Archive | May, 2013

Sleep

31 May

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:4 (NASB)

I can sleep because God never does.
So why don’t I?

What makes the last hours of a day so intensely appealing? Perhaps I believe that time belongs only to me, my opportunity for reading or just thinking. Most mornings I devote to Scripture and prayer. The day belongs to others. Nighttime is mine. Of course, that’s not really true. Every minute is a gift from God and belongs to Him.

However, there are times when late nights aren’t a choice. Not sleeping can now be as simple as drinking caffeinated tea at dinner (or getting older). Sometimes I don’t sleep because my mind is going ninety miles an hour. I have to get up and read to stop the flow of endless thoughts. Years ago, I’d fall into bed exhausted, then beat myself up over what I didn’t get done that day. God taught me to let go of my perfectionism and get some balance in my life. Share the load; say “no” more often. Take a nap on Sunday afternoon. I was doing very well until. . .

About a month ago, I agreed to teach a women’s Bible study. I won’t bore you with the format demands and hopes for having it published. Short version—I’m spending more writing hours than daylight affords. I can’t give up my role as caregiver, family member, church member, or even gardener. Not to mention cooking, laundry, and a bazillion other things required in creating a home.

I figure at this point, it’s time to pull out a couple of Proverbs to support my new sleepless routine.
“Do not love sleep or you will end up poor. Keep your eyes open, and you will have plenty to eat” (Proverbs 20:13 GW).
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10–11 ESV).

H-m-m-m. Perhaps there’s a difference between sleep deprivation and laziness. Studies show 70 million Americans are sleep-deprived, contributing to increased accidents, worsening health and lower test scores. A German study reveals adequate sleep is directly linked to creativity and problem solving.

Perhaps I had better find scripture that fits the situation rather than seek justification for what I know is unhealthy.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved” (Psalm 127:2 NRSV).
”Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB95).

A little over a year ago I made my health, weight-loss, and adequate sleep a priority. Now (to use a good ol’ southern term) I’m back-sliding. I’m not treating God’s temple as holy. So here I am at 11:52pm writing down thoughts on sleeping—or not sleeping. It’s choice time. I choose eight hours of sleep and clearer thinking. I will trust God to help me prioritize, eliminate, and focus.

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said,
“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing
(Isaiah 30:15 NASB95)

Tonight I’m willing.

New Mind, New Me

25 May

I’ve kept a journal for many years. I sometimes read a page and ask myself, “Did I write that? Wow. That’s good stuff. God was really speaking to me that day.” But more often than I care to admit, I found repeated confessions for the same mistakes, and the same longing to be like Christ. In earlier journals, such longing resulted in new resolve and determined effort to “live the Christian life.” Yet I predictably reverted to my previous behavior.

Two verses helped me understand why resolving to change usually ends in failure.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. . .” (Matthew 15:19 NASB).
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NASB).

Simply put, we can’t experience true transformation by just trying harder. In order to change our behavior, we must first ask God to change our heart. (See post It’s Time for Some Good News, May 18, 2013). I refer to the biblical view of heart—our spirit and our will. The heart is the center of our being, the part of us that’s under our control. God first loves us, forgives us, and gives us new life. Then we must do our part. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. God’s Spirit offers love, life, and power. We decide what to believe, think, and obey.

On the most basic level, that requires belief in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. When we trust Christ to forgive our sins and give us new life, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live like Christ. From that moment, we become collaborators with the Spirit, working together to mold us into Christ’s true disciple. In deciding what to believe, it’s our responsibility to learn God’s perspective on any situation.

Let’s take Ephesians 4:31–32 as an example. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Trying to get rid of anger by dogged determination results in short term success at best and failure at worst. Yet Scripture holds that out as the Christian way of life. What then is our strategy? First, we desire change and believe it’s possible. Next, we choose to renew our mind (Romans 12:2) and cooperate with God’s indwelling Spirit. That means finding ways to place ourselves in God’s presence and allow Him to change us. That involves prayer, asking God to reveal what’s inside us that produces anger. Must I be in control or be appreciated? Do I allow others to take advantage of me? Do I need help with an abusive situation? Am I simply exhausted and need sleep? Perhaps, I need more alone time with God or Bible study.

The Holy Spirit answers our questions through Scripture, wise Christian counsel, His still small voice within, and common sense. Then we choose to obey or disobey. Obedience leads to growth and intimacy with Christ; disobedience leads to distance and spiritual immaturity. We repeat this cycle repeatedly in many different situations. Over time, we’re transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions flow naturally from His Spirit. At that point, we become unaware of Christ speaking or behaving through us, because such attitudes and actions come from our identity in Him.

I love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the New King James Bible describes this radical change.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

A new mind, a new me—-His gracious gift offered to every believer.

E-Devotional to Be Published May 21!

19 May

I’m excited about the privilege of being included in Christian Devotions, an online daily devotional resource.  My devotional entitled “The Dollar Bill” will go live Tuesday, May 21 under the category Faith and Finances. I hope you will read it and the many other excellent devotionals to be found there.

Be sure to check out the link above on Tuesday.

It’s Time for Some Good News

18 May

There’s no shortage of bad news. The media thrives on our morbid curiosity, our tears, and our outrage. When an upbeat story finds its way to social media, people like it and share it multiple times. We long for good news.

I have good news that can bring smiles and change our outlook on life. For some, this is a reminder of what you already know. For others, the good news will be brand-new.

Here’s the Good News: You are loved.

This is not the “I love you for what I can get out of you” kind of love. That’s not love at all; that’s lust. You are loved affectionately, unselfishly, and wholeheartedly. You are valued just as you are. This isn’t a love you earn. It’s a gift. However, you do have to accept or receive the gift.

How do I know so much about love? If you read my post on April 13, you know I choose to believe the Bible. It’s a love story from beginning to end. It’s my joy to share a vital part of that love story.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that [God] loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).

Sin means missing the mark as an archer might miss the bull’s-eye or straying from the path as in getting lost. God created us for perfect love and relationship with Himself and others. That’s the target, the ideal path in life. Admitting we miss the mark is the first step in recognizing our need of a Savior. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NASB95).

All—every one of us needs a Savior, My friend Mike says, “Some of us can jump further than others, but no one can jump the Grand Canyon.” That’s why Jesus came from heaven to earth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16–17 NIV).

What should we believe about Jesus Christ? Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to [more than 500 people]” (1 Corinthians 15:3–5 NASB95).

If Christ remained in the grave, the story would be over. However, because He lives, we live also. Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26 NASB95).

How will you answer that question? Will you believe and receive Christ and His affectionate, unselfish, and wholehearted love? “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NASB95).

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “ If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:9–11 NASB95).

Please share your response to this good news. I’d be honored to hear from you.

Our Hope and Helper

5 May

I’d never heard of dementia with Lewy bodies until my brother, Jim, received that diagnosis about 2006. Victims suffer hallucinations and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Jim died 2010. Later we were saddened when our son-in-law’s mother received the same diagnosis; she already had many other health concerns. Almost two weeks ago, our extended family celebrated her life and grieved the loss of our beloved Linda. Our prayers and tears mingled with people in Boston; West, Texas; and around the world as explosions, disease, war, and famine claimed lives. Sometimes such sadness and discouragement can be overwhelming.

That’s the way Christ’s disciples felt when He spoke of going to the Father. Jesus offered them hope as He promised His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help them (and us) live by faith.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:16–19 NASB).

The Greek word for Holy Spirit is parakletos, which may be translated Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, or Counselor. Parakletos literally means one called alongside to help. God’s love that sent Jesus to the cross and the power that raised Him from the dead is available to all believers. Christ’s death meant agonizing change, lost hope, and broken dreams—feelings most of us have experienced. Because Christ’s Spirit abides with us and in us, we don’t have to be discouraged. We can handle whatever life throws at us with strength, courage, and even joy.

We celebrated Linda’s life with laughter and song as well as tears. The pastor said, “She taught us how to live and how to die. Her husband, Lanny, taught us how to love.” The service was beautiful—bittersweet and sad, yet beautiful. What a legacy and example for their children and grandchildren.

The world also recognized multiple heroic examples that week as first responders’ courage and selflessness amazed us. Our country once again united in support of other suffering Americans. Perhaps you (like my husband and I) renewed your gratitude for life and love, conceding we’re not promised length of days. There is great good on earth, which we can appreciate and celebrate. We also need to do our part in alleviating pain and suffering through prayer, hard work, time, and money.

However, we are all just passing through this world. The Bible promises the best is yet to come. Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3 NASB).

And from the Revelation of John we have this promise.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4 NASB).

One day we will join Linda, Jim, our parents, and thousands more—all healed, whole, and singing, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” What a glorious reunion that will be.