There’s been a ‘heat’ wave and my leaf is still green!

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Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 Berean Study Bible

Are things ‘heating up’ for you? Is trouble brewing?  We’ve just passed through that feast day when families gather, some happily and some reluctantly. Often mixing with those we don’t regularly see except at Thanksgiving can produce sparks that ignite as surely as rubbing two sticks together.

When Jeremiah’s words popped up in my Prayermate app earlier this week I lingered a while connecting God’s words with what Jim, our associate pastor, had emphasized on Sunday. Wrapping up this fall’s Sunday School journey through Paul’s encouraging letters to the Thessalonians, Jim emphasized our absolute need to meditate daily and deeply on Scripture.  His exhortation included imploring us to pray for our pastors and missionaries that they would do the same.  For how can we hope to endure as believers and encourage others in the faith unless we……stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV?

Last Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, I saw first-hand the blessing in standing firm, a growing ability due to years of lingering leisurely over God’s word. So, what happened?  Just some ordinary ‘heating up’ right before our families arrived that could easily have thrown me for a loop.  Satan lost this skirmish to manipulate circumstances toward his evil plans.

We had hosted friends for 2 nights the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was tired. I had a day and a half turn-around time to get the house ready, to stock the kitchen and catch up on some tasks foregone during our friends’ visit.

Even when our friends were with us, I continued feeding on God’s word.  Company, cooking and other tasks weren’t going to stand in the way of what I look forward to. I always need time each morning to reset with Jesus.   So, on Tuesday morning, after reminding myself that ‘God’s got this’ and ‘He is my sufficiency’, I set out for Kroger’s, my favorite grocery store, to gather all the food we needed for the eleven of us.  A shortage of baggers, time needed to hunt for one-off items and a plethora of holiday shoppers stretched my normal 45-minute shopping trip to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Only by grace, could I practice patience, frequently reminding myself that ‘All this serves my eternal good’.  I was even able to rejoice when I maneuvered that overflowing, heavy cart toward my car, for I thanked God that it wasn’t raining! Furthermore, no egg cartons fell off nor did cherry tomatoes make a break-out run from their plastic homes.

The Tampa family was due to pull in between 4 and 5 that afternoon.  After putting everything away, I wanted to get the Coq au Vin prepared and set to ‘warm’ in my Instant pot so I could be free to enjoy these dear ones.  But another probe from Satan materialized. The chicken stuck in the Instant pot and started to burn.

I immediately unplugged the pot and released all the steam that had built up. As I transferred this rich chicken-wine-mushrooms and thyme goodness to a regular pot on the cooktop, I reminded myself, ‘This, too, serves my eternal good’.

In the past, I’ve given in to self-pity many times when situations heated up.  But thanks to the Lord and his word, my leaf remained green.  Rising early to feed the cats and make some coffee, I refocused on Jesus and refreshed myself each morning in God’s word while our families slept to at last 8 am.

A week has passed since Thanksgiving.  Looking back, I can see how God showered so much grace on us, including protecting Gizmo, our kitty escape artist.  I found out later that in the confusion of 4 extra adults and 5 kids, he did manage one time to get out the back door. Somehow, someone succeeded in catching him and returned him to the house. Grace!

This morning, God added a PS to last week’s grace. Our microwave popped, hissed and went on strike, refusing to re-heat my coffee.  My first thought flew right to God and the grace he showed in delaying this microwave failure by one week.  We used that microwave SO much preparing, heating, melting, reheating food and liquid as we feasted all week.  Furthermore, ALL the appliances, the gas fireplace, central heat and the hot water worked perfectly.

What encourages me more than God’s grace is how I see the blessing of this practice of slow meditative Bible reading. Fruit such as confidence in God and his promises, patience and self-control come easier.  I rejoice in God’s goodness.

It’s easy to see what I care most about

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“LORD, see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for…..? (fill in the blank) Lamentations 1:20 NLT

I’m writing this toward the end of November 2021.  Many people all over the world feel overwhelmed and live in life circumstances fraught with turmoil.  This sentence fragment could easily introduce someone’s lament today.

What are some verse completions that would fit?

Here’s what came to mind when I made a list…..

My heart is broken and my soul despairs because….

