Thursday, February 25, 2010

At the End of the Day will it be My Best or God's Best

My natural fascination with human interest stories influenced how I watched the Olympic games.

One story in particular grabbed me in how it demonstrated a life lesson we all need to grapple with in our own lives.

I have no desire or intent to pass judgement on the two girls involved in my story, and while the story details are in the public knowledge domain, I will use only their first names.

Julia and Lindsey, have long been rival competitors in their chosen sport of downhill skiing, never moving toward friendship though they train together.

Finally on the day of one of their Olympic events, the two girls waited their turn on the mountain top; Julia slotted to ski immediately following Lindsey.

The weather conditions made the run treacherous and Lindsy became one of the victims of the steep course, crashing into the protective fencing, the medics racing to her side.

Julia was signaled to start her run, but then partly down the course she was flagged to stop because they had not yet untangled Lindsey from the mesh fence.

There was no way for Julia to get back up to the starting gate other than finishing her descent and then be returned to the starting gate by snow mobile.

Julia was understandably upset -- her concentration had been broken, she had now lost her assigned position to ski her run. The hill conditions would change before she got to ski, her postion moved down 13 spots.

Waiting at the bottom for the snow mobile, she verbally cursed her misfortune and the skier who had literally thrown a stumbling block in her quest for a medal.

She did not try to hide her emotional upset.... her resentful attitude evidenced in tears and ranting over the events that she had no control over.

That she had been given an advantage seemed to not enter her narrow focus. All the skiers had to ski the run without a practice run.... except for Julia. She had the advantage of a full practice run down allowing her to get a feel for the course and the effect of the weather upon it.

Back up at the top , finally able to ski her run, her run time was well below what had been expected of her. She did not ski worthy to win a spot on the podium, and she withdrew from the other race she was scheduled to ski in.

As I watched the story unfold, I thought of how I was watching a scenario that plays itself over and over again in our personal lives.

How often do our plans get upset - something outside of our control jars our emotions, and we are thrown off track or diverted from our path entirely.

I wonder.... how often does our attitude toward the unexpected in our life determine whether or not we will attain to God's best plans for us? Does our negative attitude cause us to miss the advantage God intended through the unexpected or even 'undesired' circumstances/events ?

How do we react when things happen that push our emotional default buttons ? How often do we like Julia rage and blame others - how often are we critical, defensive and self-focused?

How often do we waste our emotions on what we think we have lost..... instead of focusing on how God can/will use the twists in our path to our advantage?

As believers we say that we trust God to lead and guide us. We say we believe that all things work together for good. We say that we love and seek the good of others before our own.

But do we ? How do we react when God lays a 'test' in front of we pass? do we fail?

When we are inconvenienced, or side tracked or bumped by an uncomfortable road block,do we think of what it means for someone else? Do we calmly ask God for new directions? and then humbly accept what He lays before us?

I have learned that God trains us in the little details so that when the real test comes we are exercised to trust and obey and face with a humble heart an unexpected challenge.

Some wise person once said... "I am not in control of what happens to me, but I am in control of how I react."

How often is it that in the inconveniences or the frustrating circumstances or the hindered plans that we have the greatest opportunity to rise above the occasion and show that we are not victims of our circumstances but rather use them to glorify the God whose name we cheer and wear on our heart and sleeve!

My challenge - for me and for you -- to use the little inconveniences of each day to exercise our hearts and minds to look for God in the unexpected... eager for His purposes.... instead of allowing our self-default to dictate our reactions.
Let us all 'go for gold' !!

May we join in Paul's prayer, that we seek not our own righteousness, judging the circumstances of our life by our own standards but rather seek God's righteousness (right judging) in every annoying moment or distressing turn in our life path.

Phil. 3:7-10
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ,
but indeed I also count all things loss
for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them as rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,
not having my own righteousness ,
which is from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ
the righteousness which is from God by faith'
that I many know Him
and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Look at Five Cities

“You can’t see the forest for the trees”, is an old saying particularly true for anyone looking out at the world from his own point of time.
In his book "5 Cities that Ruled the World", Douglas Wilson takes a step back and gives his reader an objective view of the tapestry woven by five cities and how they affected the course of history; the five cities being Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, New York.
When looking back down the corridors of time there is only one viewing station that will give you an undistorted view, and that is from God's perspective ---- it is after all 'HIS-story'. All history has God's hand of direction and intervention in it...and we need to look for His fingerprints.
We see that without the spiritual component the story of Jerusalem makes no sense. It is a little piece of dessert that, thousands of years after God showed Abraham the promised land, still commands the attention of the world around it.
One intriguing detail the author suggested about the city of Jerusalem was that when Nehemiah requested permission to rebuild the walls of the city it was Ahazarus and his queen Esther that is referred to in Nehemiah 2:6.
I found it interesting how the author singled out each city for the one characteristic that most defined its influence upon the world. Jerusalem, spiritual – Athens, intellectual – Rome, law and justice and freedom and its costs – London, literature - New York, commerce , wealth and international trade.
The one criticism or disappointment that I had in the book was that I expected the author to bring in more of God’s perspective . He started off doing a great job with the city of Jerusalem, but then by the time he got to the last city, New York, he seemed to have forgotten the God-focus altogether.
If you have an interest in history and how each civilization influences the ones coming after, you will find this book an interesting read.
review for Book Sneeze - Thomas Nelson publishers

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Whose Image?

A few days ago, we sat on the driveway of our friends, waiting for them to join us.
I looked out my passenger seat window and noticed the tree right beside me. I stared at it for awhile not quite believing what I was seeing, then pointed it out to my husband.
"Look, there is a perfect picture of a tree on the trunk of that tree!"
No one had tampered with it, no one etched it in, it was obviously there simply by how the tree formed in its bark a perfect image of itself.
I saw the object lesson of the tree.
Though each of us lives hidden away in our physical body, we project a perfect image of ourselves on the outside for people to see. We may try to 'pretend' , holding up a facade of what we wish we were, but we cannot hide for long who we really are.
By default each of us is born with a self-focus. We look out for number one. We want to be loved, noticed, stroked, fed, catered too. We think about getting before we think about giving. We are born with a self-preservation instinct that is God given, but we guard it in our own strength.
I had looked at the tree in my photo many times but never noticed the clearly visible self-portrait on its trunk. It obviously formed gradually over the life of the tree.
We are etching the lines of who we are over the years of our life, our thoughts , our deeds, our actions, reactions all taking hold of the brush that will paint what others see.
Many of us, at some point in our life look at our self-portrait and become wise to the fact that we are dissatisfied with what we see - 'self' isn't all that satisfying or fulfilling and we wish we could be something/someone else.
I recently read Edith's Schaeffer's book The Tapestry and something she said stayed with me. She spoke of how even in the most degenerate and miserable of human beings there remains buried within them a remnant of the original image of who they were meant to be.
Man was created in the image of God; that image was written into the code of our DNA and passed down to every human being.

Gen 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

We have a choice... is it the image of 'self' that we will present for others to see? Or will we nurture that image of God that lies dormant within us until we allow God to join His Spirit to our faith and cause that image to be brought to the light. The Light that will shine in us until we become like God's own Son.

Rom 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
It is a process, little by little we allow the character of Jesus to be formed in us until people looking at us will see - Christ's character instead of our fleshly 'self' !!!
First we put on the new man .... turning away from the demands of our own desires, and the thinking of the world around us.
Col 3:10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Then we throw away our 'self' mirror and look into the mirror of the Lord, into His face!
2Co 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I think about the obsession that our world has with outer beauty... the money spent on 'image' from make-up to cosmetic surgery... and in the end -- has much changed ?
How much better to let the change happen from the inside out - the beauty that neither time or eternity can mar or steal !
Sometimes I meet a stranger, who doesn't feel like a stranger at all.... I look at them and 'see' - the image of Christ - and I know they are a brother or sister in the Lord. My heart warms within me.
So the question presented to each one of us is this - whose image will we bear today? a 'self-image' or the image of the One who created us to be like Him, to reflect the beauty of His character.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Miracle !

I heard an unbelievable story today .. unbelievable but true!
Maybe you heard it too on the evening news.

After being buried four weeks, trapped in the collapsed rice store in which he worked, the 28 year old man was found this afternoon.
He was dehydrated and starving but otherwise OK. He was taken to a hospital where he is recouperating. Aparently , he lost 30 pounds.

He was able to share some details of his ordeal.
He had heard the bulldozers working and had been afraid he would not be found in time.

When asked if he had had any water, he replied that a man in a white coat had periodically brought him water.
An angel ?? Ohh .. I think so !

The news reporters were quick to attribute his story to hallucinations.... but how then do they explain his survival without water for four weeks?

I love stories like this.

Why are we surprised to hear that an angel ministered to someone ?
Doesn't God's word tell us that is what they do ?

Heb. 1:14 "Are they are not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those that shall be heirs of salvation."

What an unbelievably amazing thing it is that a miracle working Creator is so interested in us... that He dispatched countless angels to minister on our behalf - whether we see them or not.

The only time I am aware that I may have met an angel, was a time I wrote about here.

Heb 13:2 "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels."