Friday, December 30, 2011

It's All About Your Investment



Are new years a big deal to you? I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she brought up how people make such a big deal out of a new year.

I like new years because there’s the hope of a new beginning of sorts. Of course, we’re not actually going back to something we can remake, but we can start over in the sense of changing habits and bettering our quality of life through our new, wiser choices. And with a new year, there’s hope we’ll succeed. We all have a reasonable timeline to work with.

FB lets you see photos from previous years. One of my dear friends posted photos of herself from last January. But she’s not the same person. Well, okay, she is, but she’s been very successful this year with her goals. And she looks much more content with herself now that she’s succeeded. She inspires me and others, I’m sure. She transformed her appearance all in one year and without outside help.

So, it occurs to me, that the new year can be what we make of it. Do you set goals? Do you make plans for change? Do you want to make changes? Why not go for it? That’s the hope of a new year. But it’ll only be as successful as your investment.

If I go into the new year without setting goals, if I decide January 1st means nothing, that it’s just another day on the calendar, then I won’t make plans for change. And guess what? I may change (let’s be honest, we all change) but it won’t be as I’m secretly hoping I will.

But, if I go into the new year with a plan for change, if I decide to restructure my schedule or rework my priorities or set goals, then I strive toward them, I will see the changes I want to see.

Here's what it will take:

Prayer.

Planning.

Investing.

Implementing.

Persevering.

Reaping.

God’s law of sowing and reaping will manifest in our lives, for better or worse. If we work toward positive changes we’ll see them, eventually, if we persevere.

So, where in that list above are you weakest? Do you make a plan you think is wise, but never discuss it with God, or better yet, get His leading before you begin? Do you prayerfully plan well, but then give up when things don’t go as planned? Do you have a hard time implementing the carefully constructed plan? Maybe you give up after the hard work but just before you would have reaped the reward.

I think the possibilities of a new year lie in what you make of it. Just like any restart. If you invest in it through prayer and planning and implementing, through persevering, you’ll reap. If you blow it off, you’re giving in to the inevitable changes and those might not all be desirable.

Isn’t it interesting God gives us plenty of chances for a fresh start—sunrise, seasonal changes, new years, birthdays? And He give us some means to make the changes we want to see. I say take advantage of them. Sow and you will reap, good or bad. So, sow good deeds and seeds, and reap good benefits. By summer, or by next December, you’ll be a new you. And you’ll be glad you invested all you did.

It’s gonna be worth it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Memory Overload

Twice in the last month, I’ve had notices about too much data: both on my phone and on our family’s internet service (modem and router).

Both resulted in us being unable to use the services as they were meant to be used: our computers stopped connecting to the internet, or our internet service became spotty. And my phone stopped allowing texts and even internet browsing.

I know, sounds all techy. But I have a point here. We can get overloaded with memories to the point we sequester ourselves away in our thoughts and become burdened, run slower, miss the moment because we’re distracted by what’s happened before.

Part of the reason for our rumination is because the memories aren’t pleasant ones, or we’re rehearsing arguments in our heads about painful situations. But those painful memories aren’t serving us in the moment.

Why do we hang onto them?

Why do we rehearse them, come up with better arguments?

Why do we waste one moment of the present dwelling on the past?

No closure. The issues may be unresolved and sometimes we don’t have a choice. We can’t go back to Aunt Susie and talk over the issues that happened twenty years ago. Aunt Susie is dead. In this case, we have to lay the situation down at the feet of Jesus. We have to forgive, if necessary, and trust God with the situation. When the negative thoughts try to come back, when our minds default and we start ruminating again, we have to take a stand. “No, I’m leaving Aunt Susie and that situation with the Lord. It’s not mine anymore. It’s His. He can handle it. I’m going to live this moment and the rest of my life in the light of the lessons, and without hauling that burden around.”

Regrets. We may have left the situation without having a chance to apologize. And sometimes by the time we’re ready to apologize, by the time we’ve agonized enough that we’re willing to do something about it, it’s too late. Again, we can only ask forgiveness of God, forgive others (as necessary), and let it go. Once again, only God is able to bear the past, present, and future. We’re finite. Let the infinite God have that situation. Hand Him your regrets and lay that thing down. Then, live in the Light of His love and forgiveness. Burden-less.

Pride. Sometimes we have the opportunity to seek forgiveness because the other party is still alive (for example), but we don’t because we’re ashamed or because our pride gets in the way. When you imagine addressing that other person, what comes to mind? Do you imagine them berating you if you sought their forgiveness? Do you imagine them rejecting you? Being indifferent? Yelling? Do you imagine yourself getting the last word? Best thing to do is ask God both for direction (maybe reconnecting with that person now would do more harm than good) and for softened hearts. Our ever tender-hearted God loves to redeem situations, soften hearts, restore relationships. If you pray along those lines, you’re very likely praying His will. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for forgiveness. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. (see James 4:6)

Once we’d cleared the stored memories on both my phone and the modem and router, both systems worked again. Imagine how free you’d be to go about your day, your Christmas season, without all that baggage in tow. Imagine your memories under the blood of Jesus, your heart washed clean, and your burdensome or painful thoughts rendered powerless. Imagine freedom.

Perhaps it’s time to hand those ruminations to Jesus, cooperate with Him, and get free.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflections of the Season

How do you prepare for Christmas, spiritually speaking? On a heart level, what do you do to connect with God around the real reason for the season?

Last night, my youngest and I set up the nativity scene in our living room. As we slowly unwrapped the figures, we talked about who each one was: a shepherd boy, three kings (the timing doesn’t work, but it makes for a more full crèche) and a few scattered animals. Seems the creators of this particular nativity scene used “The Little Drummer Boy” as inspiration, and those rhythmic “ox and lamb” were included. But it’s a good guess there were animals all around on that first holy night.

We talked about the placement of Baby Jesus, and my oldest and I discussed if we should include the cherubs someone gave us once upon a time. We decided not to since their design wasn’t biblical. Something inside us wanted to keep the scene pure; no baby-shaped angels allowed. There were angels, to be sure, when Jesus was born, but they weren’t shaped like naked babies with tiny wings. Back in the box with those figurines.

I think it’s fitting the nativity set is the first holiday decoration now on display in our living room. We’ll get to the tree. We’ll hang the lights. We’ll change out the wall art. But for now, there’s a symbol all in place to get our hearts focused on the real reason for the season.

There are presents to purchase and parties to attend, but what would any of it be without Jesus?

Without Him, there’d be no hope.

Without Him, no redemption, no eternal life.

Without Him, there’d be no reason to celebrate Christmas. He makes the season. He is the reason.

This season, take some time to reflect on Who Jesus is to you and what He means to this season.

And may none of us lose touch with those truths as the pace picks up and the parties commence.

Have a joyous, hope-filled Christmas season, dear friends, with Jesus right at the center.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Room for a Bible on My Desk


Just cleaned my desk last night. This morning I had my devotional time and set my Bible aside, two Bibles, actually, stacked to my left. And then I thought there was probably a better place for them, a place I could put them off the surface of my desk so I can work. Hold that thought.

I’ve read a couple things lately that have me thinking. As a Christian writer, this post really spoke to me. Agent Karen Ball discusses including God in story and how old television series used to do just that, and it came across as genuine. We’ve lost that in our culture.

Then, during my devotional time this morning I read Isaiah chapter 1. There’s a clear call to repentance in Isaiah’s opening chapter. A call for a nation of individuals to come back to the Truth, to dive into the Word, to repent of ungodly deeds. A reminder that God honor obedience above sacrifice and that He longs to wash us clean from our sins. He is a forgiving God who delights to forgive.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“ Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

There was a time when I didn’t make the Bible a priority in my day. I didn’t read and pray. Thankfully, that’s not the case now. There’s a new grace, a new determination to keep God first in my day.

A new place for the Bible on the “desk” of my life.

Is there room for God’s Word in your day? In your life? Maybe it’s time to clear away the clutter, even the things we think are necessities and make room for the Word in our lives. The Word of God can and will change us if we let it.

It’s time to let it.

I’m making room for the Bible on my desk. How about you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Women of Faith, Part Two


Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God? 
(from Romans 11:33 MSG)

That was the scripture for this year’s Women of Faith gathering: Over the Top. My friend and I had a great time worshiping, hearing the teachings, enjoying each other’s company. 

Others have shared their WofF experiences with me, but I still didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’d never attended a Women of Faith gathering before. What a delight to go and pal around with a buddy in the welcoming atmosphere. 

I’d heard of Patsy Clairmont, but never heard her speak before. She’s a hoot! Loved seeing Lisa Welchel and Selah in person. The music was great! Mandissa is so talented, as was the worship team that traveled with the women. You wouldn’t expect to see a male speaker at a Women of Faith gathering, but after listening to the wisdom of Andy Andrews, I know why they included him. 

One of the highlights for me was listening to Sandi Patty sing. She really impressed me twenty years ago. As a vocalist, I was so impressed by her soprano range. So, seeing her in person for the first time, was delightful. 

If you haven’t gone to a Women of Faith gathering, I highly recommend it. God will meet you there and speak directly to you. My friend and I were nodding as we listened because God specifically met each of us. We laughed and cried (especially in regards to the child sponsorships). A great weekend!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Winds of Change



Several cedar trees tower over our house. They’re about 80-100 years old, according to the arborist who came out. And this time of year, many of the fronds turn rust-colored. Not to be outdone, the leaves on a gargantuan maple tree in the yard also turn yellow edged with rust. Some of the leaves immediately go brown, fall, and bedeck the yard like craft-supply scraps. But many leaves hang on for dear life.

Switch gears. I’m a writer. I write novels, and lately I’ve been plotting one. Well, re-plotting really because it needed some serious work. Jeff Gerke offers some great tools for writers. In his Plotting for the Character-First Novelist eBook, he explains how we writers have to go about pretending to be the god of our characters. Now, hear me out because that doesn’t sound like something you’d expect to read here at Net’s Notes. Here’s where I’m going with this: as a writer defines her character and then puts that character on the fast track to change (80,000 – 90,000 words is all you get to accomplish a profound character arc), they have to push the character toward change. Writers motivate characters to change. 

Same’s true in our lives, and that’s why this method of plotting works. It’s how God relates with us. As the Author and Finisher of our faith, as our God, He positions us in life so we’re faced with the option to change. Here’s the cycle: He points out a better way to live, we resist because we don’t like change, then He escalates the motivation until we’re convinced and finally relent. Resonates, doesn’t it?

Rack your brain with me. What are some changes you know you need to make, but haven’t? You’re semi-comfortable where you’ve always been. You’ve settled there like that fallen leaf in my yard. Bugs treat you like part of the landscape and make their way around or over you. Birds land on you. Nothing moves you. 

Well, except for wind.

Confession time, and please don’t tell our neighbors, but we don’t rake our yard. We’re fenced in on every side, so that fact shouldn’t affect the neighbors. (I do regret that the huge maple spills leaves into their yards, though.) Why bother raking when the winds will come? What does the wind do? It sweeps the green lawn clean and tucks the leaves into the corners of the yard where we can get to them in spring, if we want. Wind changes the landscape and those immovable leaves get moved, like it or not. 

Same’s true for those cedar fronds. Wind changes everything. Strong Autumn winds come along and clear the trees. Suddenly, there is no more resistance to change.

Then the trees rest. So does the wind. See the tie-in?

God’s asking us to change. He really does have the best for us in mind. And yes, change isn’t fun. It’s not comfortable. And it's not often pretty. But things’ll turn out better if we just get on with it. We’ll turn out better if we cooperate. 

If we don’t? He’ll bring the wind. Ever since a huge tree missed our house by only a few feet as it fell years ago, I’ve been a bit apprehensive where wind storms are concerned. Remember those cedars I mentioned? Yeah. We’re surrounded. They come down, we’re toast.

But they’re not going anywhere. The other benefit of 80-100 years in our windy climes is that their roots are deep, strong. Those trees are anchored. 

Wind storms make me pray. Intensely. I hold my breath waiting for the next gust and press really close to God. My “roots” go deep in Him. And the same’s true in my life. He brings motivation (wind), and I dig deep in Him. He’d been chasing me but suddenly I’m chasing Him. 

And when the storm is over, I see His wisdom. The trees are cleared and the winds die down. And then, a season of rest. Followed by a season of new growth and beautiful life. 

One night as I prayed about the wind storm roaring like a freight-train convention outside the window, God told me fall winds had to happen; that's how He designed things. It's how those fall leaves and dead cedar branches get cleared and make way for a new season. The trees cooperate and they earn their rest. 

Will you?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friendship and Women of Faith


Most of my extended family doesn’t live close so we don’t see each other very often, so I really appreciate my friends. And what’s better is we’re sisters in Christ.

In several weeks, I’ll attend a Women of Faith event, my first. We’ll share the worship, the teaching, the fellowship, and the fun of this event. Looking forward to it! But it wouldn’t be the same without my friend.

Same’s true in life. I think that’s why Jesus likes to be close. You know that feeling you get when you see something spectacular and you want to share it with someone? You want to say, “Hey, come look at this” so two of you can share the awe. Jesus is there for that moment. Your spouse can’t always be there beside you. Even your friends can’t always be there beside you. But Jesus is more than beside you, He’s inside you. That’s close.

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. 
(Prov. 18:24 NKJV)

So, I’m looking forward to the Women of Faith gathering because I know we’ll all encounter Jesus there. And my friend and I will delight in Him together, even as He delights in the multitude of His friends.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Winds and Worship


Today was one of those stellar weather days. And I appreciated it all the more because of the cold, rainy fall-like days we’ve had this week. It was 79 degrees (following days with highs in the 50s). Breezes carried leaves to the grassy yard while wind chimes played original melodies. But it was the wind that made the chimes harmonize. 

Sounds like life. 

Gentle days. We appreciate the blessed moments, the peaceful, joyful times because we know they aren’t a given. Tough days precede them, so we’re grateful when the sun shines through and the rain of trials eases for a while. It’s the comparison that makes us praise. Gratitude makes us worship.

Wind. Breezes elicit melodies from the wind chimes in my yard. In fact, the stronger the wind, the more beautiful, varied, original the tune the chimes create. Do you sing when you’re going through trials? I’ve learned worship is a powerful act/tool while suffering. Worship changes things. Worship brings anointing, and anointing breaks yokes. Worship can turn negative circumstances around, and trials inspire original worship. If you let them. 

Sunshine. Light comes breaking through. Cloudy days can get to people, affecting moods and productivity, especially when dark weather runs on and on. So, when the sun comes out and the weather changes, it’s like a breakthrough in our circumstances. Doesn’t it feel great when your circumstances change? When the Light of God moves into the situation and brings clarity, relief, hope? When an ongoing problem is suddenly solved, or the pressure eases with new resolution?

Awake, O north wind, and come, O south!
      Blow upon my garden, that its spices may flow out.
      Let my beloved come to his garden 
and eat its pleasant fruits.
(Song of Songs 4:16 NKJV)

The Shulamite from the Song of Songs understood all this. In fact, she invited trials to come (equating trials with north wind and good times with southerly breezes) because she knew God would see her through. She’d grow closer to Him in the midst of it all. Her heart’s response toward God would only deepen as she was refined. She knew the best worship would flow from her heart in the midst of this pattern of tough times followed by relief. Her approach certainly banishes fear, doesn’t it?

So, though it’s not necessarily first nature to worship in hard times, I recommend trying it. Open your mouth. Don’t be intimidated by the pressures. Just worship. Meet God in that deep valley. Watch how your worship of God changes you, the circumstances, and your life.

Perhaps worship is the point. Sunny days. Cloudy, cold weather. Trials. Comfort.

What draws you to worship?

Friday, September 16, 2011

You're Right, Lord



Ever talk with someone and hear yourself say, “You’re right, my friend. I did say that.” Or whatever? Well, the other day I heard myself say that to God. “You’re right.” It’s laughable, isn’t it? He’s always right.

I think we can run into trouble if we don’t remember that He’s always right. When He affirms us, He’s right. When He directs us, He’s right. When He gives us His perspective on a situation, He’s right.

One of the reasons we tell others “you’re right” is because we come into agreement with their wisdom or take on something. Our eyes are opened and it clicks. We “get it.” Well, with God, He’s right, even if we don’t “get it.” He’s right even when we can’t see what He’s up to. He’s right even if we don’t agree or can’t understand. He’s. Always. Right.

So, it’s not debatable. We still have a choice of course, but unlike with friends who are human (and flawed), God is perfect. He is always right. See, with friends we can debate something until we come into agreement, or agree to disagree. But with God we aren’t really debating, are we? We’re following. We’re obeying. We’re growing and changing. He’s in charge. We’re His beloved ones, trusting even when we can’t see.

It’s about considering the source. I talk to God like a friend whom I greatly respect. But I’m going to keep an ear out for this “You’re right, Lord” phrase. I have a couple options. I can probably do one of two things: 1) say it every time He speaks, or 2) drop it from our interactions all together. After all, I’m convinced it’ll always be true. :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Trust and Faith



Certain themes come up in my life over and over. Like trusting God. Opportunities to trust Him and invitations to leap from proverbial ledges keep coming up. So, I guess it’s also about faith, right? 

Several days ago, my youngest asked for a Bible story. We read of Jesus sleeping in the boat and His disciples wondering why He wasn’t up and bailing water with them. Honestly, they probably also wondered why Jesus wasn’t as worked up as they’d gotten. But Jesus woke and immediately calmed the storm outside, which eased the storm inside of their hearts. Then he asked a simple, heart-felt question: “Why didn’t you trust Me?”

Wow, reading those words aloud hit me. There are concerns in my life where God has made promises to me and for some reason (trust?), it’s challenging to just leave it alone. I want to keep working on the “problem.” How will God solve it? Oh, He could do this, or this, or this. I pray about it over and over and over and over. (Is that importunity or obsessing? ;)

I don’t have everything figured out, but I know these things are true:

~ Worrying doesn’t help. So if I’m obsessing, it’s not helping. Worrying does not equate with meditating. Better to meditate on His Word than stress over the circumstances.

~ Worship changes things. So, rather than focusing on my problem, I should lift my eyes to Jesus and behold His glorious beauty, and delight in Him. Bringing worship of God into a situation changes that situation. So, in the midst of the tough stuff, worship Him.

~ Begging isn’t necessary. This is a good God we’re talking to and about. He knows our needs. He cares for sparrows, and they never stress out. He’ll care for our needs too.

~ God cares. The Bible says to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us. (see 1 Peter 5:7) It’d be different if He didn’t care about each of us specifically, personally, individually. But He does. He’s a personal God on a mission to teach us to trust Him and walk by faith.

~ God is able. No matter what we’re facing, what we’re waiting for, the expiration date of our situation and how we’re clinging to Him to answer in time, He is able! Pair that up with the fact that God cares and we have a potent, charged scenario where the Miracle Worker Himself can move. He wants to. Remember that, God wants to move.

~ God is not inactive. He is moving in your situation.

~ God hears. He is near to you, and He hears your heart’s concerns. 

As I read that Bible story, it broke my heart to hear Jesus quietly, pleadingly say, “Why didn’t you trust Me?” Wow. Makes me want to dig in my heels and trust Him no matter what. How about you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

God's Got It



Sometimes I worry about stuff as if God isn’t mighty, as if He doesn’t have everything under control, as if He isn’t sovereign, or He won’t perfect everything that concerns me. As if I’m not His and can’t call on Him. Do you ever do that?

But…

God is mighty.

God is sovereign and has everything under control (no matter how we perceive things; He knows what He’s doing).

He promises that He will perfect that which concerns us. (see Psalm 138)

I love this passage from Matthew:

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. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matt. 6:30-34 MSG)

Let’s remember to always live like we’re children of God, and trust He will meet our needs. He will minister to us, guide us, provide for us.We can rely on Him.

Whatever you’re facing, dear child of God, He’s got you and He’s got the situation. It won’t worsen beyond His control. Cling to Him. He’s got this, and even when He’s all you’ve got, He will never let you down.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer

Looks like summer is finally here in the Northwest. Sunny days. Warmer temps. Just in time for school to start.

We visited family in another state recently and their temps were much warmer than what we're used to. Made me grateful for our cooler weather. And while I bemoaned the air conditioner not being set cool enough, I realized I'd been complaining too much about the summer-less weather back home. 

Sometimes it takes a change to see our behavior for what it is. I'm actually very comfortable this year with the high temperature rising to about 73. I love it. A few years ago we had 100+ temps, a very rare occurence here, for a week. We about melted into puddles. *grin* So, this has actually been a preferred way to spend summer. 

I'm sure there are other areas in my life that need work, and I can count on God to keep showing me. He's great about that. He shows us how we need to change and then He gets us there. 

Are you willing to change? 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Too Busy?



My schedule’s been very hectic lately. I’m buried under a gargantuan workload which I’m trying to cram between family obligations (some of them very fun), especially during this season. Sound familiar? And I don’t always give myself permission to spend time praying and reading the Word every morning.

Lately I’ve been wondering why I don’t. Am I just so trusting of God and that He’s got everything that I’m finally no longer trying to micromanage Him? (ouch) Or am I that nonchalant about my life’s issues right now? (Uh… no. I certainly spend enough time worrying about them.)

Or, have I lost sight of the fact that spending time with God will not, does not put me behind on my goals for the day, does not/will not sabotage my crazy busy workday. In fact, the opposite is true. If I can keep Him first, even tithe my time, I will have victories, productivity. Breakthroughs. It’s in worship we have breakthroughs, so in reality when I neglect my time with God, I’m sabotaging my daily schedule. (This is starting to hurt.)

But I used to feel that by spending my time with God I was earning His favor. What’s more, if I didn’t, I felt condemned and fearful that things would fall apart. That’s just as much bondage.

So, why do we pray? Why do we worship, get to the secret place, and commune with our Creator?

Because we love Him.

So let love woo you back to that special place with Him. After this past busy couple of weeks, that’s exactly what I intend to do. Now, where is my Bible and journal…? Crank up the worship music, Jesus is here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Are Our Ears Open?



Just finished reading a life-changing book for a church class. It’s called The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley. He addresses living a life of wisdom. Read it, if you haven’t. It’ll change your life too.

The chapters got me to thinking: why do we avoid living wisely? Sometimes we don’t want to live what we know because we’re lazy or afraid or stuck.

When we get stuck, we ask God for direction. What if He tells us something we don’t want to hear?

Have you ever disregarded something a friend said simply because you disagreed or thought the advice was unfitting to your circumstances? Have you ever ruled something out because it scared you (i.e. they told you to do something you’d rather not face)? Guess what? Sometimes our friends are right, we’re just not ready to hear what they have to say.

So, how often have we asked God for direction, heard a response, and disregarded it? Thought it was our own inner voice? Or too obvious to come from our Almighty God? Or too challenging—we’ve already decided we’re not going to “do that” whatever that is?

What keeps us from living in wisdom? What keeps us from hearing what we don’t want to hear? Why won’t we let it in, follow through? Even consider it?

Pride. Or fear. But rather than being so quick to disregard something a friend says, or even that God says, we should stop and consider their words. Who knows, if we follow through, we might just have the breakthrough we’ve been praying for for years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Knowing Forgiveness

The heavy burden of unforgiveness can eat at us day after day. Our consciences weren’t meant to carry unforgiveness around with us. Ideally, our consciences can be cleaned. And when that happens, we’re free! Joy wells up inside because that heavy, horrible, monstrous burden has been not only removed, but obliterated.

Here’s how it works:

We’ve all made mistakes. That’s called being human.

We can’t erase our mistakes. Though we’d like to, we can’t go back and make better, wiser decisions, so unless someone steps in, we will carry the burden for that sin all of our lives.

Jesus knew our predicament. Almighty God wasn’t surprised (though I believe He was heartbroken) by Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. He wasn’t surprised when I blew it, or when you blew it. He knows our condition.

One we blew it, we couldn’t fix it. We’re only human, and no sinner can rescue other sinners.

Jesus cared enough to step in. Oh, this is where it gets gooood. God, knowing the suffering we’d endure (due to sin) had a solution: the perfect sacrifice for our sins—Jesus!

God knew we needed a Savior. Without His intervention we’d only know pain and suffering and the burden of longing for forgiveness, knowing we couldn’t pay our own debt.

And Jesus stepped in to save us.

Now, all we have to do is say “yes.”

Say “yes” to forgiveness: Dear Jesus, I know I’ve sinned. You don’t have to look very far in my life to see a whole slew of mistakes. And I know You made a way for me to be forgiven. Please forgive me for my sins.

Say “yes” to His leadership: Take over in my life. Help me learn Your ways and hear Your voice and do Your will. I’ve already shown that if left up to me, I’ll make a mess of my life. But with You in charge, I can have hope.

Say “yes” to life: Help me live for You. Thank You for saving me and giving me eternal life, plus the abundant life You offer me as a child of God.

Say “thanks”: Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

If you prayed that, if you believe that Jesus is Lord, and say it aloud, you’re saved!! Now, let real life begin! Let joy reign! Let your relationship with God grow and flourish!

Read the Bible (start with the Gospels—I especially like the book of John). Pray often! Worship! And get plugged into a great church where they will support you, help guide you and teach you solid biblical truths. That solid biblical foundation will make all the difference in your world.

And rejoice! Your sins have been forgiven!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Five Good Choices


Sometimes I hover in the bakery section of the grocery store. My daughter even snaps pictures on her cell phone of the delectable chocolate-covered strawberries or gourmet cupcakes. No, we don’t buy them. But we do ooh and ahh. To reach my goals I know I can’t load up on desserts.

I’ve come up with a strategy that encourages me toward my goals and you might find it helpful as well. It’s about making five good decisions each day.

So, take weight loss, for example. Say you want to lose ten pounds. What decisions can you make today that will help you get there? What wise choices can you make that will get you another day closer?

For example, breakfast: choose fiber and fulfill a fruit serving, maybe add a little protein. That’s one great choice down. Take a mid-morning walk. Choice number two! Healthy lunch, choice three. Kids are having ice cream after dinner, choose frozen yogurt (or a banana)—choice four. No late night treats. Bingo! Number five.

See what I mean? Five wise choices gets you closer. The opposite’s true too, so beware. Say you chose a donut for breakfast. It’s easier to choose to not workout that day. Then lunch rolls around and you have a bacon cheeseburger. Uh-oh, two not-so-good choices. And it snowballs from there.

But with five (or more) good choices, you’ll stay encouraged throughout the day. Yes, I’m on the right track. I’m headed toward my goals. I’m not giving up now.

It all goes back to the wisdom of small choices adding up to big changes over time.

Same’s true with seeking God daily. If you don’t have a daily devotional time, establish one. Dig into His Word. Worship Him. Delight in Him. Make Him a part of every area of your life. Spending daily time with Him will help you grow.

We can’t have those days back when we didn’t choose wisely, so let’s team up with wisdom and choose wisely today. We’ll thank ourselves later.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Language of Big Dreams

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

God speaks the language of Big Dreams.

I’ve had big dreams in my heart for a while now. And I know God’s in them. We’re seeing some of them come true. But there are bigger dreams on the horizon. Once one is realized, we get to dream again.

How do you know your dreams (your aspirations) are from God? You get into His presence. Press in. Delight yourself in Him. In a word: pray.

Worship.

Read His Word.

Enjoy Him.

I recall a season when I felt far from God though I was pursuing Him daily. But I kept up with the prayer and searching.

And God let me find Him.

He’s waiting to be found. He wants to be found.

Go after Him. Delight in Him. Let Him replace your faulty foundations. Let Him refine you. Then, He’ll place His dreams for you in your heart.

And then, the best part: He’ll fulfill those dreams.

God speaks the language of Big Dreams. Get close enough to listen, and you’ll hear Him talking about yours.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power to Change


For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice;
but what I hate, that I do.
(Romans 7:15 NKVJ)

Wouldn’t it be great if we always knew why we do what we do? If we did, we could change it.

God’s been showing me my utter dependence upon Him lately. Last time, I posted on how we need Him. This is an extension of that topic. We cannot change, permanently, deep down, for the right reasons and with the right outcome, without Him. In order to completely change, from the inside out, all the way down to the motive, we have to get to the root of why we do what we do. Not only do we have to get to the root, that thing has to be uprooted. (ouch)

So, take someone who is addicted to exercising, for example. Say their addiction is completely destroying their relationships and work life. All they can think about and do is exercise. Say they realize their obsession is running their lives and ruining their lives—they're enslaved. So, they want to change, to stop the behaviors. Great! The first step is to ask why am I doing what I’m doing? I mean, they could make some changes, say only jog 5 miles three times a day, rather than 10, but until they know why they’re doing what they’re doing, how long do you think the changes will remain in effect? A couple days? A week?

The key to change is finding the reason behind the behavior. Then, you can dig for the root. Perhaps the person who is addicted to exercising doesn’t like his/her body. Perhaps they fear aging or letting their strength wane, or letting their heart grow weak. Maybe this person feels in control when s/he is exercising and determining the numbers on the scale and in the log. Or maybe they feel completely out of control. At first, they controlled the addiction, now even the doctor is saying “Ease up.” And they can’t. (Happens a lot with addictive behaviors, first you control it, then it controls you.) 

So what do you do when you're out of control? 

When you don’t understand yourself?

When you can’t find the reasoning or the root?

What do you do when you can’t make the change you’d like to make?

You call on God. He breaks into your life’s circumstances and suddenly the Light comes on. You surrender the situation to Him, and let Him dig around in your heart for a while until He unearths the reasons you do what you do. Warning: pain is imminent. Anytime God uproots our “stuff,” it’s a painful process. (Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about—just happened to me recently, so I’m waving back at you.) But, if you let Him in, He’ll bring the breakthroughs.

If you let Him in, He’ll show you how to get where you want to go.

If you let Him in, He’ll get you there.

If you let Him in, He’ll heal you, set your mind on the right track, forgive your sin, yank out the roots of the old you, and set you free!

Will you let Him into that place you keep hidden from others, the place you think no one knows about?

We don’t have the power to change ourselves from the inside out, only God does. It’s time to let Him in. Stop letting shame hold you back and hold you bound. God can set you free. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

How We Need Him


who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power, having made purification of our sins, He sat down on the right of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:3 MKJV)

Did you know God holds everything together? The universe, the earth, everything. Without the proper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air, life couldn’t exist here. Or if our temperatures shifted to a new range remarkably higher or lower, we’d die. Who’s in charge of all that? Certainly not us humans. No, the Creator is in charge.

Something went wrong. God created humans and animals, the earth, the universe all during creation week. Then, He rested. Then, He took up a habit of communing with His dear people (Adam and Eve) in the garden, in the cool of the day.

Then, people sinned.

So, Creator God donned His Redeemer hat.

Jesus came, lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death to buy back, or redeem creation. And He succeeded.

Did you know that everyone’s sins have been removed? The effects of sin are still here—we live in a fallen world. And you have to humble yourself and say "yes" to salvation to be saved and know forgiveness, but check this out:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29 MKJV)

Takes away the sins of the world. They’re gone. The Redeemer bought back sinners and creation. Now, that’s not to say everything’s as it should be or as it will be. The Bible’s clear that everything is going to be replaced—a new heaven and a new earth. But it does mean the Redeemer is powerful.

And right now, He’s holding everything together by the Word of His Power. We need Him. For breath. For life. For sunshine. He graces us with a new day, with rain, with food.

Where would we be without Him?

It’s nice to be needed and to hear people say how much they need you. Let’s let God know how much we need Him. Because we really, really do.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Choosing Courage


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage.
Do not be afraid, neither be dismayed.
For the LORD your God is with you in all places where you go.
(Joshua 1:9 MKJV)

I work with authors and fellow writers all day, and I love it! One of the biggest challenges for writers (including for me) is perseverance. How many years does it take to reach your goals? For writers, a decade can zip by while we practice POV or characterization, while we fine-tune our plot development strategies, or research methods. Ten years before we have an agent. Ten years before we have a book contract. Ten years before we’re even on the radar of publishing decision-makers. See why perseverance is imperative?

But courage is a choice. And no matter what your goals in life, what your dreams or your calling, you have a choice to make: courage or not.

Jesus says to take courage:

I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me.
In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.
I have overcome the world. 
(John 16:33 MKJV)

He knew we’d have a choice. He knew we’d need Him. And oh, how we need Him. Everyone needs Him, whether they realize it or not. The oxygen we inhale is there because He sustains us, each of us. If He turned His face away, no one could stand. (see Hebrews 1:3)

Really, it all comes down to trust.

Trust that the God who called you will also bring it to pass. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Trust that God knows the best timing. If He released you before you were ready, you’d face many hardships (humiliation, failure, defeat, despair, etc.).

Learning to fight hard (for what you want) and to work hard, are good traits. Embrace that journey.

Learning to love people, to keep them foremost, is key. I don’t believe God will release us before we have that firmly established.

Here are some parting words from the Word:

Hope in the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall make your heart strong;
yea, hope in the LORD.
(Ps 27:14 MKJV)

Faithful is He who called you, who also will do it.
(1Thess 5:24 MKJV)