25 December, 2015

Christmas Day Delight

(CROSS POST FROM ADVENTAGAIN.BLOGSPOT.COM)
Your job is done!  The presents have been unwrapped and hopefully the smiles abound.  All those precisely chosen gifts have been given and received...yes, your job is done!  And as clean up looms and the grand Christmas meal awaits, let's pause just a second to reflect on what YOU received.  Perhaps you received a long-awaited gift or another shirt you really didn't need or a scarf that you will never wear but I bet you agree that the gift-receiving wasn't about any specific item.  Was it about watching others open their gifts?  Was it seeing the great surprise in someones face?  Was it seeing and hearing the squeals of the children as they delighted in their treasures?  Is that what you received?

Let's take one last look at our Advent scripture, Mark 12:29-31: "The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
But furthermore, The Message translates the verse like this:
 The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

We've pondered these verses for one month and eight writings.  I'll be honest and tell you that I'm still struggling to apply these verses in my life.  I'm struggling to even understand the words and how to love in such a manner.  The Message translation helps me a bit but still makes this verse very difficult to apply today and every day.  Love with all my heart-passion, with all my soul-prayer, with all my mind-intelligence and with all my strength-energy.  And if that is not enough of a challenge, love God, my neighbor and myself in this way.  Whew!

So on this Christmas Eve as I sat in my home struggling to write and trying to compose some words that might make sense to someone else, I received a gift.  Far away from the Christmas tree and the tinsel but in the quietness of my writing room.  Just a whisper of a thought that maybe everyone else has already realized but me...these verses that we have pondered for weeks were perhaps not only written as a commandment but as a description and reflection of God's nature.  It is how He loves....me, you, and everyone!  The King, the Saviour, the I AM loves me and you with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His mind and with all His strength.

And He comes to teach me that as I attempt to live and love in this same way it is only in reflection of Him for we are made in His image.  And in loving people and myself in this way, the world will see HIM.  God never asks us more that He's already given and shown.  For His very essence is love....not rules, not commands, not condemnation, not arrogance, not selfishness but all love with His whole being.  And somehow the shepherds who visited Jesus in the manger saw this love, knew this love, recognized this love and that's why they felt compelled to "spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed.."

What a gift we have received today...the delight He feels is seeing the joy on our faces.  His delight is seeing the completeness that His gift gives us.  It was the perfect Gift picked out just for us.  I love a surprise!  Can you see it?  Do you recognize the gift?  Are we compelled to spread the word? Who can we tell what we have received this Christmas Day?

20 December, 2015

All Strength Rerouted

(Cross posted from Advent.again.blogspot.com
The Internet screams "ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT"!  It makes me nervous to read those words even though I'm relatively ready for Christmas!  And there are other comments that I'm hearing: "I really don't like Christmas," "Pray for our family gathering, it's always so painful and stressful," "I'm so excited Christmas will soon be over so I can get back to my normal, boring life," and lastly..."it takes all my strength to get through these days".

Let's be reminded of our verse for this Advent season....Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’Mark 12:30

What is all our strength?  Everything I've got?  Everything I am emotionally, spiritually and physically?  Is 'all strength' all my effort, all my time, all my thoughts, all...?  How does one 'do' all strength?  How do I achieve that in my day-to-day life?

Well,...the shepherds in the Christmas story seem to give us a bit of an example.
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  This resonates with me because in reading these words, with the emphasis marked, I realize that I too am a shepherd.  Aren't you?  Here we find ourselves in our daily work, going about our tasks in routine, matter-of-fact manner, just living our lives.  The shepherds were not the top of society but very common, average.  And aren't we?  Most of us find our very blessed and beautiful lives are actually average, common not world-changing lives...just simple, everyday lives.

And like the shepherds we too 'have been told' about this Child.  We've heard and we've seen.  If fact we've been told and told and told this Baby story for oh, so long.  The shepherds found the news life-changing, unbelievable, throw-down-your-staff-leave-the-sheep-and-run-to-Bethlehem unbelievable! That took all strength.

So this Baby news for me...has it become just ho hum news?  Michael Yaconnli, in his book, Dangerous Wonder, says this, "We have lost our astonishment.  The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news."  Just OK news...is that what I want to base my life on?  Or am I traveling on this journey to run with all my strength to hear, see, live full out?  What if all strength actually means fully glorifying and praising Him just as we've been told?

My day dawned early.  I was young and so naive.  I showered before we left for the hospital.  I wanted to be fresh!  It was 2:00 a.m.  And the precious baby boy was born at 6:00 a.m.  I'll never forget the moment.  He was so very beautiful.  His dad and I loved each other deeply and were so content in our world of two until he came into the room and then we were three...and oh, so perfect.  When my tears finally stopped and I could see him through clear eyes I never wanted to let go.  And I wanted to find everyone in the hospital and show them this beautiful boy.  I wanted to call everyone I knew and tell them of the news, It's a boy and his name is...

Do I feel the same today about the Baby boy coming on Christmas Day?  Am I ready to go all strength and glorify and praise Him just as we've been told?  He is coming!  It's a Boy and his name is JESUS.  He has come to get us....that is why it is a Merry Christmas.  The King of Heaven comes down to get us....is there any way we cannot run, sing, glorify and praise?  This is much, much more that just okay news...are you running yet?

12 December, 2015

What's On Your Mind?

(CROSS POST FROM ADVENTAGAIN.BLOGSPOT.COM)
What's on my mind is not too holy!  I confess that my mind is occupied with present buying,
present wrapping, food and more food, plans, parties and finances!  This is the fight I daily battle in this Christmas season.  But through the writings of the last two weeks I have been encouraged to love God with all my heart and all my soul and now this week with all my mind.  Our words have perhaps challenged some but they may have also hung soundless in the corners of our brains.  For truly, how do we love God in these ways?  And certainly, in this week how can we possibly love God with our minds?

Maybe its all about what we see and what choice we make?  Let's go to the Christmas story.  The shepherds were in the fields working.  Their day was just as the one before - hard, grueling, tiresome with little pay perhaps.  I would bet they had family, responsibilities and worried about many things.  As the story goes these shepherds suddenly experienced a visit from an angel who displayed the "Glory of the Lord" and the shepherds were terrified. (Luke 2:9-10).  You may recall that there was a reference to the Glory of the Lord in Moses' day and in fact, this Glory was so overwhelming that Moses was not allowed to even look directly at the Glory for he would surely die (Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:18-20)

Was this the type of Glory the shepherds experienced?  Additionally, joining the one angel was a heavenly host of angels!  I don't really know how many angels appeared but if the one showed the Glory of the Lord I can only imagine what one plus a heavenly host would be like!  It was after this experience that the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."  Was this decision-making action TO GO an example of loving God with their whole mind?  For they made a decision, yes it would seem their hearts and souls had been stirred and their MIND took them to action.

Is my Christmas mind so stirred with God's glory in my life that I am making plans to love Him with my whole heart, soul and mind today?  Do I recognize his Glory as it shines all about me?  Or have I diminished His Glory to a to-do list full of unwanted and unneeded gifts?  For if I truly see and recall His appearance in my life....how can my mind have any choice but to run to Bethlehem?

I have a very dear friend who has recently moved back to her home in China.  While she was visiting the United States she learned about a spiritual world.  Never before in her life had she known that there was a Saviour born for her.  Never before in her life had she known His unconditional love and grace just for her.  But she met Him here and accepted His love.  In the few weeks leading up to her departure she began to express concern about her return and the lack of Christian fellowship available to her in China.  I expressed to her that our God was the God of the world not just the God of Alabama.  But oh, how easy for me to say as Bible-belt faith literally stands on every corner of our city.  And how different when you are one girl returning to a city of millions or one shepherd standing all alone in a field.  You've seen God but...will He show up in your normal life, that's the question your mind asks.

This week, I had a video call with my friend and one of the first things she shared was this story:
"While I was up feeding the baby, I thought I heard music playing from the apartment above me.  And the music seemed familiar.  I began to listen closely and finally could understand the music and recognized the sounds as Chinese christian worship songs.  I immediately alerted my husband so that he could listen too.  We were so excited and overwhelmed that we left our apartment and went to find this music.  I never thought I would hear such sounds in my apartment complex.  But Kathy, I am not alone.  He has gone before me.  He is here!"

She loved God with her heart and her soul and on this night she believed and loved with her mind.  She saw the Glory and her mind followed.

Through Bethlehem, He surely went and goes before us!  I want to remember His glory today and have my heart and soul and mind follow.

06 December, 2015

A Big Soul

(Cross post from Adventagain.blogspot.com)

Since last week I have been grappling with this verse.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’   I have gone through the week thinking about heart, about soul, and about the old song Heart and Soul for goodness sake!  
(I daresay some reading this are too young to even recognize the very popular duet, Heart and Soul, that many of us banged out on our mom's pianos!).  

How does one define heart especially when the verse asks us to delineate between heart and soul?  Several months ago, I had the opportunity to teach a group of visiting scholars and Ph.D. students this very verse.  These scholars were all from China and were quick to help me differentiate the meanings of these two small words.  Please be reminded that these scholars had NO prior spiritual training or Biblical understanding and that these descriptions were their very words...


HEART                                                 SOUL

•site of specific feelings & intuition     •spiritual
•physical only                                       •immaterial part of a person
•eventual death                                     •eternal part
                                                              •humans only animal with soul
                                                              •part that has relationship with God
                                                              •has a will
                                                              •lives forever

The fact that a people group with limited to no knowledge of the Biblical Jesus could come up with this list astounds me but also confirms to me the presence of a very real, living God.  A God seeking us, searching for us and even placing within each of us this innate desire for a God of our understanding. There is indeed a God-shaped hole in each of us...a longing to be filled only by our Creator.  Every human living has a heart and has a soul.  Our question for today is how do we love God with all our soul?


Joseph faced the very same question.

"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).


When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son." Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph was a real man.  We have him stored in our brains as some surreal character that we read about as children in Sunday School.  He was a plain man.  He worked hard for a living, worried about the future, worried about money and loved a girl.  He wanted to get married and have a family.  We are also told that Joseph was faithful to the law.  In these verses, we can also see that he was a man with a beautiful soul as he prepared to spare Mary disgrace and divorce her quietly.  Can we also agree that only faithful men and men of soul might receive angels in technicolor dreams?  Can't we agree that as surely as God chose Mary the 'highly favored', that He also saw Joseph as highly favored?  


When I look back at our definitions I realize the highly prized heart of a person is the one of great emotion whether that be joy, exuberance, sadness, pain or joy.  I've always prided myself on having a big heart.  But today I've newly realized that my heart never really tells me the whole Truth.  It is fickle and one day it will die.  Also, I believe that Joseph MUST have experienced a heart-ache as happenings unfolded.  His Mary was telling him of an encounter that surely his heart wanted to believe but yet....how difficult was this news.  So...it was Joseph's great soul of belief that allowed him to keep striving to be the man of God to which he was called.  For his emotional heart was surely damaged and in great pain; therefore, it wasn't Joseph's emotional heart that kept him on course but it was his God-seeking soul.

In this Advent season, loving with with your whole heart may be difficult.  For even in this season of joy, celebration, gifts, food, children and love there is still pain in our lives...pain from disrupted relationships, the stress of Christmas giving and expectation, and the enormous pain of a broken world.  But in the depths of us this week, Advent is truly calling for us to Love with our whole souls - our essence, our forever, eternal selves.  Our whole souls are those that rise to the top during difficult dreams, angel visits, unexpected Savior visits and life's hurts and disappointments.

So today, this day, I strive to LOVE with a BIG SOUL - the eternal, forever part of God in me.  For that is the LOVE of our Saviour...forever and unchanging.

02 December, 2015

What's in a word?

(Cross post from Scott Elliff - Adventagain.blogspot.com)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart...

As one who loves to speak and write, I have always been aware of the power of words.

Dr. Maya Angelou said this about them: “Words are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”

In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force…your word is pure magic, and misuse of your word is black magic.” Wow!

With such apparent power, why then are we so casual with words? Yes, we are casual, even reckless with words that wield the power to change a life, to change the world.

Perhaps one of the words we treat most casually is the word, “love.” The word for which scores of people hunger is either reserved for the deepest of bonds, or tossed about freely and carelessly: “I just love this dress!” “I love my wife!” “I love that song!” “You are my one true love.” “This steak sauce is delicious—I just love it!”

Whether a noun or a verb, used either to describe a fervent passion or simply a preference, such an important word should be carefully used or there is the risk that its power is marginalized.

Certainly, Christ Himself must have given careful consideration to the power of this word when he was asked to name the greatest commandment. He began with the words each man to whom he spoke that day knew from his childhood, Sh’ma Yisrael, Adoinai Eloheinu, Adonai E’chad (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One"). Then he made it perfectly clear that the greatest commandment had little to do with laws, rules, or regulations.

It was, is, and will always be about love.

In this instance, the word is a verb. Action is expected. Initiative is required. Results are anticipated.

The ancient Hebrew commandment first exhorts one to love the Lord God with one’s whole heart. Through the ages, the heart has been the symbolic representation of our emotions. Yes, this ancient commandment first and foremost challenges us to take the emotion of love that fills the heart and channel it into action. We must do more than feel something.

We must act.

As Kathy wrote in our first installment for Advent, Mary is our example for “loving with the whole heart.” Now, before I go on, I know some like to divide readers of scripture into two camps: those read with a literal perspective, and others who take a more figurative, symbolic approach. It’s a shame that so many see this as an “either / or” proposition, rather than agreeing that scripture can be read both literally and symbolically. It seems to me that God’s story is big enough to reside on both sides, in between, and all around.

As the Nativity narrative begins in the Gospel of Luke, a barely-teenaged Mary gets big news from a visiting angel: she is a pregnant virgin and God is the father! Her immediate response to the message is to depart hastily to visit an older cousin in another town. Elizabeth, whom we are led to believe has not seen her much younger cousin in some time, greets Mary with an apparent message of joy and clairvoyance—her own unborn child leaps in her womb at the sight of the future Mother of God. The entire scene wraps up with Mary’s lyrical song of praise, the Magnificat, and we learn that she stays to enjoy an extended visit with Elizabeth and her husband.

Read literally, the whole scenario is mind-boggling, defying common sense, logic and science. Certainly, it takes an incredible leap of faith to accept such a proposition, and millions across the ages have taken just that leap. And many, undoubtedly, would enjoy stopping here and debating whether or not things happened just as they have been written.

But let’s go further. Read symbolically, Mary represents many ideals: purity, innocence, humility, and obedience, to name a few. In the narrative, she comes across as one completely devoid of ego, emptied entirely of herself.

In a nutshell:  It is not about her.

Kathy wrote this last Sunday:  Amidst all of the unexpected surprises, all the chaos, all the stress, and the wrappings and tinsel…can I simply give my whole heart of love to those around me?

It occurs to me that I cannot do that unless, like Mary, I get out of my own way. I am my own worst enemy. It’s hard to love God with my whole heart when I am so busy trying to be God, feebly attempting to control all the circumstances and people in my life.

I am not alone, apparently, inhabiting the "all about me" space . We live in a narcissistic world where people are consumed by selfies and “likes.” We fret over appearances. And tragically, in these days, we see people of all faiths, traditions, and cultures using religion like a blunt instrument to bludgeon one another, to be “right” so that others are “wrong."

Such is “ego,” a word some have cleverly refashioned as an acronym for “edge God out.” That is not the “whole heart” love of Mary. That is not the love we are called to show as followers of Christ.

Unless I am willing to empty myself of my ego, my sense of personal importance, my notion that “it’s always about me,” I will find myself blocked or, worse, tripping and falling in my attempts to act in love, and not simply to feel love.

Mary reminds me: When my ego is in the way, I block the power of that magical word, love.

29 November, 2015

Simply...a whole Heart

Crosspost from Adventagain.blogspot.com

Advent is here - the time of the year that we wait and look for the coming of our long-expected 
Savior.  So let's begin our quest.

Simply...My brain and stomach are just digesting all the turkey, dressing, gravy, cake and pie when suddenly I feel thrust into a Christmas frenzy.  I woke up Friday morning already feeling late in my Christmas preparations.  How can I be late when we are only one day into the Christmas season?  It seems the sales and Christmas trees and decor are fighting for my attention.  I'm somewhat defeated before I have ever begun.  I'm pressured and enthralled with my to-do list yet real life keeps happening too. Paris, the world, my children, a husband, service to people in need, the church services and so much more.  So what can I do?  How do I juggle all the life requirements, needs and pressure I feel?
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:28-30
We find Jesus in the midst of brilliant, God-seeking, powerful leaders who are pumping Him with questions of all sorts.  Now certainly their motives were off and they were more interested in entrapment than truth perhaps; however, their questions remind me of my own set of questions that stay hidden in my heart.  How do I do it all?  How can I live this life to the fullest and according to God's laws without totally being exhausted?  How can my one little life count?

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart...


Simply...love God with all my heart....my whole heart.  Whole heart?  Not half my heart so not half-hearted but all the way!  I don't know if I can!  For you see my heart is damaged because I've lived life for 57 years.  Even as life is joyful; it is also hard and painful.  In addition, there are so many ways I've hurt people.  And there are dark places in this heart of mine.  Its like I have a secret compartment that holds feelings of disappointment, shame, and guilt....and as a friend of mine once said, "an itty-bitty committee" lives there too and holds meetings to re-live all my most embarrassing moments!  This is the human condition.  

But....what I've discovered is the mind-boggling truth that God lives in whole hearts not partial hearts.  Yes,  He lives amidst all the stuff that makes us feel ashamed and hurt and defeated.  He can stand all my worries, disappointments and pain.  He can stand all my celebrations, joy and love too.  That is why He asks for our whole heart - He's already seen it, experienced it and lived it with us.  And as I give my heart to Him - He returns it to me - healed, cleansed and whole.  It's the story of renewal, of darkness transformed into light. He has knit my heart to His.

Simply...then there is Mary.  She knew this truth.  She loved God with her whole heart.  Mary was a virgin and engaged to Joseph.  Surely she was anticipating the days as a future bride.  I wonder if she and her mom had discussed the marriage plans and the celebration?  I wonder if she dreamed of her special day and her new husband?  Can't we speculate that her excitement was at least similar to what we ourselves experience?
And then an angel arrives with some unbelievable and life-changing news!  It was news that was shocking, news that would be out right devastating in her world.  Yes, news that would rock her world, Joseph's world as well as the worlds of their family and friends.  Let's be honest...this news was not what she ever dreamed or dare I say, wanted... And yet, Mary only says,
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.... 
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled." Luke 1:34-38
Can that be my response these early days of Christmas?  “I am the Lord’s servant,”  Amidst all the unexpected surprises, all the chaos, all the stress, and the wrappings and tinsel...can I simply give my whole heart of love to those around me?

Simply...Christmas comes when He sends His whole heart to us...can I give Him my whole heart?  




26 October, 2015

I See You

Recently, I've been looking through old family photos and laughing a lot!  Yikes, we all thought we looked SO good back in the day.  Organizing old photos is a never-ending project and as life has become a bit hectic I've been delayed in completing this task.  However, in the last few weeks some of these photos have come into my mind at the strangest times.  And one in particular has captured my minds eye.  (You have my permission to laugh!  And yes, that's me.)
Kathy with neighborhood friend, circa 1965 

I was a little girl full of laughter, joy and mischievousness, it seems.  And a little girl with a really bad haircut! (Thanks Mama).  Anyway, I was a bit overweight as I grew up, I was never the most popular girl or the most accomplished.  My grades were average, my talent minimal but I knew my family loved me.  There were the usual pains of growing up.  There was a bit of unusual family dynamics perhaps but it was just my little life and all I knew to be true.

So why, oh why, would my mind's eye reflect back to this photo in recent days?  I'm a very middle-aged woman, years removed from childhood but yet....my mind's eye still sees this little girl as 'me'.  An awkward, often silly, not-too-cute, overweight girl...how can this image still be alive inside me? 

Years ago, I attended a Walk to Emmaus.  The weekend experience is one of soul-searching, laughter and new friends.  In one exchange, a new friend told me, "I wish you could see yourself as others see you".  And today, I say to me and to you....I wish we could see ourselves as Christ sees us. For I daresay, some of you reading these words have your own pictures in your head.  You have words and images trapped inside your mind that define you today.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”Genesis 16:7-10, 13 (NIV)

How can we apply this story of Hagar to our today lives? 

We are Hagar and on the run.  Yet, the angel of the Lord seeks us out of our hiding places.  The God of the Universe seeks you and me.  Did you read that?  The God of the Universe seeks us out!  He finds us in our places of hiddenness, those places we go when we hurt the most whether they are inside our heads or a physical location like Hagar chose.  He comes looking for us.  And upon finding us, he asks the most gentle and compelling question of us, 'where have you come from, and where are you going?'

He knows the answers to the questions he asks.  So why ask?  He knows the pictures we hold in our heads.  He knows the lies we tell ourselves.  He knows the hopes and dreams inside each of us...yet, He asks.  Why?  Is He asking so that we realize why we run?  Does He ask so we will speak aloud our own hurts and distorted images?  Is this the way healing can begin?

For me, He asks so that I realize again that He alone knows my past and my future going.  He alone SEES me and has me...and you.  And He seeks us in order to redeem, reframe and renew us.  He sought out Hagar to comfort her, love her and set her on her path to blessings and mission.  And so He does for us.  I feel like He's saying....I see you, I see your pain and questions.  I know your heart and I know the blessings that await you.  Get up, I see you.  Get up, and walk with Me where the blessings are too numerous to count.  And oh yes, open your eyes and see Me.

08 October, 2015

Light In Her Words

In the last few weeks, I've been up early and exercising.  For me this is a huge accomplishment as early mornings and exercising are not on my favorites list.  My list would be something like mid-morning and pancakes...but I digress!  This morning Ray and I were leaving to walk at 5:30 a.m. with flashlight in hand as its pretty dark at this hour.  This morning as we were walking down the driveway the sky was brilliant with the light of the moon and one very bright star.  We commented on it and the beauty.  But soon put on our headphones and begin the 30 minute route.  As we walked, the streetlights gave us a lot of light and the flashlight was turned off.  But well into our walk it was still quite dark and I was very focused on my steps, my feet, curbs, newspapers, sidewalk bumps and the like.  It was important that I keep my eyes downcast to guard my steps.  I didn't want to fall or trip or in anyway hurt my body as I've had my share of broken arms, injured knees, feet and back....so yes, I'm oh, so careful on dark mornings (and honestly, I was thinking 'Ray, turn on the flashlight!!').  I need to see.

I have a friend from China who sees clearly.  We've grown close through months of just being friends - sharing meals, sharing tea, attending English class, learning together in Bible study - just living life.  She arrived in Tuscaloosa with limited knowledge of God.  She's a scholar, she's a searcher and she recently became a Christ-follower.  And she's not looking down and trying to find her safe path but she's looking up!  Read her recent Facebook post about temples in China. (Use grace as you read and remember that English is her second language).
"These fabulous temples are located in several different cities of China. As you see, they are all very historical beautiful gorgeous standing in the most pretty places of the cities. People believes there is someone are blessing their life in somewhere.So they humbled their self and worshiped every temple when they met and heard in China. But they really confused about which temple is the real one who blessing them all the way. What they can do is stop by every single temple to appreciate and thank as well as donate in every way they can. They are eager to connect and approach to God in their deep soul, more like Jesus never let one go a wrong way. We pray for these who never have a chance to know God and HIS words. Praying God keep working on them and giving them the opportunity to have eternal life."
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light." Luke 8: 16-18 

I need to see up and out! I need to see a larger world,  I want to have eyes that see past my own feet.  I want to see past my own road. I want to see past my own hurts but so often I'm focused on my needs, my fear, my way of life.  But today in the darkness, I heard a whisper that nudged me to look up.  Look up to the bright sky.  Look up and see those around you.  Look up and away from your own life, your own pain, your own path.  You don't need others to turn on the flashlight for you.  The Light shines in you and through your pain!

And regarding those idols mentioned above, China is not the only country with idols.  What are our idols?  What do we look to that offers a false light and a temporary hope?  Is it our children?  Is it our grandchildren?  Are we living for them and their needs and happiness?  Is it a career?  Is it past success and social importance?  Maybe the message I heard this morning was to look deeply into my own light-needing life and truly SEE; then take that sight into the world of those truly hungry and searching.

Isn't this Light I crave above and beyond my little path?



13 September, 2015

Will you pick up a towel?

Images, Images, Images.  I'm surrounded by photos that take my breath away.  Facebook is filled with beautiful people and beautiful pictures.  If I didn't know better I would be tempted to believe that all of life is beautiful and carefree.  I look at all the adventure and beautiful pictures and feel amazed. I wonder if all of us on Facebook would dare to start posting pictures of the not so beautiful days in our lives.  I mean....shall I post a picture of my recent fight with the weeds in my garden or the mounds of dirty clothes awaiting me in the laundry room??   And then there are photos from my recent issue of Sports Illustrated that make my heart beat fast for football season to finally start! Photos of my children decorate my house!  Images of happiness and love and joy are what I choose to have around me.  Those are the images I want but there are others that have crowded into my mind's-eye as well.

A favorite story and image of mine takes place in a small house with a small group of people gathered for the evening meal.  The meal took place with all manner of food served, stories, laugher and some deep conversations.  The host of this particular dinner was a CEO type of fellow but still engaged his staff beautifully never wanting them to feel less-than but always feel included.  This particular leader demanded a lot from his staff but rewarded their work.  He was so very respected...to have a seat at his dinner table was a revered position and only a few were attending on this particular night.  So after a beautiful dinner that included selfies with the CEO, the group was relaxed and radiating in their joy to be at the table; surely their careers would take off from this point.  But it was at the end of dinner when the CEO stood to offer remarks that things turned sideways.  For he did not stand to give a lecture but he stood to pick up a towel.  He then proceeded to go to every member seated at the table, remove his shoes, and wash his feet.  This powerful CEO used his humility and service to offer the largest reward and promotion of the night.  He gave those attending a beautiful image, forever burned into their minds.

I have another image burned into my mind.  It's not a beautiful picture from Facebook or Instagram.  It's not an image I wanted to see.  It's not even a picture I can understand...but it's an image confronting me.  And if I had been born into a different country...could this be me?

Could it still be me and mine one day?  What do I do with this image?  Where do we place this in our information age?  Can I keep living my Facebook life in my beautiful home in my unscathed little world?  What is the answer to this awful situation?  As I sit in my comfortable home and see the beauty that surrounds me....what can I do?

"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."  John 13:14

Maybe the answer is in the towel.  I can pick up my towel to those in my life.  I can pray for those people looking for a home, for refuge.  Those guys sitting around with Jesus that night certainly picked up their towels after that evening.  They made a difference in their immediate world, with their immediate friends and their community.  I want to live like that.  I want my life to be about serving.  I want to pick up my towel and serve those least expecting it.  Don't we need to open our eyes not only to the beauty and blessings in our lives but also to the pain and hurting in the world?  Don't we want to make a difference?  Who can you serve?  Will you pick up your towel?

22 June, 2015

As the World Turns Right?

I called my sister this week and told her that I was considering renaming my Blog....As the World Turns seemed appropriate or perhaps my old favorite, Days of Our Lives.  Yes, its one of THOSE times in my life.  When I was in college my friends and I would literally arrange our class schedules around the television soap opera, Days of our Lives (no TiVo in those days!).  On any given day, at 1:30 p.m. there we were, 8 to 10 girls gathered around a TV to watch this epic show.  We were obsessed  with their triangles of love, deception, hurt and reconciliation.  We were also 18 years old with nary a clue as to how life ebbs and flows.

This weekend, I was in a worship service and the speaker announced the title of his sermon, How to Live Life Right.  His points were valid and strong as he focused on love, attention and the grace of God.  But for the life of me, I kept wondering if I shouldn't get up and leave the service.  His tone and examples were of a perfect family unit and it was to people very different from me.  I wanted to scream from the back of the room, "What about those of us who haven't gotten it right?  What about those of us who don't have perfect families, perfect marriages, perfect kids"?? (Ray was happy I stayed seated and quiet!)

But...I haven't lived life right.  My life includes struggle and bad decisions.  My soap opera life has more twists and turns than I can count.  Just when I believe I'm on an even keel words are whispered in confidence that shatter my heart.  Hopes and dreams get postponed and changed into different shapes and sizes.  People in my world are hurting.  I'm hurting.  Am I not living right?  

But wait.....preacher man, don't put me on a guilt trip.  I live my own trip daily.  I've planned all the attractions and know all the detours.  I've driven this road for many years.  I can't live right.  And isn't THAT THE POINT.  There are no perfect steps to living life right.  There is only one step and He has a name....Jesus.  For in my brokenness He meets me first.  For in my love He loved me first.  For in my tears and disappointment He saves the tears and counts each one.  For in my hopelessness He is hope.

For in all my distress and mess, He saw me returning to Him.  He even saw me from a long way off.  The day I decided I couldn't live life right on my own and turned toward Him He saw me.  In fact, in that day He began to run toward me.  The healer of broken hearts and dreams, the Creator of all things, the Saviour of the entire world.....ran towards me with open arms...whispering "you didn't get it right but I DID, I HAVE, I AM."  Finally, Mr. Right.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

01 May, 2015

One-on-One

Life is hectic!  This week I found myself repeatedly running out the door with barely a glimpse at my Bible, devotional books or time with God.  On Tuesday, as I was speeding to an early morning meeting, I thought, 'dang it, I should have brought my Bible and devotional stuff with me!'.  I had realized that after my early morning meeting I had a big break before my next appointment and could have used the time to read, reflect and be in God's Word.  Ugh, I wish I was more organized and had gathered my materials before leaving my house...

It was then that a still, small voice whispered...you don't need those materials to have time with Me.

Really....don't need my Bible, my Oswald Chambers devotional book, my journal, my pen, my computer, my worship music, my Jesus Calling???

Yes....just Me and you.  No distraction, no calendar, no devotional, just us.

Somehow, this obvious whispered knowledge is so much more difficult than the rote quiet time that involves my everyday devotional time.  Somehow, this one-on-one time is hard for me to find, to prioritize, to just simply DO.  And such time as this scares me.  What will we talk about?  What will He say to me?  I feel so vulnerable and yet excited by the thought of a one-on-one with my God.

This will reveal my age but - there is a scene from the original movie the Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is alone on a mountainside, twirling with her arms spread wide while she sings.....the hills are alive with the sound of music...  Somehow this scene flashed in my head as I pondered this call to a private one-on-one.  (OK, I'm not going to my backyard, twirling and singing....just for those of you worried about such a sight!)  But it does help me picture the beauty of aloneness, the quality of such communication.  This type of one-to-one with God gives me the freedom to say, do, sing, cry, laugh, pour out all thoughts and all concerns and all praise.  I want to be on the mountainside with Him today.

I wonder if I will?  I wonder if I will make the time?  I wonder if I will unburden myself from the 'must-dos' of my faith and just simple walk out into my yard, find a shady spot and sit and meet with Him.  Will I? Will you?


29 March, 2015

The Work of Peacemaking

Cross posted from FortyFaithful.blogspot.com
The call to peacemaking from Matthew 5:9 befuddles me.  Perhaps this is a verse that only applies to those who have the personality or giftedness of peacemaking.  Surely this is one verse that I can discount as "does not apply."  But then I began to think and remember:
Those long days of work and picking up my two elementary age children who were arguing and needing peacemaking well before we found our driveway!  I remember those same two living life as teenagers and the peacemaking that occurred in our house!  Then my memory took me back even further to my parents and our household.  By the time I was in junior high school I was the remaining child in my parents home.  There were disagreements in those days too.  I found peacemaking was easier than "walking on egg shells."  So perhaps I have some experience in this field after all...

But I'm pondering as to whether this call to peacemaking is deeper than the circumstantial situations I've described.  I wanted to know how truly interested Jesus was in peacemaking.  Upon the birth of Jesus it was announced in Luke 2:14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.  In John 18, when Jesus was about to be arrested, Peter drew his sword and struck a high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.  Jesus went into peacemaking mode and stopped Peter and commanded him to put his sword away.  Then in Luke at the death of Jesus, He becomes the peace-giver granting favor to the repenting thief on the cross.
At His birth, in His life and in His death Jesus lived peace-making and peace-giving.  So how can I?  How can you? How do I offer peace to the world in which I live.

It seems to me that I can only offer peace when I, myself have accepted God's peace within my own soul.  For you see what I have realized is that in my life I have had many peacemaker roles.
...to my parents
...at work
...to my children: Nick and Sarah
...to my brother/sisters
...in the church

But these roles have mostly focused on simply 'getting through' conflict and NOT resolving or addressing the deeper brokenness of each relationship.  True peacemaking and peace giving are at their core: genuine, difficult and oh, so worth it.  For it is in the difficulty of finding the peace that our own inner peace can be restored.  J. Ellsworth Kalas states it this way, "But how exactly does one make peace?  Nearly all of us claim to want peace...Since peace is so universally admired and presumable so universally sought after, it must not be that easy to achieve, else our human race would have won the goal several millennia ago....Most of us realize that we have conflicts within our own person - angers, resentments, bitterness, and fears."  Let's do the work of peace in our own hearts and lives.  For it only then that we can truly accept Jesus' peace into our own lives and offer peacemaking to the lives of others.

One of Jesus last great lessons occurred just before His crucifixion and is found in John 14:27.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples.....us:
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts by troubled and do not be afraid.

He's offering us a life of peace, He's offering us healing for our damaged emotions and our damaged selves.  Can we accept His free gift of peace?  And then begin to share peacemaking in our everyday worlds?

I've written a few times about our family's journey into the world of addiction and recovery. In simplest terms this means that as one of our members become addicted so did our lives as well.  A sickness took over our family and each member in it experienced the illness in a different way.  Each of us was hurt, wounded and suffered differently.  And for the last 4.9 years we have chosen to work toward healing.  Each member of the family is working to find recovery.  It has taken many tears, prayers, and so much honesty that my heart has ached at times.  We have found that the only true peace, and therefore our ability to offer peacemaking, has come from the most hurtful but brutal honesty with each other.  For once those old places of woundedness were touched...the healing peace was able to come in.

This peace business is not for the light-hearted.  It is not for those who would prefer to keep their honest feelings hidden.  But it is for those actively seeking peace and seeking to become peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

Be brave.  Be a peacemaker today.  Be a peace giver.



15 March, 2015

Lord Have Mercy

Being a southern girl, the term, "Lord have mercy" has been in my vocabulary since the day I was born.  Every time I hear it there is a southern drawl attached and quite possible the slow shake of one's head.  It seems to be a grandma's favorite expression.  And perhaps it's akin to "Bless his heart". Both of these expressions come from deep wells of emotion where exact words seem incomplete.  Lord have mercy.....Bless his heart. And so I begin ponder Jesus' words in Matthew 5:7
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

I've struggled with this word, mercy, for a week.  Reading and reading and trying to get my mind around it.  Jesus is instructing us to be merciful, to show mercy and that I understand, sort of.  But my dilemma is the how.  How do I live a life offering mercy.  Webster helped a bit, mercy is defined as:
lenient or compassionate treatment; compassion shown especially to an offender.  This definition helps me societally, politically and educationally in application.  But Jesus' call to us in this verse from the Bible goes much further.  It states for us to show mercy so that we receive mercy and this is where the truth gets real.  These words not only tell me to show great mercy to others but they also scream that we are in need of mercy....we need and will need "compassion shown to an offender".

As I explored the mercy word all week, one of my exercises was to search the Bible for this one word.  Over one hundred verses appeared but what struck me were several New Testament verses.
  • As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”Matthew 9:27 
  • A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”Matthew 15:22  
  • “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.Matthew 17:15  
  • Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”Matthew 20:30 
  • The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”Matthew 20:31  
And then one final verse from Matthew:
  • “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:23 
The first group of these verses all reflect people in deep, deep need.  They each have cried out to Jesus after having exhausted all other means of healing or hope in their lives.  They are blind, they are suffering, they are sick both physically and mentally.  The two blind men sitting by the roadside when hearing that Jesus was going by begin shouting to Him for mercy.  And even as the crowd told them to shut-up and stop screaming for Him, they screamed all the louder....have mercy on us.  These people knew their condition.  These people knew their inability to help themselves.  No self-help book was going to ease the pain they were suffering.  No education, no job, no relationship, no church membership, no sporting event, no bank account, no country club membership, no political party, no career....they needed mercy and only mercy for their conditions were broken and bleak.

A few chapters later, Jesus uses the word mercy to a group of very knowledgeable, smart and Godly men.  These teachers of the law had given their lives to knowing God and His scriptures but yet they seemed to have missed the point.  It seems that they were relying on knowledge alone.  And He asks, where is your mercy?  Do you know you need mercy?

I've asked myself and I'm asking you today: which group are you?  Are you the blind beggar screaming out for mercy? Do you realize your own brokenness and need for mercy? Or are you standing in your church pew having missed the point?

Honestly and ashamedly, I've tended to live my life as though, "I'm doing OK".  I've been able to work out my problems and worries...or so I have thought.  But yet, there was a day that I can remember screaming for God's mercy.  When we come to the end of ourselves and recognize our true need we scream and beg for mercy only He can give.  Several years ago, while in a prayer time I suddenly found myself on my knees and then flat on my face.  Begging and screaming for God to have mercy on me and on my son.  Shouting out for God to take me, take my daughter, take my husband but please have mercy on my son.  My precious son who was caught in addiction and pain.  Our family was broken and past the point of no return...I knew not much else that day but I knew of my condition and my great need for healing and mercy.  And then, He stopped and looked at me and gave me blessed mercy.

 Lord, have mercy.  Lord, teach me mercy.

01 March, 2015

Meek? It's not my MyersBriggs!

Cross post from forty faithful.blogspot.com


In the final semester before my graduation from college, I can vividly remember creating a resume and preparing for job interviews.  Two questions stand out in my mind: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?  It was those two answers that would determine my job opportunities or so I thought.  Then a few years later, in my second career move, my employer provided a staff opportunity to learn about our personalities.  The Myers-Briggs was administered and we each 'found' ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses.  Suddenly, I was able to explain my quirks and personality style (or at least some of my quirks!).

Over the years, Matthew 5 has often been that type of reading for me - a personality checklist.  I would read the verses to find myself.  And to further honesty, I'll admit to skipping verses that didn't apply to me because they were simply "not my personality."  So today we come to Matthew 5:5 - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

My teachers from days of old, my parents, my brother and sisters, my friends from all days of my life have affirmed to me that I am not meek!!!  So how can this verse be a call to me?  How can I live this verse in my life?  And how in the world does any of this discussion have to do with the 40 days before Easter? What does meek even mean?

To determine the true definition of meek I investigated the original Greek word used in this verse.  The Greek word is Praus and conveys the idea of tenderness and graciousness, and can be accurately translated “meekness” and “meek”. But unlike those English words, the Greek terms do not connote weakness but rather power under control. The adjective praus was often used of a wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner. 

Now this definition takes hold of me.  A wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner...I can see myself as wild, strong-willed, undisciplined, fiery, full of life and wanting to be useful.  So the meek let the Father take control of their powerful natures, they let Him break them for their own good and for His usefulness, love and guidance.  The word 'meek' is indeed beautiful and powerful.

When did Jesus show such meekness? One Bible commentary sums up like this:
He displayed it [meekness] in two ways, both of which showed his power. In respect to his own person, he practiced neither retaliation nor vindictiveness. When he was mocked and spat upon, he answered nothing, for he trusted his Father. As we have noted, when he was confronted by Pilate, he kept silent. When his friends betrayed him and fled, he uttered no reproach. When Peter denied him, Jesus restored him to fellowship and service. When Judas came and kissed him in Gethsemane, Jesus called him "friend." And Jesus meant it. He was never insincere. Even in the throes of death, he pleaded, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing"(Luke 23:34). In all of this Jesus, meek and mild, was in control. He radiated power.
These are such strong examples of Jesus' meekness especially considering that they all occurred within the span of a week and are so very emotionally charged.  He practiced neither retaliation or vindictiveness - have I? Have you?  When his friends disappeared - he loved them.  Do I?  Even in a painful death He forgave and blessed those around Him.  Remember, “meekness” is not weakness but rather power under control.  God's power was fully revealed three days later.

Our world encourages us to be brash, at-the-front-of-the-line, speak up, demand what is rightfully yours, go after your dream - regardless of what it takes to get it, get your name out, let people see you, etc, etc.  But our goal is different for we have chosen to take the Jesus-like personality test.  Perhaps these Beatitudes are indeed the Bible's version of a Myers-Briggs personality assessment.  It is these characteristics that should define us and finally complete us and make us whole.  Our race is not to get ahead in this world but to inherit the next world...

"Father, I pray that I can stop trying to wrap the words of the Bible around me and instead insert me and my brokenness into the Word.  How often I miss the blessing You offer by simply living as though the verses don't apply to me or that they are not part of my personality.  Please Lord, mold me into your Word.  Stop my mind and intellect from trusting the world's opinion over You.  Open me up to understand the meekness and bridled power You call me to today."

In these 40 days leading up to Easter lets ask ourselves the following questions:
1.  When has meekness been evident in my life?
2.  How am I doing with this now?  Is this trait found in my life today?
3.  How do I make this more a part of my life in the future?





18 February, 2015

Poor in Spirit?

Cross post from www.fortyfaithful.blogspot.com
Welcome to this Forty Faithful journey.  For this period of 40 days, Scott and I will write eight
blogs for you to ponder.  We will be studying Matthew 5:1-10 and intersect these words of Jesus with the approaching celebration of Easter.  We have no predisposed outcome for you or ourselves...we are simply on a journey to know our God in a new way.  Read, think deeply and pass it on...

Forty days before Christmas was mid-November.  By mid-November last year I had Thanksgiving planned, company coming, a few Christmas gifts purchased, and the cooking scheduled!  By the end of November, Thanksgiving was over, I was stuffed and already stressed but the tree was arriving!  Stockings were to be hung, more food to be cooked and for heavens sake a party or two to attend.  It was a busy forty days as we approached Christmas.  I wrote and talked about the lack of time and the lack of concentration I was putting toward the REAL reason for the Christmas season!  The commitments were too many and my to-do list too long.  Yes, it was the birth of the Savior of the world...and we celebrated...and the hubbub kept building...until finally January 2. (or in reality after the College Football Playoff Championship game).  It was then that my world went quiet or at least back to routine.

Now here we find ourselves forty plus days away from Easter.  My to-do list isn't as long as the December one.  I haven't the parties to attend or cooking to get done.  I have few guests coming my way.  And my box of Easter decor is much easier to attend to than the droves of boxes marked Christmas.  But yet...these forty pre-days of Easter are even bigger and better and more hope-filled than one could ever imagine.  Will you think me daft if I express that these days of Easter are our most significant of the year?  This Easter Sunday celebration is THE celebration!  So how blessed we are to have moments, 40 days of moments to think and ponder as to what is coming, Who is coming!

Jesus speaks difficult words to us in Matthew 5:3.  These words are the first of our forty day journey towards Easter.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

These words are difficult to me because I do not fully understand their meaning and I really struggle in applying them to my life.  How is one poor in spirit?  Is it too a journey?  How does one become 'poor in spirit'?  I read a comment from Billy Graham on this question,
"In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own spiritual emptiness and poverty.  We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we really don't need God."

Self-satisfied and proud Dr. Graham says.  Those words make me squirm for if I'm self-satisfied I've stopped looking for my satisfaction in the One.  On a daily basis, can I become poor in spirit?  I confess that many times my own will is not poor in spirit but puffed-up and proud.  Do we realize our own emptiness and poverty?  In this land of the free, American dream do we try and self-satisfy?  Are we too 'rich' in all things to truly become poor in spirit?

Surveys in the United States show that religious commitment is generally somewhat higher among people with less income and Christians in less affluent countries like Nepal, Guatemala, Kenya or China often are prepared to pay a higher price for their faith than most Western Christians. In Bible studies among students from different kinds of colleges and backgrounds [we find] that students from poor homes, struggling to pay their way through college, frequently understand this passage better than those students for whom the road is easier. Source: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series

This scripture is a call to embrace our poor-ness.  It is not a call to live as poor-pitiful-me but it's an opportunity to recognize the poverty of my soul, the complete need of my heart and then to receive the richness of the Kingdom.  If I am living a life poor in spirit - isn't every second a gift and blessing?  Shouldn't I fall out of bed in the morning and be face-down in need and in thanksgiving?

We have forty faithful days to ponder...

03 January, 2015

Backward Resolutions

Happy New Year means it is time to make some New Years resolutions.  Many of us make our lists Lose ten pounds.  Exercise every day.  Stay within my personal budget and grow my savings account.  Visit my family more consistently.  I 'will do this', I 'will do that'...But do we ever see them through??  I don't or I haven't!
We promise ourselves that this is THE year to see them through.

Well, I am rebelling.  I'm much better in controlling what I will NOT do...because I like to be in control...(don't judge me, you do too).  So this year I refuse to make such a list.  Instead I am making a Backward Resolution list, i.e. these are the goals of what I am NOT going to do.
And....I have listed these in reverse order (thank you David Letterman):

10.  I am not going to feel guilty for sleeping late on Saturday mornings.
9.  I am not going to walk 10,000 steps every day (for that put me in a boot for the last six weeks!)
8.  I am not going to overreact when traffic piles up.
7.  I am not going to ignore my own pain or the pain in my family.
6.  I am not going to be afraid of loving extravagantly.
5.  I am not going to waste my earth days by ignoring the needs all around me.
4.  I am not going to ignore the call of God on my life to take His message to those around me.
3.  I am not going to 'go to church because it's Sunday and I have to or what would people think?'
2.  I am not going to rest in my own strength.
1.  I am not going to put my hope and trust in my self, my husband or my children, my friends or ANY earthly gift.
(1. I originally wrote: I am not going to deny my Lord and Savior but knew that before morning dawns I will have denied him three times or more.  But this remains my hearts desire.)

So in this year 2015, I ask myself Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35, 37-39

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