Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank you Lord

"Standing here on the threshold of a new year, thank you Lord for all that has been in the year that is ending.

Thank you for the trials that made me come to you as I would not have without them.

Thank you that I come to the end of this year still here because of your constant gift of breath and life.

Thank you for the opportunities you've provided and the experiences that now fill my hard drive with memories.

Thank you for the Internet and the friends with whom I've been able to reconnect and even moreso Father thank you for the conversations with friends, albeit now typed and not spoken, as we are geographically far apart but still connected by heart.

Thank you Lord for my near friends with whom I share coffee, news, and the gambit from sorrow and frivolity; I am so blessed by their physical presence in my life.

Thank you for the abundance of good things that has caused me to resolve again to "lose weight" and "clear the clutter", and for the health and growth of my children even if it means my son is now taller than I am and that my daughter and I can just about share shoes...

But most of all Lord, as I go from here to face a new year, thank you for Your faithfulness and this knowledge gained from experiences this year that assures me ' 'tis grace that's brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.'"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Are you a Packer or a Lingerer?

I'm amazed at how many Facebook posts I'd already seen as early as the day after Christmas that said "Christmas is all packed up and put away. Back to life as usual!"

That's so NOT me because I am a lingerer. My tree and lights will be up and lite through New Year's and sometimes even through "Three Kings Day". There's something about the lights against the dark early winter nights that I'm reticent to extinguish.
I wonder what happened in Bethlehem the day after the birth of Jesus. Was there finally room in the Inn? Did Mary and Joseph pack up baby Jesus and move indoors or did they have to hang out a little longer with the animals?

We do know that eight days later they'd traveled the two miles to Jerusalem to present the child in the temple and then, after the visit of the Magi, they fled to Egypt. Talk about packing things up and returning to "real life". First they deal with a scandalous pregnancy and questions about their sanity I'm sure as they both recount visits from an angel and now they have become refugees in a foreign country. Forget the shepherds and their story of an angelic chorus, the Magi with their foretelling gifts, and the blessing of Simeon as Jesus was presented in the temple; they are now fugitives on the run from a mad despot determined to kill their child.

Yet Scripture specifically tells us that "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" Luke 2: 19. Although Mary had to be a "packer" she was also a "lingerer".

The days are passing. A new year is quickly approaching as this Christmas season recedes. No matter if your decorations are still up or have been safely stowed away in the attic; carry still with you the treasures of the season in the truths that it celebrates. God loves you so much He came to be with us. He is and will be Emmanuel, God with us, from this time of trees and lights until we do it all again next year and until we reach our home with Him. Let that truth linger in your heart as you return to life as usual.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Because I love you


Around my house just before Christmas a "No Questions" zone is imposed.

There can be no asking of "Where are you going?", "What's in that box?", "Was that the UPS truck I just saw?" or "How could you possibly need that much tape?"

All the questions (that you can't ask!) are answered Christmas morning in the somewhat oddly shaped and interestingly wrapped packages under the tree. And actually there is only one answer - "Because I love you". That's why someone was out, had boxes to hide, or used up all the tape; because I was getting something to give to you because I love you.

Why were a girl's wedding plans interrupted by an angel?
Why did a fiancee embrace a scandalous pregnancy?
Why did angelic night visitors surprise snoozing shepherds?
Why did the appearance of a star prompt a road trip?

Because God was giving us a gift.
Why? Because He loves us.

We're no prize, not worthy of such affection from the Almighty but God has chosen to set his love upon us. As a matter of fact, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

A Facebook post today asked this question "What is God's greatest gift? Sending his Son as a sacrifice for mankind or allowing us the free will to accept or reject Him?"

You know the effort you've put into your gifts this Christmas. Perhaps you fought the crowds, stood in lines forever, paged through dozens of Internet sites, or maybe spent more than you should have because it was important to make it extra special. Imagine if the recipient of your gift disinterestedly unwrapped it and with a "hmph" shoved it back under the tree...

You gave because you loved but that doesn't guarantee your love will be reciprocated.

The whole reason this baby we celebrate was sent to a manager was so that He would grow up to be crucified on a cross. How have we responded to such a great gift of love? How today will you respond to the Giver?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A little perspective

It's a crazy time of year.

Between the stuff going on and the people we need to shop for, and the meals to be prepared it's just all much too much and it takes a conscious effort to hang on to the joy of the season, typically...

But let me share some perspective I've found this year. I'd read two novellas by Robin Jones Gunn Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas. In them the main character, Miranda, is the only child of a single mother who died when Miranda was 11. She was then cared for by a friend of her mother's until that woman also died a few years later. Now an adult Miranda's only involvement in Christmas is the office gift exchange every year. There is no decorating, no list of people to buy for, just this one obligatory gift exchange.
And the whole thing opened my eyes to how many people, even in my personal world, that don't do Christmas as I do. They're without children or family or a home to worry about decorating. There's not shopping to do, a party to plan or a big meal to prepare because it's just them this year.

I think of the number of people I know who have lost parents and children this year diminishing their list by one, and how there would be no greater joy for them than to have the chance, one more time, to present their loved one with a gift this Christmas.

The crowds are still massive and the traffic insane but I am a little different now; grateful that I have a reasons to be swallow up in the sea of Christmas shopping humanity. And while it makes the parking no easier, it does make my heart more thankful.
Pray for those who are grieving and reach out to them. Hug your aging parents an extra time this year, and find a way to put an arm around your quickly growing children (although not in public, pleeaze!) call a friend because you can, and may you go into every store, parking lot, grocery aisle, and Christmas gathering more appreciative of the fact that you get to be there.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Expectations

"'Tis the season of making lists - fa la la la la, la la la la
I want that and get me this..."

I'm fairly certain that you didn't make a list for Santa this year; there are no toy catalogs filled with things circled in marker, no letters to the North Pole, or things whispered to a man in the mall in a red suit. But that's not to say that we don't come into the season, as do the children, without expectations, we're just not as overt in sharing them.

Practically every magazine on the checkout racks this time of year has at least one article on "Tips and Gifts for the Perfect Christmas". Slick covers show homes that probably took a professional team of decorators to transform into these Norman Rockwell worthy showplaces. Spoken or not we have desires for gifts, or for those around us to know us well enough to get us something that complements who we are or who we see ourselves as being. The turkey should be moist, the children well behaved, the music performed flawlessly, the ground covered just so with enough snow to make it pretty but not enough to make it treacherous, our favorite Christmas songs playing on the radio and everyone and everything will be just exactly right!

Because this is the season of expectation it is also the season of disappointment.

The decor never quite makes it to the standards of Beautiful Home, the gifts are perfunctory, half the dinner is cold by the time the other half is ready, there are empty places at the table or there are places you wish were empty, the roads are slick, all these awful versions of your favorite songs are played, the toys break minutes after coming out of the boxes, and the kids with too little sleep and too much sugar are crabby...

