Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the Brink of 2012

It's New Year's Eve; so although the clock strikes midnight every night, today it will usher in a new year.

We're on the brink of the new and unknown.

Does it feel like this? 

 or more like this? As you're just not sure what's ahead...
But what if, as the clock struck midnight, you were cognizant of these truths -

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the skies.  
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, 
your justice like the great deep.


O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge 
in the shadow of your wings.(NIV)


You feed them from the abundance of your own house, 
letting them drink from your rivers of delight.


For you are the fountain of life, 
the light by which we see. (NLT)


Continue your love to those who know you (NIV)
Pour out your unfailing love to those who love you (NLT)
 Ps. 35:5-10


The Lord's lovingkindness indeed never ceases
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
"The Lord is  my portion", says my soul. 
"Therefore I have hope in Him."
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
 to the person who seeks Him.
 Lam. 3:22-25

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How we move past Christmas

As I wandered in stores this week, and observed life in general, one disturbing message was loud and clear - Christmas is over.

It's time to shove all the merchandise (that has been so highly lauded since Halloween) pell mell onto the clearance shelves and mark it 80% off.
Out with the old.
We're done with that stuff; we're moving on and now Valentine's merchandise is going there...

Christmas is over; the message is clear.
It is now time to gear up for 2012.
Family, celebrations, "I'll be home for Christmas" dreams are seemingly all complete, shoved into boxes and stuffed back into the attic or taken out in the trash in the mounds of ripped off wrapping paper.
Out with the sentimental and nostalgic:  time to make new resolutions, look forward, clear the clutter (as is the lead story of every single magazine out there) and determine to be a better ________(you fill in the blank)

Yes, the tree must come down.
Yes, our homes must be reclaimed from bows and lights and set up again for the business of life.
But when you pack away your nativity set, be sure you don't pack away your Savior.
For while Christmas stuff may be 80% off, His worth has not diminished.

We need not wait till Easter to again consider His impact on our world.
He is the God of every day; not only God in times of bi-yearly celebration.
Every day He walks with us providing new mercy and fresh strength. (Lamentations 3:23, Isaiah 40:31)

The reason that baby came to a manger was to be the Lord of our lives.
And as we go into a new year, we need One who is our Lord.

Who else knows both our future and our hearts?
Who else knows what motivates us and how to make us desire to live for Him?
Who else has a plan and makes all things work together so that we may be more like Him with each passing day?

The falling on our knees of our response to the angel's news, must continue it's work in our life as we submit our days, our desires, our expectations, our needs, our all, to the One who loved us enough to wrap Himself in flesh: so that we could live forever with Him - and not only someday in heaven but today. Today we can live with Him, and in Him, and through His strength and obedience to His Word in our lives.

You have celebrated the coming of the baby but let the new year still find you on bended knee to the King.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In the midst of it all...

It doesn't feel like Christmas; perhaps because it's on the weekend this year or because there's no snow on the ground but I'm just not feeling "christmasy".
The decorations are up, the music is playing, the gifts are wrapped, the menu's planned and Christmas cookies are everywhere, yet... although it doesn't feel like normal; it does feel routine.

I imagine it felt the same way for the shepherds; this was their springtime routine of being in the fields at night as it was calving season. They weren't out at night year round but they were every spring, so while it wasn't normal,  still it was the same as before.

On the other hand what Mary and Joseph were experiencing was far from their normal - a pregnancy, the gossip, visions of angels, and now a forced journey to an unfamiliar place - they were completely out of their comfort zone.
Some Christmas' feel like that, after a loss, a diagnosis, or announcement; this will not be the typically expected "merry little Christmas" to which one's become accustomed.

But, to Mary and Joseph in their unknown as well as to the shepherds in their routine, Jesus came; and with His coming brought peace to the anxious and hope to the complacent.

His birth brought these things because the Incarnation is the gift of Christmas; God has come to be with us (Matthew 1:22,23)!   He is with us both in our uncertainties and the expected.

Wherever this season finds you between known and unknown; may the realization of Emmanuel break upon your heart at some point as gloriously as when the angels appeared to the shepherds!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Making Space

I live in a small house and everything has it's place.
Well, actually that's not true; many things have their places and then there is all the other stuff that just migrates from one place to another...

So now it is Christmas and time to put up the decorations.  As I look around my living room I do not see an open space just waiting for the Christmas tree; instead I see a room already full to overflowing: where could I possibly fit in a tree?

So there is this time of evaluation; what can be moved out in order to make a place for Christmas? How can I rearrange what is present in this room so that the tree (and all the accompanying decor) will have a home? And after a plan is formulated then it is time to do the heavy lifting; to move the chair from one place to another, to clean out the things that have accumulated along the sides and corners, to see the entire space in a new light that is looking to make room for a celebration.

I live a small life and it is chock full of stuff. Ideals that have places and concepts that have not yet found a place to settle; tasks and responsibilities that pile up in corners and things that must be gotten to.

So now it's Christmas and time to pause and wonder and make room in my heart for the Savior but my mind is full to overflowing with tasks, and gift buying, and a million other distractions- where can I possibly fit in a peace filled heart of worship?

Now there is the need for evaluation.
Followed by some heavy lifting.
An intentional rearranging and discarding to make space for adoration; to make a place for this One who is the reason for the season. I may be playing the music, singing the carols, and telling the story but is there a space that is ready and waiting for Him to fill? I'd love to see this and that under the tree but am I longing as greatly for Him? I've made time to go here and there but will I carve out space for Him?

Will I do what is necessary so that my response at His coming is not a regrettable "no room" but a joyous "come to my heart Lord Jesus for there is room in my heart for thee"?

What will your response be?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Christmas invitation for you

Last January I came across the website  http://myoneword.org/.
The concept is fairly simple, instead of making a long list of resolutions for the coming year choose ONE WORD. As they said "This process provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing."

So I tried it. I chose a word and, although my attention to it waxed and waned through the months, it truly has provided a clear focus.

My invitation to us is not as ambitious, but just as important.

Let's choose a word to meditate on this month, up to and including all the Christmas festivities and then afterwards as we head into a new year.

What will you focus on this season?
Not what will you do this season as that list is endless; but where will your heart focus?

Will it be on
Peace?

Joy?

Love?

Savior?

Messiah?

or...???

My word (as illustrated) is Emmanuel, because despite all and through all I want to focus on the fact that  is He is God with us.
Jesus - Creator God- took the form of fallen man. He came as a baby so that He could grow, to die, for my sin, so that I could be ever  with Him - both in this life and the life to come.

Emmanuel when lists are long and time is short.
Emmanuel when materialism threatens to steal my eyes and  frantic activity my peace.
Emmanuel whether I am joyful in a crowd or feeling all alone.
Emmanuel as He will never leave or forsake me (Heb. 13:5)

Will you join me?
Will you choose a word for yourself this month and let it take root and flourish in your heart finding it wherever you go this season?

If you'd be so kind,will you add it to the comments section so that we can take this journey together?
May God bless us as we journey to the manger keeping our eyes on Him!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Really? You're in a tux?

I'm getting a tuxedo ready for my 15 year old son.

And I can't believe it.

I had no idea he'd be in a position to wear one so soon!

And I wonder...
I wonder what clothes God has in store for us for positions He knows we'll soon be filling.
Will it be the suit of a speaker or the soft sweater of a grandparent, the shoes of one with a mission or an outfit paired with coffee for a time of listening?

What are His plans?
What is He preparing for us?

The Bible talks of God preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14), but what does He have in mind for us to finish before we arrive at home?

When my son steps out with his violin at the concert he will be prepared,in his skill set and with the proper attire.

What attire is God preparing for you?
And how is He preparing you for it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ever Green


"O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me." (NLT)


I will answer him and care for him. I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me."(NIV)


It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.(ESV)

It's been there all along but I'd never noticed this verse in Hosea 14:8, but; now that I'd seen it, my eyes were opened!

'Tis the season of evergreens!
They stand full and proud while their deciduous counterparts are stark barren sticks.
We're bringing their beauty and fresh smell into our homes to stand in places of prominence.

The tradition of decorating evergreens is centuries old; however, I couldn't find an explanation as to why this particular tree - until I saw it here - in Scripture.

God's faithfulness is likened to an ever green tree - constant, unchanging.(Malachi 3:6)

What better symbol to connect the manger and the Cross and His constant grace into our lives thousands of years after those events?

Do you also see the admonition there, to stay away from idols because it is God who takes care of us? If we have Him we are in need of nothing. (Psalm 23:1)

In this time of love and giving,(and materialism and greed), as we hang our wreaths, decorate trees and let the crisp scent awaken our senses; let us remember that it He who cares for us, He who meets our every need.

God who is always faithful, ever green.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surrounded...

 Unfailing love surrounds those who trust in the Lord - Psalm 32:10b (NLT)


Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him. (NIV)


Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord (ESV)


Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him (NKJV)


You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance  Psalm 32:7


You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand of blessing on my head....I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there will Your hand guide me and your strength support me. Psalm 139: 5,  7-10


Unfailing love surrounds those who trust in the Lord...



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ducks in a row? Seriously?!

Ideally life should look like this


However; typically, mine looks like this


Which is okay if all the ducks stay still so I can assemble them into a tidy row: if I can take all my responsibilities and give them the proper time and attention they require.


Unfortunately my "ducks" more closely resemble Canadian geese - independent,fast moving, fat and mean.



Making it a constant race to chase them down to get them in order.

And they don't like getting in order...really.
Ducks,
Geese,
Responsibilities,
None are  predisposed to get into a nice orderly row.

Instead they exhibit other behaviors...


some days are just that way...


And it is on these days that it is good to remember that I am not the one sitting on the throne of the universe.
God is in control and because He is, I don't have to be.

I will do my best act responsibly in all my commitments and obligations.
But putting ducks in rows, is ultimately up to Him.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not Hungry

Artwork by Timothy Botts
I am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. John 6:35

Never hungry again - not for purpose or fame; or satisfaction or success.
Not for affirmation or approval; or love or comfort.
Not for pleasure or motivation; or  companionship or understanding.

The Bread of Life stands ready to satisfy all my appetites, promising that if I have Him, He is all that I need.
No matter the day or the season or the year if I have Him, it is enough.

He is my daily bread.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Walking with children


I passed them on my way to the grocery store and then again on my way home.

Here was a dad with his two small daughters and they too were going to the store;only their pace was not as brisk as mine...

The father could have been walking as quickly as I, but he was not alone. He'd slowed his pace to match his daughter's, staying by her side and not hurrying her along.

The LORD is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. Psalms 103:13,14


I've no doubt that God has wanted me to move more quickly along paths of righteousness in the journey of becoming more like Christ. When He says "go" I imagine He has more of a purposeful stride in mind than the ambling I do. But He is the ultimate father. He walks with us; at our pace. He will make sure that we will get to where we are going even if we stop to look at bugs on the sidewalk or flit off to chase a few butterflies along the way.
He's our Dad and He is God. He knows how to encourage us as He walks with us to get us where we need to be.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's on your plate?

For the past few months I've been mindful of what I've been eating; trying to conciously choose what I feel is healthiest for me.

This morning my daughter, who got up earlier than I, came upstairs with breakfast for both of us; to be eaten, of course, all snuggled in my bed.

While it was delicious and so very thoughtful, it was not exactly what I'd planned on having. The bagel was delicious and the coffee was really strong and so I ate and drank because she had lovingly prepared it for me.

Sometimes God puts things on our plates that we would not have chosen to partake of; and yet, there they are. Do we partake? Do we trust that the One who loves us more than we can imagine, knows what is best for us?

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me. Proverbs 30:8

Let us be so convinced of the goodness and faithful love of our God  that we can thank Him for whatever He puts on our plates, as He knows that for us this is needful.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stopping to Savor

It's my birthday and because of the celebrations and numerous free birthday item coupons, I have eaten my way through the week! Five days (so far!) of palate pleasing pursuits; ice cream and coffees, pie, breakfast and lunches, and bakery cookies shaped like cupcakes. It's been a scrumptious journey!

A birthday is a perfect time to stop and savor, not only all the deliciousness of celebration, but the richness of another year lived with the blessings of the Lord.

So many years ago this baby girl was born and has consequently been sustained and upheld all the days that have followed. As I look through my history I trace the hand of God; and I am sure that this same hand will continue to guide and uphold me in the years to come. A birthday is a time to pause and remember and in the remembering, to step into a new year with confidence.

Taste (and savor) and see (remember) that the Lord is good.
Oh the joys (and peace!) of those who trust in Him!
Let the Lord's people show Him reverence,
for those who honor Him will have all they need (will not lack any necessary thing)
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry (despite all that strength and ability and all they have going for them)
But those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing. (Never lack, for anything, what greater gift could there ever be?!)
Psalms 34:8-10 (and me!)



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unchanging

Things change.
This is neither rocket science nor new information.
What is today may not be tomorrow.
Things change.

God does not change.
No matter how the seasons, circumstances, friends, locations, or abilities change; God remains the same.
He is constant.

If your landscape which was once bathed in sun and balmy breezes is now barren and life threateningly cold; God remains the same.(Hebrews 13:8)

If the circle of chairs around your table grows fewer; God is still present. (Psalm 27:10)

If your energy runs out before the hours of the day, if your needs exceed the bills in your wallet, if where once you abounded you are now bereft; God still supplies all that we need. (Philippians 4:19)

Thou changest not
Thy compassions, they fail not,
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me... ( From the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness which is based on Lamantations 3:22,23)

Thou changest not - no matter what else may change - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:5 

No matter what changes in my life, in my relationships, or in myself I can always count on God to be unchanging; as loving and reliable as He has always been.



Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.


Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!





Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psalm 119

On this cold rainy afternoon I'd made a very tall cup of coffee and was slowly making my way through Psalm 119:  it's filled with two line nuggets of gold and I was mining it for all it was worth.

 Remember Your promise to me for it is my hope (v. 49)
Your principles have been the music of my life throughout the years of my pilgrimage (v. 54)
 Lord, you are mine!...with all my heart I want your blessings (v. 57)
 All your commands are trustworthy (v.86)
Lord, accept my grateful thanks (v. 108)
You are near O Lord, and all your commands are true (v. 151)
Let my lips burst forth in praise for You have taught me your principles. Let my tongue sing about Your Word. (v. 171)

The whole psalm is like a love letter to the Lord about the value of His commands and how they have guided the psalmist all throughout his life and have been his joy and peace even though his enemies have been out to get him. At one point it even seemed to me that the writer was a bit of a braggart as he keeps saying how much he loves God's law and has kept his commands; it's obvious that God is a very big and very important part of his life.

So I guess that is why the last verse caught me unaware...

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me for I have not forgotten your commands. (v. 176)

After 175 verses of praise and faithfulness the psalm concludes with an admission of humanness - although I LOVE your law, O Lord; I have wandered away... However victorious and faithful I've been to
You through all these years, at the moment I'm not there. And in his admission is honesty, humility, and a cry for help - Come and find me. Other translations say, Seek thy servant.

No matter how much we love God's Word, or how long our feet have faithfully stayed on His path; there are times we wander. And wander is such a good term for it; not a deliberate stomping off God's path to pursue our own desires but just kind of a mindless, not being diligent, kind of wandering until we look up and wonder "how did I get here?"

But the beauty is that, no matter we've endd up here, He is willing and able to come and bring us home!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Frolics

Ah, it's fall in the Midwest and, along with the apple picking and pumpkin choosing, it is the season of corn mazes.
It must have been some very enterprising farmer who thought to cut mazes into the browned out fields  before they were harvested for winter feed. The concept is simple. You enter the field at the appointed point and find your way to the exit point.  Sometimes there is a map, often there are only clues, and you, and rows and rows of corn...

There is a path, a way out, a solution; however, the trick is avoiding all the dead ends and paths that lead to nowhere...

From the air it's much easier to determine the correct route out
It's a whole different story though from ground level!

We live at ground level.
We live being able to see only the path directly in front of us, the rest of our perspective shielded by circumstances that surround us.

When we feel we're wandering aimlessly it is good to remember that the course of our lives is clear to the Almighty; that He knows the way that we take (Job 23:10-12) and He is directing our steps (Proverbs 3:6)

Often I feel I've progressed so little! It all seems the same as when I've started although my journey has been long. All I can do is continue to put my trust in the One whose thoughts and ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8) and know that He has never lost one of His own and will safely bring me home ( John 18:19).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Time of Uncertainty

If ignorance is bliss and knowledge is power; than what is uncertainty?

What is that pause between not knowing and knowing?

What if you are aware you don’t know but will soon find out; and that when you do the impact on your life will be significant.

Where do you go in such a time?

You go to the One who knows.
Because not only does He know the future, but more importantly He knows your heart.

He knows your heart because He made it – He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do. Psalms 33:15

He knows your heart because He is close to you – You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. Psalms 38:9

He knows what the impact will be and how to give you all that you need.

Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms...who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19

...May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him.  Hebrews 13:20

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

When you don’t know, stay close to the One who knows you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How much coffee does one girl need?

I have no business walking down a coffee aisle; and yet, here I am trolling for the Autumn Apple (it’s so yummy!) I have already amassed enough coffee to start my own coffee shop. Seriously. Yet I’m still looking for more, just in case…

I can’t imagine having only a single bag in the house. What if today I have a taste for Island Coconut and tomorrow I’m feeling more like Pumpkin Spice? What if tonight I’d like some coffee so I’d need to have some decaf on hand? Chocolate Raspberry is wonderful made into an iced coffee and a cup of Caramel Vanilla is like dessert! I’m never sure of what I’ll want so I aim to be prepared!

It’s absolutely ridiculous and reveals, to me, a deeper truth about myself.

“The Lord who made you and helps you says…Do not fear. For I will give you abundant water to quench your thirst…” Isaiah 44:2

For I will give you abundant water.

Why is it that I feel I have to meet my own needs; that I am responsible to stockpile supplies for every contingency life may bring when I have a promise such as this? When I do think that God is not sufficient to satisfy my heart?

“Every one of these depends on you to give them their food as they need it. When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are satisfied.” Psalms 103:27,28

Is it not the most basic tenant of our faith that God will take care of us? Is not all of Scripture a series of testimony of how there was a need and God met it?

The Israelites were trapped by the Red Sea, God opened the waters. (Exodua 10)

The widow and her son were out of food, God provided jars of endless meal and oil. (I Kings 17)

Elijah needed a compelling demonstration of God’s power, God sent fire from heaven to consume the altar and the moat of water surrounding it. (I Kings 18)

A woman reached out in faith touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, God healed the disease in her body.(Matthew 9)

We are sinners, God provided a Savior. (Luke 19:10)

“But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19

All my needs.

Abundant water.

God is faithful to do what He has promised.

No worry or stockpiling necessary.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Derailed

My son was freaking out this morning.

“The early train is stuck at the station and my train is late! How am I going to get to school on time? Even if I run all the way from the train I’m going to be late!! I don’t even know where to go if I’m late!!! What if it doesn’t come at all? All these people are here and no one knows what to do…”

His plans had been derailed.

The way things should have been working, wasn’t.

His timetable was shattered.

Everything was up for grabs and no one had any answers.

What he didn’t know was that everything was under control. There were contingency plans in place for such an occurrence at the train station and at the school. Another plan was in place and everything was going to be just fine.

I told him that, repeatedly, but it wasn’t until he lived through it that he could realize I was right.

My Father tells me that although my plans have been derailed and although things aren’t happening according to my timetable, that there is a plan in place and everything will be as it should be.

I hear Him, but find it hard to believe, until I’ve walked through it and then looking back can see He was right all along.

We’ve lived through derailed plans before and we’ve seen, in retrospective, that God was in control the entire way. So the next time everything that’s been running so smoothly in our lives comes to a halt, may we remember that God has a plan and He is working it out in our lives.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill His purpose for me” Psalms 57:2


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Connecting the dots in the big picture

 About fifteen years ago I was all alone and on my knees sobbing in a hospital chapel.

I was pregnant - with a child we'd been told had a good chance of some serious problems- and I was in pre-term labor.

I was scared and had no idea of what was going to happen next.
 Isaiah 41: 10 - Calligraphy by Timothy Botts

And what happened next was God, the One who knows the big picture, setting up the dots to be connected.

I looked up and saw this mural on the chapel's back wall and line by line the words of this verse calmed my terror and assured me that, whatever the outcome, I would be upheld by God's victorious right hand. I memorized both the verse and graphic presentation of it that day and held onto it throughout the rest of the pregnancy until I was holding my beautiful baby boy.

Today I sent my son off to his first day of High School -to commute by train to downtown Chicago - and I, with all my anxiety, was not the most anxious of the two of us...

I sent with him this verse, this specific picture of this verse and my story of how God used it when I was so unsure of the future and how that the same God who walked through that valley with me and gave me him was the same God who was going with him today into the halls and classes of a brand new school.

God knew 15 years ago that today this verse would go with my baby boy to high school. God knew that when the Timothy Botts page-a-day calendar was being assembled that this verse would be on September 1st so that I would have it to give to Robbie today.

I've always known that God sees the "big picture" but I'm realizing, yet again, that not only does He see it as the overview but that every detail is clearly in focus to Him. There was a direct line from point A to B with this scripture even though the connecting line was 15 years in length.

It’s a well worn scripture that “God works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28) but to see it – this “working together” in such small yet significant pieces of my life, gives my heart yet one more evidence that “God will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalms 57:2) because “God can be trusted to keep His promise” (Hebrews 10:23).

What evidence of the same have you seen in your life? 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summer of the Snow Cone

It all began with the $2.99 electric ice shaver.  Add a couple bottles of flavored syrups, above average summer temps and suddenly mine was the most popular house in the neighborhood; my kitchen was like it was like a concession stand at a carnival!
I wondered how the syrup was going to last all summer-seeing that each bottle was more expensive than the shaver and at that price I really didn't want to be replacing them.

My worries were in vain for as the temperatures cooled so did the demand  and now on this 55 degree last morning of summer you can see (from the photo) that I had more than just enough.

We have these situations that demand every last resource we have; all of our strength, patience, discernment, energy and spiritual character. Seeing the road ahead is long the question is how can I keep this up? I don't have enough.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13

Although this verse specifically talks about temptation the principle is true for any situation that overwhelms us because the underlying truth is "God is faithful who will not allow you to (suffer/experience/bear) beyond what you are able".

God is faithful.
He knows our hearts.
He knows our capacity.
He knows how to make sure we have enough to persevere to the end.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clean Feet

As the temperature has returned to the HOT range these last days of summer vacation, I spend this afternoon in the water with my kids.

While I was there, floating and frolicking, I realized two things; this was the first time I’d done this all summer and my feet were really clean!

I’m a “feet on the ground” kind of girl – as soon as it’s temperate enough my shoes are off which means for roughly six months of the year I’m either barefoot or in flip-flops!

Consequently my feet are never really clean – as in pristine or without a ground in kind of dirt residue; showers and quick swipes of the washcloth can’t completely get the job done.

But today I have clean feet because I went and played; enjoying the water for an extended time.

We are all "feet constantly on the ground" people; barely one problem is solved before another takes its place and the days turn into weeks and suddenly whole seasons have passed us.

We rarely have time to revel, to play, to just unwind enough to not realize, or care!, how much time has passed and all the things that could have been accomplished.

And if we don’t have play time like that we most certainly don’t have time like that to spend with the Lord.

I love the idea of women’s retreats – time away from normal responsibilities to spend with friends and really focus on the Lord; but even in these rare opportunities it’s still hard to immerse yourself in the waters of grace and  be carried away on the gentle current of His love.

It takes extended time to keep our hearts fresh and clean; free from the residue of life’s circumstances and experiences that have ground blackness into our souls.

I wish I knew a way to provide such an extended time to you. I know the psalmist had similar desires when he wrote, “This one thing I ask of the Lord- the thing I seek most- is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His temple.” Psalm 27:4,5

Can we live in the house of the Lord? Even though we dwell here can our hearts be in residence in His presence? We know we are always in the presence of God for He has said that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) so the question is are we aware that we’re always in God’s presence? And if we can cultivate that awareness can delighting in His nearness be far behind?

Can He give us, we who slog through daily through life, clean feet?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunrise

 It has been calling me for months.


Every morning the heavens stretch out glorious pink and golden banners and invite me to be part of the celebration of a new day.

And I think about it, I really do! I squint out my window and see the sun rising and consider getting up and out there to revel in all that beauty; and then  close my eyes and go back to sleep.

But this morning I had to get closer and see more than the little that had filtered through the trees to my window. The grass was dewy and the birds insistent and, as I walked through the yard, no longer was the sunrise just a few compelling streaks but instead a vast  landscape that enveloped me.

Looking back at my bedroom windows it was hard to believe the sun could even reach into those little glass rectangles waaaaay back there; but it had, faithfully for weeks, and that was the reason I was now engrossed in the panorama around me.

I think it’s similar with the Son. He calls to us to come closer, to know Him more deeply. He calls repeatedly yet we’re too busy, or tired, or just don’t think we’ve got it in us to make the effort but the there is the time we come.

When we step away from the shadows of business and into the warmth of His presence and in doing so find that He is so much more than we remember or that the we could have imagined even with the penetrating shafts of his love which had found us through the foliage of circumstances.

Here all I see God and His greatness.
Here I have no trouble believing, as did Abraham, that God is absolutely able to do what He has promised – Romans 4:19-22

When my “later” has become “now” I wish it had been “sooner” yet am grateful it didn’t again become “tomorrrow”.

Because again I've found that when I make the effort to come,God faithfully keeps His promise to be found!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

Friday, August 26, 2011

My First Ever D.I.Y. Post!

Take a large binder clip

The kind you'd use to hold a bunch of sheets together.

Turn it upside down and it - voila!- becomes a note card holder!!



How amazed and impressed are you? :)

Every day we use all kinds of things as they were intended to be used. Binder clips bind paper, clothespins hold laundry, and a goblet holds liquid but all these things are not limited to just a single purpose. The binder clip becomes a note card holder, the clothespin keeps the bag closed and our chips fresh and the goblet becomes a luminary with the addition of a tea light candle.

And if we can be oh so very clever don't you think that God, the Creator of the Universe, can take what we're experiencing in life and use it for purposes far beyond our limited rationales?

"My thoughts are completely different from yours, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine..." Isaiah 55:8

"Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope." Ephesians 3:20

How amazed and impressed are we going to be when we see what God is doing?!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Please don't give up on me!

Although the words were written thousands of years ago, they still  resonate with the heart engaged in honest confession before God in their request.

Psalm 119: 5-8 (NLT)
Oh, that my actions would conisistently reflect your principles!

Instead of reflecting how I'm quicker to worry than to trust, to gossip then to pray, to take the easy route instead of pursing the holy...

Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.

I am looking pretty good compared to some to the people around me, even those in the church!
But in Your eyes and compared to your commands I stand head bowed in shame...

When I learn your righteous laws I will thank you by living as I should!

Yes, Yes Lord that's what I'll do! I know your laws and I will live by them!
Until I'm tired, or discouraged, or stubborn, or when your laws seem just so hard...

I will obey your principles.

You know my heart Lord; I really want to follow your commands but I just keep failing...

Please don't give up on me!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bucket or Hose?

I had a patch of thirsty flowers but the hose was all wound up nicely and put away and I didn't want the hassle of getting it out.
I filled up a bucket and dumped it on the plants; and whoosh, the water was sucked into the parched earth so quickly it was as if I'd added no moisture as all.

Well clearly that wasn't going to work!

So I pulled out the hose, untangled the kinks, hooked it up to the tap and gave the flowers the drink they really needed.  While I was at it I watered the whole garden thoroughly as there wasn't any effort involved as the hose was already in place.

I picked up a women's magazine and found an inspirational sidebar which read
"Your dreams are within reach"
"You're someone worth believing in"
"You can succeed. You should succeed. You will succeed"

So refreshing aren't they?
Like a bucket of water poured into parched ground.

How much sustenance is there in a sentimental saying?

Some, but how much more value are words of hope and truth?

John 7:38 gives us the means to be as channel, a hose if you would, of life to those around us. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

  The Greek word for living here is zao meaning "living water, having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul."

From where does this living water flow? What is the tap we must be connected to in order to provide such life giving water?

The Lord is the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 17:12)
To have access to such a resource I must be connected to God.

And sometimes that seems to be a hassle. To confess sin and renounce myself, to find time and desire to spend in God's Word and in prayer, to give Him control and dominion over every thing in my life; these are the kinks I must untangle for His life giving words to flow through me to help others.

But when they do, the effort is not of myself for God himself provides the truth and hope to the ones I minister too. If I'm not connected to Him I'm merely running back and forth, filling from my own ideas, mere buckets of water.

So today do we share a sweet saying like "You make a difference in this world" or words of life that communicate that the Almighty God, creator of the universe, sent His Son to die in your place so that you could be in a relationship with Him? Words like...

He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you."

— Max Lucado
 
Which will it be? Buckets of our understanding and advice or letting God's living water flow through us because of our connectedness with Him?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grab your shoes

I went for a walk this morning; after six weeks of lying in bed and watching the sun rise and thinking "I really should get up and walk", I finally did.

And as I walked I remembered one thing; I am the only one who can get myself to exercise.

I can read books, watch motivational shows, compare the pros and the cons, buy the apparel and the equipment, and be both encouraged and warned by people in my life but when it comes right down to it, it is up to me to lace tight my shoes and hit the pavement.
I am also the only one who can lift my hands to God.
I can speak the lingo, read the most popular Christian authors, wear the appropriate Sunday morning clothing and sing the songs but none of it makes me one who seeks God.  I have to intentionally lift my hands, my heart, to Him.

Psalms 34:15 says "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry". 
So we see God is waiting, but are we asking?
Are we crying out to Him for help, direction, wisdom, strength and endurance? Is there this personal, "shoes laced up hitting the pavement", kind of relationship and engaging with Him or more just a general knowledge and acquiescence of Him?

We control our hearts, our thoughts, and if today we will cry out to God.
Care to grab your shoes?

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Cool Place

 I am fascinated by my air conditioner.
(I know, simple minds are easily amused!)

I am amazed because it is still working.
Even though it's been running non-stop through a week of blistering heat, it's still going strong.

I keep expecting it to give out.
To say "enough is enough" and quit.
But still it is humming along keeping me cool and providing a place of refuge from the soaring heat and humidity.

I've always thought of a place of "refuge" as a well fortified castle with the drawbridge drawn up over the moat to keep out the enemy.
I'm rethinking that at the moment as I realize what a place of refuge an air conditioned room can be.

Coolness when it is hot.
Refreshing relief from oppression.
A place to breathe when everything else is stifling.
A place I need not worry about my survival and well being because here I can simply rest and know this is a safe and good place.

All of what is true of an air-conditioned room is also true of the refuge that God offers us; repeatedly offers us...

The Lord saves the godly; He is their fortress in times of trouble.  The Lord helps them...He saves them and they find shelter in Him.  Psalms 37:37-39

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Psalms 5:11

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalms 9:9

Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Psalms 17:7

Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.Psalm 25:20

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

The next time you walk from the heat into the air conditioning be reminded of this truth - Our God is a refuge for us!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Beauty of a Soaker Hose

It is hot!
But I'm sure, that since 32 out of 50 states are under an excessive heat warning, I don't need to tell you it's hot.

Knowing the heat was coming and that I'd be away for a few days I stood with the hose deluging the flowers until their dry dust beds transformed into rich warm soil with rivulets of water.  I gave them a long, deep, satisfying drink hoping it would be enough for them to endure the oppression that was coming.

It wasn't
because
it couldn't be.

For flowers to thrive in the summer a single long drink is not enough.
The solution is a soaker hose and a timer - the guarantee of liquid nourishment every day.

Life is tough.
But I'm sure, since you're living life, you already know that.

A single moving satisfying spiritual experience - be it at church,conference, concert, or just an amazing insight from the Word, in all it's refreshing wonderfulness; is not enough. A deep drink cannot last over the heat of days.

We thrive when daily we draw from Living Water.

Daily grace for daily needs.

Grace to help in the time of need - today - and new grace for tomorrow, this is how we flourish.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him
Lamentations 3:22-25 ESV

New day? There is strength for it as the steadfast love of the Lord never ends.

If we seek Him, He is good to those who wait for him.

There is an unequaled refreshment in a long drink of His love; in times where the eyes of the soul are refocused on His greatness and the heart is lifted high in praise and showers of blessings rain down.

But when the skies are clear and the air around is oppressive God's love is still there; quietly alongside us and providing mercies for our needs.

So great is His faithfulness!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"I love you more than..."

There's this game we play that goes something like this...
"I love you"
"I love you more"
"I love you more than chocolate chip cookies"
"I love YOU more than snow days"
"I love you more than..."

On and on it goes.
Now if you're loved more than broccoli or homework that's not so great BUT if you are loved more than coffee (from me) or ice cream (from the kids) now that is really something!!

I'm realizing that this is also something I want to say and act towards my God.
"I love You more than holding this grudge."
"I love You more than treating others the way they've treated me."
"I love you more than this hurt, need for revenge, or following the desires of my own heart."

This is no game.
This is how God asks me to live my life, to love Him more than my own desires; to follow His commands more than my own intuitions or understanding.

To say with the actions of my life that "I love You more than myself."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Long Term Plans

There was a star blinking at me when I logged in this morning informing me that I had lost 5 pounds! Sounds great doesn't it?  Now this would have been amazing if it had been a week, great if it had been two, acceptable if it had been three but was downright dismal when it’s the result of four weeks – four weeks of only serving others ice cream, not taking the extra slice of pizza and turning down countless icy cold beverages on hot summer days. This was my big result? whoo hoo…

I really hate long term plans!!

Now granted, if I keep losing weight at this rate I will be in the vicinity of what it says on my driver’s license in a couple years; that’s something right? Right?!

Perhaps it’s me, or because I’m a product of the culture but I want it now. Via coffee, instant oatmeal, patience and maturity in a hurry – and put a rush on that!

And although I may not like it the lack of speed, there is great security and peace knowing that God has a long term plan in place for my life.

Nothing that happens in my life is random or senseless.

I may not understand how this fits but God knows how it’s part of the plan.

I was thinking about Job, who is historically known, as the epitome of a man with problems. But look at the concluding verse of the book of Job. “Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, good life.” (Job 42:16)

I wonder what Job’s perspective was on his troubles a year after they’d ended, and after ten years, and fifty and a hundred… How did he feel about the problems that, when in the midst of them he lamented “Why didn’t I die at birth as I came from the womb? Why did my mother let me live?... for if I had died at birth, I would be at peace now, asleep and at rest.” (Job 3:11)

God has a long term plan in place, if we recognize what He is doing or not. There was a plan for Job, He has one for me, and He also does for you. The progress may be slow or seemingly stagnant but rest assured “He knows the way that I take and when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 even if it’s just one baby step at a time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Does God care about the small stuff?

It is the end of the school year madness - you know, the time where finals have been taken yet there's still homework for the class, when the weather is so hot that the year round schoolwear is just not working, and when every last field trip is being crammed in- that kind of craziness.

My husband, who is a teacher, called home, "Do you want to chaperon a perfect attendance luncheon?"
"Sure"
"Okay I'll put you down and give the slip to the office"
(one of the only perks in being a teacher at your child's school)

Our school operates on a "first come, first served" chaperon basis - obviously turning in a request ten minutes after the slip was handed out should guarantee me a spot...

...or not!

The voice mail came a few days later that the five had already been chosen before my slip was received...
Oh good grief! 
Wait, how is that even possible?!?
The message continued that I was, however, welcome to meet them there.
Grrr....

But I did.
I skipped my morning coffee (!) and got dressed for a luncheon - dress pants, nice blouse, jewelry, the whole nine yards and much too warmly for the summer day that's predicted.

Arriving at the place I discover that it is not a luncheon but a FIELD DAY!! An 800 children running around in a big grassy area, music blaring, volleyball net and snow cone kind of field day. It was a fantastic idea but I was way overdressed!

And it was okay because I was able to leave.  Had I ridden the bus I would have still be overdressed but I would have also been stuck there.
As I walked to the car I realized, anew, that God is in the small stuff. Our trust in Him does not need to be limited to the "big" things but that He is involved in all the details of our lives.

God looks out for His children.
Isn't that such a comfort?

He takes care of me even though that may not be immediately apparent.

I was so frustrated about being slighted for this trip and here I see how God has worked it all out for my good just as He's promised.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 RSV

"The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives" Psalm 37:23NLT

I am now home, in casual clothes, drinking a very large iced coffee and taking care of the other things that needed to be done today and I am writing, to you, because I have this evidence I have to share - YES, yes, God does care about the small stuff and as He was faithful to remind me of that today I want to encourage you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tips for super gluing broken things and people

I've been working with super glue.
Well, actually, I've been fighting with super glue trying not to glue things together that shouldn't be glued together; like the napkin used to wipe off the tip to the tablecloth and my fingers to each other.
Yep, four out of ten fingers have a permanent film on the tips right now and the tablecloth has a smidgen of napkin permanently affixed to it...

In the process I've remembered a few things...
1. Fixing something broken is always a messy business
2. In order for the glue to set the pieces must be held together for a long time.
3. When you think it's been long enough, it hasn't
4. The mended piece will always bear a distinctive jagged scar where it was broken.

These are just the facts, and they are as true for people and relationships as they are for objects.

Love is the superglue of life.
Fixing what is broken is almost more intense and messy than expected.
It takes a lot of holding until there is healing.
There'll always be a scar and mended things are more fragile.

Redeeming what is broken is worth the effort and when we love we partner with Christ.
"He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds" Psalm 147:3

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What are you doing the rest of your life (you know, the next 2 days)?

So the world is ending on Saturday or, more exactly, the rapture is going to take place.

Hmm...

So what are your plans for the rest of your life? You know, Thursday and Friday...

Are we going home to be with the Lord this weekend?

It's possible - it's always possible - but it's not probable for the Bible itself says that "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" Mark 13:32

But the next verse goes on to say "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." Mark 13:33

Watch - for you do not know when the time is.
"Teach us to number our days so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12

It's so simple to live our lives as though they will never end and to spend our days as if we have an inexhaustible supply.

But our days are numbered and it is good to remember that.

Not many of us know when our lives will end; however I have friends who, because of disease, have been given an expected range of remaining years.

I don't know exactly how one lives knowing they'll not need a five or ten year plan but I have been watching and do see how they are aware of spending their days wisely and making decisions accordingly: they fully live each day.

It would be good for all of us to do the same, wouldn't it?

What if your life ended this weekend?

What would you want to say to those you love? What accounts would you have to settle? What would you spend your time doing?

Yes, we can't, no matter what the song "Live like you were dying" says, live in that manner every day - it's not feasible - no one would ever return to work and the dishes would never get washed! But today we have this little reminder that we've been instructed to watch for His return, to number our days, and to not take for granted that we'll be given another 24 hours.

So, as the occasions present themselves, be sure to live and love fully for the rest of your life.