Tag Archive | appreciation

Overjoyed!

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10

“Are we there yet? When will we be there? I have to go potty! I’m tired! Are we almost there?”

We have taken many road trips as a family. Some short, little two-hour jaunts to our cabin every other weekend or so. Some 15 hour hauls across the country! Sometimes, we play games like the alphabet game or look for license plates from all 50 states. One time when the girls were little, two and five I believe, we had to duck every time we went under a bridge. This kept them occupied for at least 20 minutes laughing the entire time. I don’t remember what was so funny, but it didn’t matter; we were all together and enjoying our time.

I am reading through the Gospel of Matthew during my quiet time each morning and this tiny verse caught my attention. The wise men had traveled quite awhile. For how long they had been waiting and watching for the sign that the Messiah had been born, I don’t know, but it had finally come and they were on their way. Not many road signs or licenses plates to keep them occupied. And I’m guessing not many Country Inn’s or Country Kitchen’s to pull over at and rest.

Whenever we would be on a road trip, we would start out all excited, “We’re on our way!” Somewhere down the road, an hour in or so in to the trip, the attitudes and atmosphere would change. It would be the same old scenery, not much variety, just driving and driving and driving until we were just outside our destination city. Then, once again, the excitement would begin to build. “We’re almost there! How much longer do you think it will take? It will be so nice to finally be there.”

The wise men had made it to Jerusalem, met up with King Herod and were beginning the final leg of their journey to find the new-born King. This was not a short jaunt or even a full day’s trip. This journey took months to complete. I can imagine their excitement building; all this time, all this distance and they were almost there!

When they saw the star over the house where Jesus was lying, they were overjoyed! Jesus was just a baby. He had done nothing but be born and yet these men who held some position of authority, prestige and power came to worship Him as an infant, a toddler, and they were overjoyed to do so.

We are just over two months away from the anniversary of the birth of Jesus and I wonder, what will be my state of mind when Christmas finally arrives? Will I have been preoccupied with all the to-do’s, events, get-together’s and conflicting  schedules or will I have been celebrating and preparing for His arrival? Will I be stressed out, strung out and worn out, or will I be settled and at peace in the rest only He can provide? Will my mind, focus and energy be drawn toward the busyness of the season or will I remain focused on my purpose in Him, keeping Him at the center of all I do?

Will I be overjoyed each and every day to simply be in His presence?

Something to Consider…

As Christmas draws close, remember Jesus came so that we could be reconciled to God and live in relationship with Him forever. Take time throughout this season and coming year to grow and invest in your relationship with Him. On this day, He has given us the greatest gift of all!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

What activities or concerns weigh you down during the holidays? Bring these concerns to Jesus and allow Him to carry the weight, remove the burdens and give you His perspective of the situation. Allow yourself to experience the joy of His presence!

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God’s Glory

“Ascribe to the Lord, O might ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” Psalm 29:1-2 (NIV)

This past weekend, I was working on a Bible study for an upcoming women’s retreat. One of the questions is, “We are to experience God’s glory, Christ’s love and the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. Which do want to experience in a greater way? Explain.”

I often spend time reflecting on what I write, asking God if it’s accurate, true, what He wants said, but I also ask myself the questions and reflect on my answers just like I ask others to do when participating in a study. So this morning, as I opened the blinds to see the sun rise, I considered God’s glory and what that really means. What does it mean to experience God’s glory?

I sat down to read, not sure of what I’d choose, I just opened my Bible to begin the search. I looked down to see where I was and there was Psalm 29.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.” Psalm 29:3-4 (NIV)

It goes on to describe the powerful force God is in nature and His glory that is revealed to us every day.

I am not one to worship at the throne of celebrity. I’ve never been into backstage passes, autograph signings or pictures with the stars. What they do is cool at some level and I enjoy it in some way but they are just people like me whose life just happens to be on display for all to see.

So I wonder: do I put God in this category as well? Do I just feel so comfortable with Him that I don’t give Him the glory and honor due? Do I ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name? Do I worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness? Sometimes, yes, but not nearly with the gratefulness or fullness that I should.

Bill Cosby use to tell a joke about his children and him telling one of them, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.”

This is the God who can destroy everything at the mere sound of His voice. I think of this world and the bad things that happen and wonder why He doesn’t just wipe us out. We hurt each other regularly, some worse than others. If we don’t kill physically, we kill each other with our words emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

This God whose voice can shake the desserts and twist the oaks; instead of destroying, He gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace. We have done nothing to deserve such compassion and grace.

God in His glory decided to bring us into this world. He chose us as His own. He could take us out if He wanted, but He doesn’t. Instead, He brought His son into this world to take our place, to take upon Himself the weight of our transgressions and sins and iniquities, our infirmities and sorrows. All so we could be reconciled to God and live with Him forever. All so we could experience His strength and peace. What a mighty and great, loving and compassionate God we have.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

Something to Consider…

Spend some time taking in all God has created, all of the beautiful and intricate detail He has put into everything He has made. Everything in nature fulfills its purpose for Him.

Consider the care He took in creating you, precious and unique in His eye. Do you use what He gave to fulfill His purpose for you? Do you bring Him honor and glory in what you do and how you speak to others? Can your voice, like His, destroy? Or do you speak with His strength and peace?

Joy and Thanksgiving

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I want to hang this verse on my wall. I have the perfect spot between the bottom of my stairs and the laundry room. I pass this wall every day since it is between the bedrooms and the main living area of our home. And I don’t just pass it once a day; I pass it many times as I go up and down the stairs. I grab my purse but forget my shoes. The receipt is on the desk not in my purse. I left my sunglasses on the desk while looking for the receipt. Oops, I forgot to brush my teeth. Where is my phone? NOW, am I ready to leave the house?

It’s amazing what piles up in my kitchen because it needs to go upstairs. I also end up with piles of clothing in the laundry room. I definitely do not rejoice in carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs. I used to rejoice in this simple task. At one time, we lived in an apartment on the third floor. When we moved into our first home, the laundry was in the basement. I would carry our clothes up and down three half-flights of stairs and be giddy. In the apartment, I would carry the laundry down three full flights of stairs, across the parking lot to my car, drive to my parents home and carry it down to their basement only to carry it all back and up again. My own laundry space in my own home was a dream come true. It didn’t matter where the laundry was located.

But then it happened. We moved. The laundry room was now located upstairs right next to the bedrooms. It was like the clouds parted and angels were singing. How could I be so fortunate? I had 18 glorious months of loving my laundry room and the task itself.

Of course, things do change and we moved again. The best I could do this time was a main floor laundry room, one full flight of stairs from bedrooms to washer and dryer. It was still better than the first house and way better than the apartment, right? Had I never had the upstairs laundry room, I would’ve thought it couldn’t get better than this. Now, anything less than two steps from my bedroom door is not good enough.

I began to wonder how many petty issues I allow to ruin my day and steal my joy?

I should be glad that I have machines to wash and dry the clothes for me. I should be rejoicing in the fact that I have clean water to drink, much less running water in my home to wash my clothes. I should be thrilled that I not only have the arms to carry my loads of laundry and legs to carry me up and down the stairs, but that I have the clothes to wash in the first place.

What is it that makes me think I deserve to have it easier when I already have so much compared to so many? Why am I not grateful for simply having another day to enjoy with those I love, another day to serve those I love?

Lord, I pray that I not only appreciate what I do have but that I would be content with what I don’t have. I pray that my desire to do your will would not be determined by my comfort, convenience or contentment but simply because I know you love me. You have already given me all I need. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

I’ve heard it said that nothing seems small in the moment. While that may be true from our perspective, it doesn’t mean we need to look at it from our perspective.

In what area of your life do you need a new perspective? What irritations can be replaced by joy and thanksgiving? How can His love and goodness be seen in your life?

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29

The Lighter Side of LYF – What is Beauty?

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:1-2

I love music. It truly touches a place deep inside me. My husband says there is no bad music. Personally, I enjoy classical music, am highly irritated by jazz, and move to a funky R&B groove. But, I LOVE rock when there is a get-down, heavy electric guitar. My soul sings when I hear fingers fly! I also love “whalers”. A term coined by a friend of mine for those singers who open up their mouth wide and a smooth, full-force voice comes forth and resonates with very little effort on their part. They carry the notes with what seems like unending breath. Not everyone sings this way and not everyone should. Different voices with different styles singing in different octaves – all beautiful in their own way. But the one that FILLS the room is the one that will most likely catch my attention.

I saw an article recently commenting on people’s ability to stop in the middle of their busyness and notice beauty. It made me stop and think. What is beauty? What makes something beautiful? Is the same thing beautiful to all people? Should it be? Why do some stop and notice while others keep moving? If people don’t stop, does that mean that they don’t take notice, consider it beautiful or are not blessed by it in some way?

“When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth – his eyes not seeing sleep day or night, then I saw all that God had done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

Then I wondered, what isn’t beautiful?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Can two people do the exact same thing and get different results? I wonder if God blesses intentions. Does one who sets out to test man according to what he thinks is important and beautiful get the same results as the one who sets out to bless man with what God says is important and beautiful? Maybe, if what we do, anything we do, when done solely for the glory of the Lord will be beautiful and noticed by those who are meant to notice and be blessed by it.

I admit I have not always stopped for those things God has wanted me to stop for. I have been hurried at times, distracted, and my mind set on my own plans; but I do know that I don’t want to stop for what someone else assumes I should stop for. And I don’t want to assume I know a person’s story, thoughts, or heart solely by how they measure up to my expectations.

Maybe, when we consider beauty, our plans and our expectations of each other; the best we can do is stop when God says stop and move when God says move. That just might be beautiful.

Something to Consider…

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26a, 27

If we were to stop to notice every beautiful thing around us, would we get anything done? Regardless of your position, name, talent or trade, each person is beautiful because we are each made in the image of God.

When was the last time you really looked a stranger or a loved one in the eyes and saw the beauty of God within them? Can you even begin to comprehend the plans God has laid out before them or you?

Choose today to bless, not test, those God puts in your path.

God’s Will for You

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

“…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18b

Really, is that it? Is that all I have to do to be in God’s will? Sound too easy – be joyful, pray and give thanks?

Here’s the hard part: be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. That sounds impossible!

What does it mean to have joy?

Joy is our excitement in expectation of good. It is also our enjoyment of the good we already have. It is not the same as simply being happy. Joy is an emotion but it is an emotion provoked by knowing, not feeling. We know that as followers of Jesus, we have received the Holy Spirit. Christ is in us. We have received the Eternal Life. It is with us always. We also know that we have been sealed with Holy Spirit guaranteeing our inheritance, salvation through Christ. Regardless of the battles and turmoil we face every day, we can have joy always.

How can we pray continually?

So often we think of prayer as carving out time to sit and be still. We lay out all of our prayers at one time. We get all worked up when we miss one and can be really hard on ourselves. But God knows our hearts and our thoughts at all times. It is necessary to spend intentional time with Him, talking to and listening to God; but, as we go through our day we can continue to lift up each situation, conversation, relationship, and burden to Him and lay it at His feet.  Sometimes, the simple prayers are the best because it means He is at the forefront of our minds at all times. We don’t just give Him the big things, the things we think we can’t handle or control; we give Him the small, simple things that we tend to think we can handle and control without His help.  When we are in constant communication with God, we will be better able to recognize His will.

Why should we give thanks or even be thankful in all circumstances?

Life is hard. We don’t want to deal with or face some of the situations and problems we do each day. Why should we be thankful when it doesn’t appear God has helped us, when He hasn’t taken our problem away? Isn’t that how we know God is with us? He answers our prayers the way we want Him to? We are to be thankful because He has made it possible to be joyful always and has given us the ability to be in prayer, communication with Him continually. We know that no matter what our situation, no one and nothing can take away what He has guaranteed. While all circumstances are not good, we know that He works all circumstances out for His good so that He can be gloried bringing others to know Him and have the same guarantee we do. We are an active participant in the kingdom of God. And that makes our joy complete!

Something to Consider…

Do you lack joy? Jesus is joy. Remind yourself daily of what Jesus has done for you and what that means going forward. His kingdom is here for you now. Enjoy what you have already received.

Do you feel like you have no time to pray or don’t know how?  He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Talk to your friend, Jesus, about anything and everything on your mind.

Do you wonder how you can possibly be thankful in the middle of your mess? We are not our circumstances but we do have the opportunity to show others the love of Christ in the midst of our circumstances. How will you show Christ’s love to others facing difficult circumstances?

Today, What Will You Choose?

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” Hebrews 3:12-15

This is one of my favorite passages. It is a great reminder that Today, this day,  I need to listen to God and be open to what He wants to say to me, do in me and do through me. When I give into sin, I have turned from God. Will I choose to be open to Him showing me the truth of my sin or will I harden my heart to Him?

There are many days when I feel like I struggle, running from one thing to another, not really sure of what I’ve accomplished or am trying to accomplish. I get tied up in my responsibilities and expectations and begin to turn inward thinking of what I want, don’t have and deserve. This includes respect from others, acknowledgement and appreciation for what I do, and time to just relax and chill out.

We all want to know that what we do matters and rest is necessary. But when these thoughts affect our attitudes and how we interact with others, a wall begins to be built. Or maybe better yet, a tower with each of us at the top. “I know better, understand more and work harder” become the thoughts of the day. “I deserve a break.”

The truth is regardless of the respect, acknowledgement and appreciation we receive from others, God knows what we do and He knows our heart condition at the time. People are not perfect; that includes you and me. If we choose to serve people with an expectation from them, we will be disappointed. But, if we choose to keep our hearts set on Jesus and serve God by serving others, we know His approval is all we need. He knows better and understands more than we ever can.

I have experienced the peace and rest of God in the most chaotic and emotionally trying times of my life. It did not come from chilling out, zoning out or ignoring His call. It is the peace that comes only from being in the center of His will, doing what His voice has called me to do. When we harden our hearts to His voice, no earthly rest can restore and renew our spirits the way His does.

Something to Consider…

It is very easy to get caught up in everything this world has to offer and the busyness of life and miss the small, still, quiet voice of God. Have you stopped to listen for His voice? Have you heard His voice but dismissed it, denied it or ignored it?

You cannot harden your heart to God and enter His rest. His rest comes when you let Him into your heart. He will not break through your wall or tear down your tower without your permission. But He will help you remove each brick you’ve put in place if you ask. This is His desire; for you to know His peace and rest.

Choose Today to stop and listen. Allow Him to soften your heart to His Word and Truth. Ask for and receive the peace and rest that only He can offer through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jars of Clay

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Do you ever use items for a purpose other than their original intention? Maybe you use a pretty pitcher to hold flowers in a decorative display. It looks nice, you get compliments but it’s just sitting there. It’s not serving its true purpose.

A pitcher is made to be filled and pour out. Imagine the scene, it holds – contains. There is pressure on the walls. But it doesn’t just sit there; motion is a necessary step for the purpose to be fulfilled. Almost like a dance, it tips, pours out, comes back up and moves on to the next glass. A party must be the best time to be a pitcher!

Or is it… Consider the thirsty worker who comes looking for something to drink? The pitcher waits for the opportunity to work, to serve. It holds the liquid that restores the body. It pours out comfort and refreshment to a dry soul.

Now imagine that same pitcher sitting on a shelf or on a table looking pretty. What purpose does it serve? What need is it not meeting or joy not fulfilling?

We are jars of clay, mere shells made to hold God’s power. We can sit and look pretty, do something outside the purpose for which we were made; but on what will we miss out? Unlike the pitcher, we can choose on our own to be used. We don’t need to wait for someone else to decide it’s time. We can offer ourselves up to God now in our current state. He already knows the purpose He made us to fulfill. We have the opportunity to be used for our purpose, His good purpose, today.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

As God fills us with His Spirit, His all-surpassing power can flow through us into others. As He fills the cup of others through our work, we celebrate what God is doing in their lives as well as our own. Our purpose is not to go about in this world surviving or just looking pretty. As we pour out, God’s grace reaches more and more people and thanksgiving overflows. Our joy is complete.

Something to Consider…

Regardless of your age or current condition, you can be used as a vessel for God’s glory. Are you tired and dry, in need of refreshing? Allow God to pour His Spirit into you filling you with His power. Are you feeling like you are missing out on something, like there is more to life than you are currently experiencing? Allow God’s power to overflow through you to others.

Not sure how to do that? You can start by simply finding a place to volunteer – a school, church, hospital or wherever your passion takes you. As you serve, you will begin to find your purpose. As you share your heart with others; God’s power, heart and love for you and those you serve shines through.

This Thanksgiving, how will you allow your appreciation for God and all He has done to overflow with joy to others?