Monday, May 27, 2013

Holy Spirit Word Study - Romans 15:13

What you need to know about today's blog:

Many years ago, God led me to start a word study on the Holy Spirit. Starting in Genesis and working through the book of Revelation, I was to meditate on each and every verse that contains the word "Spirit" asking in prayer what the Holy Spirit wanted me to know about himself from the scripture I was studying. (In case you're curious, my concordance shows the word "Spirit" in 328 different verses.) Often in my studies, the Spirit would bring to mind a memory or use a current event of my life as a kind of parable to teach me about himself. The Spirit gave me a new or better understanding and I wrote a short devotional piece (much like my weekly blog) which I shared with a small group of friends. I worked on it diligently for four years and then hitting hard into a desert time of uninspired writer's block, I had to stop. That was four years ago. I started this blog in a desperate attempt to keep God central in my life during this dry season.

Jesus used many parables in his teachings--stories of everyday life that the commom person could use as a frame of reference to understand and respond to God's love and grace. Every person's ordinary life held imperfect parallels to the nature of God and His Kingdom from which they could understand better God's goodness and His perfect will. I firmly believe that everyone's life story is like a parable from which we can learn about God, if we just take the time to look for the lesson. That's why this blog is called The Parable of My Life. I tried to look for where God was evident in my week and share that with you faithfully.

Now I am feeling called to return to my Holy Spirit word study. I still have 114 verses to go and plan to share them with you on my blog as they are written. Below are my thoughts on the Holy Spirit as read in Romans 15:13.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

I've been a child of God now for 14 years. In that time I've sought to serve The Lord with my all my heart and my life to the best of my ability, more often than not. Over the years, there were times when I was bursting with devotion, seeking God at every turn and there were times when I coasted on the fumes of my faith. I'm not ashamed of admitting this. After all I am human and still a work in progress. Aren't we all?

There have been some people in my life whom I find admirable in the faith and there were times when I leaned on them to limp through parts of my faith journey. That's what we are supposed to do for each other. I'm a sinner, and so are they, but we can share our strengths in each other’s weaknesses and hold each other up and accountable along the way. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God and, ideally, we love each other as family should. We need to be careful though that we are relying on God even while leaning on each other. No matter how admirable someone may be, every last one of us is messed up. And that's okay because Jesus came to this world as the perfect human and as our perfect sacrifice -- even for the worst of sinners. He showed us what we are to do and be, and by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within every believer's heart, we can be the people he created us to be. He loved the unlovable, befriended, not the super spiritual leaders of the time, but the humble sinners ignored and rejected by the righteous. He gave hope to the hopeless and he didn't do it by pointing out how lost they were as sinners but instead showing how loving and forgiving God is by taking the sinner's place on the cross, giving all of himself for our redemption. This is the example we are to follow.

But how do I do that in my spiritually dry times? That's a question I've been asking myself for a while now. Only recently did The Spirit lead me to the answer--I don't! In fact, what he made clear is that even in spiritually abundant times--It's not me! It was never me who loved the unlovable in my life with the heart of God, befriended the sinners, or gave hope to the hopeless--it was him! And his ability doesn't depend on the status of my spiritual tank. He is the God of hope that fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him to do, so that we will overflow with his hope to pass on to others by his power alone. I am not manufacturing hope to share--I am merely a conduit of his unending love and grace for every person, no matter who they are or what they've done.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Ramblings

Today I had a long uneventful day at work and stopped at the grocery store after work. With my refrigerator full and dinner cooking I sorted and started my laundry. Now I'm sitting here typing on my iPad in the living room with The Voice on the TV. It might seem like I have nothing to exciting or wonderful going on in my life but that couldn't really be further from the truth.

First of all--I woke up this morning!!! Thank you Jesus for another day! I was blessed to wake in a comfortable bed in my own place and enjoyed all the modern conveniences one would expect to find in this quiet, peaceful suburban area. After breakfast, I climbed into my own vehicle and was off to the job I've had for ten years and still very much enjoy!! I'd say that deserves at least an Amen!!! Don't you?

After a full day working for The Lord, I stopped at the grocery store because my frig was empty. It being the later part of the month, I was working with a rather strict budget, and yet managed to walk out with a cart full of food and a grateful heart as the memory of a similar shopping trip from many years ago came to mind. The memory is still so vivid in my mind's eye - me walking out of a grocery store with tears in my eyes and two small bags of groceries in my hands which I had purchased with $20 I borrowed from my parents. I was crying because of all the needed food items I had to leave behind because I couldn't afford them. This time my heart filled with joy and gratitude and I happily made the second trip up the stairs to bring in the rest of all my God provided. 
As I enjoy the quiet evening and do a few chores, I am grateful that God has blessed me in health and wealth and purpose. And as I am lifting prayers of praise for this good day, my heart is also heavy and I can't help but lift prayers of rescue, comfort and restoration to the people of Moore, Oklahoma. I'm praying for them the way I hope they would pray for me if they were having the good day and I was living in the storm and its aftermath.

