Psalm 143:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spend Less...and Trust

Early last week, I was asked to speak during services this past weekend and give a personal reflection on our Rethinking Christmas (otherwise known as Advent Conspiracy to some) series.  I'd like to share here what I said at church services this weekend:

My first reaction to this week’s theme, Spend Less, was “Well, of course I will spend less this year.  I have no choice.  The finances are not there to spend more!  It will definitely be less.”  This reaction was fueled by worry and stress.  I come from a long and distinguished line of Worriers!  If there wasn’t something to worry about…we’d find something.  And for me, I will admit, money has been something I have worried about a lot over the years.  There never seems to be enough…

I have been taking a personal journey with God this year.  At the beginning of the year, I decided to choose a theme word…I went through several words before God made it very clear to me that my word for 2011 was to be TRUST.  That specifically this year, I would learn to trust Him fully.  It terrified me because I wasn’t sure what that meant…but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t all be what I would consider “good.”  It’s been a rough year in so many ways, but through it all I have learned that worry is a sin.  And to spend my time worrying about things is taking my focus off of God…away from trusting Him.

On Monday, if you are following the Rethinking Christmas devotionals, you will read about Jesus feeding the five thousand.  

Mark 6:35-38

New International Version (NIV)
 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
 37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
   They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
   38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
   When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

  The disciples were worried about money…how they would buy enough food for all the people.  And Jesus asked them to look at what they had… “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”  You see, Jesus wasn’t asking the disciples to go into debt or spend every cent they had to feed those people.  He doesn’t ask us to do that either.  What do you have?  Will you trust Him with it?  Will you trust that it is enough? It was that day…more than enough…in fact, the people were satisfied.

What if, instead of spending so much at Christmas to buy the next bigger, better, best…we look at what we have…and trust God to let it be enough.  What if we found ways to spend less money, spend less time worrying that we haven’t bought a great enough gift…but spend more time building relationships with our family and friends by finding, or doing, something thoughtful…meaningful, that doesn’t have to cost a lot.  And what if we spend more time trusting God? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

All the little things....

I thought I would share with you today the beginnings of my list of "One Thousand Gifts"....I also have a new page on my blog where I will add to my list and keep it all in one place...

November 22, 2011

1.  love and a smile from 17 year-old Kyle
2. entertaining talks on the way to school with Kira
3. a job I love
4. co-workers I love even more
5. knowing Nathan is coming home tomorrow!
6. friends who love and encourage me
7. an opportunity that scares me...and excites me, too
8. open doors, closing doors, doors yet to come
9. furry family members that love unconditionally
10. talking to Dad on the phone today

November 23, 2011

11. the ache in my heart that tells me that my heart still feels
12.  hard eucharisteo - missing special people
13. the noise of several kids and several instruments in the house
14. the sound of rain outside
15. the groceries newly placed in the cupboards
16. the anticipation of spending time with family tomorrow
17. texts from an out-of-town friend who is in town for the weekend, and a chance to get together with her in a couple of days!  :)

November 24, 2011

18. a beautiful Thanksgiving morning
19. remembering to run out at 6:15 this morning to put the garbage cans out before the trucks came!
20. a cup of coffee in the morning and quiet time to reflect on my blessings

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(Gr)Attitude Adjustment

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I love seeing everyone's lists of things they are thankful for this year.  We have so many blessings in our lives, so many things that are good and positive!  Myself included!  I read Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts not too long ago...and in fact, have just started reading it again.  She dares us to live our lives in thankfulness, opening our hearts and minds, our very lives, to God's grace....and being thankful for every moment - good and bad - for His grace, His gifts.

I realized the other night that I spend far too much time feeling sorry for myself.  I AM a happy person.  I LOVE to smile, laugh, have fun.  I love to see the good in things.  I love to be with people.  I like hugs and high-fives.  I like quiet moments alone to reflect, to pray, to breathe.  I like sunshine, and rain, and warm days that go on forever.  I like holding my cat, playing with my dog, watching my fish slide through the water, and talking to my bird.  I love my children and all the laughter and chaos they bring.  BUT, I let the stress of this life crowd those things out far too often.  I let the upsets, the grudges, the fears, the strains overrule the good.  And I forget that those things that seem bad...are lessons in the making and don't always turn out to be such a bad thing.

I lost my journal that I started writing my list of One Thousand Gifts last night I started a new one.  And an attitude adjustment....or shall I say, a GRATITUDE ADJUSTMENT.  I want to live my life to the fullest.  I want to see the good...and the opportunities to learn, love and grow.  I want to grow old and look back at my life and see true joy shining in the memories...and NOT grudges, anger, resentment, bitterness, regret.

