Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prayers and blessings

After going to Texas on Sunday for an overnight trip to visit my Mom and other family members, including a new great-nephew, I am freshly aware of blessings, not that my awareness of blessings ever really ends these days.

But seeing that sweet baby boy, and his 4-year-old and 8-year-old sisters, and his parents, and his grandparents and especially his great-gramdmother -- my mother -- reacting to this precious new life was joyous and heartwarming.

It's also humbling to realize again how far the blessings our family has received through the years outweigh any sense we might have of burdens.

Several of my devotionals in the past week or so have added layers of understanding or potential meaning to my perception of blessings.

I guess it started with a week ago Sunday, when I sang Laura Story's song, "Blessings," at church. Among the lyrics:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

That part really resonates with me, but then comes the more challenging part of her lyrics:

And all the while You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things 'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life Are Your mercies in disguise?

Those words seemed to fit as I've struggled to increase the devotion and intentionality of my prayers for others. I do pray for blessings and healing for people in need -- but I most pray for God's will.

Then came some of the devotional words. Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" began challenging me to consider that praying for and receiving blessings can actually distract us from focusing on God Himself.

Today, the Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young also addressed this. "Do not seek Me primarily for what I can give you. Remember that I, the Giver, am infinitely greater than any gift I might impart to you. Though I delight in blessing My children, I am deeply grieved when My blessings become idols in their hearts. ... When I am the ultimate Desire of your heart, you are safe from the danger of idolatry. As you wait in My Presence, enjoy the greatest gift of all: Christ in you, the hope of Glory!"

I think what I'm left with right now is the idea that it's easy enough for me to pray for blessings and for God's will and to know and to do His will, to His glory. But what is harder for me is to simply seek God.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy birthday, Daddy. I miss you.

Today was my Daddy's birthday. I've thought of him throughout the day and miss him in ways that are hard to express in words. I just feel it strongly.

I guess one reason today seemed strange is that I associate his birthday with the start of spring, and today didn't seem very springlike to me. The day was good, though, with unexpected and subtle blessings despite quite a range of emotional undercurrent. I am grateful to God for His presence and the peace and comfort it gives.

My brother noted that it's as if what was more of a family celebration in the past has turned into a more individual remembrance this year. I think that is true, and I'm just very aware of how different that feels. There is a sense of sadness and loss -- and understanding and acceptance that this is part of life and growing older. I am grateful for memories, family and faith, even as I contemplate them through the prisms of a smile through tears tonight.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More about striving

It's been a while since I confessed to a place-holder post, but this is one.

It's deadline, and I'm turning to some words I saved for such a time as this. These are more thoughts about striving, which I collected shortly after the recent blog post.

March 8 Bible Gateway, reflecting on Moses (after reading Exodus 6:6-12):

Sometimes a clear message from God is followed by a time when nothing seems to change. During that time, apparent setbacks may turn people away from wanting to hear more about God. If you are a leader, don’t give up. Keep bringing people God’s message as Moses did. If you are a follower, strive to be patient. God always fulfills his promises.

March 8 Jesus Calling:

Save your best striving for seeking My Face. I am constantly communicating with you. To find Me and hear My voice, you must seek Me above all else.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

—1 Chronicles 16:11

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

—Matthew 6:33

Monday, March 11, 2013

Birthday blessings

Not long before midnight Sunday, I was most aware I was not ready for my birthday, the start of which was about 15 minutes away. Actually, I see from my journal that awareness was at 12:18 a.m., so the March 11 anniversary already had begun. As I then noted: "Maybe it would have helped if I was already asleep and didn't greet the day until after I awake."

But some good came from being awake and kind of down in the dumps shortly after midnight. I confronted how strange I felt, and prayed for some guidance. And it came.

Before the change, I was aware that much was good and acceptable during the weekend -- Saturday with my 12-step meeting, petting kitties at the shelter, the much-needed rain, the Aggies winning their Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament semifinal game vs. Tennessee, and then on Sunday, church with great preaching, singing and fellowship; eating lunch with Gene, who also accompanied me to Walmart; talking on the phone to Mom and Mike; Aggies winning SEC women's basketball tournament in the finals vs. Kentucky -- but there I was at the end of the day, stuck on the stuff I didn't get done.

So I forced myself to pray and affirm: I love You, Lord. I trust You. I thank You for Your mercy, love, grace and presence.

And I came up with some possibilities to give me hope Monday would be a good day. Top of the list: Meet with a prayer group at church at 10 a.m.

When Monday morning came, I didn't know for sure I would make it to the prayer group until I was there, but I did make it, and it was exactly what I needed.

Besides that, I got more birthday greetings than I can ever remember getting. And it may seem like such a small thing, but they really did brighten my day. I couldn't resist posting my own expression, in a song of praise, "How Great Thou Art!" (not about me, but about God!), on my Facebook timeline as well.

Also bringing sunshine to my workspace was a dozen beautiful yellow roses from Gene. Even though working from 3 to midnight might not have seemed like a wonderful way to end a birthday, it was a good reminder of how grateful I am to have a job I enjoy.

And I don't yet know 100 percent for sure, but a mostly unspoken birthday prayer/wish seemed to be answered in a positive way.

I am grateful. I am blessed. I thank God for his gifts of faith, family, friendship, words, music, laughter, prayer, caring, understanding and compassion, among so many more, on my birthday and always.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Striving for the best results

Better decisions don't always produce better results, at least not immediately. But my faith tells me they will in the long run, as I trust God to work all things for good.

Maybe it's like saving money: No tangible benefit is seen in the short term, but over time the rewards become apparent and grow.

I first started toying with this concept on Friday and have continued to think about it since, especially as I have made some decisions I know are good, but I've come close to frustration as positive results seem to be hidden in a tangle of related outcomes including feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Today's reading from My Utmost for His Highest, drawing from Corinthians 6:4, provides interesting, timely and helpful perspective.

Among the words of Oswald Chambers:

"When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. ...

"We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our everyday life with its trivial tasks. The thing that really testifies for God and for the people of God in the long run is steady perseverance, even when the work cannot be seen by others. And the only way to live an undefeated life is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to discourage you.

"Never allow yourself to think that some tasks are beneath your dignity or too insignificant for you to do, and remind yourself of the example of Christ in John 13:1-17."

Psalm 139:1-10 also crossed my path today, and I want to share it, as well.

139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

139:8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

139:9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

139:10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

(The scripture quotation is from the NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION of the Bible, copyright (c) 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.)

I think this is also part of the lesson, from My Utmost on Tuesday. The Scripture is Acts 20:24 -- "... so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus ..."

"Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing. The joy our Lord experienced came from doing what the Father sent Him to do. And He says to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). ... We each have to find a niche in life, and spiritually we find it when we receive a ministry from the Lord. To do this we must have close fellowship with Jesus and must know Him as more than our personal Savior. ... He is not offering us a choice of how we can serve Him; He is asking for absolute loyalty to His commission, a faithfulness to what we discern when we are in the closest possible fellowship with God."