"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wake Up and Dream

Thou Shalt Laugh has spun around in our DVD player more than any other stocking stuffer I’ve snagged at the video store. My kids know their favorite stand-up routines by heart. I still laugh every time the comedian named Michael Jr. talks about his preschooler’s aspirations. One day the child surprised his daddy by saying, “When I grow up I wanna be a doctor… or a dinosaur.”

Do you dream an impossible dream? I “grew up” a long time ago, but I still hold to one. My dream’s fulfillment may take a miracle. But I won’t let it go.

A friend his 70’s told me recently that he finally made his way all the way to the bottom of my blog. The saying I placed in the footer captured him.

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.

I gleaned that maxim from a sermon. It captured me too. The older we get, the more losses we suffer, the richer our history, the harder it becomes.

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it. For it will certainly come, it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3 NASB

I’ve asked God more than once why He gave me such an unattainable vision, like a carrot dangling in front of my face. (No, make that a piece of dark chocolate.)

In response God inundated me with Habakkuk 2:3. 

…Though it tarries, wait for it. For it will certainly come…

Holding to impossible possibilities guarantees our dreams outpace our memories. But such unattainable goals can cause intense frustration.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 NLT

I think God waits with far more eager expectation to see our dreams fulfilled than we do. After all, He knows the plans He has for us are good.

If you’ve long given up on your dream but it won’t let you go, perhaps your Father pinned it to your heart.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NIV

God isn’t an Indian giver. He’s a promise-keeper. So don’t stop believing.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:36-37 NIV

Thursday, April 29, 2010

God's Perfect Balance

Today I got stuck on a thought. I didn’t mind the snag because it challenged me. I like that. (Most of the time.)

It wasn’t a new thought. It has mystified me multiple times. My mind fixated on God’s perfect balance. I long for that ability.

Picture a set of scales.

Lay Mercy on the left.
Not receiving what you deserve.

On the right side place Grace.
Receiving what you don’t deserve.

Or try this. It’s a little trickier.

Put Goodness on the left.
Do right or suffer the consequences.

                                    Kindness weighs in on the right.
                                    Get a second, third and fourth chance.

My dad had a handle on this balancing act. He served as director of a Christian youth camp for many summers. The rules were black and white. No drugs. No alcohol. No exceptions. Midweek my dad and one of the male counselors happened to spot a teenaged boy smoking marijuana. My dad told the counselor, “I didn’t see that. The last thing that young man needs is to be sent home.” Dad walked away and sent the counselor to play the “good cop” to Dad’s “bad cop” role. That teen is now a godly man on fire for Jesus.

Ten years later an angry teen defied my dad’s rules in the sight of the entire camp. His parents picked him up before dinner. That evening several broken and repentant teens committed to walking in obedience and reverence to God. Most of those kids are still walking with the Lord today.

One received mercy and repented. The other received judgment and served as a powerful example to others who repented. How did my dad know when to show kindness and when to demand goodness?

I have failed miserably at this balancing act. My kindness allows a fifth, sixth and seventh chance until I snap and swing way over to, “You’re grounded for the rest of your life!” (No wonder my daughter calls me bipolar.)

Moses warns in Exodus 34:7 NIV “…he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” And in Revelation 19:11 NIV John writes, “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 makes war.”

But then there’s Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which mentions that God’s grace is expressed in His kindness to us. And Romans 2:4 NLT says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

In several different modern translations, Psalm 23:6 promises goodness and love will follow us forever. However, the King James Version says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Hmmm… Mercy interchanged with Love and coupled with Goodness.

Justice. Goodness. Right and Wrong.
Mercy. Kindness. Grace and Love.
Teeter. Totter. Is it any wonder I get stuck?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chickenpox, Boredom and Grace

I wrote about my husband Monday. Yesterday I shared a story about my daughter. I feel obligated to blog about my son Scott today.

In a recent facebook post a dear friend lamented the quarantine her young son’s chickenpox has brought upon them both. Her dilemma reminded me of a story I shared about Scott in my new Bible study.

When Scotty was 10 years old, he came down with the same highly contagious malady my friend now faces. The chickenpox snatched him away from school and everything fun. Confined for more than a week, he got bored before he got better.

One fidgety day, he wandered into my home office more frequently than Michael Phelps medaled at the Olympics. My thoughts can handle only so many interruptions before I completely lose track of them. Shifting gears, I pretended to engage my son by asking what I should talk about on the Christian radio show I hosted at the time.

“Talk about me,” he said with a sparkle in his eye.

“What do you want me to say about you?” I grinned back.

“Tell them I have chickenpox.” 

Surprised and cornered, I swallowed and squirmed. How would I make a spiritual application with chickenpox? This time God interrupted, and dropped a Bible verse into my head.

Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NASB

Scotty wanted to unload his burden and receive a little compassion. But I’d missed it, along with an opportunity to “fulfill the law of Christ.” Thankfully, God got my attention.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 NLT

My son let me know he’d put up with more than enough of his quarantine, and God convicted me to show him compassion. So I took a break from my work to spend time with him. I’m glad Scott continued to pester me until I finally remembered that real compassion always results in action.

I learned three important lessons from my young son that day.

  1. Be available. Showing compassion does not necessitate signs and wonders.
  2. Be aware. Even a loving mother won’t show compassion if she doesn’t recognize the need.
  3. Be vocal. Everyone needs compassion, but adults don’t always speak up like my then 10-year-old did. Whether you have the chickenpox or an altogether different issue scratching at your life, don’t keep your troubles secret.
My son will turn 13 in June, but he still remembers his quarantine. Just last week he lamented about getting up early and going to school.

“I wish I had the chickenpox,” he said. “Because I didn’t even feel sick, but I couldn’t go to school.”

Shocked by his recollection of that week nearly three years ago, I reminded him that he was so bored he practically climbed the walls.

But he didn’t remember the boredom. He only remembered skipping school and feeling great. And I remembered how God’s grace intervened to work even chickenpox, quarantines, and boredom for good. 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bold Enough to Change a Life

My daughter attends the public high school in our neighborhood, but has a circle of friends at the local Christian school. Recently a couple of those friends shared an unfortunate situation with her.

Sadie Hawkins was scheduled for the coming weekend. If you’re unfamiliar with this high school tradition, Sadie Hawkins provides the one opportunity when the girl chooses her date. She even buys matching shirts for them to wear. Because the Christian school does not sponsor dances, the event involved an excursion to Six Flags Magic Mountain. If a young man didn’t receive an invitation, he would not be able to go.

A certain socially awkward student did not get invited. Because it was his senior year, he desperately wanted to go. Sarah’s friends noticed his crushed spirit, so they asked her if she would invite him. Without knowing a thing about him (except that he was socially awkward and didn’t get a date) Sarah agreed to ask him.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 NIV

Since she did not attend the Christian school, she had to meet for an interview with the principal. While waiting to see him, a freshman came into the office and stared at her. She smiled and gave him a quizzical look. Finally he said, “You’re taking D. to Sadie Hawkins.” His incredulous tone made it sound more like a question.

Sarah shrugged and said, “Yeah.”

A couple minutes later he returned with another student. “You’re the one taking D. to Sadie Hawkins?” He sounded even more doubtful than the first young man.

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. Matthew 5:46-48 The Message

My beautiful daughter sat a little taller and assured him she had indeed extended an invitation to their schoolmate. As soon as the boys were out of earshot she gave me a call. The joy in her voice on behalf of her date was obvious. “Mom,” she said after relaying the story, “this is a small school. By the end of the day the news will be all over campus!” 

My sweet daughter only considered the fact everyone would know D. had a date. Her proud Momma knew the story would undoubtedly reference Sarah’s beauty and confidence.

Sarah coaxed her date well beyond his comfort zone as they rode the scariest rides together. The two of them had a blast. They will probably never see each other again, but they shared an unforgettable day.

When I told that story to some girlfriends over lunch, one of them said, “She changed that boy’s life.”

Wow. That thought never occurred to me. My daughter unknowingly changed a boy’s life. And all it took was an interview with a principal and a 15-hour road trip to an amusement park. (And wearing a T-shirt her date picked out emblazoned with a picture of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky.)

Sarah’s boldness convicted me. I considered the very real possibility that God may have also provided me with opportunities to change a life, but I backed away unaware, or uncertain or flat out unwilling.

Does someone in my sphere of influence need to feel valued? What can I do about it? What am I waiting for?

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35 NLT 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gods Word Works

The Word of God has transformed me, and I truly want it to make a difference in your life too. So I study it. Memorize it. Claim it. And teach it.

God’s Word works.

