sleeping child transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Being a Christian Because I Needed Some Real Answers

I’m going to talk about being a Christian this morning. (I know, some of you just clicked off.) But stay with me here for a few lines. I’ll keep it short. I’m going to tell you my story, and how I got here.

I wasn’t always a believer. In fact, I was 32 when I became one. I was on top of a mountain, all by myself, having gone for a hike that day, when I began to follow Jesus. He came to me there and asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Not physically for those who are literal like I am.) It was a heart thing and totally unexpected. Up until then, I had said Jesus was likely a good teacher or prophet or some such, but in that second, I said, “You are the Lord.” And, he’s been Lord in my life ever since. No, not perfectly so. I don’t submit to him in everything. I wish I did, and maybe I’ll get there.

As Ruth Bell Graham had put on her tombstone, “Construction is finished. Thank you for your patience.” Amen.

I was at a point that I didn’t want the world to tell me how to think or live anymore. I wanted God to tell me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was still looking for a savior in any form (guy on a white horse, a job, a new town, friends, a new dress). Yes, there’s plenty the world can teach me, but the first Sunday School class I went to after becoming a Christian was led by a guy who brought the Sunday newspaper in with him. The idea was that we’d read the headlines and discuss what we thought about world events. But, I didn’t want to know what the people in the class thought (though they were all nice folks), I wanted to know what God thought. Einstein said, “I want to know God, the rest are details.” I was right there with Einstein. I needed God. I needed God to tell me what to do. Other people are in the same boat I’m in. We’re all rowing terribly hard, and getting nowhere fast.

I needed real answers.

By following worldly wisdom, I”d made some superiorly ridiculous decisions. I was 32, exhausted and needed true help. I figured since God created the world, then he had a pretty good idea of how I should live in it.  I was tired of holding the world up. Maybe not the whole world, but, mine.

I remember coming across this verse:

It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep. Psalm 127:2

I read that and took a nap. I’d spent my life trying to maintain control while looking for something that would bring me happiness. Happiness in a world where suffering is the norm is hard to find.

Giving my life over to God, some say, makes me a wimp. Well, call me a wimp.

I got tired of controlling my own destiny, plus it just didn’t make sense. I didn’t even create this life that I live, so that argument is already out the window from the get-go. I came into this world with no effort of my own, it was beginning to make sense that living it as if I created it was even more superiorly crazy. Giving control of it to the one who did create it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. And so, that day on the mountain, I said, out loud, “Well, I’ve made a mess of this life, let’s see what you can do with it.” (Impertinent has always been an issue for me.)

I said I’d keep it short, so I will. The word grace is what I’ll end with. Grace is relief in spades. Grace is God’s way of saying I’ve got you covered. Your life, your screw-ups (hey, guess what, I’m going to use those!), your future (yes, I’ve got a plan), your eternal destiny (yes, eternal), and so you rest. Rest in the grace of knowing I love you and I will take care of you.

Deal.

 

 

 

 

so this happened how will you respond

So, this Happened. How Will You Respond?

So, this happened. How will you respond?

I’ve been asking myself that question all week.

  • You really did get fired. How will you respond?
  • You’re alone, now. How will you respond?
  • You were lied too. How will you respond?
  • Your health is gone. How will you respond?
  • Your children have ignored all the values you taught them. How will you respond?
  • Your spouse is no help at all. How will you respond?

These are mild compared to some I could write. You just declared bankruptcy. How will you respond?

But, they’re also pretty heavy compared to some I could write. The shower is stopped up. How will you respond?

How about this one? You’ve gained weight. How will you respond? (I’m going to deal with it tomorrow, that’s how.)

A friend shared a Christmas letter she received from a friend. She wanted my take on it. It wasn’t hard to understand what the author of the letter was suffering from–bitterness. He’d had a full life, a brilliant career and great health, due to a healthy lifestyle. So, yeah, he was supposed to be that guy. The guy we want to be when our turn comes. His plans were to write his memoir during retirement, but his health betrayed him. Instead, he’s making daily doctor runs, and the pages of the memoir remain blank. He’s not jogging through old age. He’s pushing a walker. It happens.

