Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again.
The stroke of midnight now signifies a new year.

So it's time for New Year's ____?_____.

Yep, resolutions.

I, like you, have gone through the cycle of New Year's resolutions from making them with great idealism, to realizing their futility and inevitable failure, to merely thinking about things I'd like to change but not calling them resolutions, to, well, to not even bothering...

But this year I am making one resolution.

I want to eat rich foods and I want to eat until I am satisfied.
I want to do all that I can to get fat.

No stringy celery, dry rice cakes, and small plates of entrees for me.
Bring on the richest, sweetest, most tender foods and bring it in on platters!

I want things that melt in my mouth because they are so full of fat themselves- smooth like chocolate, buttery like pastries, and tender like marbleized beef. I do not want to walk around constantly hungry.

I even found a verse that describes what I want perfectly!
Isaiah 55:2 "Hearken diligently to me and eat that which is good and let your soul delight itself in fatness".

I want a fat soul.

No power-of-positive-thinking inspirational sayings for me. No bumper sticker theology, no religious rhetoric, not even warm fuzzy quotes with cute pictures or verse-a-day calenders will suffice.

Why would I be happy snacking on "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" when instead I have the invitation from God saying "Come and talk with me" (Psalms 27:8 ). I can commune about anything and everything at any time with Almighty God or I can try to motivate myself that today is a fresh start....
I think I'll respond "Lord, I am coming!" (Psalms 27:8)

I want to feast on the richness of God and of His Word, on His love and grace, His holiness and justice, His compassion and unfailing love. This is God, who is not some abstract idea, historical figure, or uncaring deity, but the One who seeks me and invites me to know Him.

I want to claim the verse in Jeremiah 31:14 where God says, "I will satiate the soul of the priest with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the Lord".

I want to say with the Psalmist, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips". (Psalms 63:5)

This word fatness means richness, abundance and blessing.

Psalms 36:8 promises that "They shall be abundantly satisfied (filled up, to the brim, not wanting any more!) with the fatness (richness, blessing) of thy house (the place where God is) and you shall make them drink of the rivers of thy pleasure". Reminiscent isn't it of Psalms 23 where we're told that "He makes me lie down by still waters...he restores my soul." ?

So this is my resolution. To feast on the abundant richness of God, to listen to what He says, and to let my soul revel in it's increasing girth.

And "if out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45), it might not be such a bad resolution for all of us!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ice not heat

I woke up with a knot in my neck. My first thought was to find the heating pad but instead I opened the freezer and grabbed an ice pack and in doing so chose healing over comfort.

I knew a heating pad would feel good and that ice would not, but I also knew that ice would make it feel better in the long run.

I find much of God's Word like ice when I am seeking heat.

A gentle answer turns away wrath...Proverbs 15:1

Love your enemies,
Do good to those who hate you,
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.
If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic... Luke 6:27-29

Let us not be weary in well doing...Galatians 6:9

Don't be selfish
Don't live to make a good impression on others.
Be humble thinking of others better than yourself ...Philippians 2:3

Be still and know that I am God... Psalms 46:10

These are not commands I prefer.
I'd rather give anger for anger, get instead of give, quit instead of keeping on and be more concerned about myself than others. These are not my natural inclinations...

They are as numbing as the ice on my skin, painful even when first applied; this cure often temporarily overshadowing the pain of the injury.

But this is the right thing to do: while not comforting, they are healing and therefore making me more whole than broken.

This is what God says to do.
The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalms 19:7

If I trust a doctor as to what to do for a knot in my neck, surely I can trust the One who created me for the best advice on how to live my life...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Bring It On"

Three inches of icy slush had fallen overnight.
School had not been called off as it should have been and I was slogging out to see the kid's Christmas program.

Twice my car got stuck on the dismal side streets and I got out and kicked away the snow from around my tires and then went back and forth and back and forth until my car was moving again. By the time I got to the school program my gym shoe shod feet were so wet that even my socks were squishy! I was miserable during the whole program and afterward went straight to the shoe store to get some boots...

What had I been thinking?
I knew the conditions when I went outside but I was unprepared.

Today it was snowing, snowing, snowing. Several inches came down in the time I was out, making it another sloppy winter day. Today though my feet are dry. I was prepared. I was wearing my boots.

Are we prepared when we got out into our days?
Are our hearts ready for the assault which is inevitable?
Are we prepared to deal with discontentment and materialism, selfishness and antagonism, worry and uncertainty?

It shouldn't surprise us when we encounter these in our days.
The question is have we taken the steps to be prepared?

Have we spent some time with our Lord to get the proper perspective and protection against the things we'll be wallowing through as we walk the path of our daily lives?

A new year is upon us. Chances are we'll encounter many of the same things we have in previous years, similiar challenges with family and jobs and relationships, with money, and emotions and health. And chances are there will be things that cross our paths that totally surprise us.
Are we prepared for what is to come?
Can we be?

If I start each day in communion with the Lord of the Universe and the One who loves me so much that He holds me securely in the palm of His hand; then whatever happens I'll know I'm not alone and that it's not just about me and my strength or abilities but that the One who knows when a sparrow falls will be the One who is my help.

And, when you're slogging through messy slush, it makes a world of difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26th


The day after an event is always a curious thing. And when it's today, the day after this whole season of Christmas...

It’s all over. The shopping, the cooking, the decorating, the programs, the running, the planning, the wrapping, the card addressing, the non-stop Christmas music...
It's all over.

So…now what?

I always find there’s a letdown after something I've been looking forward to or working towards is behind me instead of the one huge thing filling my vision.

It would seem to be time to refocus: to that end I've already read several emails, most sent on Christmas day, about the After Christmas Sales. I heard that J.C. Penny was even opening at 5:30 am this morning for shoppers...I wonder if anyone showed up? Who isn't totally worn out with shopping by now? The evening news last night already had diet tips to shed those holiday pounds...and I've even had a couple conversations about Easter plans...!

It's also a time to deal with disappointment; in what didn't happen, wasn't given, or didn't get accomplished before the big deadline of Christmas, or with the gadgets of Christmas that didn't quite live up to the expectations of children, or yourself!

It's a time to reorganize; to deal with leftovers, the food, and wrapping paper and decorations, gifts that need to be exchanged and the general pieces of whatever mayhem took place in your house over the last few days and then of course to assimilate new things into your life and to pack up all the Christmas decor and put it away until next year.

It's a time to return to the real world; after having been able to take a break and spend it with family, friends and in general frivolity today can be like a cold slap of reality as you trek back to work.

Do you ever wonder what happened to Joseph and Mary the day after the baby and the shepherds and all the excitement? When the sun shone the next morning and the people started coming for their horses and donkeys, did they blink and wonder for a second if the previous night was all a fantastic dream? Did they spend the next night in the stable or was there some room found for them in the inn?

What we know is that eight days later Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem where the prophets Simeon and Anna received him. And what we also know is that for Mary, the time after Christ’s birth was a time to ponder.

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19

There is a week here between all we’ve been doing in preparation for Christmas and the beginning of a new year. A time to refocus and reorganize, but also a time to ponder.

Christ has come into the world. A new year is right around the corner.
It's most certainly a time for pondering.

