Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012 - Car Talk


Most of the serious conversations I've had with my children began in the car where there was no getting away from the question or topic for the uncomfortable party. (Julie, at 5, "What's a caesarean?" Nick, at 6, "Why do people do bad things when they know what they're doing is bad?" Robin, at any age as a mother, "We need to talk about ________." - you fill in the blank.)  
     The car's a great place to address delicate subjects because the face-forward position takes away the discomfort of any extended, intense eye contact.  Facing forward in the car also de-emphasizes body language and facial expressions so we focus on the words expressed.  Telephones are risky when emotions kick in because we can stay busy while talking, stop listening, get too quiet or hang up, all of which completely defeat real communication. 
     When's the last time we let God take us on a long drive and listened to what He told us?  It's easier to check in with quick phone calls in which we do all the talking and can hang up when it's "His turn."  God spares us His physical, intense gaze and He speaks in a still soft Voice (1 Kings 19:12) to keep from startling us.  His Spirit stirs in us, communing and communicating (John 16:13). Today, we need to buckle up, quit playing with the radio and listen. 
     Father, please, speak to us today.  Make this day one we can look back on and know we heard Your still, small Voice.  Guide us to block out distractions to listen and respond. 
In the Name of Jesus, the Word of God

Monday, January 30, 2012 - Car Talk

     Most of the serious conversations I've had with my children began in the car where there was no getting away from the question or topic for the uncomfortable party. (Julie, at 5, "What a caesarean?" Nick, at 6, "Why do people do bad things when they know what they're doing is bad?" Robin, at any age as a mother, "We need to talk about ________." - you fill in the blank.)  
     The car's a great place to address delicate subjects because the face-forward position takes away the discomfort of any extended, intense eye contact.  Facing forward in the car also takes de-emphasize body language and facial expressions so we focus on the the words expressed.  Telephones are risky when emotions kick in because we can stay busy while talking, stop listening, get too quiet or hang up, all of which completely defeat real communication. 
     When's the last time we let God take us on a long drive and listened to what He told us?  It's easier to check in with quick phone calls in which we do all the talking and can hang up when it's "His turn."  God spares us His physical, intense gaze and He speaks in a still soft Voice (1 Kings 19:12) to keep from startling us.  His Spirit stirs in us, communing and communicating (John 16:13). Today, we need to buckle up, quit playing with the radio and listen. 
     Father, please, speak to us today.  Make this day one we can look back on and know we heard Your still, small Voice.  Guide us to block out distractions to listen and respond. 
In the Name of Jesus, the Word of God

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012 - It's Not What You Said . . .

I think of two different endings for this blog title: 
"It's not what you said; it's what you didn't say," and 
"It's not what you said; it's the way you said it."

Everybody knows that when someone is acting cool and you ask that person, "What's wrong?" only to hear a cool, "Nothing," something's wrong. It's not the word "nothing," it's the way one word is said that tells everything.  It's not the word "nothing" but all that wasn't said that tells you "nothing" doesn't mean a thing. 

With the wrong spirit our words come out in half-hearted invitations, empty promises, sarcasm, and resentment. Sometimes our attitude comes out ten times as loudly as the words from our mouths, especially when we're serving God.

"God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. . . We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we determined to serve Him. . .  Our words sound all right, but our spirit is that of an enemy. . . The spirit of our Lord in an advocate of His is described in 1 Corinthians 13.
"
(My Utmost for His Highest,  Oswald Chambers)

The world will always be tough on believers because darkness shies away from or tries to quench the Light.  In this election year, as politics take up more and more of our conversations, we have the opportunity to witness, not so much through our words, but through the spirit behind the words. Being right about something comes across as self-righteous and judgmental when we forget to communicate in the spirit of Christ. 

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (telling them nothing they need to hear and never communicating Who God really is).  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (and will only impress or entertain people for a time, rather than empowering them to move their own mountains).  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (keeping the poor from suffering on earth but not for eternity.)
Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  
Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Could it be that we're not winning the world to Christ because of the lack of love in the way we express our faith? Or in the lack of love that leads to a lack of expressing anything at all?  






Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012 - Pain in the Heart

What would Jesus' heart look like
if it reflected all the hurts He's felt at my hands?
      No one can make Jesus look bad. Even the secular world recognizes Jesus can't look bad: He was too right, too good, too perfect, too "on target" with what the world needs.  I've seen people try to desecrate Jesus by dipping Him artistically in urine or by publishing satirical cartoons of Him but these attempts backfire. Unfortunately, we don't have to think long to come up with multiple examples of Christians making Christians look bad, and whether or not we like to admit it, we too, deserve the name "hypocrite." 
     We can't make Jesus "look bad," praise God, but we sure seem bent on hurting Him. We push Him away every time we let personal pride rule, whether it's in the form of self-promotion or wearing our feelings on our sleeves.  We pierce His heart when we stand on stubbornness instead of righteousness.  Our self-centeredness slaps at His sacrifice because He died to make us one with Him, yet we pull at this sacred "oneness" with a fierce determination to be independent of Him again. We hurt His loving heart each time we ignore someone's need, verbally attack another person, give up on someone, shut out the lonely, or blow past the hurting in our hurry to have more, be more and do more. Take Saul, for instance:


"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"  
Acts 26:14
Or King David

"For the sake of Your Name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great." 
Psalm 25:11

"Against You, You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, 
so that you are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge."  
Psalm 51:4

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." 
Psalm 51:10 

Jesus made it clear how we can bring Him joy instead of heartache:
"I tell you the truth, 
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, 
you did for Me." 
Matthew 25:40
Lord Jesus, forgive us for habitually hurting You with our secret or ingrained selfish sins.  Cleanse us from them.  Help us make complete unity with You our top goal. Sensitize our hearts so we're repelled by any attitudes that cause You pain and anguish.  Soften our hearts toward other people, remembering that whatever we do for them we're doing for You.  Change our destructive habits to encouraging ones.  Change our hearts, O God, to be solely concerned with what concerns You.  May we be consumed with finding and helping the "least of these" instead of pumping our egos and importance. Help us bring Joy to Your heart today.
In the Name of Jesus, One with the Father, One with us,

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012 - Problem #13

     "Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone-especially to those in the family of faith." 
Galatians 6:10 NLT


     This week I accepted two sub jobs I've avoided until now. The first was for high school  Geometry, (the only math I ever truly loved), Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry, which I can spell but that's where my skills end. When a student asked for my help in the geometry class, I discovered text book explanations and examples have improved greatly since I took math.  They actually appeared to be more than gibberish and demonstrated how to solve the problem. It felt good to help someone solve the problem, but the other two classes were over my head and those students didn't ask for my help, praise the good, good Lord.  
    This positive experience at the high school gave me the courage to accept a sub job yesterday for 9th grade Algebra.  The worksheet I handed out to the students looked smugly at me as if to say, "Remember me? I'm ALGEBRA and I drove you nuts in school.  I made you CRY and drove you to give up on math after 10th grade. Wimp!"
     For a few seconds I ignored the taunts, but remembering the geometry experience from earlier in the week, determination to beat this fear of ALGEBRA grew inside me.  I set my jaw, narrowed my eyes and glared back at the 20 problems thinking, "You're going DOWN!"  I studied the example, reviewed the lesson, sharpened my pencil and began. Since the students could work in groups, I double checked my answers with the ones who seemed to know what they were doing.  With each correctly solved problem, I grew in confidence and ALGEBRA became algebra until I came to problem #13.  I'm not superstitious but after working that problem five times only to find a result of  "9=4" every time, I began to reconsider the evil legends about the number 13.  
    At a break between classes I found help in another math teacher whose eyes actually glowed with this challenge and, before I could explain my frustration, she had worked the problem. I was surprised that what she wrote was exactly what I had written and with the same result: 9=4.  She looked at me without blinking, smiled and said, "We know 9 does not equal 4, so the answer is "no solution."  
     A little confused, I asked, "You mean there's no solution to this problem?"
     "I mean the answer to this problem is "no solution," she said.  "You may run across another problem where the your result is something like 2=2, and in those cases the answer is "infinite solutions."  
     It began to dawn on me just how evil algebra can be.   
     I stared back at those 20 problems and said, "So that's how it's gonna be?" as the last seven problems laughed at me. 
     "Give up?" they asked.
     I squared my shoulders and began on #14, leaving #13 with its "no solution" because evidently some problems just don't want to commit to finding a real solution. I'm happy to report the students and I worked together to solve the last seven problems and were able to help other confused students, as well. 
     Although I see many applications to my math experience, the one that stands out to a "fixer" like me is that a problem 13 with a "no solution" answer shouldn't keep me from working toward solutions for other challenges."  Problem 13's could have us busy but spinning our wheels because the person we try to help doesn't want our help, or, because a situation won't be resolved until something or someone beyond our reach changes. 
     Don't quit, don't give up. Let's stop ramming our heads against "no solution" problems and leave them in God's capable, wise hands until He calls us to tackle it again in His time and His Power. At least seven other people in your life would love and appreciate your friendship, help, prayers, contribution, time and attention; at least seven other opportunities wait in the wings for your unique gifts, talents, resources, and ideas. We can sharpen our prayers and square my shoulders to work on the good works God has planned for us to do instead of wasting our time trying to force logical answers on the Problem 13's in our lives.  


"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Ephesians 2:10



The Serenity Prayer


God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

In loving memory of
Fr Bertram Griffin -- 1932-2000\Requiescat in Pace
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3, 5-6

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012 - Take A Closer Look Again And Again



Try this, friends (not while driving or operating heavy machinery)
1. Stare at the red dot on the girl’s nose for 30 seconds.
2. Turn your eyes towards a plain flat surface.
3. Blink your eyes quickly.


If you followed these directions then you just consecrated
30 seconds of your time to see something pretty amazing.
Consecration implies determination to carve out (set aside)
an offering of anything we have for God's use.  It isn't a difficult
principle when we think of it as setting aside things like:
*a Spirit-led amount of dollars for missions;
*specific times to join our church family for worship;
*our homes to use for a Disciple Now weekend event;

For some reason, consecrating personal time to focus solely on God
requires a more concentrated discipline, like staring at a red dot
for 30 seconds. That's a tiny dot and 30 seconds seems like an
eternity, but the results are fascinating.  Most of us experience mornings 

when staring for extended periods of time comes naturally, but staring isn't 
the same as consecration. Consecration  combines focus, concentration
and offering with purpose and intensity behind the look. We focus on God's
character, concentrate on how His character has affected us in the past, 
and most importantly, we offer ourselves for Him to transform to fit the 
colors on His palette, on His canvas, in His plan.

Father, teach us to continually consecrate our focus, concentration and 

willingness to see what You reveal for Your purposes.  We understand 
consecrating resources, talent, money, and even a little about giving You time,
but we tend to have spiritual ADHD when it comes to consecrating our hearts 
and minds to focus on Your Face, Your Character, and Your Word to know You 
for Who You are. You call this act of consecration "worship," and Lord we want 
to worship You with everything in us.
In the Name of Jesus, One with the Father, Who prayed we would be one with You as well 
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2 


Thanks to my brother, Tom Trimble, who posted this mental exercise on his Facebook wall.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - But God

The following post has been circulating on Facebook lately:
Those little commas aren't so little after all! If we want to see God work we need to remove, or at least move, the little comma standing between us and miracles.  We throw out roadblocks when God tells us to trust Him and we respond with a "But, God,  . . . blah, blah, this problem's different, blah, blah, it's been so long, blah, blah, this person will never change, blah, blah, I'll never get it right, blah, blah. . ."  According to Scripture the comma should come after the word God or Lord, if it appears at all:
"But God remembered Noah . . . "
Genesis 8:1
"But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands. . . "
Genesis 31:42
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, 
but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Genesis 41:16
"You intended to harm me, 
but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, 
the saving of many lives." 
Genesis 50:20
"Day after day Saul searched for him,                                                           but God did not give David into his hands."
1 Samuel 23:14
"But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish."
Psalm 9:18
"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:26
"Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it?
But the LORD is in His holy temple. 
Let all the earth be silent before Him."
Habakkuk 2:20
"But when God, Who set me apart by His grace . . ."
Galatians 1:15 (NIV)
"But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, 
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
Acts 2:24
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; 
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." 
1 Corinthians 1:27
"But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us . . ."
2 Corinthians 7:6
"Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, . . ."
Philippians 2:27
"But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so very much, 
that even while we were dead because of our sins, 
He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead."
Ephesians 2:1 (NLT)
Lord, today we trade in our faithless "but, God" to live by a confident and trusting "But God."  Your Word proves Your ways and thoughts aren't like ours so help us remove the commas and give You room to work the way You want to in our lives.  Every time a shadow of doubt about what You can or will do enters our heads or hearts, speak "But God" to us.  No situation is too difficult for You to resolve, no place is too far for You to reach, and no one is too unlovable for You to love. Even death is followed by a "But God" when we believe in You. Please, give each of us a "But God" testimony today,
In the Name of Jesus Who promised, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (Gabriel)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012 - Blurry Lights and Lifted Veils

     The heavy fog yesterday made us feel like we were walking through an eerie movie set.  It was thick enough to hide what normally stood in plain sight.  Blurry headlights and street lights kept us on track as we navigated our way to the church building.
     The "fog" lifted for about 15 youth at Reality Weekend as they chose to make Jesus Lord of their lives.  Like all of us, they had wandered through the fog of not understanding what God wants to give them and what He wants from them.  While they wandered and searched, imperfect believers served as blurry lights who helped them stay on track toward finding their own relationships with God. Now the veils are lifted, they see with new eyes, they've found the Way, and they'll walk in the Light. 
     Satan wants us to believe our sinful tendencies and imperfections make us poor lights for God, but a poor, fuzzy, blurry light can get another wanderer safely to the next point where another poor, fuzzy, blurry light may take over.  God asks us to face Him and "as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more." Satan wants to us darkened with shame and despair, barely flickering as weak witnesses, but God says "Face Me and let My Son's sacrifice and the Light of My Love fill you with bold confidence to let Me use you anywhere, anytime, with anyone."  (2 Corinthians 3:12) 
"And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ." 
2 Corinthians 3:14b

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away.  
Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, He gives freedom.  
And all of us have had that veil removed 
so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. 
And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, 
we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more." 
2 Corinthians 3:16

Lord, Satan tempts us to excuse our laziness with false humility and to excuse our false humility with human nature.  You work through the weakest light to draw others to You.  We're the weakest lights on most days - especially Mondays - but we ask You to power us up as we face You to worship You.  Lift the veils of self, busy-ness, false humility, and fear so we can see what Satan tries to hide from us: Your Power, Your forgiveness, Your unconditional Love, Your Mercy.  He paints You quite differently than You are.  May we thirst after our own unhindered view of You!
In the Name of Jesus Whose death tore the veil in the temple from top to bottom, opening Your Presence to all who accept You as Lord

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012 - Won't Hold Water


"The word of the LORD came to me: 
 'Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: 
"'I remember the devotion of your youth, 
how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me
through the desert through a land not sown."  
Jeremiah 2:1-2
     I remember using the placemats, napkin rings, and centerpieces for the first years of marriage. My plan was to have the table set with the china, of course, the candles lit and the a heavy aroma of the incredible meal I had prepared seeping out from under our door into the hallway to welcome Tom as he came home. I soon found out he was much more interested in the food and candles than anything else, so I relaxed a little in frou-frou department and put more time into cooking.
    Yesterday I watched Nick play a racing game in which he chose an incredibly expensive car, painted it, loaded it with features, and then crashed it.  He asked my opinion and said, "Watch this,"  "Did you see that?" "Which car do you like best?"  It slowly dawned on me that by being with him and showing interest in what he was doing, I was speaking his love language. 
     What kind of family member am I to God? Do I expect Him to speak my love language while I never speak His? Do I ignore Him until I need Him?  Am I kind to Him or do I throw Him a few minutes from my schedule and expect Him to appreciate my gesture?  Do I know My God's love language?
"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
Jeremiah 2:13
     According to the two passages today, God's love language is sticking faithfully to Him as our only Source of Living Water, even when He leads us through a desert.  The instant we look to someone or something else to quench our thirst, we've chosen a bucket that won't hold water, won't satisfy our needs, and hurts God deeply. The minute I try to love Him in some other way than by trusting Him completely, I've offered Him a rope with no bucket attached. What an amazing God! To love Him is to need Him; to need Him is to love Him. Speaking His love language ends up answering the empty places in ourselves. 
Father, You alone satisfy our deep thirst for Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Gal. 5:22-23).  You are our Spring of Living Water, Life-Giving, Vein-Plumping, Heart-Pumping Water!  We can't survive without You - even if we turn suddenly stupid and try to find satisfaction somewhere else.  I choose You - again today, I say "I do" to You.  You alone are my God and I will follow You wherever You lead me because You love me and I love You,
    In the Name of Jesus, Who knew best how to love You

Saturday, January 21, 2012 - It Won't Hold Water

"The word of the LORD came to me: 
 'Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: 
"'I remember the devotion of your youth, 
how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me
through the desert through a land not sown."  
Jeremiah 2:1-2
     I remember using the placemats, napkin rings, and centerpieces for the first years of marriage. My plan was to have the table set with the china, of course, the candles lit and the a heavy aroma of the incredible meal I had prepared seeping out from under our door into the hallway to welcome Tom as he came to the door. I soon found out he was much more interested in the food and candles than anything else, so I relaxed a little in frou-frou department and put a little more time into cooking.
    Yesterday I watched Nick play a racing game in which he chose an incredibly expensive car, painted it, loaded it with features, and then crashed it.  He asked my opinion and said, "Watch this,"  "Did you see that?" "Which car do you like best?"  It slowly dawned on me that by being with him and being interested in what he was doing, I was speaking his love language. 
     What kind of family member am I to God? Do I expect Him to speak my love language while I never speak His? Do I ignore Him until I need Him?  Am I kind to Him or do I throw Him a few minutes of time I control and expect Him to appreciate my gesture?  Do I know My God's love language?
"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
Jeremiah 2:13
According to the two passages today, God's love language is loving Him enough to stick faithfully to Him as our only Source of Living Water, even when He leads us through a desert.  The instant we look to someone or something else to quench our thirst, we've chosen a bucket that won't hold water, won't satisfy our needs, and which hurts God deeply. The minute I try to love Him in some other way than by trusting Him completely, I've offered Him a rope with no bucket attached. What an amazing God! To love Him is to need Him; to need Him is to love Him. Speaking His love language ends up answering the empty places in us. 
Father, You alone satisfy our deep thirst for Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Gal. 5:22-23).  You are our Spring of Living Water, Life-Giving, Vein-Plumping, Heart-Pumping Water!  We can't survive without You - even if we turn suddenly stupid and try to find satisfaction somewhere else.  I choose You - again today, I say "I do" to You.  You alone are my God and I will follow You wherever You lead me because You love me and I love You,
    In the Name of Jesus, Who knew best how to love You

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20, 2012 - Keeping It Fresh

"Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7   

 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." 
Psalm 51:10
"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:12


 Advertisers love the word "fresh."  Cleaning products and laundry detergents leave a "fresh, clean smell."  Finer restaurants aim to use the freshest ingredients.  Grocery stores offer "fresh" meats, dairy and produce.   Companies and even churches seek out people with fresh, innovative ideas. Being cooped up in a windowless office or cubicle makes people long for fresh air.
     When I began viewing meals as more than getting something edible on the table, I learned the difference using fresh ingredients can make. Fresh tomatoes and herbs instead of a jar of sauce turned something old into something delightful.  Fresh vegetables taste better and nourish our bodies without the added preservatives and salt.  Fresh bread and homemade cookies warm from the oven satisfy better than anything pre-packaged.  I discovered all the "hype" about using fresh ingredients wasn't just hype after all. 
      Lo and behold if the same principle doesn't apply to transforming a stale spiritual life into a vibrant, "tasty" life through fresh encounters with God through prayer and His Word.  According to Oswald Chambers in the devotional for today, "Freshness does not come from obedience but from the Holy Spirit; obedience keeps us in the light as God is in the light."  He explains that we know we're heading toward staleness when we hear ourselves thinking or saying, "I have to do this or that thing or it won't get done."  Reading that statement makes me feel tired and anxious while investing time in my relationship with God leaves me feeling - well, freshly inspired, ready and hopeful. 
Father, I don't want to live on someone else's or even my own spiritual leftovers. I want You to feed me daily with what will nourish and strengthen me for today. I want to see You again everywhere I go today. Please, bathe me in Your Light and Your "new-every-morning" faithfulness. Fill me with fresh hope and energy to respond to Your unending Love. Guide me to think in ways that lift instead of oppress my soul. Examine my heart and remove the sin - both the long-time moldy and disgusting sin as well as any new ones.  Let the Fresh Breeze of Your Spirit blow through my heart and soul so I'm once again newborn in You and moving as You lead me. 
In the Name of Jesus, our Fresh, New Life!
     
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  
Lamentations 3:23


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - Promise from the Darkness

"As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, 
and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.  
Then  the LORD said to him, 'Know for certain . . .'  
Genesis 15:12-13a

     I'm fascinated by these verses and this story I had forgotten about God's covenant with Abram before he became Father Abraham.  Genesis 15:12 appears in a different version at the top of Oswald Chamber's devotional for January 19 in his classic devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. That version reads, "An horror of great darkness fell upon him." 
     Timing is everything.  I needed this reminder that even Abram - imperfect but faith-filled Abram experienced "an horror of great darkness" after sacrificing exactly what God told him to sacrifice. God actually sent this darkness over his servant to get his full attention to hear both the bad and the good news about his descendants.  First the bad news: they would move to a foreign country where they would be mistreated and finally enslaved for 400 years.  Then the good news: deliverance, a prosperous exodus, and a promised land.  
     Has God allowed "a thick and dreadful darkness" to settle over you?  He wants your full attention because He has something to say:  "Remain my faithful servant, child, because I am with you now and deliverance is in your future."   
     Father, we see darkness and we think "punishment" or we feel abandoned.  Jesus felt it on the cross when the skies grew black as night, but He held on and sacrificed everything to follow Your call. Deliverance arrived and the Light rose to shine eternally. Give your children reading this hope that if they're in dark and dreadful places You're there with them, wanting to speak to them, promising Your Presence now and a prosperous deliverance in Your perfect timing.
In the Name of Jesus, Who felt the complicated emotions of being human

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - Breathtaking Views

Tom, me and Nick
on the rocky top of Mt. Pinnacle
"Give honor to the LORD for the glory of His Name.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness."
Psalm 29:2  
   For the last two gorgeous Saturdays, our family has headed to the trails up Mt. Pinnacle near Little Rock.  The first Saturday we hiked the more difficult three-quarter mile East Summit Trail. Nick was the only one to make it up and over the mountain.  I almost  passed out at point 7.5 and Tom made it to point 8.5 (point 10 is the summit) because the last bit is straight up, slow hands-and-feet climbing. Last Saturday we tried the three-mile West Summit Trail which, they say, is much less challenging even if it is longer.  I don't know about much less challenging, but it was definitely longer. 
     While Nick trotted up ahead of us and out of sight, Tom and I made a few (8-10) scenic rest stops along the way.  Someone paid for those benches and we didn't want them to go to waste.  When there were no benches, we made ourselves semi-comfortable on sharp rock and looked out over the fields surrounding the Arkansas River or Lake Maumelle and out into the blue sky. We wondered whether or not the summit could provide enough of a thrill to make it worth the rest of the trek to the top.  Every time I sat down to catch my breath I told myself, "It's the journey, not the destination, that matters, right?"  
     However, Nick was there and we wanted him to see us reach the top this week - so we kept going and kept stopping as needed.  Finally, finally we reached the rocky top of Mt. Pinnacle where additional caution was needed to keep from twisting an ankle between the rocks.  Nick, having already absorbed the panoramic view for a good half hour, was ready to head down. We talked him into absorbing the view with us for another twenty minutes before we started the long hike down.
     Was it worth it?  Yes. Was the scenery beautiful? Yes. Was it more beautiful than the views we enjoyed on the way up.  Hmmm.  It was a bigger, unhidden, and panoramic view to which our difficult climb and perseverance added some "spectacular," but we also enjoyed the lower altitude glimpses and hints of views to come from unique angles as we worked our way up the rocky mountain.  Those who wanted to get to the top as quickly as possible prided themselves on never turning around so they never saw how far they had already come.  They looked at rocks, gravel and "up" the whole time while Tom and I enjoyed the heights we had conquered and let each view on the journey inspire us to keep going.  
    Jesus is waiting at the top of our difficult life-journey for our first face-to-face, fresh and panoramic view of Him in all His glory as the Lamb and King of Heaven.  However, He also sits with us now, revealing His glory at all the right moments along the way. 
"This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."
 Psalm 118:24
When we're wondering, "Is it worth it?" it's time to stop, rest and look for something beautiful He's doing around or through us. Let's be silent and take in the view from where we are and how far He's taken us.  Let's be still to enjoy and praise the God Who is God, Creator and Sustainer.  May He leave us breathless as He strengthens us for the next leg of the journey.
"Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.  
I will be honored throughout the world."
Psalm 46:10
Thank You, Lord, for abundant life that starts in the here and now. Thank You that we don't have to wait until heaven to see the glimpses we need of You.  Help us take the time to be still, to be silent, and to honor You for what You've already done.
In the Name of Jesus, Who took the occasional break strictly to enjoy You

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - Unpublished

     As I wrote yesterday's blog the thought crossed my mind that it may have been too raw, too personal to post.  At about the same time, an error message popped up telling me the site was unable to save the draft I was writing.  God used the pop-up message to encourage me to pray, "Lord, if this one's just between You and me and shouldn't be published, then don't let it be posted."  Almost immediately, it disappeared before my eyes due to an Internet server glitch.  
     Was the time I spent in Bible study, prayer and writing wasted?  Not even close.  God was telling me, "Your goal is to listen to what I tell you.  Most days it's to be shared with others, but some days it's meant for your heart, your understanding alone."  God has personal lessons for each of His children.  While it may seem safer and easier to study the general curriculum for all believers, the time will come when God tutors, reviews, or enriches us to affirm what His Word teaches and to jump-start us to act on what we already know.   


Father, Your Ways are infinitely wise and You know what each of us needs to hear from You.  You created Your Son to be our Rabbi, our "Good" Teacher, and through Him You spoke personally to real people in their own personal dilemmas and readiness to hear.  The Bible records instances You ministered and spoke publicly, but how many unpublished words did You speak with individuals and small groups? Paul spent three years alone listening to You in Arabia and Damascus (Gal. 1:17), yet we don't know and probably wouldn't understand what You said to him.  All we know is he heard You, served You, preached the gospel, and wrote to encourage believers. 
     What are You telling us today?  Prepare us to hear and to act on what You say to us personally today.   
In the Name of our Good Teacher, Jesus Christ

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 14, 2012 - Somebody Needs to Do Something

     I've learned, as have so many parents, to call out a specific name when I need help.  If I say, "Somebody, come set the table, dinner's ready," Nobody usually answers because Everyone assumes Somebody did it.  
     So many factors play into what we hear God calling us to do and what we're willing and unwilling to do for Him. Because Zacchaeus sat at his own table with Jesus, he repented of his greed and thievery.  The rich young ruler asked for a specific answer but didn't like what he heard and walked away.  
     And the prophet Isaiah?  Why did he respond to a general call for volunteers?   Why did he say, "Here am I. Send me!"  when he, with his unclean lips, stood among those who were with God around the clock?   He wasn't qualified to speak in God's behalf like the winged seraphs who sing in unbroken praise of His holiness, was he?  Wouldn't some other being, one from the Heavenly Sound and Lighting Effects Department, or Gabriel, from the Heavenly Messenger Department have done a better job at convincing the Israelites their nation would soon end? 
    And above every other excuse Isaiah could've made, was the big:  God didn't call him by name, letting him off the hook if he chose not to volunteer.  God put out an all-call for an unknown mission Isaiah could have ignored . . . . . if he weren't in the Presence of the  Lord Almighty in His glory.  Isaiah forgot all the other qualified beings around him, making himself available and it changed what Somebody did for God.

In the year that King Uzziah died, 
I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, 
and the train of His robe filled the temple.  
Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, 
and with two they were flying.  
And they were calling to one another:
'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.'
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook 
and the temple was filled with smoke.
'Woe is me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'


Lord, sometimes I want to disappear into the crowd of people who can do it better than I can.  Sometimes I want to throw my hands over my ears and pretend I didn't hear Your question: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"  When those times come, Father, refresh my vision of You in Your holiness contrasted with my woefully unclean heart.  May I see You alone and remember that all things are possible with You.  Fill my heart with such love that I can't NOT answer Your call, even if You don't call my name specifically.
In the Name of Jesus Who answered the Father's call: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"  

Based on Isaiah 6

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2012 - How Well Do I Know Me?

"There's no one righteous, not even one;" 
Romans 3:10

"So I find this law at work:  
When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  
For in my inner being I delight in God's law;  
but I see another law at work in the members of my body, 
waging war against the law of my mind and 
making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." 
(the Apostle Paul, Romans 7:21-23

     The rich young ruler came to Jesus confident in his social standing, his wealth, in what he had accomplished morally, and in his spiritual intentions. Jesus knew him better than he knew himself and called on him to give up the one thing that kept him a nameless young rich man instead of a great spiritual leader whose name appears in the Book of Life.  
     Zacchaeus, that little scoundrel of a tax collector, climbed a tree to see Jesus, never calling out to Him or thinking he, condemned and outcast as a greedy traitor by his people, would draw the attention of the Savior.  However, when Jesus looked up into that sycamore tree, He saw a heart ready to respond to Salvation. Jesus didn't tell Zacchaeus to let go of the wealth that was his god, but Zacchaeus felt his spiritual poverty more keenly than the morally upright young ruler and knew exactly how he needed to respond to Jesus' Presence.  
"But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 
'Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, 
and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'" 
Matthew 19:8
     The rich young ruler thought he knew himself and came to Jesus looking for a specific answer to a specific question, but Zacchaeus let Jesus' character show him what he needed to do.  Are we more in the habit of coming to Jesus in our self-righteousness for specific answers to specific questions and needs, or do we find our answers by accepting His invitation to spend time with Him? 
"We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves, 
it is the last conceit to go."  
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
     Lord, You changed people no one thought would change, but those who didn't think they needed to change stayed stuck in their same sins.  Today, we come to You to know You better and let Your Love, kindness, goodness, power, forgiveness, and peace direct us in what we need to do in Your Name today.  Open the ears of our hearts to hear You. Free our feet from shackles that keep us from following through.  Change the areas in us we've given up on changing.  Nothing is impossible for You.
In the Name of Jesus, Whose Presence causes a commotion of conviction