One of my favorite stories in the Bible is I Kings, chapters 4 through 6 when the Israelites lose the Art of the Covenant to the Philistines. The Ark was the Israelites most treasured possession. It is what led them into the Promised Land. It is where their priests pray and their people worship. To the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant was their connection to God. Without it they felt God had abandoned them. Nevermind they had disobeyed God and taken the Ark into battle where it was captured; they now pleaded for its return.
While they were mourning in despair, God continued to work. Where ever the Ark was taken, disease and death followed. The Philistines eventually became afraid to have it in their land and sent it back to the Israelites.
I love the fact that the Israelites did nothing to recover their beloved Ark but God returned it because of His love for them.
When you feel you have lost everything, read I Kings, chapters 4 through 6 and see how God doesn’t need your help to bring about miracles.
Have you ever felt like giving up on your faith? How did you restore it?
When those light-colored strands showed up in my dark blond hair, I turned to the bottle. (Hair dye, not alcohol!) I checked regularly for that distinct line of natural color showing at the roots and quickly covered it with a more flattering shade. Once I started this routine, I became addicted. I worried that I would look “old” with gray hair.
Once, I tried letting it grow out. Instead of a few strands, the gray hairs had multiplied to half my hair. I earned every one of those gray hairs but felt insecure about them and returned to the bottle. (again, Hair dye!)
When I found out I was going to be a grandmother, I decided it was time to give up the faux color. I expected the blond to now be all gray. To my surprise, when the dye was gone I was sporting a head of snow white hair with silver highlights. Was I ready for this?
In my past, I was anxious about my hair, my weight, how I dressed; basically everything. I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I gave my fear of what people thought to my Lord and am now able to accept myself as God made me; even white hair. The freedom to be happy with my appearance has given me an unexpected joy.
Is there something that you worry about? How can you free yourself from it?
Psalm 84:4-5 “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”
There are two words in this scripture that I’d like to look deeper into. First, it says “Blessed are those who dwell in your house.” Dwell means to remain for a time or to live as a resident.* We don’t live in God’s house of worship, but how much time do we spend there? I don’t think this verse is saying we need to spend time sitting in a pew at church. I believe it refers to the time we spend fellowshipping with our Lord. Do we take time to be alone and talk with God? Does our mind drift to Him throughout the day? This is dwelling. Those who do this will be blessed. It is a choice we make.
The end of the verse says, “Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place or the course of life on earth.* With either definition, pilgrimage is a forward movement. Pilgrimage is action. We must choose to progress in faith and a relationship with God. It is impossible to be “ever praising” God and be stagnant in your spiritual life. Worshipping God builds faith; faith strengthens you for your journey.
Like an athlete working their muscles over and over again to be strong for competition; we are in training to strengthen our hearts and minds. We become stronger through daily bible study, prayer and worship to reinforce our beliefs. Our lives are a pilgrimage. What we do on that journey is our choice but God has told us how to receive His blessings.
Are you progressing on your spiritual journey? How do you keep moving?
For those of you who have Facebook, you may understand the addiction. I check my wall nearly every day to see who has something to say. One thing I read on a friend’s post from Lovely Quotes of Love was, “We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It is up to us to make it good or bad.”
At first, I thought, “How true.” Then I remembered those at the Soup Kitchen who struggle from one day to the next. They weren’t dealt the same hand we were. Or were they? We all have the freedom of choice. What we choose now will determine future options. It may be easy for us to brush others off by saying, “They made bad choices.” But we do not know their story or why they are in difficult circumstances.
Still, I believe the quote is true. We were given life. We do not have to settle for what we are dealt. We can improve our life by what we remember. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) We can make each day good or bad by what we fix our minds on.
I’d like to take one more step by adding a few words at the end, “It is up to us to make it good or bad for other people.” We can actually increase the joy in our lives by helping those who can use assistance. It can be by giving them food or clothing, or by giving them what every person needs; respect and encouragement.
Life is about decisions. What choices are you making today that will improve someone’s life?
I’ll continue my story from last week when I asked some homeless people to not spend the night on the Soup Kitchen benches and then felt guilty. A couple of days later I worked with some volunteers to clean the parking lot and power-wash the sidewalk and entrance of the Soup Kitchen. Then we talked to some of the people hanging out there about helping us keep it clean. They were willing and one even painted our weather-beaten bicycle rack.
By talking to them, I learned they would welcome something to do. They could pass on our message about the importance of sanitation, since we do prepare their meals. Are all of our problems solved? No. But letting them know how they can help us opened a door of communication. Maybe they will be more comfortable in telling us what their needs are.
Nothing is solved when communication is replaced with assumptions. The only way to know someone’s needs is to ask questions. I allowed fear of saying the wrong thing prevent me from voicing my concerns and understanding theirs. Fear is not from God. It is a product of trying to do God’s work our own way.
How do you deal with talking to someone you are uncomfortable with?