Meditations of my Heart

Friday, July 29, 2016

When It Rains . . .


Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it be measured to you.

Last Friday is a long workday for my husband, Danny, who most of you know does the cooking here at the Orlando Cafe.  "Why don't we just order a pizza?"  I suggest.

Danny is visibly relieved.  "That sounds great to me," he says, and promptly proceeds to go on line to place an order with our newest, favorite pizza chain, Marco's.  (If you like thin crust, friends, theirs is to die for!)

"Scheduled delivery time: 7:12," Danny announces, glancing at his watch.  "Thirty minutes sounds too good to be true, but we'll see."  And changing the subject, he adds, "After we eat, I'm going to have to run the sprinklers again.  This ninety-degree heat is going to kill the moss."

"Not to mention kill our water bill," I observe.  "Isn't there any chance of a pop-up storm tonight?"

"Doesn't look that way right now," says Danny.

I sigh, and decide to spend some time on Facebook before the pizza arrives.  Danny does the same.  Before we know it, there is a knock on the door.  "Can that be the Marco's delivery guy so quickly?"  I ask in amazement.

"Seven-twelve!"  Danny declares.  "Right on the button!"

He pays the driver while I hurriedly grab napkins, plates and forks.  Danny sets the pizza box and an order of chicken wings on the table.  Chicken wings???  He never orders chicken wings!  Oh, well, maybe he had a hankering for them.  Come to think of it, I'm in the mood for wings, too.  No sooner are the pizza slices on our plates and the first bites taken, when there is another knock on the door.  Danny and I exchange quizzical looks as he gets up to answer it.

Momentarily, Danny returns to the table with another pizza box and an order of chicken nuggets.  "What's all this?"  I wonder aloud.

"This is the order I originally placed," Danny explains.  "The driver got them mixed up, so it looks like we got two meals for the price of one!"

"What a deal!"  I exclaim, laughing.  "When it rains, it pours!"

"Sure wish it would," Danny responds.

We enjoy our meal, and store the leftovers, which are plenteous, in the fridge.  As I begin to load the dishwasher, I hear it faintly, still in the distance.  It is the unmistakable sound of thunder.  Can it be?  Could we possibly be in the path of this pop-up?  Oh, Lord, let it rain!

As if on cue, I hear the first pitter-patter of rain hitting the stove vent.  The leaves on the maple tree outside the kitchen window reflect the first shimmering drops.  And then?

The bottom drops out!

No wishy-washy rain here.  It's a gully-washer!



As Danny and I watch gleefully from our French doors that look out on our deck, we both feel overwhelmingly blessed.  Unexpected food in the fridge and no sprinklers tonight!

Danny looks at me and smiles.  "When it rains, it pours!"

~

When did God last shower you with unexpected blessings?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for all the good things You give to us in abundance, more than we could ask for, and much more than we deserve.  May we continue to give to and love others as You commanded, showing them Your light and grace.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Good Job!


Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell us how difficult parenting can be.  When my children are growing up, I make a few, some, a LOT of mistakes along the way.  One of these blunders, which is recently called to my attention here, is the use of the seemingly innocuous accolade:  Good job!

Why, you ask, should parents avoid saying good job to their children if, indeed, they have done particularly well at a particular task?  There are two reasons: 1) It doesn't show engagement with the activity, only a reaction to it, and 2) it is praise based on the child's performance.  While some of you may still be thinking there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it can become an addictive tool in the hands of a child.  He or she sees that what is done and done right earns parental praise, so strives to perform (or out-perform for the Type A) just to feel accepted and loved.

In Chapter Five of The Discipline of Grace, author, Larry Bridges, writes:  "We are performance oriented by nature, and our culture and sometimes our upbringing reinforces this legalistic mind-set.  All too often a child's acceptance by his or her parent is based on the child's performance, and this certainly tends to be true in our society.  We carry this same type of thinking into our relationship with God.  So, whether it is our response to God's discipline of us or our practice of those spiritual disciplines that are so good and helpful, we tend to think it is the 'law' of God rather than the grace of God that disciplines us."

We can, and too often do, as Christians, mistakenly suppose that our good jobs in this world will make God love us even more.  Impossible!  Because God already loves us immeasurably.  We can do nothing to add to or detract from His great love.

But because we have God's salvation through grace, that grace, in turn, flows through us, convicting us to do good works in His name and for His glory.  It is a discipline that encourages us to move forward in faith, and shapes us to become more and more like Jesus every day.

God's grace will change us for the better when we submit our wills, fully and unconditionally, to His.

We will no longer crave to hear those two little word, good job.  Instead, we will rest in the promise found in Philippians 1:6 " . . . he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." 

Amen!

~



For the next eight weeks, I will be participating in a study of Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace.  It is led by fellow Christian bloggers, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, who welcome you to read the book along with us and join in on the discussion.  Hope to see you back here next Wednesday.  God bless!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Don't Worry; Be Happy!


John 16:33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.

Do you worry?

If so, from whence do those worries arise?

Is it a troubled, wayward child?  An aging parent, who is struggling with health problems?  A shake-up at the workplace, where you think your job is jeopardized?  A relationship you once thought invincibly strong, now on the rocks  The sudden, tragic loss of a spouse?  A persistent health issue?

If it makes you feel any better, I have experienced in the past, and am presently experiencing, these precarious and anxiety-producing situations.

How did I deal with them then, and how do I deal with them now?

Prayer!

The minute I feel worry rear its ugly, joy-stealing head, I run to my Father.  Granted, sometimes my prayers are clumsy, emotional and awkward; the kind that dissolve into tears without warning.

But after all these years of trusting in the Lord, I know He hears and cares and heals in His perfect timing.

Am I always content with God's answers, or lack thereof?

No, but I hold fast to Jesus' promise that in Him, I, and all of us, will have peace in our hearts, our minds and our souls.

We will be able to lay our burdens upon His light yoke, and move forward in faith, knowing that He is looking after those whom we love so much better than we ever could.

Jesus grants us the peace that passes all understanding.

Grab on and hold on, my friends, to that perfect peace!

Pray, and leave your worries in the comforting, capable hands of God.

I'm confident He will whisper:  "Don't worry, my child.  Be happy!"


~

Are you going through a tough time in your life right now?  How can I pray for you?

Prayer:  Father, for so many years, I claimed my worries as my own, too trivial to share with You or ask for help.  No that I know no request is too small, I leave all my worries and cares at Your feet, for Your yoke is light and ready to bear my burdens.  Heal our troubled hearts, dear Lord, and assure us of Your peace.  In Jesus' name, I pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Shall We Go on Sinning?


Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

My husband, Danny, and I are recently placed into a situation that neither one of us see coming.  In an interaction with a person we certainly want to trust, the truth comes out, and not without its lack of kindness.

My heart is pierced and my mind is reeling.  I want to scream in our defense.  I long to put this individual in her place; to land the defining punch that will secure this match in our favor.

I sin.

I may not speak the hateful, spiteful, defensive words, but I think them.

That's sin.

In Chapter Four of his book, The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges writes:  "Therefore a believer cannot continue in sin.  We no longer live in the realm of sin, under its reign and practical dominion.  We have, to use Paul's words, died to sin.  We, indeed, do sin, and even our best deeds are stained with sin, but our attitude toward it is essentially different from that of an unbeliever."

Bridges' words convict me.  I cannot continue to sin, spoken or unspoken, without confession.  What gives me such hope in God's grace is how He took hold of and controlled my tongue and my temper when I could have all too easily become a champion bridge-burner, negating in one tirade all the progress He has allowed me to make in my faith journey.

Yes, I am a sinner, but I don't need to let sin reign in my life.  Christ wants me to run to Him when those temptations to default to evil ways assail me.

As Bridges states:  "We must by faith in God's Word lay hold on the fact that we have died to the reign of sin and are now alive to God, under His reign of grace.  Unless we do this we will find ourselves seeking to pursue holiness by the strength of our own wills, not by the grace of God."

By the strength of our own wills, not by the grace of God.

It is only by God's grace that Danny and I surmount the obstacles placed in our path.  

It has nothing to do with our perceived wants or needs.  It has everything to do with the increase of God's grace that met us as we stood on the precarious cliff of sin.

The grace that pulled us back to safety.


~

Shall we go on sinning?  What are your thoughts?

Prayer:  Father, we are born of Adam and carry his legacy of sin.  But in Your mercy, You sent Christ Jesus, Your Son, to redeem and restore us to You.  May we daily remember Jesus' sacrifice for the sins we could never delete on our own.  Raise our awareness so that when we are tempted to sin, we turn them over to You for forgiveness and healing.  In Jesus' blessed name, we pray.  Amen.




For the next nine weeks, I will be participating in a study of Jerry Bridges' The Discipline of Grace.  It is led by fellow Christian bloggers, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, who welcome you to read the book along with us, and chime in with your own commentary if you feel so moved.  See you next Wednesday!  God bless!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ready for Adventure!


Job 33:4
The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

In the scorching heat of summer here in Georgia, it is such a blessing to be able to take our granddaughter, Virginia Rose to an indoor playground called "Catch Air."  What an appropriate name as catching one's breath outside when the weather is extremely hot or frigidly cold can be problematic.

From the moment we enter the venue, Virginia is in perpetual motion.  Whether it's immersing herself in a an ocean of buoyant plastic balls,


or conquering the world,



or riding high on top of it,




Virginia's heart is more than ready for adventure!

Here she is "behind bars," but rest assured, she won't stay there for long!


The giant, green slide is her guaranteed escape, and she visits it numerous times.






Sweat-drenched, and needing a pause from all her frenetic activities, Virginia finds rest in building with larger-than-life Lego blocks.  Like the ancient dreamed when constructing the Tower of Babel, she wants to make it go all the way to the top.



It isn't long before other children arrive and remake the tower in their own image.

But by this time, Virginia no longer cares.  She makes the most of another photo opportunity aboard this inflated, rotating climbing attraction.




Then, just as we prepare to depart, Virginia thinks one more slide is needed to round out our two hours of playtime.


I've known Virginia Rose since the day she was born, yet never have I seen her expend the amount of energy she displays today.  She is the perfect testament to unbridled joy, that same joy given to each of us through the breath of the Almighty.

Virginia, in her constant embrace of the present moment, personifies the Spirit of God that has made her.

May we all dare to live so abundantly, trusting in God's love and grace.

Always ready for the the adventures He has in store for us!

~

Is God calling you to new adventures today?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for Your breath which breathes life into us.  May we ever be open to the adventures upon which You are calling us to embark.  Let Your Holy Spirit so dwell within us that we do all things to Your honor and glory.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Preach the Gospel to Yourself


Galatians 2:20-21
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Back in the 90s, when I return to school to earn my teaching certificate, I am fortunate to land a position at a local Christian school in the spring to teach sixth grade in the fall.  I am thrilled to be saying good-bye to my paraprofessional job at a public school, and looking forward to making more money in a God-friendly environment.

I am savoring my summer home with my children and preparing for the exciting year ahead, when I get the call.  It is the secretary of the Christian school.  She informs me that the headmaster, who hired me, has resigned, and new one wishes to meet with me.  No other details are forthcoming, and I agree to an appointment the next day.

Hands shaking, I return the receiver to its cradle, and try in vain to quell the nauseating panic rising within.  What if he saw something in my resume that raised a red flag?  Will he fire me before I've even had a chance?  Oh, God, I've already resigned my former job; what will I do if I lose this one?

I am an unhappy camper, my tent erected in the dark night of the soul.  Needless to say, many prayers are said, right up until the moment I walk through the door to the headmaster's office.

The exchange of pleasantries and his gracious smile go far to put me at ease.  Then the bomb drops.  "Martha, this being a Christian school, I must know definitively one thing about all my faculty and staff.  Tell me, please, when and how you accepted Jesus as your Savior."

The words tumble out.  I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say, my testimony, much to my surprise, is enough for him.

In the third chapter of his book, A Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges writes:
The doctrine of trusting in Jesus Christ alone for one's salvation is a basic truth of the gospel.  Without acceptance of it there is no salvation.  All believers by definition accept that fact.  But it is important to realize that we were not only saved by faith in Christ at a particular time, but we are to live by faith in Christ every day of our lives . . . I must continue to renounce any confidence in my own goodness and place my confidence solely in Christ every day of my life, not only for my eternal salvation, but for my daily acceptance before a holy God.

Yes.  Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is step one.  But I must agree with Bridges that continual growth in our relationship with Him is an absolute necessity.  We must, each and every day, take up our crosses and follow Jesus.  We must, as the title of chapter three states, preach the gospel to ourselves.

Says Bridges:  The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history.  Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.

Not once during my tenure at the Christian school did the headmaster, nor any other fellow teacher, ever check in with me about the state of my Christian journey.  Perhaps they simply assumed that my moment of salvation guaranteed a closer walk with Jesus.

But friends, it didn't.

Though I believed in Christ Jesus with all my heart, I did not clearly understand the gospel, nor was I finding the joy that comes only from living it.

Fortunately for me, our God had unflagging patience.  Over the years, He has opened the doors to that closer walk, even, and perhaps, especially, when I didn't know how to knock.  He has shown me green pastures and led me by still waters, time and time again.

And I've come, at long last, to fully understand Paul's words:  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

I can, with a heart overflowing with joy and gratefulness, preach the gospel to myself.

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for Your unending grace and patience poured out upon us.  Let us pray to know Your will, to do all things for Your glory, and to remember, each and every day, that Your gospel "is the only essential message in all of history."  May we preach it.  May we live it.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen



For the next ten weeks, I will be participating in a study of Jerry Bridges' A Discipline of Grace.  The discussion is led by fellow Christian bloggers, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, who welcome you to read the book along with us, and chime in at any time you feel so moved.  Even if you decide not to read the book, I hope you will hook up with me here every Wednesday for a new reflection.  God bless!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Daddy's on the Loose!


Deuteronomy 23:14
For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you.  Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.

"They say Aslan is on the move.  Perhaps he has already landed," whispered the Beaver.  Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror.  Peter felt brave and adventurous.  Susan felt as if some delightful strain of music had just floated by.  And Lucy got that feeling when you realize it's the beginning of summer. ~C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I pick up our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, last Friday to take her to Chick-fil-A for lunch and on to Chuck E. Cheese for a special play time.  Oh, how she loves it!





On the long drive there, Virginia is quieter than usual, so I suggest we listen to some music.  She readily agrees.  Now I must confess, my friends, that the only stations I have programmed into my car radio are a local Christian music channel and a news/talk one.  So I'm hoping the tunes on the Christian station will be as inspiring as the songs on Virginia's VBS CD, which is stashed out of reach in my car's hatch.

God does not disappoint!

We hear a song called, God is on the Move, by 7eventh Time Down, and it strikes an immediate chord (Yes, pun intended!) with both of us.  By the second chorus, Virginia and I are singing along, and I know this is one I have to share with my husband, Danny, to see if he likes it enough to learn it and include it in our contemporary worship service.

When we get home, Virginia settles down at our dining room table with her Uncle Giovanni to build with Legos.  Danny is working at home this day, so I ask him if he break for a few moments to hear this new (at least, new to me) song.  He's all ears.

I find it on YouTube without a hitch.  As the music plays, Virginia once again joins in on the catchy chorus - God is on the move, on the move.  Hallelujah!  But by the chorus rolls around again, she has unexpectedly modified it - God is on the loose, on the loose.  Hallelujah!

"Virginia," I correct her, "the word is move not loose."

"I know, Gammie," she says, matter-of-factly, "but I want to say loose."

I contemplate this sudden shift, comparing how I envision God acting in the ways these words suggest.  When I think of Him moving, I see a methodical march forward, a steady and purposeful pace.  But when I think of God being on the loose, my perspective shifts dramatically.  God is everywhere at once, showing up when least expected, uncontrollable, wild.  Acting with purpose?  Yes!  But not in any way we could ever predict.  Suddenly, I feel as though riding high and free on the back of Aslan himself!

The song ends, but Virginia, bent over her Legos, still repeats the chorus.  And it's changed yet again!

"Daddy's on the loose, on the loose.  Hallelujah!"

To say you could floor me with a feather is the all-time understatement.  Then in a flash, two and two come together.

About a year ago, Virginia asks me what God is like.  I tell her, "God is your Father, your Daddy, in Heaven.  Just like your earthly daddy loves you as his child, God loves you that much and more."

Virginia has made the connection seamlessly.  And this Gammie can't stop smiling.

Daddy is, indeed, loose in Virginia's heart.

Is He in yours?

Instead of a prayer today, I'm offering the song, God is on the Move.  I hope you will sing and praise the Lord along with 7eventh Time Down, and if you are so inclined, substitute Virginia's lyrics when appropriate.  God bless!