For this reason…

I wrote this awhile ago but never published it. . . Be blessed!

 

Paul was in prison while writing this letter to Ephesus, but he took the circumstances of his life in stride; the hardship that came along with a Roman dungeon; the lack of freedom and the basic comforts of life because these were not his focus. Christ in him was his hope and he fully placed his unwavering trust in the person who had so completely transformed him. It was because Paul recognized his weaknesses, his sin, his shortcoming and failures that he understood the grace he so personally speaks of in this passage.

The key to understanding and living in the grace of God, given to each believer is the ability to accept it. In order to accept it, one must understand the depth of their own sin and what it cost to reconcile their damaged relationship with God. My son is working with a personal trainer and recently I asked him why this experience has really changed how he views his health.  His response was that it was expensive and because he had invested in the process, he could not afford not to pay attention. This was not the answer I expected to receive from him. But the same is true for living in this grace place Paul speaks from, this place of surrender. He knew who he was and from what he was redeemed and understood what it cost of the one who paid the price for him.

This changed his focus, it was the driving force of the ministry to which he was called, it affected all his relationships and colored all his conversations. Grace received cannot be held. Grace received must be given.  In order to receive grace, full surrender must change ones focus and circumstances become the vehicle from which grace can be given.

Lord,shut out the world as I live in it

hearing only it’s muffled tones, 

Listening only for your mercy

Focused in on you alone.

Drown the call of all it’s pleasure,

cover it with just your voice,

Calling me in boundless measure;

Calling me to make the choice.

 

Choices that were made at Calvary

When you chose to rescue me.

Let me see in unmarred measure

All that you have done for me.

 

Move me past this earthen vessel

Move me past this earth’s strong pull.

Help me Lord, your grace sufficient.

Help me live for you alone.

Being still in spite of the noise . . .

I was reading day nine of the devotional by Connection http://blog.goconnections.org/faith/stay-fit-spiritually-a-30-day-devotion-from-north-point-ministimageries/   about household gods. The writer’s God was peace and quiet, which in his home was a luxury.

As I write, I sit in the middle of about 700 acres of nursery stock in various stages of production. It is harvest season, the season for which nursery folk, plan, grow and frankly live and die by. It’s a noisy season so what is typically a quiet hill with an amazing view, changes. In the background right now, is a low, constant drone of the chopper (it reduces the height of the trees making digging and grading easier for orchard stock). This noise has been constant for about 5 days straight. It’s similar to the buzzing of a fly on steroids. (imagine an elephant fly). After 5 days, I have become sensitive to it, angered by it, developed a headache and complained about it to no one that matters. Thing is, I know it is a necessary part of harvesting orchard trees. I imagine that guy driving the digger with the chopper on back and what he is feeling and hearing . . . much worse than my exposure, still, the sound has become tedious. Until yesterday when the chopper didn’t run and the digger was not in the field below my house. It was quiet again. Even as I write the words, the tension in my shoulders is gone. I noticed it’s absence early in the morning and enjoyed the quiet of my office but after a bit I had forgotten how wonderful the quiet is and moved on as normal. Today, the chopper is back at work. The drone buzzing of the elephant has returned and my serenity is threatened. My location has not changed, my view is still the same, it is only the quiet that has changed.

Psalms 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.

I quote it often, I have artwork with it proudly displayed as a reminder, it is engraved on the back of my first IPad. But listen to the verses that proceed it . . .

Vs.8 & 9: Come behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

Does that sound quiet to you? But then verse 10 says, be still not be quiet, be still and know that I am God. In the midst of this chaos and in spite of it, stop, silence yourself and be aware that God is on his throne and fully in control. Be Still!

What’s the drone buzzing in your ear? What the noise in your life today? I think of my family as they are in the midst of the noise of death and dying, yet God encourages them to Be Still in spite of the noise and Know without a doubt God is enthroned and in control of this noise. He is the same yesterday today and forever. Be Still and Know that HE IS GOD.

