"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 28, 2013

Heavenly Peace

"Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace."

There is an exclamation mark after the title in my hymnal. Of all the titles to proclaim triumphantly, why "Silent Night?" Seems out of place. Shouldn't it be whispered, like the slow pace of the first few notes? Hush, for the baby is sleeping.

It was a holy night. A night unlike any other before or since. All was calm. For the first time in history, the world could sleep in heavenly peace. Christ, the Savior, was born. The Rescuer, true love wrapped in rags, was among them. And his Father had a plan: an unexpectedly glorious plan.

It was the dawn of redeeming grace. The beginning of the one in flesh who would have the last word, who would destroy even death. Heaven could not keep silent that night. The skies burst open with streams of light as hosts of angels sang to quaking shepherds. Who would be able to stand at such a moment?

The slumbering residents of Bethlehem may not have rushed to greet the king, shoppers may not have paused this year to look beyond the sales, old men dressed in red and listening to requests may not have understood the real reason for a holiday, but they were all invited to sleep in heavenly peace.

Today, we are all invited to sleep in heavenly peace. We are able to rest in the assurance that the Rescuer has come, and the end of the story has already been decided. Good triumphs over evil! Peace and love will reign for all eternity! All is bright, for he is the son of God, love's pure light.

It began that holy night. Holy Night! An eve worthy of exclamation and song. I will shout it with joy all my waking moments, then testify in the dark hours - Yes, I can sleep in heavenly peace.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.  (Luke 1:30-33 NIV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV)

Savior, you are the answer to all the wrong in this world. You are the reason I do not need to fear death. You left the comfort of community with your father so that today I can enjoy that same closeness. I am humbled by your love. All I can say is thanks. Thanks for giving me the gift of peace. Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

They Left the Sheep

"Mom, I wouldn't have left the sheep," my seven year-old commented after listening to the words of a popular carol closely. "I would have brought them with me. What if something happened to the sheep while they were gone?"

Why did the shepherds leave the sheep behind?

They were told to go. Angels gave them an opportunity to see something amazing, but the offer was time sensitive. Were they told that nothing would happen to their sheep while they were gone? No, they were given an open door and knew that what was on the other side was better than where they were at the time.

So often I sense God telling me to do something, but I hesitate. Instead of quick obedience, I rationalize why that's not a good idea. Or, why I should do it later instead. I start to worry about the unfinished business of my day. What about my sheep?

God sees all aspects of my life, even the parts I do not fully understand. When he asks me to do something, I can trust that it is for a good reason: for His good. It may be, and most likely is, for a greater purpose than I realize.

So, did something bad happen to the sheep?

I admitted to my son that we have no way of knowing. I have a feeling, though, that an angel stuck around after the final notes of the hallelujah choir to play stand-in shepherd. But even if the sheep did not survive, I don't think it mattered as much to them anymore. When they came face to face with the author of life in infant form, all else grew strangely dim.

Leave the sheep, if that is God's request. Talk to the stranger. Rearrange the priorities of the day. Give abundantly. Let an angel step in where you stepped away. Do not miss seeing the face of the King.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found...      (Luke 2:8-16a NIV)

Messiah, Prince of Peace, I do not want to miss seeing you. When I feel a nudge or hear a direct command, I want to move forward and not look back, not worry. I want to see you clearly and the things of this earth dimly. Give me boldness and wisdom, peace and hope. You are what is most important each moment of my life. Amen.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

His Little Creations

"You're a good mom," my seven year-old whispered before bed. I was stunned. This from the son who thinks the world revolves around him. Honestly, I needed to hear it because today I did not feel like a good mom. I felt like a maid, a cook, a mediator, a manager, and an "Oh why can't you just get your shoes on when I ask you to?" inquirer. Throw in some massive anxiety about my children needing loads of professional help to untangle the broken mess of emotions they call mom, and call it a day.

God I look to you
I won't be overwhelmed
Give me vision
To see things like you do

God I look to you
You're where my help comes from
Give me wisdom
You know just what to do
      - Jenn Johnson

When I feel like I am getting it all wrong, when I worry that my children will never outgrow the selfishness in their hearts, when I think about the overwhelming task of bringing them up in the Lord, I get on my knees. And I make sure to have tissues close by.

Praying for each of them specifically, I am reminded that no amount of correction and training in righteousness can fill a heart with love. Discipline does not mold them into a new creation. Only Christ in their hearts can change them from the inside out. Only the love of God experienced personally manifests outwardly as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So this will be the bedrock of my prayers, along with wisdom to know how to move forward day by day.

It does not mean that all standards for behavior get tossed out the window along with consequences. But it helps me see my children differently. I cannot expect them to ooze selfless love before they have met the one who is the ultimate gift of love. My job is to point them to him and watch in amazement as he takes these little lives and uses them for his glory.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NIV)

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 of perfect love, fill me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward my children. Give me realistic expectations of them in these tender years. Remind me of the eternal importance of my prayers as I take my anxiety to you. Amen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

God is Patient Too

I found myself singing a catchy little tune to my children the other day. I don't remember who I learned it from, but it's been on the tip of my tongue many times over the years since having my sweet little babies. It goes something like this:

Be patient. Be patient. Don't be in such a hurry.
When you are impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient too.
And think of all the times that others had to wait for you.

Patience. It's something I don't pray for more of, right? Otherwise, I might have to be in situations where I need to exercise it. Oh, but why is it so hard?

Henri Nouwen suggests that the word patience means "a willingness to stay where we are and live out the situation to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

Live out the situation to the full... hmmm. Accept what is, at the moment it is given. Accept that the one who gives the moment, knows what he is doing. Understand that every moment is an opportunity to learn.

Learn what, one might ask.

When I demonstrate patience, I realize that I have a choice of how I respond in any given situation. I learn how to show love even when I don't always "feel" love. I learn that the moment I am in is just as important as the moment I am trying to hurry toward.

When I am honest, I admit that most of my impatient moments can be traced back to poor planning on my part. Or, to a less than loving attitude as my baseline for the day.

Remember, remember that God is patient too.
Yes, and always loving.

Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4a NIV)

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. (Proverbs 14:29 NIV)

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Am I willing to stay where I am in order to find what is hidden: a wealth of understanding, valuable coins of love? I guess I'll find out the next time I am trying to rush out the door while little feet dawdle, shoeless after three promptings. 

God, thank you for being patient and loving with me. I ask for wisdom in my frustrating moments, so I may respond in love rather than impatience. Help me to see your orchestrated opportunities for growth. Amen.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Presence or Presents

"In the glory of your presence, I find rest for my soul.
In the depths of your love, I find peace - makes me whole."

Traveling home from a worship night at church, belting out the lyrics to "I love your presence", I could not escape the last word: presence. After repeating it several times out loud, it struck me that most of the time when I sing that song, I am really saying, "I love your presents!"

I love your presents.

My heart is full of joy in response to the gifts you bring into my life. I feel close to you because you have blessed me so much. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with those phrases. But, it is not the point of the song, nor is it the way to find rest and peace.

Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say. “More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day

than they get in all their shopping sprees. (Psalm 4:6-8 MSG)

Presence. What does it mean and how do I get to a place of enjoying his company more than his gifts?

First, it requires silence, yes silence in a loud world. I believe people are scared of being alone with their thoughts and fears. Tune it out and ignore, seems to be the motto of those around me. Rest = stillness. It gives my heart the opportunity to connect with the one who is outside of time.

Second, I focus on his presence when I continually think about the nature of God and remind myself that he is with me always. To bring rest and peace in a busy day, I turn to him over and over again. Once in the morning, right before bed, or for an hour on Sunday, as if he's a booster shot of love, does not allow me to find the depths of his love. Nor does it make me whole.

I love your presence.

...Me? I plan on looking you full in the face.
When I get up, I’ll see your full stature
and live heaven on earth. (Psalm 17:15 MSG)

When I enjoy his presence, peace does not depend on my circumstances, his gifts, or lack thereof. Because his presence and love never change, I do not have to worry. I can rest in the knowledge that he does not act outside of his nature, that everything he does comes from a heart full of grace and perfect unconditional love.

"If you want it, come and get it...  
This love that he has given you
was never in doubt."

God above and God right by my side, I want to sit at your feet and enjoy all you have for me. Help me resist the temptation to allow my praise to be dependent on my circumstances. Your presence is truly all I need. Amen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Questioning Why

I do not claim to understand all the mysteries of God and the way he does things or refrains from doing things. Answers frequently elude me. I freely admit to questioning why.

Why? Why? Why?

Why do some people have to suffer so much?
Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?
Why is it so hard to see the big picture?
Why is it difficult to trust that his hand of love is on every situation?

And why do I only question WHY when I do not agree with what is happening?

I do not question why God allowed me to be born in America. I do not ask why he gave me a loving husband and three healthy children. I never ask why I am privileged to openly study and write about him. It doesn't even occur to me to do so because it seems right that those things are as they are.

What I perceive as a positive situation only happens because he allowed it to. What I perceive as a negative situation only happens because he allowed it to, and it will one day fit into some ultimate good he is working toward in my life and the lives of others.

I am not expected to understand. My part in all this is to trust and to praise him for what he is doing, especially when I feel clueless. Do I have the courage to respond like Job?

Then {Job} fell to the ground in worship and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:20-21 NIV)

So, the alternative to a string of WHY's is PRAISE. Worshiping who God is always takes my eyes off of my problems and puts them on the ultimate solution: Jesus. One simple way I like to praise him is to use each letter of the alphabet as a start for a trait of his that I adore. Long before I reach Z, I am overwhelmed by his love and peace.

A - Ageless
B - Before and Behind
C - Constant
D - Dependable
E -

And so on and so on. What a way to answer the question I was not even asking - who are you, rather than why are you. Perhaps if I ask Who more often, the Why will seem less important.

Ageless, constant, dependable one who goes before me and behind me, forgive me for doubting you have a purpose for all you do. Thank you for the blessings you have allowed in my life. Help me to focus on you and what I know to be true rather than on what I perceive to be unfair and unjust. Amen.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When it's Winter on the Inside

Several times I stared at a blank page. My mind wandered but never found it's way back to anything worth sharing. More questions than answers. Heavy. Hollow. Numb. So went my August. Everyone around me was out in the sun. I struggled to crawl out from under covers.

Sometimes life is like that.

It is impossible, and not helpful, to live all of life on a warm sandy beach. It is hard to see at the time, but the valley of the shadow of doubt, or "dark night of the soul," as monk Thomas Merton calls it, is an important piece in the puzzle of life. When hard times come, we have an opportunity to transcend circumstances. Like Paul, we can discover how to be content both in adversity and prosperity. His primary goal in life was to know Christ and make him known, not to avoid tribulation or achieve success. To him, it mattered little which circumstance he was currently facing. Both propelled him toward his highest goal.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)

Jerry Sittser, in A Grace Revealed, explains, "It is a simple and easy task to live by faith when light shines all around us and God provides ample evidence of his presence, goodness, and power... Faith always comes easy when it isn't really needed... Predictability is not always good, control not always preferable, happiness not always ideal."

Though I do not desire them, I need times of darkness to expose the true light of my life. I need disappointment to expose my character. I need confusion to bring me to my knees before the one who really controls the universe.

When the things of this world are stripped away, I focus more easily on what is eternal. Currently, I am gazing intently on the unrelenting love of God and the relationship he himself enjoys and invites me into.

I believe tomorrow's forecast might include sun.

Sun on my face and Son in my heart, thank you for the Apostle Paul and the gift of perspective. And for never, ever leaving me alone or giving up on shaping me into the person you know I was meant to be. Amen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Touch and be Touched

I was driving when I read it, a sign that took my attention away from the road the rest of the trip. Too lost in thought to focus ahead, I'm grateful I arrived safely. The words tugged at me.

The bumper sticker was on the back of a very old, beautiful car - baby blue, chrome, and a proud driver at the wheel. It requested, "Look, but please do not touch!"

Understandable, I guess. It was his car, to be admired from a distance. But I wondered, what's wrong with touching? Will it really hurt the car? Are dirt and fingerprints all that bad? It is, after all, a car- driven on roads that are not exactly clean.

Why did this phrase distract me from being the safe driver that I am? Because it struck me - most Christians carry this request as well.

Look, but please do not touch!

Look at me and the life that I live, but please do not touch it! Please do not make it dirty by getting close! Admire, but keep your distance! I don't want to risk losing my shine by getting involved in your mess.

There is no reward for staying the cleanest.

There are, however, crowns for compassion, blessings for loving as Jesus loved, and fulfillment in filling the needs of others. Getting involved in the lives around me is why I am here on earth for the blink of an eye. I have been blessed to be a blessing. Reaching out to touch another life is one of the best ways to stop being concerned about what is happening, or not happening, in my life.

Compassion and worry cannot coincide.

And honestly, but for the grace of God, it could be me. I could be the one needing food, a job, hope. I could have made bad choices, leading to rough circumstances. I could still lose everything this world deems valuable. What, really, is guaranteed this side of Heaven?

I want a different sign: one that says, "Look. Come close. Find help and hope."

When my days on Earth are over, I want to enter Glory with finger smudges, tear streaked cheeks, and calloused knees. 

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? (Matthew 5:46a NIV)

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. (Matthew 5:48b MSG)

God of compassion, shape my heart after yours. I want to risk getting involved in the mess of brokenness around me. Give me a love that cannot be explained in this world, which prides itself on spotlessness. Show me where I need to think less of myself and more of others. You are especially fond of each and every one of them. Amen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trust His Heart

"Sing me a song we've never sung before!"

This is the request I receive almost every night as I tuck my three year-old into bed. Most evenings I think for a moment, decide on some obscure song I've heard in the last week, and do my best rendition to appease the young audience member.

But a few nights ago while racking my brain, a song bubbled up from some deep spring and surprised me. It had been hidden for years, apparently waiting for the right moment to surface. The last time I heard it, I was sitting next to my parents in a church that burned down decades ago.

And the timing for this song was perfect.

"God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart"

A song I've never sung before? Not quite.
A song I need to sing more often? Most certainly, yes!

When I don't know the reasoning behind what is happening in my life, I can still trust His heart. When I don't know what the next step in his plan for me is, I can still trust his Heart. When I start to fear that I am alone, I can still trust His heart.

And His heart is always good because it is always LOVE.

As the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, this is a "Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever LOVE!"

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me-
 a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8 NIV)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 John 4:16 NIV)

I just might have to convince my daughter to let me sing this song over and over again.

God of love, I trust your heart. Thank you for reminding me with truth I did not even know was hidden for years. Guide me as I share this truth with my children. Help me to trust that you will bring it to the surface when they need it in their lives as well. Amen.

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Small Desire

It wasn't a huge concern. It wasn't something I was necessarily worried about. I hadn't been dwelling on it for a long time. It was simply a desire of my heart.

My mother had given me three glass dessert cups that had belonged to my grandmother. They were pretty and it made me smile when I used them. Three cups does not make a set, so I wished to find one (or more) similar cups.

I hoped to find one at a garage sale or resale shop. Honestly, I didn't make a big deal about it. I didn't pray that I would find one.

I just knew that God delights in giving us the desires of our hearts when we are abiding in Him continually.  So, I continued to seek his face.

To my amazement, the little treasure was at the very first resale shop I browsed through. The store had only one glass dessert cup on the shelf. One cup - a perfect match to the other three I had at home.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

I believe all these things refers to the thousands of little details of my life. The one who created my heart knows how to make me smile, and does it quite regularly. I see him blessing me in ways that I do not even asked to be blessed.

An unexpected gift here. A "coincidence" there. A quiet moment of beauty that shifts my focus to Him. When I open my eyes, I see his hand holding mine and leading me though an amazing adventure.

Yes, one little glass cup = one great big smile with a heart full of gratitude.

Generous Lord, I love to delight in the gifts you give me. I know you love to give them. I want all the praise and glory for my blessings to go to you. You constantly amaze me! Amen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Worry Cycle

Reading through a few older posts this week, I came across The Life Cycle of Worry.
It was a good reminder for me to examine the cycle I am currently on.

Here are the two cycles:

Life Cycle of Worry

- Devil Tells Us Lies AND We Believe Them
- Life Expectations Take Root  "Life Should be This Way"
- We Feel Entitled to Comfort
- Fear of Losing Control Grows
- Distrust God's Plan
- Feel Responsible For Outcomes in Life
- Worry
- If Worry Comes to Fruition, Lies Intensify
- Cycle Begins Again

Life Cycle of Joy

- Immerse Ourselves in Christ, Our Living Water
- Disregard Lies of the Devil
- Grow Realistic Life Expectations  "He Will Meet Our Needs"
- Trust Him More
- Freedom From Fear
- Content With Life We Are Given
- Experience Joy
- Desire to Be One With Christ Intensifies
- Cycle Begins Again

I don't want to be trapped in worry, so I choose to draw closer to God. That is the first step in breaking the worry cycle. Time in truth trumps time listening to lies.

Lord, I want to turn my eyes to you and remain on the cycle of joy. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

I Wish I Had Learned - Part 2

30 Things I Wish I Had Learned Before I Turned 30:
(In the order they come to mind, not of importance)

To read Part 1 first, click HERE 

Be interruptable.. by those you love, by strangers, by God. You may have a plan for your day, but that doesn't mean it's the only plan there is, or even the best one. When attention is pulling you elsewhere, consider it might be where you need to go.

Thank others sincerely and often. There is no better way to get your eyes focused on what is really important than being thankful.

Listen (really listen) to your elders. Ask questions and drink deeply from the cup of wisdom that comes with age. And do not leave without giving and receiving a hug.

Take the first step of inviting friends into your life. Too many people sit back and wait for others to befriend them. Find someone who makes you laugh and in the next breath challenges you to be a better version of yourself. If at first you are rejected - try, try again.

Decide not to let what "THEY" think of you matter. Who are "THEY" anyway? Only the opinion of the eternal one matters. Listen to what people say about you, access the truth in their words, then quickly move on.

Leave each situation better than you found it. If there is a way you can help, speak truth, or shine for Him, take the opportunity - no matter how insignificant it seems.

Pause before making impulse decisions to determine if they are being made because 1) you have all the information you need already, or 2) you are trying to avoid giving conviction enough time to change your mind.

If someone offers to help you, let them. Be specific about the help you need. Some seasons of your life will allow time for helping others and some will be dominated by accepting help from others. Accept the season you are in at this time. Allowing others to help bless you is a blessing in itself.

Check the premise of your "should." When you think or announce, "I should..." discover why. Is your "should" based in truth or a lie?

Always be prepared to wait longer than expected. It does not need to be wasted time. If you don't have a book, snack, or crayons (for those with kids, always have crayons), you have your imagination and the ability to pray.

Be intentional about the music you listen to and the things you watch. Lyrics linger and mindless entertainment does affect your thoughts.

Spend time discovering specifically what you need from the ones you love, then tell them gently and repeatedly, if necessary. Only God can read your mind. It is rare to find a couple who communicates too much.

Glance toward Heaven and at His Word before looking around you each day. Unlimited wisdom, love, peace, help, etc... is available. All you have to do is ask.

Keep an eternal perspective on the time you have been given. Give attention to what truly matters in this life and run from what distracts from your ultimate goal. Learn to think in "decades" rather than "days."

And finally...

Dream Big. Pray for your one little life to ripple across eternity. God honors the desires of a pure heart that asks, "May they only see the back of me as I lead them closer to you, Lord."

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Wish I Had Learned - Part 1

30 Things I Wish I Had Learned Before I Turned 30:
(In the order they come to mind, not of importance)

* Children are usually listening when you hope they are not and rarely are when they are supposed to. Guard the door of your mouth wisely. Think twice about whether what you are about to say is of any value in the Kingdom of God.

* People seldom spend their time on what they say they value the most. Your time and wallet reflect the truth about what is deep in your heart. If something is important enough to you, you will find the time to make it happen.

* Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, not just others. There is nothing you can do that is beyond Jesus' forgiveness. How then can you harbor unforgiveness in your heart toward others? Let it go and move on.

* Turn everything off. Often. Silence is rare today. Everyone seems to be afraid of what might happen if they are alone with themselves and God. Unless you are still for more than the time it takes to switch gadgets, how can you expect to hear from Heaven?

* Memorizing scripture is not a task to check off the "I should be doing that" list. It is a weapon to use against the enemy when warfare seems the strongest. It is an overwhelming sense of peace when long forgotten truths are recalled. At the end of life, no one ever regretted spending time hiding these truths in their heart or teaching them to their children.

* Discover what delights your heart and make time to do it often. Unless you fill up with joy and love, you will not flow out joy and love.

* The people you love most in life will at some point let you down. Being human means making bad choices and saying things you should not have said. Everyone does this. Even David, the man after God's own heart, was an adulterer and murderer. Go easy on others and offer grace when true repentance is expressed.

* Do not expect people who do not have a relationship with Jesus to act like they do. People either act out of the love or lack of love that is in their hearts. Shine God's love everywhere you go, but do not be surprised when it is not reflected back to you from nonbelievers.

* Do not judge others. Period. There may be a reason you are not aware of that they are doing what they are doing. God is the ultimate judge. You were never asked to be part of the jury.

* Learn how to see yourself as God sees you. The ability to love others begins with the ability to love yourself. Ask him to show you the truth of who you are to him. Then, keep your eyes and ears open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you are more valuable than you think.

* Figure out how to handle conflict in a healthy way. If you are ever around others, conflict will happen. Avoiding it now makes the situation twice as hard later. If ignored, unresolved bitterness and anger will explode in a destructive way.

* Just because someone is on a stage or has a lot of fancy letters after their name, it does not mean they always speak truth. Test everything against the plumb line of the Word of God and the prompting of the Spirit inside you.

* Think about tomorrow, plan for the future, but be fully here now. Today is not a dress rehearsal. You get one chance to do what you are doing right now. Slow down, glance around, and look into the eyes of other people. You are guaranteed the moment you are in, nothing more.

* Strive for a healthy body because you want to honor God with the temple he gave you, not because you want to impress others or earn love and praise. You are loved completely just as you are now. Take care of the vessel he has temporarily given you to the best of your ability.

* Learn what makes those closest to you in life feel loved, then do those things often. People tend to express love as they enjoy receiving it, but God created every one so differently. Ask, and then act. Repeat this cycle often.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gazing at Myself

I miss them a lot - people I could have helped but didn't. Individuals who are in need, and like the first two characters in the Good Samaritan story, I walk around.


Truth from two thousand years ago actually applies to my everyday life. It hurts to learn I am often compassionless. (Yes, I am aware that is not a word. But, it should be.)

Why do I walk by? My eyes are not searching to meet the needs of others. They are too busy looking in the mirror. My gaze is steadily focused on me when I worry. Everyone else moves to the periphery, out of focus and ignored.

This is not what God desires. This is not what I want either. At least, in my head it's what I say I do not want. But the heart - the heart and the time and the effort and the money speak true intentions the loudest.

What do I actually miss when I spend my time looking at my own reflection? I miss the broadening of my world view. I miss the blessings I could receive from helping others.

I miss the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I miss love in it's purest form.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)

Creator of compassion, forgive me for my lack thereof. I know my gaze needs to shift from me to others countless times each day. Please guide me gently back to showing others the kind of love you show me. Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Different Than Them

It's hard to be different.

Doing what everyone else is doing seems like a good idea at times. Then, I wouldn't draw attention to myself. Then, I could blend in with the crowd. Then, I wouldn't worry about what others thought about me. I'd be just like them.

Then, it hit me. One little explanation in a book of a word I'm so familiar with. Apparently, I have not stopped to gaze directly at the meaning of this word.


For I am the Lord your God; 
sanctify yourselves therefore, 
and be holy, for I am holy. 
(Leviticus 11:44 NRSV)

It means set apart for the work of God.

Set apart. Different than others. Separated from the crowd. This is how I am told to live. Yet, I worry about being the very thing I am instructed to be. Why?

Because being different takes courage that I sometimes lack. Standing up when others sit draws attention to myself. Living without caring what others think is not normal, but it is a step down the path of peace.

Lord, you tell me to be holy. It seems like such a lofty goal. Help me not to worry about being the way you want me to be: different, set apart for you. Give me courage to keep my eyes on you instead of on them. Amen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Feeling Deeply, Fearing Nothing

The woman pauses a moment in her words of appreciation to a servant of God, overcome with emotion. While wiping a tear from her eye, she apologizes. "I'm sorry. Just a moment."

And I cringe - not from the show of emotion, but from the apology. Why do we do that? Why do women feel like our tears are something to be ashamed of?

I'm sorry. Sorry for what? Sorry for being human? Sorry for loving someone enough to have it affect my life? Sorry for showing you the truth of what I am going through right now? 

My own struggle with tears has been long and yes, sad. For years I was unwilling to shed a tear in the presence of another. Whispers of weakness clenched my heart tighter, the genuineness of my feelings locked away. My worry? What will they think of me?

I came to a point where I realized it did not matter. What mattered was that I was going to explode if I did not open the dam gates.

The truth is, I was created with the ability to feel and express. They are gifts from a God who does the same. At times I hurt deeply and am tempted to hide. Other times I have been overcome by love so completely, I could not lift my tear-stained face from the floor.

That is what gives life its richness. That is what helps me heal. That is how I connect with the world around me. That is how I reflect the glory of who God created me to be.

For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out... (Isaiah 42:14 NIV)

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 82:2 NIV)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,     
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,     
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance...
                (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NIV)

Creator of all human emotion, help me honestly express who I am without fear of the judgements of others. Amen.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not a Solo Journey

A friend loves at all times... (but sometimes that love needs to be expressed by a slap to the head.) Proverbs 17:17 NIV

Okay, the second part of the verse is my interpretation, but I think the meaning is implied.

I am sharpened the most when my friends are honest with me, when they draw attention to areas in my life I need to address, and call me into a deeper walk with God. I would rather hear, "Is that what God thinks or what you think?" than have a friend turn a blind eye to my missteps.

For many years I thought I could do this journey alone. I decided sharing my heart with a close friend was too risky. While I longed for a connection, fear of vulnerability and rejection held me back.

Slowly I started opening up to those God placed in my path. The blessings of sharing life - the good and the bad - far outweigh the risks. Is it always easy? No. Would I go back to flying solo again? Never.

See, I need not only a shoulder to lean on, but a jolt back to reality, God's reality, from a close friend once in a while. True love in Christ is honest and brings the other back to truth, which is where I long to live.

Lord, thank you for the gift of friendship. Help me to be vulnerable and willing to hear truth from those who care for me greatly. Amen.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Looking Ahead, Not Behind

Seven hundred twenty miles driven in twenty-     four hours, and I could not stop looking behind. While driving, you're encouraged to do that, but it got me thinking. I spend a lot of time looking around. Behind. Beside. Before. What is sneaking up from the rear? What will come over the next hill?
 What is casting that dark shadow beside me? 

What happens when I spend the majority of my time focused on these areas? I miss the present. I enjoy this moment less because I am not fully here. In my head, I am in the past or ahead of myself in the future.

I forget that God is with me now. I forget he has always been there and promises to always be right beside me.
He will show me how close I am to danger and how to avoid the wrong way - if I let him.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV)

Lord, help my eyes to see you beside me and not to focus on what is all around me. Thank you for showing me the way I should go. Amen.

Living in the Present

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

God, Why?

They had witnessed the mightiest of miracles with water days before. Now, the Israelites were complaining because there was nothing for them to eat or drink. It was the first instance of grumbling in what would turn out to be decades of discontentment.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord." (Exodus 16:6-8 NRSV)

Your complaining is against the Lord.

This phrase might as well have been in bold and underlined in my Bible. I don't always complain out loud, but grumbling in my heart happens more often than I'd like to admit. 

Why do I have to be the one to do this again? Why can't this be easier? Why do I have to deal with this now? 

What am I really saying? God, why me? God, why are you not changing things for me? God, why now?

It is nearly impossible to see the blessings God is giving me when I am too busy grumbling about what he has already given me. What if what I see as an area of complaint is actually a blessing in disguise?

While my kids learned about the Titanic this week, I read a story about a few crew members who arrived at the dock shortly after the boat left. They were frustrated and angry that they missed out on a few weeks worth of employment. Imagine how those feelings changed after reading the headlines a week later.

God is always at work in my life. He is using every situation to point me to truth. Instead of complaining about my circumstances, my eyes should be seeking out the blessings all around me.

If you search for good, you will find favor, but if you search for evil, it will find you! (Proverbs 11:27 NLT)

Lord, I am sorry I have been complaining against you. You know what I need, when I need it. Help me to look for the positive ways you are moving all around me. Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Can Do It Myself - maybe

"I can do it!"

She is three and wants to be in charge of the universe. Her mantra is repeated over and over to anyone trying to help her.

And I back away for a moment, watching a reflection of myself. Even though I do not loudly insist with an adorably pouty chin, my stubbornness mirrors hers.

I hide the words in my heart, whisper them heavenward.

"I can do it. I've got this. See how much I am doing?"

If I wait for her to struggle long enough, she will finally plead, "Help me, Mommy!" And of course I do. I've been waiting for her to ask, watching with patience and longing to offer what I have to ease her frustration.

See, I love to help her. It is a joy to show her the way. Yes, even if she's refused me seven times seven.

Is this how God feels about me?

Phrases from a well worn book draw me to truth. Put childish ways behind you. Put to death the deeds of the body. Come to me. Ask and it will be given. Be renewed day by day.

Rest. Repeat. .

Try on my own.
Let him help.
Watch in awe as an old dream dies and a new one is born.

I am thankful he is always only a "Help!" away.

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7 AMP)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV)

God, may I turn to you instead of trust my own ability. May I see the freedom in letting go. May I unclench my fist so that you can take what little I have and give it new life. Amen.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Then and When

What was I worried about ten years ago? What was I concerned about this time last year? Why was I stressed last week?

It is hard to remember.

How did God provide for me ten years ago? Who did he send to comfort me last Spring? What blessing did he surprise me with merely a week ago?

Have I forgotten these as well?

It is hard to trust that God will comfort me and provide for me in the future if I cannot look back and see the pattern of his love, sewn straight over my heart.

This is why I write. This is why I reflect on and thank him for all he has done for me so far. And I look ahead with assurance that he will not stitch outside the lines.

His love started before I was even born. He knew sin would come into the world and made a plan to send a deliverer, his son Jesus, who suffered so I would not have to. He knew that I would need guidance so he sent the Holy Spirit and inspired wise men to write down his words for me to read someday.

He knew what each day of my life would hold before one of them came to be.

Through the years, he has revealed his love, truth, and grace to me in different ways. I see the pattern of his love through the people he has brought into my life, the unexpected blessings, and the amazing "coincidences".

Still, he holds me firmly in the palm of his hand. Why would I doubt that will continue until my final breath?

So, I look behind me, then glance ahead. And I remember: the almighty "I AM" will walk beside me in love until I meet him face to face.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

(Psalm 139:1-6,15-16 NIV)

Jesus Christ is the same 
and today 
and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

Everlasting Lord, thank you for reminding me of how lovingly you have guided me through the years. Remind me on days when I am worried that you are always beside me and you always act in love. You took care of me then and will take care of me when...     Amen.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It is Possible Not to Worry


Jesus tells me that I should not worry:

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

And everything is possible with God:

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26b NIV)


It must be possible not to worry.

But the message is contrary to what I hear both outside the church and, unfortunately, sometimes inside the church. 

It is acceptable to worry. 
It is a given that I will worry about the future.
It is my duty as a parent to worry.

It is the opposite of trusting God. It keeps me from experiencing peace.

God, help me to trust you in all things. Show me the areas that I have not given over to you yet, the places I would rather control in my own time. Help me hold on to the truth that it is possible not to worry. Amen.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Looking Directly at the Son

I catch a glimpse of the sun before the clouds once again take over. It's presence is scarce when the snow flies for what seems like months on end and mixes with the slush already on the ground. I have been missing the warmth and smile as it kisses my cheek.

"Don't look directly at the sun," an adult cautions. The warning comes across the years of my memory.

But I want to look at the sun. It has been too long absent from my life. It's commanding presence beckons me to take a peek.

Don't look directly at the sun. Wise advice to follow, to some extent. In life though, what I think the world needs most is to look directly at the son, or more importantly, to not take our eyes off of the son.

When my eyes are on Jesus and his love for me, I am confident in who I am. I do not have to perform in order to prove my worth to those around me.

When I look at Jesus, I see he is beside me through the trials of my day. I can have peace when the chaos around me screams the loudest.

When my eyes remain on Jesus, I do not worry about tomorrow. I trust that he will give me what I need when I need it the most. He does not always give me answers but he always gives me himself - and that is enough.

So, look at the son. Study the son. Bask in the warmth of the son. Ask him what he thinks about you. And smile the next time the sky shines in radiance.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NIV)

Lord, I want to keep my eyes on you and not on the world around me or the circumstances that change. Thank you for being the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Fresh Start to the Day

The commercial was brilliant. Relaxing at a kitchen table, a man drank juice while discussing what his day would hold with the individuals who would (hours from now) cause him stress. News of a flat tire, an encounter with an annoying neighbor, and a missed deadline later in the day was met with a strangely positive response. How would he be able to face it all with a smile? He started his day with the right drink. Cue the catchy jingle and fade to black.

All it takes is starting the day with a drink of juice, huh? Wouldn't that be nice.

But what if all it takes is starting the day with a drink? A drink of pure living water.

When I connect with the very source of life first thing in the morning, I handle stress differently. When I gaze for a few moments at the face of sacrificial love, I face unexpected challenges with more patience. When I ponder the immense power he holds in his hands, I worry about what the day holds less and am able to rest in peace.

With the opportunity to change the course of my day in this way, do I always begin in worship? I wish I could say yes. I am learning to seek him first because I see things more from his perspective and react in a way that is honoring to him when I do.

Plus, it's cheaper than stocking up on fancy juice.

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59:16 NIV)

Jesus answered her (the Samaritan woman), “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water...  Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 13-14 NIV)

He who believes in Me [who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs and rivers of living water. (John 7:38 AMP)

Wonderful counselor, source of living water, thanks for the reminder of how important it is for me to start my day with you. I want to face the unexpected events of my day with a heart full of your love. Amen.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Worry While Waiting

I type when I feel I have been given something to say. I usually wake up with an idea in my head and an excitement builds until I put it into words. This month has been different, quieter than usual. It's not that God has been silent or distant, but I have not sensed a pull to act.

So I wait.

And I discover my anxiousness comes from wanting to do things in my own time, which is almost always NOW. I formulate a plan for how I want something to go or embrace a vision of my own creation only to forget: what is of God must come from God. It cannot come from me. If I run with what I want and ask him to bless it, it will not be the same as hearing from him what I need to do and acting upon it. And often in those situations, I give myself credit for the outcome.

Wait. Why is obedience in this area so hard? It does not produce tangible results, results I too often hang my value upon.

Waiting is hard, but in the stillness I can hear God's direction better than when I am constantly doing. Listening to him, waiting for a green light is not unproductive. It is right where he wants me, growing closer to him.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a NIV)

Be silent, and I will teach you wisdom (Job 33:33b NIV)

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31 NASB)

God's timing is perfect. I may not know why I am asked to wait, but I choose not to worry about getting something done that was never from him in the first place. I will wait in expectation for his green light before joyfully moving forward.

God, teach me contentment right where you have placed me now. You ask me to seek your face and listen to your truth. I know you have big plans. I trust you with the timing. Amen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not a Resolution, a Realization

I am not going to make a resolution this year. Supposedly, according to some no-doubt highly trustworthy survey that was taken, less than ten percent of resolutions are realized. I will go a different direction altogether.

This year I am going to walk confidently in the realization that I am REDEEMED. I will look at myself the way Jesus does, not with condemnation, but with love.


He accepts me as I am while encouraging me to draw closer to him. I will accept my faults while allowing him to guide me in better decisions.

I will not worry about what others think of me. Their judgements, vocalized or not, do not change who I am in Christ. Their opinions can fade in the light of the King of Glory.

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

My redeemer, guide me this year deeper and deeper into your truth. When I look in the mirror, remind me of who I am and whose I am.

"Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV, Isaiah 44:22 NIV