And, at this "most wonderful time of the year", we find ourselves dealing with disappointment and then think what is wrong with me? This is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year"! Even the music sets us up with expectations...

"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation, and my glory; the rock of my strength and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people,
Pour out your heart before Him.
God is a refuge for us." Psalms 62:5-8

"My expectation is from Him". The encouragement here is to make God the One we look to, the One we place our hope in, the One and only one in whom we have expectations. But...I've found that hard to do.

As I've gotten older I've consciously dialed back my expectations, not from some great source of spiritual discernment, but from experience and because I've figured out that the less I expect, the less I'll be disappointed and if I don't expect anything I have the ability to be delightfully surprised. But still, those expectations, they sneak in and take up residence in our longings.

So, if we have expectations and when they go unfulfilled; God invites us to pour out our hearts to Him. Go ahead, sit with God and tell Him how you are disappointed. Pour out your heart for the promise is that He will be a refuge for us, and that is one expectation that absolutely cannot be disappointed!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Surprise!

"It's the most shopping lines time of the year.
Where the holiday shoppers with coats, bags, and squalors are standing too near..."

I've been out shopping...enough said!

Anyone out in any store at this time of year knows what it's like. Even in the middle of a weekday afternoon there are long lines snaking down the aisles. It is Christmas which means everyone is out doing more shopping then they ever do because it's time to get gifts and for my kids this year that is a problem.

My teenage son wants a computer (which is not going to happen) and that's all he wants so then what do you get the kid who has everything? It's bad enough when you know what you want to get and are trying to find it but it's even trickier when you don't even know what you are out there looking for!

So I've been running through ideas in my mind, along the lines of something similar to what he already has: books, clothes, video games, computer software, Nerf and Lego stuff...and nothing was working. There is no new variation of something familiar that would be a good gift.

And then it happened; I was in a store and walked by a display and there it was, the perfect gift. It's fun, it complements his interests and abilities, he'll love it, and (most importantly, for mom) it’s not the price of a computer...Hooray!

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” I Corinthians 2:9

I had no idea this perfect gift existed because it was something I hadn't seen before, but just because I wasn't aware of it didn't mean it wasn't out there.

Our vision is limited by what we've already experienced or seen happen in the lives of those close to us. We’ve imagined all the variations of the familiar and frankly, they're not all that exciting but this verse tells us that our minds can't even conceive of what God has in store for us!

Can you even imagine?
Silly question! The answer is "No", we can't even imagine what God's plans are.

He has something out there that is unlike all we've already known.
Something that will thrill us: that complements the gifts and interests He's given us. Something we're going to love for He made our hearts and He knows how to touch them.


What opportunities, blessings, gifts, and experiences does God have in store for you this season? for next year? for the rest of your life into eternity?

I don't know, but I do know that when God says "Surprise!" to those who love Him, He has the perfect gift. (James 1:17)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Joy

I wrote the word "Joy" today and realized something...

The song is wrong.
Do you remember that song, "Jesus and Others and You, what a wonderful way to spell JOY"?

Joy does not come from putting Jesus first, than others, and then yourself because that makes my joy depended on what I do. When did my actions become the source of joy in my life?

"I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices...
You have made known to me the path of life.
In your presence is fullness of joy;
at your right hand there are pleasures forever."
Psalms 16:7-11

Joy comes from God.
From being in His presence.
From listening to His counsel and trusting in His care.
Look at these verses, they tell us the source of joy.

Look at the word, even it illustrates the principle. Joy comes into us as we spend time in God's presence, fills our hearts, and is then flung out into the world - as if one hand is raised to God and the other outstretched to those around us.
At least that's what I saw...
Joy, then, to the world because God has come to us!


Monday, December 14, 2009

With us...


Emmanuel - God with us.

We're hearing this word a lot. In songs, on cards, and in scripture and sermons and what an amazing concept it is.
God has come to us.

My question is, how closely has God come to us?
Where is God in this season?
In a nativity set on the front lawn or mantle?
Perhaps the motif on the Christmas cards being sent?
Or maybe in our words as we sing along with the radio or join in the great carols in a poinsettia strewn sanctuary?

How closely is God with you this season?

Recently I realized, as having left the church I've attended the past 18 years, that there would be no place for me to sing this Christmas; no choir, no programs, no chance to voice the amazing truths in the songs reserved for this season, which is something I have been thrilled to do for years. "It is what it is" though, "no need to cry over spilt milk" and all those sayings came to mind. This was merely an effect of a decision I felt God lead me to make and that was that...
A week later the phone rang and it was the organist at the church we attend in the summer asking if I could sing for them for Christmas.

How close has God come to us?
He has come to be this close; "You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh." Psalms 38:9.

More than a creche, a motif, or lyrics God has come to us to be intimately connected with us. To be so close that He hears our smallest sighs and works in all the details of our lives. His desire is to be with us, in every way, through each moment. We are to "pray without ceasing"(I Thess. 6:17) and "Not worry about anything but pray about everything. Tell God what you need" (Phil. 4:6).

God dressed Himself in flesh for a much greater purpose than becoming a cultural or religious icon. He had greater aspirations than being the object of plays, cantatas, and Christmas merchandise! He came as man for one reason; to die on a cross to atone for our sins so that He might enter our hearts and be with us now and so that we can be forever with Him.

He is with you.
Be with Him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do You Need a Snowsuit?

It is three little degrees outside, three and this is shocking!

Now it's not that surprising that the temperatures have fallen as the news has been predicting it for days - but it is shocking, especially when you first step outside!

So with this shocking, yet not surprising, turn of events came the hunt for the snowsuits. Were they behind the winter coats? Or packed up with the boots? Or perhaps in the downstairs winter equipment closet?

Unfortunately this hunt began exactly eleven minutes before it was time to leave for school... as somehow it almost always does; hmmm...although my husband and son are scouts somehow I missed out on that whole "Be Prepared" training! There is no reason that the snowsuit hunt should have taken place this morning. I knew what was coming and I could have been prepared.

In life however we don't have always have that luxury, of knowing what is ahead and preparing for it. Quite often we're suddenly faced with a shocking turn of events, something we didn't see coming, and we are left standing there empty handed.

The Israelites were that way. They marched out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, into the wilderness and suddenly realized they had no food! Here it was that God stepped in for them, not in the same grandiose way He did when He parted the Red Sea, but in the same way that I find He provides in my life and that is daily.

"In the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God." Exodus 16:12 (NIV) And sure enough the next morning the ground was covered as if with frost with these round things that they called "manna" which means "What is it?" (vs 15)

They were given what they needed for that day.

Some people tried to collect more and hoard it for tomorrow but the next morning it was filled with maggots...
This provision of God's was daily and had to be gathered as such. Every morning (except the Sabbath) they had to go out and spend the time necessary to collect the provisions for that day.

So also are we given daily grace.
"His mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness" Lamentations 3:10

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" Hebrews 4:16

In time of need.
God comes to us at the time of need.

Although I'd like to stockpile God's grace today for the problems coming in the future, I can't. God provides right when we need it, and it will be enough, and it will satisfy our needs. (Psalms 104:27,28, Isaiah 58:11, Psalms 95:3, Psalms 63:5, Psalms 145:16)

Look at the testimony of the Israelites in Exodus 16:35 " The Israelites ate manna forty years...until they arrived in the land of Canaan"

You've got to admit that the parting of the Red Sea, the water gushing from the rock, the storm of quail for dinner and all the other incidents where God provided for their needs in a big way were quite spectacular and, this writing as evidence, are still being talked about today. But let us not forget that surrounding these "big" showings of God's power that every single day He provided strength in the form of manna. Every morning provisions were laid out for them to collect. He provided for their needs day after day after day until they reached their destination.

What will next week bring and what of Christmas? What does the quickly approaching new year hold? What will things be like in five years? What if there is a sudden plummeting of all that is temperate in my life?

"Do not fear for your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern" Matthew 6: 32-34

Even if that means a snowsuit...!






Thursday, December 3, 2009

Perfectly Packaged Gifts of Christmas Encouragment

In the past few days several perfectly packed gifts of Christmas encouragement have come to my Inbox and I'd now like to "regift" them to you! Merry Christmas!

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

There's a lot of pressure to have a "perfect" Christmas with great gifts, caroling, and family. Often that makes our actual Christmas a let-down.
We forget the first Christmas was far from perfect - Mary had to give birth in a stable! What blessings from God can you find in your disappointments of the season? - BibleLeague.org


"Those who obey His commands live in him, and He in them" I John 3:24

Christ lived in Mary until He had to come out. Christ will grow in you until the same occurs.
He will come out in your speech, in your actions, in your decisions. Every place you live will be a Bethlehem, and every day you live will be a Christmas. You, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world.
God in us! Have we sounded the depth of this promise?
-Max Lucado

A lesser woman might have argued with Gabriel. “No thanks, Buddy. My future's already mapped, and I like it as is. Go away, okay? Find someone else.” But that wasn't Mary's style. Instead, she mustered her courage and spoke words that changed the course of history: “I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants” (v. 38).

Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns just as Mary's did. We're settled in a nice rhythm, and then God disrupts it by giving us a task riddled with risk or inconvenience, or circumstances force us to exchange precious plans for pain and uncertainty. How can we mimic Mary's example when we're tempted to turn and run the other way? Here are my thoughts…

Believe the words Gabriel spoke: “The Lord is with you.” No matter the direction our path takes, we need to remember that we're not alone on the journey.

Regard the change in plans as a blessing in disguise. God's purposes are far beyond our understanding, and we simply need to trust His wisdom and sovereignty.

Maintain a surrendered heart. Let's consider ourselves as servants of God as Mary did. Life is about Him and His eternal purposes, not about us.

Perhaps your plans for 2009 took an unexpected turn that complicated everything by human standards. You're a grandmother who's raising a grandchild rather than enjoying retirement as you'd planned. You're a woman whose marriage has undergone stress or ended. Perhaps you're changing careers or moving to a new city because of your present career. Maybe you're a mom whose teenagers' bad choices are affecting you. Or maybe you're sensing a nudge to lead a Bible study or small group, participate in a short-term missions trip, or care for a senior parent. Doing so will complicate your comfortable life, and you're tempted to say no.

Whatever your circumstances, know that God is in control. He sees life from an eternal perspective, and His plans are excellent even if they feel like bothersome complications sometimes. May that knowledge give you the courage to say yes as Mary did. – Grace Fox


You Can, Because He Can
I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. Job 42:2 NKJV

You can ask the Lord because He will not give you a wrong answer.

You can wait upon the Lord because His timing is always perfect.

You can trust in the Lord because He makes no mistakes.

You can hope in the Lord because He holds your future.

You can rest in the Lord because He is in control of your life.

You can lean upon the Lord because He is completely faithful.
-Roy Lessin

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let the Insanity Begin!!

It's Thanksgiving week, which means it's the first week of Christmas!!

"Christmas" is too big to be merely contained merely in December 24 and 25th. As a matter of fact by the time those dates roll around the majority of the "Christmas" celebrations will have already been completed!

It starts now with the ads and the music (well actually those seemed to have started several weeks ago already, the day after Halloween I think). Every other commercial will show something you NEED to buy this season with the happily surprised beautiful people opening this perfect gift you've given. (Funny how they never show the long snaking lines at return counters or that " very special gift" up on the shelf in the closet...)

Then there are all the activities; the plays, the rehearsals, the concerts, the costumes, the cookie exchanges and the Secret Santas (for which of course you need a specially crafted spreadsheet on your computer to make sure you're in the right place at the appropriate time).

And let's talk about the decorating; where you magically created a 4- 6ft diameter hole in your living space in which to put up the Christmas tree. And all the other flat spaces get cleared of their normal decor to set up the holiday cheer and then for the supremely ambitious there is a second tree, or a Christmas village with the necessity of employing the Army Corps of Engineers to configure all those cords! And let's not forget about the outside as lights are strung (well first lights are untangled, or hours spent attempting to untangle them and then they’re thrown out and a trip ensues to get new lights which we swore last year would not happen because we were going to put away the lights more carefully and they would not get tangled and we’d not be doing this again...) and then they’re finally strung on bushes and high on the rooftops.

Christmas cards? Christmas picture? Clothes for family for Christmas picture? Block of time to gather all family members to take a picture? If not then how about a frantic search through the year's candid shots to find something suitable? And what about the stamps? (What do they cost now?) Did I update the missing master address list when Aunt Martha retired to Florida last year...

And then on top of all this there is the guilt of being a believer in this commercialized season. I should not be swept away by all this tradition and materialism; instead I should celebrate the true meaning of the season!

I'd heard someone talking about this on the radio and picked up a book on the topic and in it the authors have all these great ideas to keep Christ in Christmas. There were homemade ornaments, family treasure hunts, goodies for shut-in's and all kinds of great ideas. Then they talked about these prophecy boxes to use with your family, each one containing a prophecy fulfilled by Christ's birth. Twenty-five specially made, decorated and filled boxes with a devotional in each. What a lovely idea and you start on December 1st and make sure you do it
e v e r y day . . . EVERY DAY? (My kids can't even keep on top of eating a piece of chocolate out of a countdown calendar every day, how would we ever have 25 straight days of significant family devotions?)

(Sigh)

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s the first week of Christmas.
But perhaps if I keep thanks giving alive through the five weeks to come I will find, in the midst of all the insanity, how to have to a joyous and Christ centered Christmas!

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ for you! I Thessalonians 5:18


Let the thanks giving begin!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

To know God

" I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may grow in your knowledge of God." Ephesians 1: 17

My name is Becky. I am 5' 7" and wear a size 10 1/2 shoe. I have a husband and two children (although some days it feels like I have three children...) and live in a red brick house in Chicago. I have a younger sister. I have a degree in Elementary Education from a university in South Carolina. I enjoy reading and various crafts.

