Anticipation


I prefer the anticipation to the aftermath. I wish it weren't so. I love the lights, the smells, the baking, gifts piled under the tree, shopping, wrapping (well, not so much the wrapping), watching the golden heads make gifts... And somehow when that's over; I feel let down. It's not as satisfying as I anticipated. And my middle aches. It's as if Christmas falls short, but I'm supposed to be celebrating the fulfillment of prophecy that my perfect, God Savior came down from heaven and became a baby boy: one significant step in the plan to save me. I'm not even sure what the lights, gifts, goodies and wrapping (wrapping for sure) have to do with any of that. Yes, we Christians come up with all sorts of justifications. The lights represent the star in the sky… The gifts remind us of the three wise mens' gifts…. Goodies represent the spices the kings brought… (There's no justification for the wrapping.)

Over and over, my expectations fail to satisfy: birthday gifts, desserts, dates, words of affirmation, acts of service, back rubs. I always think it sounds so thrilling and "perfect," but then it comes to pass and it doesn't quite meet the mark.

Thankfully, Christ will be the one thing that doesn't fall short! When I read Isaiah's prophecy in Chapter 6 and John's multiple descriptions of worshiping the Lamb in Revelation, there's no reason to think that worship left a void in ANYONE! Not in Isaiah, not in the elders, not in the angels or John. And when I worship, it satisfies.

There's a lesson in this. When the lights twinkle, presents are opened, family surrounded and goodies abound, I need to be focused on Christ, to be worshiping Him in that moment. Worship is 24•7 lifestyle: constant communing with God, ascribing to Him the glory He deserves.

At the end of the famous love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul writes of the greatest virtues: faith, hope and love. And he notes that the greatest is love. Christ is love. When we meet Jesus face to face, both faith and hope will be realized and not necessary any longer. I hope for a great Christmas experience, I have faith in my family to make it a great experience, but experiencing Christ, worshiping Christ, is to experience love that never ends!
Though the presents not be received with excitement,
and the cinnamon rolls are gone,
and the mittens I bought are too small,
and the leftovers are gone,
and my family is driving me crazy
and I long for solitude,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
I will worship God, the Lord is my strength;
He satisfies my Christmas;
He lets me experience Him and surrounds me with His presence.
Habakuk 3:17-18 (Christmas paraphrase)
Until I meet Him on the day faith and hope are realized, I will wait with patience (Romans 8:25). I will worship Him, especially at Christmas. Now, if I would only remember not to forget.

 Will you join me in worshiping Him, the only one who satisfies this Christmas? Not gifts, not family, not goodies that fall short, but completely full of Him!

Discipline

I didn't want to make the call. I just want to spend my day not working. I called her anyway, out of duty and discipline. Our conversation lifted my spirits, reminded me of tangible gifts, humbled me in leadership and reminded me of my calling.

I didn't want to run. Discipline sent me lacing my shoes and bundling up. It turned out to be a perfect pre-dawn run: 19 degrees, no wind and Christmas lights. The endorphins kicking in feel fantastic and the coffee dripping smells inviting.

Tempting to not clean the bathroom. After all, it's not that bad. Likely, if I skip it, an emergency will come up next week on bathroom cleaning day and it won't get cleaned that week either (….gross!) Maintaining in discipline gives a sense of accomplishment and wise stewardship.

The more I contemplate, the more I understand that there are gifts of joy and blessing lurking behind self-discipline. Sometimes you choose to begin the task out of duty or mere discipline but then the gift follows.

After rebuilding Jerusalem's wall, Nehemiah chapter 8 describes the Jewish exiles that have returned to Jerusalem, are counted, read and taught the law which brings them to tears. But Nehemiah and the Levite priests commands them to celebrate the holy day of the Lord; "And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength," (verse 10). The Jews left the assembly  to eat, drink, share with others and "make great rejoicing." I have a hard time picturing a grieving person feeling like eating, drinking and rejoicing. They were moved to grief, tears, and weeping. Out of obedience and self-discipline, the Jews chose to celebrate. Initially, it likely felt heavy-hearted and obligatory. But their actions started rejoicing, and their hearts followed that choice.

Time in God's Word? Oh, I'll do it after I go grocery shopping, vacuum the floors and make the girls' after school treat. Ahg, by 4pm, my Bible and journal haven't budged. I feel the ache in my heart, the lack of power because I haven't plugged into the power source. Choice out of discipline is hard, but I have experienced over and over the gift that follows the choice.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

What choice do you need to make today out of discipline? Watch the joy of the Lord unfold as you discipline yourself.

Life

In my hiker opinion, there's a difference between just strolling along a path you see from the highway and getting out the map, consciously choosing a destination and then planning the trail route. In both instances, you might see some pretty neat things, but likely the routed path will yield more spectacular views. But the extra work of planning the excursion is a choice.
Rewind four-thousand years to Moses leading Israel through the desert recorded in Deuteronomy 30.
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods,18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Israel had a choice on the quality of their life. It was irrevocable that they were a people chosen and called by God (Deuteronomy 7:6-9) and they were undoubtedly in His flock, but the quality of their life was determined by their choice: life and prosperity or death and disaster.
We have the same choice. When we choose to believe in the work of Jesus paying the penalty of my sin on the cross, we are choosing to accept eternal life and enter into His flock. After that initial choice, comes the daily choice: to love my LORD, follow His ways in all I think, say and do, and hold fast to Him (verse 20).
This is the key to living a full, meaningful, rich life because He is my life. After our initial choice to accept eternal life, our old life is buried, dead and gone (Galatians 2:20). He is my length of days. The quality of my today depends on my choice to love, follow and hold onto Jesus. This is the difference between living a ho-hum life as a believer (a pitiful existence) and living with purpose and joy. Some people say choose your attitude, I say choose LIFE!
Deliberately choose a trail on the map, don't just mosey on down whatever path is laid before you because that path will not be satisfying! To not consciously choose is to choose the unsatifsying life.
Every day when you come before God, picture Him like Moses before Israel, asking you, "Will you choose good or evil?" And just like Moses pleaded with Israel, He pleads with you to choose life.
Will you consciously choose life today: to love God, follow His ways and hold onto Him as your surety?

Chose


Walking through the crisp winter sunshine, I am overwhelmed! This must be a dream. How could I be so lucky? It's 8:05am and I've already engaged in two great conversations with brilliant young ladies, drank two cups of Caribou coffee made by the engineer, baked breakfast for my family, enjoyed a hot shower, have bed-sheets in the washing machine, stirred up bus-stop chatter with neighborhood kids, received a greeting and wave from a new neighbor and am shoveling the drive-way. I am so blessed! My thoughts immediately went to the engineer who holds down the other end of the teeter-totter: working long-days at a stressful, high-paced job. What did I do to deserve the better end of that (well, today anyway as there were no "trouble on the high-seas" among the golden heads before school)?
Then I saw the connection.
--but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 8:5
I was depraved, hopeless, pitiful and ugly and He chose me. I see myself on the lighter end of the teeter-totter.
…(God) chose me in (to be in) Christ before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:4
I was an enemy of God and He couldn't even look at me because I was sinful, yet God made a way for me to be at peace with Him because Jesus said yes to death on the cross. I did nothing to deserve saving from eternal condemnation and death. My penalty for being sinful should have been death forever in hell, but God gave me a gift: a get out of jail free card in Jesus. He wanted to have a relationship with me.
For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that (when we are) in Christ we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
If you are in Christ, when was the last time you fully realize how blessed you really are? Take time right now to praise Him for choosing you!

Enough

The first nights well-below freezing and snow sits on a thin layer of ice. "After school, I'm getting my ice-skates and going right to the pond." Better hold onto those skates for a while boisterous one.
Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5
Chapter 13 is the writer's finally rally for the Hebrews. Continue in love, practice hospitality to all, remember those in prison and those mistreated, stay pure in marriage, don't love money more than God...
Could this have a deeper application than just love of money? The NASB begins this way, "Make sure that your character…" Character is the mental and moral qualities that make up my life. Character makes me step back and think about my entirety: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical. Make sure all of me is free from aphilarguros. The same greek word is used here three times in a row! This is a string of exclamation points behind a word that literally means to be without an insatiable desire for more of what you don't have.
More what? Not just money but anything other than God: false peace, power, marital bliss, children, perfection, control, popularity, happiness, acceptance, justice, idols, job…
Replace wanting more with a choice: "..and be content." The word content is also translated sufficient or enough. Philip says to Jesus in John 14:8, "Show us the Father (God)and that will be enough." And in 2 Corinithians 12:9, God speaks to Paul, " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' " I must determine that what I have is enough and sufficient and be content "with what I have." This word literally means what's near by. And what's nearby? Christ. I have Christ. When you believe in Jesus as your Savior, He comes to live within you. He is sufficient. He is enough. I should never desire more than that. So while I'm frustrated and on eggshells, I can't let my desire for peace and fixing trump my desire for Christ who is so sufficient in the interim.
The things for which we are greedy are temporary, Christ in me is forever. He empowers me and because He lives within me, I do not face these battles alone. He says, "I am with you in the struggle!"
On the eggshells, I choose to be content, to trust His sufficiency. And just like the boisterous one holding onto her ice skates, I hold onto Jesus.
In what area do you need to choose to be content? Verbally claim, trust and know with full confidence that Jesus in you is enough and He is with you in this struggle.

Compelled

Lying in bed. It's four o'clock in the morning. I can't fall back to sleep. My mind begins. If I wake up now, I'd have plenty of time to study the Bible, finish that chapter, write in my blog, enjoy coffee, get a good workout… Golly I hope I don't fall back to sleep, that sounds like fun.
We are simply compelled to do some things. (Things that seems crazy to others.) 
 For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t do it. (1 Corinthians 9:16, NLT)
Paul is compelled to preach the gospel. It’s the passion God gave him and it keeps him up at night. It is not his own will, but God's design for his life. To not preach for Paul would have been to live his life in vain or emptiness because he’s not accomplishing God’s intended purpose for his life

Suddenly, at 6:04 in the morning, I understood that word. I am compelled to wake up early. I jokingly call it "my own time." But maybe it's a God-given compulsion. It equips me and seriously, "woe to me" if I don't take it. (And woe to my family as well.)
God-given compulsions will always align with God's Word and will likely be an act of love, service or relationship.
There are other things we're compelled to do. Friends who felt compelled to sell everything they own, pack up their families and fly across the globe to share Jesus by building relationships with those in other countries. Sometimes we're compelled for the long-term missions. Sometimes we're compelled for the short-term missions: a ten-day mission trip, filling shoe-boxes for Operation Christmas Child, bless someone financially, or encourage someone with a phone call or note... When your compulsion is God given, it doesn't just go away after a good-night's sleep. It'll wake you in the middle of the night, keep you up at night or wake you before long before the sunrise. Better to act on your compulsion: your God-given mission. To step out in faith and trust for God's provision and act! This is what God's designed you for.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
What are you compelled to do? What steps of faithfulness will you take today to answer God's work designed for your life? The reward will be exhilarating: when God says to you, "Well, done my good and faithful servant."

Chicken and broccoli

CLANK, CLINK, CLANK-CLANK. Looking up to the noise overhead, I spy the aphid heaving its little shell body into the light fixtures above. Pausing a moment, I realize, that's what I've been like the last 10 weeks. Clanking, banging around like (as my mother used to say) a chicken with my head cut off.
"Love more and more, and aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." 1 Thessalonians 5:10b-12
And while we haven't ceased to have food to eat and the house isn't in shambles, it's likely a pace that's not beneficial to all in my family and thinking about Paul's decision in 1 Corinthians 8:13, the lady bug gives me a new understanding or application.
"Therefore, if my busyness causes my family's relationship with Jesus to falter, I will never run around crazy, if it makes my family fall away from Jesus." (my application of 1 Corinthians 8:13)
Reading on in Corinthians,
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them." 1 Corinthians 9:19 
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God…not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:31,33b
I feel called to lay aside some of my own preferences so that I might serve for God's glory. Loving a plan of action, I make my list of tangible ways to love and serve those within the walls of my home. This is the creative part that comes easily for me…but the day to day rubber meets the road application is definitely tougher! However, if I don't apply God's Word to my life, it would have been better to not even had read God's Word or listened to His conviction.
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:22-25
Not applying God's Word and personal convictions in my life is like looking in the mirror, seeing I have a chunk of broccoli stuck in my teeth and walking away without doing anything about it. And who wants to be that person? No, I will remove the broccoli; I will take the steps to love and serve my family.
When God convicts your heart about something, do you respond? Will you take the principle and put it into action? Or will you walk around with broccoli stuck in your teeth?

Love notes

"Mom, will you write me another love note?" the boisterous one asks. Penned words of love, endearment and appreciation from those dearest to us are treasures. Just this last week, tucked away in my near 20-year-old, binding falling apart NIV Study Bible, I found a Valentine card from the engineer. We were 17 and 18 years-young, infatuated and in "love."
Happy Valentine's Day Becky!!!! For the most wonderful girl in the world!!! Becky, I love you so much!!!! You are my best friend and I just want to thank you for always being there for me. You are very special to me!!
Honestly, it kinda cut me. At odds a majority of the time, I hardly consider him my best friend. But to think back on those days…those Fridays when I couldn't wait to spend the night with him. It didn't matter what we did; I just wanted to be with him. And now, I spend every night in the same bed with him, nearly every dinner and weekend with him. There's little novelty left.
This is how I used to feel about God's Word. Oh, I've read this before. But since God's really gotten my attention, since I've decided to follow him whole-heartedly, every day there is newness in God's Word. And every situation I encounter reveals more of His Word and His truths to me. Each morning I ask Him, God what is it you want to teach or tell me? When I am experiencing life (whether it is dirty socks all over the house, dew drops clinging to the bare tree branches or the rain clouds rolling back to reveal a gorgeous sunrise), He reveals to me an applicable spiritual truth.
I am so convicted. How pathetic that I don't look at my marriage with new eyes. Ahg! I feel defeated and clueless as to how to change. And then, in God's foreknowledge, the old Valentine Card saved in my Bible is tucked in James, chapter 1.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whether you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (vv. 1-7).
I am tempted to throw my hands up and say, Whatever, I give up! I lack wisdom in knowing how to look at my marriage with continual newness. It's seems simple: ask + no doubt that His way is the best way = His answer.
James ends this passage explaining a "double-minded" man. The New Living Translation says, "their loyalty is divided between God and the world." I can't look right and left at the same time and I can't look at the world's (or my) "wisdom" and God's wisdom at the same time. If I ask God for a solution while having my own idea of what will work, it will be my idea implemented, not His and it will fail. I have to be all in: I must believe His solution will be successful and fix my attention on His way.
And like the dew drops clinging to the tree branches in the morning sunshine, I will cling to Jesus while He reveals the how. How much energy that little drop uses to cling to the branch? If it looks the opposite way (down) it's going to fall. If I fail to give God my full attention, I will fall to the world.
Like the clouds that rolled back for the gorgeous sunrise, this season of dullness will disappear too. And as for those dirty socks? Well, those golden heads won't be here forever: love the now. Love the engineer now.
What do you need to look at with new eyes? Maybe your marriage is great and you want newness is reading God's Word. How will you do it? Work? Kids? Will you choose to ask the Lord for wisdom in the how? I humbly ask for prayers of those reading this: that I would see my husband through new eyes, fix my attention on God's idea and love the now. 

Kaboom!

Sometimes I have an Ah, duh! moments. And I've been thinking for the last four days, I need to claim the power available to me because Christ lives in me. The process has seemed so elusive to me.
"I also pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great God's power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven." Ephesians 1:19-20, TLB
Overwhelmed would well describe the past few weeks for me. So much to shuffle, struggling to manage my time and priorities, tired physically and emotionally of parenting, selfishly wanting time for myself (which one would think is crazy since all the golden heads are in school now and I have the entire school day quiet) and wrestling with connection and communication with the engineer. I haven't quite figured out what to do with myself. I know Jesus holds the answer but how?
As I was preparing to teach on Paul's letter to the Corinthians, I became convicted of needing to take hold of the power available to me. It's like the Starbucks gift card in my wallet that I'm saving for "special occasions," so it remains unused. I have this power "card", but like my Starbucks card, I'm saving it for when I "really" need it. Ah, duh, I need it now. I need it every day. And unlike a gift card, God's power never runs out. God keeps reloading the card.
Lying in bed in the middle of the night, my mind goes full circle. Months ago, I learned and committed to memory: God as my loving Father will meet all my needs, all my physical needs and my need for purpose, peace and power. And He can meet those needs when the  Holy Spirit is ruling my lifeAh, duh, I knew that! I couldn't sleep anymore. Power, power, power kept flashing through my mind. While the sky lightened, I picked up Mark chapter two and power keep surfacing: power to heal, power to witness to the unsaved, power to be Lord of all.
"For the kingdom of God (Christ within me)…is living by power!" 1 Corinthians 4:20
How? I need a plan. To steel the one-liner from the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together." So what is my plan? My plan includes

  1. Self-talk: In my moments of temptation, trial and weakness, I need to tell myself, "I am empowered by the Holy Spirit and that is more than enough power to make it through ___." 
  2. Taking a deep breath, confessing my mess-up and choosing to do the opposite. 
  3. Praying for the one who's driving me nuts. 

If I choose to use it: kaboom! His power will always comes through for me.
So what's your plan? How do you remind yourself to claim the unlimited, unending power available to you?

Nets

"Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:17
 The ESV adds become in its translation, indicating an future process of change or growing. The disciples weren't yet fishers of men, but would be transformed into what Jesus' will was for them and Jesus would do the work (I will make). Jesus did the fashioning, molding or transforming in his disciples in New Testament times and is molding you and me now if we follow him. Our action of following comes first.
And immediately Jesus left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. Mark 10:29-31
Simon had a mother-in-law, so we infer that he was married. Simon left more that just his nets, to follow Jesus; he left his family for a time (or maybe his family followed Jesus and his disciples.) This rocked me. If Jesus calls the engineer to do a completely time-consuming ministry in which Jesus would work through him and the engineer had to leave our family for days and weeks to become what Jesus intends, I would have a really hard time accepting God's will. I have always held tightly to keeping family before or above ministry on the priority list. This revelation of family in Scripture reminds me to hold loosely. However, I am comforted: Jesus showed up at Simon's house and healed Simon's mother-in-law. Jesus cares about families and will take care of them, providing for all their needs. I'm sure he'd do this even if Jesus hadn't physically walked into the home. He is an omnipresent God. I wonder what the perspective would be from Simon's wife. How many stories would she have of how God provided, cared and healed their family while she was "holding down the fort" during Simon's following?
A day after my pondering, the blue Jays moved in. In my office, I look out a window overlooking the boisterous one's rainbow flower garden. At first I noticed just one blue jay, then realized it was a whole flock. I had never noticed a blue jay in my yard prior to this, so it really grabbed my attention. I wondered why they had moved in and then I recalled the sunflowers she had planted. Food: the blue jays were after the sunflower seeds. Remember that movie, Field of Dreams and that famous voice in the corn field: "If you build it, they will come," ? Suddenly in my head is the phrase, "If you feed them, they will come."
Mark chapter one: fishers of men. If you feed them (literally as Jesus did feed the 5000+ and then 4000+ and figuratively feeding spiritually), they will come. Read through any gospel account, people flocked to him! When they follow, God's Word and Holy Spirit will do the work to transform them.
In the middle of preparing my teaching on 1 Corinthians 3, I see the parallel. Our class membership attendance has fallen from last year. But if follow (and leave my nets) he will make me become fisher of men. And if I feed them, they will come.
Since my calling, I've had the hardest time leaving my nets: my family. Just a day prior, the boisterous one ran off the school bus and asked, "You're coming to my fall walk, aren't you?" In fact, I had not volunteered for this field trip. Intentionally, this was an act of leaving my net. And even now as I work on my teaching, watching the blue jays, her look of devastation rips my heart in two. I know I'm called to teach right now but I'm feeling guilting about "leaving" my family. Knowing I'm following Him, I press on in my study and preparation.
A while later, I indulge in the last piece of Dove dark chocolate from Valentine's Day. (It is fall but, chocolate keeps, right?) I don't believe in horoscopes but I do believe God speaks to us in sometimes bizarre ways. Inside the chocolate foil is a message: "You are exactly where you are suppose to be." Not on a field trip, but parked in God's Word preparing for teaching. So I resolve to do the work God has called me to for this season and allow him to provide and care for my family as I follow.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 4:10
You have a mission you are called to for Christ. What is your "net" right now? Practice flexing your trust muscles and leave your "net" to walk following Him.

