Archive | September, 2013

Such a Little Thing

21 Sep

The little boy, so eager for independence, struggled to open his present. Finally, in desperation, he handed it to his patiently waiting dad. “Will you open this for me—please?” His father, gladly and effortlessly helped his son.

So often, I do the same thing. Anxiety overcomes me as I resolutely try to deal with a problem beyond my capabilities. At last, after all my efforts fail, I hand the matter over to God. He gently reminds me, “This is such a very little thing for Me. Why did you lose precious time in worry?” I have no good answer. Do you?

Perhaps, we lose our focus or forget God’s character. Do we forget He can add to our lifespan, calm a storm, and raise the dead? Nothing is impossible with God.

“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” (Luke 12:25–26 NASB).

I love the “very little thing” part of that verse. I learned that truth long ago, and yet I sometimes revert to handling life on my own.

Let’s consider a few examples of God’s limitless power.

Adonai, God! You made heaven and earth by your great power and outstretched arm; nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:17 CJB*).

Do you need some creativity or power? God’s available.

“I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:24–26 NLT).

Do you feel you’re somehow the exception, that God’s grace and mercy doesn’t extend to you? Think again.

Sarah in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:1-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-8) and Elizabeth in the New Testament (Luke 5:1-25) both became pregnant although they were past childbearing age. And most remarkable of all, the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38). As the angel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

What miracle do you need today?  My “Such a Little Thing” story can be found here.

All our problems are such little things to God. Yet I seem to need frequent reminders. Perhaps you need that same reminder. What problem will you allow God to tear open today? Would you share with readers how God handled such a little thing?

 

*Complete Jewish Bible

Forgiving Myself

14 Sep

“You must forgive yourself.” I’ve heard those words more than once. Maybe you have too.

I really enjoy the Patrick Bowers thrillers by Steven James. In his fifth book, The Queen, Bowers’ stepdaughter struggles with guilt. Her psychiatrist tells her, “You have to learn to forgive yourself.” Tessa threatens to break his glass coffee table, and then makes a profound statement. “Look, if I break this thing, you can forgive the debt I owe you if you want, or you can make me pay for it, but how can I forgive myself for the debt that I owe you?”

 Until I read that novel, I assumed I should/could forgive myself. However, I’ve come to understand that I have no power to cancel a debt I owe to another, nor can I pardon or excuse my wrong behavior. However, I can pursue forgiveness. I can humbly apologize, ask forgiveness, and where possible, make restitution. But there’s more.

David’s story reminds me of the heart of any offense. You remember David the teenage shepherd who slew Goliath. He grew up to be a mighty warrior king who surrendered to adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11, 12). Finally repentant and broken, David composed Psalm 51.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment” (Psalm 51:1–4 NRSV).

Although we hurt others, we sin against God. Yet we have God’s merciful promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

So why can’t we get past it? Perhaps it happened long ago, but the shame, guilt, and humiliation remains a festering wound of unworthiness. How can I forgive myself?

I find only one answer:  I can’t. I have no power to forgive myself. Instead, I need to accept the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus Christ. God forgave David, therefore, He can also forgive me and “restore to me the joy of [His] salvation (Psalm 51:12a).

“ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV). If I believe it, I will joyfully live it.

I close with wisdom from Andrée Seu, who wrote the following blogMonday, October 5th, 2009 | 7:47 AM

An Insomniac’s Psalm 103: Verse 11 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”

The Christians I admire most—and I know precious few of them—are those whom I can see are so confident of God’s undeserved love that they are not constantly revisiting their sin or crime, but they have moved on with their lives and have peace and joy. Oh, if the matter of their past comes up, they will not deny it, and will be the first to call it evil. But you will not suck them into a morbid dwelling on it.

I pray we will live courageously “confident of God’s undeserved love.”

The I’s Have It

7 Sep

Most conflict isn’t of the relationship-ending sort. It’s more often about who cooks and who washes the dishes. However, even small-unresolved conflict causes stress and wears on relationships.

I once taught peer mediation to 4th-8th graders. Even kindergarteners were able to settle disputes with the help of a mediator. I realized anyone could learn simple mediation skills. These skills pertain to parent/child, siblings, roommates, business associates, spouses, and more.

That was huge for me. As a people pleaser, I hated conflict. My heart and prayer is that we become problem solvers even without a mediator. Here are some tips.

An “I Message” can be a handy communication tool during conflict. It allows us to acknowledge our responsibility, emotions, and needs without blaming. It contains three simple parts.

I feel ______, because (when you) ______. I want (need you to) ______.

The goal isn’t to spew out pent up frustration. Instead, let’s problem solve. Give yourself time to think. “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28 NIV). The prodigal son rehearsed exactly what he would say to his father (Luke 15). Let’s plan and practice.

Suppose roommates (Cici and Didi) disagree over cleaning. If Cici says, “You make me furious because you won’t carry your load,” she’s inviting defensiveness. Instead, Cici might say, “It seems unfair that I work fulltime and still have to do most of the cleaning. I want to divide the chores evenly.” Notice Cici covered the three parts of an I Message, but didn’t use the exact words.

Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others (NLT).

Didi, in a perfect world and after practice, resists the urge to explain and summarizes, “You feel I’m not doing my fair share of chores and you want to divide them differently.” Notice it’s a paraphrase as she absorbs Cici’s meaning. (See last week’s post.) Since Didi got it, it’s her turn. “Sure, I only work part time, but I’ve got school and studying. If I do more chores, my grades will drop.”

After both feel understood, it’s time to brainstorm for solutions. Write down each proposed solution without judgment. Cici might say, “You can pay me $15 an hour to do your part of the cleaning.” Incorrectly done, Didi might say, “Are you crazy? Where do you think I’m going to come up with $15 an hour?” More helpful—she’d offer another solution. “We can divide chores according to my class schedule.”

Cross off all ideas except solutions both consider workable. Discuss possible implications and consequences for each. Select the best alternative and agree on a timed trial. Each person writes how she’ll keep her part of the agreement. It might look like this.

“We agree to meet Sunday afternoon and make a list of chores and times we’ll do them. Cici promises not to nag, remind, or complain about chores. Didi promises to complete her jobs on time. We will meet again in one week to determine our success.”

(Signed) Cici             Didi

In a week, chores or times may need tweaking. If that solution doesn’t work, choose another and try again.

“Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8–9 NET).