  • Covid feels like it’ll never end
  • Rude speech seems to be the norm
  • Our country seems hopelessly divided
  • Our politicians are self-centered
  • Too few governments take global warming seriously
  • Education today is deplorable
  • Racism seems to be permanent
  • My spouse has left me
  • My children don’t want to hang out with me
  • The cancer has come back
  • This mental illness my mom suffers from seems interminable
  • My dad shows no interest in the Lord
  • I still can’t find a job
  • No one understands how I feel

I’m sure you could add to the list.

But what did the author of Lamentations write? What caused him so much pain?

Drumroll……

His own personal disobedience to the Lord!

The sentence concludes with: ….for I have rebelled against you.

It’s not how I would have finished the verse.  The contrast between this man’s heart and my heart couldn’t be greater.

I focus most of my days on me and my activities. In sum: my little world of what and whom I care about.

You’ve heard it said that a useful evaluative tool for what you find important is to examine your checkbook or credit card statement to see how you spend your money.  If that is true, then food is way up there in importance, for my monthly grocery expenditures are pretty high!

I actually think a more accurate picture of what matters most to us is what we talk about.  What are the gripping go-to issues that spill out of our mouths when we’re with others? 

I think I bring up the latest on Covid, the number of cases, views about masking and not masking, being vaccinated and not with people I encounter.  In view of what pains our rebellious ‘lamenter’ most, what tends to grab my attention is what the Bible calls ‘vanity’, those fleeting and ephemeral matters.

‘Hold on a minute!’ you might say.  ‘My mom just died from complications with Covid.  That is no small matter!’  Of course, it’s no small matter.  But Jeremiah, or whoever wrote the book of Lamentations, no doubt also lost friends and family members in that harsh siege of Jerusalem.  Yet, his heart is what bothered him most of all.

That is why this verse models a better place to invest my strongest emotions.  How much better for you might it be if ALL that I was most concerned about became the state of my heart.  As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians, “Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near.” Chapter 4:5

You don’t care about my opinion regarding…. politics, or Covid, or even the best way to cook.  And who wants to hear my fears about our country or the world?  Besides they just show a distrust in our sovereign and good God.

May I tend the garden of my heart first! My relationship with the One whom I call Lord has to take first place in my thoughts, my heart and my words.

Are your expectations robbing you of joy?

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.” (Attributed to Francis of Assisi)

Mike read this quote out loud to us the other night. I couldn’t find any attribution to it on line, but no matter.  Whoever said it, I bless, for it gave me pause.

He and I talked a bit about what it would be like to live expecting nothing. For instance, upon awakening, the electricity to light and warm our house would be pure gift. Everything that worked and started up right away from the shower, to the coffee pot, to the phone to the car, all added blessings. Walking with no pain.  Arriving on time. Peace in our neighborhood. Mental clarity. Restful sleep. Fingers that work. Safety while worshipping. Harmony in relationships. Clean water. Glasses that enable me to see. Pain medication. The list of gifts extends.

Tuesday, Vera, my 9-year-old granddaughter and I were scheduled to connect by Zoom for a French lesson. But Graham texted about 5 minutes before our start time to say he was trying to get the internet back on.  I kept the Zoom room open, but 20 minutes later he sent an update.  “No internet possible today. Repairman will come out tomorrow.” So much for our French lesson.

When I shared what happened with Mike, he responded, “Wow, I am so glad this didn’t happen when were took care of the girls in October and I worked from their house!”

I realized how we had taken functioning internet for granted. Had this situation occurred while our son and his wife were away, Mike and I would have had to scramble to figure out what to do. Sure, he could have looked for a Starbucks that allowed customers to sit inside and use their internet. But their download and upload speeds are not necessarily fast.  Besides, Mike hosted several online collaborative meetings, totally inappropriate in public spaces.

Just that one brief reflection caused me to see how much we both take for granted. Just remove any one of those blessings, and watch how we respond.  Ah yes, the power of unmet expectations to poison our mood.


So, I ask, is it possible for us to arise each morning and receive the day ‘naked’, not counting on any created thing to ‘work’ or ‘respond’ a certain way?

