23 December, 2017

Why in the World was Jesus born?

Cross-posted from Adventagain.blogspot.com
For many years, I've had the privilege to work with visiting scholars from other countries.  When these students visit our country, we try to give them a taste of our culture and traditions.  This certainly included Christmas festivities, decorations and gifting.  I've been asked many, many questions about our traditions, here is a sampling:
"Ms. Kathy, why do people hang round circles of tree branches on their walls and doors?"
"Why do most people bring trees into their home?  What does this mean?"
"I have a question, Ms. Kathy.  How does Santa Claus fit into Jesus being born"?

Needless to say, I've had to relearn why we do indeed place wreaths on our doors and decorate Christmas trees!!  Do you know the heritage of those traditions?  And the Santa/Jesus question...imagine a foreigner's confusion as they see both in our advertising and festivals.  Can you explain the commonality or the linkage?

I think these questions are good and really healthy for us.  Why indeed do we 'do' these things? How have I personally combined Santa and Jesus into my family celebration?  But the real question for us today...why in the world was Jesus born?

So, from Chinese Bible study come a few answers:

•Jesus HAD to be born…How else could we meet God face-to-face?
God’s great plan for mankind included the necessity of a savior, a redeemer of mankind.

•To save us from ourselves and a certain end...death.

•To show us God,,,God’s character, His love, His temperament, His goodness

•To come meet you and me…

•To show how much He loves you and me...I mean for goodness sakes, He left heaven for us!!

•To walk on the earth like we do, living a REAL life full of joy, anger, pain, friendship, just life!

•To show us how to reach God….that invisible Force that I sense when I look at a sunrise or see a beach or see the miracle of a newborn baby, or see sparkly eyes when I meet a friend I love.  Jesus is the ONE who is between me and this God force.

•Jesus was born...to teach me that God’s spirit can live in me…

That is why Jesus was born…to show us God.  And Jesus himself explains this to us in John.
My prayer is not for them alone [the disciples]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.    John 17:20-23
Jesus' words...I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.  Jesus is born to give us His glory.  What a gift this Christmas!  Do we dare unwrap it and make it our own?  Do you dare live in His JOY and Glory today?  Isn't that what His very words say we receive when we believe?

So, how do you answer?  Why was Jesus born?  What do you celebrate this Christmas Eve?

16 December, 2017

Shepherds Go

Cross-post from Adventagain.blogspot.com
First Responders are an amazing group of people. They are those who run toward the danger instead of away from the danger.  They are the ones risking their lives to save or help total strangers.  They are the ones problem-solving as they run into unknown situations.  They are the ones willing to go in and survey the situation, to help start the rescue.  This group is highly trained certainly but most of all, they are first, willing.

And so were the shepherds.  Think about this group of individuals, this occupation.  Luke 2 states that they were, "living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night".  This had to be a most difficult existence as they were away from family, uncomfortable, lonely and each night was oh, so dark.  We all know danger comes at night as does fear.

Then, one night after years and years of predictable darkness, there came a bright light in the sky like never before seen.  They must have been absolutely terrified.  One angel shining in God's glory who also spoke words that they understood.  Then many, many angels with many voices also praising God.  And then...darkness.  Silence.

These men had to be in shock, stunned, amazed, and scared to death.  They were just humans like you and me, going to work and certainly not anticipating this type of night after so many others of darkness and void.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste...Luke 2:9-16a

Think of how dark it must have become after the light from the angels dissipated.  The darkness had to feel ten-times darker after experiencing such a light.  But unlike me, who would have run to the nearest house and hidden or run to my family where I knew I would be safe, these men ran (with haste) to Bethlehem.  What drove them to go?  They literally walked-off their jobs.  Were they too astounded NOT to go?  It takes willingness and courage to go into a situation where you don't know the outcome.  It takes an ability to recognize our lack of knowledge and our need to know.  It's a 'first responder' type of mentality.

One day, a few years back, we were in a dark, dark place when our young son, Nick, became willing and filled with courage to go toward a new beginning.  He made the choice to seek recovery.  As we drove to Nashville, Nick was on the phone with several different men.  Men of integrity who had tried to intervene and help him.  He held nothing back and told his story of brokenness and over and over his tears would flow.  His spirit was broken but he was willing to find healing.  Nick was admitted and with a quick goodbye, the door closed and he was gone.  We would not see him or speak to him for a while.  Phone privileges and visitation would come in time.  We could write letters, as could he, which to my knowledge he had never done in his life.  We stood there alone with each other and were completely numb.  I’m certain we were in shock.  I absolutely have no memory of our four-hour drive home.  The dark, dark night can freeze us in place but first responders, shepherds, and our brave children often lead us to willingness, to courage, to seek.

We know from the Luke story, that the shepherds were willing to go.  They arrived and they saw Him.  They were willing to hear and learn and believe.  Then, they returned to their normal world and they told people what had happened to them and "what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them".  What a story!  What a real-life challenge!

Run with haste, run and see with your own eyes.  Let's choose to go.  Let's choose to run even though we may be afraid.  Let's choose to see how God will meet us and then turn us around to go tell others.  Isn't that the story of Christmas and the shepherds?

One night, one angel appeared, one message, one decision, one risk to go, one sighting, one telling, one amazed, one belief.  One.  One.  One.

09 December, 2017

Joseph: Flip the Script

Cross-posted from Adventagain.blogspot.com
Ok, let's get honest...yes, the holidays are advertised as wonderful, magical, full of song, laughter and love.  We imagine seeing people singing in the streets, dancing and oh, so joyful...the 'Hallmark' Christmas in our minds.  However, honestly, our holiday season is probably not like that at all!!  We're stressed, the commercialism is overdone, the money is running out, the kids wish lists keep growing and changing, we have to be with family that we really don't even like!  On top of that we are burdened by wildfires out of control, a world in crisis, politics, family loss and grief.  This Christmas season may not be at all what we expected or wanted.  And it's scary.

And so, it was true for Joseph, Mary's fiancé.  The news Mary delivered to him was in no way what he expected, needed or wanted.  Certainly, the news leveled him, how could it not have?  Many of us may have received similar news in our lifetime.  One diagnosis, one accident, one phone call, one moment of news and our world crumbles.  Fear enters.
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.”...When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18-20, 24 
We learn from the angel that spoke to Joseph, "do not be afraid".  We learned from the shepherds watching flocks in the field, "do not be afraid", the angels exclaimed.  We learn not to fear from Mary's story too: the angel greeted her with, "do not be afraid."

God knows and acknowledges our condition, we are fearful people, clearly.  And in the world today there are many opportunities for us to be afraid.  But in all these stories we learn that God shows up in our weakness.  We learn that we are never alone.  We learn God provides a way and a direction.  But yet...fear persists.  Joseph and Mary still had to face the home folks.  They still had to face family and coworkers.  Life as they knew it had been altered and would never be the same.

Joseph had to keep going.  He had to believe what he dreamed and heard from the angel of the Lord.  And most interesting to me, Joseph had never met Jesus.  He hadn't been born!  He hadn't seen the work of Jesus, he hadn't received a Bible and read the stories of Jesus.  Yet...he believed and chose to live fear-free.

We, on the other hand, have heard of Jesus and have read about his entire life.  We've seen the words in red in our Bibles!  He speaks directly to us.  Yet, we experience fear this Christmas holiday.  We may fear finances, we may fear marriage failure, we may fear joblessness, we may fear situations we cannot even acknowledge.  What are we to do?  How can we experience the JOY of Christmas amidst the fear in the world?

Maybe, we remind ourselves of who Jesus is or we remind ourselves of what we believe about Him.  Who is Jesus to you?  How do you define Him?  In your own definition, can fear stand up to those traits you've thought about?  If He is truly God and we truly believe that He is divine...fear can never, never co-exist with Him.  For surely a God of the universe will always defeat our human fear...that's a God trait!

Do we dare take Jesus at His word?  In John 17, He gives us the answer just like He gave Joseph.
"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." John 17:22-23

The Glory God gave Jesus, Jesus then gave to those who believe.  Do you understand that significance?  The Glory of God has been given to us.  Maybe we choose, like Joseph, to believe.  Let us in this day, choose the JOY He alone has provided us.  He provided it by being born. He left heaven to come get us, He left heaven to come meet us, He left heaven to show us how to live and be fulfilled and whole and to not be afraid.  Let's trust in who He is and Who comes for us.

03 December, 2017

Flip the Script

Ahhh, the season of Christmas has arrived.  The gift buying is in full swing as well as decorations galore.  I actually spent 10 minutes on the gift wrap aisle trying to find the perfect gift wrap paper....seriously!  Note: this will be paper disposed of in 3 weeks!  The machine of Christmas has begun its march into my mind and actions.
I've asked and been asked, "What do you want for Christmas".  We all want to purchase the perfect gifts for each other.  We want to avoid those awkward Christmas morning moments of nervousness when we are secretly thinking, "Oh, I hope I like this gift or at least, act like I love this present from my mother-in-law!  Can I fake my joy"?

What do you want for Christmas?  I've been asked this question so often that I hear myself lamely reply, "Oh, I just don't know.  I don't NEED anything!"  But that's a lie, for sure!  I need.  So, maybe the question is, "What do you need for Christmas"?  Instead of our normal focus: what to cook, what we'll buy, what activities we'll organize, what sweater to purchase... can we flip the script this week?  Can we stop for today and ask a different question?

What does HE bring this Christmas?  This Jesus we are celebrating...what is He bringing you this Christmas?  What do you want from Jesus this Christmas?  What do you need?

Whoever you are today, wherever you are, I know one thing about you and about me: we need.  All of us need Jesus this Christmas.  Our quick minds may ask:
1. Doesn't He need my wish-list, my Pinterest page?  Does He have any idea of what I'd really like so I don't have to fake my response?
2.  Can I trust Him to give me my heart's desire?
3.  Does He give good gifts?

When Mary had her visit from the angel, she must have had similar thoughts.
...The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“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. Luke 1:27b-35
I certainly don't presume to know or understand the depth of this story, Mary's feelings or her need but what I DO know is what verse 35 says:
"The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." 
This is a Christmas gift waiting for you and me.  Whatever our need, whatever our situation, whatever is on our Christmas list....the Most High will overshadow you.  He will be there, He will heal, He will love, He will answer, He will give us exactly the perfect gift.  For He is a God who gives only good gifts.  We have no fear of what's inside the box and hoping we like it.  For what's inside the box we unwrap from Him is perfectly made and chosen for you and me.

One Christmas, when my daughter, Sarah, was 5 or 6 years old she presented me with a gift.  She had wrapped it herself.  The wrapping around the shoe box was crooked, wrinkled and the bow was loosely hanging.  She handed it to me and encouraged me to open it.  I'll never forget how she stood...so excited, her little hands clasped behind her back as she stood in her little pink gown.  "Open it, Mama".  And yes, in fear that I would have the right reaction, I begin to open this imperfect box.  Once I removed the wrapping, I removed the lid....as I looked through the tissue paper...it was empty.  I looked up at my Sarah, and she stood there beaming..."it's all my love, Mama."  I didn't have to fake my reaction for it was the one true gift I needed that day.

Flip the script of your heart....what do you need for Christmas?

28 October, 2017

Stop the Words

My world is so full of words.  Words of action, words of responsibility, words of news, words of pain and suffering, words of encouragement and teaching.  A few of these words are harmful to my heart, many are difficult to hear, some are beautiful, alive and uplifting...yet, I'm tired of the words.  It reminds me of days long ago when I couldn't wait for my babies to say their first words...then months later would wonder if they would ever quit talking!!

It's confusing that inasmuch as I treasure the gift of words, I've realized that they pull me away, they distract me, they lead me to rely on intellect and reason and problem-solving.  I get caught up in the cycle of words and they bind me and prevent me from finding my one source of hope and love.  Think about it, we wake up, we listen to radio and TV, we read email, we Tweet, we go to work, school, weekends are filled with activities and words, evening events, even church services where we're instructed and taught...we start to believe that these activities and actions are the ones that keep us informed, up-to-date, and offer us informed peace and hope and love.  Day after day we live in the unending flow of words from the world and for me...it's exhausting.

My mind and ears are aching.  And my spirit is hungry to hear the Word of truth.  But somehow, I may have found a remedy for my life.  And it is a strange fix, in fact it is two opposites that attract and help me.  These two strange bed-fellows are music and silence.  Let me explain.  Some of my best times are those that I put on my headphones with praise music blaring and get outside and walk.  The only words blasting in my ears and mind are words sung in glory to the King of Kings.  Words sung in joy that declare His power over my life.  As I walk, I only hear and experience His love and offer of healing and all I see before me is His creation.  Somehow, this becomes the most worshipful experience of my week.  Because it's just me and Him.  There are no distractions, no spoken words, no other people.

And the music is LOUD in my ears.  Why, you may wonder?  Because the world's distraction is so loud in my head that I find the music has to be LOUD so my mind doesn't wander and stays on my God.  Seriously, I'm so feeble-minded that I literally need the volume loud to keep my attention.  That is how much my brain has been impacted by the words of the world.

My next step after this loud music-searing experience is the exact opposite...silence.  As I arrive back at my home, I stop the music and simply sit in silence and listen.  Listen to the cry of my heart and listen to my God's response to my soul.  It becomes the most real part of my week.  For I have finally stopped the words, stopped the world, stopped my own goings.  I've had to break the cycle with the music so that I can find the moments with my God.

And the scary part for me is that the words are getting louder and louder in the world.  I'm becoming more and more distracted.  I've simply got to choose the Music and Silence more and more and more.  Am I the only one dealing with this words overload?  Are you?  How do you separate yourself for the world of words?  Would you try my "Music - Silence" experiment?

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.  Psalm 92:1-3

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1


29 September, 2017

The Bucket List

"The Greatest Commandment: 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: ‘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.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." Mark 12:28-34

Have you read this part of the Bible before?  Or perhaps I should ask, how many times have we read these words?  Have they sunk in?  Let me offer the following story as a parallel to the one above...a modern day encounter with the Teacher.

The day started after a poor night of sleep.  The first appointment was at 7 a.m. so I had to scoot.  Bathed, dressed, make-up, hair done, cute outfit....ready for the day. Meetings happened and all was fine; however, I did notice a strange feeling, a disconnection throughout the day.  It was as though I was not really IN the day but participating at a distance.  I was just going through the motions of the day but no real connection.  It was a distraction but no real issue... probably just a lack of sleep the prior night.
Late in the day, I headed out to my last meeting of the day and the best part of my day.  We call the gathering, Chinese Bible Study.  We gathered, we ate, chatted and sat down to begin a new study.  And thus begin my unraveling.
As we opened the box of newly delivered books...alas, the wrong books had been shipped.  No, I had not bothered to open the box and check the shipment!  So, I decided to go ahead and teach these fifteen people from a new book, that I was barely comfortable with, and one that they did not have in front of them.  Warning bells were ringing in my head.  The day had already been strange but forge ahead, I did.  Have I mentioned that of the fifteen people gathered, we had multiple countries represented: Russia, China, South Korea, Bangladesh, Yemen and the US?  Did I also mention that some of those gathered spoke really great English and some spoke practically no English.  Some were new believers in Jesus and some had never before heard His name.
But, off I went and begin to teach or something like teaching!  Between the language barrier,  the new book, my before mentioned 'off-ness', a bunny trail of explanation of evil in the world and loud children in the room next door...I was slowly losing my mind, sorry, my focus.  All we needed was a dog to come running through the room or a chicken on the loose or any other random act of distraction...

And, we got it...a loud thud from the room next door and suddenly loud crying.  Mothers jumped up and ran to help, more people got up to help, more crying began as other babies became frightened too.  I felt like crying but didn't think that would help the situation too much.  After a fe-e-e-e-w-w minutes, things calmed.  But I had checked out.  I was done.  I knew of no way to bring the group back together.  All my own issues from the day began to mount in my head, the doubts swirled, the assault of words begin in my head....(did I mention that we were studying Genesis and the role of the serpent?)...you cannot do this, you are not a good teacher for these women, stop, stop talking.  And I did.
Our main leader took over the chaos, calmed us all and closed us out for the evening.  Whew! Inside my mind and spirit, were thoughts of inadequacy.  I remembered the preparation, the outward appearance, the effort to appear unflappable...I was none of those things in that moment.  And I was out of sorts.  My human effort had fallen very, very short.

I escaped to the kitchen and joined a Chinese sister.  She immediately asked me, "Do you have a bucket list?"  Thankful for the change in thoughts and conversation, I engaged with her.  And almost immediately she offered to share her top bucket list item.  "I want to talk to God," she said.  I, being the wise teacher again, said, "Oh, you want to pray more."  "No," she said.  "I want to talk with Him just like you and I are talking now.  I want to hear His voice.  That's number 1 on my bucket list!"

There I stood, defeated and helpless, and heard the Word of God spoken directly to me.

As the Mark account refers to "burnt offerings and sacrifices", I suddenly realized what that meant in my daily life.  In this day, my human efforts had failed.  I was bringing my whole effort, my modern day burnt offerings and sacrifices but they fell woefully short.  And, in that kitchen with a young woman who's eyes blazed with a new love for God,  I was blessed, so very blessed to be reminded....my efforts, my performance are not the issue.  GOD loving us first is the issue and then our response: Love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Number 1 on my bucket list: I want to hear His voice.

"We as modern-day believers often grow content with so much less than what’s available to us in Christ. We grow content with programs, sermons, worship, and Bible study that’s void of God’s presence. We believe that the Christian life is one solely marked by discipline and moral living rather than transformative encounters with the holiness of God. Pursue the greater things today. Press into the heart of your Creator that you might know how truly near he is. Seek him and discover the wealth of his presence and love that has been available to you all along. Instead of programs about him, may your life be marked by meeting directly with your good and loving Father."  First 15 Devotional, September 27, 2017

27 August, 2017

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

It is official, summer is over.  I've seen school buses in full operation and that means we're on to September, school days, football and all things Fall.  My summer ended after a long vacation with our family and honestly, it felt really great to step away from the merry-go-round of obligations, mission statements and to-do lists.  And more honestly, it felt less than great to return to busy, busy life.  But we are back, all of us, back to real life today.  So, what do we do now?  What is there for us?

In answering that question in my own mind, I was prompted to look back at the Summer Series. You and I took these summer months to study Matthew; we called it the Summer Series.  What did this series teach and has it somehow prepared us for the busy fall months?

•Follow Me and I will fulfill all that you've been searching for, all the questions you've asked, all the emptiness that never gets filled.
•Just a pinch of salt goes a long way.  A night-light can fill an entire room.
•I pray He will give my eyes a way to see His treasure only.
•He will NEVER stop looking for us.  He will never fail to hear our asks, lead our seeking and answer our knocks!  Do we dare be found?
•Am I expecting the Savior in my world today?  Just say the word, Lord and give me ears to hear.
•He is only there to save us, calm us, comfort us and turn on our hall light.  And as He lives inside of each of us, we have His strength, His Oneness with God...we have Him.
•Go to those in your world who need a touch, need a hand, need an ear.  He will provide all we need, every word we speak.  And it is the very best, most exhilarating experience for He is using us! 

Do I believe these points?  Yes!  I do believe but today...once again, after a blessed, blessed summer I stand wondering, what's next?  HOW do I apply these into my life?  For in my frailty and brokenness as a human-being, I find myself daily contemplating, daily striving for more and more of life.  In my little brain, it's as though the message has a really hard time penetrating my attitudes and my actions.  But suddenly, I received a gently whisper, "It's not primarily about what you do, it's mainly about seeking Me, seeking My glory.  For when you experience My glory you will realize all else disappears."

Today in church, we sang a new song and it spoke deeply to my soul.  This song spoke words to me that stop the striving and call me to the only place that truly matters, a place where I can see His glory.  Ironically, most often it's after the blessing (summer) ends and real life trials (fall) begin that I stop and ponder purpose, existence and meaning.  
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:15-20
As we go into these fall months, let's remember the lessons of summer but let's also be brave and desperate to call out to our God, "show me your glory."  His glory is what will sustain us and lead us and never fail us.  Let's remember that as He calls us into the world He is leading us by His glory.  Spend time today...real time...in listening, talking and seeking that Glory.


Here as we wait
Seek Your face
Come and make Your throne upon our praise
Here in this place
Have Your way
The moment that we see You, we are changed
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
In wonder and surrender we fall down
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
Let every burning heart be holy ground
HolyGround, from the album Worthy of Your Name · Songwriters: Mia Fieldes, Melodie Malone, Maurice Willis, Brett Younker · Published by: Lyrics © CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP

12 August, 2017

It's in the Go

On campus this week, the streets are filled and parking lots are overflowing.  Pillows, shoe racks, plastic containers, luggage, lamps, headboards and every other imaginable item are being moved into resident halls and apartments.  Parents follow their children around like professional movers.  It's a grueling task and as a mom who is past this stage in life it makes me joyful (that I'm done with this phase) and reflective.

I too, loaded up a car this week.  We're loaded with beach gear, baby gear, homemade pies, salsa and every other type of food one could imagine.  We are so full that we can barely fit ourselves in the car to drive!  We are beach-bound and on the way to spend a week with our kids.  It's a bit like the resident hall move-in.  For I have prepared every imaginable item we could possibly need.  I want my family to know I love them.  I want to prepare and over-prepare for all their favorite things.  It's my heart's desire to over-love these most dear to me.  Just like the college move-in date, I have anticipated this trip for weeks.  My husband has even been counting down the minutes via family text.  It's been our JOY to prepare and today it was time to GO.

The GO for a new semester and a long-anticipated trip are somewhat the same.  There is excitement.  There is some nervousness as we wonder how things will turn out.
Are we ready?
What have I forgotten?
Will we get along?
Will my college student make friends?
Will these college professors like my kid?
Will he succeed in the college world?

But, the excitement is palatable.  The air is alive with anticipation.  For it is in the GO that the excitement exists.  The GO is what makes our hearts beat fast, and feel giggly, and feel fresh and alive.  It's the GO that gives us purpose and a destination.

There was another group who experienced the nerves and excitement of GO.  This is what their leader told them:
"Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick.  Touch the untouchables.  You have been treated generously, so live generously.
Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light."

“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way." 
And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words." Matthew 10:6-20 excerpts (The Message)

We were made to Go.  And we've got a Parent who has over-loved us and over-prepared us for what is ahead!  We were made to get out of driveways, our comfortable routines and our safe environments.  I believe we were made to pack up our cars and our lives with every good thing we've been given and find those who need those very items.  God hasn't asked me or you to share what we do not have.  He has only asked us to share what He's given us...all the things, gifts, abilities we have.  In these words from Matthew, Jesus is giving the men closest to Him quite a send-off!!  They are excited to Go.  He is excited to send them.
But, we often read these words from the Bible and are so thankful that we weren't part of these twelve men.  We seem relieved that we weren't asked to GO.  But we are asked!

The exiting part of life is that we DO get to pack up, plan every detail, bake pies, hang curtains, haul boxes and help those around us.  Every day someone is need of the same kind of love required to move into residence halls and to take a family vacation.  That's what God is asking of us.  Go to those in your world who need a touch, need a hand, need an ear.  He will provide all we need, every word we speak.  And it is the very best, most exhilarating experience for He is using us!  The God of the universe is using my pie!  He's using my hug!  He's using my time!  Oh, my goodness, let's GO!!!

29 July, 2017

Hall Light

Years ago, when we had small children bath time and bedtime became a ritual.  We would bathe our children and bundle them in towels to dry them off.  I can still remember that fresh, sweet child-scent and feel those soft, soft pajamas.  Often, bedtime included a last snack and reading a book together...or two.  For our Sarah, those moments also included a stuffed animal we creatively named 'puppy'.   So, after long days at work, Ray and I would each pair off with a child and go through this routine.  We then, after the reading would tuck them in and creep out of their rooms in great hope that there would not be one last request.  It seemed to me that just as I would get to my room to relax and do other mom things I would hear one last, sing-song voice...Hall light!  Ahh, yes, my little girl needed the hall light.  Even after the moments of snuggle, the tuck-in, the sweet prayers, the reassurance of love, the kiss.....Hall light would cry out.  She was scared and oh, the light!

We find a similar story in Matthew.  The guys are all tucked away in a boat, crossing the large lake.  These guys were professional fisherman and they knew the water, they knew the surroundings, they were comfortable in their place and in their abilities.  They had a guest with them that night and He was certainly comfortable, asleep in fact.  He was so very confident in the ability of the fisherman and the handling of the craft that He could sleep.  Do you remember the story?
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
 Matthew 8:23-27
He'd been with these guys for a while at this point.  They'd walked many roads together and lived with him and they'd seen many miracles and healings.  They were on an intimate journey with this man.  And, they had come to believe that this self-professed Christ was God and actually, they'd given their lives to that fact.  Yet on this night, the waves came and they came hard.  The boat shook and pitched and waves poured over the bow...fear arrived.  Jesus slept.

How could one sleep in such weather?  John Claypool, well-known and much-beloved theologian, suggests that perhaps, Jesus was confident in what these fishermen had inside of themselves.  Could it be that Jesus knew what was planted inside each of these men and trusted that they would rely on their innermost faith in Him being God.  How beautiful that in our belief in Him, that deposit has been made in each of us.  He knows what power is planted inside us.  But do we?  Or are we just like the fishermen?

They woke him, so very scared, crying out.  Help us, don't abandon us, don't leave us alone but save us!  We live this same type of experience many days of our lives, don't we?  Things happen, we lose jobs, we lose hope, we try and try but fail.  And we cry out; we cry out in our fear....our fear of, 'what now?  What will happen next?  What are my next steps?  How can I fix this?"
It's all fear....it's our crying out to a mother or father...Hall Light!!!

But fear will never have the last word.  So, continuing the story, Jesus woke and asked why they feared.  No answer came, it seems.  He then, calmly, stilled the sea.  At which the fishermen pondered, what kind of man is this?

I believe we often ask the same question, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"  Even after He has calmed the seas of our fearful hearts, we still cannot understand.  Do we need to redefine our definition of this God/Man?  Is it possible that our understanding of Him is askew?  Or, is it possible we have an understanding of Him but do not allow His true nature to govern our lives?

Isn't it true that upon our belief as Christ-followers, Jesus planted inside each of us trust and faith to rely on the fact that He is GOD. Isn't that what He pours into our hearts?  He is not one to lead us into harm or fear or pain.  Nor does he condemn or shake His finger at us.  He is ONLY Love, mercy, and grace.  He is only there to save us, calm us, comfort us and turn on our hall light.  And as He lives inside of each of us, we have His strength, His Oneness with God...we have Him.

Indeed, what kind of Man is this?

15 July, 2017

Say the Word

Today, I sit and stare at this computer screen.  I've made a commitment to write every two weeks this summer; however, the words seem to have stopped but I've been going and going.  A twelve-hour car ride, hotels, flights, new life starting, old life ending, going and going.  I have a really bad feeling that the God I say I love, serve and follow has been running to catch-up to me...I remind myself, He's leading...remember?  Invite Him on this summer journey...and sit back and follow.  I get so wrapped up in my next to-do that I often run ahead and run all day and then collapse into a heap of weariness.  That's where I've been the last few days.

But even so...there He stands waiting, urging, listening.  How can the God of the universe be so available?

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  Matthew 8:5-8

This Roman soldier came to the man named Jesus and immediately calls him LORD.  Was he a believer?  Did Jesus' reputation proceed Him as he entered this town?  In the soldier's great worry and busyness was He looking and expecting a savior?  Can I live in that manner? Today, I want to be looking and expecting my Savior to intersect my life and plans.

Their dialogue continues and almost immediately, the centurion is humbling himself, "I do not deserve to have you come under my roof".  How often do I act in the exact opposite manner?  I talk to my God, and act as though I deserve His favor or deserve that my prayers would be answered in my best judgement!  In those times, am I praying to God or to my Lord?  Isn't there a difference in these words?  A Chinese student once asked this very question, "Ms. Kathy, what is the meaning of the God and the Lord?  Are they the same meaning?"

I ask you today, in your life.  Do you seek and serve God or do you seek and serve your Lord?  Is there a difference?  I ponder that question today.

Then lastly, "say the word".  I love this phrase and I'll be using it in the coming days in my prayers.  Say the word, Lord and your will be done.  This soldier simply believed.  He took initiative and approached Jesus.  He named him the proper name, LORD; therefore, realizing his own humanity and need was humbled.  Humbled his own achievement and success to the One above all.

Say the word, Lord and help me follow you instead of following my busy summer to-to list.  Say the word, Lord so that I can hear your voice.

I want to approach you, acknowledge you and call you LORD.  I want to recognize my need and humble myself.  I want to trust you to heal all in my life so that I can live, say the word.

Am I expecting the Savior in my world today?  Just say the word, Lord and give me ears to hear.

01 July, 2017

Hide and Seek

As a little girl, I remember many games of Hide-and-Seek.  The goal was to hide well and not be found...at least not be the first one found!  I had a friend who hid SO well that there were times that she literally could not be found!  For most of us, we hid but we all were eventually found...that's what made it fun! We WANTED to be found. 

But, you know the person who is IT in Hide-and-Seek?  The person who has to find everyone?  I never liked being IT.  There was too much pressure to find everyone!  The IT must be tenacious when the seeking gets tough.  Weren't you always annoyed with the kid that gave up while you were in your hiding place?

And somehow, after we'd hidden so well and the seeker couldn't find us we'd then blame the seeker.  'You didn't look hard enough!  You gave up on me!  You got tired and quit!  I wasn't important enough for you to keep looking!'

Real life is so much like this children's game.  We like to hide but we want to be found.  And in some cases, we want to be found out.  For if we're found someone has cared enough to look, to seek for us.  Even when the hiding place is so good and so difficult to find...we cry out...'find me'.  What a paradox!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you...Matthew 7:7-12

Let's look at three key words:

Ask - this implies an actual request...Speaking and then receiving.
Seek - this implies looking.  Eyes seek and eyes get opened to find.
Knock - is an action. Hands knock and doors open.

These three words are action words.  They do not lie dormant but they provide a path to real life healing and wholeness.  These three small actions allow me to communicate with the God of the universe in great honesty.  For nothing I will ever ask will be 'too much'.  He will never be surprised by what I seek or even where I'm looking.  He even knows I will knock on wrong doors again and again.  And, it is in these actions that I am able to actively grow and trust.

So even as these verses teach me the joy in 'seeking', I confess that most times, in this real game of Life Hide-and-Seek, I am one who is hiding.  Many times I don't actively seek because I'm fearful of answers and hiding seems easier.  So hide I do and I can hide really well!

You remember, the 'it' in Hide-and-Seek?   I can still hear kids screaming, "He's it....watch out Kathy!  He's going to see you....He's it"!!  Well, yes indeed, He's IT.... the true IT in this life game is only God.  He is the Seeker.  He is our pursuer.  He is the One who is tenaciously searching for our hiding places.  He asks us to be found, He seeks us out, He knocks and knocks.  He has modeled these three action words for us.  For when I let myself be found by Him the stress in my life somehow dissolves, the worries cease, the laughter flows and Joy floods in.

Lastly, I have to understand the personality of the One I seek and Who is seeking me.  My definition of Him must be correct and clear.  For any distortion creates a god that is just like me...imperfect, unholy, flawed, damaged and deeply lost.  The One who seeks for us is thoroughly unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness.

Often times our thoughts have been wrong about the Seeker.  He will not give us stone when we ask for bread.  He will not give us a snake when we ask for fish.  He is not some wizard behind a curtain toying with us.  
Let's not put our human personalities and frailties on Him.  He is the King that left His throne to
come engage in our Hide-and-Seek.  He will NEVER stop looking for us.  He will never fail to hear our asks, lead our seeking and answer our knocks!

Do we dare be found?

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