"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Itchy Feet

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..." Philippians 4:11-12
I have been sick for the past three weeks. I have had a good day here and there, but it is just one of those illnesses that begins and then keeps morphing into something new. Today I was in Prompt Care getting a shot to counter-act my allergic reaction to the medication they put me on last week. Yeah, that is how my last three weeks have gone.

I have always struggled with Itchy Feet. I have a list as long as my arm of places I want to visit. Places two hours away, two days drive away, and on the other side of the world. I would happily go to any of them.

After sitting on my couch and laying on my bed for the last three weeks, the Itchy Feet has grown to monster proportions

Every time I think about all the thousand and one places I would rather be, I get a little whisper is the back of my head. 

It is telling me that wanting to be where I can't go is only making it worse. 

"But I really don't want to be here anymore!" I whine to that voice, sometimes out loud. 

But that voice is speaking truth. Wanting and wishing for what we do not have, or for where we can not go, leads to more than wanting and wishing. It can lead to discontentment. Discontentment can very quickly turn into bitterness. 

I have been thinking of all the things I would like to do. Things on my lists that keep getting pushed down further because of new responsibilities, new needs that come along. Every time I have to push something I want to do down on my list because of something that I have to do, I have learned that I have a choice to make.

The first thing I can choose to do is see the things I want falling further and further down my list. I can get mad, I can whine, I can make a fuss, and I can eventually become bitter about it. The more I choose this option, the bigger my loss will feel, because it is all I am looking at.

OR

I can choose to realize that this is simply where I am right now. This location is where God has placed me to fulfill His plan in me. If God had something for me in Ireland, I would be there. If God thought that I needed a beach break, I would be on one. If God wanted me to focus my time, energy and talents on one of my "wish list" wants, then I would be doing it. And I am sure those things are in my future. Just not my future tomorrow

God wants us to focus on now

On where he has us now. On the skills, talents and works that He has for us now. On the people He wants us to help now. On the lessons He is teaching us now.

One thing God is teaching me right now is that until I get what He has for me now, I can't get to the places He wants me to be next. He is patient. He will not let me skip a step. How I choose to respond to where He has me now will determine how quickly I can move on. 

Is there somewhere you want to go, or something that you want to do? Is focusing on that place or thing keeping you from seeing all God has for you now? Today might be the day that you need to spend time with God asking him to re-focus your effort and energy and desire. 

Learning to be content in where you are now, doing what you do now will actually help you get where you are going next- faster. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Like a child

"Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17
I love to listen to my daughter talk about Jesus. You would think to hear her that He was walking along side of her, holding her hand and smiling as she shares her little girl secrets. She got angry one day because it was cloudy and Jesus couldn't see her from heaven when there were clouds in the sky. She knows that when she prays that Jesus is giving her his full attention. He is so real to her that he is her best friend.

My daughter embodies the above verses. Jesus is her hero. Her best friend. Her protector. Her secret keeper. There is nothing he can't do and she knows that he loves her. 

When did we decide it was silly to love Jesus like that as adults?

There is a song that I have been listening to over and over. It is reminding me of who Jesus was. 

He was a man whose heart broke every time he looked at someone trapped in their choices, their situations, their pain... their hopelessness.

He was a man whose joy couldn't be measured as he looked at each person he freed from their traps and chains. Who saw him. Truly saw him.

He was a man who loved. He loved his friends. He loved his followers. He loved the blind man crying out in desperation, the widow with nothing but her faith in God and one little coin, sick children, outcasts and the weak.

Did he love? Oh how he loved!!

He was a man whose anger burned white-hot against those who dared to mock and defile his Father's house. 

He was a man whose laughter rang as he spent time with friends.

He was a man whose strength we will never comprehend as he said yes to what no man could. 

He was everything. He is everything.

