Do We Need To Say It?

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Do We Need To Say It?

Ah, the power of words. Sometimes I think that it would be easier if I were born mute. If I couldn’t speak, I would not be able to say words that hurt people, or words that were not meant to hurt people, but did. Words that could be taken in the wrong way, for good or for bad. Words that tried to elevate myself or put down another. Why do words carry so much weight?

I have to go back to the very beginning. “And God said.” There are nine of those (God saids) in the first chapter of the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis. The book of beginnings. The first eight times the “God said” is followed by something that never existed before.

  1. Light
  2. Firmament (heaven)
  3. Waters (bodies of)
  4. Grasses, herbs, fruit trees
  5. Sun, moon, stars
  6. Animal life of sea and air
  7. Animal life of earth
  8. Humans (male and female)

These were all created over 6 days, (bodies of water, land and vegetation were created on the third day.) Of all of His creation, He gave humans something extra. His breath.

Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

It is impossible to use our voice without breath. We are able to speak out loud when air, as we exhale, passes through the folds of our vocal chords. This vibration causes the unique sound waves of our voices. I find it so amazing that God shared not only His intent when He spoke us into being, but He shared His breath with us to make us a living soul. And with that breath, we can speak too. And those words have creative power. Power to build up and power to tear down.

I am a big proponent of Ann Voscamp’s mantra “Only speak words that make souls stronger.” But there are times I fail. Miserably. I have to remind myself that just as God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils and he became a living soul, God breathes life into me as I follow the example of His Son, Jesus. When I choose to love and forgive. When I choose to examine my own heart before judging another’s.

Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Every time I say something that I shouldn’t have, whether the words were wrong, or the timing was wrong, or vice versa, or both, I have to examine my heart. Maybe silence would have been a better choice. Can you relate? Only God has a perfect enough heart to speak and only good, always good, be the outcome.

Any time I dare to think that when bad things happen to good people, like cancer, persecution, injustice or other types of tragedy, I want to question God. I do. Still, after He has given me so much and proved His goodness to me time and again. I wonder why He could not have spoken good, or what I consider to be good over that person and caused it to happen. And He appeared silent. Knowing that all the while He has told me in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I would not want to believe in a God that thought or did things like me, I am no match for his wisdom and power.

In our nation today, there is a lot of injustice. A lot of anger and revenge and disillusion. And fear. And a lot of words that aren’t helping. I have to believe that it is because they are not necessarily the right words for healing and hope. Only God’s Word holds those.

Only what God has said is what will stand and win the victories we are all longing for. And we may not even know that is what we are longing for because we are looking at the symptoms and not the root cause of our problems. Sin. We just feel this hunger for righteousness, for things to be made right that never will be, apart from a right relationship with our Creator. He is the Source for words that speak peace and calm into chaos. There are some of those voices out there and you know them when you hear them.

John 10:27  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Yet, what are we supposed to do with all this anger and energy we feel when something atrocious happens and injustice follows? Could I suggest that we might first try energetic self-examination and repentance…energetic intercessory prayer…energetic worship…energetic love for others. Energetic reading and memorization of Scripture. (And may I add that in the day of COVID, all of this can be done while social distancing.) Perhaps if we do this first, we might be able to use words that build up, that bring about justice, that heal and give hope, and finally with wisdom, answer the question, “Do We Need To Say It?” And if we do, do so with kindness and courage.

Ephesians 4:14-15, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ:”

Paul’s Prayer: How to Get Through One More Day at a Time

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“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the width and length, and depth and height- and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)

What more could we ask for? What more could we pray for? For ourselves or others, as we wait. As we struggle with living a life with purpose when we feel like our purpose has been put on hold. I want to encourage you that your purpose has not been put on hold. What you have to offer during this time is crucial. It may look different and some days be hard to figure out, but that is what the “through faith” is for.

When I wake in the morning I am finding that I need to take extra time with the Lord to do “this” again. To do another day of social distancing. Another day of keeping anxiety at bay when doing things that I would normally do, without wondering if the invisible enemy might get into mine, or my loved ones, lives. The things I see now, on the news, when out and about, seem so surreal. Dear reader, aren’t you thankful that you don’t see what’s coming sometimes?

Who would have thought we would be wearing masks, standing six feet away from others and told not to go visit people? That there is the potential of giving something to someone else that could be life-threatening? That going to a church building and worshipping together could be irresponsible?

During these times, I have found I need more structure. More accountability with myself that what I can still do, gets done. I’ve started my “to-do” lists again. I find that just checking off some things that are important to me and my circle is incentive enough to make sure they get done. Laundry, check. Workout, check. And so it goes. I was afraid that if I put my prayer and journal time on the list it would become more robotic and not spirit-filled, but that has not been the case. It goes on the list too. My prayer and journal time are richer than ever. God has seen to that. Do you already do the checklist thing? If not, do you think maybe it will help you right now to keep the things that need to happen, happen indeed? When so many of our “normal” routines have been disrupted, it feels good to create some new ones that you can actually keep.

When things that should normally happen, don’t, because of this virus, it can be very difficult to continue with what control you really do have over your hours and days. If I don’t have to go to work, do I need to shower and dress for the day? If I’ve got all day to do just a few things, is this a license to be lazy? This could be the time in your life when you will shine the brightest! This doesn’t have to finish us and make us feel completely inadequate and out of control. (Preaching to myself here.) May I suggest a few things that might help based on Paul’s prayer for the church?

  1. Realize the tremendous power of prayer. First thing, for me, just to know that one of the great saints of the Bible, the Apostle Paul, prayed for me. He prayed for you too. He was a faithful servant so I am sure he had God’s ear. He bowed his knee. He humbled himself before God for my sake. I can rest in the fact that I am prayed for and pray for others more with the more time I have at home. That prayer is always accomplishing something. (James 5:16) We do not need to see the results, although He is gracious to show us them at times. Just pray in faith believing and know that God, in His wisdom and power, will use those prayers for our good and His glory.
  2. Paul prayed that the strength I need for each day is available when needed and the way needed. My weakness is not something to fret about. The strength that I need will be supplied by the power of the Holy Spirit. It will be deep inside me and I will have the faith I need to know that Christ is dwelling with me at all times through His Spirit.
  3. Paul prayed that the love that God has for me, through Christ, has strong roots. That because of this, I am grounded in the truth of His Word. When other words try to discourage me or cause me to fear, I have His Word as the unfailing truth. I can read it and meditate on it, pray it and practice it. His love surrounds me and envelops me. It is so large I would never be able to fully comprehend its enormity. It will never run out or give up. God’s love is perfect.
  4. Finally, Paul prays that I would “be filled with all the fullness of God.” To be full with all that it means to call myself a Christian. That I would be a shining example of Jesus. The fullness of God means I would have His character, love like He does and live like Jesus did when He came to earth to show us His Father’s love and character. The word “Christian” means “little Christ.” We are to be “little Christs” in this world, doing big things for His Kingdom. I know that I am no way near that standard, but this is what the journey is about. We are pilgrims as it says in Hebrews 11:13. All our days here are but opportunities to show others how to find God, and how to inherit eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Our lives can be the example of His goodness.

I imagine this wonderful example of a man who was found by Christ when he was on a road to persecute Christians, got blinded by God’s love, gave his life to Christ and then spent the rest of it proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.

“For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:2.

When the troubling thoughts come, when I see myself be less than I hoped and wonder how God could still allow me to draw breath, I want to remember that Paul prayed for me and possibly that is why I can do this again, one more day. And I am praying these verses in Ephesians for you Dear Reader, that you are well and growing in grace during these trying times. One more day at a time.

 

 

 

Easter, 50% Off?

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Easter 50% Off?

I was looking for shoe laces. I know I was under a “Stay-at-home” order, but I was out on an “essential” mission already, and I needed shoe laces to complete some cloth masks I was crafting at home for myself and my family. I know they won’t protect us from the COVID-19 virus, but the experts say it can protect others, when we have to go out in public places, if we would happen to be carriers. I’ve used one the past few days when out, and I’ve noticed something. Even though others try to keep their distance, the workers seem less anxious when I asked for help. (I just couldn’t reach the Bran Flakes, or seem to find the shoe laces.) In this time when there is so little we can do to help, this seems doable.

The store that had the shoelaces reminded me at the register that “All Easter is 50% off.” This struck me because at this time in our history, all of our attention can be focused on this pandemic, if we let it. News channels focus on it 24 hours-a-day. The counts are going up and I know we should keep ourselves informed, but let’s not let this distraction, however formidable it may be, cause us to forget about Easter, of all things. The grandest celebration of the Christian Calendar!

More than ever, we should take each day of Holy Week and offer to our wonderful Savior praise and honor and glory.

Each day, make our accounts clear with Him with repentance and worship.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Psalm 51:2 (NIV)

“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

1 Chronicles 16:29 (KJV)

Each day, give Him thanks in all things and offer our lives as a living sacrifice.

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 5:20 (KJV)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Romans 12:1 (KJV)

Each day intercede for others like we never have before.

“I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

Below is a chart of the days of this week leading up to the celebration of our Risen Lord. I have seen, online, families celebrating Palm Sunday with their little ones and it has blessed my heart. Go ahead and plan special activities this week on your own or with your families in the “safe” way, to celebrate each day in a special way.

Palm Sunday Celebrates Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem April 5, 2020
Holy Week The week leading up to Easter April 5- April 11, 2020
Maundy Thursday Commemorates the foot washing and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles April 9, 2020
Good Friday Commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary April 10, 2020
Easter Sunday Celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his victory over sin and death.

 

April 12, 2020

Dear Reader: even though we will miss our church services, hearing the inspiring preaching in person, seeing all the pretty outfits, and singing or listening to the Cantatas, we can and must celebrate our Risen Savior. More than ever before, make the effort to give Easter 100% this year. Ask the Lord to show you how and when and where. Because He has already shown us the reason why.

Shelter At Home

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“LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Psalm 90:1

I see three vital life-sustaining truths right there. Faith. Home. Family.

I can’t get over this Scripture right now. Psalm 90. This “A prayer of Moses, the man of God” as my Study Bible entitles it. I’ve typed the first verse of it above in the King James Version. In the middle column of my Bible, it tells me that “dwelling place” can mean refuge. Which our homes should be for all of us. But during this time in history, they are no doubt, being so much more.

A lot of us are working from home, schooling from home, visiting our loved ones online from home, ministering from home, the list could go on and on because most of what our world gets to do, has to be … from home.

Faith. The Christian Calendar has us on the last half of the season of Lent. This year, I’ve been doing my daily reading from Bill Elliff’s book “Prayer With No Intermission: 40 Days to Unceasing Prayer.” It is from his Graceful Truth Series, Volume 3. For the 40 days, Bill leads us to a Scripture and truth that focuses us on the importance of unceasing prayer. Which is not just a suggestion in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, but a goal set by a man of God who should know it works.

“Pray without ceasing”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

On Day 24, the reading was focused on the brevity of life. Psalm 90 is his text where Bill makes this statement, “We act as if there are many days to accomplish the work set before us, when in reality there are but few.” We need to grow a faith that stands firm during the toughest of times. The kind of faith that depends every moment on the mercy and grace of God. The kind of faith that prays about everything, at all times. The kind of faith that refuses to waste one moment of the limited days we have.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

Home. Corrie Ten Boom is quoted as saying, “You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” This is a woman who should know what she is talking about as well. Google her life and you will find a woman, full of faith, who knew that God was her home. This was her truth. Her relationship with Jesus held her through the Holocaust during World War II, a concentration camp and beyond.

