Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Most Useful Gifts

Most of us have unwrapped our Christmas many of you got "useful gifts," the kind you might need but don't always appreciate? The joy of receiving useful gifts seems to differ according to gender; men stereotypically love to receive power tools but women groan over new pots and pans.

Sometimes we receive a gift and fail to appreciate the magnitude of it; this is what happened with the gifts I've received from my Heavenly Father. I (modestly and humbly) know that I have the gift of writing. The spiritual gift list would say encouragement and exhortation, with some faith, teaching, and word of knowledge thrown in, which all comes together in the written word for me. The fact that the Lord allows me to speak to other hearts and share His word is a gift, one that I didn't ask for but appreciate and treasure nonetheless. But here is what I am discovering...

It is through using our gifts that we can more fully worship the Lord. I have taken a bit of a break from writing. Lack of focus, time, and honestly, desire, have taken their toll. Sitting down to write was falling in the same category exercise and eating right...something I should probably do but don't really feel like. But, in this time of not writing, I have also felt my connection to God growing weaker. Not that He went anywhere, but the awareness of Him was less consistent. I was feeling lukewarm, and we know how the Lord feels about lukewarm.

Thinking I was on to something here, I looked up verses pertaining to gifts and worship. In Romans 12:1, we are told to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual act of worship. Just a few verses down Paul teaches about the different gifts given and that we are all to use our gifts as members of one body. There is a connection between using the gifts given to us and our worship. When I fail to use the gifts God has given me as part of His body, I am limiting my ability to worship Him in all fullness, holy and acceptable.

I am looking forward to getting back on track, to moving from lukewarm back to on fire. Read along if you like...and know that as I write, I am engaged in worshiping the Lord through the gift He has given me.

What about you? Do you see the connection between the gifts the Lord has blessed you with and your worship of Him? What an amazing God, that He would give us gifts that would allow us to connect with Him as we use them.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Preparing for a Birthday

All the gifts are bought and mostly wrapped.

I've baked a few different kinds of cookies and countless batches of caramel corn.

Christmas Eve and Day menus are planned and groceries stocked.

As I stood at the sink washing my third load of dishes for the morning, I thought, "Finally, I am almost ready for Christmas."

And the still, small voice whispered, "Really? This is how you prepare for My coming?"

The words to Joy To the World came into my head: Let every heart prepare Him room.

I considered how the whole time I was baking cookies I was rehashing the "discussion" my husband and I had last night. While I raced between the bedroom and the bathroom, alternately wrapping gifts and bathing children, I was hardly exuding Christmas joy, snapping at one child that the best way he could help would be to let me I did my grocery shopping guiltily grateful for a missed appointment that opened up a window of time.

I wonder what Jesus thinks of the way I am preparing to celebrate His birth. I'm thinking He would be better with store bought cookies, frozen pizza, and presents wrapped without perfect corners than what I offered. Definitely not my first fruits, at least not to anyone but myself.

I suspect I am not the only one caught in the last minute frenzy. If you took time to read this blog in the midst of the hustle, take time to pray with me for a fresh start. Right now, even if your kids are playing full contact Wii like mine are.

Father, please help us to remember what matters this Christmas.  Lord, be real to me right now, remind me that it is YOU that I am celebrating, and that everything else is secondary. Prepare my heart to receive You this season, and everyday to follow. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Invitations to Glory

If you hopped over from the Scriptural Nugget, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy this story of another type of invitation...

I sat on the mat against the wall, staring at the game of Bubble Explosion on my phone, subconsciously ticking the time away with each bubble's popping. Having interrupted my home improvement frenzy to bring my kids for a hula-hooping afternoon at the Y, I'd be lying if I said I wanted to be there. I wanted to be home watching drywall patch dry.

"Why aren't you hula-hooping?" asked the director.

I offered a sad smile and said I really didn't feel like being there. The thought came, though, that I was acting like a spoiled teenager who wasn't getting her way. I put my phone away, took off my shoes, and headed to the floor mat to grab a hula-hoop. Much to my surprise, I could still do it.

My boys and I enjoyed an afternoon of hula-hooping, followed by an impromptu stop at Grandma's for some Christmas cookies. I would have missed an afternoon filled with joy if I hadn't answered the invitation to get off the mat.

Driving home, we caught a glimpse of the full moon hanging low between the houses, like it was trapped in the subdivision. We crept slowly through twisting side streets trying to see the moon full-on, in all its splendor. Our hunt took us to a dead end where the moon greeted us, yellow and full, over a field. The boys were awestruck, the car silent for a precious few seconds. We followed the invitation of the moon to behold glory.

Often in our lives we wait for the perfect opportunity, the right timing, the carefully planned event, to see the glory that is our's to see just by being fully in the moment. As you embrace this day, look for the invitations to glory. They are there...

 "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bible: A Love Story

I taught this lesson in Mom Time a few weeks ago, but it is not mom-specific. Add richness and depth to your Christmas by understanding that the Bible is truly God's love story to you, and Jesus is the promise of that love.

The Bible: A Love Story

I don't know what the Bible represented to you growing up. In my house, it was a huge book for pressing flowers and keeping yellowed scraps of obituaries. We didn't actually read it. As a matter of fact, I didn't know we were supposed to. I thought only nuns and priests read the Bible. About six years ago I read a book that referred to the Bible as a love story, and that took me by surprise.

History book, yes.

Basic instructions before leaving Earth (BIBLE), yes.

Love story, not so much.

Understanding that was the catalyst for the transformation God performed in my life.

There are five key truths that, when you really "get" them, will open the door to a richer relationship with Jesus. It is my desire to add a new level of awareness to your Christmas season through this knowledge.

He knows your name: Have you ever been called by the wrong name? Felt anonymous in the world? Wonder if your existence makes a difference at all? I wandered through my own life feeling like that for close to 25 years, not sure of my place in life. Isaiah 43:1 says "I have called you by name. You are mine." Mine. I belong to God. He calls me His. The God of the Universe knows who I am and He knows who you are too. Let that sink in for a minute.

He will never leave you or forsake you.(Hebrews 13:5) In this world of inconsistency, divorce, and job loss, we learn to view relationships as temporary. "Until irritation do we part...." God does not operate that way. His promise to us is to never leave us or forsake us. He will never turn His back on us when we disappoint Him. He will never choose a better opportunity over us. Never is a very long time, unfathomably actually. We can't understand that with our conditional, human thinking minds, but God is not limited by our standards. He will never, ever leave you. He promises.

He came for you. With the life of Jesus, who is God in the flesh, over 365 prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled. One of my favorites is the connection between Isaiah 61: 1-3 and Luke 4:16-21. (Click to read the verses.) He came to set us free from all the weighs us down and steals our joy and contentment, to make a way for us to have a right relationship with God. You can read more of my personal journey if you want here. 

He cares for you. "Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)" Do you realize that God is intimately involved in every detail of your life, that He is not some distant entity asleep at the wheel, and wants you to come to Him with your concerns, fears, and celebrations? When you have had a long day of worrying about everyone else's needs, don't forget that God is actively concerned with yours. Share it all with Him; He can take it.

He has a plan for you. You were not created without reason or by accident, no matter what circumstances you come from. I was born to young parents, and often felt like an "accident." What I know realize is that God planned for me, and that every day I wake up breathing is a day He still has planned for me. Amazingly, He has a plan for each one of us to fulfill. I think that is the coolest ever. Check out these verses for confirmation: Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Ephesians 2:10.

My prayer for each of you is to know how much you matter to God, and to view Christmas as the birth of the promise and evidence of God's love. Celebrate the wonder and majesty of this season with the eyes of your heart opened to the truth that the Bible is the Living Word of God, and that Jesus is that Word made flesh. May you contain to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Meandering My Way

I'm meandering my way through the book 1000 Gifts  by Ann Voskamp, which is really the only way to read this book. She was the keynote speaker this summer and listening to her was like listening to spoken music. No real way to do her style justice...let it suffice to say that she is not a quick read, but one you have to process through. At least for me.

I came across a line in the book that said if you were thirsty you wouldn't read a book about getting a drink. You would go get a drink. That is where I'm living these days. I am meandering my way through life, taking a drink of Living Water instead of reading about it.

I'm not writing near as much as I used to, but I am living each day fully in the adventure that following a wild and crazy God brings. Instead of writing about the big dreams I have, I'm taking steps towards them as God leads. For example, somehow I am the new team writer for an organization called the Oneness School Initiative. Basically it means using my nitpickiness for the Kingdom, editing and proofing documents on their website. This came about because one person knew another person and mentioned me, and now that person is helping me with my dream saying yes to one thing it set me on the path I am really wanting to be on. Cool, huh?

I always seem to have about ten irons in the fire, but none of them are calling my name loudly. I asked a friend a few weeks ago if it was a bad thing to not feel urgent about everything, but just to take each day as it comes. I am so used to chasing after things, but I think the Lord has led me to a desert of sorts. I am learning to walk, to listen, to just be. Her answer was reassuring...just keep honoring God with each thing I do, and He will continue to lead.

It is my prayer for each of you that you recognize what the leading of God looks like in your life, and that you follow hard after Him.  Even if that means a little meandering.