Immeasurable Greatness

I was reading this morning in Ephesians 6:10-20 where it says in verse 10

“Finimageally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

I was struck by the words ‘strength of his might’ and that lead me to Ephesians 1:19 that says this . . .and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe . . .

The proof or example he gives to underscore this immeasurable greatness and strength of his might is the power that resurrected Christ from the dead and seated him in heavenly places.

In my world of coaching and psychology measuring is a big deal. In coaching we observe and measure patterns then define measured steps to change behaviors. Psychology, as in other sciences, empirical data is accumulated, evaluated, measured to disprove theories. Yet in God’s economy the strength of his power toward those who believe, who trust him is immeasurable. Think about that . . . it cannot be measured. Scripture tries to help us put guardrails on that concept by offering the example of resurrection power and our minds struggle to even grasp that concept. So this available power is greater than or at least equal to the resurrection power that sustained and empowered Christ through the resurrection process to his current position, at the right hand of God the Father. We often hear that we only use a portion of our brain’s capacity. A far greater example of power under utilized or even  disbelieved is the availability to us of the immeasurable greatness of his power toward
us as believers. Whom then shall I fear? Of what shall I be afraid?

Be encouraged today by his great love and immeasurable greatness and power available in the midst of whatever you are facing.

 

Why is Doing Hard Things Hard?

This may seem like a silly question and could be answered with ‘duh, because they are hard’ (visualize a smirk) but not all things that are hard for me are really ‘hard’. They could better be described as unpleasant or boring maybe even gross. (I’m thinking about parts of my house right now). I’m sure you could come up with a few yourself that are really not difficult just not high on your list of  favored ways to spend time. Maybe it’s going to church when you’d rather watch a movie or sleep in, or maybe its weeding the garden when planting is much more fun. Perhaps it’s redecorating rather than just rearranging and cleaning; eating out rather than cooking a healthy meal. Why do we resist doing hard things particularly when we know they need to be done?

I have a couple of projects on my desk that are not hard or even unpleasant but they still remain incomplete. I often tell myself I work better with a deadline but reality is I might, but my family and other responsibilities suffer in the process.

Then there are hard things that I want to do like running a 10K, or saving to build a house or developing a healthy lifestyle surrounding food. Things for which I have sufficient information and know what to do I just don’t do them. Some of these choices threaten my life and health and yet . . . Inertia.

Three categories come to mind as I look back over this list:

  • Narcissism (Pride)-  Things I should do
  • Fear – Things I would do
  • Disbelief-Things I could do

They all have something in common, a held belief or opinion about myself for which scripture has something to say (we’ll explore that later).  All could be interchangeable, but at the core of each one is a place of conflict and tension. My friend Jon Byron of Press Pause Ministries always tells me to pay attention to those places of tension, looking for God at work. The category that rises to the top because of this tension is fear. Jon would say, don’t run from that, explore what God might be teaching you. To that end . . . Fear of what? Failing again? Success? Letting go of an excuse that has worked well for so long? Who  would I be without that excuse?
How would I define myself if I moved beyond my fears? EF651074-775E-460C-83A9-EA02D76647C7 (1)

Yesterday, Pastor Matt Whiteford, CrossPoint Community Church , provided some clarity surrounding fear. Fear comes from concerns and anxiety, evidenced in the question above and they are ‘me’ focused. Convictions on the other hand come from a belief system, are less reactive, but respond  to a calling that is greater than myself.

For now, as we begin this journey, I’d ask you this question . . .What is keeping you from Doing Hard Things?  I hope you’ll come back journey with me. It may be ugly and raw. The path may jump and dart around corners but at the end of 2016, frankly at the end of today and every day, I want to be able to say, I did hard things to the glory of God.

 

 

Do Hard Things . . .

For this next year my goals have become clearer with regard to my professional life. As a friend of mine said, after I enlisted her prayers, “it sounds like you have clarity.”  2015 has been a very eventful year. I completed my Bachelors degree in psychology and began a graduate program. We have two new grandchildren, Brayden and Azalea and are expecting a new one in fall of 2016. We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with a dream trip to Maui. Finally and perhaps of most significance, we purchased a piece of ground to build our retirement home. God has been so very good to us and truly we are blessed.

