Friday, December 31, 2010

The Right Places in the New Year


He’s doing it again.

Jack, our dog, sits on my lap pulling away from my arms, teetering toward tipping off because he’s busy sniffing the air. He wants to go wherever his nose will take him. Up onto my writing desk. Off on a new adventure. Straight into the trash basket in the kitchen. Head inside, feet kicking in the air. Well, not really. But he has pulled the entire three-foot-tall basket down onto the floor. And this is a twelve-pound pup we’re talking here. *grin*

He noses into dirty laundry piles, up trees (yes, he climbs trees), into the trash. This mini-Dachsie is completely ruled by his amazing sense of smell. Forever pulling on the reins as if he knows better what to get into than we know what to keep him out of.

Okay. That reminds me of someone… Me. I’ve been known to follow my senses and end up in places I shouldn’t be. It feels like the right time, the right place for me. But it isn’t. I’m just getting ahead of myself, getting ahead of where God wants me to be.

Why do we do that?

We have a need for attention. We want to go places and get noticed. But the only kind of attention we’re going to get if we’re na├»vely somewhere we shouldn’t be is negative.

We want affirmation, to prove our value. Uh, God gives that freely and it’s never meritorious. We don’t have to do. We just have to be.

We want independence. I know what’s best for me, right? Right??

This New Year, I don’t want to be anyplace I’m not supposed to be simply because I forced my way in, followed my senses, took an unsanctioned initiative. I want to be where God wants me to be, to “bloom” there, and to follow Him to the next place, or be content if we linger. Being with Him is all that matters.

Oh, the lessons He’s teaching me through my pup, who has now settled into a tight circle under the blanket on my lap, sighed contentedly, and drifted off to sleep. Time to go curl up in God’s lap.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God's Giving

I did it again. While shopping for the people on my list, I picked up some items for myself—a pair of slippers, some pj’s. I think it’s something moms do. Can I hear an “amen”?

As I perused FB this morning, I saw a “note to Santa” on someone’s profile. All in fun, of course, but it got me thinking, how much of Christmastime is spent thinking about and hoping for “things”?

Growing up, my parents very thoughtfully presented us with gifts Christmas morning. What great memories. I don’t ever remember being asked what I wanted for Christmas. Perhaps the adults in my life were trying to protect me from disappointment. Or, they already had such a fun plan, they didn’t need to ask. So, the first time (as an adult) that people began asking me what I wanted was a moment of speechlessness. This wasn’t how I thought. This wasn’t how I approached the holidays. And taking things back? Are you kidding? Thankfulness, people. *grin*

Of course, now I understand better the prospect of taking things back and how it’s logical and practical. But then, what a mystery. And as to what I wanted? A conundrum. I had no idea how to answer the question because I just didn’t think that way.

Problem. I’ve come to think that way. And it’s not always pretty.

But, here’s where God comes in.

God has good plans. Great plans. He knows exactly what we need, what we want and how to bless us in a way that will soften our hearts (it’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance).

I’ve recently discovered this about myself—my primary love language is gifts. I’m only now figuring that out.

But God knew all along. And His gifts are the best! Look to Him this Christmas. You will not be disappointed. Here's how Jesus put it--

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
(Matthew 6:30-33, MSG)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Single Decision


I have a new Android phone and I love all I can do with it. Games (no, not Angry Birds *wink*), browse online, read books, etc. I’m especially hooked on solitaire. I know. I know. It’s the same solitaire that tripped people up like twenty years ago. They’re supposed to be working, and they are glued to their computers, but they’re playing.

The cool aspect of this version of solitaire, though, is you can undo countless numbers of moves and you can restart a game. So, you figure out the place you went wrong and you restart. A little obsessive? Probably. Anyway, as I was playing earlier today I realized during a fated game that I was going down. But it also occurred to me where I had gone wrong—the one move I’d made that caused my downfall.

A single mistake took me in the wrong direction.

I restarted the same game, chose a different “black” king to drag to an opening and viola! A different outcome—I won.

Same’s true in life. A single decision can change the course of our lives forever.

When you first heard about Jesus, what did you do? When you learned about sin and that a life is required for its atonement, what did you do? When you learned Jesus was the only acceptable sacrifice, and that He, in His mercy, paid the price for you to have salvation and forgiveness, did you choose Him, did you accept His gift? Or not.

That single decision is the most important decision anyone will ever make and whether you think you need to make it or not, you do. Everyone has to choose between saying yes to Jesus or not. (If you don’t say yes, you’ve chosen no.)

But, what joy if you choose Him! What freedom. That painful burden of so many wrong decisions (can I see a show of hands raised along with mine if you've got a list?) can be healed with one decision: “Yes, Jesus! I need You. Please forgive me for my sins. Save me. Guide me. Heal my heart and redeem my past.” And He will! He loves to redeem!

This Christmas season, consider the real reason for the season. Jesus, God, coming to earth as a human to rescue you from sin, hopelessness, darkness and hell. Thank God He came as a baby and lived sinlessly so we could have salvation. Rejoice in Him.

Choose Him.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reaching


The rose plant near my kitchen window has been through a lot. When I first got it, there were plenty of buds, even blooms of mini-roses. Then, the little guy dried out, and I thought he was done for. But I repotted him, watered him with just the right frequency (I can be taught) and he rebounded. Yay! A year and a half later, he’s ready to bloom again. One bud is now opening. I’ll call it my Christmas rose.

This morning it was nearly open and something had changed. Rather than growing straight up from the plant, the little stem had reached toward the window, bending and stretching in that direction. So, I opened the shade a bit more to make it easier for my Christmas rose to drink in the muted November light. Isn’t it amazing how plants know just what to do when they need something?

Do you?

During all the busy-ness of the Christmas season, do you take time to be refreshed by God? Do you reach toward Him, looking to have your needs met through His loving care?

It’s so easy to chase our heartaches with food or idols of choice, especially this time of year. But God wants to fill us up. He wants to give us His joy which abides during the Christmas season and beyond.

I want to be like my rose. I want to recognize what I need (Light), reach toward Him (God) and drink my fill.

How about you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God Takes Good Care of Us


What’s worse in airport delays: grounded and waiting, or circling in the air and not landing?

Ugh. Double-up on the Dramamine, people! Apparently we missed our window to land in the fog. There we were circling our destination last week, waiting for clearance. For an hour. So a two-hour flight, took three. And usually a half Dramamine is all I need to make it through. Take a whole one and you’d have to carry me off the plane. Take a half one and I don’t throw up (whew!), plus I’m lucid. Well, mostly.

But I prayed and experienced God’s nearness while we circled. And we did eventually land. Yay!

On the return trip, I had to retrieve our pup from the boarder. Oh, the snow and ice. But the roads were clear and I left to pick up the well-missed dog. Got him home and we went about our day. At one point, as I was working away on the trip’s laundry, I said something to him (yeah, I talk to the dog) about how we needed to get his blanket washed or take him outside, or something and a feeling covered me. We were taking good care of him, out of love.

