Friday, December 30, 2011

Lebab Shalem

Psalm 119:16(MSG)I relish everything you've told me of life, I won't forget a word of it. being that I'm approaching the half century mark on this here planet earth, to boldly proclaim that "I won't forget" something is farther than I am willing to go!  On some mornings, I awake and have to spend at least a good minute or two just to remember what day of the week it is.  The thoughts go something like this as I stretch and approach the edge of the bed to disembark....."Let's see, today is ....wait...what is today and where am I supposed to be right now?  Am I late?!  Oh no....!!!"  Usually within a few seconds, I come back to reality from my slumber and can shake the fog away, but rest assured that it is not a good feeling.  Anyone else have this occurrence?

So, having said all of that, I am going to see what the NIV translation has to say in this verse.
Psalm 119:16(NIV)
I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word.

"I will not neglect Your word."  Yes! That I can say with confidence!  I might not be able to always remember the words, but I can commit to study and read the Word of God and attempt to memorize it.  I can return to it constantly day in and day out.  It doesn't seem a coincidence to me that  I read the story of King Asa a few days ago.  Powerful words of encouragement and valuable lessons about life lie within the verses of 2 Chronicles chapter 14-16 as the life of Asa plays out on the pages. 

King Asa was the son of King Abijah and succeeded him to the throne over Judah in Jerusalem.  It is written in 2 Chronicles 14:1 that Asa "did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God."  (I would certainly love to have that said about me....wouldn't you?)  Anyway, when this king came into power, the country was experiencing a time of peace.  God  gave Asa a powerful word through the prophet Azariah.  The prophet said,
(2 Chronicles 15:2)MSG "God will stick with you as long as you stick with him.  If you look for Him he will let himself be found; but if you leave him he'll leave you."  

It goes on to say that when the people saw that God was with Asa, they came to him in large numbers.  At that point they made a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul.  In the Bible's original Hebrew translation we would have read the words  "lebab shalem", which means to have whole hearted devotion.

They chose not to neglect the Word of God.  King Asa followed through on this and for thirty-five years there was no war in the land as the king cleared out every distraction and thing that did not glorify the Lord....including the dethroning of his grandmother the queen who made an Asherah pole and shifted her focus to idol worship. 

The sort of sad part to this king's story, however, is that in his last years he must have gotten off track a little.  The story finishes up in chapter 16 where King Asa slips in his trust and devotion to the Lord and relies on men for the deliverance of his country.  When afflicted with a severe foot disease in these later years, the Bible records that King Asa ends up seeking  physicians for healing and forgets to turn to the God who has sustained him through incredible hardships in the past!  I conclude that  the king lost perspective.  Rather than going before God and asking for direction which may have led him to physicians for healing,  (God can and often does use the hands of His people to restore health to our bodies) King Asa relied on men.
The ending to King Asa's story concludes with his burial with honors in the land of his people.  Yes, God's grace overcame Asa's lack of follow through, but the way his walk with God ended left a sadness within my heart.  It jarred my mind into a reflective mode.   

This is what I thought after I read King Asa's story.  With the approaching new year, I want to look ahead and see where I am going.  What are my priorities?  Am I still completely relying on God for all things?  Where am I leading my children?  How am I being a help mate to my husband?  Am I simply looking back at yesterday's victories and enjoying them as though I have no work left to do and the best is behind me?  Or, am I looking to the future with hope and rolling up my sleeves to rely on God even more than ever before? 

II Chronicles 16:9 (NIV) says, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."  I want God to see me living out a life of whole hearted devotion to Him!  I need His strength to fulfill the purposes He has designed just for me to complete!  It is exciting to think about the future and the hope that we have in Him!  As our pastor frequently says, "The best is yet to come!!"

Looking at the future through the cross gives hope and peace.
Thank You for a message of hope and grace despite our sometimes faltering faith.  Your love for us is written throughout Your word!  You are a strong tower of protection and our error free navigational system for a life filled with direction and purpose.  I am trusting in Your words and listening to Your voice for every step of this year!  I will not neglect Your word.  I am praying today that You will fill our hearts with devotion to You.  Speak softly to those tonight who might be fearful of the future and infuse them with Your gentle words of encouragement and love.

In Christ's name,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

John 3:16(MSG)
"This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his Son, His one and only Son.  And this is why:  so that no one need be destroyed;  by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life."

Taking a quick break from baking....pumpkin bread, cookies, traditional "church windows", and gingerbread house decorating, to wish you a Merry Christmas!!  What a beautiful time of the year to pause and enjoy the wonders of Christ's love for us!  Wherever you are tonight, I pray that you are able to experience the love that He has reserved just for you!

Thank you for the gift of Your son! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pondering Wisdom

Psalm 119:15(MSG)
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from You, I attentively watch how You've done it.

I enjoyed watching this Ibis catch fish at the beach.
I do love to ponder!  Webster's Dictionary defines ponder as:  to think deeply (about); to consider carefully.  I love to attempt to see into the meaning of everything.  I don't always figure things out correctly, but I love tryin'! 

As is the case with most of our character traits, however, there is an up side and a down side to them.  The down side to the "perpetual ponderer" is that this activity often leads to over thinking things, which can then lead to what I like to call, "Analysis-Paralysis".  A sort of frozen state, if you will, that keeps you from moving in any direction.  Not forward. Not backward.  Not side to side.  Just plain stuck.

But, the up side to this evaluation trait is that once we have really thought through an idea, we feel quite satisfied with every angle of what we've learned.  Generally speaking, ponderers will not be caught off guard.  So, tonight's verse reminds me that, it is definitely a good thing to ponder the Word of God.  To read it; study it; memorize it; pray it; and then apply it!  

Your Word is so refreshing.  It speaks life into my very being!  It brings strength when I am weak.  It builds courage when I am fearful.  It brings direction when I am lost.  It surrounds me with comfort when I am lonely.  Every verse has purpose and power!  Thank you for the gift of Your Word.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

He Is A Delight

Psalm 119:14(MSG)
I delight far more in what You tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.

The quietness of a mountain stream.
Awe.....there is so much peace in this verse.  I have been so busy this season running hither and thither that the peace of God has eluded me.  Kind of hate admitting that little secret, but 'tis true.  I always know when I have forgotten to delight on His word, because that frenzied feel begins to creep into the core of my heart.  I start to feel like I am chasing a shadow when I merely read His Word like it were a dictionary, instead of hearing Him talk to me like the special friend that He is.  

I am missing a whole lot when I don't take time to delight in what He is saying to me!  If I am so distracted with a pile of earthly riches that I cannot focus on Him, then it might be time for me to remember what Jesus said:

Luke 12:15(NIV)~Then he said to them, "Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." 

Thank you for pouring into my life and offering a beautiful picture of who I am as You reveal it to me through Your word.  Help me to always linger in Your presence and to remember that You are a trusted friend and counselor.  Lord, speak gently into the hearts of others today who are struggling to know that You are listening and let them know that You hear and You care for them so deeply! 
In Jesus Name,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting To The Top Of The Hill

Psalm 119:13(MSG)
I'll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from Your mouth;
I woke up in the usual way.  As I was rushing around from task to task before we scurried out the door to head for school, I heard my husband say something about needing to leave early because the radio was reporting slick roads.  Huh?  There wasn't snow in the forecast?  I was precisely on my usual time schedule with no buffer minutes factored in.  Uh-oh.

Shutting the car door behind me, I backed slowly out of the garage to find that there was indeed a slight snow and ice covering over the pavement.  No problem, I thought, this is not too bad.  I made quick time as I wove around the neighborhood curves and came to the stop sign that leads to the main road.  Slowly approaching the intersection, I could see cars stopped from both ways and basically parked on the road.  As I ventured the nose of my car a bit further to the edge of the corner, I was able to see what was happening. 

