Too Many Lemons

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” 

Bah, Humbug!

We all know disappointments are one of life’s unpleasant certainties.  There are times things just do not work out the way we hoped or planned, sometimes it WILL rain on your parade.  People disappoint us, they don’t meet our expectations, they don’t keep commitments, they leave.  We can disappoint ourselves when we fail, when we hurt someone we care about, when we give up, again…

I hate that saying about lemonade out of lemons.  There are times you simply cannot make lemonade out of a bitter disappointment so what can you do when your heart is breaking and your spirit is crushed by disappointment?

Run to God – when Jesus finally arrives after Lazarus was already entombed, Martha goes out to Him immediately, she expresses her disappointment vehemently and asks Jesus to make it right.  God knows everything that is happening and He has allowed the situation; get honest with Him, pour out your disappointment to Him, ask Him for what you want.

Rest – God performs an amazing miracle through Elijah yet Elijah runs and hides when he hears that Jezebel wants him dead.  Full of despair and disappointment, Elijah asks God to let him die.  The Lord provides food, shade and time of rest and recuperation for him.  I have a tendency to try to work around disappointments, my mind spins as I attempt to figure out some alternate plan.  I’m learning to wait on God; He never sleeps and is ever active in my life.  His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.  He has plans I know nothing about and it is much bigger than me.  I need to let His plan unfold; to stop trying to manipulate my solution and wait on His, trusting that it is for my good and His glory.

Remain – during His most desperate hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus closest disciples fell asleep as He pleaded with the Father.  You can hear the disappointment in His voice when He confronts them about their inability to stay awake even for a single hour.  Abandoned by those He trusted most, Jesus remains.  He knows what He must do, He knows He will face it alone.  Ultimately, even if we have friends and supporters to encourage us when disappointments come, we face them alone..

Resolve – Jesus looked into the eyes of His betrayer, Judas and, just hours after His arrest, He looks into Peter’s eyes as Peter denies knowing Him.  Jesus never wavered in His love for those who betrayed and denied Him.  My resolve to forgive, to lovingly confront and to continue to love those who disappoint me has to come from God.  My flesh screams for justice, for fairness and, even, to inflict hurt in return.  God wants to change the way I think so His light can shine through my tears as I become more like Jesus.

And that is ultimate end of disappointment, choosing to remain, to face it alone, to put one foot in front of the other and walk through it when my heart is breaking.   Disappointments may crush me for a time but God always gives me the resolve to see them as delays not devastation, as a change in plan, a chance to try a new plan.  Some big disappointments have turned out to be the best thing ever.  God shows me the depth of my own sinfulness when my disappointment is a result of someone else’s actions – I have to confess, I have been a Peter.  Disappointments remind me that I am totally dependent on God, He will never disappointment me I and need to stay on His path wherever and however it may lead.

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  Sometimes that is true but not all the time.  Sometimes I’m in the mood to make a chocolate shake!

 

 

 

 

Glorious Clothing

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Finding clothes I like, at the price I want to pay, that are comfortable and stylish is a challenge.  For me, shopping requires planning and preparation.  Not too long ago I went ISO pants suitable for work.  I knew it would not be easy.  I ate a hearty breakfast for energy.  I wore an outfit that would be easy to take off and put back on so I would not end up a wrinkled mess when I was done.  A pair of  flat, comfortable shoes were an important tactical decision.  I picked “pizza day” to shop so I would not need to rush home to make dinner, just make a phone call to arrange delivery.  I was focused, I was prepared, I was determined.  I hit the racks, flipping aside hanger after hanger of rejects and pulling the rare but possible contender.  Two hours later, after three rounds in the dressing room, trying on 18 pairs of different pants all labeled as the same size – victory!!  One pair fit perfectly, was the color I wanted, were on sale.  I drove home tired and happy with one pair of pants and two matching tops.  Can I get an “Amen”, sisters?!?

My search to find “just the right thing” is a pale reflection of the desire God has given us to dress appropriately.  Isaiah 61:10 describes the beautiful and perfect outfit God has chosen for me.

  • The garment of salvation – a brand new garment that fits me perfectly because it was designed by the Master Designer just for me, the perfect size, the right price – FREE.  The garment that cost me nothing cost Jesus everything.
  • The robe of righteousness – red, the same red as the blood Jesus shed on the cross.  When God sees me, He sees the red robe, He declares that I am in right standing before Him.  He sees nothing else.
  • The bridegroom’s garland – a fragrant ring of colorful flowers that encircle the neck of the happy groom.  Each flower, joined together in an unbroken circle representing the complete joining of the groom to his bride; Jesus, the groom, I, the bride.
  • The bride’s jewels – each one carefully chosen to adorn and enhance the beauty of the lovely bride; each jewel represents my treasure preserved and saved for this special day, this moment.  The bride herself is a jewel, rare, precious, highly valued.

God’s outfit is simple, it is not one size fits all or even most.  It fits me and it is glorious.  God’s outfit for you will be same but different, your garland, your jewels will be unique to you and fit you perfectly.  God dresses me and sees me in my outfit already; I will not see myself in it until I get to heaven.  On that day, my clothes shopping days will be over forever and I will not need or want any other clothing.  Hallelujah – I cannot wait!!

300 Days – Part 3

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:5 – 7

300 days ago I began attending the women’s discipleship group at my church.

We meet together once a week for worship, prayer and sharing.  All of us are reading the Bible daily and relationally.   We share some portion of what each of us has read and learned from the Bible in the past week.  We don’t discuss it, we simply share.  We each take a turn presenting what we learned about God and our “take away” from His Word.

We work on keeping God’s Word on our hearts; an important part of our meeting is memorizing a Bible verse each week and we hold each other accountable by reciting our verses to each other.  After all the women have had a turn to share their verse and insights from the Bible, we look for a “Golden Thread”.  The Golden Thread is a common theme in our reading and shares.  It is astonishing how often it’s there.  We all have the same plan – to read through the Bible and a common goal, to know the God of the Bible.  Each one of us is reading daily from a different spot in the Bible, we all have different lives, some of us have been reading the Bible for years, some of us are “newbies” yet God is knitting our hearts together as we seek Him through His Word – only God!

Here are some practical tips to help you get started on your own 300 Day Journey:

  1. The Bible – if you don’t have one, get one.  I prefer an actual book but you can find the Bible for free online.  Bible Gateway is one I recommend.  Many people struggle with reading the Bible and there are many sections that are difficult to understand.  Use a translation or version of the Bible that is readable, the NLT (New Living Translation) is a good one.
  2. Notebook – keep track of what you have read and learned each day.  Taking notes helps you see repeated words or lessons and what God is showing you.  A simple, dollar store, notebook is good enough or use your laptop or PC – whatever is easiest for you but make notes every time you read!  Don’t worry about how it looks or sounds, this is personal between you and God.  I sometimes do little drawings in mine!
  3. Pray – Before you even open the book, ask God to help you understand.  Don’t look for loopholes or contradictions, look for what you can understand and make a note of it.  If you are a first time reader, I suggest you try some of the Psalms; Psalms (the “P” is silent) are all songs/poems.  The book of Psalms is in the middle of your Bible, in the Old Testament.  The author of the Psalms writes about every human emotion in a very honest way, joy, anger, betrayal, fear, confidence, sorrow – it’s all there.  Pray while reading, remember you are talking to God as you read along and pray after reading, asking God to help you apply what He has shown you.
  4. Memorize – pick one sentence or verse from the Bible that has a special meaning to you and memorize it.  Yes, I know it is difficult and there are tons of excuses why you cannot do it but try anyway.  Read and recite the verse over and over every day, several times a day.  I memorize by writing the verses on a 3×5 card and working on them at every red light I encounter while driving.  I’m old, I can do it, so can you!
  5. Share – what you have read and learned with another person.  You might be surprised to find others are interested in reading and sharing with you and you will start your own discipleship group!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1 – 5

I have passed the 300 day mark and it has been life-changing.  Someday I will meet the Word, the Living Word, Jesus, face to face.  Until that day, I pray I would be found faithful, I pray that for you too…

300 Days – Part 2

Conversation – the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

My best friend and I have regular conversations.  She talks, I listen, then I talk and she listens, pretty typical right?  But have you ever had a “one-sided” conversation?  A “one-sided” conversation occurs when the other person does all the talking and you do all the listening, or maybe you are one doing all the talking and if you are, snap out of it!

A “one-sided” conversation is really a monologue.  How do you feel when you walk away from the monologist?  I can tell you I feel frustrated and very reluctant to repeat that experience.  Maybe you did try to make some comments but the talker apparently does not need to breathe regularly because he/she just kept on talking and talking…

Reading the Bible relationally is talking and listening to God as He speaks through His written words, it is a conversation with the King – it is that simple.

