"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Never Alone

Loneliness is no respecter of age. It weaves through the seniors' rooms where I work. My heart aches for them, and I spend as much time talking and joking with them as one person can. 

But driving home Christmas night I got angry - with God.

"How can lives that were once so full seem so empty? 
Why do you allow this solitude? 
Where are you?"

 He spoke to me in a song. 
(Which he does more often than anyone would believe.)

We cannot separate
You're part of me
Though you're invisible
I'll trust the unseen 

I cry out with no reply
I can't feel you by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here, and I'm never alone

It was obvious, but I had missed it. Those who trust in him have been given the gift that conquers loneliness: oneness with Christ. The baby born in a stable grew to be a man who cannot be separated from those who love him.  

Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Our God gives you everything you need. 

My perception of being alone is in essence, wrong. It is a lie whispered by the prince of darkness himself. I can feel alone. I can observe that others seem to be alone. In reality, this is an impossibility for believers.

So, as the song suggests, I cling with all my might to the unseen.

I am never alone.

Those who are truly alone have decided to walk down the path of life solo. And I must continue to reach out a hand and offer a better way.

Christ in me, thanks for bringing me around to truth. I love how you remind me often of your presense with glimpses of your glory. Help others to realize the magnitude of this gift you have given us. Guide me as your light in a dark and lonely world. Amen. 

"Never Alone" - Barlow Girl

*Col. 1:27 NIV, 1 Thess. 1:2 MSG

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Greatest Fears Come True

Senseless. Questioning. Torn.

How could this happen? They were only children, concerned mostly with whether their heart's desire was waiting under a tinsel topped tree.

Their parents had probably been praying for their safety for years. How could God ignore such a selfless request, twenty times over?

That is the view from down here, in a fallen world.

But what if God not only answered the prayers of each of the parents in Connecticut, but he did more than they could ever ask or think or imagine. *

In my mind, a prayer for my children's protection means safety and shelter from the evil around them. "Please keep them safe" translates to, "Don't let them be hurt."

Since my thoughts are not his thoughts and my ways are not his ways,* I have to try to make sense of things from his point of view.

What if his idea of "keeping them safe" means giving them peace that passes all understanding* in the midst of evil? What if it means them feeling his warm arms around them and hearing a whisper of "I am here with you. Fear not." Perhaps he answers prayers by wiping every tear from their eyes*, forever.

I serve a God who promises to never leave me or forsake me*. I believe he can do anything. So I have to trust that his love was wrapped around each scared student and teacher. It's possible he kept them from feeling any pain at all. He was outraged at the evil even more so than I was. Yet, as the broken son of Adam pulled the trigger, I am sure God was speaking to his soul too, saying, "I love you. I still want to forgive you. Yes, I died even for you. Please turn and believe."

It still hurts. The happenings of this world will never seem fair. Death was not the original plan for his children. Pain in the face of evil, especially for those left trying to make sense of it all, is unavoidable. He longs to comfort those who mourn if we will let him.

However, my faith can not depend on God answering my prayers the way I want them to be answered. That is telling God, "I know better than you how to handle this situation."

Tonight as I pray over my children, I will ask him to use the pain they encounter in this world to make them stronger and keep them safely in his arms forever. I will echo Paul:  

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19 MSG)

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! (Eph 1:17-19 MSG)

Thank you, God of wisdom, for allowing me to share this life with others, whether it be for decades or days. Help me to hold onto everyone around me loosely and you tightly. Amen.

*Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 55:8, Philippians 4:7, Revelation 21:4, Deuteronomy 31:6   

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gazing Upward

The day had been hard. I needed a moment of stillness. Although the computer beckoned to me, I chose to turn the lights off, save for the Christmas tree, and lay on the couch. My mind wandered for awhile until I focused on the scene before my eyes.

The children had obviously played with the nativity set on the coffee table. Every figurine except for one was toppled. The lone shepherd was gazing intently into the sky, watching in expectation. His act of reverence and the current state of my heart were polar opposites, and it unnerved me.

In an act of defiance, I gave a tug to the cloth beneath him. If I was not standing tall, he should not either. (This all made perfect sense to me at midnight.) My earthquake, however, did not achieve the result I desired. He stood his ground, staring skyward in perfect peace.

Then I remembered something my pastor had recently said. In a study of Christians who had gone through times of great trial, the ones who kept their faith and peace were the ones who had a habit of sitting at the Lord's feet daily, in his word and in prayer. They did not wait until they were in a bind to seek the Lord. They were in constant communication with him already. And when troubles (earthquakes) came, they continued to gaze upward.

Chuckling to myself for allowing the circumstances of the day to darken my spirits, I carefully restored order to the entire manger. Then I thanked God for the humorous heart lesson.

I choose to keep my eyes focused on the King of Kings.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. (Psalm 8:1 NIV)

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me... (Psalm 16:8-10a NIV)

Almighty God, thank you for showing me truth in ordinary objects. Help me to always look for your messages of hope, even when the light around me grows dim. When others fall, plant my feet deeper so I will not be shaken. Amen. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Grace and Peace Overflowing

I greet you with the  

grace and peace poured into our lives 

by God our Father 
and our Master, 
Jesus Christ. 
(Ephesians 1:2 MSG)

How can grace and peace be poured into my life if it is full of worry and stress? It is like adding pure water to a cup that is already full of murky water.

First, I need to empty myself of the unclean. 

I do this by becoming aware of the anxiety within me. I pour out my heart to God in prayer and often write my troubling thoughts on paper. God loves to answer prayers to empty me of all that does not honor him and fill me with the peace that can only come from him.  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

God, I want there to be more room in my life for your grace, peace, and joy. Help me to identify areas of my life that do not bring you glory and to be patient while you lovingly help me release them to you. Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Counting My Blessings

I cannot grumble and simultaneously be thankful for what I have. It is impossible. Either my mind focuses on what I am unhappy and worried about, or it concentrates on my blessings. My goal, therefore, is to train my mind to return to thankfulness when I am straying in the other direction.

To do this, I have made counting my blessings a priority. I keep a running list of the big and small things around me I would otherwise take for granted. Often, I write comments people made that brought a smile to my face. When gloomy shadows tempt to cover the sun, I return to this list and am reminded of the exquisite gifts God has given me in the midst of an otherwise ordinary life.

"Count Your Blessings," by Johnson Oatman, Jr. 
(Listen to the music)

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

     *Count your blessings, name them one by one,
       Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
       Count your blessings, name them one by one,
       Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Thank you, God, for every good and perfect gift which is from above. Amen.
(James 1:17)

Monday, November 19, 2012

If I Die

The revelation came while I was teaching my husband how to make pear cobbler, one of our favorite desserts. The recipe was partly in a cookbook and partly in my head.

"I can't believe I've never showed you how I make this," I murmured as he measured. In an often hidden corner of my mind, I thought, "At least now he can make it for himself if anything were to happen to me."

If anything were to happen to me. When something happens to you.

Those types of thoughts have been eroding my joy for awhile. The losses over the last year and a half have threatened to swallow me. Dad, Grandma, three teenagers, an infant, and over twenty seniors at the facility where I work have moved beyond the world I know, some to destinations I know not of.

"Why, God? Why this saturation in death? What am I to take away from this shadowed valley?"

The answers are not clear, but ever so quietly I hear, "Immerse yourself in truth and trust."

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, (Psalm 23:4a ESV)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

I am to trust in the Lord instead of trusting in the false security of loved ones I have in my life. I am to trust in the Lord instead of worrying about events that may not happen anytime soon. I am to trust in the Lord and rest on the promise that he will give me the grace I need to get through trials when they occur. 

I am to trust in the Lord. Period. 

Honestly, some fears were hidden so deep inside, only a stripping to the core could bring them to light. Can I possibly be thankful even for this? 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me.. to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3a NIV)

I am willing to learn all he has to teach me though this season of life. I am not happy about this valley, but I am thankful. He is beside me, showing me more and more truth and a sweet side of him I never knew before.

Lord, I am claiming the beauty you promise to come from these ashes. You use all these situations to draw me closer to your side. The process hurts, but I know you desire even the deepest fears to be nailed to the cross. Thank you for never letting go of my hand. Amen. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fear of Flying

The best exhibit at the children's museum was hidden behind a small curtain on the lower level. After our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we encountered a huge, white "shadow" wall. We giggled, posing in funny ways when the flash went off, then backing up to see our silhouettes frozen behind us.

Then my husband asked our son if he wanted to fly. The idea was to throw him up in the air so his shadow would be frozen above everyone else. It sounded like fun, but he forgot one small detail.

As he tossed our preschooler above his head, he was blinded by the flash and clumsily caught him by the legs, inches from the ground. It was quite a while before my pulse returned to normal, and our son was leery of his father's ideas for the rest of the day.

Similarly, God encourages me to give flying a try. He wants to see me soar and even gives me the power to do so, but at times I am afraid he will not catch me when I fall.        I fear that when I let go of the familiar, an unexpected flash will blind the one I put my      trust in.

When I follow this line of reasoning, I too am forgetting one small (huge) detail: God will always catch me when I fall. He knows all the "flashes" that will come my way and promises to keep me safely in his arms. I can trust him fully and feel confident as I explore the great heights of life. When I feel like I am in a downward spiral, I can take comfort in the truth. Nothing can separate me from God's love.

Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. (Psalm 91: 9-12, MSG)

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37b-39, ESV)

Thank you, Father, for catching me when I fall. I enjoy exploring the heights of your love and will try to boldly live in the freedom you offer me. Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Anticipated Surprises

I found the toy for my son at a garage sale. It was something he had been drooling over for months. I knew the excitement that would follow after discovering it outside his bedroom door the next morning. The anticipation made me smile.

Then, while trying to figure out how it worked, I pressed a hidden button that made parts of it light up and play music. How long, I wondered, would it would take my son to find this extra surprise? I did not want to miss that moment.

As a parent, surprising my children with gifts ranks quite high in the "what brings me joy" department. I relish their simple delight and hugs of thanks.  

My Heavenly Father is the same way.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights... (James 1:17a NIV)

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. (Matthew 7:11 NLT)

He delights in my discovery of his gifts. He beams with pride when I stop to thank him for his generosity. He waits in anticipation for me to understand all the wonderful things that are yet to come.

Giver of all good and perfect gifts, open my eyes to see what is all around me waiting to be unwrapped. I love that you love surprises and created me to enjoy them as well. Help me to turn to you in gratitude and refrain from grumbling. Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

When God's Answer is "No"

While thinking of a new Bible verse for my kids to memorize this week, I turned first to "God is love." The short, but powerful, truth beckoned me to savor each word, read it over and over.

GOD is love.
God IS love.
God is LOVE. (1 John 4:8)

Each time I read the sentence, new meaning emerged and leaped right off the pages into my open heart.  Then doubt crept in.

What about the times God does not seem like love? What about when my prayers for healing seem to fall on deaf ears?  What about when his answer to my tears continues to be "no?"

Is he still love?

God cannot and will not act outside of love. It is his very nature. I have to stand on the truth that he says "no" because he loves me and knows way more about the situation, my heart, and my true needs, than I can imagine.

Because he loves, he is not healing my body right now. Because he loves, he allows situations into my life which cause me to grow. Because he loves, he places a longing for something deeper within my heart.

God does not cause sin or always prevent it. In his love, he gives everyone the freedom to choose good or evil, and lets consequences naturally occur. 

Does this mean I jump for joy while my tears are falling? Of course not. But I refuse to doubt that God is love when his answers to my prayers are not what I wish they were.

God has been, is, and will continue to be LOVE.

"Praise You in This Storm" by Casting Crowns 

Yes, Jesus, you love me. I choose to believe you act and decide not to act because you are love. Either way, I want to bring glory to you. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Always Available to Help

I was trying to take a shower. My children were pounding on the door for assistance with one thing or another. I was obviously busy and tried to redirect them while rubbing soap out of my eyes. Not to be deterred, they kept knocking and yelling.

Here's the funny thing - my husband was in the next room. I insisted (in a very loud voice) that they ask their dad to help them with whatever pressing matter they had. What could I possibly do for them at the moment?

Finding the situation both annoying and humorous, I got to thinking: this is how I treat my pressing matters sometimes. I go to my family and friends for help, frustrated that they cannot fix things, when my Heavenly Father is nearby and always available.

I ask others for opinions when I should be turning to God first. His is the only opinion that truly matters. He is never too busy to provide counsel and direction.

As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. (Psalm 55:16 NIV)

Lord, I want to knock on your door for help first. You are always available no matter how large or small my concern. Give me the courage to release the hold that opinions of others has had on me. Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Preapproved and Accepted

I keep receiving letters in the mail from financial institutions and other businesses that used to make me frustrated but now make me smile. The writing on the envelope usually says in big, bold letters, "You are Preapproved," or "Accepted, Regardless of Your History!"

While shredding the most recent note, something stirred inside me. I am preapproved; I am accepted, but not in the way they imply.

If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own." (Romans 4:2-3 MSG)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7 NIV)

I do not have to worry about my past because I am accepted regardless of my history. I am preapproved for the glorious eternity that awaits me. All I have to do is believe in the one who spread his arms wide on a cross to ensure I would never be rejected.

Now, those are wonderful reminders to receive in the mail - often!

Lord, judging by the frequency I receive these letters, you must enjoy reminding me of these facts over and over again. Help me to live fully from the acceptance you give freely and to share that with others around me. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Purposeful Prayer for My Husband

I have been saying it for over a decade now: I need to pray more for my husband. Not that I don't pray for him, I just know I could be more purposeful about it. Who else has the opportunity to intercede for him on such a deep, personal level?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

God tells me not to be anxious, but to bring everything (and everyone) before him in prayer. So, I decided to make a visual reminder of what requests I want to pray circles around for my best friend. Since I have been making a few necklaces for myself lately, I chose to use beads. I picked out beads that stand for different areas of my husband's life (past, work, relationship with God, purity, our marriage, etc...), strung them together, and hung them next to my kitchen sink. This way, I am not only praying for him more, I am dreading doing the dishes less.

 ... pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. (James 5:16b AMP)

I am excited to see what God will do in his life over the next (well prayed over) decade.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me a best friend to walk hand in hand with through this life. Help me to circle his life and our family in prayer often, so that we may experience your tremendous power at work first hand. Amen.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Show Me Your Glory

Standing on a bridge, overlooking a picturesque pond and fountain, my conversation with God went something like this:

Me: "I want to see your glory, but I'll settle for seeing that huge orange striped goldfish up close. Would you please make him swim this way so I can have a better look?"


Me: "He's not moving. I know you can do anything. Is it too much to ask to make him move his tail just a little and turn toward me?"


Me: "Okay, I get it. You are in control of all, but sometimes the answer is no. I don't have to always understand why."

God: "Remember the hummingbird you saw at the feeder earlier and how you marveled at the speed of it's wings? That was a gift to you, a sneak peak of my glory. Remember the rainbows of light your son noticed on the wall this morning? That was for you as well. Look all around and you will see me and my glory."

Before leaving, I glanced at the faint shape of the fish in the distance one last time, and thought about the glory that will be revealed to all someday. Some of it is still out of reach, but one day all will be seen clearly. Turning to go, I came face to face with a large praying mantis bug clinging to the wall beside me, and laughed out loud.

Me: "Thank you, Lord, for making me laugh. I will try to appreciate the gifts you give me in your perfect timing."

God: "I love you!"

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1 NIV)

...We look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. (Titus 2:13 NLT)

"Show Me Your Glory" by Jesus Culture 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE Relationship

An argument to start to the day, an unexpected twist in the plan, a little behind in time, and I was tense. When I noticed my teeth were clenched it was too late. (Place hand over mouth here to keep the scream inside.)

I needed some chocolate. I needed to escape the chaos. I needed a friend to pour out my woes upon.

All my options felt somehow hollow. I knew they would not really fill the empty place at the moment.

Pause. Breathe. Repeat.

I needed... Jesus. I needed to lean fully into the relationship that has never let me down, or left me alone. In my mind I was drowning in a sea of "why me, why today's" and his hand was reaching out to pull me up and out of the storm.

Would I grab on or turn away to food, to fleeing, or to other relationships?

Breathe, a little slower this time.

I accepted the hand and grasped the love offered to me every moment of every day. The argument still happened, plans were still changed, and we were still late, but I remembered what was truly important in that moment: a relationship of pure love and forgiveness.

Then, and only then, could I go about my day at peace. 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deut. 31:8 NIV) 

I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:6-8 NIV)

"There is always sufficient reason for despair, but there is never sufficient purpose." ~Robert Brault

Jesus, I can breathe easily in our relationship. You are always beside me whispering love. Help me learn how to overflow with the same love onto those around me. Amen. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rushing Ruins the Present

I feel like I am in slow motion. Not that I drag through my life, but in comparison to the world outside my home, I am moving at a speed that in no way keeps up with the rest.

To be honest, I prefer it that way. Rushing ruins the present. When I am in a hurry to complete the task at hand, I miss out on lessons I may learn in the moment and turn a blind eye to the blessing of "now."

Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, says, "Now is not an emergency to rip through, but a moment to embrace with gratitude." I want to be thankful for every moment I am given, not just thankful that I finished something or have something to look forward to in the future.

Others may choose to run. I will keep walking at a steady pace. I guarantee I will notice more along the journey and take time to thank the creator of the journey.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4 NIV)

Song "Taking My Time"

Thank you, Lord, for leading me beside quiet waters and showing me the green pastures in a land full of distractions. Help me take this journey at a pace that pleases you. Amen.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spiritual Tug of War

     The world tells me that I am not enough, I do not have enough, and I should not feel content with how I look. God whispers that I am complete in him, I have all that I need, and I am made in his image. The constant tug of war between lies and truth is often exhausting. How do I pull my end of the rope toward victory? How do I keep inner peace in times of turmoil?

     One way I quiet the voices of the world is by limiting the lies that come into my home. I am very purposeful about what I watch, listen to, and view. My family has gone without television for almost ten years, and I would not trade the time I've gained for anything. Being constantly bombarded by commercials for things I do not need or want is not my idea of a good time. Neither is filling my mind with situations and language that does not bring glory to my Lord.

      All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. (1 Cor. 10:23 NKJV)

     Another war tactic I use to keep peace is my sword of the Spirit. I combat the lies that I hear with truth from God's word. The days when I spend time reading about how God sees me and what he wants for me go much more smoothly than when I hurry through my day on my own.

     Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Tim. 3:16-17 MSG)

     I also simply ask God to reveal truth to me. The messages I hear around me are often confusing. He never fails to show me what is right. Sometimes he'll direct my attention to the beauty around me. Other times he'll bring song lyrics to my mind. When I sit quietly in expectation, he shows up in ways I would not have imagined. 

     You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

     The battle is fierce. In the end, I know my side wins. I have a strategy for keeping inner peace amidst the war. Do you?

     Lord, I know that you sit on the side of victory in this battle called life. Guide me as I struggle to keep inner peace in my daily life. Help me make choices that bring glory to your name. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Heaven in the Messy Moments

     They were embracing life; I ran to get my camera. Two grinning boys in swim suits and a soggy sand box make an enjoyable summer mess. Just as much squealing accompanied the hosing off clean-up effort.

     They did not care what the neighbors thought about them. They were not worrying about what the rest of the day would hold. They did not even ask permission to jump in. They just jumped and laughed, fully present in the messy moment.

     The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. (Mark 10:13-16 MSG)

     Jesus says children are at the center of life in the kingdom of God. I expect there is going to be a lot of laughing, simple trusting, and embracing whatever is happening in the moment. Sounds like Heaven to me.

     Is it possible to live this way now? Can I join my children in throwing off any concern that hinders me and jumping with both feet into the adventure God has planned? Why do I need to complicate the present with regrets of the past or worries about the future?

     I choose to simply trust and embrace this messy life.

     Thank you, Lord, for giving me energetic children. Help me to learn from them the simple ways of enjoying life and trusting you.  Amen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Main Trail of Trust

     The path I had been following in the woods ended one hundred feet before me. The grass had grown up around it and enveloped it in a way only the wild can. With effort I could have found it, but I chose instead to turn around.

     Why had the trail been reclaimed by nature? It was not used regularly, if at all.

     Habits, like walking in worry, leave a trail in life. When I choose to habitually head down the path of worry, it makes taking the same footsteps easier the next time. But when I repeatedly turn toward the main trail of trust, I allow the undesirable way to be hidden a bit more from view.

The Main Trail of Trust

     You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 ESV)

     Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV) 

     Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls..." (Jeremiah 6:16a ESV)

    God, I desire to walk on your trail of trust and find rest for my soul. When I am tempted to take the path of worry, help me to turn around and seek your way. Thank you for the promise of fullness of joy, even when I am weary from the journey. Amen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Impending Doom or Not

     It was a terrible way to wake up, drenched in sweat with thoughts of my child in the emergency room. In my nightmare, I was informed that my eldest son had been thrown from a car in a crash and was broken badly. The last thing I remember before waking up was rushing to the ER. That was it. Eyes open with no closure whatsoever.

     What was I to do with that? Considering my husband and children were away from me and traveling by car quite a bit over the next few days, I certainly could have clung to worry. Haven't some people's dreams warned them of impending danger?

     I considered my options. I could ruin the peaceful time I had for a few days by myself, a large portion of which I intended to use to connect with my Savior, by worrying. Or, I could trust that even if something terrible happened to my family, which it most likely wouldn't, that God would be beside me and provide as I needed the entire time. I believe I chose wisely.

     Although my family is in the car headed home as I type, I am not worried. I am not in control of what happens on the highway. All worrying would do is distract me from the peace I so long to live in daily. So, I write and I pray and I go about my day joyfully.

     You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3 NIV) 

     So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

     Thank you, Lord, for always being with me and covering me with your perfect peace. You love my family even more than I am capable of loving them. I trust you with their lives and to work all things together for good, even when I might not be able to see the good in the situation. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

So Sweet to Trust

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

 Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

 Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

 Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

 Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

 I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Louisa M.R. Stead, 1882

     Jesus, thank you for hymns that remind me of how I love to trust you. As I sing these to my children at the breakfast table, may the truth and love penetrate their hearts while it touches my own.  Please continue to give me grace to trust you more. Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Dad passed away less than a year ago.
Father has always been and will always be.

Dad tried his best.
Father always does the best for me.

Dad made some unwise choices.
Father chooses love every time.

Dad knows Father.
Today I am thankful for them both.

Lord, please wrap your arms around Dad today and let him know he is loved.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Confessions of Worry

     Dwelling on worry speaks volumes to the world around me. At times I realize what I am saying. Often I push the awareness away, preferring to hide in denial.

     Still, it speaks, and the volume is deafening.

It confesses:

      I don't trust God.

     Only I know what is best in this situation.

     God does not have control of this area of my life.

     I choose comfort over resting in the unknown.

     I believe God's love for me is conditional.

 I want my life to speak peace and hope and joy, while exuding love and truth.

     I can trust God.

     He knows what is best in each situation.

     I give him control of all areas of my life.

     I desire to rest in his plans for me rather than my comfortable known world.

     God's love for me is unconditional and without end.

     Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP)

     Almighty God, I want to shout peace to those around me. I want to ooze trust in a doubting world. May I trust you so completely that plan A, B, and C for each day is to walk with you whatever may come. Amen.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Worship in Truth

Standing outside with my face to the sun, soaking in warmth.
Dancing alone to melodies that embrace my soul.
Pouring over truth, asking for more wisdom from above.
Singing hymns to my children over breakfast.
Working the rich soil in the garden, thankful for delicious variety.
Pausing on a chaotic day, acknowledging his peaceful presence within me.

     Every time I redirect my thoughts to him in admiration and truth, I worship.
Singing is but a small slice of the whole lifestyle.

     The time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. (John 4:23,24 MSG)

     My adoration overflows while washing the dishes, tucking a child in bed, and driving to work in silence. I am consumed by love at the sight of colors pouring through my window onto the floor, the smell of simmering flavors, and the touch of a soft kiss from my husband.

     This worship is a soulprint, uniquely mine, recognized by God.

     Great and glorious God, I worship you in truth. Hear my praise as sweet music to your ears. May my thoughts of you bring me to my knees in awe and wonder. Thank you for loving me first. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Loss of Sleep

     Three children were sick, my husband had to leave town on short notice, and I was scheduled to work for the next three evenings. My flesh begged me to panic. I wanted to hide under my covers, but experience told me that option only worsened the situation.

     When the temptation to worry dangled like a carrot in front of me, I chose to trust.

     My evening could have consisted of frantic phone calls. Sweet sleep could have eluded me. Instead, I turned to God's word and believed that he would work it out somehow. Not a single nightmare ensued.

     In the calm of the morning, the phone rang and answers fell into place.

     Can I guarantee solutions will always be that easy? No. Am I grateful that God showed me so clearly he had the situation under his control? Yes! Do I give him the opportunity to provide for my needs as much as he would like me to? No.

     I am a work in progress. I am trusting him one day, one situation at a time. I choose not to spend my limited number of days in this world worrying. It only brings unease. I prefer a home permeated with peace.

    Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25 NIV)
    You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! 
        (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

     Jesus, thank you for continually proving yourself trustworthy. I confess I do not let you reveal your abundant blessings often enough. Hold me each night as I rest peacefully in your loving arms. Use me to teach others to turn toward you in the same way. Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let Be and Be Still

 Psalm 46:10a
Be still and know that I am God.  NIV
Cease striving and know that I am God.  NASB
Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God.  AMP

      Let be and be still. Sounds like a good idea to me. Why, then, do I insist on taking control of my situation, of trying to see three steps ahead of me on the path God is taking me down? He asks me to be still. I tend to move and do and be productive and plan and know.  
     In all honesty, I just want to know.  I want to know what will be next.  I want to know how it will all turn out in the end. I want to know that the journey will not be too hard. I want to know... what God knows

     Seems to me another female desired the same thing. It didn't turn out so well for Eve either.

     So what does God want me to know? He wants me to know that he is God. That statement implies that I am not God, of course. Of course. But often, like my children donning a superhero costume, I try to pretend I am God. I wrap myself in the cloak of control and try to orchestrate the events surrounding my life in a manner that pleases me.

     Let be and be still.

     Let go and let God be God. 

     One breath at a time.

     God of all, protect me from the tendency to want to know more than I am intended to know. Help me trust that you are in control and all you ask me to do is know you more. I long to find more time in my day to be still and listen to you. Thank you for revealing truth to me in intimate ways. Amen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The S Word

     Do not murder.
     Do not steal.
     Do not lie.
     Do not covet.
     Do not worry.

     It might not be one of the commandments, but it is still commanded.

     If I choose to lie, I have sinned. If I choose to worry, I have sinned. Worry separates me from God. In fact, when I worry, I believe I know more about what is best for me than God does. My ideal outcomes for situations become little idols, stealing attention away from the one who holds my future in his hands.

     I know God would not ask me to do something that is impossible. When he says not to worry, he assures me it does not have to be a way of life. I can hold on to the truth that facing the future with peace is possible. It probably will not be easy, but it can happen.

     Peace is possible. I am choosing to run from sin straight to the arms of of a very capable and loving God.

     Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NIV) 

     Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 NIV)

     Lord of peace, I confess that I do not always trust you with my future as I should. Thank you for covering my sin of worrying with the blood of your son Jesus.  Help me to embrace the truth that you know what is best for me and will always be with me. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Listen for the Whispers

     Mornings at my house are rarely quiet. A lot of energy is expressed in creative ways over breakfast and necessary tasks for getting ready.  After clearing the table one morning, I sat on the couch to take a deep breath. My daughter, still in her pajamas with the feet attached, crawled up in my lap.

     "Listen for the ticker," she insisted.

     The "ticker" is a two sided clock that juts out from the living room wall. My daughter takes great delight in telling the rest of us to stop so she can hear the ticker. When all is quiet, the ticks are easy to hear. If we listen closely, we can distinguish a separate click for each clock. Most of the day, they are drowned out by the commotion.

     We sat, patiently listening together. One tick. Then, two.

     In that moment, God whispered, "This is the same way you should be listening for my voice. Your focus is often on the noises that are the loudest and not on me."

     Elijah tried to hear the Lord long ago too. The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV)

     I have to make time in my day to purposefully be still and listen for the whispers of God. He has so much to say to me if I would only find a quiet place. 

     I smiled as my daughter slid off my lap and ran to catch up with her brothers. It amazes me every time God speaks truth through the energetic blessing he has given me.

     Prince of Peace, help me to be still, and know that you are God. You desire to speak truth into me throughout my day.  I want to take time away from the noise of the world to listen to you. Thank you for reminding me in such a simple way.  Amen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PEACE Be With You

     Jesus gets right to the point. I like that about him. The first thing he says to his disciples after raising from the dead is "peace be with you." These guys were fearfully huddled in a locked room. But they could not lock Jesus out. They could not lock peace out. Jesus walked through their fear and offered peace freely. 

     Here is my point. They accepted his peace. 

     They believed, surrendered their fears, and trusted him with the future. Jesus' words today are still "peace be with you." The same peace offered a handful of ragamuffin men is offered to me today.

     Today, I choose to accept that gift of peace. I will continue to walk in it tomorrow. When I am tempted to lock the door of my heart in fear, I will remember his comforting words.

     "Peace be with you."

     On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:19-22 NIV)

     Lord of peace, help me swing wide open the door of my fearful heart. Your gentle gift in the midst of any trial overwhelms my soul. I thank you that you triumphed over fear in the resurrection. I desire to walk in that truth daily. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stepping Stones of TRUST

     One sunny day last week I took a walk in the woods, but the path I was on was not less traveled. The grass had been warn away and collecting mud told of the rainstorm the night before. My eyes were at my feet, trying not to take a good portion of the grime home with me. How could I avoid the yuck?

     I soon discovered I no longer heard the birds or appreciated the flowers and kiss of the wind. I could not feel the sun on my face nor see the budding trees all around me because my focus was directed just in front of me. I was distracted.

     I do this all the time in life. A problem comes my way and immediately my focus shifts down to my narrow path and in to how it is affecting me. I know this is not what God desires of me.

     After my walk, he showed me five "Stepping Stones of TRUST" that I can use to journey safely across the mud, the trials of this life.

T    Turn to God for Help First
       He is an ever present help in trouble.  Psalms 46:1

R    Refuse to Believe the Lies of the Enemy
       Resist him, standing firm in your faith. 1 Peter 5:9

U    Understand the Difference Between My Agenda and God's
       My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. Isaiah 55:8

S     Seek Out the TRUTH in Scripture
       The truth will set you free. John 8:32
T    Thank God for Opportunities of Dependence
       In all things give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

     Now, when I am tempted to worry about the problems right in front of me, I remember to TRUST.  I ask God to help me and give me wisdom. I recognize that I am tempted to worry, but it is a lie that worry changes any circumstances beyond creating uneasiness inside me. I look at the outcome I desire and realize it may not be God's will. I immerse myself in the truth of scripture, comforted by God's promises. Finally, I thank God that He is in control and I am not.

     Amazingly, the mud turns to dust and blows away with the wind. My footing is firm. Standing on the promises of God is the safest place to be.

     Lord, thank you for showing me the way of TRUST. I want to walk on your path all the days of my life. Help me keep my gaze on you instead of at my feet. Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sacrifice: His and Mine

He humbled himself; I lift myself up.

He purchased my freedom; I choose to remain a captive.

He invites me closer; I claim I do not have time.

He desires to bless; I focus on what is not going as I planned.

He says do not fear; I doubt the possibility of peace.

He loves unconditionally; I put conditions on my affection.

He gave everything for me; I give a small piece to him.

Lord, your sacrifice was immense.
Walk with me in this life of trial and error.

In each situation I find myself in:

Give me your eyes
Guard my tongue
Use my hands
Direct my steps
Help me let go
so your will can be done


Follow "The Practice of Sacrifice" at A Holy Experience

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Problems or Opportunities

"Every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece I created you to be."  from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

     Heads or tails? Without always realizing it, I am daily flipping coins. A problem presents itself to me and I see it in one of two ways: a problem to avoid or an opportunity to embrace.  Heads or tails?  I long to embrace problems as opportunities to see the face of God at work in a situation.

     I admit, most of the time the head, Christ, is face down on the floor.  Immersing myself in his promises is a wise way to weight the coin. Counting the blessings all around me helps my focus as well.

    Do I really want to be able to solve all my problems in my limited strength and creativity?  A world where I do not need to rely on Christ sounds worse to me than the storm clouds that threaten in the distance.

     I choose heads.  I choose opportunities for my Savior to amaze me with his solutions to my problems. I choose to keep searching daily for more ways to weight the coin in His favor.


     All things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. (Romans 8:28b AMP)

     I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33 AMP)

     God of infinite creativity, thank you for solving my problems in unexpected ways.  Thank you for redirecting my focus to your face.  Help me not to fear the storms in the distance, but to embrace problems as opportunities to see you at work in my life and the lives of others. Amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Fear of the End

      No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to think much about it. Most are in denial that it will even happen, but it is a certainty no one can escape. I am face to face with it every week where I work.


     Life here is not meant to be permanent. One day I will die. So, too, will every person I hold dear around me.

     It is sad. Or, is it?  Perhaps a shift in perspective is needed. What if death is more of a gift than an event to run from? What if instead of worrying about it, I spend my time preparing for it? 
      Erwin Lutzer's perspective in the book, One Minute After You Die, is rare in today's culture. He remarks, "God prevented Adam and Eve from eternal sinfulness by giving them the gift of death, the ability to exit this life and arrive safely in the wondrous life to come. Death, though it would appear to be man's greatest enemy, would in the end, prove to be his greatest friend. Only through death can we go to God." 

     How else could I see my savior's face? How else could suffering and tears be erased forever? I do not think the alternative, living here forever, seems inviting. I know there is more beauty, more goodness than I can behold here on earth. I hunger for the day all is put right.

     For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
     “As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
     ‘every knee will bow before me;
      every tongue will acknowledge God."

       So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 
     (Romans 14:10b - 12 NIV)
     If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, 
     but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms.
     (Luke 17:33 MSG)

     Instead of dreading my own death and worrying that something will happen to those around me (which it will eventually), I choose to make the most of the time that I have. I will purposefully weave love out of this one little thread of a life that I have been given.

     And what of the uncertainties, the seemingly unfairness of some who exit before I expected them to? I remind myself that I do not have the whole picture, the perfect perspective from my vantage point on earth. As Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts, "Maybe (I) don't want to change the story, because (I) don't know what a different ending holds."

     My story will have an ending. It will be a glorious one. I pray my life will be a page-turner, full of enough adventure and sacrifice that those who observe the plot will be drawn in and forever changed.

     God, I am so excited to see you face to face one day.  I pray that I will shine for you in all the days you have given me. I want to walk worthy of the calling I have received. I give to you the timing of my loved ones deaths. I have no control anyway. I trust you will give me peace that surpasses all understanding when I will need it the most. Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When God Seems Silent

      God and I often walk through the day together, conversing freely about the people and events I encounter. Praising him, inquiring of him, and trying to see with his eyes are becoming the norm rather than the exception. I am at peace when I am in his presence. My concerns evaporate in his brilliant light.
      But today is not peaceful. Today God seems silent. And I know why.

      It is not because he has pulled away, like a frustrated friend or lover who needs more time and space. He does not change. I believe his promise to never to leave me. No, the fault rests on my shoulders.

      I have sinned. 

      I turned my face from him and stepped in a direction I knew he did not wish me to go. He is not silent. Darkness I embraced has muffled our dialogue. How can I expect to hear him when I am not willing to listen?

      Ever so quietly, I hear him whisper, "Make it right." Yes, the blood of Jesus covers my sins, but he asks me to admit my fault, seek forgiveness, and turn back to look upon his loving face once more. Then, and only then, will I be able to hear him clearly

     I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. (Psalm 85:8 NIV)

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

    Llisten to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom. (Job 33:33b NIV)

    Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayers. I am sorry I turned my face away from you. As your forgiveness washes over me, I once again enjoy your peace that passes all understanding. Help me hear you clearly once more. Amen.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sleep in Peace

      My sweet girl slept soundly in her crib, dreaming secret two-year-old dreams. I stroked her hair and said a prayer of thanks to my Father for the little life he's entrusted to me. Love for her washed over me as the sound of her tiny breaths tickled my ears. To be in that moment, fully, was a gift from God. The gentle words I heard next pulled at my heart.

     "I watch you with love while you sleep too, my child."

     Me? Ordinary me, looked upon in love, sung over, protected. I am his child. He has promised to always be with me. I can truly sleep in peace tonight.

     The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

     Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

     My Loving Father, I rest under your gentle gaze. You are with me when I sleep and when I wake, always available to hear my cry. Thank you for showing me through my daughter a picture of the love you have for me. Amen.

Song "Nothing to Cry About" by Alli Rogers, with pictures of my daughter.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

     My husband patiently waited for his opportunity to provide for our family while deer hunting last fall. He enjoyed the opportunity to think and pray, immersed in nature and relative silence.  One prayer centered around reassurance that God would provide what we need as a family.  My husband shared with me, "I told God that if he brought a deer over the ridge just then, I would know that he was going to provide for us, and I would not have to worry."  Instead of a deer, more than a dozen turkeys descended from the hill.  Both our minds came to the same conclusion. Perhaps God was saying, "I will provide for your family, just not in the way you expect."
     God has a habit of surprising me.  He changes my plans, brings people into my life, and orchestrates "coincidences" more often than I can recount.  I have learned to expect the unexpected and to keep an open mind to his solutions to problems.  When I do, I am less frustrated that things do not go my way and more able to give God credit for getting my attention creatively.

     "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

     Now when problems are solved in ways my husband and I do not anticipate or blessings come unexpectedly, we turn to each other and comment, "Must be the turkeys!"

     I thank you, Lord, that your ways are so much higher than my own. I confess I do not always enjoy not knowing how you will provide.  Help me to rest in your promises and trust that you never let go of me. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Flexible To-Do List

     Cleaning the refrigerator was at the top of my list for the day, mainly because I had run out of Tupperware and knew many containers were hiding on the bottom shelf. A bit further down the list was making sure each household member has clean underwear available for the next day and planing a nutritious evening meal young children will consume. Check. Check. And, partial check. On to the next item.

      Most mornings I wake with a general idea of what my day will look like and what needs are most pressing. I know how I want them to do done, but circumstances beyond my control often step in to undermine my strategy. A phone call that requires immediate action, a forgotten ingredient for a meal to run after, a red light when all seven on the street should have been green for me, all disrupt my day.

     I find myself battling against time, wondering why it is so hard to get everything done. Or, get everything done with the right attitude by the time I fall into bed at night.

     Perhaps I have misunderstood the whole purpose of my day.  Maybe the point of my day is not to get things done, but to be content while being the hands and feet of God in whatever I am doing.

     "I found satisfaction in the doing of life, not in the getting done of it," Jerry Sittser explains in A Grace Disguised. His clarity came while mourning the loss of three family members to an accident in one night. To-do lists were no longer as important to him as what he called "the wonder of the present moment."

     In Waking the Dead, John Eldridge comments, "Either we wake to tackle our 'to do' list, get things done, guided by our morals and whatever clarity we may at the moment have. Or we wake in the midst of a dangerous story, as God's intimate ally, following him into the unknown."

     If my leftovers lurk on dark shelves for another day because a friend needs to talk to me, so what? If dinner for the night is hot dogs (again) because I would rather read a book with my toddler than go out in the snow for a forgotten ingredient, fine. I choose to enjoy the moments.  I choose to put my agenda on hold when God's becomes obvious to me. After all, I really do not know how many moments my life will hold.

      As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”     
     “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  (Luke 10:39-42 NIV)

     Jesus, I want your list to be my list. I want to be open to what you have planned for my day. Give me wisdom and a content heart as I face the challenges placed before me. Thank you for a new-found perspective on my purpose. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Consider it Pure Joy

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials 
of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  
(James 1:2-3 NIV)

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open 
and shows its true colors." (James 1:2-3 The Message)

     I have read this verse hundreds of times. I try to keep it in mind when those "trials" come up in my life. Most often the last thing I do is consider it a joyful experience or see it as a gift. This week when I deliberately decided to put this verse into practice, I was surprised at the blessing that followed.

     My vacuum cleaner decided (prematurely) to retire. I was cleaning, anticipating orderliness, when plans suddenly changed. I knew that we did not have room in the budget for a new, dependable vacuum. I had a choice to make.  I could either worry about how to pay for a new one, or, I could give my need, my "trial", over to God and see what happens.  I decided to go for the latter option.

     My prayer went something like this: "God, I cannot wait to see how you are going to provide a vacuum for us." Simple. Hopeful. Trusting. He knew we needed one. I simply put the ball of providing it for us in his court - joyfully. Then, I waited.

     A few days later I was telling my brother-in-law about the new plastic, upright statue I have in my house. He said that a friend had just returned an extra one to him that he had borrowed for over a year. He had been wondering what to do with the extra one. Both of us felt blessed by the exchange. Coincidence? Some people might think so. I know better.  God orchestrated the timing just right and showed once again that he cares about even the smallest trials in my life.

     The following day I was able to bless a friend with an extra baby gate that I was not using anymore.  God provided for me and gave me an opportunity to do the same for someone else. I love when prayers are answered in such a tangible way, and what a joy to be the answer to someone's prayer as well.

     God does not always step in to save the day in this way.  Then again, I do not always turn to him the way I did for this need either. I wonder what would happen if I considered it pure joy more often?

     Giver of all good and perfect gifts, thank you. When trials come my way, please help me to consider them pure joy and look for the good that will come out of them. You know all of my needs before I even ask. Yet, asking you to provide reminds me who owns everything in the first place. I love seeing your creativity in situations. Continue to open my eyes to your hand at work.  Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Only Resolution I Need

      I do not enjoy making resolutions for the new year. Rather, I have not been inclined to make them because I know I will not keep them. I try. I fail. Discouragement sets in as another year goes by. I struggle with most of the same issues I did before. There has to be a better way, I hope.
     From a quiet place inside I hear, "What if it is not about you doing anything, but about you allowing something?"

     What would happen if this year I simply allow my heart to be filled with love for Jesus and accept his love for me? One resolution - all I need. If I focus on this alone for the new year, more and more of my life will fall into place, the place where he wants it to be: immersed in him.

     I am not sure entirely what this looks like. I know it starts with acknowledging his presence from the moment I wake up in the morning. It continues with seeking guidance in my decisions throughout the day. It concludes with thankfulness for what he has done for me. And all the moments in between? They revolve around seeing his hand at work everywhere, delighting in his love for me through the things that stir my heart.

     Wake up again. Repeat.

     Could it possibly be that simple? Allow my heart to be filled with love for Jesus and accept his love for me. Yes, I feel the weight of doing more, being different, and changing behavior lifted

     Allow. Accept. I think I will try that this year.

     "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those
      whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chron. 16:9 NIV)

     "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matt. 5:8 NIV)

     Jesus. Jesus! Fill my heart with your love.  Open my eyes to see your love for me. Strengthen my heart as I walk boldly into a new year with you. Help me to keep my gaze focused on you instead of on my circumstances. You know what this year holds for me. Prepare my heart for the trials that are around the corner and out of sight. Amen.