Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Say "Yes" to God's Pop-ups

I don't like pop-ups. 

When I'm reading something on a website, I don't want to be interrupted by ads or suggestions that I sign up as a subscriber. Sorry, fellow bloggers--I get what you're doing; I've been told to do the same in order to build my following--but I find it annoying and intrusive. If I'm interested, I'll take the time to sign up on my own, without any prompting. And if I have to keep playing dodge-ball on your site, then you've probably lost a potential subscriber. Chances are, I'll click off your site before I've had an opportunity to read your content.

But what happens when God interrupts like that? I guess you could say that a holy pop-up appears in my thoughts. Or a "God-portunity" to serve breaks my routine. 

Yes, I admit--I often find it annoying and intrusive.

Come one, admit it---sometimes you do too, right?



God's pop-ups often come at the most inopportune times and invade our comfortable routine, don't they?

It's those Holy Spirit moments--those thoughts that pop into your head and you say, "Where did that come from?"

Go visit that person.
Pay for her groceries.
Buy him a cup of coffee.
Call her.
Encourage him.
She likes your earrings. Take them off and give them to her.
He needs a friend. Invite him to join you.
Why don't you cook a meal--or a few--for that neighbor--yes, that one--the grouchy one you don't like.

Sure, He speaks to us about lots of other things too, but it's those pesky acts of service--those things that require us to get out of our self bubble and be "Jesus with skin on"--that we'd prefer to have advance warning about. 

But that's not always how God works. He likes to disrupt our thoughts and interrupt our plans. 

We can play dodge-ball with those thoughts, hoping that the pop-ups will stop if we click on the little 'x' to close the box/thought. But if it's a God Pop-up, it will most likely return. And there's only so much avoiding you can do with the Holy Spirit. Eventually, you have to say "Yes, I will," or "No, thank you. I'm not interested."

Hmmm...have you ever offered the latter response?

I have.

I felt sick afterwards. 

It's not a pretty thing to say "no" to God. He gives us that option, of course. But the times when I have ignored His promptings have always resulted in a feeling of disappointment and deep remorse in my spirit. 

To know that I not only missed an opportunity to bless someone, but a chance to receive a blessing as well is only part of it. 

To know that I let God down feels a hundred times worse.

And then there's the realization that He's moved on to the next willing participant. God asked me, I said "no," so He moved on. If I say "no" enough, will He simply begin skipping over me altogether? Think of the missed opportunities!

My last post dealt with accepting ourselves where we are, and not beating ourselves up over what we may or may not have done to further our Christian walk.

This is one of those times. 

God doesn't force us to do any of those things I mentioned above. He granted Adam and Eve free will, and the last I checked, that's been passed down through the generations to us.

Rather, he invites us to join Him where He is already working.

I was first introduced to that concept when I took part in Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God Bible study some twenty years ago. It's probably one of the only take-aways from a Bible study that I never forgot, maybe because it makes such perfect sense.

The next time the Holy Spirit interrupts your thoughts and disrupts your plans, will you desperately seek to click out of that pop-up box, finding it an annoying interruption, or will you snap to attention in delight, and welcome the change in plans? Think of the double blessing--the one you'll be and the one you'll receive.

Say "yes" to the pop-up. Say "yes" to God today.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

When Your Spiritual Walk Becomes a Crawl--or a Sprint

Since I started running, I notice other runners. Kind of like when you buy a car and you suddenly realize that EVERYONE has your car.

It's not that I never saw people running before. They were simply annoying people who didn't get out of the road when there was a perfectly good sidewalk to run on. Now, they're kindred spirits. 

When I run, I can't seem to just run and be done with it. No, I have to check my speed. Some days I'm winded, and other times I run like the wind...well, maybe a small breeze. 

Sometimes, other runners pass me, and I wish I could run as fast as they do.

A few weeks ago I took a week-long break to give a minor injury some time to heal. The first day back I ran a mile in a minute less than my average time. I was shocked and wondered if taking time off actually helped me. The next day my time was back to normal. This week I went three days without running, and expected the same thing to happen, but my first mile was a minute OVER my average. I have no idea why these things happen. I figure my body sets the pace and I have to listen.

Life is a lot like running. Some days we sprint and other days we're sluggish. And many of us tend to push ourselves harder regardless of our pace. We think we can do better, work harder, get more done. We notice the speed of others and often wish we could do what they do.

I think our spiritual walk is not so different.

Some days I feel like I'm so in tune with God. My Bible reading has been done, I prayed for my friends--and even with someone--and I'm walking in my anointing. I worship along to the music in my car, encourage others, and serve when I see a need. At the end of the day, I reach around and pat myself on my back for running a great mile. I'm a good Christian.

Other days, not so much. 

I wake up in a mood. I neglect my Bible reading and prayer time. I might throw up a "think" prayer when someone comes to mind, but I tell myself that doesn't count as "real" prayer. I compare myself to others who are running a better spiritual mile. I notice their form and speed and tell myself I don't measure up. Why am I even trying? 

And service? I'd rather not serve anyone. I'm awfully busy--too busy really. Someone else will do it. My worship falls flat. I wonder if God is disgusted with me. I become immersed in myself. Trouble comes, and I'm already feeling defeated so I'm an easy target. I crack. I'm spiritually sluggish and would rather not run today, since my time is sure to be way over what it "should" be. I'm a bad Christian.

The truth is--I can't be a good or a bad Christian. And I've tried for too long to be the perfect one. Frankly, I'm tired of trying. 

I am simply an ordinary woman who has encountered an extraordinary God--the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He has chosen to forgive me, and He loves me just as I am, whether I sprint, walk, or crawl to Him--and for Him. 

When I do these "Christian" things, I don't do them for God. If I'm spending time in prayer or reading my Bible to stay in His good graces, I'm doing these things for all the wrong reasons. He doesn't need any of that. 

I need to do it for me. To draw closer to the God I love. To become more like Christ, who lived to serve, save, and heal. To live outside myself and become other-focused as the Holy Spirit directs. When I neglect to take the time to make these things a part of my day, I begin to feel the effects of a life that is less than ideal.

I always have a choice, and the repercussions of those choices often determine whether I crawl, walk, or sprint.

What I really need to learn is to allow myself to have days to spiritually crawl, as long as I don't choose to stay there. To relish the moments when I beat my average time by a minute, and sprint to God--as long as I realize that I won't realistically keep that pace either. Mostly, to be satisfied with a walk that is bound to fluctuate unpredictably. After all, we live in a world that throws us curve balls and we're housed in these earth suits that grow weary at times. Our pace is constantly changing. We ought to strive to attain a closer walk, but give ourselves permission to fail.



To be anything less than a "perfect Christian" is to know dependence on the God who grants us the ability and the permission to crawl, walk, and sprint. And to know that He loves us the same, regardless of our pace.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

scripture references from biblegateway.com
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Forgetting to Be Afraid

A few years ago we taught our dog, Lucy to swim. Well, one doesn't really teach a dog to swim--it's more of an instinct. But we encouraged her.

For years she waded into water until she couldn't touch the bottom, then turned around. Then one day, I threw a tennis ball into a quiet pond--just beyond where she could still keep her feet on the ground, and she swam out to get it. 

She was so otherwise focused that she forgot to be afraid.



The following year, she was a bit timid, but you couldn't get her out of the water. This year, she flew in after the ball. Being afraid of the water was not even a memory.

That's the beauty of being a dog. They don't remember a lot. Why else would they get so excited when you walk into the room after leaving only five minutes before?

Last weekend we went for a hike. We were alone on the trail, and I was enjoying the beautiful day. Suddenly, this anxiety came over me--I thought about bears. Springtime is cub and mama bear time. My heart skipped a beat and I lost the peace I'd had only moments before. 

I remembered to be afraid.

Is there something in your life that you have to remind yourself to be afraid of? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Who reminds themselves to be afraid? It might sound crazy, but I think we've all done it. 

What if, instead of remembering our fear, we refocused our attention? If we became so intent on grasping that which awaits us in the deeper water? 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid (John 14:27)

This was said just after Jesus told his disciples that he would be going away, but another Advocate, the Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father to teach them and remind them of everything Jesus had said to them.

They were troubled.
They were afraid.
They were reassured.
They were reminded.

When I remembered that there was the potential for bear encounters, I also reminded myself how the year before, when we walked 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the most heavily bear populated area of New Jersey, we did not see one bear. I reminded myself that we had prayed for safety before every hike, and I reminded myself that I had forgotten to do that this day. So I fearlessly "dove in to the water," choosing to forget to be afraid, fixing my eyes on that what was floating in the water that was just over my head. 

Instead of focusing on the bear encounter I might potentially have, I decided instead to have an encounter with Jesus. I prayed to the Father who loves me, the Son who understands me, and the Holy Spirit who reminds me that fear has no power.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Today, if you need to remind yourself to be afraid, why not fix your gaze on what is just beyond where you can safely stand? Be like Lucy, and dive into the water with reckless abandon. Swim to safety forgetting to be afraid.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

scripture references from biblegateway.com
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Misreading Signs

I've been taking a writing class for the past seven weeks. Each night, I have found it strangely coincidental that the exact same parking spot on the street is open, especially when there's a canvas cover over the meter with a sign that says, "Free Parking Any Time." Why wouldn't people be clamoring for that spot?

The other night, as I blithely pulled in to "my" spot, I happened to read the canvas cover a little more carefully.




Amazing how one little word can give a whole new meaning to a sign.

I can't imagine why I thought the word "NO" looked anything like the word "FREE," other than the fact that I simply wanted it to. I read it wrong the first night and never gave it a passing glance the other five. 

Of course, once I knew better I was horrified and wondered how I'd escaped a ticket for six weeks! My car and I slunk away in shame, searching for a legitimate parking spot, but not before I laughed at myself. Everyone needs to be able to do that.

Can you imagine my telling a judge, "I thought the sign said 'Free Parking'?" Perhaps he would require an adult reading class in addition to my writing class--along with a fine. 

When I don't pay attention, it's easy to misinterpret signs. I risk the possibility of receiving a ticket or even having an accident--all because I simply don't take the time to notice important details.

Similarly, I risk offending people and coming across as uncaring when I don't pay attention to or take notice of their thoughts or feelings. It's easy to misread a sign--traffic or human--when I'm in a hurry, or worse--when I simply choose to look the other way and ignore it. And the repercussions of that on a human level are far more complex than a parking ticket.

Being "too busy" is a poor excuse. We can be busy and still slow down enough to take notice of the signs around us.

When I slow down enough to pay attention, and to really take notice, my relationships are enriched and my senses restored. I notice things like this: 



And this:


But especially this:



I might have missed that questioning look if I wasn't paying attention. 

Lest you think I've perfected this paying attention thing, allow me to share with you one more sign that I saw as I pulled alongside the empty curb in front of the library the other day--the same place I've been parking for months (on a weekday at 5:00 pm). 



Yeah...no more words are needed.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

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