A Simple Life

photo-1510333337682-fdd0eba357a4 Robert Nyman UnsplashI attended a women’s conference a few weeks back. I had my notebook ready, and captured all sorts of wise words and valuable lessons. One stood out from all the rest.

“Someone asked the question, ‘What are you doing with your life?’
The answer I heard was, ‘I’m following Jesus. How about you?’”

Is life really that simple?

Yes, I think it is. My college chaplain used to say, “Few things are necessary, really only one.” (More about that here.) Our one thing is following Christ. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. In order to follow Jesus, we have to see where he’s leading us. That requires time and effort and a good deal of going against the flow of our culture. It takes:

Knowing him: spending time in prayer, taking time to read the Bible, immersing ourselves in teaching about who he is and what his will looks like.

Listening to him: limiting distractions that crowd out his still small voice with clamor and confusion, asking him to speak and looking for his leading.

Opening ourselves to others: letting true fellowship take the role of godly counsel at times when we aren’t sure what following Jesus looks like.

Stepping out in faith and courage: taking action in some situations, while waiting patiently in others. When we don’t yet know the path that’s right, and can’t keep waiting to make a decision, we have to seek our Lord’s will and trust that, as we step out in faith, he will keep us going in the right direction. When we do know what following Jesus looks like in a particular circumstance, we still need the strength or courage to follow through.

But at its core, the life we’re meant to lead is one of simply following Jesus. When I’m discouraged or confused, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus wants me to follow him. And he knows I want to do just that. My prayers for guidance are absolutely 100% within his will, and 1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Photo by Robert Nyman via Unsplash.com

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Jungle Book

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I’m old-fashioned in many ways. I make muffins and soup from scratch, prefer paper books to e-readers, and am rarely willing to watch an “R” rated movie. If you interviewed any of my offspring, or their many friends who know me well, the list of ways in which my life is, shall we say, not quite up-to-date would grow exponentially. Here’s one that may surprise you:

I still own a VHS player (and a whole lot of tapes, because our home became the depository as friends and family moved on to DVD’s and streaming). Now, don’t misunderstand, I have a stack of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s in an upstairs closet. We subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime. But last week, to my great delight, 2-year-old Nick and I watched an old VHS of Jungle Book.

  • It was Walt Disney’s19th and final full length animated feature.
  • It was produced in 1967, before many of you were old enough to go see it (or were even born)!
  • And it was so very different from the animated films of today.

The graphics were simpler and somehow calmer. Far less action was crammed into every frame. The soundtrack, as well as the dialogue, was quieter, slower, and sometimes nearly non-existent.

Yes, just imagine, sometimes there was actual silence! And we loved it. It was beautiful and relaxing. And it made me wonder…

When did noise become the norm? I watch plenty of noisy movies. My most recent discovery was The Kid Who Would Be King. And just last night Steve and I were laughing and dancing to Disney Hits and One Hit Wonders via Pandora, our wireless jam box cranked up so high we probably disturbed the neighbors. But, today I’m being quiet. And I’m remembering that noise is relatively new. Think of the characters in Little House on the Prairie. Unless Pa was playing his fiddle, just how many sound waves bounced around that cabin at night?

I know the power of good music, calling me to worship or simply putting a spring in my step. I appreciate a tale well-told via modern media with plenty of sound effects. But what have we done to our brains? To our spirits? Have we become overloaded by a society saturated with sound?

Here is my challenge: Take a break from the noise sometime soon. Turn it all off. Listen. Pray. Or even let your mind lie fallow. Try it for more than an hour, maybe even half a day, or at least for your whole commute. Bring a little balance back into your noisy life. And let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your comments! Just click the balloon at the top right or click here.

And for those of you who know me so well and are just dying to add to my old-fashioned list–go for it!

 

The Herbie Guy Strikes Again

vw bug unsplash @karol smocyznskiWhat does the name Dean Jones mean to you? He was inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame nearly 25 years ago, so maybe you associate his name with That Darn Cat or Blackbeard’s Ghost. Have you ever seen The Love Bug, that first beloved Herbie movie which, incidentally, was one of the highest grossing films of 1969? Dean Jones played racecar driver Jim Douglas alongside comedian Buddy Hackett and a very lively Volkswagen Beetle.

Dean Jones provided the comforting voice that will read the New Living Translation of the Bible to you via YouVersion anytime you want to hear the spoken Word. ‘Talk about a great way multitask while driving to work or doing dishes! But now I’ve discovered my favorite Dean Jones gift of all.

St. John in Exile.

What can I say to convince you to forgo your favorite video entertainment sometime this week and choose to watch this gem instead? “St. John in Exile” is a one man play, filmed beautifully before a live audience without, as I understand it, any editing. Dean plays an aging John, author of both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, exiled on the island of Patmos.

  • He reminisces about his time with Jesus, relates his experience of the crucifixion and the later loss of fellow apostles.
  • He speaks of the triumph available to believers even when imprisoned in a damp and uncomfortable cave.
  • He shows you Jesus!

By the end of its 90 minutes you will have laughed, learned and worshipped. I love the way this film entertains, encourages and educates all at the same time. And I’m amazed that one actor could carry out such a feat without a supporting cast.

Go, go, I say! Trust me on this! It’s free to stream on Amazon Prime. The rental and the hard copy DVD are both on sale here at Christianbooks.com.

Oh, and next on my viewing list? The Most Reluctant Convert, C.S. Lewis portrayed on stage by Max McLean.

Enjoy! Enjoy! And then tell all your friends, including me, what you thought of St. John in Exile. You can add your comments here.

If God Never Did One More Thing…or Are You Tired of Manna?

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Every time I re-read portions of the Old Testament, I’m astounded by the way the Israelites got caught in this loop:

  1. Cry out for help. (For example, “Let us out of Egypt!”)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like parted seas.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re thirsty!”)

REPEAT:

  1. Cry out for help. (“Give us food!”)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like manna from heaven.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re so sick of eating the same old thing!”)

REPEAT…REPEAT…REPEAT…

But I have grumpy days, don’t you? I feel sorry for myself or evaluate my lot in life and decide it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s. I long for something I don’t have and forget all God has done and all I’ve been given. I’ve seen miraculous provision in my own life, so how am I any different from those Israelites? I’m ashamed to admit that I can get tired of manna too.

I was knocked upside the head by this quote not long ago: “If God never did one more thing for you, you ought to be the happiest person in the world.” (I heard it in a TV sermon, but don’t remember who was preaching.) Oh my, yes! When I step back from my doldrums and recount the miracles in my own life and in those of my loved ones, I quickly realize that any one of those gifts from God should be enough to keep me rejoicing until eternity. How quickly I can forget!

So, today, I want to leave you with this verse, Psalm 42:6, from The Message:

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.”

Has God ever done anything for you? Then, next time you find yourself grumpy or dissatisfied, refresh your memory! I plan to do the same.

‘Love to read your comments here.

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Awkward Peace

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My pastor’s sermons nearly always leave me mulling over at least one sound bite, a short phrase that requires thought and provokes action. Here’s a recent quote of his:

“At some point, friends, we’ve got to be a little awkward,”

Doing the right thing can look a little goofy—and feel a little goofy—particularly when it comes to making peace and building relationships.

The deepest and best friendships can require an uncomfortable degree of transparency. On occasion, after I open up about my thoughts and prayers, or even just try to be funny, I spend hours wondering if the friend to whom I bared my soul thinks I’m, well, goofy. All that second-guessing is a waste of time! Worse yet, it tends to make me want to re-construct those little personal walls that can keep me from the true fellowship and friendship I need (and that the Bible tells us we’re never to forsake.) Furthermore, a little awkwardness on my part may make new friends and old feel more comfortable about opening their true and imperfect selves to me.

Then there’s that whole sticky area of peacekeeping. The Bible doesn’t seem to make allowances for awkwardness in that department at all.

  • We’re told to honor others above ourselves, so humble pie is okay with God.
  • We’re warned about grumbling against one another, so a healthy dose of tongue biting may be part of a godly lifestyle.
  • The gospel of peace is even part of the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6, essential equipment as we stand against the devil’s wily ways.

The phrase “blessed are the peacemakers” conjures up an image of a smiling faces graciously parting two warring factions, like hall monitors at a schoolyard. That’s certainly one element of peacemaking, but there’s another, far less heroic, element to peacemaking. It’s a nitty gritty, personal challenge:

We are supposed to make as much peace as possible with everyone around us. And do we? Do I? Do you?

I hope you’ll stop right now and ask God to show you any peacelessness (not a word, but it ought to be) in your life. And then, by his grace and in his strength, go and make peace, even if you must eat humble pie or bite your tongue or endure awkwardness. Our Savior asks this of us, and that’s all we need to know.

Been there? Done that? I hope you’ll tell me your story here.

 

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Wiser Words than Mine

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I keep a list of quotes that strike me as challenging and true. When the list lengthens, it’s time for me to share them with you. Here are my favorites from the past few months, credited wherever possible.

Often the work of the Lord itself may tempt us away from communion with Him. A full schedule of preaching, counseling, and travel can erode the strength of the mightiest servant of the Lord. Public prayer will never make up for closet communion.”

“The Christian should never worry about tomorrow or give sparingly because of a possible future need. Only the present moment is ours to serve the Lord and tomorrow may never come.“–Both by George Muller in The Autobiography of George Muller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 46 and 207.

“God’s plan isn’t something he just threw together.” –Paul Washer in a sermon entitled “Walking with God” available on sermonaudio.com.

“Sin is a process. You arrive there on a journey of small decisions gone wrong…Satan’s goal through sin isn’t to draw you to himself, but to draw you away from God…Christianity is not about avoiding sin, it’s about chasing after Jesus.” –Matt Werner in a sermon at Bannockburn Baptist Church.

“God’s faithfulness in the past needs to motivate our worship in the future.”–Ty VanHorn in a sermon at NorthWest Bible Church

“Following Jesus is more than just agreeing with the tenets of the gospel, it is living and experiencing God living in you.”

“God calls all of us to be Jesus where we’re at.”

“What you worry about most is what you trust God with least.”

Got a favorite quote you’d like to share with me?