Only one thing, one person is worthy of ‘counting on’ and that is our triune God.  We make a prideful assumption when we expect something to work, someone to treat us well and act like they always have.  Add to that the expectation of not meeting up with any roadblocks or obstacles each day.  That is no recipe for enjoying life.

Holy Spirit, keep me practicing this kind of reflection!

Who’s carrying your burdens?

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Give your burdens to the LORD…..Psalm 55:22 NLT

I met with my counselor on Tuesday this week. We explored why I’m still struggling to decide whether I continue an endeavor or cut it off.  I’ve been ‘wishing and washing’ for more than two years, not able to make up my mind.

When I started my YouTube channel, English without Fear, in March 2018, my goal was to replace my classroom teaching salary through providing compelling, intermediate-level English stories that could benefit both English-language learners and teachers. I produced videos and materials for free to build a following, hoping eventually to convert some of them into paying clients

When the Lord suddenly moved Mike and me to Huntsville, I left my classroom job teaching French.  Due to Mike’s salary, there was no longer a need for me to work.  My purpose for having started this YouTube channel and website evaporated. I kept it up, however, out of a sense of pride for having begun it and for the identity it gave me. I also viewed it as a type of voluntary contribution to the language acquisition community. But my feelings toward it vacillated.

At the end of my counseling session, Teresa challenged me to pray in a way that had never crossed my mind.  She suggested I ask the Lord, ‘What would YOU have me do with my life, since you have planted me here in Huntsville?’ That’s a much broader, open question. It actually excited me.  Maybe there’s a new adventure God would have me take up, something I’ve never imagined, but one that he has been preparing me for all along. Up until now, I’ve only prayed for wisdom about continuing to invest time and energy in this ESL tool I started back in North Carolina.

Recently, God reminded me of the verse at the beginning of this post.  Hence, I’ve been thinking of Sherpa guides. I can imagine climbing a perilous Himalayan peak, tightly tied to my guide.  Using only climbing poles, my back is weight free. If the ascent challenges me, my guide takes the lead. Other times, I walk beside him, securely attached to my moving stronghold.

Isn’t that a picture of how our Christian life is to be? No anxiety should burden us if we keep casting each one on our guide, the Holy Spirit. Paul picks up this reality in his letter to the Philippians. Because the Lord is near, we are privileged to keep handing over all worries.

Wouldn’t it be a stupid sight to behold, a mountain climber loaded down with all his heavy baggage and struggling to keep up with the Sherpa guide who burden free hiked along?

Yesterday morning when I journaled, I wrote to Jesus, asking him to show me what he wants me to do here in Huntsville. I asked him specifically, ‘What do YOU say about…?’ and I listed all the ‘chosen’ activities I do during the week.  Then at the gym, the Holy Spirit brought to mind James’ advice:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. James 1:5-6 NLT

I thanked the Lord for this promise and reminded myself that if I trust him to provide wisdom, to respond to my prayer, then I don’t need to keep thinking and deliberating.  Especially if he truly is my divine Sherpa guide on whom I have off-loaded this issue that has perturbed me on and off for 2 years!

I’m excited to see where he is leading me, what he is going to open up for me. If I count on him to keep being God and to continue his faithful pattern of how he cares for his chosen sheep, then I can rest in his promised provision of wisdom and insight.

Spiritual fruit takes a while to show itself

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

I’ve been asking God for a long time to change my heart when it comes to how I view time.  I know full well that it’s an illusion to think of time as ‘mine’. As a Christian, I don’t actually own anything, whether material possessions, talents, the body I inhabit or the hours in a day.  I’ve known that in my head, but I don’t seem to have power over that kind of internal change.  And since God’s word teaches us that he, God, is the one who gives us desires, it seems logical to me to ask him to change my heart.

So, when I noticed a less selfish heart response one day this week, I felt encouraged.  “He’s really doing it; he’s changing my heart!”  But it wasn’t 6 hours later that my cheery demeanor evaporated.  This was the proverbial 2 steps forward – one step back, for the Lord humbled me, showing me how much holy spirit heart surgery remains to be done.

Last week I read the book by James Clear, Atomic Habits.  In an early chapter Clear described how the Chinese bamboo tree grows.  Apparently, if you plant a seed for this species of bamboo, you won’t see any green shoots for about 5 years.  No, your seed hasn’t died.  Growth has been happening steadily, but underground with the solitary focus of developing a foundational root system. It takes years to create a sufficient and extensive root network strong enough to support bamboo stalks that can tower 90 feet and higher.

Here’s what’s fascinating about this kind of bamboo tree.  One day, with no warning and after about five years of invisible but real growth below the surface, a shoot will abruptly appear and shoot up 3 feet in 24 hours!  By the end of a month, your Chinese Bamboo Tree towers 90 feet. Whoa!

Do you see why this plant example might illustrate how our faith grows? Jesus, himself, used the example of a large mustard. I don’t know how long it takes the tiny mustard seed to emerge, but a big tree will need strong and deep roots. 

You might know someone who has heard and received the gospel truth of what Jesus Christ did to save and redeem sinners. But you might not see any ‘fruit’, that evidence of a changed life.  Take heart, if your friend has been sitting under good teaching and/or reading his Bible, the roots have been growing. We humans simply tend to be impatient.  In many endeavors, when we don’t see the results we expect, we easily give up, resignedly concluding, “That didn’t work….I’m no good at…..he’ll never change!”  When all along, we didn’t exercise patience.

Back to my ‘growth’ in heart. The good news this week was when my volunteer shift at the local crisis pregnancy center went almost an hour longer than normal, I found myself unexpectedly NOT impatient.  I had no thought of, “It’s past lunch time, I won’t have enough time to do….” I simply felt pleasure in spending time with this late-to-walk-in gal who needed pregnancy and spiritual counseling.

I high-fived God on the way home.  The afternoon passed quickly with barely 30 minutes for lunch.  We had no food in the house since we had arrived home the previous night from a week out of town.  By the time I put away the groceries, it was practically time to start dinner prep. I started to feel sorry for myself.

When Mike passed through the kitchen, I remarked, “I’m almost finished with all the grocery sorting and storing and I’ve only had a short break all day!”  He remarked, “Are you feeling resentful?”  I wanted to deny that, but explained, “Well….maybe a little, because I’ve been so busy.”  When he explained he picked up on my tone, my pride was hurt.  I HAD been telling God it was not right to feel sorry for myself. After all, I had enjoyed ample time on our trip….but that was my head talking and not my heart.

After asking my husband to pray for my heart, I settled into the realization that God both encouraged me and gently scolded me, all in one day.  He’s still at work on my root system! More growth needed.

Does God’s grace prevent suffering?

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Psalm 112: 6 – 8 …the righteous will never be moved……he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady;he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

One Christian sister received the good news of a recovered wallet. Another learned that her 83-year-old mom had been severely beaten by a man who broke into her house.

I paused when I read the second account in our church’s Facebook women’s group. What do I make of that?  How do I make sense of the gift of grace to one and the frightening violence done to the other’s elderly mother?  I put myself in the place of both gals, the relief of one and the horrifying shock of the other.

This is difficult for believers, let alone those with no or other spiritual beliefs. But I’m not addressing what non-Christians might think in this post.  I do know that everyone tries to make sense of evil and violence. Only Christians have a coherent framework, thanks to the one and only Living God. We don’t purport to understand everything God does, but we do know his character and his will for the world. And we have his promises.

This morning’s psalm brought back the two situations and gave me some help.   That little word ‘until’ implies waiting, a time lapse.  Evil happens to the righteous as well as the unrighteous.  King Ahab’s wife Jezebel not only stole Naboth’s rightful portion allotted him by the Lord, she organized trumped-up lies against this righteous man of God and murder by stoning. All because her sulking husband couldn’t convince Naboth to sell him his garden.

When did Naboth and his family receive justice?  It is yet to occur.  When Ahab and Jezebel face the judge of the universe, they will pay.

Back to beating up an aging mom, what about her and her vindication?  When will that perpetrator pay?  Either Jesus has already suffered for the guilty man if he turns to Christ before he dies, or he will be punished when Jesus comes again. 

Either way, that word ‘until’ still prevails. 

I don’t know why the Lord treated one gal so gently and the other so painfully.  I DO know that He is good and his ways are not our ways.  I have to keep my mouth shut and trust Him.

