God sightings, Living in Faith, Scripture Lessons, Scripture verses

Slow down, see God, be changed

Busy, busy, busy. That’s how many of us tend to go through our days whether we’re at school, in the workplace, at home, or somewhere else. Even our vacations can sometimes be so full of activities that we feel like we need a vacation once we get home from vacation!

slow down and see God; see God and be changedAs crazy and scary as the past 18 months have been, one benefit for some people has been the realization that life doesn’t always have to be so busy. We saw that we can slow down … take a break … step back a bit … and the world will still keep turning.

What a refreshing reminder for some of us, myself included.

I’m a firm believer that God is all around us in big and small ways every day. After all, Scripture tells us so multiple times. First, we have the obvious example of the creation story in Genesis. A few other references to it include:

  • You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)
  • Thus says the Lord,the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hand? I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” (Isaiah 45:11-12)
  • For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

We can forget to notice those daily reminders as we rush through our days. What’s playing on our radio or in our earbuds drowns out the bird’s song. Our morning routine keeps us from noticing the sunrise. We’re checking things on our phone while waiting in a restaurant so miss the smile from the baby at the next table.

I’m not pointing fingers here; I’m just as guilty as anyone else. But I’m trying to do better. Why?

Because when we slow down, we see God.

And when we see God, we can’t help but be changed.

After all, how can we not be changed and be in complete awe of God once we see Him for ourselves?

That’s the kind of change I want to have in my life. But how do we do make it happen?

The best way I’ve found is to ask God to open my eyes and ears so that I’ll see or hear Him around me that day. When I do this, it’s amazing how many ways I notice Him. It’s as if He’s just waiting for the opportunity to show off. 😊

I also try to write down some of the things I see or experience. Then on those days when I’m struggling or questioning or doubting, I can look back and see how many ways God has reminded me of His presence.

Sometimes I see Him in big, obvious ways like the pillars of cloud and fire that God used to guide the Israelites while they were in the desert (Exodus 13:21-22). Other times it’s in subtle ways that are easy to overlook, like when God spoke to Elijah in the still, small whisper instead of the earthquake or fire (1 Kings 19:9-13).

Either way, it’s God. He’s in the biggest of the big and the smallest of the small because He created it all. He wants — and deserves — our praise for every bit of it, from the tallest mountain or most complex creation to the everyday things in life that feel inconsequential.

As Christians, we’re told to continually praise God. Learning to slow down so we can see Him in everything around us is one way to do that, one way to keep Him as an important part of our day.

It doesn’t become habit overnight and there are plenty of days when I don’t focus on it as well as I could. The world still clatters all around me, pulling my attention in too many directions. But I keep trying and hope you do, too.

We’re all works in progress, no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been following God. How do you set the world aside long enough to see God in your everyday life? Have you found a way to keep track of those moments so you don’t forget them?

Leave a comment to share what you’ve learned and help someone else in their journey. We can all use help along the way.

Be blessed, friends!

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Living in Faith, Scripture Lessons, Thankful Thursday, What I've Learned Lately

Thankful for the Truth Tellers

Tell the truth. It’s something we’re taught from such a young age we don’t remember when we first heard it. We’re told that the truth is always best, and it is – but that doesn’t mean it never hurts along the way.

I think we’ve all had times when the truth hurt so much that we wanted to run and hide from the world and never come back out. Surely if we just stayed curled up under the covers and went to sleep long enough, when we woke up everything would be back to the way it was just a little while ago.

thankful truth in loveUnfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. And the thing is, being the one who has to tell someone an unpleasant truth can be just as hard as being the one who hears it.

Granted, there might be times when we’re so hurt or frustrated or angry ourselves that we just blurt out the words without letting them pass through our “how are they going to take this?” filter.

Paul talks in his letter to the Ephesians about speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). He’s just talked about how Christ helps different people (pastors, teachers, and others) work together to build each other (and the church) up. As we grow together, we learn how to discern the truth of things and not be so easily deceived, “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” We speak the truth in love to each other so we can build and support each other as we all keep trying to figure things out.

It can be a delicate balance, walking the fine line of speaking the truth without destroying the other person – especially when that person doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. It’s something never to be taken lightly and always to be taken with prayer. Because without prayer, without asking God to block my own stupid words and replace them with His perfect ones, I don’t stand a chance.

Hopefully, God will give us those words so we can get past our fear and say what needs to be said. Hopefully, we have a close enough relationship with the other person that she knows what we say comes from our heart and our love, not a desire to hurt.

My hat goes off today to those people around me who are brave enough to speak the truth in love to whoever they believe needs to hear it. I just pray that I can say the same thing about myself when God puts me in that situation.

Your turn: Author Flannery O’Conner once said, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” Which do you think is harder most of the time – hearing the truth from someone you care about, or speaking the truth in love?

Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite Christian groups since their first CD released in 2003 (wow, has it really been that long?). I thought you might enjoy the video of their song “Love You With the Truth” from their CD Thrive.

Living in Faith, Scripture Lessons, Scripture verses, Thankful Thursday

Thankful I can question God

One of my challenges to myself lately is to pay more attention to the little things in life and be grateful for them, even if they don’t seem that important. I’ve seen “Thankful Thursday” blogs posts and memes periodically and thought that would be a good thing to incorporate here. I already had some ideas and thought I knew what I’d write about … and then I read today’s First 5 devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries.

