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Christ Is My Reward

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt, stream-of-consciousness style, without heavy editing. It’s harder than you think! Let’s see what I come up with today on the prompt “reward.” 

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When our dog was younger, we taught him some basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, come, back off, leave it. Stuff like that. Nothing extraordinary. We added roll over, shake, speak, when he had gotten the others down pat. Each time he obeyed, he would get a reward. In dog training, rewards are key.

In my life with Christ, I’ve had to learn that His love is not a reward that I have to earn. If I learn to obey well, I will receive His favor.

I’m so grateful that’s not how salvation works. He loves me no matter what. My reward comes in eternity from those things in which I’ve invested on earth. I’m not exactly sure what those rewards will look like. Will they be jewels in a crown that I then cast at His feet, signifying that all I did was for His glory? Will I have a bigger mansion than some if I do more for the Lord here on earth?

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Hillsong has a popular worship song that says:

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy

If, when I get to heaven, I have no crown waiting for me, if I have no jewels that sparkle in the sun, but I have Jesus, that will be enough.

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More Of Jesus

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “more.”

We’ve been teaching my almost-14-month-old grandson baby sign. He can say “please,” “thank you,” “help,” “all done,” “milk” and “more.” Sometimes he gets them a little confused, and the sign he uses most often when he can’t quite get it right is “more.”

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Zayne and his uncle Nathan

If he wants to go out in the yard to walk around he says “more.”

If he wants help stepping down onto the porch from the kitchen’s French doors he says “more.”

When we tell him and show him what the sign should be, he gets it right, but interesting that “more” is his default.

Sounds a lot like me. There’s always something more that I want. More time, more sunshine, more health, more vacations, more followers on my social media platforms more money to spend on more stuff!

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I’m a Young Life baby. I began my personal walk with Jesus at a Young Life camp when I was 13. There’s a song we used to sing at our meetings.

I want more of Jesus, more and more and more.

I want more of Jesus than I ever had before.

I want more of His great love so rich and full and free

I want more of Jesus, so I’ll give Him more of me!

That’ll preach, won’t it?

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Circumstances: The Harsh Dictator of Our Emotions

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt and write, unedited, for 10 minutes and see what happens. Today’s prompt is the word “unhappy.”

A quick Google search of “God wants me to be happy” yielded several articles—more than I wanted to take the time to read—about how God really does want us to be happy. But one interesting thing I came away with in my perusal is that holiness and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the closer to God you become, the happier you will be.

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Now, the problem with many is that how they are defining “happy” seems to put it on a very temporary or shallow level. The Bible doesn’t seem to differentiate. Gladness, laughter, singing, they all seem to be wrapped up together. We rejoice in the Lord always.

So what’s going on when we feel unhappy? Are we disappointed in God, or are we disappointed in our circumstances? I can be unhappy that the store I traveled to was out of the item I wanted. (Should have called first. Always. Should have called.) I can be unhappy that someone ate the last piece of chocolate cake, even if I had called it, albeit not within the hearing of everyone in the room.

Those are circumstances that I can easily get over. But what happens when I find myself in a place I really don’t want to be? What if a job change causes me to have to live far away from everyone I know and love? What if the only job I could get is one of drudgery and stress?

If I suffer from clinical depression, does that put me out of God’s will since He commands us to “rejoice in the Lord always”? (Philippians 4:4).

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Being unhappy with our circumstances is a normal experience. Denying that we feel unhappy is simply sweeping our emotions under the rug. The key is not living in that state of unhappiness. I acknowledge that a particular situation is not what I wanted or expected, but I trust that God was not taken by surprise. He will use my circumstances for my good and His glory. But I need to let Him work.

I’m grateful that I have not suffered from clinical depression, but I know that those who do are helped by medication, and that they can find that the joy of the Lord is their strength. He holds them up, He never leaves them, He understands.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which in this season leading up to Easter will be examined by many a preacher, was not “happy,” but His relationship with the Father meant that He was loved and not abandoned. He was about to face a cruel and agonizing death. But He also knew that Resurrection would follow.

 

I See You

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up where we write for 5 minutes on a one-word without heavy editing and see what happens. Read all of today’s post here.

Like any typical American parents, we were armed with our video camera (this was in the days before cell phones with cameras) and waiting expectantly for our sweet tow-headed 4-year-old boy to appear on the stage for his end-of-year performance for Mom’s Day Out.

When he came out with his classmates, dressed in his green collared shirt and cute khaki pants, I looked through the viewfinder of the camera to make sure I could get him in focus before things began.

 

What I noticed as I watched him through that lens was that he was looking all around the crowded church sanctuary, searching for us. I could read his little lips saying, “Where ARE they?” as his gaze grew concerned. David and I waved our arms and halfway stood trying to get his attention, but the lights were too bright on the stage, and there were too many bodies in the auditorium.

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He couldn’t see us.

Once the music started, he was happy singing along and doing the hand motions as he’d been taught, and I recorded him and clapped when it was done. But my heart was a little sad. I so wanted him to know that we were watching him. That we were there. That we cared.

