Monday, December 31, 2012

Kisses from Heaven

At this time of year, I find myself much more reflective and contemplative than I normally am.  Most of the time I rush around, mind and energy focused on the here and now. 

But as this year draws to a close, I've had time to breathe . . .  

I'm aware that I want my life to make a difference and I hope I’ve done a few things well in the year that has just vanished.  But more than that, I find myself with a longing deep in my soul to bring to light all the ways that God has met me this year, how he’s provided, loved and showered me with, what I call, “kisses from heaven”.


Kisses, heaven’s grace, the simple gifts God uses to whisper to us, “You are loved, you are special and you are Mine!”  These blessings often cloak themselves in the simple, the mundane but they are love gifts just the same.  We see them in a spectacular sunset, the warm touch of a friend, a loved one’s whisper, “God put you on my mind and I prayed for you today.”  Sometimes these kisses come in disguise and it’s difficult to recognize the blessings that they truly are.


I readily admit that some of the “kisses” I’ve experienced this year, haven’t always seemed like His whispers of love in my life; when my beloved son seemingly derailed his life with one poor decision, when a close friend had serious medical issues, when my precious sister was broken and hurting and I couldn’t be there to comfort her.  But I have seen God bring beauty from the ashes in ways I never dreamed possible and poured out blessing upon blessing.  I have been overwhelmed by His goodness as I pause to look back  . . .


Ann Voskamp in her devotional, O Thousand Gifts, says this, “Why don’t I keep more of an eye on the number of His graces?  Why don’t I want to know that even though it doesn’t seem like there’s been enough rain, He reigns and He is enough and the bounty is greater than it appears? 


The thin places might be the places closest to God and the skinny places might be fuller than they seem, and who isn’t full when they have Christ?”


Lord, I want to LIVE with a heart of thanksgiving.  I want to have eyes wide open to glimpse the kisses you send my way and to live in the light of your love all through this year and in the years to come.


Praise the LORD!  I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with His godly people.  How amazing are the deeds of the LORD!  All who delight in Him should ponder them.  Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.  His righteousness never fails.  He causes us to remember his wonderful works.  How gracious a merciful is our LORD!      Psalm 111:1-4


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Emmanuel has Come to Us

“The Lord himself will give you the sign.  Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”  Isaiah 7:14


In the midst of all the Christmas songs we sang this season, there were a few words that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go and I’ve been pondering on them ever since.


“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to us!”


The God of the Universe, the one who hung the stars in space and called them each by name, who made the seas and all that is in them, the one who formed the dry land and the animals that roam it, who sets kings on thrones and holds the whole world in His hand HAS COME TO US!


How flippantly we sing words like this, how carelessly we live our lives with no thought that this Grand Conductor, this King of Kings knows us intimately, cares for us deeply and loves us so incredibly, has come to us! 


He was born in a lowly stable amidst dirty, smelly animals and the only ones who celebrated his birth were the lowest of the low.    “. . . There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.”  (Isaiah 53:7 NLT)  


His life was anything but trouble-free. “. . . ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.’”  (Luke 9:57 NLT)


His death was our salvation.  “. . . For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”  (Hebrews 9:22 NLT)


Through his sacrifice we have been delivered . . . set free . . . rescued . . . redeemed!


Wherever life finds you right now, hurting and broken or joyful and expectant, may you KNOW that the God of the Universe had you on His mind when He came.  He desires to redeem you, set you free, and give you HOPE.  You have only to ask . . .

Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for the gift of your Son.  May we live in the light of this gift all year long.  May we cherish and hold close to our hearts this precious truth . . . that You have come to US!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Closet Holy Spirit

On the Day of Pentecost, just fifty short days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers received an astounding gift.  Know what it was?  Yes, you guessed it, the Holy Spirit!


 “ . . .  And you will receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 (NIV)

One of my favorite things about the Christmas Season is that I get to show the ones I love how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate that they are in my life.  My favorite part of gift giving is watching them open their gift.  I love to see their eyes light up when they rip off the wrapping.  And there’s no greater joy than to get a glimpse of them using the gift I bought for them.


But have you ever given a gift that you poured your heart and soul into, only to discover they never really used it or even appreciated it?


The Holy Spirit wasn’t just given to the followers who were there on the day of Pentecost.   You and I have received Him as well (if you believe Jesus died for you). 


This was a present like none other, a gift that God the Father poured his heart and soul into for us!  The Spirit was given to be our helper (Romans 8:26), our power (Acts 1:8) and our comforter (John 15:26),and our guide (Galatians 5:16).


But I wonder . . .  have we set this precious gift on a shelf in our closet to collect dust with all the other well meaning gifts we’ve received over the years and never really used it? 


Maybe it’s, because we’re afraid that He will ask us to do something we don’t really think we can do.  Or maybe, it’s because we are comfortable right where we are and we don’t want to be moved out of our comfort zone.  Or maybe, it’s just plain laziness or indifference.


Look what Ephesians 4:30 says, “Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.”  (The Message, emphasis added)


It is not enough to just have the Holy Spirit in our lives.  He longs to give us comfort, to be our guide and empower us to live the life he has called us to.  Are you choosing to settle for so much less than this?


I also wonder . . . did the followers of Jesus who were at Pentecost, struggle with taking the Holy Spirit for granted like I do today?  Was it easier for them than it is for me to be controlled by the Spirit?  Did they struggle with being fully surrendered?   


Surrender is never easy, no matter who you are!


 But the unexpected surprise with surrender is that it sets us free and opens the door to the Holy Spirit’s incredible work in our lives.   


Mark Batterson in his book Wild Goose Chase equates following the Holy Spirit to just that, a wild goose chase.  It isn’t pointless like the wild goose chases we’re familiar with but it can be wild and crazy, unpredictable and probably will take us places we never dreamed we would go!


If we never surrender, we will never experience the adventures God has waiting for us.


The Holy Spirit is God’s precious, astonishing, astounding gift to you!   Will you set this amazing gift on a shelf to collect dust or will you step out in faith, fully surrender and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making Room . . .

In this Christmas Season, how quickly we lose sight of what’s truly important.   It’s so easy to rush pell-mell here, there and everywhere, never taking time to reflect and simply enjoy life.  I want to encourage you to stop, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, prop your feet up and take a few minutes to read this simple story and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Wally's Christmas Pageant

by Donohue, Dina

For years now whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally's performance in one annual production of the Nativity Play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth grade. Most people in the town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.

Most often they'd find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway - not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who'd say, "Can't they stay? They're no bother."

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director, Miss Lambard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's yearly extravaganza of crooks and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stageful of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performace with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lambard had to make sure he did not wander onstage before his cue.

Then came the time when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the Innkeeper was there, waiting.

"What do you want?" Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.

"We seek lodging."

"Seek it elsewhere." Wally looked straight ahead, but spoke vigorously. "The inn is filled."

"Sir we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and we are very weary."

"There is no room in this inn for you." Wally looked properly stern.

"Please good innkeeper, this is my wife Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired."

Now for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.

"No! Be gone!" the prompter whispered from the wings.

"No!" Wally repeated automatically. "Be gone!"

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside the inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, and his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.

"Don't go Joseph," Wally called out. "Bring Mary back." And Wallace Purling's face grew into a bright smile. "You can have my room."

Will you, like Wally, make room for Jesus in your life this year? 
I’m not talking about just fitting him into the creases and crevices of your life but opening wide the door and welcoming him into your heart.  See what he promises . . . Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.    Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Be Still and Know . . .

Be STILL and Know I am God . . .   Psalm 46:10


I don’t know about you but this time of year is CRAZY!  Parties, Christmas programs, Children’s choir events, presents to wrap, cookies to bake, shopping to get done . . . and the list goes on and on.


I often feel like a chicken with its head cut-off running around and around in circles accomplishing nothing.

I fell into bed the other night completely exhausted and looking forward to a good night’s sleep only to find that my brain wouldn’t stop running.  I lay there thinking about all the things I’d forgotten to do and all the things that needed to be done, making list after list in my head too tired to get up to grab a pen and paper and write them down.  And I chalked up another night of very little sleep.


With just a little time in my busy schedule, I squeezed in a quick moment with God and wouldn’t  you know it, this verse in Psalms is what God brought to my attention . . . God does have a way of getting at the heart of things!


Be STILL and know that I am God . . .  (Psalm 46:10 NLT)


Okay, okay, I confess I’ve been anything but still! 


As I thought about this verse I had a flashback to long ago when my kids were little . . .  


One of my favorite things to do with my children was to read to them.  They would crawl up in my lap in our rocking chair and we would read.  But as busy toddlers they didn’t like to sit there for too long.  Before I knew it they were squirming and wiggling to get down so they could run off to play.


I feel like that’s the way I’ve been with God lately.  He beckons me to come and sit with Him to be still  and I will for a few sacred moments but it’s not long before I’m thinking about all the things I need to do and I’m off and running without a second’s hesitation.


I know that being still before my Savior is the best way, so why do I allow other things to get in the way?


“Being still” is more than just sitting still for a few short minutes.   It’s STOPPING everything to be with the One who calls us by name.  It’s setting aside the things that need to get done.  It’s allowing our mind to go quiet, to focus on just Him.  It’s becoming single focused.  It’s refusing to multi-task when we’re with Him.  It’s creating a time and space to be fully present with our Savior.  


It’s a deliberate purposeful choice to step out of the chaos and into the stillness.


The reward of BEING STILL is great!  We will come to KNOW Him not for who we want Him to be but for whom He truly is.  Knowing Him that way will build a strong foundation so that when the waters rise and our faith is tested we will TRUST.  


Lord, teach me to be still, to BE in Your presence without being distracted with all that is going on in my life.  Teach me to value my time with You more than I value my list of things that need to get done.  I want to Know You.  I want to Love You with my whole heart.  Amen.