Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Slowing Down

So much of what crosses my path these days addresses the pace of life and our need to slow down.  Articles about noticing, blog posts about intentionality, devotions about giving thanks, and sermons about "come and behold" and "be still and know."

Summer allows that for me.  I pray for open eyes throughout the school year, but it's a challenge.  So in the summer I drink deep and slow.  I want to immerse myself in the beauty of my garden, the snuggles of my dog, the intimacy of friendships.  I want to not just pause, but step out of the moment and capture it; analyze it, reflect on it, and be filled by it. I want it to become a part of my soul to keep me nourished through the busier seasons ahead.

God is so incredibly good to us, to me.  No matter how much hell this life might hold, God's presence brings greater amounts of goodness and love.  Even if I don't see it in the circumstances of my life, I can't NOT see it in the beauty of creation.  And, thus, I can stay encouraged and see with eyes of faith.  Proof surrounds me of God's goodness.  Even if it seems hidden in my life at the moment, I know that it's there.

In a week of world unrest, summer busyness, and mental swirling, take a moment to pause, to look, to breathe.  Here are a few pictures from moments I chose to stop and see.  May they get you started this week, a chance to witness God's incredible beauty and power and goodness.  May He be praised by all we see, think, and say this week.
















Friday, July 18, 2014

Worship Like a Zucchini


They worshiped worthless idols so they became worthless themselves. 2 Kings 17:15 NLT

“You don’t like zucchini?” my mother asked with an incredulous look on her face.  You’d think I had said I stopped going to church, so disbelieving was her response.

“No, I don’t like zucchini.  I like it in stuff just not by itself.  It has no flavor.  It takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with but by itself, I don’t like it.”

“Well this has onions and you can add cheese,” she replied…

I have to chuckle at our exchange.  She appeased her mothering conscious by having salad as well that night.  Vegetables are important mind you!

 

 

I love how God uses seemingly random things to speak to us sometimes.  Like the conversation I just described.  Totally trivial and unnecessary for life, that conversation came to mind during my Bible study the next morning.  Zucchini of all things helped me understand a verse in 2 Kings.

As I read 2 Kings 17 the writer accounts how again and again God’s chosen people rejected their role.  They worshiped other gods, followed practices of the peoples around them, rejected God’s commands, and ignored the many prophets and warnings God sent.  Then I read verses 14-15:

But the Israelites would not listen.  They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God.  They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols so they became worthless themselves.

When I read that last sentence, I remembered the zucchini.  Zucchini takes on the flavors of those around it when it cooks.  I realized we as worshipers do the same thing.

God created us to be connected to and dependent on him.  We don’t have any flavor of ourselves.  When we are connected to him, we take on his character. 

But what if I connect myself to something else?

If I worship food, continually think about and pursue and enjoy food, my body soon reflects the evidence of that choice.  Although food nourishes the physical body, it has no spiritual benefit now or in the next life.  Just as food lacks no spiritual sustenance, I too become spiritually empty.

If I worship beauty and appearance, I might look amazing on the outside.  But appearance is fleeting and temporary at best.  Age does transpire.  Thus just as our appearance is insecure and unstable, so too, do we become.  We become insecure and lack stability in who we are.

If I worship money, my life might feel secure as my wealth increases.  But money makes us selfish.  To build up wealth I must seek my own interests and refute ideas of generosity, at least until I have so much I could never spend it all.  When I worship money, I too become self-focused.

When I worship God, however, I become like him.  I have compassion because of God’s compassion for me.  I can extend grace because of the grace I’ve experienced from his hand.  I walk in peace because God is peace.

We become like that which we worship.

The Israelites pursued false gods, idols that had no substance, power or worth.  Thus they too became a people without power, substance and worth compared to the chosen people of God which he’d intended.

Just like the popular Veggie Tales used to teach my son about God’s truths, so too a zucchini provided an important illustration for me.  I am like a zucchini.  I will take on the flavor of that which surrounds; I will become like that which I worship.

God, show us where we have taken on the characteristics of our false gods instead of living surrendered to you.  Help me to turn back to you in those areas.  Help me to focus on you and you alone; to worship you and you alone, that my life would become a reflection of you.  May your compassion, your grace, your patience, your love, your presence overwhelm me, transform me, and give me the purpose that you intend.  Let my life become an extension of you.  Open my eyes that I can open my heart.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who Am I Writing For?

