Category Archives: Discipline

focuses on the spiritual disciplines

What we call coincidence….<3

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It is a beautiful sunny day here, and yet I am mindful that the southern states are experiencing horrendous flooding. A Texan friend of ours was headed to Beaumont LA and received pictures of streets that had become rivers and so turned around and headed home. It is devastating to think of what some are dealing with and our prayers are lifted for them. 

I started a study based on the life of Joseph by Kelly Minter this week and as God would plan it, the readings are overlapping the current readings for our all-church series. 

As I have gone through various portions of Genesis this week, I am once again alarmingly amazed at the dysfunction of humanity and the grace of God to not just throw us all in the scrap heap and start over. 

But He doesn’t. 

He works redemption in spite of and, curiously enough, through the flaws and failings of His creation.

Just this morning as I read the account of a young Joseph being dispatched out into the countryside to check on his shepherd brothers, I had a new discovery I had never noticed in these passages. 

Kelly suggested reading them with an eye that was looking out for how God was working in the story. 

Having preceded the study with a short devotional reading that pointed out how often we mistake God’s timing for “coincidence”, I read the passage with the intentional eye of God-sightings and here is what I jotted down from Genesis 37:12-18

* Joseph is wandering around in the middle of nowhere and a man, who happened to not only see his brothers when they were tending flocks in the area, but overheard them say where they were going next just happens to run into him. Kelly adds Jewish tradition holds that the “man” was an angel – but whether an angel or a man, it was incredibly helpful that he happened to be there for Joseph

* Reuben happened to be amongst the group when Joseph appeared in the distance and was able to thwart the “let’s just kill him” plan

* The cistern they threw him in was empty…so he didn’t drown

* The location and timing of the Midianites passing by in conjunction with where they happened to have settled to pasture, Joseph finding his brothers, Reuben interceding and then wandering off for a bit.

* The caravan was headed to Egypt, which is where Joseph would need to end up

I have read this story many times but I had never stopped to think about how God was orchestrating the whole thing. What seemed to be just one awful event on top of the next was being allowed under the direction and protection of a master plan. 

Could it be then, that what seems to be interruptions and dead ends and frustrations, the times we are misunderstood, side-lined, dismissed…that these too fall under the permissive will of our God who does all things well? 

I pray that I would increase in faith to believe that the things that seem so out of the blue disruptive to my plans are being carefully watched over by the Master of all plans. His ways are not my ways. They are higher than I could think to ask or imagine. 

Praise Him <3

Oh Esther…you still have lessons to teach me <3

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Everywhere I turn the past week I am running into studies of Esther. 

I selected it as my next reading plan on the YouVersion Bible app (and the way I stumbled across reading plans is because I was trying to sign up for the all-church study we are doing and I have yet to find it on my phone…but I have been enjoying a couple of good ones in the meanwhile…)

About Day 4 of it, I realized I was seeing posts from other people on Instagram based on the same study and I realized it was from Love God Greatly and there is study in progress for those who order through them. 

Today it popped up in another devotional email and so I am thinking God is speaking out into the cosmos about Esther right now and I don’t want to miss an opportunity for sharing some nuggets I have uncovered and have you miss out on the refining of His word in YOUR life so…

Here is one gem I got that hit me fresh from a book of the Bible that I would have thought I had read and studied to the point that I could say I got all there was to get out of it…but as the donkey would say to Shrek…it’s like an onion….there are many, many, many layers to all people but more importantly to God’s Word and there is no end to learning that we can find when we take time to sit at His feet and let His Spirit teach us. 

In the second day of the study, I found this perspective on the King that gave me a new angle on what God is showing us about us and about Himself in the book of Esther:

Based on the opening passages in Chapter 1, we see the King hosting a huge and luxurious and extended banquet and in the midst of all the partying he calls for the Queen to be brought out and displayed. 

She refused. 

And all the empowered women of the modern world shouted “Amen sister!” but please, as we label this King a male chauvinist pig, don’t miss the lesson about our own humanity and struggle with pride that can play out in equally ugly ways.

