Tag Archive: hope


Asking For His Blessing

I am tired today. The last few days have been busy. In fact, the summer has been busy. It’s generously provided me with a limited time opportunity to accomplish a lot outside, and I’ve seized that chance. It’s made for long days, short nights, and sore muscles, which would be why I woke up this morning with a sore shoulder, a developing headache, an abundance of yawning, and no phone call from work telling me that I could just stay home in bed.

I don’t know about you, but these are perfect conditions for a good case of the grumps, the cranks, the snarls, and good, old-fashioned crankiness. I am tired. I hurt some. I have things beeping and ringing and otherwise annoying me, and I have to be nice? Or at least put up a decent pretense? Bleah.

Fortunately, I do have options. I don’t have to assume the guise of Grouchy Malouchy, and fortunately I remembered that options are available this morning when my alarm went off. It’s always best to nip the grumps early. I can ask for God’s blessing.

It’s pretty simple. In some ways, it’s a lot like asking a blessing before a meal. We do that as an expression of gratitude, as an acknowledgement of of God’s provision, and as an opportunity to make requests, such as nourishment. Why not carry that practice into other areas of our lives? I figure that a God who does “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” probably does more than simply give us food. I think that a God who can turn water into wine, feed a guy using ravens, keep a supply of flour and oil refreshed until the rain comes, feed five thousand from a seed of 2 fish and five loaves, make bread and quail appear to sustain the desert dwelling Israelites, and an old man into a great nation is probably a pretty good provider. He sounds like He’s good at meeting needs.

He sounds like He excels at taking inadequacy and making it into an abundance, so that’s what I asked Him for this morning when I woke up and realized how tired I felt.

God, I’m really tired. You know I’ve been busy, and that it was hard to get to sleep last night. Thank you for the sleep that I did get. I know every bit helps, but I also know that it’s not enough, and I have a long day ahead. Please bless the rest I did get. Take it and make it somehow enough to get me through my day safely. Help me to have a good day. Thanks.

This isn’t the first time I’ve asked for His blessing on getting me through a day. He always gets me through, though I never know what to expect. Sometimes I just feel better (and can’t give caffeine all the credit), sometimes I have an unexpectedly easy day (which seems to be today so far), sometimes I get to experience the sufficiency of grace through a hard day, and so on. Easy or hard, He always seems to work it out so that the day has value. I don’t usually get stuck gritting my teeth while trying endure on my own yet another horrible, stressful day. If nothing else, simply having an open door to ask for His help relieves some of my stress. Remembering that I have a choice helps alleviate some stress, too.

We’ll see how today goes. Personally, I’m expecting good things!

—–

Yep, it was a good day, and now it’s bedtime. Have a great one!

Links for This Week

This last week, I’ve been pretty busy working outside, playing with my sisters, and painting hope onto my wall. In other words, I’ve slacked off and not written a post, but it’s all good. I’ve been meaning to put up a post recommending another blog. In the last week, Kari provided some great posts, and I definitely think her work is worth reading.

For a little background, I found her blog on Facebook. Half my lifetime ago, Kari and I went to the same rural church. Since it was small and relationally oriented, everybody knew everybody. We were a community. The church attended services together, ate together, worshiped together, worked together, had retreats and Family Camps and weddings and all kinds of stuff. It was really a great church in a lot of ways, so for me, it was fun, 10 or 15 years later, to see that Kari had been keeping a blog. It was even better to read it and see that she definitely still loves God. I always love to see that! She writes about faith a lot, and when she’s not writing about that, she often writes about some practical ways to keep a house and live more frugally.

This week, she wrote a series of posts dealing with the dreadful “d” of disappointment. The first is called “When the road is long.” Kari shares some thoughts about disappointments which last a long time. The second is called “When no one understands.” It’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered how disappointing it can be to not be understood. The third is “When you must be silent,” and she talks about the difficulty imposed by silence. That’s one I do understand. Not being able to talk about things can just swell your throat shut so that the time comes that it would be okay to talk, you can’t. Come to think of it, that right there is pretty disappointing.

One thing I would mention about disappointment is that it can be quite the thief. It will steal hope from your heart if you let it.

Following those three posts identifying some types of disappointment, Kari wrote a great post about expectations titled “What to expect when you’re expecting…” I love this one. There’s truth in it, truth that can help point a person to God and make them aware of their need for Him. Look at this!

So what should we expect?

Opposition. Persecution. Obstacles. Suffering. Trials. Conflict. Hardship. Storms. But most of all …

Except to see and encounter Him in the midst of it all.

He is found in the midst of the storm, the suffering, the obstacle. When we run from those things,  we run from Him. He is there.

I expect to face these things, and I expect to see His face there.

That’s what I can expect.

