Sunday, December 19, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
|My Grace Is Enough|
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
One thing that amazes me is God's willingness to white out past wrongs. He says as far as the east is from the west; that's how far he has removed the junk we have done from us. He tosses them into the depths of the sea and remembers them no more. He washes our dark stains so they become as white as snow. Amazing. No one else in the world has that power. No other religious figure reaches down to us, pulls us out of the muck of our own making and gives us a new Spirit.
When we come to Christ, we have the chance of a do-over. A new life. A new heart. A new creation. Amazing!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I already miss sitting amongst my flowers; they are beginning to wilt in the night time chill.
Though I try to look for the positive things, change is hard. It's inevitable but often not welcome. I face changes everyday and how I embrace them will affect me. Watching my sisters face their divorces and losing my dad has been a huge adjustment. We had his burial service earlier this week, almost three months after his death. It wasn't surprising that today I was a little emotional.
After the burial on Monday and a stressful week at work that didn't allow for any let down, today my emotions are in a tailspin. I know it is never as simple as one thing. Many factors can contribute to my faltering emotions. Yet, I know God is with me. He knows what I struggle with even better than I know myself. He offers comfort in His presence. He knows my frame and He gives me the grace to sort it out as I lean on Him. But, it's important that I give myself the grace too.
This weekend I have extended grace to myself by not fretting about the housework. I took a long nap. And though our church had many things happening this week due to our missions conference, I allowed myself to create some margin in my days. I am not very good at not feeling guilty, but this weekend I knew I needed some down time.
Winter comes. Yet, in the bleak times there is hope. It may seem like we are hidden in a dark tomb but He promises the resurrection. Spring for the soul.
Do life's changes put you into a tailspin? How can you give yourself grace, knowing that God knows everything you are facing?
Thankful that He knows my frame (what I am made of),
“Just as a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.”
Psalm 103:13-14 (NAS)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
While I was sitting on the deck the next morning with my steaming cup of PG Tips, the early morning sun streamed through the branches and warmed me. As I sat in the Lord's presence, the words, Enjoy what is, don't imagine what could be , came to mind. Heart check!! Here we had found this perfect spot for a quiet vacation surrounded by God's masterful handiwork and I was wishing the deck could be a little bigger...
I do this so often. I envision something and get disappointed when it doesn't fit the image I conjure up in my mind. Truthfully, I have missed out on what God has planned because I am thinking about what could be, rather than what is. I immediately thought of the passage in Philippians 4...think on these things. Whatever is true, whatever is lovely....these are the best tools for contentment and peace.
Once I allowed myself to get past my ungratefulness to focus on God's goodness, I enjoyed our vacation so much more. The trip to Acadia turned out to be the best vacation ever. I just needed to be willing for God to do a little heart check to clear my vision.
How about you? Are you thankful for what is, or thinking about what could be?
Saturday, October 09, 2010
You might as well give me the middle name, Fear, because it's been such a big part of my life since I can remember.
I was a little girl who was afraid of Santa Claus, floral arrangements, cemeteries and music. It took me forty years to figure out the roots of those fears. Not that it took away my fear of things, but I began to understand how intrinsic fears are to humanity. It's no wonder then, that the words 'fear not' appear 365 times in Scripture.
So passages like this one in Philippians begin to be life-verses for people like me. The words and truths roll around in my mind so much that I begin to paraphrase them by heart. My spin on these verses in Philippians goes something like this:
I won't worry and fret about things; instead, I'll talk to God about them - a lot.
Every time I start to worry again, instead of letting it get to me, I'll bring it to God because He is the one who takes care of everything I need. He knows what the trouble is and He knows how to fix it.
When I start to worry, I'll think about all the amazing things he has done for me in the past—I know there are plenty of them. It will help to focus on the ways He has answered prayer and come through for me before. That's why the Bible tells about setting up memorial stones; they are markers to help me remember everything that He has done in my life.
Because I know deep down that He will take care of this stuff - Because He has come through for me in the past. When I do these things, I have God's peace even when it is hard for others to understand especially with everything going on around me. Because whatever is going on, He promises to be with me. And if He is with me, I will not be afraid.
What are you afraid of? What do you worry about?
He says, "Fear not. I am with you. I am your peace. I will accomplish everything that concerns you" (Psalm 57:2, Psalm 138:8)
Fear is the opposite of faith so my prayer is that I can grow stronger in my faith and my trust in Him so that my fear will become less.
