Tag Archives: expectations

Ecclesiastes 3-5; Psalm 45; Matthew 15

I think of the scraps that fell from the table: could meager remnants become a feast? I sat on a bench one year and considered the crumbs and thought of this woman in Matthew 15 and her perspective.

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table. (Matthew 15:24-27, NLT)”

She taught me something profound that day about my own heart. About contentment. About gratitude. About the Lord. About enough.

The Pharisees had their expectations of what life would look like, and how purity would be recognized, and a protocol for how things would be done. I think on how my own expectations, perceptions, and protocol have kept me sour, hurt, angry, or disappointed.

Ecclesiastes marks time like seasons for war and peace, tearing and mending, silence and speech. Couldn’t it show on the calendar? On (this day), you will cry. You will grieve. But in a few turns of the calendar pages, you will laugh. You will dance. Would the wait feel long?

Here, I linger:

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, NLT).

The injustices of life. The advantages of companionship. The futility of power and wealth. The importance of integrity. Read slowly. Everything, beautiful. Even in the becoming, beauty, in the wait. A scope of His work.

17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past (Ecclesiastes 5:17-20, NLT, emphasis added).

I did a quarterly evaluation in areas of my life from 1-10: work, health, friendships, etc. Goal books and podcasts preach a level-10 life. What would it look like, I wondered. And slowly I realized–I was already there. I have all I need. And maybe living out level 10 didn’t mean what I was making it (nebulous as it was). Maybe it didn’t look like anyone else’s vision of ten. Maybe, in some cases, it had to do with letting go of hurts and expectations, with looking forward and sowing into a future than looking back and carrying past burdens. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from exceptions and restrictions and expectations I placed upon things, a schedule I overbooked, a relationship I overestimated. For community that was never going to be what I hoped it could be. For the friend who never agreed to be who I needed her to be. What if I let go of my own restrictions, instead of wrestling with a past I couldn’t change, and people I wished who would? Seems like chasing the wind.

Lord, thank you for meeting me that day on the bench, bringing that woman’s story to mind. Thank you today for reminding me of the scope of your story. Thank you for gifts from you: good things from you, and the health to enjoy them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, Matthew

1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9; 1 Timothy 6

I admit reading of Solomon’s riches and feasts and wisdom left me longing. But then two things:

When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honor to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. 1 Kings 10:1, NLT.

And, regarding his many wives–especially those the Lord said not to marry because they’d turn his heart away from God:

And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord. 1 Kings 11:2b, NLT.

1. His fame brought honor to the Lord.

2. And even a man so wise could go down a wrong path.

I’ve been overwhelmed to a crashing point when all the responsibilities I thought I could carry (and somehow balance) fell down around me after weeks of a child’s health issue got heaped on top. I’ve felt the pressure, too, to have a good attitude while this is going on–but at the end of every day, I’m acutely aware of my failure.

Every day: failure.

It has brought me low, for sure, and I find myself asking: Who am I in the midst of chaos? And who do I want to be?

So, reading of Solomon’s wealth and parties and abundance, at first glance, didn’t help me much where I am under a variety of pressures. But 1 Timothy 6 did.

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For,

At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. 1 Timothy 6:11-21, NLT.

Pursue. Fight. Hold tightly. Guard.

Lord, today my trust is in you. Thank you for your word, your strength and your provision. Thank you for loving me, especially on my worst days.

Courtney (66books365)

(I did go back and read the Old Testament scriptures more thoroughly and appreciated the pairing of Solomon’s wealth with the New Testament reminder of true riches. Sadly, Solomon’s wealth and wisdom didn’t prevent him from making choices that led him away from God. Paul’s instructions to Timothy were exactly the reminder I needed of who I am–a woman of God–and what to pursue. I can easily be distracted by the demands in my life and judge my success/failure by my ability to perform, but Paul reminds to pursue a godly life [as in God-focused life, not a flawless life as I sometimes dupe myself into thinking]. I look to God for the strength and provision to get through this and get done what needs to be done. He carries me, and always has.)

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Leviticus 13; Psalms 15, 16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thessalonians 1

As water reflects your face, so your mind shows what kind of person you are. Proverbs 27:19 (NCV)

That is why we always pray for you, asking our God to help you live the kind of life he called you to live. We pray that with his power God will help you do the good things you want and perform the works that come from your faith. We pray all this so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will have glory in you, and you will have glory in him. That glory comes from the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NCV)

One of the difficulties I have living as a missionary in a foreign land, a life allocated to God’s work, is the concern that I am not living up to expectations. Am I living the life that I was truly called to live? Am I doing the right things? Am I doing enough? Is God being glorified or am I seeking glory for myself? Are my own desires for the life I wish for in line with the plan that God has for my life?

