Called By God.

One of my favorite writers of the New Testament is Paul.  I don’t know why, but I just feel such a connection to him and a truth speaking to me in his writings.  And one of my favorite of his letters is Ephesians.  Today I started working on my reading and as a general rule, I tend start by copying my daily verse or psalm or chapter in a notebook.  I’m one of those people whose brain learns best by slowing down and writing something.  It also gives me a chance to go back and underline stuff that I find speaks to me.

So I had just finished writing out Ephesians 4:1-9 when I realized that the verses I was supposed to be reading were Ephesians 5:6-20 (also great btw).  But here’s where I thought, well I guess God really wanted to read this part of chapter 4 because I had to double take to even figure out how I could have possible mis-read what today’s reading was.  And since this was the part I felt compelled to blog about, one of you people reading this blog post also needed this verse today.

What was Ephesians 4:1-9 about you ask?  Unity in the Body of Christ.  And here are verses 1-7 for you to read and reflect on with me.

“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble, and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

That you know God is no accident.  He called you.  He chose you.  He loves you.  All you have to do is reach out and accept the grace that Christ has apportioned to you.

God bless,

Meredith

Drop Everything!

The calling of the disciples.  Have you ever given much thought to exactly what those twelve men were called to do?  I mean sure they got to walk beside Jesus and perform miracles, but they were also called to walk away from everything, EVERYTHING in their lives…we are foolish if we don’t count the cost of what they were asked to give up;  wives and children, homes and security.  Could you imagine yourself doing the same?  Honestly I don’t know if I could.

Of course I could walk away from my house, and most of my possessions, but what about that ring my beloved grandmother gave me?  And don’t even get me started on my kids.  I mean I know I’ll eventually have to give them up, but on my terms, when they are old enough to leave the house and go to college.  Except that’s not really true is it?  I could lose everything tomorrow, today even.  We live our lives with such an illusion of control.  We put our kids in travel sports, Kumon, music, etc. all because we are determined to make them into their best selves… except anyone who’s ever had more than one child knows that you really don’t have much control over how athletic they are, how smart they are, how friendly, kind, caring they are.  Our children are born with their own personalities and while we can sand off some of the sharp edges, and we can love them unconditionally and teach them values and principles, they will ultimately be who and what they are going to be.  No parent of a murderer thinks that they are going to raise a killer.

So when Jesus called on his disciples to give up everything, he wasn’t really asking them to give up anything that was really theirs to begin with.  There are a lot of people, my husband included, who believe that we are successful in life because we work hard.  I don’t discount that.  I absolutely believe that hard work matters. But, I also think it’s important to remember how much of your success was simply because of who you were born to be, because you were born with an aptitude for something, or a gift?  I was born with a love of books and an aptitude for writing.  That was a gift.  How I choose to develop it, or what I choose to do with it is entirely up to me, but in the end, it will always be a gift from God, not something of my own creation.

So the question we have to ask ourselves instead, is what are we willing to give up when Jesus calls us to be disciples?  Websters defines a disciple as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as a Christianity.   In Luke 9:22-27 Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  I think that what he is calling on us to do here is give up the illusion of control and trust in him.

How many times have you found in your own life that the more you try to control a situation, the less control you actually have… the more you “lose” control?  When Jesus calls us to give up our families, to deny ourselves and to lose our lives to save them, he is calling on us to surrender our illusions, to trust in him completely. And it is in giving up our illusions that we find the peace and comfort and joy.  Today’s world is determined to convince you that you are in control, with your smart phone you can turn on your car, your lights, your furnace, all from across town.  But do those things really matter, or are they illusions to distract you from the fact that you aren’t really in control of anything important?  You can’t control if you are going to get cancer, or if you will be in a car accident, or even if your children will make it home safely from school today.  I guess if those things aren’t really under my control, then I find it a lot more comfortable knowing that they are under the control of the One who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow;  The Maker of the Heavens and the Earth.

What is Jesus calling you to do today?  To follow him?  To become a disciple? To give up your illusions?  I have personally found great comfort and peace giving up my life and family to Jesus.  I know he can and will do the same for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith

I don’t like you.

“Is it a Sin to not like someone?”  That was the question I typed into Google this morning.  We all have them, people in our lives who rub us the wrong way, or with whom we simply have a personality conflict.  And it was something I was struggling with myself.  What I read coincided with what I already knew in my heart, that these types of situations in our lives are both a blessing and a curse.  They are an opportunity for temptation, and sin to take root in our hearts.  But they are also a means for us to overcome that, and allow God’s love to work in our hearts.

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like unto it; Love your neighbor as yourself.  I think most of us understand that loving your neighbor means treating people kindly, respectfully, the way you would want to be treated. Every interaction we have in our lives is a means for us to demonstrate, and share the love of Christ with the world around us; at the grocery store, the bank, the Tim Horton’s drive thru.

I also think we can apply this same logic and reasoning to people to have a more significant role in our lives.  You aren’t required to have an intimate or close relationship with someone you don’t like, but you do need to treat them respectfully, kindly, gently.  It’s easy when you don’t like someone to speak badly of them, to want to convince others to share your feelings because, we feel justified in our feelings if we aren’t alone in them.  But part of loving you neighbor is not doing that.  It’s about working to recognize the good qualities in that person, and the positive ways that they impact people in their own lives.  And it’s about praying, asking God to help you see that person in a new way; the way He sees them.  Maybe we aren’t called by God to like everyone, but we are absolutely called by God to love everyone.

This Lenten season I can feel God calling on me to examine the ways in which I allow sin to take root in my own heart.  I can feel him calling on me to examine the ways in which my interactions and relationships with others are, and are not, reflective of how he wants me to live.  I can feel temptation tapping me on the shoulder in my relationships.  And I know that it is simply not possible for me to defeat it alone.  I can only cling to God, pray that he guides my heart and my words, shows me where I can be better, and strengthens me in the face of temptation.  Lent is a time for us to examine ourselves, our behaviors, and our hearts.  I thank God for his patience with me, that in the face of all my stumbling and groping around, he continues to love me, and that he fills me with his unfailing love, so that I can pour that out in my own interactions.

It’s easy to forget that the point of life is this journey; this process of coming to know God.  It’s about two steps forward and one step back.  And the people in our lives, our daily interactions are so often the cause of both.  That’s why a life of faith is such a difficult road to walk.  But, if we listen to Jesus, and love our Father with all of our heart, and soul, and mind, then he will help us with everything else, including loving our neighbor.

God bless,

Meredith

 

The Older Son

This morning my Lenten reading was Luke 15:11-32, The Prodigal Son.  I understand that the point of the story is that God celebrates when a child who was once lost is found.  I totally get that.  But, not even a small part of me sides with the older son every single time I read this story.  It’s probably because I empathize with him.  I’ve always been that child; the one who does what is asked, who works hard and does what is expected. Those who are in the “know” will tell you that Jesus told this story about the Pharisees (the older son), and contrasted them with his followers, the lost and broken (the younger son).  But when I read this I get something different from it.  It speaks to me, and my own life differently.

I think sometimes what gets missed here is the cry of the older son when he says “You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”  The father’s response is “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.”  How much of this exchange reflects our own lives and relationships.  We take for granted those people and things that come easily to us.  The son in this story is crying out to his father to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to experience the outward show of love that is being demonstrated toward his younger brother upon his return.

By the same token the father is almost shocked that his son doesn’t know how much he loves and values him.  He assumed that his actions, and his daily living were all demonstrations of the deep, and abiding love he had for this elder child.  Both men failed to communicate their feelings, and as a result a disagreement, or rift occurred in their relationship.

How often in our own lives, in our own relationships, in our marriages do we play the role of the father and assume that our loved ones know how we feel about them? How often are we the elder son, harboring resentment because we are unwilling to actually communicate our feelings of neglect or abdonment to our loved ones.  I think that this is a powerful story about the love of a father for his children, but also a powerful one about the importance of open and honest communication.  If you love someone, it should be okay for you to tell them how you are feeling.  Perhaps if the elder son had spoken up earlier, he wouldn’t have felt resentful of the time ,and attention his prodigal brother was receiving. Perhaps he would have been as joyful as his father upon the return of one who “was lost and is now found”. And by the same token, we need to be aware of those who uphold, and support us, and appreciate them.

I’m often guilty of that very thing.  Our middle son Everett is quit simply the easiest child ever.  Sure we have our squabbles, and disagreements but, I have never worried for him.  He succeeds at everything he puts himself to, he’s charming and charismatic, and he is fully, and completely capable in life.  Our eldest has special needs, our youngest, God bless him is joyfully innocent and carefree.  I worry about them, I probably give them more time and attention, not simply because they demand it, but because I want to make sure they succeed.  Perhaps you have a situation like this in your house?

I feel blessed that God gives me reminders to spend special time with Everett.  To tell him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, and how amazing I think he is.  I never want my children to feel less important than one another.  I don’t want be the parent who looks at a child with surprise one day and says “of course I love you, you are always with me and everything I have is yours”.

I think the story of the prodigal son is absolutely a story about a parent’s love for their children; a story about God’s love for the lost, and the found.  But, I also think it is a reminder to cherish, and appreciate those closest to us; be it a spouse, a parent, a sibling or a child. Make it a point today to tell someone, you maybe don’t say it to enough, how much you love and appreciate them.

God bless,

Meredith

Flat On My Face.

Do you sometimes struggles with ways to express your contrition before God?  I didn’t grow up in the Catholic church which has an established system of confession and absolution.  I was brought up in the United Church which has a very staid, conservative, and moderate faith.  As an adult I converted to the Anglican or Episcopalian church because I found that the service gave me the sense of peace and sense of communion with God that I had been missing.  I love everything about Anglicanism; the kneelers, the weekly communion, the confessions and Glorias.  Being in my church, and participating in that service, brings me a feeling of being in the presence of God in a way that I didn’t find in other services.  The great thing about faith is that there are enough different styles of worship to suit everyone.

But as much as there are a variety of different ways to worship God, I think that there is really only one way to come before him as a sinner.  With a penitent heart.  I talked earlier this year about how forgiving myself can sometimes be harder than coming to God for forgiveness.  I also think that it’s can often be at those time that we are riding high in God’s grace that we fall hardest, that we feel most ashamed.  We understand how completely we have separated ourselves, from who, and what God calls us to be, by our actions.

I have had an amazing week with God.  I called Saturday my day of little blessings.  I could see God’s hand in my life everywhere I looked.  I guess it seems appropriate that Sunday would be a day I would fall flat on my face.  A day in which I would lash out and react with anger instead of love.  I woke up this morning knowing that I had done the wrong thing, feeling the weight of it in my heart, and needing a way to become right with God.  I thank him that the first thing he did was to take the anger, and resentment out of my heart, and replace it with an understanding that it doesn’t matter if the world at large would consider my actions justified, if I was in the right.  What matters is how I responded, and I didn’t respond with love.  I needed to atone to that other person for that.  I needed to apologize and ask God’s forgiveness for that.

The amazing thing about God is that he already knows what I’m going to need and he provides me with the solution.  I didn’t do my bible reading yesterday.  It literally didn’t even cross my mind to do it.  Because God knew that I would need yesterday’s reading today.  Psalm 51.  This morning I read that Psalm, and then I wrote it out, and then I prayed the verses I have highlighted here as a meditation.  God spoke to my heart, and because I came to him with an open and penitent heart, he not only gave me forgiveness, he also gave me the means to forgive myself.  I guess sometimes you have to fall flat on your face in order to learn to let God to pick you up.  It hurts my heart to know how kind and loving our Lord is toward us, even when we don’t deserve it.  He really is the ultimate Father.  I don’t know what my future has in store, but I know that if God already has the answer before I even ask the question, if he’s always going to be there to pick me up when I fall down, then He’s who I want to have walking beside me every step of the way.

God bless,

Meredith

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. (NIV Study Bible)

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The Perfect Weakness.

How is your Lenten journey going?  Today is day four and I’m feeling pretty good.  I feel different this year, like I have a new resolve.  I truly feel strengthened knowing that I can’t do this on my own and that I’m absolutely going to be relying on God to help get me through my times of weakness.  It’s a strange feeling, acknowledging weakness and actually feeling stronger for doing so.  I’m usually the person who has it all together, or at least that’s the impression I give.  (If I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.)  Paul writes about this same moment of clarity in 2 Corinthians 12:9  ‘But he said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power my rest on me.’

While I may be feeling strong about my Lenten journey, there are other areas in my life where I am tamping down a growing sense of chaos and panic.  I have so many things to do and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.  I have three projects I’m working on from a writing perspective and because I am now homeschooling Isaac in the morning I have had to shift my days around and work at night.  I’m sure that this will get easier as the days get longer, but it is definitely a challenge to sit down at 7 or 8:00 and shift my brain into creative mode.  That’s not to mention the housecleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, meal making and carpooling, and errand running I’m starting to letting slip. I’m trying to be more efficient with my time, I was at the grocery store this week at 8:15, after I dropped the big boys off at school.  But, I’m a creature of habit and I’m struggling to fit everything in right now.  I know that God has called me to be active in all of these areas and that I just have to keep reminding myself that if I trust in him, he will provide.

My devotional today reminded me of that very thing.  Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling  “The world around you seems to spin faster and faster…yet there is a cushion of calm at the center of your life where you live in union with Me.  Return to this soothing center as often as you can, for this is where you are energized; filled with my Love, Joy and Peace.”  I have definitely felt God’s hand on my heart this week.  That overwhelming love and joy that brings you to tears.  I think it was His way of preparing me for this understanding today.  His way of letting me know that He is here for me and if I trust in Him, He will not let me fall.  If I am feeling strengthened in my Lenten journey knowing that he will help me through my times of weakness, then I need to believe that giving him these feelings, these weaknesses, will result in the same.  God doesn’t want us to turn to him with parts of ourselves, he wants all of us. His love is enough to take anything and everything we can give him.  I’m going to give him my chaos today, and trust that he can handle it.

Are there areas in your life that are feeling chaotic or are spinning out of control that God is calling you to share with Him?

This song by Danny Gokey just kept speaking to my heart this week every time I heard it.

God bless,

Meredith

The Conflict of a Spiritual Life.

Today my Lenten reading was Galatians 5:16-26.  For any of you not immediately familiar with that passage (and don’t worry, I wouldn’t have been either) it is a letter from the apostle Paul to the people of Galatia addressing what it means to “Live by the Spirit”.

I’m sure that there are many people who go straight to this passage when they tell you what a good Christian does and does not do.  Paul’s list includes sexual immorality, drunkeness, and witchraft, but it also includes jealousy, discord, selfish ambition, fits of rage and envy.  I can maybe claim to steer clear of the first three, but I would be lying to you, and to myself, if I didn’t admit to feeling jealousy, anger and envy at times.  So then the question I had to ask myself and I can imagine many other ask is “How can I possibly be a good Christian?”  Paul says that these behaviors are the result of our sinful nature, and that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  If that’s the case I might as well give up now.  How can I possibly live up to such a standard?

Likewise when reading the fruits of the Spirit, they include patience, goodness and self-control…all things I know that I struggle with.  So where does that leave me?

I think that there are many people out there who read passages like this in the bible and feel defeated.  Perhaps you are one of them.  I know that, upon first reading this, before I looked deeper into it, I certainly was.  So then what is Paul trying to tell us, or what is the meaning behind this reading?

Robert L Deffinbaugh writes that God is gracious, and unlike a bureaucrat, He deals with you on the basis of your heart.  He’s not as wrapped up in the details of your life as much as He is concerned about your attitude toward Him and your desire for Him.  Deffinbaugh says that the results of the spiritual life are more evident than the reasons. The Spirit evident by his fruits, rather than by His actual visible presence, and “walking in the Spirit” is simply dependence upon God.

I love that interpretation because it allows for, and acknowledges our human weaknesses.  I talked yesterday about Lenten aspirations and I think that is what Paul is doing here…he’s giving the Galatians, and us a set of standards to aspire to.  And those standards are based upon that greatest of Christ’s teaches…”love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:31).  When we love someone, we don’t envy their successes, we celebrate them.  When we love someone we want to lift them up, to see them do and be better and it has no reflection on where we are ourselves.

I think that a life by the Spirit can only happen when we “abide in Christ”.  When we fully give ourselves, and our lives, up to God. When we come to know, and understand Him we find peace, and joy, and happiness, knowing that he judges us by our heart, and and our intentions.  He knows that we will fail.  He knows we will sin.  That is why He  provided us with His son, Jesus Christ; the perfect sacrifice and atonement for those sins.  So instead of reading Galatians and feeling like a failure, see this as something to aspire to.  Something that can only be achieved by trusting in, and walking with God.  Aspire to make God a part of your daily walk and you may find yourself surprised to find how easy and attainable a life lived by the Spirit really is.

God bless.

Meredith