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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dealing with Grey Areas

This is Carbon.  It's almost like she's camouflaged in this tree. 
As Fall descends upon the area, we lose the vibrant colors that enriched our world.  And with the fewer sunny days and increased cloudy days, it is a sure test of our mind and soul.

Our lives feel that way too sometimes.  We can't sustain the mountain-top highs of happiness, and we slog through the dreary valleys of blackness that accompanies personal and national tragedies.  We tend to teeter along in the middle of every day tedious routine.

Some of the decisions we make - either the Big Ticket items such as jobs, moving, etc. or the daily responsibilities - are very clear to us.  No, we don't want to live in North Dakota in January and yes, I do want to try that new restaurant.  But what do we do when things are unclear?

While we have God's word to guide us in making choices that are healthy for us (emotionally and physically), we tend to want more!  Some people seem to sense Holy Spirit leading for those every day confusions that are not specific in scripture.  Then there is me, who I often feel God gives the Divine Shrug and what I hear is, "meh".  Could it be that he wants me to think things through, look at the big picture, and exam long term implications?!  What?  I have to THINK?!

When I use the phrase "grey areas", it tends to imply what is morally ambiguous.  In Christianese, that's "disputable matters."  In other words, when God doesn't give us the plum line to follow in His Word the Bible, then we muscle through these decisions.  God created us uniquely.  He sends some of us to places others aren't comfortable going.  I recently had an example of that.  Where I felt a distinct caution, another had no problems and experienced fruit in the relationship made there. 

That is beautiful.  God keeps us on our toes - he wants us to think, to examine what His word is, but also keeping us uncomfortable in our lives to a healthy extent.

Life isn't supposed to be too easy.  But in all circumstances, we can experience God's peace, if we only run to Him.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sticking Your Neck Out

This is Skipper.  Or at least, this is Skipper's head, poking out of the gap in his kennel run.  Don't worry, Skipper did not get stuck!
Skipper is a happy little dog who, in typical dachshund fashion, dashes faster than you'd think short legs would carry him.  While he is quite good about going back into his run (especially if it is meal time), he still likes to see what else is going on around him.

There's that fine line between being kind and concerned with people and just being nosey.  There are those "Brick Wall" moments when we see others heading toward bad choices.  We want to stop them and yell, "Hey, you are driving toward a brick wall!  Stop!" but we don't.  Sometimes there is nothing we can do but watch the decline, even if we've tried some "hints."

When is the proper time to have that awkward conversation?  Do we stop because we fear the other person will fight back?  Does it just depend on the bad decision?  What are your thoughts?

God wants us to care about each other - to be our brother's keeper.  And it would seem that Jesus believes our neighbors are not determined by their address.  It's hard to be discerning, and it's hard to speak truth into someone's life when our culture says that a person can do pretty much whatever they want if it makes them happy.

Perhaps you've had times of running toward those brick walls.  Maybe the brick walls have won.  Would it have made a difference if someone had talked to you prior?  What approach do you think reflects kindness and love?

Maybe we can't stick our heads out to help someone every time, but we are to love at all times.  Sometimes love means doing hard things.  And in all things, there is prayer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Things We Need

The first thing you may notice is that the picture on this blog is dog-free.
But shortly after the sun rose on the first day of vacation, barking and dogs were everywhere on the beach.  Okay, not really EVERYwhere, but in enough places that my dog-weary soul reacted as if it was a bad rash.  It was a long summer of dogs and dog problems (and maybe a few dog owner problmes but not you, no, never you, Kind Reader who I am sure is perfect).  Vacation is meant to be dog-free in my mind (though I often take dog or dogs with me).

You know I love dogs.  But sometimes, I don't NEED dogs.  I don't need to see them peeing and pooping on the beach I long to meander along and think dog-free thoughts.  And two mornings, later as i contemplated braving the beach, a cat was using the sand as its litterbox.

Sometimes the things we hope to take refuge in turn out to be imperfect and have repulsive elements.

I love my house but it is currently swarmed with workers doing an impressive amount of home repairs.  Hardly peaceful.  All Summer, I run to see my friends at the Dairy Barn and their cones full of deliciousness, but noting my rather tight Fall clothing reminds me even chocolate peanut butter has its sneaky dark side (and it's not chocolate).  Ditto fruity beach drinks.  They lie, I tell you!  The moment I take pride in my identity as a fitness instructor, my ankle throbs, reminding me of a body that won't endure forever.

"His LOVE endures forever."

The last two weeks Haven Ministries has broadcast programs featuring Corrie Ten Boom's story.  If you have not read her book or seen the movie based on it, the Hiding Place, then DO THAT.  She survivied my personal worst nightmare (and likely yours) and came out of it like a boss.  I mean, her faith, refined by the fire of the Nazis, was fierce and grew brighter.  "There is no pit, that God's love is not deeper still."  See?  And that's just one of her amazing lessons.

She told the story of while in solitary confinement at a concentration camp, she called out to God and told him that her faith was not strong enough.  Through the lesson of a simple ant walking into a crevice in a wall, the Lord spoke to her, "Corrie, your faith ISN'T strong enough, but I AM.  See the ant?  It walks into its hiding place, and that is what you must do."

Mind.  Blown.

This morning I woke up with entirely too much energy and a ready-to-go attitude.  That's not so hard to do on vacation.  But the Real World lurks, and even here it is hard to avoid headlines that remind us that Evil still desires to wipe out good.

In light of that, I don't really care about the dogs and cats doing their business on the beach.  Most of the time, dogs and cats are really fabulous gifts that enrich my life.  And if I could just enjoy ice cream less often, it would only grow my appreciation for its better qualities.  Getting a buzz out of leading a bunch of fabulous women toward their fitness goals isn't bad when I remember that it is only the Lord who is my strength and my sustainer.

There are a lot of things I don't need.  And even though I want them and get sucked into their comfort too much, what I really NEED all the time is Jesus.  Even if I get irritated that life is not just how I think it should be and mean people suck, He knows and controls this world with a plan far beyond my understanding (despite my suggestions and questions).

While I don't need dolphins either, seeing them just over the rim of my laptop while listening to a song about God's grace enriches my life with a gift that proves the message of the song.  Let the People Rejoice.