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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My To-Don't List

I don't plan on ever having my lawn grace the cover of a magazine. I love to dig in the dirt and move perennials around, but sometimes my dandelions are blooming better than any flower I own. I have made peace with this. I do not worry what the neighbor who sprays any weed within 5 feet of her yard thinks. I refuse to waste my energy on that.

I don't keep a pristine kitchen. I use every surface of that room so often, I figure if I scoured them all every time, I might as well move the bed and toilet in there too. I'd never get to leave. Nothing is growing fur or emitting strong odors, so I probably would get off with a warning from a health inspector. I am past worrying about what a friend stopping by might think. I refuse to waste my energy on that either.

What else don't I do? I don't make to-do lists anymore. I always felt bad I didn't finish crossing everything off. They just aren't for me. I know, I know, so many swear by them. I found a better list to make: a to-don't list.

Instead of the pressure of what I have to do, I will remember what I have given myself permission to release. And I will take a few deep breaths in relief that I am not called to do it all. It's perfectly ok to do some things well, attempt some things mediocrely, and admit to not even trying others.

I don't care that my smart phone would land below the bell curve compared to most peoples'. I have a much lower than average phone bill to make up for it. I don't put pressure on myself to wear name brand clothes. I am keeping some decent attire from retiring in a landfill prematurely. I don't buy a lot of music or books because my library has so much to offer. Plus, I can request they buy something if it's not available. What a beautifully free system! I don't compare my van to one that just rolled off an expensive lot. I can get where I need to go in what God has provided us for now.

Comparison, high expectations, busyness every night, and worry that I'm not doing enough are on my list. I am one woman with only so much time in this life. I will trust that God will use my attempts and my failures for His glory. I am of no help to the kingdom frazzled and full of envy of those who can do more and have more.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Ephesians 6:4-5 Msg)

See what freedom you can find by making a list of what you are not going to do. And watch how time for what you consider to be most important appears. Let go of unreasonable expectations and worry. Receive peace and grace.

"Father, thank you for releasing me from the dangerous trap of keeping up with the Jonses. I am called to do tasks you place in front of me, and no more. Help me to practice contentment with the season I am in now. And thank you that no one in my family has gotten food poisoning from my less than spotless kitchen. Amen"

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Difficult but Necessary Choice

This week we have a choice to make. No, it's not whether we vote or refrain. It's not even who we vote for. Our choice is to live fearful of the future or to stand firm in faith in the God who is bigger than the individual ruling this country.

It's easy to get swept away in the tide of opinions and fear coming from all parties involved. "This election, more than any other, will determine the direction of our country," they say. We hear arguments all around: blaming, begging, and belittling. Worry casts a shadow on each face as they discuss the pertinent issues. Don't get me wrong, the candidates and what they stand for are very important, but we are thinking too small.

We are focusing on who will lead our country, not on who will guide our nation with a loving but firm hand. No matter who lays their head to rest each night on that expensive White House pillow, we cannot forget that God never slumbers. He establishes kingdoms and causes them to crumble. The outcome of this election will not shock Him.

Will a Godly candidate lead us boldly over the next four years? Highly unlikely. Could God soften the President's heart and lead him or her into choices that will honor Him? Absolutely. Will He? Time will tell. More likely is that our country will continue to deny the one whom this nation was established upon. We will reap the consequences of shutting Him out of our government, schools, and lives. It will be hard. Christ followers will continue to be the minority, standing boldly against a growing darkness.

But if more darkness seeps in, it is because the light of the world has allowed it - for a time. Let us not think He has lost control. He wins in the end! Victory goes to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who conquered death, sin, and our enemy (who sets himself up to have more power than he really does.) Sometimes it has to get a lot darker before we collectively call for more light. Sometimes we have to be brought to a place of needing Him daily before we admit that we do.

The easy reaction to uncertainty is worry. It's scary to think about what may be at the bottom of this roll downhill and how it will effect future generations. The wise but often difficult reaction is choosing to stand firm in faith. Commit to praying for our President often. Get involved in our government. Care deeply about issues that are near and dear to God's heart. And as often as you can, tell others why you continue to have hope. Boldly declare, "Thy Will be Done!" and stand in wonder as He crafts His plan, ushering us closer to eternity.

Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
“Let’s get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!”

Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he’s amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
“Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? 

A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit.”

So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it!
(Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12 MSG)

Almighty, bring this nation to it's knees in humility and worship of you. It is going to be hard to have faith that this will work out for our good, but give us strength to hold our heads high and resist the temptation to worry. We are on the winning side and no amount of darkness can take us out of your hands. Amen.


Friday, October 7, 2016

A Small Revision to Isaiah's Verse

The word was not simply in the verses I was reading, Isaiah decided to use it three times. Well, the Spirit guiding Isaiah's pen or quill or chisel (what does a prophet write with anyway?) chose to use the word. Somehow, being annoyed at Isaiah's writing rather than God's seems more holy. If I were on the receiving end of this revelation, I would kindly suggest changing the word, when, to if.

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.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:1-3a NIV, emphasis added)

"If" seems gentler, safer. Possibly, you might run into a little trouble at some point in the future, but I'll be there. "When" hints at imminent gale force winds and untamable mountain wildfires. No, thank you. I'd rather stay on the sunny shore praising God for the picturesque sunset. See, I prefer a calm life. I like who I am and how I respond when plans go, well, as planned: a smile on my lips and a bounce in my step. Deep water and fire are frightening. 

Why do I need the storms in my life? Why does God, who knows what's best for me, think that trials should be included in my story? He knows that my response on rough days reflect my true character. He understands that I need a proven track record of him consistently showing up for me. He is aware that the only way to nudge me toward more holy responses is to take me out of my comfortable shelter. 

So, I cling to His words, "I will be with you. They will not sweep over you. You will not be burned." If I must go through hard times, then I must believe in his promises. My loving Lord never leaves me on my own. He uses trials for my good, though I may not see it that way at the time. My perception of the events do not change the fact of his care. He is a solid foundation, a rock when my hopes and plans drift away like sand. With each passing storm, I cling tighter and am more assured that His strength will pull me through the next squall beyond the horizon. 

I am thankful Isaiah followed the Spirit's prompting as he wrote. He must have written those words, tears falling on the parchment, reflecting on God's faithfulness to his people both now and forevermore.

Constant one, thank you for shaping me into who I am meant to be. Though I do not enjoy the rough seas, I know it is how you choose to take me to places I would not choose to go on my own. Help me to cling tightly to your unchanging love and strength. Give me peace regarding whatever trials may come in the future. I know you will never leave me to handle them on my own. You will give me sufficient grace when I need it most. I will trust you without worrying. Amen.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

One Small Step

I wrote this piece for my church bulletin and wanted to share it here as well. 

                                                       One Small Step

I make hundreds, possibly thousands, of choices every day. Only sometimes do I stop and contemplate the outcome before making them. The longer I have been on this Christian walk, the more I notice how much say God wants to have in the choices I am making – even the seemingly insignificant ones. My choices determine the path I walk and have a huge impact on not only my future, but the future of others as well.

God places before me an abundance of opportunities to turn toward him in obedience, to set my agenda aside and listen for his prompting. Since I am his sheep, I believe I hear his voice. No, not announced from a megaphone, but stirring in my spirit and whispering words that I know did not originate with me. Then, the direction I take is up to me. 

I want to go where he wants me to go. I long to have an amazing ministry. I want to be a source of overflowing love for my family, acquaintances, and perfect strangers. But how do I get from where I am now to where I want to be? I take one small step at a time.

I don’t think that the spiritual giants we all admire simply became that way overnight. Each one began by taking a small step toward God in obedience. Then, they took another step, and another. They trusted God in simple matters and obeyed when the spirit spoke to their hearts. The men and women time remembers got accustomed to hearing his voice and obeying quickly. When they proved trustworthy in small matters, God put them in charge of great ones. Even the Apostle Paul had to start somewhere. He turned toward God so often, turning his back on God ceased to become an option. 

Clare DeGraaf, author of The Ten Second Rule observes that, “True godly character is forged less by a few, big dramatic decisions than the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of simple obedience.” He says that prompt obedience, acting seconds after feeling a spiritual nudge, is ideal. When we wait and consider if we really have time for this interruption to our day, we are less likely to obey. We can always rationalize our way out of a seemingly silly suggestion that may or may not be from God. However, I would rather follow God’s lead without fully understanding why, than have to ask myself, “What would have happened if I had done what I believe he was leading me to do?”

Hebrews 4:7b says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Stop. Listen. Then, take a step toward eternity. I assure you, it will lead to your heart’s deepest desire: intimacy with God.

God, I thank you that I can hear your voice when I am still long enough to listen. Help me to be looking for opportunities to follow your lead daily. I want to be known as someone who reached out beyond my comfort zone and showed you love to others whenever possible. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cheating on my Church

Is cheating on my church with another church considered a sin?

It started out innocently enough, as I hear most forbidden relationships do. I put my foot in the door by signing my kids up for a class the church was offering. What caused me to tread on shaky ground? Time with other women one morning each week. Time to worship and learn while my children were being lovingly cared for out of earshot. Peace and adult conversation = Holy bliss! Amen!

In my defense, I hadn't lived in the area long enough to know it was one of "those" churches. You know the ones. Those who frequented sometimes stepped out of their pews. Actually, they didn't even really have pews. Sometimes, individuals moved more than the socially acceptable shifting of weight while worshiping. They even prayed for impossible things - aloud, and actually thought God might answer.

You know, "those" churches.

Different. Forbidden to someone who grew up on the other end of the spectrum. Except it was never explicitly stated that a church like that was forbidden. No one sat me down for the denomination talk and explained why we didn't do the things they did. Somehow over the years, my nose gravitated toward up at styles that I was not accustomed to.

I didn't understand why anyone would feel the desire to worship or pray as some of those people did, until I stood among sincerity, freedom, and, completely foreign to me: unashamed adoration.

My love affair began slowly. At first I listened to the words others were singing so passionately, and thought how wonderful it would be if I actually believed every phrase like the song leaders seemed to. And not only believed, but lived like I believed. I felt a desire to raise my hands in praise. I felt the weight of glory and fell to my knees. An awareness grew slowly within. I could no longer contain the love that I was feeling inside without some form of expression.

Freedom of expression was a world I never knew I longed to explore. But I got glimpses of abandonment in praise in others and secretly wanted more for myself. Many times the thought crossed my mind, "What would my husband, family, fellow pew sitters think if they saw me now?" It was quickly chased away with truth whispers of, "I delight to see you delight in me," and "Come away with me, my love."

See, I was beginning to allow His love to penetrate the walls around my heart. And the response to receiving so much love is to give love in return.

At first, I practiced my new freedom in the safety of that odd church. Did it seem awkward at first? Yup. But I slowly let go of worrying about what those around me thought about how I was praising my savior. The more lost in love and worship I became, the less others opinions of me mattered. Worship without worries took on a new meaning. Then, a few times a month or once a week was not enough. I looked forward to worship like it was Christmas morning and I was going to unwrap the biggest gift. I was hooked.

Casually from the stage, someone commented about their home worship, even dared to call their living room a worship center. The concept was foreign to me. I could have these stolen kisses and forbidden freedom any time I wanted? Sure, I put on praise music sometimes while I cleaned or cooked. I even danced with my daughter once, when the resounding chorus forbid my feet to stand still. But could calling on my Savior solo stretch beyond knees bent in prayer?

I had to find out. Could this possibly be the source of the freedom and peace my heart longed for?

I decided to get up before dawn and children. It felt sneaky but if Jesus could do it, I could to. I prayed. I read Psalms. I turned on some music. And I gave the Spirit permission to take me where he wanted in praise. I do not want to tell you much about my time together. It's too personal, too sweet and just what I needed. But I have tasted glory and will not go back to normal, casual encounters being okay enough.

Do I still go to my acceptable church? Of course. It has lots of great qualities and is sincere in diving into the Word of God. Do I visit that other church occasionally? Yes and amen. I feel at home in both. God is in both churches and He is in me. Worship happens anywhere, when I turn my heart toward him in thanksgiving. I am so glad God broke through my comfort level tenderly.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV

"Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." Psalm 146:1-2 NIV

A sweet hymn I am coming to appreciate more and more: In the Garden

God of glory, thank you for showing me what delights I was missing by judging others. I want to want to spend more and more time in your presence. Fill my heart with so much love that it cannot be contained. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Out of the Silence

It has been over a year of silence on this blog. I continue to be amazed that people are still coming, still reading, still curious. The silence was not for lack of God's work in my life. No, the silence was a waiting on His timing. The silence here was a sense of being overwhelmed and unsure. How do I put into words what has transformed since the pain and the letting go began? What has he taught me and what needs to be shared?

Trusting God is safe. Not necessarily comfortable, but safe in the unseen realms. He knew how many of my fears would not come to fruition. He knew that my pain would help others learn empathy and trust. He knew I would run to Him and be protected by mighty warriors.

Letting go lets love in. When I said, "Have your way," He ushered in peace and hope once again. He healed deep wounds between my husband and I. He gave me the capacity to love my children more than I thought I could. He showed me how he too laid down his life for others.

Life is not meant to be a solo adventure. The more that seemed to go wrong in my world, the more comfort I found with letting others know I was falling apart. I needed a group of witnesses surrounding me and pointing me back to truth. In weakness I was born and in weakness and humility I find His strength. There is no shame in relying daily on the one who really has the control.

Seek and you will find. I asked for more and I got more. I've seen glimpses of him and his plan. In sorting through the yuck in my heart, I have more room for understanding and love. Hungering and thirsting for more of Him has been the most amazing adventure in my life. I can't wait to see what is just around the river-bend.

Some lessons, I guess, must be learned by time, pressure, and pain. But this weekend I was reminded that that is how diamonds are formed. A new song he gave me: "Diamonds", by Hawk Nelson.

"It's here in the ashes, I'm finding treasure.
He's making diamonds out of dust. He is refining.
In his timing, He's making diamonds out of us."

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2 NIV

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7 NIV

My deliverer, you are faithful and strong. In my weakness may others see your strength, and turn to you. Thank you for never leaving me. Thank you for the privilege of  serving you and for opening my eyes to your love more and more every day. Amen.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Danger of Bold Prayers

Six months ago I meant every word I said to him. Arms spread wide on my living room floor, tears streaming down my cheeks, and more peace in my heart than I thought a lifetime could hold, I asked him to use me. Not in a small way. Not just to impact my family. Not only that day or month. I had a big vision and wanted to play a role in impacting the world. Any way you choose, I said. I am willing.

Six months ago I imagined how this yes to him would progress. I saw myself speaking truth, obeying each prompting, shining brightly so others would ask questions. My excitement over new clarity was evident. Worry was not even on the radar.

Yet, one month ago I was face down on my pillow, tears streaming down my cheeks, enduring more pain than I thought a body should have to face, and asking God big questions. "What good am I to you if I am in pain all the time?" "Why won't you heal my headaches?" "Was I wrong to trust you?" "Why does pain have to be a part of my story?" "What are you doing in all this?"

See, I had said yes, but I forgot to tell him he could use me any way except in a way that brought me or my family pain. There was no addendum. I didn't specify to make it easy, convenient, stress-free, or simple, although I probably silently hoped that would be the case.

When I opened wide my arms, I let go of control. I gave up the right to be upset about the way he chose to direct my steps. Am I happy that I hurt more days than I don't. Of course not. I didn't cease being human and wanting life to be comfortable.

But what if comfortable and easy are not what is going to shape me into the person he wants me to be? What if struggling produces perseverance and character and hope? What if my testimony reaches farther from a bedside than it does from an auditorium? I have no idea what all is taking place behind the scenes, who is learning what lesson, or how this will play out two or twenty years from now.

After all my questions that night, with tissues surrounding my pillow, I fell asleep with a heart full of peace. He has been beside me - within me - every minute of every hard and easy day. And really, I don't want to be in control of how this plays out. I don't have enough wisdom to orchestrate my life and make it as fruitful as possible.

My life is in his hands. I prayed a bold prayer and expected great results. Dangerous? Absolutely. I trust that the results will be greater than I could have ever imagined. Somehow this is weaving together for my good and his glory.

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:2b-4 NIV)

There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. (Philippians 1:29 MSG)

...all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. (Philippians 3:8-10 MSG)

God, I have no idea what you are doing right now in my life with this suffering, but I know that you are always in control. You never leave me and nothing is wasted. You are weaving together a much greater story than I could ever imagine. I am so glad I have been given a glimpse of the glorious ending. I do not regret my bold prayer. Help me to walk with you in that boldness each day. Amen.