My experiences riding a tandem bike this past summer have parallels to my walk with God. That's what got this started. But it won't always be about tandem riding. "Life is a journey, God is my guide; we travel safely together, side by side." (unknown)
When you have read, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”, what have you thought finding God would look like? (Jeremiah 29:13)
For me, I don’t think I had an absolute thought about it, but I did assume it would be something outside of myself that I could hear, see, or feel.
My devotional journal gave me a different perspective, this morning, that I am still ruminating on.
The title of today’s page was “Seek and Find”. The verse that was used was Isaiah 46:4, which doesn’t say anything about seeking or finding God. (Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.) The bulk of the devotional talks about growing in our knowledge and understanding of God. The last sentence in the little devotional part says, “…we must continue to make it a priority to know the Lord more fully, for He will continue to make Himself known.”
Then there is a prompt that says, “…Thank you for the unfolding of Your likeness in me that continues as I seek You through the years.”
That last phrase, “as I seek You through the years” brought to mind the Jeremiah 29:13 verse. And slowly the concept came to me, as I wrote out my thoughts in the journal, that it might be that “finding God” has to do with becoming more like Him!
I “hear” Him more and more in my thoughts and in the words that come out of my mouth. I “see” Him more and more through my actions. I “feel” Him more as I delight in who I am when my words and thoughts are pure and edifying or perhaps even rebuking, and my actions are kind, loving and sacrificial.
Is this what “finding God” means?
Perhaps it is just one of the ways of finding Him. It is definitely a new concept for me.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings…(Philippians 3:10)
We all would love to know Him through the “power of His resurrection”, but I don’t know of anyone, myself included, who volunteers to know Him through the “fellowship of His sufferings”. Yet, as with most of His children, I do know some sufferings.
My sufferings have included shattering heartache and rejection. They aren’t sufferings I have chosen. They are sufferings I have reluctantly been forced into.
I’ve recently heard Joni Eareckson Tada say, “God’s idea of a ‘good’ thing is to conform you more to the image of Jesus.” She was discussing “suffering” when she said that. A little later she added, “Suffering produces a refined faith, it stretches our hope, it helps us be compassionate to other people, but it’s all so that we might, in turn, pass on the ministry to other people who are hurting…it’s a hurting world, and God calls us to suffer, so that we might, in turn, minister to others who suffer… God will use one form of evil–that is our suffering–to expose another form of evil–that is our sin…suffering is the textbook that will teach you who you really are. It’ll expose the things of which you are really made…most people wish that they could write suffering out of the dictionary. Most people want to divorce it, drug it, escape it, surgically exercise it, institutionalize it, do anything but live with it, and yet, God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.”
That lady has endured numerous sufferings through her quadriplegia, chronic pain, and battles with cancer. The joy she is filled with despite it all is testimony to the work she has allowed God to do in her life.
Isaiah 53:3 says this of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.”
Reluctantly, I can relate.
In Luke 13:34, Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Can you hear His longing? He has mercy, grace, and love to lavish on them, but they rejected it.
Reluctantly, I can relate.
I heard something said a long time ago that goes something like this: “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.”
My understanding of that was corrected this morning. I used to look at it as “He loves me just as I am, but He will love me even more once He fixes me.” This morning it hit me that that is not truth at all! The truth is, God loves me fully exactly as I am, and the only reason He doesn’t want to leave me that way is because *I* don’t love things about myself that are not like Christ! So, He lovingly goes to work on me to make me more like Christ so that *I* can delight in who I am and not feel shame or guilt. It isn’t for *His* benefit that He fixes me up; it’s for mine.
The suffering He allows into my life is one of the tools He uses to transform me. Like Joni said, too many of us run from His chisel. We seek escape from the suffering rather than sitting in it and working with God through it. His chisel exposes our selfishness, the idol of comfort we cling to, our pride and our fears, for example. But, will I allow Him to rid myself of those things or will I cling to those sins and bow down to them?
I used to think that Joni didn’t have a choice but to endure her suffering. She *had* to learn to live with it in some fashion. But technically, that is not true. She could have chosen to escape it through suicide or drugs or alcohol. She could have chosen to escape it by simply refusing to keep on living. Glory to God she didn’t choose escape! Instead, she chose to work with God and what a light she is to this world! What an encouragement she has been to me!
