Monday, February 23, 2009

All things point to...

Spring is almost here. I've noticed a few trees budding and flowering. Spring seems to rejuvenate us- we want to be outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, no longer are we cooped up in our homes for warmth.

"The fields and meadows are greening up. The trees are bearing fruit again: a bumper crop of fig trees and vines! Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your God. He's giving you a teacher to train you how to live right - Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul, just as he used to do." Joel 2: 22-23 (The Message)

This scripture just seems to fit with this time of year- Joel speaks of fields and meadows, trees and vines...all becoming lively and vibrant. These are visual representations of a new hope. Most importantly, the prophet speaks of a coming teacher: one to teach us "how to live right". This teacher, Joel promises, will restore the intimacy with God that the people of Israel (and all people) yearn for. Joel foretells the coming of Christ- a great teacher, a new hope for all mankind.

This Wednesday begins the season of Lent. We anticipate Easter- the observation of Christ's triumph over sin and death. Right now, flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and the grass is beginning to green up- all of this points to a new hope and adds to our excitement as we rejoice that we know this teacher. His name is Jesus.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

changing my thoughts on Lent

Lent is one of the seasons that always seems difficult to observe. If you don't observe Lent, the tradition is to give something up during the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Common things to give up include: soda, chocolate, meat, tv, etc. But sometimes it feels like we are just depriving ourselves if we do that- the only thing we get out of it is having to explain to our friends why we "can't have that." So, do we get anything out of it besides feeling deprived of something we love? Hopefully the answer is yes. But I think many times, we fail to see what good we're doing, or what kind of impact our 40-day "fast" is making.

As with most every year, I've been trying to figure out what to do for Lent. I've done the soda and chocolate fasts in the past and have been successful. I've even tried adding on something- a devotion/quiet time every day during lent, and have been less successful. A few days ago it finally hit me. I need to change my thoughts on Lent. Sorry, this is just a clever play on words. This year, I'm giving up change for Lent. Yes, pocket change.

If you're like me you rarely pay cash for expenses...and even less frequently carry change to pay for things. Over the past few years, I have compiled quite the coin collection rather unintentionally. I have a change bowl, lots of change in my car, change at my office, pennies in a bag, and even sorted change... So, after Ash Wednesday, I'm going to start a new change bowl. Any change I get from paying in cash will go in that bowl and after Easter I will donate it to a charity of my choice. It may not be much, but I feel like I am sacrificing something, and that sacrifice will hopefully benefit more than me.

Anyone else want to join me? Let me know. Oh, and if you do- consider carrying cash and paying with cash more often...instead of avoiding it so you don't have to give it away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No thanks, I'm full.

One day while flipping through channels on the TV, I stumbled upon a program about men surviving extreme situations. One of the stories was about a man whose ship had sunk and he was lost at sea in a life raft. He lived off of fish he was able to catch (don't ask how...I don't remember). He was able to do this for a few days before he began feeling the effects of not having a balanced diet. He found himself craving parts of the fish that may seem inedible: eyes, fins, intestines...but they all contained minerals and vitamins that the man's body needed.

"He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." Proverbs 27: 7

Have you ever felt that God is just not working in your life? Maybe church just doesn't seem to be uplifting? Or perhaps your quiet time/devotional time isn't producing as much knowledge and encouragement as you hope for? And you finally find yourself wondering where is God in all this?

God is not absent, you're probably just feeling satisfied...but that doesn't seem to make sense, because you're far from satisfied. Perhaps a better term is that you've lost the hunger. You no longer seek God. You go through the motions, perhaps out of habit or obligation, and you no longer crave that intimate moment with the One who sustains you. If you're "loathing honey", try something different- change your 'diet' up a little...look for nourishment in places you never thought could offer anything spiritual.

This week: ask someone else how they encounter God when they're feeling down and disconnected...then try it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

That Depends...

"Oh, never, never lose that sense of simple dependence on the presence of Jesus in your life because sometimes that is all you will have." -Peter Storey With God in the Crucible (from his sermon "Easter's Gift of Peace" delivered on Easter Sunday 1983)

We are constantly hoping for independence. It's one of the goals that many of us spend our lives working toward. There are numerous types of independence, so the word can mean different things to different people. But often we feel that a successful person is one that has lots of support, but doesn't need any of it. But we do need support. We're not meant to be completely independent. God created us to be in a relationship with our Creator. It is impossible to feel whole unless we have a relationship with God, and this relationship is through Christ.

Perhaps a more universal goal is happiness. Independence, at least the complete kind, is not possible if we hope to maintain happiness. We are sustained and encouraged by the Spirit. The sooner we learn to depend on God, the sooner we will find that we are content and truly happy. I pray that you will come to understand this as the psalmist did:

"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name." Psalm 33: 20-21 NIV

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gravity does not forgive

Last night I was having fun on a Ripstik. I had finally become comfortable on the unstable toy, and was cruising around the youth center. I started feeling bold and decided it would be a fun to try a wheelie. Not a great idea. I rode the wheelie for a second (and that's being generous) before gravity took over and the one wheel I was riding on (the size of a roller blade wheel on a swivel) slipped out from under me... sending me to the floor. Now I have a sore elbow and my pride is still recovering.

"'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive." 1 Corinthians 10: 23

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth, addressing their concerns over eating food that was considered unclean because it had been offered to idols. Yesterday's sermon was about this same topic. However, I just want to use Paul's words as advice for wise-living.

We live in a world that offers us a lot of fun. Thanks to free will, we are able to do whatever we want. However, we learn early in life that for every decision there is a consequence. It's easy to get comfortable with the things of the world that seem fun, but ultimately Paul's words ring true: just because we're allowed to do something fun, doesn't mean it's good, or that it's not going to cause harm to us or to someone else.

This week, strive to do only things that are beneficial. Don't be like me- I didn't think about the physics of what I thought would be fun and I paid for it. Think ahead, ask God to give you the foresight to see things that could be physically, emotionally, or spiritually damaging.