Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank You

"I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you..." Romans 1:8

It's been an awesome year! I want to take just a few minutes to say thank you to all of my readers. Your kind words of encouragement on Facebook, your comments directly on my blog, your emails and even your face-to-face conversations have been used to encourage me deeply.

When I sit in front of a blank computer screen or journal page I want you to know I don't take the task of recording words lightly. Words are powerful and can be used to build-up or tear down; to draw people close or to push them away; to enlighten or bewilder; to challenge or quiet a reader's heart.

It's my prayer that God will always challenge my heart so that my words may encourage you to know Him better.

Blessings to you & your families for 2010


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33

My mind is resting on thoughts of the coming New Year, 2010. I wonder what sort of frivolous resolutions people will vow to keep (like losing 20 #'s, giving up smoking or gossiping so much) only to know that two days later their vows will have been broken by lack of self discipline and will. I'm guilty too. So, I usually choose not to make New Year's resolutions at all. Oh, there are plenty of things that I need or want to see improved in me but, I know I can't improve just by simply willing the changes into being.

It has to be a posture of the heart first and foremost. I have to ask myself, "Do I really want to change?" If I do, then what am I waiting for? Does one more day, one New Year really make a difference? If I wait, am I just hanging onto the poor choices, bad habits, old ways for myself like a toddler who's reluctant to give up her blanky or binky on their own? We all know it’s impossible for a toddler to give up something without strong persuasion or parental nudging. If it makes us feel good, we want to hang onto it! It’s our comfort.

But Jesus doesn’t call us into comfortable situations. Discipline and repentance are not easy. Change isn’t usually without pain and discomfort. The feeling of loss, disappointment usually overwhelms us so that in a few days, weeks, months we find ourselves cuddled up in the comfort of our blanky sucking on our binky.

So, what are we to do if hollow resolutions don’t motivate us to change? We need to consider WHO we want to follow and WHEN we want to follow. In Matthew, Jesus calls his disciples and asks them to drop everything NOW in order to follow him. The changes those hard-core, out-to-sea, “Deadliest Catch type of characters needed to make would come as long as they sought after Jesus FIRST…NOW.

So, I'll begin TODAY (not December 31st or January 1st) by throwing my hands up toward heaven and say, "I give up!" I give up trying to control the outcome of every situation. I give up worrying about the past and wondering about the future. I give it all up and say, "It's all yours, Lord! NOW! I’ll follow you TODAY and leave the changes all up to you!" Not just for the New Year but every moment of every day.

God Bless and Happy New You!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arise and Leave the Piles

"Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come with me." Song of Songs 2:10

I sit her on my couch in peaceful solitude. Dressed still in night clothes at one in the afternoon. Part of me fears my husband walking in and wondering, "What have you done all day?" as he notices the laundry piled high, the sink full of dirty dishes, the dusty holiday decorations, the crooked star still tilted on top of the Christmas tree and me sitting there in the place he left me four hours earlier.

The fear that wins me over though, is that I shall run out of time to stop and hear what God might be trying to say. It's times like these that my heart must win over my logical wisdom of time. The clothes won't grow legs and walk away. The dishes won't vanish into thin air (although, I wish they would). My husband seems to always understand when I'm "in the zone" and encourages me to take that time alone with the Lover of my soul. The chores will always be there but the call of God to sit with him may vanish. Not by choice, of course, but by mere interruption of a phone call, an unexpected visitor at the door, an emergency of some sort.

So while the house is empty and quiet, I'll obey His call to come away. It's when I've been away with Him that I can love honestly, purely, unselfishly. It's away where I'm unburdened, renewed and filled with joy. Arise! Leave the piles for awhile!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Abide and Go

"Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel!"

These old familiar words to a famous Christmas carol ring in my ears today as I sit in front of a fire recalling God's simple whisper to my heart this time last year, "Abide and go forth." At first it seems God was telling me to do two different things by telling me to stay AND go, doesn't it? How can one remain and yet go?

Abiding does mean to remain but it is an active word. It takes action to remain in any intimate relationship, spiritual or human. I can say I'm in relationship with my husband but if I don't speak to him, spend time with him or love him, then that relationship is merely a legal living arrangement not a true, intimate marriage between partners who claim to love each other. It's the same with my relationship with Jesus, too. I can say I have a relationship with Jesus but if I don't spend time with him, communicate my thoughts, desires or needs to him or worship (love) him I have no relationship, just an arrangement. I'm not abiding in him or him in me. We're more like acquaintances living in the same room rather than truly intimate partners. It takes action, moving toward him, to be considered abiding in him.

Does moving toward him, abiding in him, account for his command to go forth? No. By abiding in Jesus I gain his wisdom, his discernment, his boldness, a confidence that through him all things are possible...even and especially what, in my own strength or knowledge, is impossible. To move forward into something without intimately abiding with Jesus is like crossing a busy city street blindfolded. I may survive but there's a huge chance I may get run over by oncoming traffic!

In the 400 years prior to Jesus' birth, Israel was crying out for God to come to them, abide with them. When he arrived many rejected him as Messiah. Then and still today, Jesus calls to all of us, "Come to me. Abide with me, your Lord, Emmanuel!" Will you?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Read Between the Lines

"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth." Luke 1:39-40

She was favored by God and her parents. Quietly and willingly she helped her mother in any way she could, humming softly as she went about her business. Simply, she was a joy to have around the house. She delighted her parents and found favor with her God. She was that picture-perfect child with a great big heart. But, she had a secret. A secret that could not be contained by words or her clothes much longer.

Unable to suppress this secret any longer she gather a few of her belongings and ran to the hills to the safety of her aunt's home. Trudging up into the rocky hills of Judah, Mary finally reached the one person whom might actually understand all that she held inside.

The Bible's account of the angel Gabrielle appearing to Mary doesn't read like a novel but let's just fill in the blanks, shall we? What was it like to be a young teen-aged Mary trying to work up the courage to tell her parents the exciting news that she was God's chosen mother of His son? How could they ever believe such a story when God himself had been silent for over 400 years? Why, they would just think she was trying to fabricate a wild story to cover up her own illegitimate pregnancy and shame! Who would ever believe her?

God did provide one person for Mary to run to. It was her Aunt Elizabeth, who in her own old age had miraculously received a similar miracle from the same God. She too was pregnant with a child who would prepare the way for Mary's son, Jesus. Even then, while John the Baptist and Jesus lay in their mother's wombs, God was working His plan to prepare the hearts of mankind to receive Him. Can you imagine the conversations Mary and Elizabeth must have had in the three months they spent together?

This old, old Christmas story is so much deeper, so much more moving than the birth of a baby on a cold winter's night. It's about God piercing our hearts with relationships, conversations, emotions of everyday life that lead to His coming.

Even today, as we prepare for Jesus' second coming we need to take time to read between the lines of our everyday situations...good and bad; easy and challenging. What is God preparing our hearts to do, to see, to witness?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do You Believe?

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Hearing God's voice in the stillness of our hearts is a promise we have if we truly seek his face. When we know God is leading us into something it takes courage to take those first few steps toward that journey but eventually our stride meets up with God's pace and we're moving in sync with Him. We find ourselves in the middle of some exciting journey and the world is full of possibilities and opportunities.

Suddenly, there's a bump in the road and we hit it hard. It came out of nowhere and we're thrown off course, dazed a bit, confused and once we come to we wonder if we were just dreaming. Now there's an emergency that's taken our attention and people are crowding our path in all directions. Sitting in the midst of all the confusion, we wonder, "Did God really mean for me to take this road? Was I just talking to myself or was it really God at all?"

I'll admit following God's lead in my life is sometimes like finding my way through a labyrinth while blindfolded. I hear His voice. I'm convinced I'm going in the right direction but I keep hitting a brick wall. But, just like in a labyrinth, if I keep on course, following God's voice I'll eventually succeed in finishing the journey to the end.

Preparing for this Christmas season today, I've started to move through an Advent devotional. It focused on Mary's faith. The story says she "simply" opened her life to the Lord as his handmaiden in obedience to the angel Gabrielle's message to be the mother of Jesus. But, I've no doubt her journey in the next 9 months was not smooth going. I would think amongst the ridicule and embarrassment of her illegitimate pregnancy she thought more than once if she was following the right path; wondered if she should be the chosen one of God to carry his child. What was she thinking? Life would have been so much easier if she said no and just went about her business as Joseph's betrothed.

Thank goodness for Mary's belief; her faith that the words God spoke to her were true. Where would we all be if Mary hadn't believed to the end?

Has God asked you to step out in unspeakable faith toward a journey that seems impossible? Are you in the midst of a faith journey that has hit a few bumps and you're wondering if God's words were really true? Are you questioning God's ability to accomplish great things through you?

Let's take today to reflect on Mary's 9 month journey towards Jesus' birth . When we think our journey is rough, when we start to question God's work in our lives let's hang on one more day and walk a little longer on the path guided by his voice. He will accomplish all that he has said. He is God. He is the great I am!.