Praise Project, Week 41

This week I’m praising God for:

1). Shuffling through the leaves while out on a walk with my husband

2). Morning cat cuddles

3).  Routine: with all of the craziness in the world, my daily routine of mundane tasks is oddly comforting

4). Being reminded of God’s jealousy over me. There’s nothing like the reminder of holy jealousy to keep a person in line!

5). The opportunity to tutor a Spanish-speaking woman one-on-one and start building a relationship with her.

6). Lunch with Rachel-if you don’t have a friend you can spew your guts to and not risk judgment, find one.

7). Watching my daughter realize that the right decision is not always the easy one. I could say the same thing over and over, but experiencing this truth is far more effective.

Praise Project, Week 40

This week I’m praising God for:

1). 21 years with my sweet husband (an obvious one if we’re Facebook friends!)

2). The gift certificate that paid for the celebration of 21 years (probably found under my husband’s 21 years of receipts!)

3). Sweet anniversary wishes from friends and relatives. We feel loved.

4). Lunch with a friend. Always a fabulous way to spend an afternoon! Thanks, Jeannie!

5). Serving a God who is a Giver of good gifts.

6).  A friend’s successful surgery.

7). My pastor for his tireless service to our church over the years. Thank you, Pastor John for all you do and for always being approachable and available. You are loved.

 

Abundant Adoption

I’ve made no secret of my lack of gardening skills. They are limited to plants that don’t require much shade or water, like my hardy tropical hibiscus which thrives on my lack of remembering its need for water.

When we moved into our house, the fence lining one side of the backyard was home to three Rose of Sharon plants put there by the previous owners. They looked great. Tall, flowering, low-maintenance. They stayed nice looking for about five years of our living there, and then things started changing. One day while the cat and I were out on our daily walking of the backyard perimeter, I gave one of the bushes a good look and couldn’t figure out why the leaves looked so weird. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the branches featured two different types of leaves. I kept looking at the dumb branches trying to wrap my brain around the mystery of how one branch could sustain two types of leaves. Not only that, but up from the center of this beautiful flowering plant stood a tall stock of something that didn’t belong. It reached higher than the Rose of Sharon, and it’s foundational stalks stood surer and stronger than that of the original plant.

Frankly, I was annoyed. It was mind-boggling and beyond my comprehension. So I got out the Big Guns- that is, my mother, and asked her what she thought was the cause of two different kinds of leaves on one branch. She reached out, turned the leaves around and said, “Looks like accidental grafting.” Somehow the seeds or roots of the intruding plant got mixed into those of the original plant causing the merger of the two in a mystery of coexistence.

Two weeks ago I talked about God’s abundant love that covers any and every situation we find ourselves in, a love so fierce that it never finds itself bending to disappointment. It is looking through this lens of God that we can finally rest in who He is and who we are in Him.

With that in mind, we continued on addressing our need for a right perspective on God and what His idea is about the abundant life. A life that mirrors His is the only way of surviving this life with any amount of joy and faithfulness.

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the subject of how we have come to the place to even begin talking about this life in abundance, and that is this idea of grafting. Romans 11:17-24 says this:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, ’Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.  And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.  For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree?”

As God’s chosen people, we know the Jews rejected Christ and His message of salvation, and as a result, salvation was offered to the Gentiles.It’s a mixed bag of feelings, this thankfulness I feel for their rejection opening the door for my adoption and regret at those who walked away from their status as chosen. For whatever reason, the great plan of the ages was to die for all of us, whether through the initial choosing of a people or through adoption, grafting.

As a college student I attended a Messianic Jewish service on Friday nights at Moody Church. It was my lifelong dream to be Jewish, to be of the same bloodline of the One who created all of this, to be able to trace back my ancestry to the baby in the manger. (Instead, I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Gentile with German and Irish blood flowing through my veins).

If you’ve ever been around a Messianic Jew, that is, a Jewish person who understands who they are and have embraced Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, it will change your life. The blood that pumps through their veins is significant more so because of their spiritual acceptance of Christ than because of their physical heritage. Their lives are marked by a thankfulness rooted deep in their belief in what God has done for them. It’s a thankfulness that ignites contentment and satisfaction and abundant living.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she talks about what caused rebellion in the Garden, that is, the sin of ingratitude. Abundant living is more about what God has done for us than what we believe He hasn’t. Our adoption as His sons came at great cost to Him. I ask you what I ask myself all the time: is that enough?

I have a feeling that the shoot growing up through my original plant is either a weed with delusions of grandeur or a small tree. Either way, because of it’s grafting into the original plant, the source of its life, it has taken off. The “intruder” if you will, saw the opportunity for life and took it. Much of our experience in this life is really up to us. We have the opportunity to grow in the life that God has offered if we will only spend less time concentrating on what we believe is missing and more time being grateful for what is.

 

 

Praise Project, Week 39

This week I’m praising God for:

1). A warm dry living room on a cold rainy night.

2). A full life.

3). My Bible study group. I love their honesty and great sense of humor.

4). Honest conversations with my 14-year old.

5). My daughter’s kindergarten teacher who is STILL encouraging her and loving on her.

6). Solving the mystery of the squeaky car: a break job that only cost me $62, and now my husband has learned a new skill that he can use on the other two vehicles as they are needing new brakes too.

7). Watching two sick friends get the answers to their prayers that they wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abundant Perspective

The first post I ever wrote for my blog was one on perspective. In fact, I titled it Perspective is Everything. Fast forward a year and a half later, and I still believe that perspective is everything. And I’m still trying to achieve some semblance of it in the everyday.

Within the last month, I have watched one friend undergo a double mastectomy, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends get diagnosed with breast cancer, another mom of one of my daughter’s friends reach remission in her journey with cancer, a mom of one of my husband’s students be diagnosed with cancer that is everywhere, and a friend’s husband younger than me suffer a heart attack over the weekend.

While I have not set out to discuss suffering and the role God means for it to play in our lives, the simple fact is that when we are searching for an abundant life on this earth we are always doing so in the midst of some sort of suffering. Randy Alcorn once said that while God is preparing a place for us in heaven, what we often don’t realize is that He is preparing us for that place. Maybe the life to come wouldn’t seem as precious a promise without the struggles we face here. Without suffering and hardship in this life, we would never experience His grace. Perspective is indeed everything.

Last week I talked about a right view of God as being one of the most important steps in walking toward the abundant life. Without it, our perspective on everything else is warped and lacking. Without a right view of God, our understanding of His love for us holds no weight in our living. But that’s only the beginning. With a right view of God we begin to adjust our view of abundance to fall in line more with what God had in mind.

Our right view of God comes first and foremost from His letter to us. I could go on and on with what I think abundant life is and what it should look like in the life of a Christian, but I won’t. Instead I’ll follow in the footsteps of what was said on Sunday and let Scripture do what it does best: soothe the soul parched from life’s fiery trials.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 NIV

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial; because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NIV

“But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 NIV

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17

What is conspicuously missing in these verses is the worldly perspective on abundance which includes material wealth, occupational success, marital bliss and successful kids. Instead the abundant life is one of spiritual dimension, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Rest
  • Inward renewal
  • Future glory
  • A crown of life
  • A conqueror
  • Restoration
  • Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ

 

At the end of the day is God enough? Is Who He is and all He encompasses enough if nothing in our lives ever changes or ever improves? It’s really about perspective.