Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday, April 30 - Happy Birthday, Julie - - and Addy?


Now wouldn't that be something: 365 days in a year to choose from and, now, Addy could crash her mom's birthday party? If that's what happens we'll know Miss Addy won't be one to miss out on anything, and for Julie, it would serve as a quick initiation into the sacrifices a mother makes that come in handy later: "Now, Addy, I gave you life and left my birthday presents unopened to do it. I think you can let me finish my dinner!" or, "Give me one hour of uninterrupted bath time in peace; it's the least you can do after interrupting my cake and ice cream!"
     The Nolands (Tom, Robin, Julie and Nick) have celebrated great individuality by respecting each other's space. We've even allowed each person his or her own birth day, birth month and birth state. Tom blessed his folks in Florida in March; I made my debut in Georgia in June; Julie made a last minute decision to arrive in April in Alabama, and Nick spiced up our lives in November in Louisiana.
     At this point, however, Julie's ready to share everything with Addy. The throngs who wanted to see "that dress" at the royal wedding can't compare to my daughter's anticipation to see her daughter's face. The stored-up love Nick and Julie have for this little baby girl is looking for a place to flow.
     When the Holy Spirit lives in us, Love springs out in ways we can't contain or explain. He loves others through us and we stop staking out territory and start tearing down fences. We're willing to share space, time and resources. Love happens because God is.
"And hope does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,
Whom He has given us.'"
Romans 5:5

"Love is patient, love is kind." 
1 Corinthians 13:4

Father, Your Will be done and may Addy arrive safely whenever she arrives. Keep my own baby girl safe and calm. Thank You for what's in store for us as we explore a whole new realm of loving others. Praises to You for babies and how they keep us close to You and reveal how deep Your love is for us.
In the Name of Jesus Who shares His Inheritance, Power, Glory and Love with us!
Inspired by My Utmost for His Highest
photo from the Akin family album

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday April 29, 2011 - What will you be when you grow up?

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. 
Dear friends, now we are children of God, 
and what we will be has not yet been made known. 
But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." 
1 John 3:2-3
     About a month after I had Julie I realized I had accomplished the life goals I had set for myself as a ninth grader:
1) graduate high school with a certain g.p.a.;
2) go to college and graduate with a certain g.p.a.;
3) marry at 21; and, 
4) have a baby. 
Don't  judge me. I was 14 and didn't know how to make long-term goals but I must have taken these seriously because each one came true. Let me clarify Goal #2 because it sounds a little like the makings of a Lifetime Movie: My mom married at 16 so my goal of waiting until I was 21 seemed noble and almost sacrificial at the time I made it. I did not make plans to turn 21 and grab the next guy I met and marry him. Ironically, I did marry at 21 with the minimum requirements for a college degree. Then we waited five years to have our first baby, Julie. 
     I'm proud of Julie for thinking past the nursery about Adalyn Faith. Julie's long-term goal of being a mother/teacher has led her to collect books and make plans to homeschool her children. She's studying different methods to formulate plans for Addy's development during and far beyond the first few months. 
     Bringing up babies involves finding a difficult balance between: 
*molding their characters without inhibiting their personalities; 
*shaping their values without enforcing creeds; 
*teaching them to obey but to think for themselves; 
*disciplining them to become self-disciplined while encouraging their creativity; 
*guarding them from the world while helping them live in it; 
*helping them mature without hammering out their spirit; and, among many other lessons, 
*guiding them to be confident but leading them to trust God for everything.
     "Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. " (Oswald Chambers)
    Father, Abba, You're constantly bringing us up in the way we should go. You've put individuality, personality, and creativity in us and You know best how to mold and shape each of us to become our best in You. Don't let us mistake maturity for morbidness; Christianity for rituals; relationship with You for a dull life. Forgive us for stifling Your creativity in us and for blocking Your work. Show us how to be the joyful, trusting, expectant children of our Loving Father. Help us free You to mold us into delightful likenesses of You.  May our joy and spontaneous faith grow as we follow You step by step. 
In the Name of Jesus, the firstborn Son Who came to shake up the fuddy-duddies! 
Inspired by My Utmost for His Highest
photo from photobucket.com

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - A Girl's Gotta Do What A Girl's Gotta Do

Julie called yesterday and Miss Addy's tapping gently at the door so my life's path just opened into a field of options and possibilities for today and from today into the future. After weeks of waiting, I've been called and even though I don't know the exact hour I'll leave, I know I'm heading out soon. 
     Yesterday brought the possibility of the end to another long-prayed for wait: we've had a "sincere" offer on our home in Daphne from a Christian couple who loves the house and would like to close on it in three weeks. After months of praying, we're being called to answer this door to anticipated change as well. While Addy's door opens, this one may be about to click shut and both are good, very good. 
     "I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. 
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; 
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD." 
Lamentations 3:24-26
Every day presents doors of choices, events and decisions leading to further choices, events and decisions. Every door presents an end to waiting but also a beginning to a new field of opportunities and possibilities for obedience and faith.
     "You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey Your words. I have sought Your Face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your promise." Psalm 119:57-58
     The only thing I know for sure about today is that I'm walking through the door of a beauty salon to get my hair done because I refuse to meet my first grandchild with gray roots and split ends. So, while I can't map out this day in detail, I can do what I can to equip myself for what it brings. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and a fresh "do" makes walking through any door just that much better.
My praises and thanksgiving are all for You, Lord God. You've chosen to send Hope and answered prayers in a bundle. Your timing is wholly perfect. Your lovingkindness and actions for our good leave me speechless with wonder. You are Grace and Mercy! Guide me to be obedient in these days as blessings pour out since that's when so many of us fail You. Through the waiting and praying and seeking, we work our way under Your wings but when the answers come we forget to pray and seek and obey, as if we got what we wanted and no longer need You. Keep me close to You and may the drive to Atlanta serve as a prayer closet for cleansing and revival!
In the Name of Jesus Who promised that we would receive whatever we asked for in His Name
Inspired by Jesus Calling
graphic from photobucket.com


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 -

"Come to Me with empty hands and an open heart, ready to receive abundant blessings" (Jesus Calling).
Yesterday's "round one" of a two-day assignment substituting in a Pre-K class of precious four-year-olds sent me to my corner physically and emotionally drained. I applied remedies for the muscular pain, but I'm having to leave the pulled heartstring in God's nurturing and healing Hands. 
     Today presents "round two" and this morning I look to God to know Him better so I can be like Him when they look to me for what they need. 
Lord, save me from being the missing link in their understanding of You. Let Your promise for renewed strength, power and unity flow into my inner weariness like a cool ripple of fresh water. I'd love to fly like an eagle today but I'm hoping at least to keep my head above water and not to faint before I can hug some tiny bodies and hear their amazing stories. I come to You empty and helpless and I'm trusting You, Sovereign God and my Life Coach, to fill my emptiness and helplessness in order to pass on the nurturing You're giving me.  

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint." 
Isaiah 40:29-31
Thank You for drawing me into Your nurturing, unity and for filling my deepest ongoing needs and covering the width of every temporary emergency and urgency.
Your Will be done and praise You, Jesus, maybe I won't get in Your way since I'm too worn out to have a will today!
In the Name of Jesus Who prayed for our unity and Who shares all His resources and Power with us!

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they my be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." John 17:20-23
Inspired by Jesus Calling
graphic from photobucket.com

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - Chutes and Ladders

One of the first board games our children learned to play was the classic "Chutes and Ladders," a metaphorical term for life. The game was a great way to introduce the truth that our wise choices bring rewards and get us ahead in life while our unwise choices result in frustrating setbacks. The biggest difference between the game and life is that the roll of a a six-sided die decides where we land on the board and how well we do. An additional lesson is that a life controlled by the roll of a die would be inauthentic and disheartening.
     The group who gathered at the foot of the cross to watch Jesus die saw the cross become a ladder into God's heaven. Truth and terror reigned for unbelievers at the foot of the cross who witnessed the outburst of supernatural events at the time of His death: Mid afternoon became midnight dark without the aid of clouds or storms. Jesus took His last breath and, "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split. Tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out o the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely He was the Son of God!'" Matthew 27:51-54
Even in His death, Jesus offered people faith ladders to climb. When He was at His "weakest" the earth shook, people came back from the dead, and a veil, not like a bride's veil but a a heavy, ornate curtain 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and made of 70 fabric squares the thickness of a man's palm ripped from top to bottom without human intervention. (http://www.ensignmessage.com/archives/mysteriousevents.html )
Jesus offers a ladder of faith in the middle our darkest, most terrifying days and problems.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Though outwardly we are wasting away, 
     yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 
For our light and momentary troubles 
     are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Luck lives only in the game room of my life. My daily goal is to recognize as the centurion did, that God is alive and well and placing faith ladders on my Fridays and my Sundays and on the day and days between them. 
Lord help me recognize each crisis You allow on my path to become a ladder advancing my faith. Guide me to avoid the chutes back into hopeless, helpless and self-directed pits. Open my ears to hear the ripping curtain and sensitize me to every rumble of Your Presence and Power in the middle of the tough times. Guide my heart to look for reasons to trust You more instead of excuses to fall behind.
In the Name of Jesus, limitless and Lord even in death!
Inspired by Jesus Calling
photo from photobucket.com
"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, 
who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord." Psalm 89:15

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011 - Little Rocks, Big Bridges

Nick posing on the commemorative little rock
taken from original mass supporting
the bridge in the background.
The remaining portion of the "little rock" for which the capital of Arkansas was named is now a foundation for a walking/biking bridge over the Arkansas River. The original mass jutted into the river and served as a landmark for river travelers and explorers. Now visitors can visit a literal 'chip off the old block' near the river that holds a commemorative plaque recording the beginnings of the city.
     Jesus rolled a rather large rock away as part of His resurrection and afterwards, His disciples and followers heard that others had seen their Master here or there. They may have worn themselves ragged trying to see Him until, finally, He gathered them to witness His ascension back into heaven. On this Rock they had:
1) a promise, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19)
2) a mission, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:19-20a)
3) another promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20b)
4) an idea of the scope of their mission, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
5) an amazing foundational experience, "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight." (Acts 1:9); 
6) and the desire to stand there like rocks on the hillside commemorating the power and glory they had just witnessed. "Men of Galilee," they (two men dressed in white) said, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?" 
"I'll tell you why they stood there, men in white: they wanted to camp out at the last place they had experienced Jesus.You wouldn't understand their emptiness, being heaven dwellers who've only and always known the Presence of God. They were afraid they might never know the sweetness of His Presence again. They shared this unforgettable moment no one back home was going to believe. There was safety, security of sanity, and strength in numbers gazing into heaven." 
      However, Jesus hasn't called His followers to simply hold our commemorative plaques of what Christ has done for us in one place. We're designed to carry them on the go - wherever He leads us. We're designed to hold our testimonies as we wait and pray for God  to fill us with power. We're designed to display our plaques telling how Jesus changed us on the bridges we form from the Rock into our communities, our nation and the nations of the world. Yes, we're to fix our eyes on Jesus, no longer a speck in one part of the sky but Emmanuel - God with us, God in us, Who stays with us wherever we go. We're the living, breathing, empowered chips off the Solid Rock. His story's written on our hearts with plenty of room for more to be written there. 
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, 
Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 
Hebrews 12:2


"But You remain the same, and Your years will never end." Psalms 102:27 
Inspired by Jesus Calling
photo from our family photos

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011 - Even Jesus had to be still to accomplish God's Will



An Passion Week display in the coastal town of Sorrento, Italy.
Even Jesus had to be still to accomplish God's will.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10
On Friday, Jesus appeared to be passive, accepting all condemnation and penalties the "authorities" hurled at Him. On Saturday, even His heart stayed still and people knew He was dead. But early on Sunday, He began to move. By His own Power He opened His eyes, sat up, folded the garments of death and laid them aside neatly. A good view of eternity eliminates any need to rush. He stood and stepped out of the tomb to show His followers and His enemies that it had all been His idea, His Love gift. Today, on Resurrection Sunday by His Power, let's open our eyes, put away the threat of condemnation and death, and step out of our "tombs" to show anyone who'll listen the Power and Love of Jesus Christ working in us seven days a week.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 
because through Christ Jesus 
the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." 
Romans 8:1
Lord help us appear passive when You call us to and strengthen us to be still when You say "Be still and know that I am God," remembering You always have a world changing purpose for everything You do. Show us how to celebrate this Resurrection Sunday in ways that please You and celebrate the Life You've given us!
In the Name of Jesus Who succeeded in whatever You called Him to do because He had seen eternity and trusted You

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011 - Unplugged and paying for it

     Today we celebrate face-to-face time with friends on a tour of Little Rock: the Clinton Library, trolley cars, the Big Bad-Word Bridge, and, the one for which I'll pay dearly, Pinnacle Mountain.  Thoughts of even a one-mile trek leaves me feeling like this empty outlet looks and it's entirely my fault. I'm excuse-less in a day when health and fitness tips lie at my fingertips. In the past I've found and stayed on the diet-and-exercise path long enough to reap the benefits of increased energy and productivity, but that's a wistful memory and now I'm about to pay for neglecting to nourish and strengthen my body. 
    However, the physical penalty I'll pay today doesn't compare to the penalties I pay when I fail to nourish and strengthen my spirit. The soul-wrenching regret I suffer when I stray from feeding my soul with face-to-Face time with God can't be soothed by a hot bath or ibuprofen. On days I neglect to walk with the God to direct, equip, and empower me for the daily challenges on my horizon, I pay dearly and I'm excuse-less since Scripture and my own experiences mark clearly which path is the path of life and the Lord's Presence. 
     "You have made known to me the path of life; 
          You will fill me with joy in Your presence, 
               with eternal pleasures at Your right hand." 
                    Psalm 16:11
Let me be busted physically but, Lord, save me from being unplugged, undernourished or unprepared spiritually. Guide me to seek Your Face and let the rest fall as it may. Guard me from detours and from too many breaks. May the Joy of Your Presence keep me up and moving to finish the race You've laid out for me. Teach me to live up to what I know and open my mind, heart and spirit to be like a baby bird with my mouth wide open and ready to receive whatever You want too feed me. 
In the Name of Jesus Who never looked for excuses and never needed one.
Inspired by Jesus Calling 
photo from photobucket.com   
     

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011: Tuning Out To Tune In

    We were a noisy group of second and third graders Wednesday night in children's choir, but our noise and movement served an important purpose. Six children each played a different instrument from different locations in our choir room while the majority of the remaining children were to keep their eyes on the director and sing "You Are God." Meanwhile, two blindfolded children tried to find an assigned instrument. Was this too much to ask of second and third graders? Apparently, but the children will join the first, fourth and fifth graders to sing "You Are God" with the adult choir in Sunday morning worship service in a week and we needed to practice the skill of tuning out distractions.   
     Is it too much to ask believers to practice the skill of tuning out distractions to worship God? Apparently, because during 28 years serving with Tom in ministry I've learned people (including me) are easily distracted from worship by:
    *the climate in the sanctuary;
    *the preacher's tie; 
    *self-consciousness or discomfort because of clothing;
    *the floral arrangement;
    *song choices or music styles;
    *feeling alone in a crowd;
    *a visitor who's "different;"
    *what's for lunch;
    *the gossip we heard in Sunday School, or in the vestibule;
    *our plans, or lack of plans, for the coming week;
    *sports scores from yesterday or what's on ESPN today;
    *how to avoid speaking to certain people while catching the people avoiding us;
    *thinking of people we hope are "getting" the message; and,
    *the people in the congregation who've caused us or ours hurt or anger; and, 
    *_________________(add your most challenging distraction).
If we struggle to tune out distractions in worship services and Bible studies designed to help us focus on our Director, our God, then heaven help us with tuning out distractions to stay in tune with God the other 164 hours of the week. 
    The week of the Passion of Jesus Christ reveals a Savior who tuned out a barrage of noisy, painful distractions to focus only on His Father and His Father's Will. Imagine worshiping and obeying God if you knew your life would end in public humiliation and unbearable pain in less than a week. Imagine tuning out the screaming mockers and hypocrites to hear the Voice of God and stick to the Plan. Imagine praying anything but "please, Father, no - take this away from Me and find another way." Imagine watching your closest friends scatter and leave you to face your angry enemies alone. Imagine the weight of the world's sin pressing down on you, yet drawing enough breath to say what must be said to fulfill Scripture. 
     If you reread the list of distractions we fuss about in the typical 2011 worship service you'll see nothing compares to the distractions Jesus faced to loving the Father and loving us. It's time to practice the skill of tuning out distractions to tune in to what Jesus did for us so this Easter Sunday will be anything but a typical 2011 worship service.       
Sovereign God, forgive us for our lack of attention span and help us consciously focus on staying in tune to You and with You today. Every distraction pulls us down and every moment we tune in to You lifts us into Your Presence and helps us better know You and Your Will. Transform us from wimpy worshipers to wholehearted worshipers of Your Glory, Your Grace, Your Gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. May Your Presence resonate with each worshiper this Sunday. Your Will be done!
In the Name of Jesus, our Savior Who's attention to us has and will span eternity!   
Inspired by Jesus Calling
photo from photobucket.com

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, April 21 - Precariously Close to Deity

     While looking for the latest weather updates yesterday I ran across Oprah and heard an unfamiliar man saying familiar things. He asked, "Who are you? - not who has your society, your culture, your religion, your family told you to be, but who are you? I want to live an authentic life and "authentic" means I'm the author of my life." 
     The man speaking was film writer/producer/director Tom Shadyac, director of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bruce Almighty, and The Nutty Professor among other comedy hits. Shadyac, who gave away millions to charity and downsized from a 17,000 square foot Hollywood mansion to a mobile home, believes our materialistic culture teaches us to stop thinking for ourselves. He documented his transformational journey and asks some pointed questions in a documentary film called "I Am" which will come out next month.
     "I didn't like the values that I saw. I was part of the problem and I wanted to stop the hypocrisy. I did not want to preach about the gap between the poor and rich when I represented that gap," said Shadyac, 52, who gave his fortune away to a variety of good causes.  The movie is ambitious in its aims, setting out to explore the notion that our economy and way of life are based on selfish materialism that actually go against our true nature, which is to co-operate and unite. ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jan/16/tom-shadyac-hollywood-movies-film )
     I asked myself, "How would I answer the film's question, 'Who are you?'" and my answer begins: "I am the intentional creation of the loving Creator-God Who stamped His image on me and entrusted me with the care of other creatures on earth. He created me to enjoy relationship with Him and with people, assigning me a mind, will, authority and creativity to fulfill my purpose.
"Then God said,  
      'Let Us make man in Our image, 
                                         in Our likeness, 
                         and let them rule 
                                   over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, 
               over the livestock,           
                    over all the earth, 
                         and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' 
So God created man in His own image, 
                                             in the image of God He created him; 
                                                 male and female He created them." 
                                                       Genesis 1:26-27
"I risked all by granting you freedom to think for yourself. This is godlike privilege, forever setting you apart from animals and robots. I made you in My image, precariously close to deity." (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)
I am an individual God designed with the free will to either become like Him or to deny Him.
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" Romans 8:5-6
    I am a sinner and God knew I would fail to uphold His purpose for me. In a Love only He can express, He provided an escape from the traps of and penalty for my sin. Jesus Christ, His Son, sacrificed the riches of heaven and His perfect life to pay for my sin. Then He conquered death to give me eternal life in heaven where I will reign with Him as God originally intended. My job until then is to grow in my relationship with God and my fellow humans by setting my mind on what His Spirit desires."
    That is who I am and who I am becoming. Who are you?
Father, You alone are God. We accumulate wealth, power, authority, status, influence, and control but You are God alone. Strengthen us against the temptation that brought Satan from heaven to hell: the sin of wanting to take Your place as God. May it be enough that You've created us in Your image and given us all we need. Guide us to think constantly of You and Your great Love and purposes for us. May we be satisfied and rejoice in who You created us to be.   
In the Name of Jesus, the only God incarnate!
Inspired by Jesus Calling
photo from photobucket.com





Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - If You Aim for The Dirt. . .

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me 
if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me
the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."  
Acts 20:24  


    God called Paul to carry the gospel of His grace to the gentiles. At the Living Proof seminar in Little Rock this weekend, Beth Moore encouraged us to "adopt a succinct life goal" and to "acquire the appropriate tools" to excel at reaching that goal. 
    Jesus used parable after parable to tell His disciples what goals to accomplish while waiting for His return (Matthew 24:36-25:46). In The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), two servants set and achieved worthy goals while the third servant aimed for the dirt and hit it. 
"Again, it (the kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents of money, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. . . After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. . . " (Matt. 25:14-19). 
    The master saw the results of the first two servants' diligent investments and work to please him and told them individually, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matt. 25:21,23) And there was much rejoicing!!
     Then the master had to deal with the third servant who had aimed for the dirt and hit it.  This hole-digging, lazy, whining, blaming, fearful servant had done nothing during the "long time" his master was away except think of excuses for doing nothing.
 "I knew you were a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid. . ." (Matt. 25:24-25) 
This servant condemned himself with words meant to excuse. He knew what he was to do with what the master had given him ("harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed") and he had two others who served as examples for him; he simply opted not to obey.
     Wasting our natural talents and abilities is bad enough, but wasting the spiritual gifts God has given us to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God comes at a high personal price. 
"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  . . . Take the talent from him . . . And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" (Matt. 25:26-29)
    While I may not have formulated an exact or succinct life ministry goal, part of my goal is never to hear God call me lazy or worthless or to be shut outside in the dark to discover firsthand what "gnashing of teeth" means. 
Lord, reveal each of our ministry goals to us as clearly as You revealed Paul's to him. Bring our spiritual gifts to light and help us willingly accept and invest them for Your kingdom's sake. Have mercy on us for laziness, fearfulness, excuse-making, blaming, discontent with our gifts, whining and general neglect where Your kingdom work is concerned. Fill us with joy in serving You as You help us grow and bloom in the gifts You've given us. We crave hearing Your Voice say "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Strengthen and energize us to make Your generous Heart happy with our faithfulness.
In the Name of Jesus Who we pray will return to find us faithful! 


"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:20
Inspired by My Utmost for His Highest and Beth Moore
photo from photobucket.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - Undercurrents

My favorite part of a day at the beach is wading into waist-deep water to propel myself up and over the waves. The bigger the wave the better I like it. The kids and I would watch for the "big ones," hold hands, and laugh our heads off getting over them or through them. When a particularly tricky wave hit hard, I would feel a smaller hand slip out of mine and I became super mom, grabbing after and swooping up whoever had fallen. Once or twice a really big one would knock us all down and break our human chain, but only momentarily. We were not to be beaten down by a mere wave.
     While we looked for the waves, anticipated their arrival, braced ourselves, stood together through them, and regrouped for the next one, fighting an unseen undercurrent was a different story. Silent and sinister, an undercurrent grips and pulls down, like a crocodile pulling its prey underwater where he has all the advantages.        
     "You have remained true to God under great and intense trials, now beware of the undercurrent." (Oswald Chambers) I'm feeling revived and encouraged to have weathered a "big one" recently, so now it's time to watch my step. My normal pattern is to hold up through the big crises everyone knows about and prays me through, but to fall apart when the worst  has passed. Worn out from fighting the onslaught, I'm more easily knocked off balance by unexpected attacks of unnecessary criticism, unresolved tension, unhealed wounds, unrecognized sins, unconfessed sins, untamed tongues, unforgiving spirits, or undervalued relationships. I try to swim alone in my personal crises, yet that's when I'm most vulnerable to the less obvious but more destructive temptation to let my faith slip or fade. 
Lord, save me from my blind spots and weaknesses! Your Word promises time and again that You will strengthen me to stand up under any temptation or crisis that threatens to yank me under and devour me.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 
And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 
But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out 
so that you can stand up under it." 
1 Corinthians 10:13
"Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, 
as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place. 
Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, 
who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts." 
Psalm 28:2-3
Savior, Strength and Shepherd, heal us of the "uns" in our lives and raise us above the "unders" Satan uses against us. Lead us away from every plan to overcome or erode our faith. Keep us grounded in You so we hear Your clear warnings about the enemy's schemes. You are mighty to save. No one compares to You. Your Voice alone scatters the enemy and makes our feet dance on level ground.
In the Name of Jesus Who walked on the water above the undercurrents
"I will exalt You, O LORD, 
for You lifted me out of depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 
O LORD my God, I called to You for help and You healed me." 
Psalm 30:1-2
 Inspired by My Utmost for His Highest 
photos from photobucket.com



Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011 - We can't "biggie size" a King-sized Jesus

     The account of God providing manna in the wilderness for the Israelites teaches us everything we need to know about trusting God to give us exactly what we need at the exact time we need it. 
"When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 
When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, 'What is it?' For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, 'It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 
This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. 
Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 
And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
Then Moses said to them, 'No one is to keep any of it until morning.'
However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them."  Exodus 16:14-20
*The manna came when the Israelites were still and asleep. No one kept vigil or did a rain dance or repeated prayers or lit candles or made a list of all the good things they'd done to deserve the next meal or carried out any other ritual to make the manna fall. God sifted His Bread gently on them while they slept. 
God Almighty, Gentle Abba, help us be still and let You rain down Your Peace, Grace, Mercy, Love and Joy on us. Strengthen us to let go of Pharisaic laws, pagan repetitions, and Martha-service when You call us to be still and let You feed us.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
*The Israelites questioned what the manna was since it didn't appear to be food. Maybe these original breakfast flakes didn't appear substantial enough to satisfy their gnawing hunger. Many people question whether or not our invisible God exists and doubt Jesus, Son of man who lived 2,000 years ago, can do much to satisfy their gnawing hungers for love, belonging, purpose and spiritual sustenance. 
Lord, help us recognize Your gifts today. We miss them when we have one specific answer we're looking for so broaden our understanding and help us joyfully accept what You give us for the day. May our lives of trust answer the world's questions about You, Your Love and Jesus' ability to fill them with everything they lack.
*Some Israelites didn't follow directions but God blessed them with what they needed anyway. After Moses identified the LORD's gift and told the Israelites to go get what they needed for the day, some Israelites took off like they were on an Easter egg hunt and gathered everything they saw. Others gave a half-hearted effort, but all were blessed with what they needed. Anyone who made an effort ended up with the same amount of the same manna: the insecure worriers who tried to stash extra "just in case;" the lazy who expected others to gather for them; the doubters who thought "I'll gather some just so no one's suspicious but then I'll sit back and watch to see if it's a trick and we all die;" the elderly or lame who gathered what they could but gave out physically before they met their quota. Everyone who gathers, ends up with the same Bread from heaven. We can't have a "little bit" of Jesus and we can't "biggie size" Jesus: we all get the same Jesus.
Father, thank You that Your gift is the same for all of us no matter our personalities or backgrounds or when we were saved. The thief on the cross found an intimacy with Christ no one else did while Mary knew other soul-wrenching heights of joy and depths of despair from her pregnancy headstart of knowing this same Son of God, Son of man. Thank You for providing what we need exactly when we need it. May our trust in You grow sweeter and deeper today as we see Your answers strewn around us.
"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
*Some Israelites stunk up the camp with their lack of faith and obedience. We can be a stench to our church if we try to hoard what we shouldn't hoard: control, resources, groupies. These overdriven Israelites wanted to get ahead of God to become self-sufficient instead of God-dependent. They ruined the feasting and fellowship because they weren't willing to wait on Him.  
Lord, save us from being a stench of faithlessness and pride. Lord, never let us forget we need you every minute of every day. Keep pride and self-sufficiency out of us and out of our church families. May we digest each day's portion and allow You to space our "meals" as You see fit so we benefit from all the good in every gift You send our way. 
"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 4:16









Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday, April 18, 2011 - Floating in a Miracle

"Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that is was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"  "No," they answered.
He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It is the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water." John 21:7


This is my story, this is my song this morning. Tom and I were floating in a miracle and didn't know it until Jesus pointed which way to fish yesterday afternoon. 
     I was finishing up taxes (contrary to popular belief, they're due on the 18th) and had a burning question regarding a supplement on each paystub. This was new to me since we've always made quarterly estimates, so I asked our church administrator, Katherine, to explain.  She tried but this happened in my pre-Dave Ramsey days and in the fog of details surrounding our new move, all I caught was "to help pay Social Security" and "a good idea to save it."  So, from every paycheck I deposited the amount into savings thinking one day we would be called on to write the government a check for the full amount. Yesterday, I thought, "Surely April 18th is the day I'm supposed to send all that money somewhere but, here it is Saturday and I can't call the church to ask. I'd really like to ask Katherine since she's the one who explained it to me earlier but I HATE TO BOTHER HER ON A SATURDAY." That's when the phone rang.
     Jesus inspired Katherine to call our home to ask Tom something about today's service.  Now here's the next part of the miracle: I was nearest Tom's phone and answered it.  Normally, Tom has his phone on him and would've answered her call from the other end of the house and I would've never known she called. It was as if she had read my mind and knew I needed important information only she could give me at that moment. Her answer was our miracle. The designated money we'd saved was our net of fish to pay what we owed for 2010.  We simply had to haul our answer into the checking account: an answer God was working on while we worried, an answer through which He taught us discipline. 
     The disciples labored on the water all night. They were in familiar territory and knew what they were doing, but if they'd caught fish all night, they would've missed the miracle Jesus wanted them to experience, the gift He wanted to give them. There's nothing unusual about saving money in a bank, but Jesus waited to reveal it as a miracle, to put the gift tag on it to answer a need at the exact moment we would most appreciate it. Just when we needed the blessed assurance of His Sovereignty, His Grace, and His Provision He called out to us and pointed the way. Like Peter, I feel like jumping into the water fully dressed and swimming  to Jesus to express my joy. 
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! You've held us up yet again, Lord. You've poured out grace upon grace. You've strengthened us and filled us. This miracle has been about more than money - it's been a long-term investment in our habits, our personal discipline, and our faith. Thank You, thank You. 
"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood"  and  "lost in His love."  
In the Name of Jesus, our Blessed Assurance!
Inspired by Jesus Calling and My Utmost for His Highest
photo from my Italy album, little boats at the Isle of Capri
"So do not fear for I am with you; 
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10