What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Foundation

This week at church we started a new program: 40 Days in the Word. It is designed to get everyone – our pastor is praying for 100% participation – into the Scriptures everyday.

Great idea. No kidding. I have for a rather long time, 33 years, understood the importance of the Bible and have made it my personal goal to read, meditate, memorize, and apply its teachings to my life on a daily basis. I’ve had periods when it seemed impossible to fit into my busy schedule. I’ve had times when it seems I cannot function without its daily guidance. In the last few years, I have found that it is not a forced practice. I want it. It’s more like a longing. When I don’t fit it in somewhere in my day, something is just missing. It’s kind of like not saying, “I love you,” each day to my husband. I need to maintain that one-on-one contact with Jesus. Like I get in reply from my husband, I need my daily boost of Jesus’ reply to me. He says, “I love you, too.”

There are people I’ve come across in my life who place prayer in the center of their relationship with God. Prayer is one of the vital skills or tools for maintaining a relationship with Jesus. It’s the talking part. But, I need the listening part to come first. I can, and have, talked all around stuff with Jesus. I’ve yelled at Him. I’ve argued with Him. I’ve pleaded with Him. I’ve whispered in desperation to Him. But, my words do not change my life. His Words to me change my life. I need to hear Jesus’ suggestions commands on how to apply His Word to change my behavior. His Words change me. All my talking ever does is convince me my poor ways of thinking and behaving are okay.

Of course, reading the Bible like it is a nice storybook, does not change me either. After listening to the video devotion for today (available to all at www.40ditw.com), I read in Luke 6:47 out of The Message:

“These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.”

Here it is! Jesus tells us that His Words are not just for renovating our broken down lives. It is a place to begin anew to build new lives on firm, solid foundations. Lives built on the foundation of Jesus’ Words – of all of Scripture – are full of hope and healing. Hope and healing is a different life from the doom and gloom my own thoughts, feelings, and words give me. I want that foundation of hope under my life.

So, this week I begin the 40 Days in the Word program and I invite you to join in. Check out the link above, listen or watch the devotion, and open your Bible to learn why and how to listen to Jesus.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Truth or Popular

Conviction is coming from reading the Gospel of Luke. It started as an academic exercise. Deciding to review my acquaintance with the life of Jesus, I thought reading through the Gospels (the Biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) would remind me of Who Jesus is. What it is doing is reminding me of whom Jesus wants me to be.

I recently wrote in an email to a friend:

Today I read a few verses in Luke 6. Then I stopped and just focused on 3 verses, 24 - 26. Verse 26 was enlightening:

"There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular." [The Message]

This reminds me of the saying I've heard around the youth group before: What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right. I like this. It talks about how doing what is right, what is true and what is honoring to God, is not necessarily what is comfortable to hear or do. The effect of making people uncomfortable usually means we are not popular in the common meaning of the word popular (liked, admired or enjoyed by many people). I don't want to be unpopular or put people off, but I do want to proclaim and do right and truth. I must do that – but I can strive to do it out of love and in as loving a way as possible. Sometimes it actually feels like it is burning inside of me, a pain deep within my heart for those who do not know Christ and are far away from a meaningful, honest, and accurate encounter with Him. There are so many falsehoods and lies people believe regarding Who Jesus is and what He asks from us. It is up to us to give witness to the truths, leaving personal agendas and politics out of it, especially to those who so desperately need our Savior. It is up to us to preach the Truth -- not some manmade version of the truth. It is up to us – ME – to share the hope and love and life of Christ to those who need Him – to those who need a healer, a physician, a Savior; to those who, like us, need Christ for an eternal hope and a better quality of life right now.

As I write this, I hurt. I fall so very, very, very short of what is needed. I am not the witness Christ would have me be. I can only ask for forgiveness, ask for guidance, ask for wisdom, and try again. Do you feel the same longing to meet people's needs, to bring them to a place where their desperation leaves them, and in the place of the desperation, put in the peace of Christ?

Then, it passes. I don't think I can live there all the time, but I don't think I let it burn strong enough or often enough to be of use to those who so desperately need a Savior. But, I do the best I can. I work to do better. And, God uses what I give. For His glory.

For another take on this concept, see article posted one minute before this one.

Found on Facebook

This whole story is not necessarily true (see Snopes, essay not written by a 17 year old), but I still enjoy the perspective.

