Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Be Still

One day last week my little son, Andrew, and I went on a long walk through the pasture and along the creek near our home. It was an overcast day; cool enough that we needed to wear our sweatshirts. It had rained that morning so the grass was still wet. I didn’t take my cell phone along. We weren’t on time schedule. I didn’t even have a watch to look at! We weren’t in a hurry.

Andrew gathered walking sticks for us and enjoyed finding rocks to throw in the creek. As we walked along together I found myself in awe of God’s creation. The lush, green grass and a variety of wildflowers growing randomly in the pasture; the rippling water of the creek flowing over the rocks of all shapes and sizes; colorful, fluttering butterflies and rays of sunlight peaking through the trees. Andrew enjoyed exploring every crook and cranny. I enjoyed pointing out the wildlife to him. We even came across a beaver dam.

The sweet silence of nature surrounded us…birds chirping, creek water rushing, the leaves of the trees rustling. My mind was quieted. Peace filled my heart. I found myself praising the LORD internally as I marveled at His creation. It felt as if His arms were wrapping around me. I was so aware of His presence. I was aware of how BIG he is and how small I am. It was a wonderful time of being quiet before the Lord.

I wish I could tell you that this is something I do often. Although I live in a very peaceful and beautiful place, more often then not I tend to miss it because of the clamoring of the world…and the clutter of my own mind. Long walks without a cell phone and without a time schedule don’t often fit into the busyness of my everyday life. Yet, after our walk this week, I found myself wishing that we did this more often!

Psalm 46:10a comes to mind:

Be still and know that I am God!

Be still! How hard that is sometimes…to turn off my brain and just be still. Be still…knowing that he is God. He is in control. He knows my every need. He loves me and wants the best for me. I can trust Him and His plan for my life. He is God…and I am not!

Psalm 46:11a goes on to say:

The Lord almighty is here among us.

Be still! Stop worrying. Stop trying to fix it yourself. Stop over thinking it. Stop getting discouraged when you can’t see the solution. He is God! He is the Lord Almighty and He is right here among us! He is able and we are not.

When was the last time you were quiet before the Lord?

Sometimes we can’t get away for a long walk (although I highly recommend it if you can!). Maybe you don’t even have a pasture or a creek. Pehaps you live among the busyness of city traffic. No matter where you are, all of us can find a quiet place…to be still before God even if it’s only in our own minds.

You can be still before God anywhere not just on a quiet walk. There were many days at my previous workplaces (I recently quit my job to be a stay at home mom and wife) when I would find myself overwhelmed. Sometimes I've felt that way in the middle of a busy place full of people. Sometimes it was because of the stress of the situation where I was, but more often than not it was because of the disarray of my own mind and heart. I don’t know how many days I have stopped and prayed in my mind for God’s peace to rule my heart. God heard my prayers. Once my mind was quiet and my heart was still before the Lord I could see His hand at work throughout the day. By doing this, I took the focus off of me and my circumstances and onto Him and His abilities. He is God!

Psalm 62:5-8:
I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will
not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my
refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times,
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

I’m looking for more opportunities to be still before the Lord. I want to wait quietly before Him and receive all He has for me.

How about you? Is your mind and heart unsettled? Have you been going to other sources to find peace? Find a quiet place to be still before the Lord today even if it's only in your own mind. He is here among us! He knows you and your needs. You can pour out your heart to Him. You can trust Him. You can put your hope in Him.
He is God!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Running Out of Gas

Shortly after getting my driver’s license when I was 16 years old (many moons ago!) my mom sent me to a nearby town to run some errands for her. Before I left home she told me that her car was low on gasoline. She gave me a $50.00 bill (probably all that she had) and told me to be sure to fill up the gas tank before leaving our little Indiana town called Montezuma. She also told me to be sure to bring back the change from the $50.00 bill. Back in those days just $10.00 went a long way when fueling up the gas tank. Times sure change, don’t they?!

Anyway, I jumped in the car (I was always in a hurry!), drove right past the little gas station on the corner in Montezuma…and then past the second one (guess I was just in my “own little world”). I made it all the way to the 4-lane highway before I remembered that I was low on gas (guess I was just as forgetful back then). I was thinking about where I needed to go and what I needed to do. I decided to just keep driving because I knew there was another gas station only a few miles down the highway.

As I drove along the highway a classmate of mine came cruising past me. Troy was one of those boys who always liked to tease me…and everyone else. Not in a mean kind of way. More like in a lovingly, yet constantly irritating kind of way. J As he drove by, he pointed and laughed…having no idea about my gasoline woes.

Finally, I neared the A-framed gas station. And wouldn’t you know it, just as I could see it’s unique frame in the distance, my mom’s car started to putter (putt, putt, putt)! I started praying!

I let off the gas a little (putt, putt, putt) and hoped to coast into the gas station (putt, putt, putt), but as I turned off the highway and up a small hill in the road leading to the station the car just couldn’t make it (putt, putt, blah!). I was out of gas! I tried to start it again…and again…and again (just for the record, you should never do this!). I was still barely coasting. Then, I started rolling down the hill. It was about this time when I looked up only to see guess who? It was Troy driving out of the gas station. Once again he was laughing at me. I was embarrassed!

Troy jumped out of his vehicle and started pushing the car. Then, a couple more guys joined in. Before I knew it, they had pushed me to the gas pump. I filled up while Troy waited for me (maybe Troy wasn’t such a bad guy after all!).

I finished filling up, then headed inside to pay. When I came back out, I put the key in the ignition. Nothing! I tried again. Nothing! The engine just wouldn’t turn over! Troy and a couple of guys came to my rescue again. They started discussing the problem. They asked me to pop the hood. After some discussion and another couple of attempts. Someone said they knew a mechanic who lived just up the road. As they went to get him, I sat and waited.

The whole time they were gone, I thought about how I was wasting a lot of time…because I was in such a hurry. Here, I had a $50.00 bill in my pocket the whole time, but didn’t’ think to use it. How silly! I was wishing I could step back in time so that I could get the gas I needed back in Montezuma. I was stressed! Why had I been in such a hurry?

Eventually the mechanic came, fixed the problem and I was on my way. I wish I could say that I never ran out of gas again, but it isn’t true.

You know, it’s all too easy to “run out of gas” on this “highway” we call life too. How often do we get in a hurry and forget about “filling up our tank”? We know where we need to go and what we need to do, but forget about what and who's going to get us there. We forget about the "$50.00 bill" in our pocket.

I am NOT a morning person by any means. I have a tendency to get up in the morning at the last minute. On the days I work I find myself hurrying, hurrying, hurrying to get my son and myself ready and out the door. On the days I don’t work, I scamper about trying to get my son and myself together and breakfast on the table for my husband. Let’s not even talk about Sunday mornings before church. It can make for a stressful situation. Yikes!

It’s so easy to rush right into my day without “filling up” first. I think of all the things I need to get done. I know better. I’ve been told. The Bible is sitting right there on the counter full of riches untold (like the $50.00 bill in my pocket), yet I don’t open it because I’m in just such a hurry. I have a tendency to end up in my own little world (and check-list).

Before I know it, I end up depleted, stressed out, wasting time, wondering why I was in such a hurry; and maybe even a little embarrassed.

I’m out of gas. Putt, putt, putt…blah! I keep trying to "drive on", but even the smallest “hill” can feel like a huge obstacle. Friends and neighbors can push me and help me out, but there’s really only one thing that I need…some “gasoline”.

There I sit, wondering why I was in such a hurry. Wishing I would have gone to The Source for my “refueling” in the first place.

In the past few months I have been trying to get up extra early (like I said, I’m not a morning person so this takes real discipline for me!) to walk (to wake myself up first), read my Bible and pray. I don’t get up early every day, but when I DO it makes all the difference in the world.

My husband has noticed. He has commented, “You seem to have so much more energy when you get up early to walk and read in the mornings.” It’s true. I get less sleep, but more zest. The day goes better because I “filled up” first thing in the morning. My heart and mind start out in the right place. Even though I took time to read and pray, I somehow seem to end up with much more time throughout the day. Things just go better because my attitude is in check.

I’m not saying that you HAVE TO get up extra early every morning to spend time with God. What I AM saying is that we all need some quiet time alone with Him…basking in his Word and His presence; talking to Him, sometime every day.

When I don't get this alone time with the Lord things don't tend to go well for me. Other days, I get that much desired time alone with God, but the circumstances of life make me feel depleted, stressed and hurried. That's when I go to The Source to be "refueled".

One day this week, I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I had a lot to get done that day. I knew I needed to hurry, but I also knew that I needed some quiet time with God to be “refueled” before I could go any further. My heart and mind needed to get back in the right place. I had rushed into my day and was feeling depleted and stressed. I longed for some quiet time with Him (and as any mom with young children knows this is easier said than done!). I found a little time. After a few minutes down on my knees and in His Word, my whole perspective had changed. The rest of the day went better than expected. I didn’t “run out of gas” because I had gone to The Source. What a great feeling!

Where do you go when you’re “out of gas”? Sometimes we choose to go to our spouse or pick up the phone to talk to a friend or to that pail of ice cream in the 'frige. However, there is nothing else that can “fill you up” like Jesus can!

But as for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress.
Psalm 59:16

More thoughts: the people who helped me (including Troy) could represent our friends and loved ones who lift us up in prayer...and push us to draw near to God. And the mechanic represents Jesus who can come in and fix the problem causing the “gas” to work in our lives as it should. :) Just some food for thought.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Unconditional Love Part 2

In my last post I shared a little bit about my 2 year old son, Andrew, and his beloved kitty, Cookie. In the post titled, “Unconditional Love” I compared the love Andrew has for Cookie to the love Jesus has for us. If you missed that post you can read it here now before reading on.

All week I kept thinking not only about the unconditional love Jesus Christ has for us, but also about the love He calls us to share with others!

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you.”

As I wrote in my previous post:

…Andrew doesn’t care. He loves her without condition. Never once has he mentioned her looks…her skinny body, crooked leg or deformed ears. Never once has he questioned her intelligence. Never once has he compared her to other cats. Never once has he asked where she came from. Nope, all he cares is that she’s here now. He loves her and so those things don’t matter.

Oh, the love of a child!

Love without condition, reservation or ulterior motive.

As adults we can be so petty sometimes. We tend to look at the outward shell of a person and instantly sum up their worth. We see a "fault" in a person and we can’t see past it. It’s easy to forget that each of us were made in the image of Christ. That each of us were made for a specific purpose and plan. That God loves everyone…not just the most desirable, lovable and eloquent. We question. We compare. We judge. All the while hoping no one will notice our own shortcomings!

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends.”

We are called to love others as Christ loves us. What a high calling indeed! How might our lives look differently if we chose to truly love others the way Jesus loves us? If we chose to disregard another person’s faults instead of exposing (or dwelling on) them? If we loved like a little child?

"Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate was is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." Romans 12:9 & 10