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,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A New Perspective [On Squanto]

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9  

One of the things I love about my phone camera is the ability to zoom in or out with only a move of my finger.  All it takes is a flick of my hand to change my focus.

What if we were able to zoom out and see our lives from God's perspective?  What if we truly believed He is involved in every picture of our lives?  What if we allowed His hand to change our zoom and refocus our vision?

What if we zoomed out?

This year our family endeavored into the adventure of homeschooling.  Yesterday, we watched a video to learn more about Squanto, the Native American who helped the pilgrims learn to plant and survive in the New World.

I never knew Squanto's life resembled Joseph in the Bible until yesterday.

In summary, Squanto grew up as a child in America (before it was America).  He was taken captive one day by Spaniards, and sold into slavery in Spain.  Monks purchased him, not to be a slave, but to care for him.  They taught him about God and he learned English.  The monks knew he wanted to return home and eventually everything lined up for him to return home.  However, when he arrived, his village wasn't there.  He learned that everyone in his village had died from illness.  He lived in the forest alone with the Lord until the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock.

He was able to help the pilgrims because of his time overseas and learning English while there.  What man had meant for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:19).  Amazing.

If we took just one snapshot of Squanto's life and saw only that he was taken captive or only saw that he was sold as a slave, we might miss the bigger picture of God's greater purpose.

Back to my camera, if I zoom too far in, I can't see the bigger picture.  It appears blurry, muddled, and without purpose.  Zooming out allows me to see things more clearly.

We are but a tiny dot.  We can trust our loving God.  His hand never fails.  What may look like a blurry, muddled mess may actually be part of a bigger picture unseen.

I will say it again...

We can trust our God with our blurry, muddled mess.

We might not be able to understand, but we can trust His hand.

Dear Lord, show us Your perspective and Your vision.  Loving Father, we ask for You to refocus our minds and our hearts to You and what You are doing even in the middle of the messiness of life.  Lord, we give You thanks for Your love and Your hand in our lives.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Being Led by the Red Balloon

The wind began to swirl stronger as we loaded up the pearl white mini-van.  My husband eyed his phone for the forecast.  The kids were filled with excitement as they tried to maintain composure waiting for us to leave.  Today was the pool party my daughter had been anticipating all week. At this party, she would receive ribbons for swim team plus have cake, pizza and a great time swimming!  Sounds great, doesn't it?  Bags were packed, family was in the van, husband phone in hand.

Before backing up the van, he says, "There is a tornado watch.  Let me call the pool and see if they are still having the party."  We wait.  He calls.  The person on the other end says they are still having the party and people are down by the pool.  Then there was a pause.  She clarifies that everyone is out of the pool due to the pool being closed down temporarily.  She wasn't sure why or when they would be getting back in the water.

My husband conveys the news to me and we reluctantly decide to continue with our plan to go to the pool party.

We backed up out of the driveway and headed down the street.  As the wind ripped through the trees, my husband began to question our decision.

He points out:

1.  It is really windy.
2. There is a tornado watch.
3. The pool is temporarily closed.
4.  The wind is picking up and the sky is getting dark.

All note worthy reasons to not go to a pool party.

...and then there was the red balloon.

As we drove down the street, we saw a red balloon...It was a random red balloon stuck in a neighbor's tree!  It caught both of our attention.

He then says, "And there is a red balloon in that tree!"  Laughing, he decides, "I think the Lord is trying to tell us we shouldn't go!"

Please don't misunderstand.  We are not signs kind of people.  However, sometimes if there are many obvious events or circumstances pointing to going one direction or another, we do need to learn to discern that the Lord may be trying to give us a message!  We shouldn't just ignore if there are many obstacles in our way.  The Lord may be trying to protect us and we need to listen.

After seeing the red balloon and laughing, we happily turned around.  The wind continued to pick up.

That  night, there ended up being a tornado warning and tornadoes touching down in the area.  If we hadn't listened to the Lord's direction, we could have ended up stuck in the YMCA basement all night or worse.

Sometimes those "red balloons" are the red flags the Lord will use to get our attention.  The next time you are uncertain about a decision, look for those "red balloons".  They might be just the thing the Lord is using to guide you into His blessings and away from the winds of harm.  


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Are You a Big Toe?

My twelve year old son, Joe, and I have been training for a 5K.  About ten days before the race, a very large eighteen year old landed on his left big toe.  Immediately he cried out in pain and the pain continued. 

