Saturday, January 28, 2012

Living a Balanced Life

“May the God of peace. . .equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13: 20,21).

Birds have an amazing sense of balance. Whether perching on thin wires or hanging on bird feeders, they maintain their stability. As I watch birds I am aware of my own need for balance in life.

I need balance in my physical activities so that I don’t overextend myself with housework, shopping, or exercise and suffer later. I need balance in my relationships so that I don’t become overly burdened with the problems of others, but rather trust that God is using these trials to work out His plan in their lives. I need balance in handling my emotions so that when the downward cycles come, I remember what God has done in the past and believe He will lift me up again. Since I struggle with perfectionism, I need balance to keep the perfect from being the enemy of the good in each of these areas. Above all, I need balance in my perspective of this earthly life. Knowing this is not all there is and what great things lie ahead in eternity helps me to handle the grief of unfulfilled expectations and dreams here on earth.

Jesus is the perfect example of a balanced life. Even though His days were filled with ministry, He made time with God His first priority. Although He could have healed every person’s disease and fixed every problem on the planet, He did not. He grieved over Jerusalem’s impending destruction but did not stop it. He wept over death and became angry at injustice. He certainly understands the struggles of balance in this fallen world.

Between the world’s messages and my own perceptions, balance can be very difficult to maintain. Only God can give me the discernment to know what to do or not to do and the self-discipline to follow through on those decisions. His Word and His example are the stability I need to keep me hanging on.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to seek Your will for balance in each aspect of my life and give me a willing heart to accept Your plan. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frozen yet Flowing

“As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in you.’ ”
(Psalm 87;7b).
“All my springs are in thee" ( KJV).

My husband enjoys winter camping. He doesn’t mind sleeping in freezing temperatures and enjoys hiking in the snow within reason. He also enjoys photography and has taken some great photos of frozen waterfalls in winter.

As I read this verse, I thought about those frozen waterfalls. During temperate weather they flow freely, sometimes with forceful gushes and other times with slower trickles, but still actively moving. When freezing temperatures come they no longer flow consistently, but it is interesting how the water freezes while flowing, as if determined to keep moving for as long as possible. Even in their frozen state they are beautiful. When exposed to the briefest of warmer temperatures, they slowly begin moving again.

I see myself in those waterfalls. At times in my life God has given me the ability to do many things and enjoy a gushingly active life. Now I am frozen many times by pain and illness. That is especially true for me in fall and winter, as my pain intensifies with colder temperatures. But even on days when I’m not flowing too well, God’s springs are still flowing within me. Just as a winter waterfall does not truly dry up while in its frozen state, so even in my limitations God is still working within me and can use me for His glory in some way.

God’s wellspring of life will be within me throughout this entire earthly journey, regardless of what I physically can or cannot do. As I seek His will and direction, He will provide ways for me to show His power and strength, whether I am actively moving, slowly trickling, or completely frozen. And one day, this body will again be able to flow freely for Him in every way.

Prayer: O Lord, Your Word says that whoever believes in You will have streams of living water flow from within him (John 7:38). Even when I am physically “frozen”, let my spirit never cease to be a testimony of praise to You. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

God Is My Refuge

“I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I will trust’”
(Psalm 91:2).

Four hours from me lies the island of Assateague, Virginia. The area is a combination of public beach and national wildlife refuge. As a bird watcher I greatly enjoy visiting the area. In summer the place is full of tourists. In the winter it becomes a rather cold and lonely place, but if one is willing to brave the elements there are many different species of birds to be seen.

A wildlife refuge provides “a sheltered or protected state from something threatening, harmful, or unpleasant”. We might think of a haven, sanctuary, or harbor. When I read the analogy of the Lord being my refuge I think of Assateague, particularly during the winter. From what do the birds need protection? Predators, hunters, starvation, and exposure. Just as this island provides protection for wildlife, so God provides protection for me.

When Satan tries to devour me with negativity and anxiety, the Lord delivers me from his snare. Sometimes God uses my limitations as protection from misplaced values and idolatry. The safe harbor of God’s Word protects me from the pulls of the world’s values and belief system.

If I visit during Assateague’s winter desolation, I will see birds that are not there during warm, sunny weather. Just so, in the desolation of my suffering, God is conforming me into the image of His Son. Were it not for my pain, the character qualities that God desires to build in me might never develop.

Although no motels are permitted on the island of Assateague, there are various ones nearby. One is actually called The Refuge Inn. Spiritually speaking, I need to stay permanently “checked in” to God’s Refuge Inn. There I will find the shelter, protection, and safety of my loving God. And I may even see beauty in the desolation.

Prayer: Loving God, just as You are so faithful to shelter and protect me from harm, may I be faithful in trusting Your decisions and plans for my life. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Heart for a New Year

 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”
 (Ezekiel 36:26).

I like new things.  Not that I don’t appreciate the old, but new things do bring me earthly satisfaction.  And God knows I am in need of a new heart.  My sinful, hardened heart - which controls my thoughts, emotions, and actions - does not handle pain and suffering well. 

In Beth Moore’s study on Believing God, she says that with our new hearts we have new thinking, new reflections, new memory, new resolutions and determinations of will, and new emotions and passions.  These words bring me such joy and hope!  I need new, positive ways of viewing my situations rather than negative, discouraging ones.  I want to look back on my healthier days with thankfulness rather than grief, seeing God’s hand through it all and trusting Him for what I still don’t understand.  I can refocus difficult memories through the lens of God’s attributes.  God also cleanses me from the idols I have made of perfect health and a pain-free existence.  When I am tempted to respond to my problems in the old way, I can remember that my new heart enables me to make different choices.

Of course my old earthly nature is still with me and I still carry remnants of my heart of stone.  I will not always handle my circumstances, thoughts, or emotions in new ways.  Praise God He understands and forgives.  Just as bodily muscles need to be stretched and exercised to grow, so each trial that lies ahead is an opportunity to build up the muscles of my new heart, growing me in faith and perseverance.  I am a new creation, and by God’s mercy and grace I can respond in new ways through this new year.

Prayer:  O God, thank you for giving me a new heart.  Strengthen this heart that I may be consistently faithful to You through all my days.  Amen.

Looking Forward

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!”
 (Isaiah 43:18).

 A new year brings new hopes, dreams, and resolutions.  Living with ongoing health issues however, I sometimes struggle with remembering what life was like in the past rather than looking forward, and changes are hard to accept.  At times I grieve over my losses, and I can appreciate my memories and be thankful for all I experienced before.  Yet this is my life now, and if I truly believe that God is always good and always in control, then I should be looking forward.

God is using these trials to conform me into the image of Christ.  I am a much more thankful person now, appreciating not only every pain-free moment but also the countless times that He has enabled me to enjoy things through the pain.  I am slowly learning what things are important in God’s eyes rather than being overly concerned about accomplishing my own personal agenda.  I have a much stronger reliance and dependence on the Lord and more compassion for those who suffer.  Some of these changes may not have been possible without experiencing health problems of my own.

God says not to dwell on the past.  He is doing a new thing in each of our lives – a much better thing in the light of eternity.  I want to remember that thought as I go through life struggling to enjoy things while hurting or giving certain things up.  As the new year begins, I can rest in knowing that God’s love and mercy have sustained me in the past, and will continue to do so in the days and months ahead.  One day I will have an unending eternity of pain-free existence with God.  Until then, “forgetting what lies behind, and straining toward what is ahead, we press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).

Prayer:  O Lord, you are the God of my past, present, and future.  As I begin this new year, help me to balance thankfulness for my past with faith for my future.  Amen.