A few weeks ago, we had the great opportunity to go on a hot air balloon ride, a goal since our honeymoon almost two years ago when the weather wasn’t conducive to flying.
As we took off early in the morning, I was very surprised by how different it was from my expectations; there was no sensation of flying. Since we were moving with the air currents, we felt no wind, no air movement at all except when we moved down into an air mass moving slightly slower than we were. There was also no noise aside from the burner and what little noise there is from a rural landscape at 6:30 am: a dog barking, a train moving goods along the tracks, and birds greeting the rising sun. The scenery below us simply slipped smoothly and silently by, almost too casually, as if our being hundreds of feet above the ground in a small basket suspended by nylon fabric and hot air were the most natural thing in the world. It was quite surreal.
Our flight was over too quickly and we landed in a farmer’s field, packed up and went on with our day.
If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God. (from August 5 devotional)
Our balloon ride was a picture of our lives as followers of Christ. The Holy Spirit, Who has been likened to both wind (see John 3:8) and fire (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Acts 2:1-4), keeps us afloat and moves us as He wills – up, down, this direction or that. My only job is to sit tight in the basket, enjoy the view and trust the Pilot. I have no wings, no propeller, no jet engine, not even a rudder with which to take control. My life should take on that simple, calm, and relaxed quality Chambers speaks of as I rest in my basket, rather than the frenzied pace I’ve been keeping, trying to control my life’s direction and speed. I want to stop my striving and enjoy the ride and my Pilot, which is both the most natural (what I was made for) and the most unnatural (going against my selfish nature) thing to do.
For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).
1 Peter 1:3, Amplified Bible
Thankfully, God has given us all we need to stop striving and follow Him simply by knowing Him more fully, “personally and intimately” as the Message Translation of this verse puts it.
Are you peacefully drifting with the Holy Spirit or anxiously striving on your own?
We walk into church this past Sunday and take our seats, just behind one of our pastors, as it happens. Before long, the band starts up and the worship begins. This pastor worships in a very enthusiastic, animated way and is soon joined by a boy of about 10 or so years who is new to the church and recently gave his live to Christ. When the pastor dances, the boy dances, when the pastor claps or kneels, he follows suit. It is clear the boy looks up to the pastor and wants to be like him, and perhaps seeks approval from him, though I have seen the pastor point him toward Christ as the object of and reason for the worship.
I am somewhat distracted in my own worship as I watch the two, both in amusement but also with some concern that the boy is focused too much on the pastor. But God changes my perspective in that quiet way He has, by giving me an image. Perhaps God sees me just as I am seeing the boy in the row in front of me, and I have to chuckle.
God does call us follow and imitate Him:
The Lord told Moses to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2, Good News Bible)
Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. (Ephesians 5:1, Amplified Version)
Yet, I know my efforts at this are usually so feeble and awkward, and my motives are often not pure. I stumble, turn the wrong way, get distracted or become stubborn, and end up looking nothing like my Father. Yet, I think God smiles on my efforts because He knows I am but a child. He keeps teaching me, pointing me in the right direction, and encouraging me.
Smiling, I return to my own worship of my Creator, my Father, and my Perfect Example and Model, with a prayer of thanksgiving and an appeal for help with my emulation skills. As the last song ends, before the boy leaves to sit with his father for the rest of the service, the pastor gives him a hug. I accept one from my Father as well.
Who are you imitating today?
Our lives go through many seasons, each with their own joys and needs. Recently, we went through a season of transition in regard to our church. Last April, the church we had been attending dissolved and disbanded. It was a difficult time filled with confusion, hurt, and uncertainty.
Just a couple of months before, a woman in the church had felt God asking her to start a woman’s Bible study and a good number had attended. As the church dissolved, our group kept meeting in various members’ homes. I was relatively new to the church and was enjoying getting to know these women, even as we were all thrown into looking for new churches. For me, it became a place of stability since we were visiting a new church every week.
We met every other week for about ten months, and slowly we began to find churches that suited us and our families. Just last month, we decided to stop meeting regularly since so many of us wanted to participate in studies at our new churches. We are not saying goodbye, but it is still hard to give up meeting regularly with a group you have come to love and respect. But, we are each moving into a new season and the group, so necessary for the last one, is no longer needed. God had provided for a season and I am grateful.
It reminds me of the manna that God gave the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert where there was no food. As soon as they stepped across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the provision of manna ended. It was no longer needed. Instead, God gave them victory over those in the land so they could take possession of it.
For each season, God provides for us exactly what is best and most needed. And when our season changes, so does His provision. What an awesome God we serve!
What season are you in? How is God providing for you?
Jamaican Lentil Stew
Several times this year, I was asked what I, as a vegetarian, was making for Thanksgiving. Yes, there is Thanksgiving beyond turkey and stuffing! I incorporated the festive flavors and colors of sweet potatoes and pumpkin in this flavorful comfort food. This recipe is adapted from this one here.
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 inch piece (1-2 teaspoons) ginger root, grated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1-2 teaspoon ground cumin (adjust according to taste)
- 1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk
- 1 liter (4 cups) vegetable stock
- 4 ounces (1 cup) split red lentils, washed and drained
- 1 small sweet potato, chopped
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan, add the onion and saute until transparent.
- Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another 2 minutes until fragrant; lower heat and stir constantly to avoid burning.
- Add the spices and sauté for a minute more.
- Stir in the coconut milk, stock, lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin puree.
- Simmer uncovered over medium – low heat for 40 – 50 minutes or until sweet potato is soft and almost melting into the stew. Be sure to stir occasionally.
- NOTE: The stew has a creamy texture and is thick with lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin that melt into a delectable base. If you prefer a lighter soup then add more stock or coconut milk to thin the base.
- Great served with bread.
I will praise God’s name with singing and I will honor Him with thanksgiving…The humble will see their God at work and be glad. – Psalm 69:30, 32
Let us not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. – 1 John 3:18
My goal this month is to find at least one thing each day to be thankful for, and to find a way of giving to someone, however small. I’ve been having fun so far this month on my way to this goal of living generously and gratefully. I think that as I give and give thanks, I see God’s work a little more readily – and this brings me great joy.
Here is a sampling of some of the things I’ve been thankful for the last couple weeks:
- An evening curled up with a book, a blanket, and a hot cup of tea
- A husband willing to talk things through, even when we disagree
- Modern technology that allows me to work from home – even in my pjs when I’m sick
- Sunlight sparkling on frost on the grass
- Answered prayers
- Worship music
- Freedom to vote
- God’s love and care for us, both here on earth and in heaven later
- Accomplished tasks
- Chance run-ins with friends
- The feeling of gliding down a hill on rollerblades
- Safety while traveling
- A yellow-leafed tree that was lit up by the sun peaking over the hilltop behind
- Our veterans and troops currently serving
- “Rediscovering” an old CD
To help me with my giving goal, I’m participating in the 30-Day Giving Challenge. Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to give over the last couple weeks:
- Purchased items for our local food bank, Thanksgiving food baskets being distributed by our church, and Christmas stockings for our troops overseas
- Gave extra time to my husband
- Picked up trash on our street after Halloween
- Emailed a friend I’ve not heard from in a while
- Went on a prayer walk around our neighborhood, praying for our neighbors
- Dropped off our shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, filled with all kinds of goodies for children in poor nations
- Typed up quinoa recipes for a friend at church who was interested when I brought a dish in to a church function
- Donated some of my credits earned by mailing books to others through Paperbackswap.com to an intercity school in TX and a school near Binghamton, NY that had been flooded when Hurricane Lee passed over. These credits will be turned into books for their schools.
What are you thankful for today? What ways have you found to give?
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
This verse was in my reading this morning and really got me thinking. It is a source of both comfort and trepidation for me. On one hand, I am so thankful that God does not judge me by how I look. He loves me whether or not I have fashion sense, a bad hair day, or that zit on my chin that will not go away. He also doesn’t judge my worth based on my performance – how I did at work today, how good the meal was that I made, or even how focused I was during my morning Bible reading. No, God looks at the attitudes of my heart.
And here is the trepidation – I know what is in my heart sometimes. I know the judgment I pass on others’ appearance or performance, the selfish or hurtful thoughts that go through my mind (and sometimes across my lips), and the tendency toward sin that is ever-present. And I tremble at the thought of it all being laid bare before the Lord, who is holy beyond imagining. I am vulnerable and helpless to defend myself, for I have no excuse. I know better.
Yet there is some freedom in being fully known. No longer do I have to keep up the act, the performance that I do for other people. No more masks, no more façade. There is no need, for all is seen and known. So, I’m left with just me. And somehow that brings a measure of relief and even peace.
I also trust that God has forgiven me for those stains on my heart, and Christ has washed me clean. God no longer sees those blemishes. Instead, He sees my potential – how I will be when He is finished working in me.
And because He is so focused on the attitudes of my heart, His work starts at the heart and slowly becomes evident outwardly in my actions. This has been a cause of frustration for me as I pray for God to change me and wait to see the visible results. Often, this takes a long time because He has so much work to do in my heart first! But, my desire is for there to be less of an inconsistency between my inward me and my outward me. So, I wait for God to do His work.
There is a wonderful song called “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong United that expresses my desire. Here are some of the lyrics and a Youtube video of the song.
A thousand times I’ve failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
I’m caught in Your grace
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love you from the inside out.
This post is part of Amy’s challenge to find the Finer Things in life.
Wow, I can’t believe it is November already! Where has the year gone? Halloween is over – the rush of kids at the door is done and the candy is (mostly) out of the house. I am now turning my attention to Thanksgiving.
I love this time of year! The season is changing (perhaps a little too fast with the early snow!) and I am starting to settle in for the colder, darker months, even if only in my heart since our schedule remains full. This is also the time when the anticipation begins for me of the holiday season – a time of family, friends, food, and fun. Sure, it brings a measure of stress with it, but the wonder and excitement override that.
This year, though, I don’t want November to be simply the runway for the holidays. I want to live intentionally this month, leading up to Thanksgiving, whose name encapsulates how I want to live – with thanks and giving.
So often, I race through life, rarely pausing long enough to notice the many blessings in my life, much less thank God, the One responsible for them. In the same way, I’m often too rushed or preoccupied with my own life to notice those around me, be they strangers or loved ones.
My goals this month are to find at least one thing each day to be thankful for, and to find a way of giving to someone, however small. For the latter, I’m joining the 30 Day Giving Challenge, a group of people encouraging each other to consciously give each day of November.