Sunday, September 11, 2011

Come for a walk with me?

I took a little walk this morning around our condo complex. With my iPod in my pocket, I grabbed the camera on my way out thinking that with the overcast sky I might find some interesting pictures. It always fascinates me to think that on the other side of the clouds, it is blindingly bright. The sun is always there, even providing light through the clouds, whether it is visible down here or not. There is beauty all around... whether I stop and enjoy it or drive right past it.

As I enjoyed the flowers and the grey sky, I also started noticing all of the signs around giving directions about parking and not parking, stopping and slowing. All over the place. I mused a bit about how this current new mini-season of life feels fast and furious in many ways. There are short months left (likely) before we leave for Peru.  There is much, MUCH work to be done to prepare. Sorting belongings (do we take this? store it? sell it? give it away?) and getting things in order to be gone, keeping track of names and numbers, applying for visas and still visiting churches and people to share the vision and dreams, touching everyone a few more times before we leave... Much to do. It can seem in some ways like there is no time for parking until we get to Peru.

And yet, in many other ways there is a great need for slow. Slow enough to listen to my husband and dream with him and stay in love and as one during this season of stretching.  Slow enough to watch my children to see how they are really doing and to provide a sense of security for them that everything really is going to be okay because we are okay. Slow enough to sit and really BE with our friends and family and whoever else we are spending time with so we can all know that we love and are loved by each other. Slow enough to savor the joy of being on an adventure with God. 

But there is not just a need for occasional slow in this sprint to the finish. There is also a need for stopping.  Stopping to rest with God. To listen to Him. To gain His perspective. To find shelter and comfort in His arms when I am grieving. To be renewed and refreshed and restored when I am weary. To seek His guidance and wisdom.

And we need God, the Sovereign Lord of our lives, to continue to show us where to go and when to move. We need Him to continue to open and close the right doors and gates and keep us on His path as He has been so faithful to do for us so far. It is wonderful to be able to say that we know so clearly that this is the way God is leading us. We know that we know that we know this is His leading for our family and we are so thankful for the way He is making the path straight.

Strength and endurance. Communion and connection. Shelter and rest. Provision and guidance. I need them all. We all need them all. And He will graciously provide it all as we walk with Him, follow His lead and trust Him. Forever and ever.
From Psalm 31...
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.

14 But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

23 Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Strength, Peace & Endurance to you from our grace-giving heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit for whatever you may be facing this week...

With Much Love,

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Secret to Contentment

I read through the book of Philippians this week and was struck again by Paul's statements about learning to be content in all things. Here's what he says in chapter 4, verses 11 & 12:
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

I have to admit that I have NOT yet learned how to be content in any and every situation. (In a lot of situations, actually!) I would say I'm making progress, but still have much to learn.  Whether I'm tired or overwhelmed or annoyed, I can far too often find myself lacking in the contentment department. So once again, this secret of being content beckoned me to ponder this mystery a bit further.  Then comes verse 13:
"I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Really? That's the secret? My first reaction is not relief or wonder. It's confusion. I've read this passage many times, but it's always been hard to make the connection between contentment and doing everything through God's strength. I picture contentment as being relaxed - not strong.  I think of contentment as a passive state of the heart when I've pushed past all of the hard stuff and can finally relax.  Then I can be content... 


...if I really think I can be satisfied with my performance. If I think I've done enough. If I feel like I did it well enough.  If there isn't too much to worry about that isn't done yet. If I'm not feeling sorry for myself or mad at myself for some reason. If I was able to find my To Do List and get most of it checked off. If tomorrow's list isn't too daunting...

Worry, Fear, Perfectionism, Insecurity, Approval Seeking, Criticism and Condemnation all try to crowd in and suffocate me. And they're all LIARS.

Thankfully, God created me to breathe. To breathe contentment. To breathe peace. To breathe grace. To breathe faith and trust and believe in the power that raised Jesus from the dead that is alive and working in me. 

So this week, it's been becoming clear. Contentment is anything but passive. In order to live content I DO INDEED need Christ's strength to RESIST everything that says I don't deserve to be content or that I haven't finished it all yet or that I can't be satisfied quite yet. So with Christ's strength I am learning to exercise and resist that list of liars up there so that I can breathe in peace and trust God and rest content - especially when it's not all done yet.  Because it never will be.  : )  But that's okay.  Like my very wise sister said recently, "The LORD gives us enough strength and grace each day to accomplish what HE would have us do. Try to do more than that and you're on your own."  

So when I sense in my spirit that He is saying "That's enough," I will choose to be content.  When I am at the beginning of a new day with a long list of hours in front of me, I will choose to be content and remember that "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Strength to resist worry.  Strength to resist discouragement.  Strength to keep taking one step at a time and trusting Him with the future.  All through His glorious, contentment-providing strength.  : )

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:18-21
Hallelujah and amen!