Archives

WHEN NEW WILL ALWAYS BE NEW

all things new

Who doesn’t like something new? Nobody, if you ask anyone in retail. There’s something about that new outfit with the price tag still on it, that new book with pages that have never been cracked open, that shiny-new grill that’s almost too pretty to use, that new iphone, or new whatever (you fill in the blank), that has kept the malls crowded and our pocketbooks depleted. Yet, we continue to go back to get more new stuff, since the new stuff that was once new is now old.

Take a look at kids on Christmas day. They tear into each present, paper flying everywhere, squealing with joy as they move from one gift to the next…till they realize there isn’t anymore, turn around and sadly ask, “is that all there is?”

I’m not sure there’s quite an exact synonym for the word “new”. Sure, there’s “novel”, or “fresh”, (according to my thesaurus) or even “latest” or “recent” but when we talk about something being “new”, it connotes a sense of hope… a “new” day, a “new” year, or a “new” outlook.

Newborns bring joy just by the fact that they are teeming with a life that’s just beginning. We love the idea of a new job or a new start. Heck, I always tell friends I feel like a new woman after just one day off!

When I think about newness, I reflect upon how desperately we need to be renewed. There’s a world of people who are in despair, caught in the same prison of the same old struggle with sin, whatever it may be. There are people who are sick of the constant gray cloud of depression, or abuse, or illness.

Even the physical world around us is tired. Nature groans in its turmoil on a daily basis. (Romans 8:22). Even as I write, we are under yet another flash flood warning as we are experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Patricia coming up from Mexico into Texas.

Maybe it’s that I’ve had a long week, watching a loved one struggle with age and all that comes with it. What I wouldn’t give to see him young and vibrant again, able to be the superman he always was.

Dear Lord, we are tired. We are weary, worn out, caught in between this trap of pain and the glory ahead…and yet we know that you do bring newness in this life. You have healed diseases and worked miracles.  

We also know that even in these victories, You will bring the ultimate NEW. You have made the sinner pure and clean in your eyes. You have brought us new life, and there will come a day when You have promised to make ALL THINGS NEW. You will make a new Heaven, and a new Earth. We will have new bodies that will never grow sick or old. We will run, sing, laugh and worship You in a new forever.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…” (Revelation 21:5)

As the song says, we’ve no less days to sing Your praise, than when we first begun.

 

 

Advertisements

50 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN 50 YEARS

50 years 50 lessonsOk, so this will be the last time I’ll even hint that I just turned 50, but I just wanted to share a list of what I’ve learned over the years…not perfectly or completely, but God is good, and He has shown me these principles and virtues in one way or another along the way. (Apparently admitting that I’m middle aged is not one of them!)

50 things I learned in 50 years

  1. God’s mercy is new every day.
  2. Never pass up a good opportunity to keep your mouth shut.
  3. There’s a good reason for hardships, even if we don’t see it right away.
  4. Of relationships: Humility and forgiveness go a long way.
  5. Listen to the still, small voice inside you. It’s called your conscience.
  6. We are just here for a little while…Time is fleeting. Use it for eternal purpose.
  7. You can tell a lot about someone by who they say is their hero
  8. You may not think God is listening, but you always find out that He is.
  9. Life is not fair or easy
  10. Being in God’s will is peaceful and progressive
  11. God can change your plans at any time
  12. Peace is often a good measure of answered prayer
  13. Looking back, I can see how God has worked in my life to steer me towards His will
  14. Time alone with God is rich
  15. Everything, even our mistakes work together for the good
  16. Work as unto the Lord
  17. You can make a living, but it isn’t your life
  18. God uses a few people to do the greatest things
  19. Joy in the Lord is the fullest kind of joy
  20. I don’t deserve God’s grace but He gives it anyway
  21. Don’t expect from others what only God can give
  22. Finish a job you started
  23. God shows his mercy in the uneventful ways
  24. Slow down
  25. Creativity is a gift from God
  26. Those you never expect to show up will show up
  27. Say you’re sorry
  28. Solitude is underrated
  29. There’s nothing like discovering wisdom in God’s word
  30. God’s discipline tells us that we are His
  31. The less time I have to work with, the more I get done
  32. I’m not as righteous as I think I am
  33. God is kinder than I think He is
  34. I think I can do it on my own until I can’t
  35. Think carefully of the motives of anything done in the name of happiness
  36. Health is taken for granted until it’s lost
  37. When you are angry, pray before act. The outcome will be different.
  38. It’s better to woo and persuade in kindness than force with anger.
  39. Ask the right questions.
  40. If you look for an opportunity to share your faith, God will give it
  41. Sometimes the consequences are waived
  42. Humility defuses envy
  43. God has not called me to fit in
  44. Never stop doing your best just because someone didn’t give you credit
  45. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the willingness to listen
  46. Take mental snapshots. They are moments in time that won’t ever go away.
  47. I have less time than I thought
  48. I shouldn’t have made it this far
  49. I wish I’d known then what I know now
  50. I have a lot more to learn

*****************************

There’s a story or two that I could share about each one, but then who doesn’t have their own list?

We’ve all had our battles and the scars to show for them, but with each we carry away the priceless bounty of new faith and insight we may not have gained any other way. Am I right?

As believers, I realize that He also teaches in His patience and kindness, in answered prayer that we don’t deserve, and in His rich fellowship as we walk in obedience with Him. Most of all, He teaches us clearly in His Word, which we can all look to in order to address any life circumstance and know Him more deeply.

As long as we live and breathe, we know that God isn’t finished with us yet. He has barely started with me, a work in progress.

What are some of your hard-learned lessons?

Can you relate to any I’ve listed?

How did you come to learn them?

What’s your greatest challenge in the Christian life?

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

HOW WE’RE BURNING OUT

Dear Friends,

Birthday candles

 

I’m prompted to write this post because I’m coming up on a milestone birthday that seems to have arrived way too soon. According to a measure of the average lifespan, most of my life is now officially behind me. (*gasp*)

I remember the day I first realized that I would not live forever.  Ironically, it was on my birthday many years ago, (Yes, God’s timing is uncanny). I must have been about nine or ten. Our church class had just studied James 4:14 the previous week.

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

The moment was surreal. I blew out the candles on the cake and opened my eyes to see perfect little swirls of smoke rising from each candle. The teacher’s words echoed in my mind. “Life is a vapor”, I thought, as I watched each puff glide upwards and begin to taper off. Then, with the wave of my mother’s arm, the swirls became a haze, the smell of smoke dissipated, and (poof), they were gone. Suddenly the thought of going back in time was as impossible as unblowing the candles. The seed of that lesson was planted in the only way it could at that age…by seeing it illustrated before my eyes. The picture stuck, but I didn’t completely “get it”. I was aware of my own humanity, but when you’re ten years old, you’re still invincible. It’s hard to convince a kid that life is that short when it takes forever just to wait for Christmas.

Now, almost 40 birthdays later, I see that life itself is as fragile as all the candle flames I’ve blown out. I see it with every disappointment and every fear. I see it in every tragic headline. I’m reminded of it with every ache and pain in my body. I’m even reminded of it in the good times, when I wish I could push “replay” and do it over again. Most of all, life as a vapor has meant having to see the passing of several friends and family members (four to be exact) in just the last couple of years.

Our time is limited. So is our energy and resources to use the time we have left. Every year, we may make a wish and blow out the candles. What do we wish for? Do we wish for money, status, glory, or all of the above? The scattering of a candle’s vapor may remind us of how long those wishes will last. On the other hand, do we wish (and resolve) for God’s will in our lives more than things that are just temporary?

Scripture addresses the dilemma in one sentence:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17).

This world has such a magnetic pull on us, doesn’t it? Such is the struggle and reality of the Christian life. We are pulled into the world and all its distractions and yet reminded to hold on loosely. Still, nothing that it can offer the believer will even hold a candle (no pun intended) to eternity. It won’t even compare…and those who seek God have the comfort in knowing that one day there will be no such thing as borrowed time.

********

Do you recall a teachable, “ah-ha” moment in your past?

Can you recall a moment when you came to be more aware of how short life can be?

How do you think we can learn to value our time?

 

WHAT I THINK OF OLD AGE

 

 

 

 

Maybe the long-suffering of a broken body is God’s means of weaning us from this world long enough for us to yearn for heaven. On the other hand, maybe God’s mercy in accelerating the aging process itself is in order to hold back prolonged suffering. It’s not something many of us think about, but the Bible is clear that the questions of life and death belong to the Lord. He alone determines the number of our days, and as I have had to remind myself many times over the last month, He alone is in control. Sometimes I have had to trust God when life convinced me that He wasn’t in control. I don’t mean to sound pious. I had no other choice. Praise God!

In my mother’s case, I find that I’ve had to remind myself that neither growing old nor the need for God’s provision and comfort at this time is uncharted territory. The stress of decisions and doctors in the last month has reminded me of this “age-old” predicament (no pun intended). I notice that even the Psalmist cried out:

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. – Psalm 71:9

If ever there was a need to not be forsaken, it is in our golden years…when our abilities and energy have been exhausted, when the years of caring and giving to your children or spouse have been poured out to the last ounce over a lifetime. You would only hope that there would be someone to care for you as well. It is no wonder people say that that they don’t ever want to get too old. Being forsaken these days can mean ignored call buttons and nurses that never look you in the eye when you are in pain. It can mean going through your latter days without your spouse or family.

Notice the folks at a nursing home if you get a chance. I have, and I’ve seen some weathered and beaten faces. I realized that I was looking at the manifestation of not only the reality of aging, but of humanity itself. When we are young, we feel invincible, but the truth will come up from behind you. Man in his nature is in decline. We don’t get better or stronger…eventually these bones that hold our bodies up will bend from the weight. Old age seems so far away, but believe it or not, even if your body has never complained, it will one day remind you that you are made of destructible matter that will crumble. The range of motion we take for granted now may be a struggle in the not too distant future. The ability to enjoy and understand the words we read and write will diminish. Our faces will grow sullen and dry, our eyes will get shallow. Aging is mortality at its most blatant.

So is this what it’s come to?

If you know the creation story, you know that it didn’t have to happen this way. When God created man, He created him perfectly. Adam and Eve lived in unhindered fellowship with God. His only command to them was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did, the consequence would be death, both spiritual and physical. (Gen. 2:15-17). Of course, they rebelled and did it anyway…and boy, do we see the consequences! We could have lived forever in youthfulness and glory if they would not have disobeyed God from the beginning.
Adam and Eve could have left well enough alone, but noooo…they just HAD to know all about the tree of good and evil. They just HAD to think they knew better than God. But I can’t blame them. I’ve got plenty of sin and blame in my own life…the mirror just confirms that. *Sigh*

At any rate, I think we can all agree. Worst. Decision. Ever.

So as I think of mortality, I can’t help but think of so many who have persevered for months, even years in the role of caregiver. The impact of a loved one’s need in the later stages of life charges into your own, knocking down your neatly arranged calendar like a bulldozer to a stack of blocks. The physical work of caring is perpetual, and should I say – downright demanding. No doubt, I have a new respect for them now. I think of my father, who has tirelessly and selflessly given of himself for my mother every day. I think about certain friends who have set their lives aside to care for their own elderly parents and the courage they have shown me in doing so. It makes me stop to wonder whether the purpose of being aged is just as much about changing and growing the caregiver as it is about the aged themselves.
Most of all, I acknowledge God’s provision. Listen to the words of the Psalmist again in that same passage:

“But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day. For I do not know their limits. I will go into the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.” – Psalm 71:14-16.

God never promised that He would take away our suffering, but He has promised not to forsake His own. So to all of you self-sacrificing caregivers, I am not worthy to untie your shoes. For all of your back-breaking, sleep deprived days, I pray that God brings you through them as if to carry you. The rest of the story is that what was lost with Adam is reclaimed at the Cross. There is a better “someday” ahead, a day when He will be the ultimate physician, when He will take the plight of sin away completely, a day of no more pain, no more tears, and no more death.