My prayer for you is what I have prayed for myself. That we would come to know this man who is more than we will ever understand. That we would look at this man as a child might. Nothing qualified. No trying to rationalize things. Nothing politically correct or explained down to terms that make us more comfortable with who he is

I pray that He would be our Super Hero. Our Best Friend. Our Secret Keeper. Our Savior. 

And that we would never stop being amazed and awed at the true beauty of Him.

That is my prayer.

"Who, being in very nature God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing, 
   taking the very nature of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   and became obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross! 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
   and gave him the name that is above every name, 
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
   to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2:6-11




Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting Undignified

Have you ever had this conversation at church?

"Raise your hands up high to ME".

"Uhhh.... no one else is. I think I will just close my eyes, will that be OK?"
"No, Raise your hands up high to ME".
"But God, that will be embarrassing. No one else is."
Or how about this one.
"Go to the altar."

"I can't. Everyone is watching."
"I want to meet you at the altar."
"But everyone will know I am not perfect if I walk up there. All by myself."
"You won't be alone. I will be with you. Go to the altar. There is freedom there."
"Maybe next week God. I'll just pray here today."
A few weeks ago during worship music, the praise team started playing my very favorite song. It's one of those songs that seems to come from no where when I need to hear it most. When I am feeling disconnected from God. When I have had a hard week. When I am questioning something. When I have been hurt by someone. It is just my song. I never know when it will show up, and I always know, deep inside, that God sends that song to me so that I can refocus myself directly to His heart.

Whenever I sing that song, I raise my hands. At church. At conferences. At home. In the car. I just do. I can't help it. But this last time, I was in the front of the church. It was the early service where there really aren't any "hand-raisers". I knew if I raised my hands, up there in front of the church, that everyone would look at me because I was, most likely, going to be the only one doing so. 

I didn't want to.

I didn't want everyone to look at me. I didn't want to stand out. 

And I almost didn't. 

But God put a Scripture in my heart last year, that helps me in these times.
David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might... David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." 2 Samuel 6:14, 21-22
I thought of David dancing in the streets, and the only one he acknowledged was God. It says he "danced before the LORD". There were hundreds, thousands, of people there to see the Ark brought home, and David didn't care. He danced with all his might, to praise and worship God.  How must he have looked? To the people, probably a little crazy, a little embarrassing. But to God? He looked beautiful.

So I did. I lifted my hands. I closed my eyes, lifted my hands, and felt a blessing that was mine alone. 

Not everyone feels a call or need to raise their hands. It isn't a requirement of proper worship. There is no such thing as proper worship. Worship is focusing your heart, mind and body on God and then giving your all. If you do that, you are properly worshiping, in what ever form it may take.

The same is true for a call to the altar. Not everyone feels it. Certain words, or feelings are pressed on us by the Holy Spirit to lead us to a special time of humility before God. He doesn't call us to the altar to embarrass us before our friends. He doesn't call us there to 'teach us a lesson'. He calls us there to do special business with our heart, to heal or grow our relationship with Himself. When we refuse to go, when we let appearance hold us back, we miss a special worship time with him. There is something about kneeling before God, praying and doing business with him, that leads to a time of celebration that is unlike other times. 

By being too dignified to go, to kneel, to weep and praise, we miss it. 

David even tells us that we will feel a little silly. But he said he was willing to be "humiliated in my own eyes".  That means we might get a little uncomfortable. Feel a little foolish. Feel, and look, a little undignified. Do it anyway.

The next time you feel the need to praise a little differently than everyone else, or feel a pull to the altar and you don't want to go.... get a little undignified. Raise those hands high. Walk in humble obedience to kneel before your God. Dance with all your might. Get a little more undignified. There is nothing like celebrating before the Lord, for His glory alone. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Beating a dead horse

"Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful."  2 Timothy 2:23-24
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Philippians 2:14-15
There are times and places to dig in your heels and refuse to budge. There are times when not letting go of something is exactly the right thing to do. Morally or ethically or spiritually. We should never compromise. 

But other times? Well, have you ever heard of beating a dead horse?

Beating a dead horse: To bring up an issue that has already been resolved. Any attempt to discuss said issue is pointless, as it has already been done repeatedly.

These are the conversations that we refuse to drop. Either with our spouse, with our kids, with our friends,  or even with God. We call them "discussing", "revisiting", or "making our point". But Scripture says we are arguing. Being quarrelsome. Even complaining. 

How do you know if you are "beating a dead horse"?

Here are some clues:

- No matter how you re-phrase or re-structure your argument, you are saying the same thing you said the last ten times you talked about this particular subject.

Beating a dead horse.

- You know that the person you are trying to have the discussion with has firmly refused to budge any of the other times you have talked about it. They know your position, your reasons and your desire, and they are still not budging. 

Beating a dead horse.

- Nothing changes but you feel the need to push your idea one more time (either directly or indirectly).

Beating a dead horse.

Besides bringing frustration and tension, beating a dead horse can also sow discord and bitterness if you are in disagreement with your spouse or your friend and you just won't let it go.

It can bring feelings of rejection and inadequacy in your children.

It can bring struggle and quiet to your communication with God.

You may feel like you are completely justified in your position, and you may be right. 

But if you and your spouse are not in agreement and you just keep hammering your point, eventually your spouse will run for cover when they see you coming, or completely shut down. And lets face it, after a while, don't we know our spouse won't agree? We are just poking at them to satisfy our need to let out some frustration over not getting our way.

Your friend might decide that it is better to have some space (away from you) instead of covering the same ground.

Your kids might choose to disconnect and shut you out. After all, you care more about getting your way than actually listening to them.

God will listen to your every word, every desire, and continue to lead you where He wants you to go. You can go with a willing heart- or kicking and screaming to get your way every. single. step. You will eventually end up where He wants you anyway, you will just do it the "learning your lesson" way (and really, who prefers that!?).

May I encourage you today to give over to God your desire to be right? Let him resolve your heart to what is, not what you wish could be.  The best way to start is to ask yourself "Is getting my way really more important than my relationship with ___________________?"

Remember, as stated in our verse above, we are to shine like stars, and we can't do that if we are in the process of beating a dead horse.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Broken Prayer

I'm so thirsty
but there's water next to me.

I hurt inside
but tears won't help me mend.

I'm lost in time
with my schedule by my side.

I'm oh so lonely
but there are friends all around.

Looking all around me
When it's my neck I need to bend.

Asking only to hear you
I don't stop talking for you to speak.

My broken heart is healing
as your peace pours all around.

Take me.

Break me.

Mold me.

Fill me up again.

Worship washes this heart clean.
Your Word directs my thoughts.
Your spirit guides my ways.
All the good you've done in me
started with an open upraised hand.

Face to you, face on the ground.
laying it down, spilling it out.

Over and over.

Overwhelmed by you,
My forever Emmanuel.




Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy or joyful?

"They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel." 1 Kings 8:66
I have to confess. I was looking at clothes the other day. I was looking at clothing several sizes smaller than I am. I was wishing. I was making myself depressed. I wanted to go home and eat something comforting.

Why did I do that to myself? Why do women do that?

If I can stay in the moment, stay focused on the here and now, I am generally pretty happy. I can take things moment by moment and celebrate the little victories. But sometimes I look ahead at the way I wish things were. 

I was so happy just moments ago because I had a great workout today. Then I looked at myself in the mirror and reality hit. I have a long, long way to go.

Happiness crash 'n burn.

I love the above verse from 1 Kings. The Israelite were joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done.

They weren't joyful over things that they were hoping for, striving for, looking to. They weren't looking for something better, or more.

They were joyful over the things that had already happened. 

How often do we look forward and become dissatisfied, even disheartened, over what we wish could be?

By keeping our focus on what God has already done for us, we can claim the joy that God promises. 

Today I can choose to thank God for walking with me through a good workout. For giving me the energy and health to do it, and to feel better afterward. Or I can choose to focus on the way I wish I was. 

I think today I will choose to be glad in heart over what God just did for me.

One other thing to ponder: Joy is from the LORD. No conditions. We don't have to earn it or seek it. It is in our heart because of the love we have for Jesus. Happiness is a fleeting thing that we chase to make us feel better. Happiness comes from the world. Joy from God. 

As I did today, stop and ask yourself, am I seeking happiness for myself, or am I basking in the joy of what God has already done in my life? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

From reacting to responding

My quest to follow after Jesus more closely is starting off on a very difficult foot. 

What a surprise, huh? 

As I have written in the past, my son is amazing. He is sweet. He is a hugger. He is so fun to watch play basketball and football. He is an unbeatable big brother. 

And he knows how to push my buttons like no other. And he loves to do it. I just don't get it. 

OK, well I sorta do. It is fun to push buttons when you get such fun reactions. 

I have been known to do any and/or all of the following at some point over the past 12 years:

Yell
Scream
Slam doors
Make empty threats
Cry
Give up
Back down

My son has even told me in the past that he intentionally will keep pushing at me until I over-react. Yes, my sweet and loving son likes, no loves, to push my buttons. 

And I let him.

It would be so much better if I could say that he makes me over-react. But that simply wouldn't be true. I can absolutely choose to stay calm, to not react, to not give in. 

But generally I don't. Instead of responding, I react.
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Colossians 3:12
There is no excuse for not responding with patience and gentleness. With goodness and self-control. I already have these things. These are things that God knew I would need and he supplied them to me when I accepted Jesus as my savior. But God didn't make these things my default. I have to choose them. I have to actively reach for them, use them, and grow them. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Galatians 5:22-23
The fruit is there, but I am not choosing it.

I am really starting to see that I am damaging my son's view of God's ability to change a person. Maybe he doesn't get it yet, maybe he will see that his mom is just a really flawed human being that makes bad choices. But maybe he sees that God doesn't really change people and can't help with struggles. 

Maybe my son prayed that he would receive an encouragement or special word from God, and God had chosen me to serve as the answer to that prayer. 

But without using the power of the Holy Spirit inside me, of stopping and thinking and responding instead of reacting, my son didn't receive that encouragement or special word. At least not from me.

How sad that makes my heart. After I over-react, there is always guilt, always doubt in my abilities, always regret. 

It is time to make a change.

If you saw my New Year's post, you know I am not into making specific resolutions. But this year I am committing to follow Jesus more closely than ever before. This has to start in my home. It has to start with me and the testimony that I want to live out in front of my son and daughter.
"Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

Titus 2:6-8
The amazing thing about the Bible is that there really is something for everything. It isn't hype. It isn't hard to find. God isn't the impossible task-master. By asking for his help, he is quick and faithful to help. 

When I asked God to help me in changing how I react to my son, I found this in under a minute:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:19-21
A swift kick in the backside, as well as an encouragement and instruction. 

So, over the year, as I commit to following Jesus, the fruit will be a better testimony lived out in front of my son. And this is just the beginning. 

Will it be easy? No. Will I get it right every time? No. But I will be striving and stepping in the right direction. And that is what this year, and following Jesus, are all about.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In a Minute

"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."  Psalm 5:3
As a parent, I am constantly saying "in a minute!"

"Mom come here!"
"In a minute!"
"Mommy, look at this!"  
"In a minute!"

"Mom, can I"....

                              "Mom, may I"....

                                                             "Mom, listen"....

"IN A MINUTE!"

With the constant demands of kids, I get in the habit of having them wait until I have completed one thing (usually at least a thought!) before I move on to their next need. If there isn't blood, a stranger or broken bones involved, I want them to learn to wait their turn, be polite, and have respect for other people. I forget sometimes that they just need to know that I am there for them. That I am willing to put them first, get eye-to-eye with them and say "Yes, baby? What is it?"

