Weather the Storms

A Sense of Forboding

I was hired for a job yesterday.

I signed the contract this morning.

And not an hour later, I was in the trenches of the boundary war.

Already, I was being asked to attend a meeting on a night when I go to Bible Study with my daughter.

I was being asked to say NO.

God is so kind, to give me this advance warning from a grace-filled person who responded very well to my NO, and to remind me that a fight is required to keep priorities in the right places.

Honoring God and turning away from the temptation of pleasing man has always been a struggle for me.  I feel that pressure to say Yes, to not disappoint anyone.

Being home for the past several years with my children has been an escape from some of these outer pressures.  I have had more control over my schedule, more quiet time, more free time- but I have protected and fought for it.

I am so thankful for this reminder today that as I move into this new role, new challenges will emerge.

There will be very “good” reasons to make a compromise here, and give a little time there- but I am praying this morning, pleading with my precious Savior- please Lord, help me to weather the storms of other people’s displeasure if it runs in opposition of what you call me to do.

May I please you first; please precious Savior help me.

Take this trembling, recovering people-pleaser and make me into a bold woman who can rest in confidence on your promises to me.  Pleasing you is enough.

O Lord, thank you for walking with me each day.  Thank you for the presence of your Holy Spirit- a trusted guide and counselor, my advocate.  I stand in awe of you today, and how you can change our hearts and increase our yearning for you above all else.  My heart swells with gratitude for all the ways you have opened my eyes and continue to show me the path of life.  And as I pray Lord, I remember your word:

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. Ps. 25:10

I am humbled, O Lord you are here.  I feel held by you, even as I want to wonder how and worry and control- you bring your peace into my troubled mind.  You keep my mind in peace as I say in this moment, I will choose to trust you.  You will hold me steady. You will keep my foot from slipping.  You hold me up with your righteous right hand.  All praise and glory is yours forever.  In the name of my precious Savior and Lord, I rest and hope, Amen.

 

Love in the Trenches

Trenches

One of my dear friends is getting married in May.

This led to us having a conversation on the phone a few weeks ago, and I have been thinking about some of the things I told her about my marriage.

She asked what I have learned after 11 years of marriage, and what advice I would give to her on entering marriage.

And it took me back to right after my hubby and I got married.  We were returning from our honeymoon and it was snowing in Lexington, KY.  From summer-like temperatures into the bitter cold of a snowy night, we were both anxious to get home (our first night together in our apartment!) and get warm.

One of my husband’s old roommates picked us up at the airport.  It was a slow drive home because of the snow.  When we got there, my hubby realized that he forgot something on the plane.

Our apartment keys, our passports, our credit cards, yep- all of it- was still sitting under his seat on the plane.

I remember being tired and irritated.  I remember thinking that I would never forget something that important.  I remember these feelings rising up in me and really wanting to express them.

But thanks be to God for His precious Holy Spirit.

I felt the strongest impression to remain silent.

To not say what was on my mind.  In fact, I even remember realizing that my hubby already felt horrible about what was happening, and my criticism would not serve to benefit the situation in any way.

What he needed most from me in that moment was love and support.  He needed me to believe that he would take care of things, to simply pray for him, be supportive, or be silent.

My hubby did take care of things. He climbed in through a window so we got to sleep in our apartment that night together. He went back to the airport and picked up what he left the next morning.

And I never forgot the power of being silent in those emotionally charged moments when you may say something you regret- and though we can apologize- sometimes those words cause wounds that take time to heal.

I don’t always say the right thing, and sometimes I say words that I regret- but I am so thankful for the presence of the Holy Spirit and that powerful reminder to me early in my marriage that my words can build up my husband, or my words can tear him down.

So my dear friends, I encourage you- whether you are married or not- be careful about the words that you say.  They are so powerful and can deeply impact those who care for us.

They can wound, or they can heal.

They can break down, or they can build up.

They can create distance, or foster intimacy.

Oh Lord, remind us that our words matter.  Help us take seriously the words that we say, but also the words that lie below the surface- in our thought life.  May we take each thought captive and bring all under the submission of Christ.  Renew our minds Lord, that they would be filled with thoughts that please you.  Show us the power of conscious effort in our relationships- that we would build each other up, seeking your guidance before we speak.  Guide us into your truth and teach us we pray.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

 

I am an Offering

" And he said ...  Let there Be Light "

I started doing dishes today, just now, and God whispered, “Look up, ” and I looked and saw these verses.

Several years ago, I wrote these on a card- they just captured me.

1 Chronicles 16:11  Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually.

16:29-30  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come before him.  Worship the LORD in holy splendor, tremble before him all the earth.

And as I read them today, and came across the words, “bring an offering,” I thought to myself- I am an offering.

My life is offered up to Him, to use as He will.

What I want more than anything else is to be obedient to God, and to please Him.

To seek His presence and walk with Him.

And the tears of gratitude flowed for this is a work He has done in me.

He has brought me to this time and place through the work of His precious Holy Spirit and I am filled with gratitude.

O dear friends, there is nothing sweeter than inviting God into our lives and simply saying, “I am here, please come and be with me.”

His presence changes us.

His love strengthens.

His compassion and mercy gives us rest.

For we know that God works all things for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purposes.

We have a calling, we have a purpose, we matter to God.

Lord, I come today as an offering of praise and thanksgiving to you.  To be used as you will, a vessel for you to fill and pour out.  O precious Spirit, strengthen me for the work you have called me to.  Help me to wait on you and listen to your guidance.  Renew my mind as I meditate on the word of God.  Make my steps sure and strong.  Uphold me precious Christ, and may your Name be glorified.  Through the blood of Christ I pray, Amen.

 

Your Name on my Lips

iSad

I was chatting with a Mom at the park on a lovely 50 degree day.  It was an unplanned trip to the park, but the sun was shining and it beckoned us to postpone the rest of school for the day and get out and enjoy!

We started chatting about this and that, and the conversation eventually gravitated toward church.

I have to admire this Mom’s honesty.  She told me that Sunday was the only day they could sleep in and relax, and they just didn’t think that going to church was worthwhile.  They had not seen that it had made much of a difference in their life.

And now, it pains me to confess what I said next.  This was a beautiful opportunity to share about what a difference God’s presence has made in my life- but I didn’t.

I talked about the church and what a great support system and loving presence they have been in our lives over the years.  I spoke of how they encouraged and came alongside my husband and I when he was out of work.

All of these things are great- but that is NOT why I attend church!

I am not part of the body of Christ for the social aspects of it.

I am part of the body of Christ because of Christ.

His presence in my life completely transformed me.  I would not want to live this life without Him.

How I wish I would have shared that instead!  That I had gushed about how great God is- how faithful He has been to us.  How he has carried us through trials and celebrated with us in times of great joy.

The body of Christ is the special place that it is only because the presence of Christ resides in usThe Holy Spirit joins us in mysterious and holy connection. 

We are one in the spirit- We are one in the LORD.

That is what makes this body so precious to me.  It is more than a church building- it is an eternal bond.

And after I got home, and I was reflecting on that conversation, I asked God’s forgiveness and prayed that He would help me at all times, in all conversations, be eager to testify to His greatness.

He is worthy of all my praise.

Today and every day- now and forever.

Lord, forgive me for the times I fail to give you all the praise and glory.  You are worthy of all my thanks and praise.  O precious Savior and God, help me to make the most of every opportunity, that your name would always be on my lips- that I would never cease to sing your praises.  Great is our God and greatly to be praised in all the earth.  Amen.

 

 

Seek Him Alone

Arnold Arboretum, 18 May 2010: Steps up to Bussey Hill

It is so easy to be led off track…

Down the road of doing what’s right.

Following the rules.

Doing good works.

Volunteering at church.

Helping a neighbor.

Taking time to invest in our children.

And I am not claiming that these things are bad.

The problem comes when all these things become ends in themselves.

They are failing to be animated by the secure love of God flowing through me and pouring out into others.

I begin storing up a list of “good works” to show God to offset the offense of my sinfulness, and in the midst of my working I lose my connection to the one who strengthens and upholds me.

When I grow weary or fail- if I am disconnected from Him- I fall into despair.

I am seeking the approval of God in the way I seek the approval of man- through doing things that they will approve of so that I might gain their affection/acceptance.

This is a habit that I find so hard to break.

I am constantly falling back into this cycle and then emerging out only to get caught once again.

It is hard, in the midst of my daily work, the ups and downs of my life, to remember that God remains constant in his affection.

He longs to be near me, to walk with me, to guide me into truth and broad, peaceful places.

I start trying to get there on my own- and sometimes I don’t even realize what’s happening in the moment- but I see the evidence of it when my sin leads me to discouragement, shame, and feeling sorry for myself instead of driving me into the arms of my Savior.

I was reading in Romans this morning, and I felt drawn to Psalm 16.  For many years I carried Psalms 16:11 in my car.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

My friends, this is something that I desperately need to remember.

I forget so easily that He loved me even before I realized I was a sinner in need of redemption.  He bridged that gap and made a way for me to know Him.

No, I don’t deserve it.  But through the blood of Jesus Christ the fire of the wrath of God has been quenched.  I am received as family.

Truly, what always brings me out of these times of melancholy is one simple truth- the Christian life should be marked by joy (and I see the absence of it in my own life).

We should be so filled with the love of God that we draw attention simply from the peace that lives in secure knowledge that we are infinitely loved and accepted and can do NOTHING to change it.

I want to live like that!

Every day!

(Aside: My Dad has repeatedly talked to me about the word “should.” And I noticed that I used it twice in the past several sentences.  Should is a word of bondage in many cases- God establishes us- this is a work that He delights to do if we only trust Him to do it.  So it is not I, but Christ living in me that accomplishes this work.)

It is not just a smile I paste on for church or saying the “right things” when I am with Christian friends- but it is an abiding peace and security in the arms of my Savior.

It is an anchor in my soul.

I can get caught up in saying the right things without feeling them deep down in my bones.

So my daily prayer is- O Lord, please help me to remember how much I am loved by you- and to share that love with others.

That is what makes our relationship with God so extraordinary.  Not only does God love us, He made a way for us to draw near to Him through the blood of His Son. He allowed His Son to suffer and die for us so that we might be redeemed and live eternally.

We hear it so often the words can become so meaningless.  I want it to soak in.  O Lord, make those words new to me!  Fill me with joy in the truth of all you have done for me.

And even as I wrapped up this post, my daughter asked to read her devotions for today from Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids.  The Title is “My Promise”, and the verse Matthew 28:20-

You can be sure I am with you always…

Oh dear friends, that these words would bring us comfort and peace, and not fear. 

Let us pray for each other that we may hold tightly to this truth in the daily battle with our own sinfulness.  God loves us through all the successes and failures, and compassionately and lovingly longs to draw alongside us, and whisper words of love and comfort into our deepest pain and sorrow.

He binds up the wounded and is close to the broken-hearted.

Oh Lord, precious Savior and God, forgive me for distancing myself from you in my sin.  For giving the lie purchase that your love depends on my obedience. Give me the courage to be vulnerable and honest when times are hard and my knees are wobbly.  Renew my mind and help me to guard against the schemes of the enemy.  May my sinfulness draw me nearer to you as it reminds me of how necessary you are to life- as essential as breath.  I love you, thank you for first loving me.  In Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

 

 

Word for 2015: Nearer

Phoenix Park Pope's cross

Nearer. 

Nearer is all I long for.

A little closer to your heart.

Nearer to my LORD.

And two songs came to mind, and brought tears to my eyes. They express what wells in my heart as I reflect on this past year and look forward to the year to come…

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

And another song that came to mind today…

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

Sometimes a song can say- even without words- what we feel, the passion and heart-felt joy or sorrow of a single moment-even a life-long prayer.

The deep desire for intimacy with a mysterious, loving, unfathomable, intimate God that created us all and desires to draw near to us!

He does the impossible.

And I need to hear that today.  Because some days I feel so broken and spent I need to know- to remember- to resonate in the truth that I don’t bear this burden alone.  And when I choose to I am rejecting the beautiful gift of God’s loving, sustaining presence.

The work of this day is simply inviting him in- moment by moment.  Oh, it is so simple friends, but how easily I forget!

I stumble and find myself in a pit I dug myself in- and even now- when I know how he longs to enfold me in my brokenness, I  struggle to turn to him in those moments when the ugliness of sin is showing- when my cracks are gaping wide.

And I hear his gentle, love-filled voice beckoning- come to me…

all you who are weary…

and I will give you rest.

By the grace of God, may we all rest in Him today.

One step toward Him- affirming once again- You are Lord, I need you.

One day- one moment at a time.

Come Lord Jesus.

Draw me nearer.

Lessons in Humility

Quiz

It all started with flashcards this week.

Ok, truthfully, flashcards have been a problem longer than that.  But this week God spoke to me through flashcards.

Sometimes, I get frustrated when teaching my daughter.

My frustration primarily lies in my inability to teach things in a way she can understand.  There is a break down in communication.  I see the confusion in her face.

And in this emotion I act out wrongly.  I get snippy and short with her.  I say things that I shouldn’t.  Words that hurt, words that criticize.

Not too long after, I felt deeply convicted for my poor attitude.

I apologized to my daughter and asked forgiveness, but as the day wore on, I felt God continuing to speak to me about this interaction.

The fact is, I want to be an example to my children.  I want to model a Godly life for them, for them to see Christ in me.

When I fail, it is so devastating.

I love them more than I ever dreamed I could love someone.  It’s painful sometimes, how it overwhelms and floods me.

But the reality that God was showing me is that I cannot be God to my children.

I will not love them perfectly.

I will let them down.

I will say the wrong thing.

My words will hurt them.

But I can direct them towards someone who will NEVER fail them.

Someone who will ALWAYS be there.

God.

God will ALWAYS give wise counsel.

God is the faithful one, their ever present help in trouble.

So, as my daughter and I headed to church on Wednesday night, the Holy Spirit guided me into a wonderful conversation with her.

The summary:  I will fail you and say words that hurt you, even though I love you so much.  But God will never fail you.  He will love you perfectly and always be there for you.  Remember that when you feel sad and alone- when I disappoint you.  God is there and he loves you with a (Jesus Storybook Bible) “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

It is hard as a parent to confess and acknowledge that we will daily fail in what we long to do.  But we can choose how to respond when we sin, when our sin hurts our children. 

I am praying for greater humility, patience, and love- and for God to have his way in me more today than yesterday.  By the power of His Spirit working in me, I hope that despite my faults my children will see glimpses of Christ in me and most of all know that I do love them.

Lord, thank you for walking daily with me.  You faithfully teach me and guide me on this journey.  Thank you for never leaving me or forsaking me.  Thank you for the promise that you will always be with my children- and that your love for them is perfect and never-ending.  Blessed be your Name.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Christmas on the Inside

Last go at the Christmas tree until December bw {3/365}

During this season when Merry Christmas is on our lips…

And we are listening to Christmas carols that can be a balm to our weary souls…

Sometimes on the inside we are in turmoil.

We are burdened by our to do list.

And the joy can be lost in the daily tasks required of us to make ready for this blessed day.

I struggle with this yearly.

I have recognized that I have to make a conscious effort to say No to things.

I have to prepare for a long trip to see family.  That means lists and planning so that we don’t forget Christmas gifts or blow-up mattresses or diapers or pajamas or blankets that the kiddos can’t sleep without…

And truthfully, at some point in all this preparation, there is a little voice that says- why can’t I just stay home?  Why do I have to this year after year?

And I am reminded once again that gratitude is a choice- and many days in my life there is a battle being waged inside me.  I can choose joy and thanksgiving- or I can grumble in my spirit and become bitter for the tasks required of me.

Many times those around me don’t see this battle, or maybe just those closest to me- but as I have drawn nearer to the Lord, I find myself more tender and in tune with my inner thought life and how it impacts my actions.

I want all parts of me to be pleasing to the LORD, even those parts that may remain hidden to others.

I want to work this year to find those golden nuggets of joy this season- to stop and savor and treasure them with all my heart.

And God brought to mind this passage, and as I fought for joy today over a mountain of laundry, hours of baking, and more hours of cleaning and packing as we prepare for Christmas travels.

Colossians 3:12-17

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And I hope and pray for you and me…

For your family and my family….

For friends and neighbors…

That this year we might dwell in Christ this Christmas season.

And may the peace of Christ rule in our hearts- and invite others to draw near and know Him- our precious Savior and Lord.

Why Celebrate Advent?

Merry christmas!

It all started with a question today.

“Why do we have the Advent wreath and put ornaments on the Jesse tree?”

I had just read in Mark this morning.  And instead of launching into a lot of words, God graciously led me to ask a question instead.

“Why do you think we do these things?”

My daughter thought for a while, tried to talk her way through it.  We have been learning about yearly festivals that the Jewish people were called to observe in Exodus.  I asked her why God asked them to do that every year.

She was getting closer, I could tell.

Then I asked, “Why do we celebrate your birthday?”

I could tell this question helped her.  We have talked about the day of her birth often- the anticipation that her Dad and I felt all those weeks leading up to it, and how our families joined in that joy and anticipation.

So we finally arrived at an answer.

To celebrate and remember.

To slow down and rest held and treasured as we remember love that came for us on that first Christmas night.

Emmanuel- God with us.

What sets us apart from all other religions, and as far back as Exodus, God was revealing this character trait to His people.

We serve a God who wants to be with us.

He does not expect us to live life apart from him, aimlessly wandering and blindly hoping that we “get it right.”

He wants to walk beside us.

To talk to us as with a friend.

To share intimately and deeply,  that we may be known fully and loved without reservation.

This is what we celebrate in the birth of Christ.

His sacrifice that forever made the way of intimacy possible for us.

Our sin was no longer a hindrance for Christ’s blood covers us.

And somehow, though this wondrous mystery of abiding life in Christ- this is all new again.

God makes it new.

And words that I have heard so many times before flood my soul with unspeakable joy.

I treasure these precious words of hope and joy eternal.

My spirit soars and tears spring to my eyes.

He makes all things new.

And in remembrance now- somehow- these truths are more precious to me than ever before.

I cling to them and rest in them.  I sing in joyous rapture exclaiming their truth.

I have sung them for years, and yet- this truth penetrates my spirit in a new and deeper way.

And I exult- for I know this is the work of God.  Not something that I could do or create or inspire- but a gift through His Holy Spirit.

He restores and revitalizes my spirit.

I worship.

And as I listen to my daughter read and sing through the Advent prayer booklet that my parents used to read to me; my heart overflows with thanks.

For today.

Just being here.

Thank you God for reasons, in any season, to celebrate.

Lord, O precious and beautiful Savior.  Lover of my soul.  I stop and take a deep breath, my heart swells and I wonder how to tell you how thankful I am for you.  I am so glad that you know even when I don’t have words.  Your Holy Spirit speaks for me, shares in this overwhelming surge of joy that floods me.  I can’t keep quiet.  You are so good to us.  And each day I am overwhelmed by your faithfulness.  You see me, my family- I feel seen and loved by you.  And saying those words fails to grasp how awesome this reality is- you are here with me.  You are here with my children.  You are with my husband as he works.  You are with us.  Thank you.  Your presence brings joy and peace that I never imagined, and I am so grateful.  Blessed be your Name.  May your Name be praised in all the earth.  Glory to our God and King.  All honor and glory and praise is yours, precious Savior and friend.  You call me friend.  Emmanuel, thank you for the cross.  In your precious Name I praise, Amen.

 

A Well of Thanks

a dash of summer

There are moments when it fills me.

This unspeakable joy.

And that moment suspends as I drink in one of God’s gifts to me.

I remember when it started as a discipline.

A daily choice.

Be thankful.

Look for things to be thankful for- especially in those dark, discouraging moments.

And then it shifted slowly, subtly, into a rhythm of life.

I have noticed lately that thankfulness for my children will overwhelm me as I watch them play.

I will be driving somewhere and I will look at the sky, or the clouds-sometimes an old gnarled tree bowing over the road- and I will be struck by the wonder of God’s creation and breathe thanks to Him.

A text will come from my hubby, or he will come to mind and I will pray for him and send him a text to encourage him- and again it will come.  This reminder that all these are gifts- straight from the hand of God who loves me.

And thanks flows.

He gives wonderful gifts.  Beautiful gifts.  Life-changing gifts.

And his gifts are best because He knows me best.

I went to church this morning and the sermon was about “Thanks Living.”

I love moments like this, when God lays something on my heart to write about, and then in the midst of this work- I go to fellowship with his people and have this word confirmed.

Giving thanks is a life-long pouring out.

And it comes gushing forth in response to a far greater pouring that has come through Jesus Christ our Savior.

His blood that covers all who believe.

Psalm 107:1-3,

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

And our pastor shared that their are different words in Hebrew for thanks, and that this thanks in verse 1 is a gushing thanks- a thanks that just goes on and on and on- it wells up deep inside us and pours forth in an eruption of words.

We can’t stem the flow, we can’t hold it in.

We are so full of thanks and joy- and we must tell the one who has done it.  We must share how much he means to us; make sure he knows how vital his presence is to our lives.

And I found myself smiling and on the verge of those joyful tears that God graciously gives- along with all his other gifts.  Emotions that help us express, sometimes without words, how sweet it is to trust in Jesus, to walk with Jesus- every day.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

As we go to break bread with friends and family and celebrate this season of Thanksgiving- will you commit with me to pray that we may have opportunity to share how God has been working in your heart and life?

Precious Savior and Lord, thank you for your blood poured out for us.  Thank you for today.  Thank you for sunshine and rain.  Thank you for color, for making us all unique- for giving us purpose and hope.  May the light of your love shine forth from us.  Help us slow down in this season where we are surrounded by temptations to speed up.  May we linger with you and remember your faithfulness- to celebrate a Savior born. Fill our hearts with gratitude for the greatest gift- JESUS.  In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen.