It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year All Year...

it’s almost Christmas. Can you believe it?!?! I love this time of year. The caroling, the gift-giving, the baking, the movies… I want to take time off work to just Fa-La-La! I wait all year long for this holiday. This is the holiday we, as Christians, should be preparing for the entire year. Not in the decorating, baking and shopping, but in the serving and loving. But are we?

I recently spoke with the Director of a local charitable organization about the number of children and families they assist in my town. It broke my heart. 150 families are fed by them monthly. This year, 61 children were signed up on their Christmas blessing list (similar to Salvation Army’s Angel Tree). Another 60+ were signed up through Secret Santa in our town. That’s almost 130 kids that weren’t going to have much on Christmas morning to open. Yes, I know, that’s not what Christmas is about…but… How does that not touch you in some way? Thankfully, they were fully sponsored. His office was filled with garbage bags loaded with presents. There were bags of coats, candy and blankets scattered throughout. I saw three bikes in the mix. It’s these moments that truly do make it feel like the most wonderful time of the year…But what about after Christmas? Unfortunately, those families don’t simply overcome their need. Those children inevitably need more than the few clothes they received from the strangers that purchased them. Where are we Christians after Christmas?

It's these thoughts that cause my emotions to run rampant this time of year. I think of the senior citizens that have no family that come to visit them. I think of the people that will spend the holiday alone; the children that won’t get any gifts; the people that won’t get a special dinner (if they even get a dinner); the animals in the shelters; the children waiting for foster or adopted parents…sadly, the list goes on…

Jesus is the reason we celebrate this season, but there’s a reason for you after the season. God placed all of us here for a reason. (Jeremiah 29:11) Do you know what your reason is? If you have a song, sing it; if you have a gift, give it; if you have a prayer, pray it. (1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Peter 4:10)

Last month’s holiday [should have] humbled us by our blessings and filled us with gratitude; now is the time to be a blessing and fill others with gratitude. But don’t just stop on December 25. Continue into the New Year and beyond. It’s about the love of Christ, Christians, at Christmas…

Philippians 2:1-18
Be Like Christ
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Happy Thanksgiving

With this being the Thanksgiving holiday, I honestly have to say that I am most thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I apologize for the cliché, and the triteness of how that sounds, but when I look around at this fallen world, I am so incredibly thankful that it is temporary and it is not the ultimate end. I honestly don’t know how non-Christians can crawl out of bed every day with all that goes on around us. My hats off to them for being able to go through this life, but my heart breaks for them for all that they are missing. Obviously, being a Christian doesn’t guarantee an easy life (typically quite the opposite) (John 16:33), however it offers so much hope for what waits for us and gives us such a peace with our surroundings that it makes it a little bit easier to accept this world, as is, for now; knowing that it is only temporary, and the pain, no matter how great, is nothing compared to the greatness of what’s coming. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I attended a funeral the other day; and many of the family in mourning are not Saved. The heaviness I felt in that room was smothering. I felt such a burden on my heart for their pain and emptiness. It’s moments like these that overwhelm me with gratitude that I won’t ever have that engulfing emptiness that they were feeling. I know that no matter what loss I face, I will still never be alone. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:13, Hebrews 13:5) That’s what I’m most thankful for. Jesus took all of my sin; my suffering, my pain, and in complete and total emptiness and loneliness, He made me free and saved me from the wickedness of this world.

I ask that, before you enjoy your holiday meal,  you give thanks to God for His Salvation, His Grace and His Mercy. And I ask that you take an extra moment to pray for those that don’t understand or know of all that He has to offer. And then open your eyes, ears, heart and mind to see where you can help introduce them.

We are beyond blessed with all of the treasures that we have. But most importantly, we are beyond blessed for our greatest treasure of all: Jesus Christ.

1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 95:10, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 106:1-2, Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I pray you have a wonderful, filling, blessed Thanksgiving.

Blood Ballot

It’s been a week since our ballots were cast. It’s been a long, exhausting election cycle. We’re all tired, of it all. Keep that in mind in the next few months through this transition and the current turmoil.
With all of this unrest in our Nation, we need to find our peace in Jesus. Regardless of our political views, we need to remember the big picture: people need Jesus. We need to face this disunity in the United States with the only thing that’s important: showing the love of Christ and getting them to the Cross. Your political views mean nothing—you represent Who Jesus Christ is to the world, unashamed. That is your sole (soul) mission. What is coming for eternity is more important than any ruler in the next four years.
Are they seeing Him by the way you’re acting, or have acted, through this election cycle? In your support for one candidate over another—have you done so in love? Our Nation has been divided over the past few years (many could argue it’s always been divided); which side of the argument are you? I don’t mean politically or socially—I mean spiritually. Because if you’re letting any anger or bitterness in the outcome take hold, you’re not winning anyone to Christ. And that’s the real (and only) objective. We could all be called Home tomorrow, is this (or any) argument worth leaving people behind or even you being left behind? “Let God deal with the things they do, because hate in your heart will consume you, too.” (Thank you Will Smith) [1 John 3:15]
I dare say that the extremists on either side of the political aisle don’t represent the majority of the actual people that voted that way. But the one thing they all have in common is that they are in desperate need of Jesus. Jesus flipped tables (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18) because of the disrespect of the Temple; He didn’t flip people. He loved people. We’re missing the whole point.
Remember, we are blessed to live in the United States of America. Many people across the world would love to have a choice in their leaders. They would love to be able to speak out and assemble against their leaders. They would love to be able to speak out about their beliefs in Christ. We take our freedoms for granted. We ARE ‘One Nation under God, indivisible…’ we best remember that united we stand, or divided we will fall. When you look back on our country’s history, we have been through 57 (I think I counted that right) Presidential elections, and we’ve made it through each of them. We will make it through this one as well. We’ve made it through war, disease, civil liberties and social justice; we will get through this period, too. Your neighbor, coworker, friend, family member that voted differently from you is also a child of God, your brother/sister in Christ; and above all else, that is more important than the ballot they cast.
Regardless for whom you voted, please continue to pray for each of our leaders: for protection like Daniel, guidance like Moses, wisdom like Solomon and love like David. And remember that no matter who our President is, Jesus is our King; our one true Ruler. (Psalm 22:28, Psalm 103:19) So pray that President-Elect Trump allows Jesus to reign. Then we’ll all win. (Romans 13:7, 1 Timothy 2:1-3)
Verses to Remember and Study:
Judgment: Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-42, John 8:1-8, Romans 2:1-3, James 4:11-12
Love: Matthew 22:39, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Ephesians 4:2, 1 Peter 4:8,1 John 4:7-8
Loving your enemy: Proverbs 10:12, Matthew 5:44-47, Mark 12:31, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:31-36, Romans 12:14
Government: Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17
Unity: Mark 3:24, 1Corinthians 1:10, Ephesians 6:12