2016 enters with some  leftover issues from 2015. Specifically, finishing and doing hard things.  Hard things like sticking with health habits or developing the discipline of writing regularly. Relationships have also been caught up in this character flaw, things like writing cards of encouragement or following through on commitments. My home has suffered as well and there are some areas of discipline that need to be added to my hard things list. I could beat myself up fairly well in this area but I want to share my epiphany or what the Holy Spirit is teaching me.

In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul admonished and encourages with these words.

 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience . . . forgiving each other.. . And above all these put on love… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . be thankful . . and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God . . .

Two things that will help me Do Hard Things . . .

  1. Allow the peace of Christ to rule or be the arbitrator of my heart. It is a choice to surrender to a certain God the places of uncertainty.
  2. Be thankful – Recovery teaches me that hardship is the pathway to peace.rope_bridge

All the issues that are leftovers from 2015 are hard things I did not practice the two things above. Will you join me in Doing Hard Things?

2016, by God’s grace, will have Ebenezers of  grace
to celebrate!

The Right to Become . . .

John 1:12-13 But to all IMG_0225who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

  I am sitting in a hotel room, having evacuated our home for California agriculture fumigation laws, but because our life right now is very stressful, I am grateful for the break in our routine. Daily I am reminded that God is at work often where I cannot see and in spite of my actions or attitudes.  Away from ‘normal’ we have laughed, mostly at ourselves and confirmed new limitations for our age. All in all it has been good emotionally, spiritually and relationally for both of us. Coupled with the completion of a Health Psychology class, this break has given me time to reevaluate my lifestyle and some maladaptive behaviors. Change is hard but it is a necessary process, most often a slow one, for becoming anything different.

In John 1:12-13 the words ‘the right to become’ stuck out today.  This passage speaks both of position and process. When an individual receives and believes in the light, Jesus Christ, they are given the right to become children of God.  A process. .. to become. There is a starting point, receiving and believing leading to salvation, adoption, the entry into the positional kingdom of God as a child. Then the process of becoming, growing into that position and relationship, like a child adopted into a new home, gaining familiarity, growing in a new trusting relationship. I often struggle with feeling like I am enough, yet this scripture encourages me in my inheritance and heritage. I am enough by virtue of being a child of God, born of God, born into His full acceptance. In that relationship I can grow and become all that God wants me to be. He gives grace and mercy in that growing process and like a child learning to walk with his parent close by, He is close enough to catch and protect  when I fall, as I  certainly will. Perfection is not the goal this side of heaven. The process of becoming, the journey of growth with God the Father through Jesus Christ is the goal this side of heaven, filled with grace, truth, love and mercy.  What an awesome, gentle, loving God!

The Paradigm Shift Continues . . .Body Life

. . . Body Life at Work

I am member of the body of Christ and with that membership comes gifts to be exercised within the body . . . what I like to call body life. In my brain, the use of those gifts has been confined to the context of the Church (capital ‘C’) and I mean bricks and mortar, as well as the church (lower case ‘c’) represented by small groups, areas of service or the community in which I worship. I think this view is shared by many even if by verbal acquiescence they state otherwise. Almost every pulpit under whose shadow I sat has used the ideas surrounding body life in terms of use within the Church / church often to encourage service. Certainly there is truth and application there. Christ certainly died for the Church. But if (since) my Christian life is to be missional (sent out daily) as we address and interact with others, how do our spiritual gifts come into play, say for example in our work environments? How does body life look for Christians in the work environment with other believers? More importantly perhaps, how does the operation of our spiritual gifts, of lack thereof, look to those outside the faith? Scripture supports the idea of body life outside the ‘Church’ in Matthew 18: 20 when Jesus speaks of his presence in and among groups of believers. Therefore, we are the body of Christ endowed with spiritual gifts in the workplace as well as the Church/church.