I love this, not because the idea of being used as a punching bag sounds like fun, but because God doesn’t leave me. Because God is there. Because God works things out for good. Because even death can’t beat Him. Life is not a soft, fluffy, sweet teddy bear on which we can land without the least concern. Bad things, hard things, painful things – they all happen, and they happen without regard for my wickedness or righteousness, my foolishness or my wisdom, my poverty or my wealth, or any number of other things. We can’t control much of what happens. In the middle of it all, in the good and the bad, God is there. I sleep better at night because of that.

Have a good one!

Owie

That’s what my back tells me these days. I got injured a few weeks ago on the job, tried to tough it out for a while, and then realized tough was not improving things. After seeing my MD for help, I got meds and a five pound lifting restriction. It’s made for a groggy, grumpy week. I greatly dislike feeling helplessness. Thanks to the pain, the meds, and the lifting and movement restrictions prescribed by my doc, I’ve been fairly helpless, and I’ve chafed over it. I’ve been angry and afraid.

That chafing has been enlightening. I don’t think I really have the brain power to process it today, but I have this suspicion that it’s telling me that I don’t rely on God quite as much as I’d like to think I do. I keep thinking about Hebrews 11. People in there went through really horrible things in there, and they maintained their faith in God. What about James? “Consider it all joy,” right, when we encounter trials and persecutions? How we sing out from jail? The pain and confusion I’m experiencing is nothing that hasn’t been felt before by others who kept faith and saw God’s provision. That others have persevered doesn’t make what I feel irrelevant. On the contrary, it’s encouragement to press on and seek God here, to learn anew of His faithfulness and His kindness and His peace, to live a life of faithfulness and keep my hopes set on Him instead of my circumstances.

May God bless your day,

Bekah

Layers

Marching along from my previous post, which is fun to do sometimes, I want to talk about layers. I’d borrowed a line from “Shrek” about ogres, onions, and layers and said that people are like that, too. I think people have layers.

One reason I say that is because of I Samuel 16:7b. It says:

man looks on the outward appearance,(L) but the LORD looks on the heart.

That’s pretty plain, isn’t it? God is telling Samuel that there are things about people that aren’t immediately apparent. We get all busy looking at how tall somebody is (or isn’t, in my case), what they’re wearing, and so on, and so forth, but all that is hardly the sum of a person. There’s more to them, like hearts.

Another reason I’d say people have layers is life experience. I’ve certainly lived long enough (I don’t think you have to live very long to run into this, actually) to have experience a misjudging based on outward appearance. For instance, I didn’t like my hair to be long (it wrapped itself into huge snarls) when I was in grade school, and I loved to wear jeans and climb trees. Silly people who didn’t know me often thought I was a boy. Another example would be my age. I’ve never looked it! At 15, I was being given menus for 11 year old children, at 18, people wouldn’t believe I was legally an adult, and now that I’m in my 30’s, I still occasionally have to resort to showing people my driver’s license to convince them that I’m not in my 20’s. This misunderstanding has never been based on my behavior (no, I didn’t act like an 11 year old when I was 15 :-P), but solely on how I looked at the time.

Beyond physical appearance, it’s easy enough to misjudge what someone is saying or doing. I heard a great story about this at work yesterday. A lady was telling me about a large group out camping together with a little boy who went boohooing back through the camp. When he was asked why he was so upset, he told folks that a woman “put her hands on me and told me no!” That was true enough, too. Some lady who cared about that kid’s life did do put her hands on him and tell him no, because he was about to grab a baby rattlesnake! Fortunately the lady telling me the story was able to explain that to the boy’s mother before the mother got too protective. Without knowing about the snake, the top layer didn’t look too good. It’s amazing how that works, how the whole story can look so different than a little part of it.

Personally, I think that people don’t stop at misjudging and misunderstanding each other. I think we get confused about ourselves, too. I know that when I look at myself, I don’t always go beyond the top layer, and that has definitely caused me some trouble. There’s another great verse, Jeremiah 17:9. Here’s the ESV version of it:

9The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

This verse can be used as a guilt trip ticket or yet another nail in the heart’s coffin, but, man, I think that’s overkill. So God says that the heart is sick and deceitful – fine. That doesn’t mean beat the poor thing and blame it for all your problems. I’ve tried a variation of that, and it doesn’t work so well. What’s interesting to me is the question. “Who can understand it?” or, as the old King James said, “Who can know it?” It’s taken me a while to really accept that I’m not the person best equipped to understand or know my own heart. It’s been sick, and I’m too easily fooled. What’s kinda funny about it is that I knew, like my head knew, that I wasn’t getting my heart. I would get frustrated over my inability to understand what was going on with my heart – with my emotion and motivation and mood and attitude and desires. It was that whole thing Paul had going on where he knew what he should do and couldn’t figure why he couldn’t do it! So I knew, but I didn’t accept that I didn’t understand myself. I kept trying to make what worked parts like my head work for my heart.

“Who can know it?” Surprise, surprise – the next verse tells us.

10(R) “I the LORD search the heart
(S) and test the mind,[b]
(T) to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.

