Saturday, December 31, 2011

For the Blank Pages Ahead

I've just spent two solid days catching up on bookkeeping.  For months I've only had time to deal with the deadline stuff.

I was raised by an entrepreneur and I married one.  I've known times of plenty and lean times, but I've never gone hungry a day in my life.  Nonetheless, for a long time I approached the bookkeeping with anxiety.  All those little numbers add up to such big numbers!  I would sort of hold my breath wondering if the numbers coming in would match those going out...

One day I realized that was no way for the daughter of a King to live and I vowed to make this office a place of thanksgiving.  Every invoice and receipt would be processed with a heart of thanksgiving.  I would praise Him for His past faithfulness and declare my confidence in His goodness.  It made a huge difference!

There have been a lot of times this year when that thanksgiving has truly been a "sacrifice of praise," offered in faith.  We've scraped the bottom of the barrel a few times.  There were days when my faith was definitely stretched to the wondering point...and yet He has been faithful and provided all that we need and a little bit more.

Turns out that bookkeeping was an unexpectedly great way to end 2011!  All this recording of need and supply has reminded me that I can trust Him with all the blank pages ahead....

The Bible declares 42 times that, "The faithful love of the Lord endures forever!"

I don't know what adventures all those blank calendar pages hold.  I've lived long enough to know that there will be unexpected challenges that I might even dread if I knew the details.  I've also learned that I'm guaranteed there will be knock-your-socks-off blessings recorded on those pages.  Above all, through all, and in all, is the Love of One Who is Faithful.  On every page.

May you be blessed with a peaceful confidence that He will be with you, supplying all your needs, in the New Year.  Body, soul, and spirit.  He is good and His faithful love endures forever!

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.  
I praise your name for your
unfailing love and faithfulness
for all your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.

Though I am surrounded by troubles...
The Lord will work out his plans for my life--
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

Psalm 138:1-2, 7-8

Friday, December 30, 2011

Puddle of Grace

I love reading blogs.

Last night I read a mommy blog by a well-meaning mom who is passionate about her cause.  I respect her for that.  We need to be persuaded of what we believe.  Her facts are probably accurate.  She feels so strongly that she admitted that she judges moms who fall short of her standard.  Unfortunately, I fall short.  If she knew me, she'd judge me.  It's a gross feeling.  Defensive words rise and bubble and I want to plead my case.

The only reason I have that response is because I wish I could somehow look good in everyone's eyes.  That's an ugly idol.

The idol of the good opinion of others is a ruthless, unforgiving, exhausting taskmaster.  Foolish, foolish woman that I am to even pause there.  I long for the day in which I don't even twitch at the allure of this vain idol.

When I look into the eyes of my Savior all I can see is love--even though I fall so far short of His glory (which is so much greater than that of any human standard!).  Here is a God worth serving!  He offers me His grace for the messy places.  He offers His strength to help me reach the goals He values.  He offers me the loving community of others who also recognize their need.

As I sit there in a puddle of loving grace, laughter rises up.  Thanksgiving and worship begin to drown out all the defensive words.

If you find yourself feeling inadequate or defensive today, I invite you to join me at the foot of the cross.  There's so much grace and joy here!

So let us come boldly to the throne of
our gracious God.
There we will receive his mercy,
and we will find grace
to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:16 NLT

Monday, December 26, 2011

Unusual Christmas

This Christmas hasn't been like any other Christmas I've ever experienced.  

It's not the first time we've been without extended family, but it was the first time in my entire life that we haven't had people other than our immediate family around the table.  I had sought out others who might want to join us, but it seemed everyone had somewhere to go.  When I realized this I felt undone.  The gathering together is as essential to me as the gifts and the carols.  We've always shared our table with others who were also without family or who would otherwise be alone.  

I felt bent.  Unreasonably bereft. Couldn't really look the thought in the face.  Finally had to.  Why was this so hard for me?  I'm not unaware that I have much to be thankful for...  

I have a friend who dreams of what it would be like to have a quiet Christmas.  As we talked at the Christmas Eve service about the challenges of our different situations, I found myself declaring adamantly, "Wherever we find ourselves, we need to find Him!  He will be with us--we need to be alert to His presence."

My kids were unsettled when they realized no one would be joining us at our table.   Turkey dinner was vetoed.  While they all watched a movie I sought inspiration in the kitchen...and it came.  

My Oma's biscuits, cut with the Christmas tree cookie cutter...


Locally made sausage and cheese.  Table set with a cloth gifted by a friend who is having her own unusual Christmas overseas this year.  Gingerale poured into crystal goblets and candles lit...


Everyone laughed with delight at our odd Christmas feast.  We held hands 'round the table and gave thanks.  I found Him there.  He is in us and we are in Him.

"I have told you these things
so that you will be filled with my joy.
Yes, your joy will overflow!"
~ Jesus

John 15

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Earnest Expectation

My kids have a strategy so that the waiting won't seem so long.  They've made plans of things they can do so that time won't crawl.  They know it's just a matter of time, but it's still not easy.

The aching and longing of waiting.  The "earnest expectation."*

Waiting.

Our hope will be fulfilled.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

It will happen in a moment, 
in the blink of an eye,
when the last trumpet sounds...

I Corinthians 15:52


*Romans 8:19 KJV
Revelation 22:20

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gathering Together

One of the things we love best about Christmas is all the gathering together.  More than any other time of year we visit and celebrate together.  The laughter, the food, the community...it's so rich.

It makes sense that we celebrate His coming this way--it is because of Him that we enjoy this incredible gift.  It was prophesied that, "He will...assemble the exiles...He will gather the scattered people..." 

This community is hardly normal or status quo...  Who is more scattered or exiled than the human race?  Than those who have been wounded and dare not trust again?  And who hasn't been wounded?  What is more risky than being open and intimate with imperfect people?  Haven't we all felt the anxiety of rejection?

The Prince of Peace came to draw us together and I see His presence and His glory revealed in our gathering.   I see His love and kindness scattered in our lives like refractions of light from the facets of diamond--each friend a unique expression.   He gives us the grace to forgive offenses so that we can remain connected.  He heals our hearts so we can trust again.  Our laughter together is the music of heaven.  Our feasting just a taste of what is to come.

Perhaps you long for this community but hardly dare believe that it could be possible for you...  Believe.  Invite the Prince of Peace to lead you, heal you, and connect you.  It's part of why He came.

I pray that they all will be one, just as you and I are one--
as you are in me, Father, and I am in you...
May they experience such perfect unity 
 that the world will know that you sent me
and that you love them 
as much as you love me.
~ Jesus 

Isaiah 11:12
John 17:21-23

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All I Can See is Love

I'm the master of disguise.  At least I'm attempting to be.  Some gifts will be far too easy to guess without a little disguise and that's no fun...

I can hardly wait to see the gifts opened!  Some are things they've told me at least a hundred times in the last month that they would like to have.  There are gifts that I don't think they've even dreamed of, but I know they're going to love!  There are some things on their wish list that won't be under the tree and I hope they won't be too disappointed...

There are gifts I've asked my Heavenly Papa for this Christmas.  Some I won't know about for a few days.  I already know that I won't be getting others.  My heart sighs.  If I wonder why for very long, it could drive me to distraction, but when I look into His eyes I see that He loves me and that's enough for right now.  It really is.  I don't get it, but all I can see is love so I trust.


Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others--
the armies of heaven--praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.

Luke 2:13-14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Messy Christmas

Christmas isn't at all like a Hallmark card, but you already know that.


A few days ago I sat in a circle of women and we talked about our good Christmas memories and what's hard about Christmas for us.  Talking about the hard stuff brought out strong emotions.  Tears.  We were all blessed with some happy memories, but we all had sad spots too.  There's no candy-coating that stuff.  It's messy.


What do we do?  Recoil from the pain?  Medicate it?  Grit our teeth until it's over?


The problem isn't Christmas, it's just that somewhere along the way we got the idea that in this season we would stop being...people.  Perhaps that reality is amplified by the fact that for a few days we think we should pretend we're not?  The stress that comes with all the expectations just seems to further reveal how very human we are and it's disappointing.


My husband and I come from very different "cultural" backgrounds in the way we celebrate the season.  Honestly, it can be hard.  We've tried to make our own traditions, but before I was his wife I was a daughter.  I try to honour him and not disappoint my family.  Mostly I feel torn.  I haven't handled that very well this year.  The truth has leaked out.  Honestly, I'm more comfortable and feel safer when I can pretend everything's okay. I worry about rocking his boat, about disappointing my family, about distressing my kids with my sadness...  It's into exactly this kind of turmoil that a baby was born and placed into a manger...destined to give the ultimate sacrifice so that we could somehow forgive, be healed, and be at rest.  Even when people disagree or are disappointed.


I want to be more real this Christmas--in fact, it's not that noble at all--I seem to be unable to pretend.  I hope I'm demonstrating to my kids the reality that we're all so very human--not pretend--and that real people go kneel at the manger.  That Christ didn't come to shiny Christmas tree and a picture-perfect scene, but that He came into the mess and showed His love.  It's kind of awkward and unattractive, but I'm finding His peace here in this place of kneeling, desperate worship.  We're drawing closer together.  I think that's why He came.



Christmas isn't like a Hallmark card.  It's much more like a stinky stable...full of, well, the stuff stables are full of.  The relief comes when all the broken, weary, flea-bitten people gather 'round God-made-flesh and worship.  When, rather than running, medicating, enduring, we seek His healing and refuge.



The answer isn't to skip the season--it's to seek Him in it.


The Lord is good,
a strong refuge when trouble comes.
He is close to those who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7

Monday, December 19, 2011

His Delight

"Where is another God like you...you delight in showing unfailing love."

You delight in showing unfailing love.

I have yet to plumb the depths of this mystery.  When I fail I'm so overcome with sadness.  I'm sure He's not thrilled either...just as I am not when my children make poor choices.  In that sadness it never crosses my mind that He delights in showing me unfailing love.  I get that He forgives me.  That He is good and has made a way for my redemption.  But delight?

Delight is defined as "a high degree of gratification, joy, something that gives great pleasure."

I think I've pictured Him as sort of patient, kind, and definitely long-suffering as He grants me forgiveness (again!).  Meditating on this verse is further revising the picture in my mind.

This verse is referring specifically to forgiveness of sin.  It goes on:

"Once again you will have compassion on us.  You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!"

Yes, His Spirit brings conviction.  It's good, so good, to recognize the need of repentance.

Some, at this point, may picture anger on His face.  Some may see kindness, long-suffering, or even benevolence.  Delight?

He has joy at our repentance.  The price has already been paid for our transgression and He delights in offering that gift to us.  It gives Him great joy!  His arms are thrown wide open, He's running to meet us, He's ready to throw a party!  Not because we've sinned, but because we've sought restoration.

Can you picture Him scooping you up into a big bear hug with a rumble of joy-laughter in His chest?

He delights in showing His unfailing love.


Micah 7:18-19

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Banner of Love

"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love..."

A banner is a flag that identifies an army--it tells for whom the soldiers fight.  The one that He carried in His fight for us identified Him as fighting for love.  Not for dominance--His desire was not to suppress us, enslave us, or force us under His authority.  He fought for the sake of love...to set us free.  So that He could bring us into His "banqueting house"--the place of abundance where all our needs are met.

He humbled Himself and came as a baby in a manger...under a banner of love.  He walked dusty roads of human discomfort and sorrow...under a banner of love.  He healed, taught and fed the hungry...under a banner of love.  He willingly endured agony unto death on a cross...under a banner of love.  

He now sits at the right hand of the Father and the banner is still waving...and He's inviting you and me to come and sit and feast at His table.  To taste of His love and freedom.  I see Him calling the weak and the weary and the wounded to come and savour His goodness, to be healed and refreshed.  

Come, sit under His banner of love. 

Song of Songs 2:4

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blessed

A few days after Mary was visited by the angel, she went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth told her, "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said."

Blessed simply because she believed.   She believed He would do what He said.  The impossible was possible.

We're blessed when we believe.  Blessed now because it brings peace and joy into our present circumstances.  Blessed in the future because it guarantees that we'll receive the promise.

What are you believing for?

For only we who believe can enter his rest.

Hebrews 4:3a
Luke 1:45

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trust

Trust.

Some days that is the only answer He gives to all the questions.

Trust.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure everything out on your own.

Proverbs 3:5 MSG

Thursday, December 15, 2011

According to Your Word

I was awake in the wee hours of this morning...staring into the darkness...remembering the previous day...realizing once again that I have room to grown in love.  The sigh goes deep because this is not a new revelation.  It takes some time to accept the grace offered.

Growing in this love is no self-help job.  It's bigger than that.  I wonder at the how...and I remember the words of a young woman spoken 2,000 years ago, "But how can this happen?"

An angel told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you..."  There it is.  Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can a holy thing be born in me.

The requirement of the maiden was her consent, "Be it unto me according to thy word."  The willingness to let Him work in her life, to fill her with His life.  "God...working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."

Be it unto me according to your word.  Come, Holy Spirit, and overshadow me.

The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

You will live in joy and peace.


Isaiah 55:10-12a


Luke 2
Philippians 2:13

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Pageant

Today we went to the school Christmas program.  I laughed and loved what my daughter and her class did.  We thoroughly enjoyed each presentation.

Then the littlest ones did a rendition of the nativity story and, though none of those children were "mine," their performance is the one that stirred my heart deeply.

A little angel came out and placed chubby hands on Mary's head and proclaimed in clear tones that a miracle was on it's way...

There's a miracle on its way, under way, in our hearts.  A holy thing, born of His Spirit...

Mary plopped on her donkey who wobbled, but managed to hold up valiantly though his ears slid around until they were both on one side.  Toothless shepherds gasped at the sight of the angels shouting, "Glory".  Wisemen stumbled and all but tumbled as they brought their gifts.  Joseph stood by watching with all the gravity of one entrusted with a miraculous responsibility.  Together they lisped, "Happy birthday, dear Jesus!"  

I chuckled at the same time as I was choking on a lump in my throat.  Glory shone through it all.  This is the place where His glory shines--among the humble, toothless, stumbling, wobbly ones who unashamedly proclaim that, "Love has come!" 

How is it that He sees fit to place the miracle of His Spirit in our lives, we who are so un-glorious?   What an incredible grace that He bestows His glory on us!

...God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would
never know him through human wisdom...

Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans,
and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:21, 24b&25

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Surprises

Sometimes they're the best of buddies, off on an adventure, and the rest of the world is excluded from the mysteries of their schemes.  Other days it seems all he does is push her buttons.  She shrieks at the slightest provocation.  He's sure that she thinks he's stupid.  She's sure he's always planning on wrecking her stuff.  Lord help us all if either enters the other's room without permission!!

The quarrelling wears on my heart and in the busyness of these recent days I've been quick to react to their petty squabbles, sighing and wondering when they're going to learn not to react to the slightest instigation.

Today a little warmth seeped into my heart...

He bought her a gift.  It's perfect.  Shiny, sparkly, purple, and he knows she going to love it.  She knows he got something for her and went to the calendar to count, and recount, the number of days she has to wait to receive it.  He can't wait to give it to her.  She can't wait to open it.  She smiles her quiet smile because she's just so happy knowing that he has a gift for her.  

He wrapped it awkwardly, cleverly disguising it, delighting in the thought of how she'll love it.  This affection between then makes me laugh out loud and some of the busy tension seeps out of my shoulders.

It's about the waiting for the coming of the gift--the advent.  That is the glorious tension of these days.  The longing and the yearning to give the gift.  The knowing that the gift is coming.  The waiting.  The utter confidence that the gift is on it's way.  The anticipation.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

Monday, December 12, 2011

His Masterpiece



The sunrise was so incredible this morning.  I desperately wanted to seal its glory in my heart, remember it forever, so I stood on the deck shivering, fingers numbing, as I captured frame after frame.  Not one did justice.  Maybe if I had a better camera?  Maybe such things are only to be savored in the moment?  I don't know...


This photo by Kaleigh
Then the whisper came:  "You think that's glorious?  That's nothing compared to my masterpiece."


I know what's been said about His masterpiece:


Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done,
so none of us can boast about it.
For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus...



The way He has made us new.  It's more glorious and valuable to Him than the spectacular beauty of the sunrise.

I'm still so flawed.  I guess that's what he's addressing in the part about salvation not being a reward.  He has created us anew...a gift.  This creation is His masterpiece.

You.  All of you.  Me.   My funny little toe, the shape of my eyebrows, even the parts of myself I don't like very much--His masterpiece.  The places where His grace is still at work making us anew--precious and glorious to Him.  Inside and out, a masterpiece from the hands of the ultimate Creator.

I'm having a hard time receiving all that this means.  There's something awkward, that squirms--it's too much--such a big love, such an unconditional love, a love that has covered a great multitude of sins.  Honestly, it's easier for me to believe and receive it for you than myself.

It won't be long until the sunset.  I think I'll need to stand and soak it in a little more...let the truth of it pierce my heart.



Ephesians 2:9-1
1 Peter 4:8

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Advent of Joy

We lit the "joy" candle in the advent wreath this morning, reminding us that the coming of Christ brings joy.

I love the joy candle because I 'get it'.  It's more than a ritual, it's something life-changing that I've experienced.  My heart does a little happy dance just thinking of it.

You see, joy isn't just the expression of an upbeat personality.  I've seen people who are quietly joyful and others who are a bit more exuberant in their expression.  It's not like winning the lottery--joyful isn't just a disposition you are born with or not. It's a person, Jesus, changing your life.  He gives you joy in the place of mourning.  It's real.

I'd like to tell you part of my story as an example...

In 1990 I decided I needed to change the trajectory of my life.  I ended a four-year relationship with a man, quit a job I really enjoyed, and moved from the east coast to the west.  I was confident that I was making the right choice, I just didn't know how hard it would be.  It was a lot of major life changes all at once.  I sank into depression.  I don't mean just feeling sad, I mean d.e.p.r.e.s.s.e.d.  The kind of heaviness that leaks out of your heart into your body and you feel like you can't even move.

One day I was lying on the living room floor wondering what my life had come to and if there was any possible way other than death to escape this hideous weight.  I really felt desperately at the end of my rope.

I love that God was Immanuel, God with me, at that moment.  He wasn't repelled by my sorry state, He met me in it.  I was crying out to Him for relief.  I felt an "urge" to try to sing a song--a simple, old gospel chorus: God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me.

If you've never been in that state of depression, it may sound silly to you that I could barely form the words.  It was all that I could do to whisper them, but it was enough to let in a ray of light.  I repeated the song over and over and over again until my voice grew stronger.  Eventually I was striding around the house, singing with all my might as though my life depended on it.  It did.

Nothing about my circumstances changed that day.  My heart still needed to mend, I needed to build new relationships and put down roots in a new place, but Joy filled my heart.  By declaring truth--that God is good--the darkness of despair was dispelled.  Lies of hopelessness were annihilated by the light of truth.  Joy came in the place of despair.

God is good.  All the time.  In the worst circumstances He has a plan for redemption.  When we've brought those circumstances upon ourselves by poor choices, He gives grace and restoration.  Anything else is a joy-destroying lie.  His truth brings Joy.

This is so much more than the power of positive thinking--it's an encounter with Jesus that transforms us.  He really did come to live among us, to share our sorrows and to make a way from darkness and despair to freedom.  Joy has come.


He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
To all who mourn...
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
Isaiah 61:1b, 3

Saturday, December 10, 2011

God With Us

"...The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')."


Most people in the English-speaking world are probably familiar with these words, even if they've never cracked open The Book.  I wonder how many aware of the context...


"...the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm."  They were surrounded by an enemy that seemed so much bigger and stronger than they.


Sounds familiar.  Does your heart tremble?  Are there situations in your finances, family and friends that cause your heart to sink?


Isaiah was sent to, "...tell him he doesn't need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers..."  


I guess their enemies didn't exactly appear to be "burned-out embers."  Neither do mine.  The enemies of fear, anxiety, discouragement...fill in the name of your enemies...seem alive and well and quite capable of overwhelming.  I forget that they are, in fact, a defeated foe.  Their power destroyed by the cross.  Power and authority over them granted to me.*


In the face of his doubt that these fierce enemies (who had a frightening track record!) were powerless to harm him, King Ahaz was challenged to ask for a sign, "Make it as difficult as you want--as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead."  He refused to ask for such a sign, but he was given one anyway.


"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign.  Look!  A virgin will conceive..."  Yep, that's pretty difficult.  Now I can't prove to you that, in fact, a virgin did conceive.  Naysayers abound.  I believe.  This I know for sure--He is indeed Immanuel, God with me!


Signs of His presence surround me.  I hear it in the laughter of my children.  I see it in the glory of orange and pink splashed across the evening sky.  I see it in the lives of my friends Paul and Judy who are spending Christmas on the other side of the world caring for the heart-broken and hungry.  I hear it in the peaceful voice of my sister-in-love who still waits for her miracle. 


For all the promises I still wait to see fulfilled, I have the comfort of the fulfilment of this one.


He is present, with us, in the midst of the mess of life.


Immanuel.




Isaiah 7
*Ephesians 2:6

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Amaryllis

I have an amaryllis that I cut back every year after it blooms.  I put it in my root cellar until the next winter when I get it out and begin to water it.  This year it started to grow before I brought it out.

In the pitch dark.

Without water.

It's like it couldn't help itself--it just had to grow.

Now in these bleak, short winter days it sits on my table--glowing, vibrant and alive.  It is whispering mysteries that my heart grasps with hope, though my brain hardly comprehends.