Max Lucado has said of Mary and Martha, those most famous of NT sisters, that Martha had things to do and Mary had thoughts to think.

This is a time for the Mary in all of us.
A time to think.

That the Timeless One stepped into time for us.
That the mystery of the Incarnation was all on our behalf.

That Christ has come.
To you.
For you.

That whatever next year holds we do not face it alone.
That we are never outside the scope of His awareness and concern.

Before you turn your Christmas tree lights off, follow Mary’s example and gather together like treasure the memories of the season, the blessings that have sifted down, the messages you’ve heard, the gifts of love manifested in presents and in their presence of family and friends, and ponder them this week and take from them an energy and richness as you enter a new year.

Remembering that He is Emmanuel, even when Christmas will be just a distant memory, He will still be “God With Us”.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Icons of the Season

The NORAD radar screen is up right now in it's own window as I type. We're watching Santa as he's flying around the world (in Saudi Arabia currently) with those eight little reindeer, and Rudolph of course!

We love Santa. And why not? He's a jolly ol' elf, full of cheer and goodwill (something in short supply in the shopping centers especially today) and he has gifts for all the good little boys and girls.

He's a symbol of generosity and justice. He has those lists and he's checking them twice...and yes, I confess, as a parent having used the famous reasoning of "you better be good because Santa is watching."

He does amazing things; all those toys, that round the world trip, the improbable gifts that miraculously appear under the tree. It's wonderful! And the holiday movies like Miracle on 34th St. and the Santa Claus movie push the probability quotient a bit further towards "well...?".

The Nativity scene. A young Mary and older Joseph tenderly caring for her. The new baby with the glow above him. Adoring shepherds, pristine sheep, heavenly angels and a night sky full of brightness and wonder.

In five months we'll have a new icon before us - the lily festooned cross as symbol and celebration of the resurrection. The babe, grown up, crucified and resurrected and ascended back to heaven where He then becomes to us, Santa...?

A good God, a just God, a watching God waiting to see if we're good or if we are bad. If we are bad he punishes and if we are good he blesses us. We make our lists in forms of prayers filled with requests and hope that in the passing weeks by going to church and loving our fellow man that we've been good enough to earn His favorable answers. And we perpetuate this myth on our children, and in our churches to each other: God is the great man upstairs (like a heavenly North Pole) and He is watching and He has the ability to do amazing things if we're good....

Sounds sacrilegious doesn't it?
Sadly, it's more true than we want to recognize.

Why do you open your Bible, be nice to those you meet, attend church, contribute to charity, abstain from temptation and try to live a good life?
Is it an attempt to be more good than bad?
To be more nice than naughty?
And if not for your salvation do you consider this the route to your sanctification?
People have been attending churches all their lives, and are quick to tell you so when you inquire about their relationship with God. "I've been a member here for 40 years and have taught Sunday school and...and.... and...."

Santa - He's a tool, a symbol, a legend.
God - is not.

God is.

He said so about himself in Exodus "I AM".
Not merely some cultural icon but a Deity that desires this personal intimate relationship with us. Not the grandfather upstairs with some kind of list, or the dictator intent on running your life and ruining your happiness or the insane powerful being that must be appeased by sacrifice, but God our Father, God the creator, God the One who loved us so much that He sent His Son as this baby in the manager so that we'd enjoy an intimate relationship with Him every single day of our lives.

Enjoy Santa (he's in Finland now) but don't mistake God to be as trivial as this jolly ole' elf. He offers you a gift far greater than a seasonal symbol of generosity and justice. Take advantage of His amazing gift that was given in the baby in the manger, the ability to enjoy a growing genuine relationship with Him, the everlasting and Almighty God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Does Your Heart Resemble the Stable?

The Christmas story has forever elevated the lowly stable…

“And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

We’re familiar with the story; big crowds in Bethlehem, no room in the inn, sympathetic innkeeper leads the exhausted couple to the place where the animals are kept. A stable, perhaps a cave, and here it is that the Savior of the World is born. It is to this place that a chorus of heavenly hosts sent the amazed shepherds. There was room here in the stable for Mary and Joseph and the newborn King, and because there was room, Christ came.

We know numerous Christmas songs that convey this concept:

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King, let every heart prepare Him room..."

“O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee.”

In this season, is there room for Christ? Amidst all the frivolity and shopping and stress, is there room in my heart for the arrival of my Savior?

Hold that thought for a moment...

A large part of Christmas consists of decorating our homes and opening them to entertain family and friends. This is another popular song concept you can recognize in lyrics such as:

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go…and the prettiest sight you see is the holly that will be on your own front door...”

”Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…if you want to be happy in a million ways for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home…”

“The door is always open, the neighbors pay a call…”

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

At no other season do we go so out of our way to make our homes a welcoming place.

We put up lights and decorate inside and out. We plan get-togethers and put together special menus. We invite guests, and we do all we can to make them feel welcome and to make our homes resemble the quintessential Currier and Ives Christmas print.

The coming of Christ is no longer a surprise as it was that night of the angels’ announcement.

We enter the Christmas season aware of the fact that this is all heralding the arrival of God incarnate so that He could be Christ crucified, our Redeemer.

Are our hearts made ready for Him as much as our homes are made welcome for our guests?

In our homes we clear the clutter of daily living that’s piled up on the counters. We make extra space in the coat closet. We polish the silver and pull out the china. We prepare with a sense of expectancy.

Do we come into the final days of Christmas with that same sense concerning the preparation of our hearts for Christ?

Or, when He comes, do our hearts resemble more the stable, where room was hastily made in the corner of a foul-smelling place cluttered with filth, where there was no expectancy of His coming? Will the place in our hearts that we give Jesus be filled with the stench of resentment or bitterness, or will the amassing of life’s trappings fill every corner?

There is no doubt that, whatever the environment Christ comes into, He will transform it. We do not have to “clean up” before we come to God. He welcomes us just as we are.

But let me challenge you believer, as you come to this celebration of the birth of Jesus,take the time to prepare your heart, clearing it of attitudes and sin that have lingered, and sweeping aside worries and doubts.

Make ready a place for your Lord, recall your blessings and string them as lights, put up a wreath of unending gratitude, stoke the fire of your devotion, hang a big red bow of love on your door, and expectantly welcome His arrival!







Monday, December 15, 2008

Batteries Not Included

These are the infamous words usually read for the first time at the most inopportunistic times, like, let say, Christmas morning...

A mad scramble about the house ensues; "Batteries, batteries, there must be some around here somewhere" is being heard muttered above the opening and closing of drawers and cabinets. Chances are that even if some are on hand they will not be the correct size! The remote controls are checked and pilfered and then hours and hours later when the battery-powered toy has been abandoned and the parents sit down to relax finally and watch a little TV....

Today the MP3 player's battery went out and my cell phone started beeping to let me know that it too was just about out of energy.

In this season, we so understand how that feels.

Wouldn't it be interesting if we had those little battery icons on our foreheads, showing the decreasing bars…?
We get our schedules for the festivities, others expectations, our own aspirations, and then down the road find that "Batteries NOT included".

So where do we find these much needed batteries for this time?
Where do we plug in to be recharged?