“Suffering is the textbook that will teach you who you really are. It’ll expose the things of which you are really made.”
Who am I? Of what am I really made?
Does my life show that I am one who is in Christ? Am I one to press into God and seek His comfort and help through the suffering? Or am I one who chooses to escape it in some fashion?
It isn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination, but I am choosing to sit in the suffering and let Jesus do His work. I know there will come a day when I will be so glad I did.
Romans 5:3-5 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Inviting God into my sufferings is a far better option than seeking escape from them. By God’s grace, I will soldier on.
For the person who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, Scripture says we have a “new heart” or “new nature”. (Romans 7:5 “When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us…” Colossians 3:10 “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”)
We learn that our old nature will war against our new nature. (Romans 7:14b-15 “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”)
In my experience, much of my old nature wants me to follow my feelings; but my new nature wants me to go against my feelings.
Which choice would best represent my true self? Is my true self the old me or the new me? When I feel angry over the way someone is treating me, is it hypocritical of me to “bless” them instead of lashing out at them? Am I failing to be “real” when I tamp down my emotions and respond in a loving way instead?
I don’t think so. I think that is me being “renewed as (I) learn to know (my) Creator and become like him”.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
So, when I “love (my) enemies” or “do good to those who hate (me)” or implement any of the new ways to live and conduct myself by as found throughout the New Testament, I am being “real”.
As a believer in Christ, my true self is my new self.
How’s your memory? Do you ever compare your memory to someone else’s?
What is the earliest memory you can recall?
Most people I know have fairly “normal” memories. They can recount various things they’ve experienced throughout their life. It usually ends up being one or two memories from when they were really little–before kindergarten. They are able to remember a few more things from each year after that.
I’ve noticed with myself that most of my memories involve some kind of emotion. For me, emotions make the memories stick, I guess. With my memories, there are very few details.
Some people fascinate me when they recount the memories they have. I wonder how they can remember so much detail like things people were wearing, how they wore their hair, exactly what they said. I have a cousin who fits in that category. She is fascinating to listen to because she remembers so many things.
Today I was watching some YouTube clips and I came across one by “60 Minutes Australia” called, “People who remember every second of their life”. It was a fairly short video, so I listened to it. The actress, Mary Lou Renner, is one of the people they interviewed. According to this video, there are only about 10 documented cases worldwide.
As with most things I learn, my brain thinks of other angles to it and wonders all kinds of things like, “Did they always score 100 on their tests?”; “Do they ever have to hunt for their keys?”; “Did they used to think that everyone was just like them?”
For these people, scientists have discovered that the “caudate nucleus”–a part of their brain–is 7 X bigger than “normal”. (I don’t like that word, actually. I prefer to use “the majority”. Because, who truly knows what “normal” is? Maybe God initially made man with a huge caudate nucleus and, over the centuries, the majority of us lost that! But, I digress.) So, the majority of people have a smaller caudate nucleus.
I wonder when the people in this study realized they weren’t like most everyone else?
All of us discover things about ourselves that are unique to us–things that, once upon a time, we thought were the experiences of everyone. Some of us can roll our tongues, while others can’t. Some can raise one eyebrow, but others can’t. Some are talented in the arts, while others wouldn’t be able to paint a barn door, rhyme two words or carry a tune no matter how much time they were given to do so.
Until we come to the realization that not everyone is like us, we can find ourselves frustrated with other people. Why can’t they balance the checkbook, it’s easy! Why are you always asking me how to spell things, learn how to spell yourself? Why can’t you remember to do your laundry? Why do you get so anxious when you are with people you don’t know, people are great?!
In Christian circles, one gifted with evangelism will think everyone should find evangelism easy. Or someone with the gift of hospitality will think ill of those who never want to have people over for dinner or open their homes to the travelling missionary.
Instead! Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just appreciated everyone’s unique abilities and offered grace and mercy when we are tempted to get frustrated? Also, rather than feeling shame because we aren’t as smart or talented as someone else we know, or feeling superior because we see ourselves as better, how about we embrace the truth that God made us as we are and we are all unique. He made us just perfectly to accomplish His purpose for us. He made some with very large caudate nuclei and He made others with the size the majority of us has. I can marvel at those who can recall so much more than I, and I can have grace for those who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast that day. Celebrating each other’s unique abilities is just one way we can love each other well.
The brain certainly is fascinating!
Do you think it would be a blessing or a burden to have a large caudate nucleus? Watch the video to see what the subjects in this video said about it.
Am I color blind? Are you color blind? What color is this dress?
Recently, out shopping with a friend, she found this dress for me to try on. I didn’t want to because I was looking for a calf-length or longer dress, nor do I particularly care for purple. When I told her I didn’t care much for purple she asserted that the dress wasn’t purple, it was blue!
I ended up getting the dress and, have since asked others what color they thought the dress was. My sister and one of my son’s immediately called it blue. (By the way, when I asked, I didn’t ask with a leading question. I simply asked, “What color is this dress to you?” or something like that.) My daughter AND my eye doctor both say they see purple!
Are some of us color blind? Or do some of us simply perceive colors differently than others?
I actually don’t know the answer to that question. But what I do know is this: We all think we are right! We trust our own senses. (Well, actually, I didn’t trust mine, which is why I ran the question past my eye doctor. He gave me a standard color blind test and I passed with flying “colors”. *grin*) So, it seems *I* am not color blind. But that doesn’t mean you are, either. There could be another explanation.
This whole experience served to show me how very strongly many will trust in their own understanding. They will believe what they see or experience—believing it is true. The danger in that is, our perception/perspective *might* NOT be true. Are you open to getting your eyes checked?
Something as silly as the color of a dress is not all that important. But questions like: Is there life after death? Is Jesus really the only way to life everlasting with God? Are all my beliefs truth? Am I always right about everything?…Those are very important questions.
Who remembers the rest of that jingle? You’d have to have been alive for around five decades in order to remember it, so don’t feel bad if it doesn’t strike a chord with you. (Pun intended.) A quick search on the internet seems to point to that ad coming out in 1964. Yes, I was alive back then!
The rest of the jingle said, “shame on you!”
That commercial has stuck with me for 56 years! That goes to show you the power of advertising!
Was it truly shameful to have curlers in your hair? No! The agenda behind the jingle was so that a company could sell us on their electric curlers. Using those curlers allowed a person to have their hair curled in a few minutes as opposed to wearing the foam curlers or wire/bristled curlers for a few hours or overnight.
To this day, the thought that it is a shame to have curlers in my hair niggles at the back of my emotions when I put foam curlers in my hair. Ridiculous, right?
We are so vulnerable to other people’s opinions. But, how many opinions out there today also follow agendas? Who is trying to “sell” us something, and I am not simply talking about products to buy? What are their agendas? Are they trying to make a name for themselves? Do they have stock in a company, so they promote a certain product or mandate so they can make more money? Are they trying to impress a certain political demographic?–buying votes? Do they genuinely care about “we the people”, or is their bottom line the advancement of their agendas? Even though I have used some political language, I am not only referring to political issues. I am referring to all opinions and advice we have pelting us from all directions. But, the political stuff is what most of us can relate to currently.
When Covid first hit, do you remember being told that masks aren’t all that important? Do you know what the agenda was for that statement?—There was a shortage on masks and first responders needed them more than everyday people did. “They” didn’t trust the American people with the truth—even though it has been said in the last year that “American people don’t panic”. If it’s true that we don’t panic, why couldn’t we be trusted with the truth? If they are willing to lie because they think they have a good enough reason/agenda, how can we tell when anyone is telling us the truth?
Who can know? I certainly can’t! So I don’t put a whole lot of stock in what I hear from commercials or the media these days.
I realize not all misinformation is a lie. There are times when someone’s scientific study seems to lean in one direction and at another time, someone else’s study disproves that first conclusion. One day eggs are bad for us. A year or two later, they are fine for us. That’s the first example I can remember. But it was the first of many offerings of advice that I’ve seen go from one side of an issue to the other. The most recent one is how in the last year we were told that social distancing indoors was beneficial and yesterday I hear that that is not true–6 feet is not necessary. We get opinions and advice based on bad science as well as opinions and advice based on agendas.
Who do we trust?
I know Who I trust—God and God alone.
Proverbs 3:5, 6 “Trust in the LORD with ALL your heart; lean not on your own understanding (or anyone else’s), in ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and He WILL direct your path.” (italics mine) I know I quote this verse a lot. That’s because it is God’s will for us in a nutshell.
Anyway, I’ve gone back to using curlers—foam curlers. I have them in my hair today, as a matter of fact.
To those of you who follow this blog: I apologize for duplicating my last two entries. Some of you mentioned how the pictures weren’t showing up, so I sought to correct the issue. Unfortunately, I am not tech-savvy, so I could not figure out how to edit the posts. I tried multiple things and my efforts were constantly blocked. So, I decided to duplicate the entries–AFTER getting a lesson from my youngest son about how to add pictures to my blog. :[
In the past, I had added pictures to many blogs but hadn’t used that feature for a year or more. And, it seems, that since I last used it, they changed how it is done. I thought I had cleverly figured out how to do it another way by myself, but it turns out I was wrong. :[
*Now* I know how to do it correctly. (Hopefully I will remember.) :]
To give me a little more practice and to make coming here worth your trouble (I hope), I will share a few other photos with you that are special to me.
I have had the delight of seeing and feeding bluebirds all winter long! I did not know they would stick around, when it got cold, as long as they had a supply of food. I learned that tidbit of info from my nature-loving brother.
I just made this 7-layer salad today for lunch. It was meant for two people, but it could have fed four. I will be eating it again tonight for dinner because it doesn’t keep. :[ Good thing I like it! 🙂
I took this picture a month or two ago. No filters were used. It was taken around dusk.
There is a story in the New Testament that used to “rub me the wrong way”, so to speak. Have you ever had stories in the Bible do that to you? Over the years, it has happened to me on numerous occasions, but time and time again, eventually, a new perspective is presented to me that helps me see God’s love and mercy in the story where I hadn’t been able to notice it before. It has taught me to know that I am missing something–my perspective is off–and I just need to wait until Jesus reveals a new perspective to me.
The story about the woman with the issue of blood is one such story. (You can find it in Mathew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8.)
Many people are walking along with Jesus. Picture Him being mobbed, basically, as they walk along. There is one woman in the crowd who has spent everything she had trying to be healed of this affliction. She had done everything she knew how to do.
We aren’t told how she came to be in this crowd or how she knew Who Jesus was, but we are given a glimpse into her thought life as we read that she thinks to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” So, she fights her way through the mob and manages to touch Jesus’s garment–and she is instantly healed and knows it.
I imagine myself being that woman. Outcast, in her society, because of a continuous flow of blood. She probably feels like a slug—a low-life. She doesn’t want to draw any attention to herself because it is such an embarrassing thing to her.
This is the part that always used to bug me:
(Mark 5 and Luke 8 are the only accounts that include this detail. I’ll be quoting from Luke.) Jesus immediately speaks up and says, “Who was it that touched me?” I was encouraged by Peter’s explanation that there was a ton of people and surely many were bumping up against Jesus, thinking that maybe it would answer Jesus’s query and let the woman slip away unnoticed, unashamed.
But, Jesus doesn’t do that. He insists, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”
The next verse just gave me chills—no joke—and I’ve read this story many times! “And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before Him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.”
Can you imagine being in her shoes??? I’d be trembling, too! Actually, I am not entirely sure I would have spoken up. And, what a tragedy that would have been! Here’s why:
By Jesus’s insistent questioning, encouraging her to speak up, He did two very gracious and merciful things for her. (I heard this the other day; it’s not original with me. I *think* it was in the middle of a video series called, “Following The Messiah” by Jeremy Dehut that I got to view on Rightnow Media.)
1) He kept her from ever being able to think that she had stolen something from God. (Boy, would the devil have ever had a heyday with that one!) 2) He brought everything to the light so she could live in freedom AND she could proclaim her story to others, telling them about Jesus and what He had done for her! If Jesus hadn’t forced the issue, she likely would have slunk away, possibly never feeling fully free to be herself and who God created her to be. Likely, she still would have lived with that burden of shame. How would she have been able to prove, conclusively, to anyone who knew her, that she had been healed, without further loss of dignity?
Instead, Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
She was publicly declared “well”. She no longer had to live in shame or embarrassment. In fact, she could live with joy as she proclaimed what Jesus had done for her to anyone who would listen.
Freedom. What a glorious way to live!
Jesus “saw” her. He noticed. He cared. He showed compassion, mercy, grace and love. But, at first glance, we would say that His actions seemed insensitive.
