Change—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

change

What feelings rouse when you read the word change? Excitement or dread? Anticipation or fear? Challenge of comfort? Hope or skepticism? Do you love it or hate it?

If change leads to something better I embrace it, but if it leads to the unknown… well, I don’t think any of us are comfortable then. However, change is an unavoidable part of life so I’m dedicating four or five posts to CHANGE.

Change seems ugliest when:

  • It’s unanticipated
  • It takes something from us
  • It doesn’t reveal what’s ahead

We regard change as bad when:

  • It diminishes us, makes us less
  • It overwhelms with fear and uncertainty
  • It threatens what we understand as good and true and healthy

Change appears good when:

  • It brings us to a better place
  • It adds value to our life
  • It points to a bright future

I hear your agreement, but each of those attitudes is deficient. Each one minimizes, or even ignores, the God factor.

Life’s changes are not without purpose or oversight. Even changes planned by us are under God’s control. Proverbs tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (16:9).

Let’s revise our observations about the good, bad and ugly aspects of change. Through the lens of faith we know…

  • There is no change unanticipated by God (Ps. 139:2-3)
  • Even change that seems bad is worked out for our blessing (Rom. 8:28)
  • The unknown is known by the only One who needs to know (Isa. 40:27-28)
  • God’s plans for us are good and will be completed (Phil. 1:6)
  • We have a firm Rock to stand on when life seems uncertain (Ps. 18:2)
  • Our understanding is limited and our vision short-sighted (Isa. 55:8)
  • God is our safe place, our strength, and our help (Ps. 46:1)
  • Our value is found in fulfilling God’s purposes for us (Ps. 145:13)
  • In God alone do we have a future and hope (Jer. 29:11)

Even though I’m in the “Ugly Change” category right now, I confidently attest to the truth of Philippians 4:7—

My limited understanding is transcended by God’s peace because I’m trusting Him.

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I’ve Fallen—And I Got Right Back Up!

fallen2Have you noticed that what’s true in the physical realm is often not so spiritually? It’s understandable that the older we are, the consequences of a fall are more debilitating and difficult to heal. Wisdom instructs me to hold hand rails and watch my steps, but I’ve also discovered the converse is true in my spiritual life, in matters of my heart and soul.

Circumstances that would have devastated me in my youth are now taken in stride—I recover more quickly and get right back up. As I considered this, I wondered why it’s true.

Have I suffered to the point I’ve become numb? Have I become cynical and unsurprised by adversity? Has my heart hardened to disappointments? It’s none of these reasons—the pain is still poignant. The difference is, I’ve been exercised in grace.

Grace was waiting for me when challenges caused distress. It met me when I was hammered by despair. Grace calmed my heart and carried me when I couldn’t go on. Every debilitating loss provided a fresh discovery of God’s grace—and now, I’ve learned to expect it. This expectation may not be immediate. I often have to sit quietly to center my heart and remember, but God’s grace is always there…

Abundant grace

Fresh grace

Personal grace

Free grace

Sufficient grace

I may sorrow through the night of my affliction, but in the morning I find God’s mercy and grace, faithful and new. Again.

Belief Changers

Picture 1 from Life Alert, picture 2 from Belief Changers

 

 

We had No Idea what We were Getting Into

50yearsWhen Rich and I married fifty years ago we were young—he actually needed parental consent to get a marriage license! We were in love but had no idea how that love would be disappointed and tested. We didn’t know where married life would lead, the severity of life’s storms, or the crippling pain of loss. Guess our mindset was simple—we’ll live happily ever after.

Reaching a landmark anniversary brings reflection, such as, what was the key to getting here? Was it…

  • Learning to forgive?
  • Putting the other first?
  • Not majoring on minors?
  • Encouraging personal endeavors?
  • Grit and determination?
  • Not compromising our commitment?

All of those factored in, and we were fairly conscientious about them, but I don’t think any of them provide the answer.

Our marriage didn’t succeed because we put the other first, but because we each put God first. Our commitment to Him protected our commitment to each other. Looking to God to fulfill our hopes and dreams, rather than to each other, was critical.

I remember Rich’s surprise early in our marriage when I told him I didn’t expect him to make me happy. I had discovered a secret—all my joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction would come from God, not my husband. No spouse can satisfy the longing of our hearts and, looking back, I think that realization was a key factor to our success.

Marriage is not about reaching a milestone anniversary—50 years or 20 or 65. It’s about trusting God to help you keep a promise:

Till death do us part.

My reflections on fifty years of marriage?

“All that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (Isaiah 26:12)

Where IS that Hundred Acre Wood?

Just when I think I’m pretty clever about reading caution signs and carefully walking the path in front of me—Bam! Blindsided. Bewildered. Awake at night. Tears.

After watching Christopher Robin last night, I really want to climb through a hole in a tree trunk and find a 100-acre wood and talk with Pooh. Astutely he warns us, “Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the forest that was left out by mistake.” It’s that piece of life that feels left out by mistake (or should be left out) that throws us.

