Do you resent or accept your ‘boundary lines’?

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The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely, I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. Psalm 16:6-7 NIV

Where Mike and I lived in Western North Carolina, we frequently would pop into a gift shop on Main Street called, Pleasant Places.  We bought our squirrel-proof bird feeder from these nature-loving owners and always enjoyed chatting with them.

This morning I was thinking of David, who joined the top ranks of ‘Who’s Who in Israel’s History’, who penned this Holy Spirit-inspired truth about his boundary lines. That led me to reflect on my life.

I started out my young adult life with a desire-fueled goal. At age 18 I already knew I loved learning and speaking other languages as well as adapting to new cultures.  I calculated that the most adventure-packed international career I could choose would be the Foreign Service, also known as the State Department.  I was fully aware of how challenging it would prove to be selected.  So, I chose to apply for an ROTC scholarship to help fund college, knowing that five years of military experience as an officer after graduation could make my candidacy more appealing

I even majored in Russian and Russian Studies to increase my value to the State Department. But my intended trajectory completely changed when I met Mike that summer after graduating and getting commissioned as a new second lieutenant.  He and I had been assigned to the same basic officers’ course for the Military Intelligence branch. Within 6 weeks I found myself saying ‘yes’ to his marriage proposal and we were wed in April 1980.

I chose life with Mike over my original career path, thereby changing the trajectory of the rest of my life. Do I regret that quick decision?  No, not in the least. Do I ever feel sad when I survey remaining longings for overseas living adventures?  Yes!

But I can say with heart-felt conviction that my boundary lines, much narrower than I imagined I could want, have been good for me. The Lord really does know what he is doing.

The most significant example of how God’s plan turned out far better for me comes from early on in our marriage.  We were 24 and were confronted with the gospel message for the first time. We might have heard what Jesus did in the denomination we grew up in, but not in a compelling way.  This presentation clearly and immediately drew us to respond with a hearty ‘YES!’ to God’s offer of salvation, lordship and forever fellowship.

I know that without Mike, I would have stopped going to church.  I never attended an Episcopal church my four years at the University of Virginia. Yet, there must have been a flicker of authentic Holy-Spirit desire in me, for meeting Mike who did attend church faithfully, intrigued me. I joined him each Sunday morning for church and brunch afterwards.  As long as I was with him, I went willingly.

But I know that had we only dated and parted as friends in December 1979, I would not have continued going to church on my own.  Services frankly bored me.

Furthermore, I would have likely continued along my self-centered, sexually-immoral, career-focused path with little thought about church or the things of God.

What would my life be like now, at 64? I do believe I’d be a believer as I am now.  But I am grateful for four decades of following (erratic as it has been for long periods) Jesus.  I don’t doubt that eventually God would have gotten my attention. Probably in a painful way, like an inconvenient, unwanted and shaming pregnancy. Instead, he had drawn me with ‘cords of kindness’ through that quick decision to join my life with Mike’s. 

I keep going back to my ‘pleasant’ boundary lines. I trust God, and especially when he has written in Psalm 84:11 ‘No good thing do I withhold from those whose way is upright’.

When those inevitable wistful dreams resurface, when I envy others for getting to live overseas and speak other languages, I remind myself that:  HAD IT BEEN A GOOD THING FOR ME, then the Lord would have ordained it.

Our faith and His ‘pop-quizzes’

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If the three most important words in real estate are ‘location, location, location’, then the key three words for the Christian are ‘entrust, entrust, entrust’ all to Jesus.

Remember…(those)… who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 NIV

If we are to ‘copy the faith’ of someone, that means we must be able to notice it. The text above actually makes that point.  The Greek word ‘consider’ means to behold.  What are we to observe? The conduct of believing Christians all the way to their dying end, through their journey toward the final portal into Life.

One’s ‘way of life’ indicates conversation and actions, how these mature believers interacted, how they handled affliction and upsets.

This morning, I read a different translation of 1 Peter 4:12 that compliments these thoughts: ‘When trials come to test you, don’t freak out.’ How clear!

Observing mature Christians who have taught us God’s word, mimicking their faith responses, watching how they think through and make decisions has a corollary. Just as we copy their pattern, that means others are watching us, too.  We aren’t always aware, but they are. 

But that responsibility won’t tax us if we recall our Lord’s assurance of supernatural, divine help promised to sustain us all the way to the end. God’s chesed, that is His steadfast love and mercy, is constant, never changing. Here’s to ‘not freaking out!’

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As is my Father’s pattern with me, I can count on a ‘pop quiz’ to follow up what I observe in His Word.  Sure enough, He provided the ‘practicum’ just a day later while on our trip out to Seattle to visit Mike’s mom.

When I dread something, I will hand it over to You. Psalm 56:3 (my wording)

I had to repent this morning at ‘pee o’clock’.  Washing my hands, my head flew to the coming day and what I was dreading.  We have planned to treat Mom to a dinner out 3 blocks from her retirement complex.  My fears over the past few days have been: ‘What Uber driver will want to transport us that short of a distance and back?’ and ‘Will the ambiance and food please Mom or will it be too loud and unsatisfying for a 92-year-old?’  

So, as soon as I thought in the dark, “I’ll be glad when today is over”, He convicted me, clearing away the fog of fear.  “Oh, I have a heavenly Father!  I can hand this entire situation over to Him.”  And so, I did and fell back asleep.

Now, further into the day, I keep reminding myself that He has ‘got this’.  The grace we will need is already stockpiled. This event is meant for future praise.

PS: Well, it’s ‘the day after’.  And of course, God’s score card continues to be perfect. Not a single driver balked at the four-block trip.  We arrived on time.  There were ramps for Mom and her walker to use.  We were seated by ourselves in a spacious alcove with a view over Seattle.  Visibility was perfect. Our menu selection pleased Mom and we made it home with no hitch.  Our driver was in his early 80s, seeking always to be productive.  He understood Mom’s needs. 

Father, forgive me yet again for doubting your ability to come through. Thank you for your kindness to us and to Mike’s mom who delighted in being able to view her beloved city from the 14th floor.

Are you the ‘doing’ kind of Christian?

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Do you ever question whether you’re doing ‘enough’ good works as a Christian? I think there is a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame among believers. We observe some who seem always to be serving in some way. Measuring ourselves against their standard leads us to conclude that we lack dedication, that we might not even be ‘real’ Christians.

Yes, God’s Word teaches that Jesus redeemed us for good works prepared even before God created the universe.  Just what should we be doing?  How do we know?

And speaking of knowing, if we are to have heart-motivation to do any good works, what kind of foundation of knowing do we need?  What will keep us grounded with pure motives (as pure as we can obtain)?

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(Jesus) gave himself for us ….. to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14 ESV

My volunteer colleague yearns to ‘do good works’.  Her soft, large heart embraces those unacquainted with real hope. She is drawn to share with many the truth about Jesus’ liberation of those captive to Satan, those estranged from the Father. But her husband doesn’t (yet) share her passionate zeal. He’s not even sure if he is a believer. She mourns this fact. Seeing other believing couples aligned to serve God together pains her.

Listening to her has made me think, “Is sharing the Gospel the only good work? Just what are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us to do?”  John records the same question and Jesus’ answer.

What must we do, to be doing the works of God? ……… This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:28-29

My friend, burdened by her husband’s lack of interest in things of God would say, “I DO believe in Him!”  True, but the Greek word believe means to trust, to ‘EN-trust all things to Jesus as Lord’.

It could be that until she actually believes that Jesus ‘has got this – her husband’s soul’, her husband’s heart situation might not change.  Jesus might just think it best FIRST to grow HER unequivocal confidence in Him.

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May you have the power to grasp……his (Christ’s) love….

…..and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Ephesians 3:18- 19, NIV

I have an elderly friend whose mind is losing power to grasp more than one thing at a time. Reading and taking in an entire psalm confuses her.

But she can take heart. At this stage of her final journey on ‘earth 1.0’, holding on to one central fact is enough.  What is the one thing she needs to know?

‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’

When I think of grasping one fact, Martha’s sister Mary comes to mind. Jesus praised her for feeding on what was of ‘summa’ importance.

When I struggle to trust God, it’s because I have forgotten what He has already done. Our ancestors, those Goshen Hebrews, neglected to recall God’s wonderous acts as well. God named their failure to remember ‘rebellion’ because seeing, they didn’t recall how good He had been to them.  They didn’t trust Him.

Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders or remember Your abundant kindness. Psalm 106:7 Berean Study Bible

Father, give Pat and me as well power to clutch and hold on to your love. May we not forget. Keep us rehearsing daily your deeds.

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