If that’s the case, then Jesus set a bad example for us to follow. 

Judas was embezzling. Yet, Jesus not only welcomed him into the group of disciples, but also made him their treasurer…and washed his feet along with all the “good” disciples.

In addition, Jesus obeyed God by choosing Judas after an all-night conference – and to His own hurt.

Judas betrayed him.

Sometimes obedience seems counter-productive. It may look all wrong for a while.

We will wonder if we heard correctly.

Obedience may cost us in ways we never imagined.

(We will also grow in ways we never thought possible!)

Thankfully, our part is to respond to God’s invitation to join Him in His work.

He takes full responsibility for the outcome!

I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do in and through our home.

All will end well – because it was His idea;

and He is good all the time!

 

 

 





Edgewise Words

30 01 2014

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who didn’t let you say much? It can be frustrating. When you depart, you feel more like an audience than a contributor.

Prayer, sadly, can be like this. We “spend time with God” – but didn’t let Him get a word in edgewise!

Walter Wangerin Jr. said:

“Without our truly listening, prayer will seem to have failed because communication, remaining incomplete, did in fact fail. The circle stayed broken, and love was left unknown.”

Today I want to return to the series on Intimacy with God. The next section, as you can tell, is on Prayer: Making Room For God.

Real prayer has nothing to do with presenting a “grocery list” of requests and demands for God. It is about spending time with Someone we love.

Since childhood, I’ve been taught the importance of a “quiet time.” It was generally taught that this is a necessary evil.

Now, they didn’t use those words, but that’s the message conveyed…like I had to go visit Aunt Betsie. After all, she’s family, and that’s what family does.

I’m sure Aunt Betsie felt very honored by our obligatory visit – stilted and strained as we tried to keep the conversation going.

No doubt she was as relieved as we when we finally went home.

If our “quiet times” with God are like this, we are missing a wonderful opportunity to know the Lord.

There are four movements of prayer. They are:

1. We speak.

2. God listens.

3. God speaks.

4. We listen.

Let’s begin with the first one:

We have been given a great privilege:

The God of the universe invites us to talk to Him.

If an earthly king, rock star, or actor/actress gave us an audience, we’d Tweet, Facebook, blog, and otherwise get the word out in every way we could. Everyone would see “#chatted with _______” – and we’d use their first name just so folks knew how “important” we were!

The One who has invited you to “come boldly” into His presence…yeah, He created those celebs! They’re here today and gone tomorrow, while He’s existed forever – and will continue to be here long after their stars have burned out.

There will be no meeting with a “protocol adviser” before you can see Him. There are no requirements as to proper attire, what can and can’t be discussed, the proper way to address Him, or a limit to the time you have with Him.

You’re welcome to talk to Him anytime, any place, and in whatever state you’re in.

The second point is as amazing as the first:

God listens! 

He’s not big on repetitious prayers…would you want to listen to someone recite the same poem every time you saw them? (Especially if that’s all they ever said!)

When our grandkids come to visit, we stop what we’re doing and turn our attention to them. The youngest is two years old, and unable to speak words we fully understand. Does this matter? No. We listen intently and try to make out what she is saying.

There are times when her grandpa says, “Gerbil, I know you’re trying hard to tell me something. I’m sorry, but I can’t understand.” She shrugs her shoulders and cuddles for a bit before she runs off to play. (We call her Gerbil ’cause she sounds like one when she talks!)

God – the One who runs the universe, and far more than we can begin to fathom… He listens. Isn’t that astounding?

His attention is neither obligatory nor impatient. He listens because He cares deeply about each one of us.

However, most of us stop there and figure we’re good to go. Like Gerbil, we chatter away and then run off to our busy days.

We miss out on the best part:

God speaks.

He has things to say to you!

Guess what? He’s not aching to chew you out. He wants to tell you things about Himself – an integral part of building a relationship!

He wants to tell you about yourself as well – words that will strengthen, edify, encourage, and yes, sometimes rebuke (which does not resemble being yelled at by a parent, I assure you!).

Finally:

We listen.

Our part in the conversation is to listen to Him. It’s a choice – just as it is with any visible human.

This takes an act of our will, and a bit of practice.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice.” (John 10:27)

Notice that it doesn’t say “some” of my sheep.

If we’re sheep, we’ve been given the ability to hear what He has to say.

A new addition to the flock will need to hear the Shepherd’s voice several times before it is recognized as such, but over time the lamb will hear and respond.

