Sunday, February 28, 2021

When God Says, "No" - Plus GIVEAWAY

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Hey Friends,

I had been gathering "life research" for almost sixty years. I'd journalled, written blog posts, and stored up experiences and lessons in my mind, all the while asking God, "Is it time, yet?" To which He'd whisper to my heart, "Not yet."

So, when I got this undeniable nudge, from God, in the early months of 2020 to begin writing the book which had been churning around inside me, this thoroughbred hit the dirt running as if the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby had suddenly been thrown open.

COVID-19 hit and I buckled down even more - almost glad to have more time to write without distraction. I was blessed to participate in an awesome but grueling book proposal bootcamp. For months, I forgot to eat meals and the hours flew by as I hunkered down writing words I was certain God ordained for me to write. 

I'd dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl and here, just before my 60th birthday, it was going to come true. Except it didn't. Ultimately, seven writers' proposals were chosen for potential publication. Mine wasn't one of them. 

"Why, God?" I whined. That's not fair I thought to myself. I'd sacrificed a lot and had put many important relationships on "hold" to pursue what I was certain was God's calling. It made no sense. Why would God call me to it only to just say, "No?"

When God says, "No," our reaction is to think He's not being fair. 

As my dad used to say, "Fair is where you go to get cotton candy." (grumble, grumble)

If I was a writer for a magazine and my editor asked me to write a story for the upcoming edition then told me she wasn't going to print it, I would be justified in saying, "That's not fair."

But, God is not my employer and I'm not His employee. He is my Father and I am His child and that changes things dramatically. Sometimes Fatherly love and wisdom together equal a "no." I need only remember times Ive said "no" to my children - not because I wanted to steal there joy but because I saw the bigger picture. Perhaps I was protecting them from something, or perhaps my "no" was leading to an even more important "yes." I knew better because I was the parent.

As God's children we don't get everything we ask for because we don't really know what's best for us. 

Here are a few categories in which God says, "No.":

1. Sin: God will always say "no" to sin. We're not just talking about the "big" sins like murder, stealing, or adultery. Actually sin is sin and it's the more insidious sins like jealousy, pride, anger, or wrong attitudes that trip us up. It's not a sin to experience anger, but if I lash out at my husband because of how I feel, that's sin. Or, if someone wrongs me and I harbor unforgiveness because I feel justified in clinging to my grudge, I'm sinning. 

God gives us the guardrails of His Word. When we obey and stay within their confines we experience joy. 

When God says, "No" to our sin, He is fighting for our ultimate joy.

2. Comfort: God often says, "No" to our comfort. We are to make ourselves "living sacrifices" according to God's Word (Romans 12:1). I admit I have tried to wiggle off the sacrificial altar a time or ten. When I have to choose between my comfort or dying to my comfort, it's not fun. God is asking whether I will choose self or am I willing to dye to self? Sacrifice is not comfortable.

I can relay many stories about experiencing anything but comfort. If given a choice, I imagine few of us would choose pain and suffering over comfort and happiness. Hindsight is 20/20. When I look back over those times, it is clear God was in the process of humbling me or transforming me. In Luke 9:23 we are encouraged to take up our cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Taking up our cross will not be comfortable.

We won't experience true Life unless we die to self.

3.  Dreams: God will occassionally say, "No" to dreams. When this happens, like it did to me, we want to shout, "Why?" - especially if we feel we are in line with His will. This is when we have to embrace perhaps the hardest challenge - to look beyond the "WHY" and focus on the "WHO" saying, "No." 

Why? = Focus on me.      Who? = Focus on God.

When I focus on what I don't get, I've forgotten about what I have already received.

I have received the very best "YES" - my salvation which I did not deserve.

I deserved death, but God said, "NO" to death and "YES" to life for me.

Jesus, literally sweating blood, begged His Father to be spared from the cup of a tortuous death on the cross and God gave a "no" that forever changed the world. We can measure God's compassion by the cross - the seizmic "no" that threw open wide the gates of heaven for us.

God doesn't need to explain Himself to me. Perhaps I need to embrace the answer I didn't want because it is leading to joy beyond my wildest imagination. Or maybe, I need to embrace the "no" because I am being transformed into Christ's image and He accepted the greatest "no" that was ever given...for me.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have given me so many blessings. Enable me to accept the "no's" graciously. I praise you I have an eternal "yes" because Jesus accepted the greatest "no" in order to save me. Teach me to respond as Jesus did, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Let me dwell in your Word so that I may be obedient in obeying your commands and run from sin. Help me not to value my comfort too greatly and be willing to serve others by sacrificing my time, talent, and treasure. I acknowledge your "no" may be paving the way to a greater "yes." But, even if not, let me humbly accept your sovereignty, mystery, and unfathomable goodness, even when my dream is not answered in the affirmative. Let me lean into the "Who" and forget the "Why?" It is in the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

What about you...has God ever said "no" to you? What was your reaction? Was God trying to protect you? Transform you? Humble you? Do you ever squirm under the call to be a living sacrifice? Any lessons you've learned that you'd care to share?  

Be Blessed...

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

How Can I Smile at the Future?

Hey Friend,

For several months I've felt like the character Tom Hanks plays in the movie Castaway. Hanks, a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, has one friend on the entire island - "Wilson" - played by a Wilson volleyball.

My situation hasn't been that dire, since the refrigerator is only steps away, but I have been alone with "Dell," my laptop, in my writer's world - gritting it out in a book proposal bootcamp. I developed a pinched nerve in my elbow from all the clicking away on Dell's keys. I haven't seen or talked to friends in months. It's been a focused, awesome, grueling, lonely existence.

After going from 1000 to 100, I found out on Monday that I didn't make the final seven who will most likely go on to having their books published. I won't lie - the disappointment hit hard especially due to the sacrifice of missed time with those I love. 

I'm leaning in to find out what God would have me learn from this whole experience. Afterall, it was at His shoving that got me started writing this book in the first place. What up, God?

Most of my life, I have entertained the notion that I've got to be continually on the move building God's kingdom. Everything I do has to have an eternal good purpose. Talk about self-pressure?!

I can't remember the last time I read a fiction book for pleasure. Is this what God wants for me?

I also admit to feeling an urgency in sharing the hope that is in me because I believe the days are evil and numbered. I don't see the rapture being some far off event seen only in the distance of the high beams. 

Jesus implores us to be ready for His coming which could happen at any time (Mark 13:33-37). What response are we to have? This is what I gleaned from a recent rereading of Revelation:

1.  Obedience: We are to be living in obedience to God's word. We are to not only be hearers of His word, but faithful doers. This chaotic and lost world is watching us and we need to live in such a way that we are not ashamed of our behavior. How would you appraise your behavior in terms of will or Thy will?

2.  Worship: God has provided a way to escape His end-time judgments - His free gift of salvation offered through Jesus. Our job is to receive His salvation and live in gratitude before Him. Our worship on earth will one day become worship in heaven. What song are you currently singing?

3.  Proclamation: The message of God's gift of salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truth of His second coming need to be proclaimed for all to hear, especially to those who don't yet believe. We must give everyone the chance to turn to God, repent, and be saved. Revelation 22:10 says, "And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What are you doing to proclaim this life-saving message?

4.  Service: As believers we should be diligent about carrying out God's will and performing good works. Yes, this has become more challenging during COVID distancing, but there are creative ways of serving others. We do not enter heaven based on our works, but 2 Corinthians 5:10 says this, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." You are saved by grace, but what will God say about how you used the gifts given to you?

No, this is not meant to be a giant guilt trip. I have always taken these precepts a little too legalistically which is not God's intent. I need less guilt and more joy in my obedience. 

I felt a certain urgency in proclaiming God's love and faithfulness through writing a book. I have served others by founding a Christian non-profit which brings the Good News to a dark corner of the world. Those are big things, but maybe, my obedience, worship, proclamation, and service need to be based more on the everyday right now?! How can I encourage someone who is discouraged and downtrodden by this pandemic? How can I be a friend to someone who is lonely or suffering? How can I serve those I abandoned while chasing the grandiose?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to get back to basics - loving those around me in my everyday world. Let my life-arrow point to Jesus in the grocery store check-out line, as I walk my dog and greet my neighbors, in lifting my voice in worship as I wash the dishes. 

Sometimes God calls us to extraordinary challenges...and sometimes He calls us to simply know and love Him and love our neighbor as ourself. If I know God - I mean really KNOW Him because I've spent countless hours with Him to the point that thoughts of the future bring eagerness and comfort, then I'm walking in His will and can smile about what is to come. Second, what have I done for my literal neighbor lately? 

I'm going to bake something and take it to my nextdoor neighbor. I'm going to write a note to my other neighbor battling pancreatic cancer. I'm going to pick up some flowers for my elderly neighbor who lives alone. I'm going to think of creative ways to be Christ to the next person with whom I come in contact. What about you? How do you plan to be mistaken for Jesus? How might this help you smile at the future?

Will you share some ideas you've done or want to take on to pursue obedience, worship, proclamation, and service?

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