Monthly Archives: November 2010

It’s not about a check list

I John 4: 16b-17

God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us, so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  NIV

Whoever lives in love.

That’s a powerful image.

Especially when you link it to I Corinthians 13: 4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” NIV

For decades, I have recognized that Paul’s description of love is all about actions … being patient, showing kindness, being content with what you have, not calling attention to yourself, etc.

I confess however, that I saw those as discrete actions … almost like a to do list.  “I must be more patient!”  frequently tops that list.

But John calls us to live in love. “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s.” MSG

Taking up permanent residence in a life of love is the difference between a check list, “Be more patient,” and a life view … living in patience.

I want love to have the run of my house, I want it to become at home and mature in me.

I’ll have to think about that today.


4 Comments

Filed under I John, New Testament, Worry

There’s no room for it

I John 4: 18a

There is no fear in love. NIV

This is one small part of a beautiful passage in I John that includes at least three reminders not to worry.  This verse caught my eye when I was reading the paraphrase of this passage in The Message this morning.  There, this sentence reads, “There is no room in love for fear.” MSG

There is no room in love for fear … I love that!

Many years ago, I moved from a large sunny apartment in the suburb of a big city, to a very tiny one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.  I knew that the space was roughly half the size of what I had, but, I’d done the math … everything would fit.  On the day the moving company came to pack my things, I asked them not to empty the drawers of my dresser, and just ship them full of clothes.  The mover wouldn’t do that.  The guy was completely box crazy.  He put everything I owned in big, bulky cardboard boxes.  I kept telling him that the new apartment was much, much smaller, but, he and his crew would not listen … they kept quoting “the rules.”  I found out later that my company paid the mover by the number of boxes shipped … it’s true that what gets measured and rewarded, gets done.

In any case, when we got to my new apartment, the movers set up my bed and moved in my furniture, which did all fit, except for three drawers of my dresser that wouldn’t open because they were blocked by the bed.

And then, they started bringing up all those boxes!  It was not part of their contract to unpack them, just to deliver them.  Box after box after box came through the door.  They stacked them everywhere.  On the bed, on the couch and in the kitchen.  At the very end, I was standing out in the hall as they put in the last boxes … stacked as tall as I am, in the foyer, with just enough space to open and close the door.

I literally put a litter box on top of one of the boxes, a bowl of food and a bowl of water behind the door, let my two cats out of their crate and locked the door.  I went back to temporary housing. There was no room in that apartment for me.

There is no room in love for fear!

In the same way that I could not have put even one more box into that apartment, God’s love is brimming over … there is no room for fear or for worry if we will allow ourselves to be filled with His love and with His Spirit and with trust for Him.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fear, I John, New Testament, Worry

God is good!

Psalm 73:1-5

Surely God is good to Israel; to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from the  burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.  NIV

All due respect to Asaph, he’s just got it wrong here.

The Message paraphrases these verses, “No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top, envying the wicked who have it made, Who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.”  MSG

Everyone has cares.  It doesn’t matter what our worldly circumstances are, there are still plenty of things that distract us and worry us.  “Not having a care in the world,” is at best a transient feeling, if you’re living life depending on your circumstances.

If, however, you are living life depending on God, things can and will be so much better, regardless of your circumstances.

I have a dear friend who called me unexpectedly yesterday.  She quoted Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” NIV

We talked for a while about the privilege of this, of being able to take God’s hand and to follow him through the fog of uncertainty that is life here on earth.

She asked me, “Are you right-handed?”  I am.

And then, the true power of that verse hit home.  If I am reaching up to God, if I have grasped ahold of him with my right hand, there’s almost nothing I can accomplish on my own.  About the only thing I can do left handed is to unlock my phone.

He takes hold of my right hand … that’s pretty powerful.

Since yesterday morning, I’ve been thinking of this image of reaching up to take God’s hand … as I did my dad’s when I was little.  I can remember holding his hand on the parking lot of Zayre’s, and noticing how slowly he walked.  I can remember thinking that I could take three steps in the time it took him to take only one.

