Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Aaaaah, the New Year.  I don’t know about you but I always seem to have mixed feelings about the new year?  

Because it is the UNKNOWN!  For a control freak like me who likes to have everything clean and simple the UKNOWN is a scary place to be.

I wonder, what will this New Year bring?  What joys?  What sorrows?  What losses?  What gains?  How strong will my faith be in 2012?  Where will my family be?  And on and on the questions go . . .

On the one hand it’s exciting to look at a fresh clean year and wonder what it will hold but on the other hand it’s scary to think about what might happen and how my world will change.

I also have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions.  I have this love/hate relationship with them.  I love New Year resolutions because I can start all over again.  The slate is wiped clean and I can begin to conquer some areas in my life that I have wanted to change for a long time. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t make it last year, what matters now is that a New Year is stretching out before me with new possibilities and new challenges.

On the other hand I hate New Year’s resolutions.  Every time I think about something I want to do there’s this little voice inside my head that whispers, “You won’t stick with it, you’re just going to fail so why even try?”  And then I’m reminded of all the things I’ve tried and failed.  For years I determined to read through the Bible in a year.  I would get through the book of Genesis and somehow that’s as far as I would get.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Genesis!
Fear causes us to hold back and play it safe. 

In 1 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified Version) it says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control." 

So this year – I’m not holding back, I refuse to play it safe.  I’m making a list and trusting in God’s power to enable me to keep them.  And if I fail - it won’t be the end of the world.  I’ll pick myself up, wipe the dust off and try again with God by my side.

What about you?  Do you have some resolutions you need to make but have been holding back because of the fear of failure?  Step out in faith, place your hand in your Heavenly Father’s hand and draw your strength from His Power.

Mark Batterson in his book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day says this:  “Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life! . . .       Embrace relational uncertainty.  It’s called romance.  Embrace spiritual uncertainty.  It’s called mystery.  Embrace occupational uncertainty.  It’s called destiny.  Embrace emotional uncertainty.  It’s called joy.  Embrace intellectual uncertainty.  It’s call revelation.” 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.    –Mark Twain

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Treasure Box

Did you have a treasure box growing up?  I did.  In my treasure box (I actually still have the box) I had a very old dollar coin that my Mom had given to me, some chapstick (I pretended that it was lipstick, since I couldn’t wear any yet), and various other items that you would’ve considered junk but to me were valued possessions. 

In Luke 2:19 we get the idea that Mary had a treasure box of sorts, only her treasures were memories of Jesus and how his life intersected with hers.  Look at what it says, “. . . But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
What were those things she stored in her “treasure box”? 
Could it have been the time when the Angel came to tell her that she would bear a child even though she was a virgin?  Or what about when she visited with Elizabeth who was old, wrinkled and very pregnant? 

Did she treasure watching God’s miracle growing within her.  Did she hold tightly to the feeling of having this special baby move inside of her?  Was one of her treasured memories when she laid her precious baby in the manger, as she counted his fingers and toes? 

Or what about the surprising visit from a group of homeless shepherds or the royal wise men who had traveled so far from a distant country to visit her son and give him precious gifts?

And as Jesus grew older, I wonder if she included in her box the time when they had to go back to Jerusalem to find Jesus.   Did she have in her box their surprise at finding him teaching the leaders of that day in the synagogue?  And what about the time when He changed the water at the wedding into wine?

I think Mary continued to store up memories of God’s amazing work and power in their lives.  And I can’t help but wonder that if in the years to come, this treasure box of memories was a comfort and joy to her as her life began to turn upside down as she watched her son become hated and hunted by the Jewish community.  

I wonder when she was discouraged or confused, if she would “pull them out” and be reminded that God was in control. Did she seek consolation in those memories, that God had a plan and He was working it out, even though she didn’t comprehend it?

Do you have a treasure box of blessings, like Mary?  Are you storing up memories of how God has answered prayer in your life?

When my husband and I were engaged, the Christmas of our engagement was very tight financially for us; we were saving money and paying off loans.  Even though money was tight I still wanted our Christmas to be memorable and meaningful.  So I decided to journal all the answered prayers that we had seen over the last 6 months of our engagement and give it to him in a special presentation.

As I reflected on those past months I was amazed at what I saw! 

Harold and I had met at college.  He was from Wisconsin and I was from California and we planned to make our home in Michigan.  After graduation, I had gone home to California for a 2 week vacation and had returned to Michigan with only a place to stay for three weeks.  I had very little money, no car, no job and only a temporary living situation.  Over the course of those 6 months we watched God provide a job, a place to live for me within walking distance from my job so I didn’t need a car and many other things as well.

As I reflected on all the answers to prayer we had witnessed, I was astounded at God’s work in our lives!  It was truly amazing.  My list contained close to a hundred ways in which we had seen God work in our lives! 

Before I sat down to do this project, I would’ve guessed that we had about 30 things that we could thank God for but as my list grew so did my astonishment at God’s power in our lives!  And if I had not taken the time to stop and reflect on those things, we would’ve missed the blessing. 

