Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012 (Happy Birthday, Julie!) Trial, Schmial

     My brother-in-law, Ed, has perfected the humorous "schm-prefix comeback" as a barrier to annoying requests or topics. For instance (although, this one's made up since, when I need it, I can't for the life of me remember one of his actual usages.):
"Ed, get the phone!"  
"Phone, schmone, they'll call back." 
     I didn't rejoice when I saw James 1:2 as the first verse for today's Jesus Calling devotional. My mind shut down a bit and I thought "Trial, schmial," but  God had the last laugh when I said it: "Trial, schmial" - Trial, smile.  

"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  
But endurance must do its complete work, 
so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing."
James 1:2-4

     About three months ago, I was crying the blues over the unexpectedly high amount of taxes we owed both to our great nation and our new state. I didn't view this trial as a joy, much less a "great joy."  Instead I reacted with every negative response that surfaced.  I moaned that we never seem to get a break where taxes are concerned.  I cried, fussed, fumed, worried and THEN . . . the Light came on and I prayed fervently.  Today, three months and one God-send job later, the taxes are paid in full. Now that the trial is past, I rejoice.  Better late than never, I guess, but James teaches a more mature faith than mine.
    According to James 1:2-4, mature faith smiles and rubs its hands together in anticipation of how God will work through the trial. Mature faith rejoices in the opportunities for growth and completed maturity. (Even now I can hear Ed chiming in with "Maturity is overrated.")  I'm on that bumpy road to maturity and I'm determined to get to the place where I naturally and faithfully "schmial at the trial." 
"But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, 
for power is perfected in weakness.” 
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ’s power may reside in me."
 2 Corinthians 12:9

Father, thank You for loving us when we moan, groan, cry, pout, stomp our feet, and react to our circumstances with a total lack of faith.  Thank You for faithfully dedicating Yourself to our maturing process for Your kingdom's sake. Wonderful, perfect Father, strengthen us to face each trial as the exact trial You allow to bring out the next level of maturity You want from us.  Keep Your Face before us when our hearts and minds change from one emotion to the next.  You're our Anchor, our Solid Rock, and we love You. 
In the Name of Jesus Whose perfect faith trumped every emotion 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - Mental Toughness

     Tom says, "If my feet are ever go over my head, something has gone terribly wrong."  That would be true for my 6' 2" husband but feet flying over head is typical for gymnasts.  However, the ascent of sports psychology as a profession proves all tricks and skills in the gym don't necessarily come easily to anyone.  The following excerpts are taken from an article by Dr. Alan Goldberg from the the website at the bottom of the page. (All bold print is mine.)  There was no way to read the article without thinking of "blocked believers" who could use some mental toughness to break through to higher ground.  

. .keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Source and Perfecter of our faith, 
Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross 
and despised the shame
and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne."
Hebrews 12:2
"Welcome to the mental side of gymnastics!…to that mysterious and oftentimes unexplainable nether world between body and skill execution. Oh, how easy it would be if gymnasts could just do what coaches told them to whenever their bodies were ready. No such luck! That's not gymnastics! Training your body is only one part of what's necessary to learn and consistently execute a trick in the gym or at a meet. You also have to learn to contend with, and train your mind. Gymnastics success can only be achieved when you begin to work on this mental side of your performance. To reach your goals you must learn to use the principles in sports psychology to help you develop mental toughness.  
*God didn't design us to be robots either, but calls us to fix our eyes on Him and to stay our minds on Him.

"But You remain the same, 
   and Your years will never end."
Psalm 102:27

     "Fear is not always as bad as everyone makes it out to be. First of all a gymnast with absolutely no fear is an accident waiting to happen. .  .Believe it or not, fear is also a positive indication that you're moving up to the next level in this sport. Every time you attempt a new skill or otherwise step outside of your comfort zone, fear will be there to greet you."  
      *Each new "height" in our spiritual life brings with it new doubts and fears. 
 "Show me a blocked gymnast and I'll show you an athlete who is focusing on the wrong things before and/or during the skill attempt. In many cases your fears are fed by a faulty focus of concentration. (Think about it! How well will you do if your concentration is on the "what if's" or what you're afraid will happen?)"
Peak performance in gymnastics demands that your focus be on the skill that you're doing and the apparatus. When you perform your best this is exactly what's happening. You're not thinking. You're just paying attention to all the right things. What are the "right things" to focus on? Usually effortless skill execution is a product of concentrating on the proper feel of the skill. (Focusing on one specific kinesthetic or feeling cue). The stuck gymnast is instead focusing on his/her thoughts of what could go wrong. Getting unstuck means that you must learn to refocus on what your doing and feeling.

Father, help us learn mental toughness in serving You.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012 - Portals

From Sarah Young's Jesus Calling:

"My power flows most freely into weak ones aware of their need for Me. 
Faltering steps of dependence are not lack of faith; they are links to my Presence." 

Have you noticed that weak cell phone connections are becoming less of a problem?  We'll soon have no excuse for not getting all the information since "dropping out" and "breaking up"  will be a thing of the past - something to explain to the grandkids. 

Last week I felt like a lost glove and realized how little time I had spent with God in His Word or personally.   Circumstances interfered with our connection and unruly emotions had me "dropping out."  With a friend or two praying for me and by asserting the fine fibers remaining of my willpower, I came to Him with "empty hands and an open heart" (excerpt from today's Jesus Calling devotional). I poured out my emptiness and weakness to the Lord and found myself standing in a power tower to God.  Once again I recognized the truth that I don't have to step into His Presence with my act pulled together. My acknowledged weakness provides the portal I need to His Presence

“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 may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
John 17:20-23

"He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:29-31

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - Triple Crown

"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

     It's been 34 years since a horse has won the U.S. Triple Crown.  The three races for three year-old Thoroughbred horses include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. These three races each highlight a different strength of the horse, proving any horse that can win them all is flexible and masterful regardless of the track or distance. The fact that horses, like the rest of the world, have become specialists, explains why winners of the Triple Crown are now rare. 

"Affirmed" is the last horse to win the Triple Crown (1978).
     Our One True God stands alone in His Three-ness and His God-ness. There are no contenders. God the Creator created a universe of wonders to awe us with His Power, His Majesty, and His Glory.  Jesus Christ, the Word of God, walked with dirt in His sandals and died on a criminal's cross to teach us the sacrificial love of our Creator-God.  He rose again to weave His Life-altering, death-conquering  salvation through us. The Spirit, the Voice Who speaks the Word of Life in our hearts and minds, empowers us with Truth and frees us from Satan's deceitful whispers that we're still condemned and shamefully lacking in God's eyes. With one crown, the Three-In-One brings wholeness to broken lives.

Lord, help us be still and know You are God Almighty, Creator, Worthy of every praise, and Powerful beyond every other power. Sing to us the second verse of salvation: because Jesus died and rose again we can live free of Satan's puny, deceit. Help us hear Your Spirit loud and clear: teaching, guiding, comforting, and commanding.  
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Three in One, One in Three 

"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

Inspired, as was yesterday's blog, by Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012 - Traveling Light

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right Hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Psalm 16:11 mentions three pieces of gear we take from spending quality time with God.
1) First, He gives us a compass and direction by showing us either the path He's laid out for us to walk or the spot He wants us to stick to until further notice.  Unfortunately, in our eagerness to "get 'er done" we take off at light speed and leave God holding the other two blessings He's prepared for this stretch of the path. 
2) One of those blessings is the joy we find in God's Presence which motivates us to follow His call with light hearts.  My mom always says, "If it weren't for love, I'd never get anything done." Her love for her children and grandchildren spurs her to accomplish projects and goals she would otherwise feel no motivation to finish.  Knowing God and spending time with Him gives us joy that lightens our hearts and fuels us to follow God's direction with the right spirit.  
3) The other blessing we often leave behind in our haste to hit the trail is empowerment. Psalm 16:11 mentions God's Mighty Right Hand.  Scripturally, the right hand symbolizes power since more people have more strength in their right hands than in their left hands. Notice what we find at God's Right Hand along with that power: eternal pleasures.  Nothing feels better than accomplishing a goal or completing a mission knowing God did it through us.  
     Those of us who've been guilty of going to God just long enough to see which way He points us can testify we don't make far on the path until we've come back to HIm for clarification.  We're learning to stick around long enough for Him to fuel us with His joy and power and to strap in us everything we need to walk His path. Oddly enough, all His gear only lightens our loads.  

Lord, may we not view our time with You as a to-do on our list.  Show us how to sit still and rejoice in Your Presence.  Fill us with Your Joy so we're positive witnesses for You. Guard our hearts from the pride that says, "Just tell me what to do and I'll take it from there."  You want more than a work relationship; we're Your children and You have more than chores for us. You are Life and Light, Power and Glory. "You are the air we breathe" in every altitude. 
May we take the time to rejoice in You
In the Name of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012 - !

"And one cried to another and said:
     'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
     The whole earth is full of His glory!'"
Isaiah 6:3

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 
2 Corinthians 5:7
"No matter what happens, always be thankful, 
for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Remember learning your punctuation marks in elementary school when we filled in blank after blank with periods, question marks and, my personal favorite, the exclamation mark?  Knowing when to put a question mark after a sentence was simple since we had those wonderful, give away question words as clues: who, what, when, where, and how. However, there was much debate when it came to a student's choice to use a period or an exclamation point.  For instance, our teacher became exasperated when she tried to explain that the sentence "I like ice cream" should have a period at the end because it's a statement of fact.  Students disagreed vehemently with her lack of enthusiasm about something as exciting as ice cream.  
     I'm with the kids on this one.  We're quick to put multiple exclamation marks after our angry words, our critical remarks, our explosive sarcasm and hurtful rage, when we should be adding them by the handfuls to our expressions of thanksgiving, joy, delight, and encouragement.  Just because the world finds an exclamation point after a "Thank You, God!" a bit on the fanatical side, doesn't mean those three little words shouldn't be said, or thought, with a full heart.  If we let people who are apathetic toward God determine how we punctuate our days, we'll end up with less and less to exclaim and to proclaim. Period. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012 - Sunday Prayer

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. 

Psalm 61:2-4

Lord, take us to higher ground today.  May each celebration gathering of Your sheep today be a safe place for those who follow you. Lead us to worship You with all our hearts because we can trust You with everything in us. May Your Love reign as we turn to You.  Relieve all stress, anxiety, and frustration with an outpouring of Peace and Grace.  Show us how to climb higher in the Tower of the Rock.
In the Name of Jesus, our Solid Rock - High and Lifted up

Friday, April 13, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012 - Being There

"Search for the LORD and for His strength; 
seek His face always."
Psalm 105:4

     Like most engaged couples, Tom and I often envisioned our married life together before we married.  One of Tom's favorite pictures of us married was so basic that I almost missed the charm in it: we would be in the same room, maybe doing different things, but we would share the same air. He wanted me with him, even if my full attention wasn't on him.  
     I've grown to appreciate his vision more over the last 29 years we've been married.  Time apart has been necessary and I've enjoyed the opportunity to be selfish during those brief absences, but only because I knew we'd be together again soon.  Our quality moments have come from "just being together" no matter what we're doing.
    The Jesus Calling (Sarah Young) devotional for April 13th says, "When I give you no special guidance, stay where you are.  Concentrate on doing your everyday tasks in awareness of My Presence with you. The Joy of My Presence will shine on you, as you do everything for Me."
     God doesn't want our fake enthusiasm, but asks us to let joy erupt naturally in us as we focus on His presence during our day-to-day routines.  Consciously acknowledging God's presence moment-by-moment and each time we initiate a new task keeps our conversation with Him flowing, allowing Him to pour Himself into us.  
“I am the vine, you are the branches. 
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; 
for without Me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

"Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,"  Colossians 3:23

Thank You, Lord, for being a God who wants to be acknowledged and invited, rather than entertained or placated.  We know You're with us and we invite You to flow through the core of the lives You've given us.  Thank You for Your presence on sunlit breezy days as well as under broken umbrellas. Thank You for celebrating each small victory with us and for consoling and comforting us in every  failure.  When we invite You to reign, You're with us in the spotlight and in the wings.  Thank You for the unbreakable, unshakeable covenant of love You've given us.  May we full acknowledge You're with us throughout this day and teach us to keep you in the front of our minds.
In the Name of Jesus, the Vine Who pours Yourself through us

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012 - Go Narwhals!

Narwhals are part of the whale family
and have been nicknamed
"The Unicorns of the Sea"
"This is the day the LORD has made. 
We will rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24

I love being a soccer mom but Tuesday night I felt like a bi-polar cheerleader at Nick's first game of the season.  First of all, I never pictured myself (or anyone else) screaming "Go Narwhals!!" in public or for real.  Nick himself suggested this name for his team and they agreed.  They weren't thinking of their parents or of having a mascot. As far as I know there are no party supplies featuring narwhals, although I did find this t-shirt online.  Each time I yelled "Go Narwhals!" I laughed.  You try it and you'll see what I mean. Nobody knows what a narwhal is and it's not the easiest word to say.  The more I said it and saw the confused looks from parents of the "Knights," the more I laughed.  Thank you, Narwhals for reminding us it's still a game.
     On the other hand, my son played goal keeper for his team the entire game. I didn't realize how edgy it would make me to see half the other team heading toward my son.  Oh for the easy-breezy days of watching him play offense, running up and down the field with other teammates, and acting as part of a setup to score. But there he stood alone by that huge goal, my good-looking, kind-hearted young man of a son.  He kept his eye on the ball and went after it with everything he had in him to stop it from getting past him.  Although he stopped 10 times more than made it, the other team scored. Still, Nick walked off the field knowing he had done his best as his team's goal keeper.
     Today is the day God calls us to be ready at our posts, to know Him better and to act when it's our turn. Today is the day He calls us to be vigilant and prayerful while the "action" seems to be at the other end of the field, because our turn will come.  Yesterday is history, best learned from and left behind.  Today is the only day we can decide to do what He calls us to do, which also happens to be the best insurance for tomorrow.  
"No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, 
but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing:  
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 
I strain to reach the end of the race 
and receive the prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven."  Philippians 3:13-14
Lord, You alone know what this day holds.  Help us laugh with joy when it's right to laugh. Help us focus on accomplishing Your goals for us one full-hearted charge at a time.  Keep us alert to the opportunities You send our way even as we leave behind anything that gets the best of us. May today be a day we can walk off the field knowing we gave everything we had to reach the goals You set for us.
In the Name of Jesus, our Keeper

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday, April 11, 2012 - Boscia albitrunca

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8

A member of the species of tree known among botanists as boscia albitrunca was found in the Kalahari desert with roots 68 feet deep, making it the tree with the deepest roots known to date.  The tree's botanical name comes from Louis Bosc (as in "bosc" pears) and its white trunk (albino - albi trunca), but I love its common name:  the Shepherd's Tree.
    The Shepherd's Tree is native to Africa in areas where drought is common and brackish water flows through lime filled soil. Not choice circumstances for most trees, but the Shepherd's Tree digs deep to survive and to help other creatures survive in its hostile environment.  Notice the bare branches on the lower limbs.  Antelope and other tall grazers nibble away at the leaves of the Shepherd's Tree.   

Lord, don't give us comfortable circumstances if that means shallow roots. We want to be the trees that dig deeper and give to others from what You provide. Help us forgive us for trying to fill our own needs when You've chosen us to help fulfill the greater needs of others. May people graze on the good fruit You produce in us. Help us keep digging when we think we've hit a drought and we don't feel nourished by others.  You place each of us where we can feed and give, not fight and grumble.
In the Name of Jesus Who died on a Tree
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28,

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
1 Peter 2:9

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012 - To Be Continued. . .

Based on what I've seen when people lose loved ones, I'm sure Jesus' death left the disciples  paralyzed in shock. If they followed normal human behavior they may have even slept after He died. Sleep is, after all, an escape from reality and pain, the answer to the sheer exhaustion of grief and waiting for the period to be placed on a sentence, when there's no more to be said and nothing to be done for a while. 
     But Jesus died with an exclamation mark, saying "It is finished!" not "I am finished." Friday afternoon said "To Be Continued" and Sunday morning was the pilot for a whole new era. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who died for my sins and was raised to new life and now reigns in heaven.  I believe what happened in the past and I believe Jesus saved me when I was 14, but what do I believe about Him today?  
Is He 
*powerful AND personal?
     *reigning AND relevant?
          *holy AND here with me?
               *Teacher AND Friend?
                    *Past AND present AND future?
When the disciples finally understood and believed Jesus was Who He said He was, He breathed the Holy Spirit into them, providing the "To Be Continued." 

"Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you." 
And with that He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit." 
Do we invite the Holy Spirit to continue God's story in us daily?  If problem-solving takes center stage of our lives, we've lost touch with what His scarred Hands did for us from that point forward through eternity. His active, working Love makes us heroes in the plot.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.  
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, 
neither angels nor demons, 
neither the present nor the future, 
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us 
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:37-39
He is here.  Erase the period you've placed on His power or add two more dots because He's still writing His-story in you and in me, in His church, and on this globe.
   "Each moment you can choose to practice My Presence 

or to practice the presence of problems." 
(Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)

Father-God, continue what You did in Your church in Acts 2.  May we open ourselves to be used by You in any way You choose so Your story is told, and told again to a searching world.  Remove our blinders but help us focus on You. Satan wants us to believe You're less interested, less powerful, less personal than You were in the Bible.  Let the scales fall from our hearts' eyes and help us see Your Holiness and Power working today.  Keep our hearts and minds stayed on Your Presence with us, working and guiding us to be part of Your bigger picture and plan.
In the Name of Jesus Who rose from the dead and continues to save and love!

"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."  
Exodus 33:14

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - My Knight in Shining Armor

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse,
whose Rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice He judges and wages war." 
Revelation 19:11

Could you use a knight in shining armor today?
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be rescued and to gloat over our enemy?
But what if my Prince, my Knight, comes to wage war on my comfort zones?
What if, instead of rescuing us from the enemy, He asks us to ride with Him to face down what threatens to defeat us?

Maybe today's not the best time to  be rescued after all.
Maybe, for today, we'll leave Christ on His white horse framed by clouds and hanging in our minds as a nice thought, a whisper of a hope for when things become unbearable.
LORD, come. Empower Your people to call on Your Power and Glory to fight an enemy we're allowing to use us as doormats.  You're ready to lead us into battle and win.  You call us to be good soldiers and to fight the fight when we just want to faint weakly in Your Arms and never see the front lines.  Help our unbelief and show us how You fight with and for us to win over every enemy of Your kingdom.
In the Name of Jesus, True and Faithful, Knight on a White Horse