More Than A “0”

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

Recently I had a “0” birthday – a passage birthday, where you mark the end of one decade and the beginning of another – it was a BIG one, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, either!

In my family, I’m the party planner, the one who makes sure that “0” birthdays are duly and appropriately marked. As the big day loomed, I wondered whether anyone was planning anything for it, especially since it was on a weekend day, making it much easier to coordinate a family get together. Then the weather forecast turned up with snow, a winter weather advisory type of snow, and all bets were off.

So I set my sights on something that’s traditional in our family, a “pity party.” I told myself that I mattered to no one, that after all the efforts I make to mark milestone birthdays of those I love, no one could be bothered to do the same for me.  It’s funny how the mind can play tricks on you, how the smallest suggestion of uncertainty, of misgiving can snow-ball into full-on fear and dubiety.  I even tried to go down the“God-doesn’t-care-about-me-either” road, but try as I might, I just couldn’t do it.  Every time I got myself worked up to a good “poor me” cry, letting doubt and self-righteous indignation get the best of me, the voice within whispered, “who knitted you together in your mother’s womb and wrote all your days before you were even conceived?” The voice of truth reminded me that I didn’t get here of my own volition. I wasn’t the one whose plans had directed my steps and carried me to this day.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get things a bit mixed up, backwards.  We live in a topsy-turvy world steeped in self-obsession: We talk of self-worth and self-help, admire the self-made and the self-reliant. In fact, we’re so obsessed with self-importance that there’s little room for anything else. We tell ourselves if only this would happen, then I’ll be happy, or when I get that, I won’t need anything else out of life, but these yearnings are all about self-gratification. When we attach our feelings, our self-worth, our hopes to external things, focusing so intently on how great we think we are, becoming a “god” unto ourselves, we completely forget who it is that “numbers our days and sets forth our paths.”

“I will lift my eyes unto the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” We are called to walk by faith, which is trust, and not by sight. But, it’s so easy to have a blind spot in our thinking – a “board in our eye” – that keeps us from seeing the truth, from trusting, from knowing the fullness of God’s love for us, which assures us that we are so much more than a mere “0.”

A Happy Birthday comes from remembering to dance with the one who brought you and celebrating the grace by which you have arrived at this place in time.

~SLM

When in Rome Part 1: According to His Purpose

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purpose in the world around us. We aren’t able to understand how all the pieces fit together, and what we can comprehend, doesn’t make any sense to us, yet in Romans 8:28 Paul says this: “And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Who is to say that the trials we face cannot be for the betterment of ourselves or someone else. We learn so much more about whom we are and the nature of life through our difficulties, our struggles. We cannot know how our burdens and triumphs may influence others, and likewise, we cannot know how our words or actions affect those with whom we interact.  If we know not sorrow, how can we know what true joy looks like? How can we be grateful for all that we are given, our mental and spiritual gifts as well as the physical, if we have not known hunger? And, if we are certain that God’s plan is good, we can go down that road, the one that’s uncertain and unsettling, where dangers may lurk and sorrow may live, facing incredible odds. We can walk through the fiery furnace with peace in our hearts, and praise on our lips, knowing that:

“Lord is our keeper, we have everything we need. He lets us rest in fertile fields of green and leads us to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives us new strength, and guides us to the right paths, as he has promised. Even if we go through the deepest darkness, we need not be afraid, for the Lord is with us, His shepherd’s rod and staff protect us.” (Psalm 23)

No matter what happens in life, what joys or sorrows besot us, we can rest assured that what we face is what God has intended so that He may accomplish His good purpose.

~SLM

 

Deuteronomy #4: The Battle

Sometimes the “real” battle is in our minds; it’s the argument we have within ourselves to either take a step toward our destiny or shrink away from it. We are at war with our thoughts in a continual struggle between the voices of condemnation, doubt, and fear on the one hand, or confidence, encouragement, and love on the other. A conflict between who we think we are and who we were created to be. We have to have this battle before we can ever know what experiences we may encounter, what dangers or blessings lie ahead, shaping us into who we may become.

It’s really just a matter of making up our minds. We have to decide whether we’ll go along with the pursuits of this world, or set out intentionally to follow God, holding fast to His promises, walking in all His ways. Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 6 that we should make God’s ways a part of who we are; that we should not become devoted to any of the other “gods” those around us worship.  This is not an easy road to take, especially with all the distractions, traps really, we are presented with in our daily lives. Moses also says “to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength,” and that we should be ever aware of God’s gifts to us, that we should never forget where we have been and how we have been delivered into our “promised” land. We must live in this world, but we dare not be of it, and every day we must fight, stand-up to the temptations we face, and trust that God’s way is, at the end of the day, the best way to live, the only choice that makes sense in a world that’s too wrapped up in itself, too self-obsessed to even care about its neighbor, let alone to love its neighbor as itself.

As David writes in Psalm 15:

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,

who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,

who does no wrong to a neighbor,

and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person

but honors those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;

who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

will never be shaken.

~SLM