Thursday, August 30, 2012

Living Life Free

"The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9 NASB


An email greeted me today saying, "I hope your summer was fantastic." My first response was, "You have NO idea!" Then I hit delete.

My fingers froze, poised above the keyboard unable to explain the interruptions of my well-planned summer of poolside rest and writing. It took great thought to choose the right words that best described how my slow moving world's been sent spinning on its axis at warp speed and how it's all good.

You see, there's a time for rest and restoration and then there's a time
 to live life free

My nature loves peace and rest and soaking, but then all my words get lazy and there's not much to write about. No inspiration. Like the unharvested, neglected fruit on the vine -too much rest makes me rot.

God's done a great restorative work from the inside-out these past seven years; taught me what it means to abide and how hard it is to forgive, but how life frees up when you muster the courage and finally offer that forgiveness freely given. The writing it down in private and in public helped me sort it all out and figure out who God created me to be.

Now I live life free as God's writer and communicator

But not the way I imagined. No. God's taught me the price of disobedience and the blessing of obedience; that going exactly where He leads ushers in abundance and He just loves to heap good gifts upon us.

That's the kind of summer it's been. Abundant good gifts all heaped.

I touted a book to a writers conference in late July, confident that this was the writing God wanted promoted; the book He created me for. When I returned, He opened the doors to something fun and freeing - a local TV children's story hour called Penn's Pals. I never saw that on my radar - ever! But what a joy it's been so far - invigorating and creative.

And tonight, I opened another little surprise - a note stating one of my stories made the final round for publication consideration with a major publisher! If I make it, I'll know by Christmas.

Living life free means making more room for God's plans

Last year God challenged me to become more disciplined in my writing, which meant blogging consistently, four days a week. I accomplished that goal over the past twelve months. Blogging opened doors, built community with you, and honed my writing skills like nothing before. I love blogging, and will continue to do so, but now God's leading me to live and write differently.

So, what's all this got to do with you?

Generally speaking, starting Monday, September 3rd, Dawn's New Day will only publish twice a week on Monday's and Wednesdays.

Personally, I hope this urges you, inspires you to seek God's full restoration for your heart. This blog is full of stories of God's rescue, restoration and release of my wounded heart. And where God's glory shines is in the release; when we start living life free as He created us to be.

Are you living in a time of rest and restoration or is God leading you to live life free? Won't you share that encouragement by slipping a comment below?

If you're in need of encouragement, feeling more a need for God's rescue, I'd love to pray with you. You don't need to be specific, but just say, "I need prayer."

Blessings,

Dawn

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lessons in the Vine


"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:4 (NIV)
In the early morning sun, grapes hung fragrant, ripe and heavy from the vine.  The vineyard buzzed with activity from both man and bee as we harvested our community's first autumn crop. I met the challenge cheerfully, anticipatipating time spent outdoors tending the vines alongside my husband and neighbors.

Conversations in the field were as plentiful as the grapes. Some were boisterous and jolly, awaiting the end-of-harvest drinks shared in celebration. Others were soft spoken and patient as they taught their little ones the proper way to cut the fruit from the vine.


There was so much going on around me but the more grapes I harvested the more I found my spirit contemplating the lessons in the vine.

The harvesting technique is most important for the future life of the branch. The harvester gently holds the grape cluster in one hand and while cutting the branch as close to the fruit as possible, leaving the leafy part attached to the vine. Cut too much of the branch away and it will no longer produce fruit.

First fruits, harvested at just the right time, are full and ready to burst. The grapes are plentiful, closely entangled and difficult to separate from the vine. Sometimes, they are so plentiful that they have grafted themselves into the vine. There is promise of much wine.

Neglected fruit, harvested too late, is either rotten or shriveled up, good only for the scavenger birds.

Unripened fruit, harvested too early, is small, hard, and bitter. Their easily separated and the farmer discards these to save his wine from their bitterness.

Late fruits remain in the vine a bit longer. They endure shorter days, cooler temperatures and the first hard snap of frost. But, from these hardships comes the sweetest, most succulant dessert wine that tastes like sunshine on the tongue.

Ahhh. Harvest time - celebrating the fruit of our labors - when the vine keepers pour out the wine in honor of their sweet labor representing countless celebrations to come.

The fruit multiplies and satisfies thousands!

