Archive for June, 2008

I am praying through the 2 Peter 1:5-9 passage (Add to your faith goodness, to your goodness knowledge, then self-control, then perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love), taking a different quality each week. (See my blog An Effective Life.) Having gone through the entire list over the past several months, this week I am again praying for faith. As I prayed this morning I was praying simply “Lord, increase my faith.”

Now the truth is I’m running a bit late today and I wasn’t fully engaged in the prayer. I have an employee arriving in 45 minutes and I need to prepare some things for her to do. (That’s my “excuse” today, yesterday it was that I had a very early morning meeting and needed to leave the house by 6am, tomorrow it will be something else…Lord, remove my excuses, make me so hungry (even desperate) for You that You become the “excuse” for not attending to those other things.)

So back to praying on auto pilot this morning. As I prayed “Lord, increase my faith,” a thought appeared in my mind. “In what areas do you want your faith to be increased?” Wow! I’ve been at this long enough to recognize that such thoughts are rarely generated by something within myself, they are usually born of the Spirit. Wow! God is speaking to me. God is asking a question of me. I’m reminded of the passage in Mark 10 in which God asks blind Bartimaeus “what do you want me to do.” It seems totally obvious to everyone what Bartimaeus would want. But God looks at him intently and asks “what do you want me to do for you.” I find it fascinating that God gives us the opportunity to look inside ourselves (if we will take it) by stopping, pausing, and asking us what we really want.

So I am left with the question from the Lord. When hearing from the Lord personally, I am compelled to journal (and now many of those journal entries become a blog). Often I will sit down during our worship time in church to make notes about what God is teaching me. It is so precious, I don’t want to lose it or forget it. I want a record of His Voice to me.

And now today, the question is still left hanging. I realize that I am avoiding the Lord, choosing to not take the time to look inside myself. Instead I am writing about God’s goodness, His willingness to speak to me in the midst of my own haphazard. distracted devotion this morning. Yet God in His goodness interrupts me from stumbling along the path I was going and says “What do you want me to do for you?” I’m so glad He’s the God of interruptions!

This is Sandy, signing off, to visit with God.

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 Leviticus 2:

4“When you present some kind of baked bread as a grain offering, it must be made of choice flour mixed with olive oil but without any yeast. It may be presented in the form of cakes mixed with olive oil or wafers spread with olive oil. 5If your grain offering is cooked on a griddle, it must be made of choice flour and olive oil, and it must contain no yeast. 6Break it into pieces and pour oil on it; it is a kind of grain offering. 7If your offering is prepared in a pan, it also must be made of choice flour and olive oil…

13Season all your grain offerings with salt, to remind you of God’s covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.

What impresses me as I read this passage is that the people were involved in a process of preparing their offering for the Lord. It wasn’t an act of simply writing a check and signing it while the offering baskets are being passed, hoping that you finish your check-writing before the basket gets to you. It was something that took some time and required involvement. I can imagine creating the cakes or wafers of grain and olive oil, being careful to not put in any yeast and careful to include salt. I can imagine a child watching his or her mom making the offering, a process which would have been much like making the daily bread yet very different. The child brings the yeast over because, having watched momma make bread all week, he knows the yeast is next.

“Momma, here’s the yeast. It’s next.” He says earnestly, so proud to remember, so eager to show how well he has learned.

“No, child, not today. Today we are making an offering to give to the Lord. It must have no yeast in it. You remember the story we tell on Passover. Our ancestors left the slavery of Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to put yeast in their bread. This special bread reminds us of God’s goodness to us by freeing us from slavery. So we make carefully it, but then we give it back to God as a way of saying ‘Thank You.'”

“Child, bring the salt instead. The salt reminds us of the Covenant we have with God. That He is our Lord, that He is first in our lives, that He has delivered us and will deliver us. That He is good to us and that He is our God. We must never forget our covenant with the Lord. The salt in our offering reminds us of all this.”

And so the process of preparing the offering is a time with God and for God. A time of reflection, not just the rushed effort of completing a task.

I am challenged, and I offer the challenge to you…the next time you are preparing your tithe or offering to the Lord, don’t rush through it. Set aside a little time before you give your offering to prepare it (and yourself). Remember God’s goodness to you. Remember His covenant with you. Make it a holy time.

