Bargaining With God

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Last March my husband and I rented a house in Florida. We were especially thrilled because we were allowed to bring our two dogs. Within the first few days Tom headed out on a business trip so I went exploring on my bike, glad to be warm and not in New England! I decided not to leave the dogs free to roam the house and instead locked them in the finished basement. But, upon my return I was horrified at what I found. One of the dogs had chewed a huge section of the door!

I was faced with an ethical dilemma. Do I confess this now and run the risk of eviction or do I wait until we leave and then confess it? I was prepared to pay for all the damages, I just didn’t want to be sent home at the beginning of this much awaited respite!

After wrestling with God for 24 long hours I finally couldn’t take it anymore and headed straight to the rental agency, putting my future in their hands.

Turns out they couldn’t have been nicer and they weren’t the least bit worried. “This happens all the time,” he said and right then and there called the repairman. I was so relieved I literally cried.

Peace and joy flooded my heart as I headed back to the house, happy I had done the right thing, but that innocent thought quickly turned to deeper thoughts of how good I was and therefore how God was certainly going to bless me for my honesty. And just like that, Pride reared her ugly head!

What I realized in that moment was how I have been living my life based on Old Testament theology instead of understanding my freedom in Christ. Not free to sin, but loved completely, not based on anything I do. I seem to feel that if I do good things then God will bless me. Like I can somehow bargain with God! So, when something bad happens I am confused and say, “God this isn’t fair! This isn’t how it is supposed to go!”

Looking at this deeper I see I have a control problem. Can I trust the author of my life WITH my life? Do I accept that God loves me even when He says, “No!”?

And then I remember the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cried out “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” …And the Father said, “No.”

That “no” may have not been the choice response but that “no” made the way so we can live for all eternity in God’s holy presence! That “no” was the turning point of all history tearing the Old Covenant of works and replacing it with the New Covenant of grace.

Maybe God isn’t interested in blessing my life according to MY plan but instead, asking me to surrender my life and trust His plan.

And sometimes His plan takes us through a dark night before He turns it to glorious day!

Further Scripture:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  (Isaiah 55:8)

Do not fear ,for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

You may be interested in listening to Casting Crown’s Song: Glorious Day


Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, living, Losing a pet, purposeful living, When bad things happen to good people | 2 Comments

We Are Adopted and Loved Forever

 my best headshotEven before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ…(Eph.1:4,5a NLT)

The one thing I know for certain about adoption is the child, this  precious little person, is wanted more than anything in the world! This helpless child does not have to do anything or be anything to be loved. They simply are.

I know all this because I have adopted children.

God says He adopted us! It says that even before He created the world He chose us! So if we are adopted and loved beyond belief then why do we so often walk around with an orphan spirit?

An orphan spirit according to John Long from World Harvest Mission is when my life is centered on controlling my circumstances by my will power. I think of “grace” as God’s maintaining my own strength-not as his transforming power in me. I think of “faith” as trying harder to do better and be better in order to establish a good record so that I can feel good about myself-feel significant, worthy. My obedience is focused on external, visible duties. I don’t examine my attitudes and deeper motivations. My real moral standard is, “What will people think?” I may appear to others as either proud or humble, but in any case, I strive to protect myself from hurt in life by developing strategies like building walls, shifting blame, gossiping, and defending myself. I may insist that living for the glory of God is my top priority, but “being right and looking good” are the unconscious goals that consume most of my energy.

But a spirit of a true son, a true daughter, well, that means we know we belong. Not only that, but we grafted into the family tree with all the rights and privileges of being an heir.

And yet we still strive to be good enough. Trying to prove we are lovable. That we somehow matter.

God says we are unconditionally adored, we have been created for a purpose, we have all the rights of royalty and He has had us on His mind for a very long time!

One of my favorite adoption books is called I Am Adopted by Susan Lapsley. The last page reads: “Do you know what adoption means?”  “I do,” says the little boy. “Adoption means belonging.” My kids used to belt out that last line and then my husband and I would grab each of them in a big embrace. They knew they belonged to our family and it wasn’t based on their efforts or their merit.

