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, December 19, 2013

December Thoughts

I just realized that if I don’t write something about Christmas this week, my next post will be after Christmas. In realizing that I also realized that I failed to take note of a very special day to me, December 13th. So I will start with December 13 remembrances.
In 1978 – that was 35 years ago – on December 13th I wrote in my journal: “I believe!” I wrote it in big letters with several exclamation points after it. It was my first proclamation of a belief in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t proclaimed publicly for several days after that, but December 13th is the official first day of the rest of my life. It’s the day I put my faith and trust in my Higher Power for the first time.
Since that day I have experienced God in many ways in my life, but when I’m struggling with my faith, I need to remember to go back to what life was like before that December 13th in 1978. I see that I was only able to make a sober decision to trust in Christ because of God’s power in my life. Up until that time, I drank alcohol on a regular basis. I was surviving college and managing to do okay in my classes but my social life was wrapped up in parties and drinking (even when there wasn’t a party to go to). I don’t have any explanation as to how I stayed sober long enough to make a decision to trust in God. The only explanation is that God was at work in me. He was providing a small miracle to help me see Him more clearly. I stayed sober long enough to make a decision to follow Him and He helped me stay sober after that for quite some time. I only returned to drinking when I lost sight of the One who got me sober in the first place. When I doubt God’s existence, I return in my memory to those days in 1978 when all seemed hopeless and I felt so alone. There was a change in my life because of Christ. There’s no other explanation and I need no other proof that God exists.
There’s another December 13th that is meaningful to me. On December 13, 1989, my son was born. He was another miracle of God that I can hold onto when I doubt God’s existence. He was born healthy, more or less, in spite of my insulin-dependent diabetes. He has made huge difference in my life and I cherish the memories of his infancy and childhood. I also am excited to see what the future holds for him. His name means “gift of God,” and he has proven to be that for me.
December, in general, is a special time of the year for me. Besides the two births – mine into Christ and my son’s into this world – there was a baby born over 2,000 years ago. That brings me great joy. I’ve been doubting a lot lately, but the Christmas season reminds me that there’s hope. It seems like such a fantastic story . . . a virgin giving birth, a boy growing into a man who would die for my sins, etc. But, those things took miracles to happen. There’s hope in miracles. Maybe there will be miracles for me in my future. Christmas brings the hope of miracles with it.
So I choose to look at the joy and miracles of the Christmas season. I choose to believe in the birth of Christ and in all the stories found in Scripture. There are miracles happening all around us everyday. I just need to choose to see them and believe in the Giver of miracles. That’s where I get joy from in the month of December.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Get Invited to God's Place: Psalm 15

Who gets invited to dinner with God? That is the question David asks and answers in Psalm 15. Verse 1 asks the questions: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?” [The Message] Then David goes on to answer the question in the next four verses.
I looked at the answers and tried to honestly evaluate how I would measure up. It was a humbling experience. I looked at the answers in two versions of Scripture, The Message and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
The first criteria is to “walk straight” or “walk with integrity.” The best I could say about my efforts in this area is that I try to walk with integrity. I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do so I can’t say I do this perfectly. I try to be true to my word and do what I say I’m going to do and I try not to say I’ll do something then not follow through on it. One example where I have failed is in promising God to memorize His Scripture. I am just not very good at following through on that commitment.
The next criteria for being invited to God’s house for dinner is “act right” or “work righteousness.” Again, the best I can say is I try. I’m so thankful for God’s mercy and forgiveness that we have in Jesus. Without it, I would never get invited to God’s place because I do fail to act right, mostly I fail to even think about what right acting would look like.
Next is to “tell the truth” or “speak truth.” I was able to honestly say that I do this most of the time. Again, I’m not perfect and I’m thankful for God’s forgiveness and for the opportunities to try to improve upon it. But for the most part I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I don’t spread lies about other people and I try to only speak that which is true. Sometimes I don’t know what the truth is. In those cases, I try not to speak at all.
Another criteria is “don’t hurt your friend” or “does not slander with the tongue.” I don’t think I do that. I try to look at the positives in people and I’m cautious about saying bad things about another person. Another aspect of this criteria is “not taking up a reproach.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds to me like it means not spreading a bad rumor (or even the bad truth) about another person. I have to be careful to not be involved in spreading gossip and rumors. I don’t do it often but I can be lulled into thinking I’m just sharing a prayer request but may be spreading a rumor.
In verse 3 it also mentions that we shouldn’t “blame a neighbor” or “do evil to a neighbor.” I like to think I take personal responsibility for things that happen in my life. I don’t place blame on others when I’m at fault. But I also need to be careful not to place blame on others when it’s not my fault. I should let God decide where the blame goes.
Verse 4 says, as another criteria, “despise the despicable” or “despise reprobate and honor those who fear God.” I’m at fault here. Sometimes I laugh at a dirty joke or go along with watching less than godly television shows and movies. That’s not despising the despicable. It’s condoning the despicable things. I need to evaluate where and when I do this and try to change my ways. After all, I’d rather be invited to God’s place than watch a questionable show.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Skipping Rope: Psalm 14

Sometimes the way The Message Bible puts things conjures up interesting images in my mind. For instance, Psalm 14:7 says,
“Is there anyone around to save Israel?
            Yes, God is around; God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
            Turned around Israel sings laughter.”
That’s what I want: Life to be all about skipping rope and singing laughter. The image of people skipping rope brings to mind playing and having fun. That’s what I want for my life. I want it to be like play. I want life to be full of fun. But that doesn’t just happen by chance. It comes about because God works out the details to life and turns our despair into some kind of joy. In the New American Standard Bible verse 7 says,
“When the Lord restores His captive people,
            Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.”
The idea that rejoicing is like skipping rope and playing brings me comfort. I can relate to the playing part being a way of rejoicing. The way to rejoicing in this way is to let God turn my life around.
I also relate these days to being a captive people. I feel held captive by my own thoughts and feelings. When will God restore me? When He does I will feel joy and gladness but when will He do it? Today would be nice. This moment would be nice but I don’t see or feel that happening. But, I know that if I turn to God and try to see things from His perspective, there’s a chance I will feel better. I wait and pray and long for the day I will be restored. I can’t wait to be skipping rope and singing with laughter. I know that if I focus on God enough and trust Him, that day is coming for me just as it came for David and for Israel.
We are now into the holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind me and the Christmas celebration is before me. I pray for the rejoicing and gladness of the season. I don’t feel it right now, but it’s still there waiting for me. If I focus on God and what He’s done in my life, I can have the joy of the season. That’s my goal for this season.