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Abba, Father!

Abba, Father!

I never had a daddy. I had a biological father whom I never met. My mother married my step-father when I was 8 years old, but he ended up being – for lack of a more definitive word – inconsequential. He wasn’t a bad man; he just simply lived in our house. He took up space. I’ve often explained that there was the chair, the couch, Frank and the lamp; we fed Frank and dusted the rest. In short, he was definitely not a daddy.

I’m 53 years old, and I could really use a daddy right now. Someone who could hold me, comfort me, reassure me that things would be fine – that he would do what he could to make sure things would be fine.

3226dd5cc757d77c500e184fc574f42eI’ve just read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog post How to Avoid Wormy Manna” in which she explores God’s daily provision for the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness after being delivered from slavery. In spite of the many miracles they’d seen, they would keep leftovers of manna against God’s instruction. God promised to provide their daily bread, but their doubt drove them to reserve a bit – just in case.

Just in case of what? In case, God forgot about them? In case God ran out of manna? In case God changed his mind about providing for them? In case God got mad and decided to punish them by withdrawing his provision? In case God was a liar?

God was their Abba father, their Jehovah Jireh – our Provider – and His Word is full of scripture that tells us none of these possibilities are realistic concerns.

According to Calling God “Abba, Father” Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling:

“Because we have been adopted into God’s family, we are privileged to call him “Abba, Father.” The word abba is an Aramaic word, one that was used by Jesus himself and echoed in the earliest Christian community, which spoke Aramaic (a language close to Hebrew). Abba was a word used by children for their father, something like “daddy” or “papa” today. But it was also a term of respect used by adult children for their fathers. Thus the word abba richly expresses our relationship with God. We are dependent upon him like little children. We are free to run to him as children run to their daddies. Yet we also offer God the highest respect and adult love.”

Because God is unchanging, we can rest in the security that He is still Abba, Father, Jehovah Jireh to his children. And because I am one of His children, I can lay claim to the promises of my heavenly “daddy.” (If you haven’t read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog, I really encourage you to check her out at Feeding on Jesus. She has such a delightful, open-armed way of exploring the intimacy our heavenly triune wants to relate to us!)

We can easily criticize the Israelites for hording manna in spite of God’s promises, but only because we have the benefit of having the rest of the story available to us. These Israelites had been born into a world in which they hadn’t been lovingly cared for. They were expendable labor with no intimate care from the Egyptians to whom they were enslaved and on whom they were dependent. Who could blame them for doubting that their next meal was guaranteed? Except God, who else in their lives had loved them enough to truly care about their needs? Who else had cared enough about them to pursue a nurturing relationship?

How many of us who genuinely believe we are children of God, adopted into His family through our belief in the sacrificial death of his Son for the sake of our sins, have not experienced the intimacy of a truly loving daddy like our Abba, Father? Is it not just as challenging for us to trust Jehovah Jireh when He promises that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 ESV when so many of us struggle with the memory of an Earthly father who had limitations to what he could provide. Or worse, lied about, forgot about, or withdrew provision for the sake of punishment?

04b49e49818b8c804f3f9426d2f641a3What I need right now is something I’m not sure I know how to look for. God has unlimited resources. He can do more than I could possibly imagine to secure my future needs and has promised to do so. And yet, I’m anxious that He won’t. Heck, I hate to admit that there’s even a part of me that wonders if He can even if He wanted to. What kind of faith is that? What kind of faith do I have if I believe I need a contingency plan in case God fails me? Is the smallest offering of faith enough for God to honor as Jesus honored Peter’s very short-lived confidence to step out of the boat onto the sea’s roaring waves?

I’m praying that it is.

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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in GOD'S LOVE FOR US

 

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SEEK YE FIRST

SEEK YE FIRST

A little over five years ago, I survived an ascending aortic dissection. Dissections are fairly rare at 3 per 100,000 per year. Of those, about half are a dissection of the ascending aorta such as I had. Of that 50%, about 20% of the patients will die before they reach the hospital with that rate increasing by 3% every hour surgery is delayed. I was fortunate to have survived, and I have no doubt that I survived because God wasn’t done with me yet – and because I was in the care of some amazing medical personnel!

