Relinquishment and Surprise

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Catherine Marshall wrote about relinquishing our desires through prayer. You can read more about my experience with that prayer here or order her terrific book on prayer here.

Change invariably demands some degree of relinquishment, and so I find myself in another chapter of that challenge. Am I happy to be living in a new city? You bet. Do I question the rather monumental changes Steve and I have made in the last several months? Not at all. But our enemy always seeks to rob us of our joy and of the best God has for us by convincing us to reject the challenge of change. Perhaps that’s the reason he warned Lot and his family not to look back as they fled to the mountains. (Or, for you Star Wars fans, it’s probably why Shmi instructed Anakin with the simple words, “Don’t look back.”)

  • When we cling desperately to the old, we are not free to embrace the new.
  • When we pray with the attitude of a demanding child, we are out of line and rarely at peace.
  • When we relinquish our own agendas, we are able to accept the times when God says “no” or wait” or “this instead.” Then, trusting his grace, we are ready to be delighted by the gifts he gives and the plans he sets out for us.

We can pray in faith and, at the same time, be willing for God in his wisdom to refuse our requests. Then, when God does say yes, that gift is all the sweeter.

Relinquishment to God’s will certainly doesn’t cause us to stop praying. On the contrary, as we become closer to our Lord, every circumstance is wrapped in prayer as we express our needs and look for his provision. There are miracles to be found in the mundane affairs of daily life if we will only watch for them. More about that next week. In the meantime, look forward! Let go of anything you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to relinquish. And may that choice give you rest!

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Time to Be Happy

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When you say “Happy New Year!” do you mean it? I do. I believe in being happy.

  • My favorite book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
  • My favorite verse is “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
  • And my favorite slogan? “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (More about that here.)

I’m not talking about “pie in the sky, life’s a bowl of cherries” happiness, of course. I love these lines from a hymn by John Sammis: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” If we could truly trust God and obey his instructions all the time, I think we would be happy.

Late last year Time Magazine published a special volume called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life.”[1] As I read it, I was struck by how many times their reports on the science of happiness lined up with Biblical instruction. And so, over the next few weeks, pulling from Time and God’s Word, I hope to get us started on a happy year.

January is the time when many of us resolve to take better care of ourselves. We start diets, join gyms, and put Post-its on our mirrors to remind us of newly made promises. This verse has me convinced that self-care is ordained by God: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God…  So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

Time suggests there’s a relationship between happiness and health, due most likely to the tendency of happier people to make healthier choices. This raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Does health lead to happiness, or does happiness promote health? Time asserts that, while our propensity for happiness is 50% inherited and 10% circumstantial, the other 40% is based on choices we make. Why not make the happiest choices whenever possible? Their list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” include… Wait. Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you to tell me what tops your list of Healthy Habits for Happiness. I’ll tell you what the scientists had to say next week.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

Shrek the Sheep

 

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You’ve probably seen the movies, may even have read the book, but have you heard about the sheep? Yes, Shrek is also the name of a famous sheep…on the other side of the world…New Zealand, to be exact, where the sheep population outnumbers the humans six to one.

We can safely assume that New Zealand shepherds are far smarter than their sheep. Thus, their sheep are best off cooperating with the one in charge. However, in the late 1990’s, Shrek the Renegade Sheep thought he had a better idea. Shrek decided he no longer wanted to be shorn. This was a foolish decision on the part of the renegade.

  • Long fleece can lead to overheating, limited mobility, and even disease.
  • Shearing also keeps older dirty wool from contaminating new growth.

Evidently none of that mattered to Shrek or, more likely, he simply wanted his own way and didn’t know any better. Big mistake! Want to know how big? Take a look at this photo. This is Shrek after hiding in caves, successfully avoiding six years of annual shearing.

Now, I ask you, does that look like a happy, healthy animal? When he was finally caught and shorn, the wool removed weight 60 pounds, enough to make 20 large men’s suits. Talk about carrying around extra baggage!

Are we ever Shrek-like? You bet.

  • When the Shepherd is ready to remove what we no longer need, or might even do us harm, how often do we balk, hide, or refuse to our own detriment?
  • When have we tried to hold on to what keeps us from healthy spiritual growth?

Surely we are always better off trusting the wisdom of our Shepherd, fully cooperating with the One in charge.

The next time I’m tempted to balk at what God is asking, I’m going to remember Shrek the Renegade, no make that, Miserable Looking Sheep and choose the Shepherd’s way over my own.

 

 

Corrie

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Corrie ten Boom.

I hope you know that name. Already an older woman when World War II began, she and her family risked their lives to provide refuge for Jews, hiding some of them in a closet-sized room when the Nazi’s raided their home. I grew up reading The Hiding Place, then watching the movie that carried the same title, then re-reading the book as an adult. Her account of the many ways God worked before, during, and after her stay in a concentration camp inspired me, spurring me on to greater faith in the Lord who loves us.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Today I headed to the gym, Kindle Fire in hand. I know I need to work out, but I don’t like to work out. Watching videos as I sweat on a treadmill makes it all more tolerable. Today, thank you Amazon Prime, I came across Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated.

I had been listening to the radio as I drove to our neighborhood fitness center. It proclaimed all the awful possibilities facing us now and threatening us in the days to come. Some of those threats are very real. Even now hardship abounds at home and abroad. I was saddened. Then I began to listen to Corrie. I’m keeping this blog short in hopes that you’ll click on that link and watch a bit of the film that documents her story. Spoiler alert, though, here is the closing quote:

Look around and be distressed.

Look within and be depressed.

Look at Jesus…and be at rest.

May you be at rest this week!

Rain

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It was raining as we drove to Charlie’s birthday party, but first birthday parties are a rare and beautiful thing, never to be missed on account of moisture. We ran through the puddles and up the walk to join a festive crowd feasting on loaded platters of goodies and snapping enough photographs to keep Facebook happy for days. The first thing I noticed was the cookie tray, because Charlie’s mom is an ace in that department (see above). Then I noticed the sign (see below).

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I thought, “I should blog about that one day,” took a photo of those thought provoking words, filed it away, and never got back to it.

Then Harvey came, and I wondered if those same words sounded too light and trite, too “just smile and bear it and move on.” I don’t believe God ever means for us to plaster a fake smile on our hurting selves and pretend there is no pain in this life. There is pain. Why else would there be so many Bible verses about comfort? We wouldn’t need comfort if we didn’t have pain.

I do believe the words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Don’t worry. Don’t look into the future and assume that all will be forever lost. God is on our side and has the power to do all things, to provide even beyond our asking. Be happy, or joyful if that makes you feel better about the word choice. Underneath all the present pain or rain, we know the One who makes the sun shine is still in charge.

Still we cry, we suffer, and we struggle to tap into the truth, to draw strength from that which we cannot yet see. Harvey wasn’t the only storm many of us will face this year. And when those storms come, it won’t work to hold our breath until they pass. We have to keep going, keep walking, keep working. And when we are truly trusting, maybe we can even allow our hearts to dance. 

           

When Lightning Doesn’t Strike

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Why am I in Austin? Just one month ago I owned a house in Houston. The pool there is under water now. As I write I am not certain about the house. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday playing with my grandson in a home that is high and dry. We moved here under unusual circumstances that played out very fast. It’s only by the grace of God that we are here instead of wondering whether or not to evacuate a house that was home for nearly three decades.

The grace of God left others in a place where floodwaters are rising. My heart hurts, and I do not understand why many have lost so much and are in the midst of such hardship while I am here. When I told Steve that I needed to replace the blog set to post today, he said, “Use that verse about seeing through a glass darkly.” Here it is in the KJV:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13).

A glass darkly. So, truth be told, God never promised that we would understand this side of heaven. It’s sometimes hard to trust in the dark, but that’s what we are called to do. Sometimes it’s harder still to trust through another’s hardships than through our own, but that’s still what we are called to do. One of these days, so says the verse, we’ll know what we do not know yet. But not now. Hard words, but truth.

This passage comes from what is widely known as the love chapter. So, when we are called to trust, we are also called to love. Love means prayer. It also, quite often, means action. I don’t know what my tasks will be when the Harvey waters recede. I don’t know what God may call you to do either. But He does call, and equip, praise God. So, as he shows us glimmers of understanding, may we have the courage and selflessness to love in whatever way he directs.

To God be the glory, even in this.