If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

BibleGateway.com’s ‘ Verse of the Day’ today is Psalm 103:17-18. Part of it hit me strangely:

…the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children- with those who keep His covenant and obey His precepts.
(NIV)

What this seemed to be saying was “The Lord’s love and righteousness result from covenant-keeping and precepts-obeying.” Two things struck me. First, this certainly sounds like the keeping and obeying is required – a prerequisite; and second, ‘love and righteousness?’ The actual question I asked myself was, “What exactly are love and righteousness worth? What do they do for me, even if they are from God?”

I’m pretty sure that throughout Christendom there is a constant struggle with – or a lack of understanding of – which comes first, God’s love for only those who fear Him or the awe and reverence that is felt as a result of knowing God’s blessings. I know works don’t come first, right?  But those are verbs in the passage, indicating action: fear, keep, obey. The phrasing certainly makes it sound like only those who do these things will get the ‘reward.’ And why can’t we get something really useful to people in this world, like silver and gold, or free food and shelter?

I decided to look further into this, and googled “verses love and righteousness”.

The top returns clearly backed up God’s reputation as always good:

The Rock! His work is perfect.
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4

…Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne.
Psalm 97:2

(He is) righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.
Psalm 145:17

Wait a minute. “Kind in all His deeds??” Then why do bad things happen to good people? “…Why do bad people have it so good? …” (Jeremiah 12:1-4) Is this God not being faithful, righteous, and just? Or can it be that somehow He is acting with love, acting for our good and the plans He has for us – to prosper and not harm us? (Jeremiah 29:11)

It seems very contrary. A kind of divine oxymoron or something. In fact, even God’s response to Jeremiah goes right back to

Then if they (Israel) will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to (other gods), everything will go well for them…
Jeremiah 12:14-17

I had to go deeper. Another hit on my search was Isaiah 45:21:

…there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior. There is none except Me.

God’s name is “I Am.” He is. He is what is. Consider this world, at this time. The earth has rivers. It benefits from them, even when they flood – floodplains are the most fertile land. Flooding is what is – and it is good in the long term.

How does that translate to us? If life is a river, there will be floods. We will have trials. God’s people learn to have faith, in spite of the floods. How will I face my troubles? How can I prosper?

I found the beginnings of an answer in Romans 5:3-5, with an additional point God makes (in verse 12:5) right after Jeremiah asks why bad people have it good:

…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
:3-5

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] “If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions ] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan?”
12:5

Do you know the verse about discipline not being pleasant while it is happening but beneficial in the long run? I think this is similar. The difference is that discipline is the result of something that is done wrong while rejoicing in suffering is a reaction to the storms we will face. We learn from both. We learn how to live; how to stay alive.

Why is that important? I think it has to do with developing hope, something we cannot get up and go on without. And what does God do? He answers that question Himself:

I live in the high and holy places,
But also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
Get them up and on their feet again.
Isaiah 57:15-21

It’s God’s love and righteousness delivered through the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to continue to live, to push through the troubled times. He gives us hope. And we have to have hope, to make it to that future without troubles which is promised to us, for a time that will come, a time when

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
And death shall be no more.
Neither shall there be mourning,
Nor crying, nor pain anymore,
For the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

The big “why” is that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Things will get worse before they get better. Before that final glorious time, the most difficult time is coming, and we must be prepared and able to stand throughout.

And we know that for those who love God all things (the good and the bad) work together for (overall) good…
Romans 8:28

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Now We Who Are Strong–

Romans 15:1
Now we who are strong–

Stop right there!

You may be familiar with the five words that start the chapter, the one whose subtitle (in the AMP translation) is “Self-Denial on Behalf of Others.” Unfortunately, I’m stuck (still) on that first part, the self-denial. How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t do it for myself?

What about when I’m not strong? I feel this is most of the time, which I guess is understandable given these past nine years of recovery from so many things. Others have been helping me more than I’ve done for them. I think?

So, I googled, “Verses when I’m not strong,” and re-examined what I thought I knew about it. Of course, Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:31 came up in the search results. These are well-known and written about a lot. The one that really spoke to me today was

“My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” …
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have lost my strength and my endurance is gone, what do I need to do? I must be reminded to remember to look toward the source of everything and more. He is my source. He is strongest and most powerful when I am weakest and unable to help even myself.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.
Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant…
Romans 15:4-5

Sometimes only a prayer can tell what I’m feeling inside. Here’s mine:

Heavenly Father, Almighty Creator God, Master Designer and Crafter of the universe – and more! I like to pretend and play at “knowing” you. I try to sound and look confident in all that I have “learned” about the world and your heaven. I want to be seen as “strong.”
And some days, I am assured, I can feel re-assured. But, really, sadly more often that not, I am merely trying to believe; trying not to doubt what you say and show to me.
(Yes, yes! I am sure that you have messages and give blessings to me.)
When I get to thinking I can and I am able, then, without question, I have forgotten again this very lesson. And naturally, I run smack into the wall of human impossibility. James 4:15: Instead, I ought to center myself and every effort on your control of the attempt and the outcome. Everything and more!
When I forget, I run and hide, hoping to escape the inevitability of your promises. Always, everything – and more – comes back to, returns to, You. This is Your story. Your rules. You have all control, all power.
I have one thing: the choice to believe, to trust, to make this prayer by the moment, and twice as often when I doubt. The choice to hope, to rest in Your good intent. Because that is the real question, isn’t it? Not, “Is there a Creator or not?” But, “Do I believe the Creator loves me, loves us, as He says He does?” When this is what I’m sure of (and not the things I do), then I can ‘release all my held back tears,’ and let You, God, carry me through whatever I face. Lord, I  believe! Help my unbelief! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here is one of my very favorite songs, which I first heard very early in this journey God has me on. Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly) by Sanctus Real (YouTube with lyrics). Buy the digital download here.