Although I still have no idea what His plan is for me, I can say that many good things have come to light in the past five years. Premier among them, I’ve learned to accept and enjoy the love of my family, the compassion of my friends and the overwhelming love of my heavenly Father. However, physically it’s been a challenge for me, and lately I’ve had to examine whether or not I can continue working the same way I did over five years ago. I believe the surgery and recovery took a toll on my mental and physical health that I can’t seem to sustain anymore.

Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought to Peter as he dared to step out of the boat at Jesus’s assurance.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28.

Now, at this point the disciples weren’t sure what they were seeing. Perhaps it was a ghost. I have the benefit of retrospect. I know for a fact that it was Jesus. That’s a certain game-changer for me.

In the next verse, Jesus says so simply, “Come.” And Peter did something that was completely counter-intuitive. He stepped out onto water – deep, perilous, frenzied, terrifying water. He was no fool when it came to the dangers of the sea. This was a fisherman who had learned to respect the nature of a storm and the dangers it brought.

But he had also just witnessed the incredible power of the Son of God. Besides the most recent multiplication of bread and fish, he’d already witnessed unbelievable healings. So he had two things to consider: the power of the waves or the power of Christ.

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He chose Christ. For a moment. Then he looked away and saw the ferocity of the sea around him and became afraid. I often think of the cartoon characters of my childhood who would run off a cliff but wouldn’t be in danger of falling until they realized that, oops!, there was no ground beneath them. (Which is not to make light of this scripture, by any means! It just proves that I’m a member of the TV generation.)

So lately, as I said, I’ve been thinking of Peter’s test of Jesus. Did Peter just want to prove to the other guys that he was bad-assed enough to walk on water? That would certainly fit into his profile as a passionate renegade, but I don’t think that was it. I think Peter, like the others, was genuinely afraid for his life. He saw that the winds and waves out there – around Jesus – were still. Regardless of the reason why they were still, Peter wanted to be in the same stillness that surrounded Jesus, and there is no shorter line between point A and point B than a straight line. Wherever Jesus was, was safer than in the boat.

We all know the lesson here: Keep your eyes on Jesus and not your surroundings. For me, that would mean focusing on the face of my Savior and not at the bills that would keep me from working fewer hours to protect my health. That’s not as easy as it sounds, and Peter is the perfect example.

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Here’s my challenge: I know I spend more time seeking God’s hand than I do His face. As long as Peter focused on Christ’s face, he was good. It wasn’t until he began to sink that he had to call out for His hand. When I seek God’s face, His kingdom, I am promised that all things will be added. If I know my Father, who I can see through His Son, intimately enough, how can I doubt that he will provide and sustain me? I wish it were that easy for me, but it’s not.

Here’s my comfort: When Peter cried out for help two things did not happen. First, Jesus didn’t call from afar, “Hold on, Peter! I’ll be right there.” Jesus was there immediately. In fact, Peter was probably nearer to the boat than he was to Jesus; but it wasn’t a disciple who rescued him. Similarly, it will likely not be our friends who will be able to rescue us in the same way Jesus can. Second, although Jesus called Peter “ye of little faith,” Jesus did not chastise him. He honored that faith – as little as it was. I believe it left a seed in Peter from which stronger faith would grow – the kind of faith that could produce a thriving world-wide church. This challenge wasn’t a wasted opportunity or failed exercise by any means. It left Peter, just as such experiences leave me, with the confidence that “next time….” Next time, my faith will be stronger and last longer because it will be built upon this experience.

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I know that if I step out of my boat and focus on His face, if I step out at His command to “Come,” those around me will likely think I’m as crazy as the disciples must have though Peter was to walk into a savage sea at the command of what they thought was a ghost, rather than the One who created those very waters upon which he stood. I will likely be among those numbers. I know I will look at our finances and anxiously wonder how I will handle things, manage things, instead of trusting the Abba who has promised to take care of me and my family with the same compassion and paternal love of one who care for His own creations. And with the same confidence, we can be assured that Christ will advocate on behalf of those He calls friends, brother and sisters – family.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:25-34

In fact, Peter puts it even more simply in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

How strong is my faith that He will care for me enough for me to abandon my futile efforts to manage things myself? How many steps will I make before I look around in fear? And does it matter how small my faith is as long as the one in whom I have faith is greater than anything surrounding me?

 
 

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LOVE IS….

LOVE IS….

In the early months of my marriage, about 21 years ago now, I remember sitting on the front step of the house we were renting. I’d just moved to a town I’d only seen once, relocating my 4-year-old daughter and myself from Kansas to Minnesota. John and I had known each other all of nine months before we married. All our communication had been by phone and letters. We’d been a few years away from the internet and email, much less cell phones.

But as I sat on the front step that day, I had something that I really needed to talk to God about. He already knew what was on my heart because it was always there, just below the surface of my bravado, my fear, my anxiety. “God,” I said, “I don’t know how to love.”

I know I thought I loved my husband – at least as much as I knew how to. And I loved my daughter – as much as I knew how to. But the truth was that I was primarily grateful that John wanted to marry me, to keep me when no one else had. And I treasured my daughter, but I wasn’t sure I loved her the way other parents loved their children because I could be very impatient with her and sometimes cold to her if I was angry with her.

I grew up with a very conditional, controlling mother who managed my step-father, my half-brother and myself with fear. It would be kind to say she was simply a poor example of how a wife should treat her husband; a mother, her children. I knew from her example what I didn’t want to be, but the only option it often left me with was a glorified ideal of a woman I was not equipped to be. And so…my dilemma posed to God that day.

But He answered me immediately and surely: “That’s why I gave you John.” Those words sunk deep into my heart, and I’ve never forgotten them – even on the days when I thought God’s gift of John was a punishment or misunderstanding because John had done something to disappoint me, anger me or hurt me – which happens. Everyone will disappoint us, anger us or hurt us eventually. They’re only human, just as we are.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what God assured me. John has been gentle, kind, patient and – most certainly – long-suffering, to the tune of 21 years. He’s shown me how to love my family and friends. But I’ve also been thinking about God’s love for us. So often I’ve read 1 Corinthians 13 from the perspective of the one who is supposed to love others. As I spend more time in the Word, though, I realize that this is a description of God Himself.

Our heavenly Father is so patient with us. He meets us where we are and really expects so little of us. He waits and waits for us to be ready, always the gentleman. We make the same mistakes repeatedly, and just as often He forgives and forgets them. When you look at the parables that demonstrate His love for us, He is the father of the prodigal son who runs after the boy as soon as he sees him; he doesn’t wait for the boy to reach him. He’s the woman who searches desperately for the lost coin as if it’s the only one she has and celebrates with her friends when she finds it.

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We see His love when Peter steps out of the boat and starts to sink when he looks at the waves in dread. When Peter calls out for help, Jesus doesn’t say, “Hold on. I’ll be right there.” He doesn’t tell the other disciples to help Peter. The distance between Jesus and Peter is a breath when Christ reaches out to pull him out of the water.

We may feel like we’ve strayed from God and have to make our way back to Him. We don’t! I am confident that if, at any time, we turn to call to Him, we will be startled to see Him a breath away, waiting for us. Yes, we need to repent, but we don’t have to wait. And we don’t have to beg and grovel to get in His good graces again. We don’t have to “prove” our authenticity to Him.

I don’t think God wants our self-deprecation. After all, He sacrificed His only 139ab36c5c3c1e05a202db0a7c66fc5cSon to free us from that sort of behavior. God wants our heart and the obedience that comes from loving Him with all our heart, all our soul and with all our strength (Luke 10:27). So if you think you need to clean yourself up first, forget it. You can’t do it yourself, and Christ has already done the work for you. If you think you have any reason at all to wait to reconcile yourself to God – or to accept Him as your God, Christ as your Lord and Savior – you don’t. Do it now. He’s right there, waiting for you with His arms ready to embrace you – again and again and again. That’s love!

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2018 in faith, GOD'S LOVE FOR US, OUR HEART

 

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WHILE YOU WAIT

WHILE YOU WAIT

I came across this note from Morgan Harper Nichols – an American Christian musician, gospel music recording artist, songwriter and guitarist – and I really like it.

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I have a daughter who will be 17 in September. Her father and I think she’s beautiful, funny, smart, amazing, compassionate and very strong and tenacious. She seldom sees herself the same way. It’s my constant prayer, though, that above all things, she sees herself as a child of God, a joint heir with Christ. I pray that she always remembers who and whose she is, that she act in a manner becoming a woman of God and that she expect respect for herself and her body as such, too.

I’ve been a girl, too. I’ve been a child of God since I was 12, but I didn’t really have anyone show me what it meant to live like one. I missed so much and have so many regrets; regrets that I hope I can help my daughter avoid.

I don’t think this text is limited to just the girls out there. I think it is good for boys to hear, as well. I think it’s good for adults to consider, too. So many of us worry that we’re not doing “good enough.” We see the highlights of others lives while we look at our own behind-the-scene takes and bloopers. We worry that we’re missing something. We compare ourselves to other employees, family members, friends, neighbors – even fictional characters on television.

Spend some time in quiet. Still yourself. Listen for the Holy Spirit and expect to hear something. You’re not in this alone. And you’re meant to do great things!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in faith, WAITING

 

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ALWAYS RISE AGAIN!

ALWAYS RISE AGAIN!

I just finished reading a great post from Dr. Perry from Make it Ultra about dealing with “Imposter Syndrome”. It takes a good look at the anxiety and insecurity that comes from success and starts with one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, which addresses the fear of being found out as a fraud in spite of success. Actually, I suspect it’s a fear of being found out as a fraud because of success. After all, if you don’t call attention to yourself, you can stay camouflaged in mediocrity for your whole life, right? Which may be a very sound reason for people to not aspire to greatness of any degree. And I believe c0deb00acb17459dbea15fdfec3b07e8that so many people have been afraid to stand in the spotlight because they know that, even if they pull this off this time, they may not be able to replicate it. Can you imagine the pressure of coming up with the manuscript for the second book in the Harry Potter series and how exponentially terrifying it became with each book that came after it? J. K. Rowling had to have been as brave and resilient as she was brilliant to travel that road. And the books and movies were such a success, had such an impact on our culture, that hoping to follow it with anything else could have been paralyzing.

Dr. Perry’s post examined the anxiety of maintaining a self-imposed façade, but what it brought to my mind was the risk successful people always take of failing. Moreover, the conflict I’ve often felt personally between absolutely avoiding failure altogether and reveling in the things I learn from failing. I don’t like to fail because I grew up believing that failure came from mistakes, and mistakes were not what you wanted to make. Mistakes were often followed by punishment, right?

As I grew older, though, I began to learn the value of mistakes. Mistakes show that you’re trying something. More importantly, I believe there is more to be learned from mistakes than from successes. I can’t tell you how many good recipes I’ve made and could never replicate because I couldn’t recall how I got there. Now, if I had a recipe and it turned out badly, there’s a really good chance that not only do I know exactly what I did wrong, I’ll also make sure I never make the same mistake again. The same can be said of almost every learning experience. We might learn the hard way, or we might be fortunate enough to learn from the experience of others, but we learn, adapt and improve, wiser in the end.

e01b1eaed926eedb61c9e8b3fae6a4e8My most memorable experience with this was in the mid-80s when I had to learn the software for four different word processing programs. I shared that story in a previous post, “Failure is not Fatal.” I’d had absolutely no experience with computers and was given no directions for the programs. Everything I learned, I learned from mistakes. I not only knew to not do something, but (more importantly) I learned why I shouldn’t do and what would happen if I did do it. Best of all, actually, was that I learned every mistake that could be made by the people I would be teaching the programs to – and how to fix each one. And they understood that I had already made those same mistakes myself and that there wasn’t a situation that could not be remedied. Then there are the two daughters I’ve parented, my 21-year marriage and every job I’ve ever had. Lots and lots of learning curves and lessons!

