Sunday, December 12, 2010

His True Destiny

Several years ago while shopping an after-Christmas sale, I stumbled onto a priceless treasure. I was digging through a huge bin of marked down T-shirts when I saw a navy blue one peeking out from near the bottom of the pile. Since blue has always been my color of choice, I decided this shirt was worth going after. After several minutes of elbowing my way through a sea of shirts, the one that caught my eye was finally within my reach. As I picked it up, I turned it over and looked at the front.

To my surprise, the design on this T-shirt was that of the manger scene. Little baby Jesus was fast asleep in his small cradle, with Mary tenderly seated as his side. As beautiful as this was, more beautiful yet, were the six words printed boldly in white above the picture.

His Destiny was to change Ours

Here was the true meaning of Christmas spelled out for all to see and yet up until now, this T-shirt had slipped by totally unnoticed and completely unseen, buried at the bottom of a clearance bin! As I stood there, surrounded by a crowd of noisy, energetic shoppers, I felt a hush come over my soul.

Day in and day out we elbow our way through life in an effort to reach our goals, get ahead, succeed, and find true happiness. Digging through the bin of life, we proudly grab these surface level bargains, settling for the leftovers of this world, all the while missing out on our true destiny. We go to church and accept the surface level truth of Christ’s birth, yet never realize that the very essence of Christ and the purpose of his arrival as a tiny baby may still remain buried under piles of ill-fitting religion and theology. How we need to dig deeper, to search more, to grasp the almost incomprehensible ……His destiny was to change ours!

Yes, Christ came to earth as a baby to ultimately die on the cross, making a way of forgiveness, atonement and salvation for us. There is no denying this life-giving truth. Our final and ultimate destiny is to be with him in Heaven through out all eternity. But what about here? What about now?

One of my favorite verses is John 10:10. If ever a verse described the destiny of Jesus as it relates to ours, this is it. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Life eternal is most definitely part of the abundant part, but our destiny doesn’t begin once our time on this earth is over. NO! Our destiny changes the moment we turn our life over to Christ.

Our can’ts become cans.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Our defeats become victories.

We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Romans 8:37

Our trials become treasures.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Our desires become reality.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

I’m so glad I caught a glimpse of blue peeking out from the bottom of that bin of marked down T-shirts. Yet no happiness in the world will ever begin to match the joy I now feel since I caught a glimpse of my true destiny in Christ.

When it comes to shopping, you will still find me searching through clearance bins in hopes of finding a bargain, but thanks be to God, you will never, ever find me digging through the bargain bins of life or poking through the discounted racks of religion and theology. I have discovered my true destiny and I’m not settling for anything less than God’s best for me! I am not going to wait until I die to truly start to live. I am going to live the abundant life now! I am going to reach out with every bit of my heart, mind and soul and grab onto the treasure I have in Christ. I am going to start living out my Christ-given destiny. How about you?

And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all of your heart.Jeremiah 29:13

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Never..... or It's Now!

I will never forget that moment. Sitting in a staff meeting one morning, a colleague read a short devotional based on a passage found in Mark 10. Then, he led us in a short prayer. On any other day, after the prayer, the Pastor would have dove right into our work assignments for the day and the issues at hand. Not this day. The prayer finished and we were met with silence; a silence that lingered, creating an uneasiness in the room. After several moments, the Pastor, looking at no one in particular, yet speaking directly to everyone seated at the table asked, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?" Again, silence. Minutes ticked by as we each allowed this question to penetrate our heart. "What do I want Jesus to do for me?"

Mark 10:46-52, NLT

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Right now, I ask this same question of you; the same question Jesus asked Bartimeaus..."What do you want me to do for you?"

I often wonder what it would have been like to have lived during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. As He went from town to town and village to village, people young and old crowded around to hear His words and to witness His healing touch. If I had been there, I think, I too would have been among the crowd. I, too, would have followed Jesus.

I wonder, though, would I have had the courage, the boldness or the faith to cry out to Him with my own need. Sadly, I don't think I would have. I would have wanted to, to be sure......but, I think I would have let the opinions of the crowd and my own poor self-image keep me at a distant.

"Who am I to think I can interrupt Jesus while He is ministering to those who need him?"

"Why should I take up Jesus' time when there are so many more who needed Him more than I do?"

"Why would Jesus want to heal me?"

Yes, I would have wanted to run to Him, but...

As I have studied this passage of scripture, my eyes have been opened to see my own spiritual own spiritual need. As I have looked deep into my heart, I now realize I am in greater need than the blind beggar, Bartimaues. When Jesus drew near, He had the courage and the faith to cry out to Him. But me....I often stay silent. I have the faith....but I don't ask. Every single moment of my life Jesus is here, and I just let Him pass me by.

Oh, for the courage of Bartimaeus. He didn't allow anything or anyone (not even himself ) to keep him from drawing near Jesus and experiencing His touch. He boldy cried out and in faith, received.

Bartimaeus did nothing to make himself worthy of receiving this miracle from God. When he ran to Jesus, he was just an ordinary human being in need....just like you and me. He knew all he needed could be found in Jesus. I think he also knew that Jesus invites us to come as we are. After all, aren't we powerless to come any other way?

You see, Jesus doesn't see us the same way we see ourself. Yes, he sees the real, ugly sinful person that we are, but He sees us through His eyes of love. He sees us as His child. He sees us as someone worth giving His own life for. He sees our need....but looks beyond it to see the ONE in need. He simply wants us to not let anything or anyone, not even ourself, keep us from experiencing His love and receiving His touch.

Today, Jesus is passing by. All it takes is one touch to change your life forever. Are you willing to risk everything and run to Him, or are you content to let Him simply pass you by.

It's never.........or it's NOW!

Friday, December 3, 2010

God Knows Where You Are

Have you ever wondered if you have fallen off God's radar? Life was merrily rolling along and then all of a sudden you found yourself

in a prison,

out to pasture,

thrown in a tomb.






No matter where you are. No matter how silent you find this place to be. Rest assured. God knows where you are. He has not forgotten you. You are not out of His sight. In fact, chances are, where you are is right in the center of God's will.

When only a youth, God gave Joseph a glimpse of where he would one day be. Prison wasn't it. In fact, his journey to prison was nothing Joseph could ever have imagined. From a pit, to slavery, to prison. Where was God in this? Right beside Joseph, that's where. Waiting for the perfect, God-ordained time to take Joseph's hand and lead him from the prison right into the palace.

David was out in the pasture tending sheep when Samuel came calling with a call from the Lord. His family may have overlooked him. His own father may not have thought him worth calling for. But God hadn't forgotten about him. In fact, David was the reason Samuel had come. He was God's man and soon everyone knew it. The shepherd soon became King.

And then there was Lazarus. Sick, dead and buried, but far from being forgotten. Jesus came and not a minute too soon. He was right on time and Lazarus received a call of his own. At the words of Christ, life came into his body and he came forth, out into the light of God's resurrection power.

So, what about me? What about you? Maybe where you are is far from where you ever thought you would be. Looking around your life, you, yourself, have doubts as to where you even are. Don't worry. God knows where you are. In His perfect timing and in His perfect way, He will come calling.

He sees you in the prison. He is with you in the lonely pasture. And yes, even in the dead places of your life, the places where you can no longer see a sign of life, He is there.

Stay faithful to your calling. Stay faithful to your God. Keep trusting Him in these dark, barren places of your life. He is with you. He is working behind the scenes and one day, it WILL happen.

The door will open. The call will come. The dead will spring forth with life.

As Joseph stood before his brothers, the very ones who had sold him into slavery, he proclaimed this truth.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20, NLT.

God's purpose was revealed.

David, who had been faithful to keep a watchful eye upon his father's sheep, was now the one being gazed upon as Samuel anointed him to tend the sheep of Israel.

Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?" "Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep." Samuel ordered Jesse, "Go get him. We're not moving from this spot until he's here." Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health— bright-eyed, good-looking. God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one." Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. 1 Samuel 16:11-13, The Message

God's purpose was revealed.

Lazarus, dead, and buried, and lifeless for four days, walked right out of the tomb and back into the lives of everyone watching; a living testimony of God's power to bring whatever is dead back to life.

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. John 11:43-45, NLT

Lazarus walked in newness of life and once again, God's purpose was revealed.

The God of Joseph, David and Lazarus is our God, too. When it seems God has forgotten us or life has taken a wrong turn, we simply need to remember this: God HAS a purpose.

Where you are is not a mistake. The place you find yourself is not off God's radar. If you will but surrender to God's call on your life, everything you are currently going through can be used by God to prepare you for your final destination. Soon, in God's perfect timing and in His perfect way, He will come calling. Soon, His purpose will be revealed in your life, too!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just Do It

In order to be successful at something, we must be willing to give it 100%. At least, that's what we have been taught, right? Recently, however, I read an article with a rather unusual twist. According to the author, most people try to jump in with both feet, giving the proverbial 100%, only to give up and abandon ship altogether. He encouraged readers to instead start with 10%. He then went on to highlight the difference a mere 10% could make in regards to ones health.

Take losing weight, for example. Instead of setting your goal on the ultimate amount of weight you would like to lose, he suggests focusing on losing 10% of your total body weight. If you weigh 160, set your goal to lose 10%, or 16 pounds. By doing this, your weight would drop to 144! That's a significant difference!

Or how about getting adequate sleep. If you are currently getting seven hours of sleep at night, he suggests crawling under the covers forty minutes earlier each evening. This would amount to around 10% more sleep a week. Think of the extra energy and productivity you would gain by making this small change. Do you suffer with high blood pressure? Try reducing your daily salt intake by 10% and see what happens. The author went on to list seven other changes, that when given only 10%, would pay huge dividends in a person's overall health.

As I read the article, I found myself nodding my head and thinking, "Yeah, I could do that." Somehow, only focusing on 10% made these changes seem more doable. They no longer felt out of my reach, but rather right at my fingertips. I immediately began to formulate a plan to begin making some of these new lifestyle changes. You know what they say. If we fail to plan, we can plan on failing.

But planning is not enough. In order to be successful, I am actually going to have to implement my plan. This is true for any change we desire in our life. The finish line will never be reached if we aren't first willing to start moving in that direction. In essence, the author of the article I read was simply saying this: start doing something, even if that something is very small.

Getting started is definitely the hardest part. I know for me personally, it's the beginning that usually keeps me from beginning as strange as that may sound and be.
There are so many things I should be doing, yet they remain undone. I just can never seem to get started and that's why the article I read caught my attention. Maybe the whole reason I don't start is I am looking at the big picture. While that in itself is not a bad thing, it can prove to be intimidating enough to keep you and me frozen in our tracks. Starting small seems like a logical starting point to me.

Zerubbabel must of thought so, too:

"After that, the Word of God came to me: "Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you. Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They'll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!"
Zechariah 4:8-10 The Message

Today, what are you putting off until tomorrow? What changes have you been wanting to make but haven't? What pounds need to be lost? What devotions need to be written? What clutter needs to be removed? What classes need to be taken? What bills need to be paid? What dreams live in your heart but still have yet to be birthed into reality?

Come on! Let's do it!!!...and let's start today!

(Note: This first appeared on Heartprints of God on October 1, 2009)

Monday, November 8, 2010

He Is

Almost ten years ago, I had the privilege of attending an Aaron Jeoffrey's concert with my sister. I don't remember a lot about the evening, except for this.

As my sister and I took our seats at the beginning of the concert, I noticed the lady sitting next to me had tears in her eyes. For the entire evening, she gently wiped the tears as the man sitting beside her offered her comfort by stroking her back, holding her hand or simply smiling at her. Not knowing her, I simply acted as though I didn't notice her tears. After all, I didn't want to make her (or myself) feel even more uncomfortable.

Towards the end of the concert, the father and son duo of Aaron Jeoffreys began singing a song. As the words entered my ears and the impact of them entered my heart, I no longer felt anything but the presence of God. In fact, I felt it stronger at that moment than I ever had before.

The song was entitled "He Is". It begins in Genesis and proceeds through the entire Bible, identifying what God is to us in each of the books.

When Revelation came, this lady and I were both on our feet. Without even thinking, and before I even knew how it had happened, we were embracing and praising our Lord together. She and I both had tears....only these were tears of thanksgiving, tears of joy, tears of victory!

Today, maybe you have forgotten ALL that God is in and for you! How we need to be reminded of ALL that HE IS and the difference this makes in our life.

As you watch this video may you, too, come to experience the majesty, the sovereignty, the power, and the love of our God as never before. Don't be surprised if you, too, shed tears of joy, victory and thanksgiving.

Who is like our God? No one! There is only one true God and HE IS!

(Note: This first appeared on GRACEFUL SISTERS on September 14, 2010.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Words That Change Everything

Last night, while I was getting ready for bed, I tuned in to my favorite Christian radio station. A woman was sharing a story of God’s faithfulness. I listened as she told of God’s miraculous intervention in her life during a time when all looked hopeless. As she recounted God’s goodness and told of the supernatural way He had worked in behalf of her and her children, she very casually spoke two words. Two small words, and yet this phrase completely captured my attention, transforming my thinking and ultimately, my faith in God.

I don’t know how her story ended. As I tried to truly grasp the implications of these two words, my mind became totally consumed with this new knowledge God was imparting to me through her testimony. I kept repeating the phrase over and over, out loud, and each time the words penetrated my ears, the truth behind them penetrated my heart. I suddenly found myself strengthened in my inner most being. I literally felt the touch of God on my heart. I knew, at that very moment, my relationship with the Lord had entered a deeper, more intimate, faith-filled level.

How could two small words make such a radical difference in my life? Simple. These two words change everything! Most likely, they will change you, too!

But God.

But God.

Say it aloud and let the truth and reality of these words penetrate your own heart.

But God.

No matter what is going on in your life, or what you may be going through, know and remember that all things must surrender to the power and authority of our God. Right now, at this very moment, stop and think about what you are struggling with today. Whatever it may be, I guarantee it is no match for our God. The Bible is living proof of that!

The Israelites had Pharaoh’s army breathing down their neck and the Red Sea in front of them, BUT GOD…..

David had only a little bitty sling shot with which to slay a giant of a man named Goliath, BUT GOD…

Daniel was served as the main course to a den of lions known for their ferocious appetites, BUT GOD…

A widow was out of time and out of money, with only a houseful of empty containers she had collected from her neighbors, BUT GOD…

Jonah was sinking in his sin of rebellion and headed for the bottom of the ocean, BUT GOD…

Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, BUT GOD…

Time and time again, when all looked hopeless and those in the midst of the situation felt most helpless, God showed up and did the seemingly impossible. Does your situation appear hopeless? Are you feeling helpless? Take heart. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Instead of ending the circumstances of your life with a period, replace the finality of your thinking with a comma of hope, followed by your declaration of faith! Boldly look your situation in the face and speak the only two words that are able to breathe life into your faith and power into your life.

I am (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I don’t see how I can (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I don’t have (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I am scared that (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead! Let God write the ending of your story. If you do, I have no doubt He will finish all things that pertain to you with a true exclamation of His glory and His marvelous grace!

(Note: This first appeared on Heartprints of God on June 24, 2009. It was later published in the July 2010 edition of P31 Woman, a magazine published by Proverbs 31 Ministries.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Out of the Box Living

I've spent most of my life crammed inside a box.

Rules. Expectations. Status quo. Deadlines. Formalities. Legalism. Uhhhhgggghhhhh.....just talking about these confining walls makes me feel as though I am suffocating!

Oh...I see you shaking your head and nodding right along with me. You are familiar with box living, too. Anyone who has been in the box knows exactly what I am talking about.

Boxed-in living will kill you. It will suck what little life you have right out of you. As long as you make your abode inside the walls of performance, you will find yourself gasping for air.

LEGALISM! Death by the law. defines legalism as: strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, esp. to the letter rather than the spirit.

Living by the letter of the law rather than the spirit.

Thankfully, I have been set free.

God's grace. God's marvelous grace, knocked down the walls and set me free. And...the more time I spend with Jesus the freer I become.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Now, I am living! I am inhaling and exhaling. I am flexing and bending. I am moving and shaking. I am alive.

Life is not a rigid set of rules and regulations. Life is not a list of do's and don'ts. Life is not a checklist of things to accomplish. Life is not governed by the ticking of a clock. Life is not staying inside the lines!

Life is ebb and flow. Life is come and go. Life is this and that. Life is living and breathing and changing.

Living in the box of legalism will kill you. Trying to live by the letter of the law just brings death. We can't. We aren't able. We were not made to.

Living outside the box, by allowing God to live inside of you, will bring life. Beautiful life. Abundant Life. The kind of life Christ thought was worth dying for to give to you and me. When we live by the spirit of the law, by surrendering to God's spirit at work in us and through us, God can. God is able. God accomplishes that for which we were created to accomplish.

Are you still in the box? Are you still gasping for breath, struggling to live? Take hold of God's grace. Grab onto His love. Accept His forgiveness. Invite Him to move into your heart and into your life. Get out of the way and let God have His perfect way in your will and in your life.

Breathe in His spirit and watch it knock down the confining walls of your life.

Life is meant to be lived, and true life is found in none other than Christ Jesus.

I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10b, The Amplified Bible

I am finally and completely out of the box and there is no way I am ever going back.

What about you?

Life in a in Christ.

Praise God! I see your walls starting to topple!!!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

God's Sweet Spot

I will never forget the day little Chris taught us all how to hit a baseball. Chris was in first grade, but that didn't stop him from being the best batter out on the field.

It was morning recess and the diamond was filled with children of various ages and grade levels. The players had been divvied up, the teams were in place, and the game was in full swing, and so was Chris. As soon as the first ball was thrown in his direction, the bat, a mere extension of his arm, met it and whack! The ball sailed over the fence and Chris trotted around the bases.

As he made his way across home plate another student called out, "WOW! How did you do that?"

"Easy," came Chris's reply. "I found the sweet spot."

Ahhhhhhh...the sweet spot. The one place on the bat....where....when the ball and bat connect...home runs are inevitable and smiles are undeniable.

Today, I discovered the sweet spot. No, I haven't been out on the field trying my luck at one of America's favorite pastimes. Where I have been is right where God has called me to be.

Have you ever wondered if you are in God's will? I think we all have grappled with this question at least once in our lifetime, if not on a regular basis? As followers of Christ we want nothing less than to be smack dab in the center of God's will. We know God has a plan for our life and we don't want to miss it. We want to know that we know that we know we are right where we should be.

Today, I knew.

This day was no different than any other day. I woke up, went to work, came home, and now, here I am sitting on my couch, writing. Just another day in the life of Stacy. Yet, today, I hit a spiritual home run. As I went through this ordinary day, doing ordinary things, I felt the extraordinary peace of God flood over me. All day, and in every way, I knew that I knew I was right where God would have me to be.

God's will for my life and my desire to follow Him in His purpose for my life connected. Like a baseball and a bat, the two made contact. I found the sweet spot.

But wait, you say. I don't get it. You just said today was an ordinary day. What makes you so sure you found the sweet spot? How did you know you were in God's will?

How does a batter know he found the sweet spot on the bat?

He hears the sound. He feels the jolt. He sees the ball heading out of the park.

Today, in my innermost being, I heard the sound of God's approval. Today, in my innermost being, I felt the jolt of God's power working in me and through me. Today, I saw God's purpose being fulfilled before my very eyes.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2, NLT

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2, The Message

My sweet spot.

It's not my job. It's not my marriage. It's not where I live.

It is my life.

The whole of it.

The way I live it each and every day.

It is losing myself in Christ, and allowing Christ to be found in me.

This is God's will.

This is my sweet spot.

To Chris, there was no mystery to knowing how to hit a home run. It was simply a matter of making a connection. When you find the sweet spot, it just happens...naturally and triumphantly.

It is the same with us. When our life finally connects with Christ; when the creator of the universe and the one He created finally come in complete contact one with another, God's will just happens....supernaturally and gloriously!

Ahhhhhhh...God's sweet spot. The one place in your life....where....when God's will and your desire connect...the abundant life is inevitable and the smile of your heart, undeniable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Want To

His answer was simple enough. Or, was it?

A couple of weeks ago, as I was driving home from work, I hit the scan button on my radio. A few short seconds later I found myself listening to NPR (not my usual choice, by the way) and eavesdropping on a conversation between two gentlemen. I had landed on this station just in time to hear the host of this radio show ask the following question:

"So what kind of qualifications does one need in order to succeed in your line of work?"

The man being interviewed simply responded, "the want to".

I was hooked. I quickly reached for the scan button again. They had my complete attention.

The interview continued and so did my curiosity. As I listened, I speculated about what occupation they might be referring to. Imagine my surprise when I finally figured out what this man did for a living. Any guesses?

According to this gentleman, if you have the "want to", you, too, can become a.........drum roll, please........... professional rodeo clown!

I had to smile. Of all the occupations that had popped into my mind, I have to admit professional rodeo clown was not one of them. But then, it all started to come into focus. Having the "want to" made perfect sense.

I have a feeling if this radio host had been interviewing any one of the twelve disciples, they, too may have responded with the exact same answer.

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. Matthew 4:18-20, The Message

After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, "Come along with me." And he did—walked away from everything and went with him. Luke 5:27,28,The Message

Were any of these men qualified to be a disciple of the Most High God? What did they themselves even know about God? How could they possible lead others to God? And yet, Jesus called them into service and they took Him up on His invitation. They had the "want to" and that was all they needed.

What about you? What about me?

Over my lifetime, I have passed up many God-given invitations simply because I felt I was unqualified? I have a feeling you have, too. Like me, you have probably heard the voice of Jesus calling you to follow Him into a new place, a new career, a new direction, a new life...and yet, you opted to stay put, right where you were. You may still be in this same, seemingly "safe", spot today.

The disciples could easily have talked themselves out of this new calling. After all, they already had an occupation. They were already knee-deep in their livelihood. They knew how to fish and they were good at it. Matthew not only knew how to collect taxes for the government, but for his own pocket, as well. They weren't listening for the knock of opportunity. They weren't looking to "find themselves". They weren't looking for God. Yet, when the knock came and the door to a new life in Christ was opened before them, they took the leap of faith and jumped in with both feet. They were caught....hook, line and sinker.

Why? Because they were qualified? No. Simply because they had the want to.

The Jesus who gave them the invitation of a lifetime is still the Jesus who calls out to you today. He is still looking for people to walk away from all that they know, all that they do, and follow Him.

When Jesus calls you, He is not looking at your qualifications. The one who created you knows better than you what you were created to do. The one who formed you in your mother's womb knows better than you that for which you were formed. All you need to have is the "want to". But, is it really as easy as that?

"One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'"

"Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce?"

"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple."
Luke 14:25-33, The Message

As the interview on NPR continued, the two gentlemen talked about the cost of being a rodeo clown. This occupation requires a lot of traveling: traveling that takes this clown away from his family many days through out the year. Add to this, the occupational hazards of being a rodeo clown. After all, the only reason the clown is even part of the rodeo is for the protection of the cowboys. He is there to put himself in between the cowboy and the raging bull. His occupation requires him to put his life on the line for the life of the cowboy. Counting the cost has to be factored in to "the want to".

As disciples of Christ, we too, need to count the cost.

And Jesus called [to Him] the throng with His disciples and said to them, If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me]. Mark 8:34, The Amplified Bible

Jesus is calling us to leave everything and to follow Him. Is there a cost to being a disciple of Christ? Most definitely! Is it worth it? Most definitely!

It was obvious. This clown considered his occupation as a "high calling". He considered in an honor to be able to "be there" for a fellow cowboy in need. To him, saving the life of another was worth the risk of losing his own.

As a disciple of Christ, we too have been given a high calling. What could be a more rewarding occupation than fishing for men? What could be more rewarding than reaching others with the love of Jesus? What could be more honorable than giving of our own life to save that of another?

Jesus is still calling today. He is still giving you and me the invitation of a lifetime. He is still knocking on the doors of our hearts and presenting us with the opportunity to stand in the gap for those in our arena of life.

Are you willing to say "yes"? Are you willing to leave it all behind and follow Him?

Is it really worth it to you?

It is if you have the "want to".

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Real Deal

My grandma, born and raised in the deep South, was a spunky lady, to say the least. She had a dry, witty sense of humor and was famous for her one-liners. While her words always brought a laugh, they also revealed her wisdom. Long after the laughter faded, her words resonated in my heart.

As a young, single woman in my early twenties, I often traveled by myself. I thought nothing of getting in my car and driving seven hours North to see my parents, or ten hours East to spend time with my sister. My parents, however, worried about my safety. Time after time, they cautioned me of the dangers of traveling alone. One time, this familiar topic of conversation came up while we were visiting my grandma.

"I don't know why she insists on traveling by herself," my mother said, as I sat right beside her on my Grandma's couch. "I keep telling her to get a man's hat and place it in her back window. That way, it would at least look like a man was traveling with her. For all they know, he could simply be taking a nap in the backseat!"

Without skipping a beat, my Grandma leaned forward, looked directly at me and remarked, "Forget about the hat, honey. Get a man!" Laughter spilled into the room. Then Grandma continued. "Who wants a silly ole hat when you can have the real deal?!"

And of course, for all practical purposes, Grandma was right! I understood my mother's reasoning and felt her love for me in this odd request, but I had to agree with my Grandma. What good would a hat do? It was, after all, just a hat. At a quick glance, it might give the appearance that a man was along for the ride, but appearances and reality are two totally different things! Could a hat change a flat tire for me? Could a hat take the wheel and drive for me if I got tired and needed a break from the driver's seat? Could a hat protect me from a would be assailant? No, the hat was merely for show and would only provide a false sense of security. I didn't need a hat, I needed a man!

As ridiculous as I found my mother's idea to be, I couldn't deny that the joke was on me when it came to my spiritual life. I had grown up in a Christian home and had attended church from a young age. I knew all about God, the Bible, and what it meant to look like a Christian. In fact, anyone who spotted me cruising through life would have been sure to notice my Bible, my Christian lingo and my Christian ways. But, if they would have gotten close enough to peer into the backseat of my heart, they would have discovered all these were just for show. I was traveling life alone. I had religion, but what I needed was the man, Christ Jesus.

It wasn't until my earlier thirties that I traded in my religious facade for a true, vibrant, living and breathing relationship with the Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became real to me for the first time in my life. Now, my Bible is no longer on display for all to see, but instead, it's words are hidden in my heart, guiding, leading and transforming me little by little, day by day. The words I speak are no longer spoken to impress others with my spirituality, but rather to impress upon others the beauty and freedom that can be found in a relationship with Christ. I pray each day God will take the wheel of my life and live in and through me.

I am no longer satisfied with a religion that is just for show, and why should I be?

Think about it. Can religion forgive my sins? Can religion create a new heart in me? Can religion live in and through me? Can religion feel my hurt, understand my fears, or speak to my heart? No, only Christ can. Why would I want to settle for anything less than the real deal?...and why should you?


Oh, by the way, in case you are wondering, I took my Grandma's advice and got a man. Now, I not only have Christ in my life, but a wonderful husband, too! No more traveling alone for this girl! From now on, it's the three of us sharing every single moment of this amazing ride called life!

(Note: This first appeared on Heartprints of God on May 13, 2009)

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Word Made Flesh

Somethings are taught...and somethings are caught.

If you take a few minutes to digest this thought, I think you may agree with me.

After all, how did you learn to tie your shoes? That's right. Someone taught you how to first make a loop, then to hold it tight while going around your thumb and into the loop....and viola!

How did you learn to read? Again, someone took the time to teach you the alphabet and the sound each letter makes alone and in relation to other letters.

How did you learn to drive a car? Your mom or dad (or some other brave soul) patiently...(or maybe not!) instructed you on the ins and outs of maneuvering a vehicle through the maze of other cars, stop lights, and of course, the all too common, construction zone.

Dictionary. com defines teach this way: to impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in.

Somethings are most definitely taught.

But, let me ask you this.

How did you learn to bring out a smile in someone else by sharing a smile of your own?

How did you learn to go "awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww" whenever you see something that melts your heart?

How did you learn to learn to talk?

You caught these! You learned these by simply observing the behavior and actions of those around you.

The Bible, of course, is divided into two testaments....the old and the new. The Old Testament is about the Old Covenant.(Death through the Law) The New Testament is about the new covenant. (Life through Christ Jesus). But, have you ever thought about the Old Testament being that which was taught and the New Testament being that which is caught?

In the Old Testament, through the prophets of old and their instruction in the law and the commandments, we are taught about sin. In the Old Testament, through the prophecies were are taught about the promise of the Messiah. In the Old Testament, through the lives of Moses, Noah, Joseph, Daniel and many others we are taught about Faith. Old Testament learning requires our mind, our intellect.

In the New Testament, through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, we catch a glimpse of who God is. In the New Testament, through the power of Holy Spirit,we begin to feel the power of God. In the New Testament, as we follow the life of Christ and his disciples and journey with Paul, we begin to realize what it means to be a follower of Christ. New Testament learning requires our heart.

Somethings are instruction. Somethings are beholding.

One requires our mind. The other, our heart.

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.But I say, if you are even angry with someone,you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,you are in danger of the fires of hell."
Matthew 5:17-22, NLT

The Pharisees and Scribes had been taught the law. They knew all about "Do not kill", etc., but the real truth of the law had yet to reach their heart. They hadn't caught that the Law was not just something you spoke about or a standard by which you judged someone else. It was a matter of your own heart. It's not just enough to have a head knowledge of the law. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the law must be caught by your heart and your life transformed. In Christ's eyes, to hate someone or to harbor hateful feeling against someone was the same as killing that person.

So which is more important? The things that are taught or the things that are caught?

Jesus, when confronted with this very question,summed it up this way:

"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:35-40

The Old Testaments teaches us about God. In the New Testament we are able to behold His glory in the face of Jesus. In the New Testament, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we observe Jesus' behavior, His mannerisms, and His heart we become changed. We catch on to what the Christian life is all about.

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18, KJV

The Old Testament...the law of sin and what teaches us. The New in Christ what changes us.

Yes, somethings are taught and somethings are caught. Maybe you have been taught all about God. But, let me ask you this? Has your heart caught on to new life in Christ? Has your life taken hold of His forgiveness, His grace and His love for you? Have you been transformed by beholding Him? Have you caught what Christ came to teach us?

It is one thing to know the Word. It is another thing entirely to know THE WORD WHO BECAME FLESH.

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

John pointed him out and called, "This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word."

We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah
. John 1:14-17, The Message

(Note: This first appeared on GRACEFUL SISTERS on September 22, 2010)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Child's Love

There are no words to describe just how precious children are.

The Lord has been so gracious and kind to me. Although I was not blessed with children of my own, I have been given the honor of teaching young hearts and minds for over 20 years. Through their eyes of faith, their honesty, and their joy of life, I have grown deeper in my own relationship with the Lord.

One of my favorite songs is the song, "A Child's Love" by Bryan Duncan. Today, I want to encourage you to allow the love of your Heavenly Father to once again re-create a child's love in your own heart.

A Child's Love by Bryan Duncan

I see the pages fall from the calendar
Like the leaves falling from the trees
Feel a chill in the fear of the future
As I weather this autumn breeze

I watch my red-haired inspiration
Playing games out on the lawn
Such an innocent joy of living
He's his father's only son

Don't let me live without a child's love
Like the love in this child of mine
Teach me, dear Lord, to have a love for you
A child's love

I let the changes in my season
Steal the passion from my heart
Like the roses fade in the winter
All the petals fall apart

Until a young voice gives my withered soul
A rejuvenating smile
And those small hands clasped around me
Erase the hardship for awhile

Don't let me live without a child's love
Like the love in this child of mine
Teach me again about a child's love
And sharing the best of my time,
Oh, and don't let me live without a child's love
Like the love in this child of mine
Teach me, dear Lord, to have a love for you
A child's love

In case you are not familiar with this song, I am including a link to a video. I do not who the little boy in this video is, but he is absolutely perfect for this song!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Fear Not, Part 2

God has given each of us the privilege of being His hands and feet to those in need around us. Just open your eyes and you will see opportunity for giving and sharing everywhere you look. I have always been keenly aware of these opportunities, yet shamefully, I must admit, I have usually turned my face to these calls for help and avoided them altogether.

No, that's not exactly true. Whenever I've been given the honor of helping someone in need of food, clothing or money, I have always been more than willing to share what God has blessed me with. This kind of giving is easy. It's not hard to drop off a box of food, or write out a check. I guess the type of giving I'm referring to is the kind that requires giving of yourself.

For the past six months or so, my neighbor has been courageously fighting a battle with cancer. I know this not because I have spoken to her, but because her husband has been sharing her struggle with my husband during chats over the fence that separates our yard from theirs. Knowing she has been facing this, you would think I would be doing whatever I could to help her, right? Wrong! I have instead willfully chosen to turn my face to her and her obvious need.

Do I feel guilty about this? You bet! Yet, day after day, I remain silent, doing absolutely nothing to help her. Why? It's simple. Fear. Fear of invading her privacy. Fear of saying or doing something wrong. Fear of making her uncomfortable. Simply put.....fear of making her situation worse and not better. I rationalize my total complacency to her need by convincing myself she would be much better off without me. And believe it or not......I actual believe this to be true. So, I stay away.

More than ten years ago, my mother in law was fighting her own battle with cancer. Her eyes were growing dim and her strength all but gone. While her family was in the kitchen sharing in a meal, I was sitting at her side. Feeling so incompetent to be in this position, it wasn't a place I would have chosen to be. Yet, God placed me there for this moment in time.

As I gazed upon her frail body, lying there in her bed, I noticed her neck, which appeared to be in an awkward position.

"Are you OK?" I asked. "You don't look very comfortable. Would you like me to try and adjust your pillow so you can rest your head more comfortably?"

With all the energy she could muster up, she nodded her head "yes".

Immediately, fear flooded my entire being. What am I going to do? How can I possibly move her without hurting her? If only someone else was here with me. I don't know what to do?

With a whirlwind of thoughts, doubts and fears racing through my mind, I leaned over this precious woman, gingerly placing my hand under her head. As I tried to figure out how best to reposition her on her pillow, she reached out with her own hand, placing it firmly on my shoulder. Then, using what little strength she had, she said slowly and deliberately, "DON'T BE AFRAID".

I lifted her head, readjusted her pillow, and gently laid her head back down once again. She looked up at me and smiled. Those three words, DON'T BE AFRAID, were the last words she spoke to me. Two days later, she passed away.

I have carried those words in my heart ever since. Dying words meant to speak life. Yet, unfortunately, I have allowed these words and the power they bring to lie dormant in my heart. Ten years later, I am still choosing instead, to listen to the lies of Satan. Lies that only serve to imprison me in fear and render be totally useless as God's hands and feet to those around me. My neighbor needs me, and I am not there for her.

And that is my whole point in writing this. I want to be used by God no matter HOW he chooses to use it lending a dollar or lending my heart. Until I am willing to give of myself, I will never be able to live up to the true potential of my serve my fellowman. This giving of myself will most likely not be easy and will most likely make me extremely uncomfortable, but then's not about ME, right?! It's about forgetting all about me so I can instead focus fully on the one in need.

It's also about forgetting my obvious incompetence and instead, focusing on the Lord, who IS able. He is able to do all I could ever think or imagine and then some!!! I know I am not able to meet the needs of others.....but the great I AM certainly is! All I need to do is surrender to my need for Christ to work in and through me, and He in turn, will be faithful to use me to meet the needs He brings before me.

I love 2 Corinthians 4:7 -

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

No, it's not about easy and it's not about me. It's about surrender. Surrender to all that is holding me back, and possibly holding you back, too. Be it our pride, our selfishness, our laziness or our fear. All are simply tools of Satan to keep you and I turning our heads, and walking away. It's about surrendering our own meager talents and abilities, and instead relying on and trusting in the limitless power of our God. It's about surrendering the urge to turn our face and walk away, and instead, moving forward, in God-confidence, to minister and be used by God. It's about making a difference and making our life really count! It's about being Christ's hands and feet to a world so desperately in need of HIS touch.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fear Not

(Sometimes we just need to be reminded of a truth God has already taught us. Tonight is one of those times. I wrote this over a year ago, but I needed to hear it again. Lord, help me to remember the freedom that I have in you!)

God takes us to many places in our lives. Currently, I have been given the awesome privilege of serving as a Nanny. I am employed by a wonderful young couple who have been blessed with three small boys. One son attends a Christian preschool in the mornings. A few days ago, when I arrived around noon to pick him up, I walked in on a conversation between his teacher and one of his fellow classmates.

"Joshua, it's ok, now. You can take your fingers out of your ears."

Noticing I had entered the room, the teacher shared with me that the school fire alarm had been malfunctioning, sounding numerous times over the course of the morning. It was obvious by the look on Joshua's face, and of course the fingers in his ears, that the alarm was getting to him.

"Joshua. Finish coloring your picture, Honey."

Joshua, who had no intention of using his fingers for anything other than preventing the loud, shrill sound of the alarm from penetrating his small ears again, just sat there.

"Really, it's ok, Buddy. I think the men have fixed the problem. I don't think we will hear it anymore today."

"But what if there's a fire?" he asked.

"Honey, the fire alarm isn't going off because there is a fire in our school. It's just not working right today. It's ok, though, because there are some men here fixing it. There is no fire. Our school is fine. "

"But what if there IS a fire?" he asked again.

"Well then, we will simply do what we did earlier today when the alarm went off and we practiced our safety drill. We will go outside where we will be safe. It's ok, Joshua. There is nothing to worry about. Finish your picture, Sweetheart."

Still, Joshua sat totally immobilized by the fear which had gripped his heart.

"I don't want to die in the fire!!!" he finally screamed.

Walking over to Joshua and gently taking his fingers out of his ears, the teacher knelt down beside this scared little three year old and looked him right in the eye.

"Don't worry, Joshua. I'm right here. I promise I won't let anything happen to you. I'll take care of you, Joshua. I promise. Teacher is right here with you."

For the first time since I had entered the room, a look of peace flooded Joshua's face. It was ok. He didn't need to worry. Teacher was here and she would take care of him. He was safe because she was right here with him. Joshua reached for his blue crayon. Soon, he was back to work coloring his picture and sharing in conversation and laughter with his classmates.

As I'd witnessed this scene, I'd realized I am a lot like Joshua. I have a tendency to let the cares and worries of this world grip my heart, leaving me paralyzed in fear, unable to enjoy all that is going on around me. I become consumed with fear and allow it to steal the life (not to mention the joy) right out of me.

As I watched Joshua, I was reminded of a acronym I once heard for the word fear:

F - false

E- evidence

A- appearing

R - real

This was certainly the case with Joshua. Joshua was fearful of a fire that didn't exist. I, too, am fearful of things that probably don't exist either, or most likely will never even happen. Yet, even though what I fear is not usually real, the fear itself most definitely is!

Maybe you are like Joshua and me. Maybe you also struggle with fear. If so, how can you and I learn to escape this fear, once and for all, and live in the freedom and abundance of life that Christ wants us so desperately to experience?

It's quite simple, really. Joshua found his peace when he realized his teacher was right there with him and would take care of him. We can partake of this same peace by keeping our heart and mind fixed on our Heavenly Father, who promises to never leave us, nor forsake us.(Hebrews 13:5) Even more than this teacher could ever hope to be there for Joshua, our God IS there for us. We don't have to fear ANYTHING in this life, because our Father is with us.

I have heard it said that the phrase "Fear Not" is found 365 times in the Bible. 365 times! That is one time for each day of the year......or each day of our life. Obviously, God wants us to live a life free of fear.

Fear tries to take us prisoner, causing us to think irrationally and respond unwisely. We need to remember that most fear comes from Satan. The Bible tells us that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but rather one of power, love and a sound mind.(2 Timothy 1:7) Only when we choose to keep our focus on Christ, knowing and believing that He is always with us, will we be free from the torment of fear. As we rely on Him to take care of us and to work all things out for our good and His glory, we will be able to let go of fear and instead take hold of the power, love and sound mind freely available to us through Christ.

The choice is up to us. We can either choose to sit around with our fingers stuck in our ears, fearful of what might happen, all the while missing out on what IS happening, or we can rest in the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, embracing and thoroughly enjoying each and every minute of our life!

Now..... where did I leave my crayon?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sometimes, It Takes Some Manure!

(Note: This post was featured on GRACEFUL SISTERS earlier this week.)

Yep! You read that right…..manure.

And He told them this parable: A certain man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find [any].So he said to the vinedresser, See here! For these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and I find none. Cut it down! Why should it continue also to use up the ground [to]deplete the soil, intercept the sun, and take up room]?But he replied to him, Leave it alone, sir, [just] this one more year, till I dig around it and put manure [on the soil].Then perhaps it will bear fruit after this; but if not, you can cut it down aut. Luke 13, 6-9, The Amplified Bible

When you think of manure what comes to mind? Yeah…me, too. Not a pretty picture is it? While manure may not be pretty on the eyes or easy on the nose, it does serve a vital purpose. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used forms of fertilizer around.

World English Dictionary defines fertilizer as: any substance, such as manure or a mixture of nitrates, added to soil or water to increase its productivity.

Which brings us back to this passage of scripture and this particular fig tree. The owner of this tree had been waiting three long years for this fig tree to live up to its name and produce some figs. Three long years! Now, I don’t know much about fig trees, but it is obvious from the owners reaction that this tree had grown to a level of maturity capable of producing fruit. But it wasn’t. And this owner was disappointed, to say the least.

7 So he said to the vinedresser, See here! For these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and I find none. Cut it down! Why should it continue also to use up the ground [to]deplete the soil, intercept the sun, and take up room]?

Not only was the owner upset with this tree, he no longer felt it was worth cultivating. He was ready to cut it down! But wait….the vinedresser, the one who was in charge of nurturing and growing this fig tree, wasn’t ready to call it quits. He knew this fig tree had the potential to bear fruit and he wasn’t ready to give up on it.

8 But he replied to him, Leave it alone, sir, [just] this one more year, till I dig around it and put manure [on the soil]. 9 Then perhaps it will bear fruit after this; but if not, you can cut it down and out.

The vinedresser decided it was time for some manure.

I’ve got a question for you. How long have you been a Christian? How long have you been rooted and grounded in the soil of God’s love? And…………hmmm……….well, how much fruit have you produced?

As I look back on my own life, I have to admit, it was during the manure-caked times of my life that I produced the most spiritual fruit. I have a feeling you will discover the same is true in your own life.

Sure, we all like the good times. We don’t like life to get messy. We especially don’t like it when life dumps manure on us. Yet, could it be, that this manure is a gift from the vinedresser himself? Could it be that without it we will never live up to our spiritual potential?

1I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.

2Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.
John 15:1,2, The Amplified Bible

What does it take for you to bear fruit? Has your life been full of manure lately? Maybe the vinedresser is simply applying some fertlizer. He sees your potential to bear spiritual fruit and he isn’t ready to give up on you. You have been showered upon with Christ’s blessings, you have felt the warmth of His love as it has illuminated your heart and life, and you have grown deep into the soil of His word. It is time to start producing fruit! It is time to start living up to your name as a disciple of Christ and to start making some disciples. It is time to do that for which you were created to do!

Manure. Not something we like, but oftentimes something we need in order to grow deeper in our faith and to produce spiritual fruit. But how? You ask. How do the “manure times” of our life help us to produce fruit? How can our sufferings bring others to Christ? Simple.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, The Message

Are things a bit messy in your life right now? Can you see and smell the manure? Then give thanks. The vinedresser is at work. He is lovingly cultivating you and providing you with all you need to grow strong and to bear fruit. As you grow through the hard times you can be sure these times have not come to you in vain. What Satan means for your harm, God will ALWAYS use for HIS good and HIS glory. Use these times of testing, trials and suffering to minister to those around you. Allow the manure to produce fruit in you and in those around you.

8When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine. John 15:8, The Amplified Bible

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Smile from God

Several months ago, I was having one of "those" mornings. You know the kind of morning I'm talking about; the kind where nothing seems to go right and everything seems to go wrong.

As the morning progressed, I felt myself becoming more and more uptight! Every task was more difficult than normal, was taking longer than normal, and was making me feel an abnormal amount of pressure. Pressure to make things happen! Pressure to get things done! Pressure to beat the clock! Pressure to stay in peace!

As I sensed my stress-level rising, I started fighting back with prayer.

"Lord, please help me. This day is barely starting and I am already feeling stressed out!"

Then, praise.

I turned on my radio to my favorite Christian station and starting singing along.

While I prayed and sang, my plan to get dressed and out the door kept going awry. But, I kept right on praying and right on praising.

Finally, I was ready! In a flash, I grabbed my purse, picked up my keys, headed out the front door, and raced to my car. As I tried to unlock my door, I dropped my keys. Ughh!!! Evidently, my bad morning had every intention of following me to work.

But.......then. As I reached down to pick up my keys, I saw this on our driveway.

A "smiley" face...
made up of leaves, twigs and seeds from a nearby tree, all of which had "strategically" landed on my driveway in this configuration!!!  Right at the very spot where I dropped by keys!!!!

Isn't that amazing!!!!!

God had been faithful to hear my prayers for help. He had heard my melody of praise. As I stood on my driveway, gazing at this exquisite work of art, I suddenly found myself smiling, too!

Isn't our God altogether lovely? Isn't He beautiful beyond our comprehension?

Not only did God use His creation to create this smile to cheer my heart, He also took this opportunity to lovingly remind me to stop and smell the roses; to enjoy my life, every single moment of it, no matter what might be happening at the time. This work of art captured my heart and once again focused my attention on what mattered most!

No longer worried about the morning rush, I headed back inside to get my camera. Work could wait. God had created a masterpiece with me in mind. This was a moment I would never forget. This was a moment made for worshipping.

Today, are you allowing the pressures of this world to take your eyes, your mind, your focus off all that matters most? If so, may I invite you to take another look at this photo. All of nature reflects the beauty of the Lord. Today, why not focus on the beauty God has placed in your path?

The same artist who lovingly crafted this reminder for me is at work in your life too. Portraits of His love are all around. Today, don't become so earthly minded that you fail to see Heavenly glimpses of God's love for you. Open your eyes. God is smiling on you, too!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Awesome Truth

Today, I overheard a conversation.

"Ugh! !!!!! My hair isn't right!!!!!! It looks funny!!!!!!!".
Unrealistic words spoken by a six year old as he was headed out the door for school.

" No!!!! It looks awesome!!!!!! "
Realistic words spoken by a three year old unaware he was encouraging his brother.

The six year old smiled. Then, with his head held high, he boldly and confidently stepped out into his day.

After witnessing this, I remarked to the parents of these two amazing boys that we all need a "younger brother" in our lives. Someone who is there to speak not only words of encouragement, but more importantly, words of truth and affirmation. Someone who is in our corner, cheering us on and believing we are truly awesome.

So often our views of ourself, our abilities, our personality, or our job performance become distorted. We start to believe the words spoken by the six year old. "My (fill in the blank) isn't right!!!!! It looks funny!!!!!" Unrealistic thoughts flood our mind. We become uncomfortable with ourself and our own self-doubt begins to blind us to the truth about who we really are.

Thankfully, only child or not, there is someone in each of our lives who knows us. In fact, He knows us even better than we know ourselves. Like the three year old brother, when God hears us speak words of self-condmenation he yells, "NO!!!!! You are awesome!!!!!!. I created you with my own nail-scarred hands. I made you just the way you are for a reason. You have a definite and distinct purpose in this world and you will never be able to be like anyone else because you are you. My one and only, YOU!" Realistic words that need to penetrate the inner most part of our being.

Stop listening to the lies. Start believing and living the truth. You ARE awesome., and with your head held high, beholding your Creator, boldly and confidently step out into your life. Oh, and while you are looking upon HIS face, don't forget to look at the faces of those around you. God isn't the only one who can speak words of encouragement, you know. Share the awesome truth with someone today!

(Note: This post first appeared on Heartprints of God on February 12, 2009)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dying to Live

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the hardest things about being a Christian and following Christ is getting me out of the way so Christ can have His way. I am SO human. (I imagine you are too!) I am selfish and self-centered. I put me first and God second. I listen to my emotions and ignore His words of wisdom. I fear, fail and fret. And yet, for some odd, unexplainable reason, I have a hard time letting go and letting God.

In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to be a living sacrifice. What comes to your mind when you hear the word sacrifice? Do you think of giving up something? Do you think of doing without in one area of your life so you can have more in another area? Does death come to mind? I think all of these thoughts are rolled into the true meaning of the word sacrifice. defines sacrifice as the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. I have a feeling this is what Paul had in mind.

The surrender of something prized or desirable....(the surrender of ME!) for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.(Jesus!...after all, who has a higher or more pressing claim on me than Christ? I have been bought and redeemed with His precious blood!)

In order to become a living sacrifice we have to be willing to surrender self. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we are, must be surrendered to God. He must be given full control and full reign in our life. When this happens; when we finally come to the place where we can honestly say "Lord, not my will, but yours be done", we become a living sacrifice. It is in this place of surrender that we truly worship God.

But how? The pull of the flesh in my life is so strong. The "I" in me likes being in control and calling all the shots. The "I' in me feels pressure to fit in and be accepted by others. The "I" in me gets caught up in living life in this crazy world. It's not easy to surrender. It's not easy to let go . I can think of all kinds of reasons I.....Aaaaaaaaahhh! Did you read what I just wrote? I can THINK ....... Truly the battle of surrender starts in our mind.

Listen as Paul continues in Romans 12:2 - Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

God is able to transform us into a new person when you and I allow His Spirit to change the way we think! In other words, you and I need to become spiritually minded. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our life.

As we draw closer to God, through the study of His Word and through times of communion in prayer, we begin to hear His voice above the noise of this world. As we choose to listen to His still small voice and surrender to His leading, His will becomes our will. Our wills become one....united. It is in this process of surrender, that we truly begin to know that which is good and pleasing and perfect.

I don't know about you, but utlimately, this is what the "I" in me longs for....that which is good and pleasing and perfect. The key to living in the will of God and truly worshipping Him is in becoming a living sacrifice. The key to becoming a living sacrifice is surrender. I must surrender "me" for the sake of Christ. I must surrender my thoughts to the thoughts of Jesus. I must surrender my will to the will of my Saviour.

OH! I get it now! Of course. It makes perfect sense. Hey, could it be I am starting to think more like my Heavenly Father?! I sure hope so.

(Note: This post was adapted from a recent Graceful Sisters Post)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fully Satisfied

As I was paying the cashier for the gas I had just pumped into my car, I was approached by a young man in his early twenties.

"Excuse me, Ma'am. Is that your little green Honda?" he asked.

Not sure who he was or why he was interested in my little green Honda, I apprehensively answered, "Yes."

"Did you just fill up at that pump?" he asked next.

"Yes, I used that pump, although I didn't fill up. I only purchased about eight gallons. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I used that very same pump right before you and I DID fill up. It cost me over $50.00! But, when I drove away, nothing registered on my gas gauge. It doesn't show that I purchased any gas at all. I think something is wrong with that pump. While I talk to the cashier, would you mind checking your gas gauge to see if you got the gas you just paid for?"

It seemed like an odd request, but I nodded my head "yes" and headed outside to my car. I put the key in the ignition and anxiously watched my gas gauge. Slowly but surely, the needle moved away from the "E" as it made it's way closer and closer to the "F". Unlike the gauge in this young man's truck, my gauge showed I had gotten exactly what I had paid for, about half a tank of gas.

Looking up from the gauge, I saw the young man walking toward my car.

"So, did your gauge move or is it still sitting at the same spot as when you drove in?"

"The pump seems to be working fine," I answered. "My gauge is showing I have about half a tank, and that's the amount I put in. Maybe something is wrong with the gas gauge in your truck."

"Maybe." He replied. "Although, I don't see how the problem could be on my end. I just bought this truck! It's practically brand new. I'm pretty sure the problem is with this pump." And with that, disgruntled and upset, he turned and walked away.

Satisfied with my purchase, I pulled out of the station and went on my way.

Later that evening, as I was reflecting upon the events of the day, I thought about the incident at the gas station. Both the young man and I had went to the station for the same reason. We had parked in the same place, used the same equipment, talked to the same attendant. Yet, only one of us left there satisfied.

Spiritually, the same is often true of us. Trucking through the day to day journey of life, we look at our "heart gauge" and suddenly realize our hearts are on "E". Knowing we are in desperate need of a fill up, we head to church, or read our Bible, or spend time in prayer. Some walk away from this "fill up with God" full and satisfied, others are left feeling empty. Why?

Like the young man at the station, we often fall victim to a faulty gauge. Stop and think about it for a minute. What do you use to gauge Christ's presence in your own life? Is it your emotions? As humans who are emotionally wired, this is often the instrument we rely on. Yet, probably nothing is more unreliable or fickle than our feelings!

When I entered the gas station that day, I had no reason to believe I would leave there still on "E". Why then, should I believe, when I enter into the presence of the living God, the Creator of the Universe and the Lover of my Soul, I will walk away with anything less than what my heart needs and desires the most?

God promises those who hunger and thirst for righteousness WILL be filled. Regardless of what my emotions may be telling me, I must believe God has filled me to overflowing with His love, forgiveness, wisdom and grace. I must believe I have been strengthened in my inner man to once again run the race set before me. I must believe God is at work in me and through me. I must believe I have received what I came for!

God is more than able and more than willing to dispense His goodness and His blessings into our empty hearts. We simply need to approach His throne of grace, open our heart before Him, and allow Him to fill us up. Are you In need of a fill up? Why not head straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Believe God will be faithful to meet your needs, then head back onto the highway of life, happy and fully satisfied in Him!

(Note: This post first appeared on my blog on April 6, 2009)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dishes and So Much More

(To read more devotions on thankfulness and the blessing of gratitude visit RACHEL OLSEN and enjoy her devotional carnival!)

Tonight, as I headed to the kitchen to do dishes, I popped one of my favorite Out of the Grey CDs into the stereo. As I dipped my hands in the warm dish water and felt the effervescence of the tiny bubbles, I savored this moment. Here, in this simple, every day moment, I felt perfectly content and amazingly happy. I have to admit, I was surprised by this.

As the music played, I began nodding my head and before I knew it, I was singing right along with the Dente's.

So we never got to Paris
And found the cafe of our dreams
But our table holds a whole world of memories
No, we never went to Venice
And strolled the streets alone
But we built our worlds together and we got the best of both

As I sang the lyrics to this, my favorite song on the CD, I thought about my own life. Just like the young lovers in this song, I too have dreams....big dreams, lofty dreams, far away, almost seemingly out of reach dreams. I, too, would love to go to Paris and stroll the streets of Venice, and yet, standing in my kitchen, with a soapy dishcloth in hand, I realized I,too, am surrounded by a whole world of memories.

Just look at my refrigerator. It showcases all the moments I treasure in my heart. Like the photo of my sister and me at her college graduation. I was so proud to be a part of that moment, to be my sister's sister, to see her reaching this milestone in her life. Our eyes are squinty....hers from trying to see through the rain, mine from trying to see through the tears of pride and joy.

Then there's the newspaper clipping that has yellowed over the years. The person showcased is my husband; the reason for the notoriety is summed up in the caption. "My wife made me do it!" My husband, being an avid sports fan, had won the weekly "pick the winner of this weeks games" contest. I had told him he should send in his picks, and well, the rest is history. We still celebrate the one-line caption. Not because my husband won, but because, according to him, this is the same reason he said, "I do!"

As I reached into a drawer to get a dish towel, I saw my mom's love....crocheted in the potholders sharing this tiny space with the towels. They are a constant reminder of all the love, guidance and instruction she sewed into my life. There is no denying a part of her will always be living out through me. I am her daughter. She is my mother. It's a bond that knows no limit or separation.

This bond is also one that is shared by sisters, but in a way only sisters can understand. As I returned to the sink, I noticed a picture hanging proudly on our living room wall. With thread in hand, my sister lovingly created a visual reminder of the vows my husband and I exchanged almost ten years ago. Our names and the date of our union are there to testify to our commitment to each other. The gift one more reminder of her constant commitment to me, her little sister.

As my dish water turned lukewarm and I rinsed the last pan and placed it to dry, I danced! Right there in my kitchen, I danced! and I sang! and I cried! and I laughed! I pulled the stopper and as the water emptied out of the sink, I thanked God for the unexpected blessing of doing dishes. Most of all, I thanked Him for my life...a life that is and always will be overflowing with a whole world of memories!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

When Words Are Not Enough

Have you ever found yourself speechless before God?

The closer I come to God, the more I find myself struggling to find words to adequately express my gratitude, my praise, and my love for HIM. He is all too wonderful and far too beautiful to be described with mere words. The words of my mouth cannot begin to do justice to the majesty of who He is or to fully explain what He has become to me.

When I find myself lost in His glory and consumed with His love, I simply come before Him in silence and in awe.

Tonight is one of these times. As I sat down to write, I realized there were no words to capture the essence of what is in my heart. Words are simply not enough. As I searched for words, I thought of this song by Steven Curtis Chapman.

As you listen, may your own heart begin to worship. May you be drawn into the very presence of God and may you, like me, find yourself speechless in His glory.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

God's Heart of Love

Yesterday, when I got home from work, I popped into my bathroom to throw some water on my face and "freshen up" after a long, hot day. After splashing my face, I reached for my towel and then, out of habit, I looked straight ahead at my reflection in my mirror. Only today, my reflection was framed by a paper heart. Evidently, after I had left for work, my husband had cut a heart out of a piece of paper. Then, he strategically placed the original paper...minus the heart...on my mirror in the hope that when I looked at my reflection, I would see my face "inside" this heart. As special as this was, it didn't compare to the words he had written on the border of the paper frame. It simply said.....Look How Beautiful.

As I stood there, smiling from my lips all the way down to my heart, I was reminded once again of the "heart game" my husband and I play with each other. I wrote about it back in March 2009 and just had to share it with you again. I hope you don't mind. Our game never grows old.....and neither does God's love for us. Truly, Jesus is the lover of our soul.

Yesterday morning, before I left for work, I lovingly placed a small, red plastic heart in the coffeemaker. Yes, you read that right.....the coffeemaker. I pulled out the container normally reserved for the filter and the coffee, and placed "my heart" there instead. As I walked away from the kitchen and headed out the door, I couldn't help but smile as I thought of the surprised look sure to be on my husband's face when he made coffee later that morning.

Before the coffeemaker, the red heart had been spotted when, one evening, I returned home from work to find a beautiful flowering potted plant sitting on our bathroom window sill. The heart was propped up against the purple pot, in plain sight for all to see.

Before the plant, the red heart had surprised my husband one morning when he bent down to pick up the newspaper. Both the heart and the morning news were waiting to greet him on the sidewalk leading to our home. Before this, I had discovered the heart in the refrigerator, atop a container of leftovers I had planned to take for my lunch that day.

The heart exchange is something my husband and I do on a regular basis. It was never discussed or planned, it just happened. We have been doing it for so long, I'm not sure how it actually got started, but it has yet to lose it's "magic". The heart is a symbol of our love for each other, and I'm not sure which is more rewarding - leaving the heart to be found, or discovering it!

As I tucked the heart into the coffeemaker, I thought about God and the beautiful and faithful way He, too, tucks reminders of His love into each of our days. Sometimes, God's love is seen in the obvious, like the beautiful flowering plant, showcasing His love for all to see. Other times, however, His heart may be tucked into the mundane, day to day places of our lives like the refrigerator or the coffeemaker.

In every situation, and in every place, God's love is waiting to be discovered. In a beautiful sunrise. In a baby's laugh. In a promotion. In a good meal. These are the obvious places. Yet God's love is also found in the not so obvious. In the dark of night. In the tears of suffering. In failure. In times of desperation.

In the refrigerator times of life, when all seems cold, and we are shaking with fear, God's love is there. In the coffeemaker times of life, when the stress and demands of day to day living cause us to percolate and steep in the heat of the battle, God's love is there. God's love is even waiting for us when we receive news that leaves us uncertain of the future. If we just look, we will see His heart.

Last night, with a wink and a smile, my husband informed me his morning coffee was the best he had ever had. That was my intention, to sweeten his day with a reminder of my love for him. Today, keep your eyes open for reminders of God's love for you, and this day just might turn out to be the best today you've ever had!