It’s God, of course. In fact, we already knew that because of I Samuel. God is the one looking at our hearts. At times, that’s been enough to just make me shiver in fear. I expected an Almighty guilt trip, something crushingly powerful. Actually, that’s probably why I fought so hard against accepting that I couldn’t be the best judge of my own heart. I didn’t treat it well, thought it was bad, and I expected God to do the same except worse! More power, right?

I’ve changed a bit since then. For one thing, it didn’t make any sense to me that I should love God with all my heart if the thing was just rotten. Another is that Ransomed Heart Ministries did me a favor by pointing out a couple of passages in the Bible (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26 are good ones) where God talks about giving us new hearts. Yet another is Psalm 139. It was written by David, a man after God’s own heart. At the end, David writes:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
(AG) Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and(AH) lead me in(AI) the way everlasting![d]

For him, the point of being searched and known was to be able to follow God in the way everlasting. It wasn’t about fear or guilt or shame. He didn’t let those things stay lurking in his heart and keep him from following God, and God helped him. That gives me hope.

What Do You Do?

Last Friday, Shelah came down for a quick visit. We did some fun stuff (putting that puzzle together was hilarious, mostly because of the conversation), including taking some sort of personality/career test. I think Shelah called it the CVI. She was introduced to it through her job. She sells Cutco and works as an office manager up in their Vancouver, WA location, and apparently, they like to use this CVI stuff to get an idea about their employees strengths and weaknesses. That’s smart thinking, I think. The whole concept was hardly new to Shelah, which is why she brought it home with her. She’s been subjected to my fascination for personality typing for years. We talked about that a little bit, and it was a lot of fun.

It did make me think, though. I do that. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and to another, and next thing you know, personality profiling has led me all the way to the book of James. I suppose they don’t seem terribly connected, but I got there thinking about my personality and character. I am a people watcher. It can be entertaining and educational and a whole host of nice words that begin with “e.” Generally, I am an observer. I think that’s even one of the types in the Enneagram. That tendency to observe (to watch carefully, to come to realize or know, to take notice) has in many ways been a strength. I see things about myself, others, and my environment that are informative, interesting, and produce insight. It’s been great as an amateur photographer. I’ve learned so much about how to take better photos simply by looking carefully around me and at the work I’ve already produced.

However, like any strength, habits of observation can also be a weakness. I can get stuck, so busy watching and looking and seeing that I forget to apply, to live, to do, and that’s how I got to the book of James.

If you want to get hit over the head a few times, I recommend James. It’s a short book, a mere five chapters that take up not quite three pages in my pocket-sized ESV version, in which James bluntly and uncompromisingly lays out principles of Christian living. He covers favoritism, the need for us to master what we say, living faith out, godly wisdom, the necessity of patience, and let’s not forget his advice about trials. According to him, we’re to “count it all joy” (James 1:2a). He’s obviously a crazy man, yet I find what he says to be convicting and compelling, particularly in this case what he says about a life lived in faith.

To observe from a safe distance is, according to James, inadequate for faith. It’s not enough to, as he put it in the first chapter, be a “hearer.” He says this:

22But be(AN) doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law,(AO) the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,(AP) he will be blessed in his doing. (NIV)

To be only a hearer is to be self deceived. Ouch, huh? In the second chapter, he goes on to say this:

 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith(S) but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith(V) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(W) by my works.

26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (NIV)

See what I mean about uncompromising? He tells us that not only are we lying to ourselves if we think hearing the word is enough, but that also the faith of which we are so proud and in which we trust is dead if not given life in our actions. It has to show up in what we do. Or beliefs must inform our deeds in order for it to be any good. Honestly, that’s been quite a challenge for me, to be a doer, to get out of my comfort zone, stop simply watching, and start acting.

Thinking about it this week made me ask myself what is it I’m doing now to live out a life of faith. It’s not easy still, and I’ve had years of practice now. I guess it’s not ever supposed to be really easy. It’s meant to continue the process of growth, and life is good at providing opportunities. Hearing about the debt which the American government has accrued has been frightening to me. I can’t see how it can possibly end well for us, and that fear makes me want to clamp down and figure out some way to protect myself. But that’s not what I’m called to do. I’m not called to hide under a bushel basket and bury that talent until my master returns. I still have to live, and what I should be doing is releasing the fear, trusting God with the future of me and mine, and continue to reach out. I’m still called to help the orphans and the widows, to spend my money and my energy and my time to help those around me. I’m still called to serve, something which my job and my family happen to provide me with many opportunities to do. I should still be loving the people around me, to allow Christ to reach through me to them and at the same time reach inside me and continue the process of perfecting.

It also made me wonder what you do. When fear, as Aragorn put it in “The Return of the King,” “would take the heart of” you, what do you do to keep your heart and faith alive? What inspires you? Gives you hope? Drives you back to your knees? What do you do?