Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beauty and truth

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…” 

I always seem to ignore that and skip right to the abundant life… But as I read John 10:10, the first part jumped out at me. Jesus is warning that the enemy is at work around me, too. If I am aware of that, I can redirect my thoughts accordingly.
  • When I think I am not enough, I need to realize it is the enemy stealing my motivation. The truth is I am made in the image of God, He equips me and I am a difference-maker when I am abiding in Him.
  • When I don’t hear from a family member, I might think I’m not important to them or that they don’t need me in their lives any more. But that is the evil one twisting and distorting.
  • When I take offense to a comment, believing the worst instead of the best about the deliverer, then I am letting the enemy ratchet up tension.
  • When I say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and delay the important conversations, meetings and missions or treat them as optional, the destroyer is getting the upper hand.
  • When I feel too rushed, unfocused or exhausted to spend time listening to God, then I am letting the enemy’s influence in. The enemy plants lies, hoping I will believe God is uninterested, unresponsive or powerless. 
These are the schemes and scams of the cruel destroyer!

I cannot allow these thoughts to roll around in my head. 

I can instead focus on taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Some days it is a consistent struggle to test every thought at the door of my mind: Is it true, is it noble, is it right? …Pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? (Phil 4:8) “Think about such things,” the apostle Paul reminded the early church. “Fill your minds with beauty and truth,” is the way The Voice translates it.

Yes. To have the abundant life with Jesus is to hear His voice in my life and filter out the enemy’s.

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)

Jesus, thank you for the beauty and truth you consistently speak to me. Abiding and drawing near has made your voice familiar. There is none like it and I know the difference. Thank you for showing me the contrast—the way to the abundant life.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Feeding the multitudes x2!

I’ve long been inspired by the Bible stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes (see 2009 post). It greatly impresses me that Jesus can multiply our meager offerings, as long as we are willing to give them. 

This message is so important that Jesus performed this miracle twice

He fed 5,000 with only five loaves and two fish, and on another occasion fed 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish (Mark 6 and 8, also Matthew).

This is amazing to me that the disciples were present with Jesus to experience the first event, and yet at the second event needed to ask, “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

What short memories! Wasn’t the first miracle enough? Hadn’t they witnessed all the other miracles (healing of bleeding, leprosy, deaf/mute; casting out of demons into pigs; raising the dead girl; walking on water) to realize and remember that Jesus could do anything??

When Jesus and the disciples sailed off to a new region, the Pharisees came and asked for a miraculous sign. What more miraculous sign would they need than the wonders everyone was talking about? Jesus sighed deeply and said no sign would be given because of their unbelief.

Back in the boat crossing to the other side, Jesus reminded His disciples of both loaves and fish events (Mark: 8:17-21), and asked them, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”

Ugh. I have to admit there are times I have amnesia like His disciples or doubt like the Pharisees. How could I forget for a moment the wonders our Lord has already done? How can I set aside all the accounts of God-interventions I’ve experienced and heard from believers around me?

Dear Lord, I love you and am thrilled by your miracles! I’m sorry for missing the signs you are working around me, even today. Thank you for your infinite patience. Open my eyes that I may see, my ears that I may hear, my mind and heart that I may abide in your goodness and walk in solid faith.

Friday, November 24, 2017

His voice

Praying for wisdom is like praying for patience. Patience comes from being in situations where we need to exercise patience. Wisdom is borne in circumstances necessary to draw it out.

Our Bible says if we ask for wisdom, God gives generously to all without finding fault. I’ve been asking – many times – so I’m sure it is there. It is now my responsibility to call on it and use it. The Holy Spirit inhabits me, which means there is no end to the wisdom potentially available.

I’ve been stretched in new directions in recent times, forcing me to draw deep inside for that living water in me. Disappointing and perplexing situations have caused me to cry out to God, to reach for His wisdom, to long for His voice in these matters.

In the past, I would have gone to my husband to test my thoughts and look for his affirmation because I respected and trusted him so deeply. (I really wish I could hear his wise and comforting voice!) While this is a great thing in marriage, I believe God is saying to me, “Ted is no longer here, but you can do this for yourself. Trust me. Trust yourself to hear me.”

Morning after morning, I take time in the quiet, sifting through the congested voices of the world to search for that still, small voice within me.

Spending time in the quiet in His Word is where I can best hear His beautiful voice. It is a highly valued discipline to untangle the influence of other voices… the sage and searching, the partially enlightened, the well-intentioned, the distracted, the ill-informed, and the outright lies. The quiet is the best place to cut through the cacophony and hear the purest wisdom, the words of God Himself.

After a time, the congestion clears. I am refreshed with hope as I recall a history of God walking with me through the hard things, comforting and sustaining me, and answering prayers in amazing ways. Like a puzzle, the pieces begin to shuffle into place and I can see how some of them fit together.

Reflecting on the events of recent months, I see that as I have been praying for wisdom He has definitely been giving me opportunities to use it.

God, my Father, I love to hear your beautiful voice! As I listen in the quiet, your wisdom is imparted. Guide my thoughts, direct my steps. Help me to have courage to boldly use what you have so abundantly given.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Holy Spirit breakfast

A winter storm descended on Duluth and the Holy Spirit descended on our breakfast. What a powerful time!

My sister-in-law Marj and I had divided the distance to meet in Duluth, leaving both of us with about a 5.5-hour drive. It had become a tradition for us after Ted passed and we wanted to stay connected. This, our third reunion here, was a special time like no other.

Both of us love meeting people, so we easily engaged in conversation around us... in the shuttle, the shops, the hot tub and more. On Thursday night, we had taken a long walk along Lake Superior and came back drenched by mist, but still joyful, as we settled into a booth at Grandma's restaurant. We soon were chatting with a couple at the next table and found some commonalities--a big one being our faith. We instantly saw their joy and compassionate nature.

The next morning we saw them again at breakfast, not realizing they'd been staying at the same hotel. We chatted about waiting out the storm for a window to travel, and they asked if they could pray with us before we headed for home. Then, in the context of talking of the stories of our lives, I quickly asked if they would be around for a few minutes because I wanted to get them a copy of my book. Life, Love and Loss would share a bit of both of our stories and the man (my husband/her brother) we had lost.

While I was retrieving the book, Marj received a phone call from a woman whose workshop was on fire close to the house. She worried about her special-needs foster child, and there was confusion about which firefighters would respond. Again, the group went to prayer, asking for protection, resolution and a miracle. Within minutes the call came that the miracle had happened -- the workshop had burned to the ground but with the snow and rain it had gone out before spreading any further!

Other believers at the table behind us joined in conversation with the first couple and soon we were all sharing stories of faith and answers to prayer. The connection we felt was like old friends or family. And, of course, we are the family of God. The conversation was rich and full.

I asked a hotel staff person if he would take a photo of our whole group. Everyone happily gathered. The staff person then commented on what a blessing it was to have this group in the dining area this morning and what joy it brought to the room. We quickly circled up with him and prayed for the needs on his mind, too. The circle continued to grow...

As I shared the group photo with the others, we all exchanged contact information. We were amazed at how quickly the Spirit connects when we are sensitive to where God is working and venture to join Him in the action!

Holy Spirit, thank you for your powerful way of joining lives, inspiring faith and working miracles! May we hunger and thirst for your righteousness, may we be sensitive in listening for your guidance and sharing our faith and joy with others--for your glory.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Listen for it.

Ting. Tickety-tock. Ah-ROO-gah. WOO-hoo.

Whatever the sound of your digital alert, you probably have an immediate recognition and hasty response to that sound. It is effective in cutting through the clutter and drawing us away from whatever we are doing. Even if our task at hand is important, we learn to multi-task to take in that new message. Our curiosity is keenly piqued as we wonder, "who is it?" and "what's up?"

But what if God would use social media to get our attention…

Would He text, "Let's meet up" or "Send me some times that would work for you"?

Would He "Like" everything we post to show His support? (We can be sure we are flagged as His "favorites"!)

Would He send His wisdom in careful prose and ask us to share with others?

Would He share a story and tag us in His comment? Would he surround it with hashtags to get our attention?

Would He answer our posts with specific emojis (and might we consult the emojipedia to ensure we interpreted His meaning correctly)?

What if He took selfies with us so we'd see how we are made in His image? Share albums of times we've been together? Repost memories to show how we've grown? Back His words with the powerful orchestra of the heavenly hosts? Would we pay attention, or would we keep scrolling to see what else is out there?

What if He'd post a video that professes His unfailing love… "I will never leave you or forsake you… I know the plans I have for you, plans to proper you and not to harm you… I will work all things together for good for those who love me… I want you to have life and have it in abundance… All things are possible with me…"

What if God would say, "Why are you looking here for love, affirmation and fulfillment? I am the Lord your God and I long for your undivided attention – for a few precious moments each day. I gave you my holy Word to guide you in all your ways. Come to me and I will give you rest and refreshing. My grace is sufficient. My mercies are new every morning. Great is my faithfulness. I give immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine. I am the Lord your God, open wide your mouth and I will fill it!"

He IS saying those things to me, to us, every day.

Listen for it.

Look for it.

Long for it.

Lord, I pray that I would not get so sidetracked by social media and the call of the digital age. Help me preserve more space and more quiet to be sensitive to YOUR voice in my life. Alert me to those things that are YOUR priorities. Guide me in your wisdom. Let my spirit be attentive to you and infused with your love. Thank you for revealing yourself through your Word, through music, through nature, through believers, through community...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Working in me

Why is it that I can hear many compliments and affirmations, but the one condescending comment is the one that rolls around in my mind?

When that happens, I need to humbly ask myself if there is truth in that comment. What can I learn from it? Maybe the comment seemed cruel, but is there a kernel of truth in the midst of it? 

After giving some serious thought, if I do not see truth in it for me, can I see that the person who made the comment is hurting? Is there something I can do to lessen that hurt?

Then I must remember to put that one negative comment in perspective. Sometimes it makes sense to throw out an odd data point -- at least throw it out off the treadmill in my mind. It should not bring me down to the point of self-deprecation and self-doubt. (This would be the work of the enemy.) I can remember I am made in God’s image, that I am striving each day to walk in the Spirit, and that I am not perfect but growing every day. I ask the Lord for help in representing Him well. I remember that He is in the process of completing the good work He has begun (Phil 1:6).

The importance of preserving the quiet in our lives is that we take time to process these affronts and not let them build up or threaten to destroy us. In the quiet, I will find God’s perspective again. I see more clearly the truth as He sees it, and feel His wonderful affirmation of who I am and what I am made to be. 

Gracious God, thank you for working in me, for loving me and affirming me. Thank you that you don't give up on me. These difficulties remind me to press in and press on. You are still the one in control and I will trust in you.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

He makes all things new

New signs every day (see my baby rhubarb?) show us that spring is evolving. Our Creator is doing a makeover. 

Do you see God's mighty hand at work? Just as the dormant and dreary are being revived and there is new life all around, He is available for our refreshing, too!

The enemy would like nothing more than to keep us distracted… to keep us from that fulfilling practice of sitting at Jesus’ feet and finding our refreshing daily. He wants to saturate us with busy to-do-lists, lies rolling around in our minds and every kind of distraction. Even electronics and social media can help him with his job.
  • How much time does the world have to influence you in a day? 
  • Do you remember there’s a power greater than yourself at work in your life? 
  • How important is it for you to hear each day that someone loves you? ...that you are beautiful and created for good things? Do you really know that God goes before you and stands behind you and that He has your back? 
If it feels like a fight to find the time for that refreshing, it is!
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph. 6:12
I’m sure I miss so many things God would rather have me know sooner. I’m not as sensitive as I could be to knowing His voice and observing His ways. But the more time I spend in quiet, the better it gets! I need His wisdom to help me navigate this fallen world; I need His grace to forgive all my missteps; and I need His love to strengthen me and remind me who I am.

When I spend time finding God in the quiet, I see that He makes all things new -- that nothing is without hope when He is in the equation. I feel more peace, more harmony with the world around me. I feel like I have more to offer – because I do! 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love, your wisdom and direction, your approval and encouragement. Thank you for new signs every day that you are near.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A father's love

Imagine all the best qualities you might see in fathers today...

  • A daddy who is playful with his children, who snuggles and cuddles them and takes time for them.
  • A father who is present in teaching his children to ride a bike, to skate, to read or to draw.
  • A papa who forgives quickly and offers feedback his child can handle.
  • A daddy who builds up his daughter with words, telling her she is beautiful and special and has a lot to offer the world.
  • A dad who asks his daughter how her day was, then tells her he is proud of how she handled herself.
  • A father who sits across the table over coffee and offers wisdom to his daughter's questions and concerns.
  • A daddy who gives eye contact, attention and affirmation.
  • A father who would talk to someone on his child's behalf, opening the door of opportunity for her.
  • A papa who scoops his daughter in his arms when she returns home from a weekend away.
  • A dad who respects others and quietly serves the needs he sees around him.

I have seen every one of these scenarios in the world around me and when I do, my heart is warmed. This list could go on and on... watch and see. These traits may not all be present in one man, but collectively, we know what fatherhood can be.

Whether or not we have these things with our own fathers, and whether or not our children have these things from their daddies -- these are the traits of loving dads and we know them when we see them. They bring security, peace and confidence. The child can feel loved, valued and treasured.

All the above describes our Father in Heaven. All of these traits were designed and are modeled by Him. This is the way God our Father loves each one of us. Soak in that. Can you believe it? Can you really receive it?

If we knew this with all our hearts, minds and souls, why would we ever doubt?

Our Father, loving Daddy, please reveal to me what my relationship with you could be like. What would you like me to know about you? Would you help me to hear your voice and to understand the way you see me? Fill me with joy and peace as I trust in you so that I may overflow with hope. (Romans 15:13)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Finding God in the Quiet

Family demands, long to-do lists and no time for self… This is where many of us find ourselves today – or might it be more accurate to say ‘lose ourselves’? But God knows the longings of our souls, including our great need to feel loved, accepted and connected to Him, the source of our ultimate strength and deepest refreshing.

Living connected to the Vine is turning our hearts to Him consistently and making time in our day for Him. Finding some quiet time in each day and finding God in that quiet is so important. It's not easy when there are so many distractions, but taking this time is worth fighting for!

“Solitude is the ONE place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us,” according to John Ortberg, pastor and author. “The great danger is not that we will renounce our faith, but that we will become so rushed and distracted that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.”

The discipline of doing it is probably the hardest obstacle. Look up Kerwin Rae and his 3-minute "Pathway to Freedom" video -- it's excellent! It's not a spiritual video, yet it's full of pure truth and very motivational.

Rae maintains that the ultimate key to freedom is structure and discipline. "Because structure and discipline creates freedom," he says. "Unfortunately, for most of us, we don't see structure and discipline as freedom, we see them as an inconvenience, an obstacle, as something we're being forced to do. But structure and discipline creates habit, and the habit sets you free."

On April 22, I'll be speaking at the Women's Breakaway on the topic, "Finding God in the quiet, when my life isn't quiet." I will share insights on how to carve time for that essential revitalization -- to find God in the quiet, when our lives may be anything but quiet.

Heavenly Father, please quiet my spirit today and help me hear your voice. There are so many things that are beyond me to figure out and I long for your wisdom and direction.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Called to BE

I call out to God in a busy place. I’ve got many plates in the air that I’m trying to keep spinning. I’m hurried and busy and stressed with wanting to get things done. The more I get done, the better I’ll feel, right?

Oh, that is my wrong way of thinking. I’m somehow trying to carry the burdens of the world (or at least the world around me) on my shoulders. Trying to think it all depends on me. How arrogant is that? Yes, I can have an impact, but apart from Him I can do nothing. He is the Vine and I am the branch that is dependent on Him, and not the other way around. When I abide in Him, I surrender that He is God and I am listening. Then the answers come more quickly, the peace comes more fully and the world around me is impacted more effectively.

The truth is I need to take time to just BE. I have so much to do but I am called to BE. I need to soak in God’s goodness, and in the fullness of His light I will see how to connect the pieces of life that fit together.

As I look outside, I see winter. Today I see quiet grey skies, a small blanket of snow, bare branches and quiet. A sleeping earth, receiving rest and replenishment. In the Midwest, we see a longer span of this. Is it because we work hard and need more rest, or does the longer rest produce our great Midwestern work ethic?

Nature reminds us that rest is good and quiet is good. God rested on the Sabbath and I will too. He built in a time for rest, reflection, recreation and replenishment. 

God, I will rest in knowing that you will provide all that I need for each day. You’ll guide me in the right priorities when I take time to abide in you. Thank you, God.