What Has You Frustrated?

Are you ever frustrated? Maybe the better question is: Have you been frustrated yet  today?

We all deal with frustration. Things don’t go the way we want them to go. Other people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Everything seems to take 10 times longer than it should and we don’t have time for that!

My biggest frustration seems to be related to technology. I don’t care how many times my husband or one of my sons patiently tells me the steps to accomplish a task on the computer or on my phone I just can’t seem to remember what to do next. I get frustrated and they most certainly must get frustrated with me because they have to keep telling me things over and over again. They have been heard to joke about how all Mom has to do is touch an electronic device and it develops some sort of glitch or malfunction.

There are other things that frustrate me too. Sometimes I get frustrated that I still struggle with having to learn the same lessons over and over again.  The Apostle Paul understood this problem when he said in Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  That sounds like frustration to me.

This week I participated in a homeschool lesson with the grandkids. The lesson was about frustration. We talked about the story of Joni Eareckson Tada who as a young girl was injured in a swimming accident and was paralyzed. She has spent nearly 50 years in a wheelchair. She learned to paint holding the brush between her teeth.

Part of our lesson was to try to draw a butterfly while holding the pencil with our teeth. Not an easy task.  It took patience as I tried to make the pencil go in the direction I wanted it to. The pencil seemed to have a mind of its own!  I was actually quite surprised to see that the picture could at least be identified as a butterfly even though it was a very crude likeness. At one point one of the kids asked if they were doing it right. We talked about how there is no “right” way to do art. If there were then all artists work would look the same. It got me to thinking about how that applies to other areas of life as well. Perhaps always aiming for perfect is part of the reason we can get so frustrated in the first place.

The word frustration comes from a Latin word meaning “in vain, or to disappoint.” It’s something we all deal with nearly every day. Like the Apostle Paul, we can get frustrated with ourselves and perhaps wonder if things will ever change.

But God gives us encouragement in His Word. Here are some verses to turn to when you feel frustrated.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

God, Mocked? Not Going to Happen

I remember occasions when I was a little girl  when my brother and I did something we’d been told not to. We some how thought we’d get away with it.  Usually there were consequences assigned to what we’d done. More often than not the price we paid was being grounded. Sometimes we were told we’d have to spend an entire week of our summer inside instead of playing outside with our friends.  We were never happy about being caught and having this sentence passed down.

However, we knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Our parents were pretty predictable in the way this went. We would be grounded, told we wouldn’t be outside for a whole week. But after about 2 days we some how found favor and were miraculously released from our sentence early. Now you could call that inconsistent parenting or you could look at it as an example of grace and mercy. But the fact was that we had come to expect to be let off the hook early. In a sense, we were mocking our parents authority.

Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” While God is a God of mercy and His grace is…amazing, He is also a just God and means what He says.

Mocking God is no small matter. We can see so many examples of scoffers in the world.  And the trend is becoming more visible every day. Sometimes I read a headline in the news about someone spouting off toward God and I just cringe knowing that God will not ignore such actions.

But what of us? What of God’s children? Are we still in danger of becoming  mockers? Or is it just the ungodly who wear that label? God warns us that their poison is contagious for we are told not even to sit with them.

Psalm 1:1  Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

As with my disregard for my parents rules as a child with no real fear of the consequences, perhaps we can get easily deceived into believing that we can expect God’s mercy no matter what we do and He will always rescue us from the consequences. But that is not the case.  Some day we will all stand before God.

Jesus calls us out when he says in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Is this any different than being a mocker?  God knows our hearts, we are only deceiving ourselves.

What’s Between You and God? 

The story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) is just a few verses but the point is clear. That man needed to give up all his possessions and then he could follow Jesus. He couldn’t bring himself to do it and he sadly walked away. He gave up Jesus for stuff instead of the other way around!

Walking with Jesus doesn’t always require selling everything you have or joining a monastery. God gives us good things because He wants to bless us. But when we choose to love the gift more than the Giver we put distance between us and God.

For Abraham it was more than his possessions that God required. He asked Abraham to give up his beloved son for whom he’d waited for many years. But when it came down to the last minute, God didn’t really want Abraham to sacrifice his son, He only wanted to be sure that Abraham was willing to truly put God first no matter what.

For us it may be possessions, relationships, talents, reputation, or position. Any of those can become too important and replace God in our hearts. Didn’t all of those come from God in the first place?  But He never intended His gifts to become our idols.

Are there things in your life that have come between you and God? How do you know for sure? If I were to ask you “what would be difficult to part with if God were to ask you to do so today?” what would you answer? If something comes to mind perhaps it is the thing that is between you and God. It could be that nothing comes to mind. Or it could be that what He asks of you is difficult but you know you would do it anyway. Or it could be the stumbling block that keeps you from truly following Christ with all your heart.

Here is part of the prayer that appears at the end of chapter two in A.W. Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God. It is a powerful example of desiring to give God His rightful place.

Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding. And I do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.”

I choose to pray that prayer today. Will you?

 

Going Home and Coming Home

I’m writing today from Iowa. My first trip back since we moved last December.  I’ve done this before. I knew what to expect the first visit back. I clearly remember how I felt going back to Ohio after moving to Iowa in 2005.  It was a bittersweet feeling. The sense that I’d come home…but not.

That trip back to Ohio was so filled with emotion and with grieving the life I’d left behind that I could barely stand it.  I was so homesick! So when I got back to Iowa I began praying that God would make Iowa home.  And He did.

Little did I know that I would have to experience the same tearing away again. Leaving Iowa last year was so hard! It didn’t help that I was leaving a son behind.  I’d left one behind in Ohio too but there had been family there for him. My Iowa son was left on his own with no family within 600 miles.

So now, 10 months later I’m back. Back to visit my son and dear friends that I love and miss so much. Only a week to see everyone and experience all the things I miss about Iowa. To enjoy the beautiful Iowa countryside in the fall. To feel the crisp fall air. Such a joy!wp_20161008_09_27_47_proI keep comparing this visit with the one to Ohio long ago and finding similarities but also many differences.  This time I came back to the same house that I’d lived in for 10 years. It’s my son’s home now. He’s made it his and I’m glad, it’s beautiful and fits him.  But it’s hard. Hard to be in my home that isn’t my home.wp_20161010_14_45_51_pro

Hard to be in my church that isn’t my church. To see friends that I’ve missed and see so much that has changed in their lives in just these few months.

It’s clear that this season, my Iowa season, has passed. Now I’m in a new season and if I cling too tightly to the old things, I can’t grow and experience what God has for me now.  I remember learning that lesson with the first move.

So, I’ve tried to be in the moment. To enjoy the reconnection with friends but I’ve also tried not to allow myself to “go back”.  You can’t go back. Even if God would call us to one day move back to Ohio or Iowa it would still be a new season, not a continuation of an old one. Life moves forward. Things change, people change.  Sometimes I hate change.  But I’m learning to let go and allow God to guide my steps.

Update: Now I’m back in Florida and finally finding time to finish up this post.  It was a great trip. But it’s good to be home.  In fact, I am happy to even say that it’s beginning to feel like home.

Yesterday I went to the beach with the grandkids. We had a wonderful day playing and enjoying the beautiful weather. I felt a peace that I’ve learned to recognize as God’s gift to me. A special sense of contentment even though there are always challenging issues all around me. I know I can find that peace anywhere, but being near the water, which I’ve always loved, makes it even more of a blessing.wp_20161013_14_18_24_pro

Isaiah 66:12 says For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.wp_20160811_11_04_55_pro

It’s no wonder water makes me feel at peace!

 

When God Speaks 

God is always speaking to His people. It’s not if God speaks, it’s when, for He definitely will speak. He knows we need answers; He is ready to speak to us as soon as we ask.  But how does He speak to us today? There are no prophets to go to as the kings did in the Old Testament.  Yes, we have His word, but sometimes the answers we need are specific to our current life and we find it hard to find the answer in our Bible. There is no verse that says, “Buy this house and not that one” or “take this job” or “attend that college”.  How do we get the answers to those questions?

I learned a lesson about hearing from God. I learned that God will speak to me if I ask Him. All He requires of me is to pay attention.  It was a time when I was desperately seeking direction in a decision we were trying to make for our family. It was a decision that would have huge impact on many lives.  In 2005 we were given the opportunity to move from Ohio to Iowa. If we did this we would leave behind all our family all our friends…everyone we knew and loved.  If this wasn’t God’s idea we needed to know it.

I had spent many hours in prayer asking for direction. It seemed that things were lining up in favor of the move. My husband was in negotiations for the job that had started our interest in moving and things were going well.  We finally had our house in shape to sell.  But for each reason we had in favor of the move we seemed to have an equally important reason to stay. We had lived in our home for 20 years and had solid roots for our children in our community. We had our first grandchild on the way. We could spend all day going back and forth with the pros and cons. What we really needed was a clear directive from God.

So I asked Him. I asked for a clear word of direction that I couldn’t misunderstand. And I got it. Not in a way I would have expected.  It was completely unconventional.  It didn’t fit in the “8 ways God speaks to us” format.  God used a T-shirt.  Not just any T-shirt, but one I had never seen and have never seen again in the many years since that day.

I was walking with my youngest four boys across the top of the levee at the state park near our home. It was a pleasant afternoon and several other people were running or biking along the same path. The boys had been running and exploring along the trail ahead of me while I walked leisurely, praying and asking God to please tell us where He wanted us. Were we to stay in Ohio or were we to take this huge leap of faith and move almost 700 miles to Iowa?

As I walked, one of my boys came back to grab my hand.  At that moment a young man who had been running toward us on the trail came into close view. I read his tee-shirt out of habit. Don’t we always read people’s T-shirts? My young son who had just learned to read, read it too and when he did he immediately looked at me in amazement and said, “Mom did you see what his shirt said?” Yes, I had seen it and was just as amazed.  I believe God used that shirt to speak the clear message I needed that day. What did the shirt say, you ask?  Four simple but profound words.  Just do it – Iowa.

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Waiting for My Ship to Come In

Have you ever heard someone say that they were waiting for their ship to come in? In current culture, the saying means that they are hoping for something good to happen in their life that they have no control over. A hope that good fortune will visit them and all their problems will be solved.

The origin of the saying isn’t clear. It could have come from the days when merchant ships were coming into port every day and you never knew when the one that held your supplies would arrive or if it would ever arrive. Maybe it was overtaken by pirates or sank in a violent storm. With no communication between ship and shore, no one could know for sure if their investment had arrived until they saw the ship coming into port.

The story in Matthew 8 tells of a time when the disciples wondered if their ship would come it. They weren’t just looking for some investment to pay off. Their believed their very lives were at stake. They were in the boat, the storm came up and Jesus was where? Asleep. Didn’t He care what was happening to them or that their lives were in danger? But the scripture tells us three things. Matthew 8:18 tells us “He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea,” verse 23 says, “when He got into the boat His disciples followed Him,” and verse 28 says, “When He came to the other side.” It doesn’t seem that Jesus had any doubt at all about whether His ship would come in.

Maybe you are in the boat that’s tossing and rolling in a violent sea. Maybe it looks like Jesus is asleep. Doesn’t He care what’s happening in your life? Is He going to wake up and do something before it’s too late?

Remember the story in Matthew. Jesus commanded they cross the sea. He got in the boat and the others followed because they trusted Him. He knew they would reach the other side; there was never any doubt in His mind. Only when the waves looked too high and the storm too strong did the disciples get concerned. They looked at the storm and not their Lord to define their situation.

The storms in life may be overwhelming sometimes. You might wonder if you are really going to make it to the other side. But Jesus hasn’t left you. Keep your eyes on the horizon. The shore will come into view and you will land safely because Jesus is in the boat.