In the Image of God

I am made in the image of God. So are you.  And that is beautiful.

In this world it’s often easy to miss the beauty that is our unique ‘image of God’. It is so often tainted with pride or selfishness or anger.  It’s easy to dismiss the fact above because there is ‘so much to work on’. So we continue on saying ‘yeah, but…’ if not out loud, in our soul, to every compliment we are given.   It’s easy to mistake this with humility.

What is humility?  Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble”.  We are called to be humble as Christians.  Often it can become a comparison game where we are seeing others good and our bad and putting ourselves down.  Calling it humility.

How can one be humble without pride?  Only by dwelling in the grace of God. How could Paul call himself the chief of sinners?  Because he saw himself clearly through God’s eyes. Loved not for what he’d done, but in spite of it. Literally ripped from doing what he thought was right (stoning Christians), into the reality that he didn’t know anything except the grace and mercy of God.

I’m convinced that from now until I’m called to eternity I will be learning exactly that, that I really don’t know anything.  I will never fully understand the mind of God. So the question turns in on itself again and becomes one of trust. Can I trust my God enough to rest in His grace and mercy?

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Romans 7:7-25

7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

I Corinthians 2

1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Thanksgiving 2014

The idea of giving forced thanks on any given day has always rung slightly false to me.  When we would proceed round robin telling what we were thankful for. It was always the same. Family, friends, our house, food, a job, etc.  I don’t think I could possibly not feel false saying thanks for those things because I hadn’t experienced life without them. And often what I had at the time didn’t seem all that great.

Thanking God for what you have doesn’t mean that you don’t want anything else. It is just a surrendering and acknowledging that what you’ve been given is good, in that moment. 

The breath you’ve been given. The house you have. The blessing of health (or another day to live). The food your eating. Rejoice, giving thanks to God for it.

Discontent threatens to steal that joy. A sigh in your spirit that says if you give thanks for this, you may never get that better thing that you REALLY want. It is a lie.

To rejoice in what you have and give thanks for this day that the God of the universe has chosen for you, that is contentment worth fighting for.

Psalm 136

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

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Waiting Without Worry

Trust is not something that comes easily to me.  Worry is however.  I can invent things to worry about that might not ever happen. Starvation, drowning, car accidents, children falling, house fire (this one will keep me up at night) etc.

The imagination is a great tool and I am glad my kids enjoy using it. It does need to be brought under control though, when my mind decides to dwell in the realm of possibility.  COULD the things I’ve imagined happen? Sure. But why dwell there? The answer for me has always been because when something happens, it always hits me unprepared. If I worry, generally it’s all silly and I can laugh about it later.  But when things happen unexpectedly…. it’s like a slap in the face. And I determine never to go there again because I hate that feeling.

I love the beauty of freshly fallen snow. The hush when you step outside and everywhere you turn there is a covering of white.

Preparation for the coming snow was being made yesterday. The stores were packed and yards picked up.  Snow plows getting ready for use. The roads salted and sprayed.  But you can only prepare so much and then it’s all about waiting.

Worry is not preparation.  Prayer is. Prayer and the antithesis of worry, thanksgiving. Remembering what you’ve been already given that proves you can trust your Creator.

James 4:13-17

13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

And sometimes it’s all about waiting and trusting that our waiting will not be in vain.

Isaiah 40:27-31

27Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

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Trust

Why did Jesus say to become like a child?  To trust. Oh the beauty of trusting in the Lord! The peace and joy that it brings.

I LOVE to question things. To ask questions and seek after the heart.  The heart of the moment, the person, the question, God. No question will reveal your heart more than God asking, ‘do you trust me’?

Jeremiah 17:5-8

5Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,a
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

7“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
8He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

 Trust isn’t easy in the world we live in. Life shows us quickly that trust is for the weak or stupid.  And trusting in a God you can’t see? Wow! True stupidity.  Except that we rest in the knowledge that we are trusting in the One being who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Proverbs 3:5-8

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

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Motivation

Assessing your motivation appears to be a special gift of mine. If you want someone to see things clearly, all you have to do is ask! (Or don’t. just stand next to me and I’ll point it out to you)  I can see from your face and actions that your clearly angry, calm, irritated, happy.

The question isn’t about what I can see, but what I can’t. The ‘why’ behind the action/emotion.  The question that begs beyond that is, ‘Do I understand the why’?  And more than that, ‘Do I need to in order to love you and extend grace’?

Motivation of the heart is more than emotion. No one can know every detail that is going on in your life the way you do. Other than the One who created you and still cares for you. He says that even we can’t fully understand our own hearts.  This can be greatly discouraging except that understanding this helps us to love and extend grace to others.

I grew up thinking that life would be so simple if adults would just tell each other the details, and once the other person really understood they would most certainly be gracious! The naive belief that a story is simple. Rarely is life simple much less the emotions that come along with it.

Who are you attributing motives to that you could stop and extend grace to today?

Jeremiah 17:9-10

9The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,b
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

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Reflections

Writing has been something I have picked up, put down, picked up again throughout the years.  This is something I found that I wrote about 5 years ago that I thought might bless a struggling mom somewhere.

Reflections: Living in the Moment

What is a moment if not lived in memory? To take advantage of it, one must go forward having learned from the past. Especially with children.

Face aglow with anticipation. “It’s my turn to go to the library with mom” announces a proud little boy to his siblings. As they head out to the car he places his hand in his mothers and repeats “mom, I love you” as he has at least five others times in the past ten minutes. Realizing he just doesn’t have the words to express the depth of his feeling mom repeats the phrase back to him, again. Oh that she had something more she could do to pour how much love she feels at this time into her little boy!

As sunshine streams in the frosty window, four happy children page through books. This is a thing of beauty. The peace of exploration and the joy of learning. The exclamations of wonder and “mom! Come see this!” pour in from every direction. The desire to be in every place at once pulls at her. The joy of their wonder fills her with anticipation and excitement. She hops from page to page discovering, living, learning. She realizes that life lived in this moment is better than anything she might have thought she was missing.

“Mom! She hit me!”, “I did not!” “Did too!” “Did not!”. The words echo on. As she tries to sort it all out she turns to find the baby covered, both herself and the refrigerator, in permanent marker. As she rushes to corral the one year old she hears a crash behind her. Trying to get a drink the oldest inadvertently knocked a glass out of the cabinet. “OUT!” She screams. Struggling for self control she starts cleaning up the mess. Four children look on quietly. Guiltily, she turns to them. “I’m sorry. I love you.” and gathers them in her arms.

Sitting under the tree the serene sunlight playing among the shadows created by the limbs not yet covered with leaves. The sheet under them gently lifting as they shift their weight. The birds play out a song just for them. Spring has granted them a reprieve from the rain and an unexpected gift of warmth. Their laughter rings out as they are free from the doors which for so long had shut out the cold. Fresh air makes the simple fare more palatable. And what is often looked upon with disdain, is now eaten with relish. Looking in from the outside of this sibling affair, mom realizes how quickly the days go by.

Snapshots of life glimpsed through closed windows. Memory. Life. Gone but for that frail reflection of grace that comes with time.

 Hebrews 4:11-16

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He who Began A Good Work

It seems like every year Christmas finds me a little earlier. I’m not sure if this is because retail is slowly edging out Thanksgiving in favor of the more lucrative holiday, or I just forget what the year before was like.  Maybe a combination of both.

I used to resist Christmas coming early. It all seemed so commercial and superficial. But as believers, when we are celebrating the joy that fuels our true giving of thanks, what can have more meaning?

The Christmas concert we went to the other night spoke specifically to one of my children. What a beautiful thing to have my children touched by the Holy Spirit!

I can be an encouragement to my children and point them to Christ but they will each have their own journey.

Praise The Lord that He is faithful and true and will complete the work that He began so long ago.

