Mystery

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Years ago I remember JB Phillips wrote a book, Your God is too Small. Recently I’ve been thinking about that concept again.

Is my God too small?

God seems to shrink when we are too busy with other things to spend time with Him. It’s not that He has shrunk, it’s that other things seem to have grown in importance. It is like looking through the wrong end of binocular lenses.

God seems to shrink when we allow the world’s way of looking at Him to affect our vision of Him. When they scoff and say, “Really? Do you really believe in a God that. . .?”

God seems to shrink when we allow sin in our lives that takes our eyes off God and puts them on some appetite or interest that we know God doesn’t approve of.

God seems to shrink when we forget we have an eternal destiny.

Seeing the big picture

I want to see God in all his majesty and power and love. I have decided to spend as much time as necessary in the book of Ephesians, to expand my understanding of God. That book exalts the big picture of God, His plan, and His purpose for life. I’m beginning to memorize Ephesians. (That may well be a project for the rest of my life.) As I try to remember the verses, my mind and spirit are stretched to absorb the meaning of the words.

Mystery

The first word that caught my attention was the word mystery. Mystery is defined as, “Something not understood or beyond understanding.” In Ephesians chapter one, Paul uses mystery to describe God revealing the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. God kept the mystery of salvation until the time of Jesus’ sacrifice once for all for our sin. If the devil had known this secret that was hidden in mystery, he would not have killed the Perfect Sacrifice. C.S. Lewis mentions this in the Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe.

Deut. 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

There are secret things (mysteries) that belong only to God. He has not told us, nor does He have to tell us everything. He keeps some things secret from us. But there are many things that He has revealed to us. We are to search these out. Know them. Share them with our children. Knowing all that He has revealed to us is meant to help us do His will.

From there, I began to look for what I can know. What has God revealed? And how should that influence the way I live?

God chose us

God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, chose us. I do not need to know how He made the choice. That’s above my pay grade. All I need to absorb is that I am chosen. It is not because I am anything special or better than others or came from a godly lineage. It has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with Him. You are chosen, too.

According

According is used several times in chapter one. Here they are: “according to the purpose of his will”, “according to the riches of his grace”, “according to his purpose”, “according to the counsel of his will”, and “according to the working of his great might.” According means, “In conformity with”. All that God has planned and has done is in conformity with His purpose and will and power. Nothing happened of its own accord or like a pendulum set in motion or just to make me happy. This reminds me, I am not the center, God is. Was every bad thing that ever happened or will happen in my life His plan for me? Again, that’s above my pay grade. What I can know is that His purpose and will, definitely will be accomplished.

So as I consider these big themes, I want to consider what they mean to me. To be chosen means that God has a plan for me that fits into His plan and purposes. I don’t want to take my life in Him for granted and miss the joy He’s planned. I also don’t want to be putting myself down and keeping my eyes on what is negative. I want to have the eyes of my heart open to God’s plan.

I want to see what is according to His plan, purpose, and power. Our culture wants everything according to what is considered modern, tolerant, and popular. Most of what God has purposed will be in direct opposition to our culture. I want to be on God’s side of the plan.

And for me, mystery means I don’t have to come up with my own reasons or opinions about the plans of God. I can say I don’t know and yet trust God does know and has it all taken care of.

Let’s take Paul’s admonition to Timothy that “All scripture is God breathed and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Take a moment to consider:

Is your God too small? Have you let things of this world shrink God in your thinking? Will you let God reveal himself and his purposes to you?

This is the first of some devotionals on Ephesians.

Overgrown

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Do you ever feel you are just peeking out at life? Are lots of different things crowding out the life you really want? Are you longingly looking past obligations you have created for yourself Or perhaps  obligations others have put on you? Or maybe, your fears are keeping you from seeing real life? Maybe it’s time to do some weed whacking, even if they are pretty leaves.

One of the prompts for my art challenge this month was, ‘Overgrown.’ I’m practicing making a small ink drawing every day for a month.

In order to manage sketching every day this month, I had to plan ahead. Last month I chose the images I wanted to try to sketch. This meant I wouldn’t spend my ‘art’ time, scanning images.

Then I planned time in my day to do a light pencil sketch and also when I would actually do the ink work.

This is not an obligation or expectation from anyone else. It is a challenge I set for myself. Nothing bad will happen if I fail to ink every day. I don’t get demerits or a summons to court or even ridicule from my peers. It has been a good exercise in choosing my obligations. I have found creative ways to keep my commitment without missing out on other important things in my life.

Though this is an obligation of time every day for a month, it has rich benefits for me personally. First, it is helping me in time management. It is also helping me get comfortable with the lovely pen my husband gave me over a year ago. I am learning to control my hand-eye coordination better every day. This whole experience is helping me grow as an artist.

Not every obligation is like this. There are obligations we have not put on ourselves. We no longer have a parent looking over our shoulder and pointing out our shortcomings. But we may still be letting those sharp criticisms or harsh judgements crowd out the joys in our lives. Are there ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ in your life that keep you running in your hamster wheel? Have you ever asked God if those are obligations He wants you to continue to fill?

Perhaps your parents, either say or imply that since they paid for your education, you should be climbing the corporate ladder. You may have done that for a number of years while you saved and invested your money wisely. Now you are married and have a baby. You long to step off the ladder, do some commission work from home and enjoy your child’s formative years. Even if it means you won’t be adding much to your treasure in the bank, you could be gaining great treasure in helping your child be successful in life.

Our fears may keep us from enjoying life as we were meant to. We can be peeking out at life from behind our mesh of fears. For many years I would not speak in public because I was afraid I would fail. That hasn’t been a problem for a long time now. Yet there are still times when I could speak, but prefer to just watch from the sidelines.  

Recently my fear of not having done anything really worthwhile with my life has allowed a weed patch of disappointment, discouragement, and resentment for all the hard work I put into endeavors that have apparently not produced any fruit.

I’m ready to do some weed whacking. How about you? Are there commitments in your life that are suffocating the life out of you? How about fears? Are there some that you can recognize, call by name, and kick out?

God helping us, we can clear the rubble so that we can build for eternity.

Making Peace or Keeping the Peace

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Have you ever thought about the difference between making peace and keeping the peace? Someone I love mentioned that it is possible to keep the peace, but not be a peace maker. There is a subtle, but important difference in the two terms. And we can easily think we are peacemakers when we are really just keeping the peace.

Jesus tells us peace makers are blessed. In the Sermon on the Mount He said peacemakers will be called sons of God. He came to bring peace between God and man. But Jesus was not a peacekeeper. He was anything but that! He drove out the money changers from the Temple and He was always pointing out the fallacies of the Pharisees’ rules. If He had just gone along with the Jewish leaders, He could have kept the peace and not been crucified. But then he would have missed the point of his living among us.

Making peace with others

Have you ever thought, “If we do these chores in a different way, it would be easier on everyone.” Then in the next instant realized, “But since we’ve always done it this way, better not rock the boat.” That’s keeping the peace.

This kind of peace keeping can lock couples and families into hurtful behaviors. One member of the family can make the emotional toll too high for anyone to even make suggestions of change. They may control by ridicule, criticism, emotional outbursts, or stonewalling. These responses may kill a relationship quickly or very slowly like water eroding a rock.

I always saw my dad as a peacemaker. But on reflection, I think he was more of a peacekeeper. He did not like confrontation, so he would bear with situations long after others knew change would make his life better. His keeping the peace allowed a status quo where God couldn’t make a lasting peace in that situation. However, in another way his peace keeping was good. We never had the grumbling and complaining I’ve heard in other homes. He saw no reason to voice irritations and disrupt the peace unnecessarily. If he could do something to help, he did. If he could ease someone else’s frustrations by calm words, he did. Peace was the atmosphere around dad most of the time.

Making Peace can be internal too.

I hate to make phone calls to agencies. I’ve been afraid I couldn’t explain what I needed or wouldn’t have all the information they’d want or wouldn’t be able to understand their accent. My helpful and kind husband usually offers to take care of that kind of call for me. I’ve been peaceful in my ‘fear.’

While we were in the US this time, there was a major problem that required an ‘official’ call to an agency that is characterized as gruff and unhelpful. But I was the one with the information that needed to be dealt with. We were running out of time before returning to Malaysia. Mike was out doing some other chores. After I tried to use the internet to solve the problem, I realized there was no other solution except for me to make the call. I prayed about it and asked my sister to pray for me too.

When my husband came home, he was shocked to see me on the phone with an agent, dealing with the problem! “Not Diane! Not with them!” Yes, it was true! God was merciful. The three agents I had to speak to were all kind, understanding, and helpful. I would have missed a huge blessing if I had tried to keep my peace instead of making peace with my emotions. This doesn’t make me want to make any and every call. But I am now at peace that I can make calls when necessary.

Take a moment to consider:

I will look for other ways I’ve been peacekeeper instead of being a peace maker. Can you think of areas in your life where you need to take the step to be a peace maker? It may mean some temporary disruption, but in the end, you will have made peace in that area.

Skin Horse

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Mike reminded me of quotes from The Velveteen Rabbit. The beautiful Velveteen Rabbit asked the very worn and injured Skin Horse toy about becoming real.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

In the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in many, many years. We looked back at the time when we had been classmates with one and also teachers and student with the other. When we thought of those years, we remembered so many mistakes. We were different people back then, young and just feeling our way along. We didn’t know how to be what we needed to be in those situations. We felt we were failures.

As we met these old friends, we got a glimpse of how they saw us in those early, early years. They didn’t judge us like we had judged ourselves. We heard from their lips ways we helped and encouraged them. We heard about what our friendship had meant to them. We told them what they meant to us and how they had also blessed our lives all those years ago.

We heard how they had been knocked around, rubbed raw, and left alone at times in the past. We shared our bumps and scars and calluses. Like the Skin Horse we all feel the effects of aging. Also like the Skin Horse we know the harsh effects love has sometimes had on us.

The thing we had in common with these old friends was that though people and life had sometimes treated us harshly, we knew Love and that’s what has made us real. We have not had to go through these experiences by ourselves, though at times it felt really lonely. God never left us! He provided what we needed to keep us going. He healed, strengthened, provided, comforted, and even used us through the tough times. These bodies show the wear and tear, but our spirits shine through with Light.

These friends had loved us and cared for us many years ago. They carried pictures of us in their heads of the way we were back then. We see the Skin Horse that we’ve become and sometimes rue our lost youthful glow. But love from the Father and love from these and many other friends over many years have made us real.

We had such sweet conversations filling in an outline of our years apart. We were amazed at some of the similarities. Though our paths have been different, we have come to many of the same opinions and experiences.

Is there someone you should try to find from your past? Why not reach out? Your love and good memories of them may be just the lift they need.

To My Young Friends

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I  was asked, “What would I like to be remembered for?” My instant answer was,  ” I want to be one who showed young women how to fulfill their highest calling.” For some that means to be successfully single in a sex crazed world. For some to be a good wife and friend to their husband throughout life. For others the additional calling as mom to members of the next generation.

I  don’t want any applause for how I live. I don’t want to be looked at like a stained glass saint that is impossible to follow.

My life is impossible for anyone else to live. I admit that. But the same Lord who saves me, empowers me, and teaches me will do these things and more for anyone who opens their heart and life to Him.

My direction manual, the Bible, is available to any who will open and read it. The principles in it work in every generation, every culture.

One of the ways God helps us stay on course is by giving us companions along the way. For some women, the friends they went to kindergarten with stay their friends for life. Most of us though, have to find those close friends at different stages of our lives. Society is so fluid that even if we never move, everyone we hold dear will move. But I have always had at least one close female friend and usually more than one. Even in the wilderness, God provided friends for His people.

We need each other. We need confidential friends and those who know us well enough to know when we are in need or in danger. If you don’t have friends like this, ask your Heavenly Father for one and then take the time and energy to develop the friendship. God uses good friends to help us through our griefs and and to keep us grounded through our successes. We also need the exercise of being a good friend to others.

Look for opportunities to grow or stretch or change. It may seem best to just keep doing things the same way. This is comfortable or at least a known quantity. But take the challenge to learn something new or take a new position or go somewhere new. You won’t be sorry for the experience. God will use it to enrich your life and other’s lives too.

Young women, give it your all, your best. Whatever you have to do today, do it with your whole heart. Even if it doesn’t make sense now, you will some day see how it built your character or gave you experiences you can use to help others or prepared you for an opportunity in the future.

I’m here. I’m rooting for you. And you have a Heavenly Father who wants your best. Don’t give up or give in! There is too much at stake.

This song has been the encouragement I needed at times to keep going and keep doing what is right. Let the words bless you, too.

Don’t grow weary or discouraged. Don’t surrender in the fight. Keep on moving in the Spirit, keep on doing what you know is right. There will be seasons of blessing and there will be weeping in the night. But soon you’ll be reaping the blessing, if you keeping on in the fight.