Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shoot the Foxes

As I wrote about last week, my first New Years resolution is to declutter (physically and spiritually).

My second resolution goes along with the first.  Namely, shoot the foxes.  No, don't call PETA.  And I'm not taking up hunting. I saw Bambi one too many times for that.  :)

We still may not know what the fox says, and I have no interest in talking to it.  I am only interested in what the fox does...

"Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." Song of Solomon 2:15 

There are foxes.  Sneaky and crafty little critters that seem insignificant.

The Hebrew word for "fox" is shuw'al, which means burrower.  A fox digs holes and dwells underground.

The holes it digs destroys the roots.

What are the foxes in your life that are digging holes?  What are the foxes that are underneath the surface, that have dug down deep destroying roots?  You can't see it.  You can't see the root being destroyed.  The result comes in the form of fruit shriveling up and dying.

The Hebrew word for "little" is qatan, which means little, insignificant or unimportant.

These foxes seem small.  They seem unimportant.  Watching a movie here (and I'm not even talking R! Some PG-13 movies are just raunchy!).   Listening to a song there.  Little.  Small.  But destroying the root one scratch at a time.  The scratches are so small they seem insignificant. But they add up.

I'm not trying to be legalistic here.  I am just tired of the compromise.  I am tired of the cussing.  I am tired of the sex.  I am tired of viewing the sin. And if I watch those movies, am I somehow saying I approve?  You don't have to agree.  I.  Am. Just. Tired!

I crave purity.  I crave innocence.  I crave holiness.

And it goes beyond media.  However, our culture is bombarded with media, so these foxes seem to be everywhere!

The Hebrew word for "spoil" is chabel.  Chabel means to bind, ruin, or spoil.  The little foxes spoil the vines.  They bind up our souls and ruin the fruit.  I am convinced they are anything but insignificant and small.

For our vines have tender grapes.  The tender grapes are where the fruit of our lives blossom.  Foxes also eat the grapes and devour the plants.  They either kill the root or just eat the fruit.  Either way, the vine is spoiled.

These foxes are not easily caught, which is why I say, just shoot the varmints! We want them gone, not in some cage to let out at a later time.

I am on a quest this year of decluttering and detox.  These foxes have to go.  We may still not know what the fox says, but as far as I'm concerned, he can just say, "Bye-bye!".    

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Declutter Me

Declutter.  This is one resolution for this New Year.

It didn't happen all at once.

We have been in our home for seven years.  Seven years of living.  Seven years of collecting.  Seven years of unnecessary items finding places to rest out of sight.

Clutter has built up over time.  Tuck this away here.  Hide that little trinket there.  Until the mess under the surface screams too loudly to be ignored.  Its voice beckons from under the neat facade.

I hide away clutter pretending it's not there until one day when I open the cabinet door and it all falls out onto my head.  In that moment, there is a choice: cram the clutter back into the cabinet and pretend it isn't there (this is the one I often choose), or acknowledge it, deal with it and toss it or give it away.

Our hearts are the same.  A little sin tucked away here.  A seemingly small compromise over in the corner.  It adds up.  Until one day it all comes crashing down.  There is a choice that must be made.

Keep it hidden or toss it.

We need to toss the clutter to the Cross.  We need to give it away to the One who can take it and use it for good.  He is the only One who can make any use of it.

If you were to come to my house, you might comment how uncluttered it is.  I. Cannot. Stand. Clutter.  However,  if you were to look into my cabinets and drawers, you would find a different story.  Everything might look neat and tidy on the outside, but what is on the inside?

"The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 

And sin isn't always obvious.  Sin is often disguised as quite useful.  Worry.  Pride.  Self-righteousness.  Selfishness.  Those are the ones that often hide the best.

Clutter crowds out room for crowns.

When our cabinets are full of useless space-robbers, there is little room for what is necessary.

When are souls are full of useless nothingness, there is little room left for Christ.

And the only necessary thing is Christ.

The nothing allows for thorns to grow, choking out the Word of God (when it is heard) and robs our hearts of the richness of God's presence  (Luke 8:14).

Just as I won't know all that is in my cabinets that needs to be cleared out until I start going through them, I won't know all that is in my heart that needs tossed until I let Christ clean it out.

