Lamenting the Hearts of Men

The daily news causes my heart to cringe. I mostly avoid the news until I become aware from other sources that something occurred that requires more of my attention. Unfortunately, most of the time the event is bad news.

News of natural disasters horrifies, and I feel sadness for people experiencing these tragedies. My prayers go out for them. But what horrifies even more are those tragedies caused by people—violence, both mental and physical, resulting from hate, rage, bigotry, pride, or other abhorrent outpourings of the hearts of men. (When I say men, of course I mean humankind.)

At a recent Cru staff conference, we were asked to lament what is heavy on our hearts. Lamenting is defined as  feeling or expressing sorrow or regret for something. Not only does a lament express sorrow, it also can voice feelings of regret.

My sorrow. People pursue their own way apart from God. People have forgotten God and show no regard for Him. Blinded by selfishness and self-reliance, men and women determine their way is the best way. If this is true, why do we consistently feel this world falling into a deeper spiral of despair and hopelessness? We see the evidence in the news and in our personal lives. But God has a purpose for each person. When we surrender to and live out that purpose, He is pleased to shower us with provision, peace, fulfillment, and hope. And that hope is in Christ.

To some, righteousness is a loathsome word. It is often viewed as self-righteousness and judgement. However, I’ve come to learn that righteousness simply means being right with God and right with people. How much more enjoyable would the news be if we all lived with this as our goal? Jesus, the righteousness of God, will fulfill all our desires and needs. Romans 9:33 says,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem [that is, Jesus] that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

It hurts my heart and baffles my mind how people continue to live in ways that will bring them shame and disgrace. Why don’t people strive to live without disgrace?

My regret. I too have a heart that contains detestable things. My past actions have not always been stellar. Nor will my future actions. I am not immune to the words of sorrow I speak. Therefore, I lament not only the hearts of men, but also my own.

However, I gave and continue to offer my life in surrender to God’s plan. I trust in Jesus who willingly guides me into a life without shame. My goal is to pursue righteousness—living right with God and with people. All people.

What is your lament today?

Skillful Living

I’ve never been much of a worrier. I don’t generally concern myself with things that could go wrong tomorrow. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Amen to that! But I am a planner—definitely not spontaneous. There is wisdom in being prepared for future events. However, being a planner can create two problems:

  • Obsessive planning can be worry in disguise.
  • Constant planning can rob me of the present.

I want to expand on this second point.

Today is the day that matters.

Each day offers something to learn and something to do. We have opportunity to build relationships with God and people, growing our faith in the process. Some days are tough, some wonderful, and some seem uneventful or ordinary. God wants us to rely on Him, lean on Him, to come to Him, and learn from Him. He has wisdom to reveal if we’ll keep our attention on TODAY. When we learn from Him, the day becomes much more than ordinary!

This week I read a comment about Proverbs 1. The Bible in One Year used an interesting word in its definition of wisdom, which was described as “living skillfully in whatever conditions you find yourself.” To do something well, one must possess knowledge and skill. As we attain wisdom, we learn to navigate skillfully through life’s twists and turns. The only real wisdom is that which comes from growing closer to the Author of wisdom.

Learn to balance healthy planning while living fully and skillfully today.

Trust Despite the Question Marks

My first mission trip was to Swaziland, Africa in 2008. I learned a lot about trusting in God’s provision when he calls us to do something for His kingdom.

It was September, 2007. I had just made the decision to go on my first mission trip. Wow, Africa! I was excited to be going on a performing arts trip. We were planning to partner with a local Wesleyan church for a free concert in a park in the middle of the city of Manzini. My role was to sing on the worship team, but also to dance with my two dancer friends. We had two dances as a group, and one dancer (not me) did a ballet solo on pointe.

DSC_0172Shortly after making the decision to go on this grand adventure, my husband and I took a vacation to Maine. It was beautiful! We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast on a hilltop with a wonderful view. A couple days before heading home, we spent the day hiking. Our trail followed the shoreline. The path was an uneven path, not a paved walkway. Yet, not too difficult. We were hiking on the mountain side. It was a full day, and I slept well that night!

The next morning, I awoke to something completely unexpected – pain – all over. Before I even got out of bed, I asked my husband to find me some ibuprofen. Was I THAT out of shape? Our trip ended, and we went home, but the pain continued. I’m not one to go to the doctor at the first sign of a cough or runny nose. I just ride it out until it’s gone. But this was different. The next week, I made an appointment. My pain was in most of my joints, on both sides. The doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. What just happened??

The day I went to the rheumatologist, the pain had gotten so bad I couldn’t even bend down to tie my shoes. What was I going to do? I was supposed to be traveling to Africa in 5 months. I began to give in to fear and anger – and doubt. The rheumatologist did lots of blood tests. My symptoms were presenting like rheumatoid arthritis. I began steroids to reduce the inflammation and pain. Then, she decided to put me on long term drugs used for treating RA. How were these going to affect me physically? Would there be side affects?

Do I go to Africa?

There were so many unknowns about the drugs, the arthritis and about going to Africa in general. I prayed to God to tell me what to do. After I got over the self-pity because of what I was experiencing, my fear began to subside. My prayers were being heard. I knew what I needed to do. I would NOT let the devil convince me that my fear should keep me home. I would go to Africa. And then there was peace.

The long flight was a bit difficult. I experienced some stiffness and pain, but it was manageable. The dancers and I rehearsed for quite a while after arriving and settling in. I overdid it. I started hurting and had to lay down for a while. That evening, we were supposed to dance at a worship service. When I woke up from my nap, the pain was still bad. It hurt to walk. How could I possibly dance? Fear began to set in again. How would I manage this trip if I can hardly walk? I prayed, and others prayed, too. This is where God showed me he gives power and ability to those he calls for a purpose.

About 45 minutes before the worship service was to begin, I started feeling better quickly. I realized I would be able to dance after all – and I did! I knew for a fact, that was God at work.

During the remainder of the trip, I still had some stiffness and pain, but every time I needed to walk, stand to sing, or dance, I was able. The glory of that goes to God who gives what we need just in time.

swazi1 swazi2 swazi3

Since then, the arthritis has only gotten better. I’ve never had an episode again like the first one. I still take medications, but on a much smaller scale. In fact, there is a possibility I will be off of them within the next couple years. We’re taking it slow just in case.

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Psalms 103:3

Maybe He will heal my physical disease this side of Heaven. If not, I know my spiritual “diseases” are being healed daily. The lesson I learned on that trip to Swaziland about trust prepared me for more things to come.