Friday, December 31, 2010

Shoes and Faith

An interesting thought occurred to me one morning this week as I was putting on my shoes. Most of the time, I wear oxfords that I have to double knot or the laces come undone several times a day. I was being lazy that morning and didn’t feel like undoing the knots, so I just jammed my feet into the shoes. They slipped on easy enough, but my feet were uncomfortable and one of the shoes pinched a bit. I didn’t feel like putting up with the discomfort until my feet settled into the shoes, so I took them off, untied them, and then put them back on and tied them like I should have done in the first place. Later, I wondered why, if it were the same shoes and the same feet, that the feel was different when I slipped them on without untying them vs. putting them on and then tying them. It occurred to me that in the first scenario, I was trying to fit my feet to the shoes and in the second – I was fitting the shoes to my feet. Isn’t that just the way I tend to approach faith?

I began to ask myself – Do I try to fit my faith around my life so as to minimize the discomfort I experience in serving God? Am I willing to help out only as long as it isn’t too inconvenient? Do I too often assume the responsibility for becoming a person of deep faith instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to mold me into the child of God I want to be? How often do I obey God’s call to step outside of my comfort zone, allowing him to deepen my trust and reliance on him? Am I one of those people who mold God into my image to justify my attitudes and lifestyle or do I look to his image as the paradigm for my attitudes and lifestyle? Or am I, as I hope, the kind of Christian who allows her faith to mold her life?

The truth – I am a fallible human being and sometimes I fit my faith to my life while other times I fit my life to my faith, often switching between the two countless times each day. Here’s the really confusing part – sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Oh sometimes, fitting my faith to my life looks holy and God-driven, but my desires and my comfort are at the heart of my actions. Once again, it all comes down to attitude. What is the attitude that drives my actions? Am I loving God over me in my actions or me over God?

Philippians 2:12-13 tells us to, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (reverence for and sensitivity to God), for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Paul is telling us that it’s going to be a daily struggle to allow God to mold and make in us the new creation he had in mind for us from the beginning. God is within me, creating me from the inside out by his power and his will alone to be the woman of faith I always wanted to be. I can’t become that person on my own. I need God to do that and occasionally, like my shoes, it’s going to pinch a little.

About the pictures:
Blackwater Falls State Park

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

A very merry and blessed Christmas to you! This video says it all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

There's Hope For Me Yet!

My vow to meet God in scripture daily is still fresh and being worked out and I have to admit – I again failed miserably. As you can imagine, this is a very busy time of year for a church secretary. Add getting the flu, a major issue with the church’s website, and insomnia to the usual seasonal stress and you get chaos. It seems that busyness and tiredness were overriding my will to open my Bible and read. However, I did renew my vow this week with a few Psalms and Philippians. In trying to discern why this is so hard to work into my daily life again (as it once was when my faith was new) I realized that over the past year, I’ve been perceiving my faith more like a treadmill and less like the incredible journey it is.

I have a commitment and faith in Jesus as my Savoir which is more often than not a priority in my life. I make time for it. I’ve experienced great peace many times in conversing with God (which includes me shutting up and actually listening to him). But then life gets busy with work, family, friends, volunteering at my church, hobbies, etc. I get stressed and don’t sleep. Then I’m too tired to do even half of what I wanted to do. The less sleep I get and the more stress I have – the more depression settles in. Then I’m able to do even less. You get the idea. My prayer times become shorter and my time with God in Scripture gets skipped one, two, then three days in a row and then not even put on the to-do list. It’s kind of like the treadmill in the bedroom piled with clothes. You get a renewed sense of urgency, so you clear off the treadmill and vow to walk every day. You do okay for a while, but then you start to slip, one, two, then three days in a row. Then one day you throw a dirty shirt on it while you’re changing for that meeting at church and the next thing you know – the treadmill has more clothes than your hamper does.

When I feel I’ve failed again, I need to remember above all else that faith is an incredible journey. God is molding and shaping me even in the moments when I’m not taking a more active rol
e in the development of my faith. Those moments that seem like I’ve failed are just as much a teaching tool in the Master’s hands as those moments when I am saturated in his Word and in prayer. I know he loves me just as I am and will continue to grow in me the new creation he called me to be. I am his unique masterpiece still in progress and someday, he will put away his tools and stand back and say “It is good.” But for now, he is putting all his energy, creativity and passion into making me into his vision of who I am. I am not a disappointment to God – He’s just not done with me yet and he won’t stop laboring until he’s finished the work.

About the pictures:
Blackwater Falls State Park (May 2010)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Grief and Christmas

 Christmas, which should be one of the happiest times of the year for us, isn't always. It can be a sharp reminder of what is missing in our lives - those we love who have died. It is for those who grieve and especially for those who are facing their first Christmas without their loved one that I was compelled to write the poem below. Even in your grief, God's love and hope is true and there to comfort your aching heart. Merry Christmas!


YOUR FIRST CHRISTMAS WITHOUT ME
As I peaked through heaven’s door today,
     I saw you.
You were trembling and in tears.
I could see the love we shared has been replaced
     with a crushing sense of loss
          --for now.
Anger, doubt and emptiness
     are consuming all your thoughts and devouring your soul.
No longer does your world makes sense
     because everything you thought you knew
          is uncertain and confused.
All you can do is mourn.

All around you others are celebrating Christmas.
They’re wearing their red and green
     and putting up their Christmas trees.
They’re gathering together their Christmas gifts
     and singing every carol.
I know you watch them doing all the things
     we were supposed to do together
          and your pain turns into anger
               for the Christmas Child.

If you could glimpse past heaven’s gate
     where his awesome glory shines and the angel choir sings,
his eternal peace would comfort you
     and fill your heart and soul.
All doubt would die and you would know
     that all we’ve known in faith is true.

I stand at heaven’s door because
     I want for you to know that it’s okay.
Though you’re sure you don’t believe right now,
     our God does lives and he loves you still.
Someday your pain and grief will fade
     and when it does you will truly know
          that throughout time when all else fails
               his love for you remains.


About the picture:
Allison Park, PA (December 2010)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving God Excuses for Christmas

It’s that time of year again when the temperature is dropping, snow is falling, and the malls are filled with Christmas shoppers. I was out just last night looking for that perfect gift for a few more of my loved ones and trying to figure out how to get the best gift I can for the money I have to spend. Santa has nothing on me. I make a list and check it a hundred times. How much can I spend on each? What do I already have? What do I have left to get? What in the world am I going to get those hard-to-buy-for people I love? And what in the world do I get for those in my life who have everything they could ever need or want?

This morning as I was going over the list again in my mind, it occurred to me that there is one loved one whose name was not on my list – God’s. What do I give Jesus for Christmas? After all, it is his birthday! That’s why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. In considering it further - the Lord falls under the ‘What do you get the person who has everything?’ category. He created everything. He owns everything. He needs nothing. And the only thing he wants is a relationship with me. Well, he’s already got that. I gave my heart and my life to him years ago. So what gift could I possibly give God for Christmas? That’s when the Spirit whispered to me the answer, “Give me the excuses.”

So often, God calls me to task and my first reaction is, “I can’t” usually followed by “I’m too busy,” or “I don’t know how.” I always have an excuse as to why I can’t do the uncomfortable or inconvenient thing God is asking me to do. Last week, I had decided that I was not going to be a spiritual anorexic anymore. I made a commitment to read my Bible every day. It is no longer a choice. In the last seven days, I failed to meet God in his Word twice. Oh I have good excuses why I was unable to, but the point of the commitment was to spiritually nourish myself as well as build my
love and my relationship with God. I didn’t fail God, I failed myself. My excuses: I’m sick, I’m tired, I don’t have time, I don’t understand, I don’t know how, I don’t have the ability… those are what the Spirit was telling me to give to God for Christmas. If I give to him all the excuses, then there will be nothing to stop me from being with him and living out his will in my life. So this year for Christmas, I am giving God all my excuses.

What are you giving Jesus for Christmas this year?

About the pictures:
Pittsburgh, PA (Dec. 2009)