I guess it might be a little different for all of us, just like every electronic gadget I have has a chord specifically for it that doesn't work for any of the others(!), but there are some generalities that help us all.

Get some extra sleep - a nap, an earlier bedtime, some time relaxing in a chair between events - restorative sleep is an amazing thing.

Take time for a friend - okay, so you may not be able to put your head on a pillow but you can contact a friend - however that is, in person or by phone, and if you can do it over coffee that's just so much the better! Even a few emails or texts can give you a little extra boost. I find it true that, as the quote says, Friends double our joys and halve our troubles.

Spend some time with the Lord - The words are familiar from the most famous psalm of all; “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides the still waters, He restores my soul.”
Or could we perhaps substitute “recharges my soul”?
Time with God tends to change my frantic or exhausted perspective and reminds me that He is in control, I am never alone, and He’s promised to meet my needs and take care of me.

I can feel the bars increasing…

May you as well.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pieces of Christmas

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care..."

It's not my house they're talking about, perhaps my neighbor's with the amazing outdoor light display but it's not mine because at my house:

* the tree has stood bare in the corner for a week now, lite only because it came out of the box that way!

* the Christmas photos have been printed yet there are no cards and the address list is MIA

* there are 12 days until Christmas yet the countdown calendar is still in the box of decorations

* I only have an idea for a gift that should have already been in the mail should I hope for it to get there by Christmas

* the Christmas socks that were multiplying like bunnies every time I went looking for normal socks have now apparently gone into hibernation

* the components for various handmade gifts have been purchased yet only a week remains to get them assembled

* I have an amazing Christmas village yet it's been packed away so long it's become a dim memory

* the outside Christmas lights are sitting, in the box, inside.

I have pieces of Christmas.

Various, scattered, random pieces of Christmas.

I doubt that I'll be able to assemble them in time to make that picturesque Currier and Ives holiday.

(sigh)

I seriously don't know how this happened.
The date of Christmas has not changed.
The stores have been heralding it's arrival since mid-October.
I've even scaled back my expectations and aspirations yet still here I am with only pieces...

So what do I do as Christmas is scattered around me? As I roll up my sleeves and determine to get it all done I realize it's not probable. What if those stockings never get hung by the chimney with care?

I know this wasn't the intent of Christmas; the angels said "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will toward men; maybe this is what it’s really all about?

Even though I already know the story and adore the Christ child, perhaps this reminder is for me amidst my pieces of the perfect holiday?

That perhaps the most important piece to have of Christmas is peace in my heart?

I am not going to find it at the mall, or in the boxes of decorations, the beautiful tree, the perfect gift, or the whirl of events I’m attending.
I will only find that peace through my ongoing relationship with the One who came so long ago to a manger, because that was the whole reason He came; to have this relationship with me.

All of these pieces that are strewn around me, stem from the fact that two thousand years ago God made it possible for me to know Him...







Wow. That's amazing.













Suddenly the stockings just don’t seem as important.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Lavish Love

I think the car ads this time of year are hysterical. I mean who buys someone a car for Christmas? Do you know of anyone who has ever been given a new car for Christmas? And yet every year we see the same commercials. Also right there in lunacy, in my opinion, are the ones for diamond bracelets - only $999.99 with a free gift box...I've never had an occasion to wear a thousand dollar bracelet, have you?

These would be lavish gifts.

I love the word lavish; how it sounds and how even the definition sounds, well, lavish; Characterized by or produced with extravagance and profusion
Immoderate in giving or bestowing
Unstinting
To give or bestow in abundance: shower


Extravagance - like a car
Immoderate - like diamonds
Profusion - like a Fruit of the Month Club

Wouldn't you love to be able to give lavishly?
Okay, wouldn't it be fun to be the recipient of lavish giving? (Go ahead; be honest, we would all answer "yes")

God loves us lavishly.

In the gift of the Savior.(Luke 2:11)
In the blessings and provisions we see as God opens his hand to meet our needs and we are satisfied. (Psalms 104)
In the new strength and mercies given to us morning by morning. (Lamentations 3:23)

What is more precious than the blood that's been shed on our behalf to wash away our sin and give us a home in heaven? Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! I John 3:1

And what is more consistent than the daily attention of an Almighty God to the details of our life? Psalms 37:23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.He delights in every detail of their lives.

John 1:16 says it best, "For of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (NASB) one gracious blessing upon another (NLT) grace to grace (KJV) one blessing after another (NIV).

It wouldn't take many minutes of contemplation for you to realize this is true in your own life - blessing upon blessing, grace for each day, forgiveness for each failure, unfailing love despite rejecting him, strength for each conflict, rest for your troubled soul, peace in the midst of pressure, grace upon grace upon grace - a lavish love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding Myself in the Old Testament

I love the Israelites.
As a kid I couldn't understand what their problem was; here it is they see the Red Sea parted before them and their enemies drowned behind them and three days later, THREE DAYS, they're all whining in the wilderness that they're hungry and there's no food.
I couldn't believe anyone's memory could be that short!

As an adult I find I resemble them more than I care to admit...

I don't think it's a matter of memory so much as it is of intensity.
Life comes at you fast and we deal with stuff and then, bam, we're onto the next thing and by the time a week passes the thing that was so huge and important a week ago is practically forgotten. There's no time to sit on the couch and mediate on the good things, something else is pounding on the door for attention!

That's why I love the Israelites because they never really seemed to get it. They'd praise, and then they'd complain and then He'd provide and they'd praise and then three days later start complaining again...they're so ME...

The beauty of the Israelites story though is not in their humanness but in how God deals with them. He loves them, faithfully, through all the cycles of praise and complaint, of rejection and repentance, not only through their lifetimes but for generations.

The Israelites I read of in the Bible are dead and gone but God is the same God.

The God who took care of them is the same God who takes care of me.
He has compiled quite a resume throughout the record of Scripture.
So what am I worrying about?

Monday, December 8, 2008

I was created to...

As a parent you do the best that you can; and occasionally you have the pleasure of discovering you're doing something right...

My daughter had her first performance as a member of the Chicago Children's Choir. To this point it had only been rehearsals, and meetings, and an outlay of money; tuition, fundraisers, and a very specific uniform, and now it was time to see her sing. I went because this is what parents do. We go to band concerts with earplugs and Little League games with sunscreen, bug spray and snacks, and to endless soccer games huddled under blankets by season's end because this is how we support our children in variety of things they're attempting.

I, however, found this concert to be vastly different and I sat with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat the entire time Katie was performing because there was no doubt that this was her niche. She shone there onstage and even the vast distance from the risers to mid auditorium could not conceal her pure joy.

In the grand finale she was lost from view in a group of a couple hundred children.
Did her voice make a difference in that vast group? No.
Did her being a part of this great endeavor make a difference to her? Absolutely.

There was a song with the phrase "I was created to make Your praise glorious", it was vibrant and upbeat. Watching her sing there was no doubt that Katie was created to be in a performing choir.

What if that song is true? What if you and I were created to make God’s praise glorious? And to do so through whatever means and in whatever way God has gifted us to do so?

We’re not all gifted to be singers, if so, who would listen? But we have all been crafted in a particular way to lend our own personal tenor to this anthem of God’s praise, so that as we come together, His praise is glorious, vibrant, with the ability to move a watching world to the realization that this is something more than religion or ritual because it’s so very real to us.

Is this some face we put on? Some “praise the Lord” attitude we adopt? Not at all. This praise springs from who we are and the relationship we are currently enjoying with the One who created us. And therefore it will emanate out of our lives because we are so filled with it.

You were created to make His praise glorious. This is your niche.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What I know that you don't....

It’s the Christmas season, which means it’s the season of secrets!

Lists are being made and checked off: gifts purchased and quickly squirreled away from curious eyes. It’s both the fun and frustration of the season. Fun if you know exactly what would be the perfect gift and you can get your hands on it, and frustrating if you haven’t yet figured out what gift will make their eyes light up or if you waited in line for it in the cold darkness at 4 am after Thanksgiving and found they were gone by the time you got to that department…

I know things that my children don’t.
And I see them alternately wishing and whining about something they want.

I already have it for them.
I’m just waiting for it to be the right time.

It makes me wonder if it’s the same way with God.
He knows what we need, what we think we need and what we want.
He hears our prayers and our complaints as we anxiously keep asking.

If I as a parent have this understanding and ability to have these awesome gifts in store for my kids, when the time is right; isn’t it a pretty simple step of faith to realize that God might be doing the same with us?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8,9

Monday, December 1, 2008

Immanuel


God

The Most High

Creator

Supreme Deity

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Potentate of all time



Is

present tense being verb

as in right here, right now



With

alongside

next to

partner

has jumped in with both feet



Us

personally

intimately



Immanuel - God is with us



What impact does that have on you today?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

No Matter How Small

I’m a big baby.
I caught my finger on the edge of a metal can and tore off a tiny piece of skin, so I had to stop what I was doing and find a band-aid.

Did it really need the care and protection of a band-aid?
I thought so.
I’m sure almost anyone else would have just shaken it off and gone on without having to stop and take care of it but it hurt and it was bleeding and mattered to me that it was taken care of.

One of the things I love about God is that what matters to me, matters to Him.
The tiniest things that hurt me I can bring to His attention.
I don’t have to be “strong” or “brave” or just “suck it up and deal with it”.
I am welcome in His presence. Throughout each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me…give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. (Psalms 42:8, Psalms 55:22)

The Lord nurses them when they are sick and eases their pain and discomfort.(Psalms 41:3)

In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears. (Psalms 18: 6)

I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me, freeing me from all my fears. (Psalms 34:4)

Notice that there is no qualification of fears here. What greatly troubles me may not give you cause for concern; but justifiable or not, when I cry to the Lord in my distress He delivers me from my fears; when I come to Him with a wound, no matter how small, He pulls out the band-aids.

My hurts and my fears matter to the Creator of the Universe!
He is attentive to my needs!
So it is no wonder that…those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. (Psalms 34:5)
And all that is left then to say is; how great is the Lord, and how much we should praise Him! (Psalms 48:1)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Safe

My daughter came stumbling into our room at 4 a.m.
“I had a bad dream”, she said as she crawled into bed.
Did she want to talk about it?
An immediate, adamant “No!”
Ten minutes she was sound asleep safe in her dad’s arms.

Safe
When she experienced this bad thing she went to where she would feel safe.

Later in the morning she told me about her bad dream and it wasn’t as scary to her in the 7 am brightness as it had been in the dark. Could we have explained that it wasn’t that bad and just a dream to her in the middle of the night? Not a chance, at that point she just needed to feel surrounded and protected.

When trouble comes, overwhelming troubles like the constant crashing of waves on the seashore, where do you go to be safe?

I wrap myself in scripture and claim the promises that God is…
a refuge and help in time of need (Psalms 46)
the Shepherd who supplies my needs and walks with me through the valleys (Psalms 23)
the God who knows the way that I am taking (Job 23)
who delights in every detail of my life (Psalm 37)
who is acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139)
who will work all things together for my good, (Romans 8)
who will bring to completion the work He has started in my life (Philippians 1)
and that nothing shall separate me from God’s love (Romans 8)
I stay here for a while, resting in this surrounding assurance that God is in control and that I am in his strong and capable hands.

And after a while, when it’s not as dark, I can look more clearly at the situation, and talk about it and see what can be done just as Katie could this morning but in the meantime there is much to be said for having a place to go to get through the night.

I talked to a man this week who explained to me what he believed about the Bible; that the Gospels are the core of the Bible and contain truth and the rest of the Bible, the further you get from the life of Christ, is more and more subject to question; therefore by the time you get to the Creation story and Noah’s Ark it couldn’t possibly have happened.
Science, history, his own observations and experiences seem to be the filters he puts God’s Word through to determine if what this verse is saying is valid or not. Those that gel with his own base of knowledge, these are the Word of God. Those that don’t, well, not so much.

As I have thought about this conversation I come to one conclusion: how very very sad.

If the Bible says that “God will provide all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4) and you see suffering in Africa and therefore conclude that this is not a valid promise, where will you go when you are needy?

Perhaps this is why Jesus said we are to come with a childlike faith – trusting – Remember Nicodemus? He was a learned man but he came to Jesus because there were things He’d said that he did not understand – How can a man be born again when he is old? (John 3) This was impossible! Yet, when Christ explained that he was speaking about it from an entirely different perspective, the validity became apparent

In another conversation I had with some Jehovah Witnesses they said that God is capable of knowing about everything that’s going on in the world but He chooses what he wants to be aware of.

So when my life is crashing down around me, do I have to hope that God is tuned in to me today?
If I’m not on his list of “People to check in on today” than He won’t know that my world has just imploded?

I told these women that my God is bigger than that.
God is big enough to know what’s going on everywhere and in all lives at the same time.
Can I explain or even fathom that? Of course not!
Does that mean that God cannot do that since I can’t imagine it? Not at all.

Do we want a God or a Bible that we can explain and fully understand?

Do I want God to be so small that I can understand Him?

If I could understand Him and His ways than wouldn’t I be just like Him and God would then be no more capable or powerful than myself?

Now that is something to be scared about.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rescue

Mid November, 40 degrees
Saturday, 4:30 pm
The last errand after a day full of errands
Milk, toilet paper, movie rental and we’re homeward bound.
Walking out of the grocery store bags in hand, keys? Where are the car keys?

Oh no, they’re still in the ignition…

All day long I’d been sending my daughter back to the car to lock the door when we’d stopped. I wish I hadn't sent her back this time...

She sang Christmas carols as we walked home, skipping and swinging the plastic bag. I was too busy being angry at being so stupid. Seriously I left the keys in the ignition!?! It doesn’t get much more stupid than something like that and now I had to walk home, get the spare key, ride the bike back to the car, shove the bike into the car and then I could drive home. The afternoon had been overcast and it would be dark in less than an hour so now I’ll be riding a bike in the cold and the dark. So stupid…! There was no doubt that this was all my doing, all my fault, my bed to lie in, my really not comfortable shoes to walk home in…

A mile later a familiar voice interrupted both the singing and the stewing, “Hey, you need a ride?”

We’d been rescued!
Our very own knight (well family of knights) in their shinning blue van had come to our aid!

A ride home, a ride back to the car and it didn’t matter how dark or cold it was because there was no one riding around on a bike!

Effervescent thanks and such relief!
Chivalry wins out over stupidity!
Rescue over failure.
Mercy over mistakes...

When I got up this morning I had no idea I’d need to be rescued before the day was over.
I didn’t know I’d make such a stupid mistake. And it’s a mistake I’ve made several times before – hadn’t I learned any better by now?

The fact that I’d done this before and still did it again didn’t matter. What mattered is that I needed help and there was nothing I could do to help myself.

The cross still stands for you believer who at the end of your day find you’ve made the same mistake, committed the same sin, or have failed yet again. The arms that spread as wide as the beams of the cross to show how much God loves you still are open to you.
Redemption from sin and forgiveness for failure are still available, even if this is not your first time flat on your face. He stands ready to rescue, to forgive, to restore.

Should we stop trying to live right lives then since there is always forgiveness to avail ourselves of? Is it easier “to ask forgiveness instead of permission”?

That’s such an old question I’ll let the apostle Paul answer, “Shall we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not!” Romans 6:1

But when I inevitably fall there is rescue available. There is grace on my behalf, If I confess my sin, He is still faithful and just to forgive.(1 John 1:9).

I have driven hundreds of miles, maybe even thousands without locking my keys in the car, but when I did, and when you do, there is mercy.
The cross still stands. God still loves, still forgives. The blood that was shed for your redemption still flows to cover your sin. The grace that saved is the same grace that restores. Even if you knew better, even if you’ve made that mistake before, or if you’ve walked circumspectly for years and now have stumbled, God still reaches down a hand of rescue; just humbly and gratefully take it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Appointment

9:05 a.m.

“I’d like to make an appointment.”

“Let me take your number and we’ll call you back.”

By the end of the day still no phone call to schedule the appointment, not to mention then how long it may be to have the actual meeting.

A lesson that is learned well and early is this: If you want to have an appointment by September, you’d better call and schedule it in July.

My education came with my first call to the OBGYN.

“I’d like to schedule a prenatal exam. I just found out I’m pregnant!”

“Is there any particular day that you’d like to see the doctor?”

“As soon as possible. I’m available at any time.” (Of course I was available any time of any day; nothing would stand between me and the health of my baby!)

“Okay, let’s see… the earliest available appointment would be at 2 p.m., three weeks from Thursday.”

Three weeks from Thursday! How could they put me off for that long? I was pregnant. This was my first baby; terrible things could happen in three weeks – didn’t they understand how important this was to me?

Routine appointment? A couple of months.
Impacted tooth? Rising Fever? Wheezing Cough? A couple of days.
Emergency services necessary? Even then a couple of hours.

Seldom does it seem like what is important to me is urgent to anyone else.

The lack of availability to meet my needs reminds me again that I am one of
hundreds...thousands...millions...billions...

What about trying to make an appointment with a specialist or a person of great influence? How long of a wait would that be?

Are you seeking an audience with a boss, CEO, or the President of the United States?

If, and that is a very big IF, they will see you , it will be on their terms whenever that would be.

I attempted to make two appointments today.
I guess when the office opens tomorrow I’ll attempt to set up this first appointment again and again wait for them to return my call.

The second,
I was ushered in immediately.

No hassle
No waiting
No other visitors but me

I had an audience with the most powerful, knowledgeable and influential person in the universe.

“When you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
I will be found of you, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:12-14

There is not greater physician or counselor, He is a specialist in all matters and had a wide – open space in His appointment book and was just waiting for my call.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Causing God delight...

I watched my girlfriend dancing at her daughter's wedding and can not even communicate the pure joy that was causing the Cheshire like grin on my face. She was having the time of her life and I was so thrilled for her.

Everything at the reception looked familiar as place cards, favors, programs, and centerpieces have been the topics of our conversations over the past several months. I've watched her running here and there and compiling information for weeks as she's helped her daughter with all the planning and preparation and now it had all come together and it was absolutely fantastic.

Being happy makes us, well, happy! And it's not often that we feel deliriously happy as we go through our days. We're not sad either, we're just normal, balanced, dealing with whatever we are at the moment.

But then there are those precious moments like this where you are filled with joy, or laughter; when you are just delighted.

Often Scripture mentions how God takes delight in us. Takes delight in us! We make him happy - we bring Him joy. How amazing that we can please the God of the universe!

And how do we delight him? Proverbs gives a us a couple ways.
The Lord detests people with crooked hearts,but he delights in those with integrity.(Proverbs 11:20)
The Lord detests lying lips,but he delights in those who tell the truth.(Proverbs 12:22)
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,but he delights in the prayers of the upright.(Proverbs 15:8)
The Lord detests evil plans,but he delights in pure words.(Proverbs 15:26)

That's all pretty straightforward. Remember that we can never earn God's love for He already loves us fully and unconditionally and no matter what we do or don't do. He cannot love us anymore or any less than He already does.

But I think there is another way we cause God joy.
Why was I so happy for my girlfriend?
Why was I not as equally pleased by the happiness I saw on her sister's face, or her mother's? Simple; I had not walked with them the steps leading up to this point. I'd not seen their work, their struggle, or their effort.

Paul in Romans 7 writes so eloquently of the situation we all find ourselves in, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do...For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing..."

Sound familiar?

While God takes delight in integrity and pure words and prayer and telling the truth, I suspect that God is also delighted when he sees our success in areas in which we struggle - whatever those areas may be. No doubt we are have not fully arrived at where we should be but even a small victory is still a victory.

Perhaps you long to be a better spouse, friend, parent, or more consistent in your relationship with God, or you struggle to overcome a temptation, an addiction or a besetting sin and you find that at the end of the day you've only taken perhaps a small step forward. Or perhaps you’ve made no progress at all but you are determined that tomorrow you will try again. We are his children and we who are parents understand how in your heart you are always pulling for your kids to be able to accomplish what they are trying to do and how you rejoice when they do.

If we have that ability as parents, and if I can feel that same way as a friend, let us be comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that He who is always with us knows our struggles and also rejoices in each step forward that we make.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What God Can Do


I have decorated the inside of my home with garlands of fall leaves.
It looks nice.
I have beautified a small space.

God has changed millions of leaves into an array of brilliant colors.
I drive down long boulevards under colorful leafy canopies.
If I were to drive hundreds of miles in any direction I will see the same thing.
God has beautified thousands of miles in this season.

We can do something but what God can do, in comparison to what we are able to do... well, there is no comparison.

In my own effort I can do things for God but if instead God is doing the work through me...I don't think we can even imagine what is possible.

D.L Moody said, "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him."

Do what you can, where you are and when you have done all you can trust that if your heart's motivation is the glory of God that God is more than capable to take your small effort and increase it's impact far beyond what you can imagine.
We cannot comprehend the greatness of His power. (Job 37:5)

Just look at the trees....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Planting Hope

This year the procrastinator in me did not win because I’ve been given the gift of a second chance in the form of a 70-degree day in November to get my bulbs in the ground so that this spring there will be flowers.

I'm planting hope.
Working now for future results.
Burying ugly lumps of dried up flaky-skinned brown bulbs in expectation of colorful daffodils and tulips five months from now.

You, who are in ministry, you too are weekly consistently planting hope as you present God's Word in expectation that it will take root and blossom in lives.

You, who are parents, are planting hope that the things you've said a million times to your children will become the principles that guide them in their adult lives.

You, who are married, are planting hope as you sacrificially give your time, love, and attention to your spouse that when you reach your fiftieth anniversary it is because you still love each other and not that you just never got divorced.

You, who are a friend, are planting hope in the time you spend in contact with each other, electronically or in person that this relationship will grow only more intimate and sweeter as time goes on.

We plant hope constantly in all the different facets of our lives and it means that our hands get dirty and that we're not going to see immediate results...

You, who love Christ, are you planting seeds of truth in your life by opening God’s Word for yourself?
God promises over and over again that his Word will accomplish what He intends, it will never go out and be useless (Isaiah 55:10,11). It is building in us a foundation of truth and principles so that when we have a decision to make, we already know what is truth in our hearts. Spending time planting God’s word in our heart increases our faith because it opens our eyes to His hand on and in our lives.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1) it makes substantive what isn’t currently there in confidence that it will be. Faith is taking action on what we can't see.

It is planting because it is confident there will be flowers.
Faith is hope with dirty hands.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Do Leaves Change Colors?




It's that time of year again. Most trees are no longer green instead sporting richly colored coats of yellow, orange and red which brings up the perennial question, "Why do leaves change color?"

There are massive scientific answers but very simply it's because Autumn is a very revealing time...

All spring and summer photosynthesis is going on in the leaves. Chlorophyll is produced causing the leaves to be green and the leaves are giving off oxygen. This is their season and they are contributing to the good of the world around them.

Then the nights get cool and the weather drier and suddenly what has worked for months works no longer. The flow of nutrients from the tree is cut off and the chlorophyll disappears and the there is no more green color. What is revealed are the colors they were underneath all along, behind the mask of green and/or their colors also reveal what has been stored up or trapped in the leaves when the supply of nutrients ceased.

Trapped sugars produce the reds and leaves that turn immediatly brown reveal trapped poison.

Why do have trouble?
Why do we who love the Lord and seek to serve him find ourselves victims of the same things that plague ungodly, God mocking people?
Why aren't our lives one continued blessing of God after another?

When life is good,days are warm, and breezes are gentle, we are all green.
When life stops working, we show our true colors...
Let your difficulties reveal the sweetness of a confident assurance that you have stored up deep in your heart that God is in control.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick? or Treat?

It was Halloween, 1966 and the phone rang in the red brick house. The baby they had been waiting to adopt was now ready to be brought to them; would they like their daughter tonight? The woman was worried, she had a cold and was afraid this would keep them from bringing over the infant...So while cowboys, princesses and ghosts traversed the neighborhood in search of candy, Lee and Virginia Fisher became parents. And every Halloween for years my mom would tell me how I was their Halloween treat.

But this is the "happily ever after" part of the story.

What about the years previous to this joyous ending? What about the disappointment, frustration and angst of the almost twenty years that preceded it as they tried everything to have children? What about the cruel trick that kept them from becoming parents as their siblings had families of 3, 4, and 5 children already: when others carried new babies and they did not?

Our lives are suddenly thrown these seemingly cruel tricks, and there are health or financial or family or personal crises. Suddenly the carpet is yanked out from under you and you find yourself sitting on the floor going "what just happened?"; be it by a phone ringing in the middle of the night, a pink slip, an injury, an argument, an accident, or something just does not work no matter how hard you try.

What if your entire business was wiped out, the majority of your staff killed and your children crushed by a falling building? Your wife, overcome with the grief, lashes out and says you'd be better off dead too. Add to this a group of friends who come and, because they love to hear themselves talk, offer their advice and long discourses about what you've done to deserve these awful things that have happened to you...

See here another man who is so hated by his brothers that they have thrown him to the ground and as a mob stand around him with murder in their eyes until one brother steps up and says "Let's make some money off him instead. We can sell him as a slave." and suddenly he's tied to a camel, the property of strangers...

Here is a widow who is pulling out the last cup of flour and a drizzle of oil and carefully combining it, losing not a single bit, as she prepares to make one final small cake for her and her son. This is all the food there is, she can get no more, they will eat it and then wait to die and now there is a stranger at the door asking her for something to eat...

The man who lost everything says "But he knows where I am going.And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold." and then it turns out that "The Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning" (Job 23:10, 42:12)

The man stripped of his freedom and sold into slavery now stands as a ruler in Egypt and says to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." (Genesis 50:20)

And the poor widow, who gives her last piece of bread to the prophet of God, discovers that she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. (I Kings 17:15,16)

When all we see is the trick in our lives we have to open our eyes of faith and cling to the fact that "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8,9) for we know that "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1)

Our faith allows us to be confident that God knows what is happening in our lives and that He has a plan.

God knows what is his ultimate purpose is through the hard things that are happening to us. We have been promised that "God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (Philippians 1:6) and that He is working all the things in our lives together for our good so that we will be more like Jesus. (Romans 8:28).

So, this hardship in your life, is it a cruel trick?
Does it have the ability to become a treat?

Be confident and assured that God has not abandoned you.
In His time He will work out His purpose in your life.
Your faith will be affirmed.
He is worthy of our trust for "The word of the Lord holds true and we can trust everything he does" and we know that "to the faithful you (God) show yourself faithful" (Psalms 33:4, 18:25)

No matter what is currently in your pumpkin...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Authoritative Headgear

My daughter is designing a roman goddess costume and that has caused me to be thinking about laurel wreaths, papal hats, and crowns.

I have a group of girlfriends with whom we celebrate each other’s birthdays. We have our very own birthday tiara, which the birthday girl has to wear while we are at the restaurant signifying to everyone around us that she is someone special. (and yes, we do get many second looks)

Although we do not have a queen, that serenely waves as her carriage is escorted down Main Street USA, we are familiar with the concept of sovereignty.

Our music is filled with references to God as king and that we are to “crown him with many crowns.” We know that God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

What I find amazing however is that although God is King he does not overtake the throne of my heart by force.

He waits until I finally come to the realization that He is God and that I am not and that He is the one capable of ruling my life and that I must take the crown from my head and put it on His. I must be the one who crowns him as king.

How I would love to say that this was for me a one-time deal; but what I find is that it’s more of a daily rite of devotion. (And I use that word intentionally for we are familiar with it as
"devotions" a time of Bible reading and prayer but do we remember what the word devotion actually is attesting to?)

Each morning I find myself stepping up to the throne ready to control my day and my destiny and then at some point I realize, yet again, that I have made myself monarch.

How I love that God, although he is King, does not come to me as despot but waits until I willingly step down from the dais, remove the crown from my own head and place it on his. There is no overthrowing of our government by his forces. He waits until we willingly make Him Lord and gives us that choice.

And then there are the times that the King of my Life asks of me something I am unwilling to do and I snatch back the crown because I know a better or easier way, until I fail and finally acknowledge that His will is ultimately for my good and again crown him the almighty sovereign God.

King of my life
I crown thee now
Thine shall the glory be…

That crown is in your hands, right now, and every moment of every day; on whose head will it be placed?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Small Pleasures

(I thought about taking an actual picture of this event to add to the words, but it was too scary... )
I am having "tea".
All by myself at ten in the morning I have made a pot of coconut chi tea, taken out my china teapot and cup and the special silver teaspoon. I have put on a beautiful CD mix and have made cranberry scones and a batch of devonshire cream.

In front of me sits beauty and serenity.

Well, correction, before me sits beauty and serenity in a space on my dinning room table.
Also occupying the surface area was a basket of apples, assorted Lego's, a hairbrush, paper towels, photographs, scattered mail and some Operation Christmas Child boxes making the rest of the table not at all serene!

So why, with all that obviously needed attending to, had I pushed back an area for "a spot of tea" ?

A friend had sent for my birthday some of the things I was using for my personal tea party. In my way of thinking gifts are all about providing a complement or an opportunity to the person you're giving to. So as I'd been given the opportunity for a moment of quiet beauty, I took it.

There will always be something to do.
There will always be more to do than time to do it.

Always.

A wide open space in your schedule will never appear to meet a friend or forgot everything else and play with a child, to close your eyes and get lost in a piece of magnificent music or dance in the kitchen or to stand outside on a fall day and drink it the vibrant colors and cool breeze on your skin and the smell of wood smoke on the air.

The work will be there when you get back to it.

So let me challenge you today to find a moment - ten seconds or ten minutes - to experience some of the pleasures that lie just beyond the reach of an obsessed with "gotta get it all done" mind, and I bet that when you wade back into the fray that you will be refreshed and more effective and clearer minded than before you took this intentional break.

"Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures..." H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adopted = Wanted and Chosen

(I speak as an adopted child, not an adoptive parent so if my suppositions are not accurate I apologize.)

There are no unplanned adoptions.

There are children from unplanned pregnancies, or pregnancies that were more or less intentional and then, those children who've resulted from a very intentional desire to have a child.

Adoption can be like the choice to get pregnant; there is this desire for a child and action towards that end and then the uncertainty of how things are developing. A pregnancy however is usually a set amount of time, a certain procedure whereas an adoption hasn’t this set time frame and involves from start to finish many deliberate actions

The one thing though that all pregnancies have in common and that is that pretty much when your child is born – you have a child. Period.

There are no “call backs”, no return policy, no Plan B.

You are now a parent and have both the privilege and responsibility of taking care of this person.

My mom had told me about when I came into their lives. There had been a previous baby that had fallen through at the very end. Then the day came that they received a call about me; I was to be theirs if they wanted. I’d be in their arms tonight if that was still their desire…

They could have still said “No”.

Up until that very last moment there was the ability to walk away and say, “Thanks but no thanks.”

To adopt is to choose and to pursue and to “take responsibility for a child with a spotted past and a dubious future.

God has adopted you.
God sought you,
found you,
signed the papers and
took you home.” (Max Lucado- The Great House of God)

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:4-9

Perhaps this truth will not strike you as it has me. I was unwanted by someone but wanted by someone else, longed for, and deliberately chosen to be a part of their family.

We, who are the children of God, have all been desired, longed for, snatched from death and given life, through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, in order to become children of God.

When it was the time for the Cross, could not Christ have said, “You know, I think I’ll pass…”?

So maybe today, for just a moment, revel in the fact that your relationship with God didn’t just happen, it wasn’t a “oops” or an “oh well”, it is intentional.

You are a child of God because God wants you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not In My Plans...

July 6th – Get this sudden idea about having a huge neighborhood wide Back To School Bash on a Sunday afternoon all around the outside of the church campus.

-Pitch it to the deacons, am given a thousand dollar budget and offers of help

July – August 31
- Plan games
- Choose and order appropriate and budget friendly prizes
- Make ten separate visits to various stores for school supplies at the lowest possible prices

Sunday - Sep. 7 - Have a massive sign-up list in church and 28 people agree to give up their afternoon and help
- Answer the question “what will we do if it rains?” with a confident “If God could cause the sun to shine for Joshua an additional 24 hours so that he could win the battle, surely He can make it not rain on Sunday afternoon”

Mon – Friday – Make massive lists of details still be to attended to
- Rent popcorn machine, hot dog steamer, inflatable, arrange for tents
- Buy massive quantities of popcorn and hot dogs
- Watch the forecast predicting rain all week
- Answer more questions about what will we do if it rains?
- Have 7 helpers distribute more than 400 flyers all around the neighborhood
- Send emails and make phone calls to those who understand the fervency of intercession that they will pray that it will not rain.

Saturday – 8 pm
Sunday’s forecast – 100% chance of rain – something you never see – 100% and it’s been raining virtually nonstop all day Friday and all day today.

Lord….
This was your idea from the beginning. You have provided the strength, inspiration, and creativity for this entire event. If it rains we’re sunk because no one will come and all the money has been spent.

Lord, it is now I need to remember the things I know:

Moses and the children of Israel at the Red Sea
Joshua looking at the fortified city of Jericho
The servant whose borrowed ax head has flown off and into the river
The widow preparing the last meal for her and her son
Thousands of people listening on a hillside with no food save 5 rolls and 2 fish
The darkness of Calvary as you’ve breathed your last and there’s been no miraculous rescue from heaven

Because these stories are in the Bible, and the end has already been written, it is difficult to remember that they were real people – with genuine anxiety about the impossible in front of them and all their resources exhausted.

There is nothing I can do Father. I have no control over the weather, only you do.

I am counting on you – this whole thing was your idea from the beginning and meant for your glory and to promote your name – how much you would be honored by giving us a beautiful afternoon – of course the doubt in me would ask you to make it beautiful first thing in the morning so that the set-up will not be so soggy…Lord Jesus, be glorified, in my own heart and amongst your church here and to this neighborhood.

And Father, should the clouds continue their weeping throughout tomorrow may I rest in peace that this was also part of your plan to accomplish whatever purpose this was all meant to accomplish…

Sunday –


Midnight to 6 am – waking up periodically, praying that it does not rain…

6:30 am – faint pink in the sky, everything is wet but IT IS NOT RAINING!!!!

7:30 am - steadily raining heavily – radar map for the day is solid green

Tropical depression caused by Hurricane Ike – band of rain from the most intense center in Texas all the way to Canada – mostly yellow in the center path flanked by green…it doesn’t look good…

Father, hold an umbrella over 11024 Bell and please put it in place by the time we get there when the decision needs to be made…

9:30 am – POURING

10 am – Moved the signs to indicate the outdoor carnival is now indoors – get totally soaked, cancel the inflatable

11am – Sunday service begins, still pouring, my heart feels like the weather outside.

12:30 – Everything starts inside –it's loud and confused but many have stayed to help and families have come and there are many smiles and a lot of fun and... it continues to rain -

3 pm – Event ends – and so finally does the rain…

Father, I am disappointed in the weather. I was faithful in my preparation, in my ascribing glory to you, in fervent prayer and yet it still rained. This wasn’t part of my plans – my massively detailed, page after page of plans for this day...

But it was in your plan all along.
I wish I knew why.

I wish I knew what purpose you had in mind to accomplish..
But I don’t.
All I know is that my plans did not include rain, but yours did.

So Lord -and as I say that I am ascribing to you that you are Lord, my master, my God, and the potentate of all - may I rest in the assurance that you are God and I am not and that you know what you are doing, even though I don’t.

And may we all find our peace here when things don’t work out the way we planned.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

Isaiah 55:8,9 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tools in the hand of God

I have to say that one of my favorite attributes of God is His constant presence.
God doesn't occasionally "pop" into my life to check out how things are going but He abides with me; there in every moment.

Because we are constantly in the presence of God He uses the ordinary things in our lives to draw our attention to Him. In essence this is the theme of everything I write - God in our everyday stuff.

Today God used a TV dinner to bring me into grateful worship.

I had warmed one up for lunch and it was...well, it was a frozen dinner - could have better, probably could have been worse...and I thought about how I never buy these dinners anymore but how for a year I bought a stack every couple of weeks. My mom had fallen and broken her hip and the best I could do in a culinary way was to make sure her fridge was full of food that was easy to get to and prepare. So there was lots of yogurt, oatmeal, applesauce and simple things, and a stack of frozen dinners - all varieties, all kinds of combinations and night after night she'd heat one up for dinner.

My mom is now in heaven and no longer does she have to eat tasteless meals from black plastic trays. Suddenly God used my bland lunch to cause me to praise Him that now she is feasting at His table and in His presence!

So keep your eyes open as you go through your day.

Let God use, as He chooses, the stuff around you to bring you into conversation with Him.

Let Him exalt something as simple as a TV dinner into an instrument of praise and an example of His love.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why do I go to Church?

I'm not going to answer this question.

And notice that I am not asking 'Why do people go to church?' or 'Why should you go to church?"; the question is 'Why do YOU go to church?'

This was a question I wrestled with most of the summer.
I know the "correct" answer but what I needed to know was my own personal answer; the completely honest answer that God already knows and perhaps I have kept hidden from myself.

I will tell you that the first answer that came to my mind was "because it would feel weird not to". My second thought was "now that's a rotten answer", but it was true. I've gone to church all my life so to sit home consistently on a Sunday morning would feel pretty strange.

But is that enough of a reason?

I lead an adult Sunday school class and we vary greatly in how many people are there any given Sunday, which of course leads to the discussion of how do we get people to come to Sunday school? It's obviously not so much of a habit as is attendance at the morning service.

I was in a heated discussion last night about children in the church service as opposed to being in children's church and I find that the answer circles back to this question - Why do I go to church? and therefore why do I take my children to church?

Our churches are packed with people who have sat in the pews every Sunday of their lives because of the answer "It's what we do on Sunday".

I contend that is not enough of an answer.

The second answer is "It's where my friends are".
A sense of community is a wonderful and needful thing - why else would there be as many organizations as there are, Elks and Lions and women's clubs etc., if we didn't have this longing in us to be identified with a group of like minded individuals - and to have a place to bring that great new pot luck recipe...!

But is that answer enough?
I think you know the answer is "no" but my question remains - If you are totally honest with yourself about your motivation to get up every Sunday and walk in the church doors, what is the answer? No one else needs to know your answer but you do. It is imperative for us, as followers of Christ, to examine the things that may have become nothing more than religious habits and see where our heart truly is.

And when you find your answer, you may discover, as I have, that puts a new lens in place to how you view your church attendance and your own attitude in worship.

So...
Why do you go to church?

God already knows.

But do you?

Friday, August 29, 2008

What I do vs. Who I am


I have a blog, but I'm not a blogger.
I can swim, but I'm not a swimmer.
I can prepare a meal, but I'm not a chef.
I can balance a checkbook, but I'm not an accountant.

We wear many hats.
We have many responsibilities.
We have numerous abilities.
We are not proficient in most of them.
We do what we can with what we have.

I go to church on Sunday, but does it influence how I live on Monday?
I am a Christian, but do I know Christ?
I refer to God as Lord, but do I follow his commands?
I know how to pray, but do I engage in ongoing conversation or merely recite appropriate sentiments?

It is not critical that I am a blogger, a swimmer, a chef, or an accountant but…
It is crucial that if I claim the name of Christ that I know him, obey, and talk to him.

Being a Christian cannot be one of the things I do, it must be who I am.
It must become the essence that characterizes and defines everything else in my life; the hub from which everything originates. If I have invited him into my heart then I must also give him that authority to change it. But He is not a despot or a dictator – he does not rule my heart by threat of punishment but quite the contrary as He sways my heart by his absolute and unfailing love and as I am loved I am changed.

Think about it just for a moment: if there was a person in your life who loved you no matter what, who thought you were precious and treasured and would give up their time, strength, and even their life for you, what would your response be…?

His commands are not burdensome when He is the one providing the strength to carry them out. When I know that I will never be in a situation that He is not with me, or in a place where His grace and power do not surround me, and that no matter what I do, or do not do, that there is always a place at the table for me; why would I want to only be playing the part of a Christian and not enjoying the fullness of life available to me?


“Blessed is he that who fears the Lord, who finds delight in his commands.
Please hear this from a humble heart but I feel like exhibit A in the evidence that God is good to those who live by faith…”
(by the group 4Him and their song Psalms 112)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's in a Name?

I was on Facebook looking up old acquaintances; typing in names from the past and seeing who I could find. So I decided to type in my maiden name to see how easy it would be to find me if someone were looking...

What I got were 385 people with my name...
385!
With my same name!
And that's just on Facebook!
Talk about being lost in a crowd...!

So, if you knew me before I was married, you would have to go through 385 pictures and lack of pictures and one word location clues until you could possibly narrow it down to which Becky is the Becky from long ago. I'm amazed anyone has ever found me at all!

So what's in a name?
Well, in my name, you may recall some times we've shared but in my God's name...

Psalms 9:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you."

By which names do you know your God?

Savior? As he has rescued you not only from eternal destruction but a life of meaninglessness.

Lord? As you continue to make your will subservient to His.

Provider? As you've seen him open his hand and meet your needs. (Psalm 104, 145, Phil. 4)

Father? As He has poured out his love on you as his own child. (Psalms 103)

Rock of safety? As there has been shelter and protection for you in time of trouble.(Psalms 46)

Emmanuel? As you've journeyed through hard places and known that you were not walking alone. (Hebrews 13, Psalms 23)

Shepherd? As you have known God's guidance for the right path for your feet? (Psalms 23,25)


Those who know your name...

The more names of God that we know - and I mean know in an experiential understanding kind of way, not merely the making of a list - the easier the second part of the verse is

...trust in you
because by your own experience you know that

...for you O Lord do not abandon those who search for you.


So what then is the greatest name we can know?

My name?
The boss's name?
The president's name?
A celebrity's name?

You already know the answer: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 and
"Therefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-12


His name is the greatest name.
For in His name is salvation, but not just for forever, but also for today; because the name that will one day bring you safely home, is also the name that will guide you each step of the way; because He will never abandon those who search for Him.

"The Lord says, I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them." Psalms 91:14

So what's in His name?
Salvation

Strength

Blessing

Peace

Provision

Unfailing Love...

You can bet that's going to stand out in a crowd...