And I won't lie, the process can be painful. Sometimes digging into the deep corners takes some muscle. There may even be some smelly moldy bowls that need to be removed.

However, even if it isn't all pleasant, it is better to toss the mold than to have it hiding in your heart.

"Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me."  Psalm 51:10 

Let that be our heart's cry.   

I pray that in this cleansing process, there will be a decluttering of me to make more room for Him.

It is an ever-going process that won't be completed until Heaven.

(Hopefully decluttering my cabinets won't take quite as long!) ; )

Lord, declutter me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Week of Resolutions

Happy New Year Living Free in Him Readers!!!

This week as we continue our first full week of the New Year, I wanted to share three resolutions I feel the Lord gave me for this year.

They aren't your "typical" new years resolutions.

Before I share mine though, I thought I'd share a few of my nine year old son's news years resolutions.

His resolutions included:

1.  Drink less apple cider.  (He hardly ever drinks apple cider.)

2.  Not to use the bathroom past 5 o'clock.  (Ummm....that doesn't sound like a good idea.)

3.  To not blink for 15 seconds. (Let's not even try to understand why.)  

No, he doesn't quite understand the concept of New Years resolutions.  Upon further investigation into his reasoning for these "goals", I discovered that he thought "New Years Resolutions" were only for New Years Eve.  In his mind, these were goals for him to achieve that day only.  He didn't understand they were meant to be goals to improve his life for the entire year.  And by his choices, that is pretty clear.  {smile}

However, even though his understanding of New Year's resolutions was skewed, most people may approach theirs with the same mentality.  They set them with low expectations of follow through for the entire year.

I don't judge.  I've been there.   At least there is a goal in mind, even if it is short lived.

"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." Hebrew 12: 1b-2a. (emphasis added) 

The key words I want to emphasize are "looking unto Jesus".  

The main reason for failure, I believe, is our earthly effort and our striving to achieve in our flesh.  Our flesh is incapable of success.  Only the Spirit of God inside of us can achieve success.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, but let us do it by looking unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith.  It is only by looking unto Jesus that we can finish the race.

And there will be moments of failure.  However, when you keep looking to Jesus and not in your own ability, His grace gives you the strength to rise up and continue even after a fall.

One failure doesn't mean the race is over, it just means you have stumbled on the path towards the goal.  The race is only over when you quit running and get off the course.

This week and into next week, I will share my three resolutions for this year.  I am sure I will fail along the way this year, but my intention is to run the race with endurance looking unto Jesus to help me finish.  And I believe I will be closer to the finish line at the end of 2015.

I just have to keep running.

And unlike my son, I will be blinking my eyes as much as necessary with plenty of apple cider and bathroom breaks!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What to Give the Person Who Has Everything

"And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.  And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2:11

Hustle and bustle.  Retailing and wrapping.  Running and racing to find the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on our lists.

To show our love and affection, we wrap up treasures in brightly adorned packages.  We spend money and time and gas and energy to give to those we love.

What about Jesus? 

Please don't click away!  This isn't a message about how we should scrap all the fluff about Christmas.  It isn't a message to guilt you into taking down your favorite Santa figurine.  I adore Christmas and all that goes with it.  I love giving gifts and the traditions we hold dear.

The question I am asking is simple.  What will you bring to the King? What is your gift to Jesus? 

What do you give the Person who has everything? 

It's simple really.  You give Him back the gift He has given you.  You give Him your treasure.  

The wise men worshiped the Son of God and "opened their treasures".

What is your treasure? 

Worship isn't just a song sung on Sunday.  Worship is a lifestyle of giving to the Lord.  Giving our praise.  Giving our work.  Giving our gifts.  Giving our treasures.

There have been times I have felt guilty spending time writing thinking I could be spending it reading my Bible or worshiping in some way.  However, what I have realized is writing is worship.  Writing is giving the gift the Lord gave me back to Him.  It is giving Him my treasure.

Your gift may not be writing.  Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Singing.  Selling.  Sewing. Styling.

But, it doesn't have to start with an "S". {Smile}

Building. Drumming. Decorating. Cleaning. Organizing. Washing. Teaching. Nursing. Painting.  

Whatever you do, whatever your gift is, it is worship unto the Lord.  The Lord has placed gifts and talents and abilities in each of you.  If you don't know your gift, it is there under the tree waiting for you to unwrap.

This Christmas and new year, it is time for you to open your treasures and present your gifts to Him in worship.  It is time.  He is waiting.  It is all He wants for Christmas from you.

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matt 6:21).  When you give Him your treasure, you are giving Him your heart.  There is no greater gift for our King than our hearts.

Come. Kneel. Bring Him your gift. Worship. 

Father, I love you.  I honor You.  I come before Your throne of grace and bow down.  I lay my treasures at Your feet.  I come to worship you with my gifts.  I pray You would use these gifts for Your glory and that You would be glorified through them.  Lord, I give You my heart.  May it be ever pleasing to You.  In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Merry Christmas!!  

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Morning

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in haven give good things to those who ask Him,"  Matt 7:11

Scribbles on paper.  The sacred "Christmas list" made out every year by little ones far and wide. Children's hearts' desires written in crayon or pencil filled with the the led of hope.

My kids excitedly handed me their list.  My hands received the paper with almost as much enthusiasm.  My heart longs to give my kids their hearts desires (if I can).

The way a parent wants to awaken to glowing faces on Christmas morning is perhaps only a glimpse of how the Lord longs to bless His own children.

Children, bright eyed and full of wonder await Christmas.  It takes little faith for most children to believe presents will be under the light adorned tree.

What if we awaited God's gifts like a child on Christmas morning?  What if we believed there were good things wrapped up for us waiting for the right timely moment?  What if we believed as a child?

God is good.  He has treasures wrapped up for us just waiting for the right time for us to open His gifts.

Sometimes we cannot see the goodness He has stored up because it is hidden.  He has hid His presents until our Christmas morning comes.  Like a child, we want it right away and we want to know what is in the package.  However, we must be patient and wait until our Christmas.

When I was a child, I would try to tear a corner off the presents or look under the paper where it was taped to peek inside.  However, that thrill only lasts a moment and then disappointment sets in because the surprise is spoiled.  Plus, even though I knew what is in the package, I still had to wait to open the gift.  Knowing my gift only dampened the waiting process.

God has good gifts for all of us, but He likes to keep them a surprise.  He may give us a peek here and there, but we can't see all that is under the paper until opening time.

God's heart is to instill hope and anticipation as He prepares our hearts to receive.

Hope in itself is a gift.  And Hope that is seen is not hope.  

As a child on Christmas morning, we can be certain that His gifts will come.  We can believe that if it is best for us, He will answer every request on our "list".

Christmas morning isn't just for kids.  It is for all God's children.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Some Like it Hot (I Like it Cold)

I was eighteen and the year was 1992.   After begging my parents for weeks to agree to let me go on a senior trip with my friends to Great America in Chicago, IL, they finally conceded.

Four eighteen year old girls in stone washed jeans and big hair packed in my friend's champagne Chevy Cavalier.  Four friends with a hunger for freedom and independence.  Four friends celebrating graduation and a journey into the next adventure of their lives.

The trip was fun, but also eye opening.  During my younger years, and even into adulthood, people pleasing defined me.  Sadly, my incessant need to please people and gain approval from others left little room to be...well,  Who I was evaded me.  I had no idea.  I might have known my favorite color, but if I thought you would disagree with me on it, I would have seconded guessed even that trivial of a detail.

Sad.  I know.

This trip at eighteen years of age revealed I had no idea what I liked or who I was.  My friends were all confident in their likes and dislikes and it didn't seem to matter to them if my opinion differed.  They were confident in who they were.  I wasn't.

Sadly, this lack of confidence continued into adulthood.  I am not as much of a people pleaser now. However, from time to time, it tries to come back much like those stone wash jeans.

Last week, I believe God used pumpkin pie to give me an example of how so often we are trying to be someone else or convince others to be like us.  

I like cold pumpkin pie.  Don't ask me why.  I just do.  I had tried it warm and decided cold was the way to go.  Someone was trying to convince me that hot pumpkin pie was better than cold.  This person seemed determined to win me over to their pie point of view.

