Saturday, December 29, 2012

Are You Who You Want to Be?

There is a song by the group “Switchfoot” that I absolutely love.  It’s called, “This Is Your Life.” 

It speaks of how quickly time goes by and how you only have today.  The chorus asks a profound question:  “This is your life, are you who you want to be?”

It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves, no matter our age or what stage of life we are in.  This is your life.  Take a look around you.  This is the life you have been given. 

You might have wanted something different.  It might not have turned out the way you expected or hoped for.  But this is your life.

With that understanding, now you need to ask yourself, with what you have been given…with what you have today, are you who you want to be?  Notice the question isn’t, “Would you change your life?”  But it’s essentially would you change you?

We are about to embark on a brand New Year.  Forget the “New Year’s Resolutions.”  Those are made to be broken.  Instead, put your life into the hands of the One who created it and gave it to you.  Yes, the good and the bad.

Nothing comes as a surprise to the Lord.  It all gets filtered through His holy hands.  So if that’s true, no matter what you faced this past year and no matter what is before you, there is nothing to fear. 

There is much you can’t change and won’t be able to change.  About the only real control you have is over yourself.  So again, I ask…are you who you want to be?  And if not, what steps can you take to become that person?

Photo above by nem_youth in stock.xchng

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Power in the Name

Mass shootings, some involving young children.

Military action against hostile forces.

Fallen church leaders.

Sudden and unexpected deaths leaving families to grieve.   

All of this in just the last few weeks, with some of it touching me personally and some of it affecting me from a distance.  Merry Christmas?

It causes me to look even deeper into the story of Christmas.  The babe in the manger, innocence wrapped up by a blanket. 

I lean over and take a peek into the eyes of a newborn that will one day carry the weight of all this and so much more.  The sin of this world.  My sin.  Your sin. 

And I breathe out the beautiful name of “Jesus.”  I don’t see just a baby any longer.  No, I see power.  Power in the name of the one who is being held in the arms of a new mother. 

When life seems unbearable and the pain too deep, there is only one word that I need to say.  There is just one word that holds all the power we need…Jesus.

And yes, I can now say with renewed hope and joy in my heart…MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Gift Fit for a King

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.”  At the end of this blog, I am including a video to one of my favorite versions of this song.

There is a stanza in this classic song that I can especially relate to.  It is this:

“Baby Jesus, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum”

Sometimes I feel like a lost soul who has nothing to give.  What could I possibly offer to my King and Savior that is fit for him?

Give Him myself?  My imperfect, flawed self?

Give Him all that is within me, the good, the bad and the ugly?

It just doesn’t seem right.  If I were a King, would I want the whole of me? 

It’s when I look through my human eyes that I don’t see worth.  But I am so grateful that Jesus doesn’t view me this way.  He sees me through the loving eyes of my Heavenly Father. 

And in His eyes, I am of great worth.  My life is a gift to Him.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

One Decision

If you have ever watched the show “What Would You Do?” hosted by John Quinones, you know it’s about setting people up.  They suddenly find themselves in the midst of an uncomfortable situation and the idea is to see how many people will get involved.

This past Friday it felt like I was living this out.  Not that I was set up but it came down to would I get involved.

I had just picked my daughter up from her driver’s education class.  It was already dark out and for whatever reason; I took an entirely different way home. 

As we passed an area that had very little street lights, with an open field on our right, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a group of what appeared to be teenagers.  One was wearing a very long, dark trench coat and it appeared from the few seconds I was able to see, they were hovering over something.

Just as we passed I asked my daughter if she could see what they were doing.  She said not but it looked strange.

We were about a mile from our house and I kept going.  But as I continued on, a knot in my stomach began to form.  Something didn’t seem right about what was going on. 

I felt pulled.  I wanted to go back but then another side of me thought it was a stupid idea.

By the time we got to our house, I couldn’t ignore the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach any longer.  Something was telling me that I needed to go back.  So I dropped my daughter off and told her what I was doing.  She looked at me like I was nuts. 

When I got back to the area, the teens were no where to be seen.  For a moment I felt foolish but then as I turned my car around to go back home, my headlights shined on a body lying in the grass.

My initial thought was that this person must have gotten beat up.  I pulled over and unrolled my window, afraid to get out because the lighting was so poor and I had no idea if the teens were still around.

I yelled out and asked, “Are you okay?” but there was no movement.  I could see that the person’s pants were pulled down enough you could see underwear.  So then I thought it might have been a sexual assault.

My fingers were shaking as I called 911.  They needed to know where I was.  I only live a mile away but I was so flustered, I couldn’t even remember.  I got out of my car and began to walk to the corner, where I could see the street sign and told the 911 operator.

I was still afraid and not sure if I should go over to the person or get in my car.  I ended up walking to the body and then saw it was a boy.  I asked him if he was okay.  He struggled to bring his head up but then it flopped back down.

A couple of minutes later I see a car pull over, a good block away.  A woman gets out and is calling, “Carl!  Carl!”  I yell down to her, “Are you looking for a boy?”  She begins running toward me and when she sees what turns out to be her son lying there, she begins screaming. 

Oh the agony of seeing this woman crouched over her son.  She is shaking him but he can’t move and then he starts to vomit.  Just then a police officer and a fire engine arrive. 

Apparently he was drunk.  I still don’t know why his pants were down or everything that happened.  But the police officer thanked me for coming back and calling them.

As I drove home, still pretty shaken up, God spoke something to my heart.  That all it takes is one moment, one decision and the course of events can drastically change.

That one decision of deciding to go back and get involved might have made the difference in him being found.  Who knows, it could have meant the saving of his life. 

We are faced with many “one” decisions every single day.  Most won’t be as drastic as something like this.  But some will be life changing.  That one decision to give in to temptation.  That one decision to tell someone off.  That one decision to follow what you know in your heart to be true.

It takes just one moment, one decision for the direction of your life to change…for the good or for the bad.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wrestling with God

Lately I have been feeling like Jacob, in a wrestling match with God.  Actually, if I think about it, this has been a match that has been going on for a long time. 

Jacob is one of those characters you love to hate.  I remember a pastor mentioning in one of his sermons a few years ago that he would never name his child Jacob. 

My husband and I looked at one another with smiles on our faces.  That is the name of our youngest son.  And completely off topic but I have to admit, he fits the meaning of the name!

But let’s get back to the Jacob of the Bible.  Right before he had this wrestling match with God, he was preparing to meet his brother Esau.  You know…the one he had deceived.  He was in fear of his life, not sure at what his brother’s reaction would be when he finally saw him.

He basically attempts to butter up his brother with gifts.  He is thinking that will pacify him and help him to forget the number of times he had been tricked by Jacob.

So that night, as Jacob is alone with his thoughts of worry and fear, God begins to wrestle with him.  I think these wrestling matches are most intense when we are in the same state, alone with our thoughts. 

This match went on all night long.  Finally, when the sun is coming up, Jacob says that he won’t let go unless he is blessed.   

Now here is something we need to hang on to.  Jacob wasn’t going to give up.  Can you imagine the strain and the struggle that was involved?  But he wasn’t willing to give up until he had what he was looking for.

I am in that place right now.  I want to give up.  I want to walk away from the match but I know that I can’t be blessed until I finish it.

Now let’s get back to the story.  It’s at this point he finally gets rid of the name and the stigma attached to it.  He is no longer Jacob.  He is Israel

I love this verse:  “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’”

You can’t overcome if you give up.  I know this isn’t some earth shattering truth I am sharing with you.  But I feel that others, like me, only have head knowledge of this.  We haven’t allowed it to sink deep into our hearts.


In the end, Israel walks away but it’s with a limp.  There was some hurt done in that struggle.  But I bet he would say it’s worth it.  

Photo by emdot in Flickr

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When the Heart Needs Soaking

Sometimes when I unload the dishwasher, I will notice a cup hasn’t been completely cleaned out.  So I run it through again.  If it happened to be a cup that came from one of my teen’s bedrooms, it may require more than a washing…it may need a soaking. 

There are times my heart feels just like that cup.  I bring it before the Lord and I ask Him to cleanse it.  I know that He does his part, just like the dishwasher does.  He washes me clean.  But sometimes there is still some residue left. 

If I’m lucky it will take just another outpouring of my heart before Him and I can finally say that my heart is clean.  But other times, just like that cup, the stubborn stains of my heart needs to be soaked in His Spirit.

When I think back to before I was a Christian, I am amazed at some of the things from my past that I was able to bring before the Lord and receive an immediate cleansing from. 

I’m talking significant issues here.  I’m referring to what we as humans might consider as “big” sins.

Then there are the things in my heart that somehow seem less significant, yet have gone through His cleansing time and time again…yet the residue of that sin remains.  I have learned that it just means I need more than a rinse and wash cycle.  My heart needs a good soaking.

These are the times I don’t receive an instantaneous answer to my heartfelt prayers of change.  I likely won’t be able to give a date in which it happened.  Over time, the soaking of His Spirit begins to break away the residue. 

The thing I am still learning with all of this is patience.  Not necessarily with God but with myself.  It is so easy to feel frustrated at what the inside of my heart looks like. 

In the end, I’m so thankful He doesn’t rush the process.  At some point my heart will shine and reflect the beauty of His Holy Spirit. 

Photo above by monip in MorgueFile

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Never Leave a Fallen Comrade

Each branch of the military has its own creed.  Although I am partial to the one for the Air Force, having a son in it, there is a line in the Army’s creed that we could all adopt…

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Sometimes in the church, a comrade falls.  How should we respond?  Do we shake our heads in disgust and walk away?  Do we kick a little dust over them, letting them know how ashamed we are?

With my oldest son always having an interest in the military, I have watched many war movies with him.  While each one has its own storyline, there is a common theme in them all.

You never leave a fellow soldier behind. 

We are in the army of God.  We are soldiers fighting a spiritual battle.  So when one falls down, is it really the right thing to do, to walk away?

In some of these movies, it is a wounded soldier that goes back to help the one who can’t get up.  When we are hurt, it is easy to focus on and attend to our own wounds.  It is easy to neglect to see the pain in the one who is on the ground.

It takes selflessness to ignore your own wounds and go back to get the one who is down.  But I believe that is what God would expect of us…never leave a fallen comrade.

Photo Above:  US Army Africa in Flickr

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Negativity and Quicksand

Negativity is like quicksand.  Once you step into it, making your way out is difficult.

The deeper you sink, the more you struggle…until finally, it has completely overtaken you.

I will admit that it can be hard to overcome negativity when it’s around you long enough.  In fact, you can go from thinking everything was just fine to suddenly questioning it all.

Recently I have been hearing a lot of negative things about my church.  These are from seasoned Christians who have been attending a long time. 

At first it was easy to dismiss what was being said.  I wasn’t seeing the same things as others were.

But then I started thinking…or was it I allowed a toe to touch the quicksand of negativity?  “Hmmm…maybe there is something to this.” 

You begin to wonder if everyone else is right and you have just been too blind to see it.  Pretty soon the foot has made its way in.

Thankfully, I was able to pull myself completely out of that quicksand, before I got into it any further.  And I walked away with the following insights…

  • If what everyone is saying is true, then it’s our job as the congregation to pray for the church

  • No church is perfect…simply for the fact it is filled with imperfect people

  • Am I expecting the church to meet all of my expectations, when only Jesus can give me everything I need?

  • The way I wish to be treated by others, am I doing the same?

  • Am I so busy judging others when I have enough of my own baggage to deal with?

I’m not saying that others don’t have legitimate concerns.  And I’m not saying that what someone feels is wrong. 

What I am saying is that I can’t allow negativity to cripple me.  Are you finding it a struggle to overcome?  Don’t step into the quicksand!

Photo by bonvivant in stock.xchng

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tuning In

Do you ever battle with tuning out a particular subject matter at church because you have heard it so many times before?  I think if we were to be honest, most of us have.

I was in that place this past Wednesday.  The topic was forgiveness.  I settled back in my pew ready to relax, more than to receive.

Scripture verses popped up on the screen.  Over the course of the past nearly 18 years of being a Christian, I have read them countless times. 

Yes, I know I am supposed to forgive.   And I know it should be more than the seven times that Peter boasted about. 

The thought crossed my mind, “I am beyond seventy-times-seven.”  This honestly wasn’t a prideful thought but more of a frustrated feeling.  I couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t some kind of cap on forgiveness.  I mean, isn’t there eventually a point you reach in which the limit has been hit?

Then the topic of resentment came up.  I started to feel a little unsettled in my heart.  But then I almost breathed a sigh of relief when it was mentioned how those who are resentful are looking for payback. 

Whew…that isn’t me.  I definitely don’t want something bad to happen to this person I feel like I am constantly forgiving.  I love this person.

It was nearing the end and I guess I was sort of feeling like I was home free.  But then it happened…God spoke something very specific to me.  It wasn’t a Bible verse that had been shared.  It wasn’t a personal story that impacted me.  It wasn’t even the usual teaching you receive about forgiveness (you know, how it doesn’t mean you are excusing that person’s behavior, etc.).

This was something that was specific and unique to my situation.  You wouldn’t find a reference to it in the Bible.  No one else would ever guess what was laid on my heart.

But here is the point.  If I had not been sitting there, hearing a teaching on something I’ve “heard a million other times,” I would have missed out.  It made me wonder how many other moments have been lost because I wasn’t there to receive it, either physically or otherwise.

How many times have I tuned out when God had something specific for me?  Perhaps it is those moments in which we are ready to stuff some cotton into our ears that God might have the most to say.
Source:  Flickr

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Routine or Relationship?

Shortly after leaving church I was at a red light and a truck in front of me had a license plate frame that read, “I’m not religious…I just love the Lord.”  That sums it up.  At least it does for me.

I wasn’t raised with religion, so I really don’t know what that is like.  I have only known relationship because of the very deep pit that the Lord pulled me from. 

Well, let me take that back.  It may not be religion but it’s something else that has at times overtaken relationship.  It is…routine.  And many times it sneaks in without me even noticing.

This usually begins with my quiet time, or devotional time, whatever you prefer to call it.  Suddenly things have become a routine, a ritual.  I do this and I say that.  I’m stuck in a rut and I don’t even know it.  

Once that becomes a part of my quiet time, it begins to infiltrate into other areas.  Church becomes routine, a part of my “to-do” list.

The thing with routines is that they become boring.  Nothing is happening.  You start to feel spiritually lifeless and if you don’t recognize it’s going on, you will only sink deeper into it.

Part of my “disappearance” from this blog the past year had to do with this.  There was nothing in me to draw from because quite frankly, the well was dry.

It wasn’t that I stopped praying or reading the Bible.  I didn’t stop going to church.  I was still “doing” those things.  But there was no passion or fire with it.

So I have been on a quest to rediscover the passion.  Or maybe it’s something new that God has for me, I don’t know.  Something is definitely stirring within.  And I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this.

Take the time to evaluate whether or not you are thriving in a relationship with the Lord.  Or if it has all become nothing more than a routine?

(Photo: RoganJosh from morgueFile)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Even If

Hebrews 11 has always been known as the “faith” chapter.  It is filled with all the ways in which faith worked in the lives of ordinary men and women.

Recently I felt inclined to look at this chapter differently.  Instead of focusing on the part about faith, I was drawn to one of the last verses of this chapter, verse 39:  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…”

How many times had I read this verse, yet not noticed something so significant.  NONE received what had been promised. 

It reminds me of a song that I love by Kutless, “Even If.”  The chorus goes like this:

“Even if the healing doesn’t come

And life falls apart

And dreams are still undone

You are God, you are good

Forever faithful One

Even if the healing

Even if the healing doesn’t come.”

You can almost look at the faith chapter as a record of things that didn’t happen.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Although this portion of the Bible contains a lot of things that happened because of faith, there were also unimaginable sufferings:  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (verses 36-38).

Can I say the same thing?  Even if…my prayers don’t get answered the way I would like.  

Even if…my world falls apart.

Even if…I lose everything that matters to me.

Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him…(Job 13:15)

THIS is what faith is really about.  It isn’t about trusting when all is going well.  It is trusting when it isn’t.  What a challenge this is to me. 

It has been nearly a year since I have blogged here. There are several reasons that I laid this aside. Perhaps another time I will share but for now...I am back.