Hopelessly Devoted

Thursday brings new thoughts from my devotions this week.

AF2D5EB5-5764-4862-A577-DEF16C1903B1

Today’s devotion challenged the way I look at work. One of the scripture references comes from Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (NIV).

The phrase that jumped out at me is “with all your heart.” In the myriad of translations, you might read: heartily, willingly, enthusiastically, or with all your soul.

My husband is quite exceptional. I know a lot of wives feel that way, but Nelson knew about my calling before he married me, but nothing could have prepared him for this journey. And I will admit some of my choices have made things considerably more challenging than they needed to be.

One of the most difficult things has been finding meaningful employment that also provides the necessary financial support with each move. I knew I was probably never going to be paid enough to support our family.  I didn’t answer this call thinking it would make me rich in worldly possessions.

Right now Nelson is traveling weekly to the Buffalo/Niagra area to work. That’s about five hours from home. He works long days: 3:00am to 6:00pm. Monday through Friday. And it’s a job he used to do and hated.

So why would he go back to that work? Why would he do leave family and home?

Because God provided.

And because he decided long ago to live his life—which includes his work—for God.

This “with all your heart” is not a mushy, sentimental thing. The apostle Paul is speaking about a matter of will, of choice. Being willing is like in the marriage ceremony when the officiant asks, “Will you take this man/woman?” And the response is “I will.” It’s a choice, a commitment of the will.

So today, will your commitment be to rejoice in your work? Not because it’s your dream job, or you love what you do—but because whether it’s wonderful or drudgery, it’s a gift from God.

May your grind be grand today as you go through it with God.

(And don’t think you’re off the hook just because you’re “retired.” Paul is very clear this is about “whatever your hand finds to do.” Not punching a time clock doesn’t buy you a free pass 😉)

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Juvenescent

089E457E-801E-4F7E-B2AC-A2D32B304A15

How are you growing?

Recently, I was driving through a new town. I ended up lost—thanks Siri.

The neighborhood I found myself in could be described as old, tired and run down. I felt a kinship to the houses crying out for fresh paint and younger hands. But I quickly remembered the encouragement of my grandson who tried to reassure me: “You’re not oooolddd, Mema.” For some reason I translated that, “You aren’t the ancient ruins of the Colesium, Mema.”

Growing young reminds me of two Bible verses. The first comes from Jesus who when the disciples were arguing over who would be greatest held up a child and declared: Unless you become as a child you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And the second is Peter’s admonition to grow in grace and knowledge—literally: keep growing.

I’m surrounded by people pining for retirement. I get how good that might sound. But I am fearful of a mindset that sees retirement as permission to stop: stop growing. I pray for a different attitude, a youthful mindset that seizes every opportunity to grow young.

How are you growing?

Be still!

(On Mondays I plan to write posts that come from my reflections on my word/topic of focus for this year—which is stillness, rest, sabbath.)

Be still and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10a

2033DEDC-94E4-463D-8FF4-FF6574DC2082

 

I have often described myself as an ESFP with ADD. My friends may tell you I’m somewhat outgoing, seemingly scattered, and  often unfocused. Perception is pretty close to reality.

I don’t like the description of the Proverbs 31 woman or Peter’s instruction: You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God (1 Peter 3:4, NLT).

Gentle and quiet are two words few people associate with me.

In fact, if for some reason I am quiet, people ask me what’s wrong. When I’m in public, I don’t do quiet well.

As I have aged, however, I have found I enjoy being alone…and quiet. I can turn off the TV, sometimes even goe sans music—and just be still.

But my stillness, my quiet reveree, lacked something. Until recently when I began asking God to reveal my direction for 2018.

Several years abo, I started writing a Bible study and one of the chapters was on the command to keep sabbath. I found myself being drawn back again and again to  the books I had gathered on the topic and stuck on a corner of a bookshelf in my office.

Holding one of the books, I felt a strong resonning in my spirit. A loud “YES!” Resonated within me from head to toe.

Okay, God. I got it, but I don’t get it.

And the whisper came back, “You will.”

Then one of the devotions in the first week of the year reflected on how Elijah didn’t hear God in the storm or earthquake—but in the quiet whisper. And the whisper was a question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Sitting in my quiet family room, holding the small book, I sensed my eyes filling with tears…and I heard God whisper, “Tina, what are you doing here?”

I didn’t have an answer. Still don’t. But you better believe I’ve been thinking about it. Even created the meme at the top of this blog.

The question is one of those kinds that when you say it you can put emphasis on a different word and change the meaning: What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here?