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.  Proverbs 15:13

Happiness isn't created by other people doing for you, giving to you, being there for you...true happiness comes from within YOU...true JOY comes from knowing Jesus and letting Him cover you with grace and love.  And when we make the effort to be thankful in all things...we will experience a much different life than if we dwell on the things that make us sad or angry.  If we express our gratitude, our joy will grow because His grace will overflow...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

rejoicing comes in the morning

Psalm 30:5

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
   but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning. 

This morning, Lord God, once again I choose joy.  I release the pain, the frustration, the anger and I embrace Your joy.  Your peace, Your comfort, Your wise counsel.  I pray that today I will shine Your light, to Your glory, God.  Help me to stand straight and strong, to forge forth on the path You have set before me.  To put all disappointments, sadness, bitterness and fear behind me.  To reach out my hand and place it firmly in Yours, Father.  To stand against the lies of the enemy that he whispers into my me not to listen.  Help me to remember that in YOU, oh God, I am beloved, I am whole, I am strong.  Help me, hold me, lead me.   Give me wisdom to know the truth, humility to put others first, strength to do the things I must even when I don't want to.  Thank you, God, for always being with me.  Thank you for providing all I need.  Thank you for all the blessings You give.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Fragile Breath...

Wishing for the voice of God to shake the mountains speak clearly to my heart so that I could know....frustrated beyond belief today...needing the voice of God to soothe my mind, soften my heart, and help me see Him at work in this mess I call my life.  And trying, with each fragile breath to praise Him, trust Him through it all....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Worship Fully

At my church this year, we are focusing on the theme of "Rethinking Christmas" during advent.  We will be looking at these areas:  Worship fully, Give more, Spend less, Love all.

On the radio this morning was a song with this line...."Yahweh, Yahweh, we love to shout Your name, O Lord!"  When we shout out His name, when we worship Him...what a feeling!  What a joy!  What a blessing to us, to Him.  The words of Isaiah 6 are on my mind this morning, too...."I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted."  How could you not fall at his feet and worship Him at that throne? 

Matthew 5:8 says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."  The heart, the center of one's being...which according to the notes in my study Bible is "the wellspring of life" - from which springs emotions, thoughts, motivations, courage and action. 

How pure is my heart?  How worshipful are my thoughts, emotions, actions?  Are my motivations clearly based on what God would approve?  Psalm 4:7 says "You have filled my heart with greater joy."  Do I live my life to reflect that God-given joy?  Can others see it shining from me?

Worship fully....celebrating the King with every breath....every whole heart...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

All I Need

I think I have mentioned this before...ever noticed how things seem to run on a theme sometimes?  Comments, posts in different places, relevant Bible verses, things people say at certain times, events that happen?  Well, lately God seems to be reminding me that there is really only one thing I NEED.  Just one.

And that One can fill all the empty, lonely, hurting places with peace and joy and love.  One. 

My son attended his Journey with Christ weekend a few days ago.  Family was invited to attend the closing service of the weekend.  The 11 teenage boys were given an opportunity to share what the weekend meant to them - what one thing they learned about God and what they would take away from the weekend.  One young man stood up to speak.  He said that the biggest thing he had learned was that "All I need is Jesus.  That's really it."

That's really it.  Jesus.  Jesus who loved, loves, will always love so much that he gave His life.  And not just gave it, but was tortured, shamed, beaten, separated from His Father by our sin, and hung to die....for me.  For you. 

Is there a space in you that cries out for something?  Is there a loneliness in you that needs a hand to hold?  Is there a fear in you that needs a protector?  Is there sadness in you that needs joy...overwhelming, overflowing joy?? 

Other people cannot do this for you.  "Stuff" cannot do this for you.  The next, bigger, better, more expensive.....cannot do it for you.  That drink, that food, that, no, no.  Things of this world cannot do it for you.  For me. 

Just Jesus.  He can take away the hurt, the sadness, the emptiness.  And as we cry out to him He promises "And surely I will be with you always..."  Matthew 28:20

Jesus is all I need.  How about you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You are welcome here...

I received a letter a few days ago from my heart-son, Godless, in Tanzania.  He is a child I sponsor through Compassion.  He is just recently turned 10 years old, and so very, very thin.  My hope is to have a picture of him someday with a smile on his face.  Both that I have of him?  He's so serious, sad.  I want to see him smile.

At the end of his last letter, his translator says "He says he loves you so much and says you are welcome so much to Tanzania."  When I read that, my heart flew across the his little village, to be with him.  If only I could, little one.  If only I could come there, and see you face to face, and hold you close, and let you know how much I love you...a child I only know through letters and drawings and a couple of pictures.  A child who holds a part of my heart, there, in Tanzania.

And there is little Grelty, in Indonesia.  Who asks in her letter, "May I call you Mother Kelly?"  Of course, child.  Your very own mother loves you so much, but you are a child of my heart, and while I know I can never top the love of your own mother....I do love you so much.  She is a precious beautiful little girl who has grown so much since the first picture I had of her.  The second picture from earlier this year when she turned 8 - oh she is beautiful.  Her cheeks have filled out some and she looks healthier.  I love to see that!  I would love to hold her hand and sing songs with her, and hear her laughter.

And little correspondence boy in India.  His translator tells me his is weak in the last letter.  And my heart breaks and cries for him.  I pray that he gains strength and health. That he has enough to eat.  That the food they bought for his family with the last gift from his financial sponsor will bring him the nutrition he so badly needs.  I love him, too, you see.  This little boy who is growing up in hunger and poverty.  I want to hold him, too, and tell him that he will be ok.  That God loves him so much, as do I.

I pray for these three....just as I pray for my own three precious children.  I pray they will ALL grow strong, healthy, wise.  I pray that God will enlighten their paths, and keep them close to His heart for all their days.  I pray that they will find joy, peace, love.  I pray that I will be able to let them know always that I love them so very, very much.

Please look at my side bar and click on the post from "A Holy Experience" and read her post called "When Compassion becomes a gold rush...."  Trust me, you will be blessed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitude for Grace

As I sit here at my desk this morning, with my coffee next to me and a blank screen before me...I think about the shoeboxes we packed at our church last night for Operation Christmas Child.  113 boxes of love and grace, gifts for children who have so little.  I think of the videos I have seen of children receiving those boxes - the joy, the smiles on their faces, the excitement of receiving something that was packed hundreds of miles away...just for them.  And I am humbled.

I have so much.  And I am not always content with what I have.  I have two pair of shoes right now that are falling apart and in need of replacement...and yet across the world...even here in my own community...are people who have no shoes.  Not even falling apart shoes...and I have two.  Not counting the several other pairs upstairs under my dresser.

I have a home to live in.  I grumble because I do not own my own home.  I fuss because I want one to call my OWN.  Yet, I have a roof over my head, walls to keep the weather away, clean floors to walk on, and a wonderful landlady who loves my family.  The children I sponsor through Compassion International....they live in homes made of plywood or tin with dirt floors, bags over their windows, roofs made of materials that may provide shelter from the sun but not much else...

I have food to eat - enough that I have three meals a day, and several snacks throughout.  If I miss a meal, it is by choice for the most part.  Not because of desperate need.  There are mothers in this world who wonder each day how they will feed their beloved children even the smallest of meals once a day.  They watch their child slowly starve, while they themselves go without as well. 

I am humbled.  And grateful for my oh so old, definitely NOT HD tv, my couch that has seen better days, my food pantry that may not be as full as I like it but has plenty of nutrition for my family, my car that needs constant work, my falling apart home full of what to many would seem extravagances.

I am grateful for the grace God extends to me every day.  For each morning I wake, for each breath I take, for each person who crosses my path, for the gift of living in God's blessing.  I am grateful for my Savior who loves me for me, who gave His life for mine - the ultimate loving sacrifice and gift.  What more do I need?

And so I pray that I will be an extension of His grace....shining His light...sharing His His love...blessed to be a blessing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chris Tomlin - I Will Rise

I will be singing this song with the Praise Choir at our church this morning.  Hit play, and close your eyes, and draw near to God....

God bless you today and always!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Carried Me...Jeremy Camp

My mama heart

Last night I watched my daughter, and about 30 other middle school children, walk onstage and sit in a chair at her school's National Jr. Honor Society Induction Ceremony.  The assistant principal and the counselor spoke words of all these kids have achieved.  Of their good choices.  Their extra activities.  Their dedication to learning.  A guest speaker, who is also a friend from church, spoke of the opportunities they will have in high school...the chances they will have to learn and grow and find their way in the world.

I watched my beautiful daughter sign the registry and receive her pin and certificate.  I heard the pledge they all made.  My mama heart swelled with pride and love.  I have so many hopes for her, my third child.  For all three of my children, who make me so proud.

And I thank God each and every day for giving me the gift of them.  They are each a unique creation.  They have been such a joy to watch grow and learn...and yes, sometimes frustrating too...but always a joy.  God has allowed me to hold them, guide them, love them.  My oldest is at college - in his third year - with plans to be a music teacher.  He is an excellent musician, a wonderful young man, smart and funny.  My middle boy is a senior this year...soon to graduate and strike out on his own.  Oh, how I don't want to let him go!  And yet, I know I must.  He is so funny, smart, so big-hearted.  And also musically talented. He has dreams and hopes.  I love to see his ever-present smile and hear him laugh.  My daughter, she is a super-quick wit.  She makes me laugh so hard!  I love the way her brain works, and the way she cares for others, and the way she also loves music.  I love watching her make goofy faces. 

God has blessed me.  And I am so grateful. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday

A life full of grace is a life full of thankfulness....

I am thankful for.... children who light up my days church family and coworkers at RLC
...the warmth of friendship
...the grace of God that gives me strength
...a place to call home
...the words of a friend
...laughter that lightens a mood
...the quiet, still darkness of early morning before the day really gets started.

And this verse to ponder today:

Mark 10:45 (NIV)

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Wishing you a blessed day, with much for which to be thankful, and moments to serve others as God would wish...... 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beauty from Ruins?

I recently  finished reading a book by Ruth Graham, In Every Pew Sits A Broken Heart:  Hope for the Hurting.  Ruth Graham, daughter of Ruth and Billy Graham, tells her personal story of mistakes, failures and ruins.  She tells of her journey of faith, trust, and hope in God.  She starts by pointing out that there may be many people around us who are hurting and we don't even know it...they have covered their pain, covered their problems, in an attempt to create a "picture perfect" illusion of their lives.

How many of us have hidden hurts?  How many of us hold these inside, slowly dying, when others around us would be willing to reach out and help, if we only let them?  How many of us look at the mistakes we've made and think there is no possible way anything good could ever come out of the ruins of our lives?  I think of my life right marriage is a ruin, my relationship with my mother is in ruins, and sometimes I feel so very alone.  I have confided in certain friends, so my hurts aren't necessarily totally hidden....but perhaps the depths of them are.  Allowing others into our hurts, allowing godly counsel from them...this could very well make a difference in how we deal with our problems.

How about allowing God to take those ruins and make something beautiful of them?  Sure, it may take time.  But haven't you ever noticed that when you look back on something doesn't always seem so bad, that you have learned something profound from that moment in your life?   God can use all our mistakes, our bad choices, the things we do that hurt ourselves or others....and turn them into something worthwhile. Perhaps those experiences will help make us a better person...more caring, more loving, more positive.  Perhaps our experiences can later help someone else who is struggling in the same way.  Perhaps we can share what we learned to help them make better thought out decisions...or at least to stand by their side with love and support as they go through their own ruins.

Perhaps out of the ashes of our mistakes, our choices, our pain; something beautiful can grow....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My times are in Your hands

It's November 1.  The first day of a new month.  The first day of the 11th month in my year of trust.  I don't understand how the time has gone so quickly.  It amazes me, really.  I have learned so much in this year, and yet at times I think I haven't learned enough.  Thank goodness that time continues, that even after December 31, 2011, I can continue on in my journey with the Lord...learning new facets of the word trust, learning new ways to open my life to what God has in store for me.

The last couple of days I have been drawn to Psalm 31...the pages of my Bible seem to open there of their own accord.  David is distressed as he writes this Psalm...sorrowful, sighing.  In verse 12 he says, "I have become like a broken vessel."  Oh, how I know that feeling in this past year.  I have felt cracked, shattered, broken, and scattered.  I wonder if, like Humpty Dumpty, I can be put back together again in any semblance of wholeness.  I wonder if I have lost the ability to see truth, to love, to hold onto joy.  I wonder if God sees me or if He is too busy with the problems and plights of others to bother with me.  I can so relate to David's words in this Psalm as he questions his own life and existence, "I have been forgotten like one who is dead."

But like David, I eventually also see the hand that reaches out to me.  The one that created all things.  The one that holds me close and helps me.  "For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you."  Isaiah 41:13   Ah, He holds my hand.  My heavenly Father helps me to cross that busy street of life safely.  He gives me the assurance that in Him, I do not need to fear or worry because He IS there.  Thank God!!  Literally!

David says in verses 14-15... But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."  My times are in your hand.   Yes, David! Remember who HE is!  I trust in YOU, O Lord.  Yes.  There's that word.  Trust.  My times are in His hands.  Like David, it is time to turn from the whining, the sorrow, the sighing.  It is time to remember God, our BIG God, is in control.  Not only does He hold my hand and help me, but my times are in His hands.  My times.  The things that happen.  My days.  My situations.  My times are in your hands, God.  The good times, the bad times, the mis-timed times.  When I lose patience and think that time is running out, or hasn't come yet, or is all wrong for something...thankfully He has patience.  He knows the proper timing of everything...the big picture, the rest of the story.

And so my job is to trust Him.  He is my God. He helps me.  My times are in His hands.  Trust HIM.   He alone can make me whole.  He alone can fulfill all things in me and create joy.  He alone can give me strength to cope.  And patience to wait for the right time.  I can trust Him to provide all I need.

And I am thankful.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 (NIV)

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.