I’ve been praying for us who have to stay at home when we would really rather be out fellowshipping face-to-face. Hugging and kissing on our grandkids. Giving and receiving a genuine handshake to a new acquaintance. But I’ve also been praying for those who don’t have a home to shelter in. Who don’t get to go to work, who don’t have the privilege of online visitation or worship. I am praying that the Lord would comfort them and make Himself so real to them now. To show them that He is their Home, their Refuge. I am also praying that those of us who have the ability to share, do it now, more than ever before.

Family. From generation to generation there have been challenges. In my lifetime, I have never seen one such as COVID-19. An invisible attacker that can only be fought right now with us distancing ourselves from one another. We are flesh and blood, carrying around the precious truth of Christ. Body and soul, while we are here. This attacker wants to destroy the body and that prompts us to fear, but we are more than that. I am a nurse, so I know the basics of how viruses operate, and this is a bad one. However, it does not have the power to separate us from the love of God. Nothing can.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

From one generation to another, we need to pass this truth on. The younger ones are looking to us and watching our actions and reactions right now. We have the potential to influence them for the Kingdom and show them that He is our Home, our Shelter, our Refuge at all times. He is good, merciful, kind and loving.

We will be on the other side of this one day, I don’t know when, but faith doesn’t require me to. The next generation will remember how we handled it. May their memories contain our courage, wisdom, kindness, faith and most of all love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV

 

 

 

 

His Delight

His Delight

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I had a wonderful day yesterday. I got to spend it with a 14-month old. She doesn’t need to do or be anything other than who she is and I smile. I had hours of just watching her discover and play and follow little commands, which of course, shows her grandma how brilliant she is! It was pure delight.

There are many teachings in Scripture about the blessings we receive from children and I believe every time Jesus grinned ear-to-ear, a child had to be involved. As heartbreaking as it can be for us when one of them is harmed here, I have to believe Jesus is with them in a special way. Holding their little hearts safe in His care, giving them His presence, which is their greatest need. I can pray for them to know He is there and I can pray for healing, both physical and emotional. But I still hate it so much that they get neglected or wounded in this world.

 

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There is just no way any of us make it to adulthood without some wounding. Some get more than others, because of the original sin in the Garden of Eden, this world is fallen. The perfect, or not even close to perfect, parenting has never been done. And as I watch my granddaughter play I wonder if I paid enough attention. I know I was never patient enough or protective enough, or prayed enough for them. And I have regrets, but am thankful that I have a Redeemer that has taken the mistakes I made as a parent and turned out some pretty wonderful adults who are wonderful parents themselves.

“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest (quiet you) in his love, he will joy over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17, parentheses mine.

Dear reader, you are a delight to your Heavenly Father. He watches over you as you live your life and, unlike me, He is a perfect parent. He sings over you when you need soothed. He listens to the desires of your heart and only gives you what would be the absolute best for you in the long run. He knows the exact stage of development your soul is in and does not expect too much from you. His mercy and grace chase after you, just like I chased after that little one. Making sure the door to the basement steps was closed and there were no glass dishes that could be pulled out of the bottom cabinets onto little toes.

“He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 1:19

Can you imagine it right now? A loving Father that knows all we are up against and so desperately wants to help if we would only allow Him in and stop saying “I can do it myself!” Because we can’t.
Truth is, we can’t see the future. We don’t know when we get up in the morning what will happen that will change our plans for that day. And just like that little one, we have to trust without question, the One who is taking care of us.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

 

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One of my favorite things this little one does, is reach up with both arms when she wants picked up and held. And it’s not that she just reaches up. She flexes her little wrists and presents the palms of her hands to you. The reaching seems urgent. Her eyes will lock on yours and you just have to pick her up. It’s obvious her hands are empty and she only wants you.

I am sure you know that I love to share what the Lord is teaching me through everyday life. Being a mother and grandmother are my favorite, but you don’t have to be one to know the truths of this post. If you are reading this right now, you are or can be a child of God. You do have or can have a Heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally. (See “Statement of Faith” at gloryrenewed.com) I need to be reminded of the very things I write about because I have what Ann Voscamp calls “soul amnesia.” I know what I know until it “slips my mind.”
I imagine our Heavenly Father’s heart, when He sees our surrender. Our hearts and hands raised in prayer and praise. I am sure He can’t help but take delight. And He lift us up. When we have a need we can’t express, when we present ourselves empty, we get what we reach for. Even a 14-month old knows that.

Triggers

Ever consider that Satan must be trigger-happy? Pulling out any and all triggers to tempt us to sin. Yesterday, wanting to do good, knowing my bent on accomplishing things, and in good time, I enter a check-out lane at Kroger. A short one that would actually be quicker than walking all the way down to the self-serve lanes. I was directly behind one of the sweetest looking older couples ever. They even had their groceries already checked and bagged. It was supposed to be my turn. All this little lady had to do was write out the check…herself… long hand.

I didn’t know people did that anymore. At least not at the grocery store where everyone wants to get in and out quick, like me. When a debit card just takes a quick swipe or chip insertion and you’re out of there. She had to ask the kind, young cashier twice for the date and total and then discuss how fast January has passed us by. There was even some conversation that revealed this young man will be a father mid-April. What? Did I need to know this? Did I say that I had family waiting in the car because it would only take a few minutes to run in, grab some flowers for the two sweet shut-in ladies we would be visiting, and pop back out. Slick as a whistle.

I believe Satan watches our lives and by what he sees, he conjures up temptations aptly suited to our personalities and circumstances. He knows I like to make a plan and work the plan, without any interruptions, thank you very much. So I can imagine Satan saying to God, “Sure she loves You, but make her wait for something and You will see just how much.”

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Feeling like time is getting wasted is a huge stress trigger for me. With a bullet aimed at all I think I can control, which truly is absolutely nothing. “Breathe and smile,” I think to myself, do not allow this sweet, take-your-time, little lady cause me to lose my calm and peace. There will always be enough time to do what God wants you to do. And it is sin to live life in a hurry when my rushing causes anyone else to change their pace. I know this. But…

This has been the story of my life. I couldn’t wait to grow up, then I couldn’t wait to get married, have a family, a career, be the best that I could be and as soon as possible. According to brain research, I was married before mine was even fully developed! I wish I could go back and tell the younger me that there really is no hurry. That God is writing your story, young one, and He has a perfect time for every part of it. Rushing it only leads to problems, which I know all too well.

Thankfully, God will redeem everything He allows. He gives second and third chances if we repent. As He allowed me to rush, fall and get up, year after year, in His grace He protected, healed and redirected me through His Word. He placed in my path my wonderful husband, and spiritual mentors to make the rocky journey not only tolerable but blessed.

I am truly thankful that God has allowed my plans to have interruptions and delays because the very things that appear to be holding me back can be the things that stimulate me to grow in my faith and trust in Him. Isn’t patience part of the fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22) Who am I that I would be wise enough to know how to plan out my hours and days? Especially when I typically underestimate how long anything is going to take?

Haste makes waste. A good thing to remember. I researched that word again. “Haste: swiftness of motion, speed, celerity…urgent need of quick action; a hurry or rush…unnecessarily quick action, thoughtless, rash, or undue speed.”

Proverbs: 21:5:

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” KJV

“Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you farther behind.” The Message

I wonder how many things I messed up on because I rushed ahead of God’s intended timing. And how many lives I may have caused to change their pace to keep up with mine. This is heart and soul work as I repent and resolve to do better for Him and others.

For my more mature-in-age dear readers feeling regrets, like I am, God loves you and anything from your past, He will redeem. And anything from your present, He will lead and guide you through in His perfect timing. For any of my dear younger women readers who, like I am, want things to have happened already, God loves you and knows your heart better than you do. He is faithful. Seek Him with all your heart and everything you desire will come to you in the best timing ever. (Matthew 6:33)

To the dear couple in that check-out lane at Kroger, take your time, I am sorry that for one second, I thought you were an interruption in my day. You were a blessing straight from my Heavenly Father.

 

 

 

 

The Big Bucket Surprise

 

The Big Bucket Surprise

We were at the waterpark last summer. You know the kind where the slides are high and steep and way too scary for younger kids, let alone grandmas. We eventually found an area for the kiddos that looked a lot more their speed. There were little climbing obstacles in the shapes of sea life, water sprays and falls everywhere. It was a very hot day so it was a perfect place to be for water fun. I held my little grandson’s hand as we climbed some steps to a higher level so he could safely go down this little, mildly steep, water slide. He was apprehensive so I was pep-talking him that this was going to be “so easy and so fun!”

Then, as we were climbing, all of a sudden, it was like the sky opened up and a torrential flood of water came down on us. You see, at the top of this play place, unnoticed by us, was this huge bucket gradually filling with trickles of water. When it reached its tipping point, whoosh! And we were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It took a while for me to earn his trust again.

At the beginning of this New Year, I have been apprehensive about making any resolutions. Everything I read says that little steps, little daily habits, are the way to go. But I like sweeping changes. Epiphanies. I like, strong shows of power. I hunger for more than slow, steady drips. But could it be that by doing the little things, consistently, faithfully, that sweeping change I desire will happen?

This concept works both ways, dear reader. When the seemingly small, negative habits outnumber the good ones. Those slow steady drips of sin, can fill up a bucket as well, with the meltdown that seems to appear out of nowhere and drenches us in remorse. When this happens to me, I can almost always trace it back to the little things I did, or neglected to do, that would have prevented my lack of self-control.

Another reason that I am hesitant to make resolutions is because I hate relapses. They are bound to happen and God reminds me that this is why there is grace. I could use a big bucket of that today, how about you? (1 John 1:9)

So here is my “little” list of things to do daily:

  1. Pray (Fervently, James 5:16)
  2. Worship (In Spirit and Truth, John 4:23)
  3. Love Others Around Me (1 Corinthians 13, all of it!)

These are not original resolutions. They come from a book I just finished reading and highly recommend. “You Can Trust God to Write Your Story” by Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth. They come from a man who lives in chronic, debilitating pain, all of his own strength has been stripped away and he wants us to know that there are abilities that can never be taken away from us. As long as we have conscious thought, we can do those three things. These three things put God where He deserves and needs to be –FIRST. He is who we pray to, and the Person we worship and His greatest command is to love Him and others.

I want to remember the bucket too. What I am filling it up with daily as I ask God how He wants me to live out my resolutions. Pray for me? I will be praying for you.

 

The Circle

 

I see their faces as I write their names. Each one in my “inner circle.” The space God has placed souls. The one I married and promised the rest of my life to. The ones I birthed, the ones they vowed the rest of their lives to. The babies born to them. My parents, his mother, the siblings having special needs. The circle increases in diameter…

Morning prayer-time is sacred. I rarely miss it, but when I do, I really miss it. I wonder how it affected their day. Did they miss something because I missed praying for them?

A few years ago, I had a son-in-law deployed to Afghanistan. For this reason, I started journaling my prayers differently. Since a young adult, I have always journaled my prayers, but the reality of a loved one being placed in what is considered “real danger” drove me to make sure he was prayed for specifically every day. So I started writing each name, pausing to see their faces. Reminding God that these sweet ones were important to me and I needed Him for them. To watch over them and protect them, help them with whatever they faced that day.

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

There is a whole-wide world out there, I know, but these dear ones mean the whole-world to me. I am sure your circle means the same to you. Because they are so important to us, we can be consumed with worry when their lives are in danger or they are making bad decisions. We want to change their opinions or fix every mistake they have ever made. That is not our job, but praying for them is. Giving them to God is the first, very best thing we can do and trust Him to work things out for their good and His glory.

I keep a box of tissues handy because sometimes when I write those names tears come. Tears of joy, God is there to celebrate with, tears of grief, He is still there, and they are in the best Hands as I hand it all over to Him.

 

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Sometimes I do not even know what to pray. Tim Keller writes in his book Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God,

“The Spirit, even when you do not know how to pray, takes your core prayer and prays as you should be praying before the throne. (Romans 8:26) When you struggle in prayer, you can come before God with the confidence that he is going to give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows. He does care, and He loves you boundlessly.”

Dear reader, pray for the whole-wide world, but please, never forget to specifically pray for your circle. Watch your love grow for them and know the peace of God that passes all understanding.

The Great Gift Exchange

 

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With Christmas coming soon it causes me to think about the day after. December 26th is as big as Black Friday there in the exchange department.  All the wrong colors, wrong sizes, and just plain wrong gifts that were received just the day before, finding their way back to where they came from.

This exchange makes sense because both the exchanger and exchangee (if that’s a word) receive something of somewhat equal value. Not so with the exchange in God’s economy. He gets something broken. Scarred. Pitiful and weak. And we get Him. His Holy Spirit coming to live in us. His inheritance. Heaven. Only God’s love would agree to this.

There’s a Big Daddy Weave song that really got to me the other day. Got me to thinking about the word “exchange.” In this case, Jesus, exchanging His righteousness, for mine. I never thought about it like that before. I only thought about mine exchanged for His. I couldn’t be righteous enough on my own so I needed His help, I needed to trust Him for the kind of righteousness that made me “right” with my Heavenly Father. The kind that allows for salvation. I could not be good enough, work hard enough, or even believe strong enough. Even though I trusted Him to be my Savior, I needed a reminder that in order for the exchange to take place, He had to take on something unimaginably awful, not a good gift at all but me, I got something unimaginably awesome.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6

Our sin, (and we are all sinners, Romans 3:23), has blown it for us. Makes us unclean and unrighteous, and carries us away from God. This would translate to hopelessness if it were not for Christ.

My righteousness is “as filthy rags.” That is what I have to offer. He took that on the cross. He received the punishment for that. And all I had to do was believe. To think about the fact that He was nothing but righteousness, and me, nothing but unrighteousness. And He agreed to the exchange.

 

Jesus I Believe

Big Daddy Weave

I wanna walk with You Jesus
Feel your presence
And know You’re near
I wanna see You Jesus
Move in power
And cast out fear

I need to hear You now
I need to know it’s You
I’m standing on your promises
I know your Word is true
You’re bigger than what I see
It’s You and in exchange for me
‘Cause even the impossible can be reality
Jesus I believe

Jesus I believe

I wanna say what You’re saying
Speaking life to what is dead

And I wanna cling to You Jesus
Oh, hanging on to your every breath

I need to hear You now
I need to know it’s You
I’m standing on your promises
I know your Words are true
You’re bigger than what I see
That it’s You in exchange for me
‘Cause even the impossible is your reality
Jesus I believe

Jesus I believe

So let your kingdom come
And let your will be done
Here on the earth
Just like it is in heaven
God let your kingdom come
And let your will be done
Right here on earth
Just like it is in heaven

I need to hear You now
I need to know it’s You
I’m standing on your promises
I know your Word is true
You’re bigger than what I see
It’s You in exchange for me
‘Cause even the impossible is your reality

I need to hear You now
I need to know it’s You
I’m standing on your promises
I know your Words are true
You’re bigger than what I see
It’s You in exchange for me
‘Cause even the impossible is your reality
God even the impossible is your reality
Jesus I believe

Jesus I believe
Help my unbelief God
Jesus I believe

Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Michael Weaver

The greatest gift exchange of all time. Dear Reader, I hope you are a believer and have experienced this exchange. It is my prayer that you realize, every, single, day, what a great sacrifice He made because of the great love He has for you. If you don’t know the words to pray, this song could be your prayer. The prayer that saves you or revives your heart to love Him more fervently or gives you hope in your “impossible,”  for nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). Accept the exchange, truly, one size fits all and is for ALL who believe. (John 3:16)

When we exchange an item, they take back the goods, but they can’t be damaged, they can’t be worn-out or stained or torn. At the cross, He took us back, messed up, damaged, scarred, broken to pieces and exchanged all that for His Spirit in us, His Kingdom, ours…forever.

The “No Thank You”

When my little granddaughter was two, she had to have a blood transfusion. When the nurses came in to start her IV, little Lilly pleaded with them, “No thank you, No thank you” she would cry out. It was heartbreaking to hear her try so politely to refuse what was about to happen. A treatment that would help her recover from a dangerously low hemoglobin level, but she didn’t care about that. All she knew at that moment was something was going to hurt and she didn’t want it.
When we can control what we let into our lives, the use of “No thank you” is the polite way to refuse the choice in front of us. But what if we do not have that luxury? What about the things we can’t control? And is it ever appropriate to say “No thank you” to God?
I’ve said “No thank you” to Him before, not in words, but by my actions or lack of. The time He presented an opportunity for me to give till it hurt a little bit, and I refused. The time He said, He was waiting to speak to me through His Word and I just kept scrolling. The times He has asked me to do something, share something or say something for Him and I didn’t. Just like a two-year-old, it might hurt or be inconvenient to be obedient and I didn’t want it. Sometimes my own façade of politeness is my undoing.
This is the place where child-likeness and child-ishness have to part ways. A child is innocent, has no choice but to trust those who love her to make the right decisions that affect her, painful or not. I am not innocent. I get to choose to be disobedient and refuse the blessing. Just tell myself “be thankful” and move on.
Somehow I don’t believe that “giving thanks in all things” applies to my disobedience. There are the sins of commission and there are the sins of omission. Could what I am omitting, or not doing in obedience, be what is holding me back from experiencing the blessings of living an obedient, abundant life?

The more I learn about Jesus from His Word, the more I see how living given to others is important. He came to show us the loving heart of God. The way He shows this is how He gave.

Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

Receiving all things from God’s hand with thanksgiving is the only way.  The good and the hard. Being thankful, “Yes” thankful, turns whatever we receive into a gift that can, in turn, be given to someone else. We are not here just to serve ourselves.
To know that we are ambassadors for Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:20), representing Him in our world, should make us ready ministers, not wanting fame or privilege but a life of service and humility. (Mark 10:43) Jesus is our example. He took time in the mornings to pray and ask His Father into His day. He went out of His way and to places that others considered beneath Him because He knew people needed Him. He comforted, He healed, He prayed until He sweat drops of blood asking His Father if there could be any other way than the Cross. He never said “No thank you” and neither should I.

Dear reader, I don’t know what you might be saying “No thank you” to today. What you have been prompted by His Spirit to do in order to follow Christ. God knows your heart. Looking back, I know every time I refused an opportunity to be obedient, I missed out on something for others that would have helped me to recover from my low empathy level. One of the most dangerous pathologies in Christianity.
Starting this Thanksgiving week, I am purposing in my heart to make it a “Thanksliving” week. Right off the bat my husband reminded me of something I neglected to do and I was tempted to throw in the towel. The Lord’s Spirit, not mine believe me, prompted me to do the thing and thank my man for the reminder. The enemy lost that one. This week I’m going to try to say give thanks more often and say a few more “yeses” to God and others. How about you?
Like the transfusion that hurts but is life-giving, obeying God can be painful, yet it yields blessings that we just cannot realize any other way. We would tell Lilly, “It only hurts for a little bit.” God tells us the same thing. In the frame of eternity, our current struggles are so microscopic.

Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Glory renewed.