FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Surviving (Part 1)

On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Of the forty-five original passengers and crew, only sixteen made it off the mountain alive. Those survivors endured ten excruciating weeks suffering deprivations beyond imagination, confronting nature head-on at its most furious and inhospitable, and to survive, engaging in the unthinkable.  This is the tale of Piers Paul Read’s Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.

Chances are (if you are reading this), you are not snowbound, lost in the Andes.  But are you lost?  Confused?  Off kilter?  Perhaps feeling deprived – of love?  Of true friendships?  Confronting life head-on at its most furious?  Finances?  Health?  Career?  Death? Relationships?  Parenting?  Do you feel as though you are barely surviving?

The surviving passengers and crew in Alive, survived because they did the unthinkable.  They became cannibals.

Hold up; no, I am not telling you to eat your friends and family (though sometimes you might feel like it – with your words, that is).  But what is the unthinkable, the drastic, the radical change that YOU need to make?  Perhaps you already know.  Change jobs?  Change friends?  Change your behavior?  Change your thinking?  (We’ll talk about what you know next blog.)

Or you may be completely clueless.  I invite you to look to Isaiah for wisdom. Isaiah 58:9(a) (AMP) tells us “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am.” (Feeling better already? I know I am just typing this!). But keep reading. Isaiah 58:11 (AMP) continues, “And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.  (In case you don’t get it, He will make you Alive!)

But there is even more!

Isaiah 30:19-21 (AMP) says, “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.”

To navigate the Andes, the survivors needed a guide.  To navigate life, we need a guide – and we have one in Our Lord.  Keep your eyes on Him and your ears open to hear His word, “This is the way; walk in it…”

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Asking for Directions (Part 2)

Today let’s just dive in.

We established in our last blog entry the importance of seeking God’s direction before we begin each daily journey.  That means we embrace the examples of Psalm 63 1(a) – “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee…” (KJV) and (less we be uncertain what early means) Mark 1:35 “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (KJV)

But how do you seek God early?  Look back at Mark, and pick that Scripture apart.  Jesus:

  • Rose before day
  • Went out
  • Departed into a solitary place
  • Prayed

Do you have to get up before the sun? No. Your “early” may occur later in the morning but BEFORE you begin your day in earnest. Remember, you want to seek God before you begin to encounter the world (your children, your spouse, morning traffic, your work place, etc.)

Do you have to leave home (go out)? No. But you do need to go somewhere that is a solitary, quiet place. If you’re home alone – no problem. If your household is overrun with children, animals, extended family…, you need to find a quiet place.   Back porch? Basement? Garden? Bathroom? (Hey, He is everywhere, and a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do to get some solitude.”)

Do you have to pray? Yes! Do you have to pray lofty liturgies? No. Just talk with God.   I say with because it is a conversation in that you are talking and listening. I encourage you also to read the Scriptures, meditate and journal, but mainly I encourage you to personalize this time. Christianity is NOT a legal relationship; it is a love relationship, and just as you personalize your time with those you love, personalize this time with Christ.

POSSIBLE RESOURCES

How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time

Love Worth Finding (Adrian Rogers)

http://www.lwf.org/site/News2?id=10545

 

How to Have a Quiet Time

In Touch Ministries (Charles Stanley)

http://www.intouch.org/you/quiet-time-toolbox/content/topic/how_do_i_have_a_quiet_time_qt

 

How to Have a Quiet Time According to Martin Luther

Christianity Today

http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/advice/faithqa/whats-quiet-time.html

 

Quiet Time: 7 Minutes with God

Precept Austin

http://preceptaustin.org/quiet_time_seven_minutes_with_god.htm


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Asking for Directions (Part 1)

Sunday School Student: “Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years?”

Female Sunday School Teacher: “Because even back then men would not ask for directions.”

Okay, forgive me, Lord, for that one. But, if we have ever ridden in a car with a man for a distance greater than around the block, then we know it is too true. Men will not ask for directions!

Don’t worry, I’m not about to bash men. Just to be fair I will share an equally painful confession about women. We are notorious for being backseat drivers! Now many, like my mother, will not actually get behind the wheel if anyone else in the car has a valid driver’s license, but they (she) will give you guidance every turn of the way. Slow down! Look out for that car in front of you! Don’t park there. You’re too close.

But back to the men.  Well actually if we step out of the car, MOST of us will find that as we navigate life we don’t stop and ask for directions. Proverbs 3:1 cautions us, “My son, do not forget my teaching…” Verse 6 follows, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB)

But no sooner read, we forget this invaluable teaching – in ALL ways we are to acknowledge Christ so that He will make our paths straight. Another translation of Verse 6 says, “He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (MSG)

My daddy loved to travel and often took us on family trips when I was a child.  Not being wealthy, much of our travel was via the family station wagon. (Yes, we had one of those with the wood veneer sides.)  I can still see him sitting at the kitchen table with maps and Atlases spread about as he was planning our next venture. (For you Millenials, understand there was no GPS!)  What is key is that daddy consulted the maps and atlases BEFORE we ever put a suitcase in the trunk!  And that is what your heavenly daddy would have you do.  Consult the maps and atlases – His word, His teaching – before you begin the journey!

And just as my daddy consulted those guides before every trip so you need to consult yours before you begin every day.  How?  Next blog entry…


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Where Are You Going?

Along the yellow brick road in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s screen version of L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy comes to a fork in the road where, while thinking out loud, she meets the Scarecrow.  Their dialogue goes something like this:

Dorothy:  Follow the Yellow Brick Road? Follow the Yellow Brick? Well, now which way do we go?

Scarecrow:  Pardon me. That way is very nice.

Dorothy:  Who said that?  Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.

Scarecrow:  It’s pleasant down that way, too.

Dorothy:  That’s funny.  Wasn’t he pointing the other way?

Scarecrow:  Of course, people do go both ways!

Dorothy:  Why, you did say something; didn’t you?  Are you doing that on purpose, or can’t you make up your mind?

Scarecrow:  That’s the trouble.  I can’t make up my mind. I haven’t got a brain, only straw.

Dorothy:  Well, how can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?

Scarecrow:  I don’t know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?

Many people can relate to both Dorothy and the Scarecrow.  They don’t know where they’re going.  They think any road will do.  They occasionally stop and ask anyone for direction, and they listen to people who do a lot of talking but don’t necessarily have brains.

(That’s probably enough said for this post already.)

Fast forward, though, to the ending scenes of The Wizard of Oz and there is dialogue among the Tin Man, Dorothy and Glinda, the Good Witch:

Tin Man:  What have you learned, Dorothy?

Dorothy:  Well, I – I think that it – that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. And that it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?

Glinda:  That’s all it is!

Glinda and Dorothy were almost right in that the answer to what is missing in our lives is not something “out there” over the rainbow.  No man or woman, no amount of money, no career, no travel to an exotic land (not even to Kansas) can fill our emptiness.  What is missing, what will fill that hole in our hearts and lives is God.

So, rather than chasing after pots of gold, as David declared in Psalm 63:8 we should follow “hard after” God. (KJV) While this expression comes from A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, (there is a chapter entitled, “Following Hard After God.”) this text written in 1948 and this word from David speak a powerful lesson for us today.  In following hard after God we can be assured that He will order our steps, direct our paths and uphold us in His way. Even more than this, we can be assured of a deep relationship with Him – one that brings life, one that satisfies.


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Life, Interrupted

In the late 90s two famous actresses, Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, starred in Girl, Interrupted, a film about a young girl who ends of in a mental institution and befriends a band of other troubled residents.  The question central to the movie’s plot was whether this girl, Susanna, would “drop anchor” at the institution or pull it together and move forward with her life.

Isn’t that how it happens for us?  Life, as we have imagined it and planned it, gets interrupted.  We may not end up in a mental institution, but sometimes we end up way off track from where we would like to be.  Out of school.  Working a minimum wage job.  Unemployed.  Back at home with our parents.  In an apartment that rivals a college dormitory.  Divorced.  Friendless.  Our lives, interrupted.

Interruptions.  At the very least they annoy and frustrate.  Sometimes they completely derail us to the point that we don’t even recognize ourselves.  We are angry or fearful or argumentative.  Our minds are forever foggy and we struggle to think coherent thoughts or make decisions.  We are depressed and lethargic just wanting to sleep.  We are always teary-eyed, on the verge of a full-blown, unraveling breakdown.

But interruptions can be a good thing.  Most often it is in hindsight that we think this – like when we didn’t marry that love of our lives or didn’t take that job or didn’t move into that house.  After the fact we realize that it was a good thing that we were interrupted, that our interruption actually proved to be an opportunity, a blessing even. Why must it always be “after the fact” that we come to this realization?  Why can we not welcome an interruption?

Consider the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph in the second chapter of Matthew.  The Wise Men had crafted a plan based on their observation of a star.  King Herod summoned them and gave them clear directions to return to him with news of the Christ child.  Their plan was interrupted because the Scriptures tell us in Matthew 2:12b that they departed another way.  In this same chapter we learn that Mary and Joseph’s lives were likewise interrupted.  Shortly after Mary had given birth Joseph was warned in a dream to take mother and child and go to Egypt.

Interruptions. Surely.  But how did the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph respond?  Scripture says of the Wise Men that they “departed to their own country by another way.” (ESV)  In response to the angel’s directive for Joseph to “rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,” Joseph did just that.  Verse 14 says, “And he rose and took the child and mother by night and departed to Egypt.” (ESV)

These weren’t really interruptions you argue; these were divine interventions that saved their lives.  I won’t argue with you on that, but I will argue that your “interruptions” might well be divine interventions, too.  But if we are not readily obedient like the Wise Men and Joseph and Mary, what might we be missing?  Life?  Fully?


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Thirst

“Man cannot live by bread alone.”   That is Scripture and that is life.  You have to have water.  (I have to have ice cream.)

The truth of the matter is the human body needs food and water to survive. 

One can go for more than three weeks without food (Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation), but water is quite a different story.   The body is mostly water, and every living cell needs water to keep it functioning.  Water acts as a lubricant for our joints, regulates our body temperature through sweating and respiration and helps to flush toxins and waste.  The maximum time it seems that an individual can go without water is a week, less under certain conditions like extreme heat.

Some of us do not drink enough water – don’t like the taste, prefer soft drinks, get too busy, forget, – we have a lot of excuses).  We can go along for a while until our body cries out for nothing but water.

With a water loss of just 1% you begin to feel thirsty and show signs of dehydration such as fatigue, dry mouth, dry eyes and darkened urine.  If not hydrated, skin begins to lose elasticity and blood pressure drops.  Because water is key to the delivery of oxygen, with dehydration comes diminished blood flow to tissues.  Severe dehydration results in weakness, shock, coma and, eventually, death.

But the water from our taps and from all those bottles we buy (Americans spend more than $4 billion annually for bottled water) only temporarily quenches our thirst.

We need “living water.”

In John 4, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water…So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ““Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”  (ESV)

The eye-opener comes in the simplicity of verse 28 – “So the woman left her water jar…”  In a dry land one doesn’t leave behind her water jar.

Unless her thirst has been quenched.


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Choose Life

Somewhere I read this quote:

What is Life?

They say it is from B to D – from Birth to Death.

But what’s between B and D?  It’s a C.  So what is C?

It is a Choice.

Life is a matter of choices.

And, if you are like me, sometimes that is good and sometimes that seems not so good.  For example, there are days when I wish someone would just make all the decisions for me from what to put on in the morning to what to eat for lunch to what to do about a problem at work and, surely, what to serve for dinner.  (How many ways can you cook chicken!)

My pastor preached a sermon once about our stuff and how much of our time, energy, mental faculties, etc. are consumed by our stuff.  I remember him saying that if you only owned two shirts, chances are one would be on your back and the other in your closet.  Not a lot to think about there – you’re either wearing one or the other. (Hmm, definitely a message there for us ladies, but I won’t touch that one today.)

The fact of the matter is that we have choices in life.  In America, we tend to have the luxury (or the headache) of a lot of choices.  Our closets, for the most part, are full.  Our pantries are full.  Our days are full.  We are constantly bombarded by choices.

When it comes to life, I think the “choice” is whether to choose to live or just to exist until death.

And, yes, even in this we have a choice because Our Father has given us free will – the ability to make certain choices.

Consider Deuteronomy 30:11-20. (Please read the full text; I’ve shared an excerpt here.)

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven… Nor is it beyond the sea… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey… you shall surely perish. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants – by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days. (NASB)

I love this text!  It seems to have in mind those of us who simply don’t want the pressure of another choice, another decision.  This is essentially a no-brainer; “what I am commanding is not too difficult for you.”  There are but two choices – life and prosperity or death and destruction.  Like those two shirts, you’re either choosing one or the other.

For years I struggled to have children.  After many pills, procedures and prayers the time seemed right.  My OB/GYN told me to act immediately, but a lot else was going on in life, so I told him I wasn’t ready to decide.  I will never forget his response – “By not deciding, you are deciding!”  Wow!  That bit of wisdom is apropos for much of life (maybe all of life.)  By not deciding, we are deciding.  The author of Deuteronomy tells us to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, to keep His commands, to obey His voice, to hold fast to Him.  This is life and the length of our days.  And the opposite (the other choice) brings the opposite – death.

What is Life?  It is from B to D by way of C – our choices.  Choose life!