Monthly Archives: December 2014

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

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As I began a draft of my New Year’s resolutions it included the usual:

Personal Goals:  lose weight, exercise, drink more water, get more organized. I’ve had some minor success with resolutions in the past, particularly if I put a plan around the goal. For example, one year I got serious about losing weight and budgeted time and dollars for Weight Watchers–so I was successful. This year I’ve decided that yoga would be good for me. To shore up my resolution, I’ve joined a program with two best friends, whom I am trusting to help hold me accountable.

Household Goals: Declutter my home. I have a big box or two set aside to use in collecting things and have set a date for the biggest yard sale my neighborhood (and probably most of Hanover) will ever experience.

BeadingWear:  Approach two retail outlets, take two new classes to improve my skills.

Writing Career:  As I looked over my list, I tentatively added Finish rewriting/formatting my book. Do I dare list Get it published? Last year’s goal was to finalize the first draft of my book. I did that to the best of my ability. And, as I look back over the past year, I’ve made some giant leaps forward because I kept that resolution–things I never envisioned on January 1st. For example:

*  The opportunity presented itself so I could teach it to a group

*  New friends have helped me edit the manuscript too many times to count

*  I attended  a Christian Writer’s Conference

*  I signed with a literary agency

*  I’ve made numerous writer friends

*  I’ve set up Facebook, Twitter and website author accounts

*  I’ve even figured out what blogging is and am trying to do so as instructed by my agent.

And here I am at year end, still rewriting this book. What will happen in 2015? I’m committed to taking whatever step God places in front of me and let Him guide me through this amazing journey.

All of the things on my list are good goals. But God touched my heart and asked if there was a goal that included Him. This caused me to pause, to just get quiet before Him and ask what He might have in mind. I hadn’t intentionally left Him off the list–maybe I need to add a spiritual category. I already have a regular quiet time, teach a Sunday School class and spend time preparing the lesson and study for my blog and my book.  What does He want from me this year? In the stillness of the morning, my heart heard Him say, “I want you to know me more.” “Well, Lord, I’m all for that. What might that look like? How would I go about that? I’ve already signed up for my regular Bible study with my friends from church. We are studying Max Lucado’s book, Before Amen.  What else do you want me to do?” “There you go with that doing thing again. How about just being with me.”

Spiritual:  I’m not quite sure what this looks like to God, but I’m going to move it to the top of my list. I’m going to show up each morning with my Bible reading plan and daily devotional guide and then just be still before Him–just hang out. No doubt I’ll let you know how that turns out.

What has God asked you to put on your New Year’s resolution list this year? I’ll bet He wants you to know Him more, too.

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REBELLION

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Does, or has, the word rebellion describe your heart toward any current or past authority in your life? Maybe you’ve been described as ‘stubborn,’ ‘hard-headed’ or ‘strong-willed’. Rebellion is often manifested as anger; its companion is anger.

The Bible tells us that the sin of rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (I Samuel 15:23). We know that witchcraft opens the door to all sorts of demonic attacks on the mind and heart, which will leave you without peace. Since God places rebellion in the same category as witchcraft, we need to take the possible impact of past or present rebellion seriously and deal with it properly. You can try to blame the unrest in your soul on circumstances or others, but until you come clean before God that you have, or have had, a rebellious heart, asking Him to remove it far from you, you will continue to be tormented. Complete healing will come as you confess your rebellion before God and to those you have wronged through your rebellion. This open confession and intentional turning will help you find forgiveness and experience freedom.

If you have a rebellious child, pray for them and carefully teach them. Unfortunately, we each rule our own hearts and the Bible clearly says that even a child is known by his doings (Proverbs 20:11). A rebellious child who does not lay aside his rebellion before God will carry this heart attitude into his or her teen years and on into adulthood. Rebellion can show up in many ways–dress, language, lifestyle. But even if you have successfully masked your inward rebellion from others, you know if it is lodged in your heart. Rebellion makes deep roots, destroys your soul and wounds those around you. It causes conflict and pain to others as much as the inner pain and conflict that it wields on the one who carries the rebellion. It is often the root cause of broken relationships. As you age, an unrepentant, rebellious heart will cause emotional stress, anxiety, and depression–which leads to all sorts of health issues.