17-year-old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for a class. The subject was what Heaven was like. "I wowed 'em," he later told his father, Bruce. "It's a killer. It's the bomb. It's the best thing I ever wrote.." It also was the last.

Brian's parents had forgotten about the essay when a cousin found it while cleaning out the teenager's locker at Teary Valley High School. Brian had been dead only hours, but his parents desperately wanted every piece of his life near them-notes from classmates and teachers, his homework.

Only two months before, he had handwritten the essay about encountering Jesus in a file room full of cards detailing every moment of the teen's life.. But it was only after Brian's death that Beth and Bruce Moore realized that their son had described his view of heaven. "It makes such an impact that people want to share it. You feel like you are there." Mr. Moore said.

Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend's house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.

The Moores framed a copy of Brian's essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. "I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it," Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son's vision of life after death. "I'm happy for Brian. I know he's in heaven. I know I'll see him."
Brian's Essay: The Room...

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I have liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed at." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've yelled at my brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.

Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I have watched", I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.

I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it.. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.

No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.

He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.

He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Demons Knew

In a couple of places in the gospel of Luke, chapter 4, the demons recognized exactly who Jesus is (from The Message):

“In the meeting place [the temple] that day there was a man demonically disturbed. He screamed, ‘Ho! What business do You have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to. You’re the Holy One of God and you’ve come to destroy us!’” (verses 33 – 34).

“One by one he placed His hands on them and healed them. Demons left in droves, screaming, ‘Son of God! You’re the Son of God!’ But He shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much, knew Him to be the Messiah.” (verses 40 – 41).

The question I ask myself is, “Do I really know Who Jesus is?” Really know. The demons knew and obeyed Him when He disturbed their plans and lives. The demons actually knew TOO much. The demons had to obey when Jesus shut them up. The demons knew He was the Messiah.

Is that Who Jesus is? A resounding, “YES!” I know He is, but . . . being as obedient as the demons is altogether another thing. I don’t always know what He is up to. I don’t always recognize His holiness. I don’t recognize His desire and purpose to destroy the demons in my life. I don’t proclaim Him boldly and loudly. I don’t know Him so well I cannot help but shout out. And, I don’t choose obedience.

There are demons in my life. I need to let Jesus point them out and take care of them. If I choose to be in tune with Jesus, recognize Who He is, and obey His commands, the demons will be shut up and cast away. Life can only be easier to live when I let Jesus deal with the demons. I need to listen to Jesus and respond in obedience to gain access to an easier life.

I am impressed with the way the demons, even as they wanted Jesus to leave them alone, had to respond in obedience to Jesus’ commands. I’m not sure they, like us, have a choice. They were afraid of the consequences of not obeying. I have a choice. Jesus wants me to respond, immediately and completely, out of love. It’s what makes us different from the demons. We volunteer to obey the One and only Son of God. If the demons knew, how much more I should know. And obey.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


“You have dependence issues.”

“What? I am not dependent on anyone. I like my independence. What are you talking about?”

“That’s the problem.”

This exchange happened over 12 years ago with the therapist I was seeing at the time. This was about a year into therapy and I would have none of it. I did not need anyone; I could do it on my own. I was raised on a steady dose of “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” Independence was prized in my family and I was going to be the best at it.

Reality is the problem. The more I tried to take care of everything myself, without some division of labor, the less I was able to get done. Two people, even if one is only half as efficient as the other, can still get more done than one person alone. (But, no one can do it right except me.)

Getting less done is not the only problem with trying to do it on my own. Probably more importantly, a lack of the ability to trust anyone else with part of the situation – afraid to be dependent upon someone else – leads to isolation and self-deception. This in turn can lead to thinking I know all there is to know about a subject, so I don’t need anyone else.

Biblically this is way off the mark. Scripture clearly says we need help; we need one another to hold us accountable. My favorite verse on this is James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I don’t like it. I don’t want to clue people in on my sins and struggles. I’m not sure it is natural for any of us; even Adam and Eve tried to hide their sin.

The question is, “Do you (I) want to be healed?”

As I said, I am not very good at this. However, recently a friend, an accountability partner, pointed out that no matter how insignificant it seems to me, God has been victorious in my life in this area. The very fact that I have an accountability partner (in addition to my best friend who lives in Minneapolis) and am sharing my struggles with her is different than my usual, historical way of living. Letting other people know where I’m at and letting them pray for me is another step in the right direction, away from trying to do it all on my own and towards Biblical dependence.