Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learning to Walk

Tenacious. That’s the only word to describe him.

By the time he was seven months old my grandson, Asher, was already trying to pull himself up to stand. Over and over he would attempt it, only to fall with a plop and a surprised expression. But for those few instants he succeeded and stood there, the look on his face was one of satisfied joy.

Asher

Now ten-month-olds old, Asher was learning to walk. Having two older brothers he wasn’t content to watch all the action for one more second—he was determined to be part of it! At first, all he could manage were tentative, baby steps. Most of the time he fell more often than he stayed upright, but he refused to let it stop him. A few bumps in the road were not going to deter him! His mom and dad cheered him on as he struggled, strengthening his resolve and reinforcing his motivation. Something deep inside him compelled him to keep trying, and his renewed tenacity enabled him to conquer the skill.

Asher wasn’t born knowing how to walk; it was a process of learning by trial and error. Now that he’s proficient, he loves to run everywhere!

Neither are we born knowing how to live as followers of Jesus. That, too, is a process. We start with baby steps and “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2a), so that we begin to grow and develop strength. Like Asher, we may fall flat on our face as we try to figure out what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). The temptation is to give up, to avoid the bumps and bruises of failure. I know; I took some pretty hard knocks. But God sends us older, more mature believers who cheer us on, encouraging us to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus “ (Philippians 3:14). As we persist we really will improve over time. Listening to our Father’s voice encouraging us on gets a little easier. And once we have learned to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) something deep inside of us will not allow us to quit, because we will never again be satisfied to sit on the sidelines and watch others engage in all the action.

I want to walk with Jesus. I want to be part of the action, because He alone is what satisfies. I won’t give up, no matter what.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us… Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].                                         Hebrews 12:1-2a (amplified version)

Further reflection:

  1. Do you remember what it was like for you as a new believer?
  2. Was there ever a time you felt like walking with Jesus was just too hard?
  3. If so, how did you get past that feeling?
  4. If not, how did you manage to avoid it?

Father, I look back and see how You have been with me through every step of life. You are the one who has cheered me on when I wanted to give up. You are the only one who satisfies the deepest desires of my heart. Please help me to continue pressing on, so that I may always walk with You.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Know That Voice!

I don’t even have to ask who it is.

We have gone on many vacations together. We are in the same Bible study group. We often meet for dinner and can talk for hours without feeling like any time at all has passed. I can count on her to understand my heart, and she attributes the best possible motives to me. She challenges me to consider other perspectives, and holds me accountable for my personal choices. Marie, well, she makes my life richer and far more full. I am grateful to call her my friend.

Because of that, when she calls me on the phone I always know who it is as soon as she starts talking. No “”Hi, this is Marie Hurlbert.” Or even, “This is Marie.” I have talked with her so often I immediately recognize her voice.

woman on phone

If someone else called and claimed to be Marie, I would know better. I’m just too familiar with her to fall for it.

Jesus’ voice is familiar to me, too. I hear Him communicate mercy as He calls me to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His voice of compassion is clear when on the cross He cried out “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). His words “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ” (1 John 1:3) affirm me as His daughter. I know what His voice sounds like.

Oh, sometimes I hear His voice, but what He’s asking is hard. Or mundane. So I pretend I don’t. Sometimes I want to do something different so I wonder if He’s telling me to move ahead. But I know better.

When He speaks, I really don’t have to ask who it is. Because when all is said and done, I am His, and He is mine. I know His voice.

…the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”       John 10:3b-5

Further reflection:

  1. How well would you say you recognize Jesus’ voice?
  2. Describe a time that you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you heard from Him.
  3. How did you know it was Him?

Father, I am so grateful that You want to talk to me, and that Your voice is familiar. Thank You for Your word, that so clearly communicates Your love, Your compassion, and Your mercy. Please help me to not only hear Your voice, but to gladly respond to it above all others.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Number Our Days

She hadn’t answered her phone or returned emails for three days. My son and daughter-in-law, Kyle and Heidi, knew something had to be very wrong; Heidi’s mom, Barbara, never failed to respond. So Kyle went to check on her.

He knocked on the door; there was no answer. He tried to open it; it was locked. He went to the apartment office to see if they would let him in.

“Nope,” they said. “You’ll have to call the police for that.”

While he was waiting for the police to arrive he called his brother-in-law, who came over immediately. Together they broke down the door. They found Barbara in her bed, conscious but unable to move or communicate. An ambulance transported her to the hospital.

She was dehydrated from having laid there for a few days, and for a while they weren’t sure what was wrong. A CT-scan finally revealed she’d had a stroke. Since so much time had already passed her prognosis was uncertain.

I have wondered what went through her head as she laid there, hoping to be found but unsure if she would be…

Barbara was fortunate; she worked hard and made a nearly full recovery. And her life looked a bit different after that. She lived it more intentionally; spending time with her family became an even higher priority. People mattered more than stuff. In short, she chose to focus on what her priorities truly were, and took greater joy in the everyday pleasures of life. She went on to live two more years before another stroke took her home.

The inescapable truth is that we will all die. A hard truth to think about on the heels of the optimism that the start of a new year brings. But it’s a good thing to remind ourselves, because it causes us to ask ourselves questions.

calendar

When all is said and done, we want our lives to reflect those things that are important to us. We cannot do that if we don’t take the time to ponder what our priorities are, and ask ourselves whether or not our lives display them.

In the end, there are only two things that last for eternity: our relationship with the Lord, and people. I want to live in light of eternity, embracing and reflecting that reality. Like Barbara, I want to recognize that each day is a gift to treasure and to savor.

That is the heart of wisdom. And I want it.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.                  Psalm 90:12

Further reflection:

  1. What would you say your priorities in life are?
  2. Take a moment to think. Does the way you spend your time reflect what you say those priorities are?
  3. What changes would you need to make so that you will be able to look back, knowing you did the important things?

Father, the only things that really matter are the things that last for eternity. I long to live my life with those priorities in mind. Please help me to focus on those things that truly matter to You, and to recognize each day as the gift that it is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The New Thing

Never would I have imagined feeling so much sorrow at the same time as I felt so much joy.

My husband and I were taking our oldest son, Eric, to college. He was the first one to leave home and I was excited for him, but I did not enjoy leaving him in the dorm and walking away.

I had loved being a mom, and I was glimpsing a future where my active parenting days would end. It was a bit scary. And a lot sad. Over the next several weeks I pondered the reality that, like it or not, my life was going to change.

“What then, Lord?” I asked him. “What will my life look like? Will you have something for me to do then?”

I yearned to know the answer. I pleaded with the Lord to tell me. He was patient and ever-so-gracious as I began to grieve a change still years off. Turning to Scripture for answers, this passage absolutely jumped out at me:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

That was God’s promise to me: He would give me something new. New challenges, new joys, new adventures. When doubt would creep into my heart I reminded myself of that promise many, many times. When I tried to hold my old life in tight, clenched fists I would whisper that verse as a prayer, and peel one painful finger at a time off of what was. Only then could I reach out towards what could be. Only God’s word assured me that the new thing would be as good, or even better, than the old. Because in a sea of change, I absolutely knew one thing to be true;

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19

I don’t know what changes you are facing. Death of a dream, loss of a relationship, an unwanted job change; it doesn’t matter. As long as you draw breath, God has plans for you; a new thing that will take you places you could not imagine.

As we begin a new year, that is a promise worth holding on to!

happy new year

further reflection:

  1. Have there been any changes in your life that you neither sought, nor wanted?
  2. What was it like to grieve over those changes?
  3. Do you believe that God has a good plan for you, a “new thing”?
  4. Memorize Isaiah 43:18-19 as quoted above. Repeat it every time you begin to hold on to the past too tightly, and allow it to encourage your heart to anticipate the future.

Father, thank You that You keep every promise in Your word. Thank You that Your plans for me are for my good, and that tomorrow holds the promise of joy. Please help me to let go of what was in order to reach for the new things You have for me.