Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing on in Thanksgiving

     I LOVE this time of year! It is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the chill in the air and the smell of cinnamon, baked goods and coffee. I so enjoy fellowship with my family and others. This time of year gives me a chance to spend time with people and to show them the love I have for them through fellowship. I enjoy having a day that is dedicated to Thanksgiving! God has been teaching me so much about having an attitude of thanksgiving over the last year. 
    This time last year I was very ill and had Home Health Nurses coming to my house daily as we got ready for Randy to leave on deployment.  I was so frustrated and could not reconcile how this illness was "....a light and momentary affliction,"  and I certainly could not see how it was going to be used to God's glory!  I was struggling so much internally with the whole situation.  I was teaching the book of Hebrews during this time and God was speaking loudly to me through it.  We were to look at II Corinthians 4 and look at the "treasure we have in earthen vessels."  I read that and then I read he whole chapter.  I read that we are "...afflicted in EVERY WAY but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed..." because our power is from God.  Then I got to a verse I do not remember ever reading before, II Corinthians 4:15 "For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God."  I realized that my illness was for my sake and the sake of those around me, as they showed me grace and cared for me I was to be thankful and this is how God would be glorified in the situation.  God receives glory when we have our attitude right.  Whether that attitude is one of showing grace to those afflicted or as one afflicted being thankful God receives the glory. 
    If you read on in that chapter it talks about how these things "...that are for your sakes..." are "...light and momentary afflictions."  They are producing a weight of glory.  The word for weight and the word for glory in Hebrew were the same root and it is believed that this influenced Paul to chose these specific words in Greek that make up this phrase according to the Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the New Testament.  The use of these words together implies a prolonged process or a working out.  Our afflictions accomplish a purpose that glorifies God whether by a change in us or a change in others and that process takes time.  In our microwave generation we want to see the reason now, we want the why's answered and to know the purpose.  God does not always share that with us; we may even have to wait until eternity to discover the reason. 
   The other dilemma many have with being thankful in their circumstance is that they don't appreciate the idea that what they are experiencing is for others.  We are a selfish people and we want to know why things are happening to us.  If God told us that what was happening was for the benefit of our Christian brother or sister many of us would become angry and bitter.  If God told us it was strictly for our benefit than we would could become victims who feel helpless.   C.S. Lewis wrote an essay called The Weight of Glory.  He states
"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.  The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken...All day long we are in some degree, helping each other toward a state of worship or corruption..." 
     I love this reminder that we are not here for ourselves.  We do have a responsibility to others and God in how we behave and most importantly in our attitude.  There are so many people I could thank for helping me move closer to a state of worship.  This Thanksgiving season I give thanks for those families whose table we have sat at or who have sat at our table and encouraged us to thank God for the blessings He has given.  I am holding fast and pressing on because of the help of those who spur me toward worship and thanksgiving.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving,
Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing on as a Romantic

I am currently taking a Ladies Bible Study Lecture Series by Beth Moore.  This week she talked about how God is a Romantic.  We are studying Revelation 19 where God prepared the bride in fine linen and perfection and the Groom has anticipated her arrival they enjoy the beautiful marriage supper then Christ mounts his white horse and gathers the Bride and they ride to avenge the earth. It is a beautiful picture.  While she was teaching she asked the question, "Are any of you Romantics?"  I lowered my head and thought, "Unfortunately, yes."  She went on to contrast the Romantic with the Cynic.

As I have pondered the lesson and expanded more in my mind on what a Romantic is, I will tell you that I have suffered much at the hands of being a Romantic and I thought how much easier life would be as a Cynic.  Let me just share with you what I mean.  What makes me a Romantic you may ask.  I see other people through the lens of their ultimate potential.  I see who they can be and hope that is contained in them.  I look at my relationships and believe the best of the people around me.  I do not default to how some one could harm me or betray me.  It never occurs to me to think that way about them.  If I become concerned about my relationship with someone I assume it is me.  I default to reviewing in my head, "Did I say something wrong?, Am I misjudging them?, Do I have an unrealistic expectation?"  I believe in happy endings and that everyone can chose to look at life positively and even difficult things will be made easier.  I want everyone to get along and respect one another. I am in love with my husband because I look at him through eyes of love and self-sacrifice not what he owes me.  I am not saying I believe that things are all rosy and wonderful but I do see the potential for good.

I have been called idealistic, Pollyanna, naive, unrealistic, innocent, not very smart and way too trusting.   I have been ridiculed for my outlook on life, betrayed without seeing it coming, hurt by unkindness, and shocked and baffeled by those around me.  I care deeply, I want what is best  for others and yet it does not always work out well to live life that way.   I began to ponder what it means to be a Cynic and whether that would be a better way of life for me.  A cynic may be smarter but they do not trust. They are protected but are suspicious and believe the worst of others.  A cynic is not disappointed because they believe everything is going to fall apart anyway so why hope. A cynic gets ahead in life because they believe they must look out for number one.  A cynic does not allow people close because they only see here and now and do not believe in potential.  The world if full of Cynics. 

I tried to live as a Cynic after one particularly shocking hurt but I was miserable.  I suffered from anger and depression.  Thinking the world is a miserable place and the people in it not worth my time was not a beneficial way for me to live.  I will continue to live as a Romantic.  I believe that is what God wants for us.  He wants us to see our potential in the way those around us view us and that is why we are to fellowship with one another.  We are to speak the truth in love and allow that love to cover a multitude of sin.  Christ did it for us and life is much more fulfilling for me when I live it with love and forgiveness.  I can view things realistically without being cynical. I am willing to risk hurt and betrayal and pain and disappointment because my love for another may the thing that helps them hold on to their faith and helps them to press on to maturity.   My prayer is that God strengthens me as I Hold Fast and Press On to live as a Romantic. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing On Through Pain

It has been a few weeks since I have posted.  There has been much going on here in our family.  My focus has been on my pain and trying to alleviate it or endure it.  I have a chronic knee issue.  I injured it in August of 2009 and it has taken a while to isolate the problem and then deal with the surrounding issues.  As I was making progress we moved and I am starting the process all over again which carries a great degree of frustration.  My knee prevents me from doing what I want to do and what I feel I need to do.  Many times I feel like a burden and like it would be easier on my family in particular if they did not have me to care for and wait for. I will say that is in my head because my family is wonderful and my husband reminds me daily how God will use this in my life and the life of my children. 

I have been evaluating my attitude about my pain in relationship to God's Word.   In II Corinthians 4:15 it say that these things are for my sake and that it is for the abounding of grace toward me by others for my thanksgiving so God will get the glory.  That is my paraphrase.  Not long after that verse it tells us these are light and momentary afflictions in the eternal spectrum.  I have to remember God is a God who wastes nothing.  He uses every experience in His child's life for their growth, the growth of others and for His glory.  My responsibility is to Hold Fast and Press On.  That means it is my job to be as pleasant as possible even when I don't sleep because of the pain, to not get depressed and mope because I can't do all the things I want, to be humble and ride a cart at the amusement park so I don't slow down the family and do more damage to my knee, to continue to exercise and eat right, and to continue to fight with the medical care system to get what I need.  This is how I press on and how God will get the glory.  These things do not come naturally to me they are supported by the Holy Spirit in me. 

In the past when things have become physically painful or overwhelming I quit.  That is not an option in my life any longer.  God put me here for a purpose and I need to cooperate with Him as much as I can to allow Him to complete that process in me and through me.  I tend to worship at the alter of comfort and ease.  I don't want to hurt, or do the hard things many times and yet that is sin.  Doing what we need to do even when we don't feel like it is a "workout" for our character.  God wants men and women of character and determination.  I want to be one of those so I will continue to Hold Fast to Him and Press On toward the maturity this pain will bring in my life. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing On in Isolation

I talked about embracing the unfamiliar and making it familiar last week and this week I am looking at the isolation I am currently experiencing.  It is not an isolation like solitary confinement but an isolation from community.  A community is a group of people who have intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs and other conditions in common.  A sense of community is feeling that one is contributing in some way to the benefit of the whole group by their actions or influence.  I must say currently I am without a sense of community.  I do not have a sense of belonging. 

When in Maine I had many communities where I belonged.  I was in the church community at Cornerstone; I was in the homeschool community with many like minded families; I was in the military community where we were experiencing common things; I was in community of women who were my friends and we had much in common.  Here I am very disconnected from the homeschool community, I have not been accepted into the church community yet and the military community here is very different than what I am used to.  Much has  changed in my life and in how I relate to people.  When we moved before I had little children and it was easy to make them the "common bond" that brought others together with a sense of community.  As I have gotten older and as my children have gotten older that is more difficult.  We are more set in our ways and in how we identify ourselves and it seems more difficult to find a common ground.  I am not saying we can't fellowship, I have met some wonderful people here with whom I fellowship but I still do not feel that sense of belonging. 

This is a real challenge for me since I am a social, extrovert who thrives on relationship and is motivated by those around me.  I am here and am having to do the things I know help me and are right for me without anyone to motivate me.  In the past I have relied on others to push me and make be better.  That is not wrong until one gets to the point where they refuse to move forward with out others who are headed in the same direction.  That desire for others to help motivate can become a heart idol when it becomes a requirement for doing hard things and moving forward. 

I am currently doing Beth Moore's Revelation study and she points out that John is on the Isle of Patmos without a Christian community and yet he is found "in the Spirit on the Day of the Lord."  He has no church to lead, no position to hold, no people counting on his example, no one to minister to and yet we find him doing what he needed to be doing.  He is keeping his heart and mind fixed on the Lord.  Scholars believe he was discouraged because he was the only disciple who had not given his life for the cause of Christ.  He was an exile sitting on an island waiting to die. He was one of the most relational disciples which is shown by his participation with Christ and his loyalty at the cross.  In the books John wrote in the Bible he talks much of relationship, it was very important to him .   He could have given in to the despair created by loneliness but instead he leaned on the Lord and stayed in the Spirit.

I looked at many of those whose lives are recorded in the Bible to see who else experienced this isolation from community.  Abraham left his community to go seek God.  Moses was forced by his choices to find sanctuary in a place where he had no community for 40 years and even when he delivered the people they never really embraced him as one of their own.    David spent much time running and feeling very alone as we see in the Psalms.  Many of the prophets describe times of isolation.  Esther lived in the palace and was void of any community who understood her beliefs and way of life.  Ruth felt isolated after coming from Moab to Israel.  Paul was alone for 3 years as he learned from Christ.  In looking at these people I see God uses isolation to refine us and prepare us for something he has planned for us. 

I am not succeeding all the time in doing what I need to do but I do see God has a purpose even though right now I do not know the purpose God has for me.  I am confident as I look at the evidence of those he has used that he too has a plan for me.  I must press on in my pursuit of God as I hold fast to the knowledge that God has a purpose. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing On in the Unfamiliar

I am currently in Colorado getting our daughter.  She stayed in Colorado when we moved to help out family here.  It is good to be someplace familiar.   I have been pondering the past 8 weeks of being in a new place.  It is a place that is unfamiliar.  The scenery is unfamiliar, the people are unfamiliar, the church is unfamiliar, the base is unfamiliar, and I can't even go the Commissary and walk right to what I need because it is unfamiliar.  Now I am not saying the unfamiliar is bad it is just...well, unfamiliar.  We as humans like our rut for the most part.  We want things to "feel normal" in at least one area of our life.  Since so much is unfamiliar I want to find a way to make it familiar.

How do we make the unfamiliar familiar?  We pay attention, we make sure that we give attention to the unfamiliar to make it become familiar.  Fear will stop the process of becoming familiar with something.  We need to be discriminating in what we chose to become familiar with but choosing to look at everything that is unfamiliar as scary or wrong or not worth it because, "I don't know it," robs us of a great amount of joy.

 As I pay attention to the scenery where I live now I see the beauty of God creation which is familiar.  I am now familiar with the covey of quail that forage in my back yard, the rabbits that come to my front lawn in the evening to be cool, the sunsets on the mountains, the doves that nest in the trees.  These are now familiar.

I have purposed to give attention to the new church we are attending.  I am looking at how they do things without comparison to my former church.  I am attending Bible Study and Financial Peace University at church and Caleb and I went to Wednesday night dinner to become familiar with the church and its people.  It is scary to not know anyone, to walk into Bible Study where there are over 85 ladies in attendance when I am accustomed to about 20.  I can be critical about what I am not "used" to or I can embrace the experience and chose to be joyful about the adventure.

I see so many people who become anxious, frustrated and bitter when they are forced to encounter the unfamiliar.  I look at the Patriarchs, the prophets and the disciples and how God constantly had them in the unfamiliar and they were successful when they embarced  to make it familiar.  God does not want us to live where everything looks the same, is the same, feels the same because when we do we do not grow.  God wants us to become like His Son which I know for me is unfamiliar.  Every time I chose to do something new like go to a new study, meet a new person, go to a new doctor, take a different route or change my routine I am learning to become familiar with the unfamiliar and when I do that I can chose to be more content and more joyful even in this world of the unfamiliar. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing On in California

     It has been many months since the last time I was able to post.  The only way I can describe the last few months is a roller coaster ride.  There have been many ups and many downs,  many turns in the track that were unexpected and even those that were expected were much sharper than anticipated.  Have you ever experienced that feeling of being completely at a loss and confused on which way is up when you get off the ride at the amusement park.  That feeling is what I have here in California; now that the anticipation, ups, downs and turns have stopped I am standing here looking around not sure which direction to go or what "ride" to get on next.
    I am excited and apprehensive at the same time.  I know that is how my kids are when we visit a new amusement park.  They are excited to be there and yet a bit apprehensive about the rides and debate whether they want to get on this one or that one.    They then make a decision, jump in and have a great time.  I am having to work really hard to make those decisions and jump in! 
     In my apprehension and at times confusion the thing that keeps running through my mind is, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever." Heb 13:8.  I first memorized that scripture when I was in Kindergarten.  It was the verse that went with the letter J in my first BMA (Bible Memorization Association) book.  It is simple and yet has an even deeper meaning for me today. Christ is the same here in California as He was 6 months ago in Maine and he will be the same in 4 years where ever we happen to be.
    As I look around at my surroundings here in California it is so much different than Maine.  The contrast is so big!  I think about God who spoke both of these places into being and how varied His imagination was.  I have seen so many facets of God's character in my life; and as I look at the desert with the cactus and Joshua Trees and bare mountains in a place with lots of heat I wonder what new attributes of Himself He wants me to experience.
   So although I am a bit disoriented and uncomfortable I am going to press on toward that feeling of excitement that God is going to show me great things.

Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Driving into Ridgecrest, CA
Joshua Tree   

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holding Fast and Pressing On in Relationships

     I love people!  Most of the time.....  I have to say though there are times when people drive me crazy.  It seems as though the people I care about the most drive me the craziest.  When this happens I must take a look at me and not them.  We all have many relationships in our lives.  We have friends, spouses, children, parents, siblings, work associates, fellow believers and so many more.  When we look at those relationships we must look at our responsibility and not at what we want from those we are in relationships with.  Recently God had confronted me with a number of situations where I have had to discover what I believed, hold fast to it and press on in my relationships. 
     I am a natural giver.  I love to care for others and see others become successful. I am the queen of the win/win situation. I have been accused of being a "Pollyanna" when it comes to my relationships.  I believe the best about those I love sometimes resulting in pain because I am not always wise in how I deal with people.  I have had to look at that attitude lately and see if there is a flaw in the way I think.  I have reached the conclusion that I would rather view people from a perspective of believing the positive than view others from a place of suspicion.  Ultimately I want others to believe the best about me, so I should believe the best of others.
     To evaluate what I believe about people I must look to Christ. Christ always saw others potential.  He saw them as God intended them to be and encouraged them to press on to become more like Himself.  God's intent for each one of us is to be more like Christ.  He loves us because He chose to love us not because we do anything for Him.  Our devotion and obedience demonstrate our love for God but do not earn us God's love.  We are loved just because we are.  We only experience the fullness of that love when we choose to submit our lives to God and trust Christ as Savior.  
     When Christ was in the upper room before he went to the cross he knew Judas would betray him and yet He washed his feet just as He washed the others feet (John 13:1-20).  He knew Peter would deny Him and that John would be the only one to remain at the foot of the cross and yet He treated them all with the utmost love and was an example of  how we are to love others. His love for them was not based on their worthiness, Christ's love for them was His choice and responsibility.  This is what I believe I am to hold fast to.  I must hold fast to the conviction that Christ loves me because I am His and not because of anything I do.  I must also hold fast to the truth that Christ wants me to love others in the same way He loves them.
    There were many times when Christ showed his love by being encouraging, by healing, and by reaching out His hand but there were times that He showed His love by rebuke and correction.  I am to love others by lovingly bringing truth to their life whether it is in the form of encouragement or rebuke.  I only love myself when I don't confront others in love.  I only love myself when I don't risk by choosing to communicate in any situation.  I only love myself when I worry more about how the other person is going to react than whether I am being obedient to communicate.  I do not know what God's plan is when He lays someone on my heart to communicate with; but it is my responsibility to obey.  
    Just this week I was confronted with a situation where God laid someone on my heart and I fought with God over communicating with this person because I had the expectation that they should communicate with me or at least let me know that they wanted to be communicated with.  As I was wrestling with this I received an email that shared a new book a friend thought I might be interested in called the 100/0 Principle by Al Ritter.  The excerpt that was sent to me talked about how to have fulfilling relationships and that we must take 100 percent of the responsibility for the relationship without expecting anything in return.  I had to go before God and confess I want so much for people to like me, to approve of me and to appreciate me. Wanting these things is not wrong but I am not to avoid those who do not give them to me.  I am to take responsibility for the relationships in my life and treat others with the love Christ requires without worrying about how they will receive it.  That is up to them and God.  I can't control it.  I must press on toward maturity in how I love others.  
     I am now working to hold fast to the truth that Christ loves me because he chose to and not based on what I do.  I am holding fast to the truth that my obedience does not change Christ's love for me but it does bring me peace when I do what is right.  I am holding fast to the truth that I am to love others as Christ did.  I am pressing on in my positive perspective of others. I am pressing on in my love for others by communicating even when I don't know the outcome.  I am pressing on by taking responsibility for the relationships in my life and expecting nothing in return. 
     Bottom line....there is less craziness in my love for others when I know the truth of God and Hold Fast to it as I Press On in my pursuit of the relationships God has put in my life.  And indeed I do still love people by my own choice even when they make me crazy because in the end there is great reward!

Holding Fast and Pressing On,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Hold Fast and Press On

     Life is difficult at times.  Many of us can share times when things have been difficult.  Not always does difficutly come as something negative, sometimes it is disguised in something positive.  Examples of difficulties not looked on as positive are deployments, illnesses or death.  Illness and death are inconvenient, rarely planned and many times just plain hard.  A positive difficulty is a teen getting a driver's license or preparing to graduate.  All of these circumstances have happened in my life within the last 6 months.  The only thing that gives me the ability to continue and to do it well is my faith in Christ and what He has done and is still doing in my life.
     God in His wonderful wisdom has guided and directed me to be teaching through the book of Hebrews this year Precept upon Precept.  The verses that I am referencing as I share my perspective on how God is working in my life are Hebrews 4:14 and Hebrews 6:1.  
Hebrews 4:14 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."
Hebrews 6:1 "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God."

        "Hold fast" in the Greek is "to have power over or become master of."  In this context we are to become dominant, become masters of our confession.  "Let us attain to the full benefit of," the full benefit of what?  We are to attain (grab hold or become master of) the full benefit of our confession that Jesus is the Messiah and He is now the ruler of our lives and all that implies.  This is contrasted with drifting away in Hebrews 2:1.  Drifting away implies the lack of mastery, one who is allowing the current to cause them to "go with the flow."  We can drift away in many ways, through allowing emotions to dictate instead of God's Word, following others instead of cultivating our own relationship with God, getting caught up in the "good" things we are doing, or just being complacent.  How ever we "drift away" we are responsible for our own drifting.  It is not the fault of the current we have not grabbed the rudder and taken hold and become master of our direction.  This is the holding fast, the taking of responsibility, the becoming convinced.
      When things are difficult is when we just want to survive and we tend to drift because it takes so much energy to become the master of our lives.  To be the master of our lives and hold fast to that confession, we need God's help.  Our lives were given to us by God and redeemed through His Son Jesus, our lives are not our own and we are to accurately represent  our God to others by taking the control that is ours. This is how we glorify our God.  We can only know what control we have and how to wield that control when know what God would want us to do.  We find that out through studying His Word and knowing Him.
      Once we have gained control and have the rudder firmly in hand we are to "press on."  What are we to press on toward?  Maturity in Christ is our goal.  We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, that happens as we pursue, endure and press on toward maturity.  We are to strive to deal with situations the way Christ would deal with them to the best of our knowledge (with guidance from the Holy Spirit). There is no formula or to do list that shows us how we need to be confomred to Chirst's image.  It is an individual journey. 
     As I write this blog, as often as I feel God has given me something to say, I am going to share how I Hold Fast and Press On in the areas of life and situations God is working on in me.  God gives me the strength to "hold fast and press on" as well as providing the circumstances where I can excercise what that looks like.  I will fail at times but that is how I learn.  I have been told a number of times I should write what I usually say one on one or in Bible Study and share it with more people, it has been over a year since I was first confronted with this idea and after much prayer here I am.  My purpose in writing is to encourage others and comfort them.  I am not here to debate but would love feed back and I will try to answer questions if you have any.  I can only testify to what God is doing in my life and I trust Him completely with it.  

Desiring to Hold Fast and Press On,

The New Inductive Study Bible, New American Standard Version. Harvest House Publishers. Eugene, OR. 1960.
Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament.  AMG Publishing, Chattanooga, TN. 1992.