There you go; you have the pertinent facts, my bio, some relevant info., so now you know me (lucky you!)

And you also know that is not true because it takes a lot more than just facts to really know someone - we are so much more than the one dimensional photo and info. tab on a Facebook page.

I love a friend who knows how I take my coffee because we've had coffee together so often that it's something they've just picked up on. Or one who picks out something and says "This is so you" because we've been together long enough for them to know my tastes. To really know me, you'd have to spend time with me.

To know someone is to know their reactions to situations, their struggles, and what they are passionate about; what discourages and empowers them. It's understanding that today might be a hard day because of "xyz" in their history. To know someone is to have walked many miles of life by their side, and not because you have a computer printout of their likes and dislikes.

The prayer in this verse is that you will increase in your knowledge of God and my guess is that it's not referencing merely gathering more facts...Know God more and more because you're spending time with Him; hearing his voice, seeing life from His perspective, realizing what brings Him joy and causes Him sorrow.

No wonder we're encouraged to "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) simply because we live life without ceasing so why not go through it mindful of God at our side? For He is always with us. He knows us because He walks through each situation with us.

And He invites us to know Him;"If you seek me you will find me when you search for me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13.

So, no matter what the circumstances, or the need, this is our prayer for ourselves and for each other.

"I pray for you constantly asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light
so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called.

I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead." Ephesians 1: 17-19

May you know God better at the end of this day than you did at the beginning!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kangaroo Care

You know that feeling; the one where you're all cuddled up with someone and relaxed, mid way between awake and asleep and your entire world consists only of this profound sense of peace?

I've just heard of the concept of "Kangaroo Care" in which a baby, most often a preemie, is cuddled skin to skin on the mother's chest with its ear to her heart. The mother's body temperature will change rapidly to regulate the baby's temperature; warming as the infant needs to warm or cooling if they are too warm. The infant sleeps more soundly, less oxygen is needed, and everything gets a little more regulated than before their time together. The infants gain weight more quickly, their crying decreases, and they experience greater periods of alertness. In was in the late 1970's in Bogota Columbia where, because of lack of incubators etc., this technique was implemented and consequently the infant mortality rate went from 70% to 30%!

Impressive isn't it; these health benefits of time spent in personal contact with a parent?

What if we could "kangaroo care" as God's child?
What if, when our hearts are at risk or in times of stress, we could strip off all pretenses and self-sufficiency and put our ear to God's heart?

Would His passion warm our coldness?
Would the even breathing of His faithfulness calm our panicked breaths?
Would there be less whining as more time was spent with the Savior?
Would we rest soundly knowing that we're held in the arms of the Almighty?
Would there be fewer who fall away from their faith?

If we could take the opportunity to spend extended time listening to God's heart wouldn't we come away more mindful of His desires for our families, our relationships, our careers, our activities, and everything about our lives? Wouldn't we come away more alert and focused?

Wouldn't it be a time of healing and restoration in our lives when we are worn down?
Would not pursuit of these times bless our hearts with God's peace?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When relationships get unconnected...


I'd recently made a "new" friend. We've actually known each other casually for years but in the past couple of years we discovered a greater connection and more commonalities as we've been spending time together. Yet the last times we've had coffee I didn't feel as connected, like we'd popped back to the shallowness of surface stuff, no longer exploring deeper waters.

I don't know why.
And since I don't know why, I don't know what to do about it.

Everything seemed exactly as it'd been the many times we've met before. Always the same place, always the same order, and always, when it's available, the same booth. So what changed?

Sadly I find myself feeling the same way with the most intense, long-term, and important relationship in my life; with that of my God.

I'm not sure what happened.
At some point the continual conversation we engage in has fallen silent. I've realized that He's barely crossed my mind in recent days. Even my writings or should I say lack of writing reveal how still everything has become. Every ministry I've been involved in over the past many years has ended - I'm not singing, teaching, or planning. It's quiet.

On a Sunday morning now there is no baking of sweets for church and final review of lesson - instead there is coffee and deciding what church to attend. I look at a calender full of school events, not wondering where I'll fit in a woman's fellowship time. As I sang along with the radio with a creative harmony recently I remembered,"Oh yea, I can sing."

As I'm typing I see brilliant fall leaves outside my window. The trees are also in a time of transition as they've ceased the process of photosynthesis so there is no more production of chlorophyll to keep them green. I'm no longer so busy producing either. The trees are moving into their winter dormancy; am I as well? The time has come for them to rest and live off the food they've made in their productive season. Now that all the "noise" of busyness (even in the work of the Lord) has ceased I have quiet to focus on my own relationship with my Lord. Yet at this time of quiet I find myself unconnected.

I know there are some who would tell me that I need to go back and see what sin has severed my fellowship with the Savior, to examine my heart and see where I've left the paths of righteousness. Others might say that I need to just get busy about the work of the Lord again, find a church, plug in and everything will fall into place.

I don't think either of these are the answer. While it is good and right to gather together to worship the Lord, our own relationship with God should not be dependent on this gathering; after all this is a personal relationship. Working in ministry is also a great thing but God loves us because He chooses too and not because we earn His favor by our efforts, even if we think of ourselves more "worthy" when we're busy about His work.

So when, by no discernible reason, relationships get unconnected, what is the next step?

(No profound summations today my friends, only an honest question but I'd love to hear the answers you've found throughout your own life)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Celebrate Today!

My girlfriend sent me an "Treat Yourself Cupcake Kit". In it is everything I need - cute fluted ramekins, special individual cupcake mixes, frosting, sprinkles and even candles! I am never more that 30 seconds away from a fresh baked cupcake! Hooray!

We've been talking about the need to celebrate every day or if not to celebrate the entire day to at least find something in the day worth celebrating.
As a planner I am always aware of what is coming up next but in looking ahead I tend to lose the present. This is it. This is life. I need to stop waiting for it to start and realize that I'm in the middle of it right now! How I spend my hours today will add up to how my life is spent for life is made up of what I do with my hours.

We of course do not know how many hours we have left, whether it be hundreds or thousands or merely dozens. We have all experienced either with ourselves or those we love the sudden heart attack, accident or injury that in an instant changed the status quo forever. I have friends who are mourning the loss of a baby after only eleven days on this earth, only a couple hundred hours did he grace their lives with his physical presence although he'll be remembered forever. But why is it that we think our lives and the lives of those we love will continue on, as they are right now, indefinitely?

We may not have years to celebrate so why not celebrate today?

Celebrate the sunshine after a week of rain, or the surprising warm temperatures after a chilly spell.
Celebrate the car that, although not new, works and gets you where you need to be.
Celebrate the friends that encourage you and the technology of the Internet that lets you keep in touch with them.
Celebrate the dirty dishes that show we've had food to enjoy, and a messy house made that way by our surrounding family.
Celebrate that you had the strength and ability to get out of bed this morning even though it may not be as enthusiastically as it has in years past, you are still on your feet.