MapI’m sorry. All this morose Eyeore-like blather comes from focusing on earth—on wishing for an imaginary hole through which to escape and discover a fantasy forest where bears hold your hand, piglets do your worrying, and donkeys mirror your glum attitude. It’s silly and nonsensical until you stop to consider…

Actually, I do have a mysterious path to embark on. It’s not imaginary and it leads to a 100 billion, trillion, quadrillion acre land of peace and joy and beauty. I will enter that path, possibly sooner than I expect, and find wonders beyond what I imagine. The heartache and disappointment I grapple with will pale, replaced by glorious wonder.

Until that day, fellow travelers and Hundred Acre Wood wishers, in Pooh’s words, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” If a bear with little brain can say this, how much greater is the bravery, strength, and intelligence available to those of us who walk with the King of Glory, possess His Spirit, and own His promises?

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8 NIV)

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Cor. 10:13 MSG)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10 NIV)

 

 

Caution

The Flip Side

cautionChildrencautionIceCautionSlow

After touting the delights of yellow in my last post, I found myself alert to the color—and yellow showed up everywhere. Suddenly I was acutely aware of caution signs I’d often passed without acknowledgement. Truthfully, it kind of irked me. Yellow had been a happy color and now it seemed to scream at me: Watch for Children, Deer Crossing, Wet Floor, Construction Zone, Go Slow!

The longer I thought about it, and the more signs I saw, I became grateful—somebody out there in the municipality was concerned about my safety. And that turned my thoughts to God and the cautions He offers.

  • Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise.” (Eph. 5:15)
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody….live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge.” (Rom. 12:17-19)
  • Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9)
  • “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” (Josh. 23:6)
  • “The Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (Josh. 23:10-11)
  • “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” (Deut. 6:3)

God cautions us to protect us—from wandering off, from hurting others, from falling. Sadly, there are times I zip right past His warnings. Thankfully, He doesn’t take the signs down. Their reminders are as steadfast as His love.

Holy Spirit, Counselor and Revealer of Truth, alert me to the cautions You have lovingly placed in my life.

CautionGood

I Love Yellow

The Lighter Side

sunflower-Pixabay

I love the cheerfulness of yellow and its mood-elevating, smile-on-your-face, soul-satisfying effect.

I love the bold, brazen, bronzy glow of the sun and it’s paler yellow beams sprinkling the earth like suspended salt from a shaker.

I love buttery golden corn kernels eaten from the cob, messy and delicious, salty and warm—a  special summer gift.

I love the yellow smile of daffodils, proclaiming the arrival of spring just before forsythia wave their golden arms. I love sassy black-eyed Susans, and audacious sunflower faces grinning at the sun, and delicate, lemony, buttercups—joy-surprises along the path.

Speaking of lemon… I love lemonade, pale yellow, sweet and tart—the best is fresh-squeezed, sold at Amish markets.

And what about lemon cookies, lemon sherbet, lemon drops, and lemon meringue pie?

Have you noticed that a sunset is more astonishing when its purples and pinks are embellished with streaks of yellow-gold accenting its beauty?

Has your heart fluttered at the flit of a swallow tail butterfly dancing by—or the sight of a gold finch lighting on a branch—or the first golden flash of a lightning bug in the early evening?

What yellow do you love? White-petaled daisy centers? Yellow plastic pails on a sandy beach? Is it the color of your favorite team? Please share!

Image from Pixabay/Ulleo

The Kingdom, the Power, the Glory—Forever

kingdom-power-glory

This powerful closure to the Lord’s prayer is footnoted in many Bible translations, but too profound (and familiar) to be overlooked. Let’s again bring our prayer request to God and, by His grace, find release in this glorious closing statement. This is the ultimate bottom line.

Whatever our burden, concern, request, we acknowledge God’s kingdom as our priority.

Father, you know my thoughts and my heart and what I would like to happen. You know how I’m hurting and longing for a change in this circumstance, but right now, I elevate your kingdom above this kingdom. I want your righteous standards, your purity, your light, your methods, your thoughts to be preeminent.

I trust you as King and Ruler to do what is good—for the bigger picture, the greater good, and your eternal purposes. To that end, I lay down every inferior suggestion and imagined scenario and put my trust in you. Rule in this troubling circumstance—and also in my heart.

We dare pray like this because the power—all power—unlimited power is His. When He doesn’t respond as we wish, it’s not due to impotence or indecision. Just the opposite. He has the power to do better and more than we have asked and knows how to bring exceedingly great blessings.

Our Father, God of power, might and wisdom, you are omnipotent. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). I will to put my trust in you, for you are able and you do all things well.

The end result of all we pray must be God’s glory—His magnificence, beauty, splendor, brilliance, grandeur, wonder. If His glory isn’t our chief goal, what is? Our glory? We worship Him as our Father and King because He is worthy.

Father, it’s not about what would bring resolve to my loved one’s situation or blessing his or her life, but about your glory. Lord, be magnified—be magnified in the midst of this mess and in my heart and soul.

Forever. God’s kingdom will never end, His power never wane, His glory never fade. What will change is our awe as we see His kingdom more clearly, trust His power more fully, and behold His glory more openly.

I pray that this walk through the Lord’s Prayer has enabled you to profoundly trust our Father. My hope is that He has been magnified in your eyes and the heaviness of your prayer concerns has lightened.

Thank you, Jesus, for teaching us how to pray. Amen.

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