Lost Love

Do you get nervous meeting new people?

What will he think?

What if I inadvertently offend her?

First impressions matter, we’re told. Some claim employers have a good idea just 7 seconds into an interview if a candidate is a good fit.

In our feeble attempt to get the job, keep the job, give a great impression, or keep someone’s attention, we often attempt to show only a part of ourselves.

The best part.

The pretty part.

The pleasing part.

We hide who we are because we’re afraid we won’t measure up.

Maybe who I am won’t be enough.

Yet Psalm 139 reassures us, relieves us, reasons with us that One does exist who truly knows us. Truly knows our hopes and fears. Knows our bad habits and bad attitudes. Knows our not-so-nice qualities and the percolating questions we are too afraid to ask.

And, He loves us. All of us: the Good, the Bad, and yes, even the Ugly. He even loves the people who hide parts they think should never be seen.

The part which would banish us from the world if the world only knew…

He knows every thought, especially the runaways we fail to take captive.

He knows every word which escaped from an angry tongue.

He knows a hurting heart, hidden from a world we fear might mock, or much worse, not even care.

He knows how desperate we are for love, true love, because HE placed that desire inside each and every one of us.

HE knows us. Every part of us. Guess what? He loves us still!

HE doesn’t break up with us. HE doesn’t fire us. HE doesn’t gossip about us.

He imply, yet profoundly loves us.

You see, He understands.

For we do not have a high priest who doesn’t know our suffering.

Read Psalm 139. Let His words wash your wounds. Let them soak into your soul. Then allow yourself to feel love. Unconditional love. Love that never ends.

Don’t let the enemy try to tell you all the reasons you aren’t worthy. Don’t let him list your faults or indiscretions, or mistakes.

You see, God already knows. HE’s asking you to ask forgiveness, and then He is asking you to forgive yourself.

HE wants to embrace you, yes you! HE wants to whisper “you are forgiven.”

We just need to be honest with Him.

Allow yourself to be loved, truly loved.

 

 

Fix Your Eyes

Our adorable puppy has perfectly illustrated another truth: once you’ve fixed your eyes on something, it is possible to not be distracted from it.

As Minna proceeds throughout her day, many mesmerizing motions captivate her: the flash of a shiny pan drawn from the cupboard, the swish of the curtain drawn across the sliding door, and the sway of long coats as girls rush out the door to school.

She notices everything.

But there is one thing she absolutely refuses to turn away from: the lit flashlight.

What began as a desperate attempt at occupying our rambunctious Rottie has quickly progressed to become her favorite activity.

She will lead us to the drawer she knows contains it.

She’ll nose under the cushion under which we try to conceal it.

And, this gentle girl gets assertive when she hears the ‘click’ of that delightful device turning off. She actually runs over and places her paws on it, as if attempting to turn it back on.

When the light is shining, her eyes track it. Whether its tracking racing movements or patiently watching as it simply sets on one spot.

Loud noises, the tantalizing aroma of cooking beef, or the sound of her favorite people’s voices can not distract her concentration from that light.

We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:2 to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Most of us might agree it’s easy to become distracted from Christ.

It’s easy to prioritize a work deadline,  ill family members, or sometimes, even a dirty floor.

While thing in this world need some of our attention, it’s the peace of Christ and the assurance we have in Him that should reign in us. I know I am often missing that peace as I try to accomplish everything captivating me.

How can I experience that peace?

We need to not only  take the time for Jesus, but make the time for Jesus.

Like Minna with the flashlight, I need to fix my eyes on Jesus, never allowing my gaze to wander.

Thank you Minna, for reminding us to stay focused on the Light!

He’s Got This!

Does the thought of 2018 fill you with excitement? Dread? Fear?

Staring at a blank calendar for next year, I began to fill in important dates. Birthdays, doctor appointments, end of school (!)

I wonder what the next year holds. Our family has experienced some challenging years recently and I sincerely pray for a year of rest. I recall the year I received a cancer diagnosis. I remember the year downsizing affected us personally. I recollect the year we were told our unborn baby probably had a severe illness.

When you have lived through enough New  Year’s you might approach another year with great uncertainty.

Yet, we know the One who holds that year in the palm of His hand. Nothing, nothing, happens to us outside His command.

He may not have originally authored our troubles, but for some reason He allows them.  He weaves challenging circumstances into good, as only God can do.

I survived cancer, with less than a ten percent chance, I am here almost ten years later. Another job and a different career was found and it turned out to be a true blessing for our family. That baby we prayed over constantly was born completely healthy and is our vibrant ten-year-old daughter today.

As I look at the new calendar I know many important dates are not yet known for me to fill them in. Yet God knows them right now. He knows what this year holds. He knows how He will grow us, stretch us and hold us.

He knows all the concerns, and stress-filled moments that will come. He also knows all the surprising joys and love-filled minutes that will be the highlights of our New Year.

He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a future with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s promise to hold us and carry us through whatever life may throw at us. It is an often quoted verse, but if you have known it well for years, don’t the familiarity dilute the promise.

God does have plans for each one of us. Plans to help each one of us grow in Him. Plans of great gifts He wishes to bestow upon His children. Some gifts we may recognize immediately. Other we might not see the blessing in for quite some time.

But trust in His promise. Hold Him to it. He won’t let you down!

As you anticipate your upcoming year, rest in knowing whatever this year holds, God’s got this! And, He’s got you!

Christmas Presence

Are you ready for Christmas?

The golden question I have been asked so frequently the past week. As of today, not all the presents are home, the live tree is still standing in a random field, no wrapping has occurred, and baking, well about tomorrow I will begin a Betty Crocker day!

But I have told people I am ready. I am ready to worship Jesus. I am ready to focus on the Greatest Love Story ever: God looking at His creation and authoring a way for His sinful children to return back into His presence.

I am ready to let go of this crazy schedule and ridiculous expectations and allow myself to sit in silent wonder of just how much God loves each one of us. How He treasures us. How He wants to spend time with us.

He doesn’t want us to stress about His Son’s birthday. He wants us to be joy-filled and celebratory. He wants us to be able to treasure the time off and spend it with those we love; not schedule commitments out of obligation.

Are you ready for Christmas? Are you ready to worship the Creator of everything? Are you ready to enjoy this wonderful time of year and let its true meaning wash over you and fortify your soul?

I pray that in the midst of the chaos you will chisel out many quiet, beautiful moments to sit before a lit candle and read His love story. You will read His great love for all humanity, and for you personally. Maybe, you will even experience a Mary moment and “treasure up all these things” in your heart.

Let your heart listen to His quiet words whispered through the pages and allow your mind to fix on the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas!

He Hears The Counting

Twelve years.

Have you ever prayed for God to intervene for twelve years? Or, like me, are you tempted to stop praying after only a few years, or even just a few months?

In Mark 5:25 we meet a woman who had suffered with a  bleeding condition for twelve years. Not only did she suffer physically, but socially and emotionally as well.

Because of the bleeding, she was considered “ceremonially unclean.” During this time, others were not to even touch her.

No warm hugs. No comforting pats. No grasping of hands.

Imagine life without the comfort and camaraderie of physical touch.

Now imagine it for twelve years. Did she even still feel connected to people?

Imagine growing up in faith, trained in all the preparation for worship for the Sabbath. In fact, helping with this was an honorable rite of passage. But bleeding bans participation from this, for twelve years.

Did she still feel connected to God? The God who could halt this horrible condition. Year after year there seemed no change.

What was her life like? She wasn’t allowed close proximity with people. She wasn’t welcome in worship. Was her life a recipe for depression?

As we read further into Mark we learn “she had suffered a great deal under the care of doctors and had spent all she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse.”

Her little girl dreams weren’t realized.

She couldn’t marry.

She didn’t have children; could not imagine such joy.

Instead, she was an outcast. An untouchable. Nothing left to try, nothing left to do.

No hope.

Then she heard about Jesus.

She was determined to just touch his clothes. (A violation of her status for sure!) A risk she was willing to take because she believed He could heal her. “And when she touched his cloak, her bleeding immediately stopped.”

He had healed her!

After twelve years, God finally fulfilled her faith-based request.

After twelve years, her suffering stopped.

After twelve years she could once again share in humanity’s daily life.

Amazingly, she didn’t give up after year one, year five, or even year eleven.

Verse 34 tells us Jesus’ sweet words to her, “Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

God never left her throughout her suffering. He saw her. He heard her. And, He determined the hour He would halt her misery.

We may not understand why God doesn’t seem to intervene early on or in our time frame. But we can trust He knows. He sees. He hears. And He will not allow us to suffer one second more than necessary.

 

 

Missing the Mark

Instant replay caused him to instantly recoil.

Ah, the director’s right! In that scene, he’d missed his mark. The taped “X” seemed to suddenly glow as he felt his face flush.

How could this have happened?

He knew. Although he’d rehearsed it a dozen times, he’d taken his eyes off the mark. He’d assumed his mind knew where to lead his feet. He was so confident, he never even looked.

Now the director needed to reshoot the entire scene, all because the lead actor missed his mark. He knew that the end result of not being completely on his mark meant the cameras couldn’t catch him in complete focus. The strength of the story might be lost. Not only the story lines blur but the actors themselves are often unseen or distorted.

Living as a Christian can be difficult, especially when we take our eyes off the mark: Jesus.  Lines of right and wrong can become blurred or distorted when we take our eyes off Christ. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how to live life, with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Thankfully God doesn’t record our errors so adamantly and rematch our actions so blatantly.  Unlike a TV director, He doesn’t often employ the instant replay either.

Instead of lashing out at His children He redeems what they’ve done.

Romans 8:28 promises us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to 
His purpose.” (NIV)

He doesn’t need us to redo decisions in life to make everything turn out right. While we need to carefully consider our choices and fully expect consequences when we choose folly, God promises to weave good into everything, even the not-so-good things.

He doesn’t highlight when we missed the mark. Instead, He extends mercy and grace, and yes, even blesses our mess. He uses our choices to create a marvelous testimony that He indeed is Lord of all.

In Need of a Silent Night

Final exams.

Dinner to make.

Children to bathe.

Dog chewed the steak.

Laundry to fold.

Papers to grade.

Lord why did I think I could do all this today?

Floor is filthy.

Classroom’s a mess.

Lab exploded.

Broken glass creates a mess.

Christmas décor blew away.

My Olaf popped on a thorn in the fray.

The last child tucked in; dog collapsed by the fire;

I knew I better sit down or retire.

My heart’s heavy, my mind just wouldn’t quit.

It was then I realized I needed way more than St. Nick.

I needed peace.

I needed slumber.

I needed quiet, unencumbered.

I needed more warm moments.

I needed less cold thoughts.

I simply needed something that just couldn’t be bought.

This time of year it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But somehow, I don’t think Jesus would desire for us to feel frantic celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Jesus came to give us life and give it abundantly.

Today.

Everyday.

It’s we who overfill the moments.

It’s we who try to create grandiose nostalgia when the most meaningful memory would be the moment of comprehension of our greatest gift.

God has blessed us with the gifts of life on earth, and of eternal life through His Son.

God is blessing us with the gift of time of today. He lets us choose how we will spend todays’ hours and minutes. What will we choose?

Although they are pretty, the packages do not contain the gift of happiness.

Although they may fill (and overfill!) our stomachs, the delicious traditions of our family feasts will not quench our heart’s desires to know and be known by our Creator.

Although the parties and festivities are fun-filled social events we don’t want to miss, they could never take the place of that one deep relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us.

Maybe you’re like me and must force yourself to just sit and be still. Even if it’s late, I hope you can take the time to truly rest in a dimly lit room, enjoying the unencumbered, unimaginable joy of Christmas as God intended: a sincere celebration of His great love for each of us.

I pray this holiday season we can each and all discover the true joy of Christmas.

 

No worries?

“Daddy, do we have enough money?” asked the sweet seven-year-old when she heard of her father’s job loss.

“You don’t need to worry about that; Daddy will take care of everything,” he replied, rubbing her shoulder. Giving him a quick hug, she bounded off to play with her dolls.

When was the last time your worries and  concerns were so easily relieved? Once anxiety grips us, it can be difficult to disentangle its claws from our minds and our hearts.

God tells us nothing should make us anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

Instead, He’s telling us what to do with our concerns: Pray about them. Bring them to God joyfully and with thanksgiving.

When a burden of the heart disturbs our sleep, disrupts our days and consumes our consciousness, we honestly don’t need to deal with it alone.

We should give it to God. Joyfully give it to Him. With thanksgiving give it to Him. Because He will take care of it and it does not need to burden us any longer.

Sometimes, we are like the little girl worrying about her family’s financial plight. Sometimes, we take on things that are just way beyond us. Our heavenly Father has it all worked out. Will we relinquish it to Him?

He wants us to allow Him to handle it, and for us to run off and do whatever He’s given us to do. He doesn’t want us burdened and consumed with His work.

When we allow Him to lift our burdens, we experience first-hand His promise of the next verse, “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike what the world has offered us, we are promised peace.

Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety?

A Step Further: Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety? If you are like me, there are times it’s just hard to let go. I carry something to Him, then take it back seconds later. I bring it to Him again, and later my mind works overtime, trying to figure it out.

God knows us. He knows our minds are willing, yet our flesh is weak. He knows when we want to give something over to Him, yet, seemingly can’t.

He also provided for that.

When we feel like we can’t let go, He is willing to meet us there and supply what we need. Whatever it is we need, right there in that moment, He will supply it, if we ask. And, He’ll meet us in the next moment, and the next. Eventually it won’t be so difficult.

If you find Philippians 4:6-7 challenging to live, please feel free to ask for prayer in the comments below. My team and I will lift you in prayer.

Committed To Christ

“I truly believe in Jesus, I just want to wait to be baptized,” she quietly confided, “I want to make sure I understand what I’m promising.”

I stared in amazement at this twelve-year-old girl.

I knew she believed. She truly studied her own Bible and her life mirrored a heart on fire for Christ.

At twelve, she “got it.” Faith is not a feeling.

Faith is a commitment.

She knew Jesus was committed to her. Now, she wanted a chance to read through the Bible so she knew how she should commit herself to Him.

Luke 14:33 instructs each of us to give forethought to our faith. “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say goodbye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.”

That does not necessarily mean we need to literally get rid of all our material possessions, although we could. It does mean nothing else can occupy the greatest portion of our heart and mind.

Christ comes first. Always.

Is that easy?

No.

But with Christ, it’s doable.

As that sweet girl learned many years ago, before her baptism, it is possible to investigate and understand what Jesus wants from us.

He wants us to give some forethought to our commitment to Him.

And He wants us to realize we can count on Him to help us stay committed to our faith throughout our lifetime.

 

A New Attitude

I closed my computer and sighed. I was so tired. Why Lord, did You call me to this?

I enjoy most things I do every day. Last year, I launched a new career. It was a challenge. But the biggest part of the challenge was the fact I had to go back to school for a Master’s degree.

Every ounce of my being fought the idea of returning to school. I had thanked the Lord that stage of life was over decades ago.

Now, I’m back to the books as I encourage my own daughter in her freshman year of college.

I’ll be the first to admit my attitude stunk. But, I wasn’t doing anything about it.

Until I read Philippians 2:14 one early Saturday morning. “Do everything without grumbling and arguing.”  A paraphrase might have read, “Cheerfully do the work I have given you.”

Ouch.

I really hadn’t done that at all. My family knew I wasn’t happy. My colleagues knew I wasn’t happy. My friends definitely knew I wasn’t happy.

And I’m sure the Lord hadn’t missed any of this at all.

Every time I grumbled, I was arguing with God over His assignment for me. It was as if I were saying, “You don’t know what You’re doing!” 

I’d be willing to bet He wasn’t happy with my attitude.

I’m still not happy every moment outside work seems stolen for school. But I’m working on only allowing positive things to escape my lips concerning my courses.

Recently, I registered for next semester. By May, I should be halfway to my Master’s degree. (I had to really work to push out the part of me which inwardly moaned, only half-way!)

Sometimes God calls us to scenarios we would rather skip, and problems we don’t wish to ponder.

But, each does serve a purpose. We need to trust Him. We also need to glorify Him in whatever we’re doing. Not only in action, but in our choice of words as well.

I’m slowly learning that means doing what He’s called me to do without grumbling or arguing.

I may have felt too old to be in school, but God is teaching me He’s not done with me yet!