So, who are you pointing the finger at? Because, can we be honest? The first response is always the tragedy staring me. Look what happened to me. (If you’re still on your parents, then Lord help you, please respond by saying thank you for giving me life, and move on.)

Having a fit won’t change what happened. It happened.

I’m taking a class in setting personal boundaries. Here’s what I’ve realized. I don’t need to learn to say no, as much as I need to learn to respect other people’s no. I seriously need to stop hearing their no as an attack on me, and instead hear it for what it is.

Just a plain, simple no.

Oh but, that is hard when it is a gut-wrenching no.  And, we all have at least one gut-wrenching no. That one we try not to remember because when we do, we feel it all over again. Rejection.

Years ago, I worked in a Community Rehabilitation program. We helped with repairs on low-income homes. I was assigned to an African-American woman, who I thought was younger than I was (I was mid-20s.) Turns out she was 42, just gorgeous and aging really well. But, she was, as the saying goes, bat-shit crazy. She talked about her husband. Her husband this, her husband that. The husband had been gone for 20+ years. He was married with kids. Her response? She was having none of his no. She believed he would come back.

That’s one response, I suppose. Denial.

But, like the guy frustrated with doctor’s offices, and blank memoirs, how much time are we wasting? That stunningly beautiful woman lived alone her entire adult life. The brilliant man knew illness happened to others, but believed he was exempt. She believed no one could leave her. He believed doing it all right insulated him. People leave. We’re not insulated from anything.

So, this has happened. How will you respond? How will I respond? I’ve been asking myself that question all week. My conclusion? Grace. Grace for me. Grace for whoever. What else is there, really?

 

 

 

biscuit with butter

Tell the Truth and Let the Lord Love You.

Tell the truth and let the Lord love you.

That should be the title of a book. Or a movie. Or my life. Because if you tell the truth, you’re probably going to irritate someone, so you’ll need the Lord to love you.

I didn’t come up with the saying. I got it secondhand. From a friend’s friend. I texted my friend today to ask her if she was going to church. She texted back that she was going to tell the truth and let the Lord love her, so no, she wasn’t going to church. She was laying on the couch. I was still pretty cozy in my bed (At 10:55 a.m., church starts at 11:15, I made it!), so I had nothing on her. But, that comment soothed my heart. It was butter on a hot biscuit. Freshly baked, just out of the oven, butter dripping down your fingers, warming your belly like you hadn’t eaten in weeks, kind of comment.

Because how hard have you tried to get someone to love you?

Enough to lie? Enough to pretend? Enough to be silent? Enough to do what you thought you’d never do?

I wish the comment was, tell the truth and let your people love you anyway. But, it isn’t. There’s been a few times that my kids needed to tell me a truth. I could see the fear and angst on their faces just before they spoke it. I’m not talking toddler truth here. I am talking man-did-I-mess-up-adult truth. I became mom pretty quick, and let them know that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING could mess them up with me. Tell me the truth and I will love you to death. I will hot-butter-biscuit-love you to death, because speaking the truth takes a whole lot of courage sometimes.

My mom wasn’t so easy with that. She was quick to give a lecture, or be shocked. It was easy to shock her, which resulted in me lying to her, when really, I just wanted to tell her the truth. She was my mom. I wanted her to love me, and be proud of me, not be shocked by my stupid behavior or outrageous truth. So, yeah. Lying was easier. Tell the truth? Not when your audience is going to have the proverbial hiss-y fit. If the cost of speaking the truth is the cost of love, who does that?

Not me. I won’t give up love for truth. Will you?

