Better and More

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Better and More

“There doesn’t have to be choice!” Jim Craig says to Jessica Harrison in “Return to Snowy River.” One of my all-time favorite movies. Let me describe the scene. Jessica loves Jim and wants to marry him, but her father, a very strong-willed, self-made man, thinks that Jim is not worthy of his daughter. Mr. Harrison tells Jessica, “it’s me or him Jess” (or something like that) but Jim pleads that it doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t want to spoil the outcome if you’d like to watch it, but just so you’ll know for this illustration, Jim is right.

There will always be the debate over whether quality or quantity is the better when it comes to time and the heart, but I believe they are pretty much at a dead heat. Time is important because we have to live and work in this restraint, so quality has to be right there with it because this keeps the quantity worth it. It redeems the quantity of what is spent on anything or anyone. Time is like a currency that we all have a pre-determined by God amount of. So whatever uses our time, must in a sense be worthy of it. No one’s time should be more important than the others. We all need to make our time matter because it most certainly does. Don’t “kill” time. “Live” time.

Shouldn’t anything we do that is worthwhile be done better and more? Don’t you want more time to do the things that feed your soul and bless others? Is there a way to make all that your life entails holy and good?

These are my new goals. I want to love God and others better and more. I want to trust God better and more.  I want to follow Jesus better and more and this requires quality and quantity. My best and my most.

Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, comes to mind. I have been through this devotional several times and that statement, which is the title, should be mine. Every, single day. This man, passing to glory at the age of 43 said this:

“Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only – My Utmost for His Highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.” (Oswald Chambers, 1874-1917)

This man didn’t sequester himself in a monastery so that “normal” life would not distract him from this purpose. He was married, became a father and served as a chaplain in the military in Egypt. That is about as much of the “real world” as you can live in. He followed Jesus example of going to the public with who He was and is and will forever be.

No matter what is going on around us, our relationship with God is the most important. It is what we should give quality and quantity to, be better and more for. There doesn’t have to be a choice it is a command for our good and His glory. The only choice we need to make is to run our own race. The race He has created us for. And run it with the most honest effort we can muster.

Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)

Glitter in the Rug

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Glitter in the Rug

I love to make sparkly things for my granddaughters. As they get older they don’t go for that much, but my four-year-old one, Lilly, loves them. I just finished up a sparkly tutu for her and I’ve vacuumed glitter for days.

There’s this ugly rug in my sewing/workout room. Mainly gray and black fibers, designed to hide dirt. But it can’t hide the glitter! As I glance across it, those sparkly particles reflect light and remind me of what we are to be in this world as followers of Jesus. In the world but not of it. Reflecting Light, being Light in places that would be dark, dismal, hiding dirt. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

A small child is such a gift. They are the perfect example of the child-likeness that Christ says we should never lose. And four-year old ones are my favorites. They are old enough to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Old enough to kind-of reason with. And young enough that their imaginations have not yet been tainted by the world. If you have one in your life, you are blessed indeed. If they are loved and nurtured correctly, they have no limits to what they can contribute to our world. No wonder Jesus gave such a stern admonition to anyone who would harm them. (Matthew 18:6)

That glitter in the rug reminds me of how I am a child of God. I’m in a temporary place right now and I am to sparkle for Him. Stand out, be set apart for Him. (Psalm 4:3) I can’t tell you how much I’ve failed at that lately.  I know He loves me the same, but I hope to do better and am thankful that He has given me another chance to reflect His glory. (Matthew 5:16)

The following list is how I hope to get my sparkle on for Jesus:

1.       Start each and every day with a song. Hum it, sing it, pull it up on my ipad for background music:  get a melody going in my mind about His goodness. (Psalm 96)

2.       Go back to list making. Just a few items of “have-to-dos,” so there are no regrets about missed appointments or overdue bills. More items of “get-to-dos,” things to do that keep me healthy and happy and child-like. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8:6)

3.       Memorize more scripture. The power of the Word of God has been the greatest transformer in my life. I could never get enough.  (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:162)

It is a fault of mine that I want the list to be longer. That it will become my boss and I would eventually rebel against it, so I am determined to keep it short and see how just 3 commitments can get my sparkle back.

This is kind of a confession post. I have done and said things lately that have made me see that my testimony has not been what I would hope it would be for Jesus. He deserves better than that from me and I am sorry. My patience has been short, my words rather sharp. I repent. His Spirit is my Keeper. He stands at the gate of my life and reveals what should be going in and coming out. I am very thankful for this.

Dear reader, maybe you are right where you should be with Him, maybe you need to make a list of 3 new commitments of your own. I would love it if you would share them in the comments. I will be praying for you.

 

Genesis…Beginnings

 

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Genesis…Beginnings

Could I start my New Year today? I haven’t done the greatest since January 1. Last night, I couldn’t sleep and the only thing that felt right was to get the Book. And read. Genesis. “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1) All those verses that start, “And God said…” “And God saw…” “And God called…” “And God made…” “And God Created…“And God blessed…” “And the LORD God commanded…” It was so exciting to go back there. Where God is absolutely first.

He is first. There was NOTHING but Him, and because He was, there is all this.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3

Again, “And God said…” (Genesis 1:3) He speaks things into existence. And then, on the sixth day, His last day of work in creating, He speaks “…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:..” (Genesis 1:26) An image is “a representation or replica of one person or thing by another.” (The King James Study Bible, Thomas Nelson)

Every one of us, every baby that is ever conceived, carries His image. Every newborn’s eyes you gaze at or every aged one’s face you behold, that may be living their last days, carries His image. No matter who, no matter what their history, they are made in the image of God. They represent the crowning glory of His creation because He made nothing else in His image. Just us.

He made us for fellowship with Him. To be spiritual companions that He could bless and enjoy forever. Now we messed that up big time as is recorded in Genesis 3. But God refused to give up on us. His love story continues through every, single, book in the Bible. His Son, Jesus, would come and be our Redeemer (Isaiah 53) and He will come back for us (Matthew 29:31, 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52) and we will live forever with Him in Heaven, if we would only trust Him as our Savior. (John 3:16) Just believe.

Sleep finally did take over, and it was good. This morning I wanted to share this with you dear readers. You are precious. You are made in God’s image. With the capacity to have fellowship with Him, every single minute of every single day of your journey. You were made by Him, and for Him. He delights in You! Sometimes it is good to go back to the beginning, check yourself and make absolutely sure that what you put first in your life is what you should have there. And remember, “In the beginning God…”

Happy New Year!

 

 

JOY!

 

JOY!

We’re having a bit of Advent in our family this December. Our youngest daughter is close to delivering our youngest grandchild and we are excited for many reasons. There’s something about new life, a brand-new life, that that causes wonder and awe. I look at my daughter, who looks about ready to “pop” and think of Mary on that donkey at about the same place in her pregnancy. I think of Mary’s journey to Bethlehem on that donkey and wonder at her strength and commitment to her God and her husband.

This morning I light the joy candle and rejoice in the truth that God loved me so much, He gave His best. To just think that all of this universe, and any beyond, that He has power over, and more that He could even create, could have been given to us to try again and again to get this right. To say no to that deceiving serpent, but He knew we wouldn’t. He gives us opportunities day after day to be obedient and we fail. No. We needed a Savior that could make us righteous, we could never do it ourselves. And only His Son would do.

I light the joy candle and rejoice that His mercy lasts forever. His grace never stops. His love never fails. When you practice being joyful (Galatians 5:22) you can put all the struggles, the trials, the pains and disappointments we experience in life here underneath it. They are not the most important things. They are the things that drive you to Your Savior for help, and that is a good thing. Anything that causes us to realize that this life is not under our control and authority is a good thing when we use it as an opportunity to pray more, study His Word more, worship Him more and look forward more to His return. If we do these holy practices, He rewards us with His presence and in His presence is “fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)

Psalm 16:11

“Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

 

I light the joy candle and rejoice, not that I stake all my faith that He actually came into our world on the date of December 25th, but because He did actually, really, come to be with us in human form. (Isaiah 7:14) God came to be with us. More than just touched by all that touches us, but wounded and crucified by it. He was able to endure this because of the power of joy.

Hebrews 12:2 says:

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So, light a candle of joy in your heart today. Choose joy, not because everything is going the way you hoped and prayed it would, but because God loves you and knows that you need joy in your journey to your expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV) Call on Him, seek Him more and more this season, following the example of those wise men in Matthew, chapter 2, who “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (verse 10).

Have a Joyful Merry Christmas!

Where Did This Year Go?

Just Where Did This Year Go?

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The cliché that “time goes fast when you are having fun” does not apply, not really, not this year. There has been fun, blessings, one after another, but the challenges have been big and hard and the time has still flown by. And yes, I am getting older so that happens.

Things I am grateful for, things I give thanks for:

Jesus – always the same…Hebrews 3:8

                “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever.”

Family – my parents, my husband, my children and grandchildren, by biology and by marriage, the loves of my life, the joys of my heart

Church – the community I serve Jesus with, not perfect, just forgiven sinners, of which I am one

Work – my employer and co-workers – through whom God provides for my financial needs

There’s this running list of gifts, things I am thankful for, that I have been keeping since reading Ann Voscamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts.” I highly recommend it. This book changed my life.

 This morning, I was at 9,839. For example, one of my entries is “finding my lost glove” while another is “the multitudes of birds, gathering, swooping, creating pictures in the skies.” Every single entry, a grace from God, a gift. I could write “breath after breath,” because I am not promised an unlimited number of those.

I consider my initial list the BIG ones. Jesus, family, church, work, to list a few. But really, we have no idea what an impact there might be from seemingly small, insignificant “things.” The parking place that shows up at the perfect time, the text when you were feeling down, the unbelievably gorgeous sunset. To look for things to thank God for should really not take very long. He is everywhere, showing His love and care.

Now for the hard stuff. How can I be thankful for things that feel like a kick in my gut and every time I think of them, fear initiates a release of adrenalin that I can’t outrun?   Again I go back to Ann’s book and her teaching about eurcharisteo…

“This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo.

“Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Christ-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe.” Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts

As I go back through my list, as I sometimes do, I see how the tough stuff yielded great things. For my good, for His glory. Remembering and giving thanks builds trust, builds faith. And this mountain that is in front of me right now, will one day be behind me. God will have moved it because that is what he does when we use but a little of that Christ-faith.

“…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move: and nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus, Matthew 17:20

So here we have it, nothing happens without faith, and faith grows with the thankful remembering. I don’t want to be thankful for hard things, for things that cause me anxiety. But I have to realize that without the thanksgiving, the prayer won’t contain all the elements that bring the peace.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I am not going to understand it, and that’s okay because peace doesn’t need to be understood, it just needs to be felt. And the racing heart, and the twitching and tremors calm, and I’ve actually thanked God for something I never dreamed I would have to face in my lifetime. I can see how my big stuff is small stuff for the God of the Universe. He can do anything. His throne in the heavens will never be moved by anything that can happen here. And I am His. This peace is like a soldier that stands guard at the doors of my heart and mind, to protect them, to keep them safe from any harm that might come knocking.

And this mountain, all of our mountains, can be reasons for thanksgiving. And really, if there isn’t one in our lives right now, are we clinging to Jesus, abiding in Him and growing our faith? It almost makes me want to pray, “Lord, show me another mountain!” But I’m not brave enough for that, not yet.

Yes, this year has flown, because on this side of heaven our days come and go and we are powerless to slow anything down. Time is too short to worry and fret about things we have no control over. It is too short to live thankless and hopeless. Give this a try: the next mountain you face, say to yourself:

“I am going to give thanks to God for this and be open to how He will use it to grow my faith.”

If you are like me, every, single, day – you will have to remember this commitment. Because, every day, that affirmation will be tried. Fears will come, new facts may surface that threaten your peace. You will have to hold fast to the promises in the Bible. God will honor them. If there is anything I know for sure, He will be faithful. You can most certainly give thanks for that.

 

 

 

Upside Down

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Upside Down

Things really aren’t as they seem. Not for those who see through the lens of faith. What looks hopeless to some may be the most hopeful thing ever to someone else. If we could only flip the view. But we’re going to need a lot of faith to do it.

Faith is everywhere, every day. Each time you sit down in a chair, expecting it to hold you, you exercise faith. That exercise usually works out for most of us, but for the tough stuff that tries our grit, we need Jesus. We need His vision that sees that the weak can be strong, the poor can be rich and the last will be first. What the world calls empty, can be really quite full, and the not enough becomes abundance.

In Acts 17, Luke tells about three locations where Paul preaches the gospel, in verses 5-7, envy caused those who refused to believe to do an evil deed. They brought a man named Jason to the rulers of the city and said:

“These that have turned the world upside down are come here also.”

That was his great offence. Paul and his guys taught that there was another king, “one Jesus.” Jason was a friend of Jesus and Paul as well and knew that the view from that position was the right one. Now this guy I’m looking forward to meeting in heaven. He stuck His neck out for the cause of Christ and it cost him. He took the trouble and turned to see the world upside down.

May I suggest you and I try to do this today? Where there is a weakness that we know we have, can we just pray for His strength to come into that? How many, “I can’ts” can we turn into:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

And if we are having a bit of financial difficulty, can we say:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

And if we are experiencing the sting of rejection, can we just say together:

“But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him (her) who is godly; the LORD will hear when I call unto Him.” (Psalm 4:3)

It is upside down from the world’s view, but that’s okay. Because this world is really not our home. We are only passing through it to fulfill the will of God, who created us, in His image, and according to His good pleasure. (See Ephesians 1) When we can’t seem to see the point, remember, Jesus is the point. Anything at all that causes us to draw closer to Him is a blessing. There are no pointless struggles, when they point us to Him.

(Photo by Melanie Lamb)

 

The Power of Love

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The Power of Love

It’s a Monday morning after a stress full weekend, after a stress full week. And so it starts again… but… before he goes out the door, I say, “I love you” he returns, “I love you.” And something happens. It’s like an energy that is unexplainable comes into me and I write my list of gifts faster, they jump into my mind with fervor and the half-blank page I am staring at starts to fill. Why is that?

I think we all know that love can hurt. You may love someone and you are hurting right now because they are hurting in some way and you care. Why would God give us such a beautiful thing that we often struggle with? And today I don’t really have an answer, but I have an energy that does feel better. I feel better because the affirmation of “I love you” caused it.

There is power in love because God is love. It’s the truth. I know it because even if I don’t feel it all the time; the Bible says it in 1 John 4: 16:

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.” NKJV

Abiding in Him and experiencing His love does not mean that we live a life void of suffering. In fact, because of His love and the tiniest, minute amount of what we can produce as His followers, we will suffer. Because love causes us to care. And if we care, we hurt when others hurt. We stress about things we really have no control over and we reach for comfort; sometimes in all the wrong places.

I have to remember Jesus. How His great love for us, caused Him to care so much for us that He suffered. All He ever did His whole life on this earth was love. And it led Him to suffering. So much more suffering than I can even imagine. Yet there was a joy that He possessed that gave Him the strength He needed to sustain that love and the task of it. The Cross of it.

The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) And since God is love, the joy of Him is our strength. The Bible says that because of that joy, Jesus endured. (Hebrews 12:2) Love and joy. They have to go together or we won’t be able to sustain love through the struggle, through the suffering.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

When the fruit of Spirit is taught in Galatians 5:22-23, love and joy are listed first. This is important to notice because each fruit grows upon the one before it in importance. We can’t even begin to have joy until we know the love of God. This love, when abided in, brings joy, and joy brings peace. When our own hearts are at peace, we can show patience to others. We can then be examples of the kindness and goodness of God. This causes our faith to grow in a spirit of meekness and gives us self-control that we never knew we had.

I don’t even think I was reaching for all this truth this morning. I just said what I knew. To someone I knew it to be true to. And God did the rest. Say what you know today. It may take a little energy, it may cause you to set some things aside so that it can happen, but it will give you more back that you’ve invested. Because there is power in love.