But lately, I feel like I have said "wait a minute" a lot. I said it the other day and my daughter just growled "uuuuugh!" and stomped off. It made me wonder what amazing four-year-old girl insight I had missed. And just how many times I had asked her to wait that day.

I didn't even know.

As the week wore on, I kept thinking about this. As usually happens, eventually I managed to apply it to myself.

When was the last time I called out to God and heard, "In a minute!"?

As we see in the verse above, God hears us. Not "in a minute".  No "hold on while I finish this up." But as soon as we give voice to our prayer, God hears us.

It's as if he drops everything, leans down close to us, face-to-face, and says "Yes Baby? What is it?"

Our prayers are so important to God. He drops everything to hear them. In his amazing ability, he does this for every one of us, whenever we call to him. No matter how many times or ways we pray, he is always there to hear.

When was the last time you really prayed as if you believed this? When was the last time you waited in expectation for God?

I have to say, the idea of expecting God to actually act on my prayer sometimes doesn't really enter the picture. I pray, I feel like God knows my thoughts and hopes, and then I just go on about my day. I don't ever expect to see God's answer. Have you been there before, too? Are you there now?

Be encouraged to expect God today. He is waiting to hear from you, and your prayers are never in vain. Expect those God-sized answers. Expect to see something amazing. Expect to see a miracle. But never expect to hear "Wait a minute!".

It just will never happen.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolution

Resolution:

  • A resolve or determination; to make a firm resolution to do something
  • The act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
  • The mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose


Hello January 1st! What a great day to dictate my hopes, dreams, actions and directions for the next year! I am determining on this day to only eat healthy things, only do healthy things, have only good attitudes and love EVERYONE!

And now, back to reality.

It is easy to be resolute in these things when we are excited about the possibilities of a new year. When life hasn't yet had a chance to put to the test our "resolving or determining upon an action or course of action".  

We know that we will really do it this time. 

We are strong!

We are committed!

We are fooling ourselves!!

The biggest problem with New Year's Resolutions are that they are utterly specific and completely unattainable! I resolved to quit smoking year after year... and never made it far. I resolved to only eat portion sizes and cut out extra sugar, until that first box of donuts crossed my path.  I resolved to get my emotions under control, until my kid pushed all the buttons that only my kid can push (and will do so gleefully!).

Our heart is in the right place. Our desire is in the right place. But we forget about life. And we forget we aren't perfect. 

So we fail. We let ourselves down. Resolution gone. 

It isn't that we aren't trying, resolutions are just not life-proof.

Paul says it like this:
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."    Romans 7:15-20
Basically, Paul is saying no matter how good we want to be, try to be, strive to be, we are not perfect people. We will never be perfect people. We all struggle with sin, so we will all fall or fail at one time or another.

But don't be discouraged! There is Hope!

One aspect of resolutions is attainable. If you noticed, the last definition is "firmness of purpose".  

Resolutions can and will succeed if they are based on our firmness of purpose. Not definite material or physical goals.

At the end of 2012, will you be able to look back and say, I never swayed from the main purpose of this year. I tried my best to love others more than myself, I tried to be healthier than I was last year. I tried to keep control of my tongue and my attitude when I usually would have let loose with every weapon in my arsenal? Those are kept resolutions.

I have defined my "firmness of purpose" for 2012 like this:

I will love Jesus this year more than I have ever loved him before. I will be more intentional about it. I will work harder at it. And I will let the fruit of that love show in the ways that God has planned for me to the best of my ability and obedience. And I will praise God even when I can't find the good in my current situation, because the good is there because God is there.

I didn't promise myself to lose 70 pounds. 
I didn't promise to never lose my temper with my kids again.
I didn't promise to have all my debt paid off in six months.

I promised to love Jesus and let him work through me. That is a resolution that I will keep.