Thoughtful Thursday: Perspective

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latinegro.wordpress.com

Psalm 41:6-7

6 When someone comes to visit, he pretends to be friendly; he thinks of ways to defame me, and when he leaves he slanders me.

Psalm 39:1-7

39:1 I decided,  “I will watch what I say and make sure I do not sin with my tongue.  I will put a muzzle over my mouth while in the presence of an evil man.” 2 I was stone silent; I held back the urge to speak. My frustration grew; 3 my anxiety intensified. As I thought about it, I became impatient. Finally I spoke these words: 4O Lord, help me understand my mortality and the brevity of life!  Let me realize how quickly my life will pass! 5 Look, you make my days short-lived, and my life span is nothing from your perspective.  Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.  6 Surely people go through life as mere ghosts.  Surely they accumulate worthless wealth without knowing who will eventually haul it away.” 7 But now, O Lord, upon what am I relying? You are my only hope! 

Matthew 26:36-39

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

1 Peter 4:12

“Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

David was acquainted with suffering.  Even on his sick bed his enemies were plotting against him.  But David’s hope was not in the present – it was in the future.  He had dealt with people being jealous of him and attacking him.  Life’s joy was seemingly sapped from him, but He held on.  He held onto something greater.  God alone.  God granted him perspective to realize how brief life was – but not before David cried out for this understanding.

Jesus knew the agony of betrayal and what it was to have even his closest friend kiss him in the very act.  He cried out to God the Father, as well, and gained all of our souls with his suffering.  He knew the prize for obedience was far greater than momentary suffering.  Perspective makes all the difference.

Ever feel like the world is against you?  The world abounds with jokes and suggestions at comforts that can appease this pain, but the only real relief comes from being immersed in Jesus and His Word.  Searching His Word brings perspective to the sincere seeker.  Running to God in prayer grants peace that the world knows nothing about.

Instead of wanting deliverance from the enemies, David wanted understanding.  Instead of wanting deliverance from the cup He was about to drink, Jesus sought obedience as far more precious.  Only God can change our hearts and minds and give us His perspective.

When our expectations meet God’s perspective, we are undone.  Where were our expectations formed?  God’s Word clearly describes troubles we will have in this world, but our flesh desires peace and comfort.  Peter knew troubles, too, and expected them.  Knowing the purpose of life’s challenges makes our perspective of trials even clearer.

Lord, thank You for opening our eyes to see that Your purposes are far greater than our understanding.  Help us to seek Your glory in all things and to trust You, even when our perspective is a little blurry.

41:7 All who hate me whisper insults about me to one another; 19 

they plan ways to harm me.

The Higher Goal of God’s Deliverance

1 Samuel 1:10

“She was very upset as she prayed to the LORD, and she was weeping uncontrollably.”

1 Samuel 2:1-3, 9

1 Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the Lordmy horn is exalted high because of the Lord.  I loudly denounce my enemiesfor I am happy that you delivered me. 2 No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one other than you!  There is no rock like our God!  3 Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly, letting proud talk come out of your mouth!  For the Lord is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 9 He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darknessfor it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

Each day, I am amazed how God speaks to just what I need to hear.  This blog is written directly out of my devotion time, which is from a bible-in-a-year plan.  Yet in God’s sovereignty, He uses right where I am at in His Word to speak to me. What an awesome God.

Hannah’s story has always been special to me.  God sees our longings, but fulfills them in accordance with His will and timing.  Her response is so humble and surrendered to God.  In the face of a rival mocking her for her perceived inferiority because she could not bear children, she cried out to her God.

Don’t we all not measure up somehow, in someone else’s eyes?  Hannah suffered from the onslaught of minimizing, but it was not so much her concern for Penninah’s opinion.  She did not get involved with the small-minded desire to be esteemed by others or to have what others had for vanity’s sake.  No, she longed to be a mom.  The pain and shame of not being able to bear children stemmed from her innate, God-given role as a woman.  God honored this desire.

The sting of a longing unfulfilled can paralyze us if we let it.  But in this beautiful moment of Hannah’s submission to God’s will, she wipes away her tears and trusts in God.  When God granted her request, she praised Him and then gave back this cherished gift to her God.  Our tendency as humans is to want to hold onto God’s provision, but Hannah knew that Samuel, her precious son, was God’s and not hers.  Ultimately, her desire to honor God brought about more blessing for her and five more children.

More than victory over those who would demean her, Hannah had a joy in her relationship with her LORD and had gained something even more precious – character.  Humility gained from other people’s judgment is a reward, too.  It teaches us perspective and guards us from living to please man and reminds us that none of us are without fault.

Overly being concerned with man’s affronts is not righteous.  Jesus modeled this heart of humility when false accusations were hurled at Him and He is the only One in whom there was not a hint of truth in his enemy’s rants.  He was spat upon and murdered and responded by praying on behalf of those who wished Him harm.

Letting go of the idol of currying man’s favor is a beautiful place of peace and freedom.  Hannah was not trying to be glorified by man or be the best at anything.  She was not concerned with other people’s perception of her, and when Penninah’s judgment hurt, she ran to her Father – and He heard.

Man’s opinion is insignificant in the scope of eternity, but our response reveals pride and insecurities or trust and surrender to God.  Hannah chose the latter and glorified God, not herself.  We can, too.  Her “ladder” was leaned against God, not the culture.  Her greatest goal was not being right or triumphing over her enemies, but in glorifying God and being found in Him.

Lord, help us to be in the world and not of it.  May we care more about pleasing you than anything or anyone else.

I’m Not Bitter

Ruth 1:20

“But she replied to them, “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! Call me ‘Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly.  I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD has opposed me, and the Sovereign One has caused me to suffer?””

Psalm 119:75

“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

This verse from Psalms still gives me an inner joy I cannot adequately describe.  Why, in the moments following a miscarriage, would I feel the most loved by my God, as I knelt and wept, reading this verse aloud?  Like a rose, life is beautiful, but it can be filled with thorns and thistles which prick us with throbbing pain and sorrows. While no one sees trials or tribulations as a blessing at first, taking a step back might grant a more accurate understanding of what is really transpiring.

I can identify with Naomi in the verse from the book of Ruth, above.  When one tragedy follows another, it is easy to feel forgotten.  When confronted with loss, we have a choice.  Though Naomi was blessed with a faithful daughter-in-law, she chose to focus on her loss.  Though she had previously been blessed, she chose to focus on her current status.  Don’t we all do that?  We feel we deserve blessings but are angry, hurt and doubt God when those blessings are seemingly removed.

What hurt Naomi most was that she knew her God – that He knew all; He was sovereign.  Yet she accused him of poor character – of being harsh and of being the source of her suffering.  The reality is that her God was loving her through it all, through a selfless servant.  God was for her – not against her.  The pain blinded her understanding and the blessings were not in the form she wanted, so her perception and decision was that God did not care.

This God who numbers the hair on our heads and our every tear is not a God Who does not notice our suffering.  He is the one Who bore it Himself, because He could not bear to be without us.  He is the One Who cares so much for our character that He allows pain in, knowing that the beauty made in the crucible is far superior than the shallow goal of living a perfectly comfortable life.

I hurt to write these words, for so many are going through or have gone through horrific burdens and trials, and I desperately want you to know those sorrows are real, and never trivialized by God with a pat religious statement.  Truly, I will never be the same as I was before the greatest sorrow of my life, but then, the compassion birthed through the catalyst of grief is far greater.  He walked through suffering, as well.  He knows what severe trials can do to us emotionally, physically and spiritually and wants to be the One we run to in those moments.

Whatever affliction that is allowed into our lives, it can never be compared with another person’s.  The severity of hardships can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, but in the midst there is a grace supplied – do we perceive it?  It might be a blessing hidden; someone like Ruth that God brings into our lives.  She was a comfort to Naomi, though a foreigner and a Moabite, she ended up being grafted into Christ’s lineage and blessing Naomi abundantly.  Or maybe God’s provision is Himself and His Word that we have to cling to with our whole being.

When our expectations are calibrated with the biblical humility of deserving nothing before a Holy God, we then are surprised we have any blessing at all.  Even greater than a temporary happiness on earth is the all-consuming joy of knowing our Maker and knowing that we will enjoy fellowship in His presence for all eternity.  Though life can be arduous we can choose delight in God instead of opting for regrets or bitterness.  Avoiding the thorns is not the goal, but embracing the beauty within affliction is.

Oh, Lord, You notice us and are aware of every sorrow we bear.  Thank You that You are the God who sees.  Help us to find our joy completely in you and grant us faith and strength to walk in that joy when circumstances would seek to rob us of contentment in You.  Be glorified in our sorrows and blessings.

Manic Monday: But That Was Yesterday

Isaiah 43:18-19

18Don’t remember these earlier eventsdon’t recall these former events19 Look, I am about to do something newNow it begins to happen!  Do you not recognize it?  Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.”

Hebrews 13:8

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!”

You read that right – I am posting for Monday on Tuesday.  Yesterday was a whirlwind, but I praise God for it, anyway.  It has been on my heart to write about “yesterday”, so it seems fitting to post for yesterday, today.

While trying to begin a new year invigorated and putting behind us the failures of last year, it is easy to recognize that we will not achieve everything we set our sights on.  In fact, old habits die hard and living intentionally will take some effort. Or sometimes life crowds in and messes up your plans and, well, you realize you will not accomplish that day’s endeavors.  It is in those moments that we have an opportunity.  Being sidetracked does not have to wreck your day – instead it serves a purpose.  Can we be content when the day does not go as planned?  Can we see the larger purpose, or are we limited by someone else’s or our own definition of a successful day?  Being inconvenienced when other people or ourselves “drop the ball” is an opportunity to apply grace.

Perhaps life’s interruptions are meant to jar us to not become too robotic in our pursuit of our goals and can also serve to help us not lose perspective and remember what is really important.  Our days do not have to look perfect, so long as we continue to press on toward the goals we have in Christ.  Laugh a little.  Laugh a lot.  Life is unpredictable, but God is not.  One of the greatest comforts we have is in knowing that Jesus never changes, even though our circumstances can change each and every minute.  Our yesterdays are all covered and there is hope that Christ can change us in areas we are weak.

When we think about forgetting the past, we consider that often to be a distant past.  But part of the victory of living in Christ is that a mistake made or a pain suffered just 5 minutes ago can be brought and laid at our Master’s feet and forgotten. The past is remembered for the sake of improving our lives and our walk before God, but not for condemnation.  This year, give it your best and leave the rest to Jesus!

Lord, thank you that everything You use for good for those who love You.  Crazy moments are even a tool in Your perfect hands.  Help us to consistently serve You with all that You allow into our lives and glorify You in the midst.

Preparations for the New Year Begin with the Mind

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Proverbs 4:23

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

“Just Do It”, the famous Nike slogan is a manifesto to exert our will and make the necessary change to better health.  The problem is, our flesh is strong and often our wills are weak, and we fall short of our goals.  Recognizing that the source of our struggle and of our motivation is in our minds can be the key to victorious planning and living.

It is on my heart to take the days leading up to 2015 and lay a foundation for the inevitable resolutions and plans that are being formed.  How will we use our time in the coming year?  What goals will we set?  What changes do we need to make spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in our relationships?  Since we cannot control circumstances or those around us, let us begin with ourselves.

God is so merciful to give us new days, new seasons and new years.  Another year approaching is an opportunity to take inventory from the past year and take an honest assessment of what went well and what needs to change.  Of course changes are not easy to make and habits not easily undone or formed.  The insanity of it all is that year after year we can try to make some of the same changes and fall short each time.  Does that mean we should cease attempting to change?  No.  The battle lies in the mind.

Beginning with the One who was perfect in how He lived and fulfilled His plan is a great place to start.  The only truly sane mind is that of Christ’s.  Basking our minds in His word is the first step toward a godly perspective in our lives.  Our minds infused with God’s word helps us to see clearly and to rid ourselves of obstacles which impede our progress.  Christ quoted Scripture when He was tempted, demonstrating how the Word of God is our source of strength in time of need.  Perhaps we need to put God’s Word in front of us when being oppressed and lay down the mental baggage that has been plaguing us.

If only it were as simple as knowing and understanding God’s Word to be able to accomplish our plans.  Our minds become cluttered with many things.  Being aware of the distractions is a first step, but overcoming them is another.  Others around us can either help us achieve our goals or impede them.  Mental turmoil via manipulation, guilt, expectations or controlling can wield a devastating blow to being inspired to live the abundant life that God has called us to, but it does not have to.  The choice is ours.  Do we believe that?  We do not have to be held hostage by another person’s perception of us – just God’s view of us matters.

It will take a significant amount of effort to form plans and fulfill them, but as we submit them to God we find that He gives our plans back to us altered.  It is not about us, after all.  Those things I wish I could change about myself I leave in the Master’s hands and surrender to Him to make the changes.  In dependence and trust I yield to His ways and take each day, each breath, each moment as another opportunity to invest for God’s glory.  My plans might lay in ruins if they were of the flesh, but if they are for and by Him, they will last forever.

LORD, help us to seek You and the plans You have for our lives in the coming year and to walk in obedience and discipline to Your Word.  May we not grow discouraged but focus on your truth and know that ultimately, it is Your work in our lives, not us, and You will complete the work You have begun in us.  Amen.

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

For today’s assignment, write a scene at the park. Up for a twist? Write the scene from three different points of view.

 

The air was hot and still.  Persistent perspiration was stinging my eyes and fogging my glasses.  I wiped my brow and glanced around.  Young people laughing carelessly and running like deer, seemingly not a care in the world.  I remembered when I could move like that.  Even though the temperature is uncomfortable, I am grateful that I have another day to live.  My aching bones remind me that I better think twice about walking the hiking path, but I do it anyway.  Life is good.

It’s so humid and miserable today – the air condition cannot cool me off.  Why did we have to come outside on a day like this?  I am missing my favorite television show and have to suffer heat exhaustion instead.  That old man over there is crazy for walking in this heat.  I can’t wait until we go home.  I wish I were that squirrel over there, climbing up the tree into the shade.

More humans to frolic at the park today!  This means more food left behind and cleaning up after them.  I sure hope they do not leave that nasty potato salad behind again – it made my tummy hurt last time.  Maybe I will see if that girl has some food to share.  She does not seem happy, though.  Maybe she ate the potato salad, too?  I must hurry and catch the old man – he seems nice and might give some food to me.