Monday, December 5, 2016

The Boomerang Effect of Generosity

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.  Luke 6.38 (NLT)

Generosity does not come naturally to me.  I’m stingy.  I want to be generous but find myself to be tightfisted.   Hoarding the gifts God has given me.  

Knowing I needed a change of heart, I made a simple promise:  if God would point out a need, I would give. 

It wasn’t but a few days later when God gave me an opportunity to keep my promise.  I was standing in line at the grocery store and a woman in front of me was struggling to use her bridge card.  

I felt God prompting me to buy her groceries and I’m ashamed to admit what ensued.  I stood in line and did battle with God.  The argument seemed to stretch on for hours but in actuality was only a minute until I finally decided to obey. 

As I turned to walk out, the joy I felt took my breath away!  My gift came back to me pressed down, shaken together and running over . . .   

How selfish our hearts can be and what joys we’ve missed out on when we allow stinginess to invade our souls. Why do we quibble over a few measly dollars when our Heavenly Father has given us a gift that all the words in the world cannot describe?   

Jesus says our gifts of generosity have a way of boomeranging back on us. The return on our investment is directly related to how much we give.  Give lavishly.  Receive lavishly.  For every follower of Jesus, generosity is meant to be a way of life, not a seasonal practice!  

The miracle of generosity is that we get so much more than we give!  

Lord, we confess we are a tight-fisted, stingy people.  Your love was meant to be shared but instead we hoard it and refuse to share.  And our hearts grow smaller because of it.  We want your love filling our lives and spilling over into others.  We want to be Your generous people.  We can’t do this on our own.  Show us how.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Island of "What If?"

Islands seem so romantic.  The gentle sea breezes and the soothing sound of the waves crashing on shore.  The breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. The peace-no hustle and bustle of the mainland. 
And yet, an island can also hold us captive.  If we have no way of getting off, we might not be in a 5’x5’ cell but we’re prisoners just the same.  Stuck, going round and round but never accomplishing anything. When the storms come, we’re sitting ducks with no place to run. Isolated and alone.
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to an Island.  It wasn’t the kind with gentle breezes and the soothing sound of waves.  Oh no, this Island was one of my own making.  It was the Island of “What If?”  Have you ever been there?  What if I don’t get that job?  What if my children grow up to be drug addicts and alcoholics?  What if I’m forgotten?  What if it’s cancer?  What if they don’t like me?  What if I fail?  What if God fails me?  Round and round we go on the Island of “What If’?”  Held captive, not in a 5’x5’ cell but a prisoner just the same. 
When we allow the “What If’s” to rule our lives, we run round and round never accomplishing anything.  We’re stuck and we wonder why.  (Yep, I've been there.)
“What If’s?” allow fear to run rampant in our lives and keep us from trusting the One who holds us in the palm of His hand. (Our lives are in His hands and He keeps our feet from stumbling.  Psalm 66.9) 
“What If’s?” isolate us. 
“What If’s?” keep the focus on us. 
What If’s?” hinder us from knowing our God.  (But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.  I, the Lord, have spoken!  Jeremiah 9.24)
“What If’s?” hold us captive and hamper us from embracing the beautiful plan God has for us.  (“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29.11)
But there is HOPE!  We no longer have to live on the Island of “What If?”; this Island of shifting sand and endless anxiety!  God wants to lift us up out of this muck and mire and place our feet on solid ground.  (I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire and He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40.1-2)
Today is the day to leave the Island of “What If?”!   Call out to Him, put Your hand in the hand of the One who loves you (. . . Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15.5) and experience FREEDOM, it’s what Jesus gave his life for!  


Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Personal Psalm

I thought a fitting way for me to follow up my previous blog is to share with you a practice I recently learned that has been a wonderful addition to my time spent with God in the chair. 

While I was copying down the Psalms, I found a study (She Reads Truth) that encouraged me to write out my own Psalms to God.  I absolutely love the practice!

The idea is to take the first couple of words from a Psalm and then finish it with your own thoughts. 
I encourage you to try it out.  It’s a beautiful way to express your thoughts to God. 

Here’s one of my attempts at penning my own Psalm to God.
Lord I seek . . .
               Wisdom as I continue to pursue this new path you are leading me on.
               As I meet with individuals and point them to you.
               As I interact with cherished family members.

Rescue and deliver me . . .
For You are a great God, your power is Sovereign.  You know all things even the things I have yet to think.  You are not limited by time and space or by the behavior and choices of others or of me.  You are good all the time and Your ways are perfect.

For you have . . .
               Proven Your faithfulness to me time and time again. 
Shown me that Your timing is perfect.
Given me faith to trust even when I can’t see.

Deliver me . . .
From doubts that I am not up for the task that you are calling me to and that in some way you will hang me out on a limb and not come through for me.
From my fears of inadequacy and self-doubt.
From worrying about what others might think.

Forgive me . . .
               For letting my fears become bigger than You.
               For doubting Your plan.
               For being self-centered.
               For not living in Awe of You and for choosing to live in Awe of what You have created.
               For making You little.
               For questioning Your ways.
               For doubting You are good. 

Nevertheless . . .
               I will trust You. 
               I will step out in faith.
               I will walk to the end of the limb.
               I will be bold and confident in Your Word
               I will choose to give my anxiety to You.
               I will not worry. 

You are . . .
               My Rock that will not be shaken no matter what may come my way.
               My Fortress where I can take refuge and live unafraid.
               My Redeemer who has bought me back and I no longer have to live as a fearful slave.
               My Steadfast Hope that remains strong and true and doesn’t disappoint.
               My Light as I journey through the darkness of this world.
               My Lover and I rest within the safety of Your arms. 

Save me . . .
From myself!  My heart is dark, my sin subtle. 
I’m blind to my own failings and short-comings. 
I’m self-focused and self-absorbed. 
I love Your ways and then go my own way. 
I’m forgetful of Your grace. 
I hold onto things I need to let go of and let go of things I should be holding onto. 

For You rescued . . .
               The Israelites from their enemies.
               Peter from jail and set him free.
               Time and time again you have rescued Your children. 

But I will . . .
               Rest in Your perfect ways.  Knowing . . .  it is Your time,
Your plan and Your will I want most of all!
               Wait for You.
               Remain steadfast in You, refusing to run ahead or lag behind. 

I will proclaim . . .
               Your good deeds in my life!
               Your miraculous ways.
               Your faithful character.
               Your abiding love.
                              "O love that will not let me go
                              I rest my weary soul in Thee." 

I will sing praise because . . .
               You are good ALL THE TIME. 
               You are my Creator.
               You hear my cries.
               You love me with an everlasting love.
               You rejoice over me with singing.   

As long as I have breath I will praise YOU!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Holy Sacred Moments with God

Praise the Lord! 

I did it!  I can hardly believe this three year project has come to a close.  At first it seemed a little daunting, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to complete it and now that I’ve finished it, I find myself wishing the journey would never end. 

I have just completed copying down the whole book of Psalms and what an amazing experience it’s been!

This journey through the Psalms has been filled with sweet holy sacred moments with God.

Moments of . . .

               Praise as I have seen God’s love for His people, spilling off the pages.

               Sorrow when God has shot his arrows into my heart and pointed out the sin in my life.
               Awe, as I’ve witnessed His greatness and glory so artistically described in these songs.

Weeping when a truth about God has intersected with my life.

               Joy as I’ve glimpsed God’s deep, overwhelming love for me.

               Inspiration as I’ve learned to write out my own Psalm to God.

What a privilege and honor it has been to copy down God’s truth, to have Him speak deep into my soul through His Word, to witness His absolute power and might over all creation and to experience His deep love for me, His child.

In the last four chapters of the Psalms, each one begins and ends the very same way.  There is no other fitting way to begin and end my writing here than to do the same.  All glory and honor goes to Him!

Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Shining Stars

I felt a drop of sweat roll down my back.  The air was stifling but it mattered little as I watched these beautiful Indian women in their vibrant clothing, heads bent over small whiteboards practicing the illustration I had just demonstrated for them. 

Children leaning over their mothers to see what they were doing and grabbing the pen to help draw out the pictures.  The tears rolled freely down my cheeks as I bore witness to their hunger to learn how to share the Good News of Jesus with others.  Could I find anything better than this to do with my life?
It had been 18 hours in the air (not counting layover times).  Time spent in Delhi catching our breath, another hour flight and a six hour car ride to get to Udhampur in Kashmir, India.  I had landed in a country so foreign from my home town.  Everything assaulted my senses. 

Auto rickshaws driving every which way on the roads.  Children begging in the streets.  Bathrooms that made a Port-a-Jon look like a palace.  Car rides that took my breath away.
A dirty little girl, giving a dirty little boy a hair cut in the median of a chaotic street.  Kenny G playing in the elevator of our hotel.  Garbage everywhere.   Piles of it. 
Cows meandering down busy streets with a bird on their back, eating whatever took their fancy.  People sleeping on concrete dividers in the middle of busy streets with no blanket.   Wonderful, flavorful, spicy Indian food.  A worn out mother sitting against a wall with her child’s head in her lap picking lice from his hair.  Chai tea.  The smell of unwashed bodies, men ironing clothes in a little booth late into the night, and a parade of people burning incense on their way to worship their millions of gods.  It was a beautiful and broken land and I had fallen in love with its people!
I had journeyed with six other people to this town, to hold a conference for women that would empower them to have intentional conversations that would lead to an opportunity for them to share the Good News of Jesus.  My main job of the conference was to teach them how to share the gospel simply and clearly.

As I watched these sixty plus women, so hungry to learn how to share the gospel . . . I thought, I’ll go anywhere, put up with anything to help women like this be empowered with taking the Good News of Jesus to the world!  And I was humbled to be in their presence.  Their devotion to God, commitment to sharing His truth and passion to learn how, challenged me. 
Was I that devoted to God?  Would I travel miles and miles just to learn how to share the gospel more effectively.  What would I be willing to sacrifice?
So many of them face persecution in their homes; are beaten by their husbands or mother-in-laws and yet they are willing to do whatever it takes to share Jesus with those around them.

Experiences like this, have a way of changing you . . .    I see the world, my circumstances, and my choices through a different lens now.
But you don’t have to go to a different country for God to change your heart.  To have Him instill a passion in you to share Jesus with those around you.  But you do have to have a willing heart.  A heart that knows what it means to be rescued by God’s grace and surrendered to whatever He might call you to do.
I love this verse in Daniel that says “ . . . those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.  (Daniel 12.3)
These Indian women shine like stars in the universe when they carry the gospel to their neighbors and you and I shine like stars in the universe when we share the Good News of Jesus with those around us too!