And here’s the songwriter’s story behind one of my favorite new songs, They Just Believe by Josh Wilson. Buy the download here.

How Do You Write About Not Writing?

How Do You Write About Not Writing?

This is a post that’s been begging to be written but I, the writer, have been stubborn and obstinate and maybe even a little nonchalant about writing it. Same as it ever was.

A simple comparison of my blogging frequency last April (15 posts) and this April (3 posts, 2 of those reblogs) demonstrates what I mean. (Actually, I was going to say the whole year, so far, but looking back, I actually had more posts in January-March this year than last – but my feeling was quite the opposite! Maybe that’s because my passion for it was burning so bright back then and not so strongly now.)

Still, the question remains: How do you write when you don’t feel like it or can’t seem to set yourself to it?

That I had a negative self-impression of my posting frequency is nothing new. Personal story #1: when I had my own home-based business (a video studio), I loved finding the jobs but not so much completing the technical side of the work. My complaint was the seeming “two-part” requirement: the finding, then the doing. Like I had to do everything twice. Lord, can’t we just go through something once and be done with it?

Of course, I think we all know that that is not how God works – and certainly not how we learn! One of my personal motivation themes, therefore, is:

Plan, now do
Commit, then complete
Faith, with action
Patient, but urgent

holy-grailI’m great at the planning and the starting of things but have a horrible record on finishing them (aka “The Follow Through”): books I’m (still) “reading”; house projects left off in the messy middle; ideas that never got off the paper (and onto the blog).

Yesterday (and today), I sat down for Quiet Time with the goal of figuring this out. I started with a google of “verses follow through”.

The top result?

Ecclesiastes 7:8
(Line 1)
CEV Something completed is better than something just begun
(Line 2)
MSG Sticking to it is better than standing out OR
ERV It is better to be gentle and patient than to be proud and impatient

There’s a lot being said to me in those lines. One of my lifetime mottos has been, “Waiting for something to happen.” That word “something” was an obvious connecting hint. “Gentle and patient vs proud and impatient:” This gave me something more to think about.

Personal story #2: I had a 17-year “career” in IT which ended with down-sizing. The company put us laid-off employees through some programs to help us find new work. One of those included a sort of brainstorming about our perfect day. Mine was after a successful run of published novels. Hmmm. This now strikes me as being good at the planning (and the dreaming), but not so good at the doing. Or having the glory without having to put in the effort. Or having my cake and eating it, too, (which could be another motto).

439Because it’s not like I stopped “writing.” I’ve continued to journal all year, scribbling in my notebook, sometimes for hours. And I more or less wrote in a format that would fit transition to blogging – I just haven’t been taking that next step of typing it up. (I even tried one post consisting of a picture of my journal page, hoping that would resolve my “two-part” angst. The responses I got indicated it was not very legible. Sigh.)

If you’ve been reading along here on Sharing God’s Story, you know that I have an addictive, obsessing personality, but that also means I’m really into “instant gratification.” I want it now – whatever it is – like a movie that jump-cuts to “several years later.” The distinction of ‘being'” lures me in, only to detour me when it comes to “just doing it.”

I want to answer that “so what do you do” question with “Oh, I’m an author.” (See my last post, a reblog of “Being A Writer Is Hard.”)

I’ve come to understand, however, that this is full-blown pride of life at work. I’ve been seeing and saying things in a way which puts me first:

I have been saved (oh, yeah, by God). Listen to me tell about it.”

instead of

God saved and redeemed  me. He can save and redeem you, too.”

This is, after all, the Sharing of God’s Story, not mine. It’s about His work as seen in my life, a small but miraculous chapter in a much bigger book.

Of course, there are a few other, very familiar negative influences: my love of comfort and the easy way (forgetting that it is, in the long run, the hard way), my fears (of change, of success – which is a whole nother topic!)

(Left: May ’15 BEF 5K; Right: April 30 Groton 5K)

So, you see, I don’t always carry on to the finish. However, I do know that “I know I can, I know I can,” and not just think “I think I can, I think I can.” Personal story #3: The past 3 years I’ve started and completed multiple 5k walks. On April 30, I walked the annual Groton 5k – and improved my 2015-post-open-heart surgery-four-months-earlier time by 30 minutes! 57 minutes to walk the 3 miles. (And, I actually jogged for a little bit of it!)

This kind of accomplishment is right up there with me, the daily 6-pack drinker for 3 decades, not having even a drop of alcohol in the last 4-plus years. (Um, I mean God giving me the strength to make this kind of change, of course.)

can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

The Bible story I’m identifying with as I write this is Jonah’s. God spoke to Jonah, who ran the opposite way only to be “convinced” to correct his course. (The one about waiting to plant until perfect weather fits, too.)

The lesson? “Just do it!” “Git’r done!” Don’t find the time; make the time!” And, so, here I am (finally) at the end of my next post.

For whatever was written in former days243
was written for our intruction,
that through endurance
and through the encouragement
of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 ESV

I would like to thank Brian Manon and Faithful Bloggers for their Blog Planner worksheets which helped me organize the brainstorm in my journal into an easily fleshed-out outline. I think I’ll make some tweaks and incorporate this into my process for blogging.

Your turn! What do you do when you find it hard to follow through on blogging regularly?