And that is what God says: “You belong to me. I am your adoptive Dad and you didn’t do anything to earn my love nor do you have to.”  The child of the King! Completely whole and adored  all because of one thing: Jesus death on the cross.

Isn’t it time to stop working so hard to be loved and just let Him embrace you as you are?  Adopted and loved FOREVER!

You may enjoy listening to Casting Crown’s song: Who Am I

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What is Your Identity?

my best headshotFor we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. (Eph. 2:10 NLT)

We are God’s masterpiece…

When I think of a masterpiece I think of a museum piece hanging under perfect lighting for the world to view, cared for, protected, and preserved. That is decidedly NOT how I feel! Instead I see a painting that needs a LOT of work!

I suppose I am not alone in this based on what I see in the media. How are we ever to believe we are masterpieces when the world tells us we need so much help? When we look in the mirror and see how time is not our friend.

It is easy to forget our real identity. Here is what the Master painter says about us:

  • I am God’s temple- 1Cor. 3:16
  • I am God’s child- John 1:12
  • I am united with the Lord and am one with Him in spirit- 1Cor. 6:17
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sin- Col 1:14
  • I am complete in Christ- Col 2: 10
  • I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected- Phil. 1:6
  • I am God’s coworker -2 Cor. 6:1
  • I am a minister of reconciliation- 2 Cor. 5:17-20
  • I have been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind- 2Tim. 1:7

You see, this is who God says we are. We belong to the One who created heaven and earth and all things in it, above it and around it. And He loves us. He protects us. He chooses us to carry out His work on earth and one day we will be united with Him in Glory.

In this world I see over and over people searching for significance. People looking for meaning. Men, women and children striving for purpose. And one suicide after another shows me that this is a world of confusion and despair.

Perhaps you are not feeling insignificant. But I wonder, if you lost your job, your looks, your money where would you turn?

If all that you counted on in this life was taken away what would be your solution? From where would you get your strength? What would you turn to for comfort, help, security?

If your identity is from what you do or have done then what happens when others forget or don’t acknowledge or appreciate you any longer? And how will you deal with life as you age?

As a child of God, our identity is certain. We are always recognizable to our Father. We belong to Him, He delights in us and He has plans and purposes for us. We have a Father who loves us and calls us His own. Who never leaves us or forsakes us. Who keeps us on earth for as long as is best for us and then He calls us home! If you are surrendered to Him then your life always has meaning…Always! (Even if you have alzheimers).

May we recognize that we are Christ’s workmanship and the more our identity is secured in Him the more we will reflect His glory.

And that is what makes us a masterpiece!

Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, living, Marriage, Parenting, purposeful living, Raising Teenagers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

We Get to Choose

my best headshotPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His Holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Well here I am Lord, sitting before you, finally still. Not in a hurry for the first time in a long time. Not so stressed. Reflective. My thoughts turn to the week ahead. Thanksgiving week.

A time to give thanks and be with family without all the commercialism that has ruined Christmas. I love Thanksgiving.

It’s going to be a full week of togetherness. Ten of us under one roof. There’s mountains of preparation ahead. Beds to make and food to buy. Do I make a homemade pie or buy one? No one coming is competing for best cook. I’m thankful for that since cooking isn’t really my thing.

We’ll play games, take walks, and go duck hunting. We’ve signed up for this team building thing called Escape the Room. All ten of us locked in a room finding clues to escape. Haha. That smacks of metaphor…

And then there’s the really hard thing. The baby shower which already is dredging up familiar feelings of pain, loss, and longing. But it’s important to show up and be supportive. To show up and love.

Frankly that’s what Thanksgiving is all about…life in fact is all about…showing up to love…no matter the circumstances, the people, the broken relationships, the past pain.

Jesus, this is what you’ve called us to, and as your children we know we can count on You to equip us, enable us and protect us.

But it’s a choice.

Just like with everything you offer Lord, we get to choose and when we say yes, You lift us up on eagles wings and help us soar.

And we are safe and loved and others are blessed.

Come, Thanksgiving week. Come all busyness and food and family and bring with it the joy as well as the sorrow. And let’s walk with one another through the pie and gravy and games. Through the longing and messiness of loving.

Father, I confess I’m afraid I’m going to fail so I am counting on you. Counting on you to mend the brokenhearted and heal each relationship. You’re the author and giver of love so fill me up so I can pour out.

Thank you. Thank you that you are a living God who calls me His own and gives me this choice and then equips me. Help me not to get in the way.

And thank you. Thank you that I actually have a family in the first place that I get to love. What a gift.

Thank you.


Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, Holidays, living, Losing a pet, Marriage, Parenting, purposeful living, Raising Teenagers, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Trust Exercise

my best headshotThose who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

Have you ever done one of those trust exercises where you stand in front of someone and fall back into their arms hoping beyond measure they will catch you? I remember in high school doing this. I was quite skeptical to place my life literally into this girls hands because I barely knew her. I mean was she strong enough? Was she paying attention? Was she as invested as I was in my safety and care? But when you’re in high school and the teacher says you must, well then you must. But I still held out my arms to catch myself just in case…

Recently I have been thinking about my faith and about how much I really trust God.

You see when good things happen and I see results, my faith soars. But when bad things happen and I feel God is nowhere to be found my faith falters. So who is this God that I profess as my Lord and can I depend on Him no matter what?

When I first learned who Christ really is and what He came to do for me, I was on fire! I bowed my head confidently in prayer in the college cafeteria. I told people about Jesus’ love without shying away. I even wore a pin that said, “Jesus lives here.” And I will admit I begged my devoted mother to put a bumper sticker on her car that said, “Honk if you love Jesus.” Full on- in your face -here I am- Christian.

I had that much confidence in God that I wanted more than anything to share Him with others.

Then hardships came and prayers weren’t answered. I became a little confused about my faith. When people started avoiding me because of my zealousness I became quieter. When my desire to be accepted took over my desire to glorify God I stopped bowing my head in public places.

I had lost sight of who God IS.

God who created the universe. God who is in all, was before all and knows all that will be. God who came to earth just so I can live in eternity with Him. God who in His Word promises abundant life among a thousand other things.

I lost sight of the fact that God is not an idol made by human hands but who made both humans and the gold, silver and bronze from which man makes gods.

I had stopped trusting God, His love, His Word and His plan for me.

You see when bad things happen or things don’t work out like we want, when we get hurt or left out or left behind, when people we love die or circumstances occur that are too painful or terrible to bear, we tend to blame God or at a minimum become disappointed with Him because we feel He didn’t catch us.

Didn’t He?

The difference in whether we can fall freely into His heart or put our arms out to catch ourselves lies in how well we KNOW God.

God can be known.

It is a matter of spending time reading His Word, in fellowship of other believers, and in worship. Like establishing a relationship with a friend, it takes time and experiences.

And the more we come to know Him, rely on Him, go through the dark days of life with Him, the more we realize we can trust Him. When He is silent or things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, we can know there is a reason and this loving Father of ours is teaching or protecting and even comforting us during our pain.

And the more we know Christ the easier it is to fall back, eyes closed and let go, knowing He will catch us in His loving embrace.

It is, after all, a trust exercise.

Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, living, Losing a pet, Marriage, Parenting, purposeful living, Raising Teenagers, Uncategorized

Created for So Much More!

my best headshotWhatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23, 24

Fifth grade band is a requirement for our public school making it a longgggg year for parents! My daughter decided the violin was her instrument of choice. Day in and day out she practiced. The squeak, squeak, squeak was enough to drive even the most patient of mothers off a cliff. Her little part, played in isolation, was hardly recognizable and there were days when both of us wondered, “what’s the point?!”

The magic came however at the final concert when her hard work blended with all the other instruments and became the sound the composer intended. It was nothing short of a miracle!

This morning I was reading a devotional by Philip Yancey who posed the question, “Did Jesus ever question the value of the time he was spending as a carpenter on such repetitive tasks?”

It can often seem to us as though what we do day in and day out has little to no value- laundry, driving children endlessly to lessons, sitting in traffic as we head to work, listening to the same story over and again from the one who suffers from dementia… Believing that there is purpose to our daily tasks requires faith in a master composer who knows what He is trying to create. I feel quite often I was created for a much bigger story. A much more exciting adventure.

What challenges are you facing today? Are you working for a boss who favors the other guy? Is money tight? Is your marriage failing? Do you have a child headed for destruction? Perhaps you’ve chosen retirement but now you’re feeling useless. Or maybe you just learned you have cancer. We all are facing something today.

Something hard.

Something we wish we could change.

But we are called to THIS day, THESE tasks and we are asked to do them as unto the Lord. Whatever they may be! We are also called to our relationships and asked to serve as if we were serving Christ Himself.

Today, as each of us tackles what is before us, let us remember we are part of a bigger story. Our Father has a purpose for you and for me even if it means another chemo treatment, sitting in a prison cell or heading to the grocery store- again. Although our choices or circumstances may seem mundane or even hopeless the Composer is creating something and our part is vital to the whole.

My daughter no longer plays the violin and Jesus was not a carpenter for long. Whatever you face is not the final story. The promise is that as we show up to do our part our Father will make something out of our offering. He is the one who knows how the music will sound in the end.

And He IS creating a masterpiece.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9).

Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, living, Losing a pet, Marriage, Parenting, purposeful living, Raising Teenagers | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Pray?

my best headshotIn the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… Romans 8:26-28

I am going to admit something. I have grown weary of prayer. I pray the same things over and over again, some prayers for decades, with little change and I am starting to wonder, “what’s the point!”

Does God hear me?

I question myself. Maybe I am not praying right. Am I praying in accordance with His will? What are my motivations?

What in the world is taking God so long to answer?!?

I’ve gone through periods of anger with the Lord. I have cried, shouted, felt sorry for myself. I have begged, pleaded and all out thrown myself on the floor beseeching the Lord to hear me and answer.

What do I pray about? My children, my family, my friends, my country. This political situation. The issues of the day. Terrorism. The rising hatred toward Christians. I also pray for myself.

“What gives Lord? Why are you not answering me?”

I turn to Scripture. God’s Word. Some call it “God’s love letter.” I turn to the back where, in my Bible, there is a concordance and look up “prayer.” There I find a page full of verses on the subject so I start reading.

God is near us whenever we pray to Him.– Deut. 4:7

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear…2 Chron. 7:14

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord and will bring you back from captivity. Jer. 29:11-14

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This then is how you should pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Mt. 6:8-13

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6,7

And then there is this-

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thes. 5:16

I have done this before- read through the Scriptures on prayer- but I need reminding.

I need reminding that God is near me whenever I pray. That He will hear me when I humbly seek Him. That it is okay to pray for my city, my country, my family and my friends. It is okay to pray for whatever is on my heart because He says so.

He says He hears me. He wants to give me hope and a future of His design. He tells me to pray for everything and that He will give me peace. He says to pray for what I need today, for my sins to be forgiven, for His will to be done, for protection from Satan, and to praise, praise, praise Him! Hallowed be His name!

He says be thankful, joyful and hopeful.

What I haven’t mentioned are the countless times He HAS answered my prayers. You see, in my prayer journal, I keep a record of not only my prayers but His answers. Page after page and journal after journal I have documented the amazing miraculous ways He has shown up for me. The tender loving ways He has rescued me. The thousands of prayers He has answered for me.

Most of the time He does not answer me the way I want or the way I thought best but truthfully His plans grow me, challenge me, inspire me, scare the living daylights out of me and always, ALWAYS, bless me! Maybe at the time it is not the blessing I wanted but when I see what He was after I realize His loving hand was in every aspect of my situation.

So I guess I am back to the beginning. Will I continue to pray? Will I continue to trust? Will I submit myself to God, believing He will answer me at the proper time and in His perfect way? ABSOLUTELY! Why? Because I know His faithfulness from years of prayers answered AND because His “love letter” encourages me to keep at it!

Do not grow weary in well doing [prayer] for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal. 6:9


You may enjoy listening to the song With All I Am by Hillsong United

Posted in Christian life, Empty Nest, Finding God, grief, living, Marriage, Parenting, purposeful living, Raising Teenagers | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments