Tag Archive | peace

Three Nails

Three Nails“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:32-35 (NLT)

My oldest daughter lives a few hours away so whenever she comes home, we pray for her safe travels. Her car had been parked at a gas station when, as she was getting ready to come home, she realized she had a flat tire. With her fiancé’s help, they were able to remove the tire, put on the spare and drive to the repair shop. After waiting a few hours, they were told the nail was too close to the edge and thus the tire was unable to be repaired. She was going to have to buy a new tire. Not the news a college student wants to hear. She purchased the tire and they were soon on their way.

The next day we were able to meet up with family members for lunch. We had a wonderful time only to come home to another flat tire. Her car had been parked in our driveway all day and yet, there it was, a different tire flat as a pancake. Her dad was able to help her get the tire off, put on the spare, and bring the tire to the repair shop. This time it was able to be repaired. Knowing her financial situation, we willingly paid for the repair. Her dad was able to replace the tire and she was on her way once again, this time to see friends.

A few days later, we were out shopping and running errands. When we returned home, guess what we found. Unbelievably, another flat tire. A third nail in a third tire. Her car had been parked in the street in front of our house. Since it was not completely flat, we tried filling it only to notice the pressure dropped as soon as we turned off the pump. Again, her dad was able to help get the tire off and the spare on, but because of the time, we couldn’t take it to the repair shop until the next day. We worked out how she would get around in the meantime. Again, the tire couldn’t be repaired. A little more money, a little more time, a little more frustration.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

When we found the third flat, she said she felt like she was being punished. Did she do something to bring about this fate?

I admit, it seems like more than a coincidence that she would have three nails in three different tires in five days. What are the odds? And if she’s not being punished, what would be the point of this situation?

Maybe a better question is, what did God want her to know about Him through this situation?

As we talked, she admitted she felt like she had no control, was helpless, angry, and frustrated. We then talked about how God is always in control, is our help and is never frustrated by our circumstances. So why did this happen? How would this help her trust Him more and draw her closer to Him, rather than push her away?

She realized that she had always been parked, never on the road and she always had help. She was also always able to keep moving. These hindrances didn’t stop her from what she needed to do.

The next day, as we were driving home, I asked her another question. “What did these three nails cost you?”

She said money and time and peace. It was inconvenient and stressful.

Then I asked her, “What did three nails cost Jesus?”

Her answer: His life.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus Christ took the three nails so we could how much God loves us. Jesus Christ took three nails because only He could accomplish this purpose. He took the three nails so we could be completely reconciled to God and live with Him in peace forever. These three nails were not a hindrance to God’s plan; they were the plan.

How might God want to use the difficulties and hindrances in your life to draw you closer to Him so you could know His love more deeply?

What difficulties are you willing to endure so the love of God can be made known to others?

Lord God, as I see the troubles of this world, experience the difficulties of life and struggle through my own frustrations and desires. Help me remember that it’s nothing compared to what you endured for me. The problems we face are real, they are hard and painful. They wear on us and try us in ways we didn’t expect or ask for. But in You we have hope. In you, we know there is more. You are our ever-present help in trouble. You are our refuge and strength, our shield and strong tower, our joy and salvation. Thank you for your protection, your help and your strength to keep moving. In Your precious and most holy name, Jesus. Amen.

Anxiety, Depression…Anger

DSC06926“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Anxiety was my response to the reality of having no control over or in certain situations. Depression was my response to the reality that I wasn’t taking control of what I could.

Anger is my response to the reality that I want control and don’t have it, can’t have it or, actually, don’t want it.

God has been doing an amazing work in me. The past 12-18 months have been some of the toughest in my life and yet I rejoice because I know God is at work in me, transforming me into the person He created me to be. It’s painful, but most good things are at some point.

It takes determination, perseverance, pain, struggle, and failure, along with focus and commitment to do anything that really matters. You will succeed only if you truly believe in what you are doing. Why suffer so much if it doesn’t really matter? (This is a post for another day…)

Because it does matter.

Last summer I posted about the process God had been moving me through, working out in me, to help rid me of anxiety and depression. My fight or flight response to problems was wreaking havoc in my life and the lives of others. In the first post, I stated:

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt uncontrollable rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me.

So here I am, angry…again. Why?

I thought my anger would subside when my anxiety and depression were gone. I’d just be a happy, go-lucky person. But each layer God removes reveals more. It reveals something deeper, darker, more difficult to deal with.

Anxiety and depression are acceptable issues in society. It’s true. There are commercials touting the positive effects of medication to control anxiety and depression. There is a commercial that encourages people to ask about a person’s depression, ask them if they want to talk about it. They make it commonplace, acceptable and manageable.

But it’s not. Yes, it happens. Yes, we need to be able to be real about it. But God doesn’t want us living in anxiety and depression. I don’t think He really wants us expecting it to just be this way. He wants so much more for us. As I’ve said before, I do believe medication is necessary and helpful in some situations, but I also believe that if you are willing to let medication be your savior in this situation, you will miss the work of the true Savior in your life.

So I choose to let God do the painful work of exposing the deepest, darkest, most painful areas of my life and conditions of my heart so that I can be free of what the world says is acceptable and truly be free in the love of God.

Anger, on the other hand, is not acceptable. It shows no compassion, tolerance or acceptance. But, anger does have a place. Its purpose is to move us toward good, toward making things right, toward ridding ourselves of those things that hurt us and each other.

But anger can be misused. It has been my new form of protection. God is going deeper and showing me that I want control. I do, I want it…BAD! I want it so bad I’m angry about it. I get rude and ugly. It’s truly horrible. I hate it, while at the same time feel completely justified in it.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

My true colors show that I’m not so sure how much I trust that God is really in control. I want God to move faster, if He’s even moving at all. My anger and desire to control shows that I think I can do it better, understand it better and want better than what God can do, knows and wants.

But I know that’s not true. God can do whatever He wants. He wants what is good, what is best. And He also knows exactly what it’s going to take to get to that outcome and He is always on the move. He not only wants this for those people and situations in my life, He wants it for me personally.

The NIV version puts James 1:4 this way: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be or become mature and complete, not lacking anything, not only means I seek to gain wisdom, new thinking, and new attitudes, but that I give up the old foolishness and behaviors. This anger needs to go.

Lord, as I fix my eyes on You and Your goodness, I am thankful for your loving working my life. As You peel back each layer and fresh wounds are exposed, You are my Healer. As You reveal to me those things that keep me from loving You and loving others, You are my Wonderful Counselor. As you ask me to walk into difficult situations and conversations, You are my Strength and Refuge. You have never given up on me and it is my deepest desire that I not give up on You. I trust you with the people I love and the situations I don’t like or understand. Your love is pure and right. It is the best of all things. Help me recognize quickly when I am trying to take control; calm my heart, reassure me of your love, protection and provision and let me rest in You. Give me Your heart for others and peace in Your ways. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

 

Fight or Flight? (Part 3)

This is the third part in a four-part series.

Two Empty Chairs in a Field“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I can’t speak to how anxiety manifests in any other person or why others struggle. I only know my story and if there is anything anyone can relate to and learn from then it’s worth telling.

This has been by far the most difficult post to write. I have anguished over how to describe my anxiety: what caused it, how I reacted, what it turned into, how it affected me, how it affected others and finally realizing that everything I thought I knew about it was wrong.

Flight, n.: The act of fleeing; the act of running away, to escape danger or expected evil; hasty departure.

I grew up believing lies about myself, about others and about God.

It’s funny how the smallest thing can change your perspective of yourself. I have spent my entire life trying to hide and keep myself safe. I have feared the opinions of others, their judgment, their rejection and my own failure. I avoided and ran from anything that put me in the spotlight. As long as I was left alone to do my work I was fine. No challenges, no confrontations, and no humiliation. To even consider the thought of making a mistake and being found out was paralyzing. Running and hiding was my way of taking control, but you can’t out run God and nothing is hidden from His sight.

The stress associated with my fears manifested physically and the anxiety grew with each incident. My internal flight instinct grew. I was trying to escape a perceived danger.

There came a point when I truly began to understand the lengths I was going to trying to protect myself. All these years, I was hoping that someone would step up and protect me. I needed to believe I was worth protecting; that somehow I was worth more than the pain and suffering they would endure.

And then God reminded me of Jesus, the pain and suffering He endured on my behalf to protect me from death, to set me free and to give me a place in this world for Him.

See, God was calling me out of the shadows and He wasn’t giving up on me. The more He worked, the more I fought and the more I ran from the very situations and people He was using to grow me, change me, and transform me. I questioned His authority and control over my situation. I struggled with the reality of who He was making me and who everyone else expected me to be.

When my knowledge was challenged, I assumed I didn’t really understand. When I wasn’t perfect, I assumed I’d never really be good enough. And when I gave in to pressure, I assumed I’d never really be different so why bother.

What I had forgotten was that Christ is not only with me, He’s in me. When I am uncertain, He knows. When I think I’m not enough, He is more. When I don’t trust myself, He is faithful. I didn’t need to rely on my own understanding or strength, but turn to Him in every situation and His peace would be my guard and my protection.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

There was a time when I didn’t know better. But that’s all changed. And in my knowing better I have decisions to make. I can rely on my fears and worries to keep me safe or I can turn to God, relying on and trusting in Him completely.

Something to Consider…

Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. We are to trust in God and in Him. (John 14:1)

In what areas do you worry or doubt the most? What is your ultimate need in the moment? Give this worry to Him and tell Him about your need. Trust that He not only knows, but he is faithful and more than enough to meet your every need.

Into what lie does God want to speak His truth? As you give Him your fears, He will tell you the truth about who He is, who you are in Him and what that means for you going forward. Peace is found when we rest in His truth.

Thankful for the Battle

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:17

This past Sunday, my husband and I were home from our morning at church and we had a bit of time before we needed to get going on dinner to be ready for our evening event with a group of friends. As my husband and I talked, he asked me if I wanted to take a nap.

I’m sure to him it was a simple question. But as I thought about it, I felt a tensing and tightening of my insides. I finally admitted to him I didn’t want to do anything.

At first, he kind of shrugged it off and asked another simple, clarifying question.

I said, “No, I don’t want to do anything! I don’t want to do anything that I know I should do!”

Right away he says, “Isn’t that like Paul in the ‘I don’t know why I do what I don’t want to and don’t do what I want to’ passage?”

My initial thought was no, it’s nothing like that. But it was exactly that.

I had often thought of this rant of Paul’s as one where he doesn’t realize until after the fact that he did the wrong thing. Why? Because if he knew the right thing from the beginning, he would do it, right?

Wrong.

Sometimes, we know exactly what we should or shouldn’t do and we don’t do or do exactly that. We do it with full knowledge and full compliance. And then we feel horrible and remorseful. At least, hopefully we do.

After I listed off all the things I didn’t want to do, my husband said he was taking a nap. No convincing me of anything, no advice, only him stepping away. And once he did, I picked something from my list and did it knowing it was good.

And it felt good.

I felt relaxed and peaceful in my decision and I enjoyed my time and activity. In the end, I felt accomplished.

On Monday morning, during my quiet time, I thought about the events of the day before. I thanked God for the battle I had experienced. It wasn’t pleasant but it was good because it was proof of God’s Spirit at work in me showing me the wrong attitudes of my heart and the right ways to move forward with Him.

Lord, I thank you for the battle between my spirit and Yours. I thank you for your work within me. I long for your correction, instruction and guidance in your unconditional love. Thank you for showing me when what I want is not what you want for me. I pray the battle lessens and I am willingly able to follow You in all things. In Jesus name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

Do you find yourself in a battle between doing what you shouldn’t or not doing what you should?

Ask God to show you any wrong attitudes or thoughts that keep you from His right ways. Be willing to allow His Spirit to work in your life. Choose to follow His Spirit in your decisions.

“This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18

What Do You Think On?

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

It didn’t take long after I woke up Monday morning for my mind to start thinking about all I had to do. And it wasn’t just about what I had to do that day; it was my whole week right in front of me.

My mom told me that when she found out she was pregnant with me (she and my dad already had six kids between the two of them) all she could think was that there was going to be another pile of laundry. Maybe you’ve picked up on the fact that I was not planned and when I think of this story, it’s easy to assume I was more of a burden than a bundle of joy, but that’s not true.  I am loved and have always known it; but as an adult, I now have a very clear idea of what she was feeling.

I have piles everywhere! There is no order to the piles; there is no order to the placement of the piles. The piles never really seem to go down. Just as I remove and check off some items, more gets thrown on top. My mom had no idea how she was going to do more and provide more without being more. She couldn’t see an end to the piles or the process. I feel this same way at times: scattered, helpless and overwhelmed with no end in sight.

While my piles are not physical piles of clothes, toys or dishes; they are the things that weigh on my mind, take my time and cause me to invest myself sometimes at levels that I am consumed with love, sorrow, joy and regret all at the same time. When I am on top of things, dealing with one specific pile, things are good. But it’s the running between the piles, back and forth with no clarity or plan where I struggle.

The valley: the place I need God to meet me, settle my heart, bring focus and clarity to my mind and walk me from pile to pile, mountain top to mountain top in His time, in His way.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to stop, but I do truly love what I do! Everything I get to do centers on what I believe God wants me doing. So why are the piles so overwhelming? Why does it appear that there no order when God is all about order – planning, preparation and purpose fulfilled?

Because my thoughts go to what I can’t do in my own power, what will happen if I don’t get through my piles and what other people will think of me and my efforts or lack thereof. And that’s the kicker…what others will think of my lack of ability to perform at a high enough standard to meet their expectations.

I haven’t even talked to anyone for them to tell me their expectations, if they even have any, and I’ve already assumed the worst about them and myself!

Regardless of whether you run your own business, work for a Fortune 500 company or stay at home with the kids, there’s stuff to get done! But according to Philippians 4:4, I’m not supposed to rejoice in meeting the expectations of others. I’m supposed to rejoice in the Lord – always! He is with me in everything I do and He alone brings peace to my mind, heart, and soul. When I rely on Him to help me work through it, rejoicing and thanking Him each step of the way, I will be doing what He expects of me. I will be moving forward in His power, plan and purpose for my life.

Something to Consider…

How does what you think about determine your ability to rejoice and be thankful?

Do you experience peace? Do you turn to something or someone other than God to fill the gaps between the piles?

What are your piles? Are there some that can go? Which are your priorities? Which ones are God’s priority for you?

Seek Him today in the valley between the piles. Thank Him today on the mountain top of progress. Rejoice in Him always!

Merry Christmas to All!

Image“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I recently wrapped up a Christmas study (no pun intended) with a few dear friends titled Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason. It’s not about the advent season specifically, although it is about hope, preparation, joy, love, and most importantly, Christ himself.

At Christmas, we celebrate God’s promise being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. He will be a Savior for all people throughout the entire world. While we don’t have to do anything to be saved except accept the gift of Jesus as the truth, we get to be part of His love, truth and grace at work in this world.

The last night of the study ended with a discussion about forgiveness; the absolute complete forgiveness and reconciliation of those who will believe to the one true and living God while we were still sinners. Before we recognized our need for a Savior. Before we acknowledged need of forgiveness. Before we knew we were far from God.

God has forgiven each of us and views us through the lens of Jesus when we accept Him into our heart. God longs for all of His children to know His love and put their trust in Him.

As we go out into this world this Christmas, I challenge you to look beyond the attitudes, words and actions of another and see the child God longs to love and live with for all eternity. As a child of God, you have the ability to make Him known in this world. Is there another, better gift for you to give this Christmas?

Something to Consider…

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:17-18 (NIV)

Truth seems to be an easier concept than grace when it comes to spreading the Good News in this world. Truth is what we know, or should I say Who we know, grace is what we offer. How do you freely offer grace to those who hurt you or don’t even realize they’ve wronged you?

As it is so easy and common to complain about others who make life difficult, how can you radiate the joy, peace, love and patience of Jesus?

We can be put off and irritated with the wishing of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings”. Instead, take time to pray for those who do not yet know the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ?

There is nothing that separates two people like a grudge. God’s plan through Jesus is to reconcile the world to Himself. How can the willingness of your heart to forgive not only bring you closer to Jesus, but show others the truth of His grace for them?

May God’s peace and joy be your gift this Christmas! May His truth and grace be your gift to others!

If you find encouragement in this message, please share with others. Blessings to you today!

Pray for Your Leaders

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I admit, I have not prayed for my leaders as I should. I have not been diligent in seeking God’s guidance, understanding or wisdom for leaders in government offices, whether elected or appointed. I have not prayed regularly that those who do not know Jesus would not only come to know Him, but would seek to follow Him in their role of leading others. I have prayed my will, my understanding, and my desires but even as I seek God, there are things I do not understand and I sometimes desire things outside of God’s will.

I have prayed for my husband, my children and myself watching God answer prayer after prayer in His time, in His way. Maybe my distance from the political office keeps me from believing my prayers make a difference. Maybe I’m just so critical and judgmental I don’t really believe they can change. Two issues arise in my own life when this is my mindset:

1) I give myself authority to judge what is only meant for God to judge. I don’t really know their heart. While I may not agree with or understand their position, only God can judge the true motives and intentions of their heart.

2) I limit what I believe God can do. It is not by the power of my will in prayer, but the power of our God that hearts are changed and emboldened for Him.

Why should we pray?

It takes strength, boldness and courage to follow the Lord. In Joshua 1, Joshua knows the Lord. He has been faithful from the beginning. He is the new leader raised up to take the place of Moses after His death. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. To remember and obey all that God has told Him through the Book of the Law. Even though Joshua already has a heart set on the Lord, He needs encouragement to stand firm. Times will get tough. People will want to go their own way. They may come up against his leadership out of fear or pride.

As we pray for our leaders to be strengthened and filled with courage and boldness for God, we are as filled as well. God meet us when we pray for others.

What should we pray?

There are many things we can pray based on the person and the specific needs of a country, community, business or organization but here are just a couple that cover some basic ideas.

1) Our leaders who do not know Jesus would come to know Him. If we are to follow God, it is best that those we submit to would be leading us His way. In surrendering to His authority, they understand the limits of their own authority.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

2) Our leaders would create laws that are fair and impartial. They would not be swayed by public opinion just to be elected. They would not use circumstances as an excuse or justification for wrong doing. And they would not allow wealth to keep someone from a consequence nor would they use it as a reason to have a heavy hand and take more than due. When laws are applied fairly, mercy prevails.

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)

3) Our leaders would be peacemakers seeking to reconcile and move forward with the necessary business they are in office to carry out. One key role for leaders is conflict management. As peacemakers, they are to help settle disputes between parties that disagree, quarrel and fight. Leaders should be unifying not divisive with their words and actions.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NIV)

God’s perfect plan does not always play out the way we think is fair or just, but in knowing Him, we can trust that He is faithful. He is and always will be in control.

Something to Consider…

What attitudes, criticisms, or judgments have you held against your leaders? How does your attitude add fuel to the fire or help others move forward in solutions? How do your criticisms and judgments move you closer to or further away from Gods heart.

In your own role as a leader, whether at work, volunteering or at home, what attitudes, criticisms and judgments do you find others hold against you? What would you want others to see in you as a leader?

As you seek to be resolved as a leader who you would willingly follow, ask God to not only help you bring glory and honor to Him, but that those you submit to would also seek His glory and honor in all they do.

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!

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?

But Why?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 (NIV)

I was talking to my oldest daughter this morning before she went on a photo shoot. She is just beginning a photography business and does amazing work. While she is starting to get leads and line up work, she is young and still in college. She has not quite made the transition to the adult, working world.

One of the people who she was “shooting” was someone from her day job. They know each other well and have seen each other in various states of being “put-together” and completely falling apart. It was an early appointment so she was going to get up, throw herself together and go.

Before jumping in the shower, she asked me about her attire for the morning. I gave my input and watched her cringe in disappointment.

She told me what she planned to wear and why. I let her know that it didn’t matter who it was, the goal was to look professional whenever possible. She wants her clients to know she is capable and trustworthy with their memories.

While we shouldn’t judge others on looks, it is one way we can influence the relationship from the first moment of meeting. Regardless of our desire to not judge, often we have an initial reaction to what we see.

As she tried to convince me of why it should be okay to wear what she had first chosen, I told her, “You obviously questioned your choice of clothing or you wouldn’t have asked me. I simply confirmed what you already knew. Stop fighting it and do what you know it right.”

And with that she picked out different clothes and went to get ready.

And I smiled as I watched the Holy Spirit direct her in the way she should go.

Does the Holy Spirit, God, really care what we wear? Is it that big of a deal? Who cares? We already know people shouldn’t judge us so shouldn’t they just accept us as we are regardless of what we look like, clothes and all?

I admit, I don’t know to what extent God cares but here is what I do know: We have the ability to influence. Our appearance may matter, it may not. If God knows our appearance may make the difference, He will let us know. I don’t think He will tell us to buy clothes we can’t afford just to look good. He won’t tell us to use our looks to get what we want. But He does know what is best in every situation and since He is working in all things, He knows and cares about every detail.

For my daughter, this may have been the beginning of a lead to something more. There were others involved, not just her co-worker. While that was the relationship she was thinking of, it may not have been the one God was orchestrating.

“The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.” Galatians 5:17 (CEV)

Stop fighting God and do what you know is right.

As God speaks to you through the Holy Spirit, stop fighting His direction, guidance and counsel. Be willing to submit to His will and His way because everything He does leads to His love.

To finish the story, as my daughter left the house, she had a bounce in her step, a smile on her face and she carried herself with confidence. God is good indeed!

Something to Consider:

Is there something God is asking you to do and you are fighting it because you don’t understand why it matters? Do you find yourself struggling with what you want versus what God is telling you to do?

Seek God’s guidance and counsel. Step out in faith doing what He asks even if when you don’t understand. Jesus has made a way for us to have direct access to the Father through His Spirit; choose to listen, learn and live out what He tells you.