“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things."
Sunday, August 19, 2012
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” This is the beginning of Philippians 4:4. We read it this morning in our worship services. These verses used to be my favorite and so I listened closely. And I saw that I haven’t rejoiced much lately.
This last little while, I’ve found it easier to count my “non-blessings” than my blessings – especially this last week. It marked what should have been a very joyful time for me and Shawn. We would have celebrated the first birthday of our first child – but God in His infinite wisdom ordained for that child to never live on this earth. Sometimes, I question God and His judgments. I wonder why He thought it best to take a child from us – a couple who can’t WAIT to have children. And since that time, there has been no sign of His answer – at least not in the way that I would have Him answer. Instead, His answer is: “Wait and rejoice”.
Philippians goes on to say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
So, there it is. When we are anxious or worried about something, we are supposed to take it to God through prayer AND thanksgiving, and give our concerns to Him. But He doesn’t promise to just give us what we want after we’ve done all of that – in my case, children. He promises to give us peace. The kind of peace that we don’t even understand. Have you ever experienced that kind of peace?
So, I’m seeking to find my source of rejoicing in that peace that surpasses all understanding. And I’m seeking to readjust my mind – and think of the things that are GOOD for me. Philippians 4:8 tells me exactly what to think about.
What is true? I’m a dirty, rotten sinner. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”
What is noble? I am blessed to be married to a noble man. I think of Isaiah 32:8 which says, “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” Shawn is a good, strong Christian man who leads me to a closer walk with my Savior and stands between me and the “un-noble” things in this world.
What is right? Humility. Matthew 6:3 says, “…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
What is pure? A clean heart. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.”
What is lovely? A woman who fears the Lord. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
What is admirable? Rahab’s faith. In Joshua 2:9, Rahab says, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us.” In the face of destruction, she turned to God.
What is excellent or praiseworthy? Hannah’s faith. In 1 Samuel 2:11, Hannah prays, “O Lord of hosts, if you will … give your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”
In other words, stop looking at what you don’t have and start counting your blessings. It’s hard and sometimes I don’t want to do it. But that does me no good – dwelling on those thoughts. So, I’m going to strive to think of the things listed above that are so good for me. Will you join me in changing the thoughts of the heart?
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Shawn and I spent last week in Illinois visiting our families and friends. I could hardly contain my excitement when we began the journey home. There are so many people that I’ve missed and so many things that have happened since the last time I was there! I want to make the most of every minute I’m there – and I usually come back to Iowa exhausted, but happy!
Our week in Illinois was great! But I found myself thinking about everyone in Iowa quite a bit while I was home. I wonder what’s going on and how people are doing. I wonder how the church members are doing who are suffering. I wonder if the church family who were ill are healthy again and wonder how they are feeling. I think of the sweet smiles of the church people whom I greet each Sunday and as I think about them, I smile without even knowing it. I remember one couple who reminded us to take our map with us to Illinois so we made sure to find our way back to Iowa. I wonder how the crops are doing and if we got any rain. I wonder how many weeds are growing in my garden! I think of all these things and I am filled with love for the people of Iowa.
But when I’m in Iowa, I miss everyone in Illinois. I think about what my parents and siblings might be doing. I wonder how my mother- and father-in-law are doing. I wonder how my sweet nephews and nieces are doing and wish I could spend just a few minutes with them to tell them again how much I love them. I think of my Grandma Boyce who is still going strong in her 70’s. I think of my Grandma Rapp whom I missed seeing this last time I was home and wonder how much she’ll be able to remember about me when I see her next. I think of my Bethel family and wonder if the pain of missing them will ever really go away. I think of all these things and I am filled with love for the people of Illinois.
I’ve been thinking a lot since returning to Iowa – how does a person manage to NOT experience a torn heart when they feel at home in two different places. When I’m in one place – I miss the other. I have come to the conclusion that I can’t repair my torn heart because I don’t want to. I will always be from Southern Illinois and I will always consider myself a bit of a “hick”! But now, I will always have Iowa in my heart, too. I have experienced growth through new friendships that I never imagined possible. So, my conclusion is – don’t fix what isn’t broken. I call myself blessed to have two homes that I love. And no matter which direction I am traveling home – I will always have someone and something to look forward to.
Although ultimately, I know that I will always be torn until I reach my real Home. I think that for a follower of Christ, there HAS to be a sort of unrest about the life being lived here and now. We won’t be here forever. As one of my favorite songs says,
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye.To Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land!
I love my Illinois home. I love my Iowa home. But more than both of these, I love my eternal Home and I can’t wait to get there! Sometimes, it’s easy for me to cling to the homes I have here on this earth – but it’s so wrong for me to do that. It’s my prayer that I will remain faithful until I reach HOME. So I ask you – where is your home?