Friday, July 31, 2009

freewrite on today's bible readings

This week I've been reading out of Jeremiah, Romans and Deuteronomy. It is interesting to me how sometimes I get the same message out of each book - I guess it shouldn't be all that surprising since the whole Bible is God's word and he is consistent.

Jeremiah 32:41: "Oh how I'll rejoice in them! Oh how I'll delight in doing good things for them!"

Romans 8:32 (I think): If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?

Deuteronomy 30: 8b: ...God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you...

Okay, God, I'm ready for this to start happening.

I've been mulling over questions about God and his presence in the world lately. Is He active here? Is He just watching over His creation as it unfolds around Him? Does he test? Does he punish? Does he do good things for us? Ultimately, does he actively change or manipulate the world in order to do those things?

In reading the OT, it is clear to me that he DID those things. Is the God of today different than the God of Moses, the Israelites, Jeremiah? Is he less present and active now than he was then? But God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow - so He is NOT different than we was then. So he MUST be actively manipulating (sounds like a negative word) his creation in order to test some, punish some, and do good things for others. Logically my belief gets held up here: If God is actively involved in creation and manipulates the world in order to (for example) punish person A, then I may be indirectly affected by A's punishment... and how does that work?

In the stock market, when one person gains, another person loses - is that also true of God's punishment and blessing? If I'm blessed, is someone else being punished?

And this leads me to wonder if the last 4 1/2 years of financial stress has been a punishment. I know that money is not everything and that there are many people suffering in horrible ways and that our financial issues are so minimal compared to other people's problems - financial or otherwise. The thing is... this is OUR issue right now, the hardship that we're dealing with and just because it is money related doesn't mean its wrong. In fact, throughout my readings God promises to give his people a good life - prosperity, homes, cattle, sheep, wealth, health, children, so obviously he doesn't believe its wrong.

So today I'm wondering why this has been such a struggle. If God WANTS to do good things for me, wants to delight in making things go well for me - and he says so in his word - then WHY do I feel like I'm spending my prayer time trying to convince him to do good things for us? And does it make a difference? Oh my, I have so many questions and not many answers:)

Faith. I will choose faith.


Marissa 7:37 PM  

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." I have come to read that verse differently over the course of my Christian walk. The way I see it, if God is what you want . . . that's what you'll get. Not the other stuff that you think you want. That makes sense in my mind . . . not sure if I'm articulating it well at all or not.

i am not 8:21 PM  

my question then is: is it wrong to want the other stuff? I was having this conversation with dave tonight - telling him that I feel guilty that it seems like money consumes much of my prayer time and that its wrong, however, i don't want money to buy more stuff and have this fantastic hollywood life... i simply would like to cover our expenses and have the luxury of having a little to save after that. That whole 10/10/80 thing... right now for us, I think it is 10/0/-30.

and in my readings God promises to bless his people with prosperity - land, houses, flocks, herds, descendents. I'm not claiming that promise for myself, but it was a little eye-opening to me that he promises that, therefore He must approve of it (of course not the whole turning money into your god, getting obsessed and forgetting about him aspect of it).

obviously I would love to live a comfortable life and travel all over the place and have my house be much nicer than it is. i'd love to have expendable cash that would mean i could get starbucks a few times a week, take the girls out to lunch, buy my clothes at ann taylor, buy running shoes whenever i needed them. but thats not what i'm asking for - if it happens, it will be wonderful, but i don't expect it nor is it the desire of my heart in any way. living without this near constant guilt about every grocery i buy would certainly be nice, though.

See, Marissa, i'm talking over top of myself. i'm worried about being judged for this issue - not saying that you are doing that, but i feel like the possibility exists. i guess the only way i could feel not-judged about it would be if i published dave's income amount vs. our itemized expenses so it was clear that our budget is absolute bare minimum. in some respects i feel a need to prove to people that we have cut everything we possibly could cut and there is no unnecessary expense in our lives... however, i know that priorities differ from one person to the next and what i may not consider extravagent the next person would wonder why it was necessary for me to buy paint for my kitchen. finances are so touchy.

i have specifically experienced, though, what your verse and your "interpretation" if you will says. in my adult life, i have never been this consistent and interested in reading my bible and hearing God speak through his word. the more i do it the more i desire it and him. So yes, i totally get what you're seeing in that verse, too. i guess my question is whether you are implying that the desires of my heart are materialistic in nature and therefore wrong...

And please know that i'm not offended - trying to have open, honest dialogue about this - always my original intention with this blog anyway.

Marissa 11:56 AM  

Ok, Jana. I really don't think you are being materialistic and when I wrote that comment I wondered how you would take it. I have had a hard time with it over the years myself and totally get what you're saying about all the other "stuff" that God wants for his people. I know you're not sitting there begging God for wealth and bling for the sake of it. I think when I was reading your post, that verse just blew into my brain and I felt behooved to share it. More in an open-ended way than in a "this is how it is, suck it up" kind of way. That is to say, I don't know the answer. At all. In my experience when I have been at the bottom with finances (so been there . . . more when I was single than since I've been married, though we've had our rough times then too), and I honestly didn't even know if I'd eat that day (not being dramatic . . . actually had no money or job or food in the house), God always provided. I was clinging to him during that time in my life in a way that I'm not sure I've ever come close to quite since. The weirdest part being that I never even asked people for money or food . . . it just sort of showed up at the last second when I needed it kind of thing. Not that I was doubting God, but it somehow still amazed me every time. I was unemployed and broke for months and never went hungry or wanted for anything (even though I did - if that makes sense). I wonder if I'm doing well saying this in a blog comment . . . maybe not. I guess all I'm saying is, that God knows your needs. He will continue to care for your family. It may not always come in the way you expect or as fast as you want, but he won't let you down.

Is that ok to say?

i am not 1:01 PM  

Yes, of course all of that is okay to say! Thank you. I didn't think you were judging me or implying any of that, but due to the nature of the topic it makes me feel very vulnerable to being judged. I get the impression - not from anyone specifically, but in general - that christians are supposed to be okay with being poor, even DESIRE it... that one is more spiritual if not financially comfortable.

now, while i understand how that could logically play out - one who is financially hurting will more likely be more dependent upon God and clinging to him more than one who is financially comfortable or well-off and more likely to forget about God (total pattern of the Israelites in the wilderness and well, thoughout the old testatment) - i have found nothing in my Bible reading that suggests that God will love me more if i'm poor or struggling with finances or favor me more or desires that i be in that situation. in fact, as much as i want to give good things to my children, God wants to do that and more for me...

over coffee this morning, i was relaying all of this to dave... my feelings, my blog post, your comment, my comment back. ultimately what my frustration comes down to is this:

we have lived this way for almost 5 years. This way = dave's income not covering our expenses, but having money to supplement. we're now out of that supplemental money.

for almost 5 years i have had a nagging in the back of my mind about what we're spending, how we're spending, is this a wise move, do we need this, can we afford this, how do we say no to this situation, why aren't people more sensitive to our situation, etc. etc. ultimately, i just want to be rid of THAT... i don't want more stuff - i'm trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible - i really just want to buy groceries without feeling bad for throwing the $1.49 bag of combos in the cart because they sound good:)

and truly, truly we just want to move on - we both feel like God is preparing us and has been refining us through this process and we want to move on to the next stage (kind of the same way i feel when i have had a newborn... i just want to move on to crawling. and then walking. and then potty trained, etc.) no one has ever accused me of being overly patient lol!

we have been experiencing the oil in the jars for quite some time. we were supposed to run out of money a long time ago and here we are on August 2, 2009 still floating and still here. God has done more than i've written here to provide for us and i'm amazed when i think about everything. who am i to deserve his love in this way?

anyway... i greatly appreciate your comments and thoughts. i should probably have mentioned that my comment was not directed at you, but rather was me talking out loud as is this comment...

it is my own insecurity about this issue that leads me to wonder if i'm being judged. i mean really, i'm just trying to figure out if my life is consistent with my words.

i am not 1:07 PM  

and while i would never wish anyone to be in the situation that you were in, how blessed you were to have gone through that - to be that dependent and see God working so clearly (even if in hindsight).

i'm sure you know this: don't forget it. don't forget where you were and where you are and how you got there. celebrate all that you've accomplished since then!

Marissa 9:09 PM  

Absolutely. That testimony to God's faithfulness will be with me forever. Truly. I totally get not wanting more, but wanting to stay even at least. That's where we really are at this point. We don't have fantastic paying jobs, but we do have work. For that we're thankful. Especially since we live in Michigan, you know? But it also feels as though we're not necessarily "getting anywhere" on the pay that we make. We're not in the red, but we're not making lots of headway with saving, etc (forget even thinking about a house and so on). Just maintaining. That's ok, but I understand wanting to do more than keep up the status quo. With that being said, I'm glad you've been open in sharing about these struggles. It's good to get these dialogues going, even if they are sometimes just with yourself. Too often I think people are floating without contemplating much, you know? I think that God does want to bestow the best on his children. Sometimes I wonder if (in my situation) Nate and I were to make different choices (like he gets a different or a second job, I make myself work more hours), if the "maintaining" would go away. Right now, these are not sacrifices that we choose to make for the sake of having more. I would rather have Nate around at home more . . . and I would rather be at home working less hours and be with Naomi than get more money at a better job (I was actually offered a better paying job at my company with better benefits when I got pregnant with Naomi - - obviously I decided ultimately not to take that). I don't know what I'm completely trying to say. Just thinking out loud.

Marissa 9:12 PM  

Totally to inject some fun into this discussion . . . only because you mentioned that it seems that Christians out to be desiring hardship . . . here's a blogpost from a blog I read all the time that I read today.

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