Philippians 1:6, 9-11 Continue reading

Joy In The Moment

It often seems as if the stress of life as one gets older doesn’t allow for enjoyment of the moment except as seen through pictures and hindsight.  Our world has expanded and we are now able to glance into other people’s homes, projects, desires and thoughts.  Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, Linkdin, Tumblr, WordPress.

Discontent knocks at the door of desire and sends it spiraling outward.  The whirlwind of trying to figure out what is the best and exactly what that means for your family can give, at the least, a headache resembling a migraine.

This is my favorite time of year. With family coming together.  Thanksgiving falling into celebrating Christ. The wonder of snow and hot chocolate. Decorations that glitter and sparkle and bring back memories.

We attended a concert last night.  While things never turn out exactly like the picture in my head, the result was a fun evening that I believe our kids will remember fondly. It was also a great reminder to allow the joy of Christ to overflow into our everyday moments.  Life will twist and turn unrecognizably but the Orchestrator isn’t surprised.  Hang onto thanksgiving and the knowledge that God is the embodiment of good, like a lifeline. It IS our lifeline if we believe that Christ died for us, the undeserving but incredibly blessed.

Romans 5

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Taste and See

I am a terrific over-analyzer. I am the best at getting myself worked up with a pro/con list that ends with both lists being exactly the same length. And then going over it. Again. And again. And again.  Only to find myself right back where I started.

It would be better if I did this process on paper or in a beautiful introverted way. But no. I spew it out all over my friends and family who happen by.  It would be great if I allowed someone to encourage me. But no. In my efforts to see both sides of things I will tenaciously latch onto whatever the person is saying and try to find the exact opposite, to see if what they are saying can really be true. (because we all know that if you can find the equal and exact opposite then the other must not be true, and you’re just blind or lying to yourself, right?)

I exhaust everyone in the process.

Like the tiny two year old, crying because they are tired but won’t let you help them, they scream with all of their might until they tumble exhausted into their bed and fall asleep. That is where I’m at most of the time. Looking at everyone else around me and wondering what I need to do differently to be the person I want to be.

I want to stop fighting and looking elsewhere and instead look directly around me and really see what the Lord has given me. To taste and see that He is good.

Psalm 34

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

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Missing The Point

I have been asking the questions all wrong.

God says when you seek Him you will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)  I have been seeking.  I have been seeking for that elusive joy that seems to be others when they are resting in Christ. I have been seeking to be what God wants me to be. But without selling myself a bill of goods. I wanted God to prove that He is good. What I missed was that He IS goodness. He is the embodiment of that good that I have been seeking. Without Him there is no good.

His grace falls on the undeserving all of the time. And while I’ve heard this all of my life I haven’t been able to see it. It didn’t seem fair. Like the parable of the hard worker who got paid the same as the one who came in for one hour. ( Matthew 20:1-16) So I fought it and kept asking questions.

It seems that the world never expects beauty to come from the ugly so I purposefully went toward the ugly to see the beauty in it. But often what I found was ignorance and pain in the world, or so much beauty and love in Christ that I couldn’t figure out how it was real when I wasn’t around it.

I wasn’t seeking God. I was seeking the peace, joy, love that God is. 

Then I bumped up against some beautiful women who exude living in Christ for the world to see. And grace defines their lives. They were doing something amazing for Christ! Here is what I had been praying for my entire life, to be a part of that elusive “something bigger”.  But was it only something that could be gained through pain?

Growing up in a christian home we listened to the radio all of the time. This gave me a great Biblical foundation that I was able to fall back on but my heart cried out to be a part of that “something bigger”.  To really LIVE. When I looked at it, it seemed that the true greats all knew one another. C.S.Lewis and Tolkien. Francis Schaeffer touched innumerable lives. Charles Stanley, Chuck Coleson, James Dobson. So I set out to know people.

From the time I was small my heart cried out to make a difference. But what if making a difference means not being a household name?  What if making a difference means just walking through life with my family and friends and every chance I have to touch someone for Christ, I do?  And to know people.