Questioning the Unquestionable

Is it wrong to question God when bad things happen? It’s so easy to sit on our self-built pedestal and shake our fist at God when these things happen to us, or others around us. We ask Him “Why me/them?”, “How could you allow this to happen?”, “If you’re so loving, why didn’t you stop this pain?” In His Omniscience (Psalm 147:5, 1 John 3:20) He knew what would happen; in His Omnipotence (Job 9:4-10, Isaiah 40:28), He could’ve done something about it. But He chooses to use these times to grow us, and draw us closer to Him. (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, 1 Peter 5:10-11, James 1:12, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 1 Peter 1:6-7). Character and strength have never formed without struggle, risk, sacrifice, and even loss and suffering. Our weakness and desperation have caused many of us to abandon ourselves, in search of the only One who can save us.
When we question God’s actions, and why He has allowed things to occur as they have in our lives, it is understood and even appreciated by Jesus, who has been there as well. He is hurting with you—but when we accuse God in bitterness and unbelief, when we hold Him accountable, and question His very Character, we have now crossed the line, in our own self-righteousness and sin. For reasons we may or may not understand on this earth, He has chosen a path that is exactly what we need.

Job (Job 13:3, Job 23:3-4, Job 24:1), Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2-3), even John the Baptist (Luke 7:20) questioned Him. We can question Him; cry out to Him; complain to Him—but never attack His heart or character. In our questioning, let us not forget that He is also Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10, Proverbs 15:3) and Omnibenevolent (Psalm 106:1, Mark 10:18). We’re not alone in our tough times—He is always with us. (Matthew 28:20) And everything we go through is for a greater good for us, and others. He will use it to our and His benefit. (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28)

Giving Your Gold

David. You know him as the man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) You also may remember him as the psalmist (Psalm 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 142), the adulterer (2 Samuel 11:2-5) and the murderer (2 Samuel 11:14-17)… Do you remember him, though as the one that wanted to build a Temple for the Lord—and that he was denied? (2 Samuel 7:1-17) David recognized that his treasures all came from God. And he recognized that the Lord deserved so much more than he had for himself. Therefore, he began collecting and setting aside treasures for the Lord’s Temple (to be constructed by his son Solomon). He not only gathered his own belongings, but he urged others to do so as well. (1 Chronicles 29:1-20) v5: “Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?” He knew that those that loved the Lord would (should) have no qualms about giving their offerings to Him. (Psalm 26:8) And the people gave willingly (v6, 9)
My question to you is: Are you sacrificing your treasures to God? To your church? To your congregation?
Not a single person in your church (outside of possibly your Pastor) inconveniences themselves to the point of discomfort. Is this biblical? [Do we even care church?] I’m sure (most of) you realize that the Bible clearly states giving to the church. (Proverbs 3:9-10, Matthew 22:21, 1 Corinthians 16:2) Let me break it down in layman’s terms; plain and simple: you are stealing from God (Malachi 3:8-12), subsequently your Pastor, and in return you are robbing yourself and the rest of your church. (Matthew 21:12-13) [Note: giving to missions should be separate from your giving to the church (Acts 2)]

We don’t belong to us; we belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Being a Christian is more than just a name. We’re supposed to sacrifice our lives to Jesus, as He sacrificed His for us (John 3:16-17). That means giving Him all that we have (our money/resources, our time, our relationships—everything…) If we don’t, we are nothing. (Isaiah 64:6, John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Galatians 2:20). If you believe in the work of your church, then give generously as God has prospered you, out of love for Him. (2 Corinthians 8, 9) And FYI—in case you’re confused or in doubt—your church not only needs you, your church is you.

Being Held Accountable

Accountability. It’s such an ugly word, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty responsible, trustworthy, and reliable person…when I want or need to be. However, I’m also non-committal and indecisive. Therefore, I am not usually the first person to volunteer, but if I say I will do something, then I will follow-through because I’ve made that commitment. If I haven’t committed to something, don’t look for me to do it. I’m also pretty lazy at times; and very insecure. Why am I telling you all of this? (Besides the fact that I frequently overshare?) Because I honestly feel like if I can commit to something, sacrifice my time or money or effort, then others should be able to as well. I don’t mean that I think everyone should do what I do; what I mean is I believe everyone should be doing something

I’ve really been struggling with this lately. I’m not trying to be or sound self-righteous; again—I don’t think I’m all that special—but I just don’t understand how if I can find the time, money, inconvenience to [fill in the blank], then why does it seem like no one else can? I realize we all lead very different, yet similarly, very busy lives. And I realize I don’t know what goes on in most people’s lives, but everyone has something to offer to someone else. It just seems like no one wants to be bothered with helping

I wonder if we even realize that to be Christians is to be Christ-like. Can you name a time in the Bible when Jesus was selfish? Everything He did (from teaching and feeding thousands on a beach, to His death) was for the sake of someone other than Himself. Jesus is the epitome of selflessness. He is Who we strive to be like… yet we can’t do one simple thing for others most of the time. Nobody wants to be held accountable for anyone else other than themselves (and in case you haven’t noticed in this world, most people won’t even take accountability for their own actions anymore either).

Why do we struggle with not only volunteering ourselves, but also holding others accountable for their own stewardship? Is it because we assume that if we don’t give much, we shouldn’t expect others to as well? OR, we don’t expect others to give much so we don’t have to either? Do you realize that even if we’re not holding ourselves, or others accountable doesn’t mean that God is letting each of us off the hook also? (Matthew 25:19, Luke 12:48, Romans 3:19) And can you imagine how angry, frustrated, tired, hurt…He must feel when we consistently don’t ‘show up’? (We don’t show up for Sunday School, skip out on a service or two (or more), we don’t volunteer at our church, we don’t write a check out weekly/monthly, we don’t worship with emotion, we aren’t on our knees praying, we don’t open our Bibles… [I could go on, and on]…

If you feel like you’re not getting enough from God (enough time to volunteer, enough money to tithe, enough effort to care…), it’s because you’re not giving enough to Him. God will give you all that you need when you give Him all that He wants. (Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, Philippians 4:13, 2 Peter 1:3). Faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26) [Take this pause to read that passage in its entirety] God will not move for you, until you commit to move for Him. (Matthew 13:58, Philippians 2:13) Why do we think He should feel so privileged that we are Christians, that we don’t owe Him anything other than us taking [destroying] His Name?

Take a moment before you move on from this reading, and ask our Lord and Savior, what you can do for Him, considering all that He’s done for you… Because regardless of what you think, you do owe Him a whole lot more than you’re giving Him. Period.

Table Time

I am in the end stages of a kitchen remodel. It’s been 12 weeks. Twelve.Weeks… of a less-than full functioning kitchen. (My lack of culinary skills make this a little more endurable than it should be). I’ve been without countertops for 7 weeks. Thanks to a snafu by the local home improvement store, our order was on hold. Unbeknownst to us, we kept our kitchen empty ‘assuming’ things were moving right along. When we finally realized the glitch, (after I (semi) calmed down) I insisted we put as much of the kitchen back together—including setting our table back up. This may not seem like a big deal to many. But up until this point, I’d been standing at our makeshift counters to eat. I hate to stand and eat. I desperately missed sitting for my meals. When I realized we’d be waiting another 4 weeks, I wanted my table back; my kitchen back; my life back…

You see, I have a desperate need to sit with my husband over our meals. It seems to be the only real time we get together guaranteed. And, growing up, that was the only time my family really spent any time together as a whole. At dinner, we all sat down to share—a meal, a conversation, and more often than not—a laugh. I was (I assume) a ‘typical’ teenager. I didn’t want to be with my parents or my much younger siblings too much. I wanted to be on my own. However, our meals were different. I enjoyed the ‘forced’ time to gather as one. I (secretly) enjoyed the inquisition of my day (school, friends, etc.), though you’d never know by the one-word answers, and more often than not grumbles (apologies to my parents) or eye rolls. My sisters (12+ years younger than I) rattled incessantly to avoid eating. The ‘older’ one always fell out of her chair (I kid you not—every night), and the ‘baby’ always had to go ‘potty’ in the middle of the meal; and I looked forward to the ridiculous, yet habitual moments. I always swore that my family would do the same…

Why am I telling you all of this (besides wanting to gripe a little longer that my remodel is still not done)? Because I think ‘table time’ is important. I think time with family at least once a day to talk, really talk—converse, share, laugh—should be a priority in our lives… I took it for granted, until it wasn’t available. And I don’t just mean during my remodel…

Growing up all I ever knew I wanted, was a family. I often talked about ‘when I have kids’…and I wanted a large family (at least five kids, (three boys, two girls)…). And one of the things I knew I wanted to do in raising my kids was insist on ‘table time’. I wanted to make sure there was a guaranteed time we all could count on to be together—for encouragement, for venting, for love—but that’s not how my life turned out. I don’t have any kids, let alone the more than typical table full. I have my husband (and our dog—but despite his insistence—he is not welcome at the table). And most days, I’ve come to terms with that. But I realized during our remodel that I missed and mourned my ‘table time’; and all that it could’ve been. (Bear with me, I’m not trying to gain sympathy—there’s a point to this). Over the years, while I’ve enjoyed the quality time with my husband over dinner, I’ve felt an emptiness at my table. But here’s where I’m at with it (I told you there was a point to this): my table may not be as full as I’d hoped, but it’s not as empty as I think. You see, seated at my table, as He always has been, and always will be, is Jesus. He loves our ‘table time’ and ‘table talk’. When I finally was able to sit at my table to eat last week, I realized that my standing to eat habit had not only killed the ‘table time’ but also the ‘table talk’—the prayer. My meal prayer is always about more than my meal (quite often adding a ‘blessing’ to my food is after the ‘Amen’). It’s about my gratitude for the life I have; the many blessings that I always wanted, and some I never knew I needed. I fully encompass all of His provisions; and His exclusions. And yet, I somehow neglect(ed) to encompass the (lack of) emptiness of my table. I’m not sitting with just my husband at my table. I’m sitting with Jesus. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 4:17)

He meets me at my table for ‘table time’ daily; and one day soon, I will meet Him at His table. (Luke 22:30)

What are you hanging on to?

I walked in to my 8 year old's room and I could swear I had missed an emergency alert.  I must have since only a hurricane or a tornado could possibly explain the state of her room!  She had been in it most of the day playing with a neighborhood friend.  The friend had recently gone home dinner and I had gone back to announce that our own food was finished.

If you have ever seen the movie Labyrinth then I am sure you recollect the scene in which the garbage lady attempts to entice Sarah to stop her quest and stay in her room with all of her most "loved" possessions.  Got it?  Now picture the room when her friends break down the wall to save her and all the junk came tumbling in.....yep.  That is what I walked into.

She can't throw anything away.  And I mean anything.  For her it all holds some value and/or reminds her of something of value.  The idea of parting with it literally brings her to tears.  And yes, I DO know how unhealthy that is and we are working on it.  Stick with me though, I have a point and it is...

We all have things we need to let go of

Hear me out here.  You may not be hanging on to literal, physical things. (Although I bet a few of you are.)  You may be hanging on to a painful experience that has skewed your view of those around you.  You may be hanging on to childishness because it is easier to allow others to do the hard things, physically and spiritually.  You could be hanging on to your idea of how this life was supposed to be, or what being a Christain was supposed to be.  Or you could be hangng on to something else.

My point is, our enemy is much like that junk lady in Labyrinth.  If he can get us to focus on the things rather than on God, we don't realize that we have missed our calling and are instead wallowing in a dump.  

God never intended for us to live in a dump.  He has a plan for each of us.  Some, like Sarah, are on a mission to rescue others.  Some are like Ludo, who's purpose is to stand with and love those around us.  Perhaps you are more like Sir Didymus and his trusty steed/dog Ambrosia and you are the defender of those around you.  Or maybe you are Hoggle, and your purpose is to see yourself differently and to step out of your comfort zone.  Or maybe your purpose in life is to be the mission of someone else so that they may grow.  I don't know what your mission is, but I do know that it isn't to stay locked in a room only concerned with YOUR THINGS.

Remember the rich young ruler?  I wonder if he had worked hard for all that he had or if it had all come easy?  Either way, Jesus told him that despite all the things he did, his heart was still focused on his things rather than the will of God.  

So I leave you with a question as I leave the keyboard to assist my 8 year old with reevaluating what is most important.  What things are holding you back from what God has for you?  Take some time to pray about it and really let Him show you.  
Once He has, start purging.  I promise you will feel better once you lighten your load and continue your journey towards God.

Trusting (oy)

1 Kings 18:36-37  36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.

How many times have you prayed that prayer or something similar? How much do we think that if God followed our will (like Elijah prayed), we could be such a great testimony to His Word! When the truth is: it’s not about your will. Thy will be done (Matthew 6:10). Not My will be done. I’ve often thought I knew how a situation should go; and prayed that if God made it so- how many people would know it was a “God-thing”. But, that’s not His Will. Truth is; regardless of our prayers; our pleading that He grant us this ‘one thing’ to “prove Him” to others; we’re really wanting Him to prove Him to us. 

And let’s reverse it: how many times does God ‘pray’ to me to ‘just do this one thing’ to show others His Word? And how many times do we listen? It comes back to: If we don’t do what God wants—then why should He do what we want? Do you answer Him as often as you think He should answer you?  I know I don’t.  Why aren’t you?  I know mine is mostly fear; fear that He doesn’t actually know better, or have control over the situation; because typically His ‘ideas’ aren’t something I grasp as ‘possible’. “When you try to figure out [(questioning, doubting, etc.)] the future [(according to His Will)], you are grasping at things that are [His].” (Jesus Calling, February 26 devotion) Your reasoning, understanding, contemplating - whatever you want to call it- (let’s call a spade a spade: worrying) are all acts of doubt= lack of trust/faith. 

Where’s our trust in Him? Where’s our faith that He knows best?  He tells us what; He doesn’t have to tell us why. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” What aren’t you obeying that He has revealed to you? Why aren’t you? Do you lack the ‘Passion’? How can you lack the ‘Passion’ when Jesus Christ’s Passion for you doesn’t lack?

So again, why can’t we trust Him? Why do we think that to do what His will is for us, we need to know what it is first? Obviously, we need some instructions; we can’t fly by the seat of our pants the whole time (though, sometimes, that flying is pure trusting). God does tell us His plan; in increments. He whispers a direction in the wind. He shows us confirmation in a song, or a verse, or through a friend. He leaves us hints to follow—only we’re too oblivious to notice them most of the time. He drops bread crumbs, but we’re too busy looking around. He writes it in the sky, yet we never look up. He puts it on paper, but we never open the Book. He places it in our hearts, but we won’t tear down the wall.

He speaks so clearly to us at times, but we can’t hear over the noise of the world. We ask Him for direction, but don’t stop long enough to wait for Him to answer. We’re so busy expecting Him to be at our beckon call that we’re not at His. And it is His call. It is His Will be done, not our own. (Matthew 6:10, Matthew 26:39)

Maybe the next time we call out to Him for guidance, we should stop and wait for His direction. Because He has a direction for us (Psalms 32:8); He never leaves us lost. He never leaves us alone. He is with us, always. (Deuteronomy 31:6) And He loves us unconditionally. (Romans 5:8)

Step out on faith! Quit worrying about where the time, money, and/or energy will come from to make it happen. Release the worry, and embrace the passion! Besides, what are you really worrying about?  Do you really think He won’t guide you along the way? Psalm 32:8: “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”  

Not Alone

There is no cute picture to grab your attention today.  No funny or pithy story to pique your interest.  I just don't have it in me.  All I can give you is a truth: life is hard.  Some weeks are harder than others and some live lives that are perpetually more difficult than others.

I will be the first to say that I am blessed.  I have a house to live in, I am able to stay at home and care for my husband and children, we have more than we need and God had provided for us over and over again.  I KNOW this, but today I am just not feeling it.  Ever have day(s) like that?

My AC on our family van went out.  No biggie as we have been without it before and will probably be without it again.  Then a bearing on the AC unit froze up rendering our primary transportation down for the least until parts come in and the weather cooperates so that my mechanic (aka my husband) can fix it.  Still, not a huge problem, as it means I can focus on lesson plans for the upcoming year and relaxing with the kids.

Then, my computer up and died in the middle of working on a project.  Out of nowhere the motherboard fried and a few of the things I was working on had not yet been backed up.  One of those files was a necessity for a training I was to lead this week.  So, I had to postpone it, order a hard drive case and hope that I could pull my files from it.  Again, not the end of the world, but my stress level increased.

Next, a family member that I dearly love who is battling addiction relapsed.  She was in a treatment program and while out on a day pass made the wrong choice.  I spoke to her the night that it happened (I had suspicions but she denied them) and was heartbroken at the pain I heard in her voice, the desperation and the loneliness.  I was helpless to do more than pray and offer encouragement to her.  The next day she admitted what she had done and confessed to staff in the program.  Her consequences are a major setback and while justified, I am concerned for her, both mentally and spiritually.  (Please pray for her!)

And finally I received some unsettling news about a spiritual battle that another family member is facing.  And when this person needed me(for an unrelated matter), I was unable to assist due to our lack of transportation.   I was helpless to help and now, I have reached the end of me.  All of these are beyond my control.  I can not change the situations.  I can not make things better. And that is difficult for me.

And yet, perhaps this is exactly where God wants me.  At the end of my rope unable to see where the bottom is.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness...
~2 Corinthians 12:9
 This verse was written by Paul, the man who wrote 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament.  He is a man that understands trials.  He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, and persecuted after he gave up his life as a respected pharisee.  (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)  Paul speaks of his own difficulties in life, and in the verse preceding this he admits that he requested three times that God remove "a thorn" from him. We are never told what this thorn is, but it is obviously something that Paul found very difficult.  And yet God tells him no. 

God's grace is sufficient for us; His power made perfect in our weakness.  One of the commentaries I read states that, "troubles are sent to us to teach us to pray."  They are used to draw us closer to Him.  I have no control over what is going on right now, but He does.  That doesn't mean that He will swoop down and instantly affect the changes I would love to see.  Sometimes, out of His love for us, His answer must be, "no." 

No, He will not force my loved ones to turn to Him for help, for strength.  He may not relieve the stress I am currently feeling in my life right now.  But that is okay.  You see, I can pour out my heart to Him, tell Him that I am struggling, that I am worried, that I am concerned, that I am uncomfortable.  I can talk with Him....and He can comfort me.  He can remind me that I am not the one in control.  He can remind me that I must rely on Him for everything from the breath in my lungs to the care of my loved ones.  And while I may never understand why these things are happening, I can trust that He has a plan; I can trust Him.  And that is what I choose to do. 

It isn't an easy choice, and some days it can be the hardest thing in the world to do.  But I KNOW that it is the right choice.  I know that His heart breaks with mine to see my loved ones struggle and hurt.  I know that while He desires a happy ending as much as I do, He loves us to much to force us into submission.  I trust that He continues to organize situations to help us find the good path, His path and that like a GPS, He can recalibrate when we go off course.  So I choose to trust in the One who CAN do something.

So maybe there is a picture in this for us, for me.  A reminder that we (I) do not walk this path alone and that it is absolutely okay to be weak, because He truly is strong enough for us to lean on!

Do It Anyway

Can I be real for a moment? Beware—I’m talking gut-wrenching honest… Some days I just don’t want to live this ‘Christian’ life. [Gasp!] [It’s ‘okay’ (relatively speaking)—Jesus isn’t surprised to ‘hear’ that—He knows… (and He’s working on me)]

Let me explain. There are some days that I get tired of having to watch what I say, what I do, what I think about; and people—I get so tired of people— I don’t want to watch my mouth when someone cuts me in line, or on the road; I don’t want to be nice when I’m exhausted and hungry; I don’t want to have to love someone when they are being unlovable… and I certainly don’t want to have to always make the right choice over my choice. Some days that voice of conviction (the Holy Spirit) (John 16:7-8) inside of me that snaps my mouth shut before an inappropriate word flies, or keeps my hands on the wheel instead making a rude gesture—some days that voice grates on my nerves.

I look around and see all these other people that don’t have to live under that conviction, and they seem happy. They get a satisfaction in spewing a bunch of hateful words at someone—saying what they want and what they mean. They are immediately gratified when they can gesture at a non-courteous driver. They don’t care about the people they pass by on the street and are fine for it. But are they? (Proverbs 18:1, Romans 2:8, Galatians 5: 19-21, 2 Timothy 3:1-3) They may seem happy and okay and full of life—but what life? Life in this world isn’t really life…

The truth is, Jesus had moments where He didn’t want to do things, either. In Matthew 14, Jesus found out His friend (John The Baptist) died and He wanted to go away, but the people kept coming, so He stayed and continued to minister to them. In the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46) Jesus prayed for God to take away what He was about to face (the Cross), but then followed it up with ‘Father Your Will Be Done’. Are you catching that? It’s okay to not want to do these things…but, do them anyway. (Matthew 20:28)

This world and our life in it, are not about us. Contrary to what we think and what the world around us tells us—we don’t matter all that much. What does matter is how we serve Jesus by serving the people around us. And yes, that means keeping my mouth closed, my hands on the wheel, and my ‘hangriness’ non-existent. All for the love of God. You don’t want to go to church? Do it anyway. You don’t want to cook a meal for a sick neighbor? Do it anyway. You don’t want to help a friend move? Do it anyway. Do you get the picture? It’s not about our wants; it’s about Jesus—plain and simple. What if Jesus sat down in the Garden and said ‘You know what? I’m tired of these people. They don’t deserve my Sacrifice. I’m God and I don’t have to do this…’ and then He didn’t die on the Cross? Where would we be then?

We’ve got to put our selfish desires aside and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23, Romans 13:14, Philippians 2:3) It may be exhausting, grueling, hurtful, hard…but we’ve got to just suck it up and do it. If not, then truly nothing in this life will matter. (James 4:17) It’s all about the ever after—and that’s it. (Galatians 6:9)

Feelings are temporary. Gratification in this world is brief. But Jesus is eternal. So regardless of the fact that you don’t feel like obeying His Word, living this life for Him—do it anyway. (James 1:22)

In THIS is love....

It was an errand day for us.  That means several stops and more time in the car than we usually spend on any given day.  So my grand-daughter and my 7 year old were buckled in the back seat and my teen was in the navigator position for the trip.  Every time we came to a stoplight the 20 month old grand-daughter yelled out, "GO!  GO! GO NOW!" and the 7 year old began to giggle.  What in the world?

As we exited the interstate and came to the light I watched it turn yellow with one car ahead of me.  The baby was grouchy and hungry by this time and the 7 year old needed a bathroom break and we were SOOO close to our destination.... until the car in front hit their breaks and chose to stop for the yellow light rather than proceed through.  "Seriously?!  Go!" I called out.  And a light bulb went off!

Oh my gosh!  It was me, my grand-daughter was imitating me, and my daughter not only recognized it but thought it was funny.  What kind of example was I setting?  This certainly wasn't behavior I wanted them displaying, nor was it behavior I wanted to be displaying.  It wasn't love.

1 John 4 tells us that we ought to love one another.  Sounds like a wonderful suggestion doesn't it?  One we should all strive to follow.  But when you read this in context, it becomes so much more than a suggestion....
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ~1 John 4:7
First John makes a point of reminding us where love comes from-God.  It is impossible to truly love without first knowing and surrendering to Him.  The love that is talked about in this verse is the same love that God feels for Jesus and that Jesus feels for us.  It is the love that caused Jesus to sacrifice Himself to pay for all of our wrongs.  It is a full, all-consuming complete love.  

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~1 John 4:8
Love is a symptom of knowing God.  If someone doesn't love, John says he doesn't know God.  Cut and dry, can't put it any plainer than that.  Now before you start questioning your relationship with God, remember that we all fall short.  It doesn't say, "anyone who does not love EVERYONE doesn't know God," or "anyone who does not love ALL THE TIME does not know God."  We are still being perfected.  But if you find that you are less loving and more grumpy, hateful, and unloving then maybe you should take a few minutes and re-evaluate your relationship with Him.  
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ~1 John 4:9
 God sets the example for us in what love really is - a willingness to sacrifice self for someone else.   He doesn't ask us to do more than He has done already.  And for most of us, He won't even ask for that much.  Few are ever called to sacrifice their own life for another.  We are more likely to be asked to sacrifice some personal time (like waiting at a yellow light rather than pushing on through!), perhaps some money (and what would it hurt to make a cup of coffee at home rather than stop at Starbucks this week so that we can give a little more), or maybe to open our eyes a little wider so that we recognize the opportunities to love those around us.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ~1 John 4:10
See what I mean about God setting the example for us?
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~1 John 4:11

This is a statement of both trust and truth.  If God loves us enough to send Jesus to die as propitiation for all we have done wrong (and He did - Jesus' life and His death are historical facts) then we ought to love one another.  Do you trust that Jesus' purpose in His life and death was an atoning sacrifice (that is what propitiation means)?  If you do, then the truth of the matter is that you ought to love one another.  Kind of changes they way you view that word, ought, doesn't it?
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. ~1 John 4:12
 Here is where it gets real.  We can't see God, no one ever has, but we can show Him to others through our actions.  We can love one another for Him.  And over time we display more and more godly, true love and less of the shadow of love that the world is accustomed to.  Not only will this help us personally to see Him in our own lives, but it helps others to see Him as well.  And isn't that what we want, to see and feel Him in our own lives and to share Him with others?