Sometimes I wonder if I am really walking in His will because my will so often screams out to be heard. In the midst of the day to day struggles, my emotions, my frustrations too often take the center stage. My attitude reflects self, instead of Spirit. The smog of my own darkness seems to get in the way of His Light, His Glory, and in those moments, I am forced to question whether I am able to be an effective reflection of the love and compassion of Christ.

Sometimes I realize right away that the attitude I am projecting is not Christ within me; sometimes it takes much longer for me to repent. But I know that God’s grace and mercy for my human failings are still demonstrated every day. And I am grateful, because in spite of it all, I may be the only evidence of God’s love, the only manifestation of His presence that the people I meet acknowledge today. I may be the only Bible someone reads.

I praise the Lord because he advises me. Even at night, I feel his leading. I keep the Lord before me  always. Psalm 16:7-8a (NCV)

I am grateful that He chose me. I am grateful that He is the One who gives me the ability to walk through this gift of life. I am grateful that He equips me for everything He has called me to. He guides me, teaches me, and He directs my path. He has saved me and made me worthy to be His reflection.

cat-lion-mirror-image

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India (written in the U.S.A.)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Filed under 2 Thessalonians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Leviticus, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Proverbs, Psalms

1Kings 18; 1Thessalonians 1; Ezekiel 48; Psalm 104

In my head, it seemed like a good idea–my Smile and Wave Campaign 2010. In a continued effort to seek peace and pursue it, trying to make a long-time strained relationship all better with a friendly greeting, it was met by a turned back. Again.

“God–I am seeking and pursuing peace. What gives?!” I muttered. I got home and dialed a friend and complained about my lack of fruit (and/or success) in mending fences.

“So you are upset that God isn’t working in your time frame,” she said.

“Um. Yeah,” I said. Upset. Discouraged. Frustrated.

“Don’t you think that God is also working on her heart?” my friend continued. “It takes time.”

I had been all fired up to have a word with God. His words waiting for me, instead, in the very first sentence.

After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 1 Kings 18:1 (NIV)

After a long time …

Here I was discouraged, ready to throw in the towel because I wasn’t getting results I wanted, when I wanted. It sounded familiar.

In check, I realized I was limiting God–who is continuing to work on my heart as well as hers. Maybe I won’t get results I want, but in further reflection, perhaps I am getting the results God wants: my obedience to answer his call to seek and pursue peace (and him), and to put my faith in something outside myself and my efforts.

Father, I  am so very near-sighted. Thank you for speaking to me in your word and through good and trusted friends who love you. I somehow thought I would get peace when a relationship was healed–but through this struggle, I found I get peace in you, by faith and trusting in you. I will continue praying, living out your command to love, and waiting expectantly for rain.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1 Kings, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Old Testament

Leviticus 22; Psalm 28-29; Ecclesiastes 5; 1 Timothy 1

Simple faith.  I think I miss the simplicity of it oftentimes.   I think I construct this complex web of expectations around what my faith should look like.  Not necessarily the disillusion of having rules and regulations around my faith, but more so about the current performance rating that my faith might be framed within.  And it’s not even the performance of my faith based upon what others might think of me, but maybe it’s more about the performance I ”think” God deserves from me?

So here’s the dichotomy of it all…God desires me to grow in my faith and become more of who he’s designed me to be.  And He experiences pleasure when I make the choices that bring me closer to that end.  But (and this is the key “but”), He expects nothing of or from me…except simply me.  God desires the transformation in my heart so that I can become more of His design so that I can experience more of Him, but He doesn’t desire the transformation so that He can reap benefit from the change.  He does not need what I have to offer, He desires who I am.

It all comes back to the intent of the act.  When it comes to transformation, God’s intention is for my life to change…for me.  Often times I twist that and take that which I receive from the transformation and try to make those “things” the point, when in fact the point was the transformation itself.  I think I often go to God with finger-paintings from my life hoping that he’ll post them proud on His refrigerator, when in fact I know God was looking back at me, accepting the childish offering with a smile, and telling me softly that my presence with Him is all that He desires.

Does God receive pleasure with what my transformed life produces?  Absolutely…but His deep desire and joy come simply from offering myself to Him fully.  He does not expect lengthy diatribes (Eccles. 5:2)…He does not desire my accolades (Eccles. 5:15).  He instead simply desires “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience and from sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:5).  God desires me…that’s it.  No bells, no whistles, no complexity, no proof of transformation…just me.  How could I miss the simplicity?

~chefdave

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Filed under Ecclesiastes, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan