When You Are Confused, Is God?

Even when you feel confused, remember God is not. When You Just Don't Get It

Things happen we don’t understand. We get confused. We get anxious.

What happens to our faith in these moments?

Sometimes we run from God. We don’t see Him coming to our rescue. So we get impatient and go outside the boundaries for help.

Or maybe we freeze up. If God isn’t giving us a clear answer, we become paralyzed into inaction. We want total clarity before we make any move at all.

But there is a third approach.

Read it all here – “When You Just Don’t Get It

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I’m writing today at Do Not Depart. Will you join me there?

“When You Just Don’t Get It”

sharing with DebDawn, SusanDawn,
Rachel, Lori, Crystal, Debbie


Start in Private

Start-in-Private-Holy-Helps-Richard-Rogers

Invisible?

If nobody sees it, does it matter? Is it real?

We live in an era of publicly-groomed lives. We carefully manage the image we reveal to the world. We photoshop our portraits; we filter our Instagram pics; we tidy up our Facebook posts.

But what are we really like behind the face we put out into the world? Who are we in private?

We often undervalue the importance of our private practices.

  • If we won’t get public applause, do we want to do it?
  • If there is no outward reward, do we exercise self-discipline?
  • If we lack the desire to do it alone, do we forget it altogether?

What we often forget is this:

The outside stuff—the stuff that people see—is a direct result of our inner stuff.

What we think about and what we do and what we value when we’re alone will be reflected to the outside world when we’re together.

“And just as our bodies need daily refreshing, so do our souls.”
– Richard Rogers

Private Disciplines

Think about it spiritual terms. That’s what Rogers does in Holy Helps for a Godly Life. This week’s readings, chapters 4-6, begin focusing on the private spiritual disciplines as opposed to the public disciplines addressed in chapters 1-3.

“Therefore, without the private helps, the public are less profitable. For example, coming to church (the only way many know of serving God) cannot do that good to the best Christians which is to be looked for, if it is not accompanied with the private helps.”

To devote time to praying in private or meditating on truth, we first have to wake up to its value. Without a sense of its worth, we won’t do it.

Once we realize the importance of private practices, the more likely we’ll be to do them.

Make It Easier

Rogers suggests we can improve our private practices by making them easier.

  • Set a time for your meditation.
  • Read scripture or other spiritual books to prompt your thoughts.
  • Pray about real things happening right in front of you.

Outward improvement begins from the inside. When we take care of the inner self, our outward self will show it.

“Holy meditation on our estate and on God’s bounty toward us frames us after God’s image. And this works great things in our hearts.”

When we invest ourselves in God in our private world, we’re more apt to notice his grace in our public world. We’re then better equipped to help others and to spread peace.

If we want to better love others in public ways, let’s begin in private.

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Do you have a favorite spiritual discipline you do in private? How does it prepare you for public service? Please share in the comments.

Tim Challies is walking us through this Puritan book, Holy Helps for a Godly Life, a few chapters each week. Read about it on his blog and on his Facebook page.

sharing with Kelly,
Holley, Patricia, Emily, Jaime


Who to Love? For How Long? Everybody, Always

Say Who?

Just not her.

Anybody but him.

Sometimes we just want to say no. No, God, don’t ask me to love that person. Bring me someone else that’s not as messy. Not as rude. Not as…well, unlovable.

But that’s the person we need to love the most, yes?

Often my attempts fail miserably when I try to love THAT person. But even our weakest efforts count for something.

And even if our shaky love never reaches that person enough to be felt or to change them, maybe we are changed in the effort.

“Find a way to love difficult people more, and you’ll be living the big life Jesus talked about. Go find someone you’ve been avoiding and give away extravagant love to them. You’ll learn more about God, your neighbor, your enemies, and your faith.
– Bob Goff

Whether you have a messy person in your life right now or not, Bob Goff is a person who will inspire you to get out there and love people. Not because of who Bob is (well, maybe a little because of who Bob is; he’s stunning). And not because of who you are or they are. But be emboldened to love more because of who God is.

This is a beautifully motivating book by Bob, Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People. It’s full of his amazing personal stories, his encounters with interesting people, and his experiences with God. If you’re ever down or feel the world is too dark, read this book. You’ll be encouraged again.

And the next time you ask yourself—Who am I to love?—here’s a phenomenal answer:

“Every time I wonder who I should love and for how long I should love them, God continues to whisper to me: Everybody, always.

Quotes from Everybody, Always

I highlighted a gazillion lines from Everybody, Always. Here are a just a few from the many.

“What I had done is make it about me, yet again, and our lives will never be about Jesus if we keep making everything about us.”

“We don’t need to call everything we do ‘ministry.’ Just call it Tuesday. That’s what people who are becoming love do.”

“We can either keep track of all the good we’ve done or all the good God’s done. Only one will really matter to us.”

“What if we found out God’s big plan for our lives is that we wouldn’t spend so much of our time trying to figure out a big plan for our lives? Perhaps He just wants us to love Him and love each other.”

“Friendships can last a lifetime, but we make them three minutes at a time.”

You don’t need to take all the steps, just the next one. God may not give us all the green lights we want, but I’m confident He gives us all the green lights He wants us to have at the time. Go with what you’ve got.”

“We’re not held back by what we don’t have, but what we don’t use.”

“I’ll say I am too busy to help someone in need, when it isn’t time I lack; it’s compassion.”

People don’t grow where they’re planted; they grow where they’re loved.”

“Don’t worry about who’s in the Oval Office with the launch codes. Your oval office is a circle thirty feet around you. Go love the people in that circle. Fill it with difficult people, the ones you’ve been avoiding, the ones you disagree with, the ones who are hard to get along with. Go find a couple of witch doctors.”

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Do you have a difficult person in your life? Are they hard to love? Please share in the comments how you’re overcoming reluctance.

sharing with Kelly, Char, Meg, Ronja,
Anita, Terri, Gayl

My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book


This Public Prayer Stirs Up Grace

A Different Request

I can tell this Saturday will be different.

The lead church-of-the-month—it alternates every month—isn’t here. A hiccup in plans.

But Fran has made sure all the bases are covered: there will be worship music; there will be a message from the Word; there will be food enough for all (thanks, Scruggs BBQ). Outdoor Church is important to our homeless and local underserved community. They gather at Manna House each month for this.

When I see Larry in charge, I also know it will be different. Larry is a humble pastor. He knows these folks by name. He sees their hearts and works in their lives and believes in a God who is bigger than every circumstance.

So when Larry says we will begin differently, I’m not too surprised. But when he says we’ll start by all praying aloud together, I know this is new for Outdoor Church.

I wonder about a couple of guys in the back. They are already rowdy. Others are still heads-down, talking to no one. Mixed in are “church people,” who know formal prayers and formal ways.

I’m not sure what the response will be to Larry’s request to “Let’s all pray at the same time out loud.”

Public Prayer as Grace

Prayer is a strange enough phenomena as it is.

  • Why does God want our prayers anyway?
  • Does he answer those who pray in doubt?
  • Are repetitious prayers kicked out?

I’ve started reading a 500-year-old book (on my Kindle, the irony) about spiritual disciplines, including prayer. Tim Challies has invited us to read it together (join in—this is week 1!). It is Holy Helps for a Godly Life by Richard Rogers, a Puritan author, “the Enoch of his age.” It’s been revised this year for our modern ears.

While the overall focus of the book is on spiritual disciplines and grace, this week’s chapters (1-3) focus on three public means of grace: the ministry of the Word, the sacraments, and public prayers.

But the same practices are just as relevant now as in 1500.

There’s a fine line between doing to receive, and receiving to do.

“But godliness never flourishes unless it is planted in the fertile soil of God’s grace. Legalism subverts the gospel.”
– Brian G. Hedges (in the Preface, Holy Helps for a Godly Life)

So when offered to do one of these means of grace—public prayers—with the group on Saturday morning, I am eager to accept.

And I am curious to see what will happen in our ragtag group.

The Prayer that Stirs

Larry begins. Eyes close. And mouths open.

Little by little, I hear murmurings from those around me. I search my own heart and begin praying for my sweet friend Erma who is sitting beside me. We see each other often at Manna House. I know she has needs, like all of us, and I know she has faith. It is easy to pray for her.

As the minutes tick off, the crowd continues to chatter aloud to God. It is a beautiful noise. Then Larry gets louder again, with these words:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

And to my surprise, the crowd joins in full and strong. In sync and connected.

Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

It is a holy moment.

Amen.

There are those who claim public recitations of prayers are in vain. That prayers need to be spontaneous. That they need to be spoken one person at a time, in an orderly fashion, with somber tone and words.

But not on this Saturday morning.

“For if the content is erroneous, then the words pronounced do not make it good; and if the content is good and pure, then the reading cannot make it evil.”
– Richard Rogers

This cacophony of prayer is drenched in grace and received by faith. It is a divine gift of participation.

For at least these sacred moments, our crowd is a community. The rumble has become one voice. And there is an awareness of Presence stronger than has existed before.

Rogers is right:

“Let them resolve together what must be granted: that public prayers are a help to stir up God’s graces in us and to convey to us the many good blessings of God, which we need.”

Grace is stirred up. God’s many good blessings have arrived in us. We need them. Amen.

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Join in at Tim Challies’ blog or his Facebook page for the first three (short) chapters of Holy Helps for a Godly Life. Then read a few more chapters for next Thursday’s discussion.

Do you participate in public prayers? When have you been particularly moved by a prayer offering? Please share in the comments.

sharing with DawnRachel, Lori, Crystal, Debbie


A Popcorn Blessing

I get my popcorn popped. I grab the next elevator going back up. My grandmother is waiting for me.

An old white lady hops on my elevator at the 2nd floor. She smells my popcorn. She asks if it’s good. I tell her it is.

She says she just loves popcorn. She looks at my popcorn bag and says, “Oh, Orville Redenbacher? You like that kind? I sure do!”

Um, yeah. It’s good. What’s up with this woman? She’s still looking and smiling.

I finally ask her, “Would you like some?”, but I hope she’ll say no. I don’t want her digging around in my popcorn bag. I don’t know where her hands have been. We are in a public housing elevator after all.

She says no thank you, a little flustered, and gets off on the 3rd floor. I go on up to the 4th.

Crazy white lady.

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I didn’t know the young girl would offer me her popcorn. I was just trying to be nice and make conversation (although it did smell good and I do love popcorn!).

When she asked me, “Would you like some?” I was taken aback. I didn’t expect it. It was a sweet offer. But I said no thank you.

I didn’t expect to see her again. But when I finally made it to the 4thfloor and knocked on the next door on my list for meals, her head peeped out of the apartment.

So she was here visiting her grandmother. Her grandmother isn’t doing so well. I’ve seen her go downhill greatly the past 6 months.

But I know this grandmother is blessed. She has a granddaughter who visits her.

And who offers popcorn to crazy white ladies like me in the elevator.

Blessings pop up in unexpected places. Grace lives here.

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Where have you seen unexpected grace? Please share in the comments.

sharing with Kristin, Bethany, Emily, JaimeHolley,
RonjaMeghanChar, Kelly


5 Links, Books, and Things I Love – June 2018

Did you do anything exciting in May? What are you looking forward to in June? We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday


[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

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5 Things Around the Web

1.  5 Chores You Should Never Skip (Even If You’re Busy) 
by Adrienne Breaux

When you’re busy, which chores do you do anyway? I almost always do #1 and #3. But I can more easily skip #5.

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2.  Digital Prayer Tools – What Digital Gadgets and Apps Draw You Closer to God?
by Jean Wise

Jean pulled together a great list of digital prayer tools to help us stay in the attitude of prayer.

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3. Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness
by Lucy Rock

‘Those most likely to notice the arrow of time are the people without a lot of other change or difficulty in their life.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“Forget the saying that life begins at 40 – it’s 50 we should be looking toward. . . . Academics have found increasing evidence that happiness through adulthood is U-shaped – life satisfaction falls in our 20s and 30s, then hits a trough in our late 40s before increasing until our 80s.”

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4. Three Types of People Who Help the Church
by Josh Buice

Here are three different types of people (among others) in the local church who help build the body. Are you one of these?

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5. Why do we fear plane crashes when the ride to the airport is more dangerous?
by Tom Keane

https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2018/05/17/our-sense-danger-needs-reality-check/PBdt1pTngkpGv4NcueHrvO/story.html?event=event25

ADOBE STOCK

“Our sense of danger needs a reality check.”

Jeff and I almost always fly Southwest. So when a passenger almost got sucked out of the window last month on a Southwest flight, I paid attention. But daily commutes in the car are still much, much more dangerous.

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5 Things about Books

1. PBS Great American Read

Are you following along? Which novel of America’s Top 100 picks would you choose as the best? I’ve already voted for The Book Thief and The Chronicles of Narnia, but I’m not finished yet. You can vote for more than one.

PLUS, How to Remember What You Read because while the titles of the 100 novels sound familiar, I’ve forgotten the content of some that I’ve read.

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2. Why Reading Books Should Be Your Priority, According to Science
by Christina DesMarais

“You’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re in the 26 percent of American adults who haven’t read even part of a book within the past year.”

PLUS, What’s Going On In Your Child’s Brain When You Read Them A Story?
by Anya Kamanetz

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3. All the books Bill Gates has recommended over the last eight years
by Thu-Huong Ha

PLUS, 5 books worth reading this summer
by Bill Gates

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4. Would You Like To Read a Christian Classic with Tim Challies?
by Tim Challies

The book this time is Holy Helps for a Godly LifeIt was written by Richard Rogers, a Puritan in the 1500s, but revised for now. I used to participate in these reading challenges more often with Tim Challies. They were always beneficial. I may read the sample of this book and decide to commit.

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5. Five Books I Recommend – May 2018     

I finished several books this month that I’ve been reading for awhile. Here are seven that I really liked.

Books-Recommend-May-2018

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5 Things I Love

1. 4 Months

Time is zipping by with our granddaughter. She’s already 4 months old!

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2. Mother’s Day with all my girls 

I was very blessed on Mother’s Day to get to be with both my beautiful daughters and my sweet granddaughter. Who knows if we’ll ever have a little boy thrown into the mix? But I’m as happy as can be with all my girls.

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3. Beach with Jeff 

Cocoa Beach, FL

When Jeff travels for work, I sometimes go with him…especially when it’s Cape Canaveral. He usually doesn’t see the beach on those trips, but this last trip he got to spend a few afternoons on the beach with me.

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4. “The Experience” Ballet Recital

Jenna b Photography

Our youngest daughter Jenna began teaching dance classes with D4C (Dance4Christ) this year. Their end-of-the-year recital each year is more than dance; it’s worship. I loved watching all the girls and ladies dance (including Jenna, too!).

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5. End of School

digging for dinosaur fossils

School’s out for the summer. I’ll miss Jenna’s students. But hopefully I’ll get to see some of them in the halls next year when I volunteer. And it’s not too early to start praying for the new class coming together for the fall.

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5 Things on the Blog

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What was a highlight from your May? What are you looking forward to in June? Please share in the comments.

sharing with Anita, Terri,
Lyli, Dawn, Deb, Susan

previous Links and Books