Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forget It!


In the late night quiet that only comes when everyone sleeps but me, I relish the opportunity to concentrate, uninterrupted, on the textbook reading for my Essentials in Psychology class. I haven't fully decided how I feel about the idea of an e-textbook with no pages to turn, no heft to hold in my hands, nothing tangible to give evidence of the copious amounts of knowledge I am absorbing. Not only that, but I have to go through a measure of rigmarole to electronically highlight key words and concepts, which is one of my favorite ways to remember things I don't want to forget. Yep, the jury is still out, but I am adjusting.

As you would expect from a college textbook, this is a book with a secular viewpoint, academic in nature, and one that has no intention whatsoever of speaking to me about God . . . but it can't help itself.

In teaching me what learned men and women have discovered about the human brain, the way the mind works, concepts like motivation and emotion, and the inner workings of how we remember and forget, it just keeps teaching me about the God who created every aspect of our beings! From the complex and ingenious anatomy of the brain to the equivalent of computer software that runs everything from our heartbeat and breathing to the finest nuances of emotion and relationship (and you thought Steve Jobs designed some cool stuff!), it could not be more clear that as David exclaimed to God with insight, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14 NIV

Much of what I read is relatively familiar, but one concept catches me by surprise. It says that
part of the reason we are able to remember is that we are able to forget. What? That's right! While we overwhelmingly think that forgetting is a bad thing and wish we had perfect recall, it is precisely because we can forget that we can remember so many things so well! Here is what the book had to say: -

Feldman, R. S. (2010). Psychology and Your Life. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

God's Word is full of truth that it implores us not to forget; but every once in awhile, God tells His people to go ahead and FORGET IT!!

Forget what?

“'Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

While you are using all the powers of your wonderfully designed capacity to remember what is important, enjoy the freedom God gives, the built in capability He has crafted, to forget the things that hold you back. Strangely enough, in this passage, God was essentially telling His people to forget the Red Sea and His decisive defeat of Pharaoh--the biggest thing God had ever done in their history, and He said to FORGET IT!! 

Now, did God really mean for His people to completely lose their memory of what He had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt? From all the times throughout the rest of scripture where He took them back to that moment with Him, I think that would be a resounding, NO! What He did want was for His people to walk in the glorious newness of an ongoing, growing, fresh and exciting love relationship with Him. He did not want them to get stuck in what He had done for them before, but to watch what He was about to do! 

Like the way we continually remember the summarized faces of loved ones, we need to know God's work in our lives in a way that retains our accumulated knowledge of His character while moving on with Him. HE NEVER CHANGES, but we do, and our understanding of Him should be growing! We need to keep walking forward with Him, not getting stuck in the details of the past--not our failures, or even how He has worked in us before. He is making us new every day, and every day we are to forget (that is to take our eyes off of) the stuff that can hinder our ability to KNOW HIM NOW.

The Apostle Paul put this same idea into practice and set the example for us:

. . . one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV

Each and every day, He is "doing a new thing" in us and we'll miss it if we're busy gazing into our memories of the past. His work in our hearts IS that stream in the wasteland and it is ever new, ever gushing cool, ever refreshing the driest, rockiest places in us.

P.S. That "new thing" God was promising in Isaiah 43? Several chapters later we find that it was His plan to send Jesus to rescue His people, and all peoples of the earth, once and for all. Sadly, most of His people were caught looking back, and they couldn't see Jesus for who He was. If you haven't met Jesus yet, or if you are beginning to wonder who He is, maybe for the first time, read Isaiah 53 and then the Gospel of John to learn more! 

What new thing is God doing in you?
How will you apply the gift of forgetting as you walk with Him this week?
Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday

I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1211-1231 (March 11th through March 17th)

11. 3 gifts read
Dictionary definitions that teach volumes
"O God, may Thy Spirit speak in me that I may speak to Thee." Anonymous (2010-07-01). Puritan
                           Prayers (Kindle Location 239). Unknown. Kindle Edition. 

The living Word of the living God!
12. a gift in wind, in water, in white
Petals that fall like snowflakes in springtime breezes
Quenched thirst
The paper that holds She So Sweet's amazing artwork
13. 3 gifts round
The mouth of my coffee cup
Scotch tape
Hamburgers made by She So Sweet for dinner tonight
14. 3 gifts found in silence
Sweet concentration (a precious commodity for this student!)
15. 3 gifts given away
Used clothes dropped off at Goodwill
Loving advice my kids sometimes don't want to hear
Quiet little bits of Biblical thinking shared in my online classroom
16. 3 hard eucharisteos
Holy Spirit conviction about changes I need to make
Gas prices--what can they possibly be good for I wonder?
Housework that I'm so behind in doing
17. a gift turned, a gift folded, a gift hung
The beautiful bowl my little brother made out of a branch of a beloved willow tree
Fleece blankets I made that everyone likes to wrap up in

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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Monday, March 12, 2012

It's All Uphill from Here


Do you ever wake up and find everything you touch falls down,
                                                                                      tips over,
                                                                                              won't work,
                                                                                                     makes a mess,
                                                                                                            gets stuck,
                                                                                                                   fights back?

It's not your imagination.

"And to the man he said,
'Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree 
      whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
   the ground is cursed because of you. 

      All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.'"

[emphasis mine]

Some days this worldwide phenomenon feels more pronounced than others, but it is never absent--struggle appears to be a thread that winds and weaves its way in, on, under, over, and through every fiber of this old world's existenceI daresay, Murphy's Law long predates Murphy!

It wasn't always this way, and thankfully it won't always be this way, but right now, in the tales between the bookends of Eden and New Earth, here in the annals of fallen-ness, we ever live with struggle.

We hear a lot these days about people wanting "a level playing field." This may be a useful metaphor to characterize concepts like fair treatment and equal opportunity, but in a cosmic sense, there is no such thing as playing on the level. From the moment of Eden's Fall, the falling has never stopped. Adam bit, mankind fell, and the plane of life tilted to a steep incline. From that time forward, it has been easier to fall back than to advance. It is easier to do bad than good. It is easier to fail than to succeed. Simply, it is easier to go down than up. Oh, and by the way, there are no brakes--you're always going one way or the other.

Yesterday, my pastor likened life to a grand soccer game being played on a steeply tilted field due to the devil's cheating and our captain, Adam's gullibility. The devil has gleefully elected to play in the downhill direction as you would expect, but God, our Coach, looked at the uphill game ahead of us and said with divine ease and supernaturally good-natured confidence, "Bring it on--we'll win anyway!"

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire."

God has already guaranteed the victory to us who play on His team, and He has provided us with everything we need to play like all-stars in this against-all-odds, come-from-behind game! He knows the struggle is real, but He also knows that Living Water far outperforms any sports drink on the market! 

The next time you wake up to one of THOSE days, or the next time one of those red-paint-on-white-carpet moments happen, I pray you will remember these things are bound to happen when you're playing uphill! Don't worry, and don't take it personally, just take a big gulp of Living Water and press on in "His own glory and excellence," trusting His promises, and knowing that victory is absolutely certain!

If you get weary with the ever-uphill press, how does God refresh you and enable you to continue?
If you've been playing downhill and have noticed that the "easy" way may just be harder than playing uphill, there's plenty of Living Water for you!

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1190-1210 (March 4th through March 10th)

4. 3 gifts hard to give thanks for
The need for self-discipline, and the fact that it is hard work to do it consistently
Fatigue that lets you know you need to get more sleep
Big projects that take more time and effort and energy than you feel you have
5. 3 gifts found
The online classroom for my new class (Essentials of Psychology) that starts tomorrow
Major satisfaction in having my first 3-credit class finished! (Only 117 credits to go!)
A little time to catch my breath between classes
6. a gift bent, a gift broken, a gift beautiful
Daffodils bowing humble heads
Trees in blossom everywhere you go these days 
7. 3 gifts in the kitchen
Healthy, yummy, homemade muffins, warm right out of the oven
Being smothered in kisses by my irrepressible children
8. 3 gifts loud
The haunting, wild sound of the coyotes howling at the full moon
The buzz of the dryer, telling me those must-have-in-the-morning clothes are dry at 2:19 AM
Drummer Boy's drum practice
9. 3 gifts carved
The roast beef in my sandwich
The craters of the moon
Valleys I have lived in--Okanagan and Diablo
10. 3 gifts in Christ
That there are so many more than 3 gifts in Him
That someday I will be like Him
The promise of victory

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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Monday, March 5, 2012

The Mustard Seed Kingdom

" Then Jesus said, 'What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.'” Luke 13:18-19 NLT

The variety of mustard that grows here in Northern California may not be quite the same as the kind Jesus used as an object lesson, but it does grow awfully tall. It doesn't grow to be tree-like, but the red-winged blackbirds find it sturdy enough to sit in, especially when it is thick with ladybugs this time of year! It must be the bird's equivalent of a fast food restaurant, complete with fly-thru service!

The Kingdom of God . . . like a mustard seed. Seeing fields splashed glorious in yellow, I wonder what that means.

Jesus also used the mustard seed to illustrate the familiar subject of faith, and much is taught about growing faith and the power of faith even as small as a mustard seed.  We know quite a bit about comparing faith to a mustard seed, but what do we know of the Kingdom of God?

Here in the United States, most of what we know about kings and kingdoms comes from fairy tales and history books. In fact, the history of our country began with the rejection of a king's authority, King George III of England and our wresting our independence from his kingdom through a bold revolution. We don’t have kings here—on purpose—so the imagery of the Kingdom of God is sometimes challenging to wrap our arms around.

Human kings have rarely been good kings. The children of Israel didn't know what they were letting themselves in for when they asked to be like the nations that surrounded them and to be given an earthly king. It is staggering to think that they actually chose, and asked out loud to exchange life with God as their King for a life with mere men as their kings. God recognized it right away as a rejection of Him, born of their rebellion and faithless hearts.

A millennium passed while the human kings meandered back and forth between occasional forays into relative good and more frequent stays in absolute evil. Now, Israel was under Rome's control and between the Jewish religious leaders and Rome's governors and military personnel, they had more human "leaders" than they knew what to do with. This is where things stood when Jesus spoke of a Kingdom like a mustard seed.

It was a Kingdom that came, small and quiet in the tiny "seed" of the infant body of the baby Jesus. It grew as He grew, and as He inhabited His Father's will like the cloak He wore. He walked on earth under the Kingship of Yahweh like no one before or since. As He walked, Jesus scattered the seed of His words to further expand awareness of His Father's good will toward mankind and to invite them to once again enter a Kingdom where the King is only good all the time.

They had never known a kindly king and here in their midst was One who healed broken bodies, breathed life into corpses, and had time for little children. They couldn't see it yet, but this man who fed multitudes with the lunch of one willing child and who washed the dirty, dusty, tired feet of His disciples was none other than the King of kings! Here was the good King who someday will end the story of all evil kings.

The seeds He planted, and the ones He has handed to His followers down through the ages since He walked here, continue to grow. There are telltale splashes of glory that show the world glimpses of the goodness of the King and His Kingdom. I pray that we would have a springtime display like the mustard on Bay Area hillsides that would bloom and glow all year round! We who receive our King with joy, WE are His Kingdom! His Kingdom has no borders and His goodness has no boundaries!

How can we be winsome ambassadors for our loving King this week?
If you know Jesus, what is your favorite thing about being part of the Kingdom of God?
If you haven't met Him yet, what intrigues you about the idea of the Kingdom of God?


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!

In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1169-1189 (February 26th through March 3rd)

26. 3 gifts seen as reflections
She So Sweet adjusting her hat in the mirror
The redbud tree on Paso Nogal Drive just beginning to turn pink (seen in my rear view mirror)
Our kids, reflections of the blend of us
27. 3 ugly beautiful gifts
My Outlook reminder to update FAFSA's
The prospect of a very late night doing homework
The original stock tires we're putting back on our car--wisdom is a beautiful thing, even if the rims are not especially so (not truly ugly)
28. 3 gifts from the past --  that help you trust the future
Great Grandma Fagen's watch
So many memories of God's presence and provision in our lives
My wedding rings
29. a gift dull--my brain with too little sleep
       a gift shimmering--our old tires looking new after being polished by the installer
       a gift cleaned--my dream car, now wearing it's running shoes instead of it's fancy ones
1. 3 gifts at 3 PM
A quiet house
A writing groove
Finishing my essay
2. 3 gifts green
The hills finally turning a little bit green after much-needed rain
Spicy, crunchy dill pickles
3. 3 gifts worn
The space bar on my keyboard--creating white space one keystroke at a time
Coffee cup that used to be Hero Husband's--the finish is coming off but it still keeps coffee hot for 8 hours!
My iPod and earphones when I need to take my music with me

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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