Just a Little Bit

Reading through Jesus’ crucifixion feels new and painful every time. To know that any innocent man was mocked, beaten, and murdered is sickening, but when you really try to grasp that it was our perfect, loving LORD, it takes your breath away. Or it should.

Reading through the account found in Luke 23, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Jesus’ death came to be, logistically, that is. The men who captured Him and questioned Him, the leaders, Pilate and Herod, who allowed for His demise, and the crowd of mockers…were all people just like me. They breathed air, worked, ate, drank, slept, and lived (most of them anyway) ordinary lives. How did they come to be a part of the most awful death in history? This event was prophesied years before, and they were fulfilling God’s plan…but how did the crowd of mockers come to be part of the evil that was to befall Jesus?

I’m no theologian, but I believe most of those people happened there as a part of their very normal existence. They became involved in something so horrindous, because they allowed evil to gradually influence their natural reactions to the surroundings. Little bits of evil.

———-

Years ago, I worked in a place with several women who were accustomed to gossip. Up until that point in my life, I wouldn’t have said a bad word about another person. But as I worked in that environment, without a guard up to the negativity around me, I began to allow their influence to overtake me. Little bits of evil.

Marriage begins beautifully, but stress, hurt, and selfishness begin to tear down what the LORD built up. Little bits of evil.

Children crave adventure and love, but dysfunctional family members, broken classmates, and strangers gradually introduce them to hatred. Their hearts break and fear enters in through the cracks. Little bits of evil.

———-

Pain and brokenness, selfishness and pride, hatred that would kill the LORD do not come about suddenly. We have a choice to make every moment of every day. It is an illusion that our actions are inconsequential or that our decisions affect only ourselves individually. Jesus was not killed by one man alone. His death was brought about by many men who were daily influenced by one another’s negativity. They weren’t born to be murderers, but their hatred grew through small choices over the course of time. When they came together, their sin-filled hearts and evil actions compounded to encourage the death of a King.

Will I be a part of the demise of my LORD, or an agent of mercy in the Kingdom coming?

———-

As I faced the last year of sadness, regret, loneliness, and uncertainty, there were family members and friends around me who held me up. A meal shared, a load of laundry washed, a shoulder to cry on, a card in the mail, a word of encouragement. Little bits of mercy.

A marriage is rebuilt day by day. Second chances are given, and the opportunity for understanding is granted. Little bits of mercy.

A lonely child is not only brought out of the foster care system, but also showered with new toys, clothes, bedding, hugs, kisses, new friends, smiles from kind strangers at church. Little bits of mercy.

———-

Smile at your waitress and leave her a generous tip. Talk to the new person in your office. Greet the visitor at church. Send a card, give a hug, cook a meal, change a tire, say a prayer, say so many prayers…and avoid the gossip. Say no to negativity. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t return hatred.

Every moment is the choice to choose evil or to choose mercy. Small kindness adds up to great love.

Will you join the mockers, or will you share in Jesus’ life-giving love?

Precious Moments of Desperation

Mr. D and I have been attending Lifespring Christian Church in Harrison, Ohio. If you’re looking for a church in that area, I’d definitely suggest checking it out. The current sermon series is about prayer. Each week, the speaker takes a line from “The LORD’s Prayer,” evaluates it, and provides an extensive explanation of its importance. I’m so thankful. I am the worst pray-er…Over the last few years, I feel like my prayers must sound like this to God:

help-me-im-poor

(Source)

I’d like to say I’m exaggerating (and I am being facetious, of course), but I really do feel like my prayers are this ineloquent. I sputter out the simplest, most childish prayers. I’ve asked God to teach me to pray more consistently, more thoroughly, more selflessly. I want to be a true “prayer warrior,” that is, one of those people that you can count on to go to God on your behalf.

Every sermon I’ve heard in this series has impacted my worldview and way of praying. I do try to pay attention in church, but it’s rare for me to retain a sermon for more than a week. I’m positive these will stick with me. I do think the speakers have done an excellent job, but more than that, I believe God has been preparing my heart for these lessons over the last year.

Last week’s message was on Matthew 6:11, which says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The speaker began by explaining why he thought we struggle with this request in America. I was sort of shocked, as I thought I have no trouble asking for God’s help…but as he talked, the more I realized that I, too, resist asking God for my every need. It seems like a simple request for an all-powerful God. Please LORD, provide my basic needs. But it’s not in our nature to ask for that. We often ask for what we want, but do we really believe that we NEED God and His provision? Or do we believe that we are self-sufficient? In this country, we pride ourselves on hard-work and independence. There is nothing wrong with working hard and taking responsibility for ourselves and our families, but trouble and sin arise when we begin to think that anything we have, our jobs included, are something we’ve acquired on our own.

I believe that we Americas struggle to depend on God, because we have so much. We live in an age of abundance. There is poverty in our country, no-doubt, but for the most part, Americans have more than they need. It has become the norm. We work so hard to provide ourselves with excess. We surround ourselves with abundant food and possessions. It provides a false sense of independence. We feel safe if we have more. No need to worry about running out of our needs. What we too often consider blessings have done us disservice. It distracts us from our great need for a Provider. For most of us, physical hunger is not part of our experience. We don’t often consider what are our true basic needs because we are busy chasing wants.

The last year of my life has changed me in a major way, because I experienced deep hunger. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t change the past. The hunger I learned was not physical, though I did become very aware of how difficult it can be to provide for your child. No, my hunger was emotional and spiritual. There were moments during our marital separation that I truly questioned whether I’d be able to go on. There were times when “taking the next step” in life, became very literal. I felt stunned. Could I put one foot in front of the other? Each morning that I awoke, I relived the truth. The future was uncertain, and I may have to live this difficult, lonely existence for the rest of my days. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed help. God’s help. I learned to pray more, though awkwardly, because talking to God was the only way I could continue breathing and walking through another day. If I could only count how many times I said, “Oh God, please…” I couldn’t mutter anything else, because I didn’t know how or what to pray.

Although, I would never want to go back to that marital situation, there are times when I miss those precious moments of desperation. Those times were the most incredibly intimate moments I’ve ever had with God. The world was stripped away. All that remained was my need for God and His fulfillment of that need. It was God and me.

I don’t want to forget that need, but I can already see how living this abundant life provides a wealth of distraction and fuel for my pride. Days go by when I forget to ask for God’s provision. I literally forget to rely on Him. How tragic, but I know I’m not the only one.

Asking God for your daily bread is about far more than food. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need God to sustain us in every single way. My challenge for myself and for you is to pray that God will provide for each need, be it physical, social, mental, emotional, or most definitely spiritual. We need Him every hour.

June

June 2014 is here. We are living in the future. I mean, weren’t we supposed to be driving flying cars by now? Seriously, the passage of time astounds me.

The weather is beautiful, and we are looking forward to a good month. This month we will celebrate with the Dummel family, as the oldest of the grandchildren is now 21 years old. I remember the first time I met Blake. He was barely in middle school. He was such a sweet kid, and he has grown into a man of character, not to mention his incredible skills in the world of automotives. We have so enjoyed watching him grow up and find his calling. Happy Birthday, Blake!

In June, I want more…

1. More Bible reading and prayer.
One of my #30Before30 goals is to read through the entire Bible with great intention. I want to pay greater attention to the details, as I learn more about God and what He wants for His kingdom. Right now I’m in Luke, as I read through the Gospels in reverse order. I’m amazed all over again at the man that Jesus was, and the LORD that He is.
My prayer life is weak. It almost always has been, I’m sad to admit. As I’ve struggled with communication in all of my relationships, I don’t talk to God enough.

2. More yoga.
I really love yoga, though you wouldn’t know it by how little I’ve done it. I need to strengthen my back and my core, as I have been having a lot more pain this year…not to mention the pudgy midsection I earned through stress eating this year. Oy vey!

3. More sunshine.
Josiah and I love to be in nature, and I want to share as much time outdoors together as possible.

In June, I want less…

1. Less jealously.
That one is hard to admit, but I really have to fight that sin. Although I am so thankful for my life and where God has brought us, sometimes I lose sight of what He’s doing in MY life, and begin to envy what He’s doing in someone elses. There are a lot of people out there who are living adventures with the LORD that I desire…maybe if I take my eyes off of them, I will be able to seek my Father more fervently, as He leads me along in His kingdom work. Father, forgive me.

2. Less processed foods/refined sugars/gluten.
This one is way harder for me than it should be. I KNOW that man made foods make me look and feel terrible, but I continue to partake. I want to live a better, fuller life, and that means kicking chemical laden, man-altered foods to the gutter where they belong.

3. Less television.
We haven’t had cable for a long time, but there are still shows available to watch online. I probably watch less television than the average American, but that comparison does not satisfy! I want to spend my time doing things I care about, and television tends to grab my attention away from the activities that I truly want to pursue.

In June…

I’m reading Love & Respect, written by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. There are a LOT of books out there on marriage, and I avoided this one for the longest time. I have a aversion to things that get popular…but this one is highly regarded for a reason. If you haven’t read it, you should. No joke.

I’m listening to all sorts of Christian music. I’ll admit, I don’t always listen to Christian tunes (GASP!), but right now, I can’t get enough. So much positivity. So much grace. Like a breath of fresh air after the long winter.

I’m in food love with frozen berries with plain greek yogurt, as well as greek style hummus and fresh veggies. So simple, but so yummy!

What do you want more or less of in June? What is the food love of your month? Let’s make it a good month!