March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.
Do you have ideas about your life and what you should do? We all do whether in battle or peace. We all have inclinations to go where our emotions lead. To be drawn to what seems warm and safe. Oh, but God, and his great plans for us. I like to take right turns, I like toasty fires and soft blankets. Oh, but God and his wonderful plans for us. He has a quiet voice that is apparent if I lay quietly and ask him why God, what God, what happens next God? If I remain quiet long enough for Him to ring through my emotions, I hear Him. He shows me direction, He shows me where I am and where not to go today. Where not to go today is not just good enough, but more than enough for me to get up and breathe into the direction where I am not going. Thank you God for knowing how to speak to us in words we can understand.
Proverbs 18:10: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
That is what He is making us – - a strong tower. Towers are tall and securely built. Each brick of your life is placed in such a manner that the hard winds of your next storm fail to decompose or chip at the tower. The stronger the Lord makes the tower, the more winds it can sustain. The enemy can blow to no avail when the Lord makes the tower in you. God, wherever each of us may be in the building of our internal tower, help us have the faith to grow tall in you.
Isaiah 41:10: So, do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.
Sometimes it feels like the water is up to your arms. Sometimes you don’t even know the water is up to your arms until He shows you. Sometimes you have to stay away from the water and stand on dry ground. His hands hold us wherever we are, but it is better to be on the ground God calls us to. Thank you God for seeing what we cannot see on our own.
John 16:33: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
Psalm 63: A psalm of David. For us when we are in the desert . . .
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
February 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the last few years, I ponder to God . . . You are too good. The heart of what I am trying to say to God is – - Where, my Lord, did you ever come up with the decision to bless me this way? How are you bringing forth such creative goodness that was made to touch me this way? I am awestruck by His greatness and outpouring of His goodness on me. Because, really, He knows my capacity to be like the wild man in the tombs. I have the capacity to be naked, isolated, bound and wild, but I am not. And even more than not, I am clothed, cared for, free and a protected daughter of God.
Still, when I whisper to God that You are too good, there is something in my heart that tells me to go deeper with that love expression to Him. It is fairly human to tell someone they are too good. It is usually an act of unexpected kindness that brings you to that phrase. You are plainly getting better than you think you deserve. So much so that you tell the person just how too good they are. The same is true with God. But God is not too good sometimes or less good other times. God is goodness. That kind of goodness reaches far into the heavens and scoops down low to save our souls and make us friends of God. I get glimpses of the expanse of His goodness in my day dreams, in my time with Him. In my dreams, I think of a place that is white as snow, with the breath of God as the blowing wind. In my dreams, the horizon is the perimeter of the stretch of God’s great arms wrapped around the holy ground. I can’t see the end, but I can see that He is the perimeter.
People are too good, and sometimes not. But God’s kind of good is extended all the time. His good is powered by great love, long suffering, patience and mercy. I am taken back to the wild man in the tombs. We’ve got to remember that none of us is too good to escape becoming bound, wild, naked and alone. But we also have to remember that when no one had any hope for that man, God visited the tombs and redeemed him. He became clothed, in his right mind and began worshipping at the Lord’s feet. God is really that good. He will go anywhere to meet us in our need. He clothes us, tends to our needs no matter how big or small. He frees us up so that we can really know His goodness. He protects us and calls us to mirror His goodness in acts of love and compassion towards others. Yes, in our human understanding, God is too good to us. But, truly the heart of God is goodness. He is our standard and our hope and our joy for all that has been and will be, good.
Inspired by Pastor Bob’s Sermon on Feb 16 – http://media.calvaryftl.org/player/index.cfm?fn=A1576
Inspired by Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon Study – http://www.lifeway.com/Product/GIDEON-YOUR-WEAKNESS-GODS-STRENGTH-MEMBER-BOOK-P005538485
February 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Did you ever sit in the last row of a plane? Or ride an ATV in the mountains? Or maybe ride a see-saw with someone way bigger than you? I am talking about the bounce. You’re riding along, and up you go. Hopefully, you don’t hit your head on the way up. But, you can guarantee that, if your butt doesn’t have some pad, it’s going to hurt on the way down. You might like the bounce on the ATV, but definitely not on the plane.
It occurred to me last weekend that our spiritual lives have this kind of bounce. You are on the way up, feeling full of the spirit, optimistic. You have a meeting with God, a spiritual victory, a breakthrough. Your cup runneth over. Oh gosh, but on the way down, slam. The enemy pulls out your seat and you hit the rocky ground. I had this experience yesterday. My husband and I had this great get-away for his 40th birthday. We celebrated with a few couples that we love and love us. Awesome dining, dancing, talking for hours, laughing. On the last day of the trip, we headed to Passion City Church in Atlanta – - where I really felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, ministering to me, encouraging me and moving me ahead in my life’s journey. My girlfriend and I had a great talk about the Lord over BBQ after service. I left Atlanta completely full and maybe even running over. And then, we got home. I stayed up till midnight packing lunches and headed to bed. That part was really no big deal, I was still running over. The morning came. I hit my head or bruised my butt; I am not sure which it was. Big fight with my husband on the way to school with the kids. Yes, in front of the kids who hadn’t seen mom and dad in three days.
I headed to my Monday morning bible study, ran into my husband one more time. I tried to end the fight. Didn’t go well. He sort of threw our conflict back into my lap. Any way, now I am in a pot hole less than 24 hours after my cup was full and running over. So I cry and my friend Stephanie rubs my arms till I stop crying. I eventually head to work feeling like I just lost a pillow fight and have those stars circling my head (like in cartoons). But really, I am sitting in a spiritual pot hole. I am so dazed that I am not sure even how to get up. Life is like a pot hole sometimes.
It’s Tuesday morning, and I’m up and out of the pot hole. I still remember where God took me on Sunday. And, I don’t really care about yesterday. I remember that God promises hardship in this life. John 16:33. That I will have bruises and cuts and loose fights (with pillows and otherwise). I remember that God taught me about giving and receiving love on Sunday. That He showed me how I can powerfully pray. That I can believe and have faith for the things I pray for. That He is sovereign above all, that He notices me in and out my days. In and out of my acts of love and hope for the things only He can offer. That one day, I will see the things happen that I so greatly desire. One day, my friend. One day, you will be running over and, one day, you will be in a pot hole. Either way, He reigns.
February 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
By Bindu Adai Mathew
Every year my company rewards its employees with a two night stay at 5 Star hotel and two tickets to any of the Universal or Disney Parks in Orlando. It’s one of my favorite company perks and always a good time to celebrate and relax. This past year’s trip was no exception. It was November, and November is typically a time in Florida where you can finally brag about living in Florida. After a rainy, hot, humid summer that often stretches well into mid-October, November is a reminder of why we all live here. The temperatures drop to the upper 70s and low 80s… the sunny is shining brightly… cool island breezes… aaaahhh… yes, life is good.
Except that Friday night at the Welcome reception one of my co-workers told me that the forecast was to be cold and rainy. I was aghast! What?! Nooooo! How could that be?! I almost laughed when she said temperatures were supposed to be in the upper 60s and low 70s! Cold?! Ha! I’m from Texas and while it rarely snows there, temperatures are only considered cold when it hits the 40s and 50s. But rain… yes, that was going to definitely be a bummer since Disney’s Magic Kingdom is basically an outdoor park. Later that night, I told my 4 year old daughter, “Honey, we may not get to go to the park tomorrow because it’s supposed to be stormy and rainy.” Her face immediately fell. I smiled and patted her hand, “You want to pray to God about it? He can stop the rain.” She nodded her head and together we said a short prayer.
The next morning I woke up to a very wet Saturday. Our hotel concierge advised us that the rain was supposed to let up around mid-morning so we decided to head out for breakfast and then to Disney. But an hour later the rain was still going strong and looked like it wasn’t stopping anytime soon. Disappointed, we decided to save our free passes for another day and drove around Orlando looking for an indoor park. Ava was understandably the most disappointed and turned to me with her sad, puppy dog eyes, “But mommy, we prayed. Why didn’t God stop the rain?” I shook my head and shrugged. “I don’t know, baby, but when God doesn’t do what we ask, that means He’s going to do something better…” While I believed what I said, I, too, was disappointed that God hadn’t answered our prayers.
