Sunday, November 29, 2009

God knows

Okay, so I still don't have the short blog thing down. But I think I have an answer to the puzzle of who is more disappointed when we sin.

Doing my Bible reading in Luke, I came to chapter 22. The disciples had the last supper with the Lord. It's interesting to put the last supper accounts together to get a bigger picture of the table conversation, especially if you add the verses from John. Then, Satan had previously entered into Judas, and Judas went to the priests. Did Satan also come to the Last Supper inside Judas, like the Greeks at Troy? Odd guest. But I stray, and that's what makes for long blogs.

Anyway, Jesus tells them some important stuff... like when He informs Peter that Satan has requested to sift him like wheat... Scary stuff. Bad temptation coming your way, Peter. Very bad times. And Jesus had spent time praying just for Peter that his faith wouldn't fail. He then instructs Peter that when he "returns" (implying that Peter would turn from Christ), that he should "strengthen his brothers." Peter replies with his good intentions. 'If you get arrested. If you get crucified, Lord, you won't be alone because I'll be right there beside you.'

Jesus replies: "I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." That's just a few hours away. I believe Peter had that small voice inside his head saying, 'I don't know about that. I don't think you understand how committed I am.' Commitment is so much easier when you're sitting across the table from Jesus in the upper room.

Then came the small trial in the garden (Can't you just stay awake and pray?). Next came the arrest, when everybody ran away. Bigger test, granted. Wow, missed that part of my good intentions. Then he had the chance to identify with Christ, as he claimed he would, 3 times in the High Priest's hall. Instead, he goes the other way, strongly stating to everybody that he doesn't even know the man.

"And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." They locked eyes. Jesus knew. Ouch.
"And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."

Peter thought he was better than that. Granted, he didn't have an indwelling Holy Spirit yet. But he had spent years with Jesus, and Jesus was his best friend and Master. God already knew he would deny. Peter thought he was better than that. And so do I.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A time to gain, a time to lose, and sometimes, a time to gain again

All good gifts come from God. Just because you have them doesn't mean they belong to you, or that you'll keep them. That's Biblical. The gifts may be possessions. A roof over our head. Family. Friends. A job. Toys. Happiness. Health. America is an interesting place where we take things for granted. Really, it is just human nature to receive these gifts and forget the giver.

So, in America, we set aside a day to help us remember the God who has taken notice of us individually, and blessed us with all things. Incredible. He bends down and takes notice of you. And loves you. And blesses you.

Sometimes God removes the gift. Most times that precipitates a time of complaining in me. I can't find a season of complaining in Ecclesiastes. That's not His design. (A time to gain. A time to lose. A time to enjoy. A time to kvetch...) Strangely, I'm finding the losses bringing me to a spirit of thanksgiving this year. I know that spirit is also a blessing. A spirit of thanksgiving brings me joy. Contrast that with the carnal spirit of bitterness that comes so naturally to me.

Bob has lost some earning opportunities this year. But God has so richly blessed us with his job at J&M, and the strength to work. How often have I been bitter over God's blessing? I am so thankful God has provided our family the things we have enjoyed (a house decorated with Christmas lights each year, happy memories, a homeschool haven, and a place to laugh with friends and enjoy celebrations) through the means of this sometimes stressful, greasy, dirty job. Thank you, God. It is a good gift.

We have lost many friends and relatives this season. My kids are all starting to comment that the last pair of socks that Mona gave them are wearing out. I'm so grateful for the friendship and good memories God gave me over so many years through Mona. And Don. And Nancy. And the others. I felt loved and enjoyed laughs. I became wiser and learned how to be a friend. And I lost touch with them often. Didn't go visit as many times as I wish I had. But the minutes spent with each of them were blessed. They were each good gifts. And God didn't owe me anything, but kindly gave me friendship through them. Thank you God.

When we went to Larry's funeral I realized that the last frenzied 20 years were a gift that I was too busy to see. Memories of a season passed... Spankings doled out. One on one time pulling nits from my children's hair, sitting in a steamy bathroom in the middle of the night with a wheezer, date days at Denny's... The tooth fairy, piano recitals, kneeling on the floor to hear each child ask Christ into their heart. "Big time", construction paper gifts and proud graduation days. I reminisced with a friend yesterday, how that I always wanted a career and she always wanted a family. Life went the opposite way, with each of us getting the thing we didn't set our sights on. I discounted the gift God has given me over the past 30 years: my life as God designed it. He kindly (not angrily, as I would have done) turned me around to look backward this year and I saw the incredible beauty of His gift. Season passed. Gift complete. A beautiful generous gift. Thank you, God.

And then, sometimes God gives, takes away, and then re-gifts. Through Facebook I have gotten in touch with precious people who were friends and church family. They moved away. Most of them I knew as young folks, and now I get to enjoy an adult friendship with them. This has been an amazing and unexpected gift. Added bonus... What a joy to meet Kathy and Marla's spouses and kids. This has brought me great joy and blessing. Thank you, God.

Lastly, over the past 3 or 4 years I've been plagued with odd afflictions due to age. The biggest loss was my mind (though, some would argue that my looks took a bigger hit as my mind wasn't that sharp to begin with). By this time I had just come to accept the fact that I can't remember squat and most of the time I'm slightly to moderately confused. You don't realize how rational your mind is until it ceases operation. A few weeks ago I just woke up feeling good. Better than usual. Hmmmm. I was not confused. Able to handle a change in plan, remember how to get home from the dentist, know what freeway I am currently on, plan my day in advance. This is a major gift. I feel like myself again and it makes me so happy. Thank you, God.

Then the cherry on top. I'd also lost my sense of smell and taste. From having no sense of smell, to the variety of phantom smells and tastes I've experienced over the last few years, I'd just accepted the fact that growing old means that things you enjoyed just leave. There will be new things to enjoy in heaven. Some people have real problems... However, unexpectedly, I have the ability to smell flowers, pumpkin pie and BO. I tasted Elisabeth's delicious Thanksgiving turkey this year. These small things make life so pleasant. I'm so grateful.

I walked through a parking lot at a hospital this week. As I passed a lady in the crosswalk, she said, "Smell the roses." When I got to the corner there was a fragrant rose garden. I'd almost forgotten what that pleasure is like. God is so kind.

That's how our God is. He gives. He takes away. But He's all good, all the time. Thank you, God.