Just like God does with us.

The Lord got us to our destination, blessed us with a great trip, brought us safely home through snowy conditions, even graced me to pick up groceries before the snowstorm set in and the roads iced over. We’re well cared for.

Aren’t you glad God takes such good care of His kids? This Thanksgiving, thank Him for His tender, loving care. Watch for it. Don’t take it for granted. That TLC is His love in action.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Power Outage


Camped in front of the fireplace last night. (Read: Didn’t sleep much. *grin*) There we were, watching A Season for Miracles during a windstorm. And the lights flickered. Watched for a bit more and suddenly the TV clicked off. OK. Dark house. The candle I’d lit earlier kept us calm, and the power kicked back on. We flipped through to find our scene in the movie, laughed over the back-and-forth of the great court scene, and click! off went the TV and lights again. And this time the outage lasted all night.

Let the camping begin.

This morning about the time the alarm would have sounded on my cell phone, the power resumed with a whoosh. Lights, furnace, fridge. Our home came back to life.

Power. Oh how we take it for granted. And how we miss it when it’s off.

With power, our home is warm, inviting. There is full access to a stocked fridge (which we leave closed during an outage). And our meal options are at full capacity. We have heat and lights in any room we choose. We can watch movies, rely on alarm clocks and garage door openers.

So, as power zoomed back to life around here this morning, I thought about the parallels with our spiritual lives.

Ever feel like you’re running dry? or cold? or dark? God never shuts down, He never sleeps. So all the outages are on our side.

Circumstances can shut us down with doubts. Where’s God? Why is all this happening?

The wind of trials can knock out our connection and leave us dark and cold. Why isn’t God doing something?! Doesn’t He care?

Time slips by without our plugging into Him and we end up distant, feeling powerless. Our prayers feel dull, like they’re bouncing off the ceiling.

Time for the zoom of God’s power to come rushing back to us and bring warmth, sustenance (remember that fridge full of food?) and light.

While we waited for the lights to come back on, we had to trust in the power company to be on the job and working hard. (Thanks, crew!!) When you’re stuck spiritually, ask God to bring you back. Trust God to bring you back. Seek Him. Get into His presence (through the Word and prayer and worship) and wait on Him. Won’t be long before heat, light, the sweetness of His fellowship, and His power will return.

Friday, November 5, 2010

God's Stirring It Up


This week, I’ve been reminded over and over of my calling. The worship sets over the weekend, the sermon, my blog posts, Scriptures, even on Facebook. God’s up to something—a new thing. Here’s what I read in my Bible this week:

"Forget about what's happened;
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand new.
It's bursting out! Don't you see it?"
(From Isaiah 43:17, MSG)

A new thing! It's a new season where callings are concerned.

And then, just when I thought I was on the right track, going the right direction, completely clued in, along came a reminder of something I’d forgotten—a different facet to my future. One little reminder from an odd source and bam! The memory of that calling came rushing back, fresh, but reminiscent of all the emotion of that first moment.

Has God ever done this in your life?

What has He called you to do? Where has He called you to be, to live?

I had to ask myself if I’m completely in agreement with His calling on my life and if so, what am I doing to cooperate with His readying season? If not, it’s time to come into agreement.

I’m thankful He’s stirring it up with fresh promises and fresh agreement from me.

Okay, God, let’s go!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Beauty Inside


I heard once that the fall colors we see on deciduous trees were always present, even if green is what you see all summer long. I was thinking today about that as I drove down tree-lined streets and saw the colorful leaves drifting all around. So beautiful as the sunlight glinted off reds, purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, and their variants. And to think, all that color was waiting inside.

As the temperatures drop and the days shorten, the colors come out.

That’s how it is in our lives, as the pressures come and trials hit, our beauty can come out. You know, no matter how hard you try, what precautions you may take, you can’t avoid every hardship in life. You could live inside a proverbial bubble, but troubles will still come. (For one thing, if you don’t get out and pay that power bill, you’ll be without lights and heat. *grin*)

The colors were best displayed in the sunshine. As we hold up during trials, God is glorified. Our beauty glows in the Sonshine. And others will be drawn to Him, to worship Him and seek Him because of it. As we press on and trust Him with the season we’re in, He’ll shine through.

Trials tempt me to complain, but God is good, no matter what. And He’s working on the beauty on the inside.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Worth Turning the Page For


On October 1st, I flipped the calendar page to see gorgeous fall leaves clinging in all their red, orange and yellow splendor to a tree over a river. I can’t even remember the picture for September, the one that sat pinned to the wall for a month. This one takes over in my life now. Beauty. Color. Life. Vibrancy.

That’s how it is with life stages, too. Seasons of pain come to pass, not to stay. Gives me hope that the things I’m battling now won’t always be standing in my way.

And turning the page also brings a sense of newness. The joy of the following season won’t be affected negatively by the sorrow of this one. Good news, isn’t it?

Like those autumn leaves clinging to the tree on the calendar page, cling to Jesus. Draw your vibrancy from Him. Let Him use the season you’re in to make you beautiful. And hang on for the joy. Because one day, those leaves will all fall down, land in that river and be whisked away on the joyride of their lives.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

All Is Not Lost


I spent all morning editing the first thirty pages of a manuscript due soon. Then, as I prepped to back it up, I closed out of the doc and went over to My Computer. That's when I discovered the file wasn’t in the correct directory, though I’d been saving it often throughout the morning. Uh oh.

I’d been editing a temporary file. And since I’d already closed it, I couldn’t do a Save As (which I usually do FIRST).

Has that ever happened to you? A while back, I remember an author friend having a similar experience with some project or other. Eventually, she had to give up and accept the fact she’d lost the hours and start over. I didn’t want my scenario to end the same way.

The temp file directory is hard to track down, but by going back to pretend to save the downloaded file and through some desperate prayers, I found it—the edited copy full of track changes. Yay! All was not lost.

Same is true in our lives in Christ. He’s in the redemption business, if you will—redeeming our souls, first, then redeeming our past mistakes, hurts and losses. He makes it all work out for good. (see Romans 8:28)

Turn to Him. He is good.

Turn everything over to Him. He is kind.

Trust Him. He is able.

No matter what you’re facing, God will work it out. And no matter what the past held, remember, all is not lost.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rise Up


Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you. Shake yourself from the dust, arise; sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion! (Is 52:1-2)

Do themes ever appear twice in one week for you? Sunday, someone delivered a prophetic word about this scripture in Isaiah 52 and then, as I posted a book review, it occurred to me the same theme was present there.

Sometimes the key to our breakthrough is in our own hands. We just need to recognize and utilize it.

I love this: Awake! As in “Don’t be complacent with the struggle you’re in. YOU can do something about it. Don’t be a victim of it!" Don’t wait for someone else to rescue you when God Himself is asking you to awake and put on strength.

He directs Zion to put on strength. Our strength comes from Christ. We're to put on beautiful garments—the robe of righteousness, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, the robe of salvation. Walk in what you know. Walk with Christ. Follow Him.

And He says “Shake yourself from the dust, arise.” Rise up out of those circumstances, at least mentally. See the bigger picture. See what God is pointing toward.

And then, right after He says “arise” He says “sit.” Sit in a new place. Find a new, fresh place to “sit” with authority and a new perspective. Find rest. That old place was not a restful place.

Finally, He knows you’ve been a captive. But here’s what He says, “Loose yourself from the bonds on your neck.” You have the key to those chains. You have access to the freedom. Step into it. Agree with it. Believe in God’s message to you. Come out of agreement with the old and into agreement with His promises, no matter how long you have to wait.

Get free.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jesus Finds Us


This morning, I ran across two verses in the Book of John about how Jesus finds two people whose lives He’s touched and speaks to them again. I think this demonstrates His heart. He intentionally created an encounter with these people.

The first was a case where He healed a man whose sin had brought sickness on him.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him,
Behold, you are made whole.
Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you. (John 5:14)

He wanted to protect him—to impart wisdom and give him hope for a new life on the heels of his healing. Out of love, I believe, He reached back into the man’s life and gave him direction.

The second was a case where Jesus healed a man born blind and the religious leaders, in their hatred of Jesus (because He represented change and challenged their powerful stronghold on the people), cast out the man who was healed for speaking the truth.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and finding him,
He said to him, Do you believe on the Son of God? (John 9:35)

The second case is one where Jesus found the outcast and ministered life to him by revealing Truth to him at a greater level (that Jesus is the Messiah). Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Jesus wants to meet you in that place and minister to your heart. He is close to the broken-hearted.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted;
and saves those who are of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

The other thing that strikes me about these men is they must have been in His vicinity. In His ministry on earth, Jesus was limited in where He could physically be at one time or how far he could travel in a day or week. So, these recently healed men must have been nearby. How that translates to us today is: by opening our hearts to God, by turning toward Him, we put ourselves in His vicinity. I’m not saying He won’t track people down who are “far away,” but it can’t hurt to make yourself “findable.”

Let Jesus find you today, in whatever circumstances or state of mind you’re in. And listen. Open the Bible and ask for understanding. Turn to Him and let Him minister life and truth to you.

Next time I’ll discuss going after God. We don’t have to be passive. We can search for Him and find Him ourselves.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why Wait?


The other night, I noticed my Bible on my nightstand. Earlier that week, I’d been doing a study on the strong right arm of God (which is Jesus). That night, I was thinking, “I can’t wait until tomorrow morning when I can have devotionals.” And it hit me, why wait? So I grabbed my Bible and flipped open to the Psalms. God met me there in beautiful phrases I’d never read in that translation.

I’m part of a prayer loop where requests are shared. As I read through them, sometimes I think to myself—I’ll have to remember to pray about that later. Then, one day it occurred to me: why wait? So I began praying through them as I went through my email inbox.

God has amazing things planned for His people. Heaven comes to mind. We’ll commune with God on a completely different level. And while there are aspects that are reserved for heaven, we can still have communion and fellowship with God now on a very deep level. Why wait?

And lastly, I’m reminded of a song I heard as a young child: “Plenty of Time.” Sometimes people put off thinking about God and the decision each person must make in regards to salvation and our eternal destiny. Heaven is real. Hell is real. God does not force Himself on anyone. You have to make a choice. Do you want forgiveness, a clean slate, peace and salvation so that you’ll go to heaven when you die? Or not. This is one of those “opt-in” opportunities. If you don’t, you’ll be condemned. If you’ve been waiting for “someday” to make the decision to follow Jesus, I have a question for you: why wait? Let today be the day you choose God, ask forgiveness, receive His Holy Spirit and become a new person.

There’s a way to have peace and freedom and joy and communion with God—choose Him.

Why wait?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rewards in the Garden

I pray as I garden.

I clipped away dead branches from my potted flowers today. Everything looks green again. While I worked on the hanging pot, around nose level, the aroma of petunias wafted my way, a reward in my labor.

I like being paid in fragrance as I garden.

Made me think of our work with God. There I am, following through on His directions to minister to someone or write a certain story or blog a devotional, and He blesses me with joy. There’s refreshing in the work.

I also took a moment to sit and pray in my garden, seek God’s guidance and aid in certain areas of my life. The warm breeze passed over me, soothing me. Another peaceful moment as I attended the garden.

As we pray and interact with God, we’re spiritually attending the gardens of our souls, working side by side with the Father who is the Master Gardener.

As we work with God in life, He will bless us with the fragrance of His goodness and the warmth of His love. There are blessings in the work.

click over to Net’s Bridal Notes to read the rest of my thoughts on this idea of rewards in the garden

Monday, August 9, 2010

Walking by Faith


How much do you enjoy walking by faith?

Stretches ya, doesn't it?

God asks you to take that leap and you survey the depths before you. Or, at least that's the temptation.

But He's just asking us to jump. Leave the rest to Him.

I get to practice that in the season ahead. He's been very clearly leading me to take some risks and walk by faith and not by sight.

Thing is, I can't see what's in front of me. I can only guess, and so often fears cloud the truth of what's out there.

Only God can see and since He’s directing my steps and He is loving, I can trust Him to see to my needs and the needs of those counting on me. He’s faithful.

Next time God asks you to take a leap of faith, remind yourself how faithful He is.

If we do not believe Him, yet He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
(2 Tim 2:13)

Don’t ya love that? He is a faithful God, no matter what. He can’t deny that part of His nature. He will take care of things for you.

Just follow.

Just leap!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Which God?

Had a great conversation with someone today. It was one of those magical moments. No distractions. No interruptions.

It seems she’s surrounded by those who would judge her for her clothes or wonder why she can’t get new stuff.

Well, maybe someone should tell them money doesn’t grow on trees. *grin*

More that that, though, it’s about whom we’re going to serve.

You know if you go after money and the latest this, or that, you’ll never be satisfied?

My God promises to satisfy.

With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation. (Ps 91:16)

Money will never give you lasting contentment.

My God offers Himself.

Let your way of life be without the love of money, and be content with such things as you have, for He has said, "Not at all will I leave you, not at all will I forsake you, never!" (Heb 13:5)

Money cannot minister to your deeper hurts.

My God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound..." (Isaiah 61:1)

Money cannot encourage you.

My God promises to hold my hand.

"For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isa 41:13

Money cannot love you back.

My God is in love with His people.

"The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.' " (Jer 31:3)

It all comes down to these two choices: God or what Jesus called mammon.

"No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24)

Which one do you choose?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beach Rocks and Burdens


Rocks make a fine collection. Sea shells, too. Soon, I’ll add some to my collection on my office shelves.

We just returned from vacation on an island—no, not in the tropics. In fact, every morning a marine layer kept the temps in their 50s. But, oh the glorious afternoons of blue skies and warm sunshine.

