Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 36 of My Lenten Journey

36.  Ungratefulness

Another word for ungratefulness is ingratitude and the opposite is being thankful.  I must confess--
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not Christmas.  (Easter is a close 2nd).  I feel like I am pretty good at thanking God, but I can always do more!  There are times, I am sure that I have not acknowledged and been ungrateful to God in a situation!

Jesus notices the ungratefulness of 9 lepers in the story from Luke 17:11-19. After telling the lepers to, "Go show yourselves to the priests," they were cleansed.  Only one of them came back, praising God and throwing himself at Jesus' feet thanking him.  Jesus then asks,

"Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other 9?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except for this foreigner?  Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  Luke 17:17-19

We are ungrateful people by nature.  We come from a long line of ungrateful people.  Take a look at the Israelites making their way out of Egypt.  How many times does the Bible record that they not only didn't thank God, but they grumbled about their circumstance?  At least 5 times!  Even though it seems they are complaining to Moses, they are ultimately complaining about God's provision for them.

Moses also said, " You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord."  Exodus 16:8

This ungratefulness stems from another sin that I'll discuss for tomorrow, so stay tuned....

How do we fix this problem of ingratitude? By thanking God through prayer on a daily/hourly basis. It's not hard; it just takes discipline to stop and remember to just do it, like before a meal.  Am I the best at doing it constantly?  Do I forget?  Yes!  But, I ask God to help me do better.

When I pray, especially with the kids, we use a formula to help us remember how to pray and be thankful.  We do this out loud in the car as we go to school in the morning, each of us taking turns in each "category."  Sometimes we do it at night as a family.  But, this formula also helps us all stay on track and not wander around lost, not knowing what to say.

First, we praise God for his attributes--who he is, what he has done.  This usually sounds like "We praise you because you are ____________ (the King of kings, forgiving, our Comforter, Omniscient, Our Shepherd and Savior, painter of the skies!  You get the idea.) Or it could be "You are ________."

Second, we thank you for ____________.  It can literally be anything.  Go ahead try it!  It can be tiny or huge.  It can seem insignificant or silly to God, but I bet it's actually not.  Sometimes we thank God for hot air balloons as we see them on our drive to school.  The key:  just thank him!

Third, we ask for help, forgiveness and blessing.  It's sometimes help for a test, or wisdom for decisions for Dad at the office, or healing for a family member, or joy in teaching for the kid's teachers. Sometimes it's me saying, "Please forgive me for yelling at the kids as we got in the car today."

Sometimes it is hard to be thankful, especially when I need to humble myself to be forgiven.  Lasts when I need to be thankful the most!  But usually when I just put forth any inkling of effort, I tend to feel better.  God asks us to be thankful in ALL circumstances.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Either way, God just wants to hear from us and the Bible says a ton about being thankful.  It's easy!
Try it!  And, the best thing to be thankful for is what he did for us this coming Friday on the cross.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16:34

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 35 of My Lenten Journey

35.  Envy

Envy is coveting. Covet is number 10 of the 10 Commandments.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house.  You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male of female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Exodus 20:17

God has blessed us far more than what we deserve and beyond measure.  Therefore, physically, I have very little envy for "things."  My envy comes in the form of emotional desires.  For example, when I notice that some one who has a zeal for God that is more than my own, I become envious. Or, maybe God has blessed someone with a gift of humor and I think, "I wish I was funnier and wittier...."

At envy's core it is not being content and satisfied with what God has given me.  God made me who I am and gave me a special purpose.  He doesn't want me to be like someone else, but to just be satisfied with the way he made ME!

You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  James 4:2

In beating down the sin of envy in our hearts, we need God's help.  He even tells us to ask him! Through prayer and petition, I can overcome and be content with the way he made me.

The challenge I also have before me is raising my children to understand how blessed they are and that they must work for what they desire.  And, we haven't always had plenty.  I find myself holding things back from my boys things that other kids might get automatically so that they learn to either work hard or be content with what they have.  I grew up in a family that had enough, but not plenty. There were some hard times, but we were content.  When Stephen and I were newly married and I was putting him through dental school, we ate Pasta Roni all the time and penny-pinched.  No matter where we are, I want my kids to understand--either be content or ask God and work hard.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Philippians 4:12

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  Proverbs 14:30

Thank you, God for blessing us with plenty and being able to give back to you generously.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

I don't normally post on Sundays but this morning was just too great.  The song we sang this morning for the anthem is one that I have heard my entire life.  In fact, as a child, I heard it so often sometimes paired with so many of the pieces from Handel's Messiah that I thought surely this piece was also written by a master composer. Well, in fact, she is, but just not as old as I once thought.   The piece we sang was "My Eternal King" by Jane Marshall.  (Link is not the greatest in quality or vocal superiority but there are so many variations in terms of interpretations at the end, that this one comes closest to mine.) A few years ago, I had the pleasure meeting her and telling her that I had placed her in the same category as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.  She got a real kick out of that!

What struck me today were the words.  It is poetry at its finest with the greatest message.  But, put the last section with the music and contrast it to the tone of the rest of the piece is genius, gorgeous and spirit driven.  I just had to share.

My God, I love thee.
Not because I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, and spear, and manifold disgrace.

Why, then why,
O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Nor for the hope of winning heaven
Or of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as thyself has loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

Even so I love thee, and will love
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

He is my Eternal King and it's not just because of my hope for heaven or because I want to escape hell.  I pray he is yours too.

