Tag Archives: life

Week Three, Engage the Word

I hope your journey through Engage the Word is going well. I know it can be very busy and it’s easy for reading scripture to get pushed out of your day. But one of the things I continue to realize is that listening to God through scripture is one of the key things that keeps me focused through the busyness of life.

Here are the passages for this week and below are a few questions for you to think about as you read this week:

Monday: 1 Kings 2:1-3:28 (Give your servant an understanding mind)
Tuesday: Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd)
Wednesday: Psalm 51:1-19 (Have mercy on me)
Thursday: Proverbs 1:1-4:27 (Trust in the Lord)
Friday: Proverbs 16:1-18:24 (Commit your work to the Lord)
Saturday: Malachi 1:1-4:6 (I am sending my messenger)
Sunday: Matthew 13:1-58 (The Kingdom of heaven)

What stands out to you as the “big idea” from this passage?
What do you think God wants us to learn from this passage?
Does this story or your discussion change they way you think, or what you knew, about the Bible?
What is Jesus teaching you from the Engage the Word passages?

Can’t Handle It

Have you ever noticed that there are times in life when the same theme shows up in different places? That has happened for me recently. Different conversations with different people have been fueling thoughts that I have been stewing over for a while. So naturally, I decided to attempt putting into writing. Here it is- for whatever it’s worth.

Over the past few years, I have come to the conclusion that I have been deceived. I’m not sure where this originated from and I’m convinced it was not on purpose by any one person- but it happened. Like I said, it has been over the last few years that I’ve come to this conclusion, but the theme has been brought up in conversations and life events recently. The deception is this: Whatever comes into my life, I can handle it.

At some point in life, this idea was impressed on me. I think a lot of people believe this. But I don’t. There are a lot of life events and situations that I just flat cannot handle. They are too overwhelming and too big for me. I don’t know how to process them or restore them or fix them. And somewhere along the way, I was left with the impression that I should be able to. What is even more interesting, is that I was left with the impression that when something comes into my life it is because God sent it my way because I could handle it. Again, I don’t believe that.

But here is what I do believe: I believe God can handle everything that comes into life. I also believe God will supply what I need in the middle of it all.There are going to be life events that are overwhelming, but if I am walking with Jesus during them- then He is the one who helps handle it. I can’t handle it.

If I could, I wouldn’t need His promise to always be with me (Matthew 28:20; Acts 17:27-18; 1 John 3:24.)

If I could handle it, I wouldn’t need His promise to give me what I need to say when I need to say it (Mark 13:11).

If I could handle everything, there would be no need for His promise of help (John 14:26).

If I could handle the temptations of life, I would not need God to give me a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Bottom line for me is this: I’m glad I don’t have to handle everything life throws at me. I am very grateful that instead, I have a loving God and Savior and Helper who are there for me. When life events and circumstances come my way that I can’t handle, I am so glad that God is Immanuel…. God with us… God with me… giving me what I need to get through what I cannot handle. If I had to rely on me to handle all of life, I would be discouraged and I know I would fail. But instead I have Jesus to take it too. I have the Holy Spirit to guide me! I am so glad I do not have to rely on my ability to handle what comes my way!

Life and Death

Behind my home is a cemetery. Yes, as in a graveyard complete with headstones from the 1800’s, flags at Veteran’s Day, and the occasional graveside service. The cemetery has some of the best paths for running and walking. It’s generally empty, and if there are cars driving through, they drive pretty slow. The other day I was running through the cemetery and a song by Jon Foreman came on. Here are the lyrics:

I’m gonna miss you
I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone
She says, “I love you
I’m gonna miss hearing your songs”

And I said, “Please,
Don’t talk about the end
Don’t talk about how every living thing goes away”
She said, “Friend,
All along I thought I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
But really I’ve been learning how to die
I’ve been learning how to die”

Hey everyone
I got nowhere to go
The grave is lazy
He takes our body slow

And I said, “Please,
Don’t talk about the end
Don’t talk about how every living thing goes away”
She said, “Friend,
All along I thought I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to laugh not how to cry
But really I’ve been learning how to die
I’ve been learning how to die”
I’ve been learning how to die

[Learning How To Die; Jon Foreman]

Very recently, my friend and I were talking and somehow we ended up talking about death. We all know we are going to die, but everything changes when you begin to put a timetable or expectancy on death. It’s like knowing there is a bomb, but then having someone actually light the fuse. Living completely changes in that moment. Authenticity becomes a must. Goals are reprioritized. The trivial things of yesterday are viewed through a different lens. Hopefully, for the better. Being forced to think about what impact is left behind can frighten or challenge….

Challenge us to consider how our life might last beyond our death.

Just something I’ve been thinking about….

Resurrection Sunday

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

(John 20)

Losing To Gain

Scripture passage: Mark 8:31-38

There are a lot of elements today in my Lent reading that stood out to me. I think it is one of those readings that will take me a couple of days to really process. One of the things that enhanced the reading for me was the inclusion by the devotional writers of a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer happens to be my favorite theologian.

I have been fascinated by his story for a long time. Bonhoeffer was a young man in Germany at the time of the Nazi regime. He came from an influential and very educated family. He saw early how detrimental the Nazi government was and he spoke against it. Eventually, he was arrested and executed because of his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

He fascinates me because he so strongly believed that his call to follow Jesus meant he had to do all he could to stop evil from prevailing. He was extremely dedicated to being a disciple of Jesus and helping others to be disciples. He had opportunities to leave Germany but he stayed because he was dedicated to living as a disciple of Jesus with the people he was most connected to. His commitment to being a disciple of Jesus in the place where God had put him caused him to lose his life. He understood what it was to lose his life.

I read about his life and then I read this passage and I am challenged. Do I really understand what it is to lose my life for the sake of the gospel? Am I willing to let go of all my ideas about how life should be in order to pursue being a disciple of Jesus? As I think about this, I cannot get away from the first part of the Mark passage… Jesus himself understood what it means to lose his life. He knew what was coming for him- death- and yet he was willing to go forward. He does not call me to anything that he himself has not already been through….

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

O God, early in the morning I will cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me:
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before men.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

A Lesson From Sam

I want to introduce you to Sam. Sam is a really awesome seven-year-old in our congregation. He’s funny, creative, and insightful. He also has mind-boggling medical challenges. But this kid continues to amaze me. I haven’t known him for very long, but I am really glad that I do know him!

Recently Sam has been in and out of the hospital because of his medical needs. And when I say “in and out,” I mean for like a week or so at a time. It was basically coming down to complications with his feeding tube and his stomach’s ability to process nutrition. It has caused a lot of pain and a lot of concern. Sam has some great doctors, but the complications and issues are crazy. Everyone has been doing all they can for him, but nothing was really working like they wanted it to.

Then there was yesterday… Here’s what his mom posted on their CaringBridge Journal this morning:

Sam has now been getting g-feeds (through his stomach) for a little over 24 hours.  Along with formula and meds through his feeding tube, he’s also been eating small meals throughout the day by mouth.  This is where it gets good.. 

When we last tried that, as recently as Sunday, he was retching hard after no more than 4-5 bites and complaining of tummy pain because his formula was backing up into his stomach.  After a rough morning yesterday, where we ended up having to stop his feeds for a little while and then resume with diluted formula instead of full strength (30cal/oz), we managed to get through the day at a much higher rate than we’d thought possible.  He did need several short breaks from feeds throughout the day but ended up going to bed pain free that night!!  No levsin (pain), no phenergan (nausea), nothing.  From everything we’ve seen, this shouldn’t have been possible..  There’s no explanation for the success of this other than God answering our prayer.  We could not have made this happen on our own. 

Even if he doesn’t continue to tolerate g-feeds long term, at the very least it’s buying us enough time to come up with a plan for how to proceed.  We’re home, not stuck in the hospital.  Sam’s no longer on the brink of dehydration like he was on Tuesday.  He’s still not taking in enough calories to maintain his current weight, let alone gain, but it’s a much better start than we were expecting.  Praise God! 

Sam’s advice for the day is that sometimes you just have to try as hard as you can and never give up.  That’s exactly what we’re doing.  Thanks for all of your support, and especially for all of the prayers that have been going up on Sam’s behalf.  This is definitely not something we could have accomplished on our own.   😀

“Never give up…” I can tell you that Sam really does believe that. He also really does believe that God is the One who helps us never give up. The times I visited Sam in the hospital or sent him messages on facebook, he has amazed me by his simple trust that God really can and will help him. And in the middle of all of his complications, he has joy. Circumstances are not always what he wants. He will still have to try again tomorrow. But he is teaching me that when God is with me, I really can keep going. God really does give me what I need to “never give up.”

The Heart of the Issue

Proverbs 4:20 My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
21 Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
22 for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.

23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

24 Avoid all perverse talk;
stay away from corrupt speech.

25 Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
27 Don’t get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.

Life can be absolutely crazy. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. We all pretty much know that unexpected things happen in life, but when people make unexpected choices, it can cause mass confusion. There have been a few situations the last couple of weeks in which I was surprised by people’s choices. They are the kind of life-altering, family shattering, choices that you never expect… The kind of choices that reveal that life was not as “all together” as it appeared. It’s caused me to think and reflect a lot.

How do we make our choices? How is it that someone who seems to have life all together and things going well, can make such a drastic decision that turns it all upside down? Why are they making that choice? Why does it surprise me when someone makes a choice that seems to be very selfish?

I don’t think anyone ever goes about making decisions with the thought, “I am going to try and hurt my family/kids/friends with this life choice.” No, I don’t think that ever really crosses our minds. But that is exactly what happens at times. So how do we get to that point?

I’ve decided that getting to that point is related to what we do with the lesson from that passage above. I think it all hinges on verse 23, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” When someone is making a life-altering choice, it is revealing their heart… what is really important, what they really love, how they really think.

It has caused me to think, how am I guarding my heart? What am I doing to make sure the things that influence my heart (what I believe is important, what/who I love, how I think) are honorable and consistent with my commitment to follow Jesus? The things I allow myself to think and dwell upon have a large part to do with what I am allowing to influence my heart. And from my heart will come the course of my life.