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)

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/regali-2-1223820

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!  

Kristi  

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!
 
 
Kristi
 
 

              

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!

Kristi 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shelter-Living


C.A.N.C.E.R.

This six letter word has the power to strike terror into the heart of the most indomitable of spirits.  This fear (real or imagined) stalks us in the middle of the night and sends our neat little worlds into a tailspin.

It seems like everyone around me is getting cancer. My heart is overwhelmed with sadness.  Why Lord?  Why this disease?  Why good people?  Why the people I love? And I feel my heart skip a beat when I wonder . . . who will be next?

Then I read these words . . . Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  He will cover you with His feathers.  He will shelter you with His wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.  Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night nor the arrow that flies in the day.  Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.  Psalm 91.1,4-5
We won’t find rest if we’re living somewhere else.  We won’t find safety or security in anything this world claims.  We won’t know peace if we’re trusting in ourselves, in our circumstances or in our feelings.
We must camp out, set down roots, remain, reside, and persist in the presence of our Savior.  We can’t expect to find rest unless we do.  Our lives will be plagued by fear and worry.  Our situation, whatever it is, will overwhelm us and we will hand over power to our circumstances to dictate, how we feel and the way we live.
So how do we do this?  How do we do this in the midst of life here on earth?  How do we take shelter in a God we can’t see or touch?  How do we find our refuge in Him?
Granted this is where it gets tough.  It’s where the “fan” falls away and only the true follower persists.  This choice of life, this shelter-living doesn’t happen accidentally.  It takes intentionality.  Spending time with our Savior, pouring over His words, quietly sitting in His presence, quieting our hearts long enough to hear His gentle whispers and seeking His way not ours.  Falling on our knees in repentance.  Mourning our sin and refusing to make excuses for it. Surrendering our hearts, our choices, and our will to Him. All of this is so contrary to the world around us. 
But this is how we live in the shelter.  This is where we find rest.  This is where protection is found.  Having our hearts fixed on nothing else but Him.  This is where we will find peace in the storm.
When we live in the shelter of our Abba Father . . . we no longer need to be afraid.  Worry will become a thing of the past.  Trust will be our daily companion. He alone will be our place of refuge and we will KNOW a peace the world will never comprehend.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Astonishing Love


Recently, I stood out under the beautiful African night sky.  No light pollution.  Nothing to hinder the brilliance of the stars.  It took my breath away!  Could I stand on tiptoe and touch a star?  So close.  So brilliant.  So vast.  I saw the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt, and the Milky Way.
I thought of the verse in Psalm 147.4, He counts the stars and calls them all by name! (Exclamation mark added by me.) 

It’s at moments like this when I’m overwhelmed by the cosmic greatness of my God and His love for me . . . If He cares about a star, how much more does He care about me, His very own child?  If He sees each star individually, uniquely, does He not see me individually and uniquely too?
God’s love for His children is more than we can comprehend.  It’s shocking.  Awe-inspiring.  All-consuming. God doesn’t dole out a measly trickle of love instead it’s a waterfall gushing over us; overwhelming, overpowering, and irresistible.  

 
Sheridan Voysey, in her book Resilient writes this:
Picture a grain of sand placed next to a skyscraper.
Compare a single microbe to our largest planet, Jupiter.
Picture the tiniest trickle alongside the mightiest of rivers.
Imagine the faintest scent against the strongest perfume.
The quietest bird call against the loudest thunder clap.
Compare a tiny water drop to the Pacific Ocean.
The flicker of a candle to the blaze of the sun.
A single leaf to a forest of trees . . .
That’s how tiny human love is compared to the great love God has for you!



I love this!
My prayer for you is the same prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians.  “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  (Ephesians 3.18-19) 
 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Out of Africa


There is so much brokenness in the world.  Broken homes, broken lives and broken hearts.  I'm becoming more and more aware of this as I travel around the world.  Brokenness is real. It's so evident in other countries but it’s also here at home as well.

