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

Transitions

Letting go and letting God is much easier said than done. When our lives are unsettled, then transitions occur, our troubled minds find no rest. This is when we must resolve to trust the most, but is usually when we are the least willing to follow. We stand frozen, like Lot’s wife, mournful for what we are leaving behind, unwilling to fathom that what lies ahead could well be what we’ve always dreamed of. Instead, we allow ourselves to be convinced that the difficulties and strife we’ve just come through is far better than what may come into. We make many small transitions every day, a new boss, a road closure, an unexpected delay, without letting them stop us in our tracks, yet the larger ones paralyze us. How are they different? We have no trust that what we are being delivered into will be better than what we are delivered from. God’s timing is hardly ever our timing, and if it were, we’d probably never follow His plan. Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I guess it’s human nature that we are more willing to “stay with the devil we know” rather than take the leap toward something more. It’s sure, it’s safe and trusting means we admit we are not in control, we admit we haven’t made very good choices.

But what about the God we know? Have we no trust in his ability to keep us? Why is it so difficult to cling to His promises? Psalm 23 begins with this line: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing – NOTHING! Even when it looks like there is no road, we must trust that God will provide. We see only a small portion of the puzzle, and when we reflect upon our journey, don’t we always see just how lovingly we’ve been cared for?  

It occurs to me that it’s our attitude toward our life’s events that needs adjusting. How different, more calm and blissful would our lives be if we stopped lamenting what we perceive as misfortunes and embraced God’s plan? What if we were to relish the twists and turns of this roller-coaster ride we call life, and face each day with this thought: These are exciting times that God has provided for me, I can’t wait to go down this road, to see how this will all shake-out, and to see who I will become as a result of it all!

~SLM

Unsettled Waters

Sometimes it’s remarkable to me how certain snippets of scripture in moments of synchronicity stand out in our daily lives, asking us to ponder them, to go deeper, and to consider what they can teach us. Lately Matthew 14:25-31 has had such a place in my life, and specifically verses 28-31 where Peter says to Christ, “if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water, and Jesus says, “come.”
It occurs to me that whenever we move through anxious times, through rough spots in our lives, where everything seems upside down, and we aren’t sure how it will all turn out, this is the time when we have our best opportunity for spiritual growth. It’s the time to be single-minded in our attention, having the strength of faith to keep moving forward, trusting God’s promises to us. This passage is about stepping out in confidence, leaving the safety of the boat to move across the unsettled waters with our eyes fixed on the goal, trusting that we will be held safe in the journey. It’s about letting the storms, no matter what they are, or how they present themselves in our lives, rage about us as they may, without losing our devotion, and coming into the embrace of our future selves, our new selves in Christ.
What I get out of it is this: If we trust in God, we have to trust in His promises, completely, without dropping our focus. It’s when we lose focus, letting the raging wind and churning seas fill our sight, that we fail, that doubt creeps in and we lose faith; our faith in our ability to follow, and more importantly, our faith in the fact that it’s the loving arms of Christ which supports and sustains us, which gives us a “bridge” for troubled waters, and allows us to carry on in miraculous grace.
And so to end, a prayer…
Thank you Lord for your loving care, for your wisdom and guidance. You know just what I need, and you fill my life with peace and love, each breath I take with the wonder of your graciousness. Let me know the meaning of faith with every fiber of my being, know that no matter how it appears, I am fully taken care of, and know that all of my needs are met at every moment. Amen
~SLM

 

Update:  Songs on the theme that presented themselves over and over…

  1.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

 

A Matter of Faith

And Christ said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

What is faith? The Webster’s defines it as:  sincerity of intentions, complete trust, and a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. It’s a word we all use every day in many situations without really understanding it. Many times we say we have faith, but our actions belie our inner belief. We simply use it like a paper plate, something that is useful for the moment, only to be discarded when we don’t need it anymore.

Faith implies loyalty, commitment, conviction. It’s a hope, a belief, and an expectation of surety, and as such is an act of reverence.  Matthew 18:18-19 says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[a] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” But, so many times we let other considerations and influences encroach upon what we say we believe, and we decide that we, not God, have the answer, the solution. We take matters into our own hands, forgetting completely about our faith, about how whatever we bind on earth is also bound in heaven.

Sometimes (and honestly, often times) we are with God as teenagers are with their parents. We roll our eyes and say, “what do you know old man?” Not understanding, or perhaps willfully forgetting, that He does know, He does have a plan, and his resources are greater and more substantial than we can even comprehend! We get impatient; we discard our faith, never understanding that when God tags someone out of our lives, and replaces them with a new player, a fresh player, it’s because of his understanding, his comprehension, and his plan for our growth. We have to take it on faith, no matter how difficult or upsetting, no matter how painful it is, we must hold fast to the knowledge that God is trustworthy, that God is binding us to what we have asked of him.

If we dissent, if we show no conviction, it’s as if we are like Adam; we tell God “NO, not your way, my way!” But, if we keep our faith, hold fast in our belief, then we are like Christ; we tell God, “If this is my cup, I shall drink all of it,” trusting that through his guidance, we will become better versions of ourselves.

~SLM