Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For the Love of the Journal

I have this love-hate relationship with my journal.  I love to look back and see where God has taken me on this journey.  I hate that I don't journal with regularity.   I used to wonder what the 'right' way was to journal.  After all, how could you or should you track prayer requests and answers?  And what about the details that should be included?   Should I just put in the big stuff or should I include things that really didn't seem so significant, but might be significant later.   So my life with the journal has been a bit of hit and miss.  

Journaling was probably never meant to be this difficult.   For goodness sake, it is a spiral bound notebook with lined paper.  It is mine to do with it as I please.  I'm not doing it for a grade or for a project for school.  No one sees it but me and God forbid anyone should see them after I die.    They probably wouldn't make any sense to anyone but me anyway.

Monday night after our prayer meeting at church, I wanted to come home and look for something in one of my old journals.   As I dug through them and found the one I wanted, I started reading bits and pieces of it.  At first I was truly on a search for what I was looking for.  But then it became more like a meandering journey of the mind through the past several years.    

As I kept reading and perusing the pages that constituted a good portion of my life with Christ, I found something very disturbing.   Don't get me wrong, there was lots of good stuff and things I am totally clueless as to why I would have written down at all.  But what disturbed me the most was my waning faith.

There I said it.  My faith was shrinking right there on the pages of my journal.   I kept reading it and wondered what happened to the woman that started the journaling to begin with.    If trials make you stronger and draw you closer to Jesus, then I should have been having large leaps of faith growth.  But that wasn't what was there.  

On the pages of the first journal I saw a "childlike, endless, God can do ANYTHING He wants" faith.  I saw a faith that believed in and expected miracles.  I trusted that if God said jump, well then, just jump and He will catch you.     But then this "oh I am more mature in my faith, don't want people to think I'm strange" woman showed up.     We share the same name, but I'm not nearly as fond of her.    This person I had become was too logical, played it too safe.

Only one or two journals before that I was asking God to interrupt my life.  To draw me so close to Him that I wouldn't question what He asked of me.  I prayed for a dangerous, give it all to Jesus kind of faith.  

Sometimes it is painful to look back, but sometimes it's absolutely necessary if we ever want to move forward as God intended.    I am so incredibly thankful for my journal and for God allowing me to see the truth in it.   If people think I'm strange then that is fine with me, because I would rather be strange and full of faith than 'normal' and faithless.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's the Small Things

Sometimes it is easy in our world of abundance to forget just how blessed we are.  I fall trap to that way of  thinking more often than I like to admit.    

Sponsoring a child from Compassion this year makes me stop and look at life differently.   When I take the time to prepare a small package of very simple items for him, it fills my heart with overflowing joy.  Praying over the items brings me back to reality.  It really is more of a blessing to give than to receive.    

Christ calls us to care for the poor and to preach the good news to the nations.  That doesn't mean that we have to go to another country to fulfill His calling for us.    We can share the good news of Jesus Christ and help to care for the poor right from our own home.   A little time and a little sacrifice is all it takes.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Secret of Making Your Marriage Work

"Always give more than you get" was what my mother told me over 25 years ago at my bridal shower.    My mother had been married a long time and that advice has served me well.     Sadly, I can't say that I always followed it.  But by the grace of God and an amazing husband, our marriage has survived all these years.

My thoughts lately have been a lot about marriage and what really does make it work.   We have seen way too many marriages end in divorce in the last year or so, while others are barely hanging on by a thread even as I write this.

Then I got an email this week from a friend who wanted me to call another woman about the difficulties that woman was experiencing in her marriage. I knew a bit about the situation they were going through and wasn't sure what advice I could give her that would truly help if she wasn't willing to do some hard work and see it through.

Here is the one thing I have learned over the last 25+ years, you really do have to be willing to give more than you get - or at least more than you think you are getting.    If there was such a thing as 'elbow-grease' in marriage, you need that!   Hard work and sacrifice and patience and prayer and love that goes beyond words.

Over the last several years, my husband and I have met with and talked to numerous people who are going through difficult times in their marriage.   Sadly, the one thing we saw repeatedly was people who wanted their marriage to work, no matter how bad it had gotten, but they weren't willing to do the hard work to see it through.   If just wanting your marriage to work was all it took, there wouldn't be a need for divorce attorneys.

There hasn't been a fix-all answer that I could ever give to anyone whose marriage was struggling.  But this much I know, you have to be willing to sacrifice and put your spouse first, and in even greater amounts during difficult seasons.

Our marriage has seen a wide-range of trials, testings and blessings.  We have survived difficult times when we weren't followers of Jesus Christ.  We have survived difficult times when we were following Jesus with all of our hearts. We have seen lean seasons and seasons of plenty.  We have walked through busy years of children and adjusted to the empty nest years.    We have had difficult times that we share publicly and we have private trials that aren't always meant to be shared.

I say these things, because I want you to understand that it wasn't just because of one particular thing or lack of something that made it work.   My husband and I have learned to press on and hold on and to give and bend and fight fair.   We pray for each.  We try to put each other first and yet I fail too often at this.   We have learned to close our mouths and keep our negative words to ourselves when our flesh wanted to just say what it was thinking. We have forgiven 7 x 7 and then a thousand more on top of that.  

Although God graciously sustained our marriage even when we weren't living for Him, I can't help but direct troubled marriages back to the Bible to be your guide.  Are you personally living as the husband or wife that God called you to be?    When you look in the mirror do you see the husband/wife that God intended you to be or something that looks more like a version that has been modified by the world's standards?

Sadly there are times when you can do all the right things and the hard work and pray and sacrifice and a spouse will still choose to leave or will continue an abusive or addictive lifestyle that is unhealthy for you to remain in.   The fallen world in which we live is still a reality today as much as it was in biblical times.

But there is hope if you are still married, even if the problems seem too much.   As my mother said "always give more than you get".  You might just be surprised at what you get in return.