Dec 31, 2008

My Faulty, Puny Image of God


Is our God big enough? Theologically, yes. But because I cannot wrap my human mind around Infinity, my image of God is, frankly, marred. That's where faith comes in because it is in the Unseen, the unfathomable.

My faulty, puny image of God causes me much unnecessary anxiety. I am presently faced with a choice about an upcoming trip. Most people would be envious of our destination. It dropped into our laps practically for free. We have been scrimping and saving in bits and pieces for over a year to have spending money. If I miss it, I will be throwing away a rare opportunity and deeply disappointing the person who loves me most.

But I have a chronic illness that for some reason is aggravated by travel. Thanks to the limitations of traveling via frequent flier miles, this trip has a rigorous start: 3 days and 4 cities to get there. My gut tells me I'm gonna bonk. My husband tells me I'm setting myself up to fail. My God tells me that if I miss Plan A, he has Plan B ready and waiting, full of favor and grace and perhaps even more glorious than Plan A.

Please allow me to wax theological for just a moment: We can never get around God's will. But He has what I believe theologians call a "perfect" will and a "permissive" will: Plan A and Plan B.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve missed Plan A. They sinned and ruined it. Plan A was for them to populate the earth with good, kind people who had never fallen and to set up God's glorious Kingdom full of light and love right on this planet. That didn't happen.

But in my humble opinion, Plan B, set up from before the beginning of time, is even more glorious. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He died a criminal's death for you and me: By one beautiful, horrific sacrifice Christ atoned for all men, for all sin, for all time. God's Son was raised again to sit at the right hand of God and will one day come again to defeat evil once and for all. He will rule with power and set up that perfect Kingdom on a New Earth where pain and loneliness and decay and suffering are demolished forever. God has revealed, and will continue to demonstrate to a watching universe who would never have known otherwise, His infinite love and kindness by the death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son.

OK, theology lesson over.

Now back to my trip -- and any decision you may be facing. Many years ago, I took a trip that made me so sick that I could have died. Other trips have left me confined to bed for months. Some have had no ill effect at all. (You can understand why I feel like I'm playing Russian Roulette here. Don't want to miss God's will on this one!)

What if I had discerned and chosen Plan A and not traveled at the wrong time on the wrong trip that made me so sick. What if I had never made some of the other choices that led to the development of my illness. I could have had a much easier life. But I never would have had the depth of compassion and understanding that I do now. I wouldn't have the ability to look across a room and see the pain that someone was hiding inside. I wouldn't have insight and hope to offer others who have suffered. There is no way I would know God in the intimate tender way that He has revealed Himself to me, and I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog. I believe I would be of much less use to God in general.

So maybe Plan B is Plan A after all. Maybe we're not big enough to screw up God's will for our lives. Maybe it all does turn out for the best even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment. Maybe the world is safe because God has it all under control. Maybe I am safe. Maybe, even if the worst happens, I'll be glad about it one day.

Maybe God is big enough. And maybe you and I can both dare to believe it!

With love,

Flowers
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Dec 22, 2008

Holiday Foo Fray


During holiday celebrations it can seem that everyone brings a covered dish and an unresolved conflict. ( FOO, by the way, is an acronym for "Family Of Origin," and when we're in the FOO fray ... look out!) Unless you're five and Santa Claus remembered everything on your list, Christmas can be kind of a bummer.

There is definitely an ideal portrayed in the media that we all fall short of in some ways. One silly example is that it took me forever to find a Christmas picture without smiling faces to put in this blog. Try Googling "Image - Christmas fight" or "Image - Unhappy Christmas" and you get smiling faces, Norman Rockwell pictures, and cats wearing Santa hats. I think I may have done permanent damage to the search engine!

I find the best way to handle things with difficult family members is to pray very specifically ahead of time. For example:

"Dear Lord, keep Aunt Jenna and cousin Mark sober this year. And if they do drink, give us the strength to set loving but firm boundaries."

"Papa God, if Martha insults me, please help me to remember that Your opinion of me is the only one that matters, and You call me Friend, Beloved, Clean."

"Jesus, we don't have the money to get the things we'd like this year. May we keep the focus on You and may love be enough. Thank you for always providing for all that we need."

I love to pray Scripture. Praying God's Word back to him is one of the most powerful things we can do. For if we pray anything in accordance with His will we know He hears us and will give us what we ask. His Word is his will so it's a sure thing (John 14:14). I plan to revisit this topic in the future, but for now let me share a prayer that I have loosely based on Romans Chapter 12, verses 9-21. It is about loving well and I believe that if we love well this Christmas, we can count the holiday a success no matter what the outcome. (I usually pray this for my marriage, but I believe it works for any relationship.)

Dearest Papa God, make my love sincere -- the real thing, although I may hate what is evil in ________[name], let me instead hold fast to that which is good in them. Show me how to give ________ precedence and honor. Oh that I might be aglow and burning with the Spirit, for that is the only way to truly love. Help me to be be patient in suffering and constant in prayer. Give me hospitality in my heart toward _________. And if they should be cruel in their attitude toward me, may I have the strength to bless and not to curse them. Create harmony between us, and help me never to consider myself superior, just because I have a different set of hangups. Instead, may I readily adjust to things the way they are, and give myself to humble tasks. If possible, as far as it depends on me, let there be peace in this place. Amen.

May God give you love for Christmas!

Blessings,
Holly

Dec 15, 2008

Fantastically Fragile

To most people, strength is beauty and weakness repulsive...
But God is attracted to weakness.

"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27).

God gives and commands special treatment for the weak, the brokenhearted, the contrite, the dependent. So why is it that when we come across someone like this we are disgusted or at least uncomfortable?


I have a friend named Donna. Donna is attracted to weakness. In a pet store full of beautiful birds, she fell in love with the one-legged bird that preferred to hide under his newspaper all day. When she chose from a litter of kittens, she looked at the runt, the one that might die, and said, "I want that one." What a beautiful picture of God.

When you are down, when you are at your worst, when you feel like a bug that has hit the windshield of a car. That is when God says, "I want that one," and points at you.

~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~*'*~..~

You can stop reading here. But, if you'd like to dig a little deeper, I selected some encouraging Scriptures. Most are paraphrased for simplicity. Each is linked to take you directly to the original Scripture if you want to see it:
  • Psalm 12:5 - God arises and protects the weak.
  • Psalm 72:13 - He pities the needy and saves them from death.
  • Ezekiel 34:16 - God searches for, binds up, and strengthens the injured.
  • Romans 15:1 - God commands us to "bear with the failings of the weak."
  • Hebrews 5:2 - Jesus subjected himself to weakness when He came in the flesh.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 - He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Flowers
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Dec 2, 2008

The God Who Heals


Jehovah Rophe.
"The God Who Heals."
That is the name of our God.
Healing isn't just something God does.
It's something He IS.

I believe God can't touch a life without bringing healing into it. But it is not for us to say when or what that healing will look like. Sometimes it takes the form of emotional healing. Other times, God heals a character defect, or a relationship. At other times God heals a sin problem. Jesus still heals physically just as he did when he walked the earth, And He still performs the ultimate miracle of redeeming a soul from eternal death.

"Then why am I still in pain?" you may ask. I have no adequate answer other than to tell you that suffering is an extremely valuable commodity in the economy of God's Kingdom. Therefore, your reward will be great (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God stores up every tear in a bottle in heaven (Psalm 56:8). E
ven though God knows, that if we could see what He sees, we would actually choose the same suffering for ourselves, He weeps with us anyway (John 11:35).

"[God] said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Flowers
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Nov 26, 2008

Holiday Blessing for You

Thank you for sharing the precious gift of your time in reading these thoughts and ramblings that are often hard come by but rarely wasted. This blog has grown quite a bit in its short existence, and it is only thanks to you my friend. =)

I have no way to show my appreciation; instead let me share this simple paraphrase of an ancient blessing, especially for you this Thanksgiving:

May the Holy Spirit bless you, watch you, guard, and keep you;

May our our Papa God make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious, kind, merciful to you, giving favor to you in all you do.

And may our glorious
Brother-Lord Jesus Christ lift up His approving countenance upon you and give you peace tranquility of heart and life continually (Numbers 6).
Much love,
Cornucopia
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Nov 14, 2008

My True Angel Story


My angel story happened back when I was a baby Christian. I got saved reading my Bible hiding in the bathroom. My only "fellowship" was a little Christian radio.

My fledgling faith was so fragile. Every time I'd read something difficult or confusing, I'd complain, "God! I can't believe in You if this is true! Please explain it to me." And graciously, after two or three days, an answer would always come.

This time I was crying out about poor Daniel who had to wait 21 days for his prayer to be answered because of spiritual warfare. I was discouraged. "God! Why even bother praying if our requests are hindered in this manner! Are prayers so futile?!"

Two to three days later I was playing softball and I'm no athlete. I worked for a very small bank that wanted to join a league. Literally every employee was on the team to make enough players.

Somehow I hit a ball and made it to first base. The person behind me hit another good one, and I sprinted for second as fast as I could go. An instant before I would have touched the base, the second baseman suddenly bent down right in front of me to catch a grounder.

I remember the fall in slow motion. I tripped over him and, at first, went up in the air about six feet. Slowly I turned in the air, feet swinging up toward the sky; head moving down toward the ground. Then gravity took over and I dove toward the dirt face-first. I hit hard and slid on my face, chest and arms two to three feet--on gravel. Immediately, knew I was hurt. So did every one else because the game stopped and they all came running.

Suddenly I sat up, examined myself, and realized I was OK. In fact, not just OK. I was completely unscathed. Not one scratch or bruise. Not even a sore muscle. Everyone was incredulous. "Someone upstairs is looking out for you," they said.

I knew an angel had "caught me."

Then God's still small voice spoke to my heart. He said, "Yes, sometimes it takes 21 days to answer a prayer. But I can also be there in an instant, when you don't even ask."


With thanks to Hazel for inspiring me to write this story ...

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If you have your own true angel story, post it to
http://plaidflannelangels.wordpress.com/ !

Nov 13, 2008

Success?

People often say to me, "You have a heart of gold, BUT ..." In fact, someone very dear to me said that recently and it just took the wind out of my sails.

You see, I'm not a success by the world's standards. I'm hopelessly absent-minded. I tend to under-function. Prone to depression, I procrastinate, let dust accumulate until you can see it across the room, live with clutter, and expectantly open the empty refrigerator only to be reminded that Mary Poppins doesn't live here.


However, I humbly confess that if I were to die today and stand before God, I would not be ashamed. Don't get me wrong; I have some salient shortcomings that I will be accountable for. But I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and I love people, encourage the hurting, and accept others unconditionally, right where they are. It doesn't excuse my sins and flaws. But, only because of the blood of Christ, it is enough for God (
Matthew 22:37-39; Hebrews 10:12).

Have you come short of other people's standards of success for you?
Have you succeeded in ways that even you may have discounted, but deep down, you are pleased? Really, stop for a minute and ponder because it's important.

... stop here and think ...


Now give yourself credit for something never appreciated before. Write it down.
Focus on your strengths regardless of others' opinions, and press forward with what is important in the deepest part of yourself. Just between you and God, are you a success? And if you're not, Don't ask, "What do I want?" but rather "What do I ultimately want?" By that I mean, if you look down the road of your life, 5 years... 10... or 50... what do you desire for it to look like and what is it going to take today to get there?

Be long-sighted with your desires, honest to the core with just you and God, and you won't go far wrong.

With love,

Hearts
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Nov 11, 2008

Living With the Question

Are you willing to live with the question?

What?! No way! Not me. I like to figure things out--know the "answer" before proceeding.

I'm reminded of a furry little pet I had once. If I told you what it was, you'd probably stop reading right here, but I loved it. Anyway, let's pretend it was a hamster. She was very affectionate and when she saw me she would often reach up and strain out over her little third-tier precipice trying to get out of her cage and reach me. When I reached in and clasped my fingers around her middle, even before I had my grip she let go with all four feet, completely relaxed, abandoning herself and her safety into my hand.

It touched me to be trusted like that and as I mulled it over I knew that God wanted the same kind of "reckless abandon" from me: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding"
(Proverbs 3:5).

I recently challenged a friend, "Do you have the faith to live with the question?" But it is my own challenge as well. Do I have the faith to let go with "all four feet" and relax into God's hand--not knowing where he will carry me or what the outcome will be. Isn't it the better part of wisdom to hold on to my own safety zone with at least a couple of toes? I mean, really ... completely let go? Come on! I don't like questions; I like answers!
Mouse On WheelI'd rather spend my time on the hamster wheel of life in an analytic frenzy, working to figure it out; striving for the answer. But God longs for our trust! Although He doesn't need anything, He still deeply desires that we would abandon the hamster wheel and leave the questions with Him. It is enough to know the One who IS the Answer. "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John).

Papa God, help me to live with the Question because You are the Answer. I choose to believe that I am safe in your hand.

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28 Amp.).

Flowers
www.warrenfamilylife.com

Nov 5, 2008

The Clever Disguise


If we revel in our own glory, we're giving ourselves too much credit.

RoseRoseRose

If we wallow in our sinfulness, we're giving ourselves too much credit.
"...the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self ...
is the mark of Hell."
~ C.S. Lewis

Though one is cleverly disguised, they are each forms of pride.
The cross has taken care of both.

Rose

Soli Deo Gloria!

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With inspiration from my DH Mike this time.
Thanks Mikey!



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Oct 30, 2008

I Live in Candlelight


God is always lighting candles in the dark places of our lives. Sometimes I feel as if I am consumed in darkness. But in truth, my Papa quietly moves through the darkness sparking little blessings of light. Look! They are all around you.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. [That's today!]" (Psalm 27:13 NASB).

Please don't stare into the darkness ... behold the candles! There is evil. There is good. Gaze into the good things. They are always there. It may feel very dark, but we live in candlelight.


"All the darkness in the world cannot hide the light of one small candle."
~ Author unknown,
shared lovingly by my dear mother



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Oct 20, 2008

How God Feels About Suffering


November 9, 1999 ... I felt like it was the most cruel and unfair thing that had ever happened to me, like God had betrayed me. I just realized tonight, that at that moment, I stopped believing in God's goodness and tenderness toward me. That's the exact moment when I stopped experiencing that vital, intimate love affair with my Papa God. That’s when my quiet times stopped being fulfilling. That’s when my mid-life crisis started: months of depression and disillusionment with life. And I have been disillusioned with God ever since. But I didn't know exactly why until tonight.

Tonight I reminded myself of the things that got me through the suffering when the arthritis was bad: that God would never, never, never let me, his precious child, go through something like this, except for a VERY IMPORTANT reason, a reason that I would even choose for myself if I knew what God knows. God had to do it; it was vital. But at the same time, He hated doing it. It caused Him more pain than it caused me, to let it happen. He cries with me. It rips His heart out.

Could you pray that God will re-establish the truth of his love, goodness, and tenderness toward me again deep in my heart? God has been my Lover, my Husband, my Brother, my Papa--even the Eagle who gathers and shields me underneath its feathers. I can be strong if I know He loves me. But the flesh and the enemy can steal it away in a heartbeat. I want that relationship back with Him.

October 20, 2008 ... Although I am past most of this now, I am still not experiencing the passion that I had with God before. I am in a season where He is showing me how to follow blind--to walk by faith instead of feeling.

Whenever I begin to question, I look at that old rugged cross. This amazing sacrifice that Christ made for me settles the matter of, "Does God really love me?" once and for all time.

Peace to you my dear friend,

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Oct 16, 2008

You Cannot Lose My Love

video

Purple HeartYou will lose your baby teeth;
At times you'll lose your faith in Me.
You will lose a lot of things,
But you cannot lose my love.

Purple HeartYou may lose your appetite,
Your guiding sense of wrong and right,
You may lose your will to fight,
But you cannot lose my love.

Purple HeartYou will lose your confidence,
In times of trial your common sense,
You may lose your innocence,
But you cannot lose my love.

Purple HeartMany things can be misplaced,
Your very memories be erased,
No matter what the time or space,
You cannot lose my love.

Purple HeartYou cannot lose...
You cannot lose...
You cannot lose my love.
This is my one of my favorite songs by Sara Groves from her album, "All Right Here." I pray it is a blessing to you. (MP3 available at Amazon.com)

Peace to you,

Cyndi Warren

FlowersCome visit us at www.warrenfamilylife.com

Oct 12, 2008

Search for Significance


RoseYou are good.
RoseYou are the Beloved of God.
Rose(Only because of the blood of Christ.)
RoseBut still -- your identity is changed forever.

As a reminder of this, it has helped me to put to memory a tip from Search for Significance, by Robert McGee:

"I am deeply loved,
completely forgiven,
fully pleasing,
totally accepted by God,
and absolutely complete in Christ."

Stop for a moment, and read that out loud if you are able. I wrote these words on index cards and put one on my bathroom mirror, another on my dashboard, and another in my wallet. (This is random, but you might put the same words with your mate's name on the mirror as well. It is easy to forget that our mates are creatures of infinite value and not our enemies!)

If you don't know in your gut (not just because "the Bible tells me so") but in your heart, emotions, and every fiber of your being that God loves you completely, then it is essential to keep the truth running through your mind until it sinks down into your heart ... for Satan is the "father of lies." If we keep our minds saturated with Truth, the evil one cannot touch us.

It is not enough to read this little series of blogs once and have victory over self esteem. We must have the weapons of truth secure in the arsenal of our minds--truth that we can access in those times when life changes in an instant.

The Search for Significance workbook is excellent for just that. As you work through the exercises, your self-esteem gradually becomes solidified, because it is based on the truth and the truth, my friend, will set you free.

Dove 2
Peace to you,

warrenfamilylife.com
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