Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Question "Why?" and Throwing Stones.

No, I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth.  No, I haven't stopped doing my devotions.   Yes, I have forgotten to blog.  But I'm back due to some recent inspiration.

A couple of days ago my challenge was as follows: Today I will remember that my only hope is in you and that you are with me always.  

Sheila put the obvious and factual but somewhat uncomfortable statement out there: "Job never received an answer to his first question - 'Why?'"  I stopped.  No, no he didn't.  But that is the question I ask myself every time I start over-thinking or dwelling on the past.  Why?  Why then?  Why me?  Why?  Why?  Why?  But if Job never got an answer...well then God certainly isn't going to answer my why.  Well *Humph.*  Ugh.  ...Then Sheila continues..."But Job did gain the new understanding that his only hope was in God."  THERE!  That is what I'm supposed to get out of only hope is in God.  In the end it doesn't matter why - all that matters is God is STILL there, He is right by my side!  Sheila used Psalm 139:7-10 to convey His everlasting presence:
                    Where can I go from Your Spirit?
                          Or where can I flee from your presence?
                    If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
                          If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
                   If I take the wings of the morning,
                         And dwell in the uttermost part of the sea,
                   Even there Your hand shall lead me,
                        And your right hand shall hold me.

At first glance you might be thinking...okay???  But this passage gives me such hope! No matter what I do - if I mess up, He's still there.  If I'm on my A game, He's still there!  If I'm all alone and I can't seem to understand why....He is still there.  You would think the devotion itself would have been enough for the day but God wasn't done with me yet.  I started my daily Scripture reading.  On this day I read about Stephen the martyr.  Stephen was doing everything right - He was telling the world about our wonderful savior but the people were unhappy and decided to stone him to death!  But do you know what he did in response?  He asked God to not hold this sin against them!?!  Stephen never even thought to throw a stone back - figuratively or literally.  I read this and thought to myself - "If only I could be so good..."

So what did I learn on this day?  First, I'm not going to get an answer to the never-ending "why?"  But that doesn't mean I should be figuratively throwing stones at anyone.  It means that I need to literally rest in knowing that God is by my side constantly.  He will never, EVER leave me.  And that gives me all the hope in the world.  At the end of today I am thankful for His undying love for me.  I am thankful that because of Him I have everlasting hope.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't have something to look forward to. It's exhilirating!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why? How? Who? ... Um.... What?

Yep...I got sick and fell off the wagon again.  It is amazing how just a couple of days out can mess up your entire schedule....Ugh.  Tryin to get back on track here...

Day 25 - Today I will choose to believe that You are faithful and that you use hard times to make me more like Jesus.

Sheila Walsh prompted me to start thinking when she asked me what questions I ask God during the hard times.  The fall back for me and I'm sure most of us is the infamous question of "why?"  Why me?  Why now?  Why this?  Why did it have to happen this way?  Why can't You just fix it?  And I'm sure we could come up with a million more 'whys.'  As I stopped to think about this, I reflected on the challenge - He uses the hard times to make me more like Jesus.  Maybe I'm asking the wrong question.  Maybe instead of 'why' I should be asking 'how.'  How can I be like Christ in this situation?  (I know, I know....back to the whole WWJD thing...).  After all, that, if nothing else, is what we should gain from hard situations - becoming more like Christ.  Sheila notes that she is on a personal campaign to always refer to Romans 8:28-29 together, not separately.  I think she makes a good point: "We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For (aka because) God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son."

Day 26 - Today I will be totally honest with You when I come to You in prayer.

Not always easy to do.  But I have tried today.  The one thing I got from my devotion this morning is this: Prayer must be intimate!  Or the relationship isn't real...  For that reason I am trying my best, no matter how humbling, to be honest when I talk with Him.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

Day 24 - Today help me to read your Word from a different perspective: I want to see your love on every page.

