Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For my Future Daughter

As we get ready to meet another new year, and as our three sons continue to take purposeful steps into adulthood I decided to share with you what has been written in my heart for years. Feel free to share, if these thoughts have been written on your heart too.

A letter to my future daughter. Not a daughter by birth or a daughter by blood, but a daughter by love. As you prepare to begin your life with my son, there are a few things I think you should know. This man you love has had a life filled with prayer, teaching and observation. Matt and I have worked purposely to help prepare him for life, for love and for you.

From before the day our son was born, Matt and I have prayed for Gods hand to be on him and for Gods love to be rooted deeply in his heart. We have prayed that God would make him a man with strong Christlike character. We have prayed that God would keep his heart soft and sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We prayed that God would surround him with strong and Godly men and women who would love him, encourage him, hold him accountable and spur him on to greater and greater God centered things. We have prayed that God would direct his steps and bless the work of his hands. We have prayed that God would give him passion and purpose.

With the words we have spoken, and with the way we've lived out our faith and our love, we have been teaching him every day. It was our investment in him while he waited for you to arrive in his life at just this right time.

  -  We taught him about choosing and living out a relationship with God and not just practicing religious rituals.
  -  We taught him about investing in people in lasting and meaningful ways.
  -  We taught him about personal sacrifice for the good of another.
  -  We taught him to never be afraid of hard work.
  -  We taught him that the best and most satisfying things in life are very rarely "things".
  -  We taught him that seeking forgiveness is a part of life, and should not be delayed when necessary.
  -  We taught him that extending forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others.
  -  We taught him that honest and deep friendship is where lasting love is rooted.
  -  We taught him to respect marriage and to value only God above his wife.
  -  We taught him that some things are only meant to be shared with his wife.
  -  We taught him that it always takes two people to fix a relationship when it's been harmed.
  -  We taught him that sometimes there is no "try" - only do, and do, and do until it's done.
  -  We taught him that lasting love takes effort, commitment, and forgiveness every day.
  -  We taught him that in marriage, your spouse is your best friend. It's been taught that he should always be your biggest supporter, your most trusted friend and your wisest counsel ~ and we taught him that you would do the same for him.
  -  We taught him to honor God and you, his spouse, every day - on purpose - with his words, his thoughts and his actions.
  -  We taught him that in a God-centered marriage there is no room for selfishness or pettiness.
  -  We taught him that in a God-centered marriage it isn't 50 -50  instead it is 100-100-100. 100% of husband and 100% of wife devoted 100% to God and to each other - always. Anything less that 100-100-100 will always fall short.

You should also know that from the time he was born we have been praying for you. We have prayed that God's hand would be on you and your family during your childhood, your teen years and in your adult life. We have prayed that you would be sensitive to God's direction and call on your life. We have prayed that you would come to know Jesus as your own personal Savior and friend. We have prayed that you would be treated with the dignity and respect that you deserve. We have prayed that you would be cherished and loved. We have prayed that you would see that beauty of how God created you ~ you are His creation and God doesn't make junk. We have prayed that there would be special parts of your heart that you saved to share just with our son ~ for the rest of your life.

We have been praying for your marriage for a very long time. We pray that God would be the center of your marriage and that you would each follow the example of love and sacrifice that Jesus taught. We pray that you will both flee temptations that seek to destroy your union.We pray that you would be stronger together than apart. We pray that strong Christian marriage mentors will come along side you in the early years as you learn what it is to not only be married, but what it is to stay happily married. We pray that you will seek God first in all things, and that you will be of one heart and mind when God does prompt you.

You are the one our son has chosen. You have his love and you have his heart. Our son is not perfect ~ but you know that already and you love him still. We are not perfect either - and it doesn't take long to figure that out. But we look forward to learning to be a part of your life. Be patient with us, and extend us a little grace; we are learning just as fast as we can. And now we know the name of the girl who has filled our prayers for so long. Welcome to the family...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The New Years Resolution Pit

New Years resolutions are a great big lie, a deep dark endless pit ~ at least for me. Resolutions are those things that I know I need to do, and yet I know even as I say the words that I will fail.  I will never get the laundry done in one day, or be completely caught up at work or be reading all of the books on my shelves. I probably wont run 5 miles a day, and rice cakes will never taste as good as yeast rolls. I will never resolve to eat chocolate, avoid exercise and drink more coffee ...yet those things I would easily accomplish.

The failure with resolutions in my world is - well me! It's usually me deciding that I need to change something in some way. The problem with that is also me. See, at the heart of it, most things I would resolve to change are sin rooted and thus these changes are beyond what I can do. God doesn't call me to live a life of resolution, instead He calls me to be transformed. And transformation isn't something I can ever do on my own, it only comes from God. Period. The End.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed" Romans

  • I would resolve to diet  ~ but what I need is for God to transform my attitude of laziness and mediocrity so that I can strive for excellence and healthy living that is pleasing to God. God created me and He doesn't make junk. I don't think He cares if I ever get back my size 5 thighs but I do think that God calls me to care for His creation and I think it breaks His heart when I don't treat myself well. 
  • I would resolve to be less of a people pleaser ~ but what I need is to get rid of the idol in my life that is "public approval" and replace it with obedience to my Heavenly Father. His opinion after all is the ONLY one that matters. This means sometimes when people ask me to do things, I should pray about it, say "No, but thank you for thinking of me" and know that me and God are still ok.
  • I would resolve to be less busy ~ but what I need is for God to transform my priorities and plans and bring my desires into alignment with His will. Busier isn't Better, especially if it leads me down the dark path of weariness, restlessness and burnout.
  • I would resolve to spend less and spend smart ~ but what I need is for God to transform my discontentment and my envy and replace it with contentment and gratitude.
  • I would resolve to speak well or be silent ~ but what I need is for God to transform the words of my mouth so that in all things I honor Him.
  • I would resolve to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend ~ but what I need is for God to transform my selfishness to His character of selfless love.
  • I would resolve to be less judgmental ~ but what I need is for God to transform my arrogance and my prejudice so that I can reflect both God's grace and His truth in ways that draw others toward Him.
  • I would resolve to be less stubborn ~ but what I need is for God to transform my pride so that I can submit to Godly authority.

God loves me enough to meet me every day right where I am, and He loves me TOO MUCH to let me stay here. In 2013 God did some great things in my heart and in my life. But I am defiantly a work in progress. I'm on a journey. Praise God I am not who I was. Praise God, He is not done with me yet! Thank you God for the way you continue to faithfully and patiently transform me. Amen

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Crappy Christmas?

So we are a few days past Christmas, and the typical conversations have begun to occur: How was Christmas? What'd you get? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Let the Post-Christmas Complaining begin. 

"I didn't get what I wanted." or "The gifts weren't even close to comparable"
"So and So didn't call or even send me a card."  
"I was stuck at home" or "I couldn't go home." 
"I only got one day off" or "I had to work for part of the day." 
"It was rush, rush, rush and run, run, run - the whole day is a blur."
"The kids were fighting, the kids were sick"
"The kids acted like such children!" 
"It was too hot", "It was too cold", "The food just didn't turn out right." 
"The kids where with my ex, and I was stuck with 
family that drives me crazy."  
"It just never felt like Christmas to me"
"I just couldn't get into the Christmas spirit"

If that was your Christmas it was probably crappy, you missed it completely, and it just might be no one's fault but your own. Congratulations, you've completely forgot what Christmas is actually about - and it isn't you! Seem harsh? OK. I'm not judging. I've been there - and I was wrong. If that's where you are stuck, and if you claim to be a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are wrong too because you chose to miss the joy, the praises, and the worship of the season. Christmas is a time to honor God for He is and for what He has done. It's a time to remember the day that changed everything. The whole Old Testament leads to the manger, the cross and the tomb. The New Testament points to them too. It's not the treasures under the tree, the treats, or travel to be with friends and family. It's joy and praise for what God did, and for what He continues to do.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for
 all the things they had heard and seen...Luke 2

What if it's just been a rough year? The death of a child  or a spouse or a friend. The death of a marriage or a friendship or a dream? Maybe you still don't have a job, or you hate the one you've got. Do you have toxic people in your life and unhealthy relationships that serve only to shackle and stifle you. Is there a chasm of anger, hurt and unforgiveness that separates you from people you love?  It might be that you're on the verge of financial ruin, or possible unemployment, Is your health is in shambles from a long term illness or chronic health condition? Have depression, anxiousness and worry stolen your joy? Is infertility and the shame and self loathing that often accompanies it your current cross to bear? Are you deep in the trenches of life with small children, or hormonal middle schoolers, or hot headed and drama filled teenagers? Maybe you face the challenge of being the adult parent of an emerging adult who is fearless, fiercely independent and sometimes clueless.  Perhaps your child is a prodigal or your spouse doesn't share your belief. This may have been the year that you became an "in law", an empty nester, a grandparent, or a retiree. Life might just be changing faster than your mind can process and harder than your heart can handle. If this is you, then cling my friend to the HOPE that is promised at Christmas. The manger held the promise of the Resurrection and the hope of a restored relationship with our eternal God.

Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE to men on whom
God's favor rests...Luke 2

Peace in the struggle, Peace in the storm, Peace when the night is it's darkest. Hold tight to Christmas HOPE. Hold tight to it all year long. God is faithful in His time to fulfill all of His promises. Christmas is a call to worship. And worship is about God, and not me.

Help me today God to hold on to the Hope that Christmas provides. Give me a heart of worship, and let my worship be found pleasing to you. Amen

Friday, December 27, 2013

Do I FaLaLa and Forget?

On December 26th the Christmas music stops, and so do the endless cycles of Christmas themed movies on the television, cable and nextflix. Many people are back on the job doing their 9 to 5 thing and looking forward to the next break from work - New Years Eve. By New Years Day most businesses and many homes have all the "Christmas decorations" boxed up for another 11 month slumber in the attack, basement or shed. A few Christmas treats still cover the front table; fudge, brittle and caramel bars are a sweat reminder of the laughter and smiles earlier this week. There's a stack of new clothes to wear (and perhaps a few to return) and a pile of new movies to watch.

Here in the Midwest we are settling in for for looks to be a cold and snowy winter. January and February are going to drag on endlessly for sure. Dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home; it'll be cold and snowy, cold and icy or just cold. It's the season of the flu and bronchitis. Leaves being blown through the front door have been replaced with sand and salt getting tracked through the house. And then there are the never fully dried mittens, lost hats and misplaced scarfs. The few houses that got lights up outside before the early November snow and ice are committed now - those lights are frozen firmly in place 'till we get a little thaw. For the most part, Christmas is over and the the Spirit of Christmas it seems is gone too. It breaks my heart, it makes me sad and it leaves me feeling - well embarrassed. As I read in Luke this morning these words seared my heart.

  "So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in a manger. When they (the shepherds) had seen him,  they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

They didn't keep quiet and they didn't forget. The shepherds were not like me at all.  Christmas morning changed everything and because of the manger, the cross and the empty tomb were possible.. Their Christmas Encounter changed their reality forever. Those shepherds did what I should be doing every day: telling people, showing people, sharing my life with people and loving people to the loving and open arms of God.  You see, I am different now. Jesus changed me ~ and it's amazing. So this year, I will not FaLaLa and forget. This year, I'm gonna be like a shepherd and I'm gonna share.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sorry God - No Room this Christmas

Luke 2  ... because there was no room for them in the inn
In the winter of 1994 Matt was changing duty stations with the US Navy. We had been living in upstate New York near the Nuclear Prototype Facility, but Matt's training was done and he was being stationed at the Groton / New London Submarine Base in Connecticut for his first sea duty tour. In the early 90's several bases had been or were closing, so we were informed that there would be a long wait before we'd qualify for military housing. It's also fair to note that in the early 90's we were the young twenty-something version of the grown ups we try to be today; no credit card, no cell phone, no home computer and very rarely did we have
a detailed plan when it came to travel. We picked a convenient weekend, gassed up the car and headed down to the coast one Friday night after both of us were done with work. We pulled into the military town late. It was cold, I was very pregnant and probably a little bit cranky, and we were both tired so we began to look for a hotel. That's when we made the discovery...there was literally not a room available in the entire town. We finally found a dive of a motel with a desk clerk that took pity on us - there was one room reserved that had not been claimed...and at midnight if those people did not show up he'd give us the room. We went back to the car and I sobbed and we waited. At 12:05 we walked into the hotel room and said a heartfelt prayer of thanks. I remember thinking that night as I drifted off to sleep in that lumpy hotel bed "I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt as overwhelmed as desperate as we did tonight ~ back when they were young travelers, far from home pregnant and unable to find rest for the evening?"

A lot has changed since that winter 19 years ago. But as I woke up early on this Christmas Eve morning, my heart was stuck on this question: How often do I and the people I do life with choose to live like there is still "no room" for Jesus?  When I balance at my check book, is my heart hardened or stubborn to the financial principals that God calls me to honor?  When I evaluate my calendar do I find it filled with priorities that have 'kingdom value'? When I examine my marriage, do a see a relationship that is centered around God's holy standards for love? When I look at my children, do I know in my heart that I have equipped them with the knowledge of God's love, wisdom, grace and truth? When I think of the future, does my heart really say "not my will, but your will God?" When I look at my body, can I honestly say that I am behaving as a wise steward regarding my physical health and well being? When reflecting on my close friendships, do I see the good Christian fellowship, discipleship, encouragement and accountability that the New Testament describes? And what about all of those sandpaper people in my life; you know the ones ~ they are covered with rough edges and they sometimes rub me raw. Is there room in my life for God to use those people to shape and soften me the way that He desires?

Every day I have to decide if this is the day when there IS ROOM.
I can only choose for myself.
Every day you have a decision to make too...not just on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Blues

Today the snow falls steady and quiet. White majesty covers everything and I wait for the plow. I could have slept in, but alas I have been awake for hours. The children sleep. The coffee brews. One thing is clear. This will not be the day I had planned in my mind. Too much snow to drive to church safely, so we'll miss the only Sunday this month that we could have worshiped together as a family in our home church. Jay is back from college and Matt is off from work. Can't you just picture the 5 of us sitting together in clean coordinated outfits - with love in our hearts and smiles on our faces... Ok - so they would have grumbled about not sitting with their friends and we probably would not have sung Christmas carols for the 30 minute drive to church, but we would have been together.Yep, this isn't what I was expecting, but in a weird way this reminds me of another Christmas season 21 years ago. Matt was away at boot camp - and did not come home. My parents and my siblings went to California for the holiday and I was stuck at my parents home (which was completely un-decorated for Christmas) alone and sick with the flu! That was a long hard day, but it got better. Six weeks after that Christmas 21 years ago, I was engaged to my best friend. Six months later we were married and living in Florida.

For some people the Christmas season can be painful. The struggle and the sorrow of the last 12 months still happened and no amount of snow angles, chocolate fudge and "grandma got run over by a reindeer" will change that. This Christmas there is still sickness and illness. There are still people searching desperately for work. Homes are still for sale, and dreams remain unfulfilled.  The mail still comes, and so do the bills. Everywhere we look are reminders of relationships that are broken and of people who are gone. There are empty seats at the table - and the reasons why don't matter; the hole is still there. This Christmas there are still too many miles between me and some of the people I love the most. And every Christmas season it's the same thing -in big ways and small ways each of us makes a mental list in our mind - this list contains all the things that the Christmas season should be. Maybe it's the way it use to be, or maybe it's the way we wish it could be. Next we take a quick account of life as we know it, compare the the two and make a judgement about how things are going. That's when it happens. We lose the joy. We forget one of the first things that the angel said in Luke 2 “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!" 