I don’t know about you but sometime,( and some of you are laughing in agreement at this statement), I do not always play well with others. I am opinionated and often resistant to change. Some would even say, (and you know who you are), I have issues with authority. That’s enough transparency for me right now…. But I suspect there are a great deal of people like me out there, maybe even you. In my experience and by observations in the work environment, it is hard to tell believers from unbelievers when we gossip, lie, cheat, steal, judge, are unforgiving, and give less than 100% on the job. One could hardly follow our example and certainly these behaviors do not even nod to our relationship to Christ.  Relax your bristled hair now . . . I have a point and it is not to brow beat I promise.

Most people spend more time at work than at home and certainly more than at Church/church. In reading I Corinthians 1:26 – 2:7 (ESV), I was struck by the word ‘lowly’. James 4:1 talks about quarrels among believers and the harm. There is nothing lowly, servant-like about quarreling with your brother or sister in Christ, especially in the work context. Yet more times than not, we leave our Spiritual gifts at Church and exclude the body life at our 9-5 for which they were also intended. How would work environments change if those who call the name of Christ operated like Jesus, lowly and humble, serving in love for others?  How would my gifts of hospitality and generosity used in the context of body life among co-workers change that environment? How would that change the perspective of those outside the faith? Would they be willing to engage in that kind of place with that kind of believer? Twelve guys through the power of the Holy Spirit changed the world with this concept. It’s not new.

I was given this poem many years ago as a Pastor’s wife by a sweet friend in Wishram, Washington.

You’re living a lesson each moment you live

Your example is a trail

That others will follow for good or for ill

Will you help them or cause them to fail?

Author Unknown

Legalism vs Love

I have been struggling with purpose, which of course is not a new place for me. A friend recommended I read John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life (Piper, 2003). At the same time I began reading Jen Hatmakers’ Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity (Hatmaker, 2014). Both presented the same message (at least the message I needed to hear) and it came in tandem with very different writing styles. Piper’s, much more theologically practical and Hatmaker’s reaches into a woman’s heart with humor and straight forward practical wisdom; both with a love for God and walk that is transparent in their writing. My take away, again a recurring theme for me, exposes the battle between my legalistic perspective of ministry and the command to love extravagantly and serve with abandon. This struggle has been logistical, partly because I have a frozen perspective of mission and ministry. Piper points out that few are called to full time ministry but all are called to minister.  All are sent, all those called to be children of God have one goal at the center of their existence, as he puts it “make much of God”.  My heart is to do that wherever I am and slowly the shift from old school missions to a missional life is transforming how I see my small world.

So here I sit, on a hill in the middle of a 700 acre nursery (not mine), wondering how I can engage in missional life in this isolated place. I do not have a job. I have been and will continue for about two years to be an online student of psychology. I have limited engagement with people face to face. So how do I answer this call to a missional life, given my environment?  One idea that has come from Hatmaker’s (2014) book is looking at people from a Jesus perspective. When Jesus says to his disciples, when I was hungry you fed me and clothed me. His disciples’ queued ‘When have we done this for you, Jesus?’ His response is when you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me (my paraphrase).  We live and my husband works among the working poor.  They are industrious, hard workers who live and work on minimum wage. The work is hard, yet they show up daily for their family’s survival. We have been the working poor by Western standards, but by global standards, we have never been ‘poor’. The Holy Spirit directed me to meet their needs in a specific area and we have been doing that as a couple. This simple act of obedience gives what Piper points to as ‘fullness of joy’. He says that making much of God, and obedience will bring that place of joy and peace for yourself which is God’s desire for each of us. It’s cyclical as God intended it to be.

If you are struggling with legalism or purpose for your life, if the recent historical events in our country leave you feeling angry or hopeless, I would strongly recommend both books to you. They have been a powerful paradigm shift for me, a work in progress to God’s glory.

References

Hatmaker, J. (2014). Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Piper, J. (2003). Don’t Waste Your Life. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Do not Fear ANYTHING that is frightening you!