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Over the past ten years I’ve learned more from my Mom than over the previous two decades! Who’da thunk it? You see, Mom had a stroke in May 1998. She has been severely handicapped since then. Yet she continues to enjoy life and be a blessing to those around her. (Read Saturday’s blog, “The ‘Good Humor’ Lady.”)

Admittedly, there have been times over the past decade when darkness has overwhelmed her and she’s asked me why God allowed this to happen and why God doesn’t just let her die. At first I had only vague, theoretical answers. Now I can point to real, verifiable answers.

The theoretical is not to be scoffed at. Good doctrine is important and should provide the brick and mortar structure that experience decorates. But like the saying goes, a person with a theoretical argument (even a good “theological” one) doesn’t stand a chance against a person with a real personal experience.

My doctrine teaches me that until God takes us home, He has a purpose for our lives. We haven’t accomplished all the good things He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Some might look at my Mom – unable to get herself out of bed, requiring total care, even unable to feed herself- and wonder what purpose can God possibly have for her now? What can she possible accomplish? What value can she have in our world today? My doctrine also teaches me that God promises to use all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), and that He chooses (yes, consciously, intentionally chooses!) the weak things to confound the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27-31).

My experience validates that God has used and is using Mom’s horrible situation to touch many around her and to teach me much about life. As a tribute to both my God and my Mom, let me share with you some of what I’m learning.

I’m learning to bless (and honor) my mom. Mom calls me on the phone, sometimes several times a day, usually with nothing but “foolishness” to talk about. She’ll often share the “joke of the day” with me – but she almost always messes up the punchline. I usually don’t even get the joke (or see any humor in it if I do get it), but she laughs and laughs because she knows the joke and probably doesn’t realize that she left a few words out of the punchline. So I bless her by laughing with her, because to explain a joke is to lose its effectiveness but to laugh together is a good thing. That I don’t understand her sense of humor is pretty irrelevant. We’re having fun together – she by laughing at the joke, me by enjoying my mom’s craziness. Sometimes my husband Phil will tell her he doesn’t get the joke. She’ll pause for a second and then say she doesn’t get it either and they both laugh! (I feel compelled to point out here that Mom’s stroke did not affect her mental capacities. She’s just having fun with life, whether she gets the joke or not.)

I’m learning patience. When she calls me on the phone for the nth-time-today to talk about nothing but “foolishness,” I’ve learned to turn away from my work, shout into the phone so she can hear me and relax while she tells me of her latest activity at the nursing home. Sometimes I feel myself get anxious because it’s the middle of the workday and I have deadlines to meet. Yet I am learning to turn away from that anxiety and toward someone I love to hear about things that matter to her.

I’m learning compassion. It’s either that or turn my heart off as I visit the nursing home each week. Visiting the nursing home costs me much emotionally, but at every visit I am impressed by the significant need for the simple gift of holding a hand, praying with someone or just sitting and talking for five minutes. It’s what I call “cup of water” obedience. I don’t have to do BIG things for God (like be a missionary to Zimbabwe – I call that “King Kong” obedience). I only have to give a cold cup of water to someone who is thirsty.

I’m learning sacrifice. I’m doing things with and for Mom that I would never have imagined. Mom always loved crafts. I don’t. But in order to share things with her when the possibilities in her world are so limited, I purchase crafts and we work on them together. I’m doing all the work, of course, but Mom sits next to me and knows instinctively how to do them and instructs me accordingly. I’d much prefer to read and follow the directions. But I humble myself and “OK, Mom, what should I do next?” (I’ve drawn a line at using a glue gun.)

I’m learning that sacrifice is the currency of heaven and the language of love…but I digress…that’s another blog-to-come.

I’m learning the importance of enjoying life…even when it’s not very enjoyable. I’m not very good at that. Mom is very good at that. She turns every event into a party. I used to think this was part of Mom’s “foolishness.” I’ve learned that it is part of her strength.

I’m learning to be friendlier than I really am and nicer to others than I really am. Everyone matters to Mom. In many ways she reflects the love of Christ much better than I do. She is a person who truly sees the best in everyone and treats them accordingly.

I’m learning that having a deep trust in God doesn’t always look the way I expect it to look. Mom has a simple, usually unspoken, unpretentious faith. When she arrives in heaven, I imagine Jesus planning a clown parade in her honor and everyone will be wearing funny hats and will have their own noise-maker. This would not be heaven to me, but it surely will be for Mom.

I’m learning to honor people for serving in professions that I cannot fathom serving in.

I’m learning to love better.

All this from a teacher who can no longer feed or dress herself. Wow! I love you, Mom!

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 More than a decade ago my mom had a major stroke. The day before the stroke she was an active woman who could almost never be found at home. The day after the stroke she was unable to get out of bed without assistance. She began a very long journey in a new life. She is fully paralyzed on her left side. She has limited use of her right arm because of a prior surgery that removed a major portion of her shoulder bone. She cannot walk. She cannot drive. She cannot accomplish basic personal care tasks. After living at home for several years, she has now been a resident of a nursing home for quite a long time.

Yesterday I accompanied her to the hospital for a diagnostic test. There were significant risks associated with the test and I was a bit on edge. But not Mom. She laughed and joked with the ambulance technicians as they transferred her from her wheelchair to the stretcher for the ride to the hospital. During the trip she filled them in on all the details of her day (she so hoped to be back to the nursing home for the luau they were having that afternoon). Upon arrival at the hospital she remembered the names of all who attended to her and listened to their stories as she told them fun stories from her life. All this in the midst of the endless pre-surgery questions that tried so hard to shift her focus to all the negative issues in her medical life. Somehow she was able to answer all the questions with little more than a wistful tone in her voice from time to time.

While I know she tremendously appreciated me being with her for the procedure, I’m equally sure that, had she been able to, she would have patted me on the hand several times and said “There, there Sandy. Chill out. Everything will be fine.” Like every time I interrupted the medical question and answer process to clarify mom’s answer in such a way that the hospital staff would understand the gravity of the situation (as if that was really needed given that they had living proof of mom’s condition and a lengthy chart to back it up).

The point is that as I look back on the day yesterday, Mom brought so much more joy to everyone she came in contact with than I did. And yet her life is so much more filled with “can’ts” than my life.

Mom demonstrates God’s grace to me every day. Grace is God enabling us to live the life He wants us to live that we can’t live on our own. That’s what Mom does every day. She can’t live the closed, limited life she lives in her own power every day. She depends on God and finds joy in everything there is to find joy in.

At the end of the day, she was settled back in her bed at the nursing home. As she told me yet another funny thing about her life, I just looked at her and said “Mom, you have such a wonderful heart.” She looked at me and said simply “I know, I have good humor.” Mom often has a strange way of saying things. But I think it fits here. She does have good humor. That’s God’s gift to her in the midst of trying circumstances.

There have been other gifts, not the least of which is enabling her to continue to “mother” her oldest daughter. On Monday I’ll blog about some of the lessons I’ve learned from Mom over the past decade.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice “good humor.”

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Last Sunday (June 8th) was Pentecost Sunday. As we sang during worship asking the Lord to fill us with His Spirit, several thoughts came to mind. The first two were thoughts you’ve probably heard preached many times: In order for a vessel to be filled with something new (God’s fresh outpouring of His Spirit), and for that new thing to remain pure, uncontaminated by the previous contents, the vessel must first be emptied, then cleansed thoroughly. Let’s say, for example, that I want a cup of tea with my mid-morning snack. I’ll first want to empty the cup of the coffee I had with breakfast and wash the cup thoroughly. If I don’t, even just the smell of the coffee will ruin a perfectly good cup of tea. In the spiritual sense, in order for me to be filled with God’s Spirit, I must be emptied of myself and allow God to cleanse me — to forgive me of my sins and to transform my mind and behavior to be pleasing to Him.

Now that’s a task in and of itself — an ongoing task that lasts a lifetime. It’s worthy of more space than I’m giving it here. I’m not giving it more space simply because it wasn’t what God was impressing upon me Sunday, but to not mention it just seems wrong, and to not pursue it is to lack the intimate relationship with God that those pursuing Him desire.

