Tag Archives: Jesus

Waiting

Waiting–it is defined by Dictionary.com as “a period of waiting; pause, interval, or delay.” Words such as inactive, repose, neglected, postponed, and halted were also used. All words which aren’t particularly welcome in Western culture especially among Western Christians. We want what we want when we want it, and no delay is permitted–Misbehaving child (Start behaving right now!); Doctor can’t see you until September (Can you make that any sooner?); You haven’t been healed yet? (You must not believe in God enough.); The piece of equipment can’t be here for three weeks. (Oh, I really need that here next week.).

We have dinners that can be fixed in five minutes (Yay, microwaves!) and texts which can be typed and sent in less than five minutes. I remember a line which was said in one of my favorite TV shows. One of the main characters was trying to send a text to a girl he liked, and the other character told him to just call her. He said in response, “No one calls anymore. Her and her friends. They only text.” Of course, the power going off forever less than five minutes later might have put a kink in that thought. 🙂

All laughing aside, we don’t like to wait. None of us do. God has plenty to say about waiting in Scripture though. I typed the words wait and waiting into You Version’s search engine, and many references come up. So many, in fact, that there is no way I could quote every one of them. I’ll quote just a few to make my point.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Another one is from Psalm 130. Verse 5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

I like Lamentations 3:24. “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”

Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

There are many more where those came from. Why, then, do we have such a hard time with waiting? Why do we ask the question that the writer asked in Psalm 119:84? “How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?” Why does Job wait for almost the entire book before God answers him? Why did the disciples have to wait three days before Jesus rose from the dead?

Let me bring the questions into the twenty-first century. Why has he/she been diagnosed with whatever fatal disease? How come it takes so long to get a diagnosis? Why does a little girl die from injuries sustained in a car accident? Why does it take so long to get a new job? Does God not know that it takes money to live down here? I laugh and then tell myself, ‘Of course He does. There are many people existing on far less than I have.’ That thought makes me feel bad, but then, I think of what my family and I are going through. It’s not that one piece of suffering is more worthy of God’s attention than another. All suffering is worthy in His eyes.

How can we enter into the life of someone who is waiting? First, we don’t castigate someone for being upset about waiting. Waiting is hard, harder than we can possible imagine. Second, we can be present and not say anything at all. Listening can be the most important thing to someone who is waiting. Another thing we can do is give input if it is asked for keeping in mind that all of us deal with situations differently. Finally, we can pray for the person and especially pray for strength and endurance. They might be waiting for a long time and knowing that someone is praying for them through this waiting season can mean everything to them.

Praying for all of us in waiting seasons right now.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Whole Person

Yesterday, I participated in something with my younger son that I haven’t done in a long time. I was a driver for his church youth group. We went to a city about two hours away from my home to volunteer for the day. I ended up staying with the young people to work, and it was eye-opening. It took me back to my college days when I went on mission trips with my Baptist Student Union group. Those were good times when I wasn’t quite as beaten down by life as I am now. I was excited to share about Jesus’ love and do the things He was calling me to do. It didn’t bother me to be put in a place where I was uncomfortable. I’m a generation removed from that time now so staying “comfortable” is more important to me. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

God blessed me yesterday though with this opportunity and brought up questions I want to explore. The place we went to was a place that believed in the value of the whole person–not just spiritually–but physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was a school with a neighborhood next to it, a ministry that offered support to the families who lived there. It was a place where love was poured out in buckets. It was a place which truly wanted and believed in the success of the people who lived there. It was NOT a place to get notches for converting people to Jesus and then leaving them alone in their circumstances.

I worked, I sweated, I prayed, I worshiped, I played, I did things I didn’t think I could do, but most of all, I laughed. They were my brothers and sisters in Christ, and there were no differences between us. My son’s youth group, their leaders, and I cleaned up the yard of one of the homes in the neighborhood. We also played with the children who were being cared for while their parents worked and prayed over two homes. It was a good experience for me, and one God wanted me to have.