The main road is similar to a roller coaster as it moves up and down steep grades in both directions.  I watched as cars would attempt to go up the hill and get stuck in the middle.  They would then slowly back down and try again.  One by one, the cars would attempt to climb the hill.  Some were making it, but some were not.  Those that were unable to conquer the task remained trapped in the valley with no hope of escape.  You can only imagine the tangled, congested mess that ensued, as cars, trucks, and even buses became prisoners to the icy hills. 

Before it was all over, there ended up being two buses and numerous cars that had to be towed up the hills by fire trucks.  My daughter and I successfully made it to school, but we were two and half hours late!  The whole thing got me to thinking.  Here's what I thought.  Our lives are like those cars that got stuck.  A significant amount of time we find ourselves paralyzed at the bottom of monstrously large, slippery slopes.  We try to get up on our own,  but  our attempts are futile.  We get completely immobilized.  We spin our wheels, run off the road, and sometimes even crash before we ask for the "fire truck" to come and rescue us. 

My daughter "riding up the hill" on a local nature trail.
Why do I do that?  Why, when I have the complete counsel of God in my hands and readily available to speak from my lips, would I ever try to travel without Him?  I can choose to cling to Him and use my lips to rehearse His promises when I am in the valley, or I can keep my mouth quiet and miss His amazing grace working in my situation.  The choice is entirely mine to make. 

Thank you for Your continued Word of counsel that provides a firm hold for me when I am crawling in the valley and barely able to stand up.  Help me to respond to the trials that I encounter  with the light of Your wisdom and grace.  Lord, let me honor You in my darkest times with genuine praise to the King of Kings!  I am asking You tonight to carry those that are in the midst of a trial and deliver them safely to the top of the hill.  Place Your Word on our lips and let us glorify Your name from the highest of heights!
In Jesus Name,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hello? Do You See Me?

Psalm 119:12(MSG)
Be blessed, God;  train me in Your ways of wise living.

Am I invisible?  Can you see me?  Can you hear me?  Am I insignificant to you?  I'm wondering if you have recently asked yourself any of these questions when you were hanging out with someone who picked up their hand held electronic device and started tapping away on it?  I have.

Today's verse asking God to train us in His ways of "wise living" has thrown my brain into overdrive.  I listened last week, as an elderly couple told me that it is a good thing they don't have much time left here on earth because they don't feel very relevant anymore. It is heartbreaking to hear that, especially when the Bible tells us that we are to learn from the experience of older Christ followers.  What are we doing as a culture to give this kind of a message?

I cringe as an intelligent woman tells me that her break time is no longer filled with conversations between coworkers sharing their lives, but instead is spent with everyone sitting silently playing electronic games on their phones or scrolling through their e-mails.  Yikes, maybe that's what we are doing wrong!!  The Bible is very clear that we are to encourage one another and lift one another up.  How are we to do that if we aren't interacting with each other when we are together? 

I am not down on the electronic world, obviously, as I type away on my web blog, but shouldn't we be present, mind and spirit, when we are physically with people?  Aren't we missing opportunities of learning, teaching, uplifting and love when our face is stuck in a hand held machine while we are standing right next to a real live person?!!  Aren't we communicating to those around us that they are not worthy of our undivided attention when we pull out our phones and start reviewing data or texting someone else while we are in their company?  Again, I am a huge fan of the cell phone, so I am standing in conviction as I write this....well actually, I'm sitting...but you know what I mean.     

Have you experienced this feeling of smallness when someone is busily typing away on their tiny device while you are standing right next to them?  I want to hear your thoughts.  Am I alone in this?

I want to be a blessing to others by applying the wise training that You have given to me in Your Word.  I also never want to miss an opportunity to learn from one of Your children.  You are the Master of wisdom and I want to be an encouragement and light in the places that You lead me.  Please help me today to more aware of my "real life" opportunities.
Thank you for Your patience with me,