Thursday, December 26, 2013

Do I Bring Gifts?


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
And the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 1-2, 9b-11

The Magi brought their worship to the new King; they brought gifts worthy of a King.

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Expensive gifts that showed their adoration.

Why did they bring these treasures with them? It was probably tradition, but God had another purpose.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. Matthew 13-14

Joseph and Mary were far from home. To escape Herod’s wrath, they fled to Egypt.

Being poor and alone in Bethlehem, how could they afford the trip, let alone support themselves in Egypt?

Isn’t God’s sovereignty amazing?

He used Magi from the Orient to provide for Joseph and Mary.

They brought gifts out of their wealth to offer to Jesus.

As I think about this story, I ask myself:

Do I marvel at God’s provision?

Do I obey God when He asks me to give out of “my” treasures?


For many of us, God has provided more than enough to meet our needs.

I confess I’m guilty of stashing His provisions away for a rainy day.

Yes, He commands us to be wise with what He gives us.

But He also commands us to offer help to those around us.

We hesitate to offer His gifts of grace and mercy to those who need it.

We often doubt God’s provision in the future and grasp our earthly possessions now.

What a picture of sacrifice the Magi paint for us. They sacrificed their time and wealth to travel far from home.

They gave out of their excess in adoration to the newborn King.

When have you given to others out of gratitude to God?
How did He bless you?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why a Star? Why men from so far away?


My little glass ornament shines brightly in the tree lights.


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:1-2

Wise men from the east, guided by a star.

As I thought about the wise men, I found myself marveling at the star.

Was it a comet that streaked across the sky? Was it a rare alignment of planets that caught the astronomer’s attention? Was it placed in the sky by God at that moment in time? You know what—I don’t care! Any explanation confirms the power and sovereignty of God. Perhaps that’s what scares today’s scientists!




The wise men from the Orient saw the star and followed it.

My question is, were they the only ones who could see it? Obviously no one in Jerusalem, the site of the temple, saw it or Herod would've known about it. The chief priests didn’t see it; the teachers of the law didn’t see it. They had head-knowledge of the Messiah’s birth, but not the eyes to see the miracle right in front of them.

Why would God pick men from far in the east, probably Babylon, to give an exclusive announcement of the birth of His Son? It’s even more astounding that tradition has it that they weren’t even Jews.

So, God brought pagan men from hundreds of miles away to worship the King of Kings rather than bring the Jewish priests who were just a few miles away.

Wise men from the Orient knelt and worshiped Jesus; God’s own people rejected Him.

Down through the centuries, God hasn’t changed.

He still uses Light to draw men to Himself. Jesus is the light of the world – John 8:12

Jesus is the Light that draws people out of the darkness of false religions into His salvation. John 8:12

And people? We haven’t changed either.

The Jews still haven’t recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

People from “Christian” nations are turning away from Him.

Who is being drawn to the Light? Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus and Buddhists in the far east, the oppressed in countries here the government forbids Christianity, idol-worshipers in Africa and South America.


God is still using a Star to guide men who are hunting for the King of Kings and to bring them to faith in Him.


Are you following the Light?

Reach out to Him and allow Him to lead you from darkness into the light of His grace.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How cold it must have been...

A beautiful nativity set given to me by my sister.



I planned on musing about the 3 kings in today's post, but then I came across this poem. It stirred my heart and I hope it does yours as well.


How cold it must have been that night,
I can see the stars, if I close my eyes.
Listen!  I hear the soft night air, rustling the leaves.
Or is it the rustle of angel's wings?
Suddenly, the skies fill with exultant song.
And so He came to the shepherds.

An obscure carpenter begs shelter for his wife,
heavy with child, and is led to a stable.


When the tinsel and the tree are gone, look for Him then.
He is not confined to a day, a season, or a place in time.
He comes to each of us in His own way.
He meets us in the oddest places.
In despair, perhaps? He met me there.
And for me, for the first time, Christmas.
                                     Tommie Lenox


For the first time, Christmas.
For some of us, Christmas is the first time after a loss.
The first time after a new child.
The first time after a new love.

For me, it's the first time of a new awareness of God's great grace and love - so great He was willing to give His only Son.

How is this your first Christmas?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Question #2: Why Shepherds?


 
These little egg-shaped figures roll over easily but the detail is amazing.
 
If you’d been the angel God handpicked to announce Jesus’ birth, where would you have gone? Certainly, you would’ve been warned about King Herod, but, after him, the sky’s the limit, so to speak.

Of course, there was a synagogue in Bethlehem so you could’ve barged in there, quoted Isaiah’s prophesy, and then yelled, “What do you know, Isaiah was right! Come and see!”



 Surely, there were some of David’s proud descendants in the better part of town. You could’ve appeared in their bedrooms in the middle of the night and proclaimed, “The promised King is here, just down the street in a stable.” 