Excess


Awake in the middle of the night, the to do list blinks through my racing mind. Oh, Jesus, I have so much to accomplish tomorrow. Please multiply my time so that I finish well what NEEDS to be done and the let the rest take care of itself. Somehow I fell back to sleep and awoke with the alarm, choosing to begin my day on-time despite the lack of sleep and doing the routine that makes me better (a short workout, drip time and time with God.) My prayer remained, God, multiply my time. I don't see how I can get all this done! Multiply. Make it divinely only possible because You work in my middle.
By 5pm, there was only one item on the list remaining: preparing a devotion for the next day. God had not yet impressed on me what He wanted me to share. Clearly, it would take some time just sitting and listening to Him. The compassionate one had dinner in the oven and I smiled. I had an hour until dinner to spend time listening. Sitting in the middle of the bees buzzing around the blooming flowers, I was in awe. How'd He do that? How'd I get all that done? I didn't seem possible that I should have an extra hour in my day. Yet here I was sitting in the sunshine, adoring His creation: the bees, flowers, clouds, leaves, blades of grass, the sound of children playing…
Somehow that night, I wasn't anxious for the first day in my new leadership role at Community Bible Study. I enjoyed a bike ride, time reading with a golden head, bedtime prayers and PBS with the engineer.
"..in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:5-9
When Paul writes, “that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge,” based on the meaning of the greek word translated enriched, it means God goes so far to richly supply in excess, every thing in every way for every need by means of the Holy Spirit IN the believer. The Christ follower lacks nothing while they wait for Christ to return.
I'm reminded of how Jesus fed the 5000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish. When the disciples collected the leftovers (seriously, leftovers?) they took up twelve baskets full of broken piece and of the fish. God supplied richly, in excess! (Mark 6:30-42)
I know God chooses to do that for us sometimes. He seemly warped time to provide for me. Don't get me wrong, I loathe, dispose and hate time-travel movies. Ask the engineer, in two-minutes I'll be mentally checked out and snoring in five! But somehow when God's the one bending the time, it's a bit more realistic and fascinating! And I'm part of that action flick.
Where is God calling you to trust Him to richly supply in excess? Time, money, patience? Talk to Him continually and get ready to pick up the leftovers!

Too much

Making a "chore" fun, I asked the compassionate one to resurrect all the fall decorations and tuck away the summer ones. The next day, as I settle in for some drip time, my attention falls upon the mantle: a mix of summer and fall and entirely too much. I chuckle and then I realize. I realize that sometime our schedules are just too much.
Sometimes we need to say, "no," but to what? I make a quick list of my commitments. Which of these need a no? They're all good. Which ones on the list won't last? Which ones can I come back to later? 
It's so difficult to put away good, valuable and worthwhile tasks and commitments. As I look at my favorite spring tulips (silk flowers, embarassingly a favorite) and recall that if I put them away for a season or two, when I find them again in March, they look more lovely.
What if I took something off my schedule for just a season? Would it appear more precious when it returned? 
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to laugh;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 12-13
When our Bible study parts for the summer, it's okay. It's time for a change of pace. But in fall, glancing through the list of names attending and the feel of a new workbook in hand, I can't wait to get started again; God's gift to me. The off-season makes the resuming sweeter.
When the calculating one says, "Mom, I want to read to you," and I begrudgingly snuggle in beside her, I do the task out of discipline, and then my heart is filled with joy. This is God's gift to momma. This is a season that won't last! And so I know that time with my golden heads will not be struck from the list, but that which can wait will. It is a constant prioritization.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
What do you need to give up, even if just for a season? Make a list of your commitments then talk with God. Consider these questions. Which of these won't last? Which of these brings me joy; is God's gift to me? Which of these need striking?

About perfect

As my baby ventures off to school, I can't quite shake this thought; when she holds my hand, her little paw in mine, it feels about perfect. There are few things more wonderful than that feeling. By design, it fits just right. And yet, I know this fit is fleeting. Her hand will grow. I must train her in the way she should go. I need to become less and He more in her life. She needs to leave me and cleave to Christ. Yet, I never want to forget what it feels like to have her little hand in mine. Does Christ feel the same of me? Whether I am curled up, laid out or basking in the reality of His presence, is He thinking, I just can't get enough of this? I'm not sure. I'm reminded of Mary, Jesus' mother.
And all who head it wondered at that the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:17-18
Here come the shepherd with a message from the angels about this child who is the Messiah, Savior of the world. Everyone is wondering, Is this for real, but Mary treasured. I can't help but notice the contrast. I could wonder what the future holds for this boisterous one, wonder God's feeling for me or I could treasure the moment.
Watching the sunrise, the leaves fully intact to their branches, there's a frame. A little window through the leaves that reaches straight through to the sunlight. Not the whole panoramic view, just a small snippet.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
I know when I see Him face to face, I will see the whole panoramic view. Maybe her little hand in mine is just a glimpse. A glimpse of what glory will be like. What it will feel like for my hand to literally be nestled inside His. But I will treasure.

Different but same

Breathing hard and forcing my body to go, Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. He gives me a gift: a gorgeous goldfinch. A feast for my eyes. An invitation for conversation with Him, to take my mind of the agony of the run. Our conversation is filled with thanksgiving and He blesses me again with another goldfinch to marvel. Then, in camouflage, I see him; the mourning dove. My absolute favorite sound in the morning (yes, more than the coffee perking) is their song; perrr-coo, coo, coo. Yet, he's kinda ugly. Mostly uniform color of grey-brown and a member of the pigeon family, he doesn't look beautiful as the bright yellow finch.
And God gently says, They have different gifts and are equally mine. How true of His children as well.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
The same Spirit that lives in my golden heads, pastor, best friend, and the engineer lives in me. The Spirit gives each believer a gift (hospitality, mercy, leadership, evangelism, encouragement, giving, service, Biblical counseling, apostles, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, teaching, administration, etc.) as He chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11). Because our all-knowing God sees the big picture, He assigns different gifts to various believers and then weaves His believers together so that we as His church can accomplish His purposes. A mature believer uses their gift to serve Jesus, in gratitude for Jesus paying the debt of our sin. Because there are different gifts, this service looks different for everyone.
The engineer was given gifts of knowledge and service. I am gifted in hospitality and faith.
Different gifts, same Holy Spirit.
Because the engineer was given a gift to learn, research and study, he spends his time looking at every detail of buying a minivan. With faith and hospitality in my corner, I optimistically see the big picture and trust God will direct our paths to what we need. I spend my time praying and packing snacks and drinks so the golden heads don't collapse of starvation while we are out car shopping.
Different service, same Jesus.
We are both temples for the same Holy Spirit and we both use our gifts to serve and glorify Jesus' name by providing for our family. And giving life, energy and ability for all this activity is God, the Father and creator and sustainer of everything.
Different activities, same God.
The Holy Spirit, Jesus and God have different roles but are one, so also we as believers can can different giftings, service and action but serve and glorify one God and be unified, as one.
Before you discredit a fellow believer from brining something "good" to the table, recognize what their gifting is and repent of judging. Like the finch and the mourning dove, you are both valuable and equally God's. Thank God for her and your gifting and praise God that He weaves these different gifts together into one cloth for His purpose.

Spy and dig deeper

I spy with my little eye, eastern Montana's golden hills, scattered trees and arid landscape. How many people living here stop to marvel at this daily beauty? To see something every day is to begin not seeing. But to gaze once a year is eye candy if we only take time to let it soak in. Would they say the same about the cornfield out my window?
I spy with my little eye… What amazes me is that it's so easy to spy other's sin. Is this so that we dig deeper into our own lives?
In Doreen Cronin's children's book, Diary of a Worm, the worm's story is told.
April 4
Fishing season started today. We all dug deeper.
What if we dug deeper instead of judging? I am quick to spy the selfishness in a golden head. Yet, if I dig deeper to consider my own life; I am typically concerned with myself and my "needs." From across the isle, I spy the busy schedule of those who couldn't possibly be able to spend quality time with God at such pace. Yet, I am running helter-skelter this month to squeeze every last minute out of summer. I spy the stern demanding of one's own way, yet I spaaz out when the engineer suggests something that wasn't on my ical. I spy unsubmission, but know I am guilty.
Judge not, that you be not judged, For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite..  Mt 7:1-5a
What I am thankful in this digging is that it helps me see how ugly my sin is and brings me to repentance. I can look on others' sins and see how putrid it looks, but choosing not to judge and spying my own sin log humbles me and makes me grateful for the forgiveness of my ugly sin! If I only take the time to dig deeper…
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
When did you last spy the sin of a brother or sister in Christ? Likely not long ago, since none of us have become the believer God intends. Did you judge them? Dig deeper, asking God what He is really trying to show you through the situation.

Presence

Disappointed with myself, pondering,  "What happened last night?" God keeps planting Psalm 16:11 in my mind.
You have made known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
I knew the good I ought to do, but last night I had stopped entertaining His presence and now in the morning, my joy was paper thin.
Likewise, the engineer and I can be in the same room without acknowledging each other's presence. We can live under the same roof, but hardly speak to one another or touch one another. There's no joy in that relationship. I may choose to never leave the engineer, but that commitment alone doesn't ensure a meaningful relationship. However, when we choose to engage in conversation, take a stroll around the neighborhood or read side by side with our legs draped over one another, the relationship is is truly satisfying and joyful.
The Holy Spirit that came to live in me when I first believed in Christ, and He will never leave me (John 6:37), but that doesn't mean I will always acknowledge His presence. God's plan for me is to engage in His presence throughout my entire day. I must constantly be fixing my mind on Christ or else my mind will naturally wander to the ways of this world.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
If I am not cognizant of the fact that the Holy Spirit is always within me, I won't entertain Him. If I am not entertaining God's presence within me, I will begin to entertain sin. This will be a snippy, smart, sarcastic reply to the golden heads. Or impatience, unrest, craving sinful desires, believing Satan's lies... Sometimes, if I just take a deep breath, saying to myself, I am controlled by the Holy Spirit, I can respond to any situation according His Word and fullness of joy is experienced.
What action will you take today to be consciously aware of God's presence throughout the day? Share your ideas and successes.

Peace

Something deep within me goes bazerk when relationships are not at peace in my life. Any relational discord will spill into every other avenue of my life. My entire demeanor will be effected. According to one of my favorite author's, Kevin Leman, this is highly explained by my birth-order. I'm a middle child and they are typically peace-keepers. Ah, yes, blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9). This is a good quality, however, it's easy for me to overlook a detail: My need for peace (as a middle) is only genuinely met by Christ.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
My concocted peace is worldly. His is eternal, true and real!
He keeps me in perfect peace, when my mind is fixed on Him because I trust in Him. Isaiah 26:3
Join me today, fixing your eyes on Him and increasing your trust in Him in this day.

Ministry

I keep seeing the wedding picture God's painted in my mind. He the bridegroom, the engineer and golden heads the precious bride, and me as Christ's equally treasured best man. Christ completes my joy and He has strategically placed me beside Him in this marriage. Christ must become greater, and I must become less, (John 3:30).
Christ must become greater because He is perfect and I am not. For God's Spirit is constantly in Christ. Yet, because I have chosen to believe in Christ, I was given a seal of truth (John 3:33).
In this instance, seal means to set a mark upon a thing as a token of its authenticity or approvedness that God is true; He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. It reminds me of the Dairy REAL seal marked on packages (authentic milk) versus the package of cheese puffs claiming, "made with with real cheese." It's easy to spot a phony and even the calculating one reading this raised her eyebrows in questioning unbelief, really?
When placing my belief in Christ, I got the real seal (or the True seal). And my charge is filter everything through that true seal as well as to echo all I know to be true. Another way of understanding is that when we choose to believe, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).The Holy Spirit directs me and teaches me what is true. Just as Christ was controlled by the Spirit, I too can be controlled by the Spirit. However, Christ was CONSTANTLY led by the Spirit, but I must choose to invite or ask the Spirit to rule and influence my life. The same power is available to me if I do invite Him. And it can speak words of life and truth to my beloved family.
My ministry as a mom and wife is to tell them what God teaches me and by God's design, Christ will increase in their lives and I will decrease.
The influence of this encourager, the best man, is undeniable. And I've experienced it first hand. Driving to meet grandma, I was listening to lies: I really am a horrible mother. I don't think the engineer likes me. I'm not a leader. I can't do anything well…. Ready to cry, in the pit of despair, something within tells me these are lies. And then we arrive. I have envisioned seeing her, crying, venting, complaining. And there she is, this special woman, this fellow "best man" to her family's wedding and she smiles while she embraces me. And that is enough. This woman, whose joy is complete in Christ, controlled by the Spirit helps me overcome the lies and spiritual battle in my mind simply through her presence.
Do I do that for my family? A convicting question. An iCal fanatic, I arrange my calendar to reflect that I cherish the bride, my family, but that my joy is completed by the groom, Christ. Now, I must follow the plan.
You make know to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
What wedding picture is set in your mind when you read John 3:29-30? 
According to the gift of God's grace, I was given a ministry achievable only by the working of His power in me. Though I am the very least of all the saints, this ministry was given to tell my family the unsearchable riches of Christ and to bring to light for them what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things….For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant my family to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in their inner beings, so that Christ (not me) may dwell in their hearts through faith--that the engineer and golden heads, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:7-9,14-19, my paraphrase
What is your ministry? In that ministry, will you become less so Christ can become greater?

Best man

"Never love family more than you love Jesus. Our priorities should be Christ, spouse, family…" I thought I was doing well. Then in disappointment, I realized I had elevated my family. They did not meet my "need." Since Christ meets all my needs, expecting my family to meet my needs makes them essentially an idol. I took Christ off the throne of my life and put these four wonderful, yet imperfect beings, on the throne. My eyes were on my family, not on Christ.
Then God revealed to me a beautiful picture of a wedding. The bride is beautifully adorned spoken for by the groom. The groom has eyes fixed on and passion for his bride. And then, as a supporting witness to this marriage is the best man. He stands beside the groom and listens to the groom; he is loyal to the groom. Yes, he values the bride, but his first priority is the groom. Christ is the groom. Christ, not the bride, completes the best man's joy. My family is the bride. I am the best man. When I value and cherish the bride more than the groom, the bride (my family) becomes my focus, my influence, and I depend on them to meet my needs. Needs only Christ (the groom) is meant to fulfill. (See John 3:29-30.)
Family is a blessing, not a provision. When I feel frustrated and let down by my family (I'm sure the feeling is mutual), I need to reaffirm in my mind that Christ meets all my needs.
…since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:25
'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.' John 14:27
You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3
…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19
I am inspired by Paul's example. Paul loved the church (Ephesians 3:14-19) and he prayed for the church but he loved Christ more!
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8 
Do you trust God to meet all your needs or like me, do you expect others to meet some of these needs? (For example: security, your value and purpose, physical needs--affection, possessions, quality time, etc--, peacefulness, strength, etc…) Could it be these amazing people in your life have been elevated beyond the bridegroom, Christ? Consider a prayer like this and reestablish Christ as your focus.
I repent of making the golden heads and engineer my focus, my idol. I turn to you. Holy Spirit, rule, reign and influence my life. And may, you, the bridegroom be the apple of my eye forever! Amen.

ent-I-tled

"It's my birthday, I'm not doing chores!" she announced repeatedly on the day of her birth. She trusted in me to make her day a special, care-free and fun. Sorry sister, you got the wrong momma this year! We can put our trust in anyone, but it doesn't mean that person is worthy of our trust. And where does this sense of entItlement come from? I can't claim to be any different, I expect (and have but once in memory received) pomp and circumstance on my special day too. We middles, and many more put our trust in the wrong person.
This idea of entitlement gnaws at me. It seems there is a big "I" in entItlement. As a whole, our nation feels entItled to the "good  and easy" life. I feel entItled to a great marriage and family. Then I consider what I deserve: alienation, hostility, evil deeds (Colossians 1:21). "Yet, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach," (v. 22). Because Jesus took my sins on Himself to the cross, I am above reproach. The greek word is used two times in a row here (it screams, "pay attention" when anything is repeated) and implies not only merely acquittal from my wrong doing but the absence of even a charge or accusation against my wrong doing and sin. And then the condition in verse 23: "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast…" This white board erasing of my sin demands I have faith in His process and plan. To think, "I'm entItled to ____" is slapping Jesus in the face, saying I don't trust you and the plan you have for me because it's not my way or plan. I used to laugh when my dad told the engineer, "There's a right way, a wrong way and Becky's way." Now I see what I need is repentance and seeking God's way.
And without faith it impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
But it seems there is more to this unsightly entItlement issue than weak faith and misplaced trust. This must be a three-headed arrow. The "I" jumps out at me: pride and building up of self. As believers, we're to be built up in Him, not self.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7
It seems commonality to puff up ourselves instead of following John the Baptist's example, "He must increase, but I must decrease," (John 3:30). The opposite of pride or this puffing up is humility. The greek word tapeinophrosyne is used eight times in the New Testament and the Vine's Expository Dictionary defines it as "an inside-out virtue produced by comparing ourselves to the Lord rather than others. This brings behavior into alignment with inner revelation to keep one from being self-exalting. It means complete dependence on the Lord and no reliance on self." (I'd like to add, no reliance on others.) This is realizing what we deserve (alienation, hostility and evil) and being thankful for what we have. If we practiced this, we wouldn't act entItled but humble and thankful. Colossians 2:6-7…walk in Him, grounded in Him…abounding in thanksgiving. What if instead of thinking, I deserve a better marriage, I realized Christ's will for me in all things and thanked Him for my husband and opportunities my marriage affords me to become who Christ designed me to be? Or instead of thinking I deserve my parent's attention and access to all their assets, money and possessions, I thanked them for shaping me and blessing me, expecting nothing and giving out of what Christ gives to me? This would be realizing I am less and Christ is greater. This is depending on Christ and not on others. This is being rooted and built up in Him.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience… Colossians 3:12
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud (and entItled) but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5
When have you last had your own attitude of ent-I-tlement? Take time to repent of the I, trust in the Lord (not men), have faith in His plan and way and choose to be thankful!

Do well

Some would say I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I can't deny my emotions even that much. I simply wear them on my face. I can't lie or mask what I'm feeling. I've come to view this as a  blessing. But, frustrated this week, I went beyond wearing them on my face; I totally vented. I still don't really know the root of the marital issue. However, I was feeling disconnected, separate, and not enjoying his company. My whole demeanor long-faced, feeling hopeless, I stumbled upon some notes I had taken from Victory over Darkness a year ago. It drew my attention to Genesis 4:4-7.
 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." 
God clearly says to Cain, you can't feel your way into good behavior. You behave your way into good feelings. Is this what I've been missing in the busyness of summer schedules?
The ESV translates countenance as face. Cain clearly, like me, wore his emotions on his face, the outside of his body, not bottling it. But God who sees all, inside and out, takes note of Cain's outward appearance. His face which is obviously a reflection of his heart.
I think the punch is packed in verse 7. God tells Cain to do well. Actually in the Hebrew, God uses this word two times. This must be important. This word means to be good, pleasing, well, glad, joyful, rejoice, deal well with, do thoroughly, to make a thing good, right or beautiful. Sounds like a call to action. And yet, now I sit, sulking. Not much different than Cain.
"And if…" God says. Clearly, God is reminding Cain he has a choice: do good or sulk.
If Cain chooses to sulk, Satan crouches at the door. Satan wants nothing more than to bring men and women down. He's sneaky and waits at the door, waiting for an entrance. Like a cat that makes a v-line into the house the second the front door is opened. And in these moments of dejection, sulking, Satan knows we are weak. He sees the door cracked open and he'll weasel his way right in. Satan knows our points of vulnerability. He's a sneaky, creep.
…Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9
God commands Cain to master or rule over the sin. I really think this can't be done outside of the Holy Spirit ruling in the life of a believer. Only then can the power of sin be defeated.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5
We know the rest of the story in verse 8:
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
I have a choice: good actions or stewing over the negative. Cain choose to let sin referee his life. I can't feel my way into good behavior. I behave my way into good feelings. This is a conscious choice. I'm feeling crumby about my marriage today. I could sulk and feel miserable all day. Or do something that I enjoy or set to work enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. Emotions are real, but they can't be trusted. I must choose to do well.
You must constantly be checking yourself and asking, "Who's ruling in my heart?" Invite the Holy Spirit to rule, direct and influence all of you. Then do well.

Invitation

I love invitations. Beyond the graphically creativity, it's so exciting to get invited; to think the host values your presence at the event.
This week, I was pondering a bit more about the peace of God ruling in my heart and how I need to invite Him there.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body…Colossians 3:15a
When we ask Christ to rule in our hearts, He will. No need to wait on a RSVP. However, my revelation is if we don't ask the Spirit to influence and rule our lives, sin will rule my life. Sin or Satan need no invitation. Sin imposes and influences when we are not intentionally choosing to invite the Spirit to rule. My lack of action or invitation results in sin dictating my thoughts, feeling, emotions and whole being. Satan is a slithering, sneaky little snake.
And pondering what have I let control me in recent past is humbling. Sin takes many forms: personality bent (pleasing, bossy, controlling…), emotions, addictions (food, alcohol, drugs, sex, power…), people and even insecurities that become idols. This one I totally overlooked! Nearly my entire life, I have been so insecure in regards to my physical appearance that I didn't realize that it has controlled me.
It's evident that we need to constantly analyze our hearts and ask ourselves, Who's ruling or controlling me right now? If it is not the Spirit, then we need to practice the ART of confession then ask His Spirit to control us.
Even if you don't feel differently, know that He is ruling according to faith in His command and promise. God commands us to be filled or controlled by His Spirit:
"Don't be influenced by wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be influenced by the Holy Spirit." Ephesians 5:18
God's promise is that He hears and gives us anything we ask for that aligns with His will:
"And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him." 1 John 5:14-15
Reflecting on the past six month or year, what has been controlling you? Choose right now to practice the ART of confession and invite the Holy Spirit to rule your life. No need to await His RSVP, He's been waiting for the invitation.

ART

"She won't listen to me mom! I want to apologize but she won't listen!"
How many times have I heard this? The golden heads, needing forgiveness from each other, begging, pleading with the offended, trying to rectify the wrong.
How many times have I done this myself with God? Recently, I realized how messed up that is: pleading with God for forgiveness. I'm already forgiven.
For our sake (God) made (Christ) to be sin. Who knew no sin, so that in (Christ) we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
On a quick study of Hebrews chapters nine and ten, I counted five times the writer says "once for all" or "for all time."
(Christ) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12
..But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jeus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.. Hebrews 10:12
For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
Get it? Christ BECAME our sin, and our sin was crucified on the cross so that God's need for justice was satisfied.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
However, heavy is the word confession. As we look to Psalm 51, I think you will agree that confession is for our benefit. David confesses his adultery with Bathsheba. "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…" (vv. 3-4a). David admits his wrong doing.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," (v. 10). Broken, David decides to turn from sin to God. A.W. Tozer gave us the image of a coin. One side of the coin is sin, the other God or righteousness. We can't look at both sides of the same time. We must choose to turn tails on sin and head toward God. This is the choice David has made in Psalm 51: repentance.
"..and my tongue will wing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise," (vv. 14-15). David is thanking and praising God for forgiveness.
I like to recall this acrostic the ART of confession.
Admit
Repent
Thank
And then in Psalm 32, David contrasts confession with the pride of not confessing.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is not deceit. Psalm 32:1-2
vs.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as the that of summer. Ps 32:3-4
David admits his sin (v.3, "I acknowledged my sin to you"), repents and is forgiven (v.3, "and You forgave the iniquity of my sin,"). There is no need to beg and plead for forgiveness as the golden heads plead with their sisters, or we beg forgiveness to those we have offended. We've already been forgiven, we just need to admit, head toward God and thank Him for His forgiveness.
Pray Psalm 139:23-24 and let God reveal any sin in your life.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
Practice the ART of confession. No need to beg and plead. Rather admit, repent and thank Him!

Will

Tears welling up in her eyes, the calculating one stares at me with betrayal. "I'm so sorry honey, this is not how mommy wanted this day to look either, but you have to be brave and do this yourself right now." Dashing out the door to play practice, I couldn't find the keys. Assuming both pairs were in the car with the engineer at work, neighbor Stephanie saved the day, but needed her car back in 20 minutes: ten minutes to get there and ten to return left no escort service into the first day of practice. As we rushed home, I prayed, "God, I don't understand why this day couldn't have looked more smooth, polished and beautiful." And in my heart, I know His reply, This is My will for you; nothing happens outside My plan. So aloud, I echo, "Yet, this is Your will for me. What in the world do you want me to learn from this?"
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
We must accept every circumstance as God's will for us; as His tool to refine me, teach me, train me and make me more holy. It is my will that I need to bend toward His.
Sometimes circumstances are funny and simply embarrassing. Without the sugar coating, they can be hard, almost impossible: death. Or difficult: When miles separate you from someone who needs you, choosing to respond in anger (sin) to other's perceived sin, assigned a task without all the tools, last minute changes... This is when we need to choose to lay ourselves down, to be like Christ: humble, submissive, self-surrendered.
After thanking Stephanie for the use of her car, with two remaining goldenheads in tow, we returned home to resume laundry. There sitting on the dryer, was the set of keys I assumed were in the engineer's car. Ah...humility and stopping. That's what I needed taught. I needed to come clean with my girls, Stephanie and the engineer. I needed to stop trying to get things done so quickly. I made the mistake. I did something totally stupid. Me. No one else. And even though we laugh about it now, sometimes the little, silly instances remind and encourage us amidst the big, tough stuff.
Next time your circumstances don't align with your plan, pray. Accept that is is God's will for you and ask what He wants to accomplish or teach you through this seeming curve ball.

Broken

Empty egg shells scatter the ground each spring. Unless the egg hatches, the baby bird isn't realized. It can't become what God created it to become until the shell breaks.
I've been enjoying, The Calvary Road by Roy Hession the last few weeks. A fairly easy read, its thought provoking messages teach me. Among others, the theme of brokeness prevails. "Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God," (p. 23). It's contemplative essays have really caused me to thoroughly examine my heart consistently. And if my heart is not at peace, then sin is prevailing. As I wrote last week, this means sin is on the throne of my heart.
Let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Colossians 3:15
The word rule in this verse is where we get our word referee. Just as a referee blows a whistle when a foul is committed, my restless heart means there is sin lurking within; a foul has been made.
This began changing my quiet times, but now even my moments throughout the day. If I find myself irritable, I stop and ask, Why is there no peace in my heart? Often, I find that I respond in sin when others ruffle my feathers; everything that disturbs our relationships comes between us & God. In respond to other's sin, I sin; we don't loose peace with God over another person's sin, only our own. Defensiveness of the engineer suggesting I concentrated the weed killer a little too much; self-righteousness.
Or pride. At bedtime last week, the compassionate one began reading the Psalms on her own, reading a verse I had shared just prior in the day at breakfast. "Mommy, you are amazing!" Finally, someone gives me credit for all the time I spend studying and memorizing Scripture. And the next morning, I feel awful: Pride.
..God is light and in Him is no darkness at all…If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5b, 7
But when anything is exposesd by the light, it becomes visible. Ephesians 5:13
You see, when I walk with God, He will show me my sin. He will break me and expose the reason the referee has blown the whistle. When I confess my sin and turn to God, the Holy Spirit is again on the throne of my life. Peace is ruling. Like the baby bird in its shell, only when I am broken can I become all He has planned for me.
As you go through your day, ask yourself if you are at peace. If so, keep walking with Him with the Holy Spirit on the throne of your life. If not, it's time to get dirty, pull up the sleeves and crack the shell.

Stressed out

"…And I pray that Mommy and Daddy wouldn't get so stressed out…" Shaking my head and looking at the engineer, I roll my eyes at this repetitive plea to God from a Christ-following golden head. I want to scream, Why are you choosing to be the reason for the stress? 
Sitting alone with God and my coffee, He speaks to me. Why do you see yourself  any better than they?  

But He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon Him was the chastisement that brings us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Just a sliver of Jesus' torture, for our benefit, is revealed to me through parenting. In parenting, I often feel rejected, despised, sorrow, grief and disrespected (v. 2). Yet because I love these golden heads, I carry these sorrows (v. 3) while they only see me "stressed out" and afflicted (v. 4). Upon the mother and father is the charge to teach them to be at peace with God (v. 5); to introduce them to God and disciple them. Jesus' sorrow, grief and beatings were extreme; mine are light in lieu of His, but my sin took Him there. Not just theirs. I am no less a sinner than they (v. 6). Yet, Jesus never opened His mouth to complain, yell or correct (v. 7). I open my mouth plenty. Too much. This is not helpful or beneficial to yell and complain. And so I find myself in confession: admitting sin, repenting and thanking Him for forgiveness.
For this sin and all sin, He was put through torturous grief and death (v. 10). Jesus offering His life as a perfect sacrifice for all sin gives me life and prolongs my days (v. 10). This was God's will because He is just (must administer punishment for all sin). Jesus' death sacrifice was our payment for our sin, satisfied God's requirement for justice and made a way for all to be great and righteous before Him (vv. 11-12). 
My sorrow and grief in training them, in teaching them how to be at peace with God is all so that they too might be righteous before God (v. 11). 
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:9-10
I am "stressed out" so the life of Christ might live in my golden heads.
What area in your life is stressing you? Does this give you a vague glimpse of Jesus at the cross? Do you realize that YOUR sin took Him there? Thank Him for His willingness to give His life and choose to live your life in service so others might find peace with God.

Master Gardener

Early in the spring, I purchased some violas; cold-tolerant, hardy and sometimes they return next year as perennials (a bonus for the frugal woman in me). I couldn't possibly go wrong. Except that it was so cool, I neglected to water them. Half of them are dead now and I admit, I am no Master Gardener.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
I love this verse. It's always been a model of excellence I've wanted to strive toward. Many times I have pondered what attribute I need to increase or cultivate. What a friend has helped me to understand for the first time is that it is the Spirit doing the work, not me. The Holy Spirit is the Master Gardener. (And thankfully, He won't forget to water!) The Holy Spirit is God within me influencing and satisfying my life.
Another thing I've never gave thought: fruit is the metaphor for these sweet, desirable attributes. In Minnesota, we can't grow many fruit trees, but IMO our honey crisp apples are the best. A newly planted apple tree takes 2-5 years before you have any fruit to harvest. All the time and energy invested into that first yield is no small sum. There's pruning in the winter months, keeping it free of pests (bugs, worms, deer, ect), fertilization in spring and fall, extra watering during drought... A hailstorm would make the year a bust. A late spring frost could destroy the blossoms and yield no harvest in the fall. A strong wind storm could tear all the apples off the tree, thrashing them to the ground. An early fall frost might bite them before the gardener has opportunity to harvest or before they are fully ripened.  Left on it's own, I'm not sure there would be an apple harvest. Thank goodness for the gardener. And a final note about apple trees. They typically are fruit bearing every other year. Every fruit plant needs a time of rest or dormancy.
The attributes depicted in Galatians will have seasons and we need protection as well as provision. But we can't just try harder to make love, joy peace...describe our lives. It has nothing to do with us, but the Master Gardener. We must allow the Spirit to prune, protect and provide. Verse sixteen describes it as walking by the Spirit.
This is a continual and conscious decision: to give the Master Gardener control. Left on my own, I will attempt satisfaction by my own selfish desires.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:17
I want to have self-control in my eating habits. But Satan knows me and he can use sugar to lure me into a binge. In a binge, I am not allowing the Holy Spirit to be my Master Gardener. But I have a choice in the matter. Naturally, I won't have self-control and will keep binge eating. If I don't consciously relinquish control to the Master Gardener, in essence I'm choosing sin to influence me.
The golden heads tucked in tight and prayed over, I walked into the kitchen. This is usually my biggest temptation to binge eat: celebrating another day of mothering accomplished. Empowered by this new revelation of choice, I said to myself, I am controlled and led by the Holy Spirit and walked out of the kitchen for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, it will take many repeated choosing the Master Gardener experiences to replace my ingrained old habits but He who is in me is greater than the sin living in me (1 John 4:4). And The Master Gardener is faithful, He will surely do it (1Thessalonians 5:24).
Have you been trying hard to let your life be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Spend some time thinking about the only One who can really do this work in your life. Then choose to repent. Turn away from your own way of trying and turn toward God, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the Master Gardener. If you consciously choose Him, He won't forget to water!