Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chilling Out

I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season.  I love the rich meaning, but despise the expectations which all seem to end up on the shoulders of mom.  But this year I'm intentionally chilling out.  Yes, you heard me right, chilling out.  It's not that I have less to do.  I'm just seeking to take it in stride and have given myself permission to let some things be undone.  Life will go on. 

Rather than perfect gifts, fancy meals, or an immaculately clean house, I just want to enjoy my family and be together.  So many years I've not really taken in the season because I've been so busy making it perfect.  It's perfect alright, so perfect that it turns up empty as I've allowed the externals to take the foreground.  But I don't want to simply get through the holidays, I want to really savor them and take in their message.

Christmas is one of my favorite times to worship because there are so many visuals and illustrations which point me to Jesus.  As I study the Scriptures my heart is swept up into them.  I'm so glad God chooses to reveal Himself to us.  Think of it.  We do not really discover truth, rather we study and God reveals truth by His Spirit.  Wow!  God is so incredibly personal.  I love that about Him.

There is one part of the Christmas story which has always been dear to me, because God used it to meet me in a time of great personal need.  Once again its message applies to my life this day in very real ways.  It is a balm for my soul.  I hope to share that with you soon.  The Scriptures are so rich and so precious. 

Yet, there are some years when I've just wanted to crumple up and cry, when I realize what I've made of this holiday.  How it must hurt God when we let it become so shallow, so meaningless, so trivial.  I'm trying hard not to let that happen.  Just as Israel waited expectantly for their Messiah, so we wait, expecting to meet Him, anticipating the glory He may reveal to us.

As we anticipate some busy days ahead I trust we can chill out, even spend some extra time with the Lord, and truly worship.  Don't let the season slip away without time in His presence.  It would be a shame to miss His glory or the rich meaning of the season.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Eyes to See

I am overflowing with gratitude.  I've just experienced a weekend where God has "anointed my head with oil", through the fellowship of family and friends.  Thank you. 

I was so encouraged. . .

God has lifted my eyes . . .

In spite of  'giants in the land'. . .

Given me hope . . .

Through the fellowship of believers. . .

My soul was nourished through time spent with my husband, LOTS of time.
Thank you, my man, for deeming me so worthwhile, for valuing my opinions, for making me a priority, for enjoying my presence . . . I certainly delight in yours.

I was lifted up through an invitation.  Thank you, my friends, for including me.
Thank you for listening to my struggles and for sharing yours so I know I am not alone.
Thank you for laughs, silliness of an evening, and apple pie.

Thank you for the courage of a daughter to stand before an entire congregation and give thanks . . . and the day before where you stood alone and spoke of God to friends seeking to sway you to the contrary.
Thank you to the friend who gave the compliment.

Thank you to the friend who gave me a hug and remembered something we had talked about weeks ago   . . . and cared enough to ask about it.  Thanks for being so genuinely concerned . . . for caring.
Thank you to the college girls who sought me out after church . . . eager to speak with me.

Thank you for the friends who blessed me with a 'beyond the surface' conversation in the car on the way home.

Thank you God, for the rainbow stretched across the book cliffs . . . and the glorious clouds.    

Thank you to the guy at the window who served the thumb sized ice cream cones . . . causing a ruckus of squelched laughter to explode once we left ear shot of your window.

Thank you to the people who stole my pumpkins and smashed them in the street.  Now I don't have to dispose of them. . . just in time to decorate the porch for Christmas. 

Thank you for the phone conversation with a daughter far away . . . and your fun profile picture. 

Thank you to the friend who shared her heart and her little dog.
Happiness streamed from that dog. . . and I'm not a huge fan of dogs.

Thank you to my son for the conversation near the fire and for babysitting . . . babysitting . . . and babysitting, so I could be out with my hubby. 

Thank you to my youngest, for her hilarious humor, and getting "drunk" on pomegranates with me.
Thank you for the square snowflake, the poof, and a crazy round of cribbage.  

I was truly uplifted this weekend . . . an unending stream of blessings through you, the people of God.  I just wanted to say that I noticed and it mattered.  It might not have been a big deal to you, but to me it was huge.  God has given me eyes to see . . .
                                                                    that I am not alone,
                                                                       that my life matters
                                                                          that I might have something to contribute
                                                                             that you care
                                                                                 that I can be myself and you will still love
                                                                                     that there is hope for a vision flickering low. . .

                                          Thank you.   

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."  Isa. 55:12

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Sacrifice

Painting my house is so therapeutic for me.  I love the silence, the nearness of the rafters, and most of all, the transformation of a fresh coat of paint.  I like to see results, neat and crisp.  The strained neck and sore muscles are so worth it. 

Seeing results carries over into other areas of my life as well.  I know, I know.  Faithfulness is what God requires because in reality it is His work, the outcome His business, not mine.  I am but an instrument in His hands, only the paintbrush.  But lately as I've expended myself to great degrees, I've come up empty    . . .disappointed . . . discouraged.

It is one thing to labor and see results, but quite another to labor and see . . . nothing. 

Failure shouts blatant in my face, mocking, always there.  I give and give but still, it is not enough.  Will it never end?  This drought, this trodden ground, the Word tossed to the wayside, choked by lesser things.  I crave rest and long to see fruit . . . results.  Yet in this barren land I cling even tighter to my Shepherd who has for some reason led me to this place.

Is this a test?  From God?  Is this the enemy wearing me down?  I don't know for sure, but I do know that God is faithful.  That He who started a good work in me will complete it.   Yet some days I feel I may crumple. 

How we need each other!  Just showing up, the presence of another, can build and strengthen in the Lord.  Obedient and faithful, yes, but it sure is easier when we support one another.  But to encourage we have to expend ourselves in personal sacrifice.

Thinking of others above ourselves, loving when there is no response, denying ourselves rights to our time, giving at our own expense . . . all this is sacrifice.  Yet, compared to the extent of God's love poured out on us, how can we speak of sacrifice?  

The day marches on and does not often follow our agenda.  It meanders to the place where we must give of ourselves for another, even when we are tired, when we have already reached the end of our strength.  God's idea of sacrifice is extreme compared to our interpretation of it. 

So I'm asking God to give me perspective, eyes to see, and endurance to continue, even when I can't see.  I want to pass this test of faith.   I may never realize results, but it could be my heart is not ready for them, or that I was never meant to have them, for they are not mine for the having. 

Yet I do know that in heaven it will be clean and crisp, a pure picture of what went on down here.  Then I will know, and then I will understand.  So I carry on, believing His Word "will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.  Instead of the thorn bush, will grow the pine tree and instead of briars, the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the LORD'S renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."  Isa. 55:8,9)  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wake up

Could the results to this election be God calling His church to wake up?  Our country will not be won by a political candidate, but rather by believers in Christ living like believers.  As we have strayed from the Word of God, replacing it with emotional highs, experience, and casual love, our nation sees no difference in their desire for charisma, a hand out, or permissive love.  Could we expect anything less from them?

God seeks our attention.  He will bring things into our lives to turn our hearts toward Him, even a national election.  It is not the end of the world, but might be the end of our free country if we evangelicals do not begin putting God in the forefront of our lives.  Is our faith in our vote or in our God? 

So often idolatry characterizes our living.  And we are only reaping what we have sown.  How can we expect blessing when we deliberately shun our Maker?  Oh, we might not set up stone statues in our houses, but we do make "graven images" to ourselves.  Images of what people think of us, narcissism, education, hobbies, exercise, or even ministry.

Does my life speak of God's righteousness . . . holiness?  Am I obedient to God this day in my relationships with my family, with the store clerks, with my boss, with others on the road, with my school?  The best is sacrificed for the good.  Undivided devotion to God is replaced by service projects, fighting social issues, and compromised living.   We are agents sent out on a mission, the most exciting, engaging mission rivaling all: to proclaim Christ to the nations.       

God always gives His abiding presence of grace to those that are His.  But grace does not disqualify us from His discipline.  Last night, as I watched the map of our country turn shades of red and blue, my heart began to lose hope of this nation ever turning toward righteousness.  Yet, the electoral college vote was set up by our founding fathers for the purpose of keeping the vote balanced, and rightly so.  It's an ingenious system.  But now, even that appears ineffective.

I don't have answers to the political division of our country, but do know that one day Jesus will reign as King over all the world as the Righteous Ruler.  No man will save us, only our God.  We look only unto Jesus for our ultimate deliverance.  But in the meantime, this country could be saved if those who claim Christ as their Savior will put down our idols, seek His face, and proclaim Him to our world . . . starting with life style obedience.  It's time to wake up!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Calling

The same God who agonized in the garden over what He had to bear,
          the same God who was brutally beaten, made fun of, and scorned,
               the same God who was humiliated, spit upon, and stripped of all dignity,
                    the same God who grieves over my wrong doing, is hurt by it, repulsed by it,
                         the same God who let the nails be driven through his hands and hung exposed,

Is calling me by name.

Yes, this One who gave His life for me, is calling me to give my life for others.

He's calling me to . . . bear the cross.

I don't really want to.  It hurts.  I agonize over the humiliation, the suffering, my own desires.  I'd rather carry out my own agenda for this day.  It is hard to deny my own comforts for the good of others.   And it is so easy to ignore His call, His voice.

All He asks is this day.  And tomorrow it will be that day.  And the next.  He does not demand it of me, but only offers, so that my life will be abundant . . . if I heed His call.

Today, my time is not my own.
   Today, I deny myself all things I would like to eat.
      Today, I give my undivided attention to my husband and children.
         Today, I 'beat my body and make it my slave'.
             Today, I choose to let my thoughts dwell on what is good and pleasing to God...truth.
                Today, I love as He loves.
 Because I don't want to miss the joy,
      the joy set before me as I choose to take up my cross and follow.

Click on the link below and take a moment to be blessed by a song I can't put down.  Let it sink in and wash over your soul.  Catch the heart cry of God.  It gets me every time I listen. 

What is the cross God asks you to bear this day?  In what manner will you bear it?  Are you listening to His call?  Those are the questions I ask myself.

I look only to Jesus.  Not to my computer, not to accolades, not to movies, not to food, not to friends, not even to my own disciplines, wrongly thinking they might put me in favor with God.  No, only to Jesus.  All eyes look to Him for their sufficiency, their provision. 

Deliver us Jesus.  Save us from ourselves.  Deliver us from apathy. 

You're calling, you're calling, you're calling us
                                                            . . . to the cross.   The Same Love by Paul Baloche

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  
Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  
Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live..."  Isa. 55:2-3