Snow Day

Last week our little part of the world was hit by a winter storm.  Stacie and I both live on hills (there isn't much of West Virginia that isn't on a hill!) that became impassable as a result of the storm.  Who would have thought that 8 inches of snow could cause such difficulty?!  I know Stacie didn't see a mail truck or civilization for several days, and I was grateful that we had full kitchen cabinets as not very many people made it out of my subdivision and home again without having to park at the bottom of the hill and walk in.

It dropped about 5 inches of snow in one day, and despite the difficulty it caused, it was beautiful.

Glade Creek, WV
And it seemed that as soon as we adjusted to life, it snowed some more, causing havoc again.  Roads that had been cleared were again snow covered.  And once we adjusted to that it warmed up just enough to turn everything to slush and then froze again into solid sheets of ice!  I realize that many of you farther north than us are probably shaking your heads and laughing at our inability to adjust and continue our normal routines, but when you aren't used to snow it is a bit overwhelming!

Sometimes, following Jesus can be just as daunting.  We are going about our daily routines, focusing on what needs to be accomplished next, when something comes along that changes everything - Jesus.  He has always been there, like the moisture in our air, but it took the right set of circumstances for us to finally see Him.  Once we do, though, it affects every part of our life and we have to make adjustments as a result.

Some decide that they are going to continue on as if nothing has changed, ignoring the obvious.  They attempt to continue the routines they have already established despite, or in spite of, the obstacles.  This rarely ends well.  God has allowed us free will, and He will not force us to accept Him.  His way is best, though, and when we choose a different path we tend to stumble, fall and ultimately separate ourselves from Him forever.  Think of those who venture out despite the warning that the roads are dangerous and then angrily complain about the road conditions as the tow truck pulls away with their vehicle.  

Others choose to attempt to tame the snow through their own power.  You will see them determinedly shoveling snow in the middle of the storm, attempting to create their own paths.  Eventually the snow will stop, and the paths will remain clear.  But the path isn't always the best one.  I saw many instances in which snow plows attempted to remove snow off the road only to plow through parts of people's yards, or worse yet damaging roads by creating potholes.  There may be immediate results, but sometimes it isn't the path you should be on, or the path becomes more difficult than it needed to be due to our impatience.

And then there are those that choose to withdraw until the storm passes.  They acknowledge the beauty, power and majesty, but rather than enjoying it, they choose to insulate themselves from its effects.  They make personal adjustments in their lives, but others don't really see them because of the withdrawal.  This isn't was God has intended the result to be.  (John 17:16)  While our relationship with Him should change us, the change isn't meant to be one that is only evident to us.  

Finally, there are those who embrace the snow, THIS is what we are meant to do in our relationship with Jesus.  I find it interesting that the ones who tend to embrace the snow the most are also the ones that Jesus told us we should model ourselves after.  (Matthew 18:3)  Children are quick to get out in the midst of things and joyfully frolic.  They aren't concerned with the work that needs to be done, but instead with what lies immediately before them.  

It isn't easy to let go of the cares of the world, to not focus on the things that had become routine in our lives, and yet that is what we are called to do.  (Matthew 6:34)  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we should live every day like it is a snow day, but I am saying that we need to let Jesus dictate our actions.  Besides, sometimes we DO need a snow day, a time to reconnect with the wonderment and joy of our relationship with Him.

and the door was shut



It was one of those days.  Nothing was going right.  My alarm went off and I hit snooze a few to many times.  When I finally registered the time I realized that I HAD to get up and get moving like 5 minutes ago.  I rushed out of bed, threw on my clothes, and woke my children.  I scoured the kitchen for some sort of quick, portable food that they could eat for breakfast.  Granola bars and fruit to the rescue!  We managed to get out the door and lucked in to favorable traffic conditions (thank you God!) and arrived ON TIME at our co-op classes.  

Only, after we entered I realized that I had forgotten my knitting bag.  Now, I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but I was working on a project that had a deadline.  I only assist with one class at co-op and I had planned to spend my down time making some serious headway on the project, only in my haste to get out the door, I had left it behind. Now I wasn't sure if I would be able to complete the project by the deadline.

It seems that being in a hurry is a problem that goes back at least as far as Jesus' time.  He told a story in Matthew about a group of bridesmaids that were preparing for the bridegroom.  You see, during Jesus time couples got engaged and then the future husband returned home and began building a home for his wife.  Only when the home was complete, and his father had approved it, was he able to return for the wedding ceremony.  Jesus tells the story that these bridesmaids went out to meet the groom.  In my mind they left in a hurry, anxious to get the party started.  Half grabbed extra oil for their lamps and the other half rushed out without it.  The groom was delayed, Jesus reported, and the bridesmaids fell asleep.  When they awoke those who had rushed out without getting the extra oil had to leave to find a vendor and purchase more.  Verse 10 says, "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut."  The bridesmaids were not permitted to enter when they returned.  Ouch!  

Jesus goes on to explain that the message of this parable was to be watchful for His return, since we don't know when it might be.  I have to admit, when I get hurried with the things of this world, my watchfulness level goes down and my focus shifts to what needs done RIGHT NOW instead.  It's a backwards way to live...and has been for some time.  

There is an old Latin saying, festina lente, which means make haste slowly.  Sounds kind of weird, but when you think about it, it makes sense.  You see, when we get in a hurry we make mistakes.  We walk out of the house without our knitting bag, or even worse we lose sight of what is really important - Jesus.  But when we take the time to focus in the midst of our haste on the details that are important, we don't find ourselves without our knitting bag.  Or worse yet, standing on the outside of that shut door.   

Chosen like David



David. So much comes to my mind when I think of the infamous God-fearing King. He loved and obeyed God. He was a tremendous leader of his people and follower of the Word. But, like all of us, he was egregiously flawed. He was a murderer, an adulterer, and an absent father (to mention a few).

He was a great military conqueror, but he was never able to conquer himself. He defeated a giant in his youth with faith and trust in God alone for the victory; yet as he aged, he followed his fleshly desires. He was courageous and loved God deeply; he was a coward and disobedient. Do you get the picture? David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts: 13:22), yet allowed the devil to control him at times. How can that be? Just as it is with you and me. David’s weaknesses and errors are numerous. So are ours. While most of us won’t commit many of the serious sins that David did, we will sin. (James 2:10) And few of us will humble ourselves before God as David did, too.

Even though it’s not actions that get us to heaven (Romans 4:5) it’s our hearts… imagine if we had the hearts of David without his actions? How close to Christ-like would we be then?!?! David, with all of his misguided ways, was God’s chosen. David humbled himself and repented for his sins. In a time where God seemed so harsh and judgmental. Can you imagine? We, as Christians, live in a time, where we are taught of the love and forgiveness of Jesus. It would seem ‘easier’ to repent and humble ourselves to a God that sacrificed His Son for our transgressions. (John 3:16) Yet we still choose not to. (Though it’s important to point out that God is the same God in the OT as He is in the NT) (Malachi 3:6, Revelation 1:8, Hebrews 13:8)

Look at David’s flaws, yet how awesome was he? How much did God love him? (Enough to send His Son through David’s blood line) (2 Samuel 7:12-14, 2 Samuel 23:5, 1 Chronicles 7:11-15, Psalms 89:3-4, 34-37, Psalms 132:11, Acts 13:23, Revelation 22:16…) Compare him to Jesus- Who Was (Is) Perfect. Jesus is a descendent of David, chosen by God; He is God’s Son. As if that’s not enough to prove to you that God loves(d) David, David will reign over the Millennial Kingdom. (Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 37:24) Jesus will reign over All for Eternity. So imagine, if we, in our flaws like David, humbled ourselves before God seeking forgiveness and praising Him for His Mercy and Grace—what we could be…?!?! If David, after committing his serious sins, can be ruler in the New Jerusalem, what can we do? What are God’s plans for us? Few of us have committed the multitude of sins that David did, but we don’t seek God’s forgiveness or sacrifice our pride over the sins we have committed. Imagine what we could be capable of if we succumbed to God as David did?

We sell ourselves short of what God thinks of us, how much He loves us, and what potential He sees in and has for us. David never did. He pleads to God for His love and forgiveness. (Psalms 32, Psalms 51…)

Jesus gave His Life for our sins. David didn’t have that reassurance, yet his faith remained in God. Why can’t we seek Him the way David did?

Lovable?!?

Some days I wonder why God even bothers with me. It’s those days that I don’t even like myself; so why should God? The days where, no matter how much coffee I drink, I am still miserable, grumpy and just plain intolerable to be around. I don’t want to even bother with me; so why should He? I feel unworthy to even utter His Name at times. As if at the mere breath from me, He rolls His eyes in “Not again…”
Those days where I feel unqualified at my job, incompetent in my marriage, inept with my so-called talent, confused about everything, angered at my impatience, insecure about my appearance (and just overall me). [deep breath in, slowly exhale…] These are the days that I cherish that I am not measured by my salary, my looks, or any (if any) of my accomplishments in this world. It doesn’t matter what anyone (especially me) thinks of me; it only matters what God thinks of me. And despite all of my imperfections and inadequacies, He loves me; just the way that I am—my flaws and my flares…
The past couple of weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with uncontrollable uncertainties. I choke on my self-doubt. I walk around aimlessly, unsure of how to exist, let alone live, and feel like a zombie at times. I pray you’ve never been there, but I suspect that many of you have. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pain of this world. We easily see and feel the disappointments all around us. We live in a conditional world; but thankfully God’s love is unconditional. Those days when I don’t like myself—it’s okay, because Jesus loves me. Jesus doesn’t believe the lies in our heads; so why do we? I’ve come to realize that the devil doesn’t blatantly lie to us. He’s not that obvious, or we’d have an easier time pushing him aside and following Jesus. Satan takes part of the truth and twists it to a deformation so unrecognizable from the actual truth. For instance, I’m not a perfect wife. (If you listen closely you can probably hear an ‘Amen’ from my husband) However, I am not a horrible wife. He gets in my head and has me focused on my inadequacies that I am blinded to the areas I excel. We don’t need to be held captive of our minds, we belong to Jesus. (Ephesians 2:20-21)
If only we could see ourselves as God sees us. God created us in His image. (Soak that in for a moment). (Genesis 1:27) That means, we are perfect in His eyes. God doesn’t make mistakes. Everything is for a reason. He sees past our sins and beyond our mistakes. (That’s the beauty of His Mercy and Grace). (Ephesians 2:10). We must see past our mistakes as well. We worry about things that God has already forgotten about; and truthfully, never even thought of to begin with. He doesn’t look at our flaws, unless He can use them for our flares. (Romans 8:28) A friend of mine summed it up beautifully: “It’s not how you feel, it’s what’s real.” And what’s real is God’s love for you. (and me). (1 John 4:16)

My verse of the year

I'm going to share a secret with you.  For the last couple of years, I pray during December and ask God to lead me to a verse for the upcoming year.  Some years God leads me to a verse that reminds me to rest in Him (Psalm 62:1).  Others encourage me to be more proactive in working for Him (Matthew 5:16).  And others are those that help me to better reflect His character (Psalm 19:14).  No matter what verse I am led to, it becomes a central part of me for the next year.

This year my verse is Psalm 19:14, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh LORD, my Rock and Redeemer.  Not always an easy task for me.  As a matter of fact, our struggles with controlling our tongues is actually one of the things that drew Stacie and I together and made us BFF's. This year, though, I want to go beyond just attempting to tame my tongue and look inward as well.  For our words are a reflection of our heart.  (Matthew 15:18)

Here is my secret though, I'm not very good at remembering my goal during my day to day activities.  It doesn't really matter what that goal is, whether it was resting in God, letting my light shine, and especially not the goal this year.  In the heat of the moment, when I have had little sleep, am under a lot of stress, have a little one still trying to master her own struggle with choosing the right words (and tone), and two teenagers in the house I don't always choose to react in a manner that would be acceptable to God (and upon reflection once I calm down, it really isn't to me either!).

Last year, though, I found a way to help me stay more aware of my goal.  I purchased a bracelet and had my verse stamped on it.  I'm not a bracelet wearer, so having it dangling on my wrist, catching on my shirt sleeve, reflecting the light at times, getting in the way was a constant reminder of my goal.  It helped me to stay focused.  And as a plus, I had a pretty piece of jewelry to wear and something to remind me forever of the lessons I learned that year.

Over time, however, I became accustomed to the bracelet.  Like the verse, it became a part of me, no longer an nuisance.  As a result I knew another bracelet would not be a good reminder.  So this year I visited Etsy and found a seller that was willing to create a custom ring with my verse of the year on it.  It finally arrived!

I don't usually wear a ring on my right hand, so my hope is that this serves the same purpose that the bracelet did.  I have been wearing it for about a week now and I have to admit that there have been several times that I have been saying or thinking something and found myself twisting my ring around my finger at the same time.  I then stop and consider if what I have said or thought would be pleasing to God.  

So, why am I sharing this with you?  Because no matter where you are in your Christian walk, God has something to share with you.  There is something He wants you to do -whether for the kingdom or for yourself.  Are you asking Him what it is?  Are you making a REAL effort to accomplish it if you have?  I'm not saying you need to run out and buy a bracelet or a ring and have a verse stamped on it.  I'm not even saying you need to have a verse of the year.  What I am saying is that you need to be in conversation with Him, because if you aren't doing something then I have to wonder if you have really committed to Him.  (James 2:14-26)

And if you have a verse, or even a word, of the year I would love for you to share how you keep focused on it.  Eventually I am going to run out of jewelry ideas.  :)