The King responds with fury and then adds to his inappropriate response the seeking out of poor counsel and the whole thing ends with a complete banishment of this queen from his presence. 

The study sheds light on what happened:

“The King wanted what he wanted, and when he didn’t get it, he became furious and burned with anger.”

Love God Greatly: Esther, Day 2 devotional

As I pondered the study and the Scriptures and looked at that phrase and let it sink in, I wrote in my journal

“Selfish motives that respond in anger are indications of a need for repentance.”

The devotion points out that instead of overlooking the insult, the King responded with anger. Anger fueled by pride in who he was and what he possessed. Pride in his reputation and his status.

His wants had been denied and his pride and selfishness overruled his reason and wisdom. 

If we get past the whole debauchery of the party and the men and the thought of parading his wife in front of a bunch of frat boys gone wild…and we just focus on that phrase for a minute…

and fill it in with our own name..so here, I will go first….

Laura wanted what she wanted and when she didn’t get it, she became furious and burned with anger.

How about a real life application?

Laura wanted to receive an apology from the company who slightly overcharged her for an item, even after she had been honest about the fact that they had sent it without knowing and then they charged her the full amount and not the discount and didn’t even thank her for her integrity. And when they, instead, insulted her for being petty about such a small overcharge…she became furious and burned with anger. 

Yeah.

That’s what we are talking about here.

We are talking about the rehearsing of an insult and the growing anger as we plan the rebuttal, or the letter, or the actions we will take to justify ourselves to the one we feel wronged us. 

Because it’s easy to look at the King in Esther’s story and see what a jerk he is.

But the point of Scripture is to turn that spotlight back on our own hearts and let God show us who we really are so we can worship Him for who He is.

His example through Christ was to overlook an insult. To forgive those who have not even asked for forgiveness. This is our model for life and our desired response when we sense anger is burning within us <3 

When funny isn’t really so funny after all….<3

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Good morning! 

I confess I am rushing to get this note sent to you all! I found out late yesterday I have an appointment before work so need to stay on task but writing to you on Friday is a thing that is important to me…so please excuse any typos and read for sense.

My thoughts today are as much a reminder to me as they are a concern I have about an element in our Christian culture these days regarding humor. 

I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh, don’t get me wrong. 

I also think it is good to not take ourselves too seriously and to see the humor in some of our humanity, even in the context of our faith community. 

But there is a certain ick factor that comes with some of the comic attempts of late. 

There is a balance that we need to find in what we find funny. 

Yes, we want to be able to laugh about some of the sillier hills we sometimes choose to die on…but there are other areas where comedians poke fun that can make us begin to question the beliefs we were standing on. 

I have heard jokes about the postures of praise that then interfere with my focus during times of worship on a Sunday morning. 

I have watched videos that parody godly aspects of purity in seeking a relationship and question the sincerity of all people who are attempting to encourage others in pursuing spiritual disciplines. 

And sadly, if humor is done well, I get tickled over clever comedians. 

But later, I feel the smarting of the attack that was underlying and I have to question if it was worth the laughter. 

As I muse, I will add that there is a benefit to this as well because the feelings that arise in me often reveal areas of hypocrisy and pride, but there is also a sense of struggle as to where my beliefs are suddenly being exposed by the cool kids as dorky. The truth is, sometimes I feel like the butt of a joke even within the church. 

And that’s not cool.

We live in a culture dominated and fueled by the need to be entertained. 

It makes me want to slow down on my own desire to make people laugh and think twice before I go for that in a conversation. It is something I will always have to do battle with. Using my humor for the Kingdom to build up and not tear down. It is a fight worth waging. 

Have a blessed day…smile much…encourage generously. 

Be gentle with your words and extend grace to me and others when we fail to do the same <3

And when I say random…I mean random….<3

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We are experiencing a run of beautiful weather here in God’s country and I have a day at home to accomplish a list of tasks that are penned on the calendar and high hopes to actually finish most of them so it is a good morning for some randoms…in no particular order, of course….

#1

I am starting to put out the Fall decorations and an assortment of mums are beginning to gather on the front porch. 

They are staring down the summer flowers and the fern and it’s a little uncomfortable out there as we wait for the annuals I planted in the spring to depart from amongst us so we can make a nice backdrop for the pumpkins. 

Transition is hard and moving from one season to the next always means some things have to go.

Timing is crucial and being in God’s timing is always best. He never seems in a hurry or rushed so I rather like His rhythm…how about you?

#2

In my devotions this morning, I had several passages about work and how all the “work” we do is as unto the Lord. 

The concept is that we serve God by doing for others because He really doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. 

This is something I tend to forget.

I start my days with a list in my head or on paper or both and sometimes on several pieces of paper and I get so caught up in the list that I forget the reason for the things I do. 

The list becomes my task master and if anything comes along to interrupt my progress in completing the list, I get frustrated and snarky and peevish and all this yuk starts pouring out of me. 

It is a struggle to remember that I started out giving all my efforts and plans to the Lord and my hope was to serve Him in whatever way He deemed fit. 

I try to remember that Jesus wasn’t running around with His nose in a planner.

I rather doubt He was overly concerned about completing a checklist but instead kept His focus on being tuned in to what God’s plan was for each day. 

Yes, sometimes that means staying on task and sometimes it means setting aside the plan and being where I need to be for someone else. 

The only way I know how to live that way is to be in constant, open communication with God and in that choice I have found a more restful and peaceful and productive way of living. 

#3

And when I forget everything I just said in the last paragraph and resort to snarky…I am so thankful for His grace. 

#4

Am I the only one who associates seasonal changes with food?

As surely as summer makes me think of grilled food and salads…fall has me craving pumpkin bread, baked apple anything and savory dishes. 

I’m digging out the cookbooks again and starting to figure out when our schedule will allow for some baking. 

#5

My least favorite housecleaning chore is dusting. 

My most favorite is cleaning the bathrooms. 

Why?

Because cleaning a bathroom lasts at least for a half a day or so…dusting mocks me. 

I no sooner lift the dust cloth away from the table top and in the faint rays of sunlight I can see it all just dancing around and making its way back to the surface of whatever table or shelf I just cleaned. 

And that’s my five randoms…I’m outta here and on to the next thing! 

Have a beautiful Thursday and I will check in with you tomorrow <3

Friday … yay <3

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As we bid a fond farewell to August this weekend, I am sensing a change in the weather. Sometimes there is a bit of a nip in the morning and evening that stirs my heart to prepare for the change of season and I am fine with it.

I love all the seasons for what they bring but I do acknowledge there is an energizing element to autumn for me personally. It is only dimmed a bit out of empathy for a dear friend who does not love this time of year and so I hold that knowledge in a place of tenderness even as I embrace the cooler days and oranges and browns and reds of this time of year. 

I love the return to more of a routine to the days that comes with the end of summer and the taking in of the harvest in the weeks to come will be opening our vista again across the wide prairie that has become rather blocked by the corn fields that border all the roads we travel. 

It has been a busy two weeks here at our home as we launched into the school year and sports and added a few extra days of work plus, for me, processing and inventorying and all that is involved in this little clothing business adventure we started. 

That means some mornings my quiet time is rushed or non-existent and I can’t say I am very nice about giving it up. 

I do love my stack of devotions and reading and a non-rushed prayer time, but something is better than nothing and so I have to adjust and figure out ways to feed my spirit with God’s Word even on the hoof. 

But He meets me there, you know. Whatever I do to turn to Him, He is already in position, ready and waiting with words of wisdom, hope and encouragement. Even in the silence, He is there. 

Often I will pick up an old devotion or read a passage of Scripture that I have studied and marked up years ago and realize that my thinking and my heart have been shaped by those words. I may have forgotten I read them if you gave me a quiz, but they changed me and I am still living differently because of what God spoke to me through an author or through His authoring. 

Don’t live starved. Feed your soul and your spirit in Truth on a regular basis. 

Like a delectable meal…savor whatever morsels of His Word you take in throughout the day. 

If you have only a few minutes, take in something and then meditate on that tidbit as you do the tasks that must be done. 

Years later you will still be receiving life from those words <3