Power dressing by borrowing Christ’s clothes

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And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49 ESV

I lay awake for a long time the other night ‘thinking through’, (i.e., worrying about) Thanksgiving week when all five of our grandchildren and their parents will be with us.  I don’t ‘do grandparenting’ well.  I often feel insecure in my ability to plan activities and engage naturally.

I woke up tired, knowing that I’d be depending on the Lord for energy to serve at the pregnancy center this morning, as well as the day’s other commitments.

After reading the Bible selections for the day, I turned to my Andrew Murray book Abide. The next chapter following where I had left off the previous day dealt with Holy Spirit power.

I began to feel a bit energized as I copied in my journal one of Murray’s meaningful passages: ‘When Jesus strengthens believers, it is not by taking away the sense of feebleness and giving in itself the sense of strength….He actually increases our sense of utter impotence.’

Murray went on to explain that our feebleness and his strength actually co-exist, side by side.

Then this ‘money’ sentence hit me like a glorious two-by-four.  ‘….all our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use.’  Now THAT was worth a sleepless night.  Here is what the Holy Spirit clarified for me.  Of course, I feel helpless, weak, ill-equipped as a grandmother, just as I did when I taught French in the classroom. That is intentional, so that I count on and rejoice in God’s power made available to me. Jesus brims with creativity, energy, joy, and knows perfectly how to engage kids.

Then another coin dropped, that God has intentionally given me some painful experiences that have led me to conclude that I don’t have what it takes to be a fun grandma. (It is given to you both to believe….. and to suffer….. Philippians 1:39). Furthermore, he perfectly timed my sleepless night to prepare me to receive THIS particular Andrew Murray piece about being clothed with God’s power.

Jesus in the Luke passage says we will be CLOTHED with the Father’s promised power.  It’s like a garment, a cloak of strength.  It’s not OUR strength.  We have to trust, count on and rely on the garment of Christ’s power. All by faith in the invisible promise of God.

I might not ever feel okay as a grandmother of young children. I might forever feel like I’m NOT enough so that my grandkids really sense that I enjoy them and that I make them feel cherished.

The good news, the GRAND news, is that God expects me to be enough, to be strong and capable and equipped IN the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10). 

Now, I have a concrete way to picture accessing divine vigor and creative abilities through slipping into Jesus’ power coat. I’m not meant to grandmother on my own. Or do anything, for that matter, in my own Maria strength.  So glad!

Does God answer all our prayers?

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You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2 NIV

This kind of verse can hurt.  We all have those people and situations about whom and for whom we have consistently prayed, often pleading with intensity that the Father would DO something! It could be a spiritual change in heart for a non-believing family member so that he feels compelled to turn to God.  Or maybe a cry for healing or way forward where there seems to be nothing but one obstacle after another.

But sometimes we haven’t even thought to pray, to bring a need before the Lord. Why would that be? In my case, I think Satan has blocked me from seeing that we could add a need to our joint prayers at night.  And it’s not because I entertain a kind of pious-sounding false humility that goes something like this: “Oh, I don’t believe in praying for myself.  That feels selfish. Besides, God’s got bigger fish to fry!” Have you ever heard that from fellow believers?

Let me give you an example of something Mike and I never thought to pray for daily. We’ve been talking about his upcoming planned retirement in a year, if that be God’s will. He loves recording books and doing voice-over work. About three weeks ago, we decided to include in our evening prayers a daily petition for more voice-over work right now.

What do you know!  Last Friday, Jen from ‘His Productions’ contacted Mike with the news that another pastor had selected him from all the other audio samples on the company’s website to voice this pastor’s intros and outros for his planned teachings on the entire Bible.

Boom!  Just like that, more audio work.  That sure encouraged us to keep praying.

Three days later, I heard the good news of another answered prayer. Mike’s mom had been lamenting that her daughter-in-law never seems to want to hop on Zoom during her weekly catch-up call with Mike’s brother, her youngest son.  My mother-in-law was wondering if she had somehow offended this gal.  Mike and I added their relationship to our nightly prayers.

Not 3 weeks after we started praying specifically for Mom and Eve to connect on Zoom, I learned that the Lord had answered our prayer. Mom had been able to chat briefly with her other daughter-in-law on the most recent Zoom call with Steve.

My theory is that God loves to respond quickly to many of our ‘small’ needs in order to encourage us to persevere in prayer, to NOT give up counting on him to handle all those burdens that we off-load in obedience. For sure, we all have been praying for months and years about many situations.  But you know, if you think about all the ‘moving parts’, all the circumstances and timing that God is coordinating, then you can see that arrangements can take time.  There is a ‘fullness of time’ for everything we ask for, whether the answer is as we requested OR whether God changes us so that what we thought would be wise or good and right might not really be.  

I have to remember that Satan strategizes to get me to draw a false conclusion about God, one such as:  ‘Oh, God doesn’t really care….He’s far too busy….you might as well give up…. you don’t want to be disappointed…..maybe you misunderstood the Bible….did God really say?’

Remember the persistent widow parable Jesus used as a teaching point? It’s a ‘how much more’ scenario.  Jesus emphasizes that indeed our loving and righteous Father will respond, unlike that unjust judge who just wanted to get that annoying woman off his back!

Friends, let us not grow weary in praying!  We have a good Father.

What’s wrong with being good enough?

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“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness…” Luke 12:15 ESV

I tumbled.

From an inflated view of myself.

Before the fall, the Father let me get away with preening for 36 hours. Then came the painful slap down. I felt shocked, humiliated, shamed, and sad.

My life’s vocation centers on language acquisition. God started me off with German at age 11 followed by French, thanks to a dad in the army and assignments to Germany and Belgium. Attending 9th grade in a French-speaking school introduced me to French and provided a strong base.  Eventually, the door opened for me to get certified to teach French and German.

French was my prime focus, for it is a more common offering in American schools. I did all I could to improve my French from using a French study bible, to trips with students and our family to listening to daily podcasts, reading novels and the occasional movie.  After 27 years in the classroom, I felt fluent.  I could talk with ease about most anything. Not native fluency.  But fluent for an American learner.

In March 2019, I retired when we moved to Huntsville, Alabama where Mike took a new job.  I turned my attention to learning Spanish.  With intense focus on this new language, I set French on the back burner, confident that I wouldn’t lose my facility with it.

Then suddenly, a French friend whose video content I used in my classroom for enrichment, asked me if she could interview me in French for her YouTube channel.  She thought that my ‘aha!’ moments about language acquisition, given that I was now learning Spanish, together with my experience teaching French by means of comprehensible input rather than grammar would interest her audience.

I started listening to French podcasts and watching videos to refresh my skills.  We recorded in early September and the interview posted this past weekend on her channel. 

I knew I had made errors in French because my brain has been processing Spanish for the past 30 months. So, despite the inevitable grammar and vocab mistakes, I

felt pleased as I viewed the interview.

Before it posted, I had listed all the French speakers I knew with whom I could proudly share this interview.  I forwarded the link to some 15 contacts.  Yes, I felt proud.  And it felt good.

You can see where this is headed!

Sunday afternoon, I opened the video to copy the link to send to someone else. I paused and read the comments some viewers had posted below.

Here’s what popped my pride balloon.  Someone had written: ‘What level conversation would you say this is?’.  Alice, the host, replied: ‘intermediate’.

There it was, an objective evaluation of my ability to speak French. I was shocked.  Intermediate?  Me?

This hurt SO much for two reasons: First, I thought I was reasonably fluent. Second, shame flooded me in realizing with what pride I had forwarded on this interview.

The sadness grew deeper. Fatigue set in after dinner.  And I could hardly wait for bed.

I didn’t sleep well, awake some of the time going over and over how I felt.

But God!  This morning, with my journal opened, I read today’s passages.  Then I moved on to some scriptural prayers and devotions.

The Holy Spirit was speaking to me through scripture.  Slowly, he led me through the obvious pride diagnosis to deeper matters, more serious sins. A verse highlighting contentment shone a light on my covetousness. 

Picking up my pen, I wrote out a one-sentence prayer asking Jesus to strengthen me to be content in him, rather than seek contentment in my skill level of languages.

Then it hit me: “I have coveted fluency in languages for the praise of all people!”

My actions, my feelings, my thoughts, my goals have broadcasted for years: Christ is not enough to satisfy my deepest longings. Thinking that fluency in other languages will satisfy the desires of my heart, I have been off wandering, away from God.

People say pride is the worst sin. I agree.  But without seeing what fuels my pride, I can’t kill it.

Strangely with this Holy Spirit insight and my confession, I found hope rising, knowing that this new lesson is one step in God’s ‘holiness and happiness training’.

And what about being ‘good enough’? What a lovely and freeing life philosophy!  I’m embracing my intermediate-level French and where my Spanish is at this point.  Their levels are GOOD enough to help people.  I DID teach kids French for many years.  I AM ministering to Hispanic gals during my Tuesday morning shift at our city’s pregnancy resource center. The Spanish feels broken, but it is ‘good enough’. 

May I embrace trusting Jesus as my number one source of contentment and not wander off to other lovers.

Scarcity or Abundance?

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I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10

I was watching a teaching series from the Identity Exchange called, “Become what you Believe”.  Jamie Winship pointed out how contrary the world sees and handles resources.  Scarcity is one of ‘pillars’ of those who DON’T acknowledge or who don’t live in the Kingdom of God.  The creed goes like this: ‘We don’t have enough, we are not enough, we don’t do enough, we aren’t smart enough, we don’t have enough time or information or…..  This ‘List of Lack’ or scarcity feels endless.  What a depressing message.

The other framework and place to live is God’s.  He is the God of abundant resources. And there’s no end to what he can and does provide.  His resources and abilities are beyond anything we can dream or imagine.

Jamie says that when we begin to fear, that’s a clue to our operating out of the world’s scarcity model. Fear can actually serve as a helpful signal, telling us to stop and figure out just what we are thinking. Whether we are afraid of a menacing bully, or a scary disease or how off the rail our children seem to be, at the bottom of each fear is this idea of ‘not enough’ or scarcity.

I’ll give you a for instance.  This morning, I started to tighten up when I received a text from a very dear friend.  It turns out that she and her husband will be passing through our town in November and would love to see us.  I looked at the dates. Any other time, I would have been excited.  But given what we have on the calendar right after this possible visit, my first reaction was anxiety, another name for fear. What was I afraid of?  That we wouldn’t have enough energy to turn around and be available to extravert and love those arriving 2 days later.  That might sound weird to you.  But we are introverted and ‘need time to replenish.’

Do you see how I was thinking? My thoughts and conclusions had their basis in this scarcity model.  By grace, the Holy Spirit reminded me of God’s abundance.  In my fear-filled scenario I was running ahead and assuming that we would have deplenished our energy balance.

I stopped myself and began to journal. I recognized this finite thinking layered with overtones of lack and privation. Here I was actually belittling the INFINITE God who formed me, who created me. This gracious Father who graced us with new hearts and free access to him by means of the Son.  And our Father expects us to stay connected, to abide in the Infinite Son, the source of all our supply.

Thanks be to God for his timing in giving me, through Jamie’s reminders, a new way to recall the resources that are mine as a Kingdom child. Furthermore, who am I even to predict that we will feel depleted?  I’m no prophet.

Besides, I mused: these potential back-to-back visits (and everything else!) is NOT up to me. I can no more manufacture energy than I can time.  No, Jesus calls us first to BE what we are, the ‘called-out ones’.  Then we are to BELIEVE and TRUST what He teaches us in his Word about his ‘enoughness’ to care for us.  Then we are to REST and RECEIVE the endless divine supplies, as we need them in the moment.

Scarcity’s sister is the lie that shouts (or whispers), “It’s all up to you!”  Thank God, that is not!  To fight the lie, we are to recall the Savior’s past rescues and provisions and then trust him to keep providing, to keep satisfying us.  For if we stop and rest and look up and EXPECT his provision (i.e., open our mouths) he promises to fill us.

Not to give us more than what we need, nor less. Just the right amount to keep us dependent on him.  Since he created us, he knows the measure of our emptiness and just what we require.

Curious, isn’t it, that as soon as the Lord provided this teaching via Jamie Winship, I now have a practical exercise to test out whether I actually DO believe what I have learned. 

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