Praying for you too,
Sunday, October 03, 2010
A getaway week at the ocean; I could hardly wait to beach-comb for shells and sea glass. During our time away, I found plenty of shells but not one piece of sea glass. As I thought about these evasive sea gems, it made me think of all of the troubles I have been through in the last several years. Just like the sharp pieces of glass, I have been rolled and tumbled about, being scraped across the rocky things in life and caught up in the swirling sea of emotional turmoil. And, like the sea glass, over time my edges have become a little less sharp and hurtful. The more tumbling and swirling, the more beautiful the sea glass becomes. I guess I hope that after all of the tumult I have been through, I am coming out a little more beautiful and useful to God, the master-craftsman. In His words, He is conforming me to the image of His Son. This happens when I surrender to Him even in the midst of the anxious times.
When Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “...but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”, I take some comfort knowing that there will be a good result in the end. Notice that Paul says IN everything, not FOR everything. It is hard to feel thankful FOR my trials. But IN the midst of them I can pray and be thankful for His provision, protection and presence, knowing that He will meet me in the midst of whatever I am going through. I need not be anxious.
I noticed the two words, prayer and supplication and wondered, What's the difference? As I looked, they are similar but supplication includes earnestness and continued prayer out of a deep need. Bringing my concerns and anxieties to the Lord gives me a place to practice my trust in the One who promises to provide all of my needs. And, there is always something I can be thankful for in the midst of it all.
As for the couples I know that are divorcing, IN these awful situations I have found a fresh appreciation for my husband and our relationship. He has shown a special care for me over the last several weeks, I think to demonstrate and assure me of his love and commitment. And, I have found ways to show him how much he means to me. We have both sought out ways to spend time together and appreciate one another.
I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to find any sea glass on our vacation. But, IN this, I am glad that people aren't littering glass on the shore. (Then I realized, we don't use much glass any more; most everything is packaged and bottled in plastic.) It feels like the end of an era of treasure hunting by the sea!
Do you have an 'IN everything' story? I would love to hear about it. I know these testimonies will encourage us in our relationship with Christ and walk through the times of trial.
My you sense His provision IN everything today,
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I thought I had done a good job of settling this fear/anxiety debate a number of years ago. My husband, John used to travel quite a bit and I was home alone with three toddlers. My fear had risen to new heights as I lay awake every night planning escape routes in case of fire or a break-in. As soon as darkness fell, the doors got locked and I didn't venture outside till the next day. Till the Lord whispered deep within, “Who is your protector, Me or John?” Profound!! It started me thinking so I delved into the Word to see what God says about fear and His protection. Soon I was sleeping at night again.
The funny thing about God's lessons is that as soon as we learn it, He stretches us further. I began to enjoy being home during the trips my husband made. Easy dinners. Time to myself in the evening after the kids settled into bed. Then, boom—the traveling stopped. I guess I passed.
The thing is, there is always a new hurdle of anxiety to scale. And, our gracious God is a patient teacher. The funny thing about being anxious is that most often we never experience what we are afraid of. It is such a joy robber and a time waster.
What circumstances are you anxious about? How are they robbing you of living to the fullest?
I look forward to hearing from you,
Sunday, September 19, 2010
That must be why Paul says in Philippians 4:6-9, “be anxious for nothing...” I guess things haven't changed much since the first century. They had worries then too.
So, if the Word is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, then Paul's admonishments are for me too. So how do I make these words my own? How do they become my prayer, sinking deep, bringing me to a place of contentment? How do I live beyond the simmering anxiety, abundantly as Christ says in John 10:10?
My desire is to have the hope of this passage root deep into my heart, soul, and mind so that the peace that Jesus offers is real everyday.
Do you have worries that have been tamed by the truths of this passage? I would love to hear your stories. I know they would encourage others too. So, please post your thoughts and over the next few messages we can try to unpack these verses to find the timeless treasure they offer.
Friday, September 10, 2010
To restore means to bring to its original state or intent. To relate this to spiritual terms, when we come to Christ, He restores us to our relationship to the Father, one of fellowship and community, just as it was in the Garden of Eden. Scripture says we were made in God's image; Adam and Eve had fellowship with God in the garden. But, sin broke that connection.
The good news is He promises to restore what the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). I can't imagine what it looks like after a swarm of locusts blows through; pretty bleak. Yet, I know there are many with stories of how God restored and redeemed what they thought was lost. God restores our relationship in Christ and then begins our life-long restoration process to become more like Him.
My locusts have been fear and discouragement. They ate away at everything, it was really hard to have hope. I have been living with the effects of locusts for the past few years—so many changes, the death of dreams, and discouragement with a capital 'D'. I struggled with the restoration process because it hurt. My natural tendency was to escape, to do anything to cut it short. But in the end I see how it was necessary in order to bring forth beauty and His intent. God is faithful. I feel the anchor of hope held fast and I am starting to dream again.
My old dresser couldn't be restored without first stripping away the old finish. The same holds true in my life. God is in the business of restoring lives. He specializes in broken people, marriages, families, health, loss of hope and so much more. Yet, our restoration always begins with Himself.
What are your locusts? Has God begun to restore what has been stripped away?
Discover what Scripture says about pruning—how are these topics related in your life?
May He bring forth beauty in you,
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Everything that felt sure and safe suddenly felt wobbly and weak. I needed his assurance that our relationship was strong because of the shocking news. After all if it could happen to other Christian couples maybe it could sneak up on us as well.
In the past several weeks I find myself appreciating my husband more than ever. I think he must be thinking similar things because he has been even more attentive and showing his love in lots of little ways. One thing I have learned in watching these other relationships is that I should take nothing for granted. Marriage is hard work—it is something we have to strive to keep healthy by communicating with one another and putting one another first.
I wonder how I can put into practice the messages in the letter to Philemon as I watch these marriage relationships disintegrate. One's divorce is already final—I don't believe God is done there—but I know it can seem like hope has died. The other two are spiraling fast. Can God restore them? Absolutely! But, the people involved need to be willing. Paul shows this in verses eight and nine when he writes to Philemon about doing the right thing in regard to Onesimus.
I don't know if I can be like Paul and somehow share just the right words to cause a change of heart in another person. But, if given the chance I will try. Paul's message of redemption, restoration and reconciliation is really the message of the Gospel. It isn't new, but it is fresh for every situation. And, I believe with my whole heart that His Word holds fresh truth for today's messes. That's why it is called daily bread. Fresh bread to meet the needs of hungry hearts.
I would love to hear your stories of hope. Have the Three R's made a difference in your life and heart?
Till next time,
Saturday, September 04, 2010
I need you to know that I am grappling with my next blog post, dealing with restoration and reconciliation. God wants us to be reconciled with Himself and one another. And, humanly, that is a very tricky business. Ultimately it means dying to self.
The question is, are we willing?
Marriages are only one little aspect to this topic, but it is one that is on my mind and heart.
More to follow....in the meantime, pray for those who need to experience the restoring power of God.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Redeem is a verb that means to buy back, to obtain release or restoration, as from captivity, by paying a ransom. To deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner (www.dictionary.com).
Throughout scripture we see evidence of the transforming power of the cross. Lives are changed, sometimes dramatically leaving no doubt that something amazing has taken place.
Since Adam and Eve's fall, there has been a need for redemption. Jesus' death, shed blood and resurrection accomplished it for everyone and for all time; it is available when we recognize our own shortcomings in the light of God's perfect holiness. No one else can do it for us; it is between ourselves and God. Whatever we have done, Jesus died so we can be forgiven and be restored to a right relationship with the Father. Scripture says there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), so we can't allow the enemy to bring up the junk. It is forgiven, forgotten, finished and cast into the depth of the sea with NO FISHING!!
In Christ, both Paul and Onesimus were redeemed and so it is with everyone who receives the Savior. We are rescued from the power that sin and death have over us. It is important to know that Satan is already defeated, but he will try to bring down as many with him in the time he has left. He knows his fate is doomed. But like any other arch enemy, he will fight till the end. It is a daily battle; don't allow him any victory by his dredging up of past failings.
I am thankful for Jesus Christ's redemption in my life. I asked Him to be my Savior at the age of sixteen. Who knows where I would be if I had never made that decision to follow Him.
As we think about His redemption this week, recall His promises about forgiveness. God wants us to live in victory not in the shadow of our past.
Is there someone you know who hasn't found redemption yet? There are many who still need to hear. Like Paul, you may be the one to share the message of forgiveness with them.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The book of Philemon mentions that Onesimus' name meant 'useful' but because he ran away, he was seen as useless to his master. This got me thinking about how God sees us in the light of his kingdom. I find it interesting that Paul mentions that he led Onesimus to Christ and how useful he was to Him during his imprisonment.
Throughout history people have made themselves available to God – willing to do what was needed. I think of Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and others who have accomplished amazing things with kingdom impact just by saying yes. Every one of us has a purpose in God's plan – a useful place to bring glory to Him by saying 'yes' to His call.
In the Bible, Joseph overcame being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and imprisonment from the false accusations of Potipher's wife, to become Pharoah's #1 man. Esther was chosen as queen just in time to save her people from Haman's annihilation plot. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt despite the many obstacles Pharoah designed. Moses' rod divided the Red Sea so the people could escape the pursuing Egyptian army. He drew water from a rock when the people complained of thirst. And, he led the grumbling people through the wilderness for forty years and eventually to the Promised Land. None of these could have been accomplished without surrendering to God when He prompted them to obedience.
We, like Moses and so many others make excuses for our weakness and suggest someone else more suitable for the job; But, just as God saw not just a shepherd-boy in the heart of David – but a shepherd-king to lead a nation, God sees something useful in us – by his design and for His purpose.
Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." NASB
What is God asking of you? What simple 'yes' could be the start of something amazing for His kingdom? It may be that God sees beyond your idea of uselessness and is asking that you trust Him for what you cannot see. May you be willing to say yes to His call, and understand that He sees you as chosen and useful. The ripple effect will be amazing!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Has anyone come alongside to be with you through a difficult time? It may have been just a kind word or a quick hug, but their presence made all the difference. Or maybe they stuck with you through thick and thin, when everyone else seemed absent.
Just knowing that someone believes in me, gives me a feeling of hope. Hope is contagious.
I think both Paul and Onesimus felt hopeful. Barnabas gave Paul hope in Acts chapter nine when no one trusted him. Paul believed in Onesimus when he wrote the letter to Philemon.
We can all receive hope when we come face to face with Jesus Christ.
If someone was there for you, send them a note or email this week. Tell them how much you appreciate them. And, if you are needing a touch of hope from Jesus – His forgiveness and hope of redemption, just ask Him. He promises to come alongside.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a leader in the church at Colossae. It's intimacy shines through his words of encouragement, greetings to Philemon's family, and his detailed care and concern. Then Paul gets to the point of his letter...a slave that ran away from Philemon's household.
Paul shared how when his path crossed with a slave called, Onesimus (his name means 'Useful”), he shared the gospel with him and he became not only a follower of Christ but a comforter to Paul. He remarked that even though Philemon thought Onesimus to be 'useless', Paul found him to be useful to him while in prison. Paul writes to ask Philemon to receive Onesimus with forgiveness, and restore him not as a slave but as a brother in Christ.
Paul's earnest support reminds me of his earlier experience as a new believer in Acts 9; he encountered Jesus on the Damascas Road and his life (and his name) were forever changed. Jesus told Paul to proclaim the good news, yet believers knew him only as Saul, the one who savagely persecuted Christians. They didn't trust him. Then, Barnabas came alongside Paul to encourage him and assured skeptical believers of Paul's change of heart and genuine faith.
In the letter to Philemon, Paul was able to return the favor and intercede on behalf of Onesimus to his former master.
This is how God works in the lives of His children; we can't help to pass on what we have received because our gratitude compels us. When our encounter with the Living Christ has made a difference; we want to share that hope with others.
Another message I see embedded in this letter is one of forgiveness and redemption, mirroring the gospel of Christ. Jesus finds us while we are lost, redeems us from our sin, pays what is owed on our behalf and then restores us, not as slaves, but as sisters and brothers in Christ. Then, He makes sure that others see us as He does—useful to His ministry.
The final thing I discovered was Paul's Three-R's of the Gospel. . . no, not Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic. Rather, Paul shows us Redemption, Restoration and Reconciliation. Everyday we meet people that God brings across our path and they need to encounter the Living God and hear His message of hope. Together we can experience redemption, restoration and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father and with one another. Paul's example inspires and convicts me that I need to stand in the gap for those who we meet on the road to eternity.
I discovered a lot in this little book. In the past it's one that I tended to skip right past, maybe because it didn't look like much. I am glad the Lord led me here to find His nourishment and a fresh understanding of community relationships.
May you dig deep and find His rich blessings,