When you read today’s title, you probably thought I’d talk about what it means to do something for God.  That’s certainly what my summer is about this year.  I’ve spent hours upon hours the past two weeks getting my proposal reworked and finished, ready for the writing conference next week.  Sounds like it would be an important reminder as I prepare, right?  Who am I writing for?

But I entitled today’s post that because the answer surprised me.

I cannot tell you how much these past two weeks of writing have impacted me.  Yes, I do this for God.  Yes, I write for the hurting believer that questions God’s goodness and struggles to trust.  I know that all of God’s purposes in these areas will come to pass in time.  But the lessons of the past two week have been humbling, inspiring… life-changing.  In writing for others, God's changing ME!

God’s certainly not finished with me yet!

How many times have I whispered to myself, What do you think you are doing?  You can’t do this!  I whispered, God this is never going to come together.  How will this get finished on time?  But then suddenly what I thought would take days, took a matter of hours.  What I write in my story, I have to do.  Trust.  Lean hard.  See with faith, not with vision.  God is in this.  I don’t work alone.

When you write a proposal, you include several sample chapters.  I included chapters 1 & 2.  Tears too numerous to count have trickled down my face as I walked back into the pain of our journey, tried to word it so my reader would live it with me.  The Holy Spirit is obviously at work here because themes have emerged that I had never intended, had never even realized.  That’s one of the things I absolutely LOVE about writing!  When you start a story, you never know exactly where it will take you.  The discoveries are so fun!

And so humbling.  It can be hard to see yourself in black and white, to admit who you were and how you got there.  But God’s encouraged me with that one word “were.”  He’s helping me focus on how far he’s brought me.  As I’m embracing the “process” of writing, God’s teaching me to embrace the process of life.

As I prepared my elevator pitch - that quick impactful explanation of your writing you share before the person who just climbed into the elevator with you reaches their floor- I marveled at God yet again.  I woke up one morning and there it was, the first sentence stirring in my mind.  Yes, I’d been living my story for days on end, and spent hours of writing, and hours of talking with my husband and writing partners.  But suddenly, all of those discussions, all of my readings, all of these various resources God brought along, clicked.  I wrote the first sentence and out came the other four as well.

Why do I doubt?  Why do I question? 
Why do I think God won’t come through when I’m doing something I know he said to do? 
 
So many times these questions have danced around my head as my heart dances in praise for God’s provision. 

And then, just 15 minutes ago, I caught my breath.  I heard what I said to my husband.

“It’s done.”
The proposal is finished.  My one sheet is ready.  My portfolio prepared.  It’s done.

But in hearing my own words, my heart quivered.  Really?  Are you sure?  Is it really done?  I could look at it again.  I know I’ll find places to tweek.

But right behind that onslaught of fear, I heard the whispers of lessons learned this week:

Trust. 

Rest. 

Process not perfection. 

An offering of obedience not responsibility for results. 

Grace received, not earned. 

Let go and let God.

 

So this week, that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve put it all aside for four days to visit my family and seek renewal with God. 

God is in this, has done this, and I will trust him to finish the job, however that might look.

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your diligent prayers and steady encouragement.

With God’s grace, my fish and loaves are prepared and offered to the Lord.  Now, we will see how he chooses to use them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sharing My Story

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to be featured as the guest for the "My Journey Of Faith" online radio show.  Thought you might enjoy a listen. (Click on image below) 

Huge thanks to Cynthia McCutcheon for the opportunity.  Praying God uses it to encourage others to keep trusting as you walk THROUGH your own Red Sea and wilderness challenges of life.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cwa-radio/2014/07/03/my-journey-of-faith

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Anniversaries

I was planning to wait to post this week.  I will be tomorrow's guest on the online radio broadcast of "My Journey of Faith."  I was planning on sharing that link once we finished.  But I decided to post today because I just stumbled on one of my most favorite stories with Peter. 

As I'm revisiting my story in preparation for tomorrow's broadcast and my upcoming writing conference, I've revisited my earlier blogs.  As I reread this story, it brought tears once again and an urgent prayer.

God THIS is what I want people to know about you.  That THIS is how you love us!

The event behind this story actually happened today, July 2, but in 2009.
Lavish Love
I hope it will inspire you to lean hard and live open to the lavish love God feels for you.

Enjoy! and thanks for the continued prayers.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More Thoughts From the Past

This week's link hails back to an important life lesson, an important parenting lesson, I shared with Peter.  It was featured in Lifeway's Parent Life online blog. 

Hope it gives you some food for thought.
Enjoy!

Punishment or Discipline?