All I can say is that I have a way to go in having God's love perfected in me, but fortunately I have a patient Father who is carefully shaping and molding me.  He isn't done with me yet, and He isn't done with you either.  So keep pressing forward to the goal (Philippians 3:14) and start loving one another in both word and deed.  You never know who is watching, but I know the message I want them to see:  Jesus loves you!  How about you?
An interesting side note - the word love appears in 1 John twenty-three (23) times.  Only two other books of the Bible talk about love this much and they are Psalms (which was written to focus our thoughts on praise and adoration towards God) and Song of Solomon (which is about love-Solomon for his wife and God's love for us). 


I recently watched a mini-series study on Christian persecution in the Middle East. Can I tell you how humbling that was?!? Most of you have seen, or at least heard of the torture and deaths these Christians—our brothers and sisters—face. I can tell you the news does not do it justice. When ISIS invades those cities and takes over, they mark each home and business of a Christian with an ‘N’ (in Arabic) for ‘Nazarene’- the word used to describe Christian in the Quran. They are targeted as people to be avoided and basically shunned. ISIS gives the Christians a couple of options—pay an excess tax, deny their faith, give them their daughters/wives for the slave ring, be killed, or leave (desert everything they have and have ever known). They choose to leave—with nothing but the clothes on their backs— on foot. Can you even imagine? As if that’s not bad enough, they are often kidnapped on their trek out of town and tortured for days or weeks before being set free (if they aren’t killed). Once they arrive in ‘friendly’ areas, they are forced to live in tent cities, abandoned warehouses/homes (often with leaky roofs, no doors/windows) with multiple other families.

The amazing story isn’t simply their persecution and living conditions, it is their faith and trust in God. They live in chaos; they have every reason to hate their lives and be angry with God, yet they are grateful for all of it. They look at it as an honor to suffer with/for Christ. (1 Peter 4:14-16) They continue (actually are driven even harder) to preach the gospel to anyone they encounter. They meet together to study. They have brought ISIS members to Christ!

Besides the obvious statement that we Americans do not truly understand persecution for our faith; but we truly don’t take joy in our sufferings as they do. (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6) I can pray that if I am ever tested in terms as my brothers and sisters overseas are, that I will stand. But if I can’t stand during my discomforts and disruptions I have now, how will I stand in complete destruction? I don’t find joy in my sufferings during traffic, or when someone wastes my time, or when anything doesn’t go the way I mentally planned—do I really think I have a chance at finding joy when my life is threatened, when I can’t even stand to be inconvenienced?

We will suffer—maybe not torture and death for our faith—but still, of some sort. (Matthew 5:10, Luke 14:27, John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 4:8-10, Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:12…) The enemy comes to steal our joy; he causes the suffering. Jesus came to give us a better life. (John 10:10) Will we choose to allow our suffering to rule us, or will we allow Jesus to rule us?

Romans 5:3-5: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

…Sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules…giving us the right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)

God’s grace, the death of Jesus Christ, saves us from our eternal suffering. Isn’t it enough for us to rejoice that whatever suffering we experience here, is nothing compared to the glory of God waiting for us there? (Romans 8:18)

Here I am...

Have you ever played Marco Polo?  My children love to play it while we are at the pool every year (even the teenagers!).  It is a simple game in which one person closes their eyes -the seeker- while everyone else scatters.  After the seeker waits a set period of time he/she begins looking for everyone else while keeping his/her eyes closed.  Every so often the seeker can call out, "Marco."  At that time everyone else must respond, "Polo."  There are no rules as to how loud you have to respond, only that you DO respond.  The game continues until the seeker locates someone, and that person becomes the new seeker.  Admittedly this has lead to some funny family stories when the seeker, in their self-induced blindness, mistakenly grabs other people at the pool that aren't playing.

Sometimes I wonder if God ever feels like He is playing a game of Marco Polo.  Now, I know He isn't blindfolded, that He sees all of us, (after all El Roi, the name that Hagar gave God, means "the God who sees me") and we can't exactly hide from Him.  (Genesis 16:13, Jeremiah 23:24)  I wonder though, how many of us whisper, "Here I am" as quietly as possible when we hear Him call us for fear that He will require more of us than we are willing to give.

The Bible has several stories of individuals that stepped up and responded, "Here I am," when they heard His voice.  Abraham in Genesis 22 when God called upon him to sacrifice his only son, the son God had promised to give him for years; the son that God had declared would carry His blessing to the world.  Abraham didn't questions, didn't whisper his response.  He didn't hide.  Instead he listened to God's voice, did as he was directed, and as a result we have all been blessed as a result.

Jacob was a man who stole his brother's birthright and blessing.  He was forced to leave his home for fear of his brother's retaliation.  And yet, God still saw him.  God watched as he served another for many years after being tricked into marrying a woman he didn't love.  He served faithfully and honestly and as a result, God called to him....and Jacob answered, "Here I am." (Genesis 31:11)  God used Jacob to father a nation that would be set apart for Him. 

Raised as an Egyptian prince, Moses had been sheltered from the horrible life that most Jews had been forced to lead.  When he discovered his heritage, he jumped to defend one of his own and ended up murdering an Egyptian soldier.  His people turned their back on him and Moses fled in fear.  Years later, God called this speech impaired outsider to return to Egypt, confront the pharaoh, and demand the release of His people.  Moses response?  "Here I am."  Not only were the Israelites freed, but they were led to the promised land.

A young boy who had been greatly desired by his mother was raised to serve in the temple, his name was Samuel.  During his training he heard a strange voice call his name in the night.  After he repeatedly went to his master, Eli, upon being summoned only to be told he had not been summoned it dawned upon Eli what was happening:  God was calling to Samuel.  Once the call was recognized, Samuel replied, "Here I am," and went on to turn the nation back to the one, true God.  (Samuel 4)

I could go on and on with examples from the Bible, but I want to assure you that God's call didn't stop at Revelation 22:21.  He still calls out to us today - each of us.  Your task may not have a world wide effect, but remember that none of those I have shared with you knew the result of their acceptance when they accepted His call.  Neither will we.  What we do know is that God's plan is best.  (Psalm 147:5, Proverbs 19:24, and of course Jeremiah 29:11)  And if we believe that, then we shouldn't be the ones hiding and whispering, "Polo," when He calls.  Instead we should be standing up and loudly proclaiming, "Here I am!" 

What are the things that are keeping you from answering, "here I am," when you hear God calling you?  Share them in the comments and Stacie and I will pray for God's strength for each and every one of you.

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet? How much longer until we get there?
If you’ve ever taken a road trip with kids (or even when you were a kid) - then you’ve heard (said) these questions before. A much anticipated trip seems to take forever to get to our destination. The necessary pit stops we take drag the journey out longer and wear our patience thin. Long trips are exhausting, aggravating and too often dreaded. We don’t typically enjoy the journey or appreciate all that surrounds us on the trip. We want to just get there already so the ‘fun’ can begin. And when we finally do get there- we’re too tired to care.

It’s pretty much the same way in our travels with Jesus. We don’t want to take rest stops to stretch our legs, or refuel ourselves (even if that means we get a cup of coffee to stay alert). We don’t even want to keep trudging along… we want to just get there. We don’t recognize the beauty that surrounds us on our trip. And we certainly don’t appreciate any delay or difficulty that may arise on the way.
Think about it—how often do you just wish you’d had it all figured out so you could be the Christian God wants you to be? You’re tired of faltering, tired of the road blocks, tired of almost but not quite? Do we ever stop to think that maybe the journey is what it’s all about? We’re strongest in Christ when we’re weakest in ourselves.

I get so frustrated with myself when I keep messing up. How many times will it take until I get this Christian-thing right? How many times do I have to repeat a bible verse to tame my tongue? How many verses do I have to hang around the house for them to sink in? How long do I have to read in the mornings before I am able to be around people? “How much longer until I get there?” It never seems to end. After repeating my ‘mouth’ verse (which, by the way is Ephesians 4:29), and a cuss word flies, I sink. After spending over an hour in His Word and feeling pretty good about myself, I snap at the first person who irritates to me, I cower.  But shouldn’t we be enjoying these moments? Not the cussing or the impatience— but the fact that we acknowledge our errors? There was a time I could cuss someone out and tell them how irritated they made me without any remorse. Gone are those days (for the most part anyway).
And that’s part of the journey. (Jeremiah 29:11)How boring would life be if, when we accepted Christ as our Savior, things were perfect from then on? What would we learn? How would we grow? How could we teach others if we have nothing to compare it to? How would we trust God and have faith everything would be okay if, it all was already okay? God wants a relationship with us. And to have that relationship, He has to be the One we want. If He made our lives perfect, would we continue to feel like we need Him? Would we ever take the time for a pit stop, stretch our legs and refuel? (Matthew 11:28)

We will have an eternity to spend with Him in His Kingdom. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, John 3:16, 1 John 5:13) But until we get there, enjoy the ride!

Sing a NEW song...

Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has performed wonders...
Psalm 98:1

I grew up in the 80's listening to power ballads as I skated around the local roller rink pining over "that" boy.  One of my favorites was Broken Wings by Mr. Mister.  I belted the lyrics at the top of my voice while the disco lights illuminated all of the couple skaters.  

Fast forward 20+ years to my house and a vaguely familiar tune coming from my teen son's room.  I couldn't quite place it because, although the lyrics sounded familiar, the music was all wrong.  Imagine my surprise when my son informed me that the song was Broken Wings!  It seems that another band had remade the song and rather than  a power ballad, it now had a rock/metal feel to it.  I found it funny that while my son would never listen to my "oldies", he was rocking out to this song.

The words hadn't changed, the meaning hadn't changed, but the tune had; it was now a new song.  Honestly, that was the last I thought about it for some time.  It wasn't the last time that I found my children listening to a familiar song with a new twist.  It wasn't until I sat down one day, in the middle of a rut, that God brought it back to me.

You see, God doesn't change. (Malachi 3:6)  His word doesn't change. (Revelation 22:18-19, Isaiah 40:8) His character doesn't change (James 1:17).  But sometimes, just sometimes, our tune needs to change, we need to sing a new song to the Lord.

Sometimes we need a change of tune to shake things up, to open our eyes and help us to refocus on the beauty of our Father.  I had gotten so used to doing the same thing every day: wake up, drink coffee, open my Bible and read, school the kids, take care of the baby, fix lunch, do the household chores, fix dinner, clean up, tuck the little kids in bed, spend time with the hubby, go to bed and start again the next day.  It was the same old song over and over and over again and I lost the beauty, the truth, the excitement of the lyrics.  I had allowed myself to let my song, my unique calling from God, my joy in serving, to fade into the background.  

Psalm 91:1 reminds us that He has performed wonders in our world.  Many of them in our lives and just for us.  And yet they slip into obscurity as we go about our daily lives.  I find that I had stopped looking for them, recognizing them.  THIS is why we are told to sing a new song.  The words don't have to change, our calling may stay the same and we may spend the rest of our lives doing exactly what we are doing now.   But change the tune, just a little bit, open ourselves up to really SEE what is going on around us, and what had been ho-hum becomes new and invigorating again!

How do we change the tune?  Find our new song?  First, ask God to renew you.  Get in His word and pray for Him to speak to your heart, to encourage you.  Second, open your eyes and really look for the wonders He is doing around you.  It can be as simple as recognizing the gift of a parking space close to the door in a downpour, or the beautiful sunset outside your window.  When you see one, stop and thank Him.  And third, look for opportunities to give back.  He has placed you where you are for a purpose.  In your church, in your neighborhood, in your job, you have been placed there to glorify God.  Are you looking for ways to that?  

Do these things and your song will change.  Your life will change, even if nothing you do in your life changes. Are you ready to find your new song? 

Sometimes you have to dig

If you have known me for any length of time, you know that some of my favorite verses are about controlling my tongue.  My father was a sailor and had the mouth to match.  I grew up on naval military bases, which translates to a lot of sailor's children.  I can remember being in 5th grade on the playground with some of my friends who endeavored to "teach" me the proper way to swear.  Having come to know Jesus much later in life, overcoming my mouth has been an ongoing task. 

Recently I was studying Psalm 19.  Last year, Psalm 19:14 was my verse: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  I said a prayer before studying for the Spirit to speak to me as I read and I totally expected another message on my mouth.  But God is good and gives us what we need.
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. ~Psalm 19:12-13
 You see, life has been throwing some pretty big curve balls at me.  And some of those curve balls revealed some long buried forgiveness issues.  Issues that I thought had been dealt with and that I had moved on from.  The Spirit, however, made sure to show me that I was mistaken, which caused me to examine myself and start addressing my heart condition....again.

Now I am not saying that every one of you reading this has some hidden sin buried way down deep.  But I do want you to ask yourself, when is the last time you asked God to reveal any hidden faults to you?  Honestly, it isn't something that I often do.  It hurts.  It reveals an ugliness that I would rather not see.  It reminds me that I still have a lot of areas that God needs to reform in my life.  But if we don't take the time to examine ourselves, we miss the blessing of blamelessness.

Noah was blameless (Genesis 6:9) in the midst of a world that had turned against God.  That doesn't mean he lived a perfect life, only that he made every effort to follow God.  David, who wrote this particular Psalm, was a favorite of God.  That is astonishing when you remember that he committed adultery and murder.  God isn't asking for perfection.  Instead, He requires us to be honest, both with ourselves and with Him, so that we can be shaped, molded and perfected.  This is why we must address our hidden faults, and doing so leads to living a blameless life innocent of great transgressions.  And that is what I want, even if it means facing the buried ugliness in my heart.   Sometimes, you just have to dig....

Trust Issues

*I wholeheartedly needed this today, yesterday, and most likely tomorrow.*

“Trust doesn’t come easy. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32 6-17) to publicly buy land already captured buy the enemy. But he trusted God. It wasn’t easy for David to believe that he would become King, even after he was anointed. But he trusted God (1 Samuel 16-31). It wasn’t easy for Moses to believe that he and his people would escape Egypt, even after God spoke to him from a burning bush.  But he trusted God (Exodus 3:1-4:20). It isn’t easy for us to believe that God can fulfill his “impossible” promises either, but we must trust Him. God, who worked in the lives of biblical heroes, will work in our lives, too, if we will let Him. God loves us and sees our situation. Whenever we doubt God’s wisdom or wonder if it is practical to obey Him, we can review what we already know about Him. Such thoughts and prayers will quiet our doubts and calm our fears. God uses his power to accomplish His purposes through His people. God doesn’t give you power to be all you want to be, but He gives you power to be all He wants you to be. The people of Israel had to learn that trusting God meant radically realigning their purposes and desires with His. God gave them “one heart” toward Him (Jeremiah 32:39). We must develop such singleness of heart and action to love God above anything else.”1

Can I be honest? I’m having some trust issues with God lately. I know in my heart He has everything in control (Job 12:10). I know He loves me, and works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). I know He has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) and I know it may not (probably not) always align with my plan (Isaiah 55:8-9). I know all this. But what I also know is that I have been praying for certain things for years. Things that are Scriptural. Things that would glorify Him. Things that could help so many others see Him as I see Him.
But just how do I see Him? You can’t fully trust someone until you truly know them. Does my lack of trust stem from not truly knowing my Father? Like I said earlier, I know a lot about God, but do I really know Him? Am I so caught up in myself and this world that I lose His perspective? I don’t know how to answer that. Who doesn’t need to spend more time with Him, getting to know Him better? The things I pray for are in accordance with His Word. If they aren’t from Him, then why do these desires weigh so heavily on my heart as if they are? (Psalm 20:4, Psalm 37:4) I pray consistently for His will. (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13-14) And if they aren’t His will, then why am I still burdened by them? Why doesn’t He take them from me, as I’ve also pleaded? (Psalm 81:6-7, Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:6-7)

All that I am praying for is for His glory. (1 Chronicles 28:9, Proverbs 16:3, Colossians 3:23)
Am I so far from Him that I don’t deserve His blessings? (Deuteronomy 30:16, Psalm 1:1, Psalm 119:2, Proverbs 16:20, Matthew 5:6, Matthew 25:21)

Again, I don’t have an answer for that. Therefore I will continue to Trust Him, with all my heart. (Proverbs 3:5)
Psalm 62:5-8: "5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.7 My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.8 O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”

I do trust Him; but I need His help in those times of doubt. (Mark 9:24)

1-Tindale Life Application Study Bible, NLT- Jeremiah 32:6-42 footnotes

Are you Living the Dollar Store Life?

I ran in a dollar store to pick up a few items for my daughter's scout troop meeting, my 7-year-old in tow.  I don't know if you have ever taken a child who has money in her pocket into the Dollar Tree before, but just let me tell you that it is an experience! 

The toy aisle was unavoidable.  It might as well have had bright, flashing neon arrows above it with the Pied Piper playing his tune within it.  My children have always been drawn by the lure of inexpensive play things that they could purchase for themselves.  I, however, despise that aisle.  All I could see was what lay ahead - broken toys, pieces that didn't quite go together correctly, land ultimately tears and disappointment.  I try to avoid bringing my children as much as possible to that tempting aisle of dismay.

And yet, how often do we choose the metaphorical dollar store toy?   Our world is full of these tempting opportunities to satisfy ourselves with the quick item that costs us the least amount of effort.  But the truth is, things that last - things of value - are rarely the things that cost us the least amount. 

Think about it, Satan offered Jesus the world, literally.  (Matthew 4:8-9) And in a sense, that is what Jesus came for.  Accepting the offer meant He didn't have to face the cross and the excruciating pain it would entail.  Not only physical pain, but the pain of separation as well.  And it was Satan's to give.  (2 Corinthians 4:4)  But Jesus declines.  Choosing the hard path, the one that led to His ultimate victory.  Jesus turned down the dollar store toy.

And like a good parent, God's desire is that we avoid those tempting, inexpensive choices as well.  The choice to tell a little white lie rather than face the consequences of our actions.  The choice to sacrifice time with our family in order to have a larger bank account than we truly need.  The choice to turn a blind eye to our neighbor in need rather than give of ourself to help him or her.  The choice to sleep in on Sunday morning because we are tired rather than join with our brothers and sisters to worship our Creator.  And so many more. 

And like dollar store toys, it is pleasurable...for a time.  Inevitably, though, what we thought was going to be an inexpensive joy becomes a lackluster, disappointing or even painful experience.  Trust that your Father knows what is best, (Jeremiah 29:11)  listen to His counsel, (Psalm 32:8) and let Him lead. (Proverbs 3:5-6)