After they hauled you away in the first-century version of a strait jacket, your work for the night would be done.

Actually, any of those would’ve made more sense than the truth:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…Luke 2:8

Shepherds?!?

To understand how ridiculous this is, consider the status of shepherds in Judah.

They were unclean in the full sense of the word. They couldn’t participate in any of the purification rituals.

They routinely handled dirty sheep and even buried dead ones, when necessary.

They wouldn’t be allowed on the temple grounds, not even in the outer courtyard with gentiles and women.

They were filthy and smelly. To be even grosser, they probably had sheep poop on their sandals.


And yet, this is where God sent the angels to herald the birth of the King of Kings, His only Son.

Glorious angels, surrounded in glorious light, sang about joy and peace. They told the shepherds to hurry to Bethlehem and see.

But the angel said to them, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:11-12

The rabbis in the synagogue would've had thrown the angels out and the descendants of David would've had them committed. But the unclean shepherds heard the angels, believed them, and hurried to see the miracle.

With this act, God proclaimed his mission: To save the unclean, the sinners—US!

He didn’t come for the self-righteous; they wouldn’t be caught dead worshiping a baby in a manger.

He didn’t come to the proud; after all, what would their neighbors think if they were seen hanging around a stable?

Jesus came for the shepherds of the world; those who need a Savior.


How do you rejoice in the coming of your Savior?
Have you realized that you need a Savior?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bethlehem or Nazareth?


Most of my nativity sets are very inexpensive - except this one. This is my Hummel set. It took several years of buying pieces when I could afford them to get the complete set, over 20 pieces. I will say, Hummel had quite an imagination when it came to those who visited the newborn King. Several musicians came, and even the town baker sent his daughter with a basket of warm bread. Whimsical, I know, but it's beautiful just the same.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to
Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man
named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's
name was Mary. Luke 1:26-27

Prophesy said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the house of David, Israel’s greatest King.

Yes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem but he was raised in Nazareth, the home of his mother, Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph.

This is it, my first Christmas Why?

Surely there was a righteous young woman and a devoted man who lived in Bethlehem and would’ve been great parents for the Son of God.

Wouldn’t that have been so much more convenient? To have the parents living in Bethlehem already?

When the call for a census went out, the family would already be there. No travelling a long way on a donkey when the mother was nine months pregnant.

Room at the inn wouldn’t be an issue - Jesus would be born at home, attended by the 1st century version of a midwife. The family would huddle around and wait anxiously for the Baby’s first cry.

Much simpler for everyone involved.

Apparently not, not in God's plan!

Why Nazareth and not Bethlehem?

Bethlehem was respected and honored as David’s hometown; the King born and raised in the king’s home city. That sounds perfect to me! God’s Son would be respected and perhaps given more credibility.

Nazareth was looked down upon as a wild town. People who lived there were rebellious and didn’t think much of the Jewish law. They were uneducated, unpolished, and of questionable morality. Devout Jews, like Mary and Joseph’s families, were not very common.

Not an auspicious beginning for the Messiah.

Bethlehem was important, Nazareth was inconsequential.

God didn’t do what we might think is best. Remember, every detail was perfect in God’s plan for the birth and life of His Son.

Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:

He [Messiah] grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

A root out of dry ground.
He had no majesty.
Despised and rejected.
No one respected him.

Sounds like Nazareth!

Jesus Christ would live among men. God didn’t want his Son beginning his ministry with the honor and respect Bethlehem would afford him. He was to live the life of a common man, revealing God by complete obedience to his Father with every word and every deed.

We all live in “Nazareth,” a world that's wild, rebellious, and shows no respect for God’s laws. Because Jesus grew up in that world, he can stand before the Father, a High Priest that understands our struggles.

Praise God Jesus was born in Nazareth!


What comfort does it give you, knowing that Jesus lived in a place much like your world?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Got Any Questions?

 I have a small nativity set collection - 40 at last count. Over next few blogs, I'll post pictures of some of my favs. In this one, given to me by my closest friend, each figure is cut out of a different type of wood.


God's Son, born in a stable, heralded by angels, visited by kings.

We all know the story.

...there was no room for them at the inn... Luke 2:7

...And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby... Luke 2:8

...We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him... Matthew 2:2

And one more.
...When the time had fully come… Galatians 4:4

God chose the exact time to send His Son. Every circumstance of Jesus’ birth was perfect. Every minute detail was planned.

Being a curious person, I began to ask -

Why did God choose Jesus' parents from Nazareth and not from Bethlehem?

Couldn't the Lord of the Universe provide a room at the inn?

Why shepherds? Were they the only ones who noticed the angels?

Why a star? Why 3 Kings?

Over the next few posts I'm going to poke around for answers to my questions.

Read these beloved passages - anything strike you as interesting? Maybe you can answer some of my questions. ;>)

Inquiring minds want to know...


     So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
     And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
     When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:4-20


     After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
     When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' "
     Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
     After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
     And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12

Never tire of the miracle!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bit of Living Color



Leaves have been blowing all over the yards for weeks now. All the trees in the neighborhood are just about bare – a few dead leaves wait for a puff of wind to set them sailing.

Then I saw these, hanging from a bare branch on my neighbor’s tree. Still vibrant, still very much alive.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14

As a believer, I want to be like those leaves. I want to be vibrant and alive in a world where so many are lifeless.

The faces swarming around me are blank. Not too many smiles, lots of stress.

I can be colorful. I choose to shine with joy, peace, and hope.

Most people hurry from day to day, struggling to live up to the world’s expectations.

I can be vibrant. I choose to draw on God’s energy and excitement and to focus on God’s purpose for each day. Life might still be a struggle, but I know God’s in it.

Many folks fall into bed, exhausted from today and tired out by tomorrow’s to-do-list.

I can dance in the wind.  I choose to spend a few minutes thanking God for the blessings of the day.

Too many lives are spent striving for success, searching for happiness, seeking self-worth.

I can be different. I choose to rest in God’s plan, rejoice in His love, find my worth as His child.

I choose…I choose…I choose…I choose.

I don’t always make these choices – but I can.

After all,

I am a branch on the Living Vine.

I’m filled with the Spirit, a spring of Living Water.

I am a light on a hill!


How have you been blessed by someone who chose to be a light?

Who in your life can you bless by being a vibrant light?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does Your Face Shine?



He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn Ps 37:6

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Her face lit up!”

with excitement.

with the sight of a loved one

with good news

But we don’t think about our faces shining with righteousness.

When we walk through difficult days, those around us see our faces shining with a peace beyond understanding - even though we are unaware.

When we struggle with tight finances, others notice the faint glow of trust in God's provision - even though we feel as if our faith is stretched too tightly.

In the midst of sorrow, many see an underlying joy - a joy we don't feel.

When I worked at Johnson Space Center, my coworkers were of various faiths. When my Mom died and I returned from several days off, many of them approached me to ask about the peace they saw, even through my sorrow. I told them the support of my Christian friends and my faith in the resurrection gave me the assurance that I'd see her again.

Peace, trust, joy. Those around us marvel at the faith they see in us. The shine on our faces causes them to want what we have.

God uses our radiant faces to draw an unbelieving world to Him.


When have you felt God's peace or joy radiating through you?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Heart of Thankfulness


www.morguefile.com

"Give thanks to the LORD Almighty,
for the LORD is good;
his love endures forever." Jeremiah 33:11

What are you thankful for?
All the normal things come to mind: family friends, home, job…

But Jeremiah’s words draw us back to the heart of thankfulness.


Give thanks for the Lord’s goodness. 

His goodness doesn’t lie in the blessings He showers on us.

His goodness lies totally in His Son.
His grace was and is lived out through Jesus as He walked among men.
His goodness is expressed in the tenderness of His presence.

He is a good Father.


Give thanks for His enduring love. 

His love endured the pain of the cross. 
His enduring love causes Him to smile and reach down to pick us up, even when we stumble over and over again.
Most of all, His enduring love stretches into eternity, His heart’s desire is to be with us forever.

He is a loving Father.


Set aside the other blessings aside for a moment and thank Him for who He is.
Thank Him that you are His.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Are You Satisfied?


 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. Psalm 36:8 (New King James Version)

It’s Thanksgiving, a time when we look around and see the blessings God has poured out on us. 

But what about 2 months ago? Or 2 months from now?

Will we still be thankful or will our minds fill with the things we want – the things others have?

The Psalmist says that those who belong to God will be abundantly satisfied with the fullness of His house. Not just content…not even satisfied, but abundantly satisfied.

What a beautiful phrase; I love the certainly of it. We are satisfied – not we will be satisfied or we could be satisfied. We are satisfied.

The question is: Do we recognize it?

Do our hearts sing about the fullness in His house? The fullness that saturates our lives.

For some reason, it’s easier to count our needs (needs is loosely defined, of course) rather than our blessings. Even when we do acknowledge them, we only see the big things: family, friends, God’s provision.

God’s fullness often comes in soft whispers; we’ll miss them if we don’t look for them. A child’s smile in line at the grocery store. A mockingbird on a telephone line. Something on TV that makes us laugh.

Do something new today. Begin to look for abundance in the small things. Make a note when you see one.

On a difficult day, remember those things.

It’s a choice to dwell in the fullness of His house, to wade in His river. But beware, once you begin to do it, it becomes addictive.

