It’s A Wonderful Life

Every Christmas I love watching James Stewart and Donna Reed play Mr. & Mrs. Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. The happy ending elicits the same sentimentality that I honestly can’t help. There is always something that sticks out to me when I watch it. This year it was George Bailey not doing what he loved or what he wanted, which was to travel the world, but instead doing what he was called to do and something that he frankly loathed, taking over his father’s mortgage lending business. This isn’t unlike what happens to many of us. Life doesn’t always go as we plan or give us what we want. And while I do believe that 90% of life is about how you respond or react to the stuff hurled our way, this nod to “attitude” alone falls short.

Living with purpose bridges the gap. We may never know the bigger plan at play but we each have gifts that make us uniquely perfect to fulfill that plan. Clarence, George Bailey’s angel, gives George a real gift- an ability to see what life would be like had George never been born. George quickly learns that his life impacted the lives of so many others. He didn’t get to travel or build iconic structures around the world but he made a huge difference in the lives of the people he interacted with on a daily basis.

I can’t help but think of Joseph when he realizes his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant and not by him. Joseph didn’t want that for himself nor did he plan for it. But when he was called to keep his engagement to Mary, his response was utter obedience.

How would our lives look if obedience was our response to being called?

My life would have been completely different. Stubbornness is a quality I inherited from both sides in spades. When I set my mind on doing something, I was doing it because it was what I wanted, it was my life, and I was in control. My first big lesson in control, or rather the myth of control, came with the premature rupture of membranes with my daughter at 34 weeks of gestation. I was on my knees in the hospital chapel praying through sobs for my baby girl to be healthy. I prayed because I knew I didn’t have control in that instance. I vowed to God I would do anything for her health, whatever was asked of me. When we brought Isabel home, that vow quickly faded to the demands of motherhood and the shackles of post-partum depression. I have always longed to know my purpose in this life. It took me 15 more years to realize that something bigger was at play for me. And it wasn’t until I really starting seeking God, wanting to know God, and reading scripture that I really began to understand that I didn’t have control; thus the importance of surrender. When I say surrender, I don’t mean to give up on life. I mean having the faith to submit myself to God. I mean doing as Joseph did and being obedient when called upon. I am late in keeping my vow to God, but better late than never.

What keeps you from obeying when called upon?

Faith versus Faithfulness

Delicious on the beach breakfast at Woody’s, San Diego, California.

 

Accepting Jesus Christ as my savior was a huge step for me, my proverbial crossing of the line. This proclamation is very specific in describing my faith and what I believe. It is marked progress from saying “I believe in a higher power.”

Having faith is beautiful because there is an order to things that brings comfort even when there is loss and grief. I know that God is good, loving, and just. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Having faith that things have a way of working out for the best surrenders my need to account the ways in which the scales have tipped for every detail.

Fellowship and accountability is important in faith because we weren’t designed to do it on our own. We are not all knowing. We are incredibly fallible. Keeping company with those who have the same values helps reinforce our own. Our church is wonderful and its biggest strength lies in bringing people into the faith.

Living in faith is one thing. However, living faithfully is something else entirely. Many people will claim living faithfully by attending church, tithing, or maybe listening to Christian music. Yet I hear of people doing all of these things for many years but still feel lost in how to pray.

Living faithfully takes concerted effort. Attending church is just a beginning. It’s re-listening to the sermon, looking up the verses, and pondering its implications in your own life. Living faithfully is constantly strengthening the relationship between you and God. Prayer is one way we were given direct connection to God. Jesus provided this example in his life by seeking solitude to pray every morning. The bible provides instruction on the elements prayer should have in Matthew 6:9-13. I learned of a simple acronym in bible study that provides guidance in prayer as well. It is from the series “Lead Our Family Like Jesus”:

A.C.T.S.

Adoration – Praising God and all His greatness and glory shows adoration.

Confess – Confessing our sins is the humble act of acknowledging our sin to ourselves and to God and relying on God to help us overcome them.

Thanks – giving thanks even through the biggest of trials not for the troubles but for the strength it is building in us and what is it preparing us for.

Supplication – Be steadfast in asking and seeking God and we shall receive.

Living faithfully is the conscientious re-centering of your life. Discerning what really matters from what popular culture would have you believe is part of the spiritual housekeeping one must tend to first. If God is at the center, then it follows that your relationship with God would be of highest priority. A relationship that important requires more than the one hour sermon at church once a week. As with any relationship, its strength is commensurate with the time and energy we put into it.

Living faithfully means seeking God’s presence every single day, multiple times a day. We nourish our bodies with three scheduled meals a day. Is it really too much to ask to nourish our souls, our very being by seeking God’s presence just as many times in one day?  Accepting God’s salvation is the easy part. Discipleship is where the work is at.

I am not unlike others in having busy lives with many demands from family, work, school, friends, etc. but God is always first. The more I seek, the more I hunger for God’s presence and guidance. It was not always so, but I am so happy and better that it is now.

 

 

Emptiness Inside

In sipping coffee with a friend we talked and laughed about a great many things. She stated something that made me pause and consider why it resonated so powerfully. “God fills us because He created us”, she said. I recalled being told “You will always need God because your husband will never be enough for you and you will never be enough for him.” What about Jerry Maguire’s “you complete me.” The romanticism of that line won the hearts of many as it roared through pop culture and was reiterated in memes, Valentine’s Day cards, and, I would bet, even marriage vows. That is simply a lie.

Read more “Emptiness Inside”