Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clearly not an answer I would have chosen

All I have to post this week is some insight from today's My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers)  reading:

"If a person  ... desires knowledge and insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ, he can only obtain it through obedience. If spiritual things seem dark and hidden to me, then I can be sure that there is a point of disobedience somewhere in my life.   ... (S)piritual darkness is the result of something that I do not intend to obey."

This convicts me. It hits me right where I am stuck. I've had some pretty clear insights into what God would have me do in some key areas -- and I am flat-out resisting. 

As I wrote Thursday morning:
I say I trust God, but I don't act like it.
I resist: 
-- Letting go of something very important to me, trusting God to redeem it;
-- helping with Bible school or other service:
-- visiting people (shut-ins, neighbors, the sick, etc.);
-- focusing more on Gene and less on me, including phone/Facebook, food and exercise. 

So far, I guess I don't trust God enough to just do these things. But I hope and pray that He can and will move me to that greater level of trust that leads to joyous obedience. I believe He is. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Still trying to figure it out

July 18, 10:30 pm: New dilemma: I know I can't know everything. But I wish I could at least know what it is I need to know. 

How do I figure that out? What  do I need to know?
That seems to be a major dilemma for me: What do I need to know???

July 19, 9 am: 
In other words, WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
This applies even to my stuff, be it clutter or treasures. 
I know I need to seek my answers in prayer and Bible reading. 

July 20, 4:20 pm: And now that I think about it, is that a new dilemma, or just more of the same. I think probably the latter. 

And the answer always the same: Word of God. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A quick look back at fasting, prayer and praise

The week of the 7-hour prayer challenge and fast and what turned out to be helping lead praise and worship for seven church services was interesting and rewarding.

Not eating anything for seven hours -- from after I finished breakfast at 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. -- on Monday didn't seem like it would be too challenging. I was surprised. I don't eat a lot of calories at work, but what I do eat, I munch on throughout the day. And I chew gum and drink diet drinks, which I chose to abstain from during the fast. Fortunately, my plan was to turn any of my thoughts of wanting to eat over to thoughts of why I had committed to the fast: To increase my focus on God and prayers for His spirit to move His people in a fresh new way. I ended up with many opportunities.

Then there was the matter of praying for seven hours. How that unfolded for me was an hour and 15 minutes of continuous prayer to start the day, then focus on six prayer topics, one in each of the next six hours. I didn't get these done on the hour, but I did pray through all of the suggestions. I broke my fast with soup, and not too long after that, left work early to go to church for the second of the seven worship services, five of which included Holy Communion.

The alternate theme for the week quickly became focus on God and trust God. I knew I could not manage leaving work early most days and going to a worship service. I would get behind and frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. But none of that happened. For that I am grateful. (And I can tell already that I am too tired to draw on feelings and emotions in reflecting on the week. Maybe I will return tomorrow?)

As I reflected this morning on the past week, these were some of my conclusions:

 -- Ego is still an issue. I'm sad that I've seen no pictures of the Youth Force band. Fill me with Your love, Lord.

-- What I really need to fast from is craving attention. Wanting to be in pictures. Caring too much about how I look. Wanting a microphone.

-- Even as I dealt with those issues, true blessings came as I continually reaffirmed my commitment to trust God. Let go and let God.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The keys in the tree (It all matters to God)

It started and ended with a walk. 

When Gene got ready to get the mail Monday, he couldn't find the key. He was pretty sure I was the last one to use it, so when I got home, I started looking for it. I checked the usual "mis"places -- my purse,  pockets, my car. No luck. I kept trying to think back to when I used it and what I did next, but I came up blank. I thought Gene might run across it, but that hadn't happened by Tuesday evening, so I looked everywhere again, plus a few more places. Still no key. 

By Wednesday, we're both realizing if we don't find the key, we will need to contact the post office to see about getting a new one. I looked everywhere again -- and this time also went through the big recycle bin outside. No key. I wrote a note to remind Gene to call the post office on Thursday. 

As I was doing some journaling before going for a rare Wednesday  evening walk (choir practice was pre-empted by a youth event; the theme had to do with pirates and treasures), I wrote, among other things: "Still can't imagine where that mailbox key is, but it doesn't seem a  matter for prayer -- unless finding it would glorify You (Lord)."

Then I put on my walking shorts (checking the pockets again) and shoes and headed out. 

My neighbors were outside,  and they mentioned they were locked out of their house. I said that sounded like something I would do and in fact had done more than once. As they waited for a locksmith, I was about to mention my latest key story. But one of their young sons interrupted, wanting me to look at the crape myrtle in their yard, next to our property. I asked what he saw.  The tree was in bright bloom. 