In the meantime, we decided to make a pit stop at a luxury theme hotel that we had heard a lot about and we spent the next hour exploring their Florida-themed atrium that resembled Key West, St. Augustine, and the Everglades. Before we left, the hotel concierge advised us that the rain had mostly lifted and that this was probably the best time to visit Disney as the lines wouldn’t be as long. I frowned as I glanced at my watch. Shorter lines, yes, but it was already past 1… I recalled the previous year how a posted 30 minute-wait time at Dumbo ended up being a two hour wait for a 2 minute ride. I sighed as I just knew that with half the day almost gone, we’d probably not be able to go on many of the rides. The previous year, we’d gone on less than half the rides available at the park even though we’d gotten there at 9am and stayed until 10pm. I resigned myself to the situation, trying to remember to be grateful that we were even here.
Eight hours later
We shuffled into our car, exhausted, and collapsed happily into our seats. Although it had been overcast, it had still been a great day. It had only drizzled twice, and only as we were leaving the park did the rain start coming down heavily again. But due to the morning rain, luckily for us, many other people had obviously cancelled their plans to visit the park so even though we only had a half day there, not only had we had a shorter wait time, but in the end, we probably went on more than twice as many rides.
I glanced at Ava, who sat quietly, probably from exhaustion, in her car and seat and stared out the window. “Ava, did you have a good time?”
She turned to me and smiled from ear to ear, “I did, mommy. It was a fun day!”
I recalled the mini kids roller coaster we went on five times, the spinning tea cups we rode on four times, and the countless other rides we never even touched the previous year. I then recalled what I had told her earlier that morning, and I smiled as a small light bulb went off in my head. “Ava, remember how we thought God didn’t answer us when we prayed that the rain would stop? See, if it hadn’t rained all morning, then we would have waited a long time in line and wouldn’t have ridden on all those rides. So it looked like God didn’t answer our prayers, but He did something better than what we had asked!”
I smiled to myself and said an internal thank you for the reminder that we shouldn’t fret when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the exact way we prayed then. We should always trust that He truly wants the best for us.
More than twice the rides in less than half the time. I love how God’s math works.
February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the last year or so, I have been swept away by the book of James. I am trying to put my finger on why I am taken with the man and the book for some time now. Do I have a crush on James? Maybe, but it goes way deeper than that. I have a feeling in my heart when I think about James’ leadership at the Jerusalem Council in the early days of the church. I think about how he put together some simple rules for the newly saved Gentiles rather than bury them with Jewish law. The ability to execute decision making with great wisdom and fairness is commendable. That is probably one reason why James was known as James the Just. If there is an admiration scale in me, I think wisdom and fairness tips the scale; of course, in favor of James and my desire to learn from his life.
I think about James’ life experiences and history with his family and brother Jesus. All of this must have been working through his mind and soul as he sought to lead and feed the Jerusalem church and beyond. He had the Word on paper and he had seen the Word face to face. I am reminded that we all are capable of doing great things when we have had a face to face encounter with the Word on paper or in person.
Scholars say James had another nickname – - camel knees. I don’t really like the sound of that knobby phrase. There had to have been a better Jewish word to describe a prayerful person. In any case, James was highly regarded for his consistent prayer life. Looking forward 30 or 40 years, I hope to think that I will have put in enough time with the Lord to be remembered in such a way. I find that rather challenging when I think about the day to day tasks of getting up, making lunch, getting out the door. The daily challenges that scrape away at the precious minutes we have under the sun. The frustrations of what is and isn’t and how long until. We are all living in an opportunity to seek the Lord at all costs. To intelligently and intentionally push through the grind to the matters of the heart. The things that really matter to the Lord.
Because really, I think it is the heart of James that has swept me away. It is the heart of a brother that had a remarkable encounter with the resurrected Lord and never looked back, not once. My heart can’t travel past that. I am swimming in the revelation. If you think you might be taken by James as well, take a look below. I am going to hunt for the Jesus in James until my heart is quenched. For now, I just can’t get enough.
January 28, 2014 § 3 Comments
We all know what it is like to physically flinch. After 911, I flinched when I saw the first airplane in the sky after the attach. I flinched for a few months at turning cars after my mom and I had a bad car accident on an out-of-state trip in a rental car. And, I will forever flinch if I think you are throwing a bug or lizard at me (childhood scars). But, until recently, I never thought about flinching at God.
I look back at the last several years and can remember a list of events that were painful. I think about my dad suffering from and fighting for his life against cancer. I think about some really empty times in my marriage. Money problems. Professional anxiety. I am not talking about our day-to-day pressure. I mean the very hard stuff. The kind that happens to you, rather than something in the news or something far away.
There is no doubt in my mind that God has brought me through each and every dark place. I mean that – - the dark places where, if you don’t quickly realize, it’s you and God, you’ll sink. You can make a move to cling to Him, trust Him and hold His hand through varieties of earthly hell. Or, you can make a move to sink without Him. My doubt and emptiness has often been big, but God has always been bigger. My problems have appeared without resolution or hopeless, but God has never left things that way. My sorrow has taken on forms of depression, but God always delivered me.
One would think that with all the hand holding and carrying God has done for me; with all the deliverance; with all the spiritual victory; that I would not flinch at God. As the new year approached with all of the unknown ahead, I sought God for His plan for 2014. And, before I could get the plan fully down on paper, I started to flinch. Many thoughts crossed my heart. There is the chance that I will write this God directed plan and it could fail. I would hate that kind of failure. Flinch. There is the chance that God will bring me to accomplish this beautiful plan, but what if it can’t be accomplished without pain. Big flinch. Are we going to do a repeat of last year God? Because I will definitely flinch if we replicate February through May of 2013. And, frankly, some of the summer stunk too.
The truth is that I would do February through May of last year eight times over just turn learn the lessons He taught me over that time line. The truth is that it’s Satan that encourages the spiritual flinch. Our God is calling us to wherever He leads. The unknown is good when it is in His hands. I am over my flinching for now. I like idea of going where He goes, whatever the cost.
January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
It is so sweet to think of the ways the Lord is a shepherd to us. I followed the lead of James McDonald’s weekly devotion and started to list the ways he leads, protects and feeds us, just like a good shepherd. I am always so impressed with the way the Lord leads. Do you ever have the experience of needing to make a decision that you can’t put your finger on just yet? You’re contemplating, but nothing really seems best. Whether it’s the next hour or a few days later, a direction is brought to light or a path seems available that you never could have thought up on your own? The thought in your mind is perfect, but you know it is not your own. That’s my measure for when it is the Lord. I am sure it is the Lord when the thought resolving my indecision is other-worldly; impossible to be thought up by me, but truly perfect. He leads in the most magnificent ways.
With respect to His quality as a protector, I am very intrigued by what I cannot see. I am intrigued by the power of Christ. I think about what the Lord allows and disallows in my life even in one twenty-four hour period. I can’t even imagine what He protects each one of us from as we walk through our day. I remember years ago spinning off the expressway into the median in rush hour traffic. I stepped out of my car shaking like a leaf. Two people pulled over to help me. One turned out to be a sister in Christ. She was perplexed that my car spun through two lanes and landed in the median backwards without being hit. She said to me as I shook, “Are you a believer in God?” Still shaking, I nodded yes. She replied, “Sister in Christ, stop shaking. You are okay.” The other man who pulled over was an off duty EMT who held back the traffic so I could get back in the traffic. A few weeks later I found out that I was pregnant when this took place. He is a protector. This is His invisible power. We won’t know all of the details until we can take a look from the other side, but I marvel even now at His power and protection over our lives.
The Father also feeds us. I have heard Beth Moore say that she believes this is an extraordinary time where regular people like you and me have access to studies and devotions and teachers to know the word of God like no other generation. This is so true. We have an abundance of truth at our fingertips, literally. He has given us the opportunity to be permeated with good teaching, to learn like a scholar, to think like a disciple. I pray that I don’t get lackadaisical about what is available to me. I pray that I stay hungry and feed on the goodness of His word.