The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

“The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success.  Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My (God’s) power is made perfect in weakness.” –Sarah Young (Jesus Calling)

I was struck by these words I read in my devotional yesterday morning. Struck, because self-sufficiency is something I have desired. It’s not that I didn’t know this before, but sometimes God has to remind me. He has to remind me that He is enough, that is working and is able to work in the midst of my circumstances and those of my friends.

I have several friends that have severe, often life threatening health issues.  There a moments when I ask God “why?”  Then I see God at work through them.  I know that every time one friend is in the hospital, everyone she comes in contact with hears her testimony of God’s love and goodness. God’s power is shown through her weakness, her health.

I have annoying allergies, but for the most part, my doctor says my health is “boringly normal.” I do know that the wealth that comes from working can disappear instantly.  God has dealt with me on this as I have recognized that even my contract work is not a sure thing.  Each day, I thank God for what I have.  I have enough to live on and even enjoy some things and that is so much more than most of the world.

I continue to look for full-time work, and as I do, God continues His work in my life.  He’s teaching me to trust Him more and to live in the moment.  I am seeing His power made perfect is this weakness in my life.  My prayer is that I am faithful to testify to others of His sufficient grace and that they will see His power made perfect in this imperfect person I am.

 

Words

Last night, the ladies at my church started a new study called The Power of a Woman’s Words by Sharon Jaynes. I am excited about this study in part because the subject resonates with me. This may be because my love language is words of affirmation.  I wrote the following about the power of words when I was in High School.

As the first of the senior began to walk down the aisle, Doretha leaned over and whispered to me, “Next year it will be your turn.” My only reply was a smile as I thought of all the plans and dreams that I had for the coming year and the years after.  I was happy.
But that was then. Now, less than three months later, that moment is only a memory.  Today, once again my dreams were shattered in a split second by her words. I had heard them before in a hundred different ways, but the meaning was always the same.  The words had been burned into mind and memory, until at last, I started believing them.  Now they seemed to shout at me. I used to believe them.  Yes, I used to believe that I was, indeed, stupid and useless. I thought I had overcome that, but now, as my head pounds with the words, the tiniest doubt emerges once again, and I believe them.
They are only words, some would say.  Words? Yes, but words are strange tools that hold a certain power.  Or should I say that we who use these words hold the power.  In only a fraction of a minute, words can tear a heart to pieces or induce a pain that cannot be equaled by even the greatest physical pain.
But words can also create hope for a person who has lost all hope.  And with their healing touch, they provide encouragement that another person needs to get up and try again.  I, myself, have known a time or two when the kind words of one person have somehow sanded away the cruel words of many.
There are, however, those less fortunate than I, who have lived a life filled with unkind words.  For these people, kind words alone are not enough to heal the hurt and pain they must feel.  In this case, kind words are only a beginning.
A beginning.  This is my hope in writing this now.  Each of us would do well to take a good, long look at our own use of words.  We would do well to listen to the words we use when talking about the young person sitting alone in the corner.  We laugh and say, “But they are only words.” But those words may be etched into the memory of someone who is about to commit suicide.  Can we then say that they were only words?

There is power in words, whether spoken or written. The Bible talks about the power of words.  They can be sweet as honey (Pr 16:24) or cut like a sword (Ps 63:3) . As Christians, our words should be used to“speak life” into others.  I’m looking forward to stepping back and evaluating my use of words during this study.

Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to walk with a friend that I don’t get to see very often. More often than not, when we get together, we walk and talk. I always leave tired from the walk, but refreshed from the conversation.  This week was no different.

I realized later that I also gain a different perspective when we get together. She commented that “it sounds like I have a very balanced life right now.” I was both surprised and encouraged by this statement. She was able to see things differently because she doesn’t live with me in the “foxhole” of my life.  I am so grateful that God has given me friends that have a different view of things and are such an encouragement to me.

Perspective in life is important.  It can encourage you when you are in the trenches and keep you grounded when you are walking on air. It comes in different ways. Sometimes, it comes when you don’t expect it, through the words of a friend.  Sometimes, you have to be intentional. Spending time with God through reading the Bible and prayer is one of the best ways to do this. We don’t see the big picture, but sometimes, God gives us a glimpse and His view is the perfect.

Thoughts on Weakness and Purpose

This past Sunday, my pastor preached on embracing weakness.  Somewhere in the middle of the message, God said “listen to this, really listen.”  I’ve been thinking about this and remembering God’s faithfulness in my life in the past.

It seems to me that we are taught, not only to be strong and independent, but that purpose in life involves doing great things. The problem with that thinking is that we are finite creatures. We can plan and pursue all we want, but we cannot see into the future. Nor can we always see the impact of our past. What we can do is live each day and each moment with God.  He sees the big picture and He knows the plans He has for us.  I think, when we live faithfully before Him, there are no small moments.  You may not be the next Billy Graham, but you may be investing him through a word of encouragement. Your smile or simple thank you may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but just maybe it is part of a long thread that eventually leads someone to Christ.  There is nothing greater than that.

My life has not gone in any way planned, but I know that God has led me each step of the way. Now and then, I get a glimpse of what He has done. Just last week I learned that the simple act of inviting someone to serve with me resulted in closer relationship with God. Praise God. I love when I get these glimpses, but even when I don’t, I have to trust God each day knowing He is faithful to continue the work that He began in me, knowing that He can use everything I will let Him use, including my weakness.

Waiting on God

“But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.”
– Psalm 103:13

I was struck by the truth in this verse this morning.  Read the whole Psalm and you begin to see the context of how the Israelites did this over and over. It is so easy to read their story through the lens of history and forget that it is our story too.  We see the Israelites rushing headlong into another error because they didn’t wait.  We wonder why they didn’t wait, when God’s awesome plan was right around the corner. Meanwhile, we live in a “have it your way, right away society.” The truth is I can’t even wait as long as the Israelites did. I want things to happen now and so, sometimes, I forget God’s faithfulness and try to fulfill His promises on my own.

I cannot see how God is unfolding His plan in my life.  What I do know, is that He shown Himself faithful time and time again. “Lord, help me to wait and to remember your faithfulness.”

Rush Hour Church

I have a confession to make.  Sometimes I enjoy traffic. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes, when I don’t have time constraints, I enjoy traffic. I listen to music and occasionally have church. This past Thursday was one of those times. I happened to be driving home during rush hour.

I listen to Pandora Radio in my car so that I can listen to a mix of the genres I like.  Generally this means there is a little Shania Twain, ABBA and others thrown between the Christian music I like  Sometimes, though, like Thursday, there’s a good run that makes me tap my feet and hands and go to church. I don’t remember where it started, but there was a little Chris Tomlin with “Indescribable”,  some  good old Southern Gospel with “I Go to the Rock”, followed by Lincoln Brewster with “Everlasting God.” I kind of wanted to keep driving. Instead, I thanked God for those moments and for the other unexpected joys of the day.

Birthday Prayer

Yesterday was my birthday. I know I have had a birthday on a Sunday before, but I don’t know that I have ever appreciated that as much as I did yesterday.  Maybe it’s because I’m at a different stage in life.  Maybe I’m just at a point where I see my need for God more clearly. Whatever the case, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than worship.

We sang one of my favorite songs of the past year “Counting on your Name.”  However, it was these words from “Forever Reign” that caught me.

“(Oh) I’m running to your arms
I’m running to your arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to your embrace
Light of the world forever reign”

The truth in there is that the riches of God’s love will always be enough. However, my life doesn’t always convey that I believe that.  There is too often a disconnect between my mind and heart.

I confess that I have spent much of the last year complaining to God and others about what I have lost and what I don’t have that I want.  Yesterday’s song and message reminded me of all that I have been given.  Not only have I been given life in this world, I have been given eternal life.  I have been given more than I ever lost and I already have more than I will ever need.

My prayer for this coming year is that I will rest in the riches of God’s love, that I will let go of the past, that I will live in the present and trust God for the future. I pray for wisdom to see God each day and the compassion to love those around me with the love and mercy that has been given to me. My prayer is not that I would get what I want but that God will be glorified in my life.

Running to His arms…

Writing and Trusting God

1175999_black_notebook_with_pencil

Last year, when I first started looking for a job, I thought I would use some of my free time to write.  Writing is something I have always enjoyed, but don’t do very much.  A year went by and I didn’t write much.

A few weeks ago, I was reading a novel where the character was writing. I have also been hearing a lot about the process that one of my best friend’s dad had been going through writing about book about navigating healthcare for his wife who had a stroke. Then, Tanya, one of my new friends, started reading my blog.  She said I was a good writer and wondered if I had ever done anything more.

This confluence of events and a further discussion with Tanya led me to the determination that what was holding me back was that I felt like I had to have an end goal in mind. After talking with Tanya, I decided just to start writing.  I have mostly been writing about experiences growing up in Africa. I have a lot of things in mind, but this is where it is beginning.

I am having more fun. I was telling Aunt Sandy, who has always advocated for my writing that the statement Eric Liddel made in the movie Chariots of Fire comes to mind.  “God made me for a purpose, but when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” When I write, I feel alive. Writing about Nigeria has led to conversations with Dad that I am thoroughly enjoying.  I’m also learning things about my parents and growing up.

The truth is that what often holds me back from things is that I think I must have the end goal in mind.  This is what I have been taught.  I think that works for some people. It doesn’t work for me. It also causes a great deal of conflict between me and God. He keeps telling me to trust Him and that He has purpose in this wait.  I keep saying “yes, but I should have a job.  To be successful, I should be “here”, wherever that is. He reminds me that He has a purpose and plan for my life. I may be a failure in the eyes of the world because I don’t have a five-year plan. This is my constant tug of war with God.  I want to trust Him, but I also want to be seen as responsible and successful. When will I learn that He is enough.

Favorite Apps: Goodreads

I am an avid reader. If you know me or read my blog, you know this.  Back in 2007, I started keeping track of all the books I read.  Shortly after this, I discovered a website called Goodreads. It is a sort of social networking site for readers. You can follow what your friends are reading and see their reviews of books, or get recommendations of books to read based on what you have read or are reading.

I use it primarily to keep track of the books I’m reading, want to read and have read. Each year, since 2007 has a digital shelf so I can see each book I read that year.  This is where the app comes in handy.  Whenever someone recommends a book, I can easily add it to my “To Read” shelf. On the rare occasion that I can’t remember if I read the book, I can look it up.

If you are a reader and like to see recommendations or just like to track what you read, I highly recommend this app/site.  Goodreads also provides the currently reading widget on the side of my blog.

2012 Books

I’m finally getting around to writing about my favorite books from 2012, a tradition I started several years back.  Last year, I read fewer books than I’ve read for a while, just 36. I read a lot of series fiction which I love, but typically doesn’t stand out as overall favorites.

There are two I can say stood out above the rest.  The first, is Implosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time. Dad picked up the book because he and I both like Joel Rosenberg, the author. It was the first non-fiction book of his that I’ve read and it didn’t disappoint. He has a very interesting perspective on current events.  It was very thought provoking. What struck me most, though, was not the politics or end times theories, but the section he wrote about the Great Awakenings in American history. It left me with a sense of hope and compelled me to pray for this country that I love.

The second book is one that I would not have picked up this year except that I participated in a ladies study at church that was based on the book. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst is an excellent book. Some people explode when they experience raw emotions. I learned that I stuff my emotions down and build walls. Because I recognize this now, it is easier to deal with those emotions and Lysa gives some practical tools for doing so.