Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Take Off Your Masks


"Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
2 Corinthians 4:2

Masks have often frightened me. I never liked wearing them even for Halloween. I found them suffocating, irritating and stifling. Even with a friendly face painted on them, I find them eerily disenchanting. They hide the truth of what lies beneath, whether the Beauty or the Beast.

I find hidden agendas in people's speech to be like masks and just as frightening. In fact, I find hidden agendas loathsome.  I've been caught in their web (not by my own doing) too many times, mostly on the receiving end. Quite frankly, it's deceitful. Whether it's happened in the workplace, within my church family, or at home, the result is the same... hurtfulness and pain.

I suppose I can understand why people hide their agendas. In my experience, I've found people are either intimidated and want to test for possible reactions, or they desire an opinion on something before making their own committment. Either way, I find it disrespectful. If someone values a relationship there is no reason to hide behind a mask or approach someone with a hidden agenda.

When this happens within church family it hinders the work of Christ not only within the personal relationship of the two involved, but also within the entire church body. Paul talks about the importance of the individual "jobs" or "body parts" in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-25. In order for our whole body to work well, each individual body part must function well. When one part is injured the whole body suffers. Made up of individual members, a church body can also only work as well as the individual relationships within that body. If we are to be the body of Christ, emulating His character, then should we not be honest with one another so as not to deceive one another or those on the outside?

If our plans are God's plans, then there is no place for fear or deception. Let's stop the masquerade party and take off our masks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When You've Fallen and You Can't Get Up


Photo from bleacherreport.com
"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber."
Psalm 121:2-3

"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!®"

We've all seen that popular commercial for Life Alert® - that handy device that alerts the authorities when a senior adult is in danger or needs their assistance. Those devices save lives when used properly, but for some seniors their forgetfulness or pride hinders them. Sometimes it's both.

Forgetfulness can be helped with helpful reminders and repetition. We can strategically place notes around the house, reminding them to wear those devices. But pride? Now that's all together different. There are no reminders we can place on their night stand or taped to their bathroom mirror that cures pride.

At eighty years young, many seniors want nothing more than their independence. Bravo to those who are healthy enough to maintain that, but for those who cannot, pride is tougher to combat. I've witnessed this so many times within and outside our family ties. Whether it be a foot that slips or their memory, seniors tend to hide. They'd rather stay where they are, marked-up and needy, than push a button on their Life Alert® or the phone and admit they need help. Eventually, someone finds them calling, "Olly, Olly oxen free!" Game over.

Isn't that the way we are with God, too? Senior or not, when we slip up in our faith walk, our pride gets the best f us and we hide from God. Instead of hitting that Life Alert button called prayer, we run away and hide. Oh, I don't mean we run into the closet or crawl under the bed, be we still hide. We choose to sleep in instead of rising early and spending time in prayer. We ignore our Bibles on the nightstand for days or we skip church until our conscience clears.

Maybe we don't hide in such obvious ways. For some of us, we might go through the motions of prayer, reading God's Word, or attending worship services, but we choose to ignore our wrong doing; we pretend it didn't happen. We think, in time, we can forget about it and move forward.

Funny thing though, unless we do confess our sins, we don't move forward. We stay stuck because we're expending too much energy on hiding.

If we've fallen and we want to get up what should we do? Hit the button on your spiritual Life Alert®:
  • Call out to God in prayer - He's always on high alert, waiting to hear from you
  • Admit your wrong doing and confess it - Jesus came to save, not condemn
  • Ask forgiveness from God and any opposing party- it leads to freedom
  • Seek a Godly accountability partner to help you walk through this, if necessary -we're not meant to live life alone
  • Surround yourself with a community of faith - where two or more are gathered in His name, God shows up
We all slip and fall and need help sometimes. God, our Creator and Maker of heaven and earth, the one who never slumbers waits for us with open arms and a grace-filled heart. No need to hide.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Losening That White-Knuckled Grip

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 16:19

After two years of walking our son up and down the streets of our quaint New England neighborhood, I'd memorized every house; their beautiful, landscaped yards, their color and unique architecture, even their placement on the street. They were all beautiful, but I had my favorite. It was a small, white colonial with a big back yard. It was fenced-in with green hedges with a long driveway on one side and a cute little archway that was attached to the left side of the front stoop that created a double front peak. It faced the southeastern sky so I knew it would be sunny and welcoming most of the day. It was a house I could call home; a place to put down roots and plant our family. It was something I'd never had growing up...a homestead; a place where good memories were made and reminisced.

I've told this story before, right here, how God generously showered us with that gift. We've lived here twenty-three years, this November and our family roots have grown deeper with a new generation. This house has indeed become our homestead where we gather every Sunday to break bread and make new memories. But the landscape is changing.

Our newest back-yard neighbors are subdividing and threatening our privacy. This news jolted us last week and I'd love to say I was gracious in my response to this news, but I wasn't. Oh, I held my tongue in public and respectfully opposed their plans at the zoning board, but my heart wanted to lay claim on something that wasn't mine.

I boo-hooed all over Facebook and cruised the internet looking for new houses,  but the longer I cried and the harder I tried to hold onto this house, the emptier and more hopeless I felt. Then a wise friend spoke. "You cherish what God has surrounded you with. Not taking it for granted is the very reason why this is so seriously jolting you," she said.

Yes, I do cherish this house. Yes, I acknowledge God as the provider of this home. But then,  God whispered in my heart, "Your grip is too tight."

"What?"