And if nothing else each day we can celebrate the fact that God pours out his loving kindness on us as His mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:23) No matter how rough the day we are never without His attending presence and care. (Hebrews 13:5)

So as I am never more than a minute away from a celebratory cupcake nor are we ever more than a moment away from realizing there are things to be grateful for and cause to celebrate!

So let's celebrate, today!

And if you'd like to add your own personal size cupcake to the celebration:
1/4 c cake mix
1 tsp. pudding mix
1 tsp. powdered egg whites
1 TB water
1 TB oil
Mix well, place in greased ramekin or mug. Microwave 30 seconds. Let cool a minute.
Top with frosting, ice cream, or whipped cream and enjoy while still warm.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

not thirsty


"They were not thirsty when He led them through the desert. He divided the rock, and water gushed out for them to drink." Isaiah 48:12

They should have been thirsty. They were going through a desert!
But they were not thirsty because God was leading them through this desolate place.

Where God leads He provides.
When He leads through desolate places, He satisfies our needs.
The provision for our needs may come from unexpected places - in this case He split open a rock and water gushed out for his children but the bottom line is that they were not thirsty; their needs were met.

I find amazing comfort in this simple sentence.

I know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and He's promised to meet my needs (Phil. 4:13) therefore whatever desolate place I am in, He can satisfy my thirst there. If He has lead me to a dry and barren place He will provide for me and I, also, will be not thirsty.

The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, lke an ever-flowing spring. Isaiah 58:11

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rest

I have a cold and have decided they are the paper cuts of illnesses; they're bothersome, annoying and get no respect whatsoever!

The most wonderful part about my cold though is rediscovering the power of a nap. When I finally decide I have no energy to do any more, I surrender to sleep. My heavy eyelids close and everything else spins away and I fall deeply into a warm cocooned place. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be that long and twenty minutes later I'll wake up amazed at how much better I feel. Ah, the restorative powers of sleep!

Psalms 37:7 encourages us to take advantage of a time of stillness pertaining to our hearts as well as it says "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." The word rest here means to be still, silent, to be quiet and at peace.

Our lives are filled with the things that wear us down and make us miserable and these things to others might be like a paper cut or a cold; not that big of a deal but they are exhausting us. Is there a "nap" we can take in a spiritual sense? Is there a way that we can "rest in the Lord" and find restoration for our souls?

There is and it's as intentional as physically snuggling under a blanket. Come before the Lord and lay out all that is troubling, all of it. Lay it all out before Him and then give it all over to Him; put it in His hands. Philippians 4 encourages us to "Not worry about anything but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. " I Peter 5:7 says "Cast all your care on Him for He cares for you." Can we give over our burdens to the One who is all mighty and has the strength to carry both them and us?

There's more though than just laying it all down. When you nap you not only lay yourself down but also slip away in your consciousness from your present reality. You sleep and shut out the sights and sounds around you. Once we give our burdens to the Lord we need to slip away from our current circumstances and into His sanctuary where we can "gaze upon your power and glory." Psalms 63:2 Recall the God you see in the pages of Scripture and the great things He has done. Open His Word and let the promises there bring solace to your heart. Remember in your own life how God has worked in your behalf. "Be very careful never to forget what God has done for you." Deut. 4:9

When you again open your eyes to your reality it will be with eyes that have just gazed on the power of the God who loves you; and you will find that indeed "He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Monday, September 21, 2009

Maturity


I don't think I would have seen it had it not been for the Boy Scout scrapbook I'd started last year for Robbie. On the cover I put the picture of him at the house. The picture by the lake is from this year and he hardly looks like the same kid...!!!

In just one year he's lost that little boy look and is beginning to look like the teen he almost is. How did that happen and what did they do with my little boy?!?

He loves the fact that he's a mere 1/2 inch shorter than I am and I still can't believe the fact that I can talk to him eye to eye now without having to bend over. I knew this would happen, of course it's sooner than I'd thought, but he's maturing.

Are we?
What does it look like for us?
Is it connected to wrinkles and stray facial hair?

What do mature souls look like?

Consider this quote:

Continue to be soft and pliable in the Lord’s hands and out of that relationship will come the things that define you at the deepest level of your heart—revealing to yourself and others what you are really about—what moves you, motivates you, and forms your true longings. These longings come from God’s heart touching yours—resulting in the things that He will work in you and bring to pass through your life. (Based upon Psalm 37:4) by Roy Lessin

I think that as we mature in our relationship with our God that unlike the human process of becoming more independent as we grow up, we become increasingly dependent on Him. Christ welcomed the children and said that one needed a child-like faith to come to Him. Is it not true that the more we get to know Him that we realize both how greatly we need Him and how much we can depend on Him?

Could the measure of our maturity be what it takes to get us on our knees?

Seriously, think about that - what puts you on your knees?
How much does it take or how bad does it have to be until you realize that you can't do it on your own and need God? When God wants you to come before Him what does He have to do to get your attention? Call your name? Shout? Put up a neon sign in your pathway? Or as in Balaam's case, an invisible angel with a flaming sword and a talking donkey?

How soft and pliable are we in His hands?
How quickly do we yield to His rearranging of our plans to accomplish His plan which of course we know nothing about? How long does it take us to unbegrudgingly and sincerely say "Thy will be done"?

So as our children grow and our bodies age, are our hearts growing more pliable in the Father's hands? Are we maturing too?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blooming Tea

I've just discovered something beautiful and amazing and it's commonly known as "Blooming Tea".

These are made of tea leaves that are hand-sewn into bundles. They're small and tight and not very attractive and there's no indication of what is hidden inside...

But...when these are placed in a teapot and boiling water is poured over them they blossom right before your eyes. (You can watch it here and I suggest you do!)

Wow, what a surprise! It's incredible how hundreds of individual tea leaves carefully joined together can, under the right conditions produce something beautiful and good for you.

It reminds one of Romans 8:28 doesn't it? If a tea crafter can select individual, unrelated tea leaves and bind them together into one tea ball that reveals a whole greater than the individual parts, then why do we doubt that God can not and is not doing the same thing with all that happens in our lives?

No, really, I'm asking that. How is it that we have a view of God that is so small that we assume that the trouble and trials in our lives are occurring without His knowledge and for absolutely no reason?

We have no way of knowing how what we are experiencing now will be used in what is in our future. I Corinthians 1:3 tells us that "For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you." and you know how that has already been true in your life; how because of your experience you've been able to relate to and encourage someone else going through something similar. I have some friends struggling to maintain a pregnancy who were just introduced to a couple who had the same experience last year and the comfort and understanding they've received from connecting with them is beyond description. Perhaps you've been in such a place and found hope because of someone else relating their pain and the hope they'd found through it and realize that you can too.

Now the tea flower needs to have boiling or near boiling water poured over it to activate the changes, and none of us have any desire for that to happen in our lives. I'd like my life cool and temperate thank you very much, no boiling stresses or circumstances for me! But, when those times come (and they will) perhaps all the things you've been learning in your time with the Father will reveal that He's been doing a work in your life, hidden to you, but one that now brings both honor and glory to His name. Perhaps as you obey His voice in the small everyday kinds of things that He brings to your heart, He is working in you something that someday will be revealed as far greater and more amazing than we could ever imagine...

Who would think a dried up walnut shaped pod could become a large blooming flower filling a pot of hot water with an aromatic and healthful beverage? And if men could invent this, what might God be planning in our lives?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Scent of God's Goodness

It hit me as soon as I opened the box of fall decor, this scent of mulled cider, and it made me remember...

The October I turned forty I was able to take the beginning of a weekend and head up to Lake Geneva Wisconsin by myself. Turning the "Big 4-0" was a BIG deal to me - I mean this was"40" halfway to 80 - I'd already lived half my life, I was not only an adult now but had been an adult for twenty years - it was time to start feeling "all grown up" - when my parents were this age they were OLD! And then of course what about all that stuff you hear how your body goes downhill after forty, and your endurance is less, and you need bifocals or (if you're in denial about that) longer arms...for many reasons the future was looking less promising than the past.

(I must add a note here - if you are not yet forty you may be able to identify with what I'm saying. If you're past forty you're probably not remembering having such angst yourself now that you're on the other side of it and realizing it's not that bad and if you're really over forty I know you're thinking "40? Pshaw, you're just a baby!")

So here I am, alone on a beautiful fall weekend, contemplating this move into a new decade. I stopped to pick up some supplies; some great bread and cheese, a seasonal coffee, a fleece fall throw, and some candles.

Throughout that day I read through journals, listened to great music and walked through a cool afternoon surrounded by brilliant color until it became a clear crisp night with a full harvest moon.

So when I reached the end of this time filled with remembering and wondering and the scent of mulled cider; I was fully convinced of one thing; God had been faithfully active throughout my life so far and He was not going to desert me now.

For in all the words I read of my own life's journey and in all the promises of Scripture; I found they harmoniously joined together in the declaration "Great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever!" (Psalms 117:2)

I had no idea of the changes the next few years would bring. About a month later my mom fell and broke her hip and had various other health concerns and before I would celebrate my next birthday she was home with her Lord. Finances change, kids grow, conflicts arise, nothing is stagnant and tomorrow is not guaranteed to look like today...
We have no idea what is ahead for any of us wherever we are in our lives whether today is a "big" turning point birthday or just another weekday; but here is what I know.

"Nevertheless I am continually with You, You hold me by my right hand.
You will keep on guiding me with your counsel and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever." Psalms 73:23-26

Nevertheless - you've got to love that word!

Nevertheless what my life has been to now, You are holding me by my hand.
Nevertheless what the future hold, You are continually with me.
Nevertheless when my body fails and my mind is gone, You are still mine forever!
These are precious promises to take with us into an unknown future.
So may this season in it's "cinnamony" scents also remind you that, whatever is ahead, great is His faithfulness!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Year Round School?

That is the question and the main reason seems to be, "Kids forget everything they've learned over the summer!"

Now I've never agreed with that statement - until (sigh) this morning...

I was helping my daughter with her socks in an attempt to hurry her up and said "Don't forget this part goes on your heel" to which she quipped, "Hey don't blame me. I haven't worn socks all summer!"

I guess they really do forget...!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What? There are no coffee filters?!!

(Some of you already know what's coming given my addiction to love of coffee!)

Let me set the scene.
We'd gotten home at 10:30 pm Labor Day night after being gone for six weeks.
The car was unloaded and everything put into piles on any and all available floor space.
Six am wake up as it is the first day of school.
Everyone actually manages to get out the door on time, having eaten breakfast, finding their bike helmets and carrying all their new school supplies in their backpacks.
I, after taking the first day of school pictures, (standing on the sidewalk in my pajamas of course!) go back inside and survey the chaos.
Six weeks of dust and cobwebs, plus the "throw a van load of stuff in the house" plus the mayhem of a typical school morning equals I need a plan and COFFEE!!!

I fill the carafe with water, select my flavor for the day (hazelnut) and pick up the coffee filter box only to find that it is EMPTY!

NOOOOOO!!!!!

For several years I'd been ordering coffee from the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and with every order they included a free box of filters so I haven't bought filters in years. But I'd stopped getting coffee so I knew there were no more spare boxes of filters... This particular pot used a cone filter, and it's the only one that does so even if there are more filters around the house they would be the basket kind (which make great snowflakes when folded and cut btw).

I start looking anyway just in case and in less than a minute I find an unopened package of cone filters from the store!! I have no idea when or why I'd bought them as I for years have had all these boxes of these free filters but at that moment all I knew is that I was going to get my coffee! Hurray!

So now as I sit down with my coffee, growing "To Do" List, and Bible I read in Luke 12 (selected phrases)

"So I tell you don't worry about your everyday life - for life consists in far more than food and clothing - Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? - If God cares so wonderfully for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't He more surely care for you? - Your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern"

He will give you all you need from day to day... coffee filters included I guess! And if God, who knew my needs and provided those mysterious filters, took care of such a small thing who am I to doubt that He will also provide everything else I need today?

Time to get to more coffee (!) and to take advantage of His strength for my day!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fearless

Fearless people scare me as I sit on the couch watching their exploits on television...who is crazy enough to climb a mountain, sail around the world, or be involved in the X Games?

But the problem is that you don't have to do something extreme to experience fear as it is all around and within us.
Max Lucado has written a new book entitled Fearless and in it he addresses, not the fear of bungee jumping in the Grand Canyon, but the fears that plague us deep in our hearts.
The fears of
Overwhelming challenges
Global Calamity
Not Mattering
Violence
Not being able to protect my kids
That God is not real
Of life's final moments
Of what is next

I find myself at this moment most strongly identifying with the fear of what is next as I seek to reenter the world of the employed. What if no one wants to hire me? What if I've forgotten how to handle a classroom full of children? What if I can't keep up with all the rest of my life and a job too?

Yep, I'm one fear filled woman.
I read the first chapter (and you can too here) and then skipped to the one about fear of what's next and discovered the most important truth - as already recorded in Scripture in 2 Timothy 1:7 "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power and of a sound mind."

The author of fear is the enemy of our souls. Am I going to believe what he says or claim God's promise of love, power and a sound mind?

This book is excellent - right on target for now with the future and the economy looking so uncertain. If you're in my area, we're going to be starting a group study and discussion of this book later in September - let me know of your interest and I'll get you more details as we figure it out - and if you're not here in the area - take a few minutes and check out the online resources and the book. What do you have to lose but your fears?
“The promise of Christ and the contention of this book are simple:
we can fear less tomorrow than we do today.” Max Lucado

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Depressive to manic?


You have turned for me my mourning into dancing - Psalms 30:11

That's quite a statement isn't it?
It sounds a bit manic to me - mourning into dancing - great depths to great happiness - from lacking strength to get through the day to having so much joy one can not stand still - I think if those words were coming from my friend, I would be concerned about their mental health...

The Psalm begins "I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried out to you for help and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death."

So either David was a bit of a "drama queen" or he was in some serious trouble - and if you read in 1 and 2 Samuel, you'll see it was that latter. The man was like a lightening rod to trouble!

But here he's talking about how he's been rescued from this trouble, from enemies and death, and he's so relived he's dancing. I think it's a similar principle to what we find in Luke 7:37 when the immoral woman came and washed Jesus' feet with her hair and her tears. He said,“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:37

One forgiven much, loves much; one rescued from much, praises much!

But haven't you also found that to be true?

I've just discovered this again recently.
There were no enemies, grave, or pit of death (sounds a bit like an Indiana Jones episode doesn't it?) but there was disappointment, confusion, and hurt. I didn't understand why all this had taken place; it made no sense, and left me sighing.

Notice the actual phrasing of the verse - "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing". If these were the psalms of Becky it would read "You have turned for me my sighing into grateful praise." The key concept here is that He has done the turning, the rescuing, the saving - it's not coming to the end of the rope, tying a knot and hanging on but it is being pulled out of danger and despair by the almighty hands of an attentive God.

That is something I love about God - He is attentive to us - "I love the Lord because He hears, and answers my prayers, because He bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!" Psalms 116:1

When God does the rescuing - when He is the one who, without our assistance, changes a situation from mourning to dancing, or sighing to praising, we can then say "You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!"

Whatever situation you find yourself in, from enemies and peril, or hurt and confusion recognize that, although this right now is so hard, that our God has the ability to turn it into cause for joy; genuine "I can't even believe it myself. I feel like dancing" joy!

Fog



The top of my mattress meets the bottom of my bedroom window so in other words all I have to do in the morning is open my eyes and I have a good idea of what the day is going to be like.

Most mornings still snuggled in blankets I see the sun rising spreading it's orange and yellow banners across the window's width cheerfully bringing in the new day and reminding me of the verse, "Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will." Isaiah 50:4. The day is clear and bright.

There are other mornings that opening my eyes is not even necessary as I can already hear the rain pounding on the pane and know what's in store...

This morning I woke up to a vague greyness.
Fog.
I could feel it's cold dampness just from the sight of it.

How this day would unfold is not readily apparent. I can't see into the distance as everything is shrouded and obscure.

It seemed all too appropriate for it to be foggy this morning as it was the beginning of Labor Day weekend; the end of the summer and the beginning of a new season. It'd been a good summer, sunny and straightforward for the most part. But that was over and it was time to plunge back into all that the word "Fall" means for a family of four - a new schedule, back to school, sports, and other activities, and the responsibilities we'd been able to take a break from over summer vacation.

So how do you deal with fog? How do you progress when you can't see the way?
One step at a time.

"Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." Psalms 119:105

You know the comparison - a light gives you enough illumination to see the next step. It's the same in fog - you can see immediately in front of you but that is the limit to your vision. Take the step you can see, and then the next one, and you'll find that you are down the road and there the next step will also be clear. It's slow progress, there's no sprinting here, but there is the assurance that "The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives." Psalms 37:23

At some point the sun will come out, burn off the fog, and the way ahead will be clear again but until then "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6
One step at a time.




Sunday, August 30, 2009

What about your history?

I'd come to the end of the day and the end of my resources.
It'd been a long weekend and I had nothing left to give or the ability to cope with anything else. All I wanted to do was crawl into a warm bed and sleep.

But I couldn't yet so grabbing my MP3 player, my Bible and journal I sat on my bed, plugged in the player and wrote about my weekend and how drained I felt.

The album I'd chosen was A Millennium of Sacred Music, a compilation of hymns done masterfully on piano by an old friend. And with the music in the background, I started recording how worn out I felt but then found that these songs were pouring back into me peace and hope. These were my songs - the songs that had been a source of strength and comfort time and time again - Be Still my Soul, God will Take Care of You, Abide with Me, Nearer Still Nearer, He Hideth My Soul, No One Understands Like Jesus, How Great Thou Art.

I unconsciously hummed the familiar lyrics along with the piano -

"When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless O abide with me"

"No one understands like Jesus when the day is dark and drear, no one is so near, so dear as Jesus cast your every care on Him"

"Be not afraid what ere' betide, God will take of you"

"No one ever cared for me like Jesus, oh how much He cares for me."

And a verse came to mind from Psalms 107:43, "They will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord."

I saw it tonight in my history. In the familiarity of songs that have brought words of encouragement throughout many years, in the friends who I've been privileged to have along the way with whom I've been able to engage in the deep discussions of life and grace and God's will. I think of adults who were teachers and mentors when I was a child, and other adults along the way who shared honestly with me as a teen and college student of their own journey of faith, and the life of love lived out by my parents and my list keep growing from the past to all the present manifestations of grace in my life.

Take a look back.
See in your own history the faithful, steadfast love of the Lord.
And be encouraged that He who has taken care of you and poured out His love on you for all your years is not about to stop now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Magic Tablecloth

Life is messy, but I have a magic tablecloth! So when spills occur (notice I said "when" and not "if"), they are much easier to take care of.

For years I've had vinyl tablecloths covering my dining room table because invariably when I'd succumb to the temptation to put on a nicer fabric cloth, I'd be taking it off to throw in the wash after the very next meal (sigh). Maybe someday ...

But hope springs eternal, and one day I put a new fabric cloth on the table and when the milk was spilt it immediately became a little ball that looked like a pearl! And if you lifted the tablecloth, the ball rolled around! A few more intentionally flicked drops of milk, to our delight, had the same effect. It was a magic tablecloth! The spills would sit on top of the fabric long enough to be cleaned up. No longer were they immediately absorbed into the weave.

Life is messy. Things happen to us that have the potential to permanently stain. Acute disappointment, betrayal, unfair treatment, cruel words, unmet expectations—and the list goes on and on; when these things happen (notice I said "when" and not "if") what kind of souls do we have?

There are plastic people out there—whatever happens to them just seems to roll right off them. I think we've all known and wondered about them. But then there are the rest of us, who think and dream and live and love deeply, and when something happens we take it into our hearts much like a stain settling into the weave of our being. If it stays there long enough it becomes almost impossible to remove, and therefore we'll always carry a blot of that mess. I don't want to be that person who says, "Well, twenty years ago this happened and I've never gotten over it / refuse to forget it / remember like it was yesterday how I was hurt." I don't want to carry with me every one of life's painful experiences.

Psalms 18:30 says "As for God, his way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." I've always pictured God's protection like a fort with strong walls available for me to run into, but let me venture to say that this shield of protection that's offered to us is similar to the scotch guard finish on my magic tablecloth.

When my soul is splattered with the messiness of life, the knowledge that God is aware of every detail of my life (Psalms 37:23) acts as a buffer to my soul. Knowing that He sees and care and that He will take care of me allows me to isolate the incident and view it from His perspective first and not let it immediately seep in to damage my heart. Seeing it contained this way makes it easier to deal with.

Recently something I'd been pouring my life into was upended and spilled all over my heart. My first response was "Okay, Lord, what do I do with this?" Because I first looked to him, the incident sat on top of my heart instead of soaking in. So I looked at it, and rolled it around, and had some wise, trusted friends also look at the situation, and we all came to the same conclusion: "This is what happened, this is who you are … put it behind you and move on." And I did.

Come look at my heart—no stain mars its peace for God really is a shield to all those who look to Him for protection, to those who follow the words of Philippians 4:6-7 "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Will there be messes? Yes.
Do I have to bear a stain in my soul for every painful experience? No. Absolutely not. For God has promised to be a shield of protection for us, and when we turn things over to Him that He will give us peace beyond our ability to understand why we should be peaceful about this when it was really not a peace promoting kind of thing. My heart needs that kind of protection and God has promised to provide which makes a magic tablecloth nothing compared to this!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Gift Card



It all started with a customary check of my e-mail and a message from Starbucks. They informed me that their site was new and improved, and I could register my gift card and check my balance. I had a card, time, and curiosity, so why not?


A search through my wallet revealed three gift cards … hmm, that was surprising. I entered the numbers and found that the first had a balance of $15, the second $0, and the third $25! Wow! I didn’t even know I had three cards, and now I have a $40 balance. Can you imagine, $40 all to be spent on coffee and its accessories? What a gift! Call me and we’ll do coffee!


Suddenly I’m a rich woman in coffee currency. To know that I have the ability to pull into a Starbucks and get one of those Venti blended, sugary, whipped cream topped coffee drinks for free – iced or hot – makes me feel like I possess a great resource. The next time it’s mid-afternoon and crazy hot, I can pull right up and get a beverage to take care of that. Or if I’m out shopping and it’s cold and dreary and I’m ready for something to warm up, I’ll just whip out my card and get a nice brewed coffee with a shot of vanilla, or perhaps the seasonal favorite that catches my eye as I walk in. The next time caffeine calls and there’s no money in my wallet, no problem – ­­I have a card that says that java is already paid for and it’s mine.


I am very glad I looked through my wallet this afternoon. I had no idea of the treasures it already held, waiting for me to discover them. And isn’t it the same with that Bible that’s sitting on our shelves? It’s a repository of promises, many of which we’ve found at some previous point in our lives but maybe we’ve let them slip into the back of our minds and forgotten that they’re still there for us.

When I am bothered, frustrated, and stressed out, I have the promise that comes with “Casting all your care on Him for He cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7) When I’m worn out, I have an invitation waiting to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Whatever I need, there’s a promise God has made to me concerning it, and even that fact is all wrapped up in the promise of Philippians 4:13 that “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory” and since He says “I own the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalms 50:10), that’s a pretty big balance available to me!


On my gift card I was able to combine the money from the one card to the other. Perhaps it’s time to reload the promise card I carry as well, to get into the storehouse of God’s Word and find those promises that God has made to me and transfer them to my current thinking so that I will walk through life with the security that I am rich in this resource that, whatever comes my way, God has promised to take care of me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Will you be my friend?

In case you’re not familiar with it, Facebook is a fascinating world that gives you the ability to reconnect with just about anyone with whom you have ever had contact in your entire lifetime. And you can also connect with others with whom you have never had contact or would not be able to outside this social cyber world. All you have to do is to ask them to be your “friend,” and once they accept, they are on your list, you are on theirs, and you are now connected.

This afternoon as I was bored and randomly looking around Facebook, I discovered that I could identify myself as a fan of Max Lucado. I’ve respected and admired this man and his body of work since I first read one of his books. I’d shared his thoughts, taught classes with his materials, referenced him in numerous conversations, and even put magnets with his quotes on my fridge. Yes! I want to be his Facebook fan!

Two clicks later, and my face is among the thousands cheering about him.
But then I noticed that I also had another opportunity. If I sent him a message and he responded, I would not only be a fan, but we would be “friends.” I could be “friends” with this public figure I admire so greatly? He would see my name on his friend list?

I clicked the box to send a message.

The cursor kept steadily blinking, waiting to be moved along with the stirring words I intended to compose that would compel Max to be my “friend.”

Dear Max … No, that’s too familiar.

Dear Mr. Lucado … No, that sounds like a telemarketer.

Dear Pastor Lucado … Better, as his words have shepherded my soul on numerous occasions, but I don’t actually attend his church.

Dear Highly Esteemed Master of the English Language who can parse a concept into so few words that they innocuously slip into my thoughts and then expand into such overwhelmingly complex ideas that my mind can no more hold them than a linen closet can contain a self-inflating raft … Definitely not!

And even if I could get past the greeting, what could I possibly say to make Max Lucado want to be my friend? I ain’t got no gift with words compared to the prose that flows from his pen. He has nothing to gain from being associated with me, but I would have much to gain from even a single word of praise from him for my meager attempt to form words into sentences as powerful as his. If he recognized my efforts, it would set me apart from the thousands emulating his style. If the master wordsmith himself said “Well done,” I would be grateful beyond even his ability to express it on paper!

What if somehow Max heard about me? If one day he scrolled through his list of fans and decided to send me a personal message and ask me to be his “friend”? Would I answer?
Are you kidding? Sure, I would accept his offer of “friendship”—right after I returned home from the hospital because of the sudden heart attack I had—and you’d better believe I’d tell every single person I would meet for the rest of my life that I was Max Lucado’s friend!

Yet why is it that whereas we are struck wordless or become blithering idiots when we can make contact with a personality we admire, we so casually ignore the invitation waiting for us from the Author of all things? That when God who spoke the universe into existence asks me to be His friend and to enter into communion with His heart, I sit here drumming my fingers, deciding whether or not I wish to respond? Have we gotten so familiar with the Almighty that we no longer think He is all that?

I admire God and am in awe at His power. I speak of Him often, have His words in my home, and have taught His Word to hundreds, but God is asking for more than my respect, admiration, or even the propagation of His name: He wants me. He wants me not just to talk about Him but to come and talk with Him (Psalms 27:8) because He wishes to share with me His secrets (Psalms 25:14). He invites me to come to Him not just the one time, when I first came to the cross, or yesterday when I spoke to Him, but even now He tugs at my heart to come into His presence (Psalm 100).

He has nothing to gain from association with me. He is God and I am dust. My greatest praises can add nothing to the greatness of Who He already is, but just one word of His favor gives me a place with Him forever. There is nothing in me worthy of such love and acceptance. And for Him to say “well done” over just a moment of my service for Him would be the pinnacle of my entire life.

I, like many, am a huge fan of God, but He invites me to be His friend. What wonder is this that God speaks my name?

And what am I doing wasting minutes on Facebook when instead I’ve been given an invitation to right now be seeking His face…?