Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lent -- or ReLentless?

On February 18, I noted that "there's no time like Lent to be exploring the Bible and Christian discipleship from United Methodist, Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist perspectives. Oh, I think I also have a Presbyterian viewpoint in my daily reading. I am grateful for those who share their faith and experience and knowledge. And I am grateful to God for helping me hear and respond."

Well, here it is the day before Easter, and I have to admit that long before Holy Week began, I had dropped daily reading of any of those devotionals. All I remained consistent on was my year-round daily readings from Jesus Calling, the Upper Room and Craig Denison's First 15. 

I didn't give up anything for Lent nor did I add a spiritual discipline. 

So perhaps I should feel as if I've failed. 

But I do not.  

This has been a Lent like no other for me.

My "discipline" was of a forced nature, resulting from temporary changes in my life following emergency abdominal surgery on Jan. 8.

Although it was not part of the post-op plan, I've mostly worked from home since the surgery. I took a break from many of the daily and weekly commitments and responsibilities I've been trying to fulfill for most of my adult life. I've often felt guilty or ashamed, as if I'm not doing enough. 

But as the spiritual journey of Lent comes to a close and I also am anticipating the next step of my physical recovery, I see how this has evolved into a time of not only physical but spiritual healing. 

Since August, I've been working toward restoration to wholeness after coming to terms with some sin-sickness of my soul. There has been progress and healing. And I had a plan for how it would continue. 

But my plans aren't always God's plans. 

Maybe God allowed this physical interruption to help bring about a different focus as spiritual and emotional healing were needed. Seems a lot of important things Gene and I were trying to do got sidelined, but maybe the lesson or takeaway is to remind us to plan and do what we can, but to always put our faith and trust in God, loving him and trusting him and thanking him and serving/obeying him. 

As happens at least half of the time for me when the contemplation of Lent gives way to the celebration of Easter, this is a year when I know I still have a lot of work to do. 

I don't recall Lamentations 3 as being a key part of the Holy Week liturgy in the past, but it has come up several times this year. And how grateful I am for it. 
 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

So, as I prepare to again celebrate the gift of God who gave His only Son to die on a cross  to pay the debt for my sins -- and did not let Him stay in the grave -- my heart is filled with gratitude but also, I pray, humility. Now if I can just take the next step, to obedience. Not my will, but Yours, Lord, I pray. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Daddy's farm

Happy memories today as Daddy would be 90. It was nice for Mom and the kids and the in-laws and many of the grands and greats to gather on the farm yesterday for food and fellowship and a celebration of Daddy's life. No birthday cake, but plenty of other sweets and fish and pork and shrimp and fixings. He would be proud to see us continuing to gather around mom and each other on the farm. So much love.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Oh no! Oh yes!

It's blog deadline and I need to go to bed instead of write. 

I have not made much progress on the goals I set after the week that led up to my birthday.  

But I continue to receive encouragement that I am ok and I am enough. I still feel undeserving of most good things that come my way. I am always grateful, but I truly often feel unworthy, whether it is a tangible blessing or just a chance to have a good time. 

I'm not even sure what to pray or where to turn in the Bible for help. I know I need to keep my focus on God and the example of Christ, in each present moment. Pray. Obey. Trust Him. Thank Him. Love Him by loving and serving others in His name. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blessed beyond measure/How can I say thanks?

I am at a loss for words to express how grateful I feel today. And how indebted. My God, my family, my friends -- even health care professionals and associates and restaurant workers -- all have contributed to a 57th birthday filled with blessings, love and sweet surprises. 

My gift of thanks back to God MUST be to get off my tail and to get busy sharing the blessings He has given. Not just today's blessings, but for a whole lifetime. 

So many thanks are due. 

And still, since the day also included a colonoscopy after being on a liquid diet since Monday morning and going through three rounds of high-powered bowel prep (aka laxative), I think some rest needs to come first.

I pray that when morning comes, God will set me on the path to become that person I want to be for Him, the kind of gracious, generous, faithful, caring, compassionate, encouraging and helpful person I see in the lives of so many dear ones around me. So help me, Jesus, I don't want to waste this chance. I love You and praise You and want to live to Your glory. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Yes, God answers prayers

(This is to offer a bit more insight, for those interested in reading between the lines. It's condensed somewhat from notes during the week.)

I don't know how they do it!

How do people rise above their pain and discomfort and get on with life??? Almost two months into my experience with a colostomy and a messed-up digestive system, I continue to struggle every day. (I think I started writing this sometime Tuesday or Wednesday, March 1 or 2, and possibly on Monday. It doesn't seem as bad on Friday, thank You, Lord!)

How did Elaine do it? What about the others I know with cancer, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic painful conditions???

What lessons would God have me learn? I do believe He wants me to go and serve as best I can despite my discomfort. And still I don't. So, is maybe the lesson that it's also OK to not deal very well with pain, discomfort and a fluid health situation? But I seem unable to  quit trying. 

Go-to Scriptures that come to mind:

Trust in the Lord with all Your heart ... 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ...

Great is Thy faithfulness ... 

For I know the plans I have for you ... 

Search my heart, oh Lord ... 

(He holds me by the hand and never leaves me; can't think of actual verses ...)

He rejoices over me with singing ... 

Then I started encountering new reminders each day:

Micah 6:8
What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

2 Peter 1
1:1 ... To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 
1:2 May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 
1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 
1:4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. 
1:5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, 
1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, 
1:7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. 

1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Emphasis added)

With Upper Room March 3, I am guilty:

Luke 12:22-31

12:22 He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 
12:23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 
12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 
12:25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 
12:26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 
12:27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 
12:28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you--you of little faith! 
12:29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 
12:30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 
12:31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Upper Room contributor Alec Stoltz (Gauteng, South Africa):

"Certainly we should be responsible and concerned about issues that affect us. But when we are consumed by worry, we can commit these concerns in faith and prayer to the Lord and then listen for God’s answer in our Bible readings, in our daily devotions, and in meeting in worship and fellowship with Christian friends. When we are worried, we can remember these practices and trust in God’s promises."

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." - Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)

Thursday, March 3, after another barrier breach (the rough patch started with a similar occurrence on Monday):

(Facebook status) Please pray with me for God to show me what I need to know. I trust Him. I thank Him. I praise Him. I need to be serving Him, but some logistics seem to get in the way, and I never make it past worrying about or trying to take care of myself. Praying to know and do God's will, to His glory.

(So grateful for the response of prayers and support from friends and family.)

Friday, March 4:

Today, this is one of the first Scriptures I read. It's pretty clear on at least one aspect of God's will. It seems I always come around to this -- it is a core belief and guiding principle of my life: pray, give thanks, spread joy  -- but I know it often doesn't manifest in my attitude and actions when the going gets tough. Fortunately, today is a new day, and morning by morning new mercies I see. Thank You, God!

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." —1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

And this one came to my mind earlier without me reading it: "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." --  Psalm 118:24 (CSB) (emphasis added)