It just feels more broken outside the boundaries of my familiarity.   

I recently journeyed, for the first time, to Africa with a team of people from our church to help at the CURE Hospital in Zambia.  Brokenness was all around us.  Handicapped children, hurting mothers, extreme poverty and desperate fathers.  CURE hospital is a beacon of hope and light in this broken place. 

 
It is hard to see the desperation, desolation and dire circumstances of so many people. Hard to know the place I come from, the luxuries I enjoy, the hospital care I can receive and see the lack here.  Hard to listen to stories of mothers carrying their crippled child on their back for miles to reach a bus and of the long journey on the bus to finally reach the hospital.  Hard to see a baby with a head the size of its body, the horrible effects of no prenatal care for the mother.  Hard to watch crippled children struggling to walk on the sides of their feet.  Hard to see the fear and hurt in a mother's eyes. 

 
Brokenness is everywhere in this place and yet brokenness is where I live as well.  Where I come from brokenness looks different but its brokenness just the same.  It's hard to see families torn apart by divorce and children devastated by the fracture. Hard to see entitlement residing in a heart and hard to witness adult children refusing to care for their aging parents. Hard to see a lack of gratitude for all we enjoy.  Hard to hear a friend's story of sexual abuse. 

It's evident we live on a broken planet. 

But in the midst of the brokenness, I see hope.  I see beauty. I see joy. 

 
I see God's healing hand and the love of Jesus in the hearts of His people.  I hear stories of light overcoming the darkness and beauty breaking through the brokenness.  I see God at work bringing severed families back together.  Healing children who have been devastated by a disability.  I see hope in a parent's eyes.  I see God's redeeming love in the heart of someone who forgives an enemy.  I see a children’s hospital (CURE) with a passion to heal the broken, body and soul.   

 
I see a God who understands brokenness because He became that for us! 

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.  Isaiah 53.5 

He was broken so we could be healed.  

Yes we live on a broken planet but we have a God who is in the business of turning brokenness into beauty and that is worth celebrating!
 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Paradise Lost . . . Eternity Gained!


It was a beautiful day in paradise, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was right in the world.  The man and woman had no imperfections, no regrets, nothing to feel ashamed of, and nothing to be afraid of.  They were perfect.  Their world was perfect. 
They knew nothing of fear, self-protection or insecurity.  Nothing of brokenness, sorrow, or disappointment.  What must it have been like, this fairy-tale existence?  Knowing complete joy, peace, security and companionship with the One who had created them.

But very soon it would all change.  Their fairy-tale world would turn into a nightmare and the garden they were placed in to enjoy and cherish would vanish like a vapor in the wind.
While they were walking in this paradise land, gazing at the intricate design of the leaves on the trees, watching the animals frolicking in the meadow, listening to the birds chatter back and forth, a serpent spoke to the woman.  
He sensed her vulnerability, so it was no accident that he directed his question to her.  You see, he had been watching.   Waiting for the perfect time to begin the plan, he had so carefully been constructing, to defeat his Maker.  What better way was there than to attack His children?  He had thought through every detail, every word said, every possible response.  Now was the time to drive a stake through the very heart of God.
With one question, he placed a seed of doubt in the heart of the woman, called Eve, regarding her Creator.
“Did God really tell you, you couldn’t eat from any of the trees in this beautiful garden?”  The question drips with sarcasm and shame.  Questions left unsaid, march unbidden through her mind. Aren’t you better than this?  Don’t you deserve more? Is your Creator really holding out on you?
She quickly clears up the serpent’s mistake but the seed of doubt has been planted and it is in fertile soil.  The missile has hit its mark.
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”  (Genesis 3.2-3 NLT)
Then Satan begins his full on assault . . . while the man listens but never speaks.
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”  (Genesis 3.5-6 NLT)