(Side note: How often do we think people’s actions are insensitive when, in truth, we do NOT know the person’s heart!?)
God shows me that He sees me, too.
In recent weeks, I have sometimes been making my hand-written exclamation marks with hearts for the periods. Here is a collage of some of them:
While out for a walk a couple weeks ago, I saw this:
The line of the “exclamation mark” was a little tower of snow formed by the wind, sun and rain. The heart “below” it was a little clump of snow right on the ground next to it. The snow sculpture had caught my eye first as I enjoy seeing the various shapes that are made and it was the only sculpture I’d noticed on this walk.
I had actually taken the walk because I had just finished watching a movie that had triggered some heartache in me to surface. I felt like I wanted to “run”—to go some place else/not be at home. My first inclination had been to get in the car and just drive. The car was the warmer option. I didn’t feel like being cold. But I took a moment to consult God on the decision and slowly, but steadily, He brought thoughts to my mind that got me to decide to take a walk.
I am so glad I consulted Him and obeyed His leading! When I saw that exclamation mark that He made for me and caused me to notice, I felt seen by Him. It was life-giving. I know, intellectually, that God sees, but sometimes a body just needs to *feel* it, and this was one of those times.
So, if you are out there feeling unseen, KNOW that God sees you! Seek Him. Wait for Him! You will be glad you did!
If you are going through a time like the woman spoken of above and you are living under a load of shame, and Jesus seems to be calling you out and causing you further embarrassment, TRUST HIM. His heart is good. He loves you. He is full of mercy and grace and He wants you to walk in freedom.
When I went for a walk today, I took pictures of the hearts I saw. I see them a lot, and am very thankful I do. To me, they remind me that God is near. Each one kind of feels like a hug from God, or a smile with a twinkle in His eye.
Occasionally, when I see these hearts, they are upside-down. I usually try to make a point of taking a picture of them right-side up or I rotate the picture.
Recently, when I have been seeing these upside-down hearts, I have been reminded of the upside-down way that God calls believers in Christ to love.
He wants us to love our enemies–to love unconditionally–to love even when the other person is hard to love–to love even if we aren’t getting loved back. The love of a Christ-follower is supposed to be a radical love. We are called to “turn the other cheek” when someone strikes us. Our love is to be patient, kind, not envious, boastful or arrogant. Our love is not to be rude, or insistent on its own way, irritable or resentful. It doesn’t rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. It is never supposed to end. (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) When someone is unfaithful, true love remains faithful. How’s that for radical, upside-down love!
We are to love like Jesus loves.
A lot of that doesn’t sound a thing like Hollywood would have us believe.
But, it is the kind of love that is needed in this upside-down world in which we live.
And, you know something? Technically, God’s way of loving is really the upside-right way to love! It just seems upside-down when placed beside the kind of love the world propagates.
Here are a few more hearts I saw today:
May God’s love penetrate your heart, enabling you to love in an upside-down way that is actually the upside-right way. ❤
Recently I was reflecting on something my daughter said when she was a little girl. I think her exact words were, “Michael’s not being have”! Immediately we knew she meant “behaving”.
As I recalled that event and her wording this time, I thought through what her understanding must have been back then. It occurred to me that, whenever we would tell her to “behave”, she was hearing “be have”. So, to her, “have” was the thing to be. 🙂
Isn’t it interesting how we can hear something differently than the speaker intended? The speaker has no clue we aren’t hearing them correctly and the hearer has no clue they didn’t hear correctly. That disconnect in communication is responsible for a ton of miscommunication in our world. I imagine it is what causes the majority of issues in our marriages.
Based on what we hear, we make assumptions. Making those assumptions isn’t “wrong”—it’s just our brain’s way of coming to a logical conclusion or solution. (Our brains like to have solutions. Have you ever noticed that? It’s annoying sometimes. But, I digress.)
Wisdom dictates that we don’t bank or act on those assumptions, though, especially when they paint the speaker in a negative light. Instead, exercising humility would be a great next step. Then, we can ask some questions for clarification, to further define what we think we heard.
Sometimes when we hear wrong, it leads to funny phrases to use in our families like “being have”. But other times, it leads to conflicts/wrong conclusions or opinions that could be avoided if only we thought to clarify. (Or, to give grace.)
Humility, inquiry, and grace—those are the best ways to go about “being have” when it comes to communication.