Don’t Be One Of The Nine.

Times of crisis; when everything seems lost…these are most often the times we reach out to a power greater than ourselves.  These are the times we find ourselves on our knees, we find ourselves making bargins, begging, willing to consider miracles possible, if only they can be for us.  I’ve been there myself.

Luke Chapter 17:11-19 tells the story of Jesus healing no less than ten leapers at one time on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem.  As part of the process He sends them to a priest to be cleansed.  In the end, only one comes back to thank him and give praise to God for this miracle.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Because we are so often more like the nine who didn’t return, than the one who did.  We ask God to do something for us, we promise we will go back to church, start praying again, be better…but no sooner do we get what we want, then we are right back to our old ways.  We aren’t true to our word.  We take God’s gifts and we forget to say thank you.  We dull ourselves to the wonder of the miracle we have experienced.

Thankfully God is always faithful and he doesn’t hold a grudge.  He knows even as we say those words, as we make those promises and bargins if we are going to be true, and He is ever hopeful that we will choose Him.

For some people the only relationship they have with God is one of asking.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.  I think of it instead as simply a stop on their journey.  God would rather you ask him for things than have nothing to do with him.  And think about your children.  When they are young all they do is ask for things.  In fact when they are very young, when they are babies, they don’t just ask, they demand!  Sometimes loudly.  So if you are in a place where all you find yourself doing is asking God for things, that’s okay.  But as you grow in your relationship and your faith, you will find yourself more like a teenager or a young adult, able to give thanks, to appreciate your blessings.  And I think as you continue to grow you will eventually find yourself in a much more adult relationship, more like a parent or friend than a child.  Able to give and listen and wait upon the Lord. You will find yourself becoming a servant; grateful to be useful, wanting to be used.

Jesus says to the the one who returns, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Part of  faith is recognizing and giving thanks for our blessings, for the miracles God works in our lives.   I feel as if Natalie Grant sums up how we should approach this story and our faith perfectly in her song “More than Anything”  “Help me want the Healer more than the healing.  Help me want the Savior more than the saving.  Help me want the Giver more than the giving.  Help me want you Jesus more than anything.”

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

Seriously?!!!!

Have you ever wondered if God is really listening to your prayers?  I do sometimes.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Holy Spirit and His role and importance in our lives and our growth and development as children of God.  And honestly as I’ve been reading I’ve been feeling not even a little like a failure.  To the point where last night I was lying in bed and my prayer was specifically about this, about what I can do to listen to, and feel more fully the Spirit in my life.

Normally I start each morning reading my bible, then I’ll read my daily page from Jesus Calling and then I’ll write my blog post.  This morning I ended up doing everything in reverse.  I wrote my post about trusting in God, then since my computer was already open to my ebooks, I decided to read my daily devotional next and then jump into my bible.  These are literally the first words I read.  You can’t make this stuff up.  “Thank Me for the glorious gift of My Spirit.”

So yes, God absolutely hears our prayers, he knows the questions of our hearts and he will absolutely answer us when we come to him with our earnest petitions.  It’s in subtle ways and, in today’s case, blatantly obvious ones that our God reminds us that we are important to Him and how much He loves us.

How is God speaking to you today?

God bless,

Meredith

Sometimes It’s Hard.

Trust in God.  I know it’s important and I do.  But where is the line between being active in your own life and trusting in God’s plan?  How do I know that I’ve done enough in today’s media driven society where everyone is competing for the consumer dollar to promote my work?

What brings on this line of questioning you ask?  I generally don’t look at monthly comic book sales figures.  I know how much my comic Rose from Image is selling and I don’t find it helpful or productive to compare myself to what everyone else is doing.  That being said, I was curious to see how well my latest project The Light Princess (an adaptation of the George MacDonald classic, published by Cave Pictures Publishing) was doing.  To say that I was crushed when I saw the numbers is not an over exaggeration.  I feel like this comic is so special and inspiring and beautiful and to see such a low number of issue one sold was heartbreaking.  And this is where I started asking the question, did I do enough?

From the very beginning I have felt that my work with Cave Pictures Publishing was divinely driven.  The email that they sent to approach me and introduce me to the company was almost word for word exactly like a prayer I had been praying over and about my work.  And as I write these words I am remembering exactly what I prayed, “that my work be used to bring glory to God and not to myself”.  Pause for a moment of self-reflection here because I think as I write this I have found my answer….

If God guided me toward this project, if God provided the perfect artist for this project, and if all of this came at the perfect time, in the perfect way, then I need to stop worrying and trust that he has a plan for The Light Princess that is beyond me and my understanding.  Furthermore, I am reminded of these words written about George MacDonald. “MacDonald was singularly unconcerned with his own ‘image’ among his fellow men, preoccupied rather with championing his vision of the reality of the world of the spirit. ‘Perhaps the highest moral height which a man can reach,’ he wrote, ‘…is the willingness to be nothing relatively, so that he attain that positive excellence which the original conditions of his being render not merely possible, but imperative. It is nothing to a man to be greater or less than another – to be esteemed or otherwise by the public or private world in which he moves.’  He (MacDonald) determined to leave his reputation and destiny in the hands of his God.”

How can I do anything less?  Thank you Father for reminding me to trust in you and your plan for my life today.

God bless,

Meredith

Mortifying Sin? What the heck does that mean?

This weekend I started reading Sin and Temptation by John Owen.  The book open with the subject of mortifying your sins.  If you don’t know what it means to mortify something don’t feel bad, I had to look it up too.  It means to put something to death.  So this book on Sin and Temptation was opening with the idea of putting your indwelling sins to death.

God is taking me on a journey through his scholars, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and now John Owen.  In each of these men I have felt in my heart the truth and honesty of their reflections on God.  Owen writes that “Sin aim always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind.  Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”   WOW!

How many times have we justified a tiny sin in our own lives only to find that it grows, slower ever larger,  like a cancer in our hearts?  To continue with Owen, “it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind.  This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a falling off from God is already made….”

Robert Deffinbaugh wrote that Satan approached Eve in the garden of Eden as a friend.  He spoke to her in such a way as to convince her that he was someone who cared about her and wanted what was best for her.  How often has sin come into our own lives in that way, convincing us that this is what is best for us, and we listen to that voice, instead of trusting that only God, in his infinite wisdom and love, has our best interests in mind.

I love, and at the same time, am terrified of the idea of asking God to shine his light into the deepest and darkest parts of my soul.  But at the same time, I feel as if that is what God is calling me to do, as I walk this faith journey with him.  John Owen calls upon the believer to mortify their sins daily.  When I think about what he is calling us to do, it goes beyond confession.  Confessing your sins and knowing that you are forgiven seems like the first step, and that’s where I was for a long time.  But I think what John Owen is writing about, is that there is almost an acceptance of our sinful nature when all we are willing to do is confess.  Growth in our spiritual life is about rooting out the sin, “pruning the branches that don’t bare fruit” so to speak.  And the more I think about it, the more I have to acknowledge that this is a daily task.  Opportunities for sin to gain ground happen every day.

The other thing that John Owen emphatically writes about here is that it is simply not possible for us to mortify our sins ourselves.  We can only do it with the help of the Spirit.  I’m looking forward to reading more about that.

I don’t want to be one of those people who stands on the side of the road, holding a sign.  My purpose in writing this blog isn’t to try to convince you to be or to do something that God isn’t calling you to be or do in your heart already.  This blog is about my own journey in faith and my thoughts about things the books and scriptures I read.  And I say this because when people start talking about sin, its easy to tune them out.  We want to read about God’s love, but when we really start getting down into the nuts and bolts of our sinful nature, many of us aren’t willing or ready to have an honest discussion.  There are parts of the bible and God’s word that I’m not ready for yet, and that’s okay.  We all have to take our own journey, but I’m so grateful and thankful to all of you for being a part of mine.

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