Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Know That I Love You

As I’ve immersed myself in the Gospel of John the past month or so I’ve realized that the lesson Jesus taught his disciples is the same one He is trying to teach me now. Trust. How much of their heart were they willing to give? Where did they draw the line in their level of trust? Those are the questions that Jesus figuratively asked His disciples over and over and those are the same questions that I find my heart pondering as well.

John: 21:15-19.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

In these verses in John 21, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times, “Peter, do you love me”? Jesus knew the answer to that question, so what was Jesus REALLY asking? He wanted to know if Peter trusted him.

Jesus has been asking me the same question lately, “Do you love me”? Hit by what has felt like an onslaught of difficult situations again, I have had to re-examine my answer and willingness to go deeper. It was just a couple of years ago when I was tested in a similar way and I emerged with a stronger faith and intimacy with the Lord. Now I find myself struggling with the same issue, though at an even deeper level. Do I trust him to take care of me – REALLY trust him? I know he can find me a job or a place to live, but will he really meet my need to belong? Will he fill the deepest place within me that so often feels alone?

Jesus meets each one of us where we are. He knows where we doubt and struggle to surrender. Today I have decided to willingly tender those innermost places to him as my offering of surrender. That’s what Peter had to do in his interaction with Jesus – he offered the Lord his love and trust for whatever was in front of him. I am making that same choice.

Yes Lord, you know that I love you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In The Ring

I was up early this morning. Not that I wanted to be, but sometimes a routine is hard to break and by 6:00 am I was laying there wide awake. I seem to process best in the mornings though, so maybe it’s a good thing I was up and turning to Psalm 143 because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I’ve been weighed down by life circumstances the past few weeks. Not unlike a prize fighter who is in the ring with someone far bigger and more experienced, I feel like I’ve been taking a beating. The busyness of the school year, the tremendous stress of a company acquisition, the overwhelming responsibility of being a single parent, and other smaller incidental issues have weighed in and left me feeling like a boxer nearing the end of a long fight. I am still standing, but focusing has been difficult and the realization is that I could go down if the right punch is thrown.

David expressed it perfectly in Psalm 143.
1 O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.

3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.

6 I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD,
for I hide myself in you.

10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

It feels as though David wrote this Psalm for me. I have felt so many of the same emotions that he describes here: faint, pursued, and even dismayed. I am constantly amazed at how often God speaks directly to my battered heart through his Word. Not only did I stumble across this Psalm on just the right morning, but He has been showering me with other blessings that I couldn’t ignore. In the midst of the sadness I’ve felt, God has kept showing me mercy upon mercy – someone would give me a gift I needed, I’d get to have a great talk with a Godly friend or I’d open to the exact verses that spoke to my situation.

I’m not at the end of this particular fight. I’ve got several rounds to go in this match. But I am so thankful that David understood the feeling of being pursued and dogged and that he gave me an example of how to turn to God. Desperate to persevere during a time when I’ve been experiencing punch after punch, I made the decision to do two things: spend more time with the Lord in the mornings and to continue to initiate with wise and spiritual friends who help me stay grounded in reality and God’s truth. For now I will focus on verse 8, which says:

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

I may get bloodied and beaten, but with the Lord I will walk out of the ring a winner in this fight and in every other struggle I encounter.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Great Awakening

“Death. It is the most misunderstood part of life. It is not a great sleep but a great awakening. It is that moment when we awake, rub our eyes, and see things at last the way God has seen them all along.”

I love that excerpt from Ken Gire’s book “Moments with the Savior”. He references Luke 16:19-31; the amazing story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus who both die and experience the afterlife that God awarded each of them as they deserved. God sees our lives, hearts and circumstances from a completely different viewpoint than we do. He always sees with eternal perspective and we are limited by the physical; choosing often to live by what we can see and feel. I believe, however, that learning to train our minds to think with eternal perspective is one of the big steps toward maturity in our relationship with God.

Reflect on what you would view differently in your life if you chose to see things from God’s eternal perspective instead of your own limited one. Imagine all of the things that we allow to consume our thinking and heart that will not matter AT ALL when we are standing face to face with the King of Kings. That is the great awakening. Here is what I envision as being important at that moment:
• Did I love the Lord above all other people and things
• Did I love my family unconditionally
• Were my friends and acquaintances drawn closer to or pushed away from Jesus as a result of their interactions with me
• Did I read and know God’s Word or did I treat it casually and with little significance on how I lived my life
• Did I view sin and righteousness the same way that God does

I think that upon my awakening, those are the things I will care about. I doubt I will be thinking about my job, my possessions or even my activities except how they relate to the above list.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

I think it’s important to realize that according to this verse I am prone to see things a bit out of focus…a poor reflection. Upon my death, my reawakening, so to speak, I will know fully and will be known completely. I realize that due to God’s holiness and perfection, no matter how I live, I will still experience an awakening. I also believe that if I live with an eternal perspective while I’m here my awakening experience will not be one of shock but more of a sharpening of an already held view.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Standing In The Surf

1 Peter 5:10 says, “ 10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Every single one of us has circumstances or periods of time in our lives that seem to redefine who we are. I’ve experienced a few during the past five years. This time period of constant change led me to the beach one day in my thoughts. I pictured myself standing on the shoreline, right at the edge with a strong tide rushing toward me. One second I was on top of the packed sand, staring out at the horizon, and the next moment, buffeted by a large wave I started losing my balance as the sand underneath my feet began shifting. It wasn’t the secure packed sand it appeared to be, and by the next wave, my feet were completely covered and I was ankle deep in sand and water. Moments before, a distinct imprint of my foot was emblazoned on that sandy strip, now it was completely gone. So is life. One minute we’re doing well, happy, and hitting our stride and the next day we are knocked down and wondering what happened. God desires to use those times of uncertainly to draw us to him.

As I’m standing in the surf
The tide rushes in
Washing over my footprints
That just moments ago
Were clearly embedded and molded to form
Defining part of me
The remains of what was once distinct
Is now shifting
Changing as each new wave
Washes over it
A faint image of what once was
As I stand looking out
I wonder
What waves are headed my way?
Can I handle this
Constant redefining of who I am?

Our Father allows us to suffer for a little while, knowing that during that time of ambiguity we make choices; will we walk away or toward him? The day I wrote the poem above, I was faced with a choice, I had not yet determined which way I was going to walk. It is a recorded moment of my indecision.

Since that day, I have stood on that imaginary shoreline again and again. Each time I find the earth under my feet shifting, I have to make the choice to allow God to restore my heart and life; and so far he has every time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hello and Goodbye

We are always saying hello or goodbye. There are daily goodbyes we casually throw over our shoulder as we run out the door, coffee in hand, or the morning greetings to our co-workers as we open the office door. There are also the less frequent ones…as we leave our child at the college dorm for the first time or the heart-pounding hello as your baby is put into your arms. Our lives are literally a series of hellos and goodbyes with those we love.

This summer I took a business trip back to my home state of Indiana. As the plane was taxiing into the gate, I received a text, one that I had been both expecting and dreading. One of my friends diagnosed with leukemia last Fall had been hovering near death for a few days. The text was from a mutual friend and it simply said, “She passed away this morning, but now she is in heaven.” I closed my eyes, blocking out the busyness on the plane that surrounded me and, in my heart, bid my friend farewell.

The first night of my trip I had the opportunity to spend time with some old friends; friends that I hadn’t seen in years. It was so fun to see them drive up – a fun hello. We talked, laughed and told funny stories about crazy things we had done and experienced together. I even took a trip back to the University I graduated from, reflecting on how life had changed since I said goodbye to the friends and places that were such a huge part of that season in my life.

While I was in my home state, I felt compelled to visit the cemetery where a very dear friend is buried. She was killed in a car accident in college – it was my first experience with death and it was a parting that changed me eternally. I spent only a few minutes standing in the cemetery and yet I caught myself remembering my last casual goodbye with her the night she headed out the door never to return. I said a more formal and lasting one a few days later at her funeral.

The trip back home was an emotional one for me. I hope I’m not painting a depressing picture though because emotional doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad. It was actually a very good trip. Even as I waited for my flight home I sat watching people greeting each other with hugs and smiles. It was a journey that brought into sharp focus for me the fun-filled hellos and sad goodbyes that we mark our lives by and that shape us into who we are. I spent the plane ride home reflecting on all those people I have greeted and parted ways with over the years. What a blessing to be able to love so many people that I am always experiencing either the thrill of hello or the pain of goodbye.

It’s all about putting your heart out there. The more people we love and who love us, the more wonderful greetings and tear-filled goodbyes we get to experience.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's All About Perspective

Last week was rough for me. It was one of those weeks where my emotions were haywire - work was difficult, the kids were fighting and I didn’t handle it well. I’ve had weeks like that before, and yet came out of them closer to God and more determined and faithful. That was not the case last week. Still in my funk, I grudgingly went to church yesterday only to have the veil pulled back from my heart, and my soul enlightened.

Sunday’s sermon was taken from Matthew 5:10, where the Bible says, “10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The pastor went on to talk about many modern day martyrs and Christians in more than 20 countries who are being persecuted in horrific ways because they profess Jesus as Lord. I walked out of church sobered and grateful for the opportunity to repent of my selfishness and ingratitude.

Last night I was taking a few minutes before bed to contemplate my heart and where it had been heading. I thought about the book of Philippians and Paul’s authorship of this book from prison. His attitude is nothing short of astounding, especially considering the extremely barbaric conditions known to have existed in prisons during this time period. More than likely, Paul was shackled in heavy chains, given very little to eat and was kept in a space filled beyond capacity with other prisoners. Under those extremely difficult circumstances, he sang hymns to the Lord and wrote the book of Philippians.

Philippians 4: 4-9 says, “ 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Though I was anxious – worried about my kids, work and my place in church ministry - verses 6-7 really struck me. I had to stop my anxiousness, fill my spirit with gratitude and then God’s peace would supersede any situation and guard my heart. If only I had read the Word and “put it into practice,” as Paul says in verse 9, then maybe my mindset might have been different. With a different mind, peace may have guarded my heart - and I could have been rejoicing instead of weeping.

I do not know what this week will bring my way. I seriously doubt it will be much different circumstantially. I am praying though, that it will be much different as I keep my blessings in perspective and “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What Time Alone Can Do

Have you ever gone through a period of time where you were alone a lot or perhaps you just felt alone? My children are gone for a few weeks visiting their Dad in another state. My house is very quiet and I have discovered that being alone for long periods of time is very telling about who I am at a heart level. I am more tempted to sin when I’m alone, after all, who would know? And yet, as I’ve spent days here by myself I’m coming to see the benefit in this solitude and not just as a source of temptation. I am not forced to do anything out of the need to be a good example, or because it’s expected – what I do now is what I desire – be that good or bad. My true heart is exposed, and all because I’m alone.

Exodus 2:11-12 says , "11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand."

If you look closely at verse twelve it says that Moses was alone, and glancing around to make certain of that fact, he then made the choice to sin. As it turns out, Moses’ choice wasn’t a secret and it became known that he committed this murder, so he fled to the desert. There was a span of 40 years between the time Moses murdered the Egyptian soldier, fled Egypt, and when he heard the Lord speak from a burning bush. A lot of changes took place in Moses’ heart in that time period. The Bible says that Moses was a shepherd so we know that he was probably alone most of the time. Apparently that solitude changed him because he went from being a murderer to an obedient servant of God.

Deuteronomy 34:10-12 says, 10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

I’ve had to make a decision to turn to God in the solitude and choose not to sin. My heart’s goal is to walk closer with Him when I’m alone or when I’m feeling isolated like Moses did. Moses’ time in extended solitude changed him into one of the most amazing leaders in the entire Bible. It says in Exodus 33 that God spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” I long to continue to have that same “face to face” connection with my Father. Maybe time alone is a good thing after all.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

God Is My Refuge

Think about the best place you’ve ever lived. What was it that made it a home for you? Did it feel like a sanctuary from the world? This morning I’ve been reflecting on my time in the house where I’m living. It was dubbed the “happy house of healing” by the friends who rented it to me. Tucked away on the back corner of 10 acres of land, it’s an oasis in the bustling suburbs of a big city. For me, it has become a haven and a place to recover from a big life change. Not only have I grown as a person here, but as a mother, a friend and as a servant to the King. Healing has definitely taken place. I used to sit on this porch watching the sun rise with tears running down my face, wondering what had become of the life that I knew.

Psalm 59:16
16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 61:1-4
1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

When I think of the term refuge….so many things come to my mind but the word that walks alongside it for me is desperation. When you need a refuge, your heart is desperate. When I moved into the house, that is exactly how I felt. I had no idea what the future held. I moved in, set up house, and started doing my best to live my new life…and I started spending sunrises with my Father. And as I did that, the Lord really became my sanctuary, not the house. The house and the new home I was forging within it became the visualization for me of what the Lord could be….my shelter.

This morning I have tears in my eyes; these are different tears though. I am struck by God’s mercy to me. With the Lord as my refuge, the healing that has taken place in my heart is a glorious thing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life's Storms

I’m spending a quiet morning on my porch watching the world wake up from a violent night. It was storming last night; the wind howled and the rain was pelting against the side of the house. I woke and noticed right away that it was quiet…the calm after the storm. The first thing I saw when I walked out my front door was my favorite tree. It is beautiful – standing tall in the middle of my front yard. It weathered the storm well – with only a few dead branches on the ground below. Its roots go deep, which enables it to stand tall and solid.

Matthew 7:24-27 says, 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

When I was reading these verses in Matthew 7 the similarity to the tree struck me. When the roots go deep, or we have the right foundation, we can weather the most difficult of life’s storms. Sure, there may be some loose or weakened branches that break free and fall to the ground – the storms of life shake us up. Storms show weakness, but once that frailty is exposed, and the dead is taken away, there is the opportunity for sprouting new growth and strength. I know so many people who have faced adversity, and by clinging to Jesus during that storm, have grown stronger and deeper roots because of it.

Everyone has a different story. We all face hard times – every single one of us. I think what defines us as a person is the way we endure it. I walked out the door this morning, looked at my tree and noticed right away that it stood strong and majestic, not battered and broken. The legacy that we leave, as Christians, isn’t how we stood during the easy and good times, but what we did when it was tough. How deep were our roots, what did we cling to and what was our attitude like in the clean up after the storm.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Thing

I love studying different aspects of David’s life. There are so many things about him that intrigue me and that I enjoy thinking about. I feel a kinship with him because he was so flawed. On the one hand he loved God so desperately and passionately and on the other hand he sinned so grievously and openly. I am drawn to his love and devotion to his friend Jonathan, his desire to be righteous and his tremendous courage. But primarily I am drawn to his desire to please and cherish God above all else.

I know that David often prayed, asking God for any myriad of things. We have record of many of his prayers in the Psalms and throughout the Old Testament, but I do believe that his over-riding prayer is summarized in verse 4 of Psalm 27, which says,

“One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.”

His main heart’s ambition was to walk with the Lord. That’s it. I wish I knew how old he was when he wrote this Psalm in particular, but if I had to guess I’ll bet it wasn’t when he was 15 and a young shepherd boy. I’ll bet it was after he had lived a little, lost a few things that were important to him, seen dreams come true and dreams fade.

I love being in my 40s. They have been the most chaotic time of my life and yet the best too. I have seen enough good and bad to realize that there are only a few things that really matter and only one that ultimately matters. I was a Christian in my 20s but I still had all these other dreams and hopes that battled my heart for first place. I wanted to do the right things but often my soul’s longing was easily misplaced and sidetracked. I still have dreams and hopes – I believe God wants me to have them, but I want David’s heart in my longings, to yearn for the Lord and to gaze upon His beauty above all things.

Today’s question is simple. What would it take for you to be happy? What is your One thing?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Entering The Chrysalis

I was reading a book yesterday and the author was talking about her mid-life crisis and how she likened her gradual spiritual enlightening to that of a caterpillar entering the chrysalis and exiting as a beautiful butterfly. I loved the analogy and haven’t been able to get it off my mind ever since. I don’t think it takes a mid-life crisis to be able to relate to this analogy it just takes the desire to be like Jesus and willingly accept the heart makeover that is a necessary element of that journey.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, 18”And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

I think it’s a misnomer to believe that every Christian will desire to continually undergo heart renovation. However, for those that have a longing to have the heart of Christ, this verse has two keys to that transformation. The first is an unveiled face – or open heart. You have to be willing to continually challenge your way of thinking. The caterpillar has to be willing to build the chrysalis that will entomb it enduring the hard work of transformation into a beautiful butterfly.

There is another aspect of 1 Corinthians 3:18 that stands out to me. According to this verse, the change “comes from the Lord”. That is huge. Yes it takes a decision on our part to enter into the chrysalis, so to speak, but once there it’s the Lord’s work, not ours. We cannot make ourselves righteous – our own effort isn’t enough. We must allow God’s Spirit to lead us through whatever trial or situation necessary and allow that process to take whatever time is needed. The caterpillar doesn’t remain in his cocoon for only a day; it takes a season to conclude its metamorphosis. We wait for God to act and in his timeframe, the beautiful transformed heart emerges.

I distinctly remember my time of entering the chrysalis as I maneuvered my way through life single again, parenting two children. My time of waiting definitely wasn’t passive as I was experiencing change in almost every single area of my life, but I had given up trying to control or figure out what to “do”; nothing I had worked hard to preserve had been salvaged. Instead I lived my life on a day to day basis the best I could, and let my circumstances rise or fall around me. The constants in my life were my relationship with God, my children, and a few of my friends, but everything else was different. My time of waiting lasted approximately two years. I didn’t poke my head out of the chrysalis on a specific date like the beautiful butterfly; one day I just realized that I was flying and not crawling and happy instead of numb. The butterfly had emerged and I was different and God had changed me. The most important decision I made during that time was to open my heart and let God use my life and situation for his glory. I believe that is all you can do as you wait.

As I enter the chrysalis
The agonizing wait begins
The crucible of spiritual transformation
Lies in the offering of
A fully engaged heart
There is agony in conversion
Knowing even as I enter
That I must be willing to change
For if a true revolution occurs
I will be unrecognizable
To all who once knew me
Sometime later
I see life through different eyes
And a renewed heart
I emerge from the chrysalis
With stunning color and breadth of wing
Now able to soar

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pain In Waiting

Last evening I was speaking with a dear friend of mine. She’s in the midst of a divorce and was sharing with me that she seems to cycle through a time every few weeks when she feels heavy and depressed. We talked a few minutes about grieving and how normal it is to feel that cyclical pull towards sadness. I was talking to her today and shared the story of Lazarus in John chapter 11. I read it for years, and while I thought I understood the teaching, I think now I comprehend it in a deeper and more authentic way. It’s the story of trusting God and being willing to be used in any way to bring him the ultimate glory. In order for this to occur, however, there can be significant pain for his followers. That was true with Lazarus’ death and those who mourned him and it’s true in our lives as well. We WILL feel pain and God allows that and, although I believe feels compassion for us, he knows that the outcome (his praise) is worth the pain we may suffer.

Look at some excerpts from John 11.

1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
4When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles[a] from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
35Jesus wept.

Jesus could have stopped Lazarus from dying. He could have alleviated the tears of Mary and Martha and all the people of the village who were also mourning Lazarus’ death. There is no question that Jesus could have either come earlier or spoken a word from where he was and Lazarus wouldn’t have died. But Jesus chose to stay for a few more days. Sometimes we don’t understand the ways of God, and may never.

I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple of years about waiting on God. I believe one of the reasons God calls us to wait is for our own character and growth. When I was considering that however, I didn’t dwell on an aspect which is crucial...God knows we will often suffer during our waiting, but he is willing to let us suffer. I had to wrestle with that because it seemed contrary to a loving Father. My conclusion though is that God allows the pain because refining is painful. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t compassionate toward us in that pain.

Right now, my friend is hurting and more than likely she will experience emotional pain for some time yet. But, if she allows that sorrow to mold her heart, turning to the Healer, then the character that she gains will highlight God’s magnificence and will be worth whatever pain she experienced. I believe that is the story of Lazarus.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The List

Today I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. I haven’t won the lottery, a trip to Hawaii or been offered something other than my minivan to drive. I’ve had a couple of quiet hours to sit here on my porch to read and pray and realize how very fortunate I am. I have a wonderful house to live in, a good job, amazing friends, a loving family and the list goes on and on. Yes, there are some hard things too – but that makes me normal. Everyone has difficult things to deal with at some point in their lives. One of the keys for me has simply been to recognize that even when I was at a low point, God still cared for me in so many ways.

When I was in the midst of a particularly difficult few months, my best friend and I would exchange emails listing the top 10 things we were grateful for that day. It helped me to keep things in perspective. Yes life was hard, I was emotionally drained and the drama seemed to drag on forever. But, when I took a few minutes to be grateful for all the many things that were good and ways I was blessed, my heart softened and I felt thankful. The list kept me grateful.

I love Psalm 16 because it’s about taking refuge in God and his loving care. I am particularly drawn to verse 6. In the midst of my sadness I didn’t feel as though I had landed in a good place, but now looking back I see that all along God had his protective hands around me, guiding me to just the right spot emotionally, physically and spiritually. Indeed, my boundaries have fallen in very pleasant places.

Psalm 16
1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. [b]
4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, [c]
nor will you let your Holy One [d] see decay.
11 You have made [e] known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Life is hard!! There seems to be loss at every turn – job loss, the death of a loved one, an empty nest, a divorce, or an estranged relationship or ___________ (fill in the blank). Difficulties come in so many forms. Take a few minutes next time you are in the midst of personal crisis and make a list of the top 10 things you are grateful for – it may change your perspective a bit. Here is my list today.
1. Time to be still this morning
2. A beautiful day
3. The sound of wind chimes
4. A phone call with my best friend
5. Happy children
6. A vehicle that is paid off
7. Reconnecting with old friends
8. Pretty flowers on my porch
9. An upcoming vacation to the beach
10. The view from my porch

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Be Still

There is a big party going on at the neighbor’s house down the hill. I can hear the sounds of laughter and fun in the air. I’ll probably venture down later on to be social and see some old friends, but right now the silence feels like an old sweatshirt – cozy and comfortable – and I can’t bear to pull myself away from the sanctuary that my porch provides. I need time alone today to recharge my heart and connect with the Lord. More and more often I long for time to be still; whether I’m reading, journaling, praying or simply sitting on my porch listening to the birds. I need that time to process what goes on in my day to day life and to let my soul recharge.

Jesus understood the need to be alone as well. In John 6 we read that Jesus spent part of the day teaching a large crowd of people and then, not wanting to turn them away hungry, he fed five thousand. After spending time giving to the people, it says in John 6:15, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” He needed time alone, time with his Father and a chance to be renewed. In the next verse it mentions that later that evening, he met up with the disciples. We don’t know exactly how long he was off by himself, but the impression I get is that it was a good chunk of time – perhaps even a few hours. Jesus took time to be alone other times as well, leaving the disciples or getting up early to find time to be on his own. Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, needed time alone and with his Father in order to be spiritually whole and refreshed.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

I am learning to be still and in my times of quiet I have realized that in stillness there is the possibility of depth. Without quiet, or time for introspection and listening, relationship can become distorted, performance oriented and shallow. This is true in our relationships with one another (there has to be time to talk, connect and listen to each other), and also in our relationship with God. My most moving and intimate time with the Lord is when I have a day or so alone and I’m able to pray, sit quietly, or simply take time to write for long periods of time. That is my form of worship. That is what connects me to Him, and helps me to grasp who He actually is. I long to give my heart the opportunity to grow and become mature by embracing solitude.

I can still hear voices and laughter drifting up the hill. Perhaps later on I’ll go down the hill and say hi, but for now I’m content to be here alone and enjoy the stillness.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Choice To Forgive

Last week in my personal bible study time, I read about obedience and forgiveness. It was good, and obviously, there is always room to learn about both of those potentially weighty topics. I felt my heart drawn to the passages on obedience more so than that of forgiveness. It’s funny the difference a week can make.

I’ve been exchanging emails with someone who is a struggle for me. It’s not a daily struggle, but things come up and I am hit with a situation or two and it brings back feelings that I know are not good. Overall, I’ve just decided to live my life and let God deal with injustice and the wrongs I may have suffered, but there are times when I am tested. And it doesn’t even take much – a simple comment, email or conversation from them and I find my heart racing, anger rises and that feeling that I have somehow been marginalized once again.

Today I was confronted with my choice to forgive or be bitter. Initially I wanted to be bitter, I really did. I was so angered by an email that really wasn’t that bad, but with tears welling up in my eyes I felt myself battling not just irritation but a deep resentment. I sat there and prayed, talked it through with a friend or two and then came home and sat down to pour over scriptures hoping they would speak to my heart. I know one thing for certain; I do not want to be full of hatred. Sin will lead to my destruction and there is no reward in a heart full of anger or bitterness. That has been a belief I’ve repeated over and over to myself and I’ve continued to cling to it. I’m not where I need to be yet, but these are the scriptures that are helping me today:

Hebrews 12:14
14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Mark 11:25
25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."[a]

Psalm 9
1 [a]I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause;
you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.

Read this great quote by Carole E. Smith of the Atlanta Counseling Center:

“We cannot know God fully until we know who we are and what has formed us. We do not go to God despite the sin perpetrated upon us. We go to God because of it, and we must take it to God held in both hands, known by heart and seen with both eyes. That is when we can hand it over. That is when we can forgive our abusers.”

Forgiveness is a process – one decision after another to be righteous. For me, today’s decision is for forgiveness and trust that my Father is my best, holy and only true advocate. He expects and desires me to give this heartache over to him. As he has forgiven me, I have to make that same decision to be gracious at times. And so tonight….a long walk, a heart lifted in prayer and a willingness to stay out there until I can be at peace with it all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Overcoming Fear

I was thinking about fear this morning. I struggle with it – I’m guessing everyone does at some level. One of my biggest fears is the fear of rejection. It is a large part of my emotional make-up. I tend to enter into a relationship with the knowledge that I may very well be rejected. I know it sounds somewhat desperate, and yet it is the core of who I am. It’s one of the things that I am laying before God – hopeful to change. Given that it is one of my prevalent fears, and that I was discarded by the closest, most intimate relationship I ever had, you can see how this would potentially haunt me.

I’ve discovered, too that there are different levels of fear and overcoming it. I have learned to trust God in the big areas, because clearly he has rescued me and cared for me in ways I never even dreamed he would. It has given me faith and built my trust. Yet what I’m seeing is that even in the smaller areas, I am still apprehensive –careful not to put myself into a position where I could be rejected or demeaned in any way. I guess this is part of my journey of walking with the Lord; learning the lesson and then having it reinforced over and over in smaller ways. I am determined to learn this and experience God’s power in my life in every way possible.

I watched a friend overcome a big fear recently. And while we laughed about it afterward, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it. My friend and I had the opportunity to go zip-lining – something I have done before and loved – and something that she had wanted to try. Knowing she had a fear of heights, I wondered how she was going to do with the launch on the very high platform. I went first and when I got to the top and saw her climbing the rope ladder I knew she was terrified. Fear was in her eyes, her body language and clearly this was out of her comfort zone. But she did it anyway; partly because once she had started up, she felt that she couldn’t go back down – the quickest way out of the situation was to plough through it. But regardless of her reasoning, she met her fear, pushed herself and conquered it.

I think of Mary. I know she overcame many fears in her life. Initially, a young woman full of trepidation – she was giving birth to God’s son, and all the implications that came along with God’s decision to use her in the ways that he did. She clearly overcame those initial doubts as she surrendered to God’s will.

Luke 1:37-38 “37For nothing is impossible with God." 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."

Throughout her son’s life I’m sure that she had situations where she was confronted with the decision to be faithful or fearful. When Jesus was lost on their trip returning from Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover it says in Luke 2 that Mary and Joseph were anxiously searching for him – they were fearful. Also, at a later point, it says that she and her other sons were trying to pull Jesus away from the crowds. My guess is that this action was motivated by some sort of fear. I feel a connection with Mary knowing that while overall she was very faithful, even after that decision to trust the Lord in her overwhelmingly stressful situation, she still faltered throughout her life.

I’m going to continue to trust God is the big areas that I am uncertain about, but also in the smaller areas that cause me to occasionally react irrationally. And when I falter, I’ll think of Mary or various friends around me who have overcome big and small fears in their lives. I’m in good company.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Moving From Belief To Faith

For some time now I’ve been studying a very good book called “Live A Praying Life” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This week the study is focusing on faith and exactly where it comes from and how you get it. The author made a statement that is really germinating in my heart right now, it is:

“Faith can only come through a direct, firsthand encounter with Jesus. Belief can come through secondhand information, but belief is not faith.”

I’ve been sitting here dwelling on this statement and applying it to my life to see if it rings true, and it does for me. I had what I would label very strong beliefs for many, many years. I believed God loved me and that it was possible to have a close intimate relationship with him, but it hasn’t been until the past few years that I would say I have faith in that fact. There was a time when my belief system was very confused and I was struggling in my relationship with the Lord. My security was based on a belief system that revolved around what I did for him. If I felt I was performing up to standards, then I felt confident. However, if I was struggling to meet a set of self-imposed expectations or laws, then I was fearful and unsure of my relationship with him. Thinking in those legalistic terms, does not allow faith to grow. I remained in belief, but was never able to take that step.

Do I have all the answers? No. But, my faith is stronger and more solid than it has ever been. I believe it’s because when everything I loved and put my trust in was removed, I had to make a decision to move from a time of belief in God to faith in Him to rescue me. As I lay awake in bed for months and months fearing different life scenarios, I lived in a state of constant fear and anxiety. I believed God could help me, I wanted him to, but when he wasn’t answering my prayers the way I expected him to, I remained in a state of anxiousness. And then something amazing happened, He began showing me that even if my greatest fears were realized; his grace was there to help me in my time of need. As events unfolded, and I continued to see his hand moving, I became more and more confident, and there was a shift in my heart. I began to have a different type of personal encounter with Jesus. He was rescuing me and what I expected or wanted from him changed…and obeying him and allowing his sovereignty to reign in my heart became the issue and not all of my life circumstances.

Over and over I kept seeing his obvious hand in my life, my faith got stronger and I became confident, not in my works or in my desired outcome, but in God’s grace and unconditional love for me. I moved from belief to faith.

Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Standing Firm

The loud crash of thunder shook my bed and rattled the windows of the house! It was 4:45 a.m. and I was wide awake, my heart beating fast and full of fear. I was waiting for something else – only I didn’t know what. I only had 30 minutes left to sleep anyway, so I lay there half sleeping, half awake – and then fully awake once my mind became engaged.

That early morning experience is parallel to how I live at times. I’m doing fine, living life and then something happens, whether it’s big or small, that jars me awake out of my normal routine or emotions and sends me into turmoil. I remember in college after my friend died, every time I would hear her favorite song on the radio I would burst into tears. After my husband left me it seemed like I was continually running into people we both knew who, not knowing, would ask me how he was doing, or all of a sudden there were a lot of sermons about marriage at church. I felt attacked, my emotions already raw, I was very susceptible to being wounded again.

Times when I’ve felt particularly vulnerable, I have reached for the sanctuary in Ephesians 6:10-18.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

One of the aspects of this verse that I cling to the most during those times of pain are two small words at the end of verse 13 – “to stand”. There have been times when all I could do was just stand. There was no gain, no moving forward, I was simply holding my ground; I was standing. Looking back, I see that when I’ve been in particularly difficult circumstances and I remained standing and didn’t buckle or fall, I grew. Standing firm can be growth when it takes strength and determination.

I wrote this poem a year ago when I was feeling particularly attacked. It fits well with this idea of attack, fear and the decision to stand.

I feel loss
From every angle
And with each
Beat of my heart
It seems that each time I progress
And a small healing occurs
Something else rips the bandage
From my soul
Reopening the wound
I stand here
Contemplating my future
Considering the strength it will take
To continue to move forward
And so I decide to
Simply stand

I look back now and see how that daily decision to put on God’s armor and remain standing has given me peace and a measure of joy that I didn’t believe was possible, even with storms that come in the middle of the night.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Walking In The Vineyard

All these years I’ve spent in the vineyard
And yet, have I ever really looked
Into the eyes of the Vinedresser?
He has looked at my fruit
Dreaming of a harvest
He hasn’t yanked me from the ground
He has lovingly – yet firmly
Rubbed His hands with tender care
To smooth my branches clean.
And all that time
Believing in the harvest to come
Dreaming for me
And my whole existence has been for what purpose?
To bear fruit for a Vinedresser
Whose eyes I’ve yet to meet?
I have only seen myself muddied
And producing
An occasional bunch of grapes
And so for me – a change
To meet the eyes of the Vinedresser
To bask in His care
To walk by His side
Through the mist
Every morning
Each day
In the Vineyard

I wrote this poem years ago when I was in the midst of a time of immense change in my relationship with God. I had become very performance oriented in my walk with the Lord and desired to become more intimate and authentic. I love this poem because as I wrote it I was visualizing a walk with God through a vineyard having an intimate conversation. It was written more out of a desire to have that intimacy than actually experiencing it at that time.

I came to a realization that the very essence of a close and intimate relationship with God could be characterized by the very same things that marked my relationships with my close friends. Walking together, sharing my heart, dreams and failures, or quietly sitting and listening. Having a relationship with God wasn’t about what I could do for him; it was about who I was and how I interacted with His will and the truth that I saw in his Word. It was a big shift in my thinking, and it’s something I am still constantly aware of. I long for relationship and not a list to check off to show my worthiness.

I love John 15 and studying that chapter, as well as reading a book called “Secrets of the Vine” by Bruce Wilkinson, it helped me to retool my thinking. Verses 1-9 discuss vine and branches and their unique correlation with one another and also the gardener who cares for them. Their cohesiveness depends upon remaining together – which relates to nearness, familiarity or what I would describe as intimacy.

In the second part of John 15 an amazing concept is revealed to the disciples – friendship with their Lord and Teacher and ultimately, God. Jesus says to them in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This is a time near to Jesus’ death. He is trying to share some important concepts with these men who hold his ministry in their hands; the concept of intimate friendship. He was offering friendship with God in the flesh. They had been with Jesus for years and had seen him perform miracles, pray to God as Abba instead of Yahweh and basically silence the mouths of the Pharisees. I think it’s interesting that one of the important concepts he shares with the disciples near the end of his life is that of intimate friendship. Jesus equates knowing his “business” as companionship. I don’t think this just implies that Jesus has shared only his plans with them, but his heart along the way. That is what closeness involves, a sharing of heart and soul; and it is one of the differences between a friend and an acquaintance. An acquaintance knows you, and has possibly known you for years. But a friend knows what makes you tick, what you love, what drives you crazy or fills your heart with emotion. We can know God in the same intimate way. He wanted the disciples to transfer the intimate friendship they had experienced with him to that of God the Father as well.

My friends have helped me through several very hard times, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t know what I would have done without my closest friends at a time when it felt as if the world was falling out from underneath me. I can honestly say that I desperately needed them, and they made a seemingly unbearable situation bearable. But I didn’t call them in the middle of the night when I was awake and crying on my pillow. I prayed, and talked to my Father, who knew exactly how I felt. He was there, every single minute and situation through the entire ordeal. My Lord was ever-present and aware of my circumstances. I found that genuinely comforting, more so than I ever imagined I could.

It was during that time of uncertainty that I felt the shift occur and my bonds of intimacy with God develop in a stronger way than I ever imagined it could. I felt his presence with me then, and it has grown and deepened since. I long for the daily walks with him through the Vineyard now, and am thankful that I embarked on that journey years ago to go deeper.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Ultimate Reunion

Take a moment and think about one of your most memorable reunions. Before you read any further, grab that memory and let your mind go back in time. Do you feel your heart swell and perhaps your eyes water a little remembering it?

I have one that stands out in my mind. I had been very close friends with a woman for about 7 years when we had a big disagreement. The disagreement itself is irrelevant for the sake of this blog, but I can tell you that I was the one who actually made the decision to sever our relationship. It broke my heart and we didn’t speak and had very little contact for almost five years. Then one day, moved by something I read, and, I believe, the Holy Spirit, there was realization that by withdrawing my friendship, I had sinned against my friend and lost what was a very deep and meaningful relationship. I called her up to apologize and she graciously extended forgiveness to me right there in that moment. The subsequent conversations we had the following days and weeks lead us to meet in Nashville – a mid-point between the cities where we each lived. I got there at the meeting spot before my friend and nervously waited for her. She arrived. I remember hugging, crying and laughing all at once in the middle of the parking lot. It was an amazing reunion! My eyes are filling with tears right now just recalling that day.

Have you thought about heaven lately? Consider the amazing reunion that is waiting for you there! I think of actually being in the presence of God…it’s hard to fathom that but I try to have some sort of mental picture in my head. I imagine standing in the presence of my Father, whom I’ve loved since I was a teenager, who has literally been through it ALL with me. I have talked with Him, laughed with Him, cried many tears with Him, sung to Him … and at our meeting we will be face to face. I visualize a tender yet wholly embracing hug that seems to erase all the years of hurt and pain of living in this fallen world. I envision looking into his eyes and as a tear rolls down my cheek, his hand wiping it away. Of course this is just my fantasy of what that reunion will be like, but I’m sure it will be beyond anything I can conceive. Knowing I am working toward that moment motivates me to be pure hearted and righteous in every way that I can be.

2 Peter 3:13-14 says, 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

I am tempted to get caught up in the everyday struggles that seem so prevalent in my life; the overwhelming responsibility of raising my girls, being a good friend, excelling at my job…and the list goes on. I have to bring my eyes back to Jesus and to the reunion that awaits me. If I do that, I know the other things will fall into place.

I’m going to sit here for a while this morning, eyes closed, thinking of the gathering that is ahead of me. Then I’m going to get up, with a full heart, and live today as if that reunion were taking place at the end of it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

As God Sees Me

Anorexia is a terrible disease that is characterized by a distorted view of oneself. An anorexic looks in the mirror and sees someone overweight or unacceptable and the rest of us looking at that same person see an individual who is starving themselves to death, completely stunned at their inability to see what they really look like. The real cure for this disease isn’t physical, it’s psychological – a complete change in the way your view yourself. I’m certainly no expert on anorexia, but it seems that the real battle would be figuring out what causes you to have such a distorted view.

I don’t know if you ever struggle with your self esteem at all; I’d like to say that I don’t, but it would be a lie. Insecurity is something that I battle constantly – I think it’s safe to call it a daily struggle. When I look in a mirror or even introspectively, I do not see what everyone else sees, but a faint vision of what is true. There is a parallel here with being anorexic and how I have learned to erroneously view myself. I’ve been searching within to figure out where my distorted self view comes from and I am definitely making progress. This verse is one of many helping me to reform my thinking:

Psalm 139: 13-16

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Here is the amazing news: God created me exactly how I am. He gave my personality its tendencies, he knew I’d be this height and weight and the color of my eyes. He knit me together it says…there was thought given to my life in every way. Not only did he know my date of birth but he knows the exact day and hour of my final breath.

I recently took a personality profile. It was enlightening and actually pretty entertaining to read the answers it provided. It pegged me pretty well. As I studied the results I considered the fact that God himself chose my attributes. I don’t know why he gave me certain characteristics. Who knows why an artist chooses the coloring and emotion that go into each piece of art he creates – only the artist himself knows what he is creating. I can spend time lamenting over my lack of perceived beauty, intelligence or talent, but God my Father has fashioned me uniquely for the purpose of bringing him glory with these specific characteristics. My “job”, so to speak, is to do the best I can with the talents and attributes that he chose to give me. Perhaps when I am in heaven I will finally understand why he created me with my physical and emotional make up the way it is. While I’m here though, I long to see myself as God sees me and set about using who I am for His glory.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year To Listen

I’ve had the most amazing morning. I’ve been sitting here in my office, reading, praying and listening. I love days that are slow and allow me to be still and not run around with a long list of objectives. Today’s undisturbed and peaceful time has been refreshing. Of course it’s the beginning of a new year and that does lend itself toward re-evaluating and making lists of goals. I have to be honest; I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. For years I would make a list and try to be spiritual by working my list and attempt to become a better person. And now? Well, I have goals, certainly, but I’m trying harder to listen to what God has planned for me and less “working” my own list. He sees the big picture of my life while I tend to have tunnel vision, not seeing beyond the week or month ahead of me.

I read and pondered on the two following verses this morning.

1 Corinthians 2:9
9However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"

Ephesians 3:20
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

In my limited thinking, I would probably reduce God’s plan for my life. His plans exceed my imagination. This loving Father, that I have a relationship with, has deposited in my heart via his Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

So with all that in mind, I’ve been quietly contemplating my year. It may be full of challenges, or it may be a relatively peaceful one. I have no way of knowing what my future holds. What I do know is this…if I walk with the Lord and really pour my heart into his – desiring to know his will and be like him, I can’t conceive the good things that are in store for me.

I have a few things that I hope will change in my character. I would like to be more secure and positive, I’d love to have the compassion in my heart to comfort hurting people that Jesus had, and I’d like to become more comfortable with my own emotions and demonstrating them to others. I think those are good characteristics to desire, but first and foremost, I want to walk with God this year and listen to what he has planned for me.