Sheila Walsh notes how often stories in the Bible are about the love of God - from Mary the mother of Jesus to the thieves on the cross.  Today, my Scripture reading was from Matthew 27 and Mark 15 (reading chronologically).  Both chapters cover the initial happenings of the crucifixion - from Jesus being taken before Pilate to Joseph of Arimethia putting Christ's body in the tomb.  The love that is apparent in these chapters is unfathomable!  He endured all of the abuse (verbal and physical), the torment, the humiliation...all for the sake of love.  At any time He had the power to stop it all right at His fingerprints.  The man wasn't even guilty and He didn't even try to defend Himself!  He allowed it all, He endured it all, because of His love for us...because of His love for me!

I'm hoping I can keep this perspective when I read Scripture from now on.  The Bible is the greatest love story ever.  Why don't I remember that when I read it?  I'm going to try to.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Power from Awareness

Day 23 - Today I will be still so that I can be aware of your presence with me.

Impatience reared its ugly head again today.  But this time it was different.  I remembered yesterday and I took a moment to just stop and think.  Then I asked for the patience that was readily available for me.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  And I have the Spirit - He is always, always with me.  So if I have the Spirit, I have patience.  The day went much easier after that realization.  Most of the time I'm just too busy to take a moment and realize that God is right here with me.  He is with me in the morning while I'm doing the dishes or dusting the furniture. He is with me when I have four screaming babies or 6 crying toddlers (or both!).  He is with me while I'm making dinner and waiting for Justin to get home.  He is with me...I just have to take the time to be aware...

Short and sweet.  :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Painful Healing, Truth, & Impatience

After a crazy week of sick coworkers and then sick me...I'm trying to get back on track.  Here we go!

Day 20 - Today I will take my wounds to Calvary.

Sunday was such a good for this challenge!  The service on Sunday included communion...which was a very good way for me to envision taking my wounds to Calvary.  Sometimes it isn't easy to be healed - having a bone set is rather painful, getting stitches - also painful, surgery - well that can be painful for awhile, and even with a small cut, it hurts to have the band-aid removed.  It seems that when there are injuries, pain comes right along with the healing process.  And that makes taking my wounds, whether self-inflicted or placed there by someone, a little difficult to take to Calvary.  Am I really prepared to face that pain?  Am I strong enough to survive it?  The questions that this devotion asked led me to a very interesting conclusion.  Guys LOVE to talk about how they got scars, they love to tell the story behind them!  Our wounds leave scars and scars mean stories.  It is completely up to us whether that story is one of destruction and defeat or one of beauty and victory.  I want my scars to be a beautiful story...and that is why during communion, I took them to Calvary and laid them at the foot of the cross.  God's mercy will heal my wounds (and yes, it will probably be a little painful) and the scars that are left behind will tell the story of Christ's mercy and grace and His awesome, awesome victory!

Day 21 - Today I will reaffirm my trust in the truth that you are my Deliverer.

I honestly didn't think much about this throughout the day yesterday.  But I think that after Sunday's challenge, I can rest assured in the truth that He truly is my deliverer.  And He will deliver me from my pain.

Day 22 - Today I will turn to you when emotions threaten to make me lose control.

I, again, didn't do so great with this challenge.  I completely forgot about it until about a half hour before my shift ended when I realized just how impatient I was today.  Sometimes working with 14 kids under the age of 2 can be a little stressful.  And trust me, a few of those kids really know how to test my patience.  I was talking to another teacher about how a particular couple of kids really drive me crazy sometimes and that I just didn't have the patience to deal with it.  And then my challenge hit me in the face.  "Bri!  You totally lost control today...and didn't even think twice."  And then I was a little more patient with that one child...  I just wish I could be a little more conscious of my emotions throughout the day.  *sigh*

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Day 19 - Today I will thank you for your love when I'm tempted to ask for answers instead.

The question "why?" is on the tip of our tongues whenever things get ugly.  I often wonder why certain things happen to me.  Why did I have to suffer with an undiagnosed health issue for so long?  Why did bad things happen during what was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life?  Why me?  But that isn't what these answers are about.  This is more of the big stuff.  Why is their suffering?  Why is their evil?  I read this devotion this morning and couldn't think of something in my life where I needed to ask the bigger "why?"  But, again, I was looking to close to myself.

We were watching an episode of Bones tonight.  The investigation centered around a few soldiers who had spent some time in Iraq.  It turned out they had tried to cover up some friendly fire and the accidental murder of an Iraqi family (they thought they were insurgents).  The situation got Justin and I talking of the reality of those possibilities.  Our guys deal with enough without having to deal with friendly fire and killing innocent people.  Justin and I both know a few people who have served time in Iraq/Afghanistan and the things they have seen, the things they have dealt with...those things can't be erased from memory.  We came around to the subject of children, children are taught to fight in Iraq.  What does a soldier do when faced with a child aiming an AK-47 right at them?  It's a kill or be killed situation.  And it isn't fair.  I started to cry...children!  And it isn't just Iraq - I have read horror stories about children in Africa who had to kill their own families in brutal ways as their forced initiation into an army.  For a brief moment I let the thought cross my mind - Why God?  Why is this kind of thing allowed to go on?  Why are people so evil?  And then I stopped...No, I'm supposed to thank God for His love.  And I did.  "Thank you Lord for your love.  Without it, those children would have no hope.  Without Your love evil would triumph..."

I think I heard it said somewhere that faith isn't about dealing with the answers, it's about living with the questions.  And I can live with those questions when I know that God's love has prevailed, is prevailing now, and will ultimately prevail in the end.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dilemmas, Dilemmas

Day 18 - Today I will try to be aware of ways I'm still trying to earn your love.  I want to learn to rest in your grace.

Rest.  Does anyone in America truly know what that word means?  I'm not sure I do.  Even when I'm "resting,"  at the very least I'm making a to-do list in my head.  We are continually going, non-stop, all day long.  There are some days I wake up, get ready for work, do the dishes, update the budget, pack my lunch, vacuum, go to work, come home for my "break" which means unloading the dishwasher and putting away the dishes I did in the morning as well as writing out a few checks, then it's back to work, take laundry to laundromat, get home, clean up some clutter, go switch laundry to dryer, go back home, start dinner, go pick up laundry, finish dinner, fold laundry, eat dinner, start the grocery list/menu for the next couple of weeks, research moving companies, balance checkbook, go to bed...  The insanity is that I do this all of the time.  It isn't very often where I just sit in front of the TV and do nothing (and I'm sure this goes for many, MANY other people).  I always have to be busy.  My mind doesn't have a pause button.  In other words, I don't know what rest means.  This brings us to my first dilemma - how am I supposed to rest in God's grace if I don't know what resting even looks like?

Second dilemma - as Sheila Walsh notes, we (human beings) feel that we need to contribute in some way to anything that we receive.  We are receiving God's love, abundantly I might add, so we feel as if we need to contribute.  This looks different for each person - it may mean giving tithe and then some.  Or maybe it's spending every Saturday at the homeless shelter.  Or giving up something for lent.  Or, in my case, trying to maintain a picture of perfection.  Yes, I said it.  I am a perfectionist.  I want the vision people see of me to be a perfect one.  I don't want people to see me mess up, I don't want God to see me mess up.  But the fact of the matter is - I'm not perfect, I can't be perfect.  And if I think I can earn God's love through perfection, well then, I'm never going to earn it.

Yet then again...that's the whole point.  I can't earn God's love.  I already have it.  I have to stop trying to be perfect in order to earn His love.  If I mess up, from a simple slip to a huge mess, He is still going to love me because His love and my perfection are not connected.

So, in order to resolve my two dilemmas I have to simply let go.  I have to let go of this ideal of isn't going to happen on this earth.  And if I'm not trying so hard to be perfect (the perfect employee, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect friend...) then maybe I can sit back and actually rest for once.  Wait, what does that mean again??  : )  Just kidding.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of your grace.  It brings me joy and peace in knowing that I don't have do anything in order to earn it, I don't even have to lift a finger!