I think it’s so important for us to be merciful and gentle with someone when they make mistakes – especially with ourselves. Everyone learns in their own unique way, at their own pace. Mistakes provide valuable information. Mistakes are just a sign that you’re trying something new. And mistakes are (usually) transient. After all, you’ve never heard a toddler announce, “This walking thing just isn’t for me!” because they fell. We’ve all learned how to walk, and some have even become Olympic, record-breaking runners in spite of all the times they fell down when they were learning to walk. Don’t ever be afraid to fall. But more importantly, be sure to always get back up again. Remember, Rocky didn’t win the fight in the self-named movie, but no one questions that he was, absolutely, a winner.

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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in OVERCOMING, SUCCESS

 

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WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

God has a plan for your life. So does Satan. Choose carefully who you’ll trust.

You have been divinely created by the same God who created the universe! Before the first sonogram gave your parents an idea of what you looked like, before your mother first felt your movement, God was creating you with His own personal touches.

David tells God:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 New International Version (NIV)

From the time I discovered I was pregnant with each of my daughters, I had plans for them. I imagined wonderful, memorable moments with them. I considered how I would raise them. I wondered what sort of personalities each would have. And, of course, I couldn’t wait to buy baby clothes!

But God had already beat me to the punch. Sure, I conceived my daughters, but God designed them with His own specifications. Whatever plans I had were secondary to the plans God had for them. And He had good plans!

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God has good plans for each of us, too. We are no different now, just because we’ve lived 30, 50, 70-plus years. Here’s the thing about God: Once He has spoken, what he says must come to fruition.

For some of us, someone significant in our lives – a parent, a teacher, a classmate, a lover – may have distorted or perverted our identity and our purpose. Satan will start early in his battle to win our soul by using the free will of others to lie to us about who and Whose we are. And because we are a blank slate, we will likely believe those lies.

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But God knows who we are, who we’re meant to be. His purpose for each of us (and, yes, that means each of “them“, as well) is greater and more glorious than we can begin to imagine. We are like a seed with the potential to produce a tree, which can produce seeds with the potential to grow a forest. At all times, we are potential. Powerful potential. Know that you can plant a seed and plan for a forest.

If you suspect that you’re not fulfilling your God-ordained purpose, ask Him to speak truth to you. Then wait for His words. Listen closely to hear God’s intent for your life and agree with Him. He will tell you the truth about yourself. Despite what anyone has told you about yourself, how others have defined you, what lies you’ve been told about yourself, know that God will show you the truth of how precious you truly are.

Savior every True word!! Jesus Choose you & He Loves you!!God has a plan for your life. So does Satan. Choose carefully who you’ll trust.

 

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2018 in faith, GOD'S LOVE FOR US, shame

 

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SUSTAINABILITY

I did an internet  search on the word “redeem” and one of the first things I found was a company called Redeem, which is “a leading global provider of recycling and recommerce solutions for mobile phones and other handheld electronic devices.” Which doesn’t matter at all to this post. What I found interesting was it’s tagline: “making sustainability easy”.

I know it sounds weird, but I’ve been sort of meditating on that over the past few days. Redeem: making sustainability easy.

I think about my personal life, my own redemption through my salvation. I’ve been redeemed by God through the sacrificial death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. I have been purchased. The debt for my sins – past, present and future – has been paid. Christ’s death erased my debt.

Now, “sustainability” has become a go-to word for ecologists. In ecology, it’s “how biological systems remain diverse and productive indefinitely.” Less specifically, it’s “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”. It’s the capacity to endure.

Does my relationship with God need to be sustainable? Yes! The good news – and the point I’m trying to make – is that my relationship with God is sustainable through my redemption, and not by any other means.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is only by grace that we are saved. It is only by God’s grace that we are redeemed. And it is only by our status as children of God that our relationship with Him is sustainable. Good works won’t do it, although good works should flow naturally from the redeemed life.

And because of His grace, there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and nothing we can do to make Him love us less. That’s some pretty decent sustainability.

So if I could, I would adapt the company name and its tagline to read: Redemption: Making Sustainability Easy. What a cool way to think about my relationship with God!

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Uncategorized