Take a sip from His river of pleasures and rejoice.

How does God’s abundance fill your life? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

As for Me...




But as for me and my household, we will
serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Many of us have this verse in our homes – plaques, pictures, so many other ways.

Until today, I hadn’t thought of this as a personal message to me from the Lord.
 
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that
God's Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16
 
We are the temples of the Holy Spirit; we are His home.

Have I given my home to serving the Lord?

Am I obedient?

Do I listen?

Most of you know I’m an author. You might know how difficult this is for me. It’s not my choice…it’s my calling for this season.

Recently, I’ve buried myself in blogs and Facebook posts, even trying my hand at Pintrest.
 
God quietly asked, “Are any of these your calling?" No, my calling is to write.

I’ve listened to the voices around me who tell me that I can’t sell my book without doing these things.

Again, God asked, "Is selling your calling?"
No, my calling is to write.

I ask myself: Am I using these things to avoid the hard thing he’s asked me to do?

So, as much as I enjoy writing blog posts, I need to cut back. They have dominated my writing time and that’s not what God wants.

From now on, I will do two blog posts a week, Monday and Thursday.

Me and my house – my personal temple - will serve the Lord.
 
God used Mary Scro to reveal this truth to me. Thank you, Mary. 


How are you dedicating your temple to God’s service?

Is He asking you to do the hard thing?

 

 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where's Waldo?


Waldo’s a fun little character.

We’re supposed to find him in a picture of a crowd or a chaotic scene.

Maybe he’s in a crowd at the State Fair.

Maybe he’s hiding in a bunch of dogs at the dog park.

It’s game to see who can spot him first.

He’s always got that kooky grin on his face. You can’t help but smile.

What if Waldo were hiding in your life? Where would he be? Amongst the toys as you play with the kids? Lost in the overwhelming pile of papers on your desk? Covered up by mountains of laundry?

Sometimes Waldo hides in our emotional turmoil. He can get lost in our tears and our fears. Not only does he hide there, but we bury God’s peace and joy there, too.

We stop looking for anything that might make us smile. We no longer search for the little day-by-day blessings God pours into our lives.

We let the storm drown out God’s promises. We’re blinded by the lightning strikes that stab our hearts so we miss the light of His love.

Only God’s Word can calm us. Snatches of it might come into your mind. A friend might say something that reminds you of your favorite scripture.

I keep a list written inside the front cover of my Bible. I don’t have to search through the pages to find the truth I need – I just open it and begin to read.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The storm cannot overwhelm Him:
“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4b)

He will fill you with peace:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

He's all-powerful:
“The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28)

He's always near you:
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” (1 Peter 3:12)

He's your guard: 
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

He's your deliverer:
“He guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10b)

He's your strength:
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." (Psalm 28:7)

How does God encourage you during the storm?
Do you have a favorite verse that calms you when life is tough?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where's the Light at the End of the Tunnel?


 
We’ve all heard this phrase, "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel." 

You’ve probably heard it’s corollary: "I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s a train!
 

 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen
is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
 
 
Light? Momentary? When did you struggle with a “light and momentary” problem? We’re being buffeted around all the time. (Doesn’t Paul say something about that somewhere?)

Paul has one up on me! I often lose sight of the eternal glory. I focus on the problems facing me. I find it hard to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus’ promise of eternal life.

In an email exchange, one of my very fav authors, Ann Tatlock, said something that has stuck with me: "I've tried to give up on faith and hope so many times but ultimately I don't only because of that "love that will not let me go."

God WON’T let go! He holds on tight, whether we like it or not. 

We might lose sight of our eternal destination; He never loses sight of us.
 
We might lose our grip on His promises; He never loosens His grip on us. 

When the day is overwhelming, we can close our eyes and picture His hand, holding us tight. 

Walk – or crawl – in the unshakable knowledge that He never lets go. 

How has the “love that will not let me go” encouraged you?
How does the picture of His hand around you give you peace in the middle of a storm?

BTW – Ann Tatlock won the 2013 Christy Award for her book Promises to Keep. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

 

Friday, November 15, 2013

15 Amazing Verbs


I wasn't going to blog today. I finished the 8 Colors of God's Grace and hadn't decided what to do next. Then I read Isaiah 53:3-7

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on
him the iniquity of us all. 

I read the verbs in these verses and they affected me like never before.

Despised                         Rejected                       Man of Sorrows

Suffered                          Ignored                         Dishonored

Took my infirmities      Carried my sins           
Stricken

Smitten                           Afflicted                       Pierced

Crushed                          Punished                      Wounded

These are just any old verbs. They describe the horror that Jesus endured for me - for you!

And the most astonishing thing of all is the last part of verse 7. Look at it again and let the words soak in:

And the LORD has laid on
him the iniquity of us all.   

