Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Impossible Gift


"For with God nothing will be impossible." Luke 1:37 (NASV)



The year of planning a wedding is busy and full of emotion, especially for the bride. She shops for the perfect dress that's "just her," the proper flowers to adorn the wedding party, the church and reception hall, chooses the gals who will attend her, helps decide who will be on the guest list and so much more. And, if any of this goes awry...the tears do fly.

For Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, her perfect wedding plans certainly went awry. Her wedding plans were unexpectedly interrupted by the angel Gabriel. While wondering why Gabriel called her favored by God, she was given a most impossible mission.


"Pregnant? I'm to become pregnant? With God's son? But how? I'm not even married?" she asked.


Yet, in the midst of this incredibly, unbelievable conversation, scripture does not depict Mary in any frenzy of an emotional breakdown. Instead, Mary pondered and humbly accepted God's word to be truth and that which was impossible He would make possible.


I'm sure there's more to the story than what is told in the lines of Scripture. Culturally, Mary was in danger of being stoned for being pregnant outside of marriage. Emotionally, she and Joseph were on the outs and her perfect wedding was now a nightmare. She fled to the hills, literally, to stay with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also carrying a miracle child. We don't know if her parents sent her there for her safety or if she fled on her own. But, what we do know is that she found comfort and confirmation of all Gabriel had spoken was true. She found that what was impossible, God was making possible.


We all face impossible situations in our lives, sometimes more than once. Our perfect plans are interrupted and go awry. We head off down the road of emotional frenzies and wonder how we'll ever see the end of it. We think the solution will never come or change is just impossible. But, God is always faithful to those who put their trust in Him.


His plans for us may not look like the perfect gift wrapped present dolled up with a flashy red bow but they will always be perfect and always made possible. The question is, will we be humble enough to receive from Him? Will we be like Mary who said, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

O Tannenbaum


"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." Revelation 2:7a

My daughter brought home a shiny red apple ornament with the year "1997" penned in gold paint across it from her second grade teacher. I thought it an odd symbol for a Christmas ornament but never-the-less hung it by its gold cord amongst the myriads of other decorations on our evergreen tree. It now adorns my daughter's tree in her first home.


I never knew until today, the significance of that ornament. According to my devotional, The Heart of Christmas by Hank Hanegraaff, the origin of the German Christmas tree began with the "paradise tree." The paradise tree was a freshly cut fir tree (tannenbaum) brought inside and decorated with red apples as a reminder of the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden; the tree that promised eternal life in the presence of God.

The Garden of Eden also represents Paradise Lost with the entrance of sin through Adam and Eve. So why would we want a symbol of what was lost to adorn our Christmas tree?

The birth of Jesus ushered in God's plan for atoning our sin. Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension points us all toward Paradise Found. If we confess our sin and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, then we are promised eternal life in the presence of God.


Jesus points us back to the Tree of Life.

I'm not one to enjoy a tree with only one type of decoration adorning it. But I do think from now on my tree will include some shiny apples.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas


"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11


One of my favorite scenes in the movie, "Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is where Christmas returns to Narnia. After 100 years of being "always winter with no Christmas" Father Christmas (the Anglican St. Nicholas) returns bearing gifts for Lucy (healing), Susan (trust) and Peter (tools of protection). When asked "I thought there was no Christmas in Narnia?Father Christmas answers, "The hope that you have brought (your majesties) has started to weaken the Witch's powers."


I agree that Christmas has taken a giant leap toward commercialism leading many people away from the true meaning of Christmas, as the coming of Jesus, God's son. But the original Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Christian bishop who lavished gifts on needy children on Jesus' birthday. He not only believed in the same Christ of the Christmas story, but he also showed God's compassion, mercy, grace and love to the children who had nothing.


We've always included St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) in our family Christmas traditions. We didn't allow him to take center stage, nor did we state that Santa was the reason for the season. We did allow the legend to take form by telling the story of St. Nicholas bringing gifts to children on Christmas Eve, how he placed them in their stockings and (we added) left one special gift besides.


However, we balanced all that with the reading of Jesus' birth from the Bible; celebrating Jesus' birthday by giving gifts and a birthday cake for Jesus.


Can a Christian family celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus? I believe they can. I believe a parent can use the story of St. Nicholas to infuse the Christmas message: that gifts are given because of the hope Jesus brought into the world by his birth.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fragrance of CHRISTmas


"Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life." 2 Corinthians 2:14 (The Message)

My senses are completely immersed in the Christmas season. I love the sound of Christmas carols playing everywhere; the lights twinkling through the long, dark afternoons; the red bows that adorn the greens around my home; the aroma of fresh baked cookies lingering for hours after the last batch has cooled. But, my favorite part of Christmas is the fragrance of a fresh cut evergreen tree. I especially love how it's scent fills every room of the house, even the bedrooms. It's the first thing I smell when I wake up and the last scent I remember as I fall asleep.

Aromas ignite our imaginations, awaken forgotten memories and move our hearts to respond.

Paul reminds us that we are an exquisite fragrance; the fragrance of Christ. We leave a lasting scent as we share our stories of knowing Christ with others, how we interact with our family and neighbors in our everyday comings and goings.

As we immerse ourselves in the scents of Christmas, may we be reminded of the One whom we are celebrating. May we be the exquisite fragrance of Christ that fills the rooms as we pass by. May those who don't know Him come to appreciate the fragrance of Christ through us and respond to Him when He calls them by name.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prince of Peace


"'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,'" Luke 2:14


The streets of Bethlehem were clamoring. Her inns were overflowing with hungry, weary travelers seeking nourishment and rest. Her stables welcoming to their tired beasts. Her skies were clear and full of stars, one burning brighter than the rest.


Shepherds in her fields were sharing stories by an open fire of the passing crowds they'd seen that day, content with the company of their sheep. "At least we will enjoy peace under the stars tonight," one of them chided. "Surely, those innkeepers will have no rest while meeting the demands of all their guests!"


Then suddenly the sky filled with light and an angel of the Lord appeared in their midst. "Don't be afraid. I have great news for you and all the people. Today, in Bethlehem, a Savior was born to you. He is Christ, the anointed One. You will know it is him when you find the baby who is wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."


And, with that piece of news, the skies were brilliant with the glory of the Lord and thousands of angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."

In the midst of chaos and turmoil, God entered the world with the promise of peace through his baby son, Jesus.


This promise was not just for the shepherds nor was it a universal proclamation of salvation. Rather, the angel declares peace would be given to anyone (Jew or Gentile) who fears God and on whom God bestows his grace.

Do you need God to enter your world of chaos and turmoil? Do you need His heavenly peace to rule in your inner most being today? It's there for the asking. It's there if you choose to believe in Him with all your heart. God doesn't promise to take the troubles away, but he does promise to bring a peace beyond all understanding.


Dear God, I believe you are the Great I Am, my God, my Creator, my Savior. I confess I've sinned against you and I ask your forgiveness through your son, Jesus. Now, in the middle of my mess, in the uncertainty of tomorrow please, show me your grace and grant me peace beyond all understanding. Amen.


"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Everlasting Father

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."James 1:17


Growing up my family moved an average of every two years until I was eleven years old. That works out to be five houses from birth to seventh grade. It didn't matter much to me as a small child I suppose, because my family remained the same. But, by the time I was in middle school, friendships became important. That last move after sixth grade was the hardest. Not only did the familiar constant of my neighborhood friends change but so did the face of my family.

For the next seven years shadows of the people I loved the most shifted in and out of my life as divorce moved in. My constant of family dissolved.

Staying put in that apartment was the greatest gift my mother gave me in the midst of that lonely, soul-shaking time. Staying gave me a core of support; a group of friends at school and at church that pointed me toward normal. That time is when God became my constant. He gave me the foundation and passion for family that my husband and I live by today.

It is a miracle for any child of divorce to accept God as an Everlasting Father. To that child, nothing is everlasting, especially a parent (father or mother). But, God promises He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31: 6, 8, Joshua 1:5); that He is everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 41:13); the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The birth of Jesus, God's son, ushered in the beginning of our inheritance. Jesus' life, death and resurrection allows us to be called "children of God." We are given the gift of an Everlasting Father whose shadow never shifts; whose presence never leaves us; who will never forsake us.

As you ponder the birth of Jesus today, won't you consider making Him your constant?

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6






Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mighty God


"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves." Zephaniah 3:17b

Part of the joy of being an interim preschool teacher last year was relearning the old Sunday school songs of my childhood (along with the motions) and teaching them to my granddaughter. The tunes were simple but the message was powerful. One song was "My God is so Great." It goes like this:
My God is so great, so strong and so mighty

There's nothing my God cannot do. (Repeat)


The mountains are His.

The valleys are His.

The stars are His handiwork, too.


My God is so great, so strong and so mighty.

There's nothing my God cannot do...

For you!

Children will believe most anything you tell them, including that God is a Mighty God, strong and powerful; able to do the impossible. For some reason as we grow older so does our cynicism and our doubts. People we love have disappointed us, let us down with the simplest of requests or needs, so we assume God will let us down, too. Sometimes we believe we're not significant enough for God for him to care about our needs (big or small). But Scripture tells us differently.

Zephaniah draws a picture of God as a mighty warrior who not only fights for his children and saves them from harm but also takes delight in them by singing over them. There are few parents who wouldn't do anything in their power to save their own child from harm, fight for them when they're in trouble, sacrifice themselves so they could live. That willingness comes from a heart of unconditional love. And, that's how God feels about His children; those of us who place our belief and trust in Jesus for our salvation.

Isaiah prophesied that this child, Jesus, would be called Mighty God. The One who saves. The One who is strong. The One who created the mountains, the valleys. The One who put all the stars in their place and knows them by name. The One who takes delight in us. The One who will do anything to save us, even die for us.

Do you need a Mighty God, today? I sure do. His name is Jesus.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wonderful Counselor


"And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6b

I find it kind of funny that I am facilitating a mentoring training group at my local church. For years I have yearned for a woman of wisdom to come alongside me for encouragement, accountability and to pour God's wisdom into me, all to no avail. I've had tidbits of wisdom lent me from godly women from time to time but not one willing or able to make a commitment of time I've wanted so badly.

I became discouraged as time spent seeking this relationship slipped into years but God whispered, "Am I not enough for you?"

This Sunday, our pastor's message was on "The True Meaning of Christmas." He used the example of this in Christmas movies like "The Christmas Story" and "The Grinch that Stole Christmas." The true meaning of Christmas isn't the stuff but family; a place where we feel loved. He shared how most of those who come to him for counseling yearn for this place of belonging, of loving relationship but that there is little he (or anyone else) can do or say to create that place in the midst of brokenness. But, he can offer them Jesus.


Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus 400 years prior to his birth. He said this Christ child would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. What more do we need if we have Jesus in our life? Who can offer us to be all that Jesus is?

What situation in your life calls for a Wonderful Counselor? Who can listen to your endless stories without cutting you short of time? Who can offer you the wisdom of time and experience? Who knows you better than yourself because He created you? Who gives wise counsel?

Jesus. Jesus is my Wonderful Counselor. He is the great I Am. He is enough
.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We've Got Ice Cream. You've Got Fire.

"But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. " Psalms 55:13, 14

"Hey! We've got ice cream. You've got fire. Can we come over?" That was a frequent question in 2007 from friends Bill & Pam. They LOVED ice cream and bonfires. They'd buy a half gallon of ice cream and we supplied the patio fire in our back yard. We'd spend scrumptious hours licking the last drops of ice cream from our spoons in front of our patio fireplace all summer long with them while sharing the latest news of our lives...from frustrations at work , to heart wounds to praises for what we saw God doing in our children's' lives.

We miss Pam & Bill. Since they moved back to Oregon, we haven't found another couple to take their place. We miss the impromptu visits, the life stories, the laughter, the vulnerability, the honest y we shared. We feel lost sometimes, wondering when God will bring another couple to walk along-side us in life...to share life's journey.

So many times we're looked at as a couple who "has it all together" who "lead by example." But, little do people realize, we need others to help us "have it all together." Bill and Pam helped us do that. In the few years that we had them in our lives, they helped us to see life as it is. We shared our family needs, triumphs as well as our life long wounds. We prayed for each others' healing, victories and shared life as it came to us...weekly...daily. We loved each other.

We miss them. We miss the impromptu calls that say, "I've got ice cream...you've got fire...may we come over for awhile?" We all need Pam & Bill in our lives for life was not meant to be lived alone.

In our new church, we're still looking for our next Pam & Bill. We haven't found them yet. We feel very much alone at times. We wonder if anyone even notices we're there. But that's life in a large, growing church. We must blow our own horn and invite people into our lives, I guess. Or should we? Shouldn't the members of a church reach out to those who are new? Hmmmm?

Until recently, we've remained anonymous. We've spoken briefly with those who sit and worship in our general Sunday morning vicinity. But, have we received an invitation for dinner? Lunch? Brunch? Not as a couple. I've been invited to join a ministry. I've become involved. But, as a couple...nothing. I wonder, as I sit and worship the same Savior, in the same row, in the same church., "What does it take to earn an invitation? What does it take for someone to say, 'I've go ice cream. You've got fire...can we join you?"

I miss Pam & Bill. I miss sharing life with others who 'get it.' I miss sharing life with others who 'get us.'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ultimate Sacrifice


"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Isaiah 61:1


Today we honor our American veterans of war. We say thank you to those brave men and women who have and are still defending our freedoms and the place we call home. We pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.


I cannot imagine the sacrifice the families of veterans have made. I've lived mostly in a time of peace. I remember listening to war stories from my father, my father-in-law and uncles, but they were unharmed and my husband and my son have both escaped war. I remember holding my young son in my arms during the first Gulf War thanking God he was too young to serve. I cried just imagining the heart-wrenching worry of watching him go into battle, knowing he was taking the hits, putting his life on the line. I couldn't imagine the grief of losing one so precious. So, I thank those mothers and fathers who have freely given their sons for me and my family.


Freedom is not free, they say. It never has been.


The Old Testament is full of war stories; of battles won and lost. But the ultimate battle, even today, is the war between good and evil; the war over our souls. It's the only battle that matters. It's the only battle that assures us freedom and victory, if we choose the right side. And what's funny is it's already been fought and won.


Isaiah prophesied of the One who would come to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and to release the prisoners from darkness. That One was Jesus. Through his ultimate sacrifice, his death...he took our sins that held us captive of the Enemy in darkness. Through his resurrection, he gave us freedom and life eternal if we believe in Him.


Thank you, God for your ultimate sacrifice of your Son, Jesus. Thank you for the freedom, the Light and life eternal because of your Son.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God's Royal Line

"The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant know to them." Psalm 25:14

When you think of royalty what comes to mind? I think of the throne of England. I picture ancient castles, red carpets, tapestries, jeweled crowns and golden statues. I picture Queen Elizabeth in her pristine hats waving to her kingdom from the balcony of her palace. I visualize in detail the wedding of Prince Charles and Dianna as she processed toward him enveloped in layers of taffeta and lace. I recall the scandalous stories of adultery that followed that day. I vividly recall where I was when I heard she'd been killed in a car accident and how I cried while watching her sons following behind her casket down the streets of London.

Jesus was born of royalty as well. He comes from the line of David, King David of the Old Testament. The king through whom God promised to establish his everlasting kingdom. It wasn't a perfect line of perfect people. David was handsome but considered the runt of his family and the last of a long line of stronger, bigger, more handsome brothers. Yet God told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height...The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7).

David was a shepherd and a man of great faith. He was known for his many songs of praise (we know as the Psalms) and for his courage in facing his enemies, whether man or beast. He strove to communicate with God daily in the pastures, on battle grounds and from his throne. And, because of his great love and faith in the Lord, God chose to reveal His promises to David and establish his lineage as the one from which Jesus, our Savior would be born.

But like the scandals of the English throne, David had his own. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, got her pregnant and murdered her husband by putting him on the front lines of battle. Because of David's sin, a dysfunctional kingdom and family ensued. Yet, God forgave David when he confessed and restored relationship with him. God kept his promise and did establish His kingdom through David's line through his son Solomon.

We may not be born of royal blood but we're all dysfunctional in some way. We all suffer the consequences of bad decisions we've made or the scandals of past generations. That's how life works. But God gives us hope. Scripture says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. " (Romans 10:9,10).

God doesn't demand perfection from us. It's impossible to ask. He doesn't ask that we look perfect on the outside. He only asks that we seek him with all of our heart. Why? So that he may continue to reveal His kingdom through us. How? By confiding in us; by speaking to us through His word; by conversing with us through prayer; by planting a desire in our hearts and by our obedience to share His promises to those around us in a way that comes naturally to us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Unhurried Peace


"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."

Colossians 3:15



I don't know what it is about this fall but it's barely Thanksgiving and I'm anticipating Christmas already. I want to listen to familiar caroles, get lost reading advent books, bake my traditional holiday cookies, plan the Christmas Day dinner menu, write my annual Wish List, go shopping and decorate. Maybe it has something to do with being immersed in a holiday craft fair this past weekend or the early November snowfall on Monday. I'm not sure but, whatever the catalyst to this feeling, I'm excited to start the Advent season.

Thinking I was way ahead of the game, I cracked open an Advent devotional yesterday, titled Preparing My Heart for Advent by Anne Marie Stewart. To my surprise, I was already a week late in my preparation! Stewart starts what she calls "a spiritual pilgrimage" on November first. I put aside my disappointment and dive in, frantically trying to catch up to day eight.


As I eagerly wade through days one through four of this devotional, I'm challenged to read the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew with new eyes; to ask questions regarding missing information in the narratives; to create an historical travel timeline and to visualize the busyness Mary and Joseph experienced before and after Jesus' birth. But it was Stewart's question on day five that challenged me the most. "What about your timeline? How will you keep it uncluttered?"


I'm certainly eager to start the busyness of the season like I mentioned above. But of all those things and the OTHER things that could creep onto my calendar in December, what will give me peace? What will help me to focus on the birth of Jesus? What will enable "unhurried peace" as Stewart puts it?


First, I will be deliberate with my planning. Starting today, I will be selective with what goes on my calendar for the month of December so that I may make time for "unhurried peace."


Second, I will make time each day to be alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone to write, alone to prepare my heart and focus on the events of Jesus' birth and to anticipate his coming again.


Third, I will take time to play with my family; to laugh and share traditions and simple fun.


Fourth, I will create an atmosphere of peace in my home each day so that my husband may rest from his stressful, hurried days.


Finally, I will share my thoughts in writing to encourage others to prepare their hearts for this advent season.

You may think I'm crazy, anticipating Christmas six weeks in advance. But truly, in this fast-paced society, I think it will take me all six weeks to properly prepare my heart for that unhurried peace that comes when Christ rules in my heart. Are you up for the challenge?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

R E S P E C T


"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." 1 Peter 2: 17


The elections in Connecticut did not go as my husband and I had hoped. We groaned over breakfast and fear the political projections for the next two years. We fear for our small business as well as for the dreams of our children and grandchildren. We know we live in the wrong state for our political and religious beliefs but our business is grounded here as well as our extended family. So, what to do with our situation?
We have a number of options:

1. We could continue to groan, complain, whine and bad mouth our political leaders and their decisions. WE didn't vote for them so we DO have the right to complain, don't we?

2. We could become more politically involved other than voting, but we don't have that much time or patience.

3. We could start all over again and move ourselves and our business to another, more suitable state. But that's economic suicide right now and besides, we'd miss our family.

4. We could show our politicians the respect their office deserves.

My last supervisor and I differed in our thoughts about respect. She believed that NO ONE deserved respect (based on position of authority or age) unless they EARNED it. I however, argued that everyone deserved respect, especially if they held a position of authority or out of courtesy for their age. However, I also believe an individual can lose someone's respect based upon their misconduct or misbehavior.


In reading Peter's writing today (1 Peter 2:13-17) my thoughts are in agreement with scripture. In this section Peter is addressing the issue of submitting to authority (rulers and masters). He instructs us, (v. 13,14)"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king...or the governors..." Why? (v.15)"by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish of foolish men." How? (v 17) By showing "proper respect to everyone..." From those who are like-minded in the faith, to honoring the king and especially God.

So, to my newly elected politicians I submit to your authority and the office you hold. I will continue to hold you up before God's throne in prayer. I pray that you will be able to hold the respect of your office by conducting yourselves with honor and by respecting the people that you serve. I will hold onto God's promise "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." Romans 8:28.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Accuser

"But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" Jude 9

It was a beautiful weekend filled with golden sunrises across the pond, walks in the autumn woods, sharing life with new friends and relishing the presence of God amongst us. Come Monday, I was exhausted but in a good way: when you know God used your passion to do His good work.

I was thankful to have an empty calendar to allow for rest and an easing back into routine. I slept a lot, ate a lot and took in way too much mindless chatter on T. V. Laziness crept over me and my guard was down. The Accuser noticed and took aim at my heart.

His first arrow whistled past me and struck my husband, abruptly interrupting our movie date. His attention was no longer on holding my hand but answering the barrage of business calls buzzing in his pocket. My Accuser shouted, "You're unimportant, unlovely. You can't even keep your husband's attention." Those words were like a pesky fly that wouldn't leave me alone no matter how many times I swatted them away. After a long night of fixing problems, my husband returned home to face those very words, twisted, personalized and spoken from my lips. I knew as soon as I heard them, my Accuser had started a battle but it took awhile for my head and my heart to stop it.

Seeing my weakness he flung a second arrow the next evening just before my husband was to take me out to dinner (to make up for the previous night). This time he aimed an arrow through an email at my creative abilities. He screamed, "You're fooling yourself. You don't have what it takes." I shut down my inbox and ignored his voice all through dinner until we returned home. It was as though I was alone, on stage with the spot light on me listening to the Accuser's barrage of insults from the audience.

Finally, needing to shut him up, I crawled up in my Daddy's lap and prayed, "Father, my heavenly Daddy...make him stop! He speaks lies. Hurls insults. Accuses. Rebuke him, Lord. Let me return to the place where your grace and peace abound. Speak truth, Lord. Speak truth to my heart." It was a restless night. A battle raged in my subconscious.

After breakfast, I sought for reassurance from my Father's Word and He lead me to the New Testament book of Jude verse 9. "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses..." What a strange verse. Curious to know why Michael and Satan would argue over Moses, I did some research. According to Jewish tradition, even in death, Satan stood over Moses' body and accused him of being unworthy of burial because of his past sin (murdering the Egyptian, Exodus 2:11-12). Therefore, since Satan is lord of the earth, he demanded Moses' body. Michael, however, was quick to remind Satan that ALL of creation is God's, even the earth and he called on God to rebuke him.


These spiritual battles are real, even for us today. The Accuser crouches. His arrow ready. His bow at full draw, waiting for the right shot at our hearts. We must be on our guard, especially when we are most vulnerable (tired, worn, lazy). If we place our faith, our trust in God, He stands on our side. Never accusing. Always speaking truth. Always encouraging us for His good work.

Truth or lies. Which do you choose to believe? I choose truth
.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How Much Are You Worth?

"You are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31b

Hello You. Yes, you...the one that's folding piles of laundry, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, washing chocolate fingerprints off the newly painted walls, sitting in a cubicle, answering the phones, facing crabby customers, crawling on the freeway, feeling overwhelmed. Are you feeling important today? Do you feel like you matter to anyone right now? Well, you do.

There's so many people, so many responsibilities bidding for your attention that it's easy to feel overlooked, insignificant, unimportant, lonely. In all honesty, you need to know someone is thinking of you, noticing you, taking care of you, concerned for you. It's part of being human. But many nights, I'm sure you've tucked yourself into bed, turned out your own light and wondered, "Who cares for me?"

God does.

When I'm outside pushing my granddaughter on the swing, the moments between singing and swinging are interrupted with the chirps of noisy birds. "Listen," my granddaughter says, cupping her hand behind one ear. "It's a 'tweet-tweet'!" She's even learned the difference between their calls. "Squawk, squawk" is a blue jay. "Caw, caw" is a crow. "Chicka-dee-dee-dee" is, well obviously, a Chickadee, and "Cheep, cheep" is a sparrow.

It's funny, how spending time with little ones gets you to focus on things us adults would determine insignificant. Yet, those insignificant chirps make a most significant point. God supplies all these small, winged friends with everything they need every day. The bible says, if one small, insignificant sparrow falls, God notices.

Even so, how much more are you noticed? Yes, you...the one feeling unimportant, lonely, needy...YOU are noticed and important to God! God has given you a voice unlike any other. He has adorned you with a beauty that He wants you to share with the world. He notices all you do for everyone, every day. He wants you to know He's right there next to you. Listening. Waiting.

You. Yes, you...are worth more to God than many, many sparrows. You are treasured.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When God Gives Me the Ending


"My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." Psalm 45:1


I held a nervousness inside much like butterflies before taking center stage. I checked and double-checked my list of things to pack: table, chair, books, posters, easel, stickers, book marks, props, change. Check! It was all there and packed inside my tired Subaru ready for one more local fair. But, the nervousness remained. I was facing the panel of my peers and my own hometown.


It's one thing for a complete stranger to thumb through my book and turn away unimpressed but I couldn't imagine if my own neighbors did that. How embarrassing! I'd have to live with that picture of disappointment every day. I couldn't even bear the thought. So, I breathed a prayer, "Lord, blow me away and silence these lies of inadequacy."


Well, blow me away, He did. As I faced my fears and beckoned friends and strangers alike to my booth, the book sales rocketed to record sales. The faces and giggles of the children and grown-ups were such a gift as they connected to the story and the wonderful illustrations (thanks to my talented nephew-in-law, Michael). I smiled until my cheeks hurt and chatted until my voice was hoarse.


It was a great day at the fair, Saturday but that nervousness still nagged at me. You see, with every visitor and every sale came the question: "When is your next book coming out?" As innocent as that question appears, it eats away at writers. It creates internal pressure. I've been asked that same question at every fair for six weeks straight. Every time I've answered, "I'm working on it."


Sunday morning, a lovely lady, we'll call A, and I were setting up our prospective booths again. We struck up a conversation and inevitably that question was asked of me again. She had a gentle spirit about her so I indulged her with my struggle. "I'm working on the next two books but I keep getting caught on the conflict. I can't resolve it so that it all makes sense." I shared with her how I spent eight hours staring at the computer on Friday, only to end up in frustration.


"Do you believe in ...?" A asked as her eyes pointed heavenward.


"Yes," I answered.


"Then give it up. Give it to Him (God) and He'll give you the endings. You're trying too hard."


She was absolutely right! I'd broken my own rule which is to never write unless I've spent time alone with God, first. I was trying to come up with everything on my own, in my own strength, in my own head, for my own purposes.


The sales were slow Sunday but God still blew me away. He met me through that conversation and I am changed.


So, you may ask, "When's your next book coming out?"


"When God gives me the ending!"


Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Joy Looks Like: Conclusion


"Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11


What joy looks like...


Growing up. We grow up in many different ways. Physically our bodies grow, our features change from the cute, chubby baby that goos with glee to the independent toddler who begins to speak their mind. Then comes the awkward stages of elementary school when our bodies grow disproportionately to our playmates that leads right into dreaded adolescence when our bodies seem to grow with a mind all their own. Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 20 our bodies reach maturity. Finally!


But wait! It doesn't stop there. Our minds and emotions are all mixed up in this growing-up process too. And, for many of us, our heads and hearts take longer to mature. We go from the joyful, carefree, gooing baby to the snappy happy toddler ready to conquer the world to the emotional basket case of adolescence and independence in only 10 short years. The hardest stage, I think, is the next decade between adolescence and adult. Looking back, those years in my life were full of melancholy.


It seemed back then my mood could swing with the changing winds. My joy, my happiness was dependent on what I thought others thought of me; how I thought others perceived me. If I thought others like me or my accomplishments, then I was happy. If I felt I disappointed others, thought they disliked me or what I'd accomplished, then I was sad, melancholy. Imature, really.


But that changed as I grew up. I learned that if I stopped trying to please people and concerned myself more with pleasing the One who created me, my joy grew. I learned that as I drew closer to my Creator, I found my purpose; what He created me for. I discovered that striving toward my purpose, I matured. As I matured in my faith and my purpose, God gave me people who encouraged me and whom I could encourage.


I find it ironic how Paul concludes his second letter to the Corinthian church with both a command to be joyful and to grow up. The two are interrelated. Whether it be emotional or spiritual maturity, joy accompanies both. We are meant to encourage one another and be united in one purpose: to proclaim the good news of Christ's resurrection and salvation to those who have not heard. This proclamation, this news is the greatest joy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Joy Looks Like #3



"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John verse 4

What joy looks like...

Dirty feet. My daughter's feet... muddied from the streets of Kampala, Uganda.

Five years ago (or so) she came home from summer camp ready to pack her bags again for Africa. She'd seen the documentary called Invisible Children that revealed the horror of the Northern Ugandan children; children under the age of twelve, stripped of their childhood, forced to live as murdering soldiers, desensitized of all emotion. My daughter was ready to fight for justice on their behalf. "If I don't go, who will?" she asked.

I knew her desire was true and not a whimsical, emotional, teenage wish. I could see God's hand print for foreign missions on her life since she was a little girl but, war-torn Africa? That was beyond my comfort zone as a mother. So, we prayed for three years. We prayed that an opportunity would arise for her to go with a well established ministry team from somewhere in the United States.

God provided the way the first Sunday we set foot in Wellspring Church, November 2008.

She's traveled and ministered to the children at the Kampala Children's Center twice now. The first year was full of pictures of gorgeous children full of joy and hope; children who have been stripped of everything this world calls precious. Yet, they're full...full of God's redemptive work through Jesus; full of dreams and purpose not only for their own future but the future of their nation.

This year, there was a photo of her. She was teaching the children how to play; how to "think outside the box" (literally) when it came to creative play. I can't explain the emotion that overwhelmed me at seeing her face fully animated and engaged with these children. She exuded Jesus from every pore. She was alive! She was doing "the good work" that God had preordained for her from the beginning of creation.

Every parent has great aspirations for their children when they're born. We dream about how great they can be; imagine the career path they should take; wish the best for them. But, we must remember, God is their Father. Our only purpose is to raise them to explore how God made them, designed them and encourage them to follow God's desire for them.

"I have no greater joy than to hear (see) that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Joy Looks Like #2



"It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us." 2 John verse 4

What joy looks like...

A questioning child. A thinker. That's my firstborn. He was always full of questions as a toddler. Much more advanced than just "why?" He was always trying to figure out how things worked. I remember one warm, fall night when he was three. We were cuddled up in his bed, in the darkened room near an open window. Like every night we'd read a book or two, said our prayers and relished the silence that comes before sleep. In the quiet of that particular night, he noticed the stars.

Mommy?" he asked. "Who put the stars in the sky?"

"God did." I replied.

I can't recall the specific conversation after that but I do remember that's when he first realized the awesomeness of God. That's the night he realized the same God that filled the sky with stars created him and loved him so much that He gave us Jesus. I know, because that night he asked Jesus to live in his heart and help him to love God like He loved him.

It's been twenty years since we had that conversation. It's but a blur in my firstborn's memory amidst the years of rebellion, questioning and doubt. But God remained faithful to that prayer. He revealed himself not only as the God who placed the stars in the sky but the God who loves my child unconditionally.

I sat at the dinner table Monday night with my firstborn, his wife, his two year old daughter and six month old son. We held hands and his daughter prayed, "Thank you Jesus for our food and for our family. Amen!"

What does joy look like? A child. My child who is journeying with God and teaching his children about the One who placed the stars in the sky.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Joy Looks Like




"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:19

The word joy appears over 240 times in the Bible. It's obviously meant to be characteristic of one who knows God and puts their faith in Christ. But, it wouldn't be fair to say you must be happy no matter what's happening in your life. That would be unrealistic. Not every experience is joyful. But I do know through scripture, that joy is meant to be restored in our hearts as a result of trusting God with our lives.

What does joy look like in real life? I thought over the next few days, I'd draw a picture of how God's defined joy in different circumstances of my life. Hopefully you can relate. Will you join me?

What joy looks like....

Wood rot. It's been a problem in our aging home for over a decade now. We knew about the rotting basement door and the one at the back of the garage but the beautiful archway in the front of the house is what surprised us. This archway was the selling point of our home; the quaint characteristic that made the house stand out from all the rest in the neighborhood; the focal point of compliments from guests and passers-by.

At first I just thought it was only in need of a quick paint job until I went to scrape off a peeling paint chip and my finger went through the wood siding. My husband reassured me it would be no big deal to just replace the one side of paneling and cover it with vinyl siding like the rest of the house. So, we put it at the bottom of our "to do list" for the summer.

Last Saturday (the last weekend of the summer) my husband started peeling away the siding, digging at the rotted veneer only to find more rot at the core. The entire post had to come down. What we thought would be an afternoon's work for novice, do-it-yourself carpenters was halted. My husband's heart became anxious knowing this project was beyond his ability and he'd have to call on someone else for help. But that call would wait until Monday.

It wasn't ten in the morning on Monday when the master carpenter and his wife was already taking measurements.

"Wow! That was fast" I commented as I greeted them. "Did Pete call you this morning?"

"No. I've just been working on the solution for your basement door frame and this archway in my head for a few weeks now. I'm ready to order the materials and frame everything out," he nonchalantly replied.

My heart literally leapt for joy knowing God had resolved the issue before we even had time to whisper up a prayer for help. What love He'd shown us in that moment, to send these friends who so willingly lend a hand; who come alongside us and help to bear our burdens. What a blessing. What a joy.

When they left, I couldn't get to the phone fast enough to let my husband know he could cross that call to the master carpenter off his "to do list" because God had already sent him.

God's joy comes in so many different packages. I just can't wait to see how it's wrapped every day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Joy is Contagious


"Your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." Hebrews 1:9

Laughter is contagious. It attracts. Have you ever noticed? When you enter a room, are you not first drawn to the one who is laughing? It doesn't matter if you know what they're laughing about, you can't help but smile in return and wonder, "What's so funny?" Laughter lightens the mood in the room as well as in our hearts

I had the privilege of spending the weekend with someone who loves to laugh. From the time we unloaded our cars, pitched our tent at the fair and sold our first book, we were laughing; not at anyone...just from the pure joy of life. Our joy attracted the crowds.

We sat side-by-side in the midst of 20,000 people glad to be living our dream as authors, sharing our talents with families, encouraging aspiring writers to pursue their dreams. It's not that we were privileged; that our dreams were fulfilled without pain, rejection and hard work. On the contrary, we both faced hardships in our journey (and still do) but the joy of what has been made complete thus far, gives us hope.

It should be that way with all of us on our journey with Christ. So many of us hang onto the sorrow of the cross; the picture of the suffering, dying Jesus that we forget the joy of the empty tomb. We use the cross as an excuse to focus in on our own suffering as though that is how we identify with Christ. We forget, that Christ came to give us hope, a future, abundant life...JOY.

The psalmist writes of our Savior in Psalm 45:7 "You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." Does picturing a laughing, joyful Jesus make you tilt your head and say, "Hmmmm?"

I don't think he attracted the crowds by frowning or furrowing his brow, pointing an accusing finger or motioning toward Golgotha. Instead he greeted the crowds with compassion, with healing, with forgiveness, with hope for the future. That brought joy. That's what attracted the crowds
.

Does the joy of the Lord attract the crowds (however small) to you? Can you truly say, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eternal Encouragement & Hope


"...and by his grace (God) gave us eternal encouragement and good hope. (May he) encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17


Encouraging is not something that comes naturally to me. Encouragement is what I seek from others at low points but not what I find easy to give. I have to consciously focus on my words and body language when someone comes looking to me for encouragement. Encouragement is a skill that I've had to learn. Maybe it's because I'm distracted by my own world at that moment. Maybe it's because I'm wondering how to solve their issue or crisis rather than focusing on listening to their heart. Maybe it's because I don't like pain and I want to end it quickly for them.


My husband on the other hand, is a great encourager, much like I imagine Barnabas to have been who was known as the Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36). An encourager consoles. He will stop what he's doing and focus on the hearts of others. An encourager is a visionary. He sees the "big picture" and knows, in light of the present moment, everything's going to be okay. An encourager cheers. He revels in the good. He's on your side, praising your good points, cheering you on to be the best, to do your best until you reach your destination. An encourager is a good problem solver. In the midst of chaos, he helps untangle the mess, clear the path so you can be on your way again.


Everyone needs an encourager in their life. We're told in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 that Jesus, himself, has given us eternal encouragement by his grace (of forgiveness). Jesus is our great consoler and listener when we hit our low points. He's also our visionary and cheerleader. He's the artist that drew the big picture and will work out all the messes along the way cheering us onto His desired destination for us.

As we walk together, those who find encouragement hard to find or hard to give, learn from the eternal encourager, Jesus. May we in turn encourage one another in Him and in everything.



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Toxic Puddle


"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he (God) will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:30-32).

Fluorescent green blood oozed onto the driveway from beneath my eleven-year-old car. Praying my cats wouldn't attempt to quench their thirst by lapping up the toxic puddle, I hopped in the car and raced to the opticians office, anyway.

I'd spent the week wearing retro '90's frames since my newer frames snapped and I was anxious to return to the 21st fashion century. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got there without the car overheating despite the needle on the temperature gauge registering HOT.

Sporting my new specs and a $300 bill, the two-and-one-half mile ride home was a bit out of focus. Despite all the adjustments in the optician's chair the frames were uncomfortable, my sight was off and my mental cash registered started to "ka-ching" loudly as the radiator hose hissed mockingly, two blocks from home.

As I pulled into the driveway, I hovered between panic and faith.

This year my husband and I made a major adjustment. We made tithing, saving and paying off debts our financial priority. Our financial decisions have been based on needs vs. wants and what our budget allowed. These are biblical principles and how the "Christian financial experts" say we should be living. But what to do when needs out-weigh the cash flow in the midst of disciplined stewardship? Where does God's grace and mercy come into play?

Jesus tells us in Luke 12 that we are more important to God than the birds of the air or the lilies of the field who always find food and are beautifully adorned. So, he says, “Don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs." (Luke 12:29-30). Instead, Jesus encourages us to "seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he (God) will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:30-32).

If I've learned anything this year it's that life is not a cosmic chess game between us and God. How much we've tithed, saved or how great our needs it never out-weighs God's love, grace and mercy toward us who honestly seek Him first. It's about abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in us. It's about the flow of relationship.We don't give in order to receive. We give because we love. He gives because He loves and it gives him great pleasure.

The tow truck carried away my red wagon and within 24 hours the toxic puddle had dried up and the damage was repaired. "Ka-ching." I must admit, my hand wandered toward the big, red panic button but as it hovered, Jesus reminded me "Don't worry about such things...Your Father already knows your needs...It gives (Him) great happiness to give.

Whatever creates a toxic puddle in our lives, may we learn to see God's smile reflected back at us and remember, He's got it under control.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wise Children



"O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you." Psalm 8:1-2


The wisdom of children far surpasses my own, at times. That's why I always welcome their conversations. When I listen to them I'm getting a glimpse of God's heart. Here's a bit of God's wisdom, compassion and power some children have shared with me:

***

It had been an hour-long, Wednesday night praise service. I'd quickly rushed to the nearest empty seat in the middle section of our modern sanctuary and sat alone. I thought I was the only one aware of my surrounding empty seats . Then, during the benediction, a five-year-old girl slid down the long row of chairs to my side. "Hi! I'm Kaitlyn," she said with a sincere smile and sparkling blue eyes. "I thought I'd come sit with you so you wouldn't be alone anymore."

***

I shared a late summer walk around the block with my two-year-old granddaughter. She noticed the piles of dry, discarded leaves alongside the road. She soon discovered how they crunched beneath our feet as we walked. "Crunch, crunch, crunch!" she exclaimed each time, delighted in her new awareness. Then she found an itty, bitty red leaf in perfect form. "Awww. A baby leaf. So cute," she said, stopping to pick it up, examining it like a mother tending to her newborn. "So pretty, red." And she carried God's delicate treasure all the way home.

***

My daughter couldn't settle down for bed. She was just barely 18 months old and feeling out of sorts. I'd rocked her for over an hour and attempted to lay her down three times but each time she shrieked with pain. "What's wrong? Where does it hurt?" I asked.

With that old familiar tug, "My ear," she cried.

"Mommy will be right back with some medicine." I closed the door and whispered up a prayer. "Please, dear Jesus, we can't even afford Tylenol let alone a doctor's visit and Amoxicilin."

When I returned to her crib with a dropper, she greeted me with a big smile, laughing and jumping. "He fixed it, Mommy!" she squealed, pointing to a shelf of stuffed animals.

"Your ear?"

"Yes."

"Who fixed it?"

"He did!"

I pointed to each stuffed animal, Bert and Ernie, even to the characters on the covers of the books we'd read earlier.

"No, Mommy! HE fixed it," she insisted, pointing to the same shelf.

I was stumped. Then I remembered the prayer I'd whispered into thin air. But, Jesus couldn't have revealed himself to my baby girl, for real...could he? So, dismissing that possibility I asked, "Does this man have wings?"

Again she pointed, "No, Mommy! HE fixed it!"

I then pulled out the board book, Jesus and the Children, we'd read earlier and pointed to the picture of Jesus playing leap frog with smiling children. "Did HE fix your ear? Did Jesus fix it?"

Relieved and elated she jumped up and down, "Yes, Mommy. HE fixed it. He fixed my ear!"

"How?" I asked.

"He touched it," she said mater-of-fact, laid down and fell fast asleep for the entire night. She's never had an ear infection since then.

***

It never fails that when I'm in the presence of children, I see Jesus.

Lord, give me their eyes, their faith so that when they spend time with me, they see you, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Released



"I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." Psalm 119:32

I carried home a small bottle of five ugly caterpillars. For a week they crawled around their tiny home seemingly doing nothing but making a mess and eating their way into a coma. By the second week they'd had their fill and one-by-one, inched to the top of the container suspending themselves by a thin silk thread. Overnight they'd spun themselves into a nice little sleeping bag so, carefully following the directions, I transferred the sleeping critters to a safe house.

I waited anxiously for them to emerge as the colorful, graceful butterflies I was promised they would become. For days, nothing happened. I wondered if I'd done everything properly. Finally, after a week the first butterfly broke loose from his cocoon and stood on the side of the mesh walls, fluttering his wings ever so gently to dry them. Within a few more days, the rest of the butterflies emerged and were feeding on the sugar water I'd provided. They were perfectly formed, looking nothing like the ugly caterpillars I'd first brought home.

As all wild things in nature do, they too demanded their freedom. With great fan fare from my family, we led them outside to release them from their bondage. With a little coaxing the first three Painted Ladies flew gracefully into the blue summer sky. We cheered and waved good bye as they set out on their way to enjoy the bigger world.
The last two, however, wouldn't come out no matter how much coaxing we provided. They held firm to the side of the walls that held them back from the world. We closed the door and gave them another day to ponder the possibilities of flying free.

God stands at the door of our hearts beckoning us toward freedom through his gift of forgivness through his Son, Jesus Christ. That forgiveness opens the door to the heights of heaven, where abundant life flows; where hearts are unburdened and joyful; where bodies are healed and made whole; where people become who God intended them to be from the begining of time.

If we could only imagine what possibilities God has in store beyond our own walls, we wouldn't hesitate one moment to fly free. God's desire is to release us. Are you ready to fly?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Restored

"But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." Colossians 1:22

I walked into her hospital room, like I'd done a few times before, but this time I saw helplessness. She lay in bed immobilized from breaks in three out of four limbs. For the first time I wondered if her life would be restored anywhere close to what it used to be? Trying not to show the panic that tempted to overcome my demeanor I bent over to kiss her, searching for a safe spot, free from injury and pain.

The weeks ahead were slow but through surgeries, therapy and prayer healing came. Her body restored itself to independence and she returned home after a couple of months. But, like the human body does, it accuses us of our past. There's a pain in the hip that comes when weather changes. A couple of fingers don't grip with the strength from before. A persistent limp give evidence of more work needed.

Thankfully, for our spiritual bodies, we're promised full restoration through Christ. In today's scripture Paul reminds us that through Christ's suffering and death of his physical body He has fully restored our spiritual bodies so that God sees us without blemish or reminders (accusations) of past sins (injuries).

This isn't just a promise for our arrival in heaven but it's a promise for today... here and now. If we have been forgiven of our past through Christ, then God sees us fully restored, the way he created us to be from the beginning, whole, holy, pure and perfect.

If God sees us that way now, we need to adopt that same perspective of ourselves (and others) instead of accusing ourselves (and others) of past mistakes and injuries. We need to allow God's healing and live within Christ's forgiveness where we are truly free....NOW.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rescued


"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:13

Held captive by winter, the spring ground of the New Hampshire mountains remained hidden beneath her frozen veil. Darkness was loosening it's grip and the sun lingered a few more precious moments each day. New life was promised but the signs were subtle, barely noticeable to the passers-by.


Trudging out of the cold spring snow, I settled into my gray folding chair near the back of the chapel, grateful for the warmth of the ladies surrounding me. It had been awhile since I'd gone to a women's retreat and I was waiting for God to speak. With great expectation, I waded through the worship music, hoping with each new chorus God would meet me. But he didn't and disappointment crept in.


The speaker took her place center stage and introduced her topic for the weekend, The Names of God. "And tonight, ladies, we'll be looking at his name, 'Abba' or 'Father.'" I took copious notes still listening for God's words meant especially for me but they never came. Instead, I was met with restlessness as I wrestled all night with the thought of the morning's assignment and prayed for God to somehow rescue me. He didn't.


So, I sat in silence in an empty room warmed only by my steaming cup of tea. I opened my journal and penned the title of the assignment in blue ink atop the page. I took five pages to tell God just what I thought of him; how insensitive He was to put me through this painful assignment. I told Him if he were such a loving God He shouldn't be opening this chapter in my life again; the reminder of pain and missed childhood. When I finished ranting, God finally spoke. "Are you done, yet?" he asked. "Now here's how I see (it)." And, I wrote for an hour of how God viewed my experiences through His eyes. And then he left me with a challenge: forgive and offer forgiveness.


That was the beginning of God's rescue of my heart. I'd like to say I was pumped for the rest of the weekend but I can't recall a single thing after Saturday morning. I just wanted to run away and so I convinced the woman I traveled with to leave early.


As we traveled, the New Hampshire mountains gave way to congested highways toward home. Home was full of distractions I hoped would drown out God's challenge. It worked for awhile but by autumn, before the soil of my heart froze solid, God challenged me one more time: forgive and offer forgiveness. And, so I did.


It is with forgiveness we are rescued. It is in offering forgiveness that we gain freedom. It is in love where that forgiveness gives birth to restoration...new life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dress Me


"...stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Luke 24:49b

Dressing an infant is no easy task. Their heads flop, their arms droop, their legs kick every which way except the direction they need to go. Seriously, dressing an infant must be like wrangling a steer at a rodeo. It takes time and skill to wrestle them into those street clothes...and my, all those snaps. It's a wonder more babies aren't just allowed to hang in their diapers in public more often.


Then, little bits of time pass and they become a bit more helpful. They hold up their hands anticipating their shirts over their heads. They lift their little legs one at a time into the legs of their Osh-Kosh-By-Gosh's and they demand they be shod so they can play outside. Before long, they're independent of our help, choosing their own outfits (polka dots and plaids...together...on the same body) and clothing themselves without any help from us!


The early church needed to be clothed, too. One of the last instructions Jesus gave his followers before his ascension into heaven was, "stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Why? Because they had a mission to do and needed to be dressed appropriately. They were to continue sharing the good news of God's kingdom in Jerusalem and then throughout the world just as Jesus had started. They couldn't do it in their own power, clothed in only their humanity. No, they needed to be clothed from the inside out with the power from on high ... God's Holy Spirit.


Being obedient to Jesus' instructions, his followers stayed in Jerusalem, praying and worshiping God in the temple. As they postured themselves in worship, maybe some raised their hands, waiting to be clothed by their heavenly Father. Finally, on the day Pentecost God showed up. He overwhelmed them with power, placing a flame of fire above their heads and a foreign language upon their tongues. They shared the Good News of Jesus to all the foreigners in Jerusalem, celebrating Pentecost. They went out into the streets, into new lands with boldness because they were clothed with God's power.

As we wait for God's call on our lives or wait for Him to tell us what next step to take on our journey of sharing God's kingdom let us take the posture of worship. Let us raise our hands and pray, "Father, dress me!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Bridegroom


"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

I love mystery dates. My husband is a very clever, romantic man and he's pulled off a few exciting anniversary dates over the past twenty-six years.


On our tenth anniversary he showed up at my work place announcing himself with a fresh bouquet of flowers peeking around the corner of my cubicle. Attached was a note that read something like, "Will you come away with me?" With an approving nod and a smile from my boss who sat just three seats away, he whisked me away for a romantic dinner and evening alone.


Today we celebrate our twenty-sixth anniversary and he's done it again! He was out of bed long before I was this morning. I thought, "Oh, he must be planning breakfast in bed." But, then I heard the familiar whir of the treadmill from the next room and drifted back to sleep. An hour later my senses were revived with the delicious aroma of a freshly brewed cup of hazelnut coffee sitting on my nightstand. That's my favorite way to wake up! We shared a lovely breakfast and before he left for work he said, "Stand by for further instructions!"


My anticipation was peaked even more. Promptly around noon he called. "You have an appointment at 2 o'clock at the Body & Soul Day Spa. When you're done there, go home and prepare for dinner, wearing that pretty dress I like. Enjoy!"


So here it is twenty-five minutes before my afternoon at the spa and I'm looking forward to a wonderful evening. I don't know exactly what he's planned. I'm assuming dinner at a nice restaurant. A bottle of wine. Candlelight and "our" song maybe even a listening to our taped vows that we've kept all these years. I'm not sure. But, I am anticipating seeing my bridegroom with great joy and excitement.


Shouldn't the Bride of Christ (the church) also be anticipating the appearance of her Bridegroom (Christ himself) with the same joy and anticipation? Lately, I've had several conversations that prove the opposite. I've found most of us looking toward Christ's return with fear and anxiety, especially as Scripture reveals itself in our current events. Christ has chosen to reveal some of what to expect through his teachings as well as through the Revelation he gave to John. However, like he did with the disciples while he was living among them, I think not ALL is revealed. Therefore, there is fear of the unknown. If we believe in Christ as our saviour, should we not then have no fear?


I'm looking forward to celebrating the arrival of my bridegroom this evening even though all the details have yet to be revealed. The check on my heart is, do I anticipate the Bridegroom's return just the same?