Thursday, January 29, 2009

Difficult to Love

I love winter. Yes, I know this makes me weird and most people look at me like I have lost a few marbles (perhaps from frostbite). But there is something about winter that speaks to me. I love the sunsets in winter- the bare, black limbs of trees spearing through the dark purples and clear hot pinks . I love the hush after a new snow fall, when the world looks all white and fluffy. It's like everything is muted and whispering. I love the wild winds that shake the windows while I am warm and snug with a cup of hot chocolate and my favorite book. I love that winter means slowing down, sometimes without a choice.

Summer, on the other hand, calls you out the door with blue skies and breezy, sun kissed winds. You don't need a coat or hat or mittens. Heck, you don't even really need shoes. It's easy to love summer. Winter, now that's a different story. To enjoy winter, you have to prepare yourself. You have to don a thick coat, a hat, mittens and thick soled boots. If you're not prepared, the frosty air can hurt you.

But it's worth the extra effort to brave those chilly winds. The other day, I took my dog Kipper for a walk on what I consider a perfect winter day. The temps were a balmy 23 without a lot of wind. (we had just come through some below zero temps so it actually, if not warm, then not cold either) The skies were a clear blue with white whisps of clouds and the snow lay bundled on the ground.

Unfortunately, there is also a darker side to winter. The gloomy days when I would give anything for a glimpse of sun or days when the wind cuts right through you, making me want to hibernate. But somehow, loving winter is a lot more satisfying than summer. Summer doesn't require any kind of commitment, just enjoyment.

As I thought about loving winter and how it isn't easy, it sort of reminded me of married love. It's not always easy and it takes work and preparation. Sometimes, it can chill you and even hurt. But in the end, commiting to it, working at it, you get those perfect blue sky days you wouldn't trade it for any number of easy summer days.
~blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sorry about that - I can't figure out how to go back and write more, so I'll just continue here.

Even though God promises us the victory, that doesn't mean we don't have to fight. There are a couple things that I learned about what happened to Israel.

First, we have to fight even though we KNOW who wins in the end. God has told us we are overcomers in Christ, that our story has a happy ending, either here on earth or maybe not until heaven. But despite that happy ending, there are still struggles, at least while we are still on this earth.

Second, when we reach our promised land, we will face battles. In fact, the fighting might even increase, but we must be faithful to not give up or be willing to forgo the fight for the promise

Third, if we don't slay the enemies NOW, they will continue to hound us even in our promised land. When you look at Israel, they didn't finish the job. Because of that, those enemies continued to hassle them. The enemies also drew them away from God into worshipping false gods. If the Israelites had driven them all out as God told them too, they would have had a lot less grief in their promised land.

Fourth, even if we are in a time of wandering and haven't quite made it to the promised land, God still uses that time to prepare us and accomplish things. Even when we are waiting, we still need to be obedient and active.

It is just so amazing to me that a story that I thought I knew backwards and forwards has so many lessons to teach me, lessons that really apply to my life right now and what I am going through. God is very cool that way!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Claiming the Promised Land

I'm an impatient person. Once I see where I want to go, I just want to get there, already. I think, if it were feasible, I would even forgo packing and just buy my stuff when I got there. See - impatient! This year, as I make changes, I find myself impatient. I want things to change NOW! I dont' want to wait or prepare or any of that kind of thing.

Interestingly, right now I am reading about Moses leading the children of Israel through the desert for 40 years. Hundreds of thousands of people, walking in circles for 40 years - talk about a recipe for impatience. I've gotten to Deuteronomy. They are on the banks of the Jordan, ready to cross over. I can almost hear all of them chomping at the bit. Stop talking Moses! Let's get on with it. We can SEE the promised land, just over the river.

Can you hear the groans when Moses tells them that before they can settle this fertile, beautiful land, they are going to have to drive out all the enemies - destroy every last one. After 40 years of wandering in circles and having to defend themselves against enemy attacks, I'm sure the idea of driving out the enemy and destroying them was not really what they wanted to do. God had told them He was going to GIVE them the promised land so why did they have to fight all these people?

A few things occurred to me as I have been reading this story, a story that is so familiar to me that upon rereading it I was surprised at how many things I've learned. First, during that time in the wilderness, the Israelites still got things done toward the final goal - possessing the promised land. Numerous times, God told them to go out against so and so and He would give them the victory. So, even though this wandering seemed to be a waste of time, God was still winning victories for them (maybe practice for when they crossed over into the promised land?).

The other thought that hit me was right when God led them into the promised land was when they had the most fighting to do. God wanted them to clear out the land of the enemy, to prepare the area for the plan He wanted to do through them. He promised them the victory but they still had to fight. So why am I surprised when I start to come into what I feel God has called me to do and I come up against opposition or things I have to fight through?

God didn't just hand over the victory - they people had to fight. Was this a test to see if they trusted Him to deliver? Maybe. Maybe something too easily won isn't appreciated. I'm not sure. But I know that even though God promises us that we are overcomers

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Truth Will Set You Free

Last night and today, I have been pondering the idea of truth and belief, how the two are tied together and can ultimately affect how you feel. I can choose to believe the truth or I can choose to believe my own personal beliefs are the truth. Confusing isn't it? The thing is, I'm a woman. As a woman, I have feelings that feel much like the truth. As a woman, I can be ruled by my emotions - they can loom large and fill up my heart and my head and feel very real and true.

For example, if I believe Jane Doe doesn't like me, this will affect my feelings and reactions about dear Jane. If Jane is having a bad day and she comes into my space with a frown on her face and is short and snappy with me, if I believe she doesn't like me, this just reinforces that. I think, ah, here is another example of the way she treats me, another proof to show that my belief is true. But the real truth is, Jane had a fight with her husband before she left which made her late to drop off the kids and almost late to work. She is feeling irritable and frazzled. I'm not even really on her radar right now. Her response to me really has nothing to do with me, but with the annoyances in her own life.

How many times do I let belief of this kind color my emotions and interactions with the people around me? Embarrassingly, far more than I should. I guess at heart, I am ego centric - if someone is unhappy, I must be at fault; if someone is irritated, it must have something to do with me and how they feel about me. This is rather embarrassing to even admit. What I try to explain away as "being nice" or "in tune", is really nothing more than too much self-focus. Memo to self - the world does not revolve around you - people have issues that have nothing to do with you.

The Bible tells us that as much as we are able, to be at peace with everyone. I think this means not to take everything personally. It's one of my New Year's goals this year - not to take things personally. I never realized how much I did it, until I made a concerted effort not to do it. I am not a person who is that easily offended so I thought I wouldn't have much work to do with this one. How humbling to find out that just isn't true.

I am also learning not to take on other people's feelings for the purpose of fixing them. If someone is unhappy, is it really up to me to "make them happy"? Is that even possible? Just as I need to choose how I react to things, so do other people. In Matthew it says, "Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke on you for my burden is light." Each of us goes through life with our own burden or, to use a word picture, a pack. A lot of times, I think I pack mine way too full with things that really don't belong in my pack. I've taken other people's stuff and now I am feeling weary and very burdened.

By no means am I advocating that we not try to meet each other's needs or to help our fellow person, but I know I waste a lot of energy worrying about upsetting or offending or making happy others when it really isn't my job. So, from now on, I am going to take interactions at face value. If my husband plops down and falls asleep, it is probably because he really is tired, not because he is purposely avoiding me. Here's to less worry and a whole lot more joy!
~Blessings, Bronte

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Believe

Have you ever woke up and the day stretches before you like a barren desert? This morning I opened my eyes and I felt tired before I ever swung my legs out of bed. It is going to be a busy day that will last well into evening. I'm not particularly looking forward to it.

I'm not sure why I felt so down this morning. Maybe it is the unrelenting cold that makes it difficult to go outside at all without freezing off extremities. Maybe it is my husband's long work hours when we don't get to see enough of him. Maybe it is the busy schedule this week, where every evening is already spoken for with things I'm not exactly excited about.

Whatever it was, I felt the old defeat pushing itself up in my heart and mind. I didn't FEEL victorious. I didn't FEEL like an over comer. But, I had a choice. I could go with my feelings (which are notoriously fickle and not always in keeping with reality) or I could believe what God told me: "In all things we are overwhelmingly conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37 NL) The italics are mine because those are the words that stand out to me - all and overwhelmingly. Not some things or sort of conquerors, but all things and total victory. So, I chose to believe. I chose to pray those words to God and ask Him to make me feel them in my heart and soul. I was rewarded.

God tells us both what faith is "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually heaven; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Heb. 11:1, NLT) and why we should have faith, "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and taht he rewards thow who sincerely seek Him." The biggest reward of seeking God is finding Him. And His presence is a reward that makes victory not just a feeling but a certainty.
~Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Striking the Rock

Have you ever been really upset by something, even if it isn't happening to you? I tend to be a crusador type of person - every wrong or injustice sort of hurts me until it is fixed in some way. It's very hard for me to see a wrong and just stand by and do nothing. I was really wrestling with one of those types of things this morning. I'm sure my fellow morning travelers thought I was nutso since I was driving down the road talking animatedly with God and crying to boot. lol

I asked for His wisdom and His clarity. I find that I often see things through a too human lens and my focus is wrong or my emotions cloud my judgement. It's a new thing I'm trying this year - ask God first rather than react and THEN ask God. It's taking a bit of practice though.

What He brought to my mind was something I recently read in Numbers. (I'm reading through the Bible and I have to admit that Leviticus was quite a slog). It was when the Israelites were complaining (again) about having no water. God told Moses to speak to the rock and out would come water. Well, Moses was fed up with the whiney Israelites. And really, who could blame him? Having children, I can understand his frustration. There are some days, especially when they were toddlers...... Anyway, Moses in his anger and frustration with the Israelites sin and failure to believe, struck the rock instead. I've always felt rather sorry for Moses because to me, this doesn't seem like too big of a thing. I mean, the man was angry. Don't we all get angry? And it was righteous anger - he was angry with the Israelites sinning again. Well, to God it WAS a big thing! Moses, letting his temper get the best of him, ruined the word picture God was trying to create. So, Moses didn't get to go into the promised land.

Then God brought to my mind that verse that says, "Be angry and sin not." So, in my anger, frustration and sorrow over others sin, I was to avoid sinning myself. I was not to "strike the rock." What does that mean to me in a practical way?

It means that I pray for the people involved. And I pray with the intention of everyone's good, not those prayers you read in Psalms where David is asking God to strike his enemies down!

It means that I don't discuss it with all my friends. I keep my own counsel and don't spread strife among my fellow believers.

It means I encourage those who need encouraging but without enabling them in their own bitterness or anger or hurt. I encourage them to forgive and leave the situation with God.

It means my actions need to be because I am following God's guidance - not to make a point or out of spite.

By striking the rock, Moses sinned also. While the Israelites were whining and carrying on again, Moses didn't listen to God. He disobeyed. And although his sin seems understandable and justified, it wasn't any different than the Israelites' sin. So, my lesson for the day is to not let my emotions carry me into doing wrong too. Others sin never justifies my own disobedience. Ouch! It sure is uncomfortable when God points out your own self righteousness!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The thing about Being a Sheep

Today, in church, our pastor talked about what is the church. I have to admit this was timely for me. It's something I've been pondering - just what is church for anyway. Do we really need each other for anyway? One of the pictures he presented from Scripture is that of the Shepherd and the Sheep.

I don't know a lot about sheep. Being raised just outside of Detroit, Michigan, I'm not exactly a country girl. In fact, when I first moved to my rural town, I had my new friends in stitches when I confused the word combine with columbine. As I said, not a country girl.

When I looked up the information on sheep, I expected to see things about how dumb sheep are as this is what I have always heard. Sheep can easily die of fright. Yell boo at a sheep and there is a possibility it will drop over dead. Sheep also follow each other, even if it means right off of a cliff. Sheep are often too dumb to come in out of the rain, literally.

One thing, though, stuck out to me. A lot of the behaviors we see in sheep that are "dumb" come from their inbred sense of the flock. While that sometimes leads them into trouble, the whole purpose of the sheep hanging out together in a flock is for their own safety. In a herd, sheep are a lot less vulnerable to predators. However, a lone sheep, by itself is an catch. Sheep can't defend themselves so their only hope is the herd and the shepherd. Boy, does that sound familiar.

While there are lots of issues in the church and it isn't perfect, our best bet is to be with the flock and to stick close to our Shepherd. I recently had a bad experience with church. It sort of soured me on the whole idea and I started to wonder what the point was exactly. It's interesting to me what God uses to speak into my life. In this case, it was a website from 4-H. Who knew God would teach this city girl and important lesson about His church on a 4-H website? Certainly not me! Maybe I'll turn into a country girl yet! :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Floating in cyberspace

For some reason, this, my first blog post feels a little bit scary. I feel like I am floating out in cyberspace and part of me wonders if anyone will really want to read anything I have to say. This blog is going to be part journal, part devotionals, part journey of becoming "free indeed." The Bible says that Christ came to make us free indeed. While I have grown a lot in the past 7 years (when I got really serious about knowing Christ, not just reading about Him), I realized the other day that I have been living defeated.

I have a lot of fears. I admit it and am struggling to overcome it. One of my biggies is the fear of being stuck. Do you ever feel stuck? I do. Time wanders by and it seems that nothing really changes. All the things I WANT to change, I don't. Six months, a year, two years go by and I am no closer to any of my goals, haven't even done much to accomplish those goals. I am still overweight. I'm still not making regular time to write. I have the same issues with my church and my husband and.... The list goes on..

The thing is though that Christ has already won the battle. I don't have to live defeated and resigned. So, this is the year I get unstuck. This is the year that I will be different and I will change. Maybe tomorrow, I'll post my goals for this year.

I'll leave you with this quote of A.W. Tozer that spoke to me today. "A rut is when we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be." Here's to getting out of the rut and getting on with living!