(Tomorrow we’ll explore various ways in which God talks to us)

When we understand that there is nothing “religious” about prayer – that it’s simply conversation, and an opportunity to know someone better, our mindset toward this discipline will change:

Prayer will cease being drudgery and become the place where the fire of love burns bright!

This will be our experience when we learn to…

Let God get a word in edgewise!





Woohoo! Got ‘er Done!

22 01 2014

Hi, everyone!

Thanks for bearing with me. Since mid-November I’ve been taking a course in music theory. By the grace of God alone, I was able to complete over 900 pages of text (a 2-year college course), complete with about 350 pages of hand-written notes in that time. (I’ve tried to take theory courses in college – and had to drop out every time. I just couldn’t understand the concepts.)

Needless to say, it’s been a time-consuming undertaking, but that phase is behind me now. Next is ear-training and hands-on instrumental instruction. You should see me doing the “happy dance!”

Beginning later this week, I should be back to regular posts. There is so much to tell you concerning the Lord. I can’t wait!

Oh, and in the near future I’ll be posting some new songs (and old songs with a new sound). God is good! This has been a dream of mine since childhood. With so many decades between then and now, I’d resigned myself tot he fact that music would have to wait for heaven. I’m excited to discover that songwriting won’t be for the ‘forever life’ alone, after all!

What about you? Is there an old dream that you’ve given up on? Don’t. God is full of surprises! You never know where He is going to lead you.

Psalm 37:4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you (plant within you – and later fulfill in you*) the desires of your heart.” He is faithful to complete the work He’s begun (Phil. 1:6)…even in this! (*my addition)

I appreciate your patience, and faithfulness despite my on-again, off-again posts.

You rock!

Love and big hugs –

Tami

\o/

Praising Jesus who gives me many reasons to sing!





Breaking Free

22 11 2013

This week’s set of posts, beginning with Where Image is Everything, came from a Bible study on Intimacy with God that my husband and I recently attended. This was a pivotal teaching for me, and it is transforming my life in ways I can’t begin to explain!

My hope is that I am delivering enough of the content to do the same for you…my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will fill in the blanks and provide what is lacking.

When we live our lives as chameleons, modifying who we are in every situation for the sake of garnering favor from those we are with, we become hypocrites.

In Bible days, a popular past-time was the theater. The Greek name for an actor was a hypocrite; and we understand that when Jesus meant called people by this term, it wasn’t a compliment!

Now, it’s not that we aren’t ever to adjust our behavior. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Here’s what he had to say:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the law;

And to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.

And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow-partaker of it.

The difference between living from Bounded Sets and doing what Paul did is motive.

His focus wasn’t on his image, or whether people liked him. If Paul did this for the purpose of self-preservation, it didn’t work! The guy was a walking scar from being beaten and stoned!

His intent was to benefit them; to reach them with the gospel.

This is the only purpose for becoming chameleons.

Living from Bounded Sets will lead us to three possible responses.

1) Rebellion – We can choose to turn our back on God, the church, and determine to live it up. This didn’t go very well for the prodigal son in Luke 15!

I took this route twice, and can report that nothing much of lasting value came from either time. The first time led me into the drug and alcohol scene, and a 10-year marriage from hell. The second episode was no better.

Although I received the prodigal’s welcome both times, there’s still the principle of sowing and reaping.

Thirty years later, I am still reaping what was sown…and so are my children. 😦

This is not a wise move!

2) Legalism – We become rigid rule-makers and rule-keepers (aka Pharisees)who judge everyone according to the laws we make…while continually breaking them ourselves. Here is Jesus’ commentary:

And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46)

There is a third option!

3) Break free – We turn our eyes from outward appearances – ours and others’ – and draw closer to Jesus.

This begins with repentance. To repent means to make a U-Turn. We were going this way, now we’ve made a 180 and are moving in the opposite direction.

Hmm. It occurs to me that if one direction leads us toward Jesus, then if we’re going in the opposite direction we are moving toward…you got it…our adversary! Eek!!!

Next, it will take transformation. No amount of self-will is going to make this happen. Have you ever seen a caterpillar hunched up willing itself to be changed into a butterfly? (Duh, no you have not!) The Greek word for transformation means metamorphosis – meta = big; morph = change.

The most amazing change to witness is when a person goes from being a Pharisee to becoming a lover of Jesus. Not only does their behavior become gentle, kind, and loving, but even their countenance changes.

Paul told us how to be transformed:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed {HOW?} by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2a}

How do we renew our minds?

Jesus gave us a big hint, “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

The one place where we will receive the truth, and nothing but the truth is in the Bible. We must spend time getting into the Word…and letting the Word get into us.

We must also examine our thoughts.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

We’ve become a gullible people – readily accepting all the world has to say about what brings life, light, success, etc., while at the same time, slamming on the brakes when it comes to Biblical truth. We’re ready to believe the best about famous people – and the worst about God. Things like:

God doesn’t want me to have fun.

God wants me to be His slave – without a life of my own.

If I really follow God, He will probably send me to Africa or Siberia!

With these thoughts lurking deep in our minds, it’s no wonder we don’t want to get closer to the Lord!

Jesus’ response to these charges:

Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34)

He does not lie!

There’s more to say on this topic, but this post is longer than most will read(!), so we’ll finish tomorrow.

Overcoming Obstacles to Intimacy with God begins with “C’mon In…





Quit – I Double-Dare You!

21 11 2013

There is a better way to live life than from a “Bounded Set.” It is the way of freedom.

Freedom to love authentically

Freedom to live authentically.

Freedom to pursue God with our whole heart.

It is living from a “Centered Set,” so called because our focus is centered on the Lord.

We live to please Him through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and let Him sort out the rest.

Living from the Centered Set is beautiful in its simplicity.

We are released from people-pleasing, the root of which is fear.

People-pleasing causes us to say “yes” to something when we really mean “no,” and visa verso. We find ourselves compelled to do and say things that we really don’t mean in an effort to control how others feel about, and what they think about, us.

Let’s face it, when we do this, we are lying. {gulp}

However, this is not God’s will for us. We are told:

“Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” (Matthew 5:37)

and again,

“Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Here’s His promise concerning this:

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).

When our primary goal is to please the Lord every day, we can evaluate others’ requests, demands, and expectations through this lens. We are no longer subject to manipulation through guilt, anger, or concern for what others might think.

When He is our focus, and we move toward Him, our attitudes and behaviors begin to change. We begin to see growth and freedom like never before. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).

When we blow it, we apologize, repent, and re-align our focus on Jesus.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

Before we can live a centered life, we must know our identity in Christ. If we define ourselves by what we do, our only option is to continue “performing” in ways that others will applaud.

Further, if we define ourselves by others’ evaluation of us, we have no choice but to continue to keep them happy by doing what they want, when they want, and how they want.

This is bondage!

As the blood-bought children of the Lord Most High, who have been chosen before the foundation of the world; ones who are accepted (as we are), adopted, redeemed, justified, sanctified, glorified, seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, and sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, we are free to be who God says we are.

No one else has the right to define us.

At first, the changes we make will feel scary. Fear is only a feeling…not reality. Step over that fear and do it anyway. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

We may get “change back” messages from people around you by way of anger, frustration, or hurt. Let them carry the responsibility for their feelings. Who knows, this might be the very thing that pulls them closer to the Lord as well!

If we’re not meeting a need like we used to, they will seek to fill it with something else. That “something else” could very well be God…and it may be that we’ve been in His way!

Meanwhile, we become the individuals God intended for us to be all along – and are free to discover His plan for us (which is often vastly different than what man would have us do).

It will feel risky…but it is the way we discover that God is trustworthy.

Here comes the most challenging part:

We must allow others to live from the Centered Set as well!

No more manipulating people to get what we want.

No more demanding that they “make” us happy.

No more insisting on having things our way. (We are not Burger King!)

We extend grace to others and encourage them to seek God’s will for their lives.

Where we see a weakness, we come alongside them to strengthen them; to pray with and for them.

As we do this, we set others free from the bondage of people-pleasing as well.

When we live from a Centered Set, we view ourselves as:

Loved

Free

A dearly-love child

The apple of His eye

A joint-heir

Valued

We view others:

As friends!

Equals, not competition

As sisters and brothers

Fellow travelers

And we can celebrate one another’s progress

We can be honest and authentic with one another.

We view God as:

A very good Father

Our great Provider

A Lover

Our Caretaker

Faithful

Unfailing

Trustworthy

Sympathetic

Our Protector and Defender

Compassionate

What a difference is ours to enjoy when we shift our focus from man and place it on the Lord!

Quit striving to please mere mortals. You’ll be glad you did!

To help you on the journey, I leave you with this “walking stick:”

I can only please One Person per day.

Today is not your day…

…Tomorrow doesn’t look good either!

***

“For am I now seeking the favor of men,

or of God?

Or am I striving to please men?

If I were still trying to please men,

I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”

Galatians 1:10

*****

Intimacy With God is the current topic. If you missed the beginning, it’s here: C’mon In…





That’s It – I Quit!

20 11 2013

“God, I can’t do this anymore. I’m done!” I yelled, frustrated beyond reason. “I’ve given it my best shot, tried as best I could, and yet I fail at every turn.

I QUIT!”

This is the danger of living life with “bounded sets” – the rules by which we try to live in order to prove that we are “Christian” by our behavior. The effort of trying to make everyone happy is exhausting…and God is just one more Person to add into the mix.

When life is comprised of bounded sets – one for every situation, the cost is high.

Self-evaluation is done by comparison. As a result we feel:

Like we don’t measure up

Either proud of how “good” we are or ashamed of how “bad”

A nagging sense of guilt

Confused

Insecure

Trapped

Lonely

Worthless

At the end of the day we feel:

Lonely

Phony

Hopeless

Isolated

We view others as:

Competition

A threat

We judge them by their appearance and behavior.

We view God as:

A harsh taskmaster

Judge

Disappointed with us

An “Indian-giver”

and believe that:

God’s goodness to me is in proportion to my good behavior – He is good to me if I am good, and mean to me if I am bad.

When our primary goal in life is to please everyone, there is no rest for our souls.

We have to remember the “norms” for ever person (or group of people) that we are expected to exhibit. This is not limited to a religious context, but also in lifestyle choices.

Every situation requires that we remember to “Do this…(whatever the bounded set may call for)…and you are “good” or “okay.”

The focus is always the external behavior.

There is no room for negative emotions. If we feel (trapped, lonely, insecure, etc.) we believe it is because we are “less spiritual” and something is wrong between God and us.

We become Pharisees, heaping rules upon ourselves that are impossible to keep.

What’s more, we impose these standards on others – who rarely want to play along.

Our expectations of ourselves and others are impossibly high, and as a result, are always on guard; wary of offending others – and continually offended by them.

Life becomes one wound after another, one broken relationship after another…

Families implode

Friends become enemies

Churches become battle grounds

We steer clear of social gatherings

We shut down our hearts

Then the day comes when we are done with the whole mess. We can’t live up to others’ expectation (or our own, for that matter), and we know it. We get sick and tired of feeling guilty all the time. Frustrated, fed up, and angry, we rebel.

Which, of course, means that we simply exchange one bounded set for a new one:

I’m going to look out for Number One

I deserve, and therefore will have…

I am going to have fun

Stay out of my way.

“To hell with everyone else, I’m going to live life on my terms!”

Let’s peek under the hood for a minute and see what makes this thing go.

What motivates this kind of behavior?

Fear:

…of not being liked

or accepted

or loved

…of being abandoned as worthless

…of rejection

You see, people-pleasing is the “prettiest” face selfishness can wear. It looks good from the outside, but the true motive is self-serving at its core. Few of the things we do from the bounded set are motivated by love for others, or with their best interest in mind. First Corinthians 13 opens with these words:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but do not have love,

“I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

“And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love,

I am nothing.

“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, 

“It profits me NOTHING.”

We can do all the “good” things that are humanly possible, but if love is not the motivation we might as well live selfishly; the result is the same:

“Wood, hay, and stubble”

We will not be rewarded for our “sacrificial giving”…but will end our days angry, bitter old codgers that no one wants to be around.

How is this an obstacle to intimacy with God?

Isn’t He the One with the Big Black Rule Book, filled with all those do’s and don’ts? Isn’t He the One demanding that I be His slave and please Him? He wants to run my life and make me His puppet, His doormat for the world.

Here I am doing all these things for others, and what do I get for it? Put down, walked on, used, and abused.

This is how He treats His children??? Really???

It was just a couple of years ago that I finally had enough of this garbage and “quit” on God.

Imagine my surprise when that Still, Small Voice responded,

“It’s about time!”

*****

In my next post, we will talk about a better way to live. Until then, let’s begin to question our motives for everything we do. “Am I doing this out of love for the other person…or to take care of myself?”

We’re discussing Obstacles to Intimacy with God. If you missed the beginning of the series, you can find it here: C’mon In…