After determining the direction, I felt compelled to be accountable. In the past I’ve lost interest and attention to my word/focus before I reached February. I might remember it later in the year—and have a few moments of guilt. I decided to not let that happen this year.

So every Monday I’m going to reflect on this with you, or at least with myself. I don’t know where it will go. Thankfully, I don’t have to…I’m just going to be obedient, and still, and listen for the whisper.

What are you doing here?

Thinking Devotionally

(In an attempt to increase my online presence and my writing in general, I have assigned a writing topic to each day of the workweek. On Thursdays I will share a thought that has beeen meaningful or challenging from my devotional reading. I pray it will bless you as much as it does me.)

AF2D5EB5-5764-4862-A577-DEF16C1903B1

A friend loaned me this book for my devotions this year. She felt it had enriched her life. So far, I’m agreeing with her. From the back of the book:

Take My Heart, Oh God will do more than motivate you to make intimacy with him a part of your daily discipline. Its rich reminders will help you offer yourself to the one who understands you best and loves you most.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that phrase, but with a slight twist. God has always been the one “who knows me best and loves me most.” A God wink? It was for me.

Yesterday I read: Our soul thirsts; he alone can satisfy. We hunger to know the depths of God’s love; he fills us to overflowing with nourishment from his Word.

And I wondered, “How hungry am I, how thirsty?”

Then last evening I was reading a book recommended by a blogger/writer I follow, No More Faking Fine. In the introduction she describes her desperate hunger for God. She wrote about how she would go to sleep on the Bible in hopes of absorbing truth for her aching heart.

Odd? Perhaps. But being desperately hungry can bring us to unnatural places and actions.

A dear friend of mine, many years ago, was going through emotional warfare that rocked her soul, threatened the foundations of her faith. She kept a small Bible in her car, and would read it at stop lights: gulping down the promises and soaking up the grace.

It would have been easier to sit at the light and ruminate on her crumbling marriage and the potential disasters waiting around the corner. She could have focused on the problems and pain, and easily shut God out. Where was he when all this started falling apart?

But instead, she chose to fill her mind and her heart with his promises: to never leave her, to make all things work for good, to do exceedingly above and beyond all she could ask or imagine.

One Sunday, right in the middle of all this chaos, she was scheduled to bring the special music during worship. I still don’t know how she did it. She stood in front of the congregation and sang, “And whatever it takes to draw closer to you Lord, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.” 

We can’t get to that place running on empty.

How hungry, how thirsty, are you?

I invite you like the Psalmist, “Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).”

Fill up on him and his Word.

Encouraging Words: JOY!

B927142C-680C-4548-91D0-DF6152349E64

Today begins Encouraging Word Wednesdays. I recently threw it out on the Facebook universe to all my friends to give me an encouraging word that began with the first letter of their first name. I learned several things, the most obvious one: I have a lot of friends whose names begin with the letter J.

Today we begin with JOY!

Several years ago, I was working on a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, and I was challenged to ask others what they perceived my gifts to be. One very wise friend, shared that while it doesn’t typically appear as a traditional gift, she believed I have the gift of joy. To my surprise, others confirmed her assessment.

I found this quite humbling…and challenging.

I believe I am wired to find the positive in situations and people. Because of this I have been labeled naive and a Pollyanna. To my consistent surprise, my ability to find the best  causes frustration and consternation in many who can’t. My husband often questions why I always go “there.” I can’t not.

Lately, I’ve been looking up the meanings of words before I use them. I want to be sure I’m using them correctly. So, I looked up joy, and then I looked up rejoice. They define one another.

In the Bible Dictionary I found this: “Believers rejoice (are full of joy) because God has surrounded them with his steadfast love (see Psalm 32:10-11).”

James, quoted in the meme above, paints a beautiful and challenging picture of joy. “Count it all joy” can be better understood as the choice to accept everything that comes our way as an opportunity for growth and good. And “ALL” of it is reason for joy—to rejoice—because wherever we find ourselves we also find the steadfast, never-ending, never-failing love of God.

Find JOY today.

 

 

Mother’s Day Gifts

(I wrote this as a gift to my mother for her birthday. I didn’t send it then. So it became her Mother’s Day gift instead.)

 

B3D08F65-C9A6-4A24-BAA0-701278911870

Dear Mom,

I hope that you don’t mind that instead of sending you a card with someone else’s words I have chosen to write you a letter. I know that are very few things that you “need” and less that you might tell me you want. So rather than a plant you have to fret over as it dies (through no fault of your own), or a geegaw that you have to dust–not even another owl picture or mug, I’m giving my time and my heart.

Much love, T

Gifts from My Mother

I considered flowers, but decided against, knowing they would just die. What do you get a woman who wants for little when her birthday comes again?

This year I opted for time and thoughts. Perhaps I could put pen to paper and express my gratitude for the gifts she has given me.

You see, this amazing woman has a tendency to blame herself for all the bad that happens in our lives. She will say things like, “Oh, I guess you got that (bad habit or problem) from me.” Or, “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” She’s quick to assume the blame, but I’m not sure she’s aware of how gifted we are because of her.

I have two siblings. They will have to share their perspective on their own time because this is just about what I am thank-full to have received from my mother.

From a very young age, I knew my mother wanted me to succeed. She wouldn’t let met settle for less than my best. Okay the downside is that I became a bit of a procrastinating perfectionist, but I am getting better. She would groan when I waited to the last minute to start whatever project was being required of me, but knowing how to use that last minute burst of creative energy has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Whenever kwe moved to a new town, Mom always sought out the church with what seemed to have the best choir. From this I received the awareness of the importance of praise and worship. Church never seemed to be about the dogma, theology, tradition, or practice. We were in church to praise God by lifting our voices in song.

Additionally, these churches also had strong programs for children and teens. Looking back, I can see that this was also a gift. Mom was surrounding us with godly teaching and wise mentors, without cramming spiritual nurture down our throats. It was like placing all the food on a buffet and allowing us to choose what we wanted…and when.

Mom was involved in community theater and at one point got me involved in a production. I never felt the bug bite, but I was hooked. Being on stage became very natural to me. As I grew and realized my call to preaching and teaching ministry and I was well-prepared to feel comfortable in front groups of people. Add to this: my husband and I met and fell in love during a drama production in college, and you might begin to see why I truly appreciate this gift.

There was always a crossword puzzle to be worked when cooking and cleaning was done. It became the obvious gift as we were growing up and each one brought many expression of thanks. Mom was always working with words and hungering after knowledge. She had her personal research library right beside her chair and she seemed to delight with each opportunity to dig for some answer. My love for learning seems to be a direct result of this. One time in Sunday School a teacher asked one of my daughters what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply, “A student like Mommy.” I could say the same.

But her love for words didn’t stop there. Many nights my siblings and I would be shuffled off to bed just as the Scrabble board was being set for a game between her and Dad. She tells the story that she started playing while I was in her belly–I was pre-ordained to love the game. I’m not so sure about that, but I know that I have a love for words, and also the strategy that goes with winning that game. One of the greatest joys in my life these days is the times Mom and I spend stretching our brains for hours and days playing Scrabble and laughing together. Honestly, I don’t think I get enough.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate my mother’s organized and patterned lifestyle. I often complained that it cramped my style. Truth be told, She held up a standard that I never felt I could measure up to. Her house was always clean. Our clothes were laundered and pressed. We were well fed. Like many, we may have wished for more, but we always had what we needed. Being able to distinguish between wants and needs may not sound like much of a gift, but it has carried me through some sparse times with a deeper appreciation for what I have, which has resulted in deeper peace, trust, and ultimately joy.

I was recently asked to lead a Bible study for widows. I agreed, but wondered how I could identify with them. What could I bring? Though clearly not the same, I have known grief and loss, and I have seen the amazing example of courage and perseverance in my mom. I watched her draw from resources I didn’t know she had as she walked with my dad through his battle with cancer. I was amazed by her strength when he died. When she struck out on her own and moved to Arizona, traveled around the world, and then bought a house, I wondered briefly if perhaps aliens had abducted the woman who raised me. In the back of my mind I could hear the refrain of the song from the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet! In my life I’ve only had a few opportunities to unpack parts of this gift, but I know that this courageous and strong woman’s example will serve me well long into my future.

I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ll save some things for the next time I need to send a gift. As I was trying to figure out how to close this, I remembered a time as a teenager when I was exasperated by something Mom wanted me to do or some opinion she held–the specifics elude me, but they aren’t the crux of the story. What I remember clearly is how I stomped away with a sigh and a slam of the garage door. I went out to where my dad was working. I rolled my eyes and questioned quite dramatically, “How do you put up with her?”

My dad laid down his tools and calmly, but sternly replied, “That woman is your mother and you will show her respect.”

I didn’t get it, but I did it–or at least I tried. Years have come and gone since that scene in the garage. Respect may have started out because of position/role, but it has clearly transitioned into a deep appreciation for who this woman is and how much she has gifted my life.

And this I know with every fiber of my being, I love her more and more each day.

Thank you for blessing my life in so many, many ways.

xo, T.

%d bloggers like this: