Getting Real

On this stormy day I’m anticipating the warm breezes of summer. Flashback with me to a summer a few years before Covid… Grilled burgers. Watermelon. Homemade strawberry ice cream from my Mom’s 50 year old secret family recipe. It was a typical summer holiday cookout – yummy and very laid back with just the family.

So after a day full of old movies, Nertz, and being totally lazy, it was wonderful to have a couple of friends that we hadn’t seen in a while drop by in repsonse to our Facebook post about the homemade ice cream. We enjoyed the frozen goodness and had a wonderful conversation, ranging from light-hearted catching up, to corny inside jokes, to deep, gut-level honest sharing that you only do with REAL friends and family.

It was 30 minutes after they left – probably 7:00 p.m. or so – that I went into the bathroom and noticed myself in a mirror… Yikes! I had not combed my hair after I got up that morning! But then… I smiled. And I thought how wonderful it was to have people I could be REAL with! They didn’t care. They loved me anyway.

Don’t we all long for that?! We want to know and be known at a deep, gut level and to be so comfortable with friends or family, someone, anyone, that we can smile, relax, and not sweat and fret and fear what they’ll think. We don’t want those insecurities to rise to the surface. We want to be accepted for who we are, they way we look, and the mistakes we make. Not for who people want us to be. Not for who they think we are because we are keeping up pretenses and hiding the REAL us every time we are around them. We long to be accepted… loved… just as we REALLY are.

Some of us will have the rare pleasure of experiencing that with a few select friends, but for many of us even family seems to be unable to know us, accept us, and love us as we long to be loved.

But there is Great News! There is Hope! We have a Heavenly Father, our Abba, who knows us intimately, accepts us totally, pursues a relationship with us relentlessly, and loves us unconditionally! Psalm 139 reminds us “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

God sees you! He knows you – the REAL you! And you know what? In spite of all your self-condemnation, fears, hiding, and not loving yourself – God loves you! He REALLY loves you! Come to Him. Just as you are.

“He Knows” by Jeremy CampEvery Heart That is Breaking” by Twila Paris

The Best Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

James 1:17

A trip to the bank to deposit a paycheck on a Friday – simple, right? That simple end of the week task began an adventure. I daresay that you probably had an adventurous week that week too if you are one of my fellow Alabamians. The day in question March 12, 1993 – the beginning of the Blizzard of ’93.

Nine months pregnant with a 5 and a 2-year-old in tow, I headed off to the bank expecting a normal errand run. The next day the 5-year-old would turn 6. Grandparents were coming for a cookout. Groceries had been purchased, presents wrapped, just a couple of business things to tie up so we didn’t forget them during this very busy birthday week. After tomorrow’s celebration, the 2-year-old would turn 3 on Thursday, and baby number 3 would arrive on Friday if she landed on her due date. It was looking to be quite a week.

As we walked in the bank, the atmosphere felt peculiar. Lines were the longest I’d ever seen, and the normal hush of the lobby was a buzz of people talking. Stepping to the end of the shortest line with the little ones in hand, I heard a snippet of a conversation, “snow… they’re saying 6-12 inches…”. A bit of shock overwhelmed me in the moment.

I had been too busy caring for kids and gearing up for the new arrival just around the corner; I hadn’t had time to turn on the news! Snow? Real snow? We never get anything but a dusting in Alabama. And besides the temps weren’t that cold, were they? I interrupted the men chatting. With great gusto, they poured out the latest news to me as our line inched toward the teller.

By the time the teller handed me my receipt I was in hurry mode. I rushed the kids to the car. Flakes began to fall as we headed home. Then heavier snow started coming down. Ten minutes later pulling into the house, bushes and trees had a dusting on them already.

I unlocked the door and tossed my purse inside without stepping in. Grabbing the wheelbarrow, I told the kids, “Come on.” We loaded logs from the wood pile and pushed a few wheelbarrow loads to the house just in case we lost power for an extended time; we would need firewood. “Don’t overdo it and go into labor early,” rang I my head. I called my husband and the grandparents, started a pot of soup, and finished up decorating the birthday cake just as my husband arrived home from work and the grandparents showed up with suitcases. Spending the night for the big celebration the next day “just in case we get snowed in” seemed to be the wise thing to do.

Snowed in we were! March 13th dawned bright and snowy. Nine inches worth where we were. Of course, the party plans were pretty much scrapped for the rare option of playing in the snow instead. What a birthday present for a 6-year-old! How could any present top that? Five days later we topped it. Baby sister arrived on big sister’s Big Day! We’d hit a parenting homerun – snow and a baby sister, the two best birthday gifts we’ve ever been able to give!

But those are only faint shadows of the gifts God gives to us. Our Heavenly Father is the giver of all things. The perfect gift-giver, because His gifts are always the Best. Best for us at least. Everything we enjoy and celebrate comes from Him. Let’s rejoice with gratitude to Him and thankful hearts for all His gifts, big and small, expected and surprising, perfect and… things that were not on our wish list. Thank God for your good times, your bad times. Your children or lack of children. You husband or your singleness. Your material goods or the freedom that comes from not having to worry about lots of material things. God is good. He has His purposes. Trust Him. Enjoy Him today and His perfect provision for you, even if it doesn’t seem to gel with your plans. Unexpected blizzards and early babies are wonderful treasures once we adjust our mindset. We may find those things not on our wishlist are the Best.

Note: Today just happens to be the birthdays of those babies. This is my favorite story to tell. Thanks for listening as I walked down memory lane and gave my tribute to those two godly young women who fill my heart with joy. Thanks for indulging me.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5

“What Do You See?”

We’ve probably all heard of ink blot tests (Rorshack tests) that psychiatrists use in diagnoses. The way I understand it these inkblots test your perceptions. Doctors show you the sample and then ask, “What do you see?” Psychiatrists aren’t the only ones who ask this question, God frequently asks this as well. However, He asks it not to diagnose us, but to get us to see the world through His eyes.

Years ago my husband’s company went through an improvement campaign as they tend to do once every few years. This campaign focused on having a paradigm shift and being able to see from another’s perspective – a good thing to be able to do. My Sweetie came home with the tag line of the training: “Things are not as they are, but as they are perceived.” There is truth in this statement. We humans tend to see what we want to see. (That is obvious from the recent American political campaigning and election.) We look at the world through our own individual, mental lens which is just as distinct and varied as our individual eye glass prescriptions.

We each have our own world view. We can generalize and call it a Christian world view or a secular world view, but those are broad categories. Getting more specific within a Christian world view you find many differences of opinion in how an individual views life, God, people, and the society around him. But if even Christian world views vary, which one is correct?

I have an answer?

The one that looks to Jesus for all answers and is open to being corrected if we misinterpret.

As I was reading through the Bible last year something caught my attention. Jehovah God frequently asked His earthly prophets that question I mentioned: What do you see?

God understood the human paradigm didn’t always see things clearly or accurately. Of course, He does! He made us! He knows how we see the world only from our own point of view. I think that may be why He asked Isaiah and Amos and Zechariah those questions. And why He asks us, if we listen, What do you see?

Isaiah 55:8 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” As Creator to the universe, God sees our world in total truth and accuracy. Therefore, His thoughts are always correct. He understands and knows all the intricacies of any situation. We, on the other hand, are not always correct; our thoughts and ways are not His. We see things from a skewed perspective through the lens of sin and selfishness. Mentally I’ve always equated it with those “drunk” glasses – you know, the ones that simulate the effects of alcohol impairment with lenses that cause visual distortion. Our perceptions are just that, distorted perceptions, not truth. Scripture tells us this, it says that we don’t see clearly. Hidden away in the love chapter is this verse: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. ” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We see in a mirror dimly. … We only know in part. … Do we realize this? In any given situation, humanly we can only see dimly as though looking in a foggy bathroom mirror and we can only know a partial truth. I tend to think I know the answer. (If you don’t believe me ask my husband!) And he thinks the same thing about His answer even when our answers are polar opposites. It’s not possible for us both to be right, but we are both convinced we are. My husband’s favorite line to say about himself is, “Not always right, but never in doubt.” Is that not a true statement about most of us? So if we see dimly, and if we are not right when we think we are, yet we confidently assert ourselves, would it not be best to listen to THE ONE who does know? The One who is right? When His still, small voice asks us “What do you see?” we need to look and listen.

God has so much wisdom and knowledge and understanding to reveal to us, yet we go on our merry, prideful way thinking we know it all. Let’s stop. Let’s look to Jesus for answers. Let us try to see through His eyes. Let us humble ourselves before Him and seek His ways and thoughts. Let us listen when He whispers – What do you see? and then open our spiritual eyes and ask Him to show us truth.

20/20 Vision: Detached Retina

It was a normal day, maybe a bit more strenuous, with hours of heavy house cleaning followed by a hot shower before planning to run errands and prepare supper. Then suddenly there were arcs of light flashing in my eyes, and that normal day became anything but normal.

I immediately started blinking hoping it would go away. But I knew instinctively it wouldn’t. Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard the words “flashes of light before the eyes” and “blood pressure” in the same sentence. Where did I know that from? The thought then made me question, Do I call the eye doctor or my physician? Is this a medical or eye issue?

I sat down to cool off and rest to see if it would go away, but to no avail. So I made the decision to call the eye doctor first. Maybe they could refer me to who I needed to see if it was not them. Trying to look up a number when you’re having eye issues is challenging. I finally got through to my ophthalmologist, and my inquiries to the receptionist were followed by an immediate, “Come on. We’ll work you in.”

After a short drive, several bright lights, and drops in the eye, the verdict came. A possible detached retina which would send me immediately to the retina specialist across town. By the time I got there the flashes of lights had stopped, but lack of a symptom did not mean I hadn’t experienced a problem.

The retina specialist was young, but exceptionally kind and knowledgable. He did more thorough testing as I emotionally held my breath and prayed that this would not end in eye surgery or loss of vision. A good hour after the normal close of business for most medical professionals, my new friend and retina doctor gave me good news and sent me on my way home with instructions to return if I experienced the symptoms again. Much to my relief, it was not a detached retina, but a condition of aging which cause the vitreous fluid of the eye to dry up a bit, shrink, and pull on the retina causing symptoms similar to a detaching retina.

I learned several things that day.

  1. When something weird happens with your eyes, get to a doctor quickly.
  2. Dryness in the eye can be dangerous.
  3. Not all things are what they appear to be. Consult one who is an expert and follow His instructions.
  4. Our vision is very important. We should do whatever is in our power to keep it healthy.

Scripture tells us that spiritual vision is very important as well. Proverbs 29:19 (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” Spiritual sight is as crucial as physical sight.

When our spiritual vision is not functioning correctly, we see ourselves, other people, and situations in a skewed fashion. What causes an impairment of spiritual vision? Anything that does not line up with God’s Holy Word and the example set by His son, Jesus.

  • Pride. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV) These verses instruct us to have the mind of Christ, a mind of humility.
  • Selfishness & Judgment. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV) Let’s spend less time pointing fingers at others and deal with our own sinful, selfish hearts first.
  • Lack of the Spirit of wisdom/enlightenment. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV) If we lack spiritual wisdom, how do we get it? – First, as Paul demonstrated here, we ask God for it, for ourselves and for others that we pray for. – Second, we seek to know God, the source of all wisdom. Job 12:13 ESV says “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.” – And finally, we stand in a healthy awe and fear of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” (Psalm 11:10 ESV)
  • Sin. Any sin. Sin separates us from God and obscures our spiritual vision.

So when you find your spiritual vision flashing and failing on you, remember these things.

  1. Get to the Great Physician quickly!
  2. Realize that your spiritual dryness can damage your ability to see with God’s eyes. Make your relationship with Him a priority. A vibrant, healthy relationship.
  3. Things aren’t always what they appear to us to be. Stay in God’s Word daily for wisdom. Follow His instructions from His Word.
  4. Do whatever is in your power to keep your spiritual vision healthy. Repent. Pray. Memorize the Word. Journal. Study the Word. Gather with believers. Apply God’s Word. Teach. Disciple. Learn. Obey.

No detached retinas or eye diseases for us. Let us seek clear spiritual vision. Blindness is dangerous spiritually, but impaired vision that we become satisfied living with can be just as dangerous. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5 ESV) Let us seek spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear.

Shoveling Snow

My younger brother lives in Wisconsin. He recently sent me pictures of his snow shoveling efforts – a clean sidewalk after almost 3 feet of snow! His photos showed banks of snow lining clear paths which would only stay clear for a short time since forecasters were predicting another 6 inches or more in the next 24 hours. Here in the sunny South, that sounds like fiction to us, but it is part of everyday life in winter for him and his neighbors.

I love snow. I would love hanging out with my brother right now for about a week to just enjoy walking and playing in the snow with him. The light amounts we get here in Alabama never quite satisfy me. My snowmen always have leaves and twigs mixed in. That happens when you’re working with a couple of inches rather than a couple of feet. I’m sure I would burn out on the fun of snow if I lived for a winter in Wisconsin. Think of the hours of shoveling and the cold, hard work every day. That does not sound fun. So I’ll content myself with living in Alabama and longing for the random snow day where everything closes down when we get 2 inches.

As you can see, I’ve been thinking about snow a lot lately, and of course, I saw a couple spiritual applications from my brother’s snow event.

First, the purity and brilliant whiteness of his new-fallen snow pictures really is astounding. Every picture looks clean and crisp and fresh, whether it’s snow covering the dead, unraked winter leaves, the dirty streets, or his trash can! Scripture tells us that the forgiveness we have in Christ is like that, it can make the filthiest clean. Isaiah 1:18 states, ““Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” We see our past sin, our mistakes, our baggage. With the nudging of the enemy of our souls, we judge ourselves to be unforgivable. We internally, if not aloud, tell ourselves that we are too bad and no one could ever forgive us. But that is simply not true. Romans 5:6 says, “Christ died for the ungodly.” And Mark 2:17 reminds us of Jesus words, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” God’s grace is for each of us no matter how horrible or dirty we feel. He came for you! To redeem you and cleanse you from sin and make you as pure as snow.

The second thought that came to me is that just like snow, the “stuff” of life tends to pile up on us if we aren’t vigilant. That is why it is so crucial for me to stay in the Word and prayer each morning. It’s a cleaning out of the cobwebs of my heart. All those little, and big, irritations, fears, worries, concerns, sins, hurts, and anger pile up like snow from a blizzard in the front yard of my mind. The enemy uses them to distract me from focusing on God’s purposes for me that day and to keep me bound up in sin and useless to the Lord because I am preoccupied with the cares of life. Just as Matthew 13:32 describes – “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful,” – I too can get caught up in worries and thoughts from the deceiver and become a fruitless vine. If I’m not going to the Father daily to confess sin and air out my inner closets, I find myself snowed in and alone, overwhelmed by life and at the end of my own strength. More snow falls into our life each day – whether personal sins or wounds from others or simply difficult life situations, so we must be vigilant to go to the Father every day and let Him help us shovel the sidewalks of our minds before the next snowstorm arrives.

So, wherever you live, be it tropical jungle or frozen tundra or anywhere in between, get alone with your Father. Listen to His Word. Express your heart to Him in prayer. Allow Him to clean out the piles and drifts and cobwebs so that you may be a useful tool in His hand today. And no matter what condemnation the enemy throws at you, remember Isaiah 1:18 – “They shall be as white as snow.”

Love Transforms

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today as we celebrate life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded of the battle of good against evil. By the message he spoke we are challenged to rise up and live as Christ would have us, to be morally upright, impartial to all men, defenders of right and of our fellow man, and wholehearted followers of Christ.

This would be a good day for contemplation, prayer, and submission to our Lord. It is a day to recommit ourselves personally to living lives that give and serve others rather than living self-serving lives. It is a day to remember how small we are and how little we know, but how great is our God and how He will accomplish His plans in our world.

Dr. King said,

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

Such deep truth is held in that statement, especially in light of scripture, specifically from the book of 1 John where it states

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:7-14

Love transforms. Love transforms because God is love. God is a transforming power in individuals, in relationships, in societies, and in the world at large. For love to transform us, we have to know love – to know God. Then we allow Him to work first in our personal life to transform each of us. After that love grows and spreads and God transforms our relationships where enemies become friends. then from those intimate relationships God transforms societies and the world. It is a process. It must begin in my heart and yours as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is our choice in life whether we allow God to do His transforming work in us. Will we walk in destructive selfishness today, or will we walk as men and women of God imitating His benevolent love, kindness, goodness, mercy and grace to the world? Let us contemplate our life today in light of God’s love and His expectations for how we treat humanity.

A New Thing: Forgetting & Remembering

This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43:16-21

FORGETTING

As this new year dawns fresh, it’s time to put away the past. We humans too often live in our thoughts. We rehash old hurts and wounds. We plot scenarios and think “If I’d only said this.” We want to redo the past and make it right. But that is not possible. We are time-bound creatures, not yet the immortal souls who live outside the bounds of time with The One who created time itself. This can weigh heavy on the minds of people filled with regrets. But there is also a freedom in having to let go of the past.

Here in Isaiah 43 the Lord tells His people, Israel, and also us, to forget the former things. Put them away. Quit dwelling on them. Do not let them take up precious thought time in your brain which in turn uses up precious energy and creativity God wants you to use to move forward this year in carrying out His will for you.

This morning as I read a Navigators’ devotional by Jerry Bridges called “Holiness Day by Day,” one that I read every day, this thought grabbed me. “I’m dismayed at how little we Christians pray for the success of the Gospel among the nations. If we honestly examine our prayers, we find that we give the greatest priority to our own earthly needs.” I was instantly convicted of how often I allow little hindrances, annoyances, hurts, or disappointments control my thought life, to keep me from praying for the Gospel to go forth with power. When I can’t, or won’t let go, those little things dominate me and I become self-focused rather than God-focused, my selfishness is evident even inn my praying. This morning I realized that if I can’t turn loose of these former things I will not be ready to see and understand and participate in the “New Thing” God is doing all around me to make His kingdom come here on earth – those things He is wanting me to be involved in.

How do we “forget the former things? Especially those things that seem like giants in our lives?

  1. We pray. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) When we are able to pray this way we give God access to convict us and change our hearts and our thinking patterns.
  2. We seek keep in step with the Spirit and allow Him to produce His fruit in our minds and souls. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:22-26)
  3. We control our thoughts. We make the choice to do our part to work at not allowing Satan to control our thought life. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

REMEMBERING

“Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10

Just 3 short chapters after the Lord through Isaiah commanded the children of Israel to “Forget the former things,” He now tells them to “Remember the former things.” What?! Lord which is it? I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that God is often paradoxical in the way He works, and frequently He says things to us that seem like opposites. Such is the case here.

While we are to forget past hindrances and let the emotions connected with them die, we are also to remember the former things God has done in our lives. What are we to remember? The answered prayer. The trials He brought us through. The miracles He performed in timing and answers and healing. Those “God moments.” The enemy of our souls will make us forget these things so that when we face difficulties we will doubt and worry and fret – all things the scriptures instructs us NOT to do. If we do not consciously keep ourselves aware of the mighty ways God has worked in our lives we will become despondent and lose hope.

So I encourage you this year to keep a journal. Write down God’s miracles and answers and perfect timing in black and white so that you can go back to it in the dark times and see the facts and be encouraged. Write down your doubts and fears and questions and prayer requests so you can go back and later and see how God has moved in your life. You may even find God answered with a “no,” but that now you are glad He did.

This year I challenge you to look for the “New Thing” God is doing in your life. Be patient. Go with the flow, even when it doesn’t seem the way you planned it. I challenge you, and myself, to forget the past as it weighs us down and to remember the past as it speaks of God’s mighty works. Let us join God in the things He is about and let our wishes move to the back burner.

Have a blessed and growing 2021!

What’s Your Word?

How do you usher in a new year? Resolutions? Commitments to work out, or eat right, or save money, or de-clutter, or read your Bible more?

As this very challenging year rolls to a close, let it not go out leaving us in despair. Let us send it on with gratitude for lessons learned, most importantly, for the knowledge of the brevity and great value of life. Then let’s usher in 2021 with the greatest hope and trust in our Father God.

While all those commitments and resolutions may sound like a good thing, I find that I go strong after them for a few weeks and then return to my old habits. A more useful tradition I have developed over the last few years is the habit of finding my watchword for the new year. That started several years ago at the prompting of our pastor.

My first word was “life.” My mom had died May of that year and I had spent the next 7 months grieving. My health was not good, I was having frequent anxiety attacks. I was scheduled for a hysterectomy. It felt as if I was living in death not life.

The word came to me out of a quiet time with the Father, as usually happens each year now. I new it was time to start living again, not grieving away my hours and not being satisfied with bad health. “Life” became a crucial watchword in my life that led to a turning point. In fact, in the renewal of that year and the creative push of the Creator in my life, this blog was born. That year was a fertile year and a re-awakening. I did embrace life, and found how to truly live again.

Since that first word I’ve had several others, grace, surrender, and now strengthen and steadfast. As the Covid social distancing wore on into October and my yearly Bible reading plan was walking me through the last half of the New Testament, I came across these verses, my verses for the year:

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:12-13 ESV

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

They each pierced my heart. I have weak knees, physically. I sometimes feel they hold me back from the work the Lord has for me. So He’s telling me this is my year to strengthen them. I’m also at a stretching time in ministry. The second verse was a word of correction and encouragement from the Father Himself for me to keep working steadfastly. He has a purpose. It’s not in vain.

My words are dear to me. I challenge you to get to a quiet place for an extended period of time over this holiday season. Dig into the Word. Pray, pouring out you heart to the Father, but also listening in the quiet for Him to reveal your word and His purposes for you for the coming year. Pray and seek until you get your word and your verse. They will be dear to you. You will be surprised at how often the Father brings them up around you as you go through the year. You will also be surprised at what you see Him doing in and through you in relation to the words and verses He gave you.

He is a good, good Father and He has a plan for you for 2021! Let’s not go into this year with fear, nor with escape as our motivating factor. Let us go into 2021 open-eyed and alert, ready for whatever the Father brings our way. Trusting and knowing He is with us. Learning and growing in our relationship with Him. May 2021 be your best year yet in spite of any obstacles life may throw in your path. You can rest in the fact that while they surprise you, Your Father saw them coming, they did not surprise Him!

20/20 Vision: Do You See What I See?

A charming Christmas carol and personal favorite of mine begins with that very question:

Do you see what I see?

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star,
Dancing in the night,
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite.

Often our most precious gifts begin with a look. We look up at the sunrise first thing in the morning waiting to unwrap the gift of a new day that God has given us. We look over at a classmate in high school and sparks fly – the beginnings of a lifelong love. Kids look under the tree with eager eyes full of expectation. We look down at that tiny baby just seconds old, and our lives are changed forever by the best gift that we ever got. We look inward and see our sin and pain and need, and that is the beginning of a lifelong journey with Jesus – the best gift ever given.

Are we looking? Are we taking time to look around, to see those who are hurting? Those in need? Are we seeing the desperation of souls that are empty and lonely because they don’t know Jesus? Are we taking time to look?

Are we listening, too? This time of year the songs proclaim God’s glory and perfect gift. The bells and harps, guitars and orchestras, and the voices – lone and clear are full choir and rich and harmonic. What joy to listen! God uses these sounds to soften our hearts and prick our spirits. Are we listening for God to speak to us? He may be whispering, “Listen to the lonely. Listen to the wounded. Listen to the angry and betrayed. Be my heart to them.”

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song,
High above the trees,
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea.

Are we seeking to know what the shepherds in Bethlehem knew? The Christ child, the King, Immanuel had been born. A tiny babe who deserves all our gifts of worship and praise. Do we seek Hi through His Word? Are we wise women seeking to know Him and understand His ways and His purposes in our life? Let us bring Him our gift – our only gift worth giving the Baby King, our heart.

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child,
Shivers in the cold,
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.

Listen! Proclaim! Celebrate! The Christ child is the goodness and the light and the hope that our world seeks! Make Him Known! Declare His Greatness! Share the Good News! Enjoy this season to the fullest! Enjoy Our Savior to the fullest! He came to give us life – life abundant! (John 10:10)

Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace people everywhere.
Listen to what I say!
The child, the child,
Sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light!

This Christmas season may you look and see. Listen and hear. Seek Him and know Him. Proclaim and celebrate the goodness and light He alone can bring!

Humbly Grateful or Grumbly Hateful?

A little song I used to sing with my kids went something like this…

“Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful, What’s your attitude? Do you grumble and groan, or let it be known You’re grateful for all God’s done for you?”

A very good question for us to consider today, especially after the year of Coronavirus! We could each spout out a list of grumbles and groans I’m sure. But 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that is not God’s will.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 These. 5:18

No matter the situation – no matter how small or large, easy or difficult, sad or happy, stressful or peaceful your situation – there are always things we can discover and acknowledge to God with thanksgiving. ALWAYS!

Can we say with the apostle Paul…

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:11-13

Have we, like Paul, learned to be thankful and content? Contentedness really is a by-product of being thankful.

We’ve lived through a challenging year, ladies. It has been difficult at times to have a grateful heart. But then at other times, like when I hear of a tragedy someone else is facing, I’m so very thankful for my own simple life problems and all. You too?

Have you had trouble being thankful for the hard things though?

Have you spent more time praying & thanking God or griping and running your mouth about these things? COVID, masks, government mandates, those who don’t wear masks, those who do, the election, …?

We need to develop the discipline to choose to see through thankful eyes and look for God’s provision and His purposes in ALL things. I don’t mean we’ll never have negative feelings or opinions. I mean we control our tongues, rest our hearts in Jesus, and look to our omnipotent Heavenly Father to handle all the things we want to be grumbly hateful about.

Thanksgiving in our lives makes us consciously aware of significant things that we may otherwise overlook. Thanksgiving focuses our attention in the right direction – from worry to praise, from fear to faith.

Are you able to give thanks …

  1. When life is chaotic.
  2. When catastrophe strikes. illness, loss, destruction, rebellion, disappointment
  3. When you feel rejected or unloved.
  4. When your prayers are still unanswered or are answered in a way that you do not like.
  5. When we don’t know how we will survive because of financial issues or job loss
  6. When we feel forgotten, overlooked, or abandoned.
  7. When we live in the shadows, not the limelight. 
  8. When we are not asked to serve in a capacity we really want to.
  9. When we face the death of someone we love
  10. When we face death ourselves.
  11. When we are in a season of depression or despair
  12. When we feel lonely

When times are challenging and and we find it difficult to find something to be thankful for, here are a few things to consider.

Jer. 29:11-14 states “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.”

So what are some things we can be thankful for in a really bad situation?

Salvation of course! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall never perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

1. God’s strength, protection, & help. Psalm 28:7

2. That God hears our prayers. John11:41

3. That we received the Word of God and accepted Christ and that His word is alive and active in us “performing its work in believers.” 1 These. 2:13

4. God’s direction through our trying times when we don’t know the right course to take. We must try NOT to live by our own understanding – by our own wits or worldly advice – but trust Him to get us through on a straight path. Proverbs 3:5-6

5. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3

6. God’s peace that He will put in our hearts when we come to Him in prayer and thanksgiving! Philippians 4:6-7

7. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Psalm 34:18

8. God will be there to comfort us in all our troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:4

9. He will strengthen us for service to Him. 1 Timothy 1:12

10. We have God’s provision! If He provides for the birds and adorns the flowers so beautifully, how much more will He provide for our every need. Matthew 6:25-33

11.  We Have Christ – the Hope of glory! Colossians 1:17

Today, choose to find something to be thankful for!