Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Dark Tunnel of the Unknown
This time of year I always feel like I’m standing on the brink . . .

The New Year stretches out before me as a blank canvas.  The great dark tunnel of the UNKNOWN . . .
What will my world be like in the coming months?  What does this year hold?  Is it pregnant with joy or heartache, pain or blessing, health or illness?  What will it give birth to, I wonder?
I watch as everyone cheers as the ball drops in Times Square, welcoming a New Year and I am apprehensive . . .  wondering what will be.
Fear like a knife cuts deep into my gut.  Honestly, the “what if” . . .  has always frightened me.  What if this is the year I lose someone I love?  What if we face another “great depression”?  What if I gain twenty pounds?  What if my husband loses his job?  What if cancer decides to invade my life?  What if all my hair falls out?  Paralyzing fear.  Heart-stopping terror.  Mind-numbing dread.
In the midst of my fear, God whispers His truth . . . “You don’t know what the future holds but you hold the hand of the ONE who does!"
If we knew our future, I wonder, how would we live?  Would we be in constant dread and despair, focused on what was to come and missing what is now?  

God wants us to LIVE in the present.  Embracing each day as it comes.  Grabbing hold of every moment, knowing that He will be there with us in every minute of every day. 

He calls us to live a life of TRUST rather than fear.  Trusting that He holds our future in the palm of His hands.  Trusting that His plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29.11)  Trusting in the Hope of an Eternity yet to come. (Romans 5.4-5)

Did God give His life for me so that I could live in dread of the future? NEVER.  He died so that I can laugh at the future, embrace what He has for me and never have to live this life on my own again.

And so this year, I set my fears aside and lay claim to these words that the Apostle Paul penned so long ago, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate me from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate me from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate me from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Romans 8.38-39)

 As you face this New Year, I don’t know where this finds you, maybe many of the fears I named are your reality.  Remember this, my friend:  You don’t know what the future holds but you hold the hand of the ONE who does.  He loves you and will never let you go! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Where's Jesus?
Are you familiar with the books entitled, Where’s Waldo?  These books have no words just pictures.  What makes them unique is that this no-word-book-with-only-pictures is designed for big kids and even adults!  Each page has a quirky little guy wearing a red and white striped hat but the tricky part is finding him.  There are so many things jammed onto each page that it’s difficult to see him and there begins the hunt . . . finding Waldo on pages that are crammed full of stuff.  

As I was thinking of Christmas this year and remembering years past . . . the constant hustle and bustle, gifts to purchase, goodies to make, cards to send, traditions to uphold, decorating, partying, planning, caroling and on and on the list goes. 

I couldn’t help but wonder, does my life look a lot like a Where’s Waldo book, only it’s not Waldo I’m looking for, it’s JESUS! 

Is my world is so crammed, jammed and packed with stuff, there’s no room for Him?  (Can I just say, I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem! ) 

How ironic it is.  The ONE who is at the center of our celebration is so pushed into the background that we struggle to find Him anywhere.   

We leave no space for Him. 

So often even the “good things” we do cause Him to fade into the background.   

You know how I can tell this?  By what’s on my to-do list.  I have on my list, serving at Church, making gifts for my neighbors, caroling to a nursing home, preparing great meals for my returning kids . . . but nowhere on my list is spending time only with Jesus, being still and knowing Him.   

I rush, rush, rush, everywhere doing good things for Him but never spending time WITH Him.  

What would it look like for us to take everything off the page . . . all the traditions, present-wrapping, card-writing, meal-cooking . . . EVERYTHING and sit down with God and ask Him what He wants us to do?    

What if we re-evaluated why we’re doing all the things we do?  Is it to impress?  Because it’s expected?  Because we’re worried what people will think? 

What would we look like, if putting Christ in the CENTER became what was most important in our lives?  

John’s final words in his book of 1John are so poignant . . .  Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.  (1 John 5.21 NLT)  

Are you willing to do the hard work of stripping away the busyness, the superficial and the expected to ensure that nothing takes His place in your heart? 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Helen Lemmel