One day, I took a long walk with Jesus while the kids played with the grandparents. Along the way, I kept spying unusual rocks or shells I could not live without. I had my sweatshirt along, so the pockets became loaded down. See, unlike my oldest daughter, I didn’t keep my rock choices to smaller stones. Nope. If I liked something, no matter that it was the size of an egg, I’d tuck it into my pocket. Well, all these lovelies stuffed into my pockets resulted in a heavier walk the longer I was gone.

Reminds me of life. Only in life, the heavy “stuff” we pick up along the way isn’t lovely. They aren’t keep sakes. Those “things” are oftentimes offenses, negative memories or hurts. But, oh, how they weigh us down as we walk through life.

Once I’d returned to the house after my walk, I shucked my sweatshirt and went to spend a few moments chatting with my husband. When I wanted to show him the collectibles, I reached for my jacket to discover just how heavy it was. Amazingly heavy. And as I’d added rocks to the pockets, I hadn’t realized just how burdensome they were becoming.

Are you willing to keep carrying the weight of the things you’ve collected throughout your life? Sure, keep the great stuff—the good memories. But come to terms with the hurts—forgive or seek forgiveness. Let God give you a clean slate. Let Him empty your pockets.

Why carry anything along that isn’t lovely?

Then, set your good memories, your high points on the shelf and thank God for His goodness in your life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fragile


We’re so fragile.

Your life is not really in your hands.

We think we’re in charge of our own destiny, but we aren’t. You can take care of your health and take every precaution and still be blindsided. Then what?

Recently, I received a prayer request for a man just having come through heart surgery. He had a triple bypass. He was in critical condition, post-op.

Made me think how fragile we are.

At the end, we may not be able to make the decisions about our lives we’ve always been capable of making. We’re out of it, unconscious. And, hopefully we make it through the surgeries, the sicknesses, have a peaceful end later. Much later.

But if not, whose hands are you in? Will your Creator take your hand and usher you into heaven?

Right now, while you can think straight, stop and think. If you haven’t made Jesus the Lord of your life, and trusted Him for your salvation, sought His forgiveness for your sins (we’ve all sinned against God), then do so. Don’t wait. There is no guarantee of time to make the decision later. And you will have to give account for your decision. In the end, it’s all about what you did with this question: Did you let Jesus save you? Or not?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who's Your Leader?


Whenever we’re outside, we have to lead our dog around the obstacles or he’ll wrap himself around the boulders or chairs and get hung up. See, we connect him to the 40-food lead and let him roam, within reason. But I’m also an amateur gardener and with all the time and TLC I’ve invested in these lilies, if his lead saws them off at the stem before they bloom, I will not be a happy woman. :) So, I’ve put up chairs to protect my small flower bed. Guess where Jack (our mini-dachsie) always gets himself wrapped up?? Right there, around those prized lilies.

You see, there’s a right way to maneuver in our yard, and a wrong way. Now, adults figure it out right away. Children do, too. But our dog . . . ? Not so much. So, Jack needs a leader, someone who shows him where to go and where not to go. Someone who can get him unstuck if he doesn’t follow. Someone with a big picture point of view.

Sounds like life to me. We need God’s help, because from His perspective, He can help us navigate life’s obstacles.

Which leads me to point number two: Our dog has a choice whether or not to follow. If he decides he knows better—spies a “shortcut” and takes it—he’ll end up snagged or stuck. Or worse, he’ll decapitate those lilies I mentioned earlier and then, watch out pooch! ;D

God is a loving leader. He can see the obstacles so much better than we can. He knows there are no shortcuts to good character (drat!) and that there’s a right way and a wrong way to get places. Wisdom urges us to follow.

And point number three: sometimes, when our dog gets himself tangled up, he still has some lead, but it’s shorter than before because he didn’t follow the leader (us).

When we decide we know better than God and trust ourselves, our freedom becomes progressively limited. Areas we were once free to roam and explore are no longer open to us. God puts us where we’ve proven ourselves trustworthy—when we’re faithful with little, we’ll be given much. When we go off on our own, neglecting dependence, (without Him we can do nothing), our freedom is restricted. We basically get ourselves in a knot and our lives will need some unraveling.

I’m glad God’s there to take care of us then. But, again, wisdom beckons us to follow from the beginning.

So, who’s your leader? Through our pup, I’m learning the folly of thinking I know the best route. Better to let God show me, and then follow His lead.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Singing in the Rain


It’s raining again. Our region gets lots of rain. And June is normally a gray month. So, the birds who had been frequenting the yard take to hiding in the Laurel hedge during the storms.

Funny, it rains so often here, we don’t call it a rain storm. Just another shower.

On those rare June days when the skies actually clear, the sun blazes down and you can tuck your sweatshirt away—for the moment.

Some days the finches and nuthatches don’t mind (or get desperate enough to disregard) the rain. They’ll brave the wash in order to swing on the birdfeeder and pinch at the seeds.

But most wet days they fall quiet. Rain makes them fly into the trees and duck under fat leaves for protection. I imagine them shivering in our 50-degree temps and waiting it out. No singing. No chirping. Just hoping.

I get like that. Circumstances are my rain. They pour seemingly down upon me, and I grow silent, watchful, thoughtful. Sometimes fearful. My song dries up as the “rain” pours down.

The other day, though, drippy as it was outside, I heard a bird chirruping away. She (I like to think the bird was a she—go with me here) didn’t care that it was “stormy.” After days of gray and rain, she let loose her song anyway.

That’s how I want to be. Sing anyway. Let loose the worries and trust God in His faithfulness no matter how hard it rains. Here’s to singing in the rain.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

God's Personal Gifts


Our God is so personal.

Did you ever dream of going somewhere when you were a small child? I did. Growing up in the Midwest, my idea of warm temps and beautiful waters was Florida. Our family took plenty of vacations, but never to Florida. As an adult, I put that dream aside.

Until this year.

My husband recently needed to attend a conference out of state. The option came up for me to accompany him. We'd cover my half of the expenses, and we'd have evenings free. And during the day, I could do my own thing. Guess where the conference was being held? Florida.

As we prayed about me tagging along, God reminded me of my little-girl dream. I'd seen the Atlantic ocean from farther north. But I wanted to see the ocean from the tropical locale of Florida, so during one of the days, I rented a car and God made that dream happen, too.

The weather was perfect. The temps bearable. *grin* And everyday I was so grateful to be there. To enjoy the pristine setting with my husband. What a gift!

God is so great about:

1) remembering our dreams

2) honoring our dreams

3) fulfilling even the ones we've laid aside

4) personally seeing to our heart's desire

I love Him for that! It's another way He woos us to Himself.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Worry or Worship



Heard some bad news the other day. Don’tcha hate when that happens? Things are moving along just fine, and then, here comes some bad news. Kinda unsettles everything.

But I did something I don’t usually do. This is only by the grace of God, I know, because it’s taken a long time to get to this point, but I didn’t respond the way I usually do. Normally, I start to complain or point blame. This time? I said something to the effect that God has something good coming. He’ll turn it around. He’s up to something good. He’ll get us through.

You’ve heard problems are just opportunities in disguise. Opportunities to grow and rise to the challenge, practice problem solving.

But I think they’re also opportunities to remember God.

Remember, He got you through last time.

Remember, He has you in His hands.

Remember, He’ll hold you close.

Remember, He’s a great big God. He is King and supreme. He reigns over every circumstances. His promises will prevail. Delay is not denial.

Call to mind how big He is. Engage with Him. Speak about how good He is. Sing about how great He is, about His faithfulness. You’ll get a different view when you worship Him. Your problems are tamed in His presence, brought down to size.

I’m challenged to keep this up. I believe God will help me. Instead of worrying, worship. God will get you through.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Go Higher Eagle, Go Higher


This afternoon a bald eagle surprised me overhead. It’s not so rare to see them down by the lake, but right here over our house? Amazing. He was pretty high up there. But, of course, a smaller bird darted around him, pestering him. What is with that? The crow or blackbird that pesters the regal one.

I think it’s a picture.

I say, “Go, higher brave eagle, go higher.” Somewhere, I read that eagles can soar higher than smaller birds (who need to both flap their wings more often and take more frequent breaks). So, if the eagle glided higher, the little bird might leave him alone.

Reminds me of our walk with Christ. If we can soar higher, get into God’s presence through worship and prayer and reading His Word, we will no longer be bothered by the same things that drag us down. Now, there are new threats, but I know this: no devil likes the presence of God.

So, go higher, dear friend. Soar higher.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Laughter is Love


To me, laughter is love. To make someone laugh is to express how much I care for them. Dr. Chapman missed that one in his Five Love Languages ;D but I’ll forgive him. Tee hee.

It all started with my father. He has such a great sense of humor. He wanted to be the life of the party. He would tell stories and rally people around him to listen and laugh. And no one tells a story like he does. Maybe that’s why I’m a story-teller (read: writer) today. Anyway, that sparkle in his eyes, the tears of many chuckles spilling into the room. Can’t beat it.

Does Jesus make you laugh? Sometimes in our conversations, He makes me laugh out loud. Watch out. That crazy looking woman, laughing when “no one” is around is likely me, conversing with my best Friend.

So thankful God meets me in personable ways, speaking to me and loving me through our relationship, including laughter. Glory to Him.

When was the last time you laughed? It’s great medicine. Let go and laugh!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

If You've Ever . . .

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers reading Net's Notes today.

I love watching my kids grow and relate differently at different stages. This blesses me, especially when they cross over into territory I haven't seen before. Maturity. Kindness. Selflessness. Makes me one proud mama.

I know we don't often talk about God's Fatherly love on Mother's Day, but if you've ever snuggled your baby a little longer at bedtime just because, that's a picture of God's love for you.

If you've ever made up a song about your child, that's a picture of God's love for you. He sings over us.

If you've ever watched junior act on a new lesson and felt pride, I believe that's a picture of God's being pleased with you as His child.

If you've ever laughed at your child's antics in pure pleasure, I believe that is like God's pleasure in us.

And if you've ever simply enjoyed the company of your child, I believe that's a picture of God's enjoyment of us as members of His family.

If you're a mother, watch for those glimpses of God's nurturing heart, His love for YOU as His child.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To Bloom Again

When I bought the miniature rose plant for my home office, there were about ten blooms ready to open. A couple of them did. Then, over the next few days, the others began to die and some leaves fell off. I watered the little plant. I repotted it. I put it in the sun, and took it out of the sun. I babied it, yet the leaves continued to brown up and fall off. None of the remaining blooms survived.

Looking at the brittle leaves and stems, I nearly gave up on the thing.

But, you should see it now. No blooms, to be sure, but long green sprouts shooting out in three different places. No more dried up leaves. It’s almost as if the move from store to home was too shocking, the adjustment was too much to support the blooms. Yet the plant didn’t altogether die. Glad I didn’t toss it.

Same it true for my relationship with God. My heart has shriveled up at times due to changes and adjustments and new climes. From one season to the next I’ve faced challenges and didn’t always overcome.

Good thing God didn’t give up on me.

Our Gardener knows just the right amount of sunlight and water and fresh soil, just the right place to position us for the best growth.

I stare at the varying shades of green leaves and think—I’m glad I didn’t toss it when it looked nearly dead. And I’m glad God never gives up on me when I face a tough season with less grace than I wish I could.

My plant has learned to adapt, which is exactly what I’m doing. God knows.

And both of us, in time and with proper care, will once again bloom.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Golden Moments


The sun has just dropped behind the horizon as I sit here in my home writing office. Twelve minutes ago, the golden light bathed my room with a yellow glow. Sure I had to squint, but I positioned myself right in the beam of all that sunshine. Words poured into my computer as I worked in that quiet, golden moment.

Then, five minutes ago, I turned on FOTB.com to listen to their live “Student Awakening” service and felt the presence of God tangibly descend. I stilled the writing process and just received His refreshing. A golden moment.

Tulips are finally blooming in my yard. Yesterday, before my dog could destroy them, I snipped the stems and brought a red and a yellow bloom indoors. They sit in my west-facing window. Their petals opened in the wash of sunshine tonight, too. A splash of color after months of drab. A golden moment.

Hysterical laughter with my family. Trips to and from church where we work on vocal warm-ups, which annoy some of those riding in the car. Singing loud and proud. Lip trills! Giggling. Golden moments.

Our new pup enjoys afternoon naps. He curls up in my lap as I write, and falls asleep. Love those peaceful moments. He’s not getting into anything, barking at the slightest noise, digging around in the backyard, scrounging for crumbs under the kitchen stove. He’s still, warm, sweet. Golden moments.

They don’t happen all the time. If they did, we wouldn’t appreciate them. It’s the wisdom of God. But I want to recognize every golden moment, whether with my beautiful family, or with God, or by myself basking in sunshine, and I want to be grateful. These are graces from the Lord.

Thank God for golden moments.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Safe

He’s curled in my lap again. Sooooo sweet, these afternoon quiet times.

Here on my blog, and in life, I usually liken my relationship with God to my relationship with my husband (bridal understanding) or my relationship with my kids (father/parent understanding). But today, God’s showing me a few things through my care of our new dog which have me reaching for tissues.

As our mini-dachsie mix curls up in my lap, peaceful after our few short weeks together, I hear myself saying words I think God has been saying to me all along:

You’re safe.

Safe in my lap. I’ve got you.

Safe in our family. We will never disown you. (he’s been in at least three homes in his two short years)

Safe in my love. I will never despise you. In fact, I enjoy you, even as we work together to help you better assimilate into the family. (i.e. no nipping)

Safe. Loved. Cherished. Appreciated. Adopted. (we got him from the pound)

God assures me His care is protective. I can rest in His “lap.” I’m safe in His family. God will never disown me. I’ve accepted salvation and God has adopted me as His own daughter. I am in His family. For good. Amen!

I’m safe in His love, even as imperfect as I am. Oh, this unmerited love of God—so past finding out. Not only does He not despise me in my weakness, He cherishes and enjoys me in it, while I’m growing and messing up.

God cherishes, loves, protects, appreciates and celebrates me. That’s so humbling and beautiful.

I reach down and pet my sleeping dog, thanking God for the pictures He gives me in life of His love, adding layer by layer to my understanding of the knowledge of God and how much He loves me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

No Way Out

Have you ever re-watched a movie and worried about the ending, though you knew how it would turn out? Have you bitten your fingernails as the hero faces death, fearing he won’t find a way out? He has to go through the battle to reach the breakthrough on the other side, but you fear for him and wish there would be an easier way. That happened to me last night. Only I wasn’t watching a movie. I was reading the Bible.

I reread the arrest and crucifixion in John’s Gospel last night, knowing what was coming. Dreading the violence Jesus willingly faced. Wishing there was a way out.

Wait a minute. A way out?

Where would that have left me?

The same place I was before I accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation: with no way out.

See if Jesus had taken an easier path, a way out, I’d be hopelessly lost. I’d still be dwelling in darkness, hopelessness, fearing rejection, making horrible choices. Living to die.

But Jesus didn’t take an easy way out. He faced the bloodthirsty soldiers who had something to prove, the mob who couldn’t control their King, the authorities who couldn’t control the mob and the haters who just wanted this change-bringer taken down.

I kept reading the Gospel account, loving Jesus more and more, battling with the gut-feeling of “find another way” versus “thank God You took the way that would save me.”

Amazing sacrifice.

Amazing obedience.

Amazing love.

Amazing God.

Thank God Jesus didn’t take a way out. Thank God for giving me a Way out—Jesus.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Preparing for Easter


Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, is this Sunday. In preparation, I made a shopping list with my preschooler today: eggs, baskets, dresses, dinner items. We’re preparing to celebrate around here!

But I’m also preparing my heart.

Some of my friends and family prepare by watching The Passion of the Christ DVD. Some plan to attend the Good Friday services. (We’re having one this at our church. First time I can remember us doing this. I’m very excited!)

If we don’t prepare our hearts, Easter could slip by (even if we attend church) without our hearts truly being impacted by the amazing gift Jesus gave us when He gave us Himself. The amazing sacrifice He made when He willingly went to the cross and died in our place.

I urge you to take some time this week, some extended devotional moments, and really contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice. Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death. Consider His age. Consider His heart toward His people (John’s Gospel is beautiful for this). Consider His courage. Consider His humanity. Consider His intimacy with the Father, that He openly expressed His desires while accepting the Father’s desires. Consider the Father’s heart to send Jesus to the cross. Consider Jesus’ love to willingly go and die. Consider salvation. Now we can accept His free gift of forgiveness and become a part of His family.

And consider the victory of His resurrection. He is not in the tomb! He is risen. He was fully dead. He is now fully alive, seated at the right hand of God the Father. He ascended to heaven in His glorified body. He reigns. HE LIVES!

Hallelujah!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saying Yes to God: Part One

All last week, God had me on assignment. Say “yes” to Him. Worried about something? Say “yes” to God. Waiting on God’s answer to a need or prayer? Say “yes” to God. Frustrated with waiting? Say “yes” to God.

Know what this exercise did?

** Redirected me from worrying. Yippee!

** Kept me from resenting Him while I wait. (Ugh, hate this about my response to Him.) Good news: saying “yes” to Him retrained and redirected me.

** Made the waiting more bearable.

** Gave me hope in the middle of my circumstances.

** Made me see God differently. In saying “yes” I had to remind myself of His goodness. He’s going to come through for me. He’s going to keep His promises. I can count on Him.

Now, this isn’t the same as saying “yes” to the pressures around me, or even the blessings around me. It’s saying “yes” to God.

God wants us to see Him as He is, not as we think He is. I will not now give you the lowdown on what God is really like, as if I have all the answers. God Himself wants to show us, individually. If we have our eyes open.

Sometimes we don’t want to know. We can control the “God” we’ve invented. We can control the “God” we’ve defined. He’s so unutterably good that He wants to 1) show up in the midst of our insecurities and misunderstanding Him and 2) bless us!

Sunday, during worship, we sang about God speaking to us, about Him unveiling our eyes so we can see Him clearly.

If God blessed us the way we hope He will (promises He’s made to us, special requests) without us really knowing His heart behind the blessing, we’d miss something. We’d miss a relational moment. God wants intimacy. If we can get to know Him while in the midst of trials, we’ll really know Him once through them.

So, in the midst of my saying “yes” to Him lately, I’m asking Him to reveal Himself to me as He is.

And guess what? He’s so much more “good” than I’ve ever imagined. You think you know He’s good? Ask Him to show you again, at a deeper level. He’s going to surprise you. It’s humbling and tenderizing to see His great goodness.

Say it with me now, “Yes, God.”

In a couple of days, I’ll post Part Two of this “yes to God” series.

Monday, March 15, 2010

God's Assignments


There are a million things I need to do today. Stress overwhelms me, if I let it. Clean the house. Tackle the laundry. Rewrites on two manuscripts. Blog x 4. Garden. Cook. Parent. Train the pet. Etc. Time rushes by. Daylight Savings Time throws me for a loop, confirming society's need to rush.

But what does God have for me in this moment? in this day?

Maybe I give in too readily to the pressure of all I see which needs doing. The bully burden stomps up to me, and I willingly accept its yoke.

It's time to reword that opening line: “There are a million things I think I need to do today.”

And it's time to pray--

Lord, what do You have for me to accomplish today? Where should I spend my limited amount of time? What's Your priority?

I'm off to listen for His answer . . . Here's to a satisfying day following the Lord.

Monday, March 8, 2010

God Is For You


Recently, my preschooler looked so worried and insecure, I had to stop everything, make eye contact, and let her know I was for her. I knew how to meet her needs, and I would.

God wants to do the same in your circumstances today.

The LORD is for me, I will not fear; (Psalm 118:6)

Sometimes in the middle of a stressful situation, we forget who’s on our side. Or in this case Who’s on our side.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Our new dog seems intent on proving himself to us over and over. Excitedly running from person to person. Looking up at us as if he needs our acceptance. Now, I don’t know much about doggy psychology. Does the fact than in his short life he’s had two previous homes mean he’s nervous we’ll give him away, too? Perhaps. Wish he would relax and know we accept him. We chose him from the humane society. We already love him.

Do you know you’re accepted? And chosen? God isn’t going to one day give up on you and reject you. He is a good Father, a faithful Husband. And you belong to Him. You don’t have to go out of your way to prove yourself to Him. Just let Him love on you. Know He’s for you. And He will provide for you.

God is for you.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Best in You


What brings out the best in you?

We've only caught a couple of nights of the Olympics, but I'm still amazed at their mental strength (which I discussed last week).

I consider the coaches who know how to bring out the best in their athletes. Or the figure skater whose entire country holds her to a high standard. Well, that standard seemed to bring out the best in her. She received over 150 points for her program Thursday night!

That kind of pressure would probably bury me. :) How about you? Do high expectations provoke you to be your best?

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow mother about grades. She said she went lenient on her older children, sympathizing, but she doesn't treat her youngest the same. No excuses. Rise to the challenge. And her youngest is thriving in school.

Got me thinking: what brings out the best in me?

When someone needs me, I tend to be my best. Probably because I'm a mother.

Affirmation makes me want to reach higher and succeed.

When someone draws from my strengths I tend to be my best. Teaching, comforting, affirming.

A writing teacher recently described how a group of aspiring writers brought out the best in her just by needing what she could give. I relate with that.

What brings out the best in you? And how do you bring out the best in others?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mental Strength

How much strength does it take to be an Olympian? That’s hard to quantify, isn’t it? And we’re only talking physical strength so far. Athletes train their entire lives to compete. Figure skaters can take the ice at age 16, then display their skills effortlessly. One Canadian skater, age 37, earned a bronze yesterday. Both of these competitors have likely spent their entire lives in “training” in one form or another. Just to compete. Just to succeed, physically.

What about mentally? Even leading up to the games, the participants had to go to the games with a mental attitude that no matter what, they were going to give it their best. They’d been training for this. They were getting their shot to compete (or compete again). Their coaches were counting on them. Their families, their fellow teammates, their country. And you watch them win. And you watch then handle “losing” with grace (mostly).

I sometimes wonder what it takes to have that kind of mental strength. That kind of “killer” attitude—to win no matter the cost. To give it everything without backing down. I’m more likely to sympathize (even with myself) than fight. What about you?

Going for your dreams, whatever they may be, takes guts. You have to face down your own doubts, naysayers, rejection, failure, fears and roadblocks just to approach the starting gate of your dreams. There’s fear of failing and of winning. Can you relate with that?

But as you watch the Olympians take the platforms to receive their medals (a fantastic display of heroism and celebration) you don’t see fear of winning—you see victory! They’ve overcome!

I think we can practice, in everyday life, the skills of being an overcomer. For some, this comes easier than for others. But I believe we’re all called to it.

Whatever you face today, overcome. Press into God who gives you strength and realize victory, even in small ways. The training process for athletes is filled with day after day of small victories leading up to competition on a grander scale. But it all begins behind the scenes in everyday choices and decisions.

Also, find a rooting section. Gather people around you who will support you as you follow your dreams. Don’t let naysayers hold you back.

Press through.

Press on.

Stretch that mental muscle.

Overcome.

God, who sees your potential and knows what He’s called you to be, believes in you. Go for your dreams in Him! Watch what will happen when you partner up with Him and go for the gold.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Companion


Are you a friend of God? You can be.

I’m in the midst of an in-depth study of the Song of Solomon as it relates to Jesus our Bridegroom God. This morning I ran across Zechariah 13:7 where God calls Jesus “The Man who is My Companion.”

Oh that phrase rang through my spirit. So tender. So open. So real.

Reading “Abigail” by Jill Eileen Smith lately (see Net’s Book Notes Monday for my review) has me thinking about husbands who have many wives (like King David). I told my husband last night that I’m so glad I don’t have to share his time or heart. Then as I prayed myself to sleep, I thought of how believers are the bride of Christ. Now that’s not polygamy! Here’s the thing: believers will have so much unity, so much common purpose, calling and focus, we will all be one in Christ. And Jesus is God; He is everywhere present. So, He can attend us each separately at the same time.

Years ago, I asked a pastor this question: “So when we get to heaven will we have to share Jesus?” I’m used to my prayer times now where it’s just Him and me. Two of us. Intimate. Quiet. Personal. The idea of giving that up in heaven gave me a heartache. He explained he felt God would continue to meet with us corporately (like church settings today) and individually. We will not regret going to heaven to be with the Bridegroom for lack of closeness and personal time!

For now, deep in the throes of lovesickness for Him, I will whisper a quiet word, sing a new song, delight in Him, listen for Him, commune with Him.

He is my Companion.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lovesickness



My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
(Psalm 45:1)

Trying to think of flowery words or pleasing prose this morning isn’t working. But I long to express my lovesickness to the King.

Jesus, my Beloved, beautiful One, words fail.

My heart and soul long for You, for Your presence, not just for what You do or what You can give, but for Who You are to me:

Merciful God, who saw my need and came as a
Loving Savior and died for me so You could draw me close and become
My Friend who listens and speaks revelation that You are
The Bridegroom and I am a member of Your bride

Closer, Love, so I may hear Your heartbeat, see Your eyes, know You more and more.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Not?


Ever sit at church and feel as if the sermon was directed specifically at you? That's exactly how I felt yesterday as Pastor Michael shared his message about the "now moment" we're living in. He preached on having faith in tough seasons. The main thrust of his message was that mindsets can keep us from breakthroughs, even our destiny.

Then, this morning, as I was reading "Never Say Never," by Lisa Wingate (Christian fiction), she writes about a character dreaming for things far out of reach because she knows 1) she doesn't have to risk being disappointed because they’re so unattainable and 2) she doesn't really believe it'll happen anyway.

Yikes. Doesn't really believe it'll happen anyway??

I'm a dreamer. And a writer. (The two seem to go hand in hand in writerly circles.)

And after yesterday's message, I'm challenged to aim beyond the sky to the stars. I'm challenged to change my mindsets. I have big dreams, and I want to see them come true, now more than ever. But I had to ask myself about the mindsets behind those dreams.

One of Pastor Michael's instructions was instead of asking "Why," ask "Why not?" His point: asking "why me" is complaining, focusing on the negatives. Asking "why not me" is optimistic. God's goodness is for everyone. He wants to bless every one of His children. And He will keep His promises. We look at someone else and say “Oh, that’s just her way. She’s always joyful.” Well, why can’t that joyful person be you? or me? The same is true for other aspects while walking with God.

So, as I dream today, I'm asking "Why not me?" I will not disqualify myself based on my past, any fear of failure or fear of disappointment. By the grace of God, my mindsets will change to better match up with God’s plans, estimations, desires as He reveals them to me.

And I will dream beyond the stars, daring to hope.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Face the Light


Pouring rain kept my windshield wipers busy while I squinted at the dark roads. Such weather magnifies the fact that those white lines off to the right have faded to almost invisible.

In driver's ed, they taught us when an oncoming car's headlights blind you, focus on the white line on the right to stay in your lane, until they pass. When those lines have faded, you're left with fewer options.

You can't close your eyes and drive. (Well, not for long, anyway. :)

You can't stare directly at the lights, or you'll be seeing spots.

If there is no car ahead of you in your lane, you can't focus on their taillights and trust they can see better than you can.

So, what's a driver to do?

I am very sensitive to light, even in day to day life. For example, if I am facing a window and trying to read something in front of me, I have to squint to make it out. It's the same effect of a camera trying to capture a backlit image. The light throws it off.

So, on a dark road, with headlights blinding me, I have a very difficult time driving.

But I found one thing which worked recently though it seems counter-intuitive. Facing the light. Not looking directly into the lights of those oncoming cars, but facing the lights. The headlights of the other cars illuminated the road ahead and my cars' lights helped and suddenly, it wasn't so difficult to see.

In our walks with God, sometimes we want to avoid the light of the truth. We'd rather hide than face shame.

But God calls us out into the light--His light, so we can see the truth and let the truth set us free.

When God shines His light, He isn't meaning to shame us. He is trying to free us.

We just need courage to face the light.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bird Feeder, Part Two


Okay, so I filled the bird feeder today. Still no birds are coming. Due to a long delay, I think they gave up hope of there ever being fresh bird seed for them. I know eventually, they’ll come back around, but for now there needs to be some kind of announcement to our feathered friends: “Fresh, wholesome seeds. Free for the taking! Come and get it!” ;-)

But I’m reminded of how prayer can feel sometimes.

First, some absolutes:

God is always there.

As a born-again believer, you always have access to His throne.

If you feel far from God, it’s either 1) a lie, or 2) due to shame from sin, or 3) distance because it’s been so long since you tried to connect.

That last point is today’s focus. The bird feeder is out there. Full of seeds. Ready to nourish whichever bird comes by. But there’s a dry spell. No birds. When you’ve had some time away from God (a few days when you didn’t pray, perhaps), it might feel like He’s not there when you go to pray again. But be diligent. He’s there. And your spirit will be sensitized again, and you’ll encounter Him. Just keep seeking Him.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners; and purify your hearts, double-minded ones. (James 4:8) (especially that first part)

And when you have found Him, do not let Him go. (see Song of Solomon 3:4)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Good Does it Do?

The other day I picked up a bag of wild bird seed at the local store. My feeder’s been rather bare for some time. Today we have glorious sunshine in the northwest, and every now and then I hear a bird chirping away outside. I think it’s time to fill the feeder.

What good does a bag full of seed do if the birds don't have access to it?

Do you ever feel like you have the tools you need, but you don’t avail yourself to them? Or even, the sustenance your soul longs for, but you don’t take some time away from the routine and access the source?

I have a stack of books on the shelf—writing craft related and spiritual growth related, but if I don’t avail myself to them, if I never take the time to read them, what good are they doing me?

Be honest. Have you ever purchased a “how-to” or a “learn-about-yourself” book and then let it go dusty on the shelf? I have. Yet, some of the insights within those book covers might just set us free.

What good is a book on the shelf if a reader never reads it?

It’s time to go fill my bird feeder, and it’s time to schedule opportunities to read the helpful books on my shelves.

Otherwise, what good will they do?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Take out the Trash


How often do you have to take out the trash at home? Specifically in your kitchen? I have a theory that the number correlates with the number of people in your household. We "get" to take it out a few times a week. ;-) Or we should. Today it was overflowing while I added old straws and napkins and cleaned the kitchen. Time to take out the trash.

Sometimes the "trash" of old behaviors and mindsets need to go--tossed out of our lives for good.

Let's make some spiritual comparisons.

There are trash days. Specifically, the night before the collectors come around in their noisy trucks and disturb our sleeping neighborhood. I liken this to New Year's or birthdays. Self-examination. Set new goals. Make changes. Embrace changes. Out with the old and in with the new.

There are overflowing days--when the wastebaskets in the house just don't seem big enough. That's like our old mindsets trying to hold new, fresh information. Jesus referred to this as old wine skins. Fresh wine (fresh insights or understanding) does not belong in old wine skins. The process of fermentation will make it burst. The process of trying to live like a new person while espousing old mindsets will not work. Ya hafta get rid of the old way of thinking.

There are motivating days (like right before collection days or vacations). These are when you rush around the house dumping every basket into large trash bags. Every bin is left empty and ready for whatever's next. Those motivations spiritually are when something ugly keeps rearing up in your life; you see every area it touches, and you determine to change once and for all. “Lord, I hate being like this (i.e. living with this awful attitude, etc.). Change me.”

Are there areas in your life that need to change? Where old thoughts or behaviors have to go to make room for victory? Is it time to take out the trash?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Masterpiece

Reclaiming my living space from overrun Christmas decorations is always a fun chore. Fun because I like getting the rooms back to normal. As I was storing Christmas dishes in our hutch this year, I rediscovered my sister’s gift to me several years ago: a set of six placemats. They’re handmade, quilted placemats. She is a master quilter.

I am not a quilter, but I have witnessed some of her work in the past. She uses such precision to cut the pieces of fabric into perfectly measured rectangles, squares and triangles. A pattern dictates where the quilt blocks of different colored fabric are to be placed. She irons, pins the pieces together, runs them through her amazing sewing machine, irons again, bastes, stitches, quilts. It’s a phenomenal feat, if you ask me. And she made six of them for me. Individual placemats in purples and greens and yellows and browns. They’re two-sided, too, so either way they’re placed, they grace the table with beauty.

With all the hours represented in one creation, I imagine she spends time thinking about how much she loves the person she’s creating the quilt for.

Reminds me of God’s work in my life. At the turn of the year, do you spend time looking back and looking ahead, hoping for the future to be better in ways than the past has been? I do. But today, it occurred to me the intimacy with God that has grown out of the pain of recent months has become such a precious treasure to me. Were I to do it all again, I wouldn’t wish those painful times away, not if that means missing out on God.

So, all the piecing and stitching and ironing (refining) is for good in my life as God works out His best for me.

And when He has finished His work in us (i.e. heaven) it won’t matter what direction we’re viewed from. We will be a masterpiece.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Find "Selah" Time


Reading through the Psalms, you're likely to run into a little word which we tend to skip over. It's Selah, and I've heard it described to mean "pause." So, you're reading along in the Psalms and the psalmist gives a particularly poignant or powerful phrase, then he says "selah," or "stop and think about that a moment."

Here's an example of where David used the word several times in Psalm 3.

Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God." Selah
But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.


I was watching a popular teacher this morning on TV and she said we all need a little time for "selah" in our lives. A little time to reflect and stop the mad busy-ness of our lives. Can I hear an "amen"?

I've been rather swamped this season (beyond the holiday craziness) and now it's time for some purposeful "selah" time. Time to recharge. Time to connect with God, meditate on His word, hear from Him, reflect on what He's spoken to me.

Have you taken time for "selah" lately?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Beginning


Happy New Year, readers!

There's so much hope inherent in an exchange of calendars--from one year to the next--isn't there? Hope this year will be better than last. Hope we can leave the mistakes we made last year behind us. Hope for positive changes in our lives and things that have gone wrong can be made right. Hope is a gift from God.

There are no guarantees. But there is hope.

There are no sure things. But there is hope.

We aren't guaranteed an entire year, but we have today.

Let's grab onto hope and fully experience it, fully engage with it. Ride it to the stars.

I've used this verse before, but it's fitting once again. It's a blessing.

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, MKJV)

God bless you this new year!