If you were a rebellious child, or find as an adult that rebellion toward authority has crept in, get honest before yourself and God. Reject your rebellious heart. Give it no place. Seek forgiveness. Find freedom. Find peace. Find healing.

Proverbs 3:7-8 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

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THOSE “D” WORDS

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Disappointment – Discouragement – Depression

If you have walked through this life and none of the D-words have shown up on your doorstep, you are blessed. Most of us humanoids, however, have had to face these demons on a regular basis.

Dreams are shattered, hopes vanish into thin air, people fail to love you, health deteriorates, promises are not kept, aspirations lose traction, finances pinch . . .sounding familiar to anyone other than me? All of these things fall under the category of Disappointments.  Life is filled with them; they are inevitable. What we do with disappointment is the dividing line between success and failure.

Discouragement is different–it is a choice we each make. It isn’t something that happens to us, it is an intentional response on our part to the disappointments in our lives. Disappointments that cause us to look inward will always lead us down the path to discouragement. But disappointments placed in the hands of a loving, all-mighty God are simply reminders that it wasn’t about us in the first place. It’s about Him–His plans, His promises! They simply remind us that when we cannot see, He can. It is the prompt for faith. Proper emotional handling of disappointments leaves room for hope and joy: Faith.

Depression is a step far beyond the first two D-words and is an indication that you need to seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to do so–God can heal through medicine. There are just some things that are so difficult that the human heart and mind cannot grapple with them without assistance–death, pain, loss.  Hopefully with good support and counseling you will emerge on the other side stronger than ever.

In Psalm 42 & 43, the Psalmist provides us with a glimpse of each of these three responses as he struggles to find his place before God once again. And as he does, God’s love is lavished upon him, his joy returns, his heart finds its song, and he worships his God. When the D-words show up in your life, make a stop by these two passages and allow God to shed His light in your life so you can deal with the billows and waves that D-words can cause.

So don’t let those D-words get you down. Look at your heart and clearly define whether you are dealing with a disappointment, are discouraged or really depressed. Then take action and expect God to place your feet back on solid ground.

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THE LOVE OF THE FATHER

 

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Sometimes the material madness of Christmas breaks my spirit. It’s not the fact that I can’t find a parking space within walking distance of a mall or even that the crowds around the sale tables make we wish I’d worn my shoulder and elbow pads. It’s that the world seems to have lost its way.

Out of habit I got up this morning after Christmas long before my family stirred to hit the big sales on things I definitely can’t use until next December. As I wandered alone through the crowds, looking at store after store, aisle after aisle filled with this world’s good, I John 2:15 came to mind, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

This verse is not a statement of priorities encouraging us to love God more than the good of this world; it is an either/or statement.

Growing up in a pastor’s home, this world’s good wasn’t anything I’d ever seen, much less loved. Over the years, God has blessed me abundantly. Has the world quietly wrapped its tentacles around my heart? Can I say that I appreciate God’s blessings without loving them? Is my love reserved only for Him? Do I love Him more than anything or anyone? If He is the only one in my life, is He enough? If He calls would I walk away from it all with my eyes fixed only on Him or look back like Lot’s wife?

As I looked around, I knew my answer . . . nothing holds my heart but my Savior. And in Him alone I find joy.

“Heavenly Father, YOU are the one I love. You are more than enough. You are all I need. You are all I want. Anything you bless me with only reminds me of your goodness. If I lost it all tomorrow, as long as you are with me, I will still be filled with joy because YOU are my joy—my everything. I love you, Lord.”

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WAITING & WATCHING

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Each Christmas as I reread the story of the birth of the Savior, I ask God to show me something new–some insight into the players, events, emotions, etc. that I haven’t seen before. And it seems I’m never disappointed.

As I sit here on Christmas Eve’s eve, awaiting the arrival of my baby boy, it seems he will never get here.  Now mind you, he said he wouldn’t be able to leave until he finished up at work and would no doubt arrive after midnight. And, it is only 8:30. . but already we are checking in with him to see when he is leaving, getting his room ready, setting out things to thaw so we can cook the things we know he loves, turning on all the house lights inside and out so he will feel welcome and at home, and gathering his presents into a pile. Yes, we are ready and now have four long hours to watch the clock.

Then it hit me. While the earth slept as Mary welcomed the Lord of the Universe, the Heavenly Father had been planning this event for all eternity. He had been waiting for this holy moment. The excitement must have been building in heaven. Stars had moved into place and angels appeared heralding heaven’s joy. The Savior was come to earth to save mankind from their sins and to create the way back to the Father. But the earth slept, totally unaware of the magnitude of the events of the night. O how long had the Father waited? Had he been watching an eternal clock, counting the minutes even as we do tonight–waiting on the arrival of the birth of the baby Jesus?–waiting on his plan to redeem mankind to begin to unfold? Had he checked with the angels to see if Joseph and Mary had left yet for Bethlehem? Did he smile when the last room was taken in the inn knowing that now the lowly manger was waiting to hold the Christ child? Did He chuckle when the shepherds settled down with their sheep after a long day thinking everything was quiet on the hillside? It was time!

Now I think that He must be waiting on the day that Jesus will come and call us home to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Is He making final plans? Preparing a place for us? Watching the clock? Waiting on our arrival? As I sit here trying to exercise patience, I caught just a glimpse of my Heavenly Father watching that eternal clock, waiting on our arrival–finally home. What a day that will be!

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WHEN PLANS GO AWRY

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Mom–Mrs. Claus.  She’s the power behind the fat, bearded man in the red suit.  Face it, mom makes Christmas happen. If you have precious childhood memories of Christmas–your mom made them happen.  While she held down a job, dealt with the daily grind of life, laundry and lists, she also found time to bake birthday cakes, plan for vacations, ensure you had school supplies and new clothes, and .  . .drum roll. . .make Christmas happen for her munchkins. Moms trim the tree, decorate the house (inside and out), shop for the gifts and wrap them all, fill stockings, bake, set tables and make Christmas dinners happen. Moms are Santa’s elves. Usually by the time the last scrap of wrapping paper is picked up and the vacuum has made the sparkly stuff disappear from the carpets, she is ready to collapse. While the kids are off playing with their new gizmo and are talking to friends about their exciting day, she has found some place to take off her shoes and sit for just a few minutes as she enjoys the sounds of happiness from her little brood. All this joy takes perfect planning and execution.

But what happens when plans go awry? I was waiting in line at the grocery store–a long line–and began chatting with the gal in front of me. You know, the typical pleasantries, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  She shook her head and then said, “My mom is very sick this year. I actually live in Roanoke, VA (about 3 1/2 hours from here) and I’ve come to help her so I won’t be home this year for Christmas. My family will have to fend for themselves.” WOW! What does a family do without a mom–at Christmas? I admired this woman who was sacrificing for her mom (who no doubt had made Christmas possible for her throughout her childhood). No doubt plans in this family have flown right out the window this year.

Mary and Joseph had plans. They were prepared to play their roles as bride and groom. But those plans were interrupted by God and they were assigned new roles as mother and father to the Christ child. They had to make room in their plans for God’s plan–for a baby–the Christ child. What plans have you made this year? Is there room for interruption by God for His plans? Is there room for Jesus in your life? Are you prepared to live life “interrupted” by God if necessary?

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BACK THAT TRAIN UP

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Matthew 5:23-24“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

A great relationship provides us with amazing joy. There’s no substitute for it. Even a thought of that friend or loved one fills your heart. You can’t buy it or manufacture it. But let something happen to strain it and the emotional carnage is like that of a derailed train. Relationships are supposed to stay on track.

Have you seen pictures of a derailed train? Cars are overturned and lie every which way. Stuff spills out of the them. There is no way to get that thing back on track even if you turn the cars upright again and refill them.

Years ago I was privileged to know a man who had worked all of this life for the railroads, and he was in his 80’s when we met.  His stories were always fascinating. One day he told me that when a train ends up taking the wrong path, the only way to get it back on track is to back it up to the place where it veered off the intended path.

When a relationship gets off its intended path, most of us move away, avoid dealing with it.  We want to turn our backs on it. Some of us want to pretend that it never happened, so we stuff it deep inside, put on a smile and try to move forward. Regardless, that train just doesn’t run on those old tracks in the same way it once did.  God’s way says we have to deal with it. Matthew 18:15-19 teaches us that we have to back that train up and set things right with our brothers and sisters. If we don’t, it isn’t going away; we can’t just move on down the track. We will have to deal with it before the throne. Wouldn’t it be wiser to set all of our accounts straight here on earth while we can?

Sometimes we hurt others without intent. Even so, if we are made aware that we hurt someone, we need to go and offer our apologies and regret. It’s as simple as this: if you accidentally backed into someone and caused them to spill something, you’d turn around and apologize and help them pick it all up.  If we would do that in the physical realm, we must also do so in the emotional realm. It isn’t about intent. . it is about ensuring we cause no harm to another person physically, emotionally or spiritually. And heaven forbid you take steps to intentionally inflict hurt to someone else. By all means, never let that be said of you. If you have done so, humble yourself and seek their forgiveness. It will stand as a barrier to your worship here and God’s blessing upon your life.  And when you stand before the throne and Satan brings up your offense, you’ll want your brother or sister to quickly step up and say, ‘We’ve already dealt with that one.  It is forgiven and covered.”

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. . .BUT FABULOUS!

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Earlier this week, I posted thoughts on recognizing and dealing with our flaws. But I don’t want to leave us contemplating our weaknesses when God created us uniquely for His purpose (Colossians 1:22). Even though we are only made of dirt, each of us is uniquely gifted with a personality, viewpoint, strengths, abilities, gifts, talents, etc. that when given to our Creator allows Him to do wonderful things through us.

I’m reminded of the young lad who was following Jesus along with the crowd. No doubt his mom had packed a lunch for him with five loaves and two small fishes. It was barely enough for him, but when he gave it to Jesus, the Master fed over 5,000 and took up 12 baskets of leftovers. I have often envisioned myself before the Lord as this young lad without much to give back to Him. My prayers are usually something like, “Lord, I want to be used by you to help others and to make a difference for your Kingdom, but I cannot imagine that I have anything you can use.” Sometimes I get a little glimpse of what He might be doing, but I can never be sure it will work out–not because I doubt Him, but because I know me. I can’t imagine that I even have five loaves and two fishes.

This young lad had such faith in the Master that his inabilities or the smallness of his offering weren’t an issue. Oh, that we may have this same child-like faith in our God. He doesn’t want us to live in condemnation or insecurity, but in victory. He wants us to know that He is all we need. It’s His work through us that enlarges our impact from minimal to miraculous. With God, all things are possible. With Him, despite my many flaws, I become fabulous!

Psalm 37:5-6 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

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FLAWED

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Have you ever noticed habits of others that bother you–get under your skin? Have you ever thought that maybe you have a few of those kinds of habits that others notice about you? Over the last few years I’ve begun taking stock of things I do that could be annoying to others. Actually, there’s quite a list. Now that’s not to say that I have managed to eliminate all of these things–habits are hard to break. But as a first step, I am becoming more aware of these things. I’ve spent time trying to figure out why I do them and under what circumstances.

For example: At heart I am on the border of the introvert/extrovert line. The older I get, the more I tend to be the introvert. But I’ve become aware that at times I talk too much–it’s like I cannot stop. So when do I do this? and why?

1.  Put me in a position where I’m uncomfortable (with a group or with someone whom I am not sure accepts me or I feel may actually be judging me) and I talk too much. It’s nervousness-insecurity. I feel the pressure to carry the conversation. WHY? Those in my home would tell you I’m a loner–even quiet most of the time. My good friends would tell you I am open and honest about my failures and successes with them and always available to listen to their joys and tears. In fact, I so care about them that I will ask many questions trying to get them to share it all with me.

2.  I crave deep conversations and relationships with others. Indeed I cherish those that I have this type of relationship with and when we get together it is a love feast of sharing and caring. I keep trying to recreate that with others that I care about–but this often ends up being a one-way communication. I am becoming aware that relationships have to be desired by both parties and that I should hold back until they signal they actually want a deep relationship with me.

3. Growing up my dad was gone a lot. Each evening when he came home we would gather around him to hear the details of his day. And when we would gather with family for holidays, the adults would sit around the table or living room and each would share all the details of their lives since they had last met–struggles, joys–everything. I loved sitting at their feet and hearing the stories. When with family I keep trying to recreate that openness and sharing. But times have changed and people no longer have the patience or interest to listen to my stories–nor do they want to share their stories. I charge it off to the generation gaps. Back in the good old days we took the time to listen to people and to get to know them. Sharing our hearts and lives was a gift we gave to our family. Maybe it was because we didn’t have so many options for entertainment or so much information coming at us. I need to let go of the past and realize that day has gone and be satisfied with receiving only sound bytes. . . and know that’s all others really care about from me.

So how can I change? Well, there is the option to stay home and not talk to anyone except my husband and best friends. But maybe God has a better way.  I’ve started with a humble position before the Lord. “Lord, I am sorry for the times I’ve misrepresented you and your will for my life. Help me and give me peace as I strive to be quiet both before you and others so that I may hear your voice and theirs.”

Remember the parable of the man who focused on a speck in another’s eye when he had a beam in his own eye? Let each of us focus only on our own flaws before the Lord. What flaws do you have? Have you taken an inventory? Yes, you have them–none of us is perfect. It may simply be a nervous habit. Or, it could be that you have an attitude that needs changing. You won’t see them when you look in the mirror but your spouse might reveal them to you if they do not fear retribution. Ask God to reveal your flaws. He won’t condemn you — He loves you. But He will begin to mold you and make you more like Him. You’ll still slip and mess up from time to time. Just keep giving your failures and flaws back to Him and watch Him refine you and make you into something beautiful in His sight. Let the sunlight of His approval wash over you as you meet each challenge of change.

Isaiah 57:15 (NLT): The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

 

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BLOOM. . in His time!

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My husband and I took off on a day excursion–something retired people can do. No plans, no destination. . just time and the road ahead of us.  We found all kinds of great places to stop and explore from quaint shops, an 18th century decaying palace to a hang out from our 20’s that we hadn’t eaten at in 40+ years. . .and finally, a nursery.  This wasn’t just any nursery–it was the largest, most elaborate nursery I’d ever seen. And whoever was in charge of their merchandising and displays had a gift. Everywhere you turned there was a sight to delight your eyes and smells that drew you closer. It was crowded, and a nice lady offered us hot apple cider and fancy cookies when swept in from the cold. Building after building we snapped photos like we were tourists on a sightseeing tour. Way in the back of the third building, I found a large area of what I thought were amaryllis bulbs. I was instantly drawn to them as this flower has always just captivated me. I called my husband over and asked him if he would buy me one.  I was sure it would be beautiful when it bloomed.

Of course, he would buy it for me–that’s what good husbands do. But I could tell by the way he looked at that one giant bulb perched atop the dirt in the small clay pot that he doubted that this was a good investment. But I wasn’t deterred. . . I wanted one. Well, actually I wanted three but we compromised and he bought me two.  The nursery clerk wasn’t very encouraging. He asked how long before it would bloom and she said maybe a week or so. . .and that the blooms usually lasted for only two days. Was she trying to talk him out of buying me this bulb? He looked at me with that look that says, “Are you sure about this? It’s a lot of money for a flower that might bloom for two days!” Undeterred, I smiled, grasped my two little clay pots and headed to the checkout counter before she talked him out of my purchase.

Time passed and finally a bloom came forth. It was gloriously beautiful.  That was a week ago.  Today there are eight . . .yes, eight. . .of the most beautiful blossoms you have ever seen on this planet. And they are ALL still blooming without the first sign of wilting and it has been eight days. . eight days! We get up every morning just to see what God has done.

My life often seems like that stark, dull, even somewhat ugly bulb in the plain clay pot.  What on earth is He making of me? Will I ever bloom and be a delight? I’m reminded that there was a child born in a stable, cradled in a manger who, in due time, became the Savior of the world. And so I take comfort in knowing that the same God that brings forth these beautiful blooms from that ugly bulb, that brought forth a Savior from a manger, has plans for my life as well. Though to most onlookers I’m hardly worth a second glance–surely nothing more than a castaway, to my Creator I’m simply a work in progress (Jeremiah 29:11). So when I want to give up, I take heart and decide instead that I’ll get up and see if this is the day that God will let a little bud burst forth that will become a beautiful bloom one day.

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