First 5Just as background, Proverbs 31 is a ministry that focuses on building women up in their faith. They send out daily email devotionals, have published numerous books, sponsor a book club, lead online Bible studies, and host a fabulous yearly conference – among other things. One of their newer additions is First 5, an app with a 5-minute daily devotional. Instead of being about all sorts of things (like the email devos), First 5 goes through a particular book of the Bible by taking a closer look at a key verse from each chapter. You can even set it t be the first thing that pops up on your phone each morning so you’re sure to start the day with a few minutes with God.

Anyway … First 5 is currently going through the book of Exodus and today’s highlighted verse was Exodus 4:10 (“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” NIV). Moses is trying to talk God out of the assignment he’s been given – to demand that Pharaoh set the Israelites free. Even though God had told Moses exactly what to do and assured him that He would be with Moses, even though God literally spoke the words aloud so there was no doubt in Moses’s mind who the directions were coming from. Even though God had filled Moses in on the plan, including that He would provide for the Israelites through plunder from the Egyptians.

Thankful ThursdayBut Moses still doubted what he was hearing and actually had the nerve to tell God that He must’ve made a mistake – Moses wasn’t the guy for the job. He let his insecurities get in the way of what God had already planned for him to do.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me, too.

The doubts, the second guessing, the “what ifs” pile up and block what I think God wants me to do. Even worse, it happens when I KNOW what God wants me to do. I can be such an insecure girl.

So I pull a Moses, asking God if He’s sure that He’s sure about what I think He’s saying. Am I really understanding Him correctly? What if I’m wrong? What if I do what I think God wants me to do, but end up going off track from His plan? Could He send me a sign for confirmation? Or maybe another sign?

Sometimes the enemy has such a heyday with me and my mind, playing tricks and planting doubts. Like … a “real” Christian would listen and follow God without questioning … a Christian with stronger faith would step out and follow without asking for reassurance … God has much more important things to deal with than me and my neediness. Bah!

So that’s why, on this first Thursday of 2016, I’m thankful that God doesn’t mind my questions, no matter how silly or obnoxious they might be. He doesn’t mind my asking for help with my doubts, He doesn’t even mind when I ask if He’s crazy for doing what I think He’s doing.

I’m glad the Bible includes stories like this one with Moses. It reminds me I’m not alone when I have doubts or when I question God. It’s like I used to tell my middle school kids when I taught Sunday school all those years ago – talk to God about anything and everything, even when you’re almost afraid to bring it up. He’s big enough to take it.

And today I’m really thankful for that.

Your turn: What are you thankful for today? Share with us!

God sightings, Living in Faith, Monday Musings, Scripture Lessons

What Layers Am I Missing?

Every Bible story still has lessons to learn. (photo from morguefile.com)

Sometimes when we grow up in church — or have been there for a long time — it can feel like we know nearly every Scripture passage the pastor reads on Sunday morning. But, even if we know the passage, that doesn’t mean we know all the lessons. Which was the lesson I was reminded of (again!) during church a couple of weeks ago.

The main Scripture for the sermon was Acts 8:4-8, Acts 8:25-40, and Acts 21:8. It’s the story of Philip being directed by God to travel south along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, across the desert. Along the way, he met a eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip felt God nudge him to talk to the eunuch and ask if he understand what he was reading. When the man admitted he didn’t, Philip joined him in the chariot and explained the Gospel of Jesus to him. The eunuch believed what Philip said, and Philip baptized him.

I’ve always looked at this as a story about following God’s nudges when we feel them, about not being afraid to talk to others about God, or about not being embarrassed to ask questions about God-things. I still think those take-aways apply, but the pastor added some details to the story that I’d either never heard or had never thought hard enough to figure out.

Detail 1: The eunuch said he had been to Jerusalem to worship. The Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem to worship all the time — but the eunuch wasn’t Jewish. He was Ethiopian, and a high-ranking one at that — a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. If he had gone to Jerusalem to worship, how had he learned the faith? How long had he followed the faith? And, wow, what a long way to travel — from Ethiopia to Jerusalem — to worship! That’s dedication!

Detail 2: The traveler was a eunuch, and Scripture expressly forbid eunuchs from worshiping at the temple. If you need verification of this, check out Deuteronomy 3:21 — it makes it quite clear! So where did the eunuch go to worship? Just outside the temple courtyard? And if he wasn’t allowed to enter the temple area to worship, could he still give some type of offering? Or did his contributions have to be actions rather than monetary? I have no idea. Might just have to research that ….

Detail 3: The eunuch was reading the words of the prophet Isaiah. That meant he had a scroll of the teachings, which was a rare thing for someone to have — and very expensive! How did he come to have such a precious thing? Was it his, or the queen’s, or someone else’s? An interesting question I won’t ever know the answer to.

rock layers
There are always more layers than we expect. (Photo from morguefile.com)

Hearing these extra details brought the story to light for me in a new way, even though I’ve heard it since childhood. It also made me start thinking about how I look at things in my own life. Nothing is ever what it seems on the surface. How many times am I guilty of surface interactions or reactions without looking to the underlying layers, those extra details that support the situation? More than I’d like to admit, I’m sure!

What can I do about it? Work to be more empathetic and open toward others. Ask for clarifications before I jump to conclusions. Remind myself that there’s always more than meets the eye, as the old saying goes. And that sometimes those extra details aren’t any of my business, but acknowledging there are things I don’t know can help me handle things better.

Will I be successful? Not always, but hopefully more often than I have been lately. Baby steps every day. That’s what it’s all about.

Your turn: What’s a familiar Bible story you’ve learned something new about lately? Or, how do you keep a mindset that’s open to seeing all the layers of a situation? Come share with us!