So, it’s summer and the student loans, car payments and mortgage payment are weighing us down. The stretching of the budget with hot dogs and cereal has not been fun. While cleaning out the shed we found a little white birdhouse and I promised the boys we could clean it out and get some birdseed. Pet food is not cheap and investing $3.98 in a bag of birdseed seemed excessive when we were “jones-ing” for some soda, s’mores or something filled with empty calories and pure heavenly sugar for us human people. After all, doesn’t God provide for the birds of the air and feed them?

We filled the thing full with bird seed and hoisted it up high in the branches so wandering kids, squirrels and raccoons would have limited access. Later that night as I sat outside, a big chubby bird sat on the very top branch and sang the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. It had a trill at the end. I’ve lived in the same place for many years and listened to many bird songs but this was special, long and loud. I asked hubby if it was possible that the bird was grateful for the new house and his new dinner. He muttered something about “not knowing what the birds are thinking” and went inside. So I sat there wondering and feeling quite content. The bird lifted its little beak and belted out another verse. As the sun began to set, in the quiet of our neighborhood, I was his only audience. Maybe, this bird had appreciated what we had done. Maybe we were part of the Heavenly fathers plan for feeding him? I delighted to give the birds in our yard a little treat.

In that moment I got to feel what grateful felt like on the other side. This little bird appreciated what I had done and that tiny little song was sweet to my soul. I wondered if my Heavenly Father feels so delighted when we sing to Him, when we pause and let Him know how thankful and grateful we are for His care, love and provision? I thanked God and felt sweetly delighted in my soul. The next day I received a message that a surprise was coming and a delivery guy came to our house and brought us a freezer box of Omaha meat. It was a special blessing from a dear friend and oh what a timely gift it was for our family! God’s goodness and care was seen when a sister in Christ just felt led to bless us. I may have a doctorate but I’m super grateful for my little  “bird brain”, just  smart enough to know where provision comes from and the mighty hand outstretched with blessings from the Lord. What a delight to have a friend to bless us! Giving and receiving God’s love is pretty cool. When the boys opened up the freezer they were pleasantly surprised and we had so much fun planning all the meals we were going to make with it. Steaks, meatballs and more! While we were planning on surprise blessing other people this week, someone blessed us. God’s pretty sneaky that way. 

The verse I’ve meditated for this weeks blog is from Romans 12:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Anthony Bourdain, a television celebrity who committed suicide this week, once said “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” This man was world renowned for his cooking food and sharing with others. We’re praying for his family. Paul had a very different view on life and tells us something life changing in these verses:

We ARE living sacrifices and purposed to life for God’s enjoyment.

Do not conform means to not fashion yourself according to the pattern of this world. It is an outward focus. To be transformed is to be morphed into something else. This verb is a present passive imperative verb which means the action is not something we do but something the Holy Spirit does as we surrender and REST in the Lord. It takes place at once with continuous effects, ongoing. It is imperative that we renew, it is super important that we foster and allow this process to take place. It is a process of becoming more like the image of Christ –which takes time and saturation. It does not take place by merely observing rituals or traditions out of habit, but by surrendering to the Lords will in our lives and specifically the renewing of one’s mind.

How do we do that?

We don’t. That’s why it is a passive verb. The Holy Spirit does. What we can do however is posture ourselves under the faucet of His love daily, weekly, annually. We can set aside time to saturate in His power and Word. We can posture our hearts to receive His love and spirit. Renewing according to Strong’s’ dictionary means to have a renewal, a renovation and complete change for the better. The Lord pulls up the old baseboards in our minds and lays down new fresh structures of His grace and mercy. Renovating is changing the vision and perspective of one’s mind. It is a refusal to leave yesterday or year’s internal décor as is. We allow God to “overhaul” our spiritual man and give space for the demolition crew to come in and make it happen. A Ruach Rehab so to speak. 

So, exactly what is our part?

Set aside time for the Holy Spirit to do the “home repair”. We allow the Lord through His Spirit to minister to our minds and get in and stay in the Word of God. His part is to renew, renovate and completely change our minds according to the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Internal work vs. external work.  External is things we physically do and Romans reminds us not to establish our own righteousness by any of these things. Internal means we submit to God’s Word and Will, letting the Holy Spirit work in process with our hearts to become more like Christ until that final day. Outward “motions” can never equal inner renewing. They can however facilitate the space to let the inner work take place. One is gymnastics and the other is a purified heart. If we practice spiritual formation habits (such as rest, study, worship) to allow God access to our hungry hearts, we get transformed but if we practice those things as righteous building traditions to look on the outside like we are holy, we actually impede the work of renewal by creating monsters of our own making. Scary.

I love getting blessings in the mail, rewards, favors and encouragement. I also love watching God renew my mind and transform me into His image. Some may run a marathon, some may earn a degree, some may master a hobby but delighting God’s heart is what living sacrifices do. Worship, thankfulness, praise are part of our reasonable service. Focusing on His Word and gaining His perspective helps us prove His will. It’s opposite of living to get the most bang for your buck. It’s opposite of treating life like it’s a party and getting everything you can get out of it. You can search the whole world over and still remain empty inside. You can eat the foods from every nation and fancy desserts from every bakery but if your joy is not found in the Lord you will live empty in spirit.

The horse races were not on my calendar for this past weekend but it was exciting to hear that a crown had been given to the winner “Justify” for winning the Triple Crown. Our culture has lost the understanding of living for the Lord in such a manner as to be “crown worthy” or a “living sacrifice” . It’s rare to hear someone talk about being fashioned after Christ or transformed. Paul states the “fashion violation” is if we do not let the Spirit transform us on the inside! In our Designer culture, We feel justified in our own merits and many have given up trying to please a God they no longer understand or know. Bibles have been replaced as the Christians main accessory with designer handbags and shoes with rhinestone crosses on them. Without renewing our mind in prayer and the Bible, we cannot understand who God is or His character. He’s merciful, He’s mighty, He’s everlasting love. When our goal is to be an amusement park or live for our own enjoyment and praise or a crowd, we miss out on God’s amazing journey and plan for our lives. We cease being grateful, thankful or surprised by His goodness. James 1 tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having STOOD the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who work for Him? No, those who love Him.”

These are just some thoughts for the week. Now you know what this crazy bird is thinking. Smile. Simple, not profound. Sometimes the answers in life aren’t given to the rich, poor, wise or wonderful but those merely responding to the rhythms of God’s love – living sacrifices that believe they will be loved, nurtured and fed. God is so simple a child can grasp His love yet so profound a scholar can never exhaust His majesty.

Go find a branch and belt out your praise to the God who is waiting to hear your song. He understands it. Present yourself, STAND before Him and renew your mind to get to know this God of love and life. Eat like a bird on the word- continually and thankfully. It’s imperative that we keep on singing in our Temple, and His. Then, today and tomorrow we will be able this side of eternity, to rest in peace. Enjoy !