Now, 18 years later, that little 4-year-old is 22 and searching for who he is. During a crisis time just a few months ago, I wrote him a letter reminding him of that night all those years ago and asking him, “Do you see us now? Do you know that we see you, that we’re here for you, that we love you?”

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Hagar gave God the name El Roi in Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

 

 

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Trusting in the Justice of God

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. I write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “just.” Check out all the other posts here.

I heard recently about a 2-year-old little girl who was just diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer.

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I have 3 friends currently battling breast cancer.

I have another friend who is at this moment awaiting results from blood tests to find out if her 22-year-old daughter’s mass is cancerous or not.

All I can do is pray, weep with them, and trust that Deuteronomy 32:4 is true: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (New International Version).

Do those situations look just? Not to our eyes. But if we can’t trust the character of God, all is lost.

Theologian and author Nancy Guthrie knows a bit about the justice and goodness of God. In a podcast interview with Lina Abujamra, she talks about hope, and her perspective is that we live in a broken world, and bad things happen. But God. It’s not all about us.

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I’m about to head out to a weekend women’s retreat where we will be hearing via video from Sharon Hodde Miller about taking our eyes off ourselves. Her book “Free of Me” is a must read for anyone who thinks life’s not fair or that anything at all is about them.

That would be all of us, wouldn’t it? My marriage is not about me. My family is not about me. My calling is not about me. It’s all about God. I can choose to let my circumstances dictate how I see God, or I can let God be the filter for how I see my circumstances.

If I want any joy in this life, the latter is the better choice.

ALL His ways are just.

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Take That, Gates of Hell

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. I write for 5 minutes with no heavy editing and see what happens. To read all the posts for this week, click here.

In Matthew chapter 16 we are shown a dialog between Jesus and His disciples in which Jesus asks them who people are saying that He is. Some say He is Elijah, some say He is John the Baptist come back from the dead. That one never made sense to me since Jesus and John were alive at the same time, but I digress.

Jesus then asks them, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter speaks up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

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Jesus applauds this statement, telling Peter that it’s not something he came up with on his own, but that was revealed to him by the Father. And then He says this, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Note that: will build My church. It’s not our job.

I didn’t think a lot about that statement until fairly recently when my pastor and I were talking about the religious climate in America. He reminded me that the church is safe. It may have to go underground, but the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He is doing the building. Not us. Not our great programs and beautiful buildings and charismatic preachers.

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No matter what, we don’t have to worry about the church, we don’t have to worry about Jesus, we don’t have to worry about the Scriptures. God can do that plenty fine by Himself, and you know what?

We know who wins in the end.

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My Word(s) of the Year: Let Go

In a departure from my normal 10-Minute Tuesday post where I take a one-word prompt given by a friend and write unedited for 10 minutes on that prompt, I thought I would take these 10 minutes today and talk about my word(s) of the year. In 2017, my word was “obey,” and that’s the year we found out we were going to be grandparents via my eldest son and his girlfriend. I had no idea that “obey” would mean showing grace like I’ve never done before.

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In 2018, my word was “trust,” and that’s when our grandson arrived and we made good on our agreement—our obedience to the Lord—to watch him every day that his parents worked. Five days a week. Not a small commitment when you’re in your mid-50s, I gotta tell ya.

So, for 2019, the theme that seems to be presenting itself over and over is “Let Go.” Don’t carry what’s not yours to carry. In the Bible, in 1 Peter 5:7 (Modern English Version), it says, “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.”

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There’s very little that God wants us to take upon ourselves. You know that old saying, “God helps those who help themselves”? Not biblical. Nope. You won’t find it in the Bible.

Instead, many times over we are told to give Jesus our burdens. “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden,” (Matt. 11:28); several times in Matthew 6 Jesus says, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow” (or your life, or what you will wear, or eat, etc.).

You get the idea. There are burdens we just aren’t meant to carry. As a mom, I can take way too much upon myself, and it causes a great deal of stress that can end in health problems if held too long.

My children are 22, 20 (in 12 days) and 16. Especially for my 22 year old who is a dad and lives with his own little family, I cannot and should not carry his choices, burdens, troubles, whatever. When I find myself worrying because they have had an argument, I lift up my hands and say, “It’s not mine to carry. Help them, Lord.” I am here if they ask for advice or help, but they need to do the adulting on their own.

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One child is waitlisted for housing on his college campus for next year. I could overwhelm myself with panicking about apartments. But it’s not mine to carry.

Another child is T-boned on his way to work and will have ongoing medical issues and hassles with insurance. I could consult everyone I’ve ever known who’s been in an accident and drive myself and my child crazy. But it’s not mine to carry.

Another child is Dissatisfied with the way friendships are being conducted. I have lots of advice I could give about that. But no, it’s not mine to carry.

Again, I am here to bounce things off of and give advice when asked, but the burdens are not mine. I have a very strong and capable heavenly Father who not only wants to carry these burdens, but to Him they are not even burdens at all, but rather opportunities for growing faith and ultimate direction that could be missed if I try to do it myself.

And so, for 2019, I will focus on this: Let Go.