Disturbances

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

In the original Star Wars movie, Obi Wan tells Luke, “There’s been a disturbance in the force.” This is an understatement if there ever was one considering that an entire planet was just blown to bits. Sometimes it feels like our world has been blown to bits, and sometimes we overstate our disturbances. Sometimes disturbances are necessary, especially when we have been in a hard season.

I was recently watching Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love. One of the characters had given up hope and another character came along and said: “It’s been a long winter, but spring is coming.” He points to a flower that has popped up overnight, the first bloom of spring. We look forward to spring and the idea of new growth, but the first movements require a disturbance as the seeds burst forth from underground sprouting leaves and buds.

On Palm Sunday, Pastor Brady at New Life Church in Colorado Springs read a poem by Sir Francis Drake which I was unfamiliar with, but it sums up the idea quite well:

 Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Attributed — Sir Francis Drake — 1577

I have been inundated lately with the phrase “dream big.” What does it mean to dream big? We need to be shaken loose from the status quo and learn to think in God-sized terms. God wants to do so much more than we are able to accomplish on our own. He wants us to come alongside Him in His work, not for Him to come alongside us in our work. He has bigger plans than we ever though possible much less were able to complete.

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

It is very easy to get settled in our comfort zones, but we miss so much when our worlds are too small. God wants to do more than we can even imagine, but it will require a disturbance to shake us free. Just this morning, I was sitting at my desk and a spider hopped up on top of it. I had been meaning to spray the house to keep unwanted critters from invading. It only took one spider to get me up and looking for the bug spray because the spider’s presence disturbed me. Maybe it’s time for Christians to be disturbed, not by a spider or the evening news, but by the Spirit of God. We need to be disturbed to get up and be about the Father’s business.

Word of warning: don’t confuse disturbed with fearful. God wants to wake us up and get us moving not to make us afraid. He wants to stir our hearts with a vision and a dream, not make us huddle in panic. He wants to give us a heart for hurting people, not anger and resentment. You can have an adventure right where you live if you are willing to open yourself up to a God-sized dream.

What dream has God given you? What will it take to disturb you? An adventure awaits if you are willing to dream big.

Changes in Vision

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

(Attributed to a variety of sources including Albert Einstein)

On March 25, 2021, I went to get in my car and noticed my irises had bloomed overnight. It’s always the first flower to bloom in that flowerbed, and it always takes me by surprise. Life can be the same way as many families discovered that day as tornado warning sirens filled the air all over the state. I am grateful that I woke up to see the same iris the next morning, still blooming despite all the storms. But, sometimes it takes a disturbance to help us see more clearly.

Seasons of Change

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11

My irises always let me know that spring is upon us. Unfortunately, it also brings turbulent weather and allergies. Anytime change comes upon us there is bound to be turbulence, but it is the shake ups that force us out of our ruts and makes us take a look around. Often we find things that need to be done. For instance, I already have a mental list of chores that need to be done around the yard now that I no longer have the winter weather as an excuse to stay indoors. Spiritually, both individually and corporately as a church, we need to take a look around as we come out of a turbulent season. What needs to be done? What needs to be done differently?

Assess the Landscape

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13:30

First of all, we need to assess the landscape to see where we are. For example, I have two stumps and laundry pole that are getting in my way of maintaining my yard. I have been throwing around ideas on how to work around or remove the obstacles, but I seem stuck with them for the moment. Sometimes God leaves the obstacles in our way because to remove them would hurt more than it helped. So, I have to figure out how to work around them by mitigating their influence as much as possible. Usually that means maintaining the area around it so that weeds don’t overrun and keep me from doing what needs to be done. We live in this world, but we are not of this world, so we have to learn to work around obstacles.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:2

At other times I have to prune with a passion. I have some dead plants and limbs that need cutting out before they become serious problems later. There are also weeds that need cutting down and maintained all season. Spiritually speaking, God often prunes with a passion. We need to be willing to accept His pruning and weeding so that we can be used in His vision for our church and our communities. It may require a new approach, doing things in a new way.

Find a Landmark

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 28:18

When we lose our way, our first step should be to take a look around us and take stock of where we are. Once we assess the landscape, then we should look for a landmark to help guide us. For Christians, we need our moral compass set to true north: Jesus Christ. When we set our eyes on Christ, we gain a kingdom perspective. Instead of looking through rose-colored glasses, we are looking through Christ-centered glasses. A kingdom perspective will change everything.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.

(Attributed to Jessie Potter)

Adjust Your Course

When you know where you are and have identified where you want to go, you are ready to plot a course. Usually, this means adjusting your course. It means being willing to change. In the book Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight by Britt Mooney, the author talks about how this group of Christians said yes to God at every opportunity and how God blessed their ministry abundantly above what they imagined. But, they didn’t stop at saying yes to the vision; they took action and stepped out in faith. We have to be willing to let go of our limited perspective and get a God-sized vision. It won’t be easy, but the end results will be worth it.

What vision has God given you? What is the next step He wants you to take?

Gifts

“I have nothing to give but my heart so full and these empty hands.”

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Ever noticed a little thrill when you get a package in the mail or by a delivery service? Do you feel a sudden urge to grab a box cutter, scissors, or in a pinch just use your fingernails? The last one is a thought that horrifies the owner of my local nail salon, but sometimes you just can’t wait to open it, especially when you don’t know what it is. You tear back the tape and rip back the cardboard flaps and ooh and ah even if it is something mundane like a new duster. But, how often do we lay aside the contents, sometimes leaving it in the box it arrived in, and forget about it until we find it again a month later?

There is the thrill of the new and the excitement of the unknown in opening the package, but what good is our new arrival if it sits buried in a corner unused. This year I made it a goal to try and begin using a gift or package as soon as I get it. I don’t always achieve it but I am trying to do better. As a matter of fact, just this morning I found a purpose for a new journal I received at Christmas. I had set it aside looking for the right time and project and I found one on journaling about the cross in preparation for Easter. Since I just re-found another gift, Andrew Murray’s The Way of the Cross, I thought it was a sign.

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Ephesians 4:7

We are all given gifts from God when we accept Christ as Lord, spiritual gifts. It sounds great. You know it’s there, but you don’t take it out of the box and use it. So, what good is it? Spiritual gifts were meant to be used. They have a purpose.

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

Ephesians 4:12

We are supposed to be using our gifts to help others. As Christians we are part of the body of Christ here on earth. Our gifts are how we function in the body. If we don’t do our part, the body may keep moving, but it is hindered from reaching its full potential.

So, break out the box and see what’s in there. There are studies and tests to help you figure out what your gifts are, but I dare say that you probably already have an idea. The key is putting the gifts to work. Look around your church and your community and I am sure you will find a need that you can meet.

Start with prayer. God is more than willing to give us an assignment if we will only ask. But you still have to take action even if it is only to raise your hand. You will be surprised what the Lord can do with a willing heart. Come to God with a full heart and empty hands and He will use them in ways we can’t even imagine now. God has already done His part. Now it’s your turn.

So, what’s in the box?

A Time Such as This

A Time Such as This

It was Friday after Goldie, my Maine Coon of 13 years, had to be put down because of a brain tumor. My other cat, Meep, seemed to feel as out of sorts as I did. Our constant companion was gone. What were we supposed to do now? I decided that both of us needed a distraction, so I began looking for a kitten to keep Meep company and as a playmate for her abundance of energy. I was looking at shelters online and was about to schedule an appointment to meet a calico kitten when my sister texted me a photo. It was a calico kitten she had Sassyjust found abandoned in a parking lot, begging for help. She didn’t want another cat, and she knew I was looking for one. I made arrangements to get the kitten the next day. After a little hissing, the two became like sisters, which means when they weren’t being loving they were fighting, but they always made up. Sassy, as I named her, was just what we both needed. What I found most interesting was that my sister’s husband had found Goldie in that same parking lot almost exactly 13 years earlier. It was meant to be.

In the book of Esther, we find a young girl chosen against her will to become part of an elaborate beauty pageant, where the winner becomes queen. When Esther is chosen above all the women to be the King’s favorite, she has no real recourse but to accept. When a plot to wipe out the Jewish people is brought to light, Mordecai tells Esther that she has been made queen in order to save her people from destruction. God orchestrated events so that she would be in a position to make a difference at just the right time. This is a larger than life example of God at work in the universe, but I think God also works in the small things as well.

An article I came across tells the story of a dental group in Montana that accidentally ordered an entire container of masks not realizing just how many masks that would turn out to be. So, they were sitting on an excess of 700,000 masks when the pandemic broke out. They were able to share with local hospitals that were dangerously close to running out. A “mistake” led to a much needed supply at the perfect time.

Some crafty friends of mine were looking for ways to help while they shelter at home and started making masks from fabric to help. Many of them have stashes of material from doing quilting and sewing for years. God brought it to my remembrance that I had a small stash of cotton fabrics leftover from decorations at a birthday party. I had kept them with the idea of making doll quilts but never gotten around to it. I pulled the stash and donated it to the group along with another cutting of muslin and some elastic that I hadn’t used. My stash was there for such a time as this.

We may not be chosen as queen so that we can save an entire ethnic group from being wiped out, but we might just have something, like a stash or a skill, that can be used to help others. Take a look around and see what God has given you for such a time as this.

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

I was watching a television movie the other night and the main character talked about how life can change in a matter of minutes. We often think of it as something terrible happening, but it can also be a turn of circumstances for the better.