It’s been a while since I posted a blog. Not because I have nothing to share. Those who know me well know I have an opinion on most everything, right or wrong. But I sense a movement in my spirit; a transitioning if you will from something to something. If that is vague, it is because it is still unclear to me. I accept that, though not with great enthusiasm. Transition is hard especially when there is no clarity. I seem to want to know where I am going far into the future but God gives me today and no promise of tomorrow for a reason. I might be alone here, but I suspect not, but this often causes me anxiety and I get overwhelmed in the possibilities; paralyzed in the direction, or lack thereof. (Side note: anxiety manifest itself in behaviors such as over-eating, over-spending, anger, conflict to name a few.)

In an interesting passage in I Peter, the Apostle is speaking to a group that has been dispersed into place unfamiliar to them. They are in somewhat foreign cultures without the support of their spiritual community and without leadership. Peter is writing to give encouragement and refocus their discouragement to proper external relationships and internal resilience. He reminds them whose they are and to what they were called. God made a way through them to bring us the gospel. It was purposeful transitioning, but it was causing them anxiety and fear. In I Peter 3:6 there is an interesting phrase that has been the centerpiece of my quite time for several days. Speaking to wives, in a passage often offensive to independent women of today, Peter says this, using the example of Sarah for them/us to follow  “…if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” That’s a transitioning piece of advice. What keeps me paralyzed in what I know to do is fear; fear of failure, fear of judgement and scrutiny, fear of rejection. What raises my anxiety where I do not know the future is also fear; fear of missing God’s direction, fear of being too old, fear of having messed up or messing up.

Let’s remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife who he told to pretend she was his sister to save his own life. Anyone have a spouse like that? This had to be raise her anxiety a bit. The possible outcomes from that situation were endless and harmful to her welfare. Yet she trusted God and obeyed. Sarah is often remember for getting ahead of God with the whole maidservant thing. She is often the poster child for not trusting God for your future. Both extremes provide a full picture of encouragement and example from Peter. It raised the question for me; of what am I afraid and how can I overcome that fear? That list is long for me right now. Choosing a grad school, birth of new grandchildren, developing ABBA Life Coaching, retirement, dying. How can I overcome those fears?

  • Act on what I know in a manner that glorifies God.
  • Live in this moment with a focus toward others rather than myself alone.
  • Trust the God of Sarah, my God and rest in His future grace and guidance.

The God of Sarah and Abraham and Peter has never let me down, ever. He will complete what he began and will give wisdom to those who ask. He will restore the broken hearted. He will restore what the ravens had eaten. His promises are true for those who believe.

Truly an Ebenezer of Grace

From Lander, Wyoming

My 6th grandchild, 4th grandson is five days old today. What a joy this experience has been in so many ways . The list  is too long to fully elaborate but focusing on the high points……

Brayden Victory Hulme is precious, no more precious than my other grandchildren, but different for me in a couple of ways. First I got witness his first breath; watch the expressions  of excitement and unconditional love form on his parent’s faces, and ‘labor’ with my daughter as she worked to bring him into the world. Second, though all my children have been faithful to honor their heritage in name choices, He is my only name sake. Victory is so appropriate because his parents thought he was only a dream, would never be their reality, thought he was in the mind of God, and created with purpose long before Nicky and Jason met. He is truly an answer to prayer upon prayer for me on my daughters behalf, a praiseworthy victory. Perhaps too, for me is the idea of having a name sake. That comes hopefully from some redeeming qualities that his parents would like to replicate in him and those the victories God has won in my  life.  For Brayden Victory, his name will  hopefully serve as a reminder that even when life gets hard, as we know it will, he too can experience the victory modeled by his heritage of faith;  trusting in a loving faithful God, following the example of Christ even when his hope wains and pressing on to his own overcoming victories.

Certainly, I am honored by this loving gesture but I pray God is honored in the life Brayden Victory Hulme has yet to live and honored in the life his parents live out in front of him.  It is the heritage my mother left to me, the one her mother left her and the one for which I have prayed to leave as well. Thank you Lord for Godly parents, broken but victorious in you. Truly an Ebenezer of Grace