At this time of year, Christmas, we spend hours and hours preparing for "the day". While there's nothing wrong with enjoying the decorating, gift-giving and other parts of the celebration, it's easy to identify Christmas with all of these 'things' rather than the true focus, Jesus Christ's coming to Earth . . . Emmanuel, God with us.
We identify holidays by decorations and activities. We identify ourselves in many different ways. While driving to work the other morning, I began to pay attention to bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are one way people "identify" themselves. They display their passions for all the commuting world to see. Pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness; American flags and ribbons to support our military; Doggie footprints with names of various breeds; "Rescue Mom" proclaiming they save animals who have no home; School banners announcing the brilliance of their children and other accomplishments in sports, music, etc. The list goes on and on.
But this made me think: What identifies ME? When people get to know me, do they identify me with my earthly pursuits and accomplishments or with Jesus Christ? Galatians 6:14 says, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Oswald Chambers asks if I want, "to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for every thing else but Him?" What a thought!
During this Christmas week, my prayer is that I will be identified by my relationship with the Baby in the manger, the Savior of my soul, Jesus Christ.
Silence IS Golden
Recently while on vacation, we visited the Okefenokee Swamp. Boarding a flat-bottom boat, we headed out to explore the swamp guided by Tommy, a seventh-generation resident of the swamp. Beside the stunning beauty of this place and the abundance of alligators gliding above or just below the surface of the water, we were awed by the silence and stillness. At one point, Tommy glided into the middle of the water, shut down the motor and asked us to just sit back and enjoy the peaceful stillness . . . and let me tell you, we did! Those five or so minutes when we drifted aimlessly along in the quiet of that swamp were some of the most refreshing moments of our trip.
Silence though, in our society, is not always received with pleasure. In fact, many people find silence very uncomfortable and will try to fill that void with chatter about the weather or any other topic just to avoid silence.
Today in Oswald Chamber's, "My Utmost For His Highest" devotional, he refers to a time when Jesus remained 'silent' for two days, while a dear friend died and his family mourned the loss of their brother and friend. In John 11, we read that Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus became sick so his sisters found Jesus and asked him to come quickly but Jesus' response was to 'stay where he was two more days'. Silence.
When Jesus arrives in Judea, Lazarus' home town, Lazarus is already buried in a tomb. Long story short, Jesus calls Lazarus' name and he walks right out of the tomb, still wrapped in his burial rags! Jesus makes an interesting statement to Martha, one of Lazarus' sisters just before He calls Lazarus out from the tomb. He says, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
Oswald Chambers tells us this: "A wonderful thing about God's silence is that the contagion of His stillness gets into you and you become perfectly confident - "I know God has heard me." Instead of always waiting for an immediate answer from God about some issue in our life, Chambers encourages us to bask in the stillness of God's silence because "You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation"
I'm encouraged that when God is silent, it's not that He's not there, or on vacation, busy or not listening. When God is silent, He is giving me the opportunity to trust Him and HIS timing on this matter. When God is silent, He is giving me the chance to increase my faith and confidence in Him. When God is silent, He wants me to remember that He always has a purpose and plan that will be revealed in HIS time, not mine and then HIS glory will be revealed as I obediently wait on Him.
I wasn't sure this was a word. So I looked it up. It isn't. Then I looked up the word, 'disturb', it is and this is the definition:
"agitated or distressed; disrupted: disturbed seas; a disturbed situation." So then it stands to reason that "Undisturbedness" puts me in a state of calm, and my world is not disrupted.
So where did I see this word? It was in my devotional from Oswald Chambers', "My Utmost For His Highest".
It doesn't matter to me that it's not a "real" word -- it clearly was used to convey an important point. Chambers says that sometimes we have peace but it's based on ignorance (i.e. the phrase, 'ignorance is bliss'). I often have THAT kind of peace! Then when I find out what's REALLY going on, that peace goes flying out the window really fast. The peace that Jesus talks about though in John 14:27 is much different because it's a peace that Jesus GIVES us. Chambers goes on to say (and I LOVE this quote!) ". . . it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness."
I really want to feed on the undisturbedness of my Savior! So John 14:27 takes on a whole new meaning, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you" -- it's a peace not of 'ignorant bliss' but a peace when I'm well aware of the circumstances, yet blissfully sharing in Jesus' undisturbedness!
May 14, 2011
"Before and After"
I'm new to blogging and this blog is born out of my love for taking old, ugly things and “making them into something new” and hopefully better. For example, this ceiling fan that hangs in our dining room.
Here's the "Before":
And here's the "After":
Or this bench "Before":
And the bench "After":
Over the years I think I’ve developed an ability to look BEYOND the surface appearance of something and see what it COULD be rather than focus on what it looks like in it’s present state.
It’s the same way with God!
Long before we were even born, God knew all about us and had a plan for each of us.
Psalm 139 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It begins with this:
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
A few verses down in the chapter it picks up by saying this:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Not only did God know all about each of us and have a plan for us before we were born but
Through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can become all that God planned for us to be.
Ephesians 2:11 says this
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us.
Each person is created by God with the potential to be all that He wants us to be but apart from a relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ, we will never achieve that. Through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us and begins to shape and change us to be more like Christ. While we’ll never be perfect in THIS life, we can be used by God to bring honor to him and live the most fulfilling life possible on this earth.
In a way, each of us is a sorry looking ceiling fan or a roadside bench that’s been beaten up by the elements just waiting to be “made anew”.
Today, be encouraged that God knew you and had a plan for you even before you were born AND that through a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can become all he planned for you to be!
April 29, 2011
"A Royal Celebration"
Thanks to the creativity and ingenuity of one of my friends, I attended a “Royal Wedding Party” this morning. Arriving at my friend’s house at 4:00 a.m. (in my pajamas), I joined several other women (also in their pajamas) to watch the wedding of William and Kate. My friend treated us to a beautiful array of traditionally English breakfast foods while another gal brought us all tiaras to wear. After watching the beauty of the event we feasted on the same cake William chose for his groom’s cake – it was fabulous!
As we watched the event unfold, we discussed of course, Kate’s dress (and her TINY waist), the stunning dress her sister wore, the adorable flower girls, the carriages, the guest’s hats (some stunning, others frightful) and reflected on our own weddings at the same time.
There was truly no denying that this was a ROYAL wedding! Everything from the arrival and departure of the bride and groom to the musicians, the venue for the ceremony and of course the presence of other “Royals” and dignitaries declared this was no ordinary couple getting married.
Upon discussing this with my husband by phone later in the morning, he reminded me that as followers of Jesus Christ we are all royalty!
We are all part of “a royal priesthood” But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
We are children of THE King! Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—John 1:12
We are Joint-heirs Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
So go grab your tiara and celebrate not only the royal wedding of William and Kate but your induction into THE Royal Family!
April 22, 2011
"Good Friday" -- Is It Really Good?
It is a paradox. Today we commemorate the day Jesus was crucified and call it "Good Friday". There is some debate as to where the name came from and some believe it simply evolved as language does. Early manuscripts refer to the day as "God's Friday" but whatever the origin, we may find it difficult to reconcile the name with the actual event it recognizes.
This evening, many churches will mark the occasion of Christ's death with special services punctuated by dimly-lit sanctuaries, solemn music and processionals where black cloth is draped in silence over a cross creating an atmosphere of sadness and mourning.
Good Friday and all it entails is in sharp contrast to the culture of today that is obsessed by happiness and self-fulfillment. Our world today does not want to be reminded that is was for OUR sins that God offered up His Son as a sacrifice. And yet there it is in Isaiah 53:5,
"But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed."
So yes, it IS Good Friday! The word "Gospel" literally means "Good News"! There is no better news than the fact that each person has the opportunity to receive forgiveness of all of their sins, past, present and future and eternal life with God! That Christ willingly laid down His life for us is indeed cause for celebration!
April 11, 2011
"Really Big Gratitude!"
Flip Flops . . . check. Toe ring . . . check. Window screens on. . . check. Three simple things that point to the fact that it IS my favorite time of year . . . SPRING! Now if you live in the Midwest, Upper Midwest or anything remotely close, you know that winters in these parts are a)long; b)cold; c)gray and d) snowy. So when spring arrives – it’s a great big deal! I always say that I’d do anything to live down South where true winters don’t exist and maybe someday I will. But as I walked out the door the other day and spotted those tell-tale green buds on my bushes, I couldn’t help myself – I bent down and kissed them. (Hopefully the neighbors weren’t watching!)
I think that when you experience the harshness of a Midwest winter, you appreciate all the more the arrival of spring and warm weather. If you experience “a little winter”, you appreciate the arrival of spring “a little” and if you experience the bone-crushing, skin-cracking, teeth-chattering, dark, damp dreariness of winter (a.k.a. a “big winter), you appreciate the arrival of spring in a “big way”!
I find myself everyday thanking God for the beauty of spring – the smell of someone applying fertilizer to their lawn, the smell of fresh manure spread around the islands in the store parking lots, a car window rolled down with my dog Ava nearly hanging from her waist up, out catching air.
And in all of this, I’m reminded of a verse in the book of Luke, chapter 7, beginning in verse 36:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
Now the Pharisee, whose name was Simon was pretty indignant about this and felt the need to inform Jesus of what kind of woman was touching him. Jesus went on to tell the man this story:
“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said.
And here’s the “kicker”: Jesus responds to Simon by saying this:
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
In comparison to the righteousness of Jesus, even our best-lived life is a pathetic attempt at holiness. But God loved us so much, He made a way for us to be forgiven for all of the sins we have committed and ever will commit. When we realize how wretched we are in comparison to a holy, righteous God, we should be humbled and in return, offer our love and service to Him in the life He has given us on this earth.
Those who suffer through the long, dismal winters of the Midwest, have a greater love and appreciation for spring when it arrives. Those who realize how much they have been forgiven, have a greater love and appreciation for the Savior who forgave them.
April 4, 2011
"Stick in the Road"
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Perception is everything”. Today while driving, I perceived an architectural work of art. And it was there in the middle of the road, traffic zooming by it left and right no one even paying attention to it. I was at a traffic light and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I debated, looking back and forth between the red light and this beautiful piece, wondering if I had enough time to jump out and rescue it. Then, “Wham!” . . . a car ran right over it, and the light turned green. Poo. I’d missed my opportunity. To everyone else out there (who even bothered to notice it!) it was a stick. To me, it was just perfect for one of my projects. It had one thick base branch with three perfectly formed smaller branches shooting up and out and those were filled with tiny, little fingers of twigs that really would have fit my design to a “T”.
Many of you have that same “eye”. You drag home something you’ve rescued from a dumpster or the curb on trash day and your husband and/or kids look at you with pity because you’re so excited over that sorry thing. But you see beyond the surface and perceive what it CAN or WILL be once you’re finished with it.
We’re all “sticks in the road”. On the surface, we may not look like much. In fact, most of the time, the media and the world we live in tells us we need to do certain things, live a certain lifestyle, accumulate a certain amount of ‘stuff’ or make ourselves look a certain way so we have value. And many times, we believe this.
Thankfully when we belong to Christ, God sees beyond the external. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In Christ – we’re made brand new and we have SO much potential! Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We’re more than just “sticks in the road”! Christ sees us as His children and He has a special plan and design for our lives.
Christ came and through faith in Him, we can be ‘rescued from the curb’, re-purposed and made ready to complete the work He’s prepared in advance for us to do!
March 28, 2011
"As Our Own"
Recently I was made aware of an amazing organization called "As Our Own". As a Christ-centered community of Believers, they have established two orphanages in India to care for, love and nurture girls who have been or are going to be forced to work as beggars or prostitutes in the sex trade. They are actively rescuing these young girls and providing a new life for them.
Several months ago, one of my daughters told us that she wanted to go to India and participate in a study abroad program through her college. As she was making plans and getting all of the arrangements set up, none of us realized that God was already at work in her plans! At a little get-together with friends, I was introduced to the woman whose son founded As Our Own and operates these orphanages . . . in the same town where my daughter will be studying! Now that is an amazing "God thing". Not only will she have the opportunity to volunteer at the orphanage, she will have met some of these people HERE in the U.S. BEFORE she goes to India and they will be there while she is studying there! Who would have ever thought that two nervous parents would be given the gift of knowing their daughter will have friends waiting for her in a small town in India as she studies there this fall? Or that a secular opportunity will also provide her with the blessing of seeing God work miracles in the lives of these little girls? Or that she herself might have the chance to participate in affecting these lives for Christ?
Nothing in our lives comes about "by chance". Jeremiah 28:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
If you would like to know more about this organization, you can click on the link below.
March 25, 2011
"New Prescription Please"
It's time. I can't deny it any longer. I need a new prescription and it will probably involve the "B" word. Bifocals. Time was when I could go for years wearing the same glasses or contact lenses but now I find that “things they are a’changin”.
One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". The chorus says, "Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!" As I was singing this to myself the other day it made me realize that not only do I need to make sure I have the right prescription to see with my earthly eyes, but I need the right "prescription" for my spiritual eyes! I need to see with Christ's eyes! Without the eyes of Christ, I can often over look the "new mercies" He provides every single day.
In Matthew 9:2, Jesus saw the faith of friends who believed in his power to heal.
In Matthew 9:9, Jesus saw a sinful tax collector with the potential to make a great disciple.
In Matthew 4, Jesus saw two different sets of brothers, simple fishermen who would turn the world upside down with their love for the Gospel.
In Mark 5, Jesus saw a crazed, demon-possessed man with the potential to lead a normal life again.
In Mark 6, Jesus saw a crowd of lost people, like “sheep without a shepherd” and he began to shepherd them.
In Mark 10, Jesus saw children whose displayed simple, trusting faith.
And the list goes on.
Too many times I look at my surroundings, circumstances and people with my earthly eyes, instead of spiritual eyes. So I need to “renew my prescription” each day through prayer and God’s Word so I see with Jesus’ eyes and don’t miss any of the new mercies, new opportunities or new paths He’s placed before me!
Monday, March 21, 2011
"A written or printed communication addressed to a person or organization and usually transmitted by mail."
A few years ago, my friend's mother passed away. While sifting through her belongings with her siblings to gather photographs and mementos for her wake, they came across a box filled with hand-written letters (were there any other kind "back then"?). My friend's mother had written a letter to her mother nearly every week of her married life. These letters documented the most mundane of days and the most spectacular including the births of each of her children. In this box was an entire diary of not only her life but a snapshot of the world around her throughout the years. What a treasure and what a gift to her children, grand children and generations to come!
Recently I read that many states have already removed "Cursive Writing" instruction from their core curriculum and several others are about to follow suit. The reason: It's just not a practical skill and besides, today's kids only need to know how to type or send a text. In essence, it's an outdated skill that has no place in today's elementary classroom.
At the risk of sounding like my parents, I was shocked and thought how sad that future generations (and many in this generation) will never experience the thrill of waiting to hear from a friend or relative living far away or traveling on a vacation. They'll never know the excitement of scanning an envelope for a return address (or seeing that "?" in place of such) and then jumping to the postmark to see where and when this letter originated. Gone will be the hope of special mementos like photographs, newspaper clippings (oh yeah, no newspapers in the future either), or pressed flowers.
As a young girl I collected stationery. When ever we went on vacation, I'd try to buy a box of stationery from the city we were visiting. I'd scan the aisle at the local drugstore for 'bargain' boxes and then take them home and spray them with cheap cologne to imitate expensive department store stationery that already came scented. I'd cut pictures from magazines of "cool" outfits or jewelry that I thought my friend(s) would like to see, cartoons from the local paper that were funny or stickers and enclose them in letters to my pen pals (Do pen pals even exist any more??)
I have saved all of the hand-written notes I've received from friends and family through the years. Every time I pull them out, they bring a smile to my face and I'm immediately transported back in time. They are real treasures because they are in that person's own hand writing and I know that it took time and thought to put those words to paper and that time and those thoughts were just for me.
Maybe in coming days you'll need to thank someone for something. Or perhaps you'll have a bit of exciting news you'll want to share with a friend or relative far away. You may have just experienced a perfectly "normal" week filled with seemingly inconsequential events. In any case, don't tap out an email and hit "send". Instead, grab a piece of paper (stationery would be nice but unless you make you're own I'm not even sure you can buy it anywhere anymore!), a pen that you really enjoy using and begin what initially may seem a laborious process, and write the information in a letter. While you're at it, look for a fun "