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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Experiencing Christmas

There they sat, taking in every word as we sang,

"Silent night, Holy night.  All is calm, all is bright..." 

Each syllable was a sugar cube of comfort to their souls.  With their eyes closed, their lips moved with ours as we continued,

"round yon virgin mother and child.  Holy infant so tender and mild..."

We were the entertainment the nursing home had hired for the day -- carolers in Victorian dress, coming to bring Season's Greetings and cheer. But, I watched them as much as they were watching us. 

I watched as our words came alive to them.  I watched as they held their hands to their hearts.  I watched as they sang along and meant every word.  I watched them worship as we sang, 

"Joy to the World, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive Her King!" 

One woman's eyes teared up as the Presence of Joy and Peace came into the room. 

"This is the heart of Christmas," I thought to myself.  To be caught up in the awe of the Holy One.  To be wowed again by the thought of what He did for us.  To be hushed in His precious Presence.  To worship with sincere hearts the King that came to earth, the God who kept His Promise.

They thanked us as we left.  But, honestly, I wanted to thank them.  To us it was a job.  To them it was a time of worship.  We were there to bring Christmas to them, but they had unknowingly brought Christmas to us. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Surprise! We're Going to Disney World!



I love watching the video clips of parents surprising their children about their plans to go to Disney World.  The above clip is one of many.  The children have absolutely NO idea about the secret plans their parents have been making.  For months, maybe even years, the parents have been saving, researching and coordinating for this surprise trip, but they choose to not say a word to their children about it until the day they are leaving.  This makes for an even greater surprise and reaction.  I love watching as the children go from being stunned with unbelief to pure exhilaration and joy. 

******


I believe God loves surprising us.  Just like the parents who giggle to each other as they plan the surprise trip, I think God giggles as He knows what is in store for us that we are unaware of. 

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

I picture God smiling as He says this.  It's like He's saying, "I know something you don't know.  I've planned something great that is fit just for you and will match the desires that I have already put in your heart.  But the plans are not for you to do by yourself.  See, my plans include Me.  The truth is, I've planned a trip that will accomplish My will and I've woven you into my Plan.  Just as parents wouldn't send their young children on trips by themselves, so I would not send you by yourself.  We're going together!"

And rest assured.  God is an amazing Planner.  He knows what He's doing.  He knows where we are going and how we will get there.  He's worked out the details.  He's made the provisions in advance.  So don't be overly shocked if one morning He sits you down at breakfast and reveals His surprise trip He is taking you on that very day!
 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

MONEY MONEY MONEY!

A MUST WATCH VIDEO
about money
 
 

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No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in). (Matthew 6:24 AMP)

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Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’ “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’ “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons. ’ “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels. ’ “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:1-13 NLT)

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Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:13-34 NIV)

*************
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT)


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Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Yesterday's Coffee

"Bllaahh," I blurted out after spitting the liquid back into the cold mug.  

I looked closer at the mug I was holding and realized it was not today's coffee.  It was yesterday's.  Though it was a great cup of coffee 24 hours ago, it just wasn't the same today-- even if I tried to reheat it.  I quickly looked around for the fresh cup of coffee that I was drinking that morning and took a big gulp. 

"Ahh," I sighed, "nothing like a FRESH cup of coffee."

********

Some of us want to go back and drink yesterday's Coffee.  We want to re-live the "glory days" of our Christian walk.  We pick up the mug of old coffee and try to revive it or re-create that experience.  We might think to ourselves, "God did this 15 years ago and it was awesome.  How I want to relive that again!"

What we may not realize is that God is a Giver of NEWNESS of life.  He is the God of the Present.  He is the God of the NOW.  He offers us a LIVING relationship with Him and satisfies us in an ongoing way.  He brews a fresh pot every morning for us.  A great big pot of his Mercy and Goodness.  A great big serving of his Revelation and Presence.  Warm cups filled with new Plans for a new Day.  Not that yesterday's coffee was bad.  It served its purpose in our life.  It's just not a fresh serving from the Source for TODAY. 

As you are reaching out to God, are you trying to live in the past with Him, or are you seeking Him with an honest heart for where you are at right now?

He is the Master Brewer.  And if you take a moment, you can smell the aroma of a fresh pot brewing for you at this very minute.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Life of the Carnival

Things at the carnival had just gotten started.  The concession stand was just beginning to make their first sales of cotton candy and Sno-cones.  The Ferris Wheel had only loaded a handful of passengers.  My family and I were still in line for our first thrill ride of the night.  All was off to a lovely start.
 
And then suddenly, something weird happened.  Everything came to a sudden halt.  The ride in front of us stopped.  The food vendors stopped prepping food.  The lights on the Fun House went dark.  I looked over and could see the ride attendants scrambling to converse with each other.  It was apparent what had happened.  Everything had lost electrical power. 
 
So, here we all were.  Everything was set up.  Everyone was ready.  Everything had the potential to be amazing.  But we all had a harsh reminder that if this was going to go anywhere, the power to make it happen needed to be present and flowing.
 
 *********
 
Some of us are good at setting up 'carnivals'.  We know how to set the scene.  We know how to put the right people in place.  We have the vision of what things should look like, smell like, sound like, and feel like to make for an amazing time.  But there is one thing we must remember.  A carnival is only a carnival when the invisible Power is present and flowing.  If it's not, all you have is the potential for something great.
 
The Holy Spirit is that Power.  He is the One that takes what our little hands have set up and brings them to Life.  He is the One that lights up the 'fun house'.  He is the One that gets the 'thrill rides' moving.  He is the One that generates the heat under the Food so that the people can eat it.
 
Are there 'carnivals' in your life that are all set up but have lost Power?  Or, are you setting up a 'carnival' right now that you hope will attract people to come and enjoy themselves?  If so, remember this:  We are co-workers with the Master Carnival Maker.  We may plant.  We may water.  But it is God that makes it all grow.  It is God that brings all 'carnivals' to Life.  No 'carnival' is alive without Him present and flowing. 
 
*******
 
Fortunately, the carnival we were at that night didn't lose power forever.  When they realized the problem, they got reconnected and things were up and moving again pretty quickly.  And, God is available and happy to get our 'carnivals' up and moving, too!
 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dead End Ahead

It was a road we had never been down before but we could see through the trees that the place we wanted to be was right in front of us.  Surely, this road would lead us to it.  It seemed sensible, then, to keep driving down it.  But then I looked to my left and saw a sign.

DEAD END

The other two girls in the car looked at me. 

"Dead end?  How could that be?  We can actually see our destination literally in front of us.  This road can't be a dead end." the one girl said to me.

All three of us would not accept it as if somehow the sign was lying to us.  We could have trusted the road marker and turned around, but our denial and curiosity kept us going.  We went a good half mile more when sure enough the road widened into a cul-de-sac.

We sat there dumbfounded.  We had to see it to believe it.  We had to travel to the very end of the road to accept that it really would come to an end.

*************
 
Sometimes in life we are on a course that God, Himself, will put us on.  For a season, He may let us journey awhile down a road to help us learn things and get to know Him better.  But then maybe, without much warning, He lets us know that this road He has us on is not a long term one.  He didn't make a mistake.  We didn't miss His leading.  The Season has just come to an end and the path is going to be taking a turn in a new direction and even on an entirely new road.  He begins putting up the signs.  "No Outlet"  "Dead End Ahead"  But we may want to disregard these signs.  In our denial, we might say, "Surely, this can't be a dead end.  I can see our destination in front of us!  Don't believe the lies of the Enemy.  In faith we will move forward!"  And God may just let us.  If need be, He will let us travel to the very end so that we can see for ourselves that He posted the sign, not the enemy, and He was not lying to us.
 
How discouraging this can be for someone so sure of the road he is traveling on!  But there is one thing we can be assured of:  God is a Good Shepherd.  He will not make a mistake in leading you.  What He is after more than anything, though, is your heart.  In our Journey, He may allow us to go down a side street or two simply to capture your heart, retune your focus, infuse you with Wisdom, heal your heart and mind, reveal Himself in a way you have not seen yet, etc.
 
Be encouraged, friend.  If God is posting "Dead End Signs" in your life it doesn't necessarily mean all is dead.  It may just mean He is moving onto a new road and is asking you to follow Him.
 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Unexplainable

True story.

My husband lost his wedding ring a couple summers ago while playing a game of ball in a baseball field.  He and I absolutely knew he was wearing it that day because we both recall him tapping it and playing around with it on a chair that morning. 

We scoured the baseball field looking everywhere.  Our friends looked everywhere.  No ring. 
Soon, it was getting dark and our kids were getting tired.  There was nothing else we could do but go home.  Surprisingly, my husband and I had an unusual peace about the whole thing.  We should have been freaking out, but we weren't.  Instead, we just lifted a prayer to God about it. 

So we left with no ring and figured we'd probably need to go out the next day to start window shopping for a new one.  Unfortunate and sad, but a certain reality.

The next day, we talked some more about our options and after dinner decided to at least go and browse a couple jewelry stores.  Before leaving, my husband ran upstairs to change from his work pants into shorts.  They were shorts that were recently washed and put in his drawer and not the ones he was wearing during the baseball game.  To smooth out his pockets, he pushed his hand into them and made a shocking discovery!  HIS RING!  He stood there confused and speechless as he stared at the ring in his hand. 

Moments later he came downstairs with a dumbfounded look on his face.  With all our reasoning, we tried to figure out how in the world his ring ended up in this pocket?  These weren't the shorts he had on the day he lost the ring.  We knew we didn't come home with the ring.  We knew he definitely had it on the morning he lost it and that he definitely lost it in the field.  How did it end up in his room, in his drawer, and in a different short's pocket??

Unexplainable.  Miraculous.  God is a God of the impossible.

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Notes On Your Cork Board

Many people use cork boards to communicate with the people in their household.  Families may hang one in their kitchen as a general communication station.  Moms may pin to-do lists for her kids and husband.  Reminders of the weekend's events can be found up there.  And "Don't forget your lunch!" might hang in big bold letters for the one that is forgetful every morning.  It's there for all to see every time they walk by.  It keeps things in eveyone's constant vision so they can be mindful about it -- even throughout the day.

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There are days I just can't shake certain people out of mind.  For what would seem like no apparent reason, I have a name or a face of a person or family just floating around in my heart and mind. 

I started to think how strange this was.  Why in the world would I be thinking about my trash man all day?  I don't even know that woman in the grocery store and she hasn't left my mind since I saw her in aisle four.  I haven't spoken to my great aunt in 10 years.  Why is she suddenly floating around my heart so much?

And then I realized it.  God is pinning things to my 'cork board'.  The invisible one inside my heart.  It's not me putting those thoughts there.  It's God.  Like little notes tacked to a kitchen cork board, He drops 'notes' onto my heart cork board.  Things that read: 

  • "That loud neighbor down the street." 
  • "The Italian family at church"
  • "Your friend: She's going on a trip this weekend"

What God is doing is including me in on what's going on and showing me what needs prayer. I used to try to ignore it, but now I realize that I should be paying close attention to them.

Some days, I wake up and there will already be three notes attached to my cork board along with pictures of people or events or situations.  Some days, I'll just be doing the dishes or sorting the laundry and I suddenly have a new note show up on my board. 

And, I definitely don't think I'm alone.  I've heard of stories of people who can't stop thinking about their friend, for example.  Their name is pinned to the cork board of their heart for a whole day.  When they realize it, they turn their thoughts for their friend into prayers for them.  Then they come to find out later on that their friend was in a situation that really needed prayer right about the same time the note was pinned to their friend's cork board.

Is God pinning things to your cork board?  Take a closer look at the thoughts whirling around your head during the day.   It could be that God is adding things to your cork board that need attention.
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Got Ya Covered

Eating outside can be so enjoyable.  A picnic in the park.  A backyard BBQ.  A tailgating party before the game.  Especially when the weather is cooperating, it can be a favorite summer past time for many of us.  The only downside to it all are the flies that come by to check out the grub.  As much as you try to shoo them away, they keep comin' back for more -- and bringing friends with them!  Grr!  Instead of relaxing and enjoying the company you're with, you find yourself distracted and focused on getting the flies off your food and everyone else's.  Flies not only end up dirtying your food, they ultimately steal away your fellowship and time.

But many people have discovered that there is something you can do to help avoid all this -- cover it!  How logical.  How simple!  Some grab napkins.  Some take another plate and flip it upside down on the food.  Others buy plastic dome covers that are placed over each dish.  And still others have found a way to completely cover the whole table in a giant net!  Through the simple act of covering it, everyone can now relax and enjoy their time.
 
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Our prayers have a similar effect. When 'Flies' like worry or fear (or anything else that comes to steal and distract us) come and want to make themselves at home in our lives, there is actually something we can do about it.  We don't have to just sit there and let them feast and steal.  Shooing them away in our own strength won't help but picking up the 'covering of prayer', will.  Prayer protects us.  Prayer puts angels into action and the Enemy is blocked.

Prayer puts a covering on our 'food' but here's something that is equally as awesome.  We can cover other people's 'food', as well.  Just this morning I was praying for a family I know.  I was burdened deeply for them and I sensed that they were extremely vulnerable to the enemy.  As I was praying, God showed me that my prayers were covering them from all the 'flies' swarming around them, just like someone covering a dish of food.  He was encouraging me that my prayers are highly effective.  My prayers are not falling on deaf ears.  My prayers are powerful and accomplishing things I can't see.  They are protecting.  And they are indeed covering.
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Getting Ready for the Baby

They say it's an instinct.  They say it's a natural feeling.  That crazy urge pregnant women get to have their home and their lives in order before the baby comes.  We call it nesting.  Some husbands may call it craziness as they watch their pregnant wives suddenly become cleaning ninjas.  The dirt that never bothered them before is now suddenly screaming at them.  The clutter around the house is calling their name.  Their to-do list has tripled and things that have been put off for so long have now become priority.   "All the curtains must come down and get cleaned!" they announce.  "I need to get those floor boards done today.  Honey, have you taken care of that broken cabinet in the kitchen, yet?  The baby will be here and we need to be ready!" 

Yes, I admit it.  When I was pregnant with my two girls, I became one of those pregnant cleaning ninjas and my poor husband got sucked right into my frenzy.  There was an urgency in me to get ready for the new and precious bundle that was about to come into our lives.

I'm finding that a similar thing will happen in our walk with God.  Maybe we are nearing a new season of our lives with Him.  A 'baby' (or 'babies') are about to be born.  He knows it is near, so He begins His own 'nesting' with us. 

  • He begins to prep our hearts with an expectancy.  We start to see Him more and more as the Giver of Good things and the God of Breakthrough. 

  • He tweaks our priorities.  We find ourselves more hungry for His Presence and run to spend more time with Him. 

  • The need to hear His Voice becomes more pressing.  We take more time in the Silence to catch His every Word.  We take more time in Scripture.  We look for a timely Word. 
 
  • He points out areas in our lives/hearts that need some Spring Cleaning.  Maybe it's things we have ignored up to this point, but God is shining a brighter Light on them now.  Maybe it's personal sin issues or issues we have with other people.  We find ourselves wanting to repent and be clean.  We have an urge to go and make it right with those folks we have issues with and bring ourselves in alignment with God.

And the Nesting will overflow into the natural.  There may be things that must physically be cleaned out and changed to make way for the New Season.  For example, maybe God has plans to make a husband and wife foster parents.  The couple may suddenly feel the need to clean out that spare bedroom.  It's been untouched for years, but God puts it on their hearts to get in their now and get it ready.

Is God prepping you for something New?  Are you feeling the 'Nesting' of God?  Move with Him as He moves you into this Season.  Be ready to obey.  Be open to the Impossible.  Lean in closer -- like a child hugging his Father as they are about to jump into the air together.  Remember, you are being included in HIS Plan.  Position yourself and trust Him fully.
 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Let Your Face Touch the Water

The first time was the scariest.  How unsure I was on my first dive into the pool.  It's not that I had never felt the water before.  I had done plenty of swimming.  The challenge this time, though, was to go face first into it.  And that was a very different thing than what I was used to.  But, the curiosity of it was stronger than my fear. 

So, I placed myself at the edge of the pool and with a deep breath said, "Ready.... Set..... "  and then  froze.  Uncertainty took over.  I backed up.  I waited another moment.  Then tried it again at the pool's edge. "Ready.... Set..... " and stopped myself. 

*******

God is ever calling us to deeper Waters.  No matter where you are in your Walk with Him, there are always deeper Waters to be explored in Him, greater intimacy to be had with Him. 

When we first started out, we may have only splashed around on the shore of His Waters/His Presence.  But, then His Voice called us out farther,"Come away with me..."  So we walked out a bit further and waded in His Presence.  "Come away with me..." He called again.  And we found ourselves carried along by His Current.  "Come away with me...Come away with Me....."  We swim out even farther.  We trust Him as we make ourselves more and more vulnerable with Him. 

Then we hear His tender call, "Now, come away with me...and let your face touch the Water."  It's the Place of greatest intimacy where we lose ourselves in Him.  The Place where we no longer pull away from His Kisses, but immerse ourselves in them instead.  It's the Place where Freedom is coupled with Security.  It's the Place we actually have longed for but may not have known how to get there.  It's the Place where we touch our Daddy's Face.  It's the Place where Lovers want go.

But, just like my first time jumping in the pool face first, we may shy away from such intimacy with God.  Being vulnerable can be a scary thing -- especially if we have had negative experiences in life with it.  We don't want to let our guard down.  We are fearful of what may happen if we let ourselves go.  But our Lover never pressures us.  Though He longs intensely for us, He remains a Gentlemen with us.  He gently comes as we give Him our nod and let Him in. 

Can you hear Him calling you?  "Come away with Me and let your face touch the Water.  Come away and let me soothe your aching heart.  Come away with me and be immersed inside my Love.  For my Love is pure.  My Love is tender.  And my Love longs to meet you Face to face."
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Serving Effectively

What if, with all sincerity, you wanted to serve your country and decided to join the military? You had stellar ideas to help your country and your enthusiasm was off the charts.  You approach your commander the first day to lay out your plans and ideas and ask for his nod. You can only imagine how well that would go over! You would find out very quickly that if you want to be effective, you would first need to understand that the orders come from above. You may have great ideas, but you must realize that there is already a plan in place.

Many of us are very enthusiastic to serve the Lord. We want to use our gifts for his glory. We have great ideas and we genuinely want to be effective. So, we may start brainstorming and dreaming on our own. We may come up with great ideas and then say, "God bless this" without first asking Him what His ideas might be.

It's important to recognize that God really does have a Plan of Action. He absolutely wants us to be effective for Him, but the first thing we must learn to do is come under His Vision.

To SERVE simply means 'to be a servant' (Merriam-Webster). If you want to serve Christ, you must become a servant of Christ. And when we fully come under His command, we will find that we ARE the most effective and our gifts and talents can be used to the FULLEST.




"...understand what the Lord wants you to do."
 Ephesians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/eph.5.17.nlt

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's Your Source?

You are my refuge and my shield; your Word is my source of Hope.
(Psalms 119:114 NLT)
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Many people are so delighted when they read or hear encouraging words about their life and future.  The little note found in your cookie at the end of a Chinese meal.  The horoscope that you want to believe is true.  The palm reader that tells you your future is bright.

Thing is, we all long for encourag
ing words that will give us the hope we are looking for.  But, we must be careful what we choose as the source of our hope.  Horoscopes and palm readers, for example, will only tickle our ears.  There is no credibility to them nor sustenance.  They are not rooted in Truth nor Love.  They will never bring Life nor Fruit.

But, thank God that He knows how much we need to be encouraged!  He recognizes how much we need a timely word.  He is aware of our longing for Hope.  And so He has given us His Word -- not words that patronize us, but words that truly stabilize us, feed us, and fill us with true Hope.

Psalm 119:114 says, "Your Word is my source of Hope." When we have God's Word filling our hearts and minds, we will never be satisfied with anything less.  His Word is the Great Source of our encouragement and HOPE!
 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Guarding the Garden

Years ago, we built a small garden in our backyard.  I was very new to the whole thing.  We spent money, time, and labor to make it happen.  We did everything we could think of to make it prosper -- everything except a fence.

Well, that year, we found out the hard way that our neighbors had a family of bunnies living in their backyard.  They must have thought we had set up a buffet bar for them!  We came out the next morning to find our garden stepped on, picked through and chewed.  We learned our lesson quickly and promptly put a fence around it.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts with all vigilance.   What's in there is precious.  Everything that God is planting and making is in there.   It's the Garden of our lives.   How careful, then, we need to be to protect it.  If we don't, there are plenty of little thieves that are happy to stomp on it and help themselves.

**********

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Or

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 AMP)

Or

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hush a minute, will ya?

We, ladies, can be so funny. You get us together in a group and we can become the chatty Cathy's. (Finally, an outlet to express ourselves!) The one problem we have, though, is knowing how to take turns in the conversation.  It may start out with one person talking.  But all of us are so eager to express ourselves that sometimes we don't let the other person finish before we jump in with our thoughts. We begin speaking over them.  Our voices start to layer on top of each other until suddenly it's no longer a back and forth conversation. All we are really doing at this point is talking to ourselves!  No one is really listening to each other attentively.  No one is really catching the fullness of each person's thoughts.  

Many of us might be good at talking to God. We have lots to say. But just like the chatty Cathy's, we hardly give God an inch of freedom to speak His mind without talking over Him. Even when we ask questions, we hardly pause to wait quietly for a response.  We think we are having a conversation, but really the communication is only going one way.  

Though I think it is very important for us to be ourselves and be free to express ourselves with God, we must be aware that there is another Person in the conversation.  If we are going to hear what He has to say, we must give him the quiet space and the time to do so.  We must hush and be attentive. 

The word "listen" is used many times throughout the Bible.  It reminds me of what I say to my children sometimes when they are speaking over me and not even taking a breath to give me a chance to insert a single word.  I'll say, "Will you hush a minute and listen to me?"

Do I care about what they are saying?  Of course.  But there are things that I know they need to hear.  Words of wisdom.  Words of correction.  Words of insight and direction.  And the only way they are going to receive it is if they quiet themselves and pay attention to what I'm saying. 

Are you giving God the space to speak in your life? Are you giving Him freedom to talk just as He is giving you freedom to talk?  Remember, His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  If He has something to say, we know that we will only benefit from it.  He's simply just looking for your attentive ear. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Lover

A man went out and built an elaborate home for his future wife.  Many years and much sweat went into building this gorgeous home and landscape. But the man did not mind pouring his whole self into it.  His wife was worth it all to him. 
 
When the man married his bride-to-be, he took her to the secret place that he had prepared for her. No one in all the world had seen it yet.  She was the first to lay eyes on this magnificent home. 
 
He walked her through the gardens. He held her hand along the beautiful streams. 
 
He took her inside the mansion and showed her the beautiful paintings he had made just for her and displayed them along the walls of every hallway.  
 
He took her into the gigantic library where treasures of unknown things were safely kept. 
 
Then he showed her their intimate chambers -- the bedroom decorated in fine red silk and exotic flowers.  The smell of perfume filled the air along with music so beautiful that no ear had ever heard it yet and its sound seemed almost tangible. 
 
The wife was speechless -- stunned by its magnificent beauty. 
 
"How amazing you are," she said, trying to take it all in.  "How....why....All this for us to dwell in..." she stuttered. 
 
Then the husband bent down on one knee. He looked into his beloved's eyes and said, "All of this is for you, my love.  But, one thing you must know.  Though this home is beautiful and I have poured myself into it, it means nothing to me at all without you in it. It is not the house that matters to me.  What matters to me is you."
 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Liar! Liar!

He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning.
He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him.
When he lies, it is consistent with his character;
for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

*******

How many of us walk around actually giving our attention to this liar everyday?! 
We not only give him our attention, we agree with him! 
Condemning thoughts like: "You're no good. No one loves you. You're such a failure." 
Or fearful thoughts:
"How will you ever pay that bill? 
Be fearful for your children. 
Be fearful for your future". 
Even thoughts of confusion and lack of clarity. 
Thoughts that steal our peace. 
Words that tear us down.

Are those God's words for you? Absolutely not! 
God's words are consistent with His character, too. God is Love. He is for us. 
We can know instantly the voice of the devil simply because we know
that's not who our Father is.

My friend, we DO NOT have to entertain the devil's lies or agree with Him! 
Jesus is the captain of our ship now. 
The devil has no right to 'get on board' and tell us what to do,
tell us who we are
or take anything from us. 
Begin rejecting the words that you have been hearing from him. 
Then seek to replace those words with God's Word.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Coffee, Showers, and His Presence


There are certain things in my day that I know I can freely access.

COFFEE! 
"The Nectar of Life" my husband's family calls it. I know I can take my coffee cup to the coffee maker every morning, press the button, and access it. 

SHOWERS
Is there anything better than a warm shower -- especially when you really need one? I know I can turn the knobs and have a flow of warm H2O when I need it.

Both of these things pour out for me when I want them and need them. I access them daily. I reach for them and they are there.

It's a picture to me of the Love of God. I awake each morning and turn to Him. I'm reminded that He's still with me. I'm reminded that He never left. Even through the darkest part of the night, He remained by my side. I'm reminded that He is accessible. I don't have to physically go somewhere special to encounter Him. He is there. In fact, He is in me.  

And so I take my 'cup' and let His 'Nectar of Life' fill my emptiness. I reach for the 'knobs' and let His Water flow over me. I'm reminded again of this simple fact: He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. His Love goes on and on for me. His Love will never walk out. His Love will never dry up. His Love is purposeful over me. His Love remains.








Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The View From Daddy's Shoulders

"Pick me up, Daddy," the little boy said as he stretched up high on his tippy toes to see.  It was the boy's first time at a music concert and the family was positioned way back in the field where the crowd was no longer sitting but standing.

"Pick me up," the boy said again, pulling on the pant leg of his father.

"Gladly," the father responded as he swooped down and placed him high up on his shoulders, six and a half feet above the crowd. 

"Oh daddy!" the boy squealed as he took in the view and beheld his new perspective.  "I can see what you're seeing now, Daddy!  Look at the lights, all the colors, the people!  Oh daddy!"

The boy watched the entire concert from his new seat.  What a thrilling experience for him! When it was time to go, the father brought his son close and whispered, "Remember son, even if you're the smallest person in this world, you will always have the best view of things when you let me hold you.  Tonight you saw things better than the tallest person in the crowd."
 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Order of God with a Side of Fries, Please

Back when I used to do some waitressing, there were items on the menu that we considered 'complete'.  Complete dishes were different than the other menu items you could select.  Complete dishes were a stand-alone dish.  When you ordered them, it did not come with anything else like a side of vegetables or french fries that would round off your meal.  The dish was complete in and of itself and nothing needed to be added to satisfy your hunger or your taste buds.  It was enough.
 
*******

There are days we can feel so restless that we might be tempted to reach for other things besides God or in addition to God.  Maybe the worry is too real.  The fear is too paralyzing.  The self-condemnation is relentless and refuses to release its claws.  We may pray, "God help me" but we are simultaneously reaching for other things to help us as well like maybe alcohol or self-reliance...(whatever your go-to aids might be).  We are calling on an order of God with a 'side of fries'.

But, God is a COMPLETE dish.  No side dishes are needed when we feast on His Goodness and Faithfulness. Nothing needs to be added to our plates when we have God.  He alone can satisfy.  He alone can ease our fears.  He alone can blow away the loneliness.  He alone is truly enough.
 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You Gotta Try This

"The more you believe in the product,
the more the customer will be persuaded to try it, too."

That was what we were told as first-time make up consultants at my first meeting. 

"Try it on.  Use every product.  See for yourself how fabulous it is.  If you believe in it, your customers will, too." 

They were right.  I did try every product.  And I found out quickly how much I loved it.  Then, when I went to tell others about it, it didn't come across fake, pushed, or made up.  I truly did believe that the product I was selling was something good and would benefit their lives.  The customers were willing to try it simply because of my personal testimony about it.

*****

It's important that we share our faith.  Jesus even commanded us to go and tell others about the amazing love of God and what he has done for the human race.  But it can be hard to authentically share if we aren't wowed about it ourselves.  

The same advice that the make up consultants gave me is the same I can share with you.  Try it.  See for yourself just how stunning the Love of God is.  The more we immerse ourselves in Him and experience Him, the more natural our testimony will flow out of us.  It won't feel pushed.  It won't sound fake.  People will see your sincerity and they will want to try it, too, simply because you are in love with Him. 


Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Honest Prayer

Have you ever heard a child pray?

It's one of the most beautiful sounds.  Even people who don't pray or believe much in its effectiveness are often touched by the sweetness of a praying child.  There is an innocence about it.  There is a sincerity in it.  We know there is no hidden agenda in their prayers.  We know they are not trying to manipulate.  We love its purity.  We admire its vulnerabili
ty. We are moved by its honesty and absence of pretense.
 
We may even secretly envy it because deep in our hearts we long for this kind of communication with our Heavenly Father.  Their prayers are like a song that our hearts want to sing along with -- the melody of the Secret Place.  As we listen, we may find ourselves drawn in.  We might begin to let our guard down.  We might begin to believe -- again, or maybe for the first time in our lives.
 
***
 
Jesus said, "Come." And He said it to all -- young and old.  He didn't require the children to wait first, gain knowledge, learn how to 'pray the right way' and then come.  He simply told them, "Come." And the children did.   And Jesus made an example of them.  He said, "Come like children."
 
What if you literally were to do that?  What if even right now, as you are reading this, you were to listen to His call and just come like a child?
 
Jesus is simply saying to all of us, "Just talk to me. Don't worry about what you sound like, what you look like, what you think you're hiding from Me or what you don't understand about Me. Be concerned with only one thought: 'I have a Father in Heaven that loves me and hears me.' Know that I already fully accept you because of the Cross. There is nothing off limits in what we can discuss. And even if you have no words to say, that's okay, too. Just direct your heart toward me in trust and lean into My Arms."
 
Prayer is not about eloquent words.  Prayer is about your honest heart connecting with your Loving Daddy.  And just as we melt when we hear a child pray, so our Heavenly Father melts when He hears you.
 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Combination

It takes all three to unlock it and gain full access to what's inside. 

My locker combination that is.  Three numbers.  Exact numbers.  Only those numbers will make it open to me.  I could try to convince myself that it doesn't take those three numbers.  I could fully convince others that it doesn't take all three numbers.  But, it doesn't change the reality of it.  If I'm going to get inside, I'm going to need all three.

God is THREE in One.  Father, Son, Holy Spirit. 

Some like the idea of just the Father.  The 'man upstairs'.  The 'big guy in the sky'.  The 'mystery man'.  But, they refuse to accept the Son. 

Some are okay with the idea of the Father and the Son, but they don't want to make it personal with number Three.  They don't know that it's number Three that makes the whole thing come alive in our lives.  It's number Three that lives inside of us.  It's number Three that is our Comforter, Counselor.  It's number Three that takes the Word and brings it into Living color.

The Kingdom of God has a three digit combo lock.  Just as I can't try to get into my locker with just one or two numbers, I can't access the Kingdom of God and all that it has for me if I'm missing one or two digits.

Try it sometime with your own locker.  See how far you get if you try to make up your own numbers.  See if only one or two digits will work. 

God wants to give us unlimited access to the Treasures.  All you need is the right combination.


 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Haircut

 
My older daughter has gorgeous thick blond hair.  In the past, we have always kept it rather short.  A cute bob.  It made it easier to manage and comb and always looked adorable on her.  But, recently, she had requested that she grow it longer.  So we avoided getting it cut for several months.  Lately, though, it had gotten to a point where she really needed it worked on a bit.  I explained to her that we needed to go in for a cut but we would still keep it long. 

So we headed off to our local hair salon and I explained to the kind-faced woman what we wanted.  She was very cooperative and attentive when we talked it over.  She even pulled out her comb and showed me how much she'd be taking off.  When there seemed to be an understanding, I nodded, smiled and gave her the space to do her thing.

Ten minutes into her cut, I looked over and heard the hairdresser say to my younger daughter, who recently had her hair cut above her shoulders, "You're gonna look like twins now."

I could feel my heart tighten.  Twins?

"Wait," I said to her as I looked down at my daughter in the chair.  "They shouldn't look like twins."

But, the damage was done.  The 3 inches I requested somehow turned into about 6! 

"I thought she understood!"  I said to myself. 

My heart began to break for my daughter.  I had promised her over and over that she would be able to keep her long hair.  But as I watched her face in the mirror, I could tell her heart had sunk, too.

*********

There is nothing more frustrating than to communicate your vision to someone, give them the instructions on what you want to see happen, and then see something completely different from that vision come about. 

I knew what I wanted for my daughter.  I explained it clearly.  But the hairdresser somewhere along the way lost sight of my vision and let her own take over. 

And here's the thing.  It's not that my daughter's hair didn't look good.  She has always looked good in shorter hair.  It was a beautiful cut.  It just wasn't what I had asked for.  It was very hard to get excited about something that looked good when I felt my vision had been ignored and not carried out.

It's easy for me to see now why God says to His people, "To obey is better than sacrifice."  To listen to what He wants to see carried out and then actually carry out that exact Vision is better than trying to make something 'beautiful' with our vision and all the while completely ignore His instructions.

What has God told you to do?  Has He given you a Vision?  Has He made it clear what He wants to see happen?  If so, are you respecting His instructions enough that you are obeying them?  Or, have you lost sight of what He has said and are now being carried along by your own ideas and vision?

At the end of the day, it's not going to be how beautiful you made the 'hair cut'.  It's going to be: Did you do what He asked you to do?

********
 

With that being said, though, it's important to remember that if God has given you a Vision, He will be the One to help make it happen.  I know for me, I can get nervous that I will somehow miss His Vision and accidently go my own way on things.  We can be reassured that if we are staying close to Him, seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness, everything else will fall into place.  If we continue to get with Him, spend time with Him, get His Heart on things and yield to this Spirit, He promises that we will bear much fruit.  We won't miss it because we have given Jesus the wheel -- or in this case, the scissors. :)
 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It Sounds Like Elton John

We never labor alone.  If you are then stop what you're doing immediately. :)
 
******
 
There are many songs that I can listen to and know immediately who had a hand in writing them.  There's a musical fingerprint that is unique to those songwriters.  Elton John, for example.  I can listen to a song of his for the first time and say to the person next to me, "It sounds like Elton John."  There are intervals and chord progressions that He favors.  There are nuances I can't even completely explain.  I just know it's his. 
 
In the same way, the 'songs' we sing in life should sound like Jesus had a hand in writing them.  It's the Song of the Kingdom.  The unique fingerprint of the Spirit of God.  Those who hear our Song for the first time should be able to say immediately, "It sounds like Jesus".
 
Assess your 'Songs' in life.
 
  • Is the Kingdom Melody running through them? The Glorious Love Melody of the Father?

  • Are your Lyrics based on your wisdom or His? 
 
  • The plans you put into action - - are they carried along by His 'chord progressions'
 
  • If someone were to meet you for the first time, would they be able to hear the 'nuances' that are unique to God?  Even if they can't explain it, they recognize the beat and rhythm that can only be found in Heaven.
 
The best 'Songs' I've ever sung in life have always had His Name written on the copyright.  If I try to write the song myself, it is guaranteed to flop.  I know it will never amount to much.  But, when I invite Him in and say, "Let me co-labor with you as you sing Your Song," I know for sure that our song is going to hit #1 on the charts!
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Talking to Daddy

 
I think prayer is the most exciting thing we will ever experience here on earth. 
 
This statement might be a ridiculous one for some people.  For them, prayer is as boring and UNexciting as life can get.  It's a duty.  It's a dry, monotonous experience.  They do it only because they are told they should, but their hearts are far off.  It's not that they don't want to be interested in prayer.  They do.  They just haven't discovered yet the treasures found inside it or how to get there.
 
Here are a few thoughts to help us get there.
 
1)  First and most importantly, there is only ONE way to the Father. 
 
That way is through His Son, Jesus.  If you try to take any other road, your prayer life will go nowhere because prayer is talking to the Dad that made you.  If you are praying to any other god, you aren't talking to your Heavenly Father.  Life is found only in believing in Jesus and putting your trust in Him.  It's equally important to note that we are only righteous before Him through the cross.  If you are experiencing condemnation when you come to God, say out loud, "I am the righteousness of God in Christ."  God wants us to know that we can be completely confident with Him -- no shame.
 
 
2) We must remember that God is a REAL PERSON and He is ALIVE. 
 
I know that sounds funny if you already believe that.  But, I can tell you that many times I talk to Him like somehow He's not.  I talk to Him like he either doesn't hear or hardly understands.  I talk to Him like He doesn't really see what's going on in my life.  I talk to Him like He's asleep and I have to make extra noise to get His attention.  God is not asleep.  God is not deaf.  God is not ignorant.  If anything, He is the one who is alert and we are the ones deaf, ignorant, and asleep.  Direct your heart toward Him and talk TO Him, not at Him.
 
3)  Be honest.
 
God is interested in a friendship with us.  He's in this for the long haul, so He's not going after a surface relationship.  He's looking for honest communication.  Though He already knows everything about us, He wants to hear honesty about things from our lips.  The good thing is we don't have to be afraid to express it.  He fully accepts us as we are when we come to Him.  He's the safest place in the world-- so be yourself with Him.
 
4)  Be willing to let go.
 
Sometimes, we have a hard time going deeper in prayer because we are stubbornly holding on to something that He is asking us to let go of.  Maybe unforgiveness.  Maybe an addiction.  He's not asking you to fix yourself.  He's asking you to open up your heart more to let Him in and explore those places in you and set you free from them.

5) Worship

Worship is essentially prayer expressed through music/song.  But what many people don't realize is just how powerful worship is!  It's not just another thing to add variety to your church service.  Worship, my friend, is like hitting the nitro button in a fast car.  Worship accelerates me into the Presence of God, helps me abide there, and lubricates my communication with Him.  Your prayer life will explode if you allow the powerful force of Worship to collide with the powerful force of Prayer.  "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!....Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."  (Psalm 95: 1-2; 6-7 ESV) 


6)  It's not a one way conversation

Remember, you're not the only one that wants to express thoughts in this relationship.  God has a lot to say.  Give Him the room to do so.  Take time to wait on Him quietly.   Become familiar with His Voice.  Get into His Word, the Bible, and let Him reveal His heart to you.  When you 'eat' with Him, you will not only learn who He is, you'll also find yourself refreshed and nourished. 


7)  Don't make this harder than it is.

Remember -- YOU are the reason Jesus came to earth.  He died because He WANTS to be close to us.  He's more interested in a relationship with us far more than we can even imagine. We can tend to make prayer harder than it is.  We over-think it.  We make it complicated.  But, in reality, it's as easy as talking to your best friend -- and that is what He wants to be to us.  
 
Here are a few more thoughts from Mike Bickle...