I desperately want people to understand the power of God’s Word to speak into our every day lives and situations.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV

As passionate as I am about helping others understand that God’s Word works, even my husband Steve didn’t “get it” until recently. And that’s a good thing. Because God used him to reach someone I could never reach. Steve’s recent exchange with his nephew testifies to the power of God’s Word.  

My nephew was raised in a single-parent home by my sister-in-law. She did her very best to raise him right, and he inherited a legacy of faith. But he has made wrong choices and has struggled with the consequences. His mother tried to train him up in the way he should go. (See Proverbs 22:6) His grandmother has prayed heaven down on him. But as a young man with a son of his own, he still hasn’t embraced their faith wholeheartedly.

Recently Steve’s work took him to their hometown and he popped in on his sister. As providence would have it, his mother and his nephew were at her house when he arrived. God was up to something. (It’s a good thing He kept my husband in the dark about His plans. Steve would have felt entirely unqualified to carry out his assignment.)

My husband would be the first to tell you that I’m the “spiritual” one in our family. (Remember the red phone I mentioned in a recent post?) He doesn’t pray out loud or quote Scripture. He doesn’t intentionally testify or witness or preach. But Steve began reading the Word of God daily within the past year, and it has transformed him.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT

Steve didn’t intend to speak of spiritual things with his nephew, he simply told him how his attitude has been changing. How he’s growing more patient, less angry, more joyful, less stressed. His nephew was curious because he noticed a striking change in Steve. When he asked about it, my husband said, “I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I started reading the Bible every morning and it works.”

Steve’s sister and mother listened wide-eyed and silent. When Steve started to his truck his nephew asked if he could speak to him alone outside. Their conversation remains a mystery, but when his nephew came back into the house he told his mother and grandmother that whenever they try to talk to him about God it never makes any sense. Then he said of my husband, “He made sense.”

Steve’s interaction with his nephew illustrates the power of God’s Word to touch and change lives.

God’s Word works.

We don’t need a doctorate in theology. We don’t need a “red phone.” We just need to read God’s Word. It will transform us. Even if we don’t understand how or why. 

God’s Word works.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Are You Downcast?

Anyone who spends time with young children knows the difference between crying and whining. Some kids are great actors and make discerning the difference more difficult. But usually we can differentiate tears caused by real pain and sorrow from tears manufactured to complain and rebel.

Are the tears that flow from our own eyes as easy to recognize?  

The Scriptures teach us—even encourage us—to cry out to God. But if our crying becomes whining, we deserve discipline more than compassion.

So how do we keep from whining?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:1-5 NIV

When David’s tears became a steady diet, he checked his emotions. “Why are you downcast?”

David’s decision to put his hope in God prevented his tears from turning bitter. Praising God in spite of his circumstances kept his cries from becoming whines.

If your tears have been falling day and night, question their cause. Are you crying out for God to give you what you want? Or will you allow God to show you what you need?

I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3 NIV
When the darkness brings tears to your eyes, focus on God and His love for you. You may find yourself saying, “I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 NIV

Thursday, April 22, 2010

God Has Something to Say

The enemy came after me last night. Quoting Leviticus yesterday probably ticked him off. And I’m sure he didn’t like the fact I sent a friend an email declaring I hate cancer almost as much as I hate satan. Or perhaps his attack was an anniversary gift. (I started writing this blog one month ago today.)

On March 22nd I established this outlet for sharing with you what God has poured into me. That objective called for a measure of faith. What if God didn’t give me something to write about?

Back when I led worship every Sunday, I learned to listen intently for God’s idea of how the morning service should flow. If He gave me a Scripture or a prayer or a word of encouragement, I shared it with the congregation as we transitioned from one song to another. If He didn’t, I kept silent.

But silence doesn’t work on a blog. So when God prompted me to post something every Monday through Friday, I worried about having something to say.

Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19b-20 NIV
One of my favorite sayings is, “God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.” I told God I was a willing vessel, and He has faithfully given me something to write about.
I guess I just wanted to set aside today to thank Him for that. How silly of me to worry that God would run out of things to say! And I’m obviously on the right track, or satan wouldn’t be after me.
One of my favorite pastors used to inquire, “How’s the devil been treating you lately?” He hoped to hear in response, “Not very well. Not very well at all.”
Taking a stand inevitably draws the ire of those who oppose you. And when you become a mouthpiece for God, you face a powerful foe.
If you’ve ever been tempted to back away from your convictions to avoid confrontation, be encouraged by the words of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 NLT
Did you get that? As believers we have already won a victory! So let’s not back down from what God has called us to say and do. The rewards make hanging tough more than worth the trouble.
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:7-9 NIV

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Obsessing or Obeying?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that would require God’s constant vigilance if He chose to respond affirmatively? I petitioned God that way as a freshman in college and He granted my request.

