When Your Selfie Button Sticks

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

—2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

A sociology professor of mine once lamented a magazine he noticed in the grocery store checkout line. The magazine was called Self.

Self! Can you believe it?”

The magazine launched in 1979 and just recently ended its print run this year. It continues online, however, focusing on women’s health, beauty, fitness and style.

So, what’s wrong with focusing on women’s health, beauty, fitness and style?

It seems harmless enough on the surface, like so many other things. Yet it must be viewed in the larger context of the culture. That’s what my professor was doing. He was noticing a trend. Basically what he was foreseeing was a society of people focused on themselves, resulting in a shallow, narcissistic, and God-forgetting nation. And that was twenty years ago! It was before the term “selfie” so egregiously appeared on the scene.

Having a preoccupation with oneself leads to the type of thing Paul is warning Timothy about in the verse above from the New Testament.

Paul and my sociology professor echo the principle which is key to our Christian faith:  we are a fallen people, inherently flawed.  Anytime we overly focus on ourselves, we are in danger of forgetting our true nature and our need for God.

Attending to externals, which is largely the focus of the self movement, ignores our need for an internal makeover. We are trying to clean the “outside of the cup” (as Jesus told the Pharisees) while the “inside is full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).

Jesus is warning against focusing on externals for a reason. The New Living Translation says doing this leads to an awaiting sorrow.

Shudder.

The really dangerous thing is that most people today don’t realize self-focus is a problem or see it as a bad thing. At. All. The mindset has become engrained and the practices  normalized.

With the proliferation of social media, the temptation to post endless pictures of ourselves is real. We can become obsessed with checking our “likes” and start thinking we’re all that. May I suggest checking our “likes” in the Bible?  See the sacrifice Jesus made in leaving heaven to come to earth and be mistreated by sinful man. All because He wasn’t focused on self. He followed God’s will, put others first, and gained the reward.

Remember the secret to true joy? As in, J-O-Y?

Jesus, Others, and Yourself—that’s the formula. It may seem old-fashioned or corny, but like any well-worn phrase, it’s true because it works.

Here are a few ideas to try if you realize your selfie button is getting stuck.

*Take a self-evaluation instead of a selfie. Be honest with yourself and with God. Write out a confession in a prayer journal. Then do one small thing that focuses on God and/or someone else.

*If you want to brag, talk about what God has done in your life rather than what you’re doing. Skip the vacation pictures as a form of bragging. (Remember when people joked about others who dared to show endless slides of their last trip? Yawn.)

*Take a social media break. Start with whatever absence is do-able for you whether it be a day, a week or a month. Replace this time with Christian music, teachings, or an outreach you’re passionate about. You will notice what you have been neglecting because of time spent online. When you do go back online, you will realize how shallow and temporal most of it is.

*Follow Paul’s advice to Timothy and let some relationships go. If the people you associate with do not share your values, it may be time for some new friends. Spending time with lovers of self will influence you in a similar way, resulting in an unhappy and “sorrowful” future.

God has a better plan!

Finding Joy on the Journey,

Beckie

God, It’s Me Again

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” ‘

Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’ ”

—Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV)

God has bigger fish to fry—I know that. I actually say that, too, when I’m praying in my sort of flimsy, apologetic manner.

“I know You have bigger fish to fry, God, but could I just ask about this…again?”

Sometimes I feel like a little kid who is  bugging God. Like I’m bothering Him. Even like I’m wasting His time with my repeated requests that seem—let’s face it—trivial in light of all the bigger fish He’s got to fry. The big fish of world-size problems, like wars and starving children, pure evil running wild, disease and devastation, Satan’s latest tactics, and about a million other urgent situations.

Then here I come…Hello, God? Umm, I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I know I’m totally unworthy, not as obedient as I should be, actually, I’m sorry for wasting Your time on this issue. I see You have a lot going on, and it’s not a huge thing, but could You just __________.

Somehow this doesn’t seem like the “powerful and effective prayer” we read about in James 5:16b. But all too often it is my prayer. And after I say it, I berate myself. I think again of James (chapter 1, verse 6) and of doubting when you pray and how he says that is not going to work. What a jumble of thoughts flood me as I pray and try to sort things out!

I wonder, Is it wrong to approach God in this manner?

Obviously I am not a theologian, just an ordinary pray-er. I’d even say I am a less polished pray-er than most, but still! I am one of His children, and I am speaking honesty and sincerely, so I know He hears me. And forgives the imperfect way in which I sometimes engage Him. Maybe He even smiles.

So, yes, I do need to work on my prayer life. But I’m a firm believer in pouring out our hearts to God in real and imperfect ways. The psalms confirm this is the way to go (although they are much more poetic than the messes I sometimes pray).

But it’s the heart cry. David knew it, and so did Job, so we’ve got good company here.

And when Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow (above), His message clearly was to have faith and continue in our asking. We are not bugging God. He desires to hear from us. He cares about big and small matters.

Back to James 5:16b and his verse on  prayer. It reads:

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV).

Are you righteous? Meaning in right standing with God through Christ? This is where the power comes from, not from our ability to find just the right words.

If you have trusted in Christ, your prayer (and mine) is powerful and effective. What a relief when our prayers don’t feel strong, orderly, or cohesive.They are still acceptable to God.

Our marching orders, then, are to pray on! Pray frequently, pray imperfectly, pray honestly, and pray so that when Jesus comes again, He will find faith on the earth.

Journeying,

Beckie

Another Season Turning

“He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? He sends his word and melts them, he stirs up the breezes, and the waters flow.”
—Psalm 147:15-18 (NIV)

It wasn’t always this way. I can honestly say, there was a time when I did not appreciate all the seasons my northeast climate provides. But age and a change in attitude have contributed to my seeing things differently. Literally and figuratively.

While my mountainous area is famous for its fabulous falls, we all know what follows those beautiful colors. It is, as Psalm 147:17 records, God’s “icy blast.”

I’ve heard people say we enjoy winter up until the Christmas season, then we’re ready to fast- forward to spring.

The locals make all the usual complaints about  snow shoveling, driving hassles, falling on ice, and not seeing enough sunlight. By the time February rolls around, they’re ready to head south.

But wait! It seems a shame to wish away our God-ordained seasons, including winter. After all, isn’t the “snow spread like wool and the frost scattered like ashes” a lovely thing?

My friend, Lynda, thinks so. “Snow is my favorite color!” she told me once.

I’m beginning to see what she means.

Not Stuck

When we study Scripture, we begin to take in God’s big view of life. His plan for times and seasons. It provides a radical shift from our limited human perspective. And our tendency, like the Israelites, to grumble.

Right away in Genesis 1, we read of God creating the heavens and the earth. On the fourth day, He placed lights in the sky to separate the day from the night.  Then He said, “Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days and years” (Genesis 1:14, NLT).

God saw that it was good.

Marking the seasons was good and still is good, despite the effects of sin. We may not enjoy the pristine nature of Eden, but there is still so much of God’s stunning work to admire—even when things appear to be frozen or stuck.

Listen Carefully

One of the changes I’ve noticed since losing my central vision is more sensitivity to hearing. Nothing physically happened to my ears, though. I simply listen more closely out of necessity.

Apparently, God has turned up the volume on the birds.  I do miss seeing their faces and feathers clearly, but I hear their songs with new detail and purity. The doves cry out their mating call; the crows squawk loudly, and the owls’ hooting pierces the night.

A habit I began since vision loss is opening a window each morning and sitting near it, drinking coffee and listening for birds. The outside temperature does not deter me. In fact, sometimes the cold air on my face feels energizing. Strangely, this practice evolved without me planning it. I just realized one day I had developed a new pattern. A pattern of beginning my day by listening to God’s world.

Birds are usually one of the first harbingers of spring, but, in reality, some birds hang around all winter long. Not as many in my area, for sure, but still…life goes on despite the cold and snow.

And here’s a winter bonus:  you can see wildlife better when the foliage is gone. For example, we regularly spot whitetail deer at dusk, as they begin feeding. And a squirrel darting across a snowy branch always makes me smile for his hopping, jerking movements. It’s an unmistakeable sight, even to my low-vision eyes.

The Purpose in the Plan

Storyteller Garrison Keillor says, “Winter brings us back to basics. There’s basic in-hereness, and there’s basic out-thereness. In winter, you are just happy to be an animal who is warm.”

I like that about winter! Appreciation of the basics reminds us of God. Our need for Him. His faithful provision. And the realization that He knows better, and this is His plan.

Again, looking at God’s original design in Genesis, we see Him working six days and resting on the seventh. Winter can be a resting, rejuvenating time before the new cycle of life begins in spring.

A slowdown in the rhythm of life is essential to offset our fast-paced lifestyles.  Simply watching the outside world from a window, as I do each morning, can calm us. But better yet, a thirty-minute walk in the sharp air clears our heads, resetting our brains to take on the next challenge.

Last winter, the National Geographic published an article called, “This is Your Brain on Nature.” It cites numerous studies which show how nature is the antidote to relieve stress and improve mental function.

Cell phones, computers, and multi-tasking all contribute to brain fatigue. Experts say we need a break from the technology. A restorative trip outdoors actually lowers blood pressure and stress hormones in the blood.

It’s an old and basic concept. In fact, our national parks were founded upon the philosophy that nature has healing powers.

“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician,” said the sixteenth century Swiss German physician Paracelsus.

How did we forget this?

Because I believe children intuitively know it. The cold air, rain, and snow don’t minimize a child’s joy. A weather event can actually be exciting for them. Think snow days, ice skating, sledding, and snowball battles. Think watching a thunderstorm or splashing in puddles. Squish!

Soul-life happens as we connect with God by touching His ever-changing world.

What Jesus Did

Jesus did not stress because of modern technology, but He did carry a heavy burden. The burden of people—people with problems.  Often the crowds would press in on Him, seeking teaching or healing. He had the Jewish leaders after Him, too, but they were seeking something quite different—a reason to take His life.

I can’t think of a better reason to escape. Here’s how He did it:

“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23, NIV).

All the gospels record such actions. Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

The word “sacred” springs to mind when I picture Jesus being alone with His Father outside in prayer. Also “connectedness.” It’s so important for us in our human condition to reach out to the divine in this most fundamental way.

When we follow Jesus’ example, we recognize the whole of creation, not just our little sphere of problems. Things relax inside us, and we regain a right perspective. God is still on the throne, involved in our physical and spiritual world; our faith is not unfounded.

Seesawing

The seesaw between winter and spring begins around this time every year. Even though people may be counting down the days until the vernal equinox (the official start of spring), sometimes doubt sneaks in. Will we ever put away these heavy coats?

Sigh.

Then one day, as we are hunched over our bowls of chili, we notice it’s still light outside at suppertime. A glimmer of hope emerges. Could it be?

Yes, but not without a teetering back and forth. Days of ice and sub-freezing temperatures will alternate with days of sunshine and melting. Nature seems schizophrenic, unable to make up its mind.  But the days are lengthening, no one can deny that.

More signs appear. The robins return to set up their nests, and rabbits suddenly seem to be everywhere all at once. Flower clusters appear on the silver maple. Overall, the warming trend continues.

Another season turning.

Remember Wisdom

King Solomon offered the following reflection on times and seasons:

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV).

I want to remember the wisdom of the king! I want to see God’s hand in all times and seasons…understanding His good purpose for those of us living under heaven.

And being about my Father’s business all the God-ordained seasons I am given.

How about you?

 

No Small Ministry

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
—1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (ESV)


Vacation Bible School with a friend. A grandmother carrying her Good News Bible. The piano teacher giving a book of hymns. 

On the surface, these everyday scenes may not appear to be much. The untrained eye may easily skim over them. But the untrained eye often misses the ways of God.

Because in His providence, an  invisible hand is at work, doing the awesome job of harvesting souls for eternity. This quiet ministry is called seed planting, and I am one blessed recipient. 

Seed planting happens every day. In a million little ways, all around the world, Christians are showing God’s love to non-believers through subtle actions often mistaken as mere kindness. But it is much, much more. 

Seed planting is no small ministry. While the process moves slowly, it moves surely. At first, nothing seems to be happening! Results can take years, but just as in planting a tree, with enough time and the right conditions (orchestrated by God), a fruitful harvest emerges.

A Secret Desire

As a child growing up in a home where we had religion with no relationship, I secretly longed to know God better.  But how to get there?

I got some clues when friends of mine, one whose father was a minister, invited me to Vacation Bible School. Naturally, we read the Bible there. But reading the Bible felt anything but natural to me! I handled the book with trepidation, not sure if it was “allowed.” 

The teacher showed me how to find passages. I quickly learned, then was surprised to hear that the Bible was God’s living and true Word. All of it! 

Well, this viewpoint differed wildly from my upbringing. So when I went home, I said nothing. Just tucked the new perspective in my heart to remain dormant until God’s proper timing.

Modeling

At its core, seed planting is best done by modeling. Simply living close to the Lord causes a person to stand out. For example, how a widow handles adversity; how she uses her money, time, and talent; and how she relies on God for the future all speak volumes to the watching world. Even a child can notice.

My grandmother modeled Christ for me in this way. 

She took time to write me letters, gave when she didn’t have much, and quilted pillows with my initials on them. Then delivered them with a hug.

“What’s tithing?” I asked my mom one day as I overheard her talking about grandma’s beliefs.

“It’s giving a tenth of your income to the church,” she said. Mom added that we did not tithe, but gave regularly every week. She thought tithing was taking the Bible too literally. 

The Bible. There it was again. Grandma carried one into our home. It said “Good News Bible” on the cover, and I wondered why she brought it, since she never opened it.

In retrospect, I see the book probably strengthened her. It also sent a silent testimony, a testimony about her changed life—a life being lived for God. The Good News apparently was the key. 

Here was the first born-again Christian I knew personally. She gave more clues about knowing God better. And she planted more seeds for germination.

Joyful Praise

I wanted to play the piano because my friends did. So from the ages of 12-16, I took lessons from an old woman who lived in the country  and owned a big house with a big Steinway.

For the most part, she was cranky. But when she gave me a book of hymns called Have Faith, my teacher perked up and seemed joyful.

“The love of God is greater far—
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star—
And reaches to the lowest hell.”*

Wow! All of a sudden, I was learning about more than notes and chords. I was learning about God’s love, His personal love—and how it was for me. Somehow the knowledge settled in my soul.

For years after, I spent peaceful hours at the keyboard studying those words and tunes, absorbing the Christian faith through song.

Did my piano teacher intend a spiritual lesson? I believe she did! She had a music ministry, after all. The word “ministry” simply means service, and all Christians are called into a ministry. Using our gifts and abilities for the Lord is why He gave them in the first place.

Though most of my seed planters are gone now, their work lives on. The small seeds they planted in my life as a child finally blossomed when I lost my central vision at age 33. During my time of need, I remembered the Bible and how I could read God’s Word for myself. I remembered my grandmother’s faith and future hope. And I remembered the joy my old teacher found in praising God—regardless of circumstances. 

The amazing thing about God is that He uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary plans. HIS plans. His eternal plans to draw a people to Himself (John 12:32). And though it can sometimes take a while, in God’s economy, seed planting bears eternal fruit.



*Lyrics from “The Love of God” by F. M. Lehman

She Picked Jesus Over Tradition

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.”
                              —John 14:15-19 (NLT)


A couple of weeks ago, you might have seen me hugging a stranger on Presque Isle in Erie. A little weird, I know, but that’s often how God works.

The old me would have thought I was nuts! Many people still do. But sometimes, these spiritual matters don’t make a whole lot of sense to the natural mind. They sure didn’t make sense to me before I was saved.

I heard how Christians talked, and I secretly thought these people must have received trauma earlier in life to act the way they did now. You know… a little too excited about Jesus and their relationship with Him, which I thought was extraordinary and possibly IMAGINED. I mean, I knew about Jesus, too, but I didn’t have to talk about Him all the time.

So what gives? I asked myself.

Over time, I found out. The Spirit—that’s what gives!  He is the third person of the Trinity (also called The Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost). And He is what gives understanding, discernment, comfort, and guidance about these matters.

He gives and gives and gives, but if you don’t have the Spirit, you’ll stand around looking at born-again Christians thinking they got derailed somewhere along the tracks. Trust me, I’ve been there.

“Are you a Christian?” I once was asked by a Catholic bishop, standing in front of a large confirmation ceremony.

“Yes.”

“What is a Christian?”

“Someone who believes in Christ,” I said.

It seemed simple enough. My head knowledge freed me from the bishop’s gaze, and I got to sit down. An uneasy, temporary peace followed.

But wait! There was more. By studying the Bible, I learned head knowledge alone wasn’t enough. Wasn’t that the Pharisees’ problem?

Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (see John 3). 

(Side note: My pastor said if you look up the word “must” in the Greek, it means “must.”)

Born of water and the Spirit, Jesus goes on to tell the religious leader, Nicodemus. 

So, it’s not about answering questions the right way or reciting a creed. That’s not how you become a Christian or receive the Holy Spirit.

It’s about taking out our hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh, as we read in Ezekiel 36:26. 

It begins when we realize our brokenness and need. Our recognition in turn drives us to God in repentance and allows Him to work from the inside out. In short, we say “yes” to God. We TURN and change directions (the very definition of “repentance”).

The Spirit, in the case of the woman I hugged on Presque Isle, gave me an instant connection to her, because we found out we were both Christians. We were sisters in the Lord!

My husband asked her and her husband the question: “Are you, by chance, Christians?”

“Yes,” they answered excitedly, a bit surprised.

We had stopped on the bike trail to offer help for a bad tire. My husband was being led by the Spirit to ask this question.

A fantastic conversation followed. The wife told of how she was raised Amish and how she had to choose between her Amish tradition and Jesus at the age of 17, when someone shared the gospel with her. Her dad gave the ultimatum. 

She picked Jesus and moved out.

I felt an instant connection point with this woman. Not because I, too, had left the Amish. The Spirit connected us, our values connected us, and our future connected us.

The Holy Spirit is a sweet gift to all who are willing to repent, change directions, and put their faith in Jesus.

I wish it for all I know! Unfortunately, I cannot make it happen. Only God and the person He is drawing can do that. 

My small role is to tell of His greatness and the gifts He’s given me. Now I can answer with peace, “I am a Christian.”

Journey Along,

Beckie

I’m Sick of Inspiration

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ “

—1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)


Blind people can do incredible things. Climb mountains, travel internationally by themselves, write epic poems, enter triathlons, ski down mountains, make art, and the list could go on and on.

Then there’s me.  

My list of incredible accomplishments reads as follows:  

Make it through the grocery store without a meltdown (mine, not the child’s); 

Successfully give my card number to a woman on the phone taking my reservation—successful after three tries, that is. Plus magnification and an explanation of why I couldn’t easily read the numbers in the first place. 
“Let’s try this number, ”  I said, trying to focus. (She thinks I stole the card, I thought.);


Correctly identify a person talking to me in the post office after only two minutes of conversation;

and here’s a biggie:  NOT FEEL ASHAMED or APOLOGIZE when I explain to the doctor’s office I can’t read the fine print on their forms. Consequently, I cannot fill them out.

Yes, I am accomplished. For real. 

As wonderful as the stories of heroic blind people are, I kind of get sick of them. THE STORIES, not the people. Because it’s not a total picture of their lives. Those are moments of victory. Great moments to celebrate, for sure, but not the norm.

I just gave you the norm. Not that our norm sells much or endears us to the public. Not that we visually-impaired people enjoy advertising our struggles.  But in an attempt at reality, let’s just be honest.

It’s a daily battle. 

I’ve observed two ways we acceptably talk about vision loss in our culture. Witness the victorious blind person, as I just mentioned, or laugh along with the blind mistakes we make. Laugh nervously, but do join in. 

Hey, sometimes it is funny, and I’ll be the first to laugh. I have my own battery of blind humor to draw on. We surely need that relief valve!

But other times, it just isn’t funny, and it can be downright dangerous.

