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 me...be 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 calling...to serve my fellowman. This giving of myself will most likely not be easy and will most likely make me extremely uncomfortable, but then again....it'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.

Now...smile, 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)