I often return to Ephesians 2:1-10 and sit with it a while. It’s such a great passage to memorize and dwell on during the day. It tells me who I was, what God did for me and continues to do, who I am now, and what I’m doing. Consider it afresh here:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Evert time I read it, I see something important for the day. Today, I love thinking about how everything is “not [my] own doing.” Everything is God working in me as a gift of grace through faith. I also notice that God continues to prepare good works for us to do. If we’re still here, God invites us to the tasks He has prepared. Today, I simply ask what God’s plans for me are today. I ask God about the people I can bless, the ways I can serve, the manner in which I’m to intercede for others, and the work He has for me. I remember hearing the words of an older woman who said, “If God hasn’t taken me to heaven yet, it’s because He still has something for me to do here.”
I love reading about Balaam and Balak in Numbers 22-24. It’s the story of a king who wants to call a curse down upon the people of Israel through a man who hears from God (Balaam). But Balaam–who promises to speak the words He learns from the Lord–cannot pronounce a curse if God does not say to. Balaam must do only what God says. No amount of money or prizes can tempt Balaam to speak curses over Israel. So Balaam blesses. He cannot curse God’s people.
As Balak becomes increasingly frustrated and wants Balaam to neither curse nor bless Israel, Balaam simply responds, “All that the Lord says, that I must do.”
As the story becomes more and more ridiculous in Balak’s attempts to gain the blessing of God for his people and not the Israelites, Balak wants to persuade Balaam one more time with the promise of honor if he will just curse the people of Israel. I love Balaam’s response: “If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord. . . ”
I suppose I love the picture of obedience here and how prestige, riches, or some kind of other prize couldn’t persuade Balaam to do or say what God had not said. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t falter in my own obedience. I want to say, “All that the Lord says, that I must do.”
I love waking up to rain. I love pouring the hot coffee, curling up in the mustard recliner, pulling up the soft blanket, gathering the journal and Bible, and enjoying the cozy feeling of rain on the window while I’m safe and warm inside. It’s the season of warm, cozy feelings. Let’s elevate coziness every chance we can! For me, this means cardigans, fuzzy socks, soft music, candles, and a fresh journal.
I learned that when I don’t take a daily walk, joint pain returns. It’s counterintuitive, but moving helps your joint pain, especially arthritic pain. Keep going. Move the synovial fluid around and soothe your joints!
This morning, I spent time reflecting on Isaiah 40. I love thinking about how eagles soar— instead of frantically flapping their wings–because they know how to tap into an unseen power force: the thermals. They find columns of rising hot air and they soar! The eagle shows me how I’m to live today: dependent, God-focused, and relaxed. I allow the Holy Spirit to lift me up and help me soar today.
In Isaiah 40, I also see how God explains Himself in light of the complaints of the people. We’re tempted to think God has forgotten us or isn’t interested in our problems. But hear this:
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
As I continue learning about weakness, I also note how God, when offered our weakness, gives us strength, power, and renewed energy. And I remember what it means to soar; soaring indicates rising high up, flying without any power at all other than God’s. Let’s soar!
In 2 Thessalonians 3:16, we read this beautiful prayer: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
I’ve been thinking about this because of the remarkable power of God to give us His peace through the Holy Spirit when everything about our situation should actually unsettle, disturb, frustrate, confuse, discourage, or terrify us. I’ve spoken to so many people who have endured calamity but say things like, “God gave me His peace. It was amazing. I had complete peace during that situation.” I love it, too, when people describe how God’s peace “washed over them” like a great wave when they might have fallen apart. Or I hear that God’s peace “carried them” and “moved them to action.”
I think it’s a feeling that “all is as it should be” or “everything will be OK” or “no matter what, you are loved.” Maybe it’s a sense of Jesus’ presence. Maybe it’s an assurance of eternal security. Whatever it is for you, it’s real and available.
What an indescribable gift of God!
I’m loving what I’m learning about becoming weak to become strong. The counterintuitive way Paul writes about boasting in weakness to manifest God’s power more and more makes sense to me as I grow older, as I endure difficult situations, or as I step out in faith to work as God leads. I’m embracing helpless feelings; finally, I’m starting to get it. Helpless means I’m living by faith. Helpless means I’m relying fully on God. Helpless means that Christ shines, not me. How glorious and freeing to live a helpless life!
As I’m thinking about these things, I write in my journal how I lived helplessly all weekend. I drove a rental car by myself to Ohio. I felt helpless against what felt like a treacherous drive at times on I80. As a traveling public speaker, I stay alone in hotel rooms, feeling helpless and homesick. I stand up on stages in front of many people; I feel helpless to say the thing their soul really needs. When I walk up the steps to the podium, I say in my heart, “I am helpless. You are everything, Jesus. I bring nothing but You.” And guess what? Something happens that I don’t orchestrate or manipulate.
I turn to Hannah Whitall Smith’s words about being an instrument in God’s hands. She writes, “The strength of an instrument lies in its helplessness. Because it is helpless to do anything of itself, the master can use it as he pleases.” Earlier, she explains that “the moment resistance is felt in any tool” that’s the very moment it becomes utterly useless to the master. What a picture of lying still in the Master’s hands, helpless and dependent, so God can perform His mysterious and marvelous work.
This morning, I loved proclaiming this truth to my heart from Psalm 86:
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
What kind of lives would we lead if we remembered this moment by moment? God is good. Forgiving. Abounding in love.
When my daughter decided to plant tiny seeds to create a garden full of miniature pumpkins, I couldn’t predict how much I’d enjoy the lovely harvest. We gave little pumpkins away to the neighbors, scattered them around our front porch, and lined the windowsills with them. I love the simplicity of fall decorations in the kitchen. I also love that the seeds cost less than a dollar. We’re definitely planting these again next year. As I wash dishes, I think of simple pleasures like little pumpkins in the window.
This morning, I remembered to shake the pumpkin spice creamer. All the good stuff settles at the bottom, and a good shake swirls it up. I stood there in the kitchen and remembered the joy of ordinary moments of meaning and joy. I thought about how life shakes us up; it’s not a bad thing. When I feel shaken, it might just be the way God is stirring up something good that’s settled to the bottom of my heart.