Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012 - Up, Up and Away

I'm signing off for a week. On my way to see Addy and to celebrate my mom's birthday in ATL.  See you in a week of so.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012 - Just Because

"Give honor to the LORD, you angels; 
give honor to the LORD for His glory and strength.
Give honor to the LORD for the glory of His Name.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness."
Psalm 29: 1-2
Card shops carry greeting cards for almost every occasion and purpose. Someone was even clever enough to create the "just because" card in case nothing else fits. How can you not feel the love when someone sends you a "just because" card?   
     The vast majority of our prayers are motivated by our needs and wants, either for ourselves or people we  love.  Maybe today would be a good day to praise and worship God, "just because."
Almighty God, You're surrounded by angels who sing Your praises, but we want to add our voices to the chorus. You, the Lord of everything, wear a robe of splendid Light emitting from Your Character. Your holiness bathes those in Your Presence. Your majestic Voice commands the universe, yet You whisper to the distraught heart.  Listening attentively to You opens the deepest recesses of our souls to receive Your Peace and Joy.  Grace and Strength flow liberally from Your generous Hands through us when we spend time in Your Presence praising and worshiping You, our Great God and Mighty Savior.  You're the Light of heaven, the only Holy One Who merits honor and glory.  Accept and bless our efforts to listen to Your Voice and may Your Word ring Truth in our hearts and minds. May we bless You by obeying Your directions.   Help us take time to glorify and honor You to recognize more clearly Your Voice.  Accept our "just because" praises and worship. 
In the Name of Jesus Who said, "My sheep know My Voice."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012 - I Am My Own Pain in The Neck

Direct me in the path of Your commands, 
   for there I find delight. 
Turn my heart toward Your statutes 
   and not toward selfish gain. 
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; 
   preserve my life according to Your word.
Psalm 119:35-37 
    I woke up with a crick in my neck.  After changing the sheets on our bed last night I fell onto the wrong pillow.  Exhausted, I could've slept on nails, but now I'm hurting because I didn't take a measly few seconds to get the right pillow.  
     We cause ourselves plenty of "cricks" by failing to take the time to do things the right way.  Who hasn't failed to make a simple phone call that would've saved someone else worry or confusion?  When we accept obligations on the spur-of-the-moment instead of taking time to pray for direction, we stress about fitting more into our schedules and  lose time fulfilling what God's already called us to do. If we fail to apologize quickly or restore a relationship we suffer the regrets of losing the joy of that relationship. When we do a half-hearted job on a project we usually have to start over again or lose the respect of our co-workers. We pay in countless painful ways when we fail to take care of our bodies, but the most painful and longlasting "cricks' are those we cause by failing to live with an obedient spirit toward God. To avoid tons of self-inflicted pain we take time to ask and follow God's guidance before we face both expected and unexpected moments in the day.    

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Psalm 119:133

    While it's early and before the day blurs into speeding moments, we ask You Lord, God, to shape our minds to obedience and wisdom.  Help us avoid the pitfalls of spiritual laziness.  Give us the wisdom to  take the extra seconds, minutes, or hours and to go the extra mile to fulfill Your plans for us.  Help us seek and follow You with all our hearts. Keep us from doing anything half-hearted for You.  Direct us and keep us far from the traps and pains of sin.  Help us stay on track doing all You've planned for us in a timely, godly manner.
In the Name of Jesus, Who gave us the Holy Spirit as our Teacher and Guide
     “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
Jeremiah 29:11-13 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday, February 23, 2012 -Under the Microscope

     David opened Psalm 139 by acknowledging the Lord's omniscience: His amazing, all-encompassing knowledge of everything going on at any given millisecond within any cell or on any star in the universe. The Psalmist understood and admitted that God had always been and was continually aware of his habits and thoughts.

You have searched me, LORD, 
   and you know me. 
You know when I sit and when I rise; 
   you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
   you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue 
   you, LORD, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, 
   and you lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
   too lofty for me to attain.
Psalm 139:1-6
     So why does David end the same Psalm by inviting God to examine his heart?  David wanted God to move beyond knowledge to intervention. The Psalmist crawled under the microscope and voluntarily laid open his mental, emotional and spiritual life to God for evaluation and treatment. 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; 
try me and know my anxious thoughts; 
and see if there be any hurtful ("wicked," "offensive") way in me." 
Psalm 139:23-24
     These two verses alone explain why David was a man after God's own heart because His servant proved pleasing God was more important to him than fulfilling the minimum requirements.  These final two verses build the bridge between God's knowledge and our acceptance that He can intervene to heal us. David passionately wanted to go beyond  good behavior to having God transform the core of his being. Inviting God to go deep and cut away the roots of anxiety and anything else that displeases Him is the first step to our wholeness and health. 
Notice how the same principle works for a nation:
"If My people, which are called by My name, 
shall humble themselves, 
and pray, 
and seek My face, 
and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, 
and will forgive their sin, 
and will heal their land."  
2 Chronicles 7:14

Search us, God, and reveal every unrecognized or unacknowledged sin eating away at our wholeness. I volunteer for this examination and pray for strength to undergo whatever procedures You prescribe. We humble ourselves before You, All-Seeing, All-Powerful Lord, our King and Prince. 
     Keep us from pretending our problems and sin-sickness don't exist. We only complicate and prolong trouble when we ignore symptoms or don't follow Your direction. Help us trust You, Great Physician, to strengthen us through the many surgeries ahead of us as You remove torn fragments of worry and anxiety caused by our disobedience (lack of faith). Settle our minds and hearts in healthy wholeness and give us courage to turn toward a lifestyle of obedience.  
In the Name of Jesus Who taught us to pray humbly for what our Father in heaven already knows we need

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - Big Shoes to Fill

    People blame previous generations, heredity and circumstances for their lack of faith, inabilities and fears, but they do it in different ways. One group says, "I didn't grow up in church;  No one taught me the Bible; I never learned how to pray," and so forth.  Another group has the opposite reason to feel inadequate (each of Billy Graham's children, for instance) "I don't have that kind of faith," "God didn't give me those gifts."  Either way, the focus is all wrong. Our paths, even if we choose the same profession, will present different hills and valleys, different gifts.
      Joshua had been the closest to Moses throughout his lifetime and had practically lived in the tabernacle where Moses would meet with God and come away beaming.  Maybe the desire of Joshua's heart was to experience what Moses experienced, to have the relationship with God that Moses had.  There was only one way to do that and it wouldn't be easy. He would have to step up and lead approximately 1,000,000 people by faith to begin taking what had been promised to them. The first steps of his mission began with fording the Jordan river, carrying the Ten Commandments across safely, then taking the walled city of Jericho.  Suddenly, Joshua's "heart desire" was for God to resurrect Moses.  God didn't throw Joshua under the bus but promised:
"No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. 
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them." 
Joshua 1:5-6

Moses saw the Red Sea part; Joshua saw the Jordan held back.  Moses held up his staff for the Israelites to defeat the enemy; Joshua marched silently around the walls of Jericho for days before God brought the house down.  Moses lost his temper; Joshua assumed too much and forgot to pray before trying to take the village of Ai. 
   As believers, we each have a set of dusty, worn, sandals from Nazareth to fill. May we be strong and courageous and take the steps He calls us to take today.
     Lord, God, take our eyes off of other people - to compare for better or for worse.  You're with us and You lead us. Teach us to give today to You to avoid suffering our "Ai's."  May we call in support to help us hold our arms up high, if that's what You lead us to do.  And, above all, shine Your Light on the new path You've laid out just for us. Make us bold and courageous to step where You show us.
In the Name of Jesus Who came to earth with Big Shoes to fill


Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012 - Cancun Moments

"My heart says of you, 'Seek His face!' 
   Your face, LORD, I will seek." Psalm 27:8 

Today is President's Day, a day off for many fortunate people.  The long weekend at home has been a blessing and we caught up on some things around the house.  While it wasn't really "time off" it was time well spent.
     As I was thinking about time off and how we need both rest and work time to be productive,  I remembered the most
refreshing, energy-boosting, and healthy vacation Tom and I've enjoyed on our 15th anniversary.  We stayed in an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico and for nine days, we didn't look at a clock or need a wallet. We rested, did what we felt like doing, did nothing at all and absorbed the beauty of nature on the beach or in the gardens of that lovely area.  I forgot to take a book and since I'm not one to sit still for long without something to do, I was a little concerned about getting bored, but my body, mind and spirit needed this break more than I had realized and I relaxed so thoroughly I never missed having "something to do." The benefits of this time away visibly revived me and when we returned to our normally scheduled lives, I was a new person with fresh perspectives. 
     How do we restore our weary spirits? We schedule time to open our hearts to God's healing power with spiritual Cancun moments in a hammock of holiness, letting His Spirit blow through us to remove all the tension and confusion the world imposes on us.  We set aside the calendar, clock and computer to relax and delight in our Father's Presence and Love.  We listen intently for His still small Voice

"To trust Me as a little child trusts his father is the only safe way (to spiritual purity).  Have I asked so hard a thing? To pride, it is hard. To love, it is easy.  Let Me melt your heart anew, and let Me restore your spiritual vitality."  (Make Haste My Beloved, by Frances J. Roberts, author of Come Away My Beloved)

"The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, 
   and their inheritance will endure forever. 
In times of disaster they will not wither; 
   in days of famine they will enjoy plenty."
Psalm 37:18-19
"The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand."
Psalm 37:23-24

"Consider the blameless, observe the upright; 
a future awaits those who seek peace." 
Psalm 37:37
Father, still the thoughts in my head and the anxiousness of my body - like a race horse in the gate waiting for he day "to begin."  This time, in this hammock, is the most important time of the day; this time listening for Your Voice is the most important thing I can do.  The remainder of the day will visibly prove Your refreshing Spirit in my life when I delight in investing and resting in You. Take my life and use it as You help me take time to be holy.
In the name of Jesus Who pulled away to  pull into You completely

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012 - Follow the Directions But DIY

     Every community develops its own lingo and abbreviations. When we first moved to Benton we learned the meanings of UAMS*, LR*, and CJOHCN* in the first week.  The restaurant industry offers AYCE* meals and retail stores gain business with BOGO* deals. People in the medical, legal and technology communities speak their own languages and apply particular meanings for commonly used words (monitor, mouse). Even crafters and handymen looking for how-to instructions should know short-cut terms like DIY for Do-It-Yourself.  
     Jesus, in spite of His divine fluency in every language in heaven and on earth, gave His commands in down-to-earth terms everyone can understand.  Matthew 5 records several examples
    "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles." 5:41 
    "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." 5:42

     "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44

   I suspect people would flock to Christ if each community of believers spoke Jesus' language and made obeying these three commands our DIY project for even a month. Jesus' commands aren't difficult to understand, but answering their challenge requires courage, humility, and supernatural love.

Father, help us speak Your language fluently so others will know You.  Keep us from tossing out spiritual words and church lingo that keeps people who need You at a distance. Teach us to express what You're doing in our lives in simple, clear terms and to live with the courage, humility and supernatural love You give us as Your salt and light. May we stop waiting for someone else to lead the way to revival and spiritual awakening and begin doing what it takes to get there ourselves.
In the Name of Jesus Who went the extra mile, gives to those who ask, and loves His enemies enough to die for them.  
*University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 
*Little Rock
*Churches Joint Council on Human Need
*All You Can Eat
*Buy One, Get One

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012-Sitting in A Puddle of Grace

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 3:22-23
    The middle school worship team came to our house Thursday night for hot dogs and broccoli.  We had chips and cookies, too, but I found a recipe on Pinterest for roasted broccoli called "The Best Broccoli of Your Life" from the Barefoot Contessa. The description said that even people who don't like broccoli love this broccoli. So, we conducted a test. Five kids who don't (didn't) like broccoli tried it and all agreed that even though broccoli is a vegetable, is green, and looks like miniature trees, it can be delicious, or at least good.  It took courage for some of these kids to stick even a small bite in their mouths, but each one seemed to trust me and popped the broccoli in without much fuss.  What an honor, they trusted me. What a relief, they liked it.
     Last weekend God put a big plate of challenges in front of me and I didn't trust Him enough to take a bite with faith.  My immediate, natural reaction was to make a terrible face and crawl "under a blanket of hopelessness."  I fussed, made a mess of it, and added depth to the think/worry line between my eyes before getting it out of my system and returning, like the prodigal, to the arms of our Father, begging for mercy and putting Him back in charge of my life. 
     Now, the storms have passed and I'm sitting in a puddle of grace. In a week's time God  answered not only the first icky, sticky problem, but an additional one that came up over the same weekend.   What an honor for God to love me, listen to my hurts and answer my prayers.  What a relief my faithful God Who carries me through is also full of surprises along the way. Now it's my turn to scoop up some of that grace and pour it out on someone else who needs it. 
Father, time and again You show me You're always working behind the scenes for our good. The very problems and challenges that make me want to hide are the ones You answer in such amazing ways that I can't keep quiet.  You're sunshine and rain; You're the umbrella and the nourishment. You're the protective cloud and the pillar of fire.  You don't lay on us what You won't help us carry. Thank You for answered prayers. May all glory go to You - use me to make that happen.
In the Name of Jesus Who said everything is possible with God

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012 - Singing In the Rain

"Rejoice in the Lord always. 
I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Philippians 4:4
The reason believers can always rejoice regardless of circumstances rests in the command to rejoice in the Lord - and we can always do that, even if it means looking backwards or forwards to do it. When faith-threatening obstacles cover our spiritual windshields with grime, we can switch our view to the rear view mirrors, remembering God's past faithfulness. Rejoicing in the Lord means we plant our hope firmly in His Ability, His Vision, His Plan for our good. 
"Courage knows that for the child of God there is no such thing as disaster.
Courage keeps the destination in view and heeds not the intervening obstacles. 
Courage does not count the cost neither laments losses, 
because it reckons on unfailing supply and is content in knowing 
that one man's loss is another man's gain 
and rejoices as much in one as the other 
-- either to be the receiver or the giver. 
Thus it is fortified against the common complaints of man, 
for most complaints rise out of discontent as the roll assigned to play.  
The genius of happiness is to reverse the game from receiving to giving,
 and in so doing, competition to excel becomes joyous --
 a soul-freeing expression."
Frances J. Roberts, Make Haste My Beloved

Lord, help me reverse the game of choosing between receiving and giving, between making my life comfortable and blessing other people. I want to learn this discipline of rejoicing in You for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, rain or shine.
In the Name of Jesus Who gives us a joy the world can't give or understand

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday, February 16. 2012 - Where Fervent Prayers Are Born

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, 
that you may be healed. 
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." 
James 5:16 (NKJV)

Yesterday morning all I could see was a huge need. This void in the picture of my responsibilities consumed me and I kept mumbling my worries to God, describing the horrors that would befall many people if this need wasn't met immediately.  I had run out of ideas and options.  I had run everyone else out of ideas and options. My back was against the wall with no answer in sight. I finally I slid down that wall and onto my knees to pray for divine intervention.  
     It's not that I hadn't prayed about the situation before, but I hadn't prayed fervently with faith that God would send the help needed in time. Instead, I had rearranged the situation in my head 100 times to find a solution but time had run out and my mustard seed of faith was shrinking. Desperation leads to fervent prayer, including confession, praise, thanksgiving and, of course, requests.  I gave the whole thing to God and thanked Him for answering the need in advance for His glory.  Then I stood up, relieved to put the situation into Bigger Hands

     While I was praying, a text evidently arrived saying the job was covered; someone felt led to fill the void. When the shock wore off, I spent the rest of the day mumbling thanks, singing praise, and fervently loving my God. 

Amazing, Awesome God - why do I doubt and let the voids darken my day? Why do I see only the big empty spaces when You've poured over me grace after grace? Why do I insist on trying to do things in my own power instead investing that energy into fervent prayer?  Lord, forgive me for still - after all these years - forgetting to "pray about everything."  Thank You for shining through. Thank You for hearing me and answering me and yes, even for allowing me to get to that terrible but wonderfully desperate stage where fervent prayers are born.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - To Your Health - And Theirs

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” 
Matthew 10:42
    It seems I'm surrounded by a surge of people ready to move in positive ways toward helping people in our community.  Good things happen when believers work together for the good of other people. For instance:
     less fortunate people see Christ working for them through their neighbors;
     hungry people are fed and clothed;
     believers grow closer together, putting aside differences to re-align priorities;
     givers discover the Spirit provides them with additional gifts, energy and abilities;
     everyone grows in spiritual health.
A church filled with giving, serving believers contrasts sharply with the church James addressed in his letter.
James 4:1-3

What causes fights and quarrels among you? 
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 
You desire but do not have, so you kill. 
You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. 
You do not have because you do not ask God. 
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, 
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 

The believers James addressed were circled up facing each other, looking at what others in their tight little church possessed and contrasting it with what they themselves didn't have. We must avoid becoming huddled, stale churches who ignore the world outside or else our safety-net circle will become a trap for quarreling over power, authority, decisions, money, budgeting, how to dress, and which pew belongs to whom.  An inward-focused mentality creates grabbers, not givers.  No person or church can be healthy and at peace when selfishness and envy rule the hearts in the huddle.  

"One person gives freely, yet gains even more;  another withholds unduly, 
 but comes to poverty." 
Proverbs 11:24
"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."  (and the eggs)
Proverbs 14:30
Lord, Giver Who gives and teaches us to do the same, You created us so our health depends on pouring out what You give us rather than poring over what we don't have.  You made us in Your brilliant image of Love and Light - yet we hoard and hide who we are under the proverbial bushel, afraid we lose it or people will expect more from us.  Forgive us for burying the blessings You give us when You've called us to give so You can refill us.  Make us healthy, open, loving believers and may Your church begin to reflect the character You've given us.
In the Name of Jesus Who gave everything

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, (Happy Valentine's Day) 2012: Overcoming Faith

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them
because the One who is in you is greater than the 
one who is in the world." 
1 John 4:4
     Whenever we drove south from our home in Daphne, Alabama, we passed a church called "Overcoming Faith."  That name describes every believer because it can be read with two meanings.  Obviously the church named themselves "Overcoming Faith" because their goal is to possess the kind of faith that overcomes anything not of God. They intended the word "overcoming" to serve as an adjective, but the first time I saw their sign, I read "overcoming" as an action verb, as if the group's goal was to overcome an addiction to faith.  
     The question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we face challenges to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control with determination to exert faith in God through Jesus to overcome the challenges and shine? Or, do we allow the Jesus-void viewpoints of the world to erode and eventually overcome our faith foundations?  Every trial is a test. Every day is an opportunity to exercise faith, pass the test and overcome anything trying to overcome our faith in Christ.   
"And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, 
and between your offspring and hers; 
he will crush your head, 
and you will strike his heel."  
Genesis 3:15
Jesus' death and resurrection crushed Satan's head (power) underfoot. The serpent can't win, but he can nip at our heels with his annoying distractions and doubts if we let him.  He's like the headless chicken in the barnyard - frightening to see, but unable to do any more damage than we allow.
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" 
Romans 8:3

"No in all these things
 (trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, 
nakedness, danger, sword, facing death see Romans 8:35-36) 
we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." 
Romans 8:37
Lord God Almighty, You've already won the war. Keep Your victory over sin, death and Satan in front of us so none of the above can taunt us. Clear our connections to Your power and may we focus on You instead of allowing distractions to overcome our faith.  Bless every effort we make to trust You.  Forgive our quickness to doubt.  We're weak, but You're Strong. Loving God, fill us with everything You want us to have to overcome our unbelief and doubt.
In the Name of Jesus Who said, "Everything is possible for those who believe."
"'If you can?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for him who believes.'
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'"
Mark 9:23-24

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012 - The Big Questions

"God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 
2 Timothy 1:7

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, 
a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth." 
2 Timothy 2:15     
     I'm getting dressed to go teach High School Math as the predicted "wintry mixture" begins to fall.  Today is one big question still to be answered: Will we have snow? Ice? Will it be a little or a lot?  Will it disable transportation?  Will I get stuck in a room filled with math books, too afraid to dodge high school drivers? Will I understand the lesson and be able to teach or explain it to students with that morning glaze in their eyes?  
     So many questions; so few answers.  The teaching plans for these math classes say:  "This is a new lesson for them but they should understand it quickly."  Right. Not if it were me in high school math:  the word "new" would have pulled the shades down on my brain if the "real" teacher wasn't there to explain it, step by step. 

Every day is a big "?"  and mostly because we ask questions with long-term, unfolding, section-by-section answers. Asking for answers to all the things we think we need to know is like expecting a quick answer to questions like: "How do you do math?"  "How do you speak another language?"  "What is the meaning of life?"  "What is my purpose in life?"  Answer: Let's focus on one new step today of this long-term process.

Today is a step, a section, a new lesson, a new solution.  Today is an opportunity to see whether we're God-trusting or fear frozen. Most days, it's a wintry mix of the two. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012 (2/12/12) - "I" Problems

With "I" problems,we need to prepare
for a lifetime of disappointment
I've been miffed for the last two days; miffed because we've done everything we know to do (besides going overboard on the sacrificing) to avoid a certain situation.  As it turns out, we should have suffered and sacrificed a little more.  My reaction started out as angry tears, but  I didn't look up at the sky, shake my fist, and say "This is YOUR fault!! You said You'd take care of things, but just look at this mess!"  No, I took the cowardly route and pouted, giving Him the cool shoulder and lukewarm greetings.  You've had acquaintances do this to you:  they're warm, fuzzy and dependable, then one day, they look through you or their smiles grow forced and tight.  That's what I've been doing the last two days toward God, because He didn't come through the way I wanted Him to come through. 
     Just count the times the words "I" and "my" appear in that paragraph! Still dealing with the "I" problem.  My creative nature falls miserably short when it comes to seeing how God can fix a problem: there's only one way and it's my way.  

Lord, forgive me when I'm spiritually nearsighted and when I act as though I'm in charge of my life. You're the boss and whatever You say goes. Forgive me for my immaturity and foolishness.  Forgive me for making the last two days about me.  You have a plan, a plan for our good.  Help us trust You fully and help me get back on my knees and back on track with You.
In the Name of Jesus Who died and rose again in the same Power You use in our lives!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - Stomped and Stamped

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." 
1 Corinthians 13:7

As the wife of a minister, I've been the recipient of many gifts which include Scripture, but mugs are my favorite.  My cupboard holds a half dozen mugs featuring promises, encouragement and instruction. On tough days I tend to reach for either the "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me" or the "This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it" mug.  When I wake up cynical or with a hardened heart I reach for the one that says "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" because I realize the problem is my half-hearted attitude.  Today, the first mug I saw is one I sometimes reach past because it's a little hard to swallow, but since I'm to be at the school at 7:30 I grabbed it, filled it, and sat down to read my devotional. Obviously, God wants me to grab the verse and not just the mug because there it is again, the featured Scripture for today's Kay Arthur devotional focusing on when we're misunderstood and criticized. 
     Trying to make things right once they've been misconstrued is like trying to get out of quicksand: the harder we try, the deeper we sink; the more we say, the less we clarify.  And, as with quicksand, the best advice is to be still.  We teach our kids life's not fair, but then we try to make it fair for ourselves.  Life's not fair. Sometimes people see what they're looking for instead of the truth; they hear what they're listening for instead of what was said.  Ouch, but because God loves u, we can love others; because He's stamped us with His approval, we can endure the stomping of others. 
Lord, this isn't what we want to hear. We want You to open the heavens to justify us. We don't like being misunderstood or misread. Help us endure as You endure unjustified blame. May we live as blamelessly as possible with Your strength so misunderstandings happen as little as possible. Guide us to understand Your approval is all we need.
In the Name of Jesus Who lived to please You alone, though misunderstood to the point of  mob hatred.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - Extended Leave of Absence

When Joseph left Nazareth to go to Bethlehem with Mary, I wonder: Did he have a feeling it would be a while before he saw his father's carpentry shop again? Or did he leave an unfinished project out to complete when he returned? 
     Once Joseph began listening to God and headed to Bethlehem, his plans changed to "wherever He leads, I'll go," and it was years before he saw Nazareth again. God used angels, dreams, and angels in dreams as Joseph's GPS during Jesus' first years. Quiet, trusting Joseph listened well, eluding murderers and political schemers, surviving life in a foreign country, and has become part of our spiritual heritage. Most importantly, Joseph first navigated through his own inner confusion - all to fulfill prophecies and protect God's Promised Son. God directed Joseph to:

Proceed to designated wife:  "But  . . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do  not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.'" 
     "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.'"  Matthew 1:20-22

Head southwest, to Egypt: When they (the Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  'Get up,' he said, 'take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him."   . . . 
    "And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son.'"

 ". . . he (Herod) gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under . . . Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:   'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'"

Head north, toward Israel: "After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt . . . 'go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.' . . 

Head east, toward Galilee: Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.  So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.'"

     Joseph's life proves that when God calls us to fulfill a mission, He carries us through it.  No cultural stigmas, difficult circumstances, murderous authority, ambition-filled politician, or geographical location can block God's Voice or keep Him from fulfilling His promises.  When we trust, listen, and obey Him, we become part of fulfilling  prophecies,  protecting the innocent, and leaving the Light of salvation along our paths, even when our paths seem to contain more detours than direct routes.  
Lord, direct us as clearly and specifically as you directed Joseph.  Use us in ways we couldn't dream of being used to spread Your Light.  Joseph was an incredible listener and obedient servant.  We want to live this same "immediate obedience" faith that brought long-term good for the world.  If Joseph had refused to marry Mary, You would've found someone else. If he had ignored or questioned Your directions, You would've protected Your Son through someone else. If Joseph had become comfortable and complacent in Egypt, You would have put thorns in his nest - but You never had to say anything twice to Joseph.  Help us do as he did and obey You immediately and without question.  Don't let us become complacent questioning. Don't choose someone else to do Your work.
In the Name of Jesus, the Child Who used a quiet, small town carpenter to become a biblical hero of faith

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday, February 5, 2012 - Greater Than Who Can Bear

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls." 
Matthew 11:29
     I'm no Bible scholar but there's a saying even among Christians that I can't find support for in the Bible.  When the darkest, heaviest trials come our way, someone invariably says, "God won't give us more than we can bear." Yes, He does and He does it on purpose and with purpose.  I find proof time and again God laid on His servants tasks and missions over their heads, beyond their abilities, surpassing their understanding. The verse that's been rephrased to the point of misunderstanding is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says God won't let us be tempted beyond what we can endure because He'll always provide a way for us to escape the temptation.

New International Version (NIV)
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13

Today's New International Version (TNIV)
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. 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 endure it."

King James Version (KJV)

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."  

We're right to feel we can't handle "what's on the agenda" today; God designed with weaknesses to drive us into His arms and answers.  He didn't leave those biblical big leaguers of faith to part the ocean, walk on water, sacrifice the one dearest to their hearts, battle Philistines, bring fire down from heaven, heal the sick, face persecution and death, or even pay their taxes on their own.  Each looming burden was an invitation to trust Him. Nothing has changed.  Our next big hurdle is simply His invitation to take His yoke on our necks and walk with Him.  He'll be the Strength and Direction and we provide the faith. 

Lord,  We can't handle squat but we love to pretend we can. Thank You for keeping us off the control board and for using burdens to chase us to Your Loving Arms.   Help us give up our self-directed searches sooner and get on board with You under Your gentle yoke.  Help our faith in the little things so we're growing toward trusting You in the big trials when they come.
In the Name of Jesus Who shares our yoke and carries our burdens

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012 - The Splintery Fence

     We were part of a sold out crowd to the "Songs&Stories Tour" where we heard three amazing Christian artists at FBC Benton last night: Steven Curtis Chapman (49), Andrew Peterson (37) and Josh Wilson (22).  It was beautiful to see these three godly men cross  age and style barriers to work as a team dedicated to glorifying God.  Kudos to all three for playing and singing in the background for each other's music and diffusing the usual "build-up" to the big name artist.  All three artists shared how God is leading them, each on their own paths, to shine God's light in a dark world. Each songwriter is finding ways to respond to God's love with more than words. They fight the same battle we do to walk the talk and to live the songs we sing. Are we all talk or do we answer God's call with compassionate action?  Oddly enough, our silence is a strong indication we're slipping in our faith and faithfulness. 

     "Elijah went before the people and said, 
'How long will you waver between two opinions? 
If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him."  
But the people said nothing."  
1 Kings 2:18 
     This has to be a heartbreaker of a verse for God. The people's silence confirmed their lack of faith and commitment to Him. Josh Wilson's song "I Refuse" from the concert last night came to mind as I read about the Israelites, God's own people, saying and doing nothing in response to His call. 

"I Refuse"
Sometimes I
I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone's alright
When I know they're not

This world needs God
But it's easier to stand and watch
I could say a prayer and just move on
Like nothing's wrong

But I refuse
'Cause I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

I can hear the least of these
Crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet
Of You, oh God

So, if You say move
It's time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
Show them who You are
[From: ]

If there's something God's calling us to do and we refuse to do it, our silence breaks His heart. 
Lord, God, You are our God. Help us choose You, get off the splintery fence of non-commitment, and get to work doing what You're telling us to do. Leave us "speechless" with
Your Love we can't ignore but strengthen us to refuse to be silent as we shine for You.  Remove the mufflers from our hearts and consciences so we hear Your Voice and understand clearly what You reveal to us about Your character and will.  Make us bold servants where You call us to serve, no matter how many prophets of Baal surround us. In the end, their god was silent 
(1 Kings 2:20-39), but w
e call to You, the God Who hears and answers. May we hear and answer You by reaching outside ourselves to love people simply because You love people.
In the Name of Jesus, Who hung on a splintery cross to split Time by choosing Your side over all the others