My roommate and I had discovered a fantastic Chinese food restaurant within walking distance of our dorm. We loved the chicken chow mien and pork fried rice. Even the fortune cookies tasted divine. The contents of those cookies, however, soon consumed us.

At first my roommate and I were awed by the accuracy of the little slips of paper tucked inside our dessert. But when every prediction consistently came true, we were downright spooked.

The Bible warns us to have nothing to do with fortune-tellers and horoscopes.

Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:31 NIV

My roommate understood my decision to never again break open a fortune cookie. After all, I didn’t want to be “defiled by them.” But when I came home for the holidays, and declined my cookie for “religious reasons” my sister rocked with laughter. Even my parents snickered. (They hoped I wouldn’t notice.)

It’s not that my family doesn’t strive to obey the Bible, they do. It’s just they thought I was obsessing. I could see their point. I grew up loving Chinese food. Gorgeous Oriental art defines much of my mother’s d├ęcor to this day. What’s more, when we ate Asian food at home as kids, Dad set a card table with folded legs on top of coffee cans in our family room, and we sat on the carpet with our bare feet tucked under the low table and fed ourselves with chopsticks.

Caught in a conundrum I wondered if fortune cookies could really defile me or if I was obsessing. One look at my godly family breaking open their cookies and laughing at the contents answered my question.

Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. Romans 14:22b NLT

So right then and there I asked God to make sure from that day forward my cookie contained a silly little saying like, “A man who overeats grows fat.” Or a wise proverb like, “Confucius says, ‘It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.’”

Then as an after thought I added one more request. I asked God to speak to me through my fortune cookies. After all, if the message is going to be prophetic, I want it come from Him alone. And if God can speak through a donkey, He can speak through a fortune cookie!

Ever since then God has protected me from freaky fortunes, and I can’t wait to crack open my treat. Will I giggle? Will I ponder? Or will I be transformed? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Mundane is Miraculous

Before pouring out today’s “oil” I need to ask for your help. As a newbie blogger I’ve been studying how to do it right. I’m a bit shy to mention a key success factor. I’m supposed to encourage readers to become followers.

I feel odd asking you to “follow” me. I follow Jesus and I hope you do too. But that’s the “lingo” of the blogosphere. It’s kinda like having a “fan page” on facebook, which I don’t have… yet. (You really don’t need one until you have 5000+ friends. I only have 213.)

Now that I’ve given you my disclaimer, I humbly beseech you to join Google friend connect and add your name to my little group of followers. Start by clicking "Follow" in the margin to your right. With just a few more keystrokes, you will brighten my day. Thanks!

Asking for your help reminds me of one of my favorite overlooked Scriptures. This critical Bible verse goes without notice because it follows one of the most frequently quoted verses, especially by sports stars after a big win. 

I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NCV

The potential danger of continually quoting Philippians 4:13 without remembering the very next verse is thinking God will always provide in a supernatural way.

Have you heard the story about the man who was warned through a news broadcast of a flood, so he got down on his knees and cried out to God for help? (I would credit the original storyteller if I knew who he/she was.) This story does a great job of illustrating Philippians 4:14.

I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. But it was good that you helped me when I needed it. Philippians 4:13-14 NCV

When the man stranded by rising water prayed, he heard the still small voice of God promise to save him from the flood. Right then a large truck with enormous tires drove up outside.

“Come on,” the driver shouted. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“No, thank you,” the man replied. “God has promised to save me from this flood.” The rain continued falling and the water continued rising. Soon the man heard a boat outside.

“Come on,” the boat driver shouted. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“No, thank you,” the man replied. “God has promised to save me from this flood.” The rain continued falling and the water continued rising. Soon the man had to climb onto his roof, and there he heard a helicopter approaching. When the pilot saw him, he maneuvered close.

“Hold on,” he shouted. “I’ll send down a rescuer on a line.”

“No, thank you,” the man replied. “God has promised to save me from this flood.” The rain continued falling and the water continued rising and the man was soon swept away and drowned. When he arrived at heaven’s gate and saw the Lord, he cried out to him. “Lord, I don’t understand! You promised to save me from the flood and I died.”

The Lord looked at him and said, “I sent you a truck, a boat and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”

Have you prayed for God’s help, and then told the people who unexpectedly offered assistance that you’re fine? “I’ll be all right,” you say. “I’m trusting God. I don’t need your help. Thanks but no thanks.”

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

God answers prayers in mysterious ways. In my experience, His provision usually comes in mundane rather than miraculous ways.

Paul knew he could trust God. He also knew he could count on the Philippians. If God could use the Philippians to help Paul, couldn’t He also use someone in your life to help you?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Come be Filled

If you’ve been following me, you know by now I take weekends off. I almost wrote this post on Saturday because Saturday was April 17th. But I’m trying to set weekends aside for my family. (And my post on priorities is still fresh in my brain.)

Today is not the 17th of April. That’s why I almost canned my idea for today's post. But when my pastor kicked off his sermon yesterday with Psalm 63:1, I had a feeling I shouldn’t let this thought go.

If you happen to own a copy of the One Year Life Verse devotional and you were to flip over to the reading scheduled for the day before yesterday, you would find David’s ardent cry as recorded in Psalm 63:1. About 3 1/2 years ago I learned Tyndale was publishing a devotional that would contain “365 stories of remarkable people and the Scripture that changed their lives.” I submitted my story, and they placed it on April 17th.

It began like this:

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water

Sam had lived only three weeks. Emptiness nagged at the pit of my stomach and dryness filled my parched mouth, but I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. Though married, I felt alone. I’d lost my son. Would I also lose my husband? Everything I held dear had been painfully ripped away or was slipping from my grasp. Could I trust God’s sufficiency?

When my newborn was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder and numerous special needs, my dreams shattered like the broken glass of a picture frame that had slipped from my hands. Then the impact of Sam’s death catapulted my husband and me in opposite directions emotionally. Our marriage teetered on the brink of collapse. Frightened and with nothing to cling to, I reached for the book of Psalms, where I found hope in Psalm 63. King David’s anguish became my heart’s cry.

I gave today's blog the same title I gave the devotional. Perhaps you visited my blog today for that reason, to be filled. Remember, I'm just the jar. But God can fill you.

You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

I believe the best way to make the truth of God’s sufficiency your reality is through praise.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Picture my right hand raised, left hand on my Bible. I swear David tells the truth in this Psalm. God wants to pour Himself into our empty places and fill us with more than enough to satisfy our longings. I’m so passionate about teaching people how to be filled that I’ve written and produced a 7-week video Bible study curriculum called Enough is Enough: Realizing God’s Sufficiency. If you or your Bible study group were to go through it, you would learn the secrets God taught me in my emptiness.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 

I believe David beheld God’s power and glory because he was a man after God’s own heart. He loved God more than food and water. And God responded to His cries.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
God wants to respond to your cries too. If you don’t have a life verse, maybe Psalm 63:1 is a good place to start.

The italics represent the following verses of Psalm 61 NLT in the order they appear: v. 1, v. 5, v. 3-4, v. 2, v.6-8

Friday, April 16, 2010

God's Due Date

If you read my very first post you know I’ve committed to pouring on this page only what God has poured into me. For some reason my musings have been fairly intense this week. I want to assure you that level of seriousness does not always describe my relationship with God. In fact, we’ve had some pretty humorous conversations.

I hope it’s okay that I mention conversing with God. No, I don’t hear an audible voice. It’s more like a thought that pops into my head. But I know these notions don’t originate in my brain because they come as a surprise. And they often interrupt me.

Several years ago my daughter borrowed a Nancy Drew book from the library. She started reading it that day and then it vanished. We searched in all the usual places and interrogated all the usual suspects. Either Nancy vaporized or someone broke into our house and took the book.

My daughter started reading another book. I tore the house apart in search of the missing sleuth.

The due date arrived. As I returned by car from dropping my daughter at the school bus I muttered to no one in particular, “The library is straight ahead. If I had the book in my car I could take it there now.” I made a right turn toward home and grumbled, “But instead I’m going to end up paying for it.” And that’s when the thought interrupted me. I “heard” these words in my head, “You are going to find the book today.”

While my husband says I own “the red phone,” implying I have direct access to the Throne of Grace, I honestly don’t hear from God on a regular basis. So it shocked me into silence.

I walked in the door and said loud enough for God to hear me, “Was that You in the car?” and I “heard” the words again. “You are going to find the book today.”

As I slowly moved from room to room, I felt like my kids on the hunt for their Easter baskets. You’re getting warmer. You’re getting colder… I finally made my way to my bedroom, looked up at the ceiling and said, “Is it in here?”

Even though no one could hear me I felt very silly. What on earth did I expect in reply? That’s when God’s voice gently teased. (There’s no better way to describe the tone of the thought that popped into my head.) “It’s caught at the foot of your bed between the sheets.”

My bed didn’t have a footboard, so I batted my hand along the end of the mattress until I felt a solid, rectangular object. Beside myself with wonder, I tore off the sheets and there it was. Nancy Drew had been hiding under my covers for two weeks!

I held the book in the air and queried the ceiling. “Why didn’t You tell me where it was earlier?”

And God replied, “Because it wasn’t due until today.”

I fell onto the bed in stitches and hooted, “That’s what I get for neglecting to wash the sheets for two weeks!” I almost heard God’s laughter join mine.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21 NIV
I drove to the library in silence, shaking my head over my unusual exchange, when another thought surfaced. God never misses a “due date.” He is always right on time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Point #3

The Wednesday morning women’s Bible study I attend started again yesterday after a short break for Easter. I’d never heard of the woman who would teach the class. Not because she’s new to teaching but because I’m fairly new to the church.

Vivacious, good-humored and fashionable, she’s a grandma that makes me look forward to getting older. I was completely engaged in her presentation because she held my attention with her zest and flair, and because I wholeheartedly agreed with everything she was saying. (I couldn’t help but say, “Amen!” on more than one occasion.) 

She was halfway through her material when something occurred to me.

I wasn’t learning anything new. I’d not only heard her first two points before, I had lived them. And taught them.

I don’t believe the Lord ever wastes a minute of anyone’s time, and I certainly was enjoying the Bible study, but I was there to learn. So I silently prayed, “Lord, teach me something new today.” And that’s when she reached her third point.

Point #3: Be conscious that you must be totally dependent on God.

No one could walk in the shoes I’ve worn over miles and miles of difficult terrain without realizing her dependency on God. I found myself nodding along just as I had when she’d made her first two points. Then she gave an example that answered my prayer.

I’m paraphrasing her now. “When you ladies tuck your children into bed at night they don’t for a minute worry about whether or not you will provide for them. They are totally dependent on you for their food and clothes and the bed they sleep in. They know that when they wake up tomorrow morning, breakfast will be there for them.”

I immediately pictured my kids as infants. I changed their diapers when wet. I fed them when hungry. I rocked them to sleep when cranky. Of course I provided for them. I love them more than my own life. Why should they worry? Of course they trusted me to take care of them.

Then I heard my teacher say, “Your children are totally dependent on you like you should be totally dependent on God.”

I’d prayed for a lesson, and this one felt like a backswing with a frying pan. Of course God provides for me. Jesus loves me more than His own life. Why should I worry? Of course I should trust Him to take care of me… But I don’t. I wet my face with worried tears. I hunger for financial security. I lose sleep and get cranky. I wonder if when I wake up tomorrow morning, the necessary resources will be there for me.

Am I a better parent than my Heavenly Father?

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 NIV

No wonder Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to anyone who comes to Him as a little child. Dependent. Free from worry. Full of trust.

At what point do we grow up and lose our childlike faith? I think it begins the first time we say, “I can do that myself.”

I came home from Bible study and crawled into my Heavenly Father’s lap and wept. 

Forgive me, Daddy. Of course You’ll never let me down.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

When I wake up tomorrow morning, God will be there for me.

Special recognition and thanks belong to Cookie Wagenman of Peoples Church, Fresno for her anointed teaching. The Lord is good.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Needle, a Snowflake, and You

Yesterday I learned I could feed my blog to my Facebook page. I jumped at the opportunity to attract a potential reader or two. (Okay, so I don’t have a lot of Facebook friends either.)

When I logged on to twitterfeed.com I saw a huge number posted on their home page: 1,184,391. This figure reflects the current number of feeds established by bloggers. Whoa! I’m one in more than a million.

Usually if someone tells you you’re one in a million, you tuck your chin and blush. But this feels more like hearing that you’re a needle in a haystack. You may be surprised to learn I’m not bothered by that in the least. A needle is sharp, shiny and useful. Hay is for horses. (By the way, I feed my horses alfalfa hay twice a day.) 

I’m not suggesting all other bloggers are nothing more than straw. I’m just saying I feel privileged to be such a unique find! Before you think I’m boasting, let me explain.

God created humans like snowflakes: no two are alike. I believe with all my heart that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (See Psalm 139) You share this honor. You are also carefully crafted by God, and Jesus speaks to your great worth in the Gospel of Matthew.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

I received a precious Facebook message in response to my post yesterday from someone who also identified with loneliness. Because this man of God has an awesome relationship with Jesus, he never felt insignificant or forgotten in his loneliness.

I also received an email. This kindred spirit wrote, “There are times when we all feel left out and times when we are indeed left out. Those are painful memories for all of us. How precious that we know Jesus and can be held in His arms at those times. What do non-Christians do?”

You wanna know what I hope they do? Run to the arms of their Creator and ask Him why He thinks so highly of them that He would send His own Son to die for them. I almost quoted this Scripture yesterday. I’m glad I saved it for now.

The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. John 15:13 CEV 

Jesus spoke those words. And He was thinking of you. God created you like a snowflake. You are one of a kind. You are special. You are one in a million.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Love Over Loneliness

I remember a prayer I offered a year or so ago. I’d just found out that someone I care about had given a going away party for “family and close friends.” I wasn’t invited. Deeply hurt I cried out to God, “Lord, what’s wrong with me?” He didn’t answer.

More recently someone I’ve told my deepest secrets to married off her eldest. No white embossed invitation came to my mailbox. I felt the familiar sting of loneliness and rejection. So I prayed again, “Lord, what’s wrong with me?” This time a Bible verse popped into my head. Actually, half. Only half of the verse came to mind.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24b NIV

I can still picture the side of my refrigerator in college. Held by two fruit-shaped magnets hung a list of all my friends and their phone numbers. It was a long list. Today I could count my friends on my fingers… of one hand.

I’d always heard that to make friends you have to be a friend. I figured if I don’t find my way onto someone’s guest list, I’m the one doing something wrong. So I prayed, “Lord, what am I missing?” Another Bible verse surfaced.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

I said out loud, “Lord, I know you love me. But I want everyone to love me.” I closed my eyes tight and prayed yet again, “Lord, what’s wrong with me?” God answered with a familiar verse. But this time I looked it up and saw the whole thing.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Loneliness and rejection are part of the human experience. If I measure my worth solely by the size of the list on my refrigerator, I may well come to ruin. I’m sure I’ve let my companions down even more than they’ve slighted me. I’d hate to be the cause of their “ruin” and I’m not willing to let them cause mine.

One of my favorite Bible verses says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 NIV

I thank God for this promise. Love makes forgiveness possible. And when I fall short of loving you or you fall short of loving me, God’s love will more than cover our need to be loved. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Too Big To Be Forgotten

How do you magnify something? Do you use a magnifying glass or maybe a microscope? Lately my need to magnify something often sends me hunting for my reading glasses.

In one of my favorite Psalms, David wrote, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:3 KJV You can be sure he wasn’t suggesting God is so tiny we need an instrument to make Him large enough to view. According to the prophet Isaiah, God marked off the heavens with the breadth of His hand. In other words, the moon wouldn’t even appear as a speck on God’s palm.

In the movie Apollo 13 Tom Hanks’ character gazed up at the moon the night before his spaceship was supposed to take him there. He held up his thumb, closed one eye and completely blotted out the moon. Is God like the moon: far away, small, easy to blot out?

Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and the earth?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23-24

If God is neither too small nor too far away, why should we magnify Him?

The New Living Translation quotes Psalm 34:2 this way: Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.

And The Message interprets David’s psalm like this: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out.

When we point out God to ourselves and to others, when we make Him obvious, we magnify Him. You may think this involves witnessing to people who don’t know God. You’re right. But that’s only part of it.

When Mary learned she would become pregnant with the Messiah through the Holy Spirit, her mind could have focused on a number of huge issues. But instead, she praised the Lord.

And Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” Luke 1:46 KJV

Mary chose to zoom in on God rather than on her unplanned pregnancy. Putting God in front of her circumstances blotted them out like the moon behind Tom Hanks’ thumb.

If we fixate on our problems they can get blown way out of proportion. But if we allow God to come between us and our problems, our perspective changes.

If you need a magnifying glass to find evidence of God’s presence in your life, lift your voice to praise Him.

Come near to God and He will come near to you. James 4:8

As God becomes obvious to you, your problems won’t seem so big after all.

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17

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