Sunday, January 15, 2017
The announcement came last weekend at church - 40 days of prayer and fasting beginning January 16th. It is, of course, strictly voluntary and can be adjusted in any way one feels led: one day a week, a few days a week, every day for the 40 day period. The fast need not necessarily be from food. It could be a tv show, phone/game apps - anything the Lord places on your heart.
In place of whatever it is you choose "take that time to read the Bible, pray, journal and focus on a closer walk with Jesus, asking God to do something in your life or in the life of someone else."
Our Pastor had barely finished telling us about the fast before I felt that familiar nudge in my spirit. I squirmed a little, but I knew. Truthfully, I had struggled for weeks with this - knowing it had gotten out of balance (yet again) in my life.
I've been feeling "unmoored" for weeks - sitting in my little "boat" while the waves and tides carried me wherever they wished - frittering away the hours. I haven't been able to settle: can't find a good book I want to read, stuck on a knitting project, undecided about writing another book, wondering "what to do now" with the little book I released out into the world two months ago, burdened for loved ones who are struggling.
Instead of doing something constructive, I sit on the couch, turn on the laptop and lose myself for hours at a time (It stings a bit to admit that!) - immediately followed by all the guilt and promises to do better tomorrow.
Yes - I knew exactly what that little nudge meant - no Facebook for 40 days. Still makes me squirm a little. I can think of all the reasons I need to at least check it periodically - none of them good enough.
So here we go. I'll leave my page up and will link my blog posts, but I won't be doing anything else on FB. If there is something important I need to know, please PM me or send an email. I'll check my small Instagram account to keep in touch with family - and that's it!
Keep me accountable friends. If you see me poking around, feel free to give me a talking to. I need this - my soul needs this. What a coincidence our Pastor has prayerfully decided to do this just when I need it most!
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
It is that time of year again, when some of us choose a word for the coming year. It isn't a practice I was familiar with until I began blogging, but I like the idea of centering my heart on one thing. Ideally it's a word I've prayed about and felt the Lord speak into my spirit.
Having said that (and sounding far more spiritual than I have any right to), I must admit most years I lose focus. In fact, by the time several months have passed I've often forgotten the word altogether. So much for good intentions.
However, hating to give up on something I know is good, I'm going to give it another go. Last year my word was listen. I wrote about it here. Truthfully, I did sort of forget I had chosen it as my word, but ironically I made an effort to be a better listener all year long. I won't give myself high marks, but I think I did a bit better - less interrupting, less trying to always have the right answer. Less - but I have a long way to go.
I recently read a devotional entitled "The Sound of Silence," by David Roper. He writes about the power of silence - the way it can give us the opportunity to reconsider the harsh words bubbling just beneath the surface. And the way it can give the other person a chance to "hear" their own words hovering in the air around them.
Apart from this, I think there are often conversations when silence is exactly what the other person needs. All they really want is a listening heart. They don't want to hear all about the way I had a similar experience and the way I dealt with it. They don't want to hear the words that will make everything right. They simply want to be heard.
I want so much to give the gift of listening and silence to those who give me the gift of their words and trust.
Do you have a word for the year? I'd love to hear about it!
Monday, January 9, 2017
"The year begins; and all its pages are as blank as the silent years of the life of Jesus Christ. Let us begin it with high resolution; then let us take all its limitations, all its hindrances, its disappointments, its narrow and common-place conditions, and meet them as the Master did in Nazareth, with patience, with obedience, putting ourselves in cheerful subjection, serving our apprenticeship."
George Hodges (b. 1856)
We turn the last page of the calendar and take a deep breath, closing the "book" on all the disappointments, failures and heartache of the past weeks and months. Of course there were times of joy and blessing - but, for most of us, it is the places we feel we haven't measured up that prick our hearts.
Another deep breath and then an exhale in relief - in the knowing we have a brand new year stretching out before us filled with possibilities and the opportunity to get it right. Perhaps we write them down, the list of resolutions we're determined to carry through. Or perhaps we simply carry in our hearts the hopes and dreams we are determined to live out. Either way, we are thankful for the chance to begin again.
For a little while all goes well, but inevitably we do the very thing we resolved we wouldn't do or we fail to do the things we longed to do. It probably isn't our fault. Things just haven't been going as planned. Our circumstances have made it so difficult to live out those well-intentioned resolutions...
I'm beginning the new year with a post at Laced With Grace (and a tiny resolution to be more faithful in writing here on my blog). Please come join me there:
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
It is the greatest story ever told - God come down to earth to rescue fallen man. In Matthew's gospel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he begins the story with the lineage of Jesus - establishing His claim as the long awaited Messiah and King. Skipping over the genealogy and birth of Jesus, Mark begins the story right at the start of Jesus ministry. Luke, on the other hand, begins at what we would consider the beginning. His gospel opens with the story of Zechariah - months before the angel made the astounding announcement of a virgin birth to a young Jewish girl.
As satisfying and complete as the story in Luke feels to us, it is John who takes us back to the true beginning of this great story - to a time before time began. "In the beginning," he writes, with the breath of the Holy Spirit flowing through his pen, "the Word already existed." He goes on to tell us, "The Word was with God, and the Word was God."
There it is - the beginning before the beginning. Jesus always was - no beginning and no ending - eternal. He was there at the time of creation. "God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him." Long before God blew the breath of life into Adam's nostrils the story was written.
Please join me at Laced With Grace for the rest of the story:
Have a blessed Christmas,
Please join me at Laced With Grace for the rest of the story:
Have a blessed Christmas,
Sunday, December 18, 2016
"Oh how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy
and He has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear Him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped His servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For He made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever."
Thursday, December 15, 2016
We're all busy. It's a happy sort of busy - decorating, buying gifts for those we love, watching our children sing and dance the message of Christmas, baking cookies, and preparing to receive those precious loved ones - family and friends - into our home. But in the midst of all this "busy," I'm trying hard not to miss the One who is the heart of Christmas.
Our church Christmas Program was this past weekend, and surely I saw Jesus there. I saw Him in the faces of those who sang, danced, played instruments and shared the message of the Savior's birth. He was there as His Spirit filled that place, inhabiting the praises of His people.
However, the place where I have seen Jesus most vividly this Christmas Season is in the lives He has touched with the gift of His own life. I see Him in my husband, delivered from alcoholism and drugs many years ago, face radiating the joy and peace of His presence.
He is there in the lives of those whose testimonies cause the tears to course down our cheeks - lives changed in dramatic ways. The chains of bondage have been broken, and they walk in the freedom of forgiven sin.
I see him in the face of a friend who suffered abuse at the hands of a broken father - a face filled with the love that comes from knowing He is loved by a Father who will never hurt him in any way. His life changed dramatically from one of bitterness and isolation to one of gentle compassion and giving heart.
I see him in the life of a young man saved while serving time in prison - now serving as the Pastor of a little church. His passion for the Savior pouring out in grateful service.
The One whose birth we celebrate knew before the beginning of time itself that He would one day leave heaven to come and rescue us. He saw each life, each desperate heart, and deemed them worthy of the sacrifice He was willing to make on their behalf. I see Him, the glorious Lord of lords, in the face of that tiny baby cradled in the arms of a young girl. I see Him as a young man, as He stepped into earthly time and announced His ministry:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
He came so that we might live - and live an abundant life in Him. Thank You blessed Jesus.
I pulled this one out of the archives. I hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
"Mary lay and pondered
'till her eyes became too heavy,
and she finally found the rest
she'd struggled for.
Joseph sat in silence
and watched the baby sleeping
And wondered what the future
held in store.
Angel voices whispered in his ear;
Reaching down, he drew the baby near." *
It is the greatest story ever told. It captures our hearts in a way no other story ever can. We are wide-eyed at the wonder of a God who loved with such extravagant love and who worked in ways we would never have imagined.
If we were "casting" this story, it isn't likely we would have picked an obscure, teenage girl to be the mother of God's son. Nor would we have chosen a poor, unknown man to play the part of the man she was engaged to marry. But God knew.
I have been thinking about that man, Joseph, for days as I read through my Advent devotionals. He must have been kind and gentle. But he must have had a measure of pride, just as we all do. A pride he had to put aside as he embraced his pregnant fiancee and God's plan for their lives.
I imagine him sitting beside the manger. He had just made the long, difficult journey to Bethlehem, with Mary ready to give birth at any time. With every step he must have felt the need to hurry while trying to be so very careful. Then when they had finally reached the end of the journey and the labor pains began, he couldn't find a place for them to stay. His heart must have raced as he knocked on doors and was turned away time after time. Ending up in a stable - the best he could do for God's Son.
A first baby. All alone - having to deliver Him by himself. No - it couldn't have been as he had planned.
When rest finally came, what must he have been thinking? Did he hope that they had come through the worst of it? Did he imagine God stepping in and providing all the things they would need? Did he hope to go back home where, in spite of the "knowing" looks from neighbors, he could pick up his trade and provide for his little family? Surely, after the wondrous visit from the shepherds, God had something miraculous up His sleeve. Maybe (Did he dare to dream it?), everyone would realize the Messiah had come, and their lives would be more amazing than they had every imagined.
We know that nothing happened to make life easier for them. We read about the harrowing escape to Egypt, at the angel's prompting - another long journey far from home. Eventually they returned to Nazareth and a quiet, ordinary life.
Life can be just plain hard sometimes. We do our best to follow the Lord with obedient hearts and hope it will cause everything to go well. Somewhere, deep in our hearts, we feel we "deserve" it. After all, haven't we done everything God asked us to do? Far too often, it continues to be difficult and, we think, so ordinary. But God does have a plan - a plan for our good - even when it looks like nothing is going right.
He asks us to take one step after another, trusting Him with the destination. Joseph's life may have looked hard and ordinary to others, but his faithful obedience was working something grand.
*"Little One" by Shirley Watson