Click here for a really great article with quotes from people close to me about Jane and her anthem.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 34 of My Lenten Journey

34.  Small View of God

I don't really picture or think about "my view" of God on a regular basis.  When I do think about my view of God here is what I am looking at.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name. He covers the heavens with clouds,

    provides rain for the earth,
    and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.
He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry.
10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
11 No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
    those who put their hope in his unfailing love.  Psalm 147:4, 8-11
He sends the snow like white wool;
    he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes.
17 He hurls the hail like stones.[a]
    Who can stand against his freezing cold?
18 Then, at his command, it all melts.
    He sends his winds, and the ice thaws. Psalm 147:16-18

You rule over the surging sea;
    when its waves mount up, you still them.  Psalm 89:9

I also think of God when I see these things. 
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds:the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. Genesis 1:24

So, I think my view of God is pretty big.  He is way bigger than me and I praise him for being omniscient and omnipotent.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 33 of My Lenten Journey

33. Pride

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and something God utterly detests.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13

I think the place where I have the

biggest problem in pride and arrogance is musically. After having some success in my very early years, I became prideful thinking, "I did it!" I didn't give much credit to God for any part of it: the gift of my talent, the work put in, the people or the performance.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

How can I take credit for a talent and gift God has given me? As I have grown older and had more experience, I now realize that I was completely full of self-righteousness. I did not do any of it on my own. I have learned to be a bit more humble and my usual comeback when someone says what a great job I did is, "the choir did a great job! God just gave me the gift of waving my arms!"

Every now and then I will still
have an arrogant musical moment. It's usually when I'm bored or frustrated. This is where I need more patience and help to be better before I fall in a bad way.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

It's not what we say about ourselves that matters, it's what we say about God and his glory that is the big deal.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:18

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 32 of My Lenten Journey

32.  Resisting Change

It's inevitable: death and taxes.  I would add to that list--change.  It happens in our lives on a semi-regular basis.  It's not something that we can avoid, yet it is something that is extremely hard for our habitual human nature.  Yet, there is a time for everything.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
  a time to be born and a time to die,
  a time to plant and a time to uproot,
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
  a time to tear down and a time to build,
  a time to weep and a time to laugh,
  a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
  a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
  a time to search and a time to give up, 
  a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend, 
  a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
  a time to love and a time to hate,
  a time for war and a time for peace.  
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 I was blessed by a gift from Stephen through Taylor Davis (click his name to listen) with a musical setting of this passage which was sung at Cavett's baptism.  I was also blessed by Leah King who so beautifully cross-stitched the lyrics and now hangs in my kitchen as a daily reminder.

This scripture has helped me cope with and not resist my life changes over the past 11 years.

When Dadoo passed away and the healing of Mom.

The birth of our kids and the dying of Stephen's dad and my maternal grandparents within 3 months.

Uprooting from Houston to re-plant in Allen.

Mourning my Dadoo but watching my Mom dance with her new husband.

Throwing my resume out and seeing how it stuck and how I'm being gathered in to teaching now.

Maybe the office is next?  Tearing down and building?

The point is God has used all these experiences to guide, stretch and grow me in my relationship with Him.  Each situation is an opportunity for growth and to point to His glory in my situation.  This kind of change is desirable as we know that God is making us new and refining us to be more like Him.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being
renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them;  I will say, "They are my people,"  and they will say, "The Lord is our God."  Zechariah 13:9

So, in our human nature in resisting change, we need to remember that this, too shall pass.  It is for our benefit and the glory of God.  Don't resist change; embrace it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

And, wouldn't it be boring if everything was the same all the time?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 31 of My Lenten Journey

31.  Idolatry

When people hear idolatry these days, they immediately think of things like "American Idol"  or the
Kardashians or some other famous person.  This is not at all what I think of.  I also, don't think about statues of some religious symbol that I bow down and worship.

In the time of the Old Testament, idols were a rampant problem.  People would put faith in a piece of wood, stone or metal and hope that it could do  something for them.  It replaced the one true, holy and powerful God.  And, from the get go God pronounced any worship of idol was wrong.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to then or worship them.  Exodus 20:4-5

We are sinful people and the Israelites were no different.  They were constantly lead astray.  Moses came down from getting the 10 Commandments and there they were breaking rule number 2!  The book of Hosea even uses imagery of adulterous behavior to represent the Israelites problem with idolatry.  Even today there are religions that bow down to statues and think they hold some power on their lives.  Idolatry is different for me, but no less troublesome.

They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.  Psalm 106:36

For me, idolatry is anything that comes before God and receives more importance first in my life than Him. Idols are anything in my life that make me forget the Lord or make me want to spend less time with God.

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.  Jonah 2:8

What is that in my life today that is an idol?  I would definitely say my iPhone and the internet.  They
can be useful tools and they can help me and others study the Word of God.  There are tons of apps for that, including my favorite, Bible Gateway.  But, it can be a problem if not left in check.  How many times do I wake up in the morning and check Facebook, my email or the weather before I pray? All too often.  It gets in the way sometimes of my relationship with God and therefore, I consider it an idol.

So, here I am confessing my sin in idolatry.  My plan is to change my pattern and make sure to start my day off with God first and check my phone later.  Will I sometimes fail?  Yes, but God is merciful and he always forgave the Israelites when they confessed as well.  The point is, we do our best asking for his help and trust God for the rest.

Dear children, keep yourself from idols.  1 John 5:21