Rivers of Life

I was reading a very interesting article about how rivers can be a representation of our lives.  The other option is to be a stagnant pool of water.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather be a moving river than a mosquito home.  Throughout the Bible the topic of rivers are returned to again and again, including a very painting-worthy passage in Ezekiel 47.  Rivers were often used because the people knew them to be a source of life, and in using them as a teaching example the listeners could more easily understood the concept of the living word and life of God, especially before the birth and death of Jesus (although there are lots of examples in the New Testament, too).

Where are you at in your life right now?  Are you in a stagnant place?  Or are you being swept away by life?  Or are you moving along with life, taking it as it comes?  The funny thing about rivers is that they can do a real good job of hiding the truth. What can look like a peaceful spot can be deadly to dive into or a bottomless pit or have an incredible current that will sweep you under before you know what’s happening.  People too can hide the truth, there are countless people all around the globe that are hiding their real feelings, hurts, frustrations, fears and maybe even their joys.  They hide because they’re afraid that if people knew the real them, they would be judged.  And the unfortunate thing is many would be judged, humiliated, laughed at or not taken seriously, that’s how too much of our world works.

As people of faith we’ve got a responsibility to step up and be better people.  It’s unfortunate that we too have at times fallen into the judgment zone, trying to look all perfect to the world while struggling privately.  No, we’re not supposed to live as sinfully as others in the world do, but Christian or not we’re still human and have our not so great moments.  We have many of the same challenges to face as others do around the world, we just know that we can go into the rushing river with an excellent rescue team on hand for us (the people at our church or Bible Study or other faith-based group, not to mention God).

Is this your week to conquer the river in your life?  I encourage you to be brave and say that enough is enough, and choose to move as your life (and God) directs.

Mother’s Day Blessings

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day we stop to appreciate and remember those women who have had an impact on our lives.  A word that I think really sums up this celebration is blessing.  It’s a word I’ve been sharing about quite a bit with you lately, because it’s an important word, one that often gets buried in our lives underneath “challenge” and “problem”.  This Mother’s Day think about these different blessings:

Bunches of Blessings:
One of the easiest and most popular gifts for Mother’s Day is flowers.  Personally, I prefer the potted kind instead of the cut kind because they last longer.  Whatever your flower preference is, don’t forget that what you’re giving isn’t as important as remembering to truly celebrate the one you’re giving them to.  Think of not only what you’re gifting, but also the gift of having a mother this Mother’s Day.

Bountiful Blessings:
In this world of abundance, abundant gas prices, abundant unemployment, and abundant opportunities for growth, change and development, one thing we don’t stop to think about is having abundant blessings.  Psalm 23:6 sheds some light on where we get those abundant blessings: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  More so than anyone, mothers should be dwelling with God.  If they’re to be amazing mothers, they need a lot of strength, wisdom and many blessings from God.

Boxes of Blessings:
Sometimes our blessings come in disguise.  I’ve been meditating a lot on a song by Laura Story, Blessings, (on YouTube).  Her song reminded me that sometimes our blessings are like items that we get in boxes in the mail.  We don’t really know what’s in the box, but we hope it’s what we want.  Sometimes, the box doesn’t contain what we want, or what we did want is in the box but it’s not in good condition.  It’s the boxes of blessings that most often bring us to our knees asking for guidance.

Bundles of Blessings:
Mother’s Day is a celebration of the gift of life. Psalm 139 contains David’s thoughts on how God begins our lives with us.  God’s special plan for each of our lives includes our mothers.  If you are blessed with the opportunity to be a mother, remember to thank God for it, because not everyone is blessed with that calling.

This Mother’s Day, in all of the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to say a prayer for all of the mothers around the world, and those who have a desire to be mothers.   Also, consider the bunches, bounty, boxes and bundles in your life.  These aren’t just lessons for Mom, they’re lessons that everyone needs to gather in their life.

Psalm 16:5 says “Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.  You guard all that is mine.”  I hope that blessings overflow in your life (and your mom’s life) this weekend, and I encourage you to take the time to celebrate and recognize all the blessings God sends your way.

Personal Prayer

In just a few days we’ve got the National Day of Prayer in the US (always the first Thursday of May, this year it’s May 4). Each year it’s a chance for people around the US to come together and pray, or at the very least be more intentional about making (extra) time for personal prayers on Thursday.  Prayer is something we should do on a regular basis, and more than just the popcorn prayers that some or most of us do when things happen or we’re made aware of needs throughout our days. Prayer is something we do individually and as a faith community.

Prayer is an interesting thing because in some ways you could say it’s irrelevant, because God doesn’t need us to tell Him anything because He knows everything, and He can choose to perform a miracle even if we don’t pray about it.  However, throughout the Bible, and especially the New Testament, it’s reminded that God wants us to pray anyway because it’s one of our best opportunities to connect and communicate with Him.  God isn’t the type of god to be all about lording over his people, He’s interested in building personal, intimate relationships with each of us.  It’s pretty awesome that God wants a personal relationship with you and me in my book.

This year the theme and verse for the National Day of Prayer are:

“For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us… Forgive Us…Heal Us!”
“O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act! For Your Sake, O My God…” Daniel 9:19

Daniel was known for his prayer times, prayer times that got him sent to and saved in the lion’s den.  It’s a powerful reminder that even something as simple as praying can have a big impact.  If you’re looking for a miracle in your life or the life of someone else, or are ready to really see the world around you change for the better, one of the things you can do is pray more.

If you’re already planning to attend a National Day of Prayer event this Thursday, great!  If not, the National Day of Prayer website has lots of events listed from around the country you can join.

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?

God is Good

This week we’ll be deviating from the usual topic schedule slightly in anticipation of Easter on Sunday and this being Holy Week.  I was reading my emails today and up popped a blog post with a phrase just about every Christian has heard before.  Sometimes when we hear it we roll our eyes or feel tempted to, sometimes hearing it frustrates us, and other times we’re thankful for the reminder.  The saying?

“God is Good All the Time”

In considering Holy Week I thought this was an important topic for us to talk about.  Yes, Holy Week happened because of how good/generous/loving God is, but I know I have a hard time connecting the pain and suffering that Jesus went through with “good”.  I also have trouble with this topic thinking about all the suffering and hate in the world.  Can God really be good all the time if there’s this much pain?  The technical answer is yes, God is God, He can be good all the time.  It’s hard for us to understand how a “good” God can let us go through what we do though.

Is it technically our fault that Jesus suffered as He did and we suffer as we do, yes, it is.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or intentionally choose to torture myself with suffering. Bad doesn’t have to be the in and out and up and down of my life.  So how can we see God’s goodness through something as difficult as a crucifixion?

We may not see it in the crucifixion, but we do see it in the hope that is presented through Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.  Many people have questioned as to why the cross has become the recognizable symbol for the church rather than one that’s more in line with a positive message.  One reason is that the cross certainly is a recognizable icon while something that represents the tomb would look more like a piece of jewelry or just a rock.  The cross is also a beginning, it’s the beginning of hope for everyone who believes, but that hope is only fulfilled by the resurrection.  In a way the cross is a reminder of how life is, that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that we need the rain and rest times too.

So as we begin Maundy Thursday and head into Good Friday, if you’re dealing with some dark nights here as Jesus was so many years ago, I encourage you to keep pushing through, God doesn’t give up on His people and does have an amazing hope and future planned for you.

Reality Reflection: Passover People

This coming week as some are readying for the celebration of Easter, others are celebrating the holiday of Passover.  Originally Passover was a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt for the Israelites, for many years after that it was also a spring celebration of the “first fruits of the barley” which was the first growth of the new growing season (you can read about the origin of Passover here).  Both of these are big reasons for celebration, let’s talk a bit about each.

Passover is important to anyone who has religious connections to the Israelites.  While Christians don’t typically celebrate it and it’s usually celebrated by Jewish people, it’s something that is important to both groups because it’s one of the formative stories of faith. It’s the start of an important journey of freedom, unity, faith and individuality for the Israelites.  It also began many traditions that are still in practice today as part of the present-day Passover celebration.  But Passover is about more than just eating Matzo, participating in the Seder and other present-day practices, the focus should be on the freedom that was so important and gained through this event so many years ago.  If that first Passover hadn’t happened, as tragic as it was for some people, our world today would look very different.  Yes, the Israelites were in slavery for a reason God planned, and He rescued them for other reasons.  But like any other rescue, it’s important to take the gift that was handed to them (and down through the centuries to us) and not only honor God with our lives, but live the lives that we’re able to live because we’ve been given that freedom.

The First Fruits aspect of the Passover celebration is another important part of this story, because it’s a reminder to thank God for the ways He continues to provide for us.  In this modern age we just go to the grocery store and find food, and even if we can’t find fresh there’s usually frozen that’s almost just as good. But for many people in the early days of Passover and for many people around the world they’re completely dependent on having good growth and being able to feed their families.  Even if the rest of us wouldn’t notice initially, eventually our food supply at the stores would run low as well.  We could survive without many things we take for granted today, but we’re still just as dependent on food and water as the Israelites were back then.

This week whether you’re Jewish or not I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the freedom and food you have.  Many people have sacrificed in one way or another to bring us to this point and  mother nature has continued to provide for us even if we haven’t taken such good care of her.  And if you find an opportunity to share a little blessing with someone else this week I would encourage you to do that as well.

A Love for Justice?

This month the topic we’ll be talking about a lot is the topic of love.  It may not be February, but with Passover, Good Friday and Easter this month, I think there are plenty of reasons to talk about the topic of love from a spiritual perspective.  And you just have to turn on the TV to a news station for a few minutes and see reasons why it’s always a good idea to talk about love from a life perspective. As I was looking for a verse to write about today I came across one that isn’t really what you think of when you think of love.  Psalm 37:28 reads:

“The Lord loves justice, and he won’t ever desert his faithful people. He always protects them, but destroys the children of the wicked.”

In truth most of us do love justice.  We love when the good guys win and the bad guys lose and go to jail (or worse).  It’s why fairy tales are so loved and shared, and what countless TV shows and episodes and written stories each year are based on.  Then there are the stories of people who overcome the challenges in their past, having left the past and those situations.  In those stories we’re not reflecting on the past or getting justice for the past, but celebrating the life that this person has chosen to make regardless of the past.  In some ways I think that’s justice too because there’s always a portion of “right” involved in justice.

As long as there’s evil in the world I think it’s important that we do love justice.  We should want good to prevail, victories to be achieved and happiness to flourish.  I think the biggest struggle we have is the violence that’s often attached to justice.  Sometimes justice is violent, there were many examples throughout the Bible of God’s justice being violent.  I think one of the best ways we can look at justice is not from the point of how ‘justice was served’ or the loss the bad guys experienced, but rather to celebrate the new potential that is now unleashed for the future.  I have a feeling that the tales of conquering heroes will continue, but rather than go over again how the victory was achieved, I’m going to encourage that we focus more on the happily ever after and start a new chapter to the story.