Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Relentless Word

I've done the "my word for the year" thing several times and, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit by the end of the year I often couldn't remember what it was. So in the interest of exhibiting even a little bit of wisdom I decided to opt out this year. 
However, a couple of days into the new year a little word began to pursue me. Relentlessly! It simply would not be ignored.
As I lay in bed that January morning praying - well all right, whining about how difficult the past year had been - I heard myself asking for joy. It surprised me because all the burdens of the past year had followed us into the new one. I wanted God to fix things - to help where we had been helpless.
I opened my little Daily Light and read, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Next I picked up my well-worn devotional, the one called "Joy and Strength" (A book so familiar I had forgotten the title.) and there it was again, "Then will I go unto the altar of God; unto God, my exceeding joy."
I am reading Jesus Always with a group of friends.That morning I finally noticed the subtitle : Embracing Joy In His Presence. That day's reading began with: "I am your joy!"
On the way out the door I looked up at the pictures on our refrigerator. There it was - one little word
My word for this year is joy - one I would never have chosen. Could it be that the answer to all those fervent prayers is - joy? To rejoice with gratitude for all He is. 
I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sorrow Into Joy

We took the Christmas decorations down a little earlier than usual - leaving the house looking a bit empty. This year, one filled with so much brokenness, it seems a good metaphor for my heart. The Advent season, with all its joys, provided a gentle escape from life's pressures, but when it slipped, inevitably, into the past it left a certain emptiness in its wake. I turned the calendar page into a new year carrying the burdens I longed to leave behind.

I cannot stop thinking about Mary. I try to imagine the joyful anticipation, the hope for the future, the wonder of the promised miracle. Surely she carried not only her baby boy but the memory of the angel's words in her heart.

"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." Luke 1:32, 33

What did she think about when she held her little Son close and looked into the face of God? As the ordinary days, filled with the every day tasks of life, slipped into months and into years, did she long for the promised glory? In those seasons, when burdens pressed, did she wake feeling the weight of it on her heart and wonder how long? Thirty years is a long time to wait, and when her Boy's time finally came - was it anything like she expected?

I'm writing at Laced With Grace today. Please join me there for the rest of this devotional. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Finding Jesus

Christmas is over. It’s been a busy time – decorating, buying just the right gifts, watching 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 the “busy” it can be easy to miss the One who is the very center of it all. If I just take a moment to quiet my heart and look with His eyes, I find He’s been there all the time.
Last weekend we attended our church’s Christmas Program, and surely I saw Jesus there. I saw Him in the faces of those who sang, played instruments and shared the message of the Savior’s birth – His Spirit filling hearts and space with His glorious presence.
However, the place I saw Jesus most vividly this Christmas Season was in the lives He has touched with the gift of His own life. I saw Him in my husband, delivered from alcoholism and drugs many years ago, face radiating the joy and peace of His presence.
He was there in the lives of those whose testimonies caused the tears to course down our cheeks – lives changed in dramatic ways. The chains that once bound them had been broken, and now they walk in the freedom of forgiven sin.
I saw 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 the love of 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 saw 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.”
Luke 4:18,19
He came so that we might live – and live an abundant life in Him. Thank You Lord Jesus.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hidden Places

Last Friday our small portion of the world lay blanketed by a soft covering of snow. Against the backdrop of a cloudless blue sky the sun rose and touched the earth with light and warmth. Snow loosened it’s grip on telephone wires and tree branches and gently fell to the ground. Water ran from the eaves in a steady stream. By late afternoon, all traces of our magical snow storm had disappeared. Or so I thought.
On my walk that morning I noticed a small remnant of white tucked away in the shade of our neighbor’s Mountain Laurel tree. It had somehow escaped the warming rays of the sun. 
In my mind I saw a picture of my heart – the deepest part of me. I am, as the Lord understands, prone to sin. That’s why He provided a perfect way to cleanse my heart – completely and thoroughly, over and over again.
However, there are hidden places I may try to hide from Him, whether from shame or perhaps pride I’m not sure, but as long as I keep them hidden away they remain.
If you look closely, you’ll see sunlight peeking through the shadows. I don’t think that snow will remain for long.
Nothing is truly hidden from Him. He longs to bring light and life to the dark, dead places. We only have to let Him.
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17
“Oh Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me.” Psalm 139:1
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51: 1,2
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Mystery

We wake to the first day of Advent shrouded in fog. It seems appropriate as we enter this time of waiting - of anticipation and of mystery. In just a few short weeks the answer to the "who and where and when and how and why" will be answered in the form of a tiny baby.

Mystery forms the backdrop to the Christmas Story. The plan formed in the heart of God before the beginning of time is finally revealed - all the "pieces" falling into place. A small village;  a young virgin; a suffering Jewish population; a Savior.

There is a further mystery - hidden for a season, revealed by the Holy Spirit through Paul. It comes to those of us not numbered among the Jews - to the Gentiles. We who may have felt  excluded from the glorious plan, lovingly grafted in:

 "As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written you will understand, my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News."

Ephesian 3: 3-7 

On this first day of Advent, we step into the mystery with wonder and gratitude to a God who loves every one of us with an all-encompassing, everlasting, beautiful love.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Waiting Season

T'is the season of waiting. We are in the "in-between." Thanksgiving has slipped into yesterday and Christmas waits in our tomorrow. At my advanced age, December seems to fly by at warp speed. However, I have not forgotten how slowly the days leading up to Christmas crawled by when I was a little girl.

Waiting is hard for the one looking forward with joyful anticipation, but for the heart with a desperate need it can be agonizing. Perhaps we can understand the delay if we are depending on human intervention, but if we have cried out to God for help the delay can be devastating. We may find ourselves struggling to believe all we thought we knew about God and faith.

Waiting is a story as old as time. The histories of people waiting for God to act fill the pages of scripture. Abraham was 100 years old before his promised son was born. Joseph waited in prison for years before he was released even though he had committed no crime. Jesus waited for two days before responding to the call for help when Lazarus lay dying.When the last prophet had spoken at the end of the Old Testament, the world waited for God to break His silence.

Four hundred years later a baby's cry was heard in a humble stable in Bethlehem - and the waiting was over.

"But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children."
Galatians 4:4-5

Today I'm over at Laced With Grace with the rest of this devotional. I would love to meet you there.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Master Knitter

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.
  Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I
  know it.
  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion as I was woven together in the dark of the            
   womb."  Psalm 139: 13 - 15

I love to knit. My Aunt Fannie patiently guided my six year old hands through the basic knitting stitches years and years ago. She never fussed when I came to her with dropped stitches. She wiped away the tears of frustration and kindly admired my less-than-perfect projects.

Since then, there has rarely been a time in my life when I haven't had a knitting project going. I still occasionally drop a stitch, and my work isn't perfect, but I love the process. It stills my soul and brings a measure of peace as I watch one stitch after another begin to form into a lovely whole.

I suppose that's why I love those verses from Psalm 139. I imagine the great God, who created everything in heaven and earth, patiently, perfectly knitting together every single life in its mother's womb. Each life - unique and precious in His eyes...

Today I'm writing at Laced With Grace. Please join me there for the rest of this devotional.