And then I noticed he had some keys on an orange ring. I asked where he got those. He said they were hanging in the tree! I said I think those are my keys! But he did not want to let me get a closer look. So I said let's go see if one opens my mailbox. We went to the mailboxes, and the first key he tried didn't go into the slot, but the other one on the ring went in. But he said it wouldn't turn. And he wouldn't let me try it. 

So I suggested we go into the house and see if Gene thought these were our keys. The boys like Gene, so they were all for that. 

To bring a drawn-out story to a close, Gene confirmed these were our keys, and after checking out our house and using our bathroom, the boys went with me again to the mailbox, and this time let me open it. We got out three days' worth of mail, and they took it to Gene, who let them sit in his big boat and his little boat, to their great delight. 

By this time, the locksmith had opened their house. The family went on out as they had planned, and I went for my walk. (I think what happened Saturday was that I got the mail as I was preparing to walk, then put the key in my pocket, and it fell out as I headed across the yard. The neighbor told Gene he found the keys on the grass when he was mowing and hung them in the tree.)

 I'm not exactly sure how this glorifies God, but I know it does, even if only as another little treasure of life and faith to share. Maybe it's as simple as a reminder that nothing is too small to take to God in prayer -- it all matters to Him. (Of course, prayer also helps when the answer doesn't include recovery of the lost item.)

I also think it's a glimpse of something greater. I am grateful. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Assorted thoughts, all related to time

I'm not even going to try to weave this all together tonight. But I want to put it in the file, on the record, so to speak, because I think I will look back and see some significance.

Where to start ...

Sometime before last Monday, I became aware of Anne Graham Lotz' "7 7 7: An Urgent Call To Prayer" initiative and signed up to receive the emails. The concept is to pray on the first 7 days of the 7th month; and then pray and fast for 7 hours on the 7th day of the 7th month. The purpose: "For God the Father to restrain, protect, and deliver His people from the evil that has come into our world; For God the Son to be exalted, magnified, and glorified in His church, in our nation, and in our lives; For God the Holy Spirit to fall on us in a fresh way, compelling the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, resulting in a great national spiritual awakening."

I've received the emails each day and prayed as I read them. The Denison Forum I read each weekday also references this, and on Friday, Jim Denison addressed the issue that comes up big on Monday: seven hours of fasting and praying. He noted that the fast doesn't have to be from food; we can fast from anything that blocks us from God or that will make us long for what we are missing -- and to turn to God to fill that longing. I actually think it might not be that great a challenge to fast from food for seven hours. But I'm not sure how God would intend for me to find seven hours to pray ...

And yet, I have not ruled it out. I am praying for a willing heart and spirit ...

I think that relates to what I highlighted today from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest," under the heading "Visions Become Reality," referencing Isaiah 35:7, "The parched ground shall become a pool ..."

Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. ... Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

Also intertwined are these things:

-- Youth Force started today at the church, with 80 to 100 youths and adults coming in from churches throughout Oklahoma and one from Texas to do mission work and grow spiritually. I'm singing in the praise band, which will lead worship each evening and Friday morning. It is a blessing for me to be a part. But I realized during the commissioning service at church this morning that this is about more than singing. I got involved from the start just to help the group learn the songs. Helping lead this group in worship tonight was humbling. I do sense that God is at work. I am eager to see how He uses each person, including me ...

-- Thursday, I wrote this in one of my notebook/journals:

Dilemma: not enough time.

Latest urge is to learn to play the guitar. But I already find myself saying I can't even try, because where would I find the time? Shouldn't I be using any spare time to clean my house and messes? Sigh. WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO MY MESSES, LORD? Even when I don't pursue new pleasures, my messes still stay a mess.

(Other things I don't do for lack of time are read and watch classic movies.)

Where do people find the time to do all of these things?????

-- And finally, under the idea, perhaps, of "time marches on," I was reminded this morning by my Mom's Facebook post that her Sunday school class may disband and be absorbed into other classes after the resignation of the teacher. I've written before about how the membership of this class has dwindled as the years have passed. So many -- including my Dad, my father-in-law and other dear souls -- are now among our witnesses in heaven! I pray that however this works out, that each member of that class be able to hold on to those precious memories and also to continue to have a place for fellowship and Bible study where the joys and concerns and sharing and caring are as strong as they have been among the Christian Thinkers class for at least 60 years.

I would like to wrap this up with some profound thought or just the right Scripture, but that's not happening tonight. It's TIME to get to bed so I can rest and be ready for whatever God has in store tomorrow!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Do something (It's not enough to do nothing)

This is one of those times when I want to write something, but I can't think of how to frame it. I had more instances this week of trusting God's leading and feeling blessed by the results. The daily devotional I read compiled from Oswald Chambers' teaching and writings, "My Utmost for His Highest," often reminds me that the reason for doing God's will isn't for the hope of a reward or blessing, but solely out of love, devotion and obedience. And still, when I do seek God's guidance, wait to hear it and then act on it, the blessing always follows.

The biggest thing this past week was knowing that I wanted to volunteer to do special music at church. I made the decision Tuesday or Wednesday, and made the offer at choir practice Wednesday night. I knew what I wanted to sing -- Matthew West's "Do Something" -- but I also knew it was a contemporary song with a whole lot of words, and probably out of my vocal range, that would be difficult for me to learn and sing. I found an accompaniment track in a better key, but it had background vocals, which are another obstacle for me. Still, the message of the song called out to me, and so I endeavored to follow through: "Do Something." I spent more time than usual on Saturday trying to learn the words and cadence. It came together OK, but at some point, I realized this song truly is about the words and spirit for me. It's not a beautiful melody and arrangement. "God, why don't you do something? He said I did: I created you! ... It's not enough to do nothing ... It's time for us to do something."

I know I need to do more than just pray and sing. But I'm seeing that if that's all I can do, it's better to do that than nothing. And -- I am continuing to learn that if there's not time to pray, there shouldn't be time to do anything else. Prayer needs to come first. That's still a tremendous step of faith that I don't always take, especially when I'm traveling. I still pray, but it's more likely to be in bed before I get up, or along the way as I go about my day. I prefer to spend what is becoming "quality time" in prayer. But that requires discipline and time management -- and it still seems that when time runs short, the focused prayer is what gets sacrificed. This is true even though I've seen time and again that when I put prayer first, everything else does fall into place. (Changes of habits and priorities come very slowly.)

But yesterday, I did pray, and I did practice the song. And when I started to stress out about whether I would get the song learned or how to spend my time, I shifted my mind back to my decision to trust God with this. Highlights of my day ended up including my 12-step meeting, petting the kitties at Second Chance and then spending some time at a reining horse derby with my sister.

Today, in addition to the special music, Sunday worship also included an energetic anthem ("The Gospel Train") and favorite hymns ("How Great Thou Art!"), and the afternoon included a praise band practice and more favorite worship songs.

Other things (grocery shopping, clothes washing, some household chores and phone calls) fell into place. I feel grateful and blessed.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Primed with prayer

I truly seem to have to pray over every little thing. But thank God for pushing me past my inertia and dread to complete a task in a timely manner. The task would be no big deal to any number of people, but I am aware of how much more common it would have been for me to just blow it off. And then feel bad about it. So, I am very grateful to be done. 

The task was mowing the lawn. This is something my husband always does, but he was gone more than a week, and it had been raining more than usual. So, the grass needed to be mowed. I thought he was going to pay someone to do it, but each day when I got home from work, it was still getting taller. 

Meanwhile, he'd been gone for his birthday, and I hadn't really gotten him a present. I knew what he would most appreciate. But I feared it was the thing I would be least likely to accomplish. And then he pulled something in his back while gone, and I realized that since he hadn't gotten anyone to mow it before his return late Tuesday,  he would probably do it himself despite his back. 

I decided I really wanted to give it a try. Everything Tuesday shaped up to make it seem possible. It just became a matter of whether I could start the mower. 

Praying, I put on work clothes, then pushed the mower to the back yard (I had no desire to risk letting anyone watch me).  Following the instructions on the mower, I pushed the lever to choke and then, after saying another prayer, pulled the rope. I only got it about halfway, and the mower did not start. So I tried again -- and then a third and   possibly a fourth time, now with a two-handed approach that brought success. About 30 or 40 minutes later, I was finished and so grateful. 

When Gene got home about midnight, I asked if he was surprised I mowed. He said he was surprised -- and grateful. He asked if I had any trouble starting the mower. I said it took three or four pulls. He asked if I had used the primer. Ummm. No. That wasn't on the quick start guide printed on the front of the mower. Hmmmm. 

But it had started anyway! I really had no complaint about having to pull the rope multiple times. I just wanted it to start. And it did.

But later I realized I had used a different primer: prayer. Building up with months of First 15 daily devotionals, I was especially strengthened by the past week's emphasis on praying and living in faith. 

That very morning, I had prayed to know and do. Show me, Lord, and help me. And He did. He showed me the window of opportunity He had prepared, and He helped me get past the hard parts: inertia, procrastination and fear of failure. 

Thank You, God!!!!!

From June 11-17 week of the First 15 devotional: 
Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith is the undercurrent of everything we do as followers of Jesus. Without faith we lose all that Christ died to give us while here on earth. It is by faith we access the peace, joy, guidance, love and purpose that comes from restored relationship with our heavenly Father. As we seek an increase in faith in response to God's faithfulness this week, may you experience a greater depth of intimacy with your living, Almighty and loving heavenly Father.

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days." Hebrews 11:30 

"For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20 

 Where do you need the power of God in your life? Where do you need the help of your heavenly Father? 

In faith ask God to move in mighty, specific ways. Come before your heavenly Father boldly and ask him to make his reality, power and love known in your life.