It doesn’t take but a little watering for this seed of doubt to grow and flourish.  She is easily convinced her Maker is holding out on her. 
She walks with the serpent and her man to the forbidden tree.  The fruit glistens in the morning sun, her mouth begins to water as she contemplates what a bite into this fruit will be like. The juice runs down her chin and she quickly offers one to her husband.  
He once again says nothing, and takes a bite of his own fruit.
In that moment fear and shame are born.
The woman was convinced.  She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.  So she took some of the fruit and ate it.  Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and het ate it too.  At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.  (Genesis 3.6-7 NLT)
The whole human race would pay the price for their rash decision. From then on sin would be passed down from one generation to another.  Satan was the victor, or so he thought.
But God . . would have the last word.  He would be the final victor.  But it would cost Him dearly.  This one act set in motion God's beautiful redemption plan.  This impulsive decision did not catch God by surprise.  It was not unforeseen.  Satan's "grand plan" was only a little cog in the wheel of God's great rescue mission and at the heart of this beautiful restoration plan was love. 

Selfless. Unconditional.  Sacrificial.  LOVE.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5.8 NLT) 
 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Great Divide

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/grand-canyon-arizona-1193562
 
 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?     (Matthew 9:5)
Jesus asked this question of the religious leaders who were outraged that He would say to the paralyzed man his sins were forgiven.

These “spiritual” gurus had watched Jesus grow from a little boy into a man.  To them he was a snot-nosed, skinned-up-knees boy, born from a mother who had cheated on her husband and now was as an adult claiming to be God!  How dare this kid from Nazareth say, “Your sins are forgiven!”  In the words of Vizzini from Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!
It was a simple question, with a simple answer but one they refused to acknowledge.  The religious leaders rejection of Jesus’ authority, created a chasm in their hearts between who Jesus was and who they wanted Him to be.
And we are not much different than they, if we’re willing to admit it.  Often, the divide is long and wide between who Jesus really is and who we want Him to be. 
We want the love of Jesus, not His justice.  We want a comfortable Jesus, not one who pushes us into the unknown.  We want to trust God with our eternal destination, but refuse to allow His “interference” in our everyday living.
The simple fact remains, Jesus is God; able to heal the sick and forgive sins.  True followers of Jesus refuse to let their own desires define Him and allow Him to be the Jesus He is!
Lord, I confess my propensity to create You in my own image, rather than allowing You to be the God You are.  Open my eyes to Your truth, teach me Your ways and help me to follow You with a pure heart.  Amen.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slippage


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/beware-of-ice-1444808
So you must live as God’s obedient children.  Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires . . .  1 Peter 1.14
Slipping happens in a New York minute.  I’m reminded of this especially this time of year because I live in the icy, snowy state of Michigan.  If I'm not careful, if I'm distracted or in a hurry before I know it I'm flat on my back on an icy driveway.  

Traversing icy walkways takes focus and concentration and this life with Jesus is no different!  It takes intentionality, determination and single-mindedness.  The call of our old life is strong.
But God has gifted us with the Holy Spirit, God himself living inside of us, who fills us with His desires and empowers us to live as obedient children.  We don’t have to do this on our own, in our own strength.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4.30 (MSG), “. . . 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.”
We don’t have to attempt to live this life by ourselves but we do have to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.  Jesus said it best when He declared, “No one can serve two masters.”  There can only be one master in our life, it’s either us or its God.  We can’t have both.  We must let His Holy Spirit reign in our lives in order to experience victory.
However, it’s in the re-asserting of ourselves onto the throne when slippage happens. 
When we lose focus, become distracted with life, allow fear to dictate our choices, before we know it, we find ourselves flat on our back in the muck of our old life, our old habits, and our old way of living.  And we lay they’re wondering how this could’ve happened AGAIN.
We will never drift into this life of surrendered-living.  Just like it takes focus and intentionality to walk on the ice without slipping, it takes purpose, effort, and tenacity to live a life surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit.  It takes work to keep from re-asserting ourselves onto the throne.  It takes fortitude and perseverance to keep from going back to our old way of life. 
It takes a heart that desires God more than anything else!