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!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mountaintops, Valleys and Life In-Between

This past week I had the most amazing experience. I was privileged to be part of a week long summer camp for children in 4th-6th grade. I have to admit that prior to last week, the idea of being a camp counselor was not something I was looking forward to. Don't get me wrong. I love children. I love the mountains. I just wasn't sure how spending a whole week....24-7....with these youngsters in the mountains was going to turn out. I overlooked the fact that God would also be with us at this camp. What a difference He makes!!!!!

We settled into our bunks, acquainted ourselves with the camp, and it wasn't long before I discovered I loved "mountaintop living". Here, there were no TVs, no computers, and no cell service. Only trees, a small pond, squirrels, fresh air, each other and God.

Each day started and ended with Worship. Sometimes Worship was held in the small, wooden chapel. Other times, God's creation itself was the setting of our praises and our worship. As we breathed in the cool, fresh mountain air, it was easy to breathe in God's spirit. As we sat in the silence of the stillness of the mountains, it was easy to hear God's still small voice. As we focused on the only thing that truly matters in life

it was easy to keep our focus on Christ.

All too soon, though, our time on the mountain was over. It was time to pack our bags, exchange addresses and say our goodbyes. Sitting in the small chapel for the last time, I tried to capture it all in my heart. The angelic voices of children singing praises. The smiles on their faces. The presence of God. For a moment, it felt like "heaven on earth" and I longed to stay in this moment. It was so easy to experience God in this place. It's not so easy when you come down off the mountain.

The speaker at this final worship service knew this, too. And yet, this wise women of faith reminded us that while God is with us on the mountaintop, He is also with us in the valleys of life.

I knew this, too. My heart and my life could attest to this very truth. It was during the lowest times of my life that God became the most real to me. It was when I was walking through the fire that I felt God's presence walking beside me. I had felt God on the mountain, but I had come to know God in the valleys.

As I sit here tonight, the time at camp now but a memory, I give thanks to God. I thank God that I can still start and end my day in worship. I thank God that I can still choose to sit in silence before Him each day and hear His still small voice. I thank God that I serve a God who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. I thank God that always, He is here.

I have to admit, now that I have been a camp counselor for a week, I am not looking forward to heading back into my "normal" life. Don't get me wrong. I love my life. I love where God has me. I'm just not sure how my life, the day to day, 24-7 of it, is going to turn out.

Yes...I have come down off the mountain, but what I must never overlook is the fact that God has come down with me. What a difference He makes!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Prayer That Changed My Life

I hope you don't mind me getting personal, but how would you describe your relationship with the Lord? Is it personal and familiar? Or is it more distant, and uncomfortable? Is Jesus simply someone you turn to when life gets tough and you need some help or is He someone you share your day-to-day life with?

Have you experienced the love of Jesus?

Has His loved changed your life?

I grew up going to church. I grew up memorizing scriptures. I grew up hearing all about Noah and the Ark, Daniel and the lions, and Jonah and the whale. I grew up knowing all about Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit. I grew up calling myself a Christian. It wasn't until I was in my late 20's, however, that I realized all I had attained up to this point in my life was a head knowledge of religious things. My heart was still untouched, still unchanged.

You see, even though I knew all about spiritual things, I was unchanged by them. There was no power in my Christianity. There was no passion in my walk with the Lord. I went to church because that was what you were supposed to do, not because I longed to be there. I read my Bible from time to time because I grew up knowing that was what Christians do. My time in the Word, though, was totally meaningless. I didn't understand what I read and truly, I had no desire to. I was simply going through the motions. All the time having a form of godliness, but sadly, denying the power there of. (2 Timothy 3:5) I had yet to meet the author of God's word. I had yet to be touched by the Holy Spirit. I knew about God, but I didn't truly know Him.

Then, all of this changed. In the summer of 1991, I found myself weary with religion. Was this all there was to being a Christian? Going to church, but not really wanting to be there? Reading my Bible, but not understanding a thing I read? I couldn't help thinking there had to be something more. One day, while browsing through a Christian bookstore, I came upon a small, heart-shaped sticker. On the sticker was this verse: And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13. I headed straight to the check out counter, then straight home. I found my Bible, opened the front cover, and placed the heart where this promise would the first thing I would see each and every time I opened my Bible. Then, I got down on my knees and I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me. I pleaded with Him to make Himself real in my life. I vowed to search for Him with my whole heart and to take Him up on His promise to be found when I did so.

Then, in faith, I studied God's Word and I prayed. And, I prayed and I studied God's Word.

One day, I opened my Bible to the following passage of scripture. As I read the words of Paul's prayer, I prayed it from the depth of my heart. As I did, I felt God's spirit begin to move in my heart. I felt a stirring and an understanding in my spirit. I was seeking God and He was revealing Himself to me. I was seeking and I was finding.

Today, as you read this passage, I invite you to make this prayer your own. On bended knees, with an open heart before God, seek to know Him better. Seek to truly see and know God.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:14-19 is all about falling in love with Jesus. Not just knowing about Him, but truly knowing Him. Not just loving Him, but being in love with Him. It is all about fully comprehending a love that is incomprehensible. God's love has not end. It is unconditional and knows no boundaries. Once we begin, with the help of the Holy Spirit to start to understand and grasp the depth, the height, the width and the breadth of Christ's love, we become changed. You cannot experience God's love and stay the same. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) His love draws us deeper and deeper in love with Him. His love awakens a desire in us to know and love an intimate, personal way.

I grew up going to church. I grew up reading my Bible. I knew all the Bible stories and had memorized scriptures. Sadly, however, I had not yet experienced God's love. This prayer opened my heart to do just that. As I prayed the words of this prayer, my spirit was enlightened. I started to catch a glimpse of God's indescribable, unconditional, sacrificial love for me. I began to experience God's love in a real and personal way. This prayer began a transformation in me. By the power of the Holy Spirit, my religion began to transform into a real, vibrant, passionate relationship with Jesus!

May it do the same for you.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

In a Battle?.........Praise God!

Are you in the midst of a battle today? If so, what is your game plan? What is your plan of attack? And if you don't mind me is it going? Are you making any ground? Are you getting close to declaring victory? No.....well, may I make a suggestion? Have you ever thought about using the weapon of praise? Yes. Praise!

Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”

After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:

“Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever!”

At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.
2 Chronicles 20:2o-23

What was this army's plan of attack? What was their strategic game plan? PRAISE!

Remember the Battle at Jericho? No fighting there....only marching, singing, and praising God.....and victory!

What are you battling today? Discouragement? Disappointment? Disease? Dread? ______________ (fill in the blank)

What keeps attacking you? Fear? Depression? Low self esteem? Guilt? _______________ (fill in the blank)

Where in your life do you need a victory? Finances? Marriage? Addictions? _______________ (fill in the blank)

For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
2 Corninthians 10:3-5The Amplified Bible

Make no mistake. We are in a battle....a spiritual battle. The enemy is working overtime to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10) your life. Left alone to fight on our own, we are sure to be defeated. But......when we enlist the help of our God we are more than conquerors! (Romans 8:37)

But, just how exactly does praise help us fight our battle? What power is there in praise?

Let the praises of God be in their mouths,
and a sharp sword in their hands—
Psalm 149:6

Our praise combined with the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, (Ephesians 6:17) is a two-fold attack that Satan will not survive.

Praise not only brings God the adoration and exaltation He is so worthy of, but it also reminds us of the character of our God. As we praise Him for all that He is we are reminded of WHO HE IS! Our praise infuses our faith. The more we praise the stronger our faith becomes. And remember the role faith plays in spiritual battles? Our faith is our shield. With our shield we are able to quench all the fiery darts of Satan. (Ephesians 6:16). We are able to do battle and win!

Praising God is faith in action. As we praise Him with our lips we are declaring His power, His might, His victory over and in our life. God inhabits the praises of His people. Our praise ushers God into our presence. Our praise engages our faith and enables God to do what only He can.

Are you battling today? Then, lift your hands toward Heaven and begin to praise your God.

Praise Him for His loving kindness. Praise Him for His mercy. Praise Him for His faithfulness. Praise Him for His power and His might.

Praise Him for past victories....for battles He has already won in your life. Praise Him for going before you in your current battle....leading you once again to victory in and through Him.

Praise Him with every part of your being. Praise Him from the center of your heart.

When you and I begin to praise God, Satan has to flee. When you and I begin to praise God, strongholds come down. When you and I begin to praise God, God shows up and fights our battle for us. When you and I praise God, we are victorious!

Let the praises begin!

(Note: This post is taken from Thursday's post at GRACEFUL SISTERS, an online Bible Study for women. If you haven't already, stop by for a visit. We would love to study God's Word with you!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Testing Times of Life

(Note: This post is taken from Friday's post at GRACEFUL SISTERS, an online Bible Study for women. If you haven't already, stop by for a visit. We would love to study God's Word with you!)

“But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold." Job 23:10

"All right, class. I need everyone to clear the top of his or her desk. Today, we are having a pop quiz." Aah....a pop quiz. Unlike other tests, this is a test that just "pops up", totally unexpected and totally unplanned for. As a student, whenever I heard these instructions from my teacher, I always started to feel anxious and in some ways, tricked. I hadn't been warned of this test ahead of time and a result, I hadn't taken the time to prepare. I hadn't studied. I simply wasn't ready. But... ready or not, the test landed on my desk.

Yesterday, I was surprised with a pop quiz. It didn't come in the usual a paper placed on my desk. No, this test, popped into my life when I found myself confronted by an angry person.

As you know, all this week at GRACEFUL SISTERS, we have been studying about peace. Just yesterday, I started my day by meditating on countless scriptures in God's Word that pertain to peace. When I walked out my door yesterday morning, I was walking in peace.

Then......all that changed. As this woman attacked me with bitter words, I felt anything but peaceful. Oh, you'll be happy to know that on the outside, I remained calm, cool and collected. I responded in love and tried to de-fuse her anger in a gentle way. But.....on the inside......I was a mess! Anger, hurt, resentment, frustration. All of these emotions and about a zillion more were having their own "private" war.

When this "battle" was over, my peace was gone. For the next couple of hours, I kept replaying the scene in my mind. What just happened there?!?!? How could that have just happened?!?! Today, of all days, I was going to walk in peace. I was all "peaced up" when I had left my home. But, where was my peace now? How come my peace hadn't survived this altercation? Wasn't that the whole purpose of peace in the first place?

Then, it hit me. POP QUIZ! Only this is one test I should have passed with flying colors. I knew all the verses about peace. I was prepared. I had studied for this one. Yet....when the test came. I failed. Why?

It is one thing to know something. It is something entirely different to apply this knowledge and make it who you are. Teachers often use testing as a means to determine whether or not a child has mastered a skill or discipline. A wise teacher will use not one, but multiple tests, to gauge the level of understanding in the student. It is not enough to simply memorize facts, repeat rules, or circle A, B, C, or D. A student must apply the knowledge in order to gain the wisdom. The child must take the information and then use it, apply it, make it work.

I had the information, but now I was being called upon to use this information, to apply it, to make it work.

Peace isn't simply something we can merely talk about. It is something we need to put into practice in our daily lives. If we don't.....what's the point?! Peace isn't for the times in my life when all is hunky dory, and peachy keen. NO! Peace is for the moments when all of hell is trying to break into my heart. Peace is to be the guard fighting at the door of my heart.

Peace needs to be ready at all times. And then, when the heat is on, peace needs to step up and defend. In these moments of the battle, if we are prepared and have hidden God's Word in our heart and if we know that we know that we know peace is ours for the taking and the living in, then we simply need to call on the power of the Holy Spirit and hold our ground.

We are in spiritual warfare. This is a 24-7 fight. We cannot for one moment let our guard down. We cannot for one moment think we have arrived! We cannot take our eyes off our Jesus and place them onto the "test of life" placed in front of us and expect to walk away victorious.

I shouldn't have been caught off guard. I am not ignorant of the devil's devices.(2 Corinthians 2:11) I know to " Be self-controlled and alert. [because] Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8).

I also know my God. I know that greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) I know that with Christ, I can do ALL things. (Philippians 4:13) I know when I have a demand placed on me, my God shall supply ALL my needs. (Philippians 4:19) I know to be anxious about nothing, but to pray about everything, and in doing this, the peace of God will guard my heart and mind. (Philippians 4:6-7). I know, I know, I know. Now, it is time to live it. Time to apply it. Time to make it work in my life.

I know this is not the last pop quiz that will come my way. Somewhere, sometime, when I am least expecting it, I will be tested again. The next time, I pray I stand in the peace that I know to be mine. I pray that I use my sword of the spirit and defeat the enemy of my soul. I pray I master the art of living in the spirit and living in peace.

What about you? Has your peace been tested this week?

Remember, our God is faithful.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:12,13

Life is all about learning how to live it. Thankfully, in Christ, we are able to sit at the feet of the Master teacher. Yes, indeed.

“...he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold."