Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Look up

Take a moment today and look up.

Often times we get so caught up in our situation and circumstance that we see nothing else but that.  We get consumed by what is going on.  it is important that we take time to look up.  I don't mean that we need to actually tilt our head backward and stair at the ceiling.  I am talking about stopping and looking to God.  Be intentional about looking for God.  Do n't allow your situation or circumstances to distract you so much that you  don't take time for God.  Time with God is what we need.  It helps us to recognized that God is not removed form our situation.  God cares.  God is at work.  Take a moment and look up.  You will see.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loving God



Every day we have an opportunity to express and show our love to God in real and tangible ways.  We love God by loving His people.  In Matthews Gospel  Jesus said, "whatever we do to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me."  John says in one one of his letters that "we cant love God and hate our brother.  If we love God we will love our brothers and sisters who we do see."

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Self-Control puts God in Control

I have been thinking about what it takes for us to give up control to God.  I think, I have discovered the answer and it seems to be different than I expected.  I know that it requires God working in me to give up control but, interestingly I believe the fruit of the Spirit that leads to giving control to God is self-control.

There is a direct link between self-control and giving God control of our lives.  Letting go requires self control.  We have to get ourselves out of the way.  We have to get out of the drivers seat.  We need to get ourselves under control so that we can let God have us.

The Good news is that this is a fruit of the Spirit.  This is what Christ will produce in us when we surrender and let him work in us.  God will do this.  If we want to give God control of our loves we need to ask him to give us self control.

I know it sounds easier than it is and that is because self control is not something that we are good at it is not from us it comes from God.  One day, one opportunity at a time.

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In a Funk

I am in a funk today.  I did not sleep very well last night I was up thinking about people.  I was thinking about how we can so easily hurt one another.  I was up thinking about how much it hurts when are feelings are hurt by people whom we love and respect.  I was up praying for relationships that I know have been hurt and are hurting.  Today, I continue to pray.  I am praying my way out of the funk.  I am praying that God's love, grace, and forgiveness become all the more real in our relationships.

God created us as people with feelings and emotions.  Jesus shows us that feelings and emotion are not a bad thing.  Jesus wept, he got angry, he was hurt emotionally, because that comes with love.  Love hurt when the rich young man walked away.  Love hurt when those He came to save nailed him to the cross.  Love hurt when we hurt and and are hurt by others.

Love also heals.  Love reconciles. Love forgives.  Love keeps no records of wrongs. We are created for each other that is why when we do things that damage relationships they hurt so bad.  We are made for relationship with God and each other.  It is in these moments of hurt that we can most grow in our capacity to love.  It is the moments that offer our greatest opportunity to understand what grace is and to live by it.  It is in these moments of real, raw, emotional, relationship crossroads that we can understand more fully the cross of Christ and grow to be more like him.  Now, I don't wish relational hurts on anyone.  I pray that we can learn and grow like to be like Christ without causing emotional hurt and pain to one another.  I wish that we did not do things to hurt one another, but the truth is we do, we all fall short of the glory and a result of that is that not only do "bad" people do "bad" things but "good" people do "bad" things.  But, there is a bigger truth!  God can and will work to use these situations to help us to be more like him.  It begins by praying our way out of the funk.  Pray it all the way through until our hearts are like His.  Be reconciled.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, January 20, 2012

Heart of Wisdom

This past week I have continued to think about one scripture.  It is not a scripture I will be preaching on.  It is one I think God is giving me for my life.  (I know that is a scripture that God has given to each of us for our lives.  That is what all the scriptures are.  Sometimes we forget right?) I have been meditating on this one verse from Psalm 90 and it keeps making it way into the situations that I have been in this week.

Psalm 90 verse 12 says, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

What does it mean to number our days?

I think that having a heart of wisdom is to be truly wise.  A heart of wisdom is not just street smarts or book smart it is wisdom.  Wisdom of life.  Wise about what really matters and make for living.  I want to be that kind of wise.  I want to be wise not to win games or trivia contest but to experience and enjoy and gain life and love of and in God.

I believe that is what the psalmist is writing about here and they say if we want to gain a heart of wisdom than we need to be taught to number our days.

What does it mean to number our days?

The 90th Psalm is talking about how eternal God is and how short our lives are.  I was with a young man who was in a car accident and needed surgery this week as well as a with a friend who lost their childhood friend at age 57.  I lost a neighbor who was 58.  Life is short it is very precious.  When we start to understand  that we start to gain a heart of wisdom.  When we are taught to see that each day is a gift from God we begin to gain real wisdom.

When we start to understand that this life is brief and for just a little while we can begin to gain the wisdom that we should not take anything for granted.  A heart of wisdom says I will not take this day for granted because I only get so many.  I will not take my time with the people I love for granted.  I will not take God and my relationship with God for granted.  I have understood that number of my days and I am going to make the most of this day, because this day is a gift from God.

Wisdom says thank you to God and others.  Today.
Wisdom says I am sorry to God and others.  Today.
Wisdom says I love you to God and others.  Today
Wisdom serves God and others.  Today.
Wisdom stops and smells the flowers.  Today
Wisdom listens to the birds sing.  Today
Wisdom treasure what is really important.  Today.

A person with a heart of wisdom makes the most of each breath, each moment, each word, and each opportunity because they have been taught by God to number their days.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Freebie

It is one of the toughest concepts to grasp and actually live.  I am refering to grace.  Yes.  Grace.  This is central to our relationship with Christ.  Grace means that God does for us what we can't and offers us his favor even though we can never earn it or ever deserve it.   We can do nothing to reconcile our relationship with God.  Sin is a terninal illness that ends in death.  Christ dies our death so we don't have to pay the price for sin.   He gives us a freebie if we will recieve the gift of his salvation.

Here is where it gets tough for us.  We have knowledge of this and in our heads we agree and understand grace, but, we live like we have to work for it.  We tell ourselves that we are not good enough or we are too bad.  We work hard to try to live up to it when all the work has already been done.

When we do this we are actually saying we don't believe in grace.  We really don't live like God is a loving God.  Instead we live like we can control God.

The Good News is we don't have to work harder to earn God's love.  You and I have done nothing to lose God's love.  It is not about us it is about God.  God is love.  He loves us and pays the price to be in relationship with us for all eternity.   We have to take the freebie.  Believe.  This means we live what we believe by faith.  Stop trying to earn it.  Just live in relationship with God.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flow

I have been thinking a lot about Jesus being living water lately.  We are talking about Jesus as The Well for our lives at church so I am sure this is causing me to reflect about how I allow Jesus living water to flow in my life.  

Yesterday, got me thinking about how Jesus wants his living water to flow through our lives.  We are to live in the overflow.  I pulled into my driveway in middle of the afternoon.  The weather outside was beautiful.  It did not feel like January in Missouri at all.  The sun was shining and a breeze was gently blowing and then I noticed something that seemed out of place for the scene.  There was water crossing my driveway.  This was odd because there were no puddles anywhere else.  For the most part the ground was dry.   Yet, there was this patch  of  water that appeared to flow all the way across my gravel drive.  I got out of my truck and noticed that the water seemed to be coming from the old house that is at the front of our yard.  Last year we moved from the old parsonage to a new parsonage just behind the old house.   We have not yet removed the old house and I discovered that all though we had cut most of the utilities from the old house we had forgotten to cut the water off.  It seems that in our recent cold spell the pipes must have frozen and burst.

When I entered the house I could hear water just gushing forth from the pipes.  I noticed that the carpet was wet in one of the empty bedroom and ran down stairs.  All that I could hear was water rushing through the pipes and splashing against the walls.  When I got to the basement the floor was covered in several inches of water finally I made my way to the shut off and turned the handle until the sound of the rushing water finally stopped.  

Rushing, flowing, water, that is what Christ wants his living water to be in us.  Water that flows from us and makes an impact on the world around us.  Water the is noticeable.  Out of the ordinary.  Too often though we just act like that old basement.  We get filled with the water and then we shut the tap off.  We had a great experience with Christ that filled us but we stopped going to Him as our well.  Something stopped the flow.   

Do you have a flow of living water into and out of your life?   

If we don't have a continual inflow than we will become like that stale, musty, mildew growing basement.  We will eventually dry up and deteriorate.  Sometimes our "pipes" get "clogged" or they "freeze up" and the flow that was once there is stopped.  We need to continue to seek God as the source of our lives to sustain us and to provide for life.  

How is your flow?  Is it just trickling?  Is it a drip?  Or is the flow all that you can hear?  

The good news is that Jesus want his living water to burst through and flow like a river in our lives.  He wants to continually fill us with the water that will never leave us thirsty.  This old house reminds me that it is important that I keep an eye on how the water is flowing. 

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, January 13, 2012

TGIF

In the Great Thanksgiving (this is the prayer that is prayed during a communion service) of the United Methodist tradition we say "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.  It is right to give our thanks and praise."  It goes on to say "It is right, that we should always and everywhere give thanks to you almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who rose victorious from the dead and comforts us with the blessed hope of everlasting life."

Why am  I thinking about all this?  Why do I write it in this blog?

Not so that everyone knows what the words of the Great Thanksgiving are or that people know that I know them.  As I began my day today these words where brought to mind.  "It is right always and everywhere to give God praise."  We are called to live lives of thanksgiving.  To be thankful in all circumstances.  Followers of Christ should be marked by their love and an outflow of love is gratitude.

I know that in life we good through things that we are not thankful for but we can still be thankful.  WE can be thankful that God is with us.  We can be thankful that he created us and loves us so much that he overcame sin and death for us.  We can be thankful for his comfort.  Thankful for the hope that we have in him and thankful for everlasting life.  All of these things are true no matter what is happening and no matter what we go through. These things are just barely scratching the service of all that we have to be thankful for.  It is right always and everywhere, all the time no matter what, to give thanks.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Set the Prisoner Free

Jesus, using the words of the prophet Isaiah, while in the synagogue in his home town said that he had come to set the prisoner free.

Now, I am sure that the first thing that comes to mind when we here these words is someone who is an actual prison as we know it.  Someone behind bars and serving time.  But there are other things that imprison us in life.  Some are imprisoned by thoughts, regrets, what if, words that people say, unhealthy habits, unhealthy situations and fears.  The list could go on and on but what ever they are, they keep us locked up and keep us from experiencing the freedom of life that God desires for us.

This morning I was sitting in court with a friend who is facing some time in actual prison and I was reminded of Christ words to all of us who are imprisoned in this world.  Whether, are prisons are actual cells in a state facility or cells that have been created by us, Christ comes to set the prisoner free.  Free from the things that imprison us and rob us of life.  Free from the "cells" that  trap us and keep us from the joy that God has for us.  Freedom from the internal prisons that are holding you and me captive.

We need to be honest about what we need freed from and then we need to hear the words of Jesus and receive the gift of His love and grace that frees the prisoner.   We don't have to be imprisoned any more.

"Amazing grace, my chains are gone!"

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More on Read and React

In yesterdays post I talked about how are natural reaction to whatever happens in life ought to be turning to God.  I was drawing on an understanding of a basketball offense called read and react.  The premise of the offense is to drill certain actions over and over so that they become a natural reaction when playing the game.

This also applies to my life and making turning to God my natural reaction.  I must continually practice turning to God.  I need to have a deep and rich prayer life.  I have to drill prayer until it is natural for me to talk to God.  It is just what I do.  I need to spend regular time in God word and apply it to my life so that it just becomes my natural response to life to view life, and myself, through the lens of God's word.  I need to practice a  life of worship so that worship is natural for me and worship is what I do in spirit and truth as I offer my life to God as an act of worship.

No matter what life brings or how we read the situation, our reaction will always be understood and predictable.  If we are continually working on building our relationship with God than our natural reaction will become turning to God no matter what life brings.  But we have to practice spiritual disciplines until they become natural to us and our relationship with God is the action of our lives and not just reaction to life.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Read and React

I am coaching an 8th grade basketball team at the YMCA this year.  I was asked if I would help and even though I don't know a great deal about basketball, I said yes.  I enjoy helping the kids.  This has led me to try to learn more about basketball.  I talked with people that I know who know about basketball and I looked for resources that I could use.

I have now become interested in a style of offense called read and react.  The idea is that you are always reading what is happening and then reacting to it.  The premise is that you stop thinking and about what to do and your body just naturally reacts to a given situation.  If this happens then automatically without thinking you react in a certain way.  When all five players understand these reactions than all five players react together and work together harmoniously because they naturally react in the same ways.  I don't know if I explained it as well as it should be explained but it did get me to thinking about how we react to the things of life.

Turning to God ought to be our natural reaction.  He is our strength.  He is our hope.  He is our security.  He is our Savior.  If Jesus is the Lord of our lives and our shepherd than our natural reactions to anything that happens ought to be turning to God.  When live causes questions-- we should seek the answers from God.  When times are hard we should turn to God.  When times are good we should turn to God.  Prayer should not be the last thing we do, it should be the first thing as a natural reaction.  When we read what is going on around us we need to react by giving it to God.  This is the best offense for our lives.  Give our lives to God as a natural reaction.  This is how we make him our shepherd and allow him to lead us in our lives. We make offering it to him our natural reaction to what happens in life.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Self Care

How is your soul?
How are you doing at taking care of you and doing the things that help nourish your soul?

Take time to connect with God today.
Take time to see what he is doing around you and let him do something in you.
Take time to just be in his presence and allow him to recreate you.
Pray.
Be still.
Ask him to fill you up.
Lose yourself in a praise song.  Feel and mean every word.
Look for what God is doing and join Him in it.
Read your Bible as if God is speaking each word to you --because He is.
Take time today for your soul.  You need it.   We need it.

Love today.

In Christ love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Honest Prayer

Honest prayer is what God wants.  He doesn't want fancy words or cliche' speech.  God wants and deserves the honest cries of our hearts.  He wants us to cry out from the depth of our being as we are and without falsehood.  If we are mad, confused and don't understand the things we are going through than it does us no good and it is an empty prayer to pray and act like we are happy and understand.  A sincere prayer comes from the raw, real, us understanding that God knows our hearts and our hurts and we don't need to hide them to come to him in prayer.

Having said this, I don't want to get caught up in seeing prayer as only something I do when I need a "favor" from God.  If  I am honest about my prayer life, too often, my prayers are "God I need something prayers."  There is nothing wrong with prayers of petition or intercession.  However, I think it merely scratches the surface of prayer.  I have discovered that I connect most deeply to God in my prayer life when I change the way that I perceive what prayer is and "use" prayer.

I have heard it said, and have said, that "prayer is conversation with God and we should talk to God like would any of our friends."  However, this can confuse us into seeing prayer as making a phone call to God.  But God is not like our other friends and he is not on the other end of a phone when we call him and only knows what we tell him or wish to share.  He is with us always.  He knows our thoughts.  He knows our situations, our need, and our circumstances.  He is going through everything with us.  24/7 God is there.  If we want to stay with this phone analogy than God is not a "phone call away" when we decide to bow our head and close our eyes to connect.  Life is a conference call that we are on with God that never hangs up. God is always there prayer can and should always be happening.  This very moment is a moment that you can recognize that you are sharing with God or you can ignore him.  This moment is a moment that you spend in God's presence and acknowledge it from the depth of your being or you pretend and act like  he is not with you.  Honest prayer recognizes and shares each moment, each emotion, each event and happening with God and places it in the context of our relationship with God whose mercies are new every morning and whose love is never failing.

We are not alone. Prayer taps us into the energy source for our lives, it is deeper than words it is a connection at the depth of our souls and an awareness that we can and should 24/7 place our lives into the hands that have made us and continue to shape us.

One final note, just so no one thinks I am against formal prayers.  Prayer is about recognizing and taking our lives to God.  Formal prayers are great at helping us do that because we stop and say now I am going to recognize my need for God in my life.  Prayer as I am suggesting still requires taking our lives in each moment to Him.  It is suggesting on ongoing conversation and a perpetual crying out to God.  The stuff that we have running through our mind we are running by God and listening for God recognizing that he hears our prayers and is working on our behalf   If we never recognize God's presence or offer ourselves from the depth of our being we are just pretending.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug