Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday, September 30 Time to Open the Gifts

Imagine the following scenario with me. Today is your dear friend's birthday and you've invited her to a special lunch (your treat) to celebrate her day. Her life is hectic so you've chosen a quiet, charming place known for food with flair. You have the gift of all gifts for her and an entertaining story to go with it. You have time to give her, and time is your most valuable gift. Today you can sit and chat and relax without needing to rush off to some other appointment. If she's game, you even have another little side trip you know she'll enjoy. You're probably more excited about the day than she is as you wait for her to arrive. 

When she finally comes through the door, she has that look in her eyes and a cell phone in her ear. She waves without smiling and heads toward the table you've arranged with her gift front and center. She still has the phone in her ear. She sits down and tries to continue her telephone call while sputtering an "I'm sorry" to you every once in a while to acknowledge you're there. Your server shows up and you become an interpreter for her hand motions and one word interjections. When she finally ends the call, she spends the next 15 minutes explaining who it was and why it was so important that she take the call at that particular time. 

As your food arrives, her cell phone rings again, she checks to see who it is and gives you the, "If I don't answer this one, life as we know it may halt completely" look and she's off again. When the call ends you get another description of why it was crucial to interrupt your time together to take the call. 

Finally, the time comes for gift presentation and you begin the story of how and where you found this special item and why it made you think of her. Her cell phone rings and you get another round of explanations, only this time she has to hurry off, promising that the next time you get together won't be like this. As you watch her scurry out the door, you turn back to finish your meal and notice she left your gift on the table, unopened. 

Honestly, would you plan anything special for this friend again?  

Every day God sets before us a table, the gift of His time and attention, and every day we decide whether or not to be gracious recipients or to do the minimum and squeeze Him in to check Him off our daily list. 

Dear Father, You've laid before us the gift of today and time with You. You set today's  table with abundant life and blessings designed with personal detail and precision. You desire to have us all to Yourself and to fill us and our lives with everything good. You know how hard we struggle with each day's challenges and You're constantly extending Your hand to us with what will nourish and satisfy us. You prepare a table for us each day, always ready, always watching for us to arrive and fellowship with You. You're  a Great, Good God and I thank You for Your perpetual efforts to bless us when we won't even sit still to focus on You. Forgive us for letting other concerns steal our time with You. Forgive us for leaving the cell phone on while we're dining at the table of the Bread of Life with You. Teach us to focus on Your Face and fill up on Your manna. Teach us to enjoy opening Your gifts.

In the name of Jesus, the Gift of all gifts

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

"Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday, September 29 - De-bannistered and dangerous

Our stairwell has been de-bannistered for the last couple of days because we're painting. I never realized how much I touch the bannisters, or how much having them firmly attached to the walls builds my confidence. Now, on the way up I grab at air, and when I stand at the top looking down those 15 opportunities for disaster, I seriously reconsider the necessity of going downstairs - ever.  I've discovered my bannister habits: As I go downstairs I touch the top of the right bannister, and coming back up I grab the bottom of the "other right" bannister. Oh, for the good old days when bannisters stayed put and I never gave them a thought except to clean them occasionally (the right one on the way up and the "other right" one on the way down).

Almighty God and Son of Man - Your Majesty and Power keep me looking up to You as Sovereign Lord of all the wonderful works You've created while Your friendship and intimacy humble me. I praise You that when I seek You, I'm not grabbing at air or sending up prayers like flares, only to drop back down unseen and unanswered. You latch firmly onto my hand and heart to steady me. When I stand vulnerable and fearful of falling or failing, You answer with Your Presence and unfailing love. When I'm sinking beneath waves of frustration and chaos, Your Strength reaches in and pulls me up. Guide us not to lean so heavily on other people - they, like us, are only human and a day will come when we reach for them and they won't be there. Mold our hearts and minds to reach for You first, without a second thought rather than after we've dialed all the other numbers. We want to know You in all Your Glory and as our Abba. Help us live in confident radiance because You're on our right and on our "other right."

"I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them." Psalm 34:4-7

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." 2 Peter 1:16-17

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." John 17:3

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday, September 28 It started with the cat . . .

Zora, one of our two cats, woke me at around one this morning. She usually waits until three, but maybe it was something she ate. I was thrilled to be of help.

I stumbled into the boxes on the floor, and let her highness out. A cool breeze rushed through the cat-sized opening in the door to announce fall. Fully awake now and almost smiling, I might as well see what was going on with my 400 plus Facebook friends. Only one friend was online. I told her to go to bed and one word led to another and soon her broken heart was clearly displayed on my monitor. All I knew to do was pray. So, I prayed - on the chat line - keying in the only key I know to understanding and comfort, trying to reach out to her through this amazing technology by pouring my heart's prayer through the keyboard out into cyberspace to her monitor and to her heart. And, if she had been on the other side of the world, we could have reached out and touched in the same way. Blows my mind. 

But, even more mind blowing is that God can use a four legged, selfish creature like Zora as an alarm clock with a purpose; that He can use a selfish someone roused from deep sleep who didn't wake up on the right side of the bed; that He can use words when there are no words; that He works out details and timing even when human beings are involved. 

Amazing God, You boggle our minds with Your great love and determination to reach out and touch us. You find ways and means to pour Yourself into our lives and Your love into our hearts. You're always reaching out to touch us no matter what obstacles lay between us. Open our eyes and ears to know when You're working in us. Fill our inner beings with Your Holy Spirit  and us to the brim and overflowing with "the measure of all the fullness of God." Mind-blowing God, don't let a lying and pitiful contender tease and fool us with his smooth and oily words that lead to doubt and weaken our faith. Anchor us in You until we're "filled with Your goodness, lost in Your love." 

In the name of Jesus whose purpose was to reach out and touch the broken and the heart broken

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44

"Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:7-8

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday, September 27, Easier Said Than Done

Based on "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young

"Chill" is the new "Relax." Doesn't it do your heart good when you're facing something that casts  a long shadow and someone says, "Relax."  And it always works, doesn't it? They say "Relax" and you snap your fingers or slap your forehead and think, "Why, of course! That's it - why didn't I think of it myself? I'll relax." Or, if you're really steamed about something hurtful, something unjust or just plain wrong and someone with no dog in the fight says, "Chill - it's all good." 

I hated shots when I was little. Nurses and my mom would do their best to explain that "relaxing" rather than tensing up would make it hurt less. Yeah, right! THEY weren't getting the shots!  

Then I remember the first time I relaxed and discovered they were right. I was half asleep when the nurse came in after my appendectomy and said something about a little stick. When it was over, I had to ask her whether or not she had given it to me yet.  

What's got you in a wad today? Mine is a huge foyer to be painted and a war-torn house to ready for photos. Am I up for it? Can we get it all done? Will we have the energy to see it through? Will it be worth all the trouble and expense? How will I repay the friends coming to help? 

Relax, Robin. Take refuge, take heart. Put the day, the questions, in His hands.  This isn't new to God. He knows the details and He's been waiting to show you all the power He's got up His sleeves to meet the demands of this day. Chill  - it's all good.

Sweet, loving Father, Your arms are mighty and everlasting and I choose to rest in You and relax about my weaknesses. Your goodness makes it all good for us when we relax and wait in loving trust on You. Your Strength is all we need - our own is like adding a splinter to a bonfire anyway.  Thank You that even as we're doing, we can be waiting and relaxing in our hearts, knowing Your Presence is working in and with us. You'll drive out anything standing in the way of accomplishing Your will. What a mighty God we serve!

In the name of Jesus who slept in a rocking boat during the storm

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying 'Destroy him!'"Deuteronomy 33:27

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday, September 26 - "Why on earth . . . ?"

As our time here on the Eastern Shore draws to a close, Tom, Nick and I have made up a "sand bucket list" of things we want to do before we move. Top on the list was to drive to Gulf Shores and eat at our family's favorite restaurant:  Sea 'n Suds. Friends joined us and we ate outside so we could enjoy the sound of the waves and feel the breeze and watch an unobstructed sunset. We stuck our toes in the cool sand after our meal and enjoyed watching seagulls swarm over some poor family with a bag of chips. 

On the way back to the car we passed a couple on vacation who asked about Sea 'N Suds and we told them why we were there to eat.  "You're MOVING? You're moving from HERE? Why on earth would anyone ever move from HERE??" Good question, from an earthly point of view.

The simple answer is, God spoke . . . then He nudged. How do we know He spoke? In about a million ways. When the possibility of leaving our wonderful home and church family and friends first came up I said, "I don't want to, so Lord, if this is what You want, please change my mind and heart. And Nick . . . Oh Lord, Nick . . . Just how are You going to change that boy's mind and heart? (and yes, I realize You're Almighty God, but still . . .that's quite a challenge even for You.)" 

God began working in our lives and speaking to us through His Word (so directly, so obviously), through His people (some here, some there). He arranged circumstances, closed some doors and opened others wide. He put up neon billboards that reached out and grabbed us. He lifted burdens and tied up loose ends. He allowed thorns to grow in our nest to make us less comfortable. All we had to do was watch and listen to see what God was telling us. 

The beauty of the Eastern Shore will fail to satisfy if we refuse to move when God leads. The waves will lose their charm if we allow them to drown out God's voice. The soothing breeze could quickly turn into whispers of conviction. We don't want to ruin a perfectly lovely view.

Dear Father, only You know how crazy in love with this place we were when we first came. Only You know the journey that has brought us to this point one step, one lesson, at a time. Comfort keeps us from venturing forward but You've called us into a new adventure. Thank You for leading us here to the beauty that surrounds us on the Eastern Shore. It was just what we've needed for 12 years. Now we trust You to know what we need for the next stage of our journey, and we're excited to find out what You need from us in our new home. 

May each member of Your family go wherever You lead and do whatever You call us to do. You opened the way to Your throne room for us. Help us start there, sitting at Your feet and listening. May we not insult and hurt You by walking by Your open door instead of through it. Speak in every heart today and guide us to follow You wholeheartedly where You're telling us to go.

In the name of Jesus who left heaven to come to earth with astounded angels saying, "Why on earth would anyone ever move from HERE?" 

"The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." Isaiah 50:4

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:2-3

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split." Matthew 27:50-51

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25 - "Ding dong, the witch is dead"

Based on "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young
What were you afraid of when you were little? As a pre-schooler, Julie was afraid of the animated witches in Disney movies. She knew they were witches from the first time they showed their pointy eyebrows and strange wardrobes on screen. She didn't have to hear them laugh cruelly as they transformed into hideous, horrible creatures. 

Snap. TV's off and the witch is gone. We go about our day. Then it's bedtime. The witch makes a comeback in Julie's mind that's bigger than the on-screen version. We checked under the bed, in the closet, behind everything we could check but the witch isn't in any of these places. The words "not real," "just a movie,"  and "pretend" meant nothing to our little girl as she struggled with fear and imaginary shadows. Tom and I had left witches in our childhood and had moved on to greater shadows of adulthood such as worrying about our child and whether or not we would get the bills paid, but we couldn't comfort Julie  because she was in the valley surrounded by animated witches. All the talking in the world didn't work. Only our presence until she fell asleep brought any peace.

Father, help us "pour all our energy" into trusting You. One person's valley is a past stepping-stone of faith for another, so help us be patient with those who seem determined to stay in valleys we've survived. Please help others be patient with us when they've "been there, done that and have the t-shirt" about what we're facing.  Our goal is to trust You completely and to help others walk through their shadowy valleys of fears. Quick, glib and simple answers do no one any good so clamp Your Holy Hand over our mouths when we want to pass them on to struggling people. Strengthen us to focus on You full force when we're sure the witch is out to get us. Hold us through it all. Help us put pleasing You as our number one priority today. You are wonderfully poised to strike down the fears that freeze our hearts, real or imagined. I love You Lord.

In the name of Jesus who cast out demons and taught us not to judge others

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." Proverbs 29:25

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24 - Root Beer by The Bay

It's been a hard week and last night I needed a root beer. Yep, and a fish sandwich and french fries.  I took these comfort foods to the bay to watch the sunset because, well, you know, I won't have many more opportunities to watch a sunset over the swaying masts of boats on the water. I watched an hourglass shaped cloud slowly spin into some unidentifiable form.  Colors flared as the sun's fingers pulled the last bits of gold from the sky just before disappearing below the horizon. Another day gone.

I backed up and turned my car around to see a bright full moon, low and large in the navy sky.  This silent witness to the sunset patiently waited to light the night. No fanfare. No drama. Just a peaceful, constant presence for the night ahead.

God wants my full attention but He waits patiently until I get my fill of fanfare and drama. He won't intrude but He's always present and waiting for me to turn fully toward Him. Like Peter, my eyes dart to crashing waves and whipping winds when all the time, Jesus calls me to maintain eye contact.

You, Lord, are my cloud by day and fire by night. You stay the same wonderful God - full of fanfare and glory but also constant and subtle. Your Light of Righteousness guides me in the glare of the day's challenges and through the night when the future is a blur of possibilities. The world offers new headlines and excuses to look everywhere but into Your loving eyes but I ask You to take my face in Your Hands and turn my eyes back to Your own. You're my Strength and Shield, protecting me from distress and stress. You're my root beer by the bay and I'm satisfied and comforted. 

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in Your name all day long; they exult in Your righteousness." Psalm 89:15-16

"I have seen the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:8

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." 2 Peter 1:2

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - Designed to travel light

Storage and moving companies provide a special box for packing books.  It's conveniently called a "book box" because that's what it's designed to carry. Book boxes are small because books, in large quantities, are heavy. Filling large boxes with hardbacks tears up the boxes. That's a testimony from long ago.

You and I were NOT designed to be overloaded with burdens of any kind. Our spirits sink and begin to cave when we overpack ourselves with fear, unconfessed sin, regrets, shame, should haves, and worry over things we can't change. We were designed to walk in God's Light, yoked with Christ, constantly letting His Spirit drive out what is not of God.

Father, I praise You for carrying my burdens for me because You know they wear me down and burn me out when I try to carry them alone. I keep trying to take on more than I should so I thank You for taking some things out of my hands. Please, help me do my part by letting You pick and choose what I pack in my heart. Help me shed the things that slow me down and keep me from serving You with all my heart. Help me not to load others down with anything they're not designed to carry either.  Help us travel light in Your Light, encouraging and bearing one another's burdens,  just as You bear our burdens.

In the name of Jesus whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:7-9

"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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22 - Strength for TODAY - based on "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young

Yesterday I was overcome with exhaustion and a swirling set of emotions I can't begin to unravel or explain.What other experience brings all of this at once? A wedding? That's it! I feel like I did in the midst of Julie's and Nick's wedding: glorious relief and joy that God had brought these two together and would use them as a couple now and yet, grief that my baby girl wouldn't be asleep in her room at night. As the reception progressed, I saw the sadness and anxiety growing in Julie's eyes when she looked at me. I prayed for strength for both of us and I took the Scarlett approach: "Fiddle-dee-dee, I'll think about that tomorrow" (and the next day and the next . . . )  She was feeling the imminent separation. When she called us in to say her good-byes and thank yous, the tears flowed. The finality of this huge change had set in and it was heartbreaking and uncomfortable, yet unstoppable and exciting. At that moment, she and Nick literally stood on the threshold between their past and future.

That's what the next weeks will be like for me. A bride between families - never letting go but realizing things will never be the same again. God give me strength.

Sovereign God, You are my Strength and my Song and that is just the combination of beautiful gifts I need right now. I am thankful to be part of such a loving church family and circle of friends. They've blessed me more times than I can count. I need Your Strength to walk through the next weeks. Put Your sweet Song in my heart to help me through the coming days, weeks and months. Guide me to let Your Love and Hope outshine the stress and distress of change - heartbreaking, exciting change. You're never boring, Lord, and You'll never leave us to deal with all these adventures alone. Give us physical strength to deal with the physical side of this particular change. Thank You for so much to do to keep our minds and hearts from stagnating in a pool of anxiety. I exalt You, Lord, once again, for Your amazing, unparalleled attention to detail.

"The LORD is my strength and my  song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will exalt Him." Exodus 15:2
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."2 Corinthians 10:5
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010 - How God Dropped a house in our path

Our faith muscles were exercised this weekend as we searched for a place to live. Should we keep looking when the well seemed dry or turn the whole thing over to God and wait when there seemed to be no time to wait? Now, if you've never had to take care of something like this quickly, you may not understand the scenarios that can haunt you. For instance, I imagined the moving van puffing up to the front of one of the committee member's or staff member's homes and us saying to the poor victim, "You said, 'If I can help in ANY way!'"  Thursday and Friday, we did everything we could to find something affordable, since we'll still have a house payment here. We had to have somewhere pet friendly and with a fence for Little Mac. Storage would be nice to save the storage rental fees. We needed to be in the Benton School District and, we might be there for a while or for just a few months so we needed (or maybe just wanted) flexibility of terms. We weren't asking much, right?

Friday afternoon we asked God to bring the rental house He wanted us to have to us and that night He did. Kathy, one of the committee members, told us Friday night of a house that had become available. Adorable older home, two bathrooms, fenced in yard, less expensive than most other options, enough room for all our furniture, month-by-month lease plan, plus a storage room. Did I mention all the flowers, bird houses, bird baths, gazebo and little decorative bridge?  Did I tell you that Ms. Ronnie, our landlady, made our agreement feel more like a ministry than a business transaction? Have I mentioned the porches and rockers? The quiet neighborhood? The convenience to everywhere we'll be going? The fact that if we decide to build our own home we can stay as long as we need to? Have I mentioned that God is a God who cares deeply and intimately about our every need and then throws in a whole bunch of fun stuff on top?

Dear Father, You're awesome in the grand and mighty ways but how I praise You for the intimate, personal touches You put into the details of each of our lives. From the plane I viewed hundreds of tiny rooftops and realized how great You are to know what's going on under each roof, in each heart in each of those homes. Thank You for planning which roof top will cover us during our first months in our new location. Thank You for dropping this home onto our path and for again, speaking through our brothers and sisters. You are trustworthy in every way and You've opened every door, including the one to our new home. 

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than  all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,  for ever and ever!  Amen."  Ephesians 4:20-21


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15 - Clothes in the dryer

We're packing and it's a daunting task. From casual summer on the coast at ESBC to the fall formal of a first Sunday at FBC Benton. Little things but big changes. I couldn't find some of Nick's favorite clothes until I remembered they were in the dryer. Clean and pitifully wrinkled and not much good hiding in the dark bunched up with all the other clean clothes. I couldn't help but compare that bunch of clean clothes to a church of cliquish Christians who are comfortable all wrapped up in ourselves.

Lord, do we smell good but we're just for "looks?" Do we let You use us in practical ways? Are we hiding in the safety of church walls because we're unwilling to go out there and be what You created us to be? Fill us with the courage to rub elbows with people who need You. May we be a pleasing aroma to You, not because we look and smell all saved and clean, but because we invite You to use us to touch the left out and lonely people of the world. May we remember we were all losers until You saved us. Help us get out of the dryer and wrap ourselves around someone who needs us to point them to You.

"But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14 Nick hears from God

Yesterday was, as they say, Monday all day long. It seemed that each person in our family was tearful about something. When Tom and I picked Nick up from school, he had his turn. Our ride home started with the usual question and answer session about Nick's day and then the conversation turned to Nick's upcoming birthday. Suddenly there was sniffling in the backseat. It had hit him full force that we may be moving a mere three weeks before his birthday, the birthday he turns 12, - the one he was going to have at Hot Wheels Skate Center where he learned to skate.  What could we say but "We're so sorry" and offer a few feeble hopes that he might make friends quickly enough to have a small party in Benton? We bought him his favorite snow cone (pre-planned) but even red velvet with sweet cream didn't assuage his feelings. Dad's assurances and Mom's hugs just weren't enough. Dinner was quiet until the phone rang.

"Is this Robin?" "Yes" "Well, this is Sue Shults, from Benton, Arkansas, and I 'm the principal at Benton Middle School where Nick will be attending soon, if everything works out. I'd like to talk with Nick." She spent a good ten to fifteen minutes talking to Nick about all the great things he could look forward to at BMS: a locker, no uniforms, and lunch seated wherever he wants to sit. Her easy laugh and personable manner put Nick at ease and we watched his smile grow bigger. God spoke to Nick through Sue Shults.  He said, "I know where you are. I care about you. I have plans for you that you'll enjoy. Hang in there. It's going to be O.K. because I'm there and I care." God spoke to Mom, too, and said, "Who says a birthday party has to be on someone's birthday?" and the light came on. We're booked, a month early, for a big to-do on wheels.

Sovereign God, You care that Nick is at peace with this process. You care that he KNOWS You care. You're amazing, Father. Your timing is perfect. Our family has fallen in love with You again today because You just keep loving us and assuring us of Your Presence. Thank You for using Sue to speak for You. Why do we question You? Forgive us when we do.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:16

September 13 - Judging and Unforgiveness - one thing leads to another

Why is forgiving so difficult? This morning's devotional was on judging and how we're not supposed to that (blah, blah, blah).  Even the world knows we're not to judge each other (and the world continually judges Christians for being judgmental). Since I'm analytical by nature, I try not to ponder the sin of judging much. After all, pondering leads to conviction and conviction leads to change and, frankly, I don't want to change. But, when I think about it, judging and unforgiveness run in the same circles and I don't want to be an unforgiving person. So, I guess it's time to ponder.

Pondering: Judging means I think I know everything about a situation or person from every angle.  Conviction: There's only One who has that information at His Holy fingertips.
Next pondering: Therefore, when I judge people I'm setting myself up on a throne beside God and that's dangerous.
Conviction: That's called pride and God hates pride. (Dang!)
Pondering #3: When I refuse to forgive someone I'm refusing to show mercy and compassion.
Conviction: I need God's mercy and compassion every day, yet Jesus said we must forgive others so our Father will forgive us. (foiled again!)

Change? My head knows this. I'm praying my heart and actions catch up and do the right thing.

Dearest Father, maybe You don't want to hear from me right now because You know and I know there's some forgiveness that needs to take place in my life. Help me do the godly, right thing. Help my heart change to match the convictions You've placed there and what You've confirmed in Your Word. I want to be a forgiving person but it doesn't come naturally. Fill me with the Love of Christ and help me forgive before I can fertilize the seeds of hurt with resentment or water them with hot tears of anger. Chop down any weeds and thorny vines that have already made themselves at home in our garden and have choked out fellowship and unity.  

In the name of Jesus who died to forgive

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12, 2010 - Sharing the blessings

Robert and Karin Hutchins share their blessings quietly by filling the gaps they discover. God blessed them with individual talents so that between the two of them there's not much they can't do. They do more behind the scenes than anyone could track. Their "thank you" line in heaven will wind for miles and everyone in my family will be in it.

Their yard models how God uses them to bless others. It's large, lush and natural and, of course, they work hard to keep it looking good, but the Hutchins have a secret weapon: location, location, location. Their property borders a nursery. Birds fly back and forth between the nursery and their yard dropping seeds along the way and have transformed it into an Eden over the years. Robert and Karin realize the bounty of this gift and they willingly share these grace gifts with people like me whose neighbors only share weeds and vines. Just last week Karin and I dug up an Ardesia plant and some Asian ivy to bring to my yard.

Have you noticed how, when we nestle in next to God's heart, He drops blessings right in our laps? Blessings undeserved, blessings uncountable?  Location, location, location. Blessing, blessing, blessing. Grace, grace, grace.

Lord, You bless us - help us bless others. Guide us to want to know You intimately and to stay quietly open to all that You drop into our lives. Remind us to pass along to others what You give us to share: a song, a Bible lesson, a hand when they need it, encouragement, love, affection, support, prayers, forgiveness, acceptance, grace, . . .    We can't outgive You, Lord, but help us try.

In the name of Jesus who gave everything He had so we could have eternity!

This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you a I remember you in my prayers." Ephesians 1:15-16

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010 -Who's right?

Today, on the ninth anniversary of  9/11, we're not an inch closer to world peace. The U.S. is more divided than ever since it seems half the country pretends the crashes into the Twin Towers left no scars and should be archived in the past while the other half mentally and emotionally camp out at Ground Zero still waiting for justice. These are the two extreme reactions to the same world-shocking event and many other people vacillate between them. Who's right?

Approximately 2,000 years ago a Jewish carpenter slipped quietly into this dark world of despair. He healed sickness and forgave sin. He taught people that no matter whether they caught fish for a living or were caught in adulterous living, God loved them and wanted them forever. He forgave the people who nailed His hands and feet to a criminal's cross and then laughed at Him for hanging there. When He came back to life, His scars stayed with Him and served as building blocks in the foundation of faith for the kingdom of God. Many people today pretend Jesus didn't change the world - that He was just another well-meaning but misguided religious fanatic. Others called Him crazy and others went so far as to call Him Satan. A handful called Him Lord. Who's right?

Two earth-shaking events: the first dividing an already conflicted world and the other offering forgiveness to enemies and peace in the hearts of believers.

Lord, help me take an extreme stand at the foot of the cross. Forgive me when I live as though nothing happened 2,000 years ago. Guide me to touch Your scars and remember what You've done for me and forget what others have done to me. Teach me to be a peace keeper and a peacemaker.  Today, I draw on Your forgiveness for my past, Your Power for my present, and Your promises for my future. Help me obey You - even in following Your most difficult commandments.

In the name of Jesus who said "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.'" Matthew 5:43-45

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 9, 2010

Preparing to move after almost 12 years in the same house means more cleaning and clearing than I ever dreamed. It's meant steaming off wallpaper, spackling, sanding, painting, and constantly cleaning up the mess of "progress." It's meant putting in plants to impress prospective buyers and tracking dirt onto the floor I just swept. I've put bits of our past into stepping stones we can take with us to serve as reminders and foundations of where we've been while helping us get to where we need to be. We've shed tons of things we realize we don't need and we're trying to spend as much time as possible enjoying people we've often taken for granted.

Dear Father-Planner, God of Order and Newness of Life,
As I clean out closets, weed flower beds and sort through memorabilia I realize how much needs to be cleaned out of my personal life. Lord, unclutter the closets of my heart and help me share what's there rather than hoarding any love and encouragement that could help someone else. Pull up the weeds of worry I allow to block my view of Your blessings. Toss from my mind anything that triggers negative thoughts of the past and help me crowd them out with praises and Your Light. Free me from anything weighing me down and keeping me from moving forward on the path You've laid out for me.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Hebrews 12:1