Since the Bible is God speaking to His people it is to be taken very personally.  I picture Jesus sitting in my living room, waiting to talk with me, He is the living Word.  He has much to tell me and He wants to hear what I think, what I want and need, and my concerns.  Jesus wants to have a conversation with me – wow!

How I Read Relationally

Each day, I sit with Jesus and my Bible, my notebook and my coffee.  I begin reading from the point where I ended the day before.  I read until God nudges me to stop.  I might read a single word, one or two sentences (verses) or an entire chapter, it varies.  Sometimes, I talk to God about what I just read, sometimes I listen; God and I converse with and about these verses.  I may read and pause over and over again, each time with God and His Word is different.

When I don’t understand the verses I ask Him to teach me, to help me.  Parts of the Bible are difficult, I don’t let that stop me, I just keep reading, God will help me understand what I need, I may make a note to do some research later on the difficult sections.  Some verses are warnings, “Don’t do this!”  Some verses are rebukes, “Look what you did!”  A rebuke makes me pause to confess, asking God to forgive me.  Always, always, I learn something about God, something I can thank Him and praise Him for, about His character.

As God and I talk together, I am taking notes.  I want to remember what I learn and also because, for me, taking notes helps me see connections, helps me clarify my thoughts.  I do recommend making some notes.  I always write down two specific things:

  1. What I learn about God, and
  2. How will I apply this to my life – this is my “take away” or personal application.

Often, what I write ends up in this blog or is used to encourage or teach someone else, God’s Word is never wasted.

God and I are simply talking and if you overheard our conversation you would say, “Oh, you’re praying!”  You got it.  I read and then I pray about what I just read, using many of the same words and then wait till God answers or tells me to read some more.

Here is a very quick example from Psalm 27, verse 1.  God’s Word is in italics.

  • The Lord is my light and salvation – Oh God, I am so grateful for your light that leads me and for the gift of salvation – thank you!
  • Whom shall I fear? – I am sorry I don’t always trust you, I worry about things.  Help me not to let fear stop me.
  • The Lord is the defense of my life – You, God are my true defender.  I am safe only always with you.
  • Whom shall I dread? – I don’t have to worry what people think or say about me because you love me!
  • What I learned about God.  God is light, He protects and defends me from everything and everyone!
  • What is my take away?  God does not want me to worry or be afraid and when I am I can call on Him for strength and courage.  He will be my light when I am in the dark places!  He will show up! (Your take away may be different, remember it is personal application!)

I have been reading the Bible for years yet I have barely uncovered its rich treasure.  Reading relationally is drawing me closer to God than I have ever been, it is the most peaceful and productive part of my day.  My plan is to read the entire Bible relationally and then start over, I am nearly halfway there.

How did my best friend become my best friend?  How did I get to know her?  We had many long conversations.  My goal is to know the God of the Bible and that happens as we have many long conversations.

Try reading the Bible relationally – if you have never done it, it takes a bit of practice.  Pick a favorite part of the Bible and have a conversation with God about it.  Please let me know what God shows you!

What to know more? – Part 3 coming soon!

Glad I’m unable

Now to Him who is able…Ephesians 3:20

This is the day, this is the time.  No more waiting or hesitation.  This moment will never come again, it cannot be “done over”; it is a once and done moment and in the blink of an eye, the next moment is here.  We are captured by time and there are no guarantees in this life except for the breath I am on in this moment.  What are you hesitating over?  “Don’t put it off, do it now!” Proverbs 6:4 (NLT)

God is so mighty and majestic, awesome in power, abundant in mercy.  If I were to see Him right now my eyeballs would melt right out of their sockets, like the soldiers in the Indiana Jones movie!!  My mind would expand and blow up, it could not absorb His greatness, His light.  I would die, no one can look at God and live.  But God sent Jesus.  The holy one, the promised Son, the image of the invisible God.  Jesus walked among people, they were able to look at Him, touch Him, hear the sound of His voice. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah 53:2 -3  I can see Him through Scripture and that is enough; I know someday I WILL see Him face to face and it will be glorious.  I believe He is my Lord and that God raised Him from the dead and He gives me eternal life.  Do you believe this?  If not, what is holding you back?

God alone is able.  I am completely and totally unable to be or do anything other than who and what God created me to be.  Even in that, my power, strength, stamina, ability, and knowledge is profoundly limited.  Are you self-reliant?  God is showing me I am weak in so many area’s of my life.  But He is teaching me to celebrate and not fear my weaknesses because through them God’s power and life in me is perfected and made strong.  At the same time, I can celebrate my unique personality and talents as gifts from Him, keeping me in balance.  As I listen to His voice, I decrease and He increases.  God is leading me from self-esteem to God-esteem, self-image to God-image, self-confidence to God-confidence.

I am glad I am unable, it is freedom!

Snap Out of It!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

In one my all time favorite movies, Moonstruck,  Ronnie (Nicholas Cage) has just professed his love for his future sister-in-law, Loretta (Cher).  In this classic scene she looks him in the eye, slaps him and yells, “Snap out of it!”

We all need a good dose of “Snap Out of It!” from time to time.

  • Are you having a little pity party because you didn’t get your way?  Snap Out of It!
  • Feeling grumpy today cupcake?  Snap Out of It!
  • Just not “feeling it”  at work?  Snap Out of It!
  • Don’t want to tackle that sink full of dirty dishes?  Snap Out of It!
  • Nobody noticed you got a haircut?  Snap Out of It!
  • Angry at getting caught doing something you shouldn’t?  Snap Out of It!
  • Jealous of your friend’s cute boyfriend?  Snap Out of It!
  • Complaining about grocery shopping?  Snap Out of It!
  • Disappointed with having to shop at thrift stores?  Snap Out of It?
  • In love with a person who is wrong for you?  Snap Out of It?

We put a lot of emphasis on our feelings and emotions and we can easily mistake feelings for reality.  I never “feel” like doing the laundry but I do it every week because I like having clean clothes and cannot afford to buy new ones all the time!  Life lived on feelings and not facts is a roller coaster you don’t want to ride.

There is no question life can be disappointing and frustrating.  Many things happen that we cannot control and did not cause but we can always, ALWAYS control how we respond to disappointment, frustration, betrayal and loss.  We can choose to respond honestly. focus on the lesson learned, and turn it back to praise.  Don’t bury the emotions but don’t dwell on them or let them define or identify who you are.  Find the help and support you need, remember it is not about you, ask God to correct your thinking, pull up your big girl (or boy!) pants, pray, a lot, and move on.

Sound too simple for you?

Snap Out of It!

Silver Screen

…the good old days…

Is there a period in my life I would consider “the good old days”?

The short answer? No.

My early childhood years were carefree and fun.  As I look back, I realize our family had very little in terms of money and stuff but I had everything because I had a family that loved me and made me feel safe and valued.  I recognize not everyone receives such a rare and special gift.  But kids have no control over their own lives and I always wanted to do my own thing!

The teen years, lots of awkward nerdiness – don’t wanna go back there, don’t hardly even want to think about it!

Twenties and thirties – a time for spreading my wings and making my own decisions, some of them very wrong.  There were lots of changes, and some major life bumps, marriage, divorce, learning how to live a single life, then re-marrying and starting a family.  I was overwhelmed with joy to have a baby, then two years later another baby and three years later a third baby!  Early years with kids were unbelievably busy with little sleep but much joy and happiness.  I became a Christ-follower at 39.

Forty – that number felt like hitting a wall, a big number, the realization that my life, statistically, was more than half over!  These years were good as kids grew and my world got bigger, God sent friends, allowed some challenges and different opportunities for learning and growth.

Fifties, sailed by, full of work, really enjoying the years of raising teens and young adults, celebrating my kids steps to independence. Working full-time brings increased income and freedom to travel and enjoy more of what life has to offer.

Sixties, another big number!  I am in the final years of my life. Although I do not know when God will call me home my body reminds me that it’s all downhill from here.  But so what – I’m just getting closer to heaven!

I am blessed with good health, I get to live in a beautiful part of the world, the beach is 15 minutes away and the sun is shining most days.  I have the love of family and friends, I eat every day, I have a home to live in where I feel comfortable and safe.  Compared to most of our world I have it all and I am humbled by this and grateful beyond words!

As I look back over the decades of my life it has just kept getting better and better.  Not because of stuff but because God has been so very gracious to me.  I feel more secure about who I am, my talents and abilities, more confident with each passing year.  I care less what others may think and realize more and more the value and importance of the people God brings into my life.  Stuff, achievement, acquisition, position, recognition, power – all of these are less important to me daily.  I realize I brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out with me; that I need to invest my time, energy and talent into doing what I love with the people I love.  My desire is to leave a vast legacy of happy memories, to ease the burdens of as many as I can in some way and to share the joy and wisdom God has given me with others.

Is there a time in my life I consider the “good old days”, that I would like to return to?  Nah!  Right now is just right!