Jesus is the source of Joy and His joy is for everyone. As much as we are called to remember the joy of that first Christmas morning, we should not forget the joy that is yet to come. With the same measure that I invest in the preparations of this celebration, should I not also be preparing for the next one - that great day when Jesus will return for those whom belong to to Him? Can I for one minute, take a deep breath and look at things with eternal perspective? Can I choose joy - regardless of how I feel?

Dear God - Today I seek your joy. Give me clear eyes with eternal focus. This morning, as we eat french toast and worship as a family in the den, may our worship be found worthy in your eyes. May it bring a smile to your face and joy to my heart. Amen

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Crazy

These are the days where that little thing I call "Christmas Crazy" starts to set in. I have a plan and I will not be dis-swayed. Places to go and things to get done ... only 4 days 'till Christmas! I'm gonna be in my car and  just so you know, I am gonna be ridiculous - don't judge 'cause you are too. Driving aggressive, driving grumpy, playing leap frog with other cars to get one space ahead and "win", willing to thumb wrestle little old men and pregnant ladies for a closer parking space and praying things like "Lord help that stupid driver" or "Lord let there be a cop close by to see that moron please!" It's the mad dash to the mall for that one gift that I forgot or can't yet find. It's the rat race at the grocery store where I'll look for those last minute ingredients that will complete the menu of the next few days. And diapers...do we have enough diapers to make it until Dec 26th? Preschools consume half their wight in sugar every day, they skip naps and they stay up way past normal bed times. College students do not understand the concept that we are "saving" that food for later. In our neighborhood the elementary age kids are overflowing with Christmas vacation energy and trapped inside houses that are covered in ice and snow. And laundry, why do people keep wearing clothes?!?

Then there is the family. Not my family because we are perfect, and of course none of my friends families either - cause they are perfect too :-) It's spending time with people that we truly love. We'd move mountains for them, we'd drive thru ice storms for them, we'd sit through awful Christmas band programs for them. We love them fiercely, and yet sometimes they make us absolutely certifiably nuts! They think we can be 12 places at once. They show up late, they laugh too loud, they eat the last Oreo ball; their kids are crazy, they have picky diets, they think they know everything about everything all of the time and they love to tell you what you should do or should have done.

Christmas Crazy steals my joy. Last year at Church I heard someone say "this year I want Christmas to bring Peace on earth" and my without even thinking response was "Not me! I'd be happy with a little peace for the Wilson 5." In these moments I cling to Luke 2 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” Christmas is a time for wonderful, joyous praise - not crazy, cranky complaint. So I match up what the angels said in Luke with a few words from my Jesus as recorded in John " “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid". Peace is a gift that sits wrapped under my tree. Like any gift I can choose to accept it or I can leave it unclaimed. God extends peace, Jesus offers peace, the real question is WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH IT?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Memories from Christmas Past

Memories from Christmas past. As I look back, there are very few presents that I remember from the Christmas' of yesterday. Oh don't misunderstand - there were gifts for sure, but that's not what my mind remembers first or best. When I was a kid we would always get together with my mom's family on Christmas Eve. We would eat dinner and then visit until it was dark enough to go look at Christmas lights. We'd drive around town, looking and laughing and then return back to Grandma and Grandpa's house - where Santa had already come and delivered our presents because Gram's last name started with an A and thus we were at the top of his list :-) On Christmas Day we'd go to see my dad's family. We'd eat lunch, open gifts and then while the grownups had dull conversation, I would build forts with blanks and card tables. Then I'd see how many grown up I could get to come join me in some real fun.

I grew up, got married and Matt and I started our own family and our own traditions. Our first Christmas we almost didn't have a tree. We'd flown back to Arizona the week before Christmas and flew back to Florida on Christmas Eve. We didn't get a tree until about 4pm on Christmas Eve and we literally rescued it from the garbage truck in the Kmart parking lot. Christmas in Connecticut took all day. The boys would open a gift, stop and play. Then they'd open another gift, stop and play...they hated clothes...they'd just throw then over their shoulder and move right on to the next box. I remember in 2001 when we left the Navy and moved the the Midwest. It was the first year that our boys were able to go to Matt's families Christmas Eve gathering - there are tables full of food and yummy desserts. They always have a pinata and duck tape, and Santa always shows up with a bag full of gifts for the kids. In our home, everybody gets an ornament every year - usually it relates to something that's happened or some place we have gone in the last 12 months. On Christmas morning, we always open stockings first, have french toast casserole for breakfast and surf and turf for lunch or dinner, depending on Matt's schedule. We do a Christmas puzzle. We watch Elf and eat summer sausage, cheese and crackers. But things are changing. Time marches on. The boys are growing up. As I look back, there are very few gifts I can remember. But I'll never forget the moments. Decorating the tree together. The year the power came back on late on Christmas Eve after 5 long cold days. The laughing and grumbling that was shared when Matt and our brother in law put together all of the boys Christmas toys in the early years; the smiles we shared when we realized that our kids like the big boxes that stuff came in as much or more than shiny new stuff. Following snow plows down I74 late on Christmas Eve, as we made our way back to our home. Fervent prayers as we let the children hold real candles with real flames at Christmas Eve services (please Jesus, don't let a Wilson set anything on fire - Amen). Reindeer food and cookies for Santa. Reading the Christmas story.

But Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2

Let's be honest, there are times when we all think that our special child is God's gift to the world. In Mary's case that was the real TRUTH. Her son would change everything - and she knew it. As my children grow, I have a deeper appreciation for this verse. Mary didn't miss it. She tucked away those first moments in a special place that she would be able to recall later. Did she think about that first Christmas morning when Jesus was a normal preschool boy asking questions, making messes, getting dirty and driving her crazy? Or maybe when Jesus was 12 and missing at the temple because He was spending time with the Biblical scholars of His time? I'm sure she thought of that day when she followed he son's footsteps to Calvary, when she followed His body to the tomb, and then on Sunday when the tomb was found empty. Sometimes I forget in the rush of this season that moments are what matter most, and I should not be wasteful with them.

God help me today to treasure up moments in my heart. Give me the wisdom to enjoy each day as You give it. And let me draw on the memories of these moments later, and find strength in the faithfulness of Your blessings and Your love...when life is hard. Amen

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The perfect Christmas that doesn't exist...or does it?

That perfect Christmas moment. We see them in our 30 minute TV Shows and our Hallmark Christmas movie specials and we hear it in the songs that fill our ears. It's the Christmas Family Picture where we all smile and laugh. Our clothes are clean AND ironed and we coordinated just the right amount. Christmas Cards are constructed from hand crafted paper, individualized of course, and are mailed out the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Tediously long car rides are filled with caroling, giggling and laughter. The fire is warm and glowing, and we all use our nice hands and our nice words all of of the time. Gifts look like they have been wrapped by Martha Stewart and food tastes like it came from the kitchen of the finest chefs. The house is decorated and everyone loves all of my hand made treats, place cards and this years version of decoupage ornaments on my Christmas tree. Is all of this too much to ask...just one Hallmark Christmas.

Let's be honest, it doesn't exist.

This is what it looks like at the Wilson house. The kids are - well kids. They touch each other. They annoy each other. They look out each others windows. Christmas Cards are sent, and any postmark that ends in 2013 is evidence that the card is not late. The presents are wrapped, most of the time - though it may be masking tape or duct tape that holds the edges together. And truth be told, gift bags may be the smartest invention ever! The tree is just the right mix of ornaments we love and ornaments that toddlers cannot eat, break or harmed by in the event that the ornament is removed from the tree and chewed on, sat on or dropped. All of our tasty Christmas treats come from ... Grandma or the grocery store. Our Christmas morning pictures always make it look like we just woke up! I never use place cards, and sometimes we use paper plates...

And you know what. It's ok. It's not what others may consider perfect, but it is exactly what is suppose to be, at least for now. Kinda like that first Christmas morning. God's people had been waiting for centuries for their savior to arrive - but when it happened they almost missed it completely.

Jesus was born in a barn.
His mother was a teenage girl.
His home town was a "nothing good comes from there" kind of place.
His first guests were smelly, dirty, and common shepherds.

And yet it was exactly what God meant for it to be. And this Christmas can be too. All I need to do is be ready for it. Instead of seeing what it "is not", I will seek God in every moment.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Christmas Crush

In the past few weeks, as I have begun to prepare my heart for Christmas, God has really called into accountability the ways that I sometimes slip into this holiday season. I must admit that sometimes I struggle to honor and exhibit the meaning and true focus of what this season represents. So in these last few days before Christmas I going to come clean and exchange a few things that were never meant to be a part of the celebration of the birth of my Savior.
This time of year it seems like a million things battle for my time. Baking, cooking, canning and crafting. Parties, concerts, pageants, dinners and drama’s fill the schedule. I call it the Christmas Crush. I can’t fit it all in. Something has gotta give. Who needs 7 hours of sleep when I can get 5 hours tonight and still get all of the Christmas cards addressed and ready to mail. Tomorrow I can exchange 2 hours of sleep for 5 dozen homemade cookies, baked, cooled and boxed up for shipping. And those gifts aren’t gonna wrap themselves, so look out Wednesday night – right after work, dinner, a basketball game and church you, me and some wrapping paper are gonna have a date!
It’s it strange that the first verse God used in this little series of lessons is from Luke Chapter 10 “you are worried and upset over many things, but few things are needed; indeed only one”  Jesus is talking with Martha in this scripture. Martha is  busy, busy, busy doing all the things that simply "must" be done. Yet in her busyness she has missed the one thing that really matters most. Martha had the chance to sit at the feet of her Savior; she could hear His wisdom, soak in His love and worship Him unobstructed. But she didn't. Instead she was focused on temporary things - and she let those things steal both the moment and her joy.
Ouch.  How often do I miss moments with my Savior this time of year simply because I am too frazzled or fretting to make time for Him? Is that why my personal study seems so scattered these days? Is that why there is so much noise in my head when my heart tries to speak to my Sovereign God? Does my attitude need a Jesus adjustment?  First I will choose to exchange the over commitment and misdirected focus that often leaves me feeling rushed and ragged and replace it with responsible refusal and selective involvement. Maybe this will allow me to relax just a little bit and refocus. I can’t do everything that I’d like to have done. But let's be honest and just say it out loud "a lot of that stuff just doesn't matter at all!" This is the time of year when I GET to honor my Saviors Birth. God loved me so much that He was willing to do whatever it takes to pave the way for our restored relationship, and that story had its earthly beginnings in a barn in Bethlehem. Glory to God in the highest. Peace on Earth. Good will to men. With the arrival of His Son, God once again extended His good will to me. Time for me to get my eyes back on that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unbreakable Peace

Doing my homework for a theology class and rediscovered this golden egg:

 “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of me*—and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit—He will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:25-27(NLB)

The peace which Christ gives is infinitely more valuable than that which the world gives. The world’s peace begins in ignorance, consists with sin, and ends in endless troubles; Christ’s peace begins in grace, consists with no allowed sin, and ends at length in everlasting peace. As is the difference between a killing lethargy and a reviving refreshing sleep, such is the difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s... Let not your heart be troubled, for any evils past or present, neither let it be afraid of any evil to come. Note, Those that are interested in the covenant of grace, and entitled to the peace which Christ gives, (and) ought not to yield to overwhelming griefs and fears. - Matthew Henry

Peace Defined (by someone smarter than me): The Meaning of Peace. In English, the word "peace" conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that, and rests heavily on the Hebrew root slm, which means "to be complete" or "to be sound."  God alone is the source of peace, for he is "Yahweh Shalom". The Old Testament anticipated, and the New Testament confirmed, that God's peace would be mediated through a Messiah. Peace with God came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning"to be complete or whole" or "to live well." The noun had many nuances, but can be grouped into four categories: 

  • (1) salom [l'v] as wholeness of life or body (i.e., health); 
  • (2) salom [l'v] as right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant 
  • (3) salom [l'v] as prosperity, success, or fulfillment (see Lev 26:3-9 ); 
  • (4) salom [l'v] as victory over one's enemies or absence of war. 

The peace my Jesus gives is not rooted in my present circumstance.
The peace my Jesus gives is not about how I feel or what I think.
The peace my Jesus gives has nothing to do with my heath, my work or my bank account.

My peace begins with God's grace. HIS extension of Himself in ways I could never deserve and can hardly imagine. My peace begins with Jesus. Not earthly blessings. Not a life time of days filled with nothing by butterfly kisses and rainbow filled skies. God's peace does not mean that my life will be stress free or strife free. Real life has ebbs and sways. There is good and bad, easy and not so easy, songs of praise and rivers of tears. Sometimes I see God's hand at work, and I think "wow, that is amazing. Isn't the way God worked all of that out so cool!" Other times, there are moments when all I  can think is "I will never understand this. It's so wrong. It's so unfair. It's so not the way it should be!"

God's peace does not solve the struggle of this human life. God's peace does not sugar coat hard times, heart aches, and the valleys of darkness that we sometimes walk through. God's peace doesn't mean that I will always understand, always be happy and that things will always be fair. But God's peace does remind me that this is not my home. This is not my final destination. This is not how the story ends. And I am NEVER ALONE!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life is Too Short

Today we prepare for our 3rd funeral in four months. Later this week will be the 4th service in 4 months. This really sucks.
Don - a friend and a father
Josh - a friend and a son
Eddie - a friend and an uncle
Dr. Ken Johnson - chair of the Engineering Department at Olivet Nazarene University, mentor

Each left a lasting mark on the world and on the hearts of those who had the privilege to know them and share life with them for a while. Loved. Missed. Never to be forgotten.

So here are my thoughts for the day. Give them a read, or roll 'um and smoke 'um - it's really up to you. But remember this: Life is short, it goes by fast, and it really has a strange way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it so...

  • Don't wait to get right with God. Death waits for no one - and He loves you so much.
  • Don't be defined by the opinions of others, in the end, God's opinion is the only one that counts.
  • Don't be afraid when God asks you to do what seems crazy or impossible.
  • Don't be afraid to ask God hard questions and seek fervently to discover His truths.
  • Don't waste time holding on to hurts from the past. Unforgiveness is a poison that slowly rots the soul.
  • Tell Satan to shut up  when he tries to define you by who you use to be - you are a new creation.
  • Start every day with Jesus. It may not change what happens that day, but it will surely affect how you handle it.
  • Treat Prayer as a first resource and not a last resort.
  • Anyone can make a short term change; only God can transform
  • Give people the freedom to move on from the failures of their past.
  • Kiss your mamma and your daddy, your babies and your grandparents - regardless of your age or theirs.
  • Make the most of every moment, we never get them back.
  • Say I love you whenever you can.
  • Be quick to say I am sorry and mean it - whenever it is necessary.
  • Marry your best friend, and work every day to protect and grow that love.
  • Pray with your spouse daily and hold hands.
  • Take a break and live an unscheduled life every now and again.
  • Rejoice when your friends rejoice and cry with them in the hard times.
  • Pick your battles wisely and remember that timing is everything.
  • Take a deep breath when the kids act like kids.
  • Raise your kids to be Christ centered, functioning adults.
  • Socks on the floor are not the end of the world - neither are empty milk cartons in the fridge or empty cereal boxes on the shelves. Not replacing the empty toilet paper with a fresh roll is NOT cool, and if you should happen to take out the trash - good job, now take 5 seconds and put in a new trash bag.
  • Good character is more important than good grades - but good grades are good.
  • Accept that the things of greatest worth in this world cannot be bought.
  • Treasure trusted friendships, they are not easily or quickly replaced.
  • Eat dinner at the table. Ask dorky questions and listen to the answers.
  • People may not always remember what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
  • Do what you can, when you can, and put it all in God's hands.
  • Every once in a while eat chocolate cake for breakfast.
  • Be the best Jesus you can be to everyone you meet - they may only get to know Him thru you.
Search me Oh God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24

Monday, November 4, 2013

Praying My Way Out

One day last week a friend of mine on Facebook had the following post:


I have to admit, I "liked" it - a lot. My patience seems to be thin; I just don't have much sympathy or patience for the miss use of prayer and the misplacing of blame. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of prayer. It should be where we start, where we live, and where we finish in all things. A first resource and not a last resort.  But here's the rub for me: What about all of those times when I do this or I do that? I think about it and decide it's the right choice. I talk it over with some friends. I do what I am gonna do, get the ball rolling so to speak and then pause and say..."hey God where are ya, why isn't this working out like we had planned?" It makes me crazy when people get mad at God when they find themselves in a place in life that they "chose their self into". Stop blaming God for your poor personal choice.

Well, funny thing. God decided we would just chew on that for awhile. It wasn't fun, at 3am on Saturday morning. Yeah.

It started with the almost audible voice of God saying to me "Without me dear daughter, where would you be?" Honestly - Hell. "And did you behave yourself there?" Honestly - Yep. "And how did you change that?" Shoot - A prayer of confession. "So basically you prayed yourself out of where you had behaved yourself into?"  Yeah God, but that was then and this in now. "And now is it your belief that you are doing it all right all of the time?" Well, what can I say to that.

Just 'cause a girl is saved, doesn't mean that sin isn't gonna try and trip her up. Sometimes we make poor choices that are rooted in sin. We run ahead of God, even with good intentions, and then realize that God seems no place to be found . We might drag our feet and later have to face the truth that delayed obedience is in fact disobedience. We make the willful decision to do, say and think things that are contrary to God's character and we violate our love relationship with Him. Prayer and repentance will deal fully and completely with the eternal consequence of every sin. Divine forgiveness doesn't negate the earthly consequences that may follow - regardless of spiritual repentance. Prayer changes things. Big things and little things. Physical things and eternal things. Emotional things and psychological things. BUT - earthy choices often carry earthly consequences. There are times when we make choices that are not sin at all, but they are not smart choices and they come back to bite us.  Matt and I have made some poor financial decisions in the past, not sin - but not smart.  Pray as we might, we still had to live with the consequence. It doesn't mean God wasn't there and it doesn't mean that God didn't care. Prayer should not be viewed as the cosmic eraser that I can use to "fix" things that I have behaved my way into. Sometimes I just have to learn the hard way - and God still holds my hand.

God - show me the offensives ways in me.
God - lead me in your everlasting.
Let me hold tight to you when my consequences hurt or are hard.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ladies of Luke - The Benefactors

Luke 8 opens with Jesus doing His thing- going from place to place proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The chosen twelve are with Jesus watching and learning - job shadowing if you will. But it's not just Jesus and his peeps..."and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom 7 demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means." 

Lets chew on that for a minute or two. In a culture where women had little value, again we find women actively involved with the ministry of Jesus. These women were not cookie cutter converts. All three have been been touched by the healing hand of Jesus in some way, and all three were forever changed. Mary, we know was a delivered sinner, freed from demon possession and passionate about her salvation. No longer defined by the depth of her past sin, she followed and served in full obedience. Joanna was a women of great social standing. We know this because we know to whom she was married. Susanna; we know nothing of her, expect that she had experienced healing and her deliverance prompted her action. Different women with varied stories of deliverance, but they share a Savior. But let's not miss something important here; they weren't delivered and then sedentary. Instead their feet AND their checkbooks were moved to action. They attended to the needs of the ministry. If I close my eyes, I can almost see them in the markets purchasing food for meals, and at camp side kitchens preparing it. Getting laundry done, fetching water. Jesus was focused on his job - preaching - and these women (and others too) made sure all of the other "details" of daily life were addressed so that the ministry could continue without interruption.

Any takeaways for me today? You bet!

Can I honor God with my financial giving? Will  combining it with the giving of others in my faith community help advance real Kingdom work that has a real financial requirement? Yep. Can I reduce the temptation that my preachers, teachers, and leaders face to be distracted by "other things" and help them stay focused on spreading the Good News? Oh sure, especially if I am willing to do the types things that others simply don't want to be bothered with. It's not always about a spiritual calling or giftedness. Sometimes, we just need a willing heart to tackle an unglamorous, unseen and perhaps even an unclean job.

God,  inspire me  to seek out tangible ways that I can serve You and lighten the load of those around me who are called to preach, and teach and share the Good New of the Kingdom of God.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - The "Sinful" Woman

Loving God with my today and tomorrow - not being defined by who I was or what I have done. This scripture is deep end of the pool stuff and what God is laying on my heart today isn't necessarily the rose petals and rainbows promises of His word. Today I want to unpack her story - but it intersects Simon's story too.

Luke 7: 36-43 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table. Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner. Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher, speak,” he said. “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty.  When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.” Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”

Jesus was invited to share a meal with some "Bible knowing" and "God loving" people. While Jesus was there, a woman with a well known reputation of sin came for a visit. She brought what she had to offer Him. This woman brought her best gift. This gift cost the woman; there was financial sacrifice and the sacrifice of her pride and personal interests to minister to the need of Jesus. It was not a glamorous act of service, in fact most would have avoided the task. The Bible records no spoken words between them, but it does record her tears. She was wounded, she was broken, she faced judgement and condemnation. And yet, she placed herself at the feet of the Savior. They called her a harlot. Today what would her label be: whore, prostitute, adulteress, post-abortive, or maybe even lesbian? To the "Bible lovers", she was too dirty to ever be made clean. Her disgrace was too significant, the stains of her sin were too permeating.  She was ruined - permanently.

How did Jesus address the hardened heart of His audience? With a story of course. Two men owed debts. The size of the debts were different but there was one thing in common - neither man had any hope of successful repayment. Knowing that they could never repay the debt, the lender forgave both debts equally and fully. Jesus then asked, who was more grateful? One of the men answered it was the man who owed more - and Jesus expressed that he was correct.

Luke 7:44-50 Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in.  You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet. This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?”  Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Here comes the slap for the someone. Jesus wasn't cruel - he was honest with a "Bible lover" that should have known better. Simon had invited Jesus in, but there wasn't much sincerity. Simon didn't extend comfort or kindness to his guest. Simon had basically said to Jesus "you can come in for a nice little meal and a fun little visit, but your presence in my home isn't going to make me uncomfortable, in fact your presence Jesus, wont be an inconvenience for me at all. Simon had little gratitude or  love. I am a Bible knower and a God lover. Do I ever do that? Do I want to love and serve my Lord in ways that are easy and convent? Do the gifts I offer cost my anything at all? 

Then there was this "sinful woman". The woman had been forgiven of much - and she was grateful for much. She didn't care what anyone thought; no cost was too much. This woman understood the depth of her sin and thus understood the depth of  Jesus' mercy, love and grace. She was both forgiven and given peace. A cleansing from the inside out. No longer bound by regret, remorse, judgement, embarrassment, shame - she was given peace. No longer defined by who she was - her peace came from who Jesus is. Her story is not exactly my story; but I understand judgement, sin and shame. I understand how Satan can try and use my past failures to haunt me. I can relate with the condemnation of people who can't or wont look past who I use to be. No mater what my label was - my identity is now secure. I am a daughter of the Living God, forgiven and "in peace". 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - A Mourning Mother

Has your heart ever been broke beyond words?
Have there been moments when the overwhelming rawness of life hindered your ability to speak or think - or do anything more than breath?  Yeah - me too.
Luke 7:11-15          Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 
Now here is a lady that understands heartbreak and loss. Already a widow, she is now taking the long walk to the cemetery to bury her only son. In this culture, this woman has just lost her last hope. She is now alone. No husband or child to care for her, protect her or provide for her. Her today is filled with sorrow and her tomorrow looks bleak. Yet, she didn't throw herself at Jesus' feet, she didn't call out to him "Lord, Lord". From the text, we can't be sure if she even saw Him at all. But HE SAW HER. In the midst of her pain, Jesus noticed. And don't miss it, 'cause this part is import: He did something! An extension of His love and compassion, His grace and His almighty power over all things; it was nothing she asked for or could ever deserve. Jesus addressed the need of the woman in a way that only HE could.

But let's be real. Most of us haven't buried a spouse and a child, so can we really relate to this lady? Let's take a minute and break that down. My family isn't perfect, we're just people and that means that we do stupid people things and say stupid people things from time to time. A job can pay the bills, but it's not always fun or personally fulfilling - and what about all of those good Godly people who are under-employed, unemployed, or on furlough?  Good people are struggling to sell a home in a topsy turvie market, and more families face the demanding challenge of raising a special child with unique medical/behavioral/educational needs. How many parents have cried a river of tears as their adult child chose to walk away or drift away from God? What about the health complications we never expected, but now must face? We are surrounded by husbands and wives who have forgotten or fell away from what it is to live and love together under the blessing and direction of God - and they live each day in pain.  Then there all of us who are living through what can be a war zone with creatures we label as toddlers, preschoolers, kids, teenagers and emerging adults. Even great kids have bad days; great parents have bad days too. To go back to work or stay at home with the babies?  What about those OREO people - providing assistance and care for aging parents and helping to care for, provide childcare for and co-raise their grandchild? Too many bills and limited finances. Lots of demands on the schedule and not much time. The newlyweds, the new empty nesters and the new retiree's . . . think there is no stress, conflict and heartache there?

We serve the same God that saw the widows heartache and was prompted to act. That Jesus guy - He loves you and He loves me that much too! On the days when life is so big that breathing seems like a task, Jesus is there. He sees and He cares. Even when your heart is so heavy that your eyes can't look up for Him, He still looks toward you. And more than that, Jesus is still in the business of meeting needs in ways that only He can. It may not be the way that others expect, or even the way we'd like or expect - but our needs will never go unnoticed. He loves us too much for that :-)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ladies of Luke - The Mother in Law

 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon Peter. Now Simon's mother in law was suffering from a high fever and they asked Jesus to help her. So He bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to minister to them.  
Luke 4:38-40

Just two short verses. We don't know much about this Mother In Law. We can infer from scripture that she either lived with her daughter and Peter or she was so ill that she was staying with her daughter during the illness. High fevers are scary things...even by today's standards.  A fever is the bodies was of saying that something is seriously wrong; but many times the fever in and of itself doesn't specifically identify the problem. It's a symptom. "They" asked Jesus to help her.  "They" - Peter and his wife would be the logical guess. It was likely that Peter was there to witness first hand when Jesus had cast demons and healed others, so this could be seen as a logical request. Next of course Jesus does His Jesus thing; He rebukes the fever and it leaves. And then the women - what - she gets up and ministers to them? What's that about?

The woman was dramatically healed. Jesus saw the symptom, the fever, but he healed the illness. Her immediate response was an act of worship. Not next week and not tomorrow - right now! Not a song. Not a dance. Worship. Service. Love and gratitude prompted her to action and obedience. God's restoration doesn't cause a her to be silent or still. She was compelled to honor God.

So what can this lady teach me. No fever for me today. I'm feeling just fine and looking pretty good thank you very much. But Wait. Just cause I look fine, does that really mean I am healthy? Sometimes there are things in my life that are symptoms of a deeper illness. A critical spirit, a stubborn opinion, a pre-conceived idea that something just wont meet my standard. Hey God, this is the way I want it. Why don't we do it that way, You can just join right in and bless the party. My pride, my standard, my idea.  Me. Me. Me. The name of my illness. Sin.

As God continues to extend His RADICAL grace to me, shouldn't my question really be...hey God, how can I honor you, worship you, and pay it forward for your will and your kingdom today?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - Anna

I'm a married working woman, in the midst of raising three sons with my husband. We live each day in the most technologically advanced period of history. Plugged in, tuned in, signed in, turned on. Busy. Busy. Busy. What can I learn from a widow that lived in a church 2000 years ago?

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

She was a daughter - Me too.
She had been a wife - Me too.
She was old - I feel old some days.
She was devout.
She was an evangelist.

Anna was devout. She was committed to the practice of fasting and prayer. It wasn't what she did, it was how she lived. In constant communion with God - worshiping night and day... In all things, at all times, on all occasions. Not just from nine to noon on Sundays. Not before meals and at bedtime. Her conversation with her creator was uninterrupted.

Devout. Sacrificing physical comfort for deeper connection with her heavenly father ...with her fasting and prayers.  Fasting without prayer is what I call "a diet." Forgetting to eat lunch isn't fasting. Skipping dinner 'cause there is no time for the drive thru isn't fasting either. Prayer is not thinking, and it's not wishing. It's something that you choose to do on purpose. Prayer is never accidental. It takes time and effort. It's communication and it's parting of growing a love relationship with God. It's getting to know God in a different way, and letting Him get to know me.

Devout. Anna was paying attention and looking for the movement of God ...at the very moment Simeon was praying she showed up... Anna was no frog on a log. She didn't just show up for church and sit in her polite little seat. No! She was a worshiper of the Most High God. She knew God. She loved God. Anna didn't rely on her friends relationship with God, or her pastors relationship with God. She and God were on a first name basis.

Devout ...broke into anthem of praise to God...when God moves God should be praised. It's not about "look how cool this is for me", it's about WOW! GOD ROCKS! Anna understood what it is to glorify God for God's glory.

Devout. Anna talked about how God had moved. She didn't keep the treasure to herself ...and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem. She was sharing the good news story in real time. She told everybody. Everyone needed what she knew. Everyone needed WHO she knew.

Do I live a life of worship - or do I just sing until I "feel" connected on Sunday mornings?
Do I live a life of prayer - or am I just thinking and wishing?
Do I sacrifice physical comfort for greater spiritual things?
Am I paying attention for the movement of God?
Am I sharing the good news story in real time?

Thanks Anna. Your example helps me understand and challenges me to be more intentional in my own faith journey.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - Mary and the Day she forgot Jesus

When Matt and I were pregnant with our first child, Matt's duty station for the Navy changed. In the late fall of 1994 we moved from upstate New York to Connecticut for Matt's first assignment on a fast attack submarine. We made a quick trip to the coast to being looking for housing in the community. A number of base closings had caused the relocation of several thousand families to the New London Base and so we would not be able to get into Navy housing for about a year. We left the mountains of New York on a Friday afternoon, drove the several hour trip down to New London and started to look for a hotel for the night. Literally every hotel we went to was full. Finally, we found a place where the night manager reluctantly stated "if the people don't show by midnight you can have that room I guess" So we waited, in the car, in the cold. And we talked about Mary and Joseph. Pregnant, cold, tired. No room at the inn.  Eventually we were given the room. No star in the sky, no heavenly hosts - just a young couple praising God for the provision of a little hotel room that provided shelter for the night. For the first time in my life I felt like I could relate with Mary. God had provided, though not in a manner that she had expected I'm sure - and He provided for us too.

Twice in Luke 2 there is reference to the fact that Mary treasured things up in her heart and pondered them. There were things that Mary kept for herself. Insights, blessings, whispers from her heavenly father. She was aware. She was alert. There were times when she made the effort to pay attention, and make a mental treasure. The second thing I can learn from Mary in Luke 2 - pay attention, some treasures are just for me.

Mary was a good mom. She took her boy to temple, and to the feasts. She was doing her part to raise her child up with a strong faith connection and tradition. But she was human. Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company they traveled for a day. They began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him them went back...  Many and Joseph were busy doing their thing and they moved on without Jesus...and they didn't notice at first. When they did realize what was going on, they looked for Jesus where they were. Then they went back to the place that they knew Jesus was.

This was the third thing Mary decided to teach me, and it isn't a comfortable lesson.
Wow! Do I sometimes forget Jesus? In the busyness of my life, how many times have I rushed ahead without God and then realized later that He wasn't there? How many times have I tried to find God in the choices that I have made and the paths that I have followed all on my own? The cure for this of course is repentance. When I am not where God is, I must go back to God. (just like Mary and Joseph went back to Jerusalem). It can hurt. It might be embarrassing. It may cost me some pride. I need to get over it, and get back to God.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - Elizabeth

The Elizabeth of Luke Chapter One.

What we know:
     - She was older and without children. To have been barren (childless) in Elizabeth's time was a mark of shame. Many in this culture viewed infertility as an indication of or punishment for sin.
     - Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were both Godly people.
     - When Elizabeth became pregnant she immediately gave God glory and honor. But she mostly kept the blessing to herself. She stayed at home for many months. Set apart time for her, her husband and God.
     - One of Elizabeth's first guests was Mary. Mary - a young, unmarried, family member in the middle of a situation that she hadn't planned for. She was pregnant and her soon to be husband wasn't around.
     - She offered Mary love.
     - She was obedient and bold, even when it meant breaking with tradition to honor God specific instructions.

See the picture in your mind. Elizabeth is old and pregnant. Her husband has been stuck mute by the hand of God. You know people are talking. Smiling, but talking. Elizabeth stays home. I get that. When the world is spinning - even when it's spinning by God's plan - home is sometimes the safest and most comfortable place to be. Knock, Knock, Knock... her come's Mary - an unmarried, teenage, pregnant member of the extended family. Elizabeth was the logical choice for Mary in her time of crisis. Elizabeth had surely faced the unspoken judgement of those around her. To be childless was to experience shame. Yet God blessed Elizabeth with His divine action. Only the hand of God could have caused this series of events to unfold. Elizabeth praised and honorer God without pause or hesitation. Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit and passionately loved God. So it makes sense that God used her as an instrument of validation in Mary's life. She offered Mary love and encouragement and not judgement.  Joseph isn't around for this part of the story. Perhaps this is the time frame where God and his angel are working on the heart of this man. The Bible's not real clear about that. But we do know that Joseph there, and we do know he didn't come to get her. Mary and Elizabeth spent considerable time together - some things take time to process - and when Mary returned home she was more empowered to face whatever came next.

God used Elizabeth. God would use personal and and probably painful experiences of her past for ministry. God was using Elizabeth during one of life's unexpected moments too. It probably wasn't the best timing for Elizabeth. It probably made her life a bit more complicated. It took extra effort. I'm sure the people around these two women probably had something to say about it. But Elizabeth was sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit and obedient. God's voice was the one she listened for and to. Elizabeth let God use her whole story for His glory.

Yeah - I can learn something from that.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ladies of Luke - May It Be...

I am the Lord's servant - Mary answered - May it be to me as you have said.  
Luke 1:38

A quick break down of how I read Luke 1:22-55.
Mary. A young girl pledged to be married to a man that the reader can presume based on the tradition of the culture was older (vs 27). She was a young woman (probably in her mid to late teens) who had both sought after God and was treasured by the people she did life with every day (vs 28). She was visited by an angel (vs 26) and God was with her (vs 28). When God's plan began to be reveled in her life, Mary was afraid and she had doubts. She didn't really understand how it was going to all work out (vs 29-33). Mary wasn't afraid to ask God questions (vs 34) and in the midst of complete uncertainty Mary was still faithful and obedient to God's purpose and plan (vs38). Mary went to spend some time with someone she loved and trusted and even while she was in the middle of a situation that she never planned to be in, Mary offered up praise to God (vs 39-55). She was humble even as God used her.

Mary. Mother of God. Favored by God and man. How is she relevant to me?
Well let's see. Mary had a nice little plan and then God stepped in and did His "I have something better" thing. God had a plan for Mary that she had probably never dreamed of for herself. The people around her probably didn't understand. She probably faced some opposition, some judgement and maybe a bit of criticism too. She had a "God what are you talking about" moment. There were details that only God could work out. Mary sought out a trusted Godly friend in her life that offered her support. God's plan was for God's glory and not hers, and in the center of chaos Mary offered up to God songs of praise.

So it turns out that maybe Mary and I have a bit more in common than I had realized at first glance. At this point she was young, but Mary has a lot to teach me, and I have a lot to learn. I think my biggest take away this morning is Luke 1:38 I am the Lord's servant ... may it be to me as you have said. WOW! What obedience. What mature faith.

Is that how I live out my faith today? Am I the Lord's servant? Do I represent His will, His purpose, His plan? When I am living my Trisha life and doing my Trisha thing, am I willing to boldly obey and say may it be to me as you have said?

Today Lord, help me to live out Luke 1:38. Amen

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Whiner

I am continuing to read in Luke. Today I picked up in Luke 18. The story of the whining widow. Your translation may say something like the PERSISTENT Widow, but make no mistake she was a whiner.

Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’  “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’” Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”

She's like my children. They have been known at times to wear down. He wants something, or he needs my assistance. Doesn't matter what I am doing; the laundry, an important phone call, making dinner, or perhaps I am on my way to a quick and quiet retreat in that special place I call the bathroom. "Mom. Mom. Mom. Can you hear me in there? Mom. Mom. Mom. Whatcha doing in there? Mom. I need your help mom. Mom? Mom? Mom?"  I didn't want to say yes. I didn't need to say yes. His crisis was in fact not my crisis. But I will admit it. There have been times when I have relented and said yes JUST so HE would stop talking to me! And let's be honest, an extra cookie never killed anyone. If your children are old enough to both talk and follow you from place to place in your home, then you have probably had this conversation too.

Jesus used this familiar exchange as a teachable moment. And he specifically says it's a lesson in prayer. The king did not care about the woman at all, nor was he a Godly man. Yet he relented. Not for the benefit of the woman but instead for his personal peace. See, the woman just didn't give up. She knew in heart heart what she needed - and she stuck to her repeated request. But God does care. He cares so much that he sacrificed all for me. So what am I suppose to unpack from this little passage of truth?

When it comes to my practice of prayer: Do I give up? Do I say my nice little prayer and wait 5 seconds for the tidy little answer I wanted tied up in a cute little bow? If my answer isn't quick, do I move on to the next thing? Is my heart open? Do I expect God to in some way respond? Am I fervent? How much listening is in my praying? How much waiting is in my praying? And what about when I don't even have the words. What about when life is just too big and things are just so broken? In those moments, my prayer is often just one word.


There is power in the name!
Thank you God for hearing the cry of my heart when all my mouth can say is Jesus.  Amen

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When I don't know how to pray...

Some days life is just overwhelming. Bills, Work, Church, Family, Friends. Mean People. Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Kids in Elementary School, in Middle School, in High School and College. Children who are adults but sometimes don't embrace it at all. Grandchildren. Retirement. Aging Parents. Illness, Injury, Death. Life just comes fast some days.

Today in Ladies Bible Study we will be looking at John 11 - the death and resurrection of Lazarus. But our focus will be on the sisters. Martha: a passionate little fire ball. You know her and you love her ... she's the hostess with the mostest that we all want to be, and she has that little hint of OCD that personally resonates with me! I think Martha was the oldest daughter. Mary: a woman of less words for sure. More contemplative, soaking up the details of the moment and highly sensitive to the moving and prompting of the spirit. Mary was the younger sister for sure - less consumed with the "details of daily living" that her big sis just naturally addressed.

In their moment of tragedy each woman responds to her loss and to her Savior in unique fashion. They had choices to make regarding what would come next. Life happened. It was hard. It hurt. Now what? Every day I have a choice to make too. What am I going to do with the things that this day gives to me? How will I soak it up and how will I respond? 

Some days are just beyond words. Sometimes I don't even know what to pray or where to start. How can I know what to pray for when I struggle to process the moment? 

Judicii tui est, non praesumptionis meae—I leave it to thy judgment, not to my presumption.—Aug. in locum. When we know not what to pray for, it is our comfort that the great Intercessor knows what to ask for us, and is always heard. - Matthew Henry

What great peace this simple truth provides!
I don't have to have the perfect words or the perfect idea's.
I just need to rely on my perfect God.

I don't have the words today God, but I trust that You know my heart. I trust that You know what's best. Even tho it's scary - today I chose to trust. Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Breathe

6 Weeks ago - We were at Kids Camp. God showed up, did amazing things and eternity is forever changed. No one got sick, no one got hurt, no one needed to have a "come to Jesus" talk with the kids camp director! It was AMAZING :-)

5 Weeks ago - We finished up kids camp and 20 hours later jumped on a plane to go visit our family in Arizona. Got to see everyone. Lot's of laughter and celebration. It's always great to be there. It's always hard to leave.

4 Weeks ago - A co-worker of Matt's, whom he had carpooled with for years, spent a beautiful Friday with his family and then had a heart attack and died. Don was 41. He has a wife and 2 teenage children. Don was a passionate Jesus follower. We know where he is. We will see him again. Its still hard.

3 Weeks ago - Teen camp started. Zach went to grams. Jay, Seth and I headed to camp. Matt stayed back home. He went to work, went to the visitation, and said goodbye to our friend for now.

3 Weeks ago - A young man we are very close took his own life. He was 12.

2 Weeks ago - Our family continued to grieve. It was the first time my children went to the visitation and funeral of a person that was their age. It was hard. It still is. We still don't understand. We know we never will.

1 Week ago - Our oldest son Jay had a serious fall on his skate board and broke both wrists. Emergent surgery on the left wrist. Helping our baby learn to do life without the use of his arms. Working with the college and the doctors to help Jay figure out what comes next.

1 Day ago - Seth began his Senior year of high school. How can than be? Zach started 7th grade, and he is a full 6 inches taller than me. I packed lunches, took pictures, gave kisses and said prayers. Good luck guys - it's gonna be a great year.

1 Day ago - Clean up, load up, head back to the hospital. It's the the second surgery in 8 days for our oldest. Now Jay has a match set. A titanium plate and 12 screws in each arm.


So today I am leaning into God. I try and rely on the strength of others. I remember to breathe.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Great Chew Part 3 - Broken

Now What?

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they asked his disciples 'why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Cool thing to not miss - when Matthew decided to COME and FOLLOW, he grabbed his peeps and brought them to the Master. Awesome! This is a great indication that Matthew had stepped out of obliviousness. Matthew knew that this friends needed Jesus, and he brought them straight to the source...with food of course!!! Matthew recognized the brokenness of his friends, because he had been there. Matthew also knew something very important: Jesus didn't come for the people that have all together, or think they have it all together. Jesus came for the people that are falling apart. He came for the broken. Jesus came to mend. So what are the things that can leave me - or anyone broken?

  • Sin. Seems obvious. Almost goes without saying right? Sin. All those things that separate me from God. In my sin category I must include a few things beyond the Big 10 (see Exodus 20).  Pride - you know, my over inflated view of myself. I should also include worry - when I invest emotional, mental and spiritual effort in ways that do not effect change. Bitterness, Anger and Rage - longstanding resentment, or the habitual loss of control. An unforgiving spirit - holding on to hurt, and refusing to let God heal me.
  • People - Sometimes people damage one another. The damage we do can be intentional or accidental. We can leave physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds that run deep and cannot be denied.
  • Life. Life can leave us feeling like we have been chewed up and spit out. Life can get hard as a result of the poor choices I make. Yet sometimes it's poor choices someone else has made that splash up on me; it's not my fault but I still get wet and it stinks. Then there are the hard things that just happen. People get sick, businesses close, houses burn or flood or blow down. Hard things happen and I don't know why.
  • Church and Christians - Ouch. That one hurts doesn't it? God wants us to be a light not a blow torch (shout out to Matt Wilson). I've encountered Christians that are judgmental, hateful, vindictive, manipulative and cruel. I've been burned. Maybe you have to?  If so, let me just say I am so sorry. I may not have been the one that wronged you, but I will be the one to seek forgiveness. Christians are just people, and people screw up sometimes. Don't let that stand between you and Jesus. People will fail you, but God never will.
The Good News...God's big enough for all of that and more! 
God is in the mending business. I am being put back together by the hands of the Master ~ and it's not just a gift for me. To follow Jesus is to step out of the oblivious and step into the unknown. It's faith. It's not always seeing the big picture. It's doing what God asks, when God asks, for God's glory. It's nothing I can do on my own. Yeah, it can be scary. It can be hard, and it wont be comfortable. But I was created to be something more than oblivious, and so were you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Great Chew - Part 2

Part 2 of the great chew . . . Thanks Pastor B, for speaking hard truth that I needed to hear. As I continue to ponder Matthew chapter 9 this is where I humbly sit and sip my coffee. So...Jesus says "Hey Trisha, Come follow Me." It's an offer. I can accept or I can refuse. Always the gentleman, God gave me the gift of choice and He meant it. God wants me and He wants you too, but relationship comes at a cost.

Lots of people believe in Jesus ~ not as many are willing to follow Him and fewer still will become a student. To be a follower (or a student) of Jesus there are some things that I must do, and they aren't negotiable.
  1. To follow Jesus I have to first accept His call. Jesus did not say "Sit, Stay where you are and follow me" NOPE! He said COME.  I am gonna have to leave some stuff behind. It will require action on my part. I make the choice every day. Do I sit or do I come?
  2. My sin has to be dealt with. Yes, we are all victims of the original sin of Adam and Eve but what I have to confess, repent from and leave behind is much more personal than that. There are ways that I fall short of Gods glory; behaviors that step outside of His standard, attitudes that do not reflect His character, words that flow like bitter honey from my mouth - and surely break His heart. It's ugly. It separates me from God. It's SIN.  
  3. I have to commit to the relationship. It's gonna take time. I need to actually MAKE time and stop just hoping that I will be able to FIND time to spend with my Lord.  Sometimes I wish God would text - but then I remember that he took the time to write me a beautiful love letter. Bible reading, meditation, study, prayer, worship . . . these are the things that grow the relationship.
  4. I have to be a sponge and a mirror. To follow Jesus is to become more and more like Him. I need to be a sponge that soaks Him in, and a mirror that reflects Him back. If I don't the time to soak in God and if I don't let Him adjust my characters to His, then my reflection of Him will become distorted. I am the student, the disciple if you will, and Jesus is the perfect teacher.
Do I believe? Ya. Do I follow? Yep. Am I a student? Yes, for the rest of my life. So whats the take away. Well here are the 4 questions that I wrote down:
  • Looking back over the last 12 months, can I see growth in my Jesus journey?
  • Am I a better sponge and a clearer reflection than I was 12 months ago?
  • If I am not growing and maturing, If I am not soaking up God and being changed by it, or If I am not a more authentic reflection of God to the people I do life with every day ~ who's fault is that? 
  • What's Next?