In that same way that my dad was mindful of the pace that I could manage the trek from the car to the store, God is mindful of the pace at which I can manage my life today.  Surely, God is good!

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament, Psalms, Worry

Don’t take matters into your own hands

James 1:4

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

This is that last reminder in this passage of James that I began looking at several days ago.  The Message translates this verse, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so that you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.” MSG

When you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, sometimes, you just want it to end.  Being bound by time, and unable to see the future, I find that I often cannot see any way out of the stress of the moment.  But, God can.

This verse is saying, “Don’t take matters into your own hands.”  Instead, walk through the trial with grace and trust and perseverance and earnestly look for what you can learn in it.  The only lesson may be that the trial comes to an end, but, what a relief that is!  And, what a blessing to be able to later tell a brother or sister, “This will come to an end.  I know.  I’ve walked where you’re walking.”

One of my favorite movies is Sleepless in Seattle.  Tom Hanks has suffered the devastating loss of his wife.  At one point, he says something like, “I’m going to remember to get up in the morning, and I’m going to breathe in and out every day.”  Good advice for one going through a trial … I’d add, “and I’m going to trust God, who knit me together in my mother’s womb, who has numbered every hair on my head and who has counted every hour of my life … He’s in charge.”

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under James, New Testament, Trust, Worry

What color is your faith?

James 1:2-3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  NIV

Consider it joy when you face trials.  This is counter-intuitive.

Before I began this project, I really couldn’t see the wisdom of these verses, which, in my experience, are quoted pretty often.

Prior to spending time looking at what the Bible says about worry, my response to verse 2 was always, “James must have been out of his mind.”  As I saw it, trials were a source of nothing but worry.  Worry is far, far, far from joy.

But, the trials of the last couple of years, combined with the daily hunt for wisdom on the subject of worry in God’s word, have shown me that James wasn’t crazy … he was a mature Christian.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” MSG

I’ve been there … when tests and challenges come at me from all sides, I have not felt gifted.  It has typically made me want to crawl into a hole … to burrow down and find someplace that is beneath the fray.

“You know that under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” MSG

As I look at this, I would say that prior to the last couple of years, the true color of my faith was likely a pretty pale color.

A few years ago, we had our house repainted.  We had a really hard time choosing a color.  The house was white when we bought it, and I personally struggled to see it being any color other than white.  We tried multiple different colors by painting them in swatches and then standing back to observe the effect.  At one point, we thought we had settled on a color, I can’t remember what it was called, but it was a very, very light grey … my next door neighbor said it best … “Don’t paint the house white,” she said.  I remember thinking, “But, it’s not white … it’s grey.”  Really, the only person who could see the difference was me.  My husband said that he could see a difference, but, it is likely that he was just being supportive.

That was my faith before … the color was visible only to me.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Henry Blackaby says, “Anytime God leads you to do something that has God-sized dimensions, you will face a crisis of belief.  At that point what you do next reveals what you believe about God.”

What you do next reveals everything about your faith … under pressure, your faith shows its true colors.

I want my faith to show through in bright, brilliant colors … regardless of my circumstances.  Like the gorgeous shade of red that I ultimately chose for our front door, or the warm orange that my sister and I picked for our foyer … those are the colors that I want my faith to be.  Warm and welcoming and embracing of the world around me and all the people in it.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under James, New Testament, Worry

Don’t second-guess yourself

James 1:5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts i like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. NIV

Ask God for wisdom …

Solomon did this, and God was faithful.

Here, it is promised that wisdom will be given to all who ask … it will be given generously and without finding fault.

My NIV Concordance reminds me that this word for wisdom, “sophia,” is the same that is used in I Corinthians 1:24 & 30, where Christ is called, “the wisdom of God.”

Dictionary.com defines wisdom, “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”

The trick is to avoid doubting … avoid doubting in the request; avoid doubting the fulfillment of the request; and avoid doubting the actions you take as a result of the wisdom you receive.  The Message makes this very clear, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” MSG

Wind-whipped waves … adrift at sea.  I don’t like either of those images.  The first connotes power that is unused and frustrated by its surroundings … the second, abandonment.

So, ask believing.  Step forward in confidence.  Take a stand.  Pray for wisdom.  Then, do what’s right, and don’t second-guess yourself.  Action must be taken … you can’t keep all of your options open … you can’t worry about trying to please everyone or you’ll end up adrift at sea, (likely with a drowned donkey).

That’s a lot to think about today!

Leave a comment

Filed under James, New Testament, Worry

Live in the moment!

I Timothy 5:22b

Keep yourself pure. NIV

This is just good advice.

The Message translates this, “In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say.” MSG

This is the 263rd reminder not to worry that I’ve found so far … 102 left to find.  This week, I can start the countdown in double digits: 99, 98, 97 …

But, in my lifetime, countdowns are customarily looking toward things that you can’t wait for … 99 days until Christmas; 36 days until I leave for college; 8 days until I get married; 17 minutes until the pizza is done.

But, this countdown is toward the end of a project that has been very special to me.  I find that I don’t really want it to end.  I’m enjoying immensely this daily search … and I’ve learned so much.

It strikes me that I’m doing it again … I’ve looked right past my very favorite part of the year to my least favorite … the very end of February … dead in the middle of winter, when I will be done.

I will enjoy today.  I will think about TODAY’s reminder … I might give some slight consideration to planning for Thanksgiving this afternoon, but, I won’t worry about what comes next.

Leave a comment

Filed under I Timothy, New Testament, Worry

Trust God, moment-by-moment

II Thessalonians 2:8

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.  NIV

I’m coming near to the end of the listings of the word, “worry,” in The Message.  There, this verse reads, “But the time will come when the Anarchist will no longer be held back, but will be let loose. But don’t worry. The Master Jesus will be right on his heels and blow him away. The Master appears and—puff!—the Anarchist is out of there.” MSG

This is prophecy of the end times, and it speaks, I believe to the coming of the Anti-Christ.

It is so interesting to me that Paul’s letter speaks to the church at Thessalonica as if the Anti-Christ may arrive in their lifetime.  And yet, here we are thousands of years later and we’re still waiting.

I think that every generation must believe at some point that they will be the last … but, it is not for us to know.  We are to be aware of the future, but, to focus on the present.

I heard a PhD Psychology student interviewed on the radio yesterday.  I didn’t hear the whole story, but, the gentleman was speaking about a project that he’s working on to measure mind wandering.  I need to go back and download the whole story from NPR.  In any case, what the researcher was learning was that there was a link between happiness and the degree to which study participants were allowing their mind to wander from their current task.   Interestingly, I believe he said that there was a negative correlation between mind wandering and happiness … the more people allowed their mind to wander from the present, the less happy they were.

I also thought I heard him say that it appeared from the study results that mind wandering was the cause of unhappiness … not the other way around.

Clearly, I didn’t focus enough on this story to comment further (perhaps my mind was wandering) but, I did find it interesting as it compares to what I’m learning.

Staying in the present is absolutely the key … it is here, in the present where I can make a difference for God.   It is here that His work needs to be done.  It is here that His people are suffering and need encouragement.  It is HERE that I can trust God moment-by-moment.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under II Thessalonians, New Testament, Worry

Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! NIV

This is a splendid reminder not to worry.

The Message translates this verse, “Celebrate God all day, every day, I mean, revel in him!” MSG

If we are busy celebrating and rejoicing, there’s no time for worry.

Sometimes, our circumstances here don’t merit rejoicing … but God always does.  He is always worthy, always caring, always all knowing.  He is God and He is worthy to be praised.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Testament, Philippians, Worry

When Christ displaces worry at the center of your life …

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV

So, for the last several days, I’ve been working my way steadily through the occurrences of the word, “worry,” in The Message translation of the Bible.  I’ve been using BibleGateway.com to accomplish this.  There are several steps I have to take to get to the list and to find the place that I was the day before.  Using a paper concordance is so much easier, because I’ve been able to check off the references there as I go.  Perhaps, now that I think about it, I should have just printed the list from BibleGateway.com and used it as a reference, but, that isn’t what I did.

So, after I’ve expanded all 56 listings of the word “worry,” and after I’ve worked my way to near the bottom of page two of the computer listing, I’m ready to start.

But, this morning, this verse in Philippians was the last one on page two … that wasn’t the case yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that.  The verses that I’ve been looking at in Thessalonians were on the bottom of page two.  Today, this verse in Philippians, which I had skipped over several days ago, was.

When I read the verse in The Message, I didn’t initially recognize it, but I could see its truth and its beauty,  “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” MSG

When I flipped to Philippians 4:7 in my Project Bible, this verse was already underlined, and I recognized it in the language of the NIV as one that my mom quotes often.  Because it had been underlined in my Project Bible, that meant I had already found it and had catalogued this reminder.  But, I didn’t remember doing that.

“It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life,” is an incredible revelation … I knew I had not spent any time thinking on that before.

So, I searched the project.  When I found the reminder in my blog, I realized that back in February (on the second day of my project) I had focused only on verse 6, even though I had also listed verse 7.  Verses 6 and 7 are two separate reminders … so, this morning, I’ve rectified that.  I removed verse 7 from the earlier post and put it here, on its own, as the glorious reminder that it is.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life!

I want to embroider this on pillows … I want a t-shirt!

Many years ago, I took a training class where I heard an amazing speaker, Pat Heim, share her theory on how adults learn.  She said that there were four phases: Awareness, Awkwardness, Skill and Habit.  She explained these phases by comparing them to the activity of learning to drive.

My father taught both me and my sister to drive in cars with manual transmissions.  Over our lifetimes, we have both been thankful for this skill.  Even though we seldom need to use it, there are times that it comes in very, very handy.

In any case, when he was first teaching me, I became Aware that there were three pedals, each with a unique function, and of all the various gears and positions of the gear shift.  In the next phase, Awkwardness, I was able to manipulate my hands and my feet, albeit clumsily,  to move the car forward.  But, I still killed it frequently … especially when we practiced stopping at stop signs.

The next phase is Skill.  In this phase, I could begin to operate the car more reliably.  It still required concentration, but, things were becoming more natural for me and I could start to think a bit about where I was going, not just about all the pedals.  It was at this phase that my mother allowed my little sister to join me and my dad one day.  When we got home, my mother asked her, “How did she do?”  My sister enthusiastically responded, “Really well!  We only went like this,” and here she jerkily moved her upper body back and forth for emphasis, “a couple of times!”

The final phase is Habit, where I am now … especially in my automatic transmission car.  I get in, I start it, and the next thing I know I’m at my destination.  I’ve given no thought to accelerating or braking or turning the wheel … it all comes naturally to me.

Prior to beginning this project, worry ruled my life.  It was a habit.  I didn’t have to think at all about doing it … it was always there.

Over these last several months, I have consciously worked to move that boulder of worry out of the center of my world.  First, I had to become aware of its existence … it was such a shock to find it there!  I can honestly tell you that I had no idea how large a role it played until I became aware of it.  In the awkwardness phase, I would roll it a bit out of the center, and try to focus on my relationship to God, but, that saying “old habits die hard,” is not for nothing.  I found that repeatedly, that boulder would just roll comfortably back into the substantial divot it had made in my heart.

I’m now moving through the Skill phase.  If I really focus on Christ at the center of my life, I don’t worry.  And, as I find pieces of the boulder, I am smashing them with scripture on a daily basis.

This verse describes the Habit phase … “It is wonderful when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life!  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”

I’m so thankful for this reminder.  I’m so blessed that God put it front and center for me this morning.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New Testament, Philippians, Worry