But, it made me wonder about something, actually, several somethings. Why don’t we, as Christians, care about the success of other people? Why do we just want to put up notches of how many people we’ve converted to Jesus and move on? Why are we not willing to put our money where our mouth is? And why do we treat people badly if they can’t contribute to our own success? I don’t have answers other than to say we live in a selfish and sinful world that causes God to weep. And I think, maybe, that might be the reason God causes some of us to go through bad experiences so that we will have a “heart” for people who society doesn’t care anything about.

I also think God wants us to be authentic with one another like I’ve talked about before. We are all sons and daughters of God, and our worth shouldn’t be determined by how much we have, what we look like, or how well we can put up shields. It shouldn’t be tied up in whether people think we are “asking for a handout” or not. We should be able to live in community with one another and see each other with Jesus’ eyes like I saw yesterday on my trip.

I pray we can all see the value and worth of each person like Jesus sees them.

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Freedom

I’m out by the lake writing today and marveling that the sun is actually out. It’s so pretty unlike the grey and cloudy day I wrote about on Friday. I look at the water and contemplate freedom. Now that the month has changed over, I think about the anniversaries occurring this month that represent freedom to me.

The third anniversary of this blog is this month. Three years ago, I remember thinking that I really needed to start a blog in which I mainly wrote about my Christian faith. I never denied my faith in my other blog, but there is no mistaking what this blog is. From the title to the header where I have Ephesians 2:8-9, it is a blog which talks about God, Jesus, and my faith–fully and honestly. I’m so thankful I have this little place to praise my Lord and Savior and to ask all the questions I’ve needed to ask. I hope some of my musings have helped you along the way.

The second anniversary this month is the big one. If you live in the United States, you know that tomorrow is the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom to think, freedom to speak, freedom to write, freedom to pursue our lives the way we want to. I know some of you would say our freedoms have eroded in recent years, that you’ve had to fight this circumstance or that. I’m not here to argue specific incidents. We were given the mechanisms to fight for our freedoms, and I think they have worked fairly well over the years. I am grateful for the freedoms I have here, nonetheless.

What I am here to discuss is what we do with our freedoms whether we live in the United States or somewhere else. Because, as Christians, we answer to a higher power than just the leader of a country. We answer to our Lord and Savior. The laws and tenets that He inspired His prophets to write for us in Scripture help us to live in harmony in this world and with our brothers and sisters. They give us our moral center and help us to know how God would like us to live. Do they work all the time? No, sin exists here and will exist until Jesus comes back for us. We will fail God though we might not want to. That’s where grace comes in like it says in the Bible verses at the top of this page. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I look at these verses about grace and think about all of the laws from Scripture that I do my best to follow. And then I think about what Jesus says in Luke 10:27. “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  This is the ‘law’ God wants us to follow most of all, and this is the ‘law’ that makes me free. Love. Love, the way Jesus loved us.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the final anniversary that is happening this month. This coming Sunday my husband and I are celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. What I’ve most appreciated about our relationship is that he’s given me the freedom to be myself. He hasn’t asked me to fit into the world’s standards or into rigid Christian standards. He’s supported my interests and has been my cheerleader for everything I’ve tried–from homeschooling to writing. Our life together has not been easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I think that’s the point of this freedom God gives us. It’s not a freedom to take advantage of people or do whatever we want. It’s the freedom to love the way God wants us to love.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Authenticity and Joy

It’s the end of June, and I’m watching the rain come down outside my window. It’s grey and cloudy. Just like my month has been–grey and cloudy. Two more weeks, and my husband won’t have a job. (He does contract work though he does want permanent work.) I look at the rain and wonder what in the world God is trying to grow out of this. No money, nothing to give. All I have now is Jesus. Is that enough? God, will you accept just me? I have nothing to contribute to the church body. Do you love me for just me?

As I ask the question, it’s already answered. Jesus died on the cross for me. He didn’t wait for me to throw coins into the bowl beside the cross before He died for me. Giving myself to Him comes before everything else–even in the church. Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus comes before anything else. This gives me a measure of comfort on this rainy day. I am so thankful that I count as God’s daughter first.

And, because I am God’s daughter first, I can handle what this life throws at me whether we stay here, move somewhere else. or even live on the street. God is using this time to grow me like the rain nourishing the earth.

Rain and tears–God has a point for both though is may not seem like it. I’ve been told that some people can’t handle being around other people’s pain because it reminds them too much of their own. But, we will have pain in this world, like it says in Scripture, and God has provided methods for us to express it. Maybe that is why I’m going through this pain. So, I will understand when others express their pain.

Because my heart wants authenticity  in my relationships. I have hidden things for so long, even in church relationships, that it’s hard for me to take the shields down. I’ve hidden bad things because I thought they were anathema to expressing my joy in my Lord and Savior. But, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive anymore. Joy and authenticity can exist in the same breath. Not from telling a sad person they shouldn’t be sad because of the joy God gives us. But from sitting with a sad person in the middle of their pain and living in the moment with them.

I didn’t think I had anything to write today, but God has surprised me once again. May we all be authentic and joyful with the people in our lives!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Gift

There’s a lake near where we live. It’s one of my favorite places to go and write. I can look at the waters flow from my perch on the stone bench. It is peaceful in a way that not a lot is right now. The area is green and lush with trees and bushes. I see different kinds of birds on the water and marvel at God’s creation. Essentially, it’s a gift God has given me when life gets to be too much.

But, before yesterday, I hadn’t been out there for a few weeks. Between the high humidity and the rain we’ve been having, it just hasn’t been pleasant to be outside. It was different yesterday. When I was at church, I heard a whisper. ‘You need to go out to the lake this afternoon.’ So, once I got home, I went out there. The first thing I noticed was that the breeze was much cooler. The humidity was the lowest it’s been in a few weeks (and that says something since I live in the southern United States, and it’s summertime). The next thing I noticed was the flow of the water. It was peaceful.

God brought me out there for a reason, and it got me to thinking. How often do we reject His gift to us–the gift of Jesus? How often do we reject His gift of grace? How often do we not extend His gift of grace to others? Sometimes, I have a hard time with grace, and I’m the one whose blog is named Thriving in Grace. 🙂 I’m glad that God lets us ask the hard questions though. If He didn’t, I’m not sure where my faith would be as I’ve had to ask a lot of tough questions.

The gift is always there though. Just like the gift of my place by the lake. I can not go to the lake for a few weeks just like I can try to do things by myself and not ask for God’s help. That doesn’t mean the gift disappears. It just means our focus is not where it’s supposed to be. I want to acknowledge and live out God’s gift in my life. I don’t want to be the person who puts down the gift and leaves it alone.

So, I guess what I need is the ability to focus on the gift and not focus on the minutiae of my life. It is too bad that Satan uses that very thing to distract us. But, God’s gift is too important to lay aside so my prayer, even though I will never be perfect at it, is for all of us to take possession of His gift and leave our burdens at His feet.

God’s blessings on all of you today.

The Sparrow

When I’m thinking of blog topics, God sometimes brings life experiences or just a word to mind. Today, it’s a word. Sparrow.

The sparrow is a small bird; most varieties being less than an ounce in mass. It is mentioned in Scripture though as an example of God’s provision though. An example, I think, God wanted me to see.

Jesus is speaking in Matthew 10:29-31. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I like this reference from Psalm 84:3. “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”

Out of all the varieties of birds that God made, He mentions the sparrow and that the sparrow is near His altar. The sparrow is not a large bird; yet God mentions it specifically. It is a reassuring thought like no other. He also says we (human beings) are worth more than many sparrows. That thought is even more reassuring because sometimes I don’t feel like I’m worth a whole lot to God. When bad things keep happening and happening to me with no let-up and no reprieve, I don’t feel worthy. God could smooth over those rough paths for me, but sometimes He chooses not to. It is hard for me when He chooses not to because I see many people in the world and in the church whose paths look like they’ve been smoothed over. I will admit that I get jealous of those people. I want my path to be smooth while I’m here like the others I see.

But, that’s not the point with this faith I have. We’re not called to be comfortable while we’re here in this world. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, a method of death in Roman times known for its brutality. Millions of people have died or suffered in some way since Jesus’ death and resurrection just for having faith. So, not comfortable at all.

The words in the previous paragraph might make people think that all Christians are supposed to be homeless and hungry. And yes, I know there are many people in this world who are homeless and hungry, Christians included. I go back to the sparrow though, the small bird who is completely provided for by God and who God says we are worth more than. It helps me to remember that God will provide for us and that we won’t be homeless or hungry. It might look different from what I have now. It will be His provision though, and it will be enough. May all of us have a sparrow moment today!

God’s blessings on all of you!

“No More Faking Fine”

I found out about this book in an interesting way. It was featured in a morning devotional I read a few weeks ago. I read the excerpt from the book, read the devotional, and was completely blown away. It was like I had written those words. No, I didn’t have the same experiences that the author, Esther Fleece, had. But, the experiences of my life, what has brought me to the place I am at now, have broken me to where I knew this book would be a good resource. I purchased the book a day or two later.

Like I said in last week’s blog post, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/gods-tears/, I have been an expert at faking fine while talking to someone in person. I’ve written a lot in this blog about the things going on in my life, but have had a hard time talking about them. Writing has been a healthy outlet for me as I’ve processed events in my life and how they relate to my faith. As I’ve said before, the last few years have been a struggle in believing that God was with me in my pain. It seemed that the bad things wouldn’t stop happening.

The devotion and the book have brought the word “lament” into my vocabulary in a real and personal way now. Yes, I had heard the word before, but it was more of a biblical word than a word that I used in my own life. Reading this book has changed that for good. Ms. Fleece’s words about her life, feelings, and faith personalized “lament” in a way I could understand. She was honest about everything she had gone through. Honest to a point that I would tear up at certain portions and wonder why the events of my life were bothering me so much. The old adage of “someone always has it worse than you” entered my mind. I’ve done that a lot myself. Stuffed things inside my head when someone talked about having cancer or being brutally beaten by their parents. Why was I complaining about my pain so much when others had it so much worse?

That one is a lie from the enemy though. Complaining is not the same as lamenting. We have to deal with the things from our past before God can use us to our fullest potential. God wants us to know He is always with us “in the sad and in the glad”. The author does a good job of explaining this in the book. She talks about her experiences of being brought to a point of lament, discusses the Scriptures that demonstrate how to lament, and writes prayers at the end of each chapter using these verses. Those prayers are what I appreciated the most. I read and prayed the prayer at the end of each chapter, and that is when I felt my new understanding flow over me the most. I know I will refer back to those prayers as I continue this practice of lament going forward. Because I will continue it. It has freed my heart and my spirit.

We, in the church, need to talk about the sad parts of our lives as well as the good parts. The church needs to be a safe place for this hurting world for that is the only way we will be able to tell them about Jesus. As I end this review, I want to quote the prayer that meant the most to me.

“Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s hard for me to see Your goodness when I’m in a prison and not in a palace. Sometimes Your help feels so far-off. Everything around me is overwhelming. Please give me the strength to cling to You, and give me eyes to see You, even in my darkest place. Give me a shield of faith (Ephesians 6). Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy (Psalm 130). Listen to my cry for help (Psalm 5:2), and be merciful to me, for I am faint (Psalm 6:2). Amen.”

God’s blessings to all of you today!