The LORD - the great I AM - allowed this suffering.! In fact, He planned it. It was His sovereign will. Why??

His love for us was greater than saving the life of His Son. 

Does that fact astound you?
How does it give you total assurance of His love?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First 4 Colors of God's Grace

Rainy day.....got a bad case of pink eye :(

No writing today!

So far we've done 4 of the 8 colors of God's grace:

Silver lining: Hope

Red: Power

Orange: Chosen

Yellow: Joy

Which of these do you need most right now?

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Second Fav: Seeing Through God's Eyes

On Monday, I introduced you to Carole Brown's blog "Sunnybank Meanderings." I hope you checked it out!

This week, I featuring a second blog with the Premio Dardos Award, an award that “acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their efforts to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write.”



 This is a gorgeous blog by Judy Glenn. Judy's an unbelievably talented photographer, one who's looking for God's wisdom and beauty in nature. Her photographs are beautiful and always reveal a bit of God's heart.

Enjoy!

Next week, I'll start a new series: In a Storm? Find the 8 Colors of God

See you then!

Monday, October 14, 2013

One of My Favs


Each day, I spend a few minutes (well, maybe more than a few) reading several blogs that encourage and challenge me. I've chosen two of my favorites to present with the Premio Dardos Award, an award that “acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their efforts to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write.”
 (Yes, I need reading glasses - and I have a bad habit of  perching them on my nose!)



First, my friend, Carole Brown's blog Sunnybank Meanderings.
http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/
Sunnybank Secrets . . . where not all is as it seems.


Carole is so encouraging. Sometimes her blog simply lists several things she's grateful for or that bring her joy and peace. As I read through her list, it always brings to mind things that mean so much to me.


Carole is so generous. Often she gives other authors the opportunity to guest post on her blog or she recommends another author's work.


 She's excited, and so am I, about the release of her book, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman.

I encourage you to visit her blog - you'll be blessed!

My second fav? Hang in there...I'll feature it next Monday!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why do we need Rattlesnakes??



You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. Gen 6:19-20

Ok, I can easily see the purpose for

Anteaters – do they eat fire ants?
     Beavers – anyone need a dam?
          Horses – I’ve been told their wonderful to ride but I’m a scaredy cat!
               Cuddly Panda Bears -- somebody has to keep bamboo plants in check
                    Even ugly vultures -- a gross job, but someone has to do it!
 

 
BUT...

Alligators??
Cockroaches??
Rattlesnakes??
Mosquitos?? 


What was God thinking?? 

What about you and me? Do you ever wonder about YOUR purpose?

God created you with a purpose in mind - you are not here to take up space or to warm a bench.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13
 
God created you. He tenderly wove you together in your mother's womb. He knew your purpose on this crazy planet before you were even born!
 
Do you have any idea whose day you have brightened with your smile?
Do you know who you have encouraged with a hug?
Someone is blessed because their path crossed yours!    

 
Who have you encouraged this week?
Who has encouraged you?

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

God loves to show off!




When morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. Psalms 65:8

I woke up kinda draggy this morning. First off, it was 5:45 AM. What’s with that? I know some of you guys get up that early all the time – my husband included – but I enjoy sleeping late, normally until about 6:30.

I know that doesn’t sound like much time difference but every minute counts!

So, I grumbled, “God, why’d you wake me up this early? You know I need my beauty (ahem) sleep!” 

Of course, I’d have to sleep all day for that to work! 

Then I walked to the sliding glass door leading into the backyard and I saw the beautiful sunrise.


What majesty! How my Father loves to display His glory through all the earth!

I’m so blessed He woke me up to see this.

Okay, God, that’s all I need for this month!


When have you seen God’s glory? Do you have a picture to share?
(I don’t know how to put a picture in a comment, do you?)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pray in Expection

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalms 5:3

I never cease to be amazed that my Father hears me!

He’s the infinite, sovereign Lord and yet He lives within us and hears each of our voices. He hears the praises and needs of every believer the world over, and personally responds to each one. What a miracle of His love!

Praise Him! We can confidently approach His throne and He responds with tenderness, drawing near to meet each need. 

We can approach Him with expectation. When we leave His presence, we know He'll answer. We know He'll be with us every step of the day. We know He’s given us what we need for that day. So many times, I've encountered a situation and realized that the Word I read that morning is exactly what I need to guide my response. 

Allow your heart to soar in the knowledge that our Father draws near to you, hears you, and gives you what you need for the day, week, or month to come.

Live in expectation!

When has the Lord given you something during your time with Him that met your needs later that day?

Do you pray with confidence and expectation?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning!


For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5


I’ve spent many nights weeping in the last few years. Most were sadness due to the consequences of mistakes I’d made. 

This verse has lifted my heart during those times. 

My Father’s anger, His discipline, lasts only a moment. I might be sad at His correction, but I'm assured of His favor, from now into eternity. I don’t have to re-earn His love and salvation. I'm sealed and will never be set aside.

I might weep for a night but joy comes in the morning! 

The night often refers to a season of weeping – not a literal night. But joy will come. The season of grief will end and joy will come. 

Grief over loss will fade away and the joy of new beginnings will come.

Grief over sins will be cleansed and newness will come.

The grief of anger or bitterness will be healed, if we turn to God, and restoration will come.

Praise God, He never leaves or forsakes us. He never turns His back on us. His joy will come in the dawn of tomorrow.


When has God transformed your night of grief into the joy of morning?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Need to Escape?

Why? When? Now what?

The last post in this series: Where do you go to escape?


Not many of us walk outside to be surrounded by stunning scenery. I don’t have a backyard full of beautiful blooms, unless a couple struggling rosebushes and a bunch of thriving weeds counts.

But there needs to be some place we go, or something we do to allow our minds to focus on God. A habit, if you will, that helps us to escape the distractions and to be with Him.

One of my good friends hid in the bathroom to escape the kids for so long, that she still goes in there.  

Another friend keeps a folding chair in the closet.

I don’t get a thrill out of sitting in the bathroom and I’m a little too claustrophobic for a closet.

I sit in my bentwood rocker and watch the birds at the feeders outside the window. I don’t usually sit there during the day so it’s become the place I meet God.

 
It doesn’t have to be a place. When you hold a hot cup of tea and close your eyes, do you feel the distractions of the day begin to fade away? Or it can be a brief devotional that brings your thoughts to God.
 
The process doesn’t matter, it’s the time with God that matters. Time to tell Him your problems, even yell and scream if you need to. Time to listen to Him tell you He loves you. Time to ask for guidance and to learn from Him.

He is waiting for you, draw aside with Him.


Is there a place you go consistently that’s your quiet place?

Is there something you do that brings your thoughts to Him?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Now What?





Ok, you know you need time with God to make it through the day. You’ve figured out a time, maybe, when you can grab a few minutes.

Now what?

Some of us sit quietly and feel God’s presence.  Some of us need a plan.

I’m a plan kinda girl. I don’t have the discipline to sit with my eyes closed and focus on God. My mind wanders to laundry or to what’s for dinner or a hundred other things.

So, if you only have 10 minutes, how can you focus your prayers? Perhaps a book of brief devotions guides you. Maybe praying a Psalm helps you express what’s on your heart. If you love music, you can speak to Him by singing praise songs. Chose the most meaningful way to connect with God in the few minutes you have.

 
Maybe, you have more time than most of us. Because I stay home, I have precious time I can spend with God. I’m a detail-oriented person, so He usually speaks to me through Scripture. 
 
There are so many ways to study Scripture:  
  • Read through the Bible in a year. This is a very structured way to study and it and teaches the discipline of reading every day and draws from the various areas of Scripture every day. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well for me because I can't stay on track. If I read a passage that reminds me of a verse somewhere else, off I go. 
  • Word study. With a good concordance, you can search for one word. That’s a good way to meet a specific need. I did a word study on fear during a time of suffering. By the time I’d read, “Be not afraid,” a few dozen times, my faith was stronger. Once, I did one on “but.” That was a strange one. I did learn a lot about myself and my relationship to God.
  • Topical study. This is one of my favorites. I have a Nave’s Topical Bible and I can’t live without it! Choose a characteristic of God that ministers to you in your situation, or a specific need you have, like peace or joy. As you work through this topic, God will pull you closer to Him and assure you of His love.
  • Just start reading. Choose a book you love – Psalms, one of the gospels, one of Paul’s letters – and read it through, applying its truths to your life. Once, when I was particularly doubting my ability as an author, I studied Paul’s letters to Timothy. The encouragement Paul gave to Timothy gave me the courage to keep going. 
 
There are as many ways to hear from God as there are ears to hear. The most important thing, whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, is to meet with God. He’s waiting for you, eager to surround you with His love. 

What’s your favorite way to meet with God?
How has the way He speaks to you changed in specific situations?
How has the way you relate to Him changed over the years? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

When?

This is the second post on ways to have an effective quiet time. I hate that term because some of us never have any "quiet" time. But it's the only thing I can think of to call it.

If you read Friday's post, I discussed  why it's worth the time and effort to have time with God. You can scan down if you'd like to read that earlier post.

But today we'll look at the question, WHEN?

All the time, I've hear: "You need to have your time with God first thing in the morning." "You need to start your day with God." "You should spend enough time to build a relationship with Him."


I have a good, old-fashioned Christian term for that: Poppycock!

If you have a perfect, consistent schedule, you can do that. Otherwise, sometimes it's catch-as-catch-can.

Is the house already hectic when your feet hit the floor? Toddlers on the go, school kids to haul out of bed and get on their way to school. First thing in the morning - impossible!

A wise woman advised me to use the kid's naptime for myself, rather than to do housework. I stuck to it and used that time for my quiet time. It was the only time of the day I could focus - even for a few minutes.



If you work fulltime, early morning might work, it might not. Some of us can have it in the evening; I fall asleep.


So what's left? Maybe we could carve out a bit of time at lunch. Perhaps a few minutes before we head home?


The point is, your quiet time should be when it's quiet. No formulas, no must-do legalizing.

God wants meaningful time, not duty. A friend, Linda, posted this today and it's so true. "According to Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest) even 5 minutes in God's Word will enrich the soul."

Do you have an hour? Fantastic! Do you schedule it at the same time every day? Great! Do you try to focus on Him for 5 minutes, whenever you can grab it? Wonderful!

Give Him what you have, when you have it, and He'll bless you.



Is it hard to find time to visit with God? How have you fit it in?

Do you have a system that works for you? Share it and it might help the rest  of us.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Feed the Fire!




Ps 119:105 says God’s Word is a light for our paths. I made the mistake of assuming the light was something God provided—I just walked along, taking advantage of it.

I missed the “God’s Word” part.

God’s Word can’t light my path by osmosis. What happens to a campfire if no one adds a log or some twigs to it? What happens to your gas stove if the gas is shut off? What happens to God’s light in our lives if it’s never fed?



We have to read it, learn it, and apply it. Spend time in it.

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Time: We all run out of it. We all need more of it

I’ve always struggled to have a consistent time set aside for God. I’ve struggled having any time at all!

 My days are so random, how can I ever have a set time?

        I only managed to sit with God three times this week. Why can’t I do better?

Every year I say, “I’m going to read through the Bible this year.” So I start in Genesis—I’ve read Genesis so many times I can quote it. I get bogged down and bored and quit. Do I always have to start at the beginning?

         How can I get my mind to slow down and to be still so I can hear God’s small, still voice?

Over the years, I’ve learned lots of lessons about how to build the discipline of a quiet time. Most important, I’ve learned that this time is so much more than discipline. It’s building a friendship with my Father. It’s finding joy and resting in Him.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share some of the lessons God’s taught me along the way. I pray they will light a spark within you to get to know your Father.

But first, I need some input from you...

Do you desire to spend time with God? What obstacles stand in your way?

When you do spend time with Him, what blessings do you receive?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunrist...Sunset

Sunrise…Sunset

             Sunrise…Sunset

Wasn’t that a song? Oh. I remember. It was a song from Fiddler on the Roof. How many of you are too young to remember that movie?

 Sunrise: the start of a new day. Light floods the earth almost instantly. One minute, it’s diffuse and grey, the next it’s bright and the air’s charged with energy.

 
 Sunset: the end of the day. Light seems to slowly soften. The sky fills with purple and orange and silver. You can almost hear the world sigh as it winds down. 





I’m a sunrise kinda girl. When my feet hit the floor in the morning, my mind's already swirling with things I need to do. After the necessary pit-stop, I set to unloading the dishwasher, tidying up the house, starting laundry…

Jann, my sister and our famous Giggles author (check out the Giggles link above if you don’t know what I’m talking about), is just the opposite. She’s a night person. Sunrise comes and she groans. She’d rather bury under the covers. But, at sunset, she perks up and she’s ready to hit the day. About the time I’m collapsing, she’s charging up.

What about God? Well, He’s a sunrise to sunset, and all the hours in between, kinda God. Always awake, always alert. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, He’s on the go. Keeping the universe in order, maintaining the earth’s orbit, giving rain over here and sunshine over there, performing a miracle here and there, and answering a few billion prayers. No naps, no vacations.


But, back to me and Jann. We both want to spend time with God. We both like to start our days with Him. But there’s a little problem: I can’t sit still; she can’t stay awake.

My mind’s a-flittering—I’ll put my Bible down, it will only take a minute to water the plants, or feed the dog, or mail that bill. Then I'll come back.

Jann’s stifling a yawn and fluffing her pillow. She’ll just close her eyes for a minute and “pray.”

The truth is, whether we have time with our Father at sunrise, at sunset, or any time in between, our problem is discipline. We have God’s full attention, we struggle to give Him ours.

Does God care if we meet with Him at sunrise or at sunset? No, He’s always there. For us, it’s always hard, always a sacrifice.

Am I willing to set aside the busyness for a few minutes and focus on Him?
Is Jann willing to set aside her desire for a little more sleep and be alert to His voice?