Some mornings start out on a negative note and we often dismiss the day as shot, something we must endure until it is over. Then, even a small event can turn it around. The sun can peek out after a torrential downpour followed by a rainbow. We suddenly feel lighter, even more so when we get a glimpse of sun after nearly a week of rain and storms from recent days.

I had high hopes of today being a good day, a productive day. Then a series of unfortunate events sent me into a downward spiral, fearing another day swallowed up in a cloud. I took a moment and tried to get a new perspective. The character from the movie was inspired by the concept of life changing in a moment to take a chance for something great. This is the key to joy. Looking for the opportunity to see God work in the moment and to take a chance on Him. But, with God, it is never really a chance because He was in complete control of the situation all along.

 

 

Mindfulness

In yoga there is a discipline called mindfulness. It is being conscious of what you are doing, focusing. In yoga it is often a focus on your breathing and the movement of your body. It brings a sense of calm when you are able to let distractions go and take a moment to just be. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest emphasizes the need for a private life with God instead of an emphasis on practical work and busyness. Worship should be a time of focus on God through prayer, Bible study, and praise.

Prayer should be a time when we focus on being in the presence of God, letting go of distractions, but it is easier said than done. Distractions are by nature hard to ignore, and the enemy has a world full of options to choose from to distract us. Schedules, family obligations, work, politics, natural disasters, and illnesses are just a few of the options. It was not a time to come to God with a wish list or set of demands. That doesn’t mean we can’t bring our problems and fears to the Father; it just means that shouldn’t be our only reason for prayer. It is a time to simply be in His presence and listen to what He has to say to us.

Time spent studying the Bible is another way we can worship God and build our relationship with Him because it is His directions to us on how to live. In Nehemiah, after the walls were completed, the people came together and listened to the Word of God read aloud for hours. Today most people can’t listen or even read the Bible for more than a few minutes of time without being distracted by something. Society tells us that we should multi-task if we want to be successful in life, but while that may be true in the work place, it is not true in our relationship with God. We need to focus on God’s Word and what it has to say to us so that we can apply it to our daily walk.

The Psalms of David are great models for worship. He usually started with a focus on who God was and what He had done. David would often recount all the mighty works God had done in his life and for the nation of Israel. Recalling victories reminds us that God is always faithful. When we focus on God as Lord, it changes our perspectives. Instead of problems, we see opportunities. Instead of fear, we are filled with courage. Instead of despair, we feel hope. Worship sets our focus on the important things in life, namely our relationship with Our Heavenly Father. Once that is in proper perspective, everything else will fall into place.

None of these things happen by accident. It requires mindfulness on our part. We must choose to pray, study the Bible and worship God. We must focus our minds on what is truly important. Mindfulness requires practice. If we practice every day, when the moments of trials and temptations come, we will be ready to stand firm in our relationship with God and waiting to see how God will work rather than living a life of fear and hopelessness. It is better to take time to be mindful than it is to be busy because it gives us the proper perspective and attitude for handling hard times in a manner befitting children of the King.

 

Obstacles vs. Opportunities

As I wrote in an earlier blog, perspective is everything, especially when it comes to attitudes. I have often found that if I change my perspective, I can change my attitude. For instance, a slow car in front of me may make me irritated and in a bad mood, but if I think about it being God’s providence, then I can lighten my mood and maybe even work up some gratefulness for unknown mercies, such as avoiding a potential wreck. When things happen that don’t go according to our plan, we see them as obstacles in the negative sense. For instance, a little while ago I started writing a blog post, but didn’t save the working copy. Usually auto save in Word will at least save a copy that can be restored, but I walked away for 10 minutes and my computer froze without Word even attempting to save what I had written. I had a choice:  I could curse the computer and get upset, or I could start over and see it as an opportunity for something better. I opted for the last choice, which culminated in an example for another blog idea I had jotted down in my bullet journal.

We often get a plan in our heads without consulting God as to what He wants. Those plans rarely come to fruition, but when they do, it is usually not to our benefit in the end. God’s ultimate purpose is to have a relationship with us. He wants us to depend upon Him and not the things of the world. He sometimes has to put up obstacles to keep us from going the wrong way, like a parent putting up a baby gate. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that we can strengthen our faith through working our “faith” muscles in overcoming the obstacle. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that the only way out is reliance on God. We can do all things through Christ, not through our own efforts. We must start with dependence on God, which is easier said than done.

This week I have been in a constant waiting mode. I haven’t been able to make plans in advance because circumstances kept changing on a day to day basis. I have had to let God have the reins and work on what I could that day. I tried to use it as an opportunity to do what God had given me to do that day instead of worrying about what needed to be done tomorrow or next week. That is how we should live…one day at a time. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “(Matthew 6:34).

I am trying to start out each day focusing on what God wants me to do today and leave everything else in His hands. I’m not saying I succeed at it, but I am trying, and that is all we can do. So, stop worrying about tomorrow and just deal with today by putting it in God’s hands and see what He will do with it.