Christ Beside Me

 

pub unsplash Nikola Jovanovic

Franklin, Tennessee is a charming little town. Steve and I went there for a clean water event several years ago. We stayed in an unforgettable bed and breakfast—run down, yet run by a lady delightful enough to make up for the shortcomings of the room she offered. We hiked a long wooded trail and almost got lost. We dined with Jars of Clay in a barn-like venue owned by Michael W. Smith. And, most memorable of all, we spent several hours in an authentic Irish pub.

I don’t remember the menu or even what the live musicians were playing. What I remember is the poem running around the ceiling edge of the walls like an old- fashioned border:

Christ beside me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me.

Those words, written by Saint Patrick over 1500 years ago, often whisper in the back of my mind, reminding me that I am never alone and that all I do is to be done with Christ, in his name and by his power.

How might our daily lives change if we reminded ourselves of those truths every single morning? Wouldn’t they become part of our path to a happy life, one where the enemy could no longer cause us to fear, where stress over our own performance would simply melt away?

And can we doubt a single line of that verse? Isn’t it really just a rewording of the promises of God heralded by his holy Word?

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head” (Psalm 139:5 NLT).

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

I need those promises every day, just as you do. And so my prayer for you today, and the prayer I hope you will lift up on my behalf as well, is this, from Colossians 2: 6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

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What’s Pulling Your Train?

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The experts say we have to hear something seven times before we really get it. So, here’s a new way to say what I’ve said before: 

When life throws a curveball and doubts begin to erode your joy, it helps to ask ourselves this question: What’s pulling your train? Is it faith, fact, or feeling?

The most common human order is FEELING FIRST! We make our feelings the powerful engine of our emotional train, leaving faith to follow along far behind as the powerless caboose. When that happens, our shifting moods and circumstances crowd out all the good we know to be true.

But God loves us even when the sun isn’t shining! He’s in charge even when the world looks impossibly broken or cruel.

God asks us to reverse the cars on that train. Faith comes first. We trust the God of the universe, the Lord who loves us, based on all he has told us in his Word and all he has revealed to us as we’ve relied on him. Of course, that means we need to learn the facts about him.

Memorization can help. Here’s a good place to start:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Of course, if you’re like me, memorizing Bible verses can be a little tough. Music always helps. So, let me close by asking you to click over to YouTube, where Chris Rice can help you implant that verse and all its promises into your heart and mind.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness sung by Chris Rice

 

I Don’t Know! (and Pie!)

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Warning: Bragging grandmother ahead.

Nick’s verbal skills are exploding, but sometimes he’s still a little hard to understand. A couple of weeks ago, he said “Mon hee hee!” over and over. Steve and I remained baffled. Eventually he gave up and said “Pie!” (Which means crustless pumpkin pie, which is now a staple in this Nana’s fridge.) Later in the afternoon, we gave him what our family affectionately calls a “Monkey Cookie,” (recipe below) which he happily took, saying “Mon hee hee!”

Okay. We got it.

Just a make-you-smile story? Maybe, but here’s what I pull from it. Hallelujah!! God always understands what we’re saying! He may not give us what we’re asking for, but he likes that we ask, and he ALWAYS understands. He just knows better. ‘Wish I never forgot that during the more disappointing moments of life.

Second Story:

There is a phrase, though, that Nick articulates with perfect clarity. Hands up by his chin, in an adorable semi-soprano voice, he says, “I don’t know!” Because it’s so cute, we look for ways to get him to say it again. (Sorry, bragging. I warned you.)

Second takeaway: Why are we adults so slow to say “I don’t know.” Why do we have to argue the gray areas of life? In matters of theology, should we expect to know very much about the way God chooses to work? And as to more worldly subjects, do we always have to take a hard stand and dig in our heels? Might we benefit from realizing the limits of our own intelligence and information, acknowledging the tiny chance that those on the other side of our proverbial fence could have a few valid points?

One of our family rules, framed in print for emphasis, was “Don’t argue when it doesn’t matter.” Perhaps another way to phrase that could be, “Be willing to say ‘I don’t know!’”

So today I’m asking myself, and you as my readers, to remember your own intellectual weakness and revel in the omniscience of our Lord. Not a bad combination! Have a great week, and feel free to share your responses!

 

Monkey Cookies

  • ½ c. raisins                                                               1 cup oatmeal
  • ½ c. chopped dates                                                  ½ cup flour
  • 1 medium – size ripe banana (mashed)              1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

 

Combine raisins, dates, bananas, peanut butter, water, egg, and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat until blended. Add oatmeal, flour, and baking soda. Mix to blend thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake @ 350° for about 10 min. until browned on underside. Store in airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies.

 

What’s in Your Cup?

teacup pixa 5 16 18Last Saturday I went to a ladies’ tea at church. My church. Do you know what a big deal it is feel at home in a church here already? A quarter century at NorthWest Bible Church was a tough act to follow. (Stop doing the math. I’m older, but not old yet!)

My friend Lea Castillo gave the devotional Saturday. I loved it and asked her to allow me to turn her notes into a blog. She kindly agreed, so all you read today comes from her heart and her story.

Do you have a cup of tea (or coffee, or…) by your side as you’re reading this? I hope so, but if not, just conjure one up in your imagination. Now look inside.

Is it half full? Half empty? Maybe it’s nearly dry or overflowing. You’ve already heard that familiar lesson before about perspective and positive attitude, so let’s take a look at your cup in a different light…

Your cup of tea is enough.

Today, whatever God provides you will be enough. You may be clueless as to what’s heading your way, but our Lord knows, and he will always provide what you need to live this day.

Sadly, we do this awful thing, you and I. We oh-so-often evaluate our “enoughness.” We ask ourselves, are we

  • good looking enough?
  • strong enough?
  • smart enough?

Then we evaluate the sufficiency of our situation, wondering if we have enough

  • money.
  • time.
  • opportunity.

One morning, when I finally had a chance to sleep late, my “not enoughs” badgered me into an unwelcome consciousness. I was losing my battle for peace and rest when, to make matters worse, a bunch of birds started making a racket outside my window. They just wouldn’t stop. And then, they spoke to me. Okay, not exactly, but God used them to get my attention and to remind me of this verse:

Look at the birds in the sky. They do not plant seeds. They do not gather grain. They do not put grain into a building to keep. Yet your Father in heaven feeds them! Are you not more important than the birds?(Matthew 6:26 NLV).

That’s when divine logic kicked in:

  • The birds always have enough.
  • I’m more important to God than the birds.
  • So I will always have enough!

And with God’s enoughness, I can face anything that life brings. On some days, the “tea in my cup” may not be as sweet as I’d like. It might not taste the way I was expecting, but God is still giving me enough.

We who question our enoughness are in great spiritual company. Even Moses did it. God’s answer?

“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV).

Our Lord is with us! The next time your cup looks empty, remember:

God always fills it—fills you—with enough, because he is enough.

Curious About George?

George Muller Wikipedia 2018Born in 1805, George Müller started life as a thief. Yep, a thief. Later, though, as a Christian, he established much needed orphanages in England. Here’s how dire the situation was: “When the new Orphan House was being built, nearly six thousand young orphans were living in the prisons of England because there was no other place for them to go.”[1]

George wanted to help those children. He also wanted to convince people that God answers prayer. Thus, as part of his MO, he never asked for funding or publicized his needs. “He knew that God could incline the hearts of men to aid him, and he believed that if the work was of Him, He would meet every need. Thus, in childlike simplicity, he looked to God, and all that he needed was furnished as punctually as if he was a millionaire drawing regularly on his bank account.”[2]

What can we learn from George? His autobiography describes these steps toward a life of faith:[3]

  • Expect to have difficulty in this world, for it is not our home, yet all difficulties may be overcome by acting according to the Word of God.
  • Carefully read the Bible and meditate on it…Become acquainted with the nature and character of God. But be warned—the work of the Lord itself may tempt us away from communion with Him, yet public prayer will never make up for closet communion
  • Maintain an upright heart and a good conscience. Do not knowingly and habitually indulge in things that are contrary to the mind of God.
  • Don’t shrink from opportunities for faith to be tested. These allow us to see God’s help and deliverance, which in turn increase our faith.
  • Let God work. When a trail of faith comes, stand firm in trusting God. He will prove his willingness to help and deliver at the perfect time. The longer the wait, or the greater the need, the greater the enjoyment when at last the answer comes.

Wayland Lincoln, penned the words below as closing remarks for George’s autobiography. They are the perfect way to close today.

“No Christian, however poor and humble, should despair of doing a noble work for God. One never needs to wait until he can obtain the cooperation of the multitude or the wealthy. Let him undertake what he believes to be his duty, on ever so small a scale, and look directly to God for aid and direction. If God has planted the seed, it will take root, grow, and bear fruit.” [4]

(And one more thing, lest any of you think it is too late in life for God to use you. Check out this quote from Wikipedia about George: “On 26 March 1875, at the age of 70 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17-year period of missionary travel.” Wow!)

[1] Müller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 219.

[2] Ibid., p. 8.

[3] Paraphrased.

(4) Muller, George. The Autobiography of George Müller. Whitaker House, 1985, p. 230.

Miracles in the Mundane

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Where have you seen the miraculous in the mundane, in your everyday life? I’m starting this blog with a question in hopes that right now, before you even finish reading, you’ll take a moment to share an experience in the “What are your thoughts?” section below.

While we can always experience the persistently miraculous around us (natural beauty, the grace of God, the wonder of human health), today I’m talking about the “coincidences” and interventions that surely must be touches of God’s love and blessing.

During our move I saw simple blessings arrive just as I needed them. For example:

My son Tony told me we needed to mulch our beds and trim back our monkey grass as we prepared to sell our home. (Groan. Yes, you’re right. I’ll add those two items to my list, my loonnnggg list.)  A week later I was headed out the door, and there in the street was a man with a truck full of mulch looking for a place to put it.  As the deal was struck he said (I kid you not), “I prep a lot of yards for market. You really ought to trim back that monkey grass. I can do that too.”  A few hours later, my whole yard (I had a BIG yard) looked incredible.

My realtor Mark said, “You need to get all those boxes up off the closet floor.” (Sure, I do, but where am I going to put them since they are too heavy to heft onto a top shelf, too heat sensitive to put in the garage, and…) A few hours later, Ben, Tony’s strong young brother-in-law, said, “I’m heading to Austin this weekend IN A TRUCK. Want me to take anything there for you? Eight heavy boxes? No problem.”

Mulch and boxes? Those were big deals to me at the time, and I noticed God’s hand. Sometimes, though, we allow the miraculous to become mundane. We forget within the hubbub that we’re walking in the presence of the Almighty God, and that he cares about us enough to know the number of hairs on our head.

So let’s have a praise session here. When have you noticed God’s hand?