What about you? Sunrise…Sunset. Whenever time it is, if we sacrifice our wants and chose to spend time with Him, He’ll flood our lives with His light—a light that doesn’t rise or set, it’s 24/7.

What are your struggles as you try to spend time with God?
Encourage us by letting us know how you are able to focus on Him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ever Asked God a Question?

Sometimes God honors our questions with greater revelation; sometimes He slaps our hands a bit.

So, what’s the difference?


Zechariah and Mary both questioned the angel’s announcement, so why was Zechariah chastised and Mary wasn’t?



When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son, Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Luke 1:18




Zechariah’s question challenged God’s sovereignty, even though, as a priest, he should have known God’s power full well. “How can I be sure?” In other words, “Prove to me that this can happen!”



When Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she would be the mother of God’s Son, she asked, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Luke 1:34


Mary’s question came out of pure innocence. She understood conception and but didn’t understand Gabriel’s pronouncement. “How can this happen?” She really asked, “Help me understand.”

Two questions – a world of difference!


As we learned with Zechariah, God doesn’t take kindly to a challenge. He’s the One and Only Almighty God; He doesn’t have to prove Himself to us. 

God cherished Mary’s desire to understand and He cherishes our questions. He honors our honest seeking and reveals Himself to us.

The light of His teaching shines on us when we approach Him with an honest desire to understand.

When have you questioned God with a heartfelt desire to learn from Him?
How did He draw near to you and reveal Himself to you?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fly, Baby, Fly!


I sat at my window, fascinated.

Two baby doves huddled on the window sill. Mom stood close by, keeping an eye on them. Occasionally she would bend down and nudge one of them with her beak.


After a couple minutes, one of the little doves stretched out his wings and fluttered away from the safety of its perch. It didn’t seem like he was going to make it at first; Mom stood at alert. But, after a few weak flaps, baby gained speed and flew away. I almost expected to hear Mom cheer.
She stepped closer to the remaining baby and began to nudge him. He turned his head toward her as though to say, “Do I have to? I can’t do it.”

Eventually, he, too, took the chance and soared away. Mom stood there for a minute. Empty-nest syndrome, perhaps? Planning what she was going to do with the kid’s part of the nest? Then she flew away.

In our spiritual walk, we often feel God’s nudges: 

 You’ve never done that before, but I know you can!

                      I know it’s scary but I’ll be there to help you.

                                           Step out of your comfort zone.

 There’s one big difference between our Father and Mama dove: He never sends us off on our own. He stays right with us. Strengthening us when we’re tired. Soothing us when we’re afraid. Reassuring us when we falter. 

He’s our ever-present Companion, our ever-present Cheerleader.





The next time you feel His loving nudge, take His hand and step out into the blessings that await you.







When has God asked you to step out of your comfort zone?

How did He strengthen and encourage you?

 
 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bad Mommy

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

You’ve heard of angry birds – well, at my house, it’s hungry birds. I sit in my rocker, by a window, every morning. Outside are four birdfeeders. I watch the sparrows and doves come and eat.





My feeders are empty.



For the past few days, I’ve seen the empty feeders and said to myself, “Self, you need to go out and fill the feeders. A few minutes later, I get up and walk into my day, never giving them another thought.

I’m a bad bird-mommy!

It occurred to me this morning – what if God was as nonchalant about feeding us? What if He got involved in the activities of the day and forgot us? What if He looked at us and said, “I’ll get to you later.”

Praise God that He loves us and will never forget us. He will never leave us to fend for ourselves. For some, His provision seems sparse and we don’t always understand but we have to trust in His goodness.
 
 
 
Excuse me for a minute – I need to go feed the birds!
 


 
How has your faith been stretched when you have to trust He will care for you in difficult situations?

How have you seen God’s provision in your circumstances?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Balance Act

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30

 

 There was a small car in front of me. On top, a couch was balanced, precariously I might add. We were going 75 mph and the couch was swaying in the wind.

Needless to say, I wasn’t too comfortable following this guy. Last thing I needed was a couch to come through my windshield. 

 As I watched this car struggle down the road, I wondered about the sanity of the driver.

I heard a whisper, “You’re concerned about this guy’s sanity? You need to be worrying about your own. You’re carrying around all sorts of burdens on top of your head! Tasks to be done, deadlines to be met, doing laundry while everyone still has some clean clothes, driving the kids to some activity, grabbing some time with your spouse…”

 


In my mind’s eye, I could see the mile-high pile of stuff teetering on my head.

“But it’s all necessary,” I complained. “Besides, who else will do all this?”



Then I realized God offered His guidance to help me plan my day and His wisdom to show me what was truly important—and who I could delegate to.

Life’s so much more manageable when God’s in control!


 What pile of stuff are you trying to balance?
How has giving God control of your days brought some sanity into your life?