"Your grip is too tight. Let it go."

"What?!! But you gave this house to me."

"Yes, but you're holding it too close, too tight. This house is an earthly treasure. It won't last. It will fall.  Build up your treasures in heaven, not on earth, remember? I've created you to go out into the worldStop coccooning yourself inside this temporary vessel. Trust me. Let it go."

So, I've taken a deep breath and stepped back. God's words jolted me more than our changing landscape. I'd wrapped my fingers around this house so long and so tightly that I hardley noticed my white-knuckled grip. It's time to loosen my hold, trust God and let it all go.

I don't know what God's got planned, but that same wise friend mentioned room for God's grace and endless possibilities with a new neighbor (albeit up close and personal). But then again, back door friends are always the best.

Until Wednesday!

Dawn

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Obvious How Much He Loves Me

Yellows, oranges, and reds splashed against autumn's bright blue skies while fallen leaves rustled around my feet. First frost lingered and I inhaled its cool breath as I walked back and forth behind the mower creating almost straight diagonal lines, just for fun. Yes, I think yard work, especially mowing, is fun. Creating designs on my lawn, watching nature's changes from every corner of my yard, neatening unruly bushes, and enjoying visits from the birds and bees and butterflies thrills me. It's like playing at God's house. He lays things out there and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

I enjoy creating a home on the inside, too. Maybe it's the creative brain syndrome but I love decorating, rearranging, straightening, mopping, and cleaning. But, ask me to cook and I get all frazzled. Maybe it's the undoing of things, the floury messes, sticky sugar stuck to the floor, the cluttered counters and stained stove tops. I'm not sure.

But come Sunday, I cook my heart out AND enjoy every minute because that's when three (occasionally four) generations gather 'round the table and we serve up love.  We share our weekly ups and downs, cheer for our biggest and smallest achievements, celebrate milestones, make memories, and play. It's where God shows up in my sons' and daughters' conversations and through the anchored faith in my granddaughter's whispered dinner grace. It's where God lays things out around our  table and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

In Song of Songs 2:4 (NLT), the woman says of her lover:
 "He escorts me to the banquet hall; it's obvious how much he loves me."

It's that way around God's dinner table. He cooks his heart out, serves up love all 'round and makes it obvious how much he loves us. We are his family and He is our home. He loves us first and He loves us most. It's where he lays things out, cheers us on, listens and loves unconditionallly and says, "Hey, here I am. I love you."

How does God make his love obvious to you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Right This Very Minute

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Right this very minute my nose and toes are cold so I wrap them up in cozy fleece and slip right into warm fluffy scuffs. Pen in hand, I scratch my free flowing thoughts across the page hoping inspiration comes. Last week's schedule wore me out and I grasp for wisdom through it all - some tidbit to share and a God revelation.

But, God interrupts and whispers, "Right this very minute."

"What?" I ask.

"What are you thankful for, right this very minute?"

"Everything. I'm thankful for everything."

"Be specific."

So, the list begins. Right this very minute, I'm thankful for:
  • open piano music sitting above the ebony and ivory keys
  • heat that warms during these cold autumn days
  • full cupboards that nourish and satisfy this body
  • a loving family
  • celebrating my father's 81st birthday on Thursday
  • forgiveness and fresh starts
  • peace and quiet to think and listen
These are all good gifts - indescribably good gifts that meet needs and add joy - from a generously loving God. And when I stop, right this very minute, and give thanks to the Giver my heart smiles and so does His. We don't have to look for huge, life-changing revelation in every moment...God just wants us to notice the little things because all the little things add up and point to a listening, living God. He is the most indescribable gift.

Every moment of every day, whether we notice it or not, God generously gives good gifts to His children. Have you noticed lately? Will you take the time and look around? What are you thankful for, right this very minute? Let's bless one another and God's heart.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Do You Make God Real?

“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.” Psalm 90:16


We snuggled there in the dark gazing at the stars through his open window. Breathing in his little boy scent, wondering how many more nights of after dark cuddling were left between us, his profound question interrupted my thoughts.

“Who made the stars?”

{For the rest of the story, join me over at Christian Children's Authors blog today. And while you're there? Feel free to puruse my colleagues' articles. They offer such wisdom for families.}

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Jeremiah 31:25

I need a rainy day, now and then, when heaven pours down buckets of cool, refreshing rain under overcast skies. It's days like these when my mind relinquishes its normal scatter-brained push and pauses to hear the sleepy, pitter patter rhythm outside my window.

On these rainy days, when my "to do" list is blank, I slow down and enjoy a few simple pleasures: an hour more sleep under fuzzy warm blankets,  long, hot sips of pumpkin spiced coffee, extended quiet time curled up in my comfy chair, the new book aroma, the glide of my pen across blank pages, or simply an afternoon nap under Mom's hand-sewn quilt.

The rains fall and wash over my soul reminding my spirit who God created me to be. It's days like these when I can reflect on what God's done, focus on what He's doing now, and ask Him where He's leading me.

It's in the peace and quiet - the nothingness - where I hear God whisper and feel Him draw nearer. (Okay, in all honesty, it's in the nothingness where I'm left speechless, my mind declutters enough to hear God speak, and I lean in closer to Him).

Today is one of those days.

What kind of day refreshes you? What simple pleasures satisfy your heart? {I love it when you share your thoughts, so please don't be shy}.

Father,
Thank-you  for slow, rainy days and empty "to do" lists that serve to draw us closer to you.
Amen