Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for January, 2014

Who Do We Imitate?

Photo Credit: Anna Toss

Photo Credit: Anna Toss

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1, 2 New International Version

“Imitate: verb (used with object) 1. to follow or endeavor to follow as a model or example.” (www.dictionary.com)

Conducting oneself like another person means following his or her behavior, reproducing the same actions, not just having the same intentions.  “Do what I say, not what I do” remains a substandard motivator.  We need to see someone doing the worthy acts to effectively mirror them.

My maternal grandmother is one of the most admirable human models I have to imitate.   She lived to be a hundred and one years old and recently died peacefully in her sleep free of disease or pain.  This end is one I would certainly choose if I were in control of the nature of my death.  Needless to say, that power does not reside in me, but much is left to me about how I choose to live.

When my grandmother moved away to retire near the Chesapeake Bay, she regularly invited us to stay for extended visits and showed her delight in our arrival by having clean sheets on the beds and vases of fresh-cut flowers lovingly arranged in a vase on the bedside table.  This is my routine now.

She spoke with kindness and had an established habit of writing encouraging notes as well as saying to our faces what she liked about us.   This is my custom now.

Church membership and attendance stayed a priority all her life, even with all the imperfections inherent in a religious community of people.  I try to practice that, too.

When my grandmother made these choices who was she imitating?  Her mother? Another relative?  A friend?

I would like to think that if we keep tracing a worthy behavior back to its root, we will end up looking right into the face of God.  “Imitate God”, Paul exhorts the Ephesians.  Do what God did.  Love. Forgive. Encourage.

In my Read- through-the-bible plan I am almost to the New Testament, and I look forward to taking a deeper look at what Jesus said and did in the gospel accounts.  I remember that He was kind to his mother, and he took time for children.  He looked past the sinful behaviors of others to befriend them.

Which flesh and blood person do you resemble?

How do you imitate God?

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Is God Really Good?

Photo Credit: C. Hope Flinchbaugh

Photo Credit: C. Hope Flinchbaugh

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

God is good. I could just stop typing after that statement. Or maybe I could put that statement in boldface type. Anyway, this is the reality that I am absorbing – God is good. I grew up with surrounded by intelligent cynics.  Faith was for the weak-minded.  So it has been a battle for years to reform my mental pathways to make a smooth and lasting environment for this truth – one that will remain in the center of my mind and heart. This is “back to basics” faith.  Like the writer to the Hebrews, he who comes to God must believe that he is – that he exists. Beyond that, the next step of faith is that we believe that he rewards those who seek him.  He “rewards” means he responds lovingly and directly for our benefit. God is light; he is not darkness. He is loving, not hateful.  He is a good parent, not an uncaring one.  He is truthful, not a liar.  He is steady, enduring, not capricious and changeable. He is always… there for us.

“This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  I John 1: 5 “Which of you fathers, if your son ask for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

Life is complicated.  People mess up and hurt others. Bad things happen to well-meaning people. Pain is inevitable – especially if you allow yourself to love others, but this messy reality never erases the truth that God… is… good. He is always good. What a difference it makes when we protectively cradle this truth in the core of our beings.  We walk around hopeful – trusting that God has our backs.

Cynicism, despair, fear…

drop away.

How Do I Look Back Without Staring?

 

Photo credit: Hugo-photography

Photo credit: Hugo-photography

 

“When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’” Joshua 4:1-3

New Year’s Resolutions – have you made any? Worthwhile, motivating, fresh.  We look ahead with resolve and, most importantly, hope for a better future.

Looking back – have you done that?

We don’t have as strong an American tradition of remembering the past year.  Thanksgiving Day offers us some of that – reflecting on our blessings, but I need more than a prayer before the turkey is carved.  I need to look back and focus on the miracles that God performed in my personal life.

What did He do for you in 2013?

The Israelites saw the Jordan River pushed back in raging flood stage.  They walked across a dry riverbed – all of them.   And the LORD instructed them to take a stone from the center of the location where the ark of the covenant had rested in order to have a memorial of His goodness, His rescue, His doing on their behalf.

Right now my memorial “stone” is a collection of words written in my journal.  Maybe later I will get more creative and design a concrete thing to represent what God did for me this  past year.

What about you? What did God do for you that you could not do for yourself?

This looking back motivates us to go forward into the future, trusting that He will do it again, and it causes us to encourage others to rely on Him to care for them, too.

These stones are “to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD.” Joshua 4: 6

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