Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Putting On the New You

"...put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:24

The new spring fashions appear in the post-Christmas catalog and I order a few things to spruce up my wardrobe. When the box arrives ten days later in early February, I can't wait to open it. What better way to warm a girl's heart in the middle of winter than opening a box of spring?

I handle each pastel piece and it feels odd - almost weightless - in my hands. After  months covered in layered wools and darker hues I'd forgotten the freedom and joy spring brings with it's thinner cottons, pastel rainbows and, oh yes, bare skin. Not much to hide under come spring. It's time to shape up and shed some of my old self.

So, I start counting calories, consciously prepare lighter, healthier meals, stay hydrated, and start walking.

As I start sculpting my new shape, God pricks my heart and asks, "What about the INSIDE?"

"What ABOUT the inside?" I ask.

God leads me to Ephesians 4 and 5 (Whew! I'm outta Jeremiah!). Here, Paul encourages us to shed our former God-less selves and put on our new God-filled selves. Just like shedding a few pounds takes a conscious decision to make healthier choices, so too with putting on our new, God-filled selves.

"You were put off your old self...; to be made new in the attitude of your minds..." Ephesians 4:22-23a

We put on our new self by reshaping our thinking to be like God's. How do we do this? Paul explains this in Ephesians 5: 15-21:
  • Live wisely - make the most of each day (vv.15-16)
  • Understand the Lord's will - seek it, find it, walk in it (v.17)
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit - empowered, confident, bold (v. 18)
  • Encourage one another in word and song (v. 19)
  • Worship God - in song, in word, in your heart (v. 19)
  • Give thanks - to God for everything all the time (v. 20)
  • Submit to one another - not one is esteemed more than the other; honor each other's uniqueness and gifts. (v. 21)
These disciplines seem rather haughty and unreachable, don't they? Just about as unreachable as our goal weight, sometimes. And I suppose, in our own strength they are. Jesus agreed, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26).

Couple our desire to resculpt our attitudes, our minds, our bodies,  and our habits with the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, and it's achievable. We're free and we're unstoppable! We. Are. Made. New.

Are you ready to shed the old and put on the new you? I know I am.

Father, we know all things are possible with you. Help us to renew our minds by seeking YOU first and foremost in our daily lives. Empower us with your Holy Spirit to know and live out your will for our lives; to reflect who you are and put on our new selves in Christ. Surround us with those who will encourage us and walk alongside us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nurturing God's Kingdom Purpose in Our Children

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
Luke 2:52
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. And yet, pondering these things like Mary mothered Jesus, I didn’t quite understand. 

God 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.

So, as parents, how do we recognize and nurture God’s call in our children’s lives?

*** Please join me at the Christian Children's Authors blog for some good pointers. And, when you're done, please share with us, what God's doing in your children's lives. How do you nurture that? Does it empower you to come alongside them or does it frighten you? ***

Monday, February 18, 2013

When God Signs His Name

Dusk settles in glorious shades of pinks and yellows across the western sky; God's signature that writes hope on our hearts for one more day.

That's all we need, isn't it? Hope for just one more day? For if we try and gather hope for all the days ahead, our minds twist the truth until fear replaces hope. And where fear rests, doubt rises - doubt in who we are, where we're headed and what we're called to do.

Fear + Doubt = The Perfect Storm

It's been a long week digging out from under three feet of snow and an even longer two weeks clawing my way through The Perfect Storm where fear and doubt demand my attention; where the weeds have grown up alongside my God-sown dream until I'm unsure of the very call on my heart - that call to write and encourage hearts.

We round the corner towards home and God signs his name to the brilliant landscape before us. Our eyes behold His handiwork and we turn towards one another with knowing smiles. No matter how battered we are from the storm, there's hope for one more day. And where there's hope our faith grows, knowing God goes before us.

Hope + Faith = Victory Over the Storm.

I tuck hope inside my heart and quietly settle and lean in close listening for God's whispers. He meets me with silence, so I ask, "God, do I have it right? Have I misunderstood you all these years? Am I off course?"

And immediately He brings to mind the words he gave me this summer from Jeremiah 1:18 & 19 (The Message):

"Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work...I'll back you up every inch of the way."
Ah, yes. Stop wielding my own sword. Just stand. Get ready. Let God show me what HE's doing around me. He's got my back.

You see, when God signs His name to all He has ordered, whether in nature or in our hearts and lives, He's in control and will see it to the end. Where God signs His name to anything, there is always hope; He is faithful and victorious.

Have you come through a perfect storm lately feeling a bit shaken and battered; questioning if what God promised is all wrong? I know how you feel.

Lean in close and listen for God's whisper. Pull His loving arms around you and just stay in His embrace for awhile. Offer up praise even in the midst of hurt and take notice of His signature all around you. He's right there singing over  you with delight and working His plan all around you.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Unfailing Love

"What a man desires is unfailing love." Proverbs 19:22

Unfailing love. It's all this heart ever dreamed of since she can remember. Isn't it what every little girl's heart craves -forever love that never fails - like it's woven into her DNA? I think so.

And so with every ounce of who she is, she searches the eyes of every man she encounters, beginning with Daddy. "Daddy, do you love me?" she asks. "Daddy, don't you think I'm beautiful?" she whispers. "Will you love me forever?" she pleads, even when he's walking out the door. Always searching. Always asking. Always needing unfailing love.

Beneath the bridal veil and lace her eyes rest upon her groom. They promise love, forever-unfailing love. And from that day forward her little girl eyes keep searching his. "Honey, do you love me?" she asks.  

(Click here for the rest of the story.)

Monday, February 11, 2013


"God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor. " Job 37:5-7

Blizzard warnings build excitement. Like a little kid, I ready my mittens, scarf and hat and dig out my snow pants from the front closet. With gas tanks topped off, the snow blower in place and shovels standing ready by the back door, I start pacing the floors keeping watch for the very first flakes.

There's something magic about snow -the way it falls and piles and drifts and blankets silence upon the ground.

I awake the next morning, like a child anticipating Christmas Day surprises, and peer outside at virgin ground - void of foot prints, tire tracks, and sound. I want to fling open the windows and breathe it all in - the freshness of new fallen snow. It begs a slow start; a reveling in God's wonder and glorious artwork, indeed.

If only we could relish its silence for more than a few hours or a day. That would truly be heaven for me. Isn't that what it means to find heaven on earth? Slowing...stopping...noticing God's miraculous deeds all around us.

So, I dive into waist-high snow and before life starts her constant humming, I find God all around me:

Mama cardinal chirps "good morning"; nature's voice rising, greeting the day, giving thanks for God's protection through the storm.

Glorious midday sun parts the clouds and paints Sky Blue across the heavens.

Neighbors emerge from winter's slumber offering help, encouragement, and much needed muscle. Community forms all around town. Isn't that how we're called to live? Together, not isolated.

After hours of shoveling, lifting and blowing many curse the snow - the forcing of slow - but I revel in it. It places control back in God's hands and sets my mind in awe and wonder of His powerful deeds.

Day #2 post-blizzard we're only now seeing plows arrive in our neighborhood and honestly, it saddens me. As inconvenient as this storm has been to our modern lifestyle, I've loved the pace. It's forced me to readjust life's priorities and given me time to think and serve and play and most of all to find God.

What about you? When life causes you to pause, what do you do?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Refrigerator Prayer Door

"Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God." Philippians 1:3 NIV

By this time we've thrown out tucked away all our Christmas greeting cards. Beyond pulling them out for kids winter art projects or (if we muster enough patience) snip off the personal greeting and use the front covers for gift tags next year, what else can we do with them? Decoupage is outdated and besides, Grandma only has so much space on her living room wall.

The past few years has proven another dilemma. What do you do with all those photo cards? I mean, there's only so much shelf space for photo albums and you can't really recycle them. I don't think cousin Suzie would appreciate seeing little Tommy's year-old face on next year's Christmas gift, even if he does have the cutest smile. Besides, she spent her hard-earned money on those photo cards!

Not knowing what to do, I let mine pile up in a drawer for years.  Then one day, while standing in my friend's kitchen, I noticed all the photos on her refrigerator door.

(Won't you join me over at the Christian Children's Authors' blog for the rest of the story?)

Monday, February 4, 2013

When You Feel Derailed

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Me and my God-sized dream raced steadily along the track towards the Big Apple. Moving forward, my heart beat hopeful inside my chest, following God's lead.

Joined with faith and friend, my dream and I stepped onto the platform, wove through urban crowds, and soared straight up twenty-eight floors - ever grateful for steady conversation that drowned out the voice of doubt.

I laid down my words before strangers - the best I could write - set out in black and white. They lent kind praise and constructive critique and my heart beat steady. A few little bumps, but nothing that stopped me cold...until I rounded the next bend.

Melodic words wove in and out and around the second table; more of the same...until sarcastic, knee-jerk critique sent my world spinning. I held on tight and reached for the brakes as unthoughtful words derailed me.

I tripped and scrambled for comfort and licked my wounds a bit. "It's all part of paying my dues, I guess; part of growing a writer's thick skin, " I told myself.

But it was more.

You see, when we're traveling in the right direction - steady on in obedience to God's calling - and something derails us, there's one of two things at play (or both):
  • God's teaching us something
  • Satan's attempting to thwart God's plan
Certainly, my writing needs PLENTY of improvement. Those points were well taken, but what's with the sarcasm and public humiliation? My hot buttons. And Satan knew it. He knew I'd want to catch the first train outta town. And trust me, that's exactly what I wanted to do!

But I prayed and stayed. I prayed that God reveal HIS dream (not MY dream) and I prayed for God appointments; those moments that you know only God creates. God was faithful (as always) to do both and He reminded me of Paul's words in Philippians 3:13-14

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me..."

Feeling a bit derailed today or wondering if you're heading down the right track? Pray for God's clear direction and keep your eyes open for God appointments that speak truth to your heart. He is faithful. Press on.