This flower has grown from a corruptible seed--a seed that will really and truly die someday--and yet its life seems unquenchable.  How much more the life that's been planted inside me that is eternal and will never die?

Sometimes I don't feel very alive...  I'm mostly just trying to keep my head above water and this worries me...

However, what we feel isn't always the truth.

The truth is that His life makes us alive, it cannot be defeated.  Its glory cannot be contained.



The blazing red flower shouts of life and reminds me that it is the One who began the good work in my life who will finish it!  It whispers of rest--that He's got it all in His hands, Author and Finisher.  His Life within me will live and grow even in weary times or times of struggle.

For you have been born again,
but not to a life that will quickly end. 
Your new life will last forever because
it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
1 Peter 1:23

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Grace

He just keeps giving me grace.

I want solutions, answers, breakthrough!  I want, I want, I want...!  I want good things, things that He has promised.

He says, "My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness."

How ridiculous is it to fight against "just grace" as though it is not enough?  As though by resisting acceptance of grace as enough, I get to have the other answers I want, when I want?  Saying it that way, the fierce fight crumbles...  I've been given grace and God's power that works through, despite, best...in my deficiency, fragility, lack.  This is the spot where His glory is going to shine through.

Grace is all I need while I wait for the fulfillment of the promise.  Acceptance brings rest.

Enough.

Giving thanks for grace that is more than enough.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Unfolding Grace

I went Christmas shopping today--I'm usually finished by now--and all my good ideas ended up nowhere.  I had to resist the tidal wave of consumer frenzy that surrounded me and threatened to overcome me with the urge to buy everything, anything, just to get it done!  Never mind my own panic at not being firmly in control of crossing things off my list.   Had to dig deep for the peace that's rooted in knowing that a great Love surrounds me and cares about the details of my life, the people I want to bless.  He cares...

Then my husband didn't agree with me on the one gift I did think would work.  My teeth clenched against the rise of words that won't help.  Struggled against the sense of frustration that this responsibility rests more on me than on him.  Fight.  Fight to honour and cherish relationship over getting things my way...

He met me there in those hard choices...  Slowly peace overtook panic and anger.  Slowly.  So slowly, I'm learning that things ultimately work out really well when I surrender to His grace.  He offers it to me and through me.

Grace, kindly and gently, working out ALL things for good in the heart that keeps on turning...and returning when it loses it's way...to the Source of all hope, comfort, and strength.

So we're not giving up.  How could we!
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,
on the inside, where God is making new life,
not a day goes by without his unfolding grace...
There's far more here than meets the eye.
The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.
But the things we can't see now will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16, 18

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rescue

Do you have any challenges in your life that keep coming up over and over again?  You've done all you know to do, but are still waiting for breakthrough?  It can get so very, very wearing.

I read a verse tonight that I'm hanging on to.  Turns out I'm not the first to be in this situation...

"We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure...as a result we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.  We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.  And you are helping us by praying for us..."

Weariness can come from the long wait, it will definitely increase when relying on ourselves for rescue.  I need to learn how to rely on God.  More.  To remember sooner that He is the source and supply.  After all if He raised the dead, He can definitely handle this one.

He did rescue.  He will rescue.  He will continue to rescue.

Placing my confidence in Him, learning not to rely on my own ability.  Thankful, so very thankful, for friends who pray.

2 Corinthians 1:9-10

Monday, December 5, 2011

Courage

"Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart!"

I think I'm talking to the kids about long division...but maybe, just maybe, I'm talking to me...

He shall strengthen my heart.

I'm telling the kids that they have all the resources necessary:  pencils, paper, a knowledge of their multiplication tables and my help at hand.  They simply lack courage.  They're daunted by the numbers on the page and the memories of past failures.  They need need the courage to pick up their pencil and do the first step.

I need to be of good courage and take the first step...in that challenging task, the thing I don't really feel like doing, the phone call I'm not sure I want to make.  Resources and abilities, I've got 'em.  Help available--He's there, willing and ready.  Courage.  I just need the courage to take the first step.

He will strengthen my heart.

He will strengthen your heart.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.
You lavish it on those who come to you for protection,
blessing them before the watching world.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe...
You heard my cry for mercy and answered my cry for help...
So be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord!
Psalm 31:19-20, 24

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Refreshing Kindness

My back is aching, my eyes are crossing in exhaustion, and I'm pretty sure there are a few crumpled napkins still lurking in corners, but my heart is overflowing with gratitude...

Fourteen and a half years ago my husband and I moved to northern Alberta where jobs were more plentiful and land was cheaper than in the place from whence we came.  Newlyweds, we were, venturing out on our own, away from family, to a place where there were only a few people that we kind of vaguely sort of knew...  I was unprepared for how lonely I would be and how very bleak and cold the winter would seem.  We tried going to a few different churches and liked them all, but none of them truly "fit" until one day we walked into the church that is now "home."

The people were so friendly and kind!  Even though the style of worship and the way they did things was different from places that had felt like home before, these people loved.  From the first Sunday we felt connected and so we went back again. And again.  Weekly, we were invited into homes.  Gradually, we began to make friends with neighbors and coworkers.  There is a unique sense of community in rural areas and as much as I don't like the cold temperatures here, I love the warm hearts!

Eventually I wanted to reciprocate all the kindness we'd received, but felt completely inadequate for the job...  Not only because of the number or people who'd been so kind, but they all seem to be such extraordinarily accomplished hosts/hostesses!

I got a bright idea.  We would host a Christmas open house and invite all the people who'd been so gracious to us.  I could handle the idea of preparing a variety of finger foods and desserts.  My husband agreed, so we invited all our new-found friends and neighbors and I spent two weeks cooking and baking.  The day and time came and we sat and waited.  We looked at each other and wondered if we were crazy.  Would anyone come?

By the end of that day more than forty people had filled our little home.  We'd laughed and loved and felt loved.  It was glorious!  A new tradition was born.  The first tradition that was "our" tradition--not something either one of us had brought into our marriage, but one we had created together.

Today was our thirteenth Christmas open house.  More than sixty people filled our home with laughter and love.  I'm so thankful that "when I was a stranger you visited me."  So incredibly thankful for the many friendships that have developed over the years.  Thankful for a Love that supersedes differences, that goes beyond culture, heals wounded hearts, and makes a family of strangers.

I always thank my God when I pray for you...
Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother,
for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God's people.
Philemon 1:4, 7

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Need and Supply

"And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus..."

And our need...my need...is great.  He has provided my daily bread and my house is warm, I have enough clothes and I have good friends, but there is still a great aching need for more.  I have a restless hunger for more of His Spirit, Life and Love to flow into me and through me.  I need this.  There's a need for more healing, there are prayers yet unanswered and relationships that have room to grow. 

I have need...and the promise of supply.  

According to His riches in glory...  I have no idea how much that is, but "riches in glory" sounds like more than enough to fill the need.

Tomorrow morning we light the "Faith" candle in the Advent wreath and this is my declaration of faith:  He will supply.

As surely as my amaryllis insisted on growing though it was yet in the dark, cold root cellar and unwatered.  He will provide.  It is His nature...it is what He does and it cannot be contained or squelched.  It must burst forth.  

I light the candle in expectation.  Faith.  Believing...for what has not yet been seen...yet is guaranteed by His nature and promise.

For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between "Yes" and "No."
...as God's ultimate "yes," he always does what he says.  
For all of God's promises  have been fulfiilled in Christ with a resounding, "Yes!"
And through Christ, our "Amen" 
(which means "yes")
ascends to God for His glory.

Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 2:19-20

Friday, December 2, 2011

When You're Weary of Hoping

What do you do in this season of joyful expectancy when it seems like you're the only one not feeling it?  The Advent...the coming...of December 25 may be a certainty...but the weariness of the waiting...the secret cry in your heart...for the coming of life to that dead place, the dead relationship, your dead dreams, your disappointments...you wonder if the fulfilment of that promise will ever come.  When the "Hope" candle was lit on Sunday did you look away?  And feel ashamed for it?  Sometimes it hurts to keep hoping.


He knows.


I could tell you hundreds of stories of the answer, the Life, the fulfillment of the promise coming after the long weary waiting.  It might encourage you to hang on a little longer, but for today I need simply to tell you that it's okay...He's made a provision for the weary days.



...the moment we get tired in the waiting,
 God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
 If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. 
He does our praying in and for us, 
making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans...
That's why we can be so sure
 that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

He is so full of love for you and care about what matters to you that He's even made a way for the weary days...for the days when hope is a slim thread.  He takes all your wordless sighs and aching groans into His heart of love as if it was the most eloquent prayer...and He promises to make something good out of it all.  Just for today, just for this moment, rest in that love.

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust...

Romans 8:26-28 MSG
Psalm 103:13-14 NLT

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joyful Expectancy

This morning there was a joyous scramble for the pieces of our advent calendar.  Ours is magnetic and each day until the 25th a piece of the nativity scene will appear on the fridge.  The youngest always has his turn first and he carefully placed the first piece, an outline of the stable.  The other pieces and figures were lovingly spread out and talked about.  The little one can't wait to add her favourite angel, she's counted out the days and she knows she'll be the one to place it.

Anticipation.  It's everywhere.  The waiting and the hoping.  It's active, not passive.  There's an alertness to the waiting.  There's no lethargy or hopelessness.  Everyone knows that it's coming--we're just waiting.

All yearning for that which is promised and coming...

Kids can't wait to open gifts, adults can't wait for days off, families can't wait to gather...and it's all a faint reflection of the great inborn longing for the coming of promised freedom.

We received the down payment on the promise when the Son of God came and lived clothed in human flesh.  We see the promise birthed in our hearts as a hope and a love far greater than what we could conjure on our own.  We wait to see the fullness of peace on earth and in every heart...and so we wait for the advent, the coming...

These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.
That is why waiting does not diminish us, 
any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. 
We are enlarged in the waiting. 
We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us.
But the longer we wait, the larger we become, 
and the more joyful our expectancy.
Romans 8:23-25 MSG

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Love Him

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!


He hears.
He listens.
I love Him.

I called on the name of the Lord: "Please, Lord, save me!"
How kind the Lord is!  How good he is!  So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.

When darkness threatened to suffocate my soul
and despair tried to choke the life out of me,
I remembered His kindness, His mercy, His love.
He hears my prayers and rescues.
I love Him.

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.

So good, so very, very good.
My soul is at rest.
I love Him.

What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?

His love is so great.
Gratitude overflows into a song of worship.
I love Him.

Psalm 116:1-7.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Real Life Promises

I almost forgot this morning in the dark hours when awake came to my brain.  My mind began to organize and shuffle all the to-do's of today and tomorrow.  Overwhelming, but if I just put my head down, get 'er done, and survive until Thursday, it'll be okay...it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest, but I can handle that for another day or two.

"Seriously, are you willing to settle for that?" the still, small voice whispered.

How do I forget so easily?  So quickly?  I wasn't made to "settle" for anything..."get 'er done" sounds so competent and reliable, yet is less than my birthright.  We're created for glory, but we miss it all when our heads are down and we're just surviving.

The promises of "good plans...a hope...that you will prosper" don't come with a disclaimer of "except for on the really busy days."

What good is the promise of being "armed with strength" to "scale any wall" and "stand on any mountain" except for on days containing walls and mountains?  These verbs are strong and full of energy, not limping along in survival mode.  Thriving and victorious.

The busy days hold gifts too.  I miss them all with my head down and an elephant sitting on my chest.

I can receive them all with face up, arms lifted, and a shout of praise on my lips.

I'm tired, but there's no elephant sitting on my chest.  Still looking forward to Thursday, but today was a  good day.

Thankful for grace, for gentle reminders in the morning darkness, and for promises that apply to real life.


For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations;
I will sing praises to your name.

Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 18:29, 32, 33, 49

Monday, November 28, 2011

Forgiven and Blessed

She said, "You said..." and I said, "I didn't say.."  But it didn't make any difference so what do you say?  Sorry.  I never meant for you to feel that way.

It rankles and burns.  Sometimes you just can't make things right no matter what you say.  When you don't want the poison to sour your soul what do you do with it?

Take it to the One who knows, who's been misunderstood a thousand ways.  Tell Him how much it hurts and then forgive.  What is the forgiving but giving up my right to vindication?  Surrendering it to the One who sets all things straight some day in some way.  Giving you freedom from my revenge, giving me freedom from bitterness.  Giving what I've already received in abundant measure.  Grace.

He's given one more instruction...after the forgiving, bless.  What better blessing than to pray that the offender would sense the incredible love of the Father?  That peace and calm would come...that they would discover rest in the Father's arms.

Extending grace is a God-sized job.  Thankful for the abundance of His grace toward me...thankful that I am free of a debt I could never repay...thankful for His Spirit within that makes the impossible possible.

You're familiar with the old written law, "love your friend,"
 and it's unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.
I'm challenging that.  I'm telling you to love your enemies.
Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer,
for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
This is what God does.  He gives his best--
the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless:
the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus?  Anybody can do that...
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up.
You're kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  
Live out your God-created identity.
Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
~Jesus

Matthew 5:43-48 MSG

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five Senses of Christmas

The kids are decorating Christmas cookies.  They're pretty independent about it and only want my help on demand.  No unsolicited advice, thanks.  Yesterday the dough was mixed and rolled and cut and baked.  Warm ones were sampled and given an "ummmm" of approval.  Unsolicited advice is required at this point to keep them all from disappearing.  Now it's time for the really fun part.

I love listening to their conversation...they're having fun with the design, but the best part seems to be anticipating how much our guests will enjoy them.  I'm reminded once again that love looks like something...a baby in a manger, a man on a cross, and little hands decorating cookies.

Love sounds like something...  A young woman whispering, "Be it unto me according to your word."   Angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"  Children saying, "They're really going to love this one!"

My son thinks love smells like food cooking and that it tastes like caramel corn.

Tonight love feels like sticky hands and the warm spot in my heart that's filled with gratitude for these gifts...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Light

The countdown to Christmas is on now and slowly the decorations are coming out and the baking has begun.  There is a lot of bah-humbug around Christmas and I get it that the commercialism is nauseating and the pace can get out of control, but none of that can steal the sacred joy for me.  The season is full of poignant symbolism.  Everywhere you turn there are reminders of Truth.

Today we put up a little greenery with twinkling lights.  When the sun went down and all was bleak and gloomy at 4 p.m. we turned on the lights.  Ah!  Gloom was gone.  Suddenly all was cozy and comforting and the room looked like a refuge.  Those little lights were beacons drawing everyone in close.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness
a light will shine.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

For God who said, "Let there be light in the darkness,"
has made this light shine in our hearts
so that we could know the glory of God
that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

For those who live in darkness a light will shine...the darkness can never extinguish it...this light shines in our hearts...so that we can know the glory of God.

Thankful for the Light.



Isaiah 9:2; John 1:4-5; 2 Corinthians 4:6

Friday, November 25, 2011

Awesome Kids

Sometimes I rhetorically say, "I wonder what should I blog about today?"   Inevitably two of my kids say, "Blog about how awesome I am!"  I smile and think that I could definitely do that!  If you're a reader lucky enough to know and love my kids you might read and smile indulgently...  If you know my kids, but don't feel the love, you  may just find it downright annoying..  The rest might think I'm just bragging...

Instead, I'll tell you a couple of ways that parenting awesome kids has given me a glimpse into the Father's heart.

First, I absolutely and unabashedly do think my kids are awesome!  No one is more aware of their flaws than their dad and I and no one loves them more than we do.  That's how your Heavenly Papa feels about you!  There's a sneaky little lie that tells us that His love is lessened by awareness of our shortcomings or that He somehow love us less on our bad days.  Not true!  When you love someone enough to give your life for them...that's exactly what you do.  You give your life for them, committing all of your self and your resources to help them be the best they can be.

Having said I think my kids are awesome, I have to tell you that they definitely don't always act that way.  I hate it when they make bad choices... 

...I'm human so sometimes my reaction is impatience or anger--this is when God reminds me that He's never reacted to me that way.  His love brings conviction and He always gives grace to help with the mess I've made.  I need to do that with my kids. 

...Their poor choices also break my heart because they bring painful consequences.  This pain in my heart gave me a whole new perspective on the heart of the Father.  How many of us grew up with the notion that God had an awful lot of rules and most of them were to keep us from having fun?  It's distressing to me when my kids don't trust that my rules are to protect them!  How much more, the guidelines from a perfect Father?  All He has in mind for us is for our good.  Oh, how He loves us!  The more we grow in His love, the more we understand that He is worthy of our trusting obedience.

I'll wrap up this thankful week by expressing gratitude my for the amazing kids I've been given.  They may have taught me more than I'll ever teach them!  Also, I'm more thankful than I can say for the grace that has been given to make up for my learning curve in the whole parenting process.  Love and grace.  That's what He's given.  Thankful, so thankful

And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love,
you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. 
Reach out and experience the breadth!
Test it's length!
Plumb the depths!
Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know--
far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us,
his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Ephesians 3:17b-20 MSG

Thursday, November 24, 2011

100

My blogger dashboard tells me that this is my 100th post.  Seems like there are so many clever and witty things I could do with that, but all my heart wants to do is sing Psalm 100...

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

Odd how easy it is to raise our voices when we're five minutes late already and none of the kids are in the car...but how culturally or socially awkward we find it to randomly shout for joy.  Try it.  Shout with joy!  Feel the atmosphere around you change--it will.

Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.

My heart is singing for joy!  All this intentional focus on gratitude and worship has totally changed the dynamic of this jam-packed week.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

He made us and we are his.  Beloved.  I love being one of His sheep.  I have felt His care for me this week...so thankful.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Perhaps the writer was recommending an attitude of thanksgiving and praise when entering the courts of the Temple?  I have discovered that it is through thanksgiving and praise that I enter His presence...the place of joy.

For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Love the promise that I can count on His love never failing me.  Ever.  It will never fail my kids either.

Keep counting...

Blessings!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Joy of His Presence

But you are holy, You who inhabits the praises of Israel.
  Psalm 22:3

God is everywhere, yet scripture says he inhabits, lives in, is enthroned on, or dwells in the praises of His people.  Can He be everywhere and especially in praise?  Does praise attract His presence?

Of this I am certain:  as I begin to praise Him I become more aware of His presence.  Awareness of that presence makes everything so...much...better.  He's been with me all the while, never left more or forsaken me for a moment of my life, but it's the awareness that makes the difference, that strengthens me.  And in His presence there truly is fullness of joy.

So I shout His praises as I count blessings:

~  My co-workers make me laugh!  I love that.

~  My husband taught the kids this morning so I could catch up at work.

~  My daughter is at an amazing youth program tonight.  Other people are volunteering their time to make that happen...so grateful.

~  My electronic connections with people I love...staying so connected with them wouldn't be possible without it.

~  My friend Joanne was born on this date--she's enriched my life in so many ways!!  So glad God created her and gifted us.

~  The list would not be complete without including the hard things...the place of praise for that which is not yet...the faith step of giving thanks before the answer is received...  Someone I love has been waiting months for surgery that has been delayed yet again.  I yearn for a miracle of the "rise up and walk" type, but I'll shout for joy over a surgery date too.  Giving thanks for the gifts that are yet to be received... Please join me in praying and praising for Erin?

Just the highlights...the recounting of His gifts has no end.  I invite you to keep counting with me, growing in awareness of His presence, living in the fullness of joy.

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Strengthened

King David of ancient Biblical times knew about thanksgiving as a key to survival and success.  I challenge you to come up with some sort of difficulty that he couldn't relate to.  He was the runt of the litter, mocked by his siblings, had his life threatened repeatedly by someone he'd only honored and tried to help, messed up big time in life, love and parenting, but God described him as "a man whose heart beats to my heart."*  How can this be?

David knew how to "strengthen himself in the Lord."*

This is evident throughout the Psalms.  David had no trouble being really honest about how troubled or discouraged he was.  He would pour it all out with gut-wrenching honesty.  Then he would begin to recount the ways that God had met his needs in the past, all the many blessings he had received, and he would begin to offer praise and worship.  All the remembering and recounting would increase his faith for the current challenge he was facing.  Through thanksgiving and worship his heart would be encouraged and strengthened.

I want to be strengthened and encouraged.  I want my heart to beat with His heart.

Counting and recounting...

~ Really good new winter tires.  The roads are frightful today and I find myself very grateful!

~  Thankful for the snow too...my kids are having a ball and it's putting me in the mood for Christmas planning.

~ The beauty of the snow when the sun came out...such intricate beauty, such fantastic sparkling loveliness!  No accident, but by incredible design!  I worship the Creator.

~ My son has discovered Calvin and Hobbes and won't put them down.  Love finding something he really wants to read.  Amused that I think he's a bit like Calvin and he thinks Calvin is crazy.  Amused and blessed.  That's me.

~  My new co-worker.  We've hired someone to share my (paid) job which will hopefully bring some relief to my overfull schedule.  She's got a joyful heart and I think she'll do a great job.

~  Watching Kaleigh skate...the swooping, spinning and jumping looks like worship in motion.  My heart soars in ways that my feet will never take me.

~  I survived Tuesday!  EVERYTHING happens on Tuesday, well, almost everything.  Piano, guitar, skating, etc., etc.  I planned it that way to get it over with, but I also feel quite triumphant when I've completed the marathon.  My reward is to snuggle on the couch and watch a favorite show with my honey.  That's where you'll find me tonight.

I'd love it if you'd keep counting with me...

Acts 13:22 MSG, 1 Samuel 30:6