Monday, June 30, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Who or What Defines You?

Recently when referring to myself I said, “I’ve been old since I was thirty-nine.” The statement stayed with me. And gradually I got a glimpse of how I view myself. I didn’t like what I saw.

In 1991 a log truck hit the van I was driving. In a moment, my life changed. I wasn’t the person I’d always been. I was altered, physically, emotionally and spiritually. What I couldn’t understand then was how profoundly the accident would impact my life. God, being who He is, brought many good things to me through the challenges that followed. But life, being what it is, also brought harm.

For seventeen years, I’ve fought to embrace the new me. When I made the statement about being old, I realized that I’ve been giving the accident too much freedom in my life. I’ve allowed it to define who I am.

I’m all for adversity building strength and character, but there can also be negative effects from hardships. In some ways my thinking has been sightless.

It is Christ who defines me, no one else. At least that’s the way it should be.

We all need to see ourselves through God’s eyes. We’re not walking accidents or hobbling cripples. Even when our stride is weak or a bit gimpy that doesn’t mean we’re not strong in Him, or that we’re someone other than who He intended us to be.

The accident changed my life, but I’m still me. I’m still that person who loved to ride horses, who played in the surf, who split firewood and helped build my home. I can’t do those things anymore, but I remember the joy of a strong, active body. And when I'm thinking straight I remember that there’s a lot more to me than just physical activities and pain free days.

Sometimes, unnecessarily, we leave behind the things we love. Maybe we ought to consider what we can still do rather than think about what we can’t do. I can still be a good friend, still worship, cheer at my grandson’s baseball games, and I can still drive a boat across a mountain lake. And most importantly, Christ lives in me and spurs me on to live for Him.

Life is full of fun and surprises. Yes, I have limitations, but don’t we all?

What is it that defines you? Does God agree with your definition? If you’re not sure, then go to The One who has the answer. He’s dying to tell you.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Never Make Assumptions

My grandson, Corey, decided to play baseball this year. It’s his first time to be part of an organized sport. He’s a good athlete and we figured he’d have no difficulties picking up the game.

It’s not been as easy as we thought. There are many skills to be learned and the intricacies of the game don’t settle into place without a lot of experience. It’s been a challenge for Corey because most of his teammates have been playing for at least three years. Also, Corey’s small, really small. We knew that but didn’t completely understand just how little he is until he ran out on the field with the rest of the team.

Still, it’s been a good season. Corey’s worked hard and he’s learned a lot. His skills and knowledge of the game have grown tremendously.

His coach is a good guy, but he made an assumption about Corey’s skills. Corey has spent most of his games in right field. He’s longed to do something more, but when he's asked for permission to try something new he’s usually been turned down. At last night’s game the coach, for some reason, decided to let Corey play catcher and learned a valuable lesson about assumptions.

Corey has wanted to catch for some time. (The team needs a good catcher.) For weeks the coach turned a deaf ear to his appeals at a chance, assuming Corey couldn’t do it. But last night he gave the littlest kid on the team an opportunity. As it turns out, Corey’s a natural for the position. His size and agility are a perfect combination for the position behind the batter. He had a great game.

Corey hadn’t been behind home plate long when both coaches were beaming and shaking their heads in amazement. And I figure they were kicking themselves for not giving him the opportunity sooner. We have only a week and a half left in the season. They’d made a wrong assumption. We all do from time to time.

Assumptions can rob us of special opportunities, the treat of using unique gifts, of experiencing good times, and maybe even years of service to God. Too often we assume we can’t do something, that we’re not qualified or not gifted enough. Or we may wrongly believe that God wouldn’t ask that of us. And we miss out, too afraid to take a risk.

Next time you make an assumption, stop yourself and check with God. Maybe he has something unusual in mind, maybe even something bigger than we can imagine or hope for. Remember, He can do all things.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Valuable Lessons

My husband and I live in the country. We raised our family here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but trouble lurks in the greenery. A succulent green-leafed plant thrives in the forests and lowlands, just waiting for the unsuspecting.

We hadn’t lived here long when I was first introduced to poison oak. I learned, first hand, that beauty sometimes conceals malice. But that’s a topic for another day. Today I want to talk about learning lessons.

I was extremely allergic to poison oak and quickly learned to stay away from it. My son, on the other hand, had to learn his lesson more than once.

Like me, he was tremendously sensitive to the oil on the plant’s leaves and was often covered in the horrible, weeping rash that comes from contact. Some summers it seemed I spent hours every week, dabbing Calamine lotion on the fiery red rashes on my son’s flesh.

One night after tucking him into bed and settling down for prayers, he asked me to pray for his most recent outbreak. Of course I did, but when the rash didn’t immediately disappear he asked, “Why doesn’t God heal me?”

It’s one of those questions that isn’t easily answered. Often, we don’t know why God does or does not heal. That evening, though, I think God gave me a good answer for my son . . . and for me. I told Paul, “If God heals every time you get into the poison oak do you think you’ll learn to stay out of it? Maybe this is His way of teaching you to avoid the plant and some of the other barbs in your life.”

Understanding dawned on his young face and he said with a hint of disappoint, “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”

After that, I don’t recall him ever having another bad case of poison oak. It seems he learned his lesson.

What about the lessons in our lives? What is God trying to teach us? Are we angry about his teaching tools and therefore missing the point? Over the years, I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons, some numerous times. But when I remember that evening with my son I am reminded that sometimes “fixing” a situation only means I’ll miss important instructions from my Lord.

God doesn’t fix everything and with good cause. And so I offer Him thanks even for things like poison oak.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Father Knows Best

How many of you remember the television program from the 60’s called "Father Knows Best"? I’ve got my hand raised. I loved that show! Robert Young played the father, Jim Anderson, who watched over his family, which consisted of his wife Margaret and three children, Betty, Bud and Kathy.

The program created a nearly perfect image of an American family. It presented a home life most of us would long for. The Andersons went about everyday activities in an idyllic way. They had their troubles, like all families do, but they met difficulties together and everything always turned out fine. And of course, Father always knew best.

The program may not have portrayed the reality of today’s typical family but it gave us a picture of what we all desire, a life lived with faith and trust in the ones we love and who love us back. I think the program is a good picture of the absolute trust a child should have in a father.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the
Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope
and a future.”

The Lord is the Father we long for, the one who loves us no matter what we do, the one we can trust and who always has our best interests at heart. With a Dad like that we don’t need to fear tomorrow. So, why do we? The answers to that question are as varied as the human race, but one overriding reason, I believe, is that we've forgotten how to trust.

God says He knows the plans He has for us. It seems to me that whatever He’s laid out must be the very best. So, if we can learn to trust in His good judgment and live our lives accordingly we ought to attain all the good things He wants for us. Good does not necessarily mean easy or painless, but when we conquer a mountain with God cheering us on even the painful experiences in life can be embraced.

May we look to Him and experience hope and peace, knowing that our future is secure.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--A Heavenly Command

While reading Colossians 3:1-17 several verses jumped out at me. Verse three says “Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Verse fourteen says, "Put on love." The following verses 12 – 13 continue with, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity."

Put to death is not a suggestion. It is a command. God does not command us to do something we cannot do. In light of that, we must be capable of fulfilling His will in these areas.

The consequences of not obeying His decree is frightening. Verse six says, Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. Clearly God is opposed to sin, and He will justly punish those who do sin.

So where does that leave the believer? Thankfully, we are covered by the blood of Christ and will not have to pay the ultimate price for our sin, but will stand before The Father pure and blameless.

Nevertheless, that does not give us license to do “whatever” we please. He says we are to put to death what belongs to our earthly nature. We must steadfastly face our sin and thrust a sword into the heart of it. We may not face wrath, but there will be consequences for unrestrained transgressions. Just as a father disciplines his children so God disciplines us.

Fulfilling the second command in these verses, to Put on Love, is vital to everything we hope to do in this world and the next. Without love we cannot clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. First Corinthians spells out just who we are without love. It says we are a clanging cymbal, we are nothing, and we cannot gain anything without love.

The love of Christ is accessible to us all, but first we must believe in His sacrifice and accept His gift of salvation. Only then will we be able to do all He asks of us.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Let go.

If I were to take a test that indicated my stress level it would probably be off the scale. I'm a type "A" personality and life demands a lot from me, from most of us. There is always something going on. Presently I have all the usual--work, family, health issues, and things like gasoline prices. My husband and I are also building a house (never again), and my daughter is getting married in July. The wedding is good news, but as is often the case weddings also mean stress. My body doesn't much like stress and sometimes it tells me so.

There is a prayer called the Serenity Prayer, which says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

Wise words we all should heed. Sometimes we simply need to let go.

There's so much about this life that we truly have no say about, things we cannot change no matter how much we may wish they were different. When we come face to face with these realities the healthiest response would be to accept the circumstances and offer them to God.

I've never seen a day of worry make anything better. But I've certainly seen it make things worse.

God waits to hear from us. He can contend with all of our troubles and disappointments. He's got everything under control. After all, He holds the world so perfectly in the universe that life thrives without our having to do a thing. So, what can we do that He can't?

To coin a phrase, "Don't worry. Be Happy."

Grace and peace to you from God.

Bonnie Leon

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Slave or Free?

In the book, “My Utmost For His Highest” Oswald Chambers states,"If a child gives in to selfishness, he will find it to be the most enslaving tyranny on earth."

I’ve been giving in to my “inner child” all my life. Oswald is right; those things that rule our lives enslave. I groan at the weaknesses that keep me from living in the place God desires for me. Sin shackles.

The way to freedom is to yield to Christ. My spirit says, "Yes," but my flesh says, "No." Sadly, there is still so much I have not yet yielded.

I seek God’s forgiveness and offer my life to Him, but the battle goes on--flesh against spirit. Even the apostle Paul fought this war. In Romans 7:19 he said, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing."

Here on earth humans will not know perfection, but we are not without hope. Christ offers us a future that is free of sin. His death made it possible for us to, one day, stand before God holy and blameless.

The song “I Can Only Imagine,” lifts me above the restraints of the world. I am reminded that one day I will stand before my Lord and know absolute freedom from sin. In awe I shall stand and then I will dance, surrounded by God’s glory.

I can only imagine.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living--Getting there from here.

If you’re like me you want everything today, or better yet, yesterday. Patience is not an area of strength for me. I want it and I want it now! There’s a commercial on television with a number of people saying this and every time I hear it I cringe. Perhaps because it reminds me of me.

Sanctification is something that takes time—a lifetime. It can be painful and it requires patience.

The moment we trust in Christ we are justified or made right. Christ’s sacrifice does this for us; it is not a process, but happens in a moment of belief. What follows justification is what’s tough, the growing in holiness, becoming more like Christ. It’s not easy. Sometimes I feel like a piece of fruit in an apple press. Ouch!

We are like a chunk of coal with hope of becoming a diamond.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image."

So those of us who have placed our faith in Christ and who can now see the truth shall be transformed. What really astounds me is that it goes on to say that we will be transformed into HIS likeness. If that is God’s promise, then the process of sanctification is well worth the pain. And so I say, “Thank you Lord.”

This transformation comes with another promise, that it will be completed. Philippians 1:6 says, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ."

God will not drop the ball. He promises to finish what he began.

When we welcome the process, we set aside self and with our will out of the way God’s will can be fulfilled. When I was a young Christian I knew I needed to give myself completely to God. This truth tugged at my heart. I knew it needed to happen. But I was afraid. What if He wanted something from me that was too difficult?

One day I realized that no matter what God wanted it was the best. I was suddenly released from the fear. What could be better than the best? And so finally I said, “Okay God, whatever you want that’s what I want.”

My life changed. There were no trumpets announcing the transformation, but my walk became steadier, more fulfilling and I experienced the joy of being used more completely by God.

When we hand ourselves over to Him, we can expect good stuff, the very best. So, let the refining begin.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Quiet Moments With God--Don't Be a Follower

Aren’t we told to follow? Yes—Christ, but not necessarily people.

Years ago, when picnicking with friends at a nearby river, I followed when I should have stood my ground. We were having a fine time until it was decided everyone should go swimming. I knew the spot chosen wasn’t safe, especially not for children. I voiced my qualms, but was pooh-poohed. I gave in.

The little ones waded in a quiet pool at the edge of the river. The danger lay in a strong current that ran alongside the pool. With ferocity it coursed into the main channel. My son, Paul, was only seven but he wanted to be like the “big boys” and pushed the limits of his permitted swimming area.

After warning him several times to stay clear of the current he took one step too many into dangerous waters and was caught by the surge, which pulled him toward what would be almost certain death. He wasn’t a strong swimmer, but he fought hard. Several of us charged in after him. As I made my way my prayer was nothing more than absolute dependency on the Lord and a shriek of, “God!”

By the time I reached Paul three people were already unsuccessfully fighting the river’s pull, trying to get him to safety. It seemed we would all drown. Then my feet found a foot hold that helped me keep my chin just above water and offered leverage. I managed to grab one of the rescuers hands who had a tight grasp on my son’s shirt. I wrenched him toward me and together we pulled Paul to safety.

When I gathered my little boy into my arms I was filled with a flood of emotions. I was furious with him for disobeying, disappointed in myself for yielding to others so unwisely, and filled with gratitude for God’s protective and loving hand. For days afterward the scene reeled through my mind and I grappled with what had almost happened and why.

There were many mistakes made that day, but what held my thoughts most was my failure to protect my child. I’d known better than to allow the children to play in dangerous waters, but was afraid to disagree with the voices of others.

In Isaiah 8:11-13 it says, The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: Do not fear what they fear and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.”

We are human and therefore can be swayed by the pull of the world. It takes strength to stand against what is seen as acceptable. Remembering that we do not stand alone, that the God of the universe stands with us, should strengthen our resolve and our courage. My son fought against the force of the river and managed to hang on. I fought the tide of opinion and failed to prevail.

It was a powerful lesson. I have no doubt we are called to remain strong in the Lord, to stand for what is true and right. Scripture says we are either for Him or we are against Him. If it is this simple, then what can we do but choose our Lord above all else?

Therefore, seek Him, know Him, and honor Him. There is no other way toward fulfillment for believers. There is much at stake, more than we can know. It was my weakness that nearly cost my son his life. As followers of Christ, we need to consider what our spiritual weakness may cost us and others.

Grace and peace to you from God.