Thursday, January 8, 2015

a longsuffering God

Acts 14 was another moment of admiring Heavenly Father for His longsuffering in the face of wickedness. Paul and Barnabas go into Greece and preach, but the unbelieving Jews there undermine their efforts to spread the gospel.
So they stay there a long time. Still boldly testifying, still performing miracles, still working so that as many people as want to learn have the opportunity.
There's such an element of nonjudgemental-ness here. Paul and Barnabas make no assumptions about the general wickedness of the people. They see that it is a place divided, and intend to garner as many converts as they can regardless. It would have been so easy to just shake the dust off of their feet and move on (they've done it before!) but it seems to me that Heavenly Father recognized that these were people there who earnestly sought joy, and who demonstrated gratitude for the blessings they received (even if the demonstrations are a little misguided...they try to sacrifice animals to Paul and Barnabas, after all.)
To me that says that Heavenly Father is willing to work with my imperfections. He doesn't ask me to get rid of them all at once, and doesn't dismiss me on account of them. He sends messengers -- the Spirit, the scriptures, prophets and apostles, inspired friends -- to keep teaching me, because He recognizes that I have much good to give, right now, even as He urges me to repent and rely on the Savior so that I have and am even more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

being expectant

Acts 13 today.

The first thing I noticed was that the chapter again starts with the church asking for revelation from Heavenly Father and receiving it via the Holy Spirit in specific, concrete ways.

This is a recurring moment in the first several chapters of Acts, what I love about it is the sense of expectation the saints have. These prayers are not wishy-washy hopes or idle wishes or even the obligatory request from jaded souls. These are moments of humility that are also full of promise, because they are sure that their God has something to say to them, and that He will say it if they listen -- and one step further, that they will do something about it once He does.

It made me wonder...what guidance would I receive if I wasn't so convinced that I would be ignored or criticized? What direction would I gain if I mustered the courage to hear and act on what was told to me?

The next thing I noticed was that later in the chapter, when he is teaching in the synagogue, Paul identifies a pattern in Heavenly Father's dealings with His children:

-Slaves in Egypt, delivered in a miraculous way

-Disobedient wandering in the wilderness, inherited the promised land

-Whining and clamoring about the government, God chooses David

Then Paul goes on to say, in essence, "Guys, you KNOW God. You know He fills His promises, you KNOW He forgives His people if they repent and humble themselves before Him. It really shouldn't surprise you when I say He's done it again." And then Paul testifies of Christ and His divine mission to bring mercy and incorruption and forgiveness to the world.

And it just struck me how loving Heavenly Father is. He knows exactly how screwy His children can be. No matter how much my perfectionist and outward-appearances tendencies say otherwise, there is no hiding our deeply flawed and tragically incomplete selves from Him. And yet...Heavenly Father, knowing that, provided a purifier and a completer, 'the author and finisher of our faith," Jesus Christ.

In short, Heavenly Father still gives gifts to our incredibly indebted selves.

That means we can rejoice, not because we are independent, but because we are dependent on something, Someone, that will never, NEVER fail us.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

miraculous escapes and angel thwacking

I read Acts 12 today, where Peter is miraculously freed from prison. I love finding funny moments in the scriptures, because while it's telling about life of apostles 2000+ years ago, it's still LIFE. For example, in this chapter, Peter thinks he's seeing a vision of an angel freeing him from prison (including the angel thwacking him in the ribs!) But then, once he is completely safe and the angel disappears, Peter realizes...he...was...awake...the whole time. It made me giggle.

Because this was the part of the chapter that stuck out the most to me, I pondered it some more to see if I could perceive more spiritual significance from this moment of Peter's. So here's my thoughts to that effect:

When we're enduring hard things, sometimes we don't recognize blessings as being a part of our reality. Sometimes we forget that we can count on Christ for deliverance and healing from ALL things. Our escape from hardship and trial may not be so very miraculous and clear-cut as Peter's escape out of prison, but we can still find haven in the peace we feel from obedience and tender mercies intended to remind us how much Heavenly Father cares.

And, like Peter, our next steps might still be fraught with their own dangers. He got to spend very little time with the local church before he had to move on for his safety (and theirs, I imagine.) He was still going to be a wanted man, and still going to preach to as many people as would listen.

I think I often hope for these miraculous, sudden escapes without understanding and accepting that it's another challenge and another work and sometimes even another "prison" that I will escape to. But I do know that Heavenly Father prizes my enthusiasm and that as I rely on Him with grace and humility, I can treasure the joy of this life He has given me and find peace even if I am hoping an angel will whack me awake and tell me to get moving.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

admiring Christ

My most meaningful devotional moment in the last couple of days has been couple study with Awesome Husband. We were reading this talk, and a particular line stood out to me:

"[I would like to share]... a quote written in 1908 by Charles Edward Jefferson on the character of Jesus Christ. It reads:

"'To be a Christian is to admire Jesus so sincerely and so fervently that the whole life goes out to him in an aspiration to be like him.'"

That took me by surprise. I love Christ, I am grateful to Him, I worship Him. But do I admire Him?

Admiration is a pretty normal frame of mind in my life...I have amazing, talented, giving friends who I love to observe and emulate, whether they are writers, wives or disciples. My thoughts about them are, "wow, that is AWESOME! I want to do that TOO!"

But do I often think that way about Christ? I don't think it's occurred to me. I've struggled reading the New Testament because so much of it has seemed to be directed to someone else, and I'm just along for the ride. After reading this quote, I want to read specifically looking for the admirable qualities of my Savior, and trying the thought "wow, that is AWESOME! I want to do that TOO!" on for size when I read the accounts of His forgiveness, kindness, and purity. Because He IS awesome. And I DO want to be like Him, too.

Friday, January 2, 2015

breaks and buzzes

After a long day at work, moving and unpacking boxes in our new office, I came home a little early and asked Chris if we could hit the grocery store.

"Don't you want to take a break?" he said.

"A break?" I looked around. We just cleaned the apartment. The dishes are reasonably tamed. Dinner will take mere minutes. "Huh. I guess I could."

So just like that, Chris went to the grocery store by himself, leaving me here to put my feet up and write another 500 words on the latest draft of my manuscript and revel in the tidy, quiet, peaceful home we've created.

That by itself would have been a gift, but the fact that he's picking up things at the store that were mostly for me just makes it even better.

We have an app on our phones that allows us to share lists, so every time he checks off something from the grocery list, my phone buzzes.

And every time my phone buzzes, I am reminded of just how lucky I am.