Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hang onto the Warmth


The Christmas holiday has passed, but the warm memories remain.

The other night as I tucked in my preschooler, she smiled. "Wanna know what I was just thinking about?"

"What?"

"How much you love me."

That'll bring a smile to your face and warm up your heart.

It's important to remember how much we are loved, especially if we're in the crash of post-holiday cheer. What we're craving at Christmas isn't a gift. It's what we think we want, but in fact, what we're truly, deeply hoping for is something to fill the void inside. That's why we shop and hope and hint. But even if we get the gadget we longed for, we may find there is a hollowness in the experience.

Then what?

There have been lots of changes this year for our extended family's Christmas celebration. Usually we travel out of state. Not this year. A relationship changed so we won't see a certain member of the family this year. One beloved grandparent is in the hospital, so we won't see her. No snow. (For some of us this is important. I say it's important if you don't have to drive in it. :) But there is one constant. We have to hang onto the one constant in order to not be disappointed.

That constant? Jesus.

Keeping our gaze fixed on the heart of Christmas--the true celebration--will keep us anchored in the ups and downs, the disappointments, the missing of family members who aren't with us. That's the key.

And remembering how much we are loved by God and family and friends will bring a smile, helping fill up that void inside with joy and peace. That's how we'll hang onto the warmth even as the Christmas season fades.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pointing Toward Hope


This time of year is filled with highs and lows. Folks rushing around with joy, feeling the rush that shopping brings as they find their treasures. Christmas pageants and music concerts, plays and movies all celebrate the season. There's the warmth you feel sitting by the fire, gazing at a Christmas tree covered in lights. Perhaps you hold a mug of hot tea in your hands, and a favorite novel is your reward for a long work day.

But there are signs of another experience this season. Signs of people struggling. The recent economic climate has led to our seeing more homeless people as we drive through busy streets. They hold signs and try to hope in the kindness of strangers. I've heard the suicide rate goes up at Christmas time. People running out of hope in the midst of what should be a hopeful season.

So, what can we do?

First, hang onto our own hope. Christmas isn't about gifts--either giving or getting, really. Christmas is commemorated that way, but it's truly about Jesus, the Son of God coming to earth as a baby to bring HOPE. As if He's saying to the poor and downtrodden, "Look to Me. I came to give you hope." He would say to the hopeless who contemplate giving up on life, "I am the way, the truth and the life. Come and let me give you hope."

When you smile at people, you offer them hope. When you lend a helping hand, you offer hope. When you serve others, putting others first, you offer them hope.

The Psalmist said, "I would have fainted unless I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (see Psalm 27:13) He was talking about hope. Without hope, people give up.

So, first, we hang onto our own hope, keeping it refreshed through recent time with God. Then, second, we share that hope with others. Reach out. Help.

Point toward hope.

Now may the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Romans 15:13)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Then, He Smiled at Me


Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved various imaginative Christmas songs, beyond hymns. We used to learn them for school programs. Words to The Marvelous Toy and Do You Hear What I Hear? still run through my mind this time of year.

One of my favorites is still a favorite today: The Little Drummer Boy.

From the first notes on the piano, I’m hooked. Then, the words describe journey of this little drummer boy to see the Baby Jesus. The little musician has nothing to give but his talent. In humility he asks permission to play his drum for the Baby. Mary nods and then . . .

Jesus smiles at the drummer boy.

Do you picture Jesus smiling at you?

Maybe when the day is going well. Maybe if you can’t remember losing your temper that day or making any mistakes, or giving into temptation. Then, Jesus must smile at you, right?

Jesus is full of joy (see Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9)! The only issue that could have concerned Him, the condemnation of the entire human race due to sin, He Himself conquered. He righted the wrong. He is full of joy when people accept His forgiveness, His offered gift of reconciliation to God. He is glad to see you come to pray, worship or read His Word. He wants relationship with you!

So, when you come to Him, He is smiling. Sure the stuff of our lives will need to be dealt with, but it isn’t God’s primary basis for relating with us. What revelation! What a gift.

He just wants you to come. Get close enough to see Him smiling at you.

Sing with me now,

Then, He smiled at me . . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Music of Christmas


"O come, all ye faithful . . ."

"Hark the herald angels sing . . ."

"O little town of Bethlehem . . ."

"Silent night, holy night . . ."

Can you hear the melodies as you read those lines?

I imagine you have a favorite Christmas carol or song. Every year, new Christmas songs are written and recorded. Some will become classics like "Breath of Heaven" or "Mary, Did you Know?". Are you familiar with those? My mind immediately slips into the mode of recalling the words as well as the emotions. I think that's why we enjoy music. It touches our hearts.

That's why I love the music of Christmas.

My favorite Christmas hymn? "O Holy Night."

One year, nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I sang this as a special for a church near our home.

Before we began our a capella (accompaniment-free) rendition, my husband played the notes we'd start on. Mine first, then his, separately. For some reason, my mind clicked on his note, a third higher than the key we'd practiced in. Uh-oh.

That song goes super high (calling all singers--can I hear an "amen"?). So there I was, up in the rafters with the highest notes. Because of my mistake, my poor hubby had to ad-lib his harmonies on the spot. I wondered why he wasn't singing along like we practiced. Oops. We finished though, and people's comments were complimentary afterward. (Whew!)

I love the holiness inherent in Christmas carols. A hush falls on the gathered ones who stand holding lit candles and raising their hearts to the Lord. It's enchanting. Magical. Beautiful.

This week we'll attend a school band concert. One of my kiddos plays the flute. Next week we're off to a choir concert because one of my daughter participates in two school choirs. I love attending and listening to the well-practiced harmonies.

What's your favorite Christmas song or hymn? Why?

Enjoy the music of this season. It's a once-a-year gift.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Frosty Mornings


The temperatures have been super cold here lately, unusually so for our corner of the country. We haven’t had snow yet, but we’ve had some serious frosts. We awake early in the morning to discover thick layers of ice on cars and plants, rooftops and yards.

Our summer months this year were unbelievably hot—lingering around 100-degrees day after day. One afternoon, sitting in my un-air-conditioned home office, I offered a silly prayer or promise to God—"I’ll never complain about being cold again (yes, cold). Just please cool things down." The other morning, warming up our frigid van in order to drive my middle daughter to school, what did I do? Complain about the cold. Good grief, I’m a finicky human.

So, this December, I’m trying to be thankful. Frost is pretty. Christmas is coming. Family will visit. I can be thankful for friendships, writing, church, etc.

As my focus shifts from one thing to another, I want to make a point of zeroing in Jesus. His love carries me through the frostiest moments in life. His faithfulness assures me He sees my needs.

May your Christmas season be filled with thankfullness and joy as you remember Jesus is the reason for this beautiful season.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's So True, He Repeats Himself


When was the last time you saw portions of a Bible verse bolded in your Bible? Or underlined (before you took a pencil in hand to underscore something)? You've probably noticed Bible passages don't include bold or underline. When God wanted to emphasize something, He repeated Himself.

This morning, as I read the following verse and tried to soak in all the affirmation I believe God was pouring over me, He said, "This is so true, I repeated Myself."

Let this bless you today. No matter what you think your status is with God, no matter how human (read: imperfect) you've been this week, as a believer, you are His beloved. God sees you through the righteousness of Christ.

Believe it.

It's so true, He repeated it for emphasis:

Behold, you are beautiful, My love;
behold, you are beautiful;

you have doves’ eyes.

(Song of Songs 1:15, ModernKJV)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Exclusive Time

In the right column of this blog there is a widget for devotions. "Have you had your devotions today?" it asks. I especially like that one if I've had my time with the Lord that morning. Then, there's a widget about what I'm reading. (Right now? Bob Sorge's "Secrets of the Secret Place")

On Saturday night, our church's worship team met here at our home. We watched a teaching by Bob Sorge regarding worship leaders and our responsibility before Jesus as He woos His bride. A great teaching from the recent worship leaders' conference at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Listening to him teach stirred up a desire in my heart to read more of his book which I've been reading in chunks lately.

Last night as I read, I found a phrase I couldn't resist blogging about: exclusive time.

So many things vie for our time: family, church, work, career, service, holiday preparation, etc. Some (most?) are good. But if they crowd out time alone with God, we have to re-prioritize.

Bob explained something in his book which helped me move from legalism to grace--when we don't have our exclusive time with God, He isn't disappointed in us as if we've failed Him, He's disappointed for us because He knows what we're missing out on.

Lately, God's been drawing me aside to speak to me about my future, my calling, my life, my hangups. Amazing the information He wants to share, but I have to set aside everything else to hear, to write down what He's saying (I love to journal). He will speak to me in the day to day busy run-around. But I believe He wants to fill me up through one on one time, just Him and me. And silencing the other things around me fosters that intimacy.

I want to get alone with Him today, everyday, so I don't miss out.

But you, when you pray, go into your room,
and when you have shut your door,
pray to your Father who is in the secret place;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
(Matthew 6:6, NKJV)

Have you had your exclusive time with the Lord today?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Time for Giving Thanks


Several years ago, as I lay praying one night before bed, I battled negative thoughts. Somehow, in God’s grace, I thought to begin thanking God for blessings. I listed family and our home, I mentioned all the things God had done for me, the ways He was meeting me in my dreams. As I listed the ideas, I saw how God’s heart had been so tied to my own. How He had heard my pleas, and how He met me in my hopefulness—my place of dreams. God is personal. He knew what I had been dreaming for, what I had been hoping for.

The practice of thankfulness lifted my heart that night. Joy flooded me. The barrage of negative thoughts was cut off—outgunned by the joy which followed my thankfulness.

This time of year we specifically focus on that for which we’re thankful. Thankfulness can be a tool for our freedom. And we can use this strategy at any time. The psalmists often referred back to what God had done for His people. They understood the practice of reminding themselves what God had done. Thankfulness is a surefire path to encouragement.

May this season of Thanksgiving bring joy to your life as you focus on what God has done and is doing in your life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dig In!

Last night, my preschooler sat down with her warm chocolate chip cookie in front of her, a glass of milk with a straw, and a napkin. Moments later, she popped back out of her chair to run to the kitchen drawer. What place setting is complete without a spoon and a fork? She uses colorful, plastic spoons and forks, and they’re easily within reach so she likes getting them for herself.

I love that she was so excited about her cookie that she wanted to get her “utensils” ready. That’s gusto! That says, “I’m going to dig in.”

Her actions seemed an appropriate metaphor for life. We should enjoy every little gift, every blessing.

The other night, after craving a certain type of meal for almost a week, I sat down with a friend and was about to take my first bite. Very clearly, I heard the Lord say, “Enjoy this.”

In other words, don’t rush. Don’t overlook the blessing.

Okay, that’s two food examples, let’s look at another type. Our family loves visiting the Pacific Ocean. This last summer during our trip, at the first sign of the rain letting up, we gathered our supplies and made for the dunes. Once over the grassy sand, we trekked out onto the packed sand. Wind immediately assaulted us once past the shelter. I remember my husband’s rolled shoulders, fists tucked into his pockets as he braced himself against the wind. As my older kids splashed around (nothing deters them from getting wet!) I was thinking, we can’t stay out here too long. It’s freezing! But we did. We lingered. We embraced the moment of solitude (what other family would endure those kind of elements for a moment at the water?) and the family time and just played. My preschooler used her sand shovel to explore the beach. She knows how to dig in!

Do you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Overtaken


And it will be, if you shall listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God,
to observe and to do all His commandments which I command you today,
the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth.
And all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you,
if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 28:1-2, MKJV)

This passage goes on to talk about multiple blessings for those who listen to the voice of God and do what God says--obedient children.

God promises blessings:

~~ in the city (public) and in the field (harvest) -- (see Deut. 28:3)
~~ the fruit of your body (children, your work, etc.) -- (see verse 4)
~~ your basket and store shall be blessed (foods, goods, business) -- (see verse 5)
~~ "blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out" (every season, entering new stages or seasons, moving on to other positions in the Lord, etc.) -- (see verse 6)
~~ protection (see verse 7)
~~ The Lord will command His blessing(!) on your storehouses and He shall bless you in the land your God gives you (see verse 8)

See all those blessings and that's only the beginning. I urge you to read Deuteronomy 28. The first 14 verses are all about God's blessing on the obedient ones. (The rest of the chapter are the consequences for disobedience. Motivation to obey.)

Do you need encouragement? Lots of us are struggling right now through a season of pressure--we're in the holy press where God is working on us, even bringing us to desperation and dependence upon Him. Press close to Him and hang in there. Soon, the promises will overtake us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Listening to Love


My preschooler climbed up into my lap this morning. One of my favorite parts of our day is our post-breakfast snuggle. We make up songs together or talk about rhyming words. This morning as we rocked together, I felt love for her wash over me. I started to tell her about it--how much I love her and have always loved her. How she owns a piece of my heart and no matter what happens, that will always be true. How I can't help myself. How invested I am in her life, her happiness, her--

That's when my big kid grew bored. "Let's make up songs, Mommy." So I shifted gears.

But it hit me. How often do I divert when God is trying to love on me? When He is attempting to express His affections, do I steer the conversation or the activity in a new direction? Or do I let the words sink in?

I crave His love. I ask Him to reveal His affection to me. I need it.

I think it's time to get close and listen.

P.S. - the little punkin in the photo is not my daughter, but she sure is precious

Sunday, November 1, 2009

His Sanctuary


Last week, during my devotional time, I studied a fascinating truth. Do you ever do this? Word studies in your Scripture reading? My current Bible does not list cross references. So for the past several years I've made a hobby of connecting Scriptures, hand writing verses I feel relate in the margins of my Bible. It's fun!

Well, last Monday I took a look at this truth: God is looking for a sanctuary. That's amazing! He's God. He created everything that exists. Yet He is looking for a place to rest.

Here's the best part. You're it!

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His dwelling place:
“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
Psalm 132:13-14

Since God in-dwells born-again believers, you can insert your name where it reads “Zion.”

“The Lord has chosen ____. He has desired her/him for His dwelling place.”

Look how else YOU are described in the Bible:

Like a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters.
(Song of Songs 2:2)

In a world where God is constantly rejected by people, imagine the joy of one person’s “yes” to His intentions, His heart, His indwelling. You offer that. You are a desirable dwelling place for God. A sanctuary.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enchantment


I’m a writer. In my stories, I work toward writing captivating scenes. A scene that captures my imagination will hopefully catch the reader’s imagination as well. (If it doesn’t, my critique group will likely let me know!) ;-)

This time of year in the United States, you see a lot of evidence of Halloween celebration going on. Walk into the party supply store and you’re surrounded by echoes of screams and hanging skulls with fake spider webs. Turn on the television and see all the “spooky movies” out there to watch on several channels. Or investigations of darkness, specters, the paranormal.

I believe we were created to desire the supernatural. And I believe if we don’t turn to the Lord for that experience, we will look for it elsewhere.

~The chance to feel goose bumps during a horror movie.

~That feeling of fear as you share your latest nightmare in the evening with your siblings.

People go looking for the supernatural. From the lighter approach (Ghostbusters) to the extreme approach (horror films).

God is all-powerful. Those aren’t just words. He can do anything. Move a person from here to there, without causing them to travel by natural means. Look at this passage from Acts 8:


Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot." So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

God can suspend the natural realm and rules to make something supernatural happen:

~Heal the leper.

~Mend broken or malformed bones in an instant.

~Remove cancer from someone’s body.

~Raise the dead.

~Appear in a locked room without using the door.

~Hold the universe together by the Word of His power.

~Redeem lives.

~Heal a broken heart.

~Erase a sinful past.

You can experience another Presence in the room. A good, beautiful Presence. And yes, there’s fear involved, but not the kind of fear that brings torment. The Holy Spirit can and will meet you in a supernatural way. I believe God Himself wants to satisfy that natural craving in our spirits for the supernatural.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Safe in the Center

My daughter and I sat down to watch a nature documentary last night. On the screen, a school of silvery fish maneuvered as one through the ocean’s waters, trying to avoid predators. The safest place? The center of the school—the center of that moving mass of fish. Any fish on the outskirts ran the risk of being lunch for the marlins and yellow-finned tuna. They were easily picked off.

As a believer, when hardships come, sometimes it’s natural to isolate ourselves. We think no one can relate. Or we’re ashamed of the hard times we’re struggling through. We stop going to church because we think God obviously isn’t hearing our prayers. (If He heard us our circumstances would change, we reason.)

The enemy of our souls wants us to isolate ourselves. Then, he can torment us with doubts, fears, loneliness.

But if we stay in fellowship, if we reach out to a friend for help, if we humble ourselves and continue to seek God, we are safe. The best place to be when you’re struggling is right up front during worship at church. Right up front at the altar during prayer. Right there on your knees, crying out to God—trusting His heart is good even when you can’t see the answers before you.

Don’t isolate. Get right into the middle of the family of believers where it’s safe. Worship. Pray. Fellowship. Live in the center of the group of believers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do What You Know to Do




It's not even the New Year, and I'm thinking about goals and change.

There's something in my life I want to be different. And doing the usual isn't accomplishing it. Doing what used to work isn't working. Time for a change.

Sound familiar?

So, here's what I ask myself:

Do I know what to do? (hint: something I should be doing but I'm not)
Answer: absolutely!

Am I doing it?
Answer: sporadically or never

Do I really want this change?
Answer: Yes!

Solution: Do what you know to do. Then, if you don't see changes, reevaluate. But I imagine you'll see changes.

Maybe I should take my own advice.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Intimidation



The creature is huge! Hanging there, suspended on a massive web which clings to our sliding door frame. Happy October in the Northwest!

I grabbed the bag of birdseed to refill the feeder last week but stopped short at the sight of the polka-dotted, fat, long-legged web dweller. I slid the door back to its secured and locked position and repositioned the bag of seeds on the shelf. “Perhaps I’ll go around the other way.”

But I haven’t done it. Instead I’ve allowed a spider the size of a quarter to keep me from stepping out into the backyard via the slider. Sounds silly doesn’t it?

How often do I let a slight obstacle keep me back? That rejection letter in my in-box could stifle my writing for a day. But really, a week? Nope. I need to get back at it. Writer’s block shouldn’t instigate a month-long cleaning spree (I’m exaggerating, of course), but if I let it, it can derail my writing schedule. Some days I do anything to avoid my writing desk.

So, what’s the deal? That spider is small—not a real obstacle. A broom could swipe away the web and help Spidey find a new home in the grass (if I let him get that far, heh heh heh ;-} ). Then I could tend to the feeder, deadhead the begonia, clean up under the fading rose bush. I need to face the obstacles—they’re often so small. I don’t want to turn back at the hint of trouble. I want to be someone who blazes through webs to victory on the other side. Unintimidated. Brave!

Excuse me, there’s a web I need to demolish. Watch out, Spidey, it’s moving day!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Up or Down?


I love birds. The other day I dreamed of a yellow and black bird visiting our yard, and I pointed it out to my children. One of my kids’ friends said “Oh, that’s a such-and-such bird.” He seemed pretty sure of himself.

This afternoon as I sat at my writing desk, a Stellar’s jay visited the yard. They’re big, gorgeous blue and black birds (see picture) which frequent our neighborhood. Sometimes you hear them before you see them; their loud squawky cries are unmistakable.

We’ve recently added a fence to our side yard and at this moment there is a small gap under the fence. Squirrels can chose to go under the fence or scamper up and over. Cats can squeeze under or leap up to the top to come into the yard. We plan on filling it in at some point, but aren’t too worried since we don’t have dogs we’re trying to keep in.

Back to our Stellar’s jay friend. He was searching for lunch near the gap under the fence. I watched him working, pecking away at the ground, working on his prey. When he finished, would he go under the fence through the gap (which is about the right size for him) or would he fly up to land on the fence and launch from there?

Being a skyward creature, he flew.

I wanna be a skyward creature.

When faced with a situation where I could go under to get through, I want to go up—even if it’s the less convenient route (integrity is a given; I'm talking about taking the easy way out).

I want to get so skyward minded I no longer cling to the ground.

We have a choice in our thinking, too. I want to think in terms of up, rather than down—optimism.

For that jay, I think “up” was the only option. “Down” never occurred to him.

That’s the way I wanna be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Turn it Up!

This morning as I listened to a favorite worship song ("I am in Love with You" by Darrell Evans from "Freedom"), I reached over and turned up the volume. There's a portion of the song I have to hear louder. I love it! Can't get enough of it. Turn it up!

I wondered if God feels like that.

There you are singing to him, worshiping, offering your heart and God calls out--"Hey! Turn that up." He's asking the angels to quiet down. He's asking all of heaven to come to a hush because you are singing to Him, and He doesn't want to miss a moment of it.

And when you come with a concern, a problem, a worry, I wonder if He hushes everything to listen. "Hey everyone, quiet down. I need to hear this child's plea."

Music takes me places as I listen. The louder the better. The more I feel it (emotionally and sometimes physically), the more deeply I experience it.

You don’t have to shout at God for Him to hear you, of course. He can hear at any volume. But this season of change has driven a lot of us to our knees before Him. Can you feel it?

Prayer is more sincere. Worship is intensifying. We cry out to Him from deeper places in our hearts. No more pretense. No more futile attempts at hiding. It’s out there, a stark display of honesty.

Worship leads to breakthroughs because 1) God changes us as we worship; 2) worship creates an atmosphere where God dwells and the enemy of our souls flees; 3) worship changes our perspective and magnifies our great God.

Waiting on a breakthrough? Worship. Need encouragement? Play the worship music, sing along, get lost in His presence.

Turn it up!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

While We Wait

I can be really impatient. Can I get a witness?

Months ago, my husband and I watched Fireproof for the first time. Being a musician, my ears and heart immediately picked up on a fantastic song about 3/4 through the movie--While I'm Waiting by John Waller. Fantastic intro on this song and that's only the beginning--truly. The words go on to talk about waiting on God to move when it's painful, difficult, challenging to wait for Him to fulfill what He's spoken.

There are many promises God has placed in my heart. I know He'll fulfill them. I'm can look around and see how he's already fulfilled previous promises.

Still, I wait for Him to bring these others to pass.

It's hard to wait.

But, then I catch a glimpse of the fruit He's bringing into my life. Like maybe a smidgen more patience. Purer motives--it's less about me and more about Him. Humility. It's not up to me. That's freeing. Dependence upon Him. A very good byproduct of a long wait.

What kinds of fruits has waiting brought into your life?

The other thing He's teaching me is it's not all about the destination. I keep my eyes pinned there because it carries me forward, boosts my energy and generally motivates me through the tough times. But God is here in the journey. He's truly the one carrying me forward while I wait.

When you are tempted to go for an Ishmael answer--remember:

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4, NKJV)

He puts the desires in our hearts for His will as we delight ourselves in Him. Then, he fulfills those desires.

What a good God!!

One more encouraging Scripture:

Who is this coming up from the wilderness,

leaning on her Beloved?

(Song of Solomon 8:5a, MKJV)


Waiting or celebrating, I wanna be leaning. And if waiting teaches me to lean, if it means I can press my face to Jesus' chest, hear His heart beating with love for me, I'm there. I'll press in.

And I'll wait.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Daddy's Arms


The other day, I was chasing my preschooler through our living room and she ran straight to Daddy on the sofa. (Smart girl!) She scrambled up into his arms and squealed, looking behind her to see if the "threat" (me) was still coming. I was. She squirmed and finally broke loose from Dad's arms, scampering farther away on the sofa. I giggled and stopped playing the chase game, saying "Why did you climb out of Daddy's arms. He's the safest place you could be."

Why do I climb out of Daddy's arms?

Sometimes I think I can handle things better on my own. I certainly prefer my own timing. But God's timing is perfect for everyone involved. Be at rest, oh my soul. Climb up into Daddy's arms and rest.

A windstorm chases me toward God in prayer. I find a moment's peace, but then the huge trees in our yard rock in a powerful gust and I scamper away, embrace fear and stew. Then, I realize what I've done and scurry back toward God in prayer.

I want to stay in His arms, where I'm safe and can experience His peace. There's nothing for me anywhere else.

I'm secure in my Daddy's arms.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Fragrance Remains

I walked into my home office today, and a delightful fragrance lingered.

A couple of nights ago, I holed up in here and spent some time with the Lord, worshiping, praying. As He led me, I lit candles, one by one. The fragrance and the heat were soothing and a pleasure. That was two nights ago. But the fragrance remains.

Is that what Jesus experienced before and during His crucifixion? Mary anointed Him with spikenard days before He died. The fragrance filled the room, covered her hair and her Savior. Rich oil like this doesn’t wash away (not that Jesus would have wanted to). He told the other people in the room she had anointed Him for His burial. She had covered Him with her sacrifice of love. When He went to the cross, the oil’s scent remained. The memory of her sacrifice, of her devotion probably encouraged Jesus through His most painful hours.

I liked the reminder today of our time together the other evening. Is that what it’s like for our King? Do our prayers linger with Him over time and bless Him whenever He’s reminded? I believe they do. Such a beautiful truth.

Let your prayers rise to Him like fragrance and know that He cherishes your words, your attention, your affection. And when tough times come, remember God recalls your prayers like a potent and pleasurable fragrance.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Power to Change

I can't change on my own, not the deep down stuff, the foundational elements of my life. Sometimes I don't even know why I do what I do. Can you relate with that?

Recently I've been going through a season of introspection and self discovery--learning things about myself that I didn't know were there, reasons for why I behave the way I do. And some of it's not pretty. ;-)

That long list of not-so-good things could be truly depressing, if:

I didn't know God can change me from the inside out. Indeed, that's where He does some of His best work.

I couldn't look back and see where He's already changed me in my life, from one person into a totally different person, on the inside.

I didn’t already have a list of things I used to do.

I couldn’t say “I’m not the same person I used to be.”

I didn’t know He’s at work right now changing me even more.

And especially if I didn’t believe that no matter our age or how long us humans have been stuck in a certain behavioral or thought pattern, God can change us!

Gives me hope, especially as I’m staring at a long list of things I’d rather not list.

Giving glory to God today because He is the power in me that brings change. Thank God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday Roses

Do you ever try to talk God out of a blessing?

Saturday evenings I always lay out my clothes and accessories for Sunday morning. Because our family has to be at church by 8 a.m., it saves time in the morning, when I’m usually focused on getting everyone ready on time.

For some reason, I felt I should wear a bracelet I’ve had for about two years—one of roses in silver.

During a break between worship team practice and prayer service, I took my daughters to the drug store for miscellaneous camp supplies. While there, I noticed potted roses on sale.

Immediately the Lord spoke to me to get one. Has He seen our checkbook balance lately?? :-)


In the checkout lane, I debated the blessing. (!) God finally said “You can save money if you want to.” And we paid for the items in the cart and left.

But sitting in the car outside, facing the roses, I couldn’t drive away. One specific plant caught my eye again. God said, “See, it’s got your name on it.”

He knows how much I love His creation of roses.

So, I pushed aside my concerns and went back inside. “I need to buy a rose,” I told the clerk. “Do I bring it in, or just pay for it inside and then load it into the van?”

I paid for it inside and loaded it in, with my 15-year-old’s help.

Later, during a worshipful moment at church, God reminded me He’d directed me to wear the rose bracelet.

Little did I know when I awoke that morning, there were roses in the heart of God for me.

Now the plant is repotted and showing off several buds. Can’t wait for more blooms!

Thanks, Lord, for overcoming my concerns and blessing me despite my resistance. (What’s that about anyway??)

Father, make me capable of receiving blessings freely.

(BTW, the rose is a “Betty Boop” for everyone out there who will immediately picture the gorgeous blooms—yellow, red and then pale yellow and pink as it fades. It has a wonderfully yummy fragrance, too! And the picture at the top of this post is not a Betty Boop, just a lovely rose pic I found.)


Annette


Friday, August 21, 2009

Living with the Blessings


“Our bird needs a new toy. She’s chewed through all the other ones in her cage,” my teen insists.

So, I buy her a colorful toy with little ropes and pieces of wood hanging from it.

My daughter approaches the cage and our pet bird goes nuts! Squawking in fear. Didn’t stop my daughter from attaching the toy inside her cage.

I visited our bird last night. She still hasn’t grown used to the new “toy.”

What do you think is in the heart of God when, in His wisdom and generosity He wants to bless us so He introduces something new? There it is, this new gizmo (or season or calling or assignment), one that is meant to bless us—to bring us joy, even to stave off boredom with “life as usual” and there we go—squawking! Or maybe you don’t squawk.

I do.

Sometimes.

But I’m working on this. I want to be adaptable and “blessable.” I want to respond with joy and trust whenever God introduces something new into my life.


Lena Nelson Dooley blogged about comfort zones on Seriously Write today. Perfect timing with this lesson in my own life. Have a peek.


And God bless you with grace and courage to embrace His blessings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jumping Through Hoops

I settle into my favorite chair and rest my Bible on my lap. I like to find a Scripture to inspire me as I begin my conversation with the Lord. Find it. Read it. But as soon as I open my mouth to pray, doubts assail me.

~ Do I have any offenses in my heart? Is there someone I haven’t forgiven?

~ Am I clean before God? Have I asked forgiveness lately?

~ My problems aren’t something to bother God with.

~ I’m just blabbering. These words don’t really mean anything.

Any one of those doubts can stop my prayers, if I let them. Then, I walk away from my "devotional time" feeling more empty than before I began.

Sometimes I forget:

~ He accepts me just as I am. Once I get into His manifest presence (where I can feel God’s touch, the way He warms my heart), He will show me what I can’t see on my own. There’ll be time to address what needs addressing. He makes everything clear.

~ He delights in me. Whenever I come to Him, turn my face toward Him, turn my heart toward Him, He delights in my attention, just like I delight in His when doubts aren’t harassing me.

~ He just wants to hear from me.

~ No problem is too small. We have no problem believing we should pray about our big problems. (Well, mostly.) But I think we doubt God cares about our little problems.

Here’s what Jesus had to say about prayer:

6"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

7-13"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

(Matthew 6:6-13, The Message)


I've found so much freedom in that passage. Jesus presents prayer so straightforward, like an invitation to just be with Him. That's grace.

And isn't that what relationship is all about? The freedom to be yourself with the other person? Whew. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Time to pray.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wanted: Grace for Imperfect Painter


I worked my paintbrush over the curvy spindles of my daughter’s new bed, frustrated that no matter which direction I moved the brush, the paint didn’t lay smoothly on the wood. I tried up-and-down strokes. I tried working with the curves, and brushing side to side. I tried pressing excess paint from the brush into the tray. Nothing worked. I still saw raised stripes of paint. Frustrated, I silently berated myself.

Then, it hit me. I’m not painting this for the Pope. I’m painting it for my preschooler who is not going to notice a little splotch here or a drip there.

So, why am I so hard on myself? Great question. I don’t really know. But catching myself was the first step to changing those thought patterns, I’m sure of it.

It’s time to give myself more grace. How about you? Can you relate to this scenario? Do you ever hold yourself to an impossible standard (I’m not a professional painter, after all) and then berate yourself when you don’t (can’t) measure up?

Catch yourself. And then give yourself a healthy dose of grace. It’s all going to work out. Even if it’s (and you’re) not perfect.


Annette

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Striking Arrows


Are you familiar with this Bible story?


Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!" And Elisha said to him, "Take a bow and some arrows." So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, "Put your hand on the bow." So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, "Open the east window"; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot"; and he shot. And he said, "The arrow of the LORD’S deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them." Then he said, "Take the arrows"; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground"; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times." (2 Kings 13:14-19, NKJV)


King Joash held back. The man of God commanded him to strike the ground with his arrows and he held back. He didn’t think of victory, he thought of restraint. Civility, perhaps. A tame response. Elisha rebuked him.


This morning God told me to “strike some arrows” in regards to my writing. I won’t share the details, but suffice it to say He showed me what to do and as I was about to only give a little, He opened my eyes and directed me to give everything I had and then pray over what I gave.


Is there an area in your life that you’ve been waiting for victory on? That you’ve prayed about again and again? Watch for the opportunity to “strike arrows” and when it comes:


~ Discern it as the opportunity that it is.

~ Follow through above and beyond restraints.

~ Pray over your response and God’s follow-up.

~ Rejoice. God trusts His servants with opportunities like this!

~ Watch for victory!


Don’t be afraid to strike those arrows. Victory is yours when you do.


Annette

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Come and See


Sight is a wonderful gift.

Through our eyes we can be fascinated, convinced, delighted. With our sight we trace the seascape of some archipelago or the graceful lines of a baby girl's face.

Sometimes we spend a lifetime longing to see something we never get to see. Like Yellowstone. Or 25% interest on our savings account.

In John, chapter one, John the Baptist's disciples wanted to better understand the Newcomer, the One the Baptist called "the Lamb of God." They wanted to get to know Him, to see what He was like, to study Him. They didn't know how to communicate their hearts' longing, but Jesus knew it was there. He called it out: "What do you seek?"

They couldn't put it into words, so they just asked, "Rabbi, where do you live?"

Jesus' answer: "Come and see."

God created humans to be fascinated. Music fascinates us as we listen. A sunset on the Pacific fascinates us as we watch. A baby's giggle captures our hearts.

Jesus knew that John's disciples were looking to be fascinated. (excuse the pun) He knew that if they spent time with Him, which they longed to do, they'd be drawn to the Father. And the Father Himself would fascinate them. And that fascination would lead to dedication. And dedication would birth affection.

And love was His goal. So He said, "Come and see."

There's an invitation I want to respond to. If you read John chapter 1, you'll see promises from Jesus about what the disciples would "see."

Our natural eyes cannot see Him right now, but we can experience Him. We can gaze with our hearts in loving adoration, through the words of Scripture.

Take this passage, for example. What does it mean about Jesus' heart that He knew they longed for fascination, and He promised to meet them in that place--to fascinate them?

God has a beautiful heart.

Don't believe me?

Come and see!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hugs


My preschooler loves to snuggle. She knows she can come up to me at any time and I will accept her onto my lap. I might be writing at my computer, or washing dishes (in which case, she gets a snuggle from the side. :-)

As I was holding her in church the other day, God reminded me of His love for me and how much He delights to accept me whenever I come to Him.

Believers have perks.

If someone else’s daughter ran up to me, I’d think twice about catching her up for a hug: Would her mother mind? How well do I know her and her family? How comfortable would she be hugging someone else’s mom?

God adopted you. Purposefully. (see Ephesians 1) If you are believer, you have access to the King’s lap. You can turn to God at any time and receive His affection.

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace in which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Whenever I hold my daughter, my heart is moved with love for her. I want to protect her, provide for her, make her comfortable, soothe away all her fears or sadness, or tickle her to make her giggle. I will listen to her troubles and try to help. We talk and share stories or sing together.

God wants us to feel comfortable in His “lap” – prayer. We can come to Him and receive His affection, protection, provision. His heart is moved with love for you. And no matter what you do or have done, YOU are accepted in Jesus by God the Father.

Go ahead! Run into His arms. Receive His love. Get a hug.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Personal Blessings


This morning, I gazed through my home office window and saw something I'd been so hoping to see.

A couple of years ago, we planted scarlet bee balm in our yard. And year after year it comes back, blessing us. Love those deep red flowers on tall stems. It's a highlight of our backyard. Well, I'd heard they attract humming birds, and this morning I saw one!

Some people love spotting butterflies, or other creatures. I have a "thing" for hummingbirds. :-) So, to see one darting around those flowers this morning, drinking nectar and moving on to the next blossom really blessed me.

Think about the ways God has blessed you lately, specific ways. God created you. He enjoys you!

Last night, my husband and I watched the Christian film "The Perfect Stranger," based on a book by author David Gregory. In the movie, the main character is hoping for a date night with her husband at her favorite restaurant. Turns out he can't make it. But Jesus can. He treats her to dinner at her favorite restaurant, just because He loves her and wants to bless her. She has lots of questions and they have a very meaningful conversation. If you haven't seen this movie or read David's novella, I highly recommend you do! (book's title is "Dinner with A Perfect Stranger")

Consider all the ways God has specifically blessed you lately and thank Him for being so personal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Open to the Little Things


This past weekend my family had hoped to go on a whale tour. The last time we went, the "little" creatures--orcas, especially--were in hiding from all the vessels on the Salish Sea. This year, the boat we would have toured on was being dry docked for repairs. So we settled for the next best thing.

Standing on shore, up on the rocky cliffs, we exchanged binoculars and digital cameras, shivered in the biting wind, and searched for whales. The strait we surveyed is famous for whale sitings. And guess what? There, mixed with the white caps and rolling waves, we saw them!! Shrieking, we each pointed to the activity we witnessed.

What a thrill!

God graced us with the gift of contentment and then blessed our attempts at family fun, despite our original plan evaporating.

Sometimes you have to look closely to see the blessing.