Friday, November 22, 2013

"Life's messy. Clean it up!"

You know when you're cleaning the house and you just want to be done and relax, but there is this one stubborn spot of junk that just won't come off the counter or pan or whatever it is...
I hate that. Don't you?
You scrub and you scrub, and this piece of gunk just won't come up.
You soak it, you scrub up and down, side to side, and who knows, maybe you get so frustrated that you have to call out the big guy, Mr. Clean.
What looked like a small and menial task, became a seemingly unending and arduous effort.
How could something so small, grow to be something so challenging?

 Maybe it just had the right combination of crud to create a frustrating mess or maybe it's because we took too long to confront it.
I'm going to bet that it's most likely the latter or maybe a combination.
Instead of passing by and saying, "I'll do it later", it would make things easier to confront it quickly.
It reminds me of those moments in life where we know we should confront an issue, but we just put it off due to fear and uncertainty. Maybe we are facing difficulties in a relationship or maybe we are facing an issue within ourselves.
For me, I realize that my patience could use some working on, but to be honest, it's easier to push it aside rather than coming face to face with my issue.
The problem is, with every push, the gunk [issue] grows and hardens, making it even more difficult to get rid of.
Peter says in Acts 3:19, "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;" Repent in Greek is "metanoeo" which means "to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins." In order to change one's mind, he/she has to confront the issue first. I think confronting is the hardest part. Sometimes we may have to confront it often, in order for us to change and turn away from the sin.
Looking at that clump of gunk and saying "I'm gonna get rid of you!" can prevent us from getting deeper and deeper into a mess of problems. Sometimes persistence may be necessary. Sometimes looking at it from a different angle may help. Sometimes seeking help from others might be a good idea. Don't forget though, calling on the big guy, (not Mr. Clean) but God, can be the best thing we can do.
It may not be fun to scrub up gunk, but it's not worth it to ignore.
 Like the famous vacuum company, Bissell, says, "Life's messy. Clean it up!"
 This week our Bible reading is:
Lamentations 1-Ezekiel 15
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The roll of the wind & Typhoon Haiyan

I was sitting on the deck today, reading and I couldn't help but notice the wind.
I've said before that wind happens to be one of my favorite things. Most of the time it reminds me of a gust of refreshment and the powerful presence of God, but today the wind reminded me of something else.
Today the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 11 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan, as well as 660,000 people are homeless. Some people have estimated that the death toll will be around 10,000 and others have guessed around 2,000. No doubt, the Philippines has experienced the most powerful storm yet.
Erik De Castro/Reuters
Noel Celis AFP/via Getty Images
We've experienced plenty of tropical storms here in the south, but nothing to the magnitude of Typhoon Haiyan. As I sat on the deck this morning, the wind spoke to me.
 I heard it in the distance.
I saw it through the trees.
Yet, I wasn't being affected by it.
I was in the calm, while others were in the storm. Just like we are in the calm over here in America, while the people of the Philippines are in the storm. Aside from actual storms, it's the same in life.
As I watched the leaves struggle to hang on, the branches sway to and fro, and the dirt be lifted off the ground, it made me think of the times in life when we struggle to hang on...when we sway to and fro...and when we are thrown off our feet.
Times of divorce, sickness, and death can feel like a storm. Either we are the ones experiencing the storm or we watching a person face that storm. Both places aren't fun places to be in. Although I didn't experience Typhoon Haiyan, it still makes my stomach hurt and heart ache to think about the emptiness, sadness and anger they must be feeling. It's not an easy place to be in.
Storms like these often make people question the character of God.
However, times like these are simply the reality of life.
Thankfully, these times don't last forever, even if it may feel like it.
They are followed by a time of stillness, quiet, clean up and rebirth.
In the still and the quiet, we are able to clean up the mess, while realizing that God did not send the wind to destroy us. He didn't send a typhoon to kill thousands of people (at least I don't think He did). You know why I think that?
God is love and I can't seem to bring myself to believe that love would kill and destroy.
The reality is, we are in a battle between good and evil.

Ephesians 6:10-20 says, " Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
Jesus conquered the grave already and He will bring victory once and for all, when He comes again. For right now, we are in the middle of this tug-of-war match. Sometimes the bad wins, but in the end, good conquers. Jesus is the one who is walking with us in the these storms and lends a hand to pick us up. He is in the business of rebirth and redemption. Just like Apostle Paul says in Ephesians, we must put on the armor of God and stand firm in His promises. Like the trunk of a tree and the ground that is holding it in place, God's promises can ground us through the wrestling of the wind.
Hard times will come. The roll of the winds will break and we'll be able to catch our breath and receive peace. Our thankfulness for the quiet times becomes magnified and if we never faced the roll of the wind, we would take the calming times for granted. The gusts of wind sometimes force us to cling to God our vine, look toward hope, and appreciate the quiet times even more.
Lets pray for those around us who are in the middle of a storm, as well as our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. Let us also pray that we have strength to stand firm and remember God's presence in our lives even when a storm rolls through.
Bible reading plan this week:
 Jeremiah 35-52
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hey, I see a...!

While I was riding in the car yesterday, I looked up at the sky and saw these beautiful, white fluffy clouds and it made me think of...
Charlie Brown - "I see a.."
Linus - "Gargoyle! Like they have at Notre Dame!"
Lucy - "The sack of Carthage!"
Snoopy - "And the Dodger's Yankee Game! Go team!"
Linus - "All twelve apostles,
Waving at me!"
All - "What do you see, Charlie Brown?"
That was a song from Snoopy the Musical. I was one of the chorus members when I was younger and I always loved this scene of the play
because I could really relate to it.
Just like Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy, I too, remember laying on the grass field at recess finding different shapes in the clouds with my friends.

Unlike the characters of Snoopy, I remember it going more like this...
Jessica - "I see a unicorn!"
Bobby - "No, that's not a unicorn, that's a race car!"
Me - "I don't see either of those, I see a puppy in a dog house! How do you see a race car or a unicorn?"
Sometimes instead of actually seeing what the other person saw, we would just focus on what we saw individually. Other times, we would take the time to really see what the other person was seeing. Sometimes that meant getting up and switching places with a friend. Other times, it meant simply looking at it longer to see the puppy's ears point up like a unicorn and a dog house somehow morph into a race car.
Living in relationship with others is a lot like finding similar shapes in the clouds on a bright, sunny day. There are times when we may not see eye to eye and that's okay, but there are other times when it takes work to reach common ground. It may be more work like actually getting up off the ground and moving to another place. Sometimes it might not be convenient, but at the same time it's necessary in order to understand what the other person is feeling.
That thing called empathy...putting ourselves in someone else's shoes is a huge and important aspect of life. It may be uncomfortable to turn your head the other way to see the unicorn in the cloud, but many times when you are willing to see from another perspective, beauty is born. However, there are other times when you may try your hardest to understand where the other person is coming from, but you still just don't get it and that's okay too. It's bound to happen, yet that isn't an excuse not to try.
Just like my previous post about different routes, we should understand that everyone has different ways of thinking, but we can really make a difference when we take the next step of understanding each other, rather than only respecting. When we don't take the time to listen, understand and support, we run the risk of hurting a friendship, ignoring a teachable moment and being closed off to a whole world of opportunities and beauty. Being respectful and willing goes along way.
Instead of insisting that the cloud is in the shape of a puppy, looking from another perspective can give you a puppy AND  a unicorn...what's better than that?! :)
There is beauty in differences and there is more beauty in seeing differences from another person's eyes. 
 Bible Reading Plan-
By the end of this week, we should have read through Jeremiah chapters 14-34.
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