There is a third option, also, and that is:  IGNORING the elephant in the room. This simply makes us feel forgotten or bad because we’ve made you so uncomfortable. I’ve found some people actually avoid me after I tell them about my vision problem. They think I can’t see them turning away and moving off in the opposite direction, but I can. I don’t know…maybe they’re afraid I’ll ask them for a ride or something.

So, how best to handle the dilemma of talking about vision loss in a way that neither falsely portrays success nor makes light of the struggles?

As a woman I recently encountered did—with genuine curiosity and compassion.

“You proofread the newspaper with one eye?” she asked incredulously, shaking her head.

It made me see things from her perspective, which used to be my perspective as well. But strangely, after you’ve been blind a while, it becomes normal to you.

“Funny how your thing is writing, and you lost your vision…” she mused.

I agreed and said God often allows things like this to show His power through our weakness. We both agreed with that.

Then she grabbed my hands and prayed for my eyes to heal. How sweet! She had total belief it could be done, and I do, too, though I told her I never pray for my eyes.

“It’s the glue that keeps me close to God,” I said. 

Again, she was curious and courteous. I SO appreciated her heart!

Her kind of response makes us feel heard, understood, and accepted.

See, here’s the thing:  
We blind people are blessed with an inner vision; we see people’s hearts more clearly than most. The way others react to us gives a great indication of their character.

It’s one awesome hidden benefit of vision loss I’ve discovered, and one I just decided to put on my list of accomplishments!

Journeying Along,

Beckie

Why We Need Re-Fueling

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  
—John 16:33 (NASB)


Sometimes I get disgusted with myself for being such a sieve. For seeming to need a constant re-fueling from God. Why can I not hold on to my strong position in Christ for more than a day or so?

And why does this even bother me? I should be happy to go to God daily and get an infusion, right?

Well, it bothers me because I want to be strong and steady, abiding as the title of my blog claims. Yet I feel weak much of the time. Beaten down by circumstances and situations that will not change.

My vision, of course, is an obvious source of leakage. I recently asked a group of blind people if they, too, felt wiped out by day’s end, and I got a definite “yes.” I’m sure our brains, eyes, and other senses work overtime just trying to make sense of life.

That’s physical weariness, and it certainly plays into our emotional state. But there is also world weariness.

World weariness often stems from feeling disappointment in what we see around us. People chasing after all kinds of temporary pleasures, being rude to one another, shouting, trying to climb over each other to make themselves look good.

Yuck. (And I’m not excluding myself from the list of disappointing human behaviors which could go on and on.)

Double yuck.

In the end, it all just points me back to my need. My daily need for God. My daily need for connection through prayer and study of His Word. 

Jesus said, “In Me you may have peace.” 

IN HIM—not in my own understanding of the circumstances I see around me. That’s what re-fueling is all about. And let’s be honest, it is usually more than a daily fill up…more like hourly, minute-ly (if that’s even a word!).

No matter how many times you’ve heard it or know it in your head, the necessary practice of turning to God CHANGES THINGS.

Mostly, it changes our outlook, and as we tell our kids, attitude is everything!

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to come to You whenever we need a fresh infusion of Your peace.  Your perspective in our circumstances changes everything, and for that, I am grateful!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Beckie

Thou Shall Not Be Boring

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
—Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

You’ll be happy to know I’ve settled something. After years of feeling guilty if I didn’t finish a book or if I started a new book while still reading another, I’m over it. The guilt, that is. I’ve come to terms with the fact that some books are not worth finishing. The writing is lacking, and I don’t want to spend precious time (and vision strain) locked into a boring trip. Life is too short for bad reading.

Now, on the issue of reading more than one book at a time, my 12-year-old son taught me a lesson. Watching him changed my view of my old policy, which was, I could never start one book until I finished another.

Andy’s got several books going at once. He loves reading, and, in fact—BRAG WARNING—he is the top reader in his grade. (He recently won a Barnes and Noble gift card for his mega-reading points.)

My husband was worried about what the other kids would say when they saw Andy carrying around a high stack of books. This is middle school, you know.

“I don’t care what they think. They already know I’m smart,” he said.

I guess you can talk like that when you’re one of the tallest boys. Never tried it myself.

The other day Andy said to me, “Mom, why don’t we just go eat pizza and talk about books?”

Pinch me. I must be dreaming…

Since he’s been consuming books the way others consume cups of coffee, it made me think about my own reading habits.

Of course, my gold standard is The Holy Bible.  And the key to making that come alive is the Spirit of God. No one can truly understand God’s Word without the Spirit giving insight. I know because I’ve heard smart ministers say so. But more than that—I’ve lived it!

When I went to a Christian college, we were required to take classes in both Old and New Testaments. Also, one in Christian living; plus, every other class incorporated God’s Word somehow. So I was immersed.

The problem was…I wasn’t a born-again Christian. I didn’t have the Spirit of God working through the Word. The writing just sat on page. Oh, I memorized and regurgitated, but that’s as far as it went.

I was a cultural Christian, just going through the motions, saying, “I believe in God,” like I was doing Him a favor. The classic mental assent/no heart change played out in my life.

BORING!

Now, however, I experience the Word as “living and active”(Hebrews 4:12).  Always fresh, always relevant, always revealing new truths and illuminating my current situation. Nothing compares to God’s gold standard!

Consequently, if I find myself engaged in reading that is flat and lacking, it stands out in contrast. This includes Christian writing. I’ve seen so many dull blogs and books…it saddens me, because God is not dull! Why should we be?

This is how I define boring:  Writing that belabors the obvious; writing that is too theological in nature—with no concrete references—you find yourself zoning out; or writing that moves nowhere and inspires nothing.

I urge you, fellow Christian readers, to observe God’s unwritten (but clearly implied) eleventh commandment:  Thou Shall Not Be Boring! God is exciting and so is His Word. Let’s follow suit in our reading and in our lives.

Take a page from Andy’s book (but not literally). If you find yourself being dragged down by dead prose, abandon ship and find life in the vast sea of great Christian writing. And enjoy!

Here is my current reading list in case you need some help.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, and Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young.

What’s on your summer reading (or listening) list?

Journeying Along with Great Books,

Beckie

Have You Been Avoiding Quiet Time?

“Ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ…to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers.” 
—Ephesians 1:17-18 (MSG)


Oh, my goodness! How easy it is “in this day and age” (yes, I’m officially a geezer saying “in this day and age”), but how easy it is to avoid getting quiet with God. To avoid trying to hear His voice and discern His calling on our lives.

And I confess, I can be just as guilty as anyone.

“In my day,” people knew better how to enjoy quiet and stillness. Frankly, it was easier. There weren’t as many distractions at our fingertips. Still, I think we valued it more and made it a higher priority. 

Why, I spent many an hour myself sitting in trees in the backyard, just being quiet—thinking. Maybe eating cherries and spying on people, too. But being quiet nonetheless.

Porch sitting, also…we sat on porches and took in the scene. There were no devices! We looked at people’s faces. Remarked on the colors of the seasons. Laughed at the geese honking merrily across the sky. Simply took time to notice God’s work.

And it filled us.

Today’s culture values busyness and activity over stillness and observation. What a loss! God says to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Not “over-schedule yourself, run around like a squirrel, and wonder why you don’t hear my voice.” 

Seriously, it’s a trick of the enemy. But one we willingly participate in.Think about it: If he keeps us busy, frazzled, and depleted, we will not seek God. Heck, we may even forget about Him. We’ll be too tired to worry about eternal affairs. We’ve got to keep up with our schedules, after all. Can’t you just feel it happening?

I have been having this niggling sensation lately God wants to tell me something. I must be super-intentional in seeking quiet time, lest I miss the lesson or directive. Honestly, it can be scary. What if God tells me something I don’t want to hear? It’s happened before! Then I have a decision to make:  plug my ears and BE BUSY or listen quietly and obey.

Here’s a short list of how I’m trying to guard quiet time:

NO EXCUSES—We live in an excuse-making, blaming society. We can easily ignore a seemingly unproductive time with an invisible God. We can make excuses. This is to our detriment!

God sees our hearts, however, and lame stories don’t stick with Him. Start by covering this time in prayer. Pour out your fears, confess your shortcomings, and ask for understanding. Then just as Ephesians 1:17-18 says, we will “see exactly what it is he is calling (us) to do (and) grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers.” 

NO DEVICES—We don’t answer the phone in the shower, and we don’t text in church. We can be disciplined with the ubiquitous technology. So let’s extend our discipline to a screen-free quiet time. Become master of your devices by putting them in their place! God will reward the act by giving you His sweet presence. 

As a result, you will be filled.

NO BAD ATTITUDES—Come expecting renewal, and receive it! Don’t come as a “duty” or in order to check an item off your to-do list. Quiet time with God is life-giving and life-directing. Actually, it’s an other-worldly privilege! Contemplating our blessed calling fills us with gratitude and joy. How’s that for a flipped perspective?

The bottom line is…I have the feeling God wants to tell you something as well. Don’t disappoint Him by being too busy or too fearful to stop and hear His voice. 

There are blessings in obedience.

So, are you ready? Ready for renewal, direction, and soul satisfaction?

Then…On your mark, get set— STOP!

Still Journeying,

Beckie


When God Asks You to be Vulnerable

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  —Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

That’s all…just sit down and bleed.

While I am no Hemingway, I can surely relate to that quote. And strangely enough, I can relate that quote to much in the Christian life (though Hemingway was not Christian). 

It’s about vulnerability. That which makes us feel exposed, wide open for all to see, subject to attack, rejection, failure—fear.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to avoid those things, haven’t you?

But now God asks me to write, which is at its very core, exposing who you are on the page. Even what you choose to write about reveals your personality. The same applies to what you post or talk about. It’s inescapable.

“Guarded” is how I’ve been described (nicely described, according to my daughter, who laughs when she hears this). Guarded is the opposite of vulnerable. Guarded is safe.

But…guarded doesn’t grow.

The reasons why a person becomes guarded are varied. For me, it’s a fear of criticism. Others have other motives.

Regardless of the cause, God wants us to step out in courage and trust in Him. To follow His directives and pass through the doors He opens. Then leave the results to Him.

It’s like Paul says to the Galatians in the verse above. We’re looking to please God, not pander to people. Some will track with us; many will not. But that’s okay.

We can accept this better the longer we go being Christians. As you know, simply announcing you are a born-again Christian makes you vulnerable. It marks you as a radical and someone who’s gone off the deep end. Someone who can no longer be trusted to think for themselves. A person for others to avoid lest they become “evangelized.” (I’m smiling here.)

So much of what God asks us to do for His kingdom involves vulnerability. 

I think of teaching, singing, godly parenting, or praying in public. How about sharing your faith at work? All these things expose our hearts to the onlookers of the world. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING. It is what we’re called to do. We are not called to Christianity-lite. 

I remember a conversation I had with a woman who was looking for a church. I told her about mine. 

She said, “I just wanna be comfortable. You know what I mean?”

Unfortunately, I did. She didn’t want to change or be challenged by the full gospel. She wanted to feel alright with God by giving Him the mental assent, singing a few songs, and going home to keep the status-quo.

Yes, Jesus loves me. And He loves me so much He doesn’t want me to stay in the same messed-up condition He found me in.

We’re to be on a growth path here, moving toward His likeness. That only happens with growing pains and being shoved out of our comfort zones. Becoming vulnerable.

For some of us, that means bleeding on the page. For others, it’s singing an emotional song or praying an emotional prayer.  You can fill in the blank for your own life.  

What is it God is asking you to be vulnerable about?

Need some courage?

Consider the example of Jesus coming to Earth knowing all the trials and rejection awaiting Him. The human side of Him did not want to follow through on the horror of the cross. So He prayed. Matthew 26:39 reveals the struggle: 

“…may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

There we have it! It’s not about our wills or our own strength. It’s about God- reliance and God’s purposes being fulfilled through us. 

So if we call ourselves by Christ’s Name, let us follow in His steps of courage. Allow God to use our vulnerability for His Glory!

Journey Along,

Beckie