Archives for posts with tag: Spirit

It’s been a long winter.  Okay, I know I say that every year, but this winter has been a record breaker.  True, it hasn’t been the snowiest, but our number of sub-zero days has been impressive.  The Midwest isn’t alone, either:  winter has hit hard in nearly every corner of our country, and in most of the places in between.  Everyone is weary of winter.  Where is spring?

Despite the continuing Arctic cold, there is hope.  Robins are returning, and the days are noticeably longer.  Such small signs whisper a promise that winter will eventually move along to the southern hemisphere, and warmer weather will rush in to take its turn.  The ice and snow will melt, green shoots will emerge from the thawing ground, flowers will bloom, and gardeners who have been fighting the urge to get out and dig in the dirt will finally be able to plant their seeds and seedlings.  I can already see tulips and daffodils in my mind’s eye!

robins

When we look around, we find that the state of our world can seem like an unrelenting winter.  Evil is rampant, and people are suffering.  War, rebellion, disease, and violence are so pervasive that we run the risk of becoming numb to them.  But movies, games, and television shows are also full of such things, and although many people look to entertainment to escape the unpleasant realities of the world, they might find themselves becoming saturated in them instead.  Where is God?

Despite the chaos and evil in the world, there is hope.  At the local food pantry, volunteers are serving those in need, helping them to feed themselves and their families.  Donors are financially supporting organizations that help people pay their heating bills so they aren’t stuck in a frigid house.  During the snow storm in Atlanta, fast food servers were taking food and other supplies to motorists trapped in their cars, and businesses opened their doors overnight to allow people who couldn’t get home to sleep in a warm safe place.  International aid organizations can help the desperate around the world because enough people give their money to make it happen.  Everywhere you see the evidence of God at work.

Why would I say that the good deeds of people reveal the hand of God?  Some say that the abundance of evil and suffering in the world proves that there is no God or that if there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about us.  They dismiss altruism, saying that people do good only because it gets them something in return, even if that something is only a warm fuzzy feeling.  But let’s look at human nature for a moment.  We are essentially self-centered.  Our biological imperative is anything that ensures our survival.  As individuals, we should be competing for resources for ourselves and our families; we should be guarding our territories and making sure that our genetic line continues.  Sharing with others outside our families makes sense only as long as it preserves the security of the community we live in and allows us to survive and prosper.  Giving to strangers, especially strangers on the other side of the world, goes completely against human nature.

Let me say that again:  caring for others outside our own families goes against human nature.  So why do we do it?  Because we are so much more than just our own humanity.  Genesis tells us that when God created man, he breathed life into him.  Although our bodies are flesh, the spirit of life in us is divine.  That is what moves us to care for others.  That is what brings us to tears when we see need and suffering.  That is what spurs us to action when we see injustice.  The Spirit of God in us can elevate us above our humanity if we let him.

After a long, cold winter, or a long period of pain or bitterness, our hearts might need some thawing before we’re able to notice and respond to the need all around us.  The good news is that Jesus is a heart specialist.  He is able to thaw a frozen heart or even break and restore a heart of stone.

A winter like this can make us lose hope for spring.  A world like ours can make us abandon hope for God.  But look around:  spring is not far away, and God is already here.

“Hallelujah, we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” –Tenth Avenue North

It’s time to admit that I struggle.  I have admitted it before, but I think most days I just get up, say my prayers, try to admit my worries and surrender them, read the allotted chapter out of my Bible, and call it good.  And I’ve done that long enough now that I’m due for a really good cry and a lot of journaling.  Admittedly, today is the last day of Christmas break and we took our tree down, which lends itself to a little post-holiday depression anyway.  But as I’m ironing the candle wax out of the runner I got advent wax on this year (along with the one that’s been sitting in my laundry room since advent wax got on it LAST year) I feel horribly inadequate and generally unhappy with myself.  I should have gotten that candle wax out last year.  Chad asks me if I’ve seen where a stack of DVDs are, and I have no idea.  Our storage space and extra bedroom are a complete mess.  My house is undecorated.  The list of domestic putterings and unfinished projects in my head races to the forefront.  Aren’t I supposed to be on top of this sort of thing?  And wasn’t I going to get more done today?  And oh yes, I need to get on top of planning for youth group, too.  It starts back up again Sunday.  As a ministry leader that should make me excited, right?  But why do I feel somewhat of a drudge and dread at that, down at the bottom of my heart?  Gosh, Katherine, you’re not supposed to feel that way.  Get a grip.

But Kat, you’re pregnant.  Remember just a month or two ago?  You couldn’t even make dinner after getting home from work you were so exhausted, much less iron off the candle wax.  You were letting go, remember?  Not worrying about the dust or the cobwebs or the mold in the toilet or the mess in the basement.  So now that you have energy, you’re just going to tear yourself to shreds with criticism?  That’s not fair.  You’re pregnant.

Or busy. Or working 40 hours a week.  Or whatever.  There will always be SOMETHING I can look to as an excuse.  But even doing that… an excuse says there’s still something lacking.  That the standard is still HERE, at a certain spot, and you’re missing it, but it’s okay because you have a valid excuse.  And the problem with THAT, is that I’m still trying to live up to some arbitrary standard I’ve set for myself, and fooling myself with an excuse.  Fooling myself thinking I’m okay, when I’m still measuring my worth and my value by a man-made standard.  Using a man-made measuring stick.  But the measuring stick is the wrong one, and I can’t let it go.  I keep picking it up.  And putting it down.  And picking it up again.  THIS is my struggle.  The measuring stick I use on myself.  Using my own, instead of using my Maker’s.

And yes, the Lord wants me to be a good steward of my resources.  Of my time.  To take care of the gifts he has given me, which include my home and the table runner my mother quilted me.  And yes, he has called me to be a youth leader.  And perhaps I have attitudes and issues he needs to deal with me in that regard.  But those are separate from the measuring stick he uses to determine my value.  My value has already been set.  It was determined way, way back, a long time ago.  Before I was born.  Before I was an ultrasound picture, or a heartbeat my parents were ecstatic to hear.  Before I was the precious miracle they held in their arms.  Before I was a beautiful little girl.  Before I grew up into a sexy wife of some sort.  Before the world attributed any value or worth to me at all….  I was loved.  I was a precious daughter.  A princess of the King.  And that’s a title I did NOTHING to deserve or own.  And so that means there’s nothing I can do to keep it, and nothing I can do to lose it either.  Whether that stupid candle wax comes off the table runner or not… that doesn’t change who I am, who my Father created me to be.  He made me with the intention I’d be perfect and we’d love each other.  By the nature of sin, I screwed that one up.  So he died instead of me and forgave me… which set me free from my chains.  So that I’m free to struggle, not struggling to be free.

Lord, help me to once again set down that silly measuring stick of mine and the world’s making.  Satan’s a poophead and keeps telling me I need to use it.  Well he’s wrong, isn’t he?  Remind me once again who I belong to.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”   Psalm 103:1-5

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  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.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:1-10

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1 …  “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” 8:6  “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  8:14-15

by Katherine Hatting

With this cold weather blowing in, I must admit I’m thinking of sun-drenched places…a beach, or a visit to Arizona!  Or how about being drenched in the glow of flames from a fireplace?

Then there are thoughts of how rain-drenched I was a couple times this past year.

Being “drenched” is quite a word picture, don’t you think?  I immediately picture kids caught in a rainstorm running up to the door clamoring to get inside and out of soaked clothing, sloshing water on the kitchen floor with every step. Almost makes me shiver! Of course, being drenched in sunshine gives me feelings of warm sand on my toes. Warmth and the comfort that comes from that make me smile.

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photo by Kallie Yearick

So, the word drenched is simply descriptive of a state of being. Our circumstances determine how we feel about the word at a given time.

I’m thinking now of how it might feel to be “drenched in the Spirit of God.”

Have you ever felt that?  Do you know anyone you’d say exhibits that as their lifestyle?

In my 45+ years of understanding what it means to be a Christian, I’ve met only a few–maybe 5–people who have lived that kind of life “out loud.”  Know what I mean?

There are lots and lots of people I’ve known who are Christians and serve the Lord with gladness and joy and thanksgiving. But there’s something spectacular that shows up in the life of a person simply drenched in God’s love.

I’ve long thought that the reason we see so few miracles today is because there are not many who are willing to give. Up. Every. Thing.

The Apostle Peter was married (Jesus healed his mother-in-law). Yet, Peter gave up “that” life and followed Christ and proclaimed Him until he was killed for his faith. There are few willing to do that today. The Apostle Paul said it was better to be single and be able to preach and travel than be tied to a wife. I’m not saying marriage and family are not important…no way…children carry on the heritage of faith to the next generation!

What I mean is that it takes someone very, very special to be drenched–soaked to the skin–with the love of God. So thoroughly soaked that God just pours out all over when they are around.

I pray that God will reveal some of those people to you.  They are special.  I feel so blessed having known a handful.  And I have seen Jesus through them.  We need “Jesus with skin on” every now and then because we really are weak in faith so many times.  Can I get an “Amen” on that?   At least, I readily admit that I am weak.

Think of your life and who might have shown you a glimpse of Jesus….even if you didn’t know it at the time, or didn’t know them very long.  I don’t mean great preachers. Just think of Jesus and then put a face with that name. Most of those you think of will have had their own world of troubles, short-comings and strife. They will be the first to tell you they are far from perfect and struggle every day.

But that’s what makes them special…at least to me. I hope you think of someone. But if you don’t, now is the time to start looking. And when you see them, share with someone close to you!

by Cindy Best

Water is essential for life.  Simple and obvious statement, right?  Without drinking water, our bodies will only  survive about three to four days.

And water provides us with so much enjoyment as well.  Swimming pools, fishing ponds or lakes, ocean fishing, even little fountains in our gardens which make beautiful sounds to help us relax.  Then, the practical side of being able to cook pasta or boil eggs and take a shower or bath, wash our clothes, make our coffee and tea.  And on and on.

water

But water in the WRONG place is awful.  Right?

This past spring and summer, Iowa had waaaaay too much water.  Flash floods, river flooding.  Then much of Colorado was destroyed by floods (after burning with forest fires in early spring). Yuck!

You might have had water issues in your basement, too.  Sump pumps working over time.  Or water breaking through foundations.

Water overflowing drain spouts and leaking into the basement.  Ruining our carpet, furniture, drywall, etc.  Ruining all the work we did bringing in good stuff to enjoy.

What can we do?

Well, the only way to stop water being where we do not want it is to prepare and prevent.  Cleaning out gutters regularly–that most mucky and dreaded of jobs at least for those of us who hate ladders–is vital.  And to tell the truth, it’s a job that gets put off until the first downpour, right?  At which time it may be too late to keep the water from seeping in.

Why do we put off something that we know has to be done?

Out of sight, out of mind, huh?  Maybe that’s the simple answer.  If we don’t have to face what we really hate to do every day, it just falls to the back of our “to do” list and maybe falls off the paper altogether!  But, when the forecast is dire, we scramble to find the ladder and then find ourselves on the stupid thing as the first drops of rain fall.  Double yuck!

Well, I’m thinking the gutters of our spiritual life sometimes need to be cleaned out, too.  All sorts of riffraff coated with worry, fear, frustration and disbelief floats through the air and falls into our minds.  They can easily overflow with all that junk, until it starts to seep into our soul and ruin the “good stuff” we have. The good stuff we worked so diligently to build up in our spiritual life.

Keeping tabs on what falls into our “gutters of life” will help.  We can’t stop everything, but we can pay more attention, more often…before the massive storms come and flood us out.  We need to keep a check on what we let fill our minds and hearts.

Water is good.  Water is life.

Just be sure to keep it in its place.

by Cindy Best

Spring is just around the corner…can you smell it?   In fact in some states, flowers are already being planted and even blooming!

At this time of year, when the sun stays out a bit longer and shines a bit warmer, my thoughts always turn to bedding plants and what kind I want to try in my garden.  How about you?

I’ll let you in on something, though, I have no green thumb whatsoever.  Whatever plants grow in my garden do so in spite of me.  Oh, I’ve had a shelf full of gardening books and magazines, some of which make it look sooooo simple.  Not!

One of the things that I’ve never gotten right, I guess, is watering the right amount at the right time.  The perfect balance escapes me.  So my plans have to be hardy and pretty much capable of fending for themselves.  I’ve learned to stick with the “natural” plants common to this area of the country and many of them can withstand drought and early frost.

Oh, I’ve lost more than a few, especially in that brutal winter we had a couple years back.  But the wildflower seeds I planted are now taking hold and they’re going gangbusters, especially the Pink Cone Flower or Echinacea.  Also, my Honeysuckle Vine and Wisteria are about to cover the Pergola built over my front walk, although the Wisteria has yet to bloom after five seasons!

At any rate, as I said, I get to thinking about growing things and that leads me into what I don’t know about growing things!  And since I like pretty flowers, I go to the local nursery often and let the owner guide me to what might work where.

Going to scripture is kind of like that for me at times.  It’s great to have a consistent study time about specific topics or books, but I also know that finding out what works where and how in the “garden of my life” is a good thing, too.  If you feel your life is a little dry, try watering liberally with the Spirit.  The good thing is you can’t “over water” with the Spirit of God, nor can you go to it at the “wrong time.”

Spiritual watering is a way of growing things in my life that I don’t have to worry about.  I let the Master Gardener take over my soul’s garden and when I do that, I am overjoyed at what He produces….even out of the tiniest seeds!  It doesn’t take much for beauty to abound, and I can even “share” some of it with friends and the beauty keeps growing and growing.

I bet you can think of things in your soul’s garden that you can relate to read seeds, dirt, fertilizer and water, too.  While you are planning on what you’d like to see grow in your yard this season, think about what new things you’d like to learn in your spirit, too!  We might even find we have a bouquet of beauty together.

by Cindy Best

The author and pastor Stuart Briscoe tells of the time his car wouldn’t start.  Not knowing much about cars, he called a friend of his and asked if he’d take the time to come and look it over.  After a brief inspection, his friend said, “It’s either the spark or the fuel.”

Then he asked Briscoe to hold a couple wires and as Stuart relates it, in a few moments “my hair was standing up,” and he yelled to his friend to stop whatever he was doing.  Calmly his friend said, “It’s the fuel.”  Briscoe responded, “How do you know?”  The friend said, “You felt the spark didn’t you?”

I think Christianity works like that, too.  Jesus is the spark to ignite and change our lives.  A sign in front of a church years ago read, “If your religion hasn’t changed your life, you’d better change religions.”

After the spark has started us, then the fuel is supplied by the Holy Spirit, causing growth and change.  Christianity is not just a religion—it is a way of life.  It’s not just a worship experience practiced on Sunday, it is a relationship in which we participate actively with the Living God!  If our Christian lives are not growing in some manner, then there’s something wrong.  And since God initiated the “spark” it has to be the fuel…either we’re not filling the tank, or we’ve got a block in the fuel line.

Is something amiss in your life’s version of Christianity—is it not “working” for you?   If it seems dead, take a look at the fuel line.  Is the Holy Spirit flowing freely into you and through you on the way to others?

 

To better illustrate the concept of having a life powered by the Spirit of God, I’m going to use the simple contrast of a steam engine (like the old-time trains) and the common internal combustion engine (like those in cars).  Both engines convert external resources into internal fuel to drive the engines, but it’s how they convert the external fuel that causes the difference in the power and longevity of the engine’s service.  The steam engine will last much longer than the internal combustion engine, with less wear and tear.

This seemed to me to be an easy way to think about how the fuel of the Holy Spirit can work through us.

So often when we “work” for God, we are powered as an internal combustion engine.  All that power and energy churning and churning inside of us.  But our “parts” wear out quickly and we can’t utilize the fuel provided properly.  We function for a while very well, but eventually the spark just fades and we break down.

If we focused on letting God flip the switch and power us, we would be using a different fuel source, which is unlimited.  We wouldn’t be afraid we might short-circuit and not finish a task.  We’d use a power source that would not burn out, or cause us to wear out.  In fact, we’d be built up, made better and more powerful with God’s energy.

This continuing supply of power is ours, from our all-powerful God.  Ephesians 6:10 urges us to “…be strong in the Lord (empowered through your union with Him); draw your strength from Him—that strength which His might (powerfulness) provides.”

by Cindy Best

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