Discerning the Times

Merriam-Webster defines discernment as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; skill in discerning; an act of perceiving or discerning something” (quote source here).

2020 has certainly been an interesting year so far–a year unlike any other in recent history thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and everything else that has come from it. While pandemics are nothing new in the history of the World (see this link for the 20 top pandemics in history), most of us have never experienced a pandemic on the level of this particular pandemic known as Coronavirus or Covid-19.

And, in a few short days, another presidential election is taking place here in the USA, and it is one of the most fiercely contentious elections of our time, capable of fracturing friendships, relationships (social, church, familial, and work/business related), and every other social unit in our society. As volatile as it has been you might even be convinced that Armageddon (and no, not the 1998 movie starring Bruce Willis) is right around the corner.

However, in the midst of all of this “stuff” that 2020 has thrown our way, the good news is this: Stop watching the news on TV (I can almost guarantee that you’ll start feeling better), and wear a mask when around others at a close distance (whether you believe wearing a mask helps or not), and things will start looking brighter… I say that tongue in cheek as recently I went without a TV for almost three weeks after I moved from a hotel room that supplied a 42″ wall mounted TV in the room to an unfurnished apartment where I needed to buy my own TV, and it took almost three weeks before I got to the point where I bought a small 32″ flatscreen TV. And during those “no TV” three weeks I discovered a tranquility of sorts that I had not felt in a long time because I was no longer getting a daily dose of “news” from the TV.

The title of this post (it is not meant to sound ominous) has more to do with discerning the times in our own personal lives then in world events, so scratch off “Armageddon” as the main theme. It’s hard enough discerning our own place and time in history without taking it to a global level. What made me think about it is due to how suddenly my life changed back at the beginning of October when I found this apartment to rent after six years of hotel room living while trying to find an affordable income based senior apartment in a senior apartment complex. None ever opened up to me in all that time, and when I decided in late September that I was done searching for it, I found this apartment (not in a senior complex) practically “overnight.” I’m still shocked at just how fast it happened. I’m very happy about it, too. However, it has been an adjustment going from living in a hotel room to living back in an apartment after six plus years.

It also reminds me of something stated in James 4:13-14:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, even with all of our plans and assumptions. As I look back on my six years of hotel room living that I never thought would last so long, I’ve lost count of the number of times I prayed for God to open another door and provide me with an apartment in an income-based senior apartment complex, but it never happened. However, I never had a clue that I would end up finding an apartment where I am now living as it seemed out of the realm of possibility. It wasn’t even on my radar screen, but it feels exactly like this is where I am supposed to live for now. And after six very long years of looking, suddenly this opportunity opened up to me.

I’ve written previous blog posts on the topic of the bigger picture that is always going on all around us on a daily basis, and in God’s economy that “bigger picture” that He sees and orchestrates that we do not see is always at work (see Isaiah 55:8-9). He sees the entire tapestry of history in the making, and we are all pieces in it but we cannot see the whole picture.

In my last blog post published 12 days ago titled, Never Too Late,” in an article titled, God’s Waiting Room,” by Dr. Duane Durst, he stated, “Waiting on God requires us to put aside our way of doing things and trust His timing and plan.” While God is always working on the “bigger picture,” He is also always working on us individually and especially during prolonged times of waiting.

As I look back on my six years of hotel room living and even previous to that going back to when I lost my last job in my career field over 11 years ago that started me down this path I have taken for the past dozen years, I can look back on that time and see some major changes in my life that evolved over time–positive changes–and my whole world opened up in ways I never would have experienced or understood had my life kept going down the “status quo” career path it had been taking. I became aware of a lot of things going on in our society and around the world that I never would have known had it not been for these past 11 plus years. And in the process I’ve learned a lot about myself that has widened my world and given me some life experiences I never would have had, and yes, that includes hotel living. You’d be amazed at how many people in our society have no other housing option other then living in hotel rooms.

In an article titled, 5 Ways God Shapes You,” by Dr. Saundra Dalton, a Board Certified internal medicine physician, she writes:

Clay is not easy to work with. One day my son returned from school with a white substance on his clothes. When I asked about it he replied, “Sorry mom, my clay was too wet.” His class was attempting to make cups as gifts, but someone put too much water in the clay mixture. Instead of a firm sturdy, pliable clay that could molded, what they had to work with was a sticky, gooey, weak mixture that refused to conform to the desired shape.

Before clay can be put upon the wheel, it has to be properly prepared. It has to be supple enough to adapt to change, yet firm enough to not collapse under pressure. Just like clay, before God can begin remaking and changing us, there are some preparations that have to occur.

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was making something at the wheel. Yet the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jer. 18:3-4).

God sent Jeremiah down to the potter’s house to reveal more of Himself in a very tangible way. God still uses life as a classroom, guiding us into His truths. Every event, hardship, failure, sin, and success is a part of our personalized lesson plan. Learning the lesson will require being able to see the situation through God’s eyes. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 58:8). Seeing life through a heavenly lens puts it in a new perspective. Spending time in His presence can open the door to God revealing to you what type of vessel He wants to make you into. Once you get a glimpse of God’s vision for your life, you have to then be willing to go through His process for change. No vessel is so flawed that it cannot be made new. Each can be reworked into a useful vessel in the hands of the Potter.

The 5 Stages of Godly Change

Broken

Brokenness is a prerequisite for a life change. It is a state of complete yielding to doing things God’s way. You no longer desire for there to be any distance between you and God. You can feel the disconnection that comes from unconfessed sin in your life. Your desire is to turn away from whatever has marred you. You want nothing more than to be restored. I love how the Scripture states it “marred in the hand of the potter.” Even when you mess up the worst you can imagine, He still has not left you alone. Your life and destiny were always in the palm of His hands.

Crushed

Ironically, the journey to being remade, restored and renewed starts with being crushed. The NLT states, “But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) says, “He was crushed for our sins.” Jesus shows us that being crushed is not a sign of defeat, but a part of God’s plan for redemption. Accept God’s invitation to take all past sins to the cross, nail them there and leave them. Then allow him to place you on the potter’s wheel.

Molded

Once reduced to the point of wanting nothing more than the potter’s touch, you are ready to be molded. You have come to the end of yourself and what you feel you can do to change your situation. You now know that only His touch can mend the broken and crushed places in your life. “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) He knows the right amount of pressure to apply to your life and when to loosen His grasp, as He molds you into a useable vessel.

Refined

Once your new characteristics begin to take form, you are moved into a season of intense heat. God’s loving fire comes to strengthen you leading to permanent change. This fire may not feel loving during the process, but as impurities are pushed out you are drawn closer and closer to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) It is during this stage that God adorns you with the glaze of His glory, and you become a living reflection of Christ.

Filled

Once taken off the potter’s wheel, you are never alone. Rather than simply sending you off to fulfill your purpose, the potter deposits a part of Himself inside of you. “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) He fills you with Living Water so that you may pour out His love and truth into the lives of others. It is not something that you can do on your own, but is a gift from the potter. It is a sign that He is ready for you to be put into service. It does not suggest that you have reached perfection, but rather that you are now useable for the purpose for which He created you. He has never been interested in perfect vessels, only usable vessels. Do not be afraid of failure. If you become marred, He can make you over again. (Quote source here.)

While my living situation dramatically and totally changed three weeks ago, I still take life one day at a time. There are new people to meet and encounter, and new things to learn, and I’m looking forward to seeing what each new day brings in my new surroundings.

I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 3:5-6 that have played a key role in my life (and they still do, too): Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him…

And He . . .

Shall direct . . .

Your paths . . . .

YouTube Video: “Canvas and Clay (Live)” by Pat Barrett ft. Ben Smith:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Day of Atonement

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”) starts on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, and ends at nightfall on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. It is considered to be the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar.

On my other blog, I recently published two blog posts leading up to this blog post on Yom Kippur. On September 27, 2019, I published a blog post on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which took place from sundown on September 29th through nightfall on October 1st this year, titled, Time to Reboot.” On August 25, 2019, I published a blog titled, Elul and the High Holy Days,” which gives a brief description of the activities associated with the month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days which start with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur.

In an article titled, Yom Kippur,” published on History.com and written by the Editors at History.com (first published on October 27, 2009 and updated on August 21, 2018), the following information is provided:

Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—is considered the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. Falling in the month of Tishrei (September or October in the Gregorian calendar), it marks the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to tradition, it is on Yom Kippur that God decides each person’s fate, so Jews are encouraged to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The holiday is observed with a 25-hour fast and a special religious service. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are known as Judaism’s “High Holy Days.”

History and Significance of Yom Kippur

According to tradition, the first Yom Kippur took place after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and arrival at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Descending from the mountain, Moses caught his people worshipping a golden calf and shattered the sacred tablets in anger. Because the Israelites atoned for their idolatry, God forgave their sins and offered Moses a second set of tablets.

Jewish texts recount that during biblical times Yom Kippur was the only day on which the high priest could enter the inner sanctum of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There, he would perform a series of rituals and sprinkle blood from sacrificed animals on the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments. Through this complex ceremony he made atonement and asked for God’s forgiveness on behalf of all the people of Israel. The tradition is said to have continued until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D; it was then adapted into a service for rabbis and their congregations in individual synagogues.

According to tradition, God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year. Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah; people who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others.

Observing Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is Judaism’s most sacred day of the year; it is sometimes referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” For this reason, even Jews who do not observe other traditions refrain from work, which is forbidden during the holiday, and participate in religious services on Yom Kippur, causing synagogue attendance to soar. Some congregations rent out additional space to accommodate large numbers of worshippers.

The Torah commands all Jewish adults (apart from the sick, the elderly and women who have just given birth) to abstain from eating and drinking between sundown on the evening before Yom Kippur and nightfall the next day. The fast is believed to cleanse the body and spirit, not to serve as a punishment. Religious Jews heed additional restrictions on bathing, washing, using cosmetics, wearing leather shoes and sexual relations. These prohibitions are intended to prevent worshippers from focusing on material possessions and superficial comforts.

Because the High Holy Day prayer services include special liturgical texts, songs and customs, rabbis and their congregations read from a special prayer book known as the “machzor” during both Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Five distinct prayer services take place on Yom Kippur, the first on the eve of the holiday and the last before sunset on the following day. One of the most important prayers specific to Yom Kippur describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times. The blowing of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, a single long blast is sounded at the end of the final service to mark the conclusion of the fast.

Traditions and Symbols of Yom Kippur

Pre-Yom Kippur feast: On the eve of Yom Kippur, families and friends gather for a bountiful feast that must be finished before sunset. The idea is to gather strength for 25 hours of fasting.

Breaking of the fast: After the final Yom Kippur service, many people return home for a festive meal. It traditionally consists of breakfast-like comfort foods such as blintzes, noodle pudding and baked goods.

Wearing white: It is customary for religious Jews to dress in white—a symbol of purity—on Yom Kippur. Some married men wear “kittels,” which are white burial shrouds, to signify repentance.

Charity: Some Jews make donations or volunteer their time in the days leading up to Yom Kippur. This is seen as a way to atone and seek God’s forgiveness. One ancient custom known as “kapparot” involves swinging a live chicken or bundle of coins over one’s head while reciting a prayer. The chicken or money is then given to the poor. (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2014 titled, Forgiveness of Others and Ourselves: Yom Kippur Thoughts,” by Laurie Levy, a contributer on HuffPost.com, she writes:

On the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, a central prayer is the Al Chet or communal confession of sins committed against others. Rabbi Yonah Bookstein describes Yom Kippur as the time for reconciliation and forgiveness. He reminds us that the Hassidic Master Israel Ba’al Shem Tov said, “If we cannot forgive others, how can we expect God to forgive us?”

This holiday always poses an interesting question for me: Can I really forgive someone who has wronged me? Of course, I am not talking about overwhelmingly traumatic acts that are unforgivable — genocide; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; and other crimes that harm innocent victims. Although there are amazing people who can forgive even these things, I am not one of them.

In a modern version of the Al Chet prayer, Rabbi Michael Lerner asks forgiveness for sins against humanity in general and against the world in which we live. Among those that involve personal interactions, he asks forgiveness for:

The sins of spreading negative stories about people we know;

And for the sins of being passive recipients of negativity or listening and allowing others to spread hurtful stories;

For the sins of not having compassion for one another;

And for not taking care of one another….

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat offers her list of more personal sins she has committed against others. I have to assume people have also wronged her in these ways:

By not embracing those who needed it, and not allowing myself to be embraced…

By poking at sources of hurt like a child worrying a sore tooth…

By hiding love, out of fear of rejection, instead of giving love freely…

By being not pliant and flexible, but obstinate, stark, and unbending;

By not being generous with my time, with my words or with my being;

By not being kind to everyone who crosses my wandering path.

The notion of forgiveness is pretty complicated. In two weeks, I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of my Chavurah (Hebrew for “friends” or “comrades”). This group of six families came together in the fall of 1974, having no more in common than being 12 adults with 12 kids who happened to live near one another and were disillusioned with formal religion. Later we added three more kids and eventually joined a synagogue en mass. But my favorite memories stem from our early attempts to figure out our own brand of Judaism. And one of our most interesting moments happened when we tackled the issue of forgiveness.

Well, maybe we didn’t exactly tackle it. In fact, with most of us just having crossed into the mature age of 30-something, we had a five-minute talk that devolved into a resounding “Let’s not go there.”

I guess forgiving others is not something that happens until you reach a certain age, if ever. Our Chavurah now has 63 official members. Many of the 25 grandchildren live out of town. Only two of our parents remain, basically making us the older generation. So much has changed. And yet, as our group celebrates 40 years of friendship, I wonder if we are finally old enough to talk about that difficult concept of forgiveness.

I know plenty of folks my age and beyond who are still nursing hurt feelings and something close to hatred for former friends. I have had friends declare they will never forgive people for what they considered deep betrayals.

One thought I have about this is rather obvious. It’s the old “you always hurt the one you love” thing. So I get how it is hardest to forgive a BFF for saying or doing something hurtful. It’s shocking to discover the “B” and the second “F” weren’t really true. So the closer the relationship, the greater the pain, and the lesser the chance of forgiveness.

But lately, I have come to believe the power to forgive is always mine. Exercising that power makes me stronger, not weaker. It definitely makes me happier. Why on Earth would I want to hold on to the pain of hating someone for something that happened 30 years ago? Like Elsa from “Frozen,” my mantra is “Let it go.”

There’s a lot of power in forgiveness. Letting go of the hurt has opened me to the possibility of rebuilt relationships in some cases. In other cases, it showed someone who had bullied me that I was not going to carry that baggage with me, so their words or deeds didn’t have much weight.

Over many years as a preschool director, working with countless parents and teachers, I learned another truth about forgiveness. Much of the time, it turns out the hurtful behavior really had little to do with the target of the behavior. When co-workers or parents or teachers were attacked in various permutations, it was typically a projection of unhappiness elsewhere in that person’s life. It’s hard to look at it through that lens in the heat of the moment, but considering the possibility can help soften the blow. It can give the recipient the power to choose if not forgiveness, then at least not anger and hurt.

So back to the question of whether I can forgive someone who has hurt me: My answer is a resounding “yes.” In fact, it goes beyond “Can I do it?” to “I must do it to lead a happy and meaningful life.” The harder task is to forgive myself for the wrongs I have done to others. (Quote source here.)

And in a touching story in an article published in 2011 titled, Yom Kippur and the Gift of Forgiveness,” by Annette Powers, also a contributor on Huffpost.com, she writes:

Yom Kippur has meant different things to me throughout my life, but while in the process of getting a divorce, the acts of atonement and forgiveness have taken on new significance.

Like most Jewish kids, Yom Kippur was the one holiday I dreaded. Growing up, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar promised nothing but endless hours spent in a gloomy sanctuary. All the adults, cranky and with bad breath from fasting, stood around muttering droning prayers in a language I didn’t understand.

After my Bat Mitzvah, I felt obligated to fast also, and then Yom Kippur took on a new kind of pain. By mid-afternoon, I was dizzy with hunger and the thought of four more hours in synagogue seemed unbearable. I understood that the point of the holiday was to atone, but thoughts of repentance were overshadowed by thoughts of the bagels and blintzes I would devour at the end of the service .

My feelings about Yom Kippur took a turn for the better when I spent a semester in Israel during my senior year of high school. I was amazed at how the whole country shut down in observance. Even the majority of Israelis, who are secular and didn’t plan to set foot in a synagogue, elected not to drive. The silence in the streets was magical and as I walked through Jerusalem’s stone streets from synagogue to synagogue, I heard the ancient Yom Kippur liturgy with new ears. This experience gave me a newfound appreciation for the solemness of Yom Kippur, yet the luxury of youthful innocence still kept me from really feeling the need to atone or forgive.

As the years went by, age and experience taught me that having a designated time to think about my relationship with God, myself and others is a unique and special thing. It is no longer a burden, but a gift. I am especially grateful for the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are known as the Ten Days of Repentance (Aseret Y’mai Teshuvah.) During this time, we are encouraged to make amends to those we may have hurt in the past and to grant forgiveness to those who ask for it.

As an adult, I have often used these ten days to speak to friends and family and work through old grudges and new grievences, but last year, after discovering the painful truth about my husband’s infidelity and his desire to get divorced, I was too overwhelmed with pain and grief to even consider amends and forgiveness.

Today, it’s a different story. I have had time to heal, reflect and grow and need these ten days now more than ever. Even without being asked, I am anxious to forgive — to cast off my bitterness and start anew, to relieve myself of the burden of anger that tugs at me like a heavy anchor and to free him of the guilt that I heap upon him in both subtle and overt ways day after day. But, the question remains…. Can I actually do it? Making amends is one thing, but being able to forgive is another.

I have a friend who has inspired me with her own incredible act of forgiveness. As a teen, her father was killed in a ruthless hate crime by a group of strangers. Over many years, she found the ability to forgive them from afar. “It was a long road and I will never forget what they did, but I had to let go of all the anger — it was destroying my life,” she said. “Unfortunately, the rest of my family hasn’t been able to forgive and I see how it eats them up inside.”

I too have seen how resentments and anger can devour people over time. I too have seen how forgiveness can liberate. If this friend had the strength to forgive her father’s murderers, surely I could forgive my ex for far lesser crimes!

I want to forgive him. It’s partly a selfish act… I want to let go of the anger so I can move forward with my life. And I need him to forgive me too. While I don’t blame myself for his unwillingness to work on our marriage or his deceitfulness, I recognize that I am responsible for some of what went wrong in our relationship. I recognize some of my shortcomings and can make amends for those. I am sure there are yet others that I can’t see or admit to and for those I can only apologize in the abstract.

And so, yesterday, I sent my ex a note of amends and forgiveness.

I asked him to forgive me for a list of transgressions, from being too critical of him during our marriage to sending him thousands of angry text messages since our separation. I also apologized for “the things I do not know or do not remember that I did — willingly or unwillingly.”

And then came my turn to forgive. It took so much strength to write this: “I know you haven’t asked outright, but I want to tell you that I forgive you. I forgive you and I forgive her. May we all be blessed in the coming year.”

I can’t guarantee that all my resentments will disappear today, tomorrow or in a month, or that I will always be on my best behavior, but this note is my promise to try harder and that is a good start to a sweet new year. (Quote source here.)

During Yom Kippur, maybe now is a good time to think about laying aside that heavy weight of unforgiveness that we’ve been carrying around for a very long time. After all, as the following YouTube song below states:

Forgiveness . . .

We all need . . .

Forgiveness . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac featuring Lecrae:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Change Ahead

change-ahead-crossword-iconI’m back . . . . Three days ago I wrote a very brief post wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2013 and said I was going to take a breather from blog writing. Well, it lasted three whole days!!! Actually, it lasted eight days as my last blog post with a topic, Lighting Our Path,” was published on December 11, 2012. I guess eight days was long enough! My fingers were typing in my sleep so I got the hint.

Christmas is only a few days away now, and yet another new year is about to enter the picture. I don’t know about you, but the years are going by way too fast. They always did, but lately they give “zoom” new meaning. And every new year brings another opportunity for change.

You've_Got_MailThere is a scene in one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the starring roles as Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, where Kathleen’s “Shop Around the Corner,” a children’s bookstore on the upper west side of Manhattan, is closing after 42 years (it was originally opened by her mother and Kathleen inherited it when her mother died) because the mega-bookstore, “Fox Books,” opened up around the corner from her shop. Shortly after the Christmas holiday Kathleen made the decision to close the store due to dwindling business caused by the opening of Fox Books, and in an email to a man she met online in an “over-thirty” chat room earlier in the fall (who turns out to be Joe but at this point in time she don’t know his real identity) she wrote the following: “People are always telling me that change is a good thing, but what they are really saying is that something that they didn’t want to happen at all has happened.”

When I look back at all the changes I’ve gone through in my life (sometimes I feel like that proverbial cat with nine lives), my favorite changes were those I was able to choose (e.g., joining the U.S. Army, going to college, going to grad school, moving to Florida, etc.), and the worst were those that were forced on me (e.g., like being fired from my job in April 2009 that has lead to this rather lengthy time of unemployment). For the most part, I’ve always been a fan of change as I get restless if I do the same thing for too long (except, of course, writing, but then there are a million things out there to write about so it never gets boring). But even “bad” change can be “good” in the end as was the case in Joseph’s life in Genesis when his brothers, years earlier, did some truly horrible stuff to him, and then, years later, they had to come to him for help and were terrified (you can read the entire story here). Joseph stated to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). What was originally a horrible change for Joseph turned out for good later on not only for him but for his entire family.

It’s encouraging to know that even “bad” change can work for our good, because God never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17), and as the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And if we truly love Him and have been called according to His purpose, that includes all the ugly stuff that has happened to us as well as the good.

When I look back over these past four years (actually, five years as the beginning of this “adventure” in my life started on December 7, 2007, when I learned that my division at my former place of employment in Florida was being dismantled which lead me to apply for the position in Houston in May 2008), I see some dramatic changes that have taken place in my life–for the good–despite the fact that I am still unemployed at this point in time. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned many of those changes.

Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Now that’s a change that is good for us, but it’s hard to follow especially in our American culture with every imaginable excess available 24/7. We get bogged down in the mire and hardly even notice it. Little compromises eventually turn into detrimental changes especially if we let the Bible and it’s wisdom take a back seat in our lives as well as our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

By the time I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job in September 2008 I was about as bogged down in my spiritual life as I had ever been (and I’m not talking about “church attendance,” either). Regular Bible study was sporadic at best and I never even thought that much about the whole issue of spiritual warfare in the believer’s life. The cares of this world had taken over, but I also noticed that the cares of this world had also taken over most of the other folks I knew, too. And we were all Christians. We had left our first love (Rev. 2:4) and allowed the cares of this world (worry, materialism, greed, gossip, envy, jealousy, judging others, anger, bitterness, etc.–that list is long) to take over, and we wanted the things in this world along with the attitudes of this world more then we wanted Him. Oh, we’d never admit that or perhaps really believe it but our actions and attitudes and lifestyles spoke volumes. And so when I landed in Houston, I did an about-face and started taking Bible study and my relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously on a daily basis. And I could feel the fresh wind of the Spirit begin to permeate my life again during one of the hardest work experiences in my life. When I lost that job seven months later, I knew He was right there to guide me not only during those difficult seven months but when the bottom dropped out when I was fired. And He’s been guiding me and changing me ever since. My world has opened up in ways I never could have imagined had I not decided to get out of the spiritual lethargy I found myself in by taking that first step to give Him quality time every morning before I did anything else (and yes, that meant I had to get up an hour or so earlier then normal and give Him that totally undivided time from the rest of my day).

In short, I’ve been cleaning up my act from all the mire that bogged me down in the first place. Didn’t say I am perfect at it and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but I’ve been changed from the inside out over these past four plus years. The words of the Apostle Paul in Phil. 3:12-14 (MSG) state, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

And neither am I . . . .

How about you?

YouTube Video: “Back in the High Life Again” (1986) by Steve Winwood:

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