His toe did not look great.  It looked as if it could be broken.  It was swollen, red and bruised.  He was able to move it, so we concluded it was just badly bruised.  

A week later, his toe was still a little bruised, but the swelling had decreased and the redness had dissipated.  We decided to try to go for a run.  About a half mile into the run, he noticed his toe hurting.  He said, "I never knew how something so small could effect me so much." 

I found this as a perfect opportunity to relate his big toe to our life in the body of Christ.  

"A big toe may seem small, but it becomes big when its brokenness hinders something you really want to accomplish. In the body of Christ, we are all a part of the body.  Some of us are arms.  Some of us are legs or hands.  And some of us are big toes.  As a big toe, we may not feel important.  We might not think what we have to contribute really matters, but it all matters.  When the body is missing the big toe or the big toe cannot contribute appropriately, the whole body suffers.  We need the big toe! Every member of the body is important."  

I want to encourage you today that YOU are important in the body of Christ, even if you feel like you are just a big toe.  Nothing is "just" a something in the body of Christ.  

"But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary." 1 Corinthians 12: 20-22

Every member of the body is necessary to finish the race. 

Joe and I did finish our race this past weekend, bruised toe and all.  His bruised toe didn't keep Him from finishing.  

The same is true in our Kingdom race.  When we are all working together, with all the gifts God has given us, we can accomplish so much!  If you feel bruised, that doesn't mean you have to sit out of the race.  God never said all the members would be in perfect working order, He only says we work perfectly together.  As a matter of fact, He says "those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary"!  

So, if you have days when you feel like a sore "toe", remember, He says, "You are necessary!"  And the truest thing about anything is what God says about it.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Climbing Mountains with Open Hands

Our family went on a spontaneous trip to the Great Smokey Mountains last Saturday.  We live in one of the nation's most beautiful and frequently traveled vacation destinations, yet we hardly ever go to the mountains.  However, I think that is changing.

At one point, our family ventured off the trail to the creek below.  Little feet followed carefully as we descended down the rocks. Hands were placed ever so pointedly to gain a steady foothold on the jagged surface. At the bottom, we sat and ate a snack while admiring the majesty of the waterfall overhead.  With our eyes full of God's beauty and our bellies full of trail mix, we headed back up the rocky terrain.

I'm not much of a rock climber, but I know we needed both our feet and hands to climb up the rocks last weekend.  I can't imagine making the ascent without the use of my hands.

So, the first time I heard the song above in church, I found myself scratching my head.

Worship is one of my loves.  Hands lifted.  Heart crying out to the Lord.  Tears flowing while meditating on the greatness of His overwhelming goodness.  However it is hard to raise hands and scratch your head at the same time.

The main chorus in this song is "I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open."  The musical lyric baffled me.

Ironically, the beginning of the song says, "I will lean not on my own understanding."  That entry should have been my mantra.  However, my own understanding could not get passed how you could possibly climb a mountain with your hands open.  What does that even mean?

This past Sunday, a day after our hike on a mountain, the worship team sang this song again.  This time, I asked the Lord the meaning of the lyrics.

The Lord answered by playing an image in my mind.  The image was a picture of me climbing a mountain, only I wasn't using my hands.  Instead, He had a hold of my hands.  He was leading me, showing me where to go and where to place my feet.  His strength held me up and it was effortless.  He was leading me over the mountain.  Finally, I understood.

Often we see a mountain in our life and become overwhelmed with its magnitude.  The Lord can and does remove mountains from our life.  However, there are times when the Lord doesn't remove them immediately, but instead leads us over the mountain.  He leads us hand in hand, showing us directly where to place our feet, steadying us with His strength, presence and love.

Why doesn't he just remove it?  As we climb the mountain with the Lord,  hands open, allowing our hands to align with His, we experience Him, His goodness and His faithfulness.  Our faith builds and our trust strengthens as we witness His protection, provision, and purpose.  

It is a miracle for a mountain to be removed.  It is also a miracle to be able to climb a mountain with open hands, giving everything to the Lord, believing He will lead you safely to the other side.  Letting go of everything and just trusting the Lord in the midst of a mountain is where faith is strengthened. His provision in the middle of the mountain is often the greater miracle.

The Lord wants to lead you into a deeper trust in Him.  Will you let go of the rope of control, open your hands to His loving grip and let Him lead you on an adventure with Him?  He's got you.  He won't let you go.  With Him, we can climb with open hands and there is no doubt the trail will be full of His beauty.

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