Finally I replied, "I like it cold.  You like it hot.  It is ok.  Neither is right or wrong.  You can like it hot and I can like it cold.  It is ok. "

It doesn't matter.  What I like and what you like are irrelevant.  One isn't right and the other wrong.  It is just a matter of opinion.

Don't misunderstand, I am not referring to absolute truths.  Jesus is the only way, truth and life and no man to come to the Father except through Him.  That is not an opinion, it is a Truth.

I am only referring to opinions.  It doesn't matter if you like Chevy Cavaliers and I'd rather drive a Toyota.  It doesn't matter if I like blue and you prefer pink.  It doesn't matter if you like Pepsi and I like Coke.

This may seem elementary to you, but to thousands, this one revelation will be life freeing.

Let me put it in a more important context:

It doesn't matter if your friend homeschools and you feel strongly about having your kids in a public school.   It doesn't matter if you feel called to be a stay at home mom and your sister is a working mom and loves her career.  It doesn't matter if you feel led to go to college and your brother wants to own his own business.  It simply doesn't matter!

All of the above examples are opinions.  They are neither right nor wrong.

We can learn to accept and love each other regardless of our opinions.  We can quit trying to convince people to change into something they were never meant to be in the first place.  When we finally accept people for who they are, the happier everyone will be and the better relationships we will have with our friends and family.

Everyone has to walk out this journey called life on their own.  Everyone must go the direction they are led.

God is our final authority and as long as we are walking with Him on our journey, we can have confidence that we are on the right path regardless of our favorite color or preferred pie temperature.

Everyone's journey will look different.  Just because one looks different from yours, does not make it wrong.  It's just different.

My prayer for myself and all of us is that we will stop judging other people's decisions and stop trying to be something we aren't just to gain another person's approval.

I like it cold and if you like it hot, that is just fine.

Relevant Scriptures:

"For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God."  1 John 3:20

"For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But, the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."  James 3:16-17

"But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."  1 Thess 2:4

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving and Peace

Today is a day of celebration in America of giving thanks to the Lord for His blessings.

However, there has been much unrest in our country over the past several days and perhaps many people touched by the events will find it hard to give thanks today.

Maybe you weren't affected by those events, but perhaps other events in your life have caused a pause about being thankful.

I want to suggest that perhaps being thankful isn't as much about circumstances as it is about the heart.

Peace cannot come from external sources.  When it does, it is flighty at best and structurally unsound.
Peace can only come from One source, Jesus.

The Lord gave me an equation a few weeks back that I believe sums up how the Lord intends for us to live out our daily lives...

Prayer + Praise = Peace

Thanksgiving isn't just about giving thanks one day a year.  It is a lifestyle derived from a heart soaked in thankfulness for the daily blessings that abound.

It is all a matter of perspective.  What we magnify will become bigger in our lives.

We can choose to see the blessings or we can choose to see the bleak.  We can choose to magnify the Lord and His goodness or we can choose to dwell on our disappointments.

Think about a magnifying glass.  A magnifying glass doesn’t make the object bigger.  To magnify God doesn’t make God bigger.  He is already BIG.  The magnifying glass only brings the object more into focus and your focus on the object is increased.  Our perception is what changes. 

We have the choice to magnify our problem or our God.  We can magnify God with thanksgiving. 

Our perception is our reality. 

Prayer and praise can change our perspective.

I know life can be hard.  I have seen my fair share of disappointments, challenges, and heart ache.  I am in no way diminishing yours.  My aim is to only point out that when we allow our worries and wallow to overshadow our worship of our Lord, we are only hurting ourselves.

Thanksgiving (Giving Thanks) for all the blessings we have is part of the equation to inner peace.  

Think of the ripple effect it would have if everyone's heart was full of praise and thankfulness.

Not only will our prayer and praise give us peace, it will also bring peace to others.  God will use us to help set others free and bring His message of peace to them as well. 

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of  God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phil 4:6-7

"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord will gladness: Come before His presence with singing...enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise." Psalm 100:1,2,4

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." Ps 34:1-3

Praying you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and for your hearts to be full of thanksgiving not only today, but throughout the year.  Praying that whatever you are facing, that you would see that the Lord is bigger and He is worthy of praise.  He loves you.  He is for you.  He  is with you.  We praise You Lord for your goodness!

With love and blessings,

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