Monday, August 18, 2014

Here and Now

Before starting as a volunteer for a crisis phone line in my local area, I went through in-depth training with a class of peers. Part of that training involved keeping callers focused on the reason the called, or the crisis they were experiencing in the here and now. Sometimes doing so takes focused effort on the part of the phone counselor, but it is vital in order to fulfill the purpose of the phone center.

As a crisis center, we are just that; we are there to support callers experiencing a current crisis. We are not a professional counseling service, though we can provide referrals to excellent counselors if the caller is interested. We are not there to re-hash with callers, over and over, something that happened in their lives 30 years ago. Our main concern is to ask, "How are you doing TODAY? What's going on TODAY?" Then we go from there, and form a plan of action to help each caller make it through their "here and now" crisis.

This weekend, I've done a good bit of thinking about living in the here and now in my own life. Just so happened, when I opened up today's reading in The Language of Letting Go by Melodie Beattie, the first paragraph addressed just that; living in the here and now. Imagine that.

Today, let's talk about living in the here and now. Not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, but focusing primarily on TODAY, and the benefits of living that way. Let's begin with not dwelling on the past.

Here is a scripture familiar to some of us: Isaiah 43:18-19 in the Revised Standard Version reads, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

When we dwell on the past, we are not tapping into what is around us in the present, nor what is available for us in the future. Our time wastes away when we replay, over and over, former failures, long-ago losses and past pains.

Recently I faced a situation in my own life where I had to pray for help letting go of the past. A former partner of mine passed away, suddenly and at an early age. I felt grief when I learned of this, but also felt confused at my grief. You see, I suffered worlds of verbal and emotional abuse in my relationship with her. I finally broke up with her for the last time when she became physically abusive. I have experienced vast amounts of inner healing in the years since that relationship, but still had a painful, wounded place inside me. I wondered why I was grieving someone who hurt me so badly.

I hadn't noticed I was carrying that open wound until the news of her death stirred up my emotions and memories of her, memories of that relationship. So I journaled, prayed, and cried until I came to the realization that I needed to FORGIVE her and move on. A lack of forgiveness can keep up bound to the past, as painful as that past might be. I prayed and asked God to help me truly forgive her and move forward with my life. God is working on me; it hasn't been an instantaneous thing, this forgiveness and healing... but I trust God's process.

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old."

Another hangup we can encounter is that of worrying about the future.

Jesus Himself said, in Matthew 6:27, "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Also, Philippians 4:6 encourages us: "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."

If we worry about tomorrow, we are not paying attention to things we need to handle today. And believe me, I'm talking to myself as much as to anyone else. If I get tangled up, worrying about how I will pay bills, I will not be focused on doing my best at my job where I earn the money to pay bills. If I fixate on my future dreams, goals and callings, I might not notice ministry opportunities - people to help and to love - that are all around me right here and right now.

That's another area I'm learning about, in myself, these days. I grew up hearing a lot about finding my CALLING... and finding your calling is a good thing... but I submit to you that your calling is not your someday future... your calling is what you function in TODAY, in the here and now.

At the crisis line, we ask callers, "What's happening in your life that had you call us today?" I encourage you to STOP... just pause... take a breath... and take look at yourself.

Where are you?

What is going on around you?

How are you feeling?

What is God saying to you right now?

...Because THAT is your "here and now."

In closing, I encourage you to read the book of Esther in the Old Testament. Esther was an ordinary girl who ended up in a very extraordinary position. She was able to work from that position of power and influence to rescue her family and her people, the Jews. However, she reached a crossroads where she had to make a decision, and was given a crucial message that pushed her in the right direction. Esther 4:14 reads, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

"For such a time as this." What are you called to TODAY?

May God bless you as you walk in the here and now. He's doing a NEW thing, even NOW... do you not perceive it?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Count the Cost

Today let's talk about God... God's nature, God's character, things like that. I would like to share a few concepts that stood out to me while I read today's portion of the One Year Bible.

Nehemiah 9:8 reads, "You have done what You promised, for You are always true to Your word." Isn't that wonderful? God ALWAYS fulfills His promises. No ifs, ands or buts. Always.

In our individual daily quests to be more like the One who made us and loves us so deeply, it strikes me that keeping our own promises would be a good step in that direction. So let's dig into what goes into making promises, and how to keep them to the best of our abilities.

In my relationship with Lena, we make "pinkie promises." Sure it's silly... but when one of us offers our pinkie, between her and me, that is sacred. It's cute and all... but a pinkie promise between us says, "I seriously, truly GUARANTEE you this is true and I will keep my word." Pinkie promises are not to be messed with! :-)

One principle to which we should hold when making promises is the idea of counting the cost. Luke 14:28 says, “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?" According to this, we should think about whether we are able to fulfill a promise before we make it.

We should not throw our words around... to impress people, to get forgiveness, or even out of strong emotion; for example, because we feel sorry for someone and want to help. Don't promise it unless you can provide it. Empty promises are worth no more than the wind that carries them.

Keeping promises is also of great importance when we consider promises made to God. Ecclesiastes 5:4 says, "When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him."

My desire is for God's character to show in my life. I mess up sometimes; say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing... but my desire to show Christ's character is deep. I ask forgiveness and move forward. The same is available to you.

So let's count the cost and make good, solid promises. We will become more like God when we do this, and grow closer to Him while we seek to please Him and to know Him better.