There's no wrap up or neat bow to this. My hope is that even in my ramblings, God might bring blessing to you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Thoughts on Mother's Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mother’s Day this week – I know so many people who have lost their mother or a child in the last few months and my thoughts and prayers are with them. This will be my 15th Mother’s Day as a mother who was and as I reflected on my friends’ new grief and my own grief journey, I began to pray that God would bring them a moment of pure joy unhindered by grief (just a moment, lest they feel guilty or like they are betraying their loved one) and more importantly, people who care and are sensitive to the myriad of feelings my friends will be experiencing this Mother’s Day.

I was a little surprised last Sunday when a friend from church told me she would be praying for me this Sunday and that she prays for me every year. For a moment, I was clueless as to why she would be praying for me “this” Sunday and a moment later it hit me that when she looks at me she sees a mother without a child. Believe me when I say – I very much appreciate her prayers and maybe it’s been her prayers all these years that has made Mother’s Day not only possible but enjoyable. Years ago, I made an important decision concerning Mother’s Day: I could live in the shadow of what was and remain a childless mother for all time or I could remember that I am still a daughter with a mother who deserves every moment of praise and admiration I can give her. I chose to live in the present and love my mom.
Someday, my mom will die and likely she will go before me. Again I will need to go through a grieving process and face another decision – to live in the past as a motherless child or to live in a present where I have the Lord’s assurance that we will be reunited someday in His Glorious Presence. But that’s in the future and I don’t need to worry about that now.
Over the years, it’s been my experience that people don’t know how I’m going to feel on Mother’s Day or Bryan’s birthday or the anniversary of his death, or any of the other holidays and therefore are at a loss of how to act around or support me. Some walk on eggshells. Some talk to me like I’m dying – asking if I’m okay like I’ve got a terminal disease. And some are oblivious to the overwhelming emptiness in the heart of a mother whose arms ache to hold her child one more time. Let me help you out here – I don’t know how I’m going to feel at any given moment – holiday or not. No one can really know how they’re going to feel from one moment to the next! Feelings are unpredictable and affected by so many things – lack of sleep, too much sleep, food eaten and not eaten, exercise or lack thereof, and then there are the relational aspects that come into play – how others interact with you can cause your emotions to go from one end of the spectrum to the other at light speed. I’ll make a deal with you – I’ll interact with you with love and grace on a moment by moment basis and you do the same with me. That’s the best we can ever do for each other.
For those who are newly grieving, let me first express my deepest sympathies. I’ve been praying for you this week and I’ll be praying for you tomorrow. When it feels like your grief is overwhelming you – remember that I am lifting your pain to our Father in heaven. I’m praying that he hold the broken pieces of your heart in his hands and keeps it beating while he makes it whole again. Don’t worry about how you are going to feel, just about how you’re feeling in the moment. I promise you that the moments of inconsolable grief will not last, but will fade into the next moment where God’s comfort is waiting for you.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The End of a Journey

Recently, I’ve been going through a lot of lasts… For the last three years, much of my time has been spent in the task of Elder on the governing body of my church as well as chairperson on a church committee – all of which comes to an end in just a few short weeks. When I first accepted this awesome responsibility, I had no idea what I was saying yes to or how I was supposed to accomplish the many tasks that lay ahead – some of which seem quite overwhelming. All I knew was, much to my surprise, that God had called me to lead his people. Much like Moses who heard God calling him from the burning bush to lead his people out of Egypt, I voiced my hesitations to God – “Who, me? I’m not a leader. I’m not qualified to make decisions on behalf of God and his people. I’m introverted and shy. I don’t have the skills or the intellect to handle such a huge and important duty. Besides, I already have a ton of responsibilities that keep me busy. ” After several weeks of prayer and debate, still plagued by self-doubt and apprehension, I said yes because while I didn’t have much faith in myself, I had great faith in God and I couldn’t deny his call on my life any longer – even if it didn’t make any sense to me.
In the story of the burning bush, God answers Moses’ hesitations by telling him, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) God was telling Moses not to worry about the details because God himself would be right there with him in Egypt as Moses presented God’s message to the Israelites and to Pharaoh. God himself had the plan and it would be his power that would bring it to fruition. And when the people of Israel were free and worshiping on that mountain where Moses received his call from God, then Moses would be able to look back upon the journey and see how God freed his children from slavery through the willingness and obedience of a humble servant.
Well now it’s my turn to look back upon my three year journey that is coming  to an end and I can see how God's love, grace, and power has worked in, with and through my willingness and obedience. I can see how he’s changed me and how his plan has been worked out as I sought to do his will and I give God all the glory and praise. I see where his strength carried me and his wisdom guided me on the journey and my heart is filled with joy that he chose to share the journey with me.
So what’s next for me? I don’t know yet. But when the Holy Spirit tells me, I hope I have learned to trust him more than I doubt myself and say yes immediately with enthusiasm and excitement over our next adventure together.