How so as we think about abiding in the Vine, who is Christ. We must remain (abide) in Him to produce any fruit and as we remain the fruit of our relationship ripens - becomes plentiful, abundant, enticing, and sweet. Then harvest comes and the Vine Keeper distributes our fruit and satisfies thousands.

And what of our hardships? Like the late fruit that endure the harshest conditions, from our own hardships comes wisdom, compassion, our very best as long as we remain in Him.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Say Yes to God's Sacred Adventure


"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...an move you to follow my decrees.." Ezekiel 3:26a, 27b

God met me in my quiet place. His Spirit blew through open windows though never rustling the leaves outside. His joy filled me up with laughter that couldn't be suppressed and it changed me.

All week long anxiety and pressure mounted, turned my world upside down and I stared my God-portunity down. This TV show, Penn's Pals, was nowhere on my radar and certainly nothing I concocketed from my own imagination, but as the week wore on and wore me out, I wondered and questioned, "Am I stepping into God's will or is this just a huge distraction from the Enemy?"

Rest finally came Thursday night. Exhausted by all the challenges I fell into God's hands and said, "Catch me, Lord. Search my heart. If this is from you, give me deep rest and breathe life in me and through me." Twelve hours later (yes, 12) I awoke, peaceful and rested.

I quieted myself inside my office sanctuary and opened the windows, welcoming His presence and Holy Spirit. Opening my devotional, He met me with these words:

"Though I am the Lord of the universe, I desire to work in partnership with you. As you say yes to this sacred adventure, you become more fully the one I designed you to be."
(Jesus Lives, by Sarah Young, (Thomas Nelson, 2009m pp. 76-77).


Hmmmm...a sacred adventure? Penn's Pals is certainly an adventure and now my spirit knew it was a sacred calling, prepared in advance especially for me; one that God intends to work in me and through me for His purposes. I'm not sure how, or what that looks like right now, but as long as He's in it, I know there's good things ahead!   I cannot express the overwhelming peace and joy that's replaced my anxious, worrisome heart. Praise God!  

Expectant.  

Standing ready and prepared to watch what God is doing,   

Dawn

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are You a Tumbling Tumbleweed?


“Blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers…” Jeremiah 17:7-8a (The Message)

One by one, cool mornings gather – sneak between our flip-flopped days. Summer scorched edges line the garden beds and pile beneath the trees. Back-to-school bargains fill our closets and drawers. We trade loose cottons for warm wools and bare toes for socked feet.

I think of all those lazy, carefree summer days gone by as autumn rushes in, clutters the ground and my calendar. Busyness pushes her way into every day, overrunning God’s presence – threatening soul death.

God describes self sufficient, busy people as tumbleweeds in the desert – roaming aimlessly with no roots. But…

(Today, I'm visiting my sweet friend, Tracy, here at One Degree Ministries. We'll make room around the table as we share our hearts today. Let us know you're there and how we can pray for you by leaving a comment, won't you?)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Do You Want to Get Well?


"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and
I will be saved, for you are the one I praise." Jeremiah 17:14

Beyond the putrid orange-flavored cough syrup mixed with the stinging aroma of Vick's Vapo Rub®, winter sickness brought comfort. It carried privileges unlike normal days. Mom unfolded the hide-away couch and unfurled a freshly line-dried cotton sheet over the top, transforming our living room into our private hospital room. There we stayed, cocooned between fresh linen and her hand-sewed quilts, soaking up all the TLC she offered.

When health returned after a few short days, my heart questioned, "Do I want to get well?" The special attention, the comforts illness brought were hard to leave behind. Health threatened all this, even placed an unwanted responsibility of normal living back on our shoulders. It meant giving up our comfortable homemade cocoon.

Isn't it the same when we're soul-sick? We get so used to all the attention our tears or complaints afford that when we're led to pray, "Jesus take the pain away," we actually fortify our hearts against the Spirit's healing powers with disbelief and lame excuses. Or, maybe the pain creates a desperation and we cry out for relief, make God promises that when we're faced with them the next morning, our soul forgets, maybe regrets and soul-sickness never heals.

Jesus faced the cripple at Bethesda's healing pool; looked him straight through and asked the piercing question, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6 NIV) and the cripple made excuses. But Jesus accepted none and commanded him to pick up his mat and walk. His physical body healed and Jesus met up with him at the temple a few days later. This time He confronted his soul-sickness. "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
It's hard to give up the comforts that sickness offers. Turning away from comfort goes against our nature, but God promises, if we turn towards Him, He has plans for us. Good and eternal plans, like He promised the Israelites long ago.

" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back to the place which I carried you into exile' " (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV).

Where are you today? Are you ready to shed your comfortable cocoon and step into God's promises for life outside it's shelter?

Father God,
We all enjoy the comforts of home, especially when we're sick. We love the attention our loving friends and family offer in those times, but we know we're not meant to stay there. Give us the desire and courage to ask for your Holy Spirit's healing powers within us, both physically and spiritually. When you ask us to get up, may we obey you without excuses and walk away from our soul-sickness into Your hope. Amen.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back-to-School: Life Unscripted


Join me again today at Encouragement Cafe for more back-to-school specials:


“ 'What then is this child going to be?' For the Lord’s hand was with him." Luke 1:66

I wished my kids came with instructions. They wished I came with a script.

Wearing that deer-in-the-headlights look while my mind raced through the invisible Rolodex of wisdom didn't settle them one bit. If I lingered too long in dumb-foundedness, they assumed I didn't care; spoke too soon and I didn't understand. Either way it was an exasperating, losing battle and my Mommy Meter quickly ran dry of patience until all that was left was my Mean Mommy sarcasm. "What do you want me to say?" I'd retort throwing my hands above my head. "You didn't come with instructions and God didn't hand me a script the day you were born!" Honestly, some days I was the one that needed the time-out chair!

(Psssst! While you take some time out for yourself today, meet me over at Encouragement Cafe for the rest of the story. Oh, and when you're done? Let us know how you handled these same situations. Mama's need all the help they can get! See you soon.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back-to-School: House Full of Prayers

It's that time of year again when we trade those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer for the amped-up pace of back-to-school mania. This week at Encouragement Cafe, a few of us bloggers share how we've prepared our kids and homes for that back-to-school routine.

House Full of Prayers

Alongside the adventures of Dick and Jane and a dog named Spot, I grew up reading the Christian version, with renamed characters, Tommy and Sally. The publisher added Mommy, Daddy, and Baby but decidedly kept the dog named Spot.

I barely salvaged one book, House Full of Prayers, from my collection and today it sits, guarded in my office. (Read the rest by clicking here. Then won't you come back and share your ideas for making that back-to-school transition or how you teach your kids to pray?). See you soon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rescued from What?

Photo Credit: Shabby Art Boutique
"'...for I am with you to rescue and save you,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 15:20 (NIV)

We glance across the street or over the backyard hedges and smugly reply, "Compared to them, I'm doing just fine!" But deep within that lie pricks our hearts. Something nags at us until someone or something stomps on our hot button and we explode. Covered in our drippy mess everyone wonders, "Where did that come from?"  

We shrug it off, blame it on the weather, that time-of-the-month, old age, our kids, our spouses, or our unreasonable bosses. And the next time? Well, I think you get the picture.

If we dig a little deeper, get right down to the roots, we're not really "doing just fine!" There's something there that isn't right; something that needs fixing; a heart that needs rescuing.  

We'd love it if Prince Charming rode up on his white steed and carried us away to our happily-ever-afters. We'd even settle for a long, warm, uninterrupted bubble bath! But, reality proves even Prince Charming has his flaws and warm baths grow cold. We know we need rescuing. Our hearts crave it, but what do we need rescuing from and who will come to our aid?

In the land of Jeremiah, God spells it out:
 
“My people have committed two sins:

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,

and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

In other words, their selfish pride pulled their attention away from God and when they needed rescuing they formed other gods - broken, cracked and lifeless cisterns.

Don't we do the same thing? We get so self-sufficient that we forsake God until life gets a little bumpy. Then, the first thing we turn to are idols - friends, our church, spiritual leaders, social media, shopping, food, alcohol, drugs...need I go on?

Our only hope lies in the One who formed us, who knew us before Creation. He's been in the rescuing business since Genesis 3 and He's still rescuing us today. How? Well, it's not the same as riding in on a white horse.

We have to do our part:
  
“'If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me...for I am with you to rescue and save you,' declares the Lord.'" Jeremiah 15:19a, 20b (NIV)

If we stomp our pride into the ground and turn our eyes back to Jesus (repent), God promises He will rescue and save you. Save you from what? Beyond pride and selfsufficiency, it's personal.

Forget about your neighbor across the street or over the hedges. Get alone with God and ask Him to reveal where you hurt the most. Let Him dig deep into your drippy messes and heal your heart wounds - all those things that nag and build and explode.  

Father God, I pray for all our wounded hearts that cause such explosive messes. Forgive us. Forgive us for turning to things rather than YOU. Forgive us of pride and self-suffiency - idolatry. We turn our eyes to you, this moment, and ask that you rescue us. Save us from ourselves, from the strongholds our pride and woundedness create. Free us, Father. Rescue and save us. Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

God Assures: I Got Your Back

Photo Credit NowPublic.com
"Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work...I'll back you up every inch of the way." Jeremiah 1:18, 19 (The Message)

For years I've wielded my sword - protecting my heart, my marriage, my children, striving after position and swiping at my calling - until Whitney Capps spoke these words at the She Speaks Conference:

"Take up your sword but don't wield it. Stand - dressed, protected, ready - and watch God work."

Her words pierced my heart, I could barely contain my emotions. Like a battle weary soldier, my stature crumpled at the table as I recorded her words through blurry tears.

By definition, wielding means:
  1. to exercise power, authority, influence as in ruling or dominating
  2. to use a weapon or instrument effectively; handle or employ actively
  3. to guide or direct
  4. to govern; manage
When we wield our swords, we usurp God's sovereignty, authority and power over our lives and the situations. Instead of being effective we are unwieldy: unable to readily handle or manage the action, size, shape or weight; awkward and inefficient.

But when we pick up our swords and stand ready:

God assures us, "I got your back"


"I'll tell you where to go and you'll go there. I'll tell you what to say and you'll say it.
Don't be afraid of a soul. I'll be right there, looking after you." 
Jeremiah 1:7-8 (The Message)

God assures us, "I AM that I AM"

I AM making you as impregnable as a castle, immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall.
You're a one-man defense system against this culture...They'll fight you, but they won't even scratch you.
I'll back you up every inch of the way.
Jeremiah 1:18-19 (The Message)

God asks, "Will you pick up your sword and stand ready?" Will you give up self sufficiency, perfection and protection and just stand ready, faithful and obedient?

Yes? Now, watch what God will do in your midst.


~~~
Another God-portunity

~~~
Encouragement Cafe invited us back for another chat today. Won't you join us as we discuss "Compliant vs Rebellious Hearts" in their back-to-school series? Just click here.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

God's Expectations at Center Stage


"But you—up on your feet and get dressed for work! Stand up and say your piece. Say exactly what I tell you to say. Don't pull your punches or I'll pull you out of the lineup." Jeremiah 1:17 (The Message)

Want to know a secret? I love acting almost as much as writing. A girl can have two passions, yes? Acting gives me permission to try on characters like a pair of shoes. Step into this role and I'm a wretched, spoiled child. Don't like her? Step into another pair of shoes and wha-la I'm a beloved sister, auntie or mother. Oh, the endless possibilities!

The best part? Convincing the audience I truly am that character; getting so lost in my new role that even I forget who's real and who's not. It's all in the lines - delivering them flawlessly, on time, as directed. That's what a director expects. It's what the audience needs in order to believe. Disappoint the director or the audience and you're out - replaced.

Pulling that off takes hard work - research, memorizing, practice, taking directions, walking the stage, dress rehearsals - until you've mastered the part.

God cast Jeremiah in an unlikely role. There he was, a young teen simply minding his own business when God says, You there, Jeremiah! I want you to be my prophet. I know, I know, you're just a child. No problem. Just stand up, deliver the words I place in your mouth. That's all. Oh, and BTW, don't try to add your own commentary or hold back anything I tell you to say. You do and I'll replace you.

God always chooses His message first and then equips His messenger.

Now, I'm not saying God bullied Jeremiah or that Jeremiah was insincere in his allegiance to God or his willingness to play this part. Jeremiah knew he was ill equipped and God knew it, too. That's why he chose Jeremiah. God knew he was the right person to take direction, do the hard work, stand ready, allow God's words to flow through him, and courageously confront the opposition.  

All God expects is our obedience, faithfulness, and courage.


Is there a God-message He's appointed you to share? Are you feeling a bit like Jeremiah - young, lacking, and ill equipped? Are you wriggling out of your shoes in search of a better role to play or are you willing to let God direct your steps across life's stage?

Father God,
I admit some days it's easier to play the part you've chosen for us and other days, it's just plain hard. Continue equipping us. Give us obedient hands and feet and continue placing Your words in our mouths. May we not add anything more or take any away. Fill us with your empowering, courageous Holy Spirit until your sovereign plan is complete. Amen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How God Equips


"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth."
Jeremiah 1:8, 9 NIV

One of the most terrifying experiences was placing my daughter on a plane with strangers heading twenty-four hours due east across the Atlantic to Uganda. Luckily for her, the organizer limited parental good-byes to the church parking lot where I choked-back fears and tearful sobs as they boarded the van to JFK. 

She'd been born for this - appointed in my womb for this day - I knew it full well. She was the girl who befriended the needy since kindergarten; the one who shared the gospel during childhood sleepovers; the young teen who announced after two weeks of summer camp that she was heading to Uganda.

When that day arrived three years later, I pulled up my big girl pants and entrusted her to God's watchful eye and protective hands. My prayers reminded God she was only a child, too young, too ill equipped and God reminded me that He was the great I AM.

God's calling is not limited to foreign missions. He appoints all of us to a specific purpose - one that usually corresponds to our heart's deepest desire - in order to advance His kingdom on earth. When our heart's greatest desire aligns with God's heart and divine purpose it's thrilling, overwhelming, and usually always finds us lacking.

Remember Jeremiah? God appointed him as prophet to Israel, to admonish their idolatry and warn of God's impending wrath. Gulp! And like us, can't you imagine Jeremiah looking over his shoulder and saying, Who, me? Couldn't be! You must have the wrong guy, God. I'm just a child. Besides, how would I know what to say to them? And if I did know what to say, they'd kill me!

And God's reply? "Do not be afraid, for I AM with you AND will rescue you," Jeremiah 1:8 (NIV). Like Jeremiah, God calms and equips us with:



  • His Presence (I Am with you)
  • His Protection (I will rescue you)
"Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth," Jeremiah 1:9 (NIV). God reassures us through:
  • His Personal Touch (the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth)
  • Placing His words (I have put my words in your mouth)
If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever then the God of Jeremiah still calls, still appoints and still equips us with His presence, His protection, His personal touch and will place in us all that we need to accomplish His Kingdom's purpose. He rarely, if ever, chooses the fully equipped, conventional hero-type but rather the ill equipped, unconventional, obedient ones through whom His glory can shine.

What has God appointed you to do? Do you feel a bit like Jeremiah, wondering how God will accomplish this through you? Are you in need of God's reassurance of His presence, protection, personal touch, or placement of skills? How might I pray for you, today?

Father, many of us hear you calling us. We might even know the specific task or people you've appointed us to, but like Jeremiah, we find ourselves fearful and lacking. Please reassure us of Your divine appointment through your presence, your protection, a personal touch or your perfect placement of words upon our tongue or pen. Give us the heart and courage to obey you in all that you ask. Amen.

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God-portunity Below
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After I scheduled this Jeremiah series, I received a God-portunity. Encouragement Cafe is publishing two of my blog posts this week: Refrigerator Rites (today) and Compliant vs Rebellious Hearts (Thursday). Take a moment and blog hop with me? See you there!



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are We There Yet?

"I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into...a land flowing with milk and honey." Exodus 3:17
  
Our kids were decent travelers and made road trips pretty pleasant for the most part. Buckled into the backseat of our Subaru with their pillows, blankets, Teddy and Bunny and a stockpile of juice boxes and snacks between them, we were good to go.

Excitement ran high for at least the first hour in anticipation for our destination. Then, after we'd played all the travel games in my mental library, their patience ran thin and inevitably they asked, "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer?" And our answer was always the same, "About an hour." (The first time they asked that, we truly were one hour from our destination so it became our 'pat answer' and eventually our inside family joke).

So there we were, stuck in the middle of NOW--our view muddled with fatigue and impatience for the road ahead--hanging onto the vision of our promised destination. 

(Won't you mosey on over to the Christian Children's Authors blog and pull over for the rest of the story? I promise, we're almost there!).