These blessings went into my treasure box and throughout the time of our engagement, I would often reflect back on them, especially when I was discouraged or afraid.  As I reflected, I was reminded of God’s clear hand on our lives and I knew I could trust Him.

Have you ever created a treasure box of answered prayers?  Have you ever taken time to reflect on God’s work in your life?  I hope that you will take time this Christmas season to reflect on God’s goodness to you and I encourage you to continue to mark those times in your life when you have seen His hand and ponder often on them, just as Mary did. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Baby Changes Everything!

She was a simple teenage girl; a girl who found herself pregnant and alone. 

 Just days earlier, she had been going about her chores happily consumed with thoughts about her upcoming marriage.  

But now, everything had changed . . .

It was an angel that broke the news to her of God’s great love and desire to use her as the vessel for His Son to come to earth.  She was amazed that God would consider her, a simple girl with no earthly status or wealth, to carry this precious child and to be His mother!  It was astounding, surprising and scary all at once.  She couldn’t really comprehend how it would be possible but she trusted her Lord and humbly agreed to His plan.

But now, in the stillness of the night, she wondered if it was all just a figment of her imagination or did the angel really tell her that she was going to become pregnant even though she was a virgin????  How could she be sure that all of this was true?  It was then that she remembered what the angel said about her aunt, Elizabeth.  The way to really be sure was to go and see Zechariah and Elizabeth.

She arose early that morning, packed her bags and made the long trek to their home.  What thoughts must have been running through her mind as she traveled those long 40 miles on foot . . .

“What would Joseph do once he found out she was pregnant?  What would her parents say?  Why hadn’t the angel told them about this job that she had been given?  Why was she the only one who knew?  Her life would never be the same.  From now on, she would be changed; there was no going back, no altering of the plan, this was forever to be her life.”

When she stepped into the home of Elizabeth, she knew deep down in her heart that what the angel said wasn’t a figment of her imagination or a dream, it was true because there before her was Elizabeth, old and wrinkled and very pregnant indeed, exclaiming her joy at being with the mother of her Lord.  It was true!  It was true! She was to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah.  Oh what joy! 

A baby, this BABY changed EVERYTHING!

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.  Luke 2:6-7

Please take some time to watch the link below.

A Baby Changes Everything by Faith Hill

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dreams Deferred

Have you ever had a dream that didn’t come true?  Have you ever had one that you felt God gave to you and you are still waiting for it to happen? 

I have had a dream since I was a child that I’m still waiting to see come to fruition and I have lived almost a half a century.  I believe that it is a desire that God has put in my heart, at times it has a burning passion and at other times it is just a quiet longing.

Why does God do that?  Put a dream in our heart and have us WAIT?

My dream is to go on a mission’s trip.  When I was little my parents were missionaries in Alaska – that’s where I was born and lived until I was 8.  Then we moved to Sacramento, California and my world fell apart.  I didn’t want to live in California and I purposed in my heart that when I grew up I was going to become a missionary (in a foreign land) and get even with God for moving me.  I’m sure you can see that wasn’t such a great strategy! 

In High School I seriously looked at going on a mission’s trip with Teen Missions but that didn’t pan out.  And when I was in college, I began to pursue my goal even more and it was at a Missions Retreat of all places that God confronted me with my selfish desire to become a missionary.  He asked me a pretty tough question, “Kristi, will you be willing to follow me if I never allow you to be a missionary in a foreign country?”  That question broke me as I realized how I was really pursuing my own passions and desires rather than God’s, even though it was cloaked in the idea that I was “serving God”.  That day I let go of my desires and surrendered to God’s desires for me.

But as I’ve grown and learned what God desires for me, I have felt an increasing genuine passion to serve God on the mission field.  And as the years have passed my passion seems to be increasing rather than decreasing and yet I still have not been able to go.

I have watched my children and friends go on missions trips.  I’ve even seen my husband who doesn’t seem to have a burning desire to go, travel with a music team to the Islands of St. Kitts, St Martin, and a few other ones as well.   A few years ago, I came really close to being able to go and just weeks before I was to leave the trip was cancelled.  Why does God put within me this burning desire and yet I am still waiting for it to come to pass?

I don’t have an answer.  Romans 11:33-34 says, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?”

Who am I to give the Lord advice?  But this I do KNOW – God is GOOD and His plans are for my good and not to harm me, that His timing is not my timing.  God is at work even in the WAITING and I choose to TRUST Him even though I don’t understand.

What are you WAITING for?  What dreams do you have that you have not seen come true?  What will you do with the WAITING; will you invite God into it or harden your heart?  Will you TRUST God even though you don’t understand?  Will you CHOOSE to follow Him even though your dreams have been deferred?


And I will trust you, I’ll trust you
Trust you God, I will
Even when I don’t understand
Even then I will say again
You are my God
And I will trust You
And with every breath I take
And for every day that breaks
I will trust you
I will trust you
and when nothing is making sense
Even then I will say again
God I trust You
I will trust You

I know your heart is good
I know your love is strong
I know your plans for me
Are much better than my own

So I will trust you, I’ll trust you
I trust you God, I will
Even when I can’t see the end
                                             by Steven Curtis Chapman