What struck me the most last Sunday was the phrase “Don’t put the lid on too soon.” I kept hearing it over and over in my mind. God is saying that He wants to pour out His Spirit, but that too often we get just a little of it and then for whatever reason, say “That’s enough, thank you.” God’s desire is to continually fill us to overflowing. We’re the ones who pull back and in so doing, we miss the blessing He has for us and for those around us. We miss the intimacy with Him; we miss walking in His power and wisdom; we miss His peace and rest.

Why do we put the lid on too soon? Why do we stop the filling process before the tank is full? I’m sure it’s usually done unconsciously, and to change unconscious actions, we must first be aware of them. Lord, reveal the areas within me that causes me to close myself off to the outpouring of Your Spirit.

I’ve been cogitating on this for the past few days and have come up with a couple of reasons why people put the lid on too soon. Maybe some of them will strike a chord with you.

Sometimes we put the lid on too soon simply because we’re too easily satisfied — we get a taste of God’s goodness and don’t understand or realize that there’s so much more. Trust me, there’s more. There’s always more with God because He is everything good to an infinite degree. But we become content with things as they are (after all, they’re way better than they were before) and our unholy contentment puts a lid on our spirits, stopping the flow of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Sometimes we put the lid on too soon because our priorities are a bit messed up. We’re all really busy. It’s how we live. Next Sunday a business organization I’m affiliated with is having their picnic at noon. Now that strikes me as just plain wrong, especially since I know many of the other members are regular church-goers, but I’m new to the organization and it’s too soon to rock the boat by suggesting we start an hour later. So I’m going, but I’m committed to going late. But I know that it will be difficult for me to put it totally out of my mind on Sunday. On Wednesday nights, we are rushing from work, grabbing something to eat and rushing to church. It can be difficult to arrive at church ready to receive from God and/or not being aware (consciously or unconsciously) of all the things that need to be done after church and before bed. In other words…as horrible as it is to say and hear, sometimes we put the lid on because we’re too busy to receive (another thing) from God. God is merciful and breaks through our busyness at times, but continual over-scheduling pushes the lid closed until there’s only a small crack of an opening for God to trickle His grace through.

Sometimes we put the lid on too soon because we don’t want the “mess” of the overflow. I hate to admit this, but sometimes we just don’t want to be the “peculiar” people that God has called us to be. We’re afraid that if He really pours His Spirit out on us we’ll become too religious, too holy, too fanatical, too weird. The truth is that God’s Spirit moves us away from “religious” and toward Christ-likeness, and Christ-likeness is anything but too holy, fanatical and weird. However, we need to get past this fear by becoming totally willing to become those things for God(regardless of how inaccurate they are in our minds). What sets the lid to wide open is our willingness to do and be anything that God wants us to do and be, and until we come to that place, our lids will always tend toward closing too soon.

I’m reminded of a vacation Phil and I took many years ago. We visited Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. It’s a beautiful location and as we waded into the water at the bottom of the falls, our guide suggested we stop for a picture. He posed us and snapped a few shots, then told us to take one step backwards. Being obedient tourists, we did so…not realizing that one step back put us under the full spray of the falls. We were instantly soaked and it was great fun. But there were others who saw what happened to us and were cautious. Maybe they didn’t want to get their clothes soaked or their hair messed. Maybe they didn’t want to feel out of control. Maybe they didn’t want to have that much fun on that day. Lord, I want to have fun with You every day. I don’t care if my clothes get soaked or my hair gets messed or that I feel out of control. Pour out Your Spirit and help me to not put the lid on too soon.

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I’ve joined a business referral organization recently. I meet with this group of folks each week, and every week each person stands up and teaches the rest of us about their business so that we can appropriately and intelligently recommend their services to those we meet. Another of the disciplines the group strongly encourages is that each member meet with each other member one-on-one to get to know one another on a more personal level. We meet for about an hour and learn about their family, their values, their goals, their lifestyles, their hobbies, and their business and customer base.

I can’t help but think that both of these features would make the Church a better place. If I made a commitment to learn as much as I possibly can about each person, wouldn’t it spur me on to pray for them, help meet their needs when I can, rejoice with them, grieve with them, and just generally do all those “one another’s” we’re supposed to be doing? I think it would. Wouldn’t it also help newcomers to feel more welcome and accepted when I invite them to a “one-on-one” so I can get to know them better? I think it would.

One of the things I’m getting out of this business referral organization is an understanding that I need to change my mindset. I need to have a “how can I help grow your business?” mindset. Perhaps my church mindset needs to change a bit, too. I need to have more of a “how can I help you grow in Christ this week?” mindset. Instead of letting my mind focus on ministry activity, I need to focus on ministry — meeting the needs of others.

I agree that we need to be careful about bringing too many business practices and principles into the Church because an overabundance can squash the Spirit…but perhaps these business practices would help us be more like Christ to one another each week. And as Martha says, that’s a very good thing.

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Juxtapositions often speak to me — two things happening one right after another that strike the same chord, or that are so different it draws my attention. This week, it was the juxtapositions of the “I will’s.”

On Sunday afternoon my husband and I lead the church service at the nursing home my mom lives in. Phil preached on the first verses of Psalm 34. On Wednesday evening we lead a small group teaching on developing intimacy with God. During part of that teaching we looked at the book of Hosea.

“I will  bless the Lord at all time, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Spoken by David, Psalm 34:1, NRSV

 “I will go after my lovers; they give me…” Hosea’s wife Gomer, Hosea 2:5b, NRSV

I was struck so strongly by two things:

  1. Both David and Gomer are making a choice of the will — “I will” they say. Choosing comes before doing. Granted, sometimes there is very little time for decision-making, but there is still a choice made before an action is taken. The purpose of training is to help us make right decisions, especially when we seem to have only time to react.
  2. The stark contrast in their choices. David chose to worship God. Gomer chose to be unfaithful to her husband. If I’m going to make a choice (and I’m going to, every minute of every day), I want it to be David’s choice.

As I put my pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) to reflect on this, some other things jump out at me. (Such is the nature of meditation. The things that come to mind immediately and cause you to meditate on a subject are typically just the tip of the iceberg. God has so much more to show you if you’ll take those first few things and roll them over in your mind a bit.)

  1. Both David and Gomer verbally expressed their wills. Speaking something (saying it out loud) brings it to life. It gives it more “substance.” If I only think “I will go to the store today,” it’s just the beginning of the reality of that thought. When I tell my husband “I will go to the store today” the thought has life. He now has the expectation that I will go to the store today. He might change his plans as a result of my spoken intention. Certainly the plan has more reality in my life. If I don’t go to the store today, I’m not doing something I said I would do. Speak your “I will’s” out loud and they will have life. (Remember, God spoke the world into existence, He didn’t think it into existence. Genesis 1)
  2. David willed to bless God — that’s a “giving” action. Gomer willed to follow other lovers who would give Her what she wanted — that’s a “taking” action. Serving God is a giving lifestyle, not a taking lifestyle. Choosing to serve God is choosing to live a giving lifestyle and to not live a me-first, taking lifestyle. And of course the paradox of the Christian life is that giving of ourselves gains us so much more.  Only in God’s economy does dying = abundant life.

I quoted the following verse just a few blogs ago but must do so again. This blog would be incomplete without it:

“Choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  
               
Joshua 24:15 (NRSV)

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40The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years.41In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the LORD’S forces left the land.42This night had been reserved by the LORD to bring his people out from the land of Egypt, so this same night now belongs to him. It must be celebrated every year, from generation to generation, to remember the LORD’S deliverance.
                             
Exodus 12:40-42 (NLT)

“So this same night now belongs to Him.” God establishes times that belong to Him. His word says that the Sabbath, the seventh day, belongs to Him. Do you observe one day a week as belonging to the Lord? I don’t want to be legalist and say that it has to be any specific day because we live in a different world than the Israelites did. Our society doesn’t stop on one day of the week to allow everyone to observe a Sabbath on that day. Not being legalistic, being flexible brings both freedom and a need for discipline: freedom to observe a Sabbath on the day of the week that best fits your lifestyle and schedule, and discipline to not let the day go by unrecognized.

The day already belongs to Him. Will you take time this week to recognize the One who owns it?

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  40The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years.41In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the LORD’S forces left the land.42This night had been reserved by the LORD to bring his people out from the land of Egypt, so this same night now belongs to him. It must be celebrated every year, from generation to generation, to remember the LORD’S deliverance.
                                                 
Exodus 12:40-42

God had reserved that specific night as the night of deliverance for His people. God has reserved specific times for our deliverance. If you’re going through a trial, know that God has set aside a specific time for your deliverance. If you’re in bondage to some situation, know that God has set aside a specific time for your deliverance. Like the Israelites, be looking toward God and praying for your deliverance. Be obedient in the interim, but know that He has not abandoned you, any more than He abandoned the Israelites.

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 A while ago I was reading about the many tensions that exist in planning a typical worship service – competing values and goals that those of us sitting in the pews are happily ignorant about. Tensions like planning for both a personal and a corporate worship experience, honoring the heritage of the past while still meeting the needs of the present, and balancing the teaching of objective truth with every believer’s need for a subjective experience of God are just a few of the challenges that make planning any service much more difficult than most of us realize.

As I pondered these issues, I began to think about the Christian life in general. When we begin to walk with the Lord, we become aware of how short we fall of the glory of God. Walking a little further, we begin to get a glimpse of who He wants us to be and how He might want to use us. Even further down the path, that glimpse comes into sharper focus until at some point we have a picture with some definition to it. We can see that He wants to shape us and mold us into an image of His Son that is still uniquely us.

But we’re not there yet. So we begin to live our life in the dynamic tension of being one person while we’re becoming another person; of seeing both the present and the future and remaining both “content” and “discontent” with the present while we look and work toward the future. That tension can cause guilt and frustration or excitement and joy.

The Three Me’s 

Sometimes I get so excited about the person God is slowly changing me into. That person is so very much better than the person I am today. And yet, I can also see that the person I am today is at least a little better than the one I was ten years ago. The difference between living my life in guilt and frustration or excitement and joy is a result of which of these three “people” I’m focusing on.

Focusing on the person I am today generally leads to a discontented Sandy. I periodically say to Phil “If I were really a good daughter, I’d _________________” (I can fill in the blank with any of a number of things that I’m apt to feel guilty about not doing for my parents). That’s focusing on the incomplete person I am today. And that person isn’t doing all those hundreds of things I sometimes think I “should” be doing. That person is tired, frustrated and guilty. She is just one step away from being ashamed and defeated. That person doesn’t see God at work in her life; she just sees her life as it is here and now.

Focusing on the person I was ten years ago can lead to either totally inappropriate shame or the very dangerous emotion of pride. I’m not the person I was ten years ago, so it isn’t appropriate for me to be burdened with guilt for my shortcomings in the past. God has already changed me. My sins of ten years ago are forgiven. If I compare my “ten-years-ago self” to my current self, however, I might easily exaggerate my improvements in my mind and say “Wow, look how much better I am today.” I pray that when that happens, the Holy Spirit reminds me loudly and clearly that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)

The best place to be is focusing on the person God is changing me into. When my focus is on that person, I have hope. I have excitement in my life, because I can begin to see how He is using even my failures to move me closer to becoming that person. When my focus is on that person, life is more fun because I can enjoy the process of growing. I can view my maturation process as an adventure with God instead of Him pounding me into shape. It is this view that actually transfers my focus from myself to God and His work in me.

I’m not denying that life is difficult at times; in fact, I’m going through one of those “difficult seasons” now. Aging parents and increasing responsibilities can be a heavy load at times. But I can see, and others have told me that they can see, how God is using this to soften some of my sharp edges. And that is good, because the person God is molding me to be (and has shown me glimpses of) needs softer edges. So we’re working on softer edges right now. Next week (year?) we might be working on something else. I don’t know. I’m just along for the adventure!

Perhaps this is some of what Paul was feeling when he wrote Philippians 3: 12-14:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Of course the ultimate prize is Christ Himself. Along the way, though, there are many preliminary rounds with prizes to the winners. Prizes like softer edges and the wonderful adventure of becoming the person God already sees. What a God we serve!

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