Quotable

“Many people would be willing to have afflictions provided that they not be inconvenienced by them.”
(In III 3) St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

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Choose this day…

I was posed this question today, and it’s challenged me.

The question is:  If someone came to your church or your home with a gun and told you to renounce Jesus or die right there, what would be your choice?

I like to think I know what I would do in this situation.  Of course, I want to be found faithful.  Christ said that if we deny Him here, He will deny us before His Father.  I do NOT want to be denied before the Maker of the Universe.

We hear a lot about “choice” these days, don’t we?  On this, the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the airwaves are inundated with the word “choice”.  We do have a choice, God, in his mercy, gives us that choice, it’s called “free will”, and He is a gentleman, he will not force us into choosing His way.  But, we are told in His Word, that our choices have consequences.  If we choose His perfect will for our lives, it brings life.  Choosing to exclude, or ignore His will, brings death.

The choice to follow and serve Him is presented in a much more subtle way these days than a gun to the head.  “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” are all just as deadly, but much more subtle.  Will I choose to serve God and others, or myself.  Will I choose humility or pride?  Contentment or instant gratification?  If I am in a habit of choosing the latter of each of these choices, I might as well have put a gun to my head myself.

The truth is, if I live a life of self-service, I’m dead already and don’t know it.

Only in taking up my cross and following Christ can I enter into the life that He offers, that abundant life.  It’s a paradox, isn’t it?   The greatest in the Kingdom are those who have humbled themselves in service. Contentment doesn’t come from what we accumulate, but from what we give away.  Abundant life is not in self-sufficiency, or self-love, or self-gratification…that life is in dying to our self, and coming alive in Him.

 

Transition

Sometimes I wonder if I will be forever in transition of some sort or another.  The past three years has been one change after the next, with barely enough time to relax and enjoy the view.  I have watched family relations on both sides of my family be tested and tried.  I have seen frustration take its toll, leading to the disintegration of relationships, and I have watched the same test/trial be used to strengthen and build up relationships.  Both cases involving my husband, myself, and one or more family members from both sides and even our own children.  I’ve watched marriages be tried and fail, and other marriages be tried and succeed, strengthened.  I’ve watched kids grieve their losses, doing their best by trial and error to learn healthy coping skills, and I’ve watched kids successfully balance a load that to anyone looking on appears to be too heavy…and yet, they continue carrying it, and with grace.

In each instance, the defining attitude determined the success rate:

Those who let bitterness and anger reign, reaped strife and loss.

The harder one works to be in control and call the shots, the harder they fall when God reclaims His rightful place on that throne.

Discontent breeds worry and angst…which give birth to depression and strife.

Total dependence and whole-hearted trust in God and His will give birth to peace that passes all human understanding, even when the money has run out…and the gas tank reads empty…even when the job didn’t come through, and we haven’t a clue what to do next.

Serving trumps being served…big time…but being served builds humility that can’t be found anywhere else.  Both are essential, in their own time for the building of a person.

Pride is an ugly bag to carry around.  Best nailed to the cross and buried in the deepest ocean.

I am a tool in the hands of the Master.  What He does with me, according to His will, is His business.  I just have to remain in His hand, and not be shy of contact with others.

While I love the freedom to participate or not, now I am learning that my choices affect others besides myself…and that same free will is offered to my family and friends who may or may not realize this truth yet, and that has an effect on me.

While the above is true, I also know that it’s not all about me.  The beautiful truth of Romans 8:28 is that God works in several dimensions all at the same time.  While he’s using my own past, present and future circumstances in His work for my good, He is using me in the lives of those around me as He is working all their “things” for their good as well.  Often your “things” will bump into and overlap one with mine; this is beautiful and good from heaven’s viewpoint, though from this earthly perspective, it can be uncomfortable and humbling.  I continue to pray to be able to see with heaven’s perspective, even though right now, I know I’m looking at the back of the quilt.

We are transitioning again…across state lines, from parenting to empty house, living with adult children en route, from employment to unemployment, and seeking gainful employment again…and while we are transitioning, there is more waiting, and leaning, and learning.

So much change.

So many opportunities to trust, and draw near.

Hopefully there is healthy growth in these dark, quiet places.

As my dear friend Kelly pointed out to me today, “living in the shadow” (Psalm 91) can be a dark place, or a place of refuge, depending on our perspective, and how we choose to view it.

In the Meantime

The meantime.

A dear friend of mine passed on a phrase to me that I have remembered and used often these past three years.  She said, “you know, it’s called the “meantime” for a reason.  It’s not called the “nice time” or the “easy time”, it’s called the “meantime”, because it’s mean.”

And, I concur.

While we wait in hope for what God has promised, life continues.  It’s never “fair” (if fair means nice and generous, and full of only good things for sincere-hearted people).  It can be dark, and lonely, and stressful.  It is often full of misunderstanding and angst, while void of the comforts we have enjoyed in the past.  For me, it’s been a painful pruning time, where relationships and material things that are not helping us to bear fruit are cut away, and we are brought to our knees, seeking the only One who can fill the longing in our heart.

No, the meantime is not always a nice time, but my son pitched a question to me yesterday that I can’t shake.

“Mom, have you ever stopped to think that the “meantime” is exactly where you are supposed to be?”

What?

The meantime can have meaning?

This waiting…this meantime…is not the passageway to get to a destination of blessing, but is the blessing in itself?

I have to re-think this some more.

Edited to add:  My first click after publishing this post was today’s entry in my favorite devotional.  It’s like an exclamation point to the thoughts I have shared here.  Check it out.

Reckon it nothing but joy… whenever you find yourself hedged in by the various trials, be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance (James 1:2-3) Weymouth

God hedges in His own that He may preserve them, but oftentimes they only see the wrong side of the hedge, and so misunderstand His dealings. It was so with Job (Job 3:23). Ah, but Satan knew the value of that hedge! See his testimony in Job 1:10.