He Doesn’t Forget

1455061_10151968801494280_1986483280_nHe does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Psalm 9:12b)

It seems like God forgets the cries of the afflicted sometimes, or maybe that He just ignores them. But that’s our own perspective. When we don’t like His response time, we decide to project what we believe His decision and process must be.

We’re often wrong.

We can trust and believe Him, no matter what. Even when we don’t understand, when we don’t like a situation, when we feel overlooked. God is still God. He is still powerful enough, compassionate enough, just enough, and patient enough.

“Enough” is more our issue than His.

Remember and Forget Well

A newly married woman asked me what I struggled with the most when I was first married.

Um…well…hmmm…probably…I think…

I stammered through my answer. My hesitation wasn’t due to a lack of struggles. I remember struggles, but I don’t remember them well. One reason is simply the passage of time. I’m not sure when I struggled with each thing along the way. But also, I’ve tried to put some things behind me. I don’t want to remember some struggles all the time, because if I live in the past, I miss out on the present.

Yet, as I later reflected on the conversation, I realized how important it is to be able to remember well enough to share with and help others. No two journeys are the same, but we need to be reassured we’re not alone. We can’t just say, “been there, done that, and you’ll survive, honey” and expect the other person to sigh and relax from that point forward. We can’t just say, “Well, I’ve never been through that, but I know what you should do.” We can’t put on rose-colored glasses and diminish someone’s issues because of our optimism. And we shouldn’t pull someone into our muck and mire.

It’s not about us. And we can’t make it all about the other person either. God is the only one who knows what each of us needs to share and receive with each interaction. But this I know for sure:

God brings people in and out of our lives.

We need to steward each interaction well.

We won’t always feel prepared, nor should we. After all, it is in those “caught off guard moments” that we get to most completely rely on God.

Remember well enough to relate to and encourage others. Forget well enough to not get stuck.

When God Calls You Back

God doesn’t want us to get stuck in our past. However, He uses our past for our present and future.

When we get stuck, ashamed, overwhelmed, and burdened about our past, it’s not God working in us. He doesn’t steep us in the negative. He certainly reminds us of it. He wants us to remember the lessons we’ve already learned. He wants us to remember His mercy and peace through bad decisions and chaos. He wants us to see the line of memorial stones He has had us stand to commemorate the moments He has been faithful in our lives. That line of memorial stones points us toward His faithful provision of the future.

But God only pulls us back in order to catapult us forward. Like a pull back race car.

Ready? Feel the tension of being pull backward? Let God pull you to just the right tension, because when He’s ready, and you’re set, you…will…GO!

Ready, set, go

They Will Be a Sign

Ring of Brodgar Stones OrkneyAfter all the people had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe. Tell them to get twelve rocks from the middle of the river, from where the priests stood. Carry the rocks and put them down where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua chose one man from each tribe. Then he called the twelve men together and said to them, “Go out into the river where the Ark of the Lord your God is. Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder. They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this.” Joshua 4:1-7

When God moves in our lives, we need to remember. Remembering helps our faith grow and encourages us when we’re struggling. Remembering is a testimony of our faith. It shows others the fruit of living within God’s will. It leaves a legacy – not just of our own faith but of God’s faithfulness. Remembering God’s presence becomes a map for those following us. People will be encouraged along their own journeys because of the signs littering the path along the way.

People in God’s Word have gifted us with signs of encouragement. Through their lives and their journeys of faith – complete with strengths and weaknesses – we’re encouraged to seek and trust God. We’re redirected when we stray off course. We dance with joy when we’re travelling along the beauty of God’s will and realize we’re in a sweet spot for a season.

The rocks we set to acknowledge God’s presence are not to build dwellings. We don’t set one rock on top of another because we’re remaining in the place God showed up. If we stay in that spot, there’s no reason for the rocks. We don’t need to leave a reminder for those who follow behind us, because we’re there as the reminder. If we don’t leave, we can’t leave a legacy. A monument is for remembering. Remembering indicates moving on.

When is one of your favorite memories of God working in your life?

Is your life exactly the same as it was at the time of that memory?

Can you think of any situations or seasons to which you tried to hold on longer than what you believe God wanted you to hold on – whether you realized it at the time or later?

Live It. Pick up a small rock today and write words on it throughout the day to describe God working in your life. As the sun goes down, place the rock somewhere someone will likely find.

Living with Memories

memoriesMemories are important. Imagine if you had no memory. We often think of the special memories we’d lose—memories of family times, friendships, and accomplishments. But what about the basics? You wouldn’t be able to read the words on this page, because you wouldn’t know the letters forming each word. How would you apply anything you’ve learned? How would you connect with anyone?

Memories give us essential structure. Have you ever seen someone you know, but she is in a place that’s out of context of the usual place? You see a cashier of your local discount store or bank at the doctor’s office, or you see the woman you struck up a conversation with while waiting in the grocery store line at her new job at the library. If you don’t know the person well, it often takes a minute to remember why she looks familiar and where you previously met. You can almost feel gears turning as your mind puts the pieces together.

You need memories to give you clues to understanding the present. Whether it’s something you’ve learned or someone you’ve met, based on past experiences, you know how best to respond. You know what to avoid and what to pursue. The content of your today impacts your tomorrow. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need every single piece of information you’ve ever processed. But the learning process, including memory, is essential to living an effective life, including an effective life of faith.

What you’re filling your mind with today becomes part of the structure with which you process and live tomorrow. In order to live out God’s Word, you have to become increasingly familiar with God’s Word. What’s most familiar is most easily recognized. The more your life is filled with truth, the more you will be able to discern between truth and distortions or falsehoods.

Dig Into God’s Word…

“Come to me and listen to this. From the beginning I have spoken openly. From the time it began, I was there.” Now, the Lord God has sent me with his Spirit. This is what the Lord, who saves you, the Holy One of Israel, says: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to do what is good, who leads you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:16-17)

I praise you because you remember me in everything, and you follow closely the teachings just as I gave them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2)

So faith comes from hearing the Good News, and people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Live It Out Loud…

Carry a favorite photo with you throughout the day. Each time you look at it, consider the implications of having no memory. Give thanks to God for his many blessings. Ask him to guide you in remembering (and forgetting) the past. Ask him to challenge you to learn what he wants you to learn today to grow you in faith into your tomorrows.

Sit Up Straight!

How many times did Mom tell me to sit up straight? Let me count the ways. It was so annoying, and slouching was so much more comfortable. I had enough things to do without having to think when I sat!

Then one day I glanced down at my shoulders, exposed by my sleeveless shirt, and noticed how they seemed to jut forward ever so slightly. I tried to roll them back. They still stuck out a little bit. Panic washed over me as I wondered if I’d done permanent damage to myself by not heeding Mom’s advice. In reality, what I was noticing was probably just something about the way my body’s built. Sitting up straight is more about my spine than my shoulders (try slouching your shoulders while keep your spine upright). But I was scared enough to pay attention to my posture for a while.

I realized I actually had pretty good posture. I’m glad I learned something from Mom’s advice (a.k.a., correction) even when I ignored it. All her “Sit up straight!” instructions came back to me recently when I was travelling with a friend who observed as I worked on my laptop and commented on how “properly” I sit and hold my hands and arms while typing. Mom gets part of the credit. The rest goes to a very traditional and disciplined high school typing teacher. (Yes, I’m old enough to have learned on an actual typewriter. We thought we were privileged and advanced because we had new electric typewriters!)

Sometimes we learn things even when we try not to. We learn by observing or by hearing something over and over. It’s like learning by osmosis. People often use the phrase of learning by osmosis when they need to know something they don’t want to take the effort to learn. They wish there was a simple way – like soaking it up through the brain by sleeping on a book. News flash…it’s not going to happen.

But perhaps we learn “by osmosis” in another sense. It’s a gradual assimilation of information. If you hear or see something enough times, you’re going to learn it. There are many things I learned from Mom not because she stood beside me and led me through every step but because I was around her when she did it many times. I’ve learned the same way from other family members, friends, coworkers, teachers, and people on television. I’ve learned useful things and trivial things. I’ve learned good habits and bad habits.

What about you? What’s something you cringed to hear when you were younger but appreciate now?

What’s something positive you’ve “learned by osmosis” from someone?

What’s something negative you’ve “learned by osmosis” from someone?

Many of us would like to learn Scripture by sleeping on our Bibles and having it seep into our brains. We want to know Scripture, but it takes time to read and study it. And we don’t seem to be able to remember it sometimes anyway. If we can’t remember it, how can we apply it?

Choose a word that describes something about your life right now. Conflict, struggle, doubt, change. Or what you want more of in your life. Joy, peace, growth, discipline. Use a concordance to look up verses in the Bible containing that word. Choose one verse to live – not just learn – this week.

Write it on sticky notes in several translations. Each time you see a note, read the verse aloud so you hear yourself say it. Watch for God to highlight the verse in your daily life. Journal your experiences. Share with a friend. Plant God’s Word in your heart and mind, water it with experiences of all your senses, and God will nourish its growth.

I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it. But God is the One who made it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6

When I Was a Little Girl…

…I walked to school uphill – both ways – in ten feet of snow. We know it’s an exaggeration, but surely we’ve all shared details of our childhood that aren’t exactly accurate. Even if we’re not intentionally being deceptive…I think our perspective changes as we get older. We misremember things.

Like my daughter who is convinced she fed French fries to the seals at SeaWorld because she has a photo of herself holding a container (of small fish) which looks like a red and white checkered French fry container. Or her memory of walking in the house ahead of her sister, who would have picked up a dead rat that was on the floor but avoided the catastrophe because her big sister saved the day. In reality, Courtney couldn’t even walk, so I was carrying her. We’d put out mouse poison before leaving on vacation, and there was a (small) dead mouse next to the stairs when we returned.

I was recently together with my family, and Mom had been sorting through the attic and set aside my sister Angie’s Barbie camper along with some other items. We decided to sift through everything. My other sister, Deb, began bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have a Barbie camper…or any other Barbie accessories for that matter. Then I remembered I had some type of Barbie home. I remembered the way the bunk beds folded down when the case was opened. Angie remembered it was a Barbie Snow Cabin. That’s right! I wondered aloud where it could have gone.

Tada! My nephew pulled it out of the box – Angie’s box! Chaos erupted. We each wanted to make sure no one else was wrongly getting our childhood stuff. We started tearing through Barbie clothes. All the while, Deb just stood there, saying over and over, “It can’t be mine, because I didn’t have any good Barbie stuff.” A flood of stories, memories and (light-hearted) accusations continued for quite some time. We laughed until we cried…and our husbands wisely kept their distance, probably thinking we’d lost our minds.

We hadn’t lost our minds, but I’m sure each of us were remembering with a bit of an individual slant!

What’s one of your favorite childhood memories?

How do you think you’ll remember today or this period of your life?

Remember, God is the One who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us his chosen people. 1 Corinthians 1:21