I know what you’re thinking. If they can’t handle my truth then I don’t need that kind of love. Okay, Oprah. We agree. But how easy is that? And let’s talk about the people we love who fear losing our love if they’re honest with us. Come on. Super Soul Sunday sounds good, but walk that stuff out, and let’s agree that it is hard to disappoint those we love.

How I wish we’d let others (and ourselves) mess up big time and still love the heck out of each other. How I wish truth produced hugs and loving on one another. How I wish it wasn’t a choice between our truths and the love of loved ones, but sometimes, it is. But wishing is just that, wishing, and while confession is good for the soul, there’s a reason it’s done in a confessional booth with a slotted wall between you and your confessor. We can’t really handle each other’s truths, can we? I mean, really? Can we? It becomes personal. We get all weird, and make up conspiracy theories–assumptions about why they lied to us. Never thinking for a moment it was because they couldn’t stand our shocked faces. It tore them up to imagine it, so they kept quiet for way too long. Hey, I’m guilty of it. Ask my ex.

But, tell the truth and let the Lord love you? That one you can bank on. And, shocker–he already knows your truth. He’s not shocked. And judgment? Well, you got a clean slate the minute Jesus’ hands were pierced, so put that one back on the shelf. Abandon you? Never gonna happen. Your friend? Maybe she left in a huff. But, the Lord? Never.

He’ll love you to death. He’ll clean your wounds, and tell you chin up. He’ll stick by you, while you speak the truth in your heart. Yes, that one. The one that’s been lurking in there for eons. The one behind the door marked private. The one you thought you’d carry to your grave. Hey, listen. It’s on the tip of your tongue, anyway. Has been for awhile.

So, maybe you can’t tell your mom, or your spouse, or your friend. Maybe it isn’t even appropriate, too. But the Lord, yes, tell him, and let the warmth of hot-butter-biscuit love fill you up.

cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming tea cup on wooden table studying scripture

How to Do Your Own Bible Study

Every morning it’s the same. Well, pretty much. Some mornings, life interferes.

But, mostly, I wake up, let the dog out, open the blinds, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down to do my Bible Study. I’ve wondered if I do this every morning because of my really cool journal. My College Son’s girlfriend and I have the same obsession: new pencils, fresh paper, pretty pens. All the fun things needed to organize a project, but not always the follow through. For reasons I can only attribute to God, and his kindness toward me, I have followed through on this since I was 32.

Soon after becoming a Christian, I started doing a Bible study on Wednesdays with a group called Bible Study Fellowship International, an organization that developed a daily discipline in me to study Scripture, and gave me the tools to do it with. I truly believe most of us believers want to study Scripture, but it’s a bit like joining CrossFit. It sounds good, but it’s expensive, and you could end up looking really stupid.

Studying Scripture can seem very intimidating.

But, I promise, this method is easy, so I’ll share.

And this way, if Beth Moore ever gets slack on writing Bible Studies, you still have an option. Pull out your Bible, and do your own Bible Study.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • A journal. I use this one because it’s the same size as my Bible and refillable.
  • Pens.
  • I use a lap board desk because I sit in a chair not at a table.
  • I have a billion Bible translations downloaded onto my IPad, so I can cross-reference between Bible translations. I use the Bible Gateway app for all the translations. (This is not NECESSARY for any of you who just panicked, thinking, BUT I DON’T HAVE AN IPAD, AND I HATE TECHNOLOGY.)
  • No commentaries please.
  • A Bible. (Don’t get too picky about the translation, just get one you like, and in follow-up to  the Bible Gateway app above, one translation is truly plenty.)
  • Grab some hot coffee (or beverage of your choice).
  • Put it all in one spot where it will live. Now, you’re prepared for each day. I have a chair in my bedroom with a small table beside it, and my stuff stacked there. The only time I sit in the chair is to do my Bible study. It’s a cozy spot.

Mornings are best for my Bible Study. If I wait, or decide to throw in a load of laundry, I get busy with a billion things, and it doesn’t happen. So, I do it before anyone or anything can really mess with me. (Time frame: 6-6:45)

Here’s how it works:

I put my OCD-get-an-A-in-the-class self on the shelf because I’m not tearing through Scripture. I’m not trying to do it in a year, or on any kind of a deadline. My goal is to spend time with God in his word daily. So, I do one small paragraph a day, out of one book of the Bible. (I generally work through one book at a time, and it takes me months.) I don’t do more than 5-8 verses a day, because otherwise I feel rushed, and I forget what I’ve studied.

Here’s what I do:

  • Read God’s Word
  • List the facts. (What does God’s Word say?)
  • Learn the Lessons. (What does God’s Word mean?)
  • Listen to His Voice. (What does God’s Word mean to me? Asked in question format to myself.)

Here’s an example using one verse from today’s a.m. study. Today, I did 1 Corinthians 14:26-31 but, we’re only going to look at verse 31 for this exercise. Here goes.

Read God’s Word

For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. NIV 1 Corinthians 14:31 (For those who aren’t sure, NIV stands for New International Version translation.)

List the facts (What does God’s Word say?)

Each person can take a turn speaking (prophesying), so that all are instructed and encouraged.

Learn the lessons (What does God’s Word mean?)

Instruction, encouragement and order are appropriate when we gather to worship.

Listen to His voice (What does God’s Word mean to me? Asked in question format to myself.)

Am I helpful in creating order in worship or am I disruptive with my attitude?

You can stop here, but I find it cements the day’s verses in my mind if I summarize my morning’s study with two more steps. Here they are.

Listening in Response: Application (This is a small paragraph on the application of all the verses I studied. Again, this is from this morning, 1 Corinthians 14:26-33.)

Encouraging, Instruction and Order. God desires this when his people gather. Worship is not a one-man show, or a chaotic-filled drama event. It is a time to teach, encourage and build each other up in an orderly fashion. Communication, inclusion and order are key. No one left out, no one dominating. 

How Will I Respond: Obedience (I keep this to one sentence.)

I will participate in worship to encourage and instruct, not lecture, gossip or shame. Jan 22, 2015

That’s it. It takes me about 30-40 minutes depending on the time I have, whether I can be leisurely, or it’s a work morning and I need to stay on schedule.

A Reminder: I pray asking for God to reveal himself to me through his word. He always does.

Okay, talk to me. Is this hard? Do-able for you? Do you have a method you use that you’d like to share? (Because we all need some help here, please.) Do you have questions regarding this method? Is this the worst possible time in your life to even consider doing Bible study? (Work, life, spouses, children, aging parents, and on and on.) Talk and share away. I’d love to hear what you do. Or don’t. This isn’t about frustrating people, this is about encouraging, instructing and instituting some order. (Yeah, right.:)

Cinthia

P.S I didn’t invent this method, lest you think me so clever. I learned at it Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF for short), and Anne Graham Lotz teaches it to me again when I go to her conferences, which I do once a year at The Cove, with my darling roommate from college. The refresher is always good. (FYI: AGL used to be a teaching leader for BSF, hence her using the same method.) I’m actually using AGL’s outline here.

 

cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming God

How to Pick a God

1. Make sure the god is real.

2. Make sure the god is smart.

3. Make sure the god is good.

4. Make sure the god is loving.

5. Make sure the god is not destructive.

6. Make sure the god cares about you, and isn’t just using you.

7. Make sure the god does not want all your money.

8. Make sure the god is not a myth.

9. Make sure the god is not a celebrity.

10. Make sure the god is not yourself.

11. Make sure the god understands you.

12. Make sure the god doesn’t die.

13. Make sure the god doesn’t isolate you.

14. Make sure the god isn’t about the drugs, booze or party.

15. Make sure the god doesn’t look like a friend.

16. Make sure the god doesn’t look like a spouse, lover, child or parent.

17. Make sure the god doesn’t look like your therapist.

18. Make sure the god knows you’ve got to have fun too, and not just work.

19. Make sure the god likes you when no one else does.

20. Make sure the god isn’t being discussed on CNN, MSN, Yahoo, or Fox.

21. Make sure the god can hear and answer your prayers.

22. Make sure the god is the most powerful god in all the world.

23. Make sure the god is creative.

24. Make sure the god is holy.

25. Make sure the god can forgive sins.

Make sure your god is God.

Thoughts? Please comment below with your own “make sure.” Blessings, Cinthia

cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming justbow

#JustBow

I’ve been attending a somewhat unusual Bible Study recently (which I’ll describe in next week’s post).  We worked through Jesus’ parables in the fall, and then finished up with the Christmas story this week. Here’s what we learned from our study together (about 15 of us). #JustBow

I didn’t come up with the clever #hashtag idea. A guy in our group did. But it represents the group consensus. Many in our group had never gotten on their knees before. Not for prayer or worship. Though they believed, they weren’t kneel-ers.

I am a kneel-er during my prayer time (though not always). I am one to get on my knees to petition God especially when I am desperate, which is most of the time. Scripture instructs us to petition God, to ask him for what we need, knowing that he hears us, and will respond.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 #JustBow

But, do you see the key word in those verses? Peace. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. That’s the answer to the prayer, really. We get on our knees, we petition for our troubles, and we rise in peace. God may answer our petitions in all sorts of ways, giving us jobs, loved ones, health, or not–as he deems best–but the first answer to our prayer is peace. Not worldly peace. but God’s peace. Worldly peace is the lack of conflict. God’s peace is peace in the conflict.

But, that is only the beginning of kneeling. Of #JustBow.

The second part, the part I’ve learned through my Tuesday night Bible Study, is bowing in reverence, and in awe with no petition on my lips. No words at all. So no pouring out of my heart, though many tears are shed in that position, but just quiet bowing before God. Scripture says that the day is coming when every knee will bow in praise and honor of Jesus, even those who don’t want too will.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 #JustBow

That verse speaks of a future day, but I wonder if it doesn’t speak of a present day too. At least my fellow Bible Study mates might concur, as each of us slowly moves from a position of pride or control or even rebellion to one of submission and acknowledgment. Are we prophesying this day or are we already there?

I’m at a time in my life when being anxious for nothing is truly impossible. It would be easier to list what I am not anxious about. That list would have about two things on it. The anxious list has so many it’s hard to keep up. And, there are no worldly answers to my situation. My brain cannot figure things out. A therapist isn’t going to get me through this particular valley. Work isn’t the answer. Manipulation is useless. But I can bow. And, when I do, peace is waiting there. Every single time.

I get out of my bed, or out of my chair, and onto my knees or flat on my face, and I stay there. And, when I stand up, I stand taller, more confident, clearer in my thinking, less afraid. That’s a big one, isn’t it? Less afraid? Because there is no way to live in this world and not be afraid. If this world is all we have, then we really have nothing, and fear reigns. But God gives us another verse, one about perfect love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 #JustBow

To bow is to be perfected in love. Not your ability to love, but your ability to be loved by God. You kneel expecting, really, what is deserved, a punishment. You rise, fully loved, fully redeemed, fully at peace. #JustBow

 

All Things Material/A Crisis Of Faith

We’ve reached the sad part of packing up Mom’s house. I don’t get to participate as much because I lost two weeks of work when Mom passed away, and now there isn’t the luxury to lose more. I must trust my sisters to pack and sort, and keep or throw away.

It is hard. I would love to go through her things one last time. As painful as it is to box away her things, it is just as painful not too. What would I discover? What would I learn about the last days of her life? The last years? But life dictates, and so does work. Moving from South Turkey Creek prepared me for this moment. I gave away many memories all wrapped up in material things because of the downsizing I did, and the time constraints on moving. I did not have the leisure to sift through each drawer or box-stuffed children’s drawings, though I wanted too. It’s something we all have to face at some point—this reduction of life.

If I ever needed my faith, it’s now. Yet, I will admit to a crisis of faith. I ask the Lord, “Precisely WHERE is my mother?”

I’m told because she died so suddenly, and so unexpectedly, that the processing of her death is harder. I can attest to the truth of that. When Daddy died, I wasn’t happy, but I was prepared. I got to say good-bye, have those conversations and such. I hated his suffering, but the length of his illness allowed him time to prepare, too. He was given sweet time to grieve with us.

There is a quality of vanishing to Mom’s death that there wasn’t with Dad’s. Here one day, and literally gone the next. Talk about life being fragile. And, truly, from the woman who loves the Lord deeply, I am wondering if I bought into a load of hooey. Is what I believe true? Is my mother with Jesus? Did he personally come to her, and take her to her eternal home? Or did she just vanish?

I am astonished at my questions. But, here they are.

My oldest sister could not bear the thought of a yard sale. All those people picking through her mother’s things, and taking them with her. No matter how small or trivial, they were her’s. The process isn’t about material things, it is about life. The life she built in her small mother-in-law house. The life I am very proud of her for accomplishing. It is no small feat to build a life. It takes hard work, perseverance, courage.

But cleaning out her house removes her hard work and wipes the slate of her life clean. She is no more, and her home was our home (my sisters and I) and so where is home now? I look at my three sisters and think, I better be nice to them. They’re all I’ve got now. I better stop with the “who’s right, who’s wrong” mess and just get on with the business of being their sister. What if they got together and voted me out? Well, they can’t. Votes are unanimous.

In case you’re stuck on the crisis of faith statement, let me say, that I get on my knees, and I ask God these questions. I work through it with him, not without him, and hopefully when he gets me to other side of it, I will have a story to tell. About his faithfulness, his grace, his mercy, his provision, his love.

I read once that a group of Jews at Auschwitz decided to put God on trial. There is some debate on whether or not the story is true, but it is told that they held a mock trial and found God guilty of neglect, I suppose. Scripture does, after all, refer to him as Father. Millions of Jews were being slaughtered every day. Where was the heck was he? (I am famous for saying, well, he did let John the Baptist get his head chopped off.) After their judgement, they prayed and worshiped him. They found him guilty one minute, and worshiped him the next. Call me crazy, but I find great comfort in that.

 

 

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

As a Christian, I was never taught it, but somehow I came to believe that God would never ask certain things of me. I assumed the Lord and I had an agreement worked out. For instance, I felt I could handle losing all my money, so if there was going to be a trial in my life, then the Lord knew that was a good one for me. It was a little game I had going with him. Lord, this trial is okay, but never THIS ONE (fill in the blank with your greatest fear).

Because of my assumed agreement with the Lord, when trial did come, as much as I should have seen it coming, I refused to believe the Lord would allow it to happen. I believed He would swoop in at some point and save the day. And He is certainly capable of that. So, as my ship was sinking, well, I was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I am assuming that I’m not alone here, Christian or not. I am assuming that most of us, whether we trust Jesus as Savior, or believe that humanity’s collective consciousness is God, we all are pretty much going to do the same when suffering comes knocking–duck our heads into the sand until we are forced to accept the circumstances.

Every step of my trial was one where I prayed that God would step in and change the outcome. He did not. And, here’s what I tell people now. I don’t want another trial, but I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world.

Here’s why.

1. I found out that God is faithful to get you through it, even if he chooses not to get you out of it.

2. I found out that while the ship is sinking, God is so very present in your life its as though you could touch him physically.

3. I found out that God will help you rearrange the deck chairs if that is what you need.

All the things I was taught as a Christian, that God is faithful to us, that he never abandons us, and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, well, I found out that all of that is true.

Once, in the middle of my big mess, my oldest son was home for Christmas. We had just picked him up at the airport, and he was expecting the holiday traditions he loved. We were going to decorate the tree first thing to get the festivities going, and I had everything ready to do it, but we couldn’t find my husband. When I did find him, he was in his office emailing his girlfriend, who he would later leave me for. I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and sat down. I said, “Lord, you promised you’d be here. Period. In your word, you promise you will be with us in every situation. I need you here now.”

No bright light shone into the bathroom. I didn’t see the Lord visibly (though many have). My husband didn’t end his conversation with his girlfriend or she with him. He eventually left for her and she left her husband for him. But, I came out of that bathroom able to cope, to make Christmas what it is, a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I came out filled with joy that Christ was born.

What grace.

I no longer assume that I am exempt from any trial. Instead, I know that when trial comes the Lord will be there helping me to rearrange my deck chairs until I am ready to let the ship go down.

 

The Wisdom to Know

Jumping back into James. We left him at verse 1:8 where he had just instructed us to go to the Lord for wisdom if we needed it, Then he tagged on verse 8, telling us to believe that we had received that wisdom, and not be a double-minded man (or woman), literally, a double-soul, about it. I’m afraid I am right there in that spot. Of two minds concerning a decision I need to make.

Is anyone there with me?

I hate it because I can see the value of both decisions, but I am stuck. I have asked the Lord for wisdom so many times that now, i am just rambling when I pray.

So, here’s what I decided to do. I decided to ask the Lord for wisdom regarding why I am stuck. Yep. A slight paradigm shift there. In other words, I took a few steps back, and asked, not about the decision, but about me.

Have you ever prayed something to death. “Worried your prayers” over something? What is it? Are you still stuck in that same place, years later? 

I’m not talking about a persevering in prayer, which is what we’re called to do, especially for others. I’m talking about finding out why, after all these years, I am on the same topic. The question isn’t is (a or (b better? The question is why am I still asking the same question?

My motivation to do this was verses 1:7-8. I read those verses and was terrified. I really like verse 1:5-6, but 1:7-8 seem to put the pressure back on me. I can ask, but I’ve got to have faith that he answered. The waves of the sea are starting to rock this boat.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does

So, I asked. Lord, why am I stuck? Why can’t I believe you when you give me wisdom? What am I afraid of?

I don’t think you’ll be surprised by the answer. I’m afraid he doesn’t really love me. I’m afraid he’ll ask me to do something hard, and I just did that. I’m afraid he’ll need me to sacrifice, and honestly, I don’t want too. I’m afraid he’s mad at me, and so, of course, the thing I want is the thing he’ll say no too. That (a may be my heart’s desire, but (b is what he’ll make me do. I’m afraid the consequences of some of my choices are beyond him, or that he wants me to suffer them. I’m afraid I am the ‘least of his, in the worst of ways.’ I am afraid he will abandon me after I believe him..

New Living Translation
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:18
 

Are you afraid of something in your relationship with the Lord? Have you ever experienced his perfect love? 

Father, gracious and great, giver of all good things, may we experience your perfect love today, this week, this year. May we know the love of the one who saves us, rescues us, forgives us and glorifies us in his son. Father, pour your love out on us, fill us up with it, and let it run out of us to bless others. We need to know we are loved. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

If You Lack… Ask

Hey! Week two of Bible Study! Please join in. (Doing week one is not necessary for you to participate this week. Each study stands alone.) I loved reading your comments last week. Pure love. Is there anything better than seeking God togther? (BTW, I fixed the comment section. Yay! So, if you’re game, read on, and if you feel led, answer noted questions in the comments.) Maybe, take a minute to pray prior to starting. And, please, pray for me. Ask that God will reveal himself to me, and give me wisdom in the inmost places of my heart. I am praying for you, too. Blessings, Cinthia

Scripture for Today

Before we even start, I feel some sweet woman needs to hear this today: the Lord adores you. He doesn’t just love you, he pursues you and loves you. Let that sink in for a minute. He so loves you that he will go to the ends of the earth to make you His. Rest in his embrace and grace. Rest in his favor. It is yours.

The book of James holds some of my favorite verses, James 1:5-8. Read it in The Message and the NIV below.

The Message:

5 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. 6 Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. 7 Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, 8 adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

The NIV:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

For a woman who has spent her life slightly unstable, second guessing every decision she’s ever made, and, has often said, “I’m walking around the world without a map,” these verses are solid gold. I love how The Message just lays it out there–if you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. That deserves an Amen, because I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you?. How many times have I hit the wall of my own thinking, finding myself back where I started, confused and uncertain. I need the Lord’s help. Is this verse as refreshing to you as it is to me?

Comment Question:

  • Do you think there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom? Where does discernment fall? Please share your thoughts below on this, if so led.

I have a lot of knowledge about plants, but I don’t always know how to apply that knowledge. Translating what I know to my client’s landscapes is tricky. I triple-guess my plant choices. Will that plant thrive in that spot? My own yard can be an experiment, but for my clients, I want to get it right.

When I started my job (three years ago now!), I told myself I would do two things. Work hard and ask for help when I needed it. Sounds simple, right? But, I hate asking for help. I’m afraid it makes me look all sorts of things–everything from incompetent to just plain dumb. And, truthfully, to some people it does. They could actually be thinking, Really? Why don’t you know that? As parents we do this to our children all the time. We expect them to know how to do something we never taught them, and we get pretty aggravated when they can’t. But, James tells us that God gives wisdom without reprimand. That means, he gives us the wisdom without adding on the “Really?” part. And, best of all? The Lord gives wisdom generously. He won’t make fun of me, tire of me, or wonder if I will ever figure it out for myself. He’ll keep giving me the direction I ask for, and the wisdom to know what to do.

But, is it wisdom for what I need? Perhaps, you don’t have life-altering things staring you in the face. Maybe you aren’t curious about the mysteries of the universe right now. You’d rather have wisdom for your job, or to acquire a skill. What about wisdom for raising a child, or a loving a spouse, or making small but significant decisions? Not all wisdom comes wrapped in a big theological box. Some of it is just ordinary, everyday wisdom to help us navigate our lives.

Personal reflection:

  • Name two things you need wisdom for in your present situation. Be specific, and consider that you don’t need to be in dire straights to need it. If you’re trying to pick the right childcare or adultcare, or deciding on a big purchase (or not), name it. All of it counts.
  • Check out Colossians 1:15-17, So, who is the source of all–not matter the type–wisdom?

James’ audience was Christian Jews, and Jews sought wisdom, so he’s speaking their love language. But, they had leaders with wisdom. Leaders like the Sanhedrin, the rabbis and the priests, all able to interpret the law for them. Wisdom likely seemed reserved for those guys, not the average Jew. Sound familiar? How many of us depend on our pastors, deacons, teachers–anyone other than ourselves–to understand Scripture or the mysteries of God, for us? Yes, those folks are there to guide us, but one thing is true for all Christians; we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

Comment Question: 

Read these verses and note a couple of ways the Holy Spirit helps us in our wisdom seeking..

Got any verses you would add?

Okay, last thing. Verse 8 is pretty straightforward, using the term double-minded. Here’s where my double-mindedness comes in. I listen to the world and to God. I try to keep my options open, just in case.

Personal reflection:

I’ll let you fill in your own “just in case.” Are you trying to keep your options open, just in case _______ (What happens? Fill in the blank with that.)

I’ll leave you with Matthew 7:11 Does help with the “just in case” part?

Father, by the Spirit we cry Abba, or Daddy. We need wisdom for so many things. Prompt us to come to you, the Source of all wisdom and ask for what we lack. You love us so deeply that not only do you have the wisdom, but you give it to us happily. Give us the courage to believe that wisdom, but may we never let prayer be a means to an end, instead finding our end in you. In Jesus name, Amen.

.