Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Do You See Good When Bad is All Around?


If you're joining me here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

"I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:17

Thankfulness awakens us to God's presence. My heart knows this full well and hearkens my spirit at sunrise. Summer night's heat still lingers so I tip toe outside - coffee in hand - breathing in the new day.

The day before proved challenging. Problem popped up like weeds in the lawn and I nearly lost my footing. I'm ready for a new day - one better than the last. So I take another deep breath and a sip of hot coffee and trace the warmth all the way down. Then I open my eyes - Thin clouds hide the rising sun but daylight reveals God's beauty and provision everywhere - and start counting to ten:
  1. A new day
  2. Waking up next to my husband
  3. Morning's first coffee
  4. Pink roses
  5. Yesterdays wet fun draped over the clothes line
In this moment my heart remembers that goodness abounds - even in the middle of a challenges. And I can't stop counting, can't stop noticing all God's goodness around me.
    
     6. Ripening raspberries
     7. Bluing blueberries
     8. Cooling breezes
     9. Summer thunderstorms
   10. Silence

When we take a deep breath and start counting our blessings - big and small - our hearts resound with praise to the Giver of all good things. We realize how high and deep, how long and wide is His great love for us; how He takes care of tiniest details of our lives. When we do this - take time to count, to reflect, to remember - our faith grows.

These small recollections build our faith so that when those times of insurmountable problems arise we can present them to God with confidence that He will see us through - the One who makes all things work for good for those who love Him and call Him by name.

It's a new day - a new week. We all face challenges, even our children. When we practice counting our blessings (personally and as a family) our perspective changes. Are you or your children facing any challenges--maybe an insurmountable situation that's out of your control? Take a deep breath and start counting to ten, together. Ready?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spring Cleaning ~ Surrendering to the Light


Pittock Mansion by Brittany
Flickr.com_8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0
If you found your way here from (re)fresh, welcome!

"God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5

The days are longer now. Morning creeps in under the shades of my bedroom window at 5 a.m. like a slinking cat reaching its front paws towards me for a morning stretch. My almost-half-century body rises less reluctantly, (yet with a few more kinks than the year before), now that light guides me safely from my slumber.

I face the day with great expectancy with a spring of hope in every step and a few more hours of sun light to accomplish great things. But as I walk from room to room throughout the day, things gone unnoticed in the darkness of winter now distract me in the light of spring. I catch a glimpse of dusty cobwebs hanging from every corner of my ceilings; once-white curtains are now a dingy gray; scrapes and scratches appear from nowhere all over my tired, painted walls. Finger prints mar every mirrored surface and I think something is growing underneath my bed. Surrendering to the light, unable to hide what it reveals, I put aside the great things and focus on spring cleaning.

Saturday, words from a former self spilled over my lips like an overflowing bucket of dirty water. Ooooops! That monster named Unforgiveness had snuck back in under the cover of darkness and drowned me with my own words. How appropriate. Words...my passion and my weakness. There they were. My dirty words spilled out for all to hear revealing my heart. I couldn't hide. I couldn't take them back or mop them up. I just ignored the puddle hoping it would silence them.
It's been a few days. Sleep has been restless like trying to ignore the glow of the night light from across the room. Finally, I surrendered to the Light. God's light. The light revealed by His glory. It's just there because He is. It's not a condemning light. He's not shaking his finger at me saying, "Naughty girl." He's just being...in my heart...revealing what was hiding in the darkness...showing me what's in need of spring cleaning. I can't always get those "hard to reach" places where monsters like Unforgiveness live, but God can. I'm letting Him do some spring cleaning because I'd like to get on with the great things He has in store.

What about your spring cleaning? Do you need a little more light?

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through (Him) the Spirit who gives you life has set you free..." Romans 8: 1-2a

"If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:6-7

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weeding


If you're visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! Make yourself at home.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. " Luke 8:15 NIV


Weaving through narrow, shoreline roads dotted with whitewashed gingerbread cottages, my sister and I simultaneously gasped, "How beautiful!" Peeking far above the picket fence of this corner lot a splash of nature's colors caught our attention: bright yellow, lacy white, hot pink, purple, and orange. All fashioned in their natural vases of green, this European flower garden was absolutely breath-taking.


I marveled aloud at our shared joy of flower gardens we inherited from our mother. No matter where we lived as kids, our mother always planted a flower garden. In her early retirement years she won the neighborhood "Best Garden" award for her work a number of times. One of my earliest memories is following behind her while she weeded in the hot summer sun. I'm not sure she ever formally taught me the reason for weeding or other gardening techniques but I learned just by following her.


First, weeds are sneaky. They creep up on you quickly and if they go unattended, they can choke out the healthy plants. It's essential to pull them out before they take over the whole garden.


Second, weeds must be pulled out by the roots or they'll keep growing back.


Third, weeds can be deceiving. They can be beautiful to look at, even appear to be the "real thing" so you have to discern the healthy plant from the weed.


Finally, healthy plants must be fed, watered , fertilized and given lots of sunshine to grow. If any of these elements are missing, the plant will not grow to its full potential.


Jesus warned against the weeds (thorns) of life that can choke us. He categorizes them as "life's worries, riches and pleasures." If we spend our days focused only on ourselves whether fretting, chasing money or over indulging in our pleasures we will remain immature and ineffective. But, Jesus says, if we spend our time focused on His word, effectively put it to use, and persevere then we will not only mature but reproduce.


What are the weeds threatening to take over your life's garden today? Do you need to spend some time on your knees with the Master Gardner, Jesus to find their roots? He's got an endless supply of fertilizer, living water, and Sonshine. Drink him in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tell Your Story


Tell Your Stories Here by Tantek Celik
Flickr.com_/photos/tantek/5335291744_CC BY-ND 4.0

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. Luke 8:39 NIV

If you're visiting from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Summer camp stories told 'round the evening fire were the best, especially Friday nights. After week-long encounters with Jesus--being stretched and challenged both physically, emotionally and spiritually--we shared our God stories around the campfire. By the end of the night, story after story, God's presence was palpable. 

We wanted to stay there in that moment, forever, basking in God's glory and our unified faith. But, Saturday came and it was time to return home to the routine of our lives. 

Jesus met a tormented, demon-possessed man, chained and banished inside lakeside caves. He ordered the Legions to leave this man and they obeyed. Immediately, this man felt relief and his sanity returned. Thankful for the return of normalcy in his life for the first time in years, he wanted to spend all his time with Jesus. But, instead of inviting him to go with him, Jesus ordered the man to return home and share all that God had done for him.

When we experience God's healing or a divine breakthrough in our lives, isn't it tempting to stay in that moment--at the foot of the cross--and bask in God's presence? Don't you just want to pitch your tent and live in that moment forever? 

But what good is God's glory in our lives if we keep it hidden in our secret places? How will others know that God's healing and redemptive mercy and grace are for them as well? 

Like that healed man of Legions, Jesus says, "Return home and tell how much God as done for you." Tell. Your. Story. It's risky business, yes, but tell it anyway. Be God's kingdom conduit of grace, mercy, and healing. 

Tell...Your...Story! We're waiting to hear it. 

Click here for my story...May God use it mightily.

Prayer: 
Oh, Jesus, thank you for risking everything to bring God's healing into our lives. Thank you for offering us your mercy and grace to forgive and the courage to share our stories with those around us. May we be obedient to do as you ask. Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tension

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"Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope." Zechariah 9:12

It's invisible, yet palpable. One moment we stand empowered and motivated then collapse deflated and defeated the next. Our God-dream meets reality and somewhere in between tension builds, plays tug-o-war with our hearts and minds. 

It showed up, forty feet high on the tapered pamper pole. Climbing was the easy part. Fully harnessed and tethered to my husband and trusted friends, my hands and feet grasped steel pegs all the way up. But once at the top, I had to let go and tension grew thick between me and the hanging trapeze just beyond my reach.

My reality  - I stood swaying on a two foot square platform atop a forty feet high telephone pole, with only two ways down. One way: admit defeat, and climb backwards. The second: trust my friends, leap forward, grab the trapeze and swing down to a secured platform only a few short feet away.

My perspective deemed the leap impossible, even dangerous. The trapeze? Beyond my reach. The longer I waited, the stronger tension mounted and climbing backwards a welcomed choice.

Abraham knew this tension well - promised offspring more numerous than all the stars his reality shouted "Impossible!" Seventy-five years old and counting, Abraham (and his wife Sarah) partnered with God to transform this reality.

Scripture tells us, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him...Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Romans 4: 18-22).

Abraham knew the facts: Twenty-five years passed since God first spoke his promise and nothing happened. His body and Sarah's were as good as dead -  childbearing an impossibility. And even if the impossible became possible, fathering many nations was beyond his reach.

And still. Abraham believed.

Fully persuaded, Abraham believed God had the power to do exactly what he promised. He would father many nations.

Scared and paralyzed from fear, I stood swaying on that pamper pole. Finally, I focused on my husband's words, "I won't let you fall. I've got you! Trust me. Just reach out and jump. Don't think. Just do it."

And I jumped. (And obviously lived to tell about it)!

When our God-dream journey tarries and reality shouts, "Impossible!" we must return to our fortress - God's promise - focus on his words alone, anchor our God-dreams in the reality of God's power and nurture hope.

When we do this we partner with God - with his promises - and he transforms our reality into his reality, making all things new. What seems impossible becomes possible; the unreachable is within our grasp.

Do you trust him? Then, don't think. Just jump!

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well " (Matthew 6:33).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reciprocity of Love


“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15 NIV
Our parents taught us well, how to honor our mother and father. They expected our honor and respect simply because we were their children and they were our parents. Honor wasn’t earned so much as it was an unspoken rule in our homes. Not much needed an explanation beyond, “Because I said so, that’s why!” It wasn’t that our parents were mean-hearted; it’s just they knew what was best for us, and if we knew what was good for us, we just did what they asked and stopped pushing the envelope.
Over the years, with children of our own, we found ourselves saying, “Because I said so” for the not-so-honorable reasons like, I’m-too-tired-to-explain-so-please-just-stop-bugging-me-and-just-do-what-I-say. But when you get right down to it, us parents simply love our children. 
Psst...Privileged  to share this over at Christian Children's Authors blog. Click here to read more.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drenched with Heaven's Dew

If you're visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! Make yourself at home.


“…and he was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world…” Daniel 5:21

Indian summer held on tight wrapping it’s humidity around us like a wet blanket as we sauntered to class through the tree-tunneled path around the pond. I felt my bobbed curls—the ones that took me twenty minutes to unfurl—coil up like Shirley Temple’s locks (but not so cute), making me wonder why I hadn’t submitted to their natural tendencies.

Then, rain came—slowly, at first—one gentle drop after another.  It was almost melodic watching the rain drops create rings across the pond. Then the melody turned dark and the heavens opened just as we emerged from the tree tunnel.

She laughed and slowed.

I cry-screamed and darted.

Then, looking back at her through fogged-up glasses I yelled, “Are you crazy? We’re gonna get soaked!”

“I LOVE getting drenched by the rain,” she giggled back at me. “It makes my hair so soft.”

I tried enjoying it, partly because I thought maybe I was missing something, but mostly because I didn’t want to be rude and leave her behind.

I hated it. Soggy made me feel undone and ugly.

Sometimes that’s just the posture God wants from us—undone and ugly—because that’s where we’re most vulnerable and teachable.  It’s those times when we’re most undone that our God ears hear and our God eyes see.

(Join me in all the undone and ugly at Encouragement Cafe for the rest of the story. There is hope, my friend...)