Princesses Don’t Whine

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I remember the first time I realized I was a whiner. Yes. I remember. I remember distinctly where I was and what I was doing. It was 35 years ago and I was fussing about something (the something is what I canNOT remember).

Seriously…when I fuss it can be quite comical. Animated. Hands flying everywhere. The facial expressions, the body language…goodness, now that I think about it, it’s quite exhausting.

The one who was listening patiently to my rant waited for a pause, looked me right in the face and said, “Can I have some cheese with that whine?”

I stood there with this ridiculously dumb look on my face, I’m sure, and replied, “Excuse me?”

I didn’t get it and she didn’t bother to explain herself.

Isn’t it funny how I’ve never forgotten that? Maybe it’s not suppose to be funny, but as age and wisdom have grown on me it now brings a smile to my face. What does God think of my whining? I’m at this place in my walk with the Lord where I picture Him hanging His mighty head and shaking it back and forth while He declares to His Son who sits at His right hand, “Here she goes again.”

Lord, have mercy.

Whining is something the good Lord and I have battled with for a long time. Some habits are hard to break. It takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. It takes the power of God.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation, in which you shine among them like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Philippian 2:14-16

I am a child of God. As His child, one of His greatest desires is for me is be conformed to the image of His Son and Jesus didn’t whine or complain or grumble. His Spirit will forever work in me as much as I give Him control, as much as I rely on His power and strength, as much as I depend upon Him…I can become like Jesus, not because I have to, but because I want to.

And Jesus shines not whines. He lights up the world. He radiates. Like a star in the nighttime sky, He glows. He sparkles.

Whining extinguishes the light of Jesus within me. Whining robs me of my joy, but here’s the clicker…

whining has the potential to steal the joy right out of every single person I unload it on.

Sweet Jesus, who wants to eat my whine, for crying out loud?!? For all the cheese lovers out there, I don’t care what your favorite cheese is, I don’t think there’s any kind in the world that will improve the taste of a whine, no matter how animated it is.

The book of Philippians is often referred to as the “book of joy.” It’s the underlying theme in all 4 chapters of this tiny book: joy in suffering, joy in serving, joy in believing, joy in giving…these are the chapter titles in my New International Version of the Bible. In chapter 2, Paul reminds us of the joy Christ had in serving people and He’s reminding us that we’re to imitate His example in serving others. He reminds us,

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” verse 12

Immediately following is the admonition to “do everything without complaining and arguing.” 

The life of a child of God is a high calling. It comes with a responsibility to grow up in our faith. Becoming more like Jesus is a work in progress. A journey. A progression. Because of Christ’s love for me and because of His example, I want to grow up in my faith. I want to accept the responsibility that comes with a continuous work to change the parts of me that don’t shine, that don’t radiate, that don’t sparkle. That means I want Jesus to have His way in me. I want Him to change me, to make me more like Him. I can’t do it on my own. I need the Holy Spirit’s power within me.

I want to act like the princess I am as a child of the King…

…and princesses, as part of their royal heritage, are called to serve. Before a princess can even rule as a queen, she must first be trained, taught, even tested. A princess learns to lead by example by watching and learning from those who have gone before her. A princess learns to love her people. She learns early in life that to be royal means accepting responsibilities that come with her position. It means the eyes of the world will be on her. She has to understand her calling.

The eyes of the whole world may not be on me, but in the little part of the world where God has planted my feet I want to shine like a star. I want to let God work in me so that He can work through me. That’s why I persist, persevere, and patiently depend upon the power of God to change me.

When I take my dogs out for one last potty run at the end of every day, I realize how very blessed I am to live in the country. When there are no clouds in the sky, I look up and find myself in awe of the stars in a vast expanse of darkness. The darkness doesn’t seem so dark because the stars really do sparkle and shine. It’s a happy feeling. One of joy. I’m reminded that I’m to shine just like that.

I may still stumble and fall as I work out my salvation, I may still succumb to bad habits on occasion, I may still throw my hands around and fuss every now and then, but I think the whining becomes less and less as time goes by. As I give Jesus control, as I depend upon His power, as I learn from His example, as I accept my responsibility to grow up in my faith, I learn to shine like a star.

I picture God lifting up His mighty head and nodding it up and down declaring to His Son who sits at His right hand, “Do you see that? She’s getting it! I’ll have some delight with that shine!”

God, The Name-Changer

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I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post. When I began this blog in the fall of 2013 I had every intention to post at least once a week. There have been a few weeks when the busyness of life got in the way, but I was able to post twice the following week. Fellow bloggers will understand when I say that sometimes…sometimes…writers need to take a break. The every day of life can either be a blessing or a curse, a roadblock or an open road, a motivator or a hindrance. Sometimes the thoughts don’t come, the words don’t flow, the inspiration doesn’t materialize.

January and a new year tends to make me want to evaluate my life…what I’ve done, where I’ve gone, how my walk with the Lord has progressed. In all honesty, in this self-evaluation, I can do myself a lot of harm if I don’t keep a proper perspective. Thank goodness the Word has a way of helping me stay proper.

I was reading in the second chapter of John this morning and received a wonderful reminder from God. He is in the name-changing-business.

When Peter met Jesus for the first time, Jesus took one look at him and said,

” ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” John 2:42

Jesus would later confirm Peter’s new name in Matthew 16:18,

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona…I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…” 

I began to think of what I’ve learned about Peter in Scripture…he was impetuous, he often acted before considering, spoke before thinking, denied before remembering. He was a man of passion. I wonder if he was a sanguine like me, with a little bit of drama going on that sometimes got him into trouble.

And yet…and YET! Jesus took one look at him the first time He saw him and looked into his very heart. Jesus saw a rock!

And I can’t help but be full of wonder…

Jesus doesn’t see me for who I am at the moment of encounter. He sees me for what I will become. Peter had a long way to go before he would actually live up to his new name. The Christian walk is a journey and the road to sanctification (being set apart for God, being made holy by conforming to the image of Jesus) is a process, but I can’t give up on myself because Jesus doesn’t give up on me! If Jesus believes in me then I can trust what He sees!

God never gives up on me. He never gives up on you. He never abandons the work of His hands. Jesus gives me the power to become the person He wants me to be. I can’t help but wonder what my “new” name is.

I remember when I was a young girl asking my mother what my name meant. “Little girl”, she said.

At the time, “little girl” seemed okay because that’s what I was, but as I grew up I wanted it to mean something more. I can’t even begin to describe to you how I felt the day I did a little digging and researching into other meanings of my name and discovered that in Hebrew my name means “Grace.” I cried. In fact, the tears are flowing right this very moment at the thought.

Nina, with a long i, means grace. And I wonder…does God really see me as a woman of grace? Oh, how I hope He does. It would be one of my greatest joys.

God is in the name-changing-business because God is in the heart-changing-business. Names were very significant in biblical times. Names were very significant to God and He often changed the names of those who would turn their hearts toward Him. Their new names became reflections of their new nature. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel.

Simon became Peter.

The Little Girl became Grace.

When I think back over the past year of my life, I may not be where I want to be. YET. That’s okay. Jesus meets me where I am and takes a good look at my heart. He sees me…where I’ve been, what I’ve done, how I’ve progressed in my walk with The Father. Thank goodness I’m not where I started when I first encountered Jesus. I guess you could say, I’ve come a long, long way, baby!

Thank goodness Jesus sees me for what I am becoming…thank goodness.

As for my new name…I can’t wait until I see Jesus face-to-face on streets of gold and hear Him call my name. It’s a name He has chosen just for me and you know what else I think?

I think Jesus knew when He first saw me that eventually I would live up to my name. And the tears flow…

Reflections On The Psalms

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Can I just say…Oh. My. God. Yes, My God! A long awaited dream is about to become a reality and God made it happen. I am beside myself. I want to laugh and cry all at the same time.

Three years ago this very month God gave me the vision for Reflections On The Psalms, Connecting With God Creatively. I had written a few devotions for a Bible study I taught on the Psalms a couple of years earlier. They were really just reflections from my own personal life experiences. There wasn’t anything fancy about them. It was just me putting to words the different ways God worked in my spiritual journey. It was just me journaling the journey….creatively.

God is the Creator of all emotion and feeling. It’s what we do with it that makes it right or wrong. It’s how we act it out that makes it holy or unholy. It’s why Paul tells us in Scripture that we’re to “put off” certain emotions and “put on” others. I have a responsibility to use the emotions God has given me in a way that honors Him.

Scripture also tells us “nothing is hidden from God.” That means He knows what’s hidden in the deep places of my heart and soul. He’s able to take what I give Him, no matter how ugly it is, and make an honest woman out of me by washing me in the water of His Word. Sometimes I have to confess what’s not very pretty to receive the cleansing needed for beautiful change.

That’s why I love the Psalms. No matter what emotion is expressed the focus is always on God. The psalmists express themselves freely, transparently, openly…honestly. Every emotion is revealed…the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s all there. And, yet, in every psalm God is still glorified because these psalmists were God-seekers and God-seekers want to know their God to have the heart of God.

Not only did God give me the inspiration for each devotion, but He also inspired me to ask my friend, Sherry French–a very talented artist, to create 30 mixed media illustrations for each devotion. The original vision was to have the daily Scripture or some thoughts from each devotion written or uploaded onto the illustrations and have each devotion preceded by an illustration, but the publisher informed me this would be very costly. Color is insanely expensive so this didn’t happen quite the way I planned, but Sherry and I still believe God will be glorified in the pages of this book. Her illustrations are still there for all to enjoy, beautiful and splendiferous. (That’s her artwork right there on the cover.)

So, here’s a little tease from the Introduction:

 

“This isn’t your average devotion book. It’s designed for creative expression…

I learned a long time ago the importance of being completely honest with God about my feelings and emotions.

The Book of Psalms helped me learn to bare my heart–to “let it all out.” As I’ve read, reread and studied the way the psalmists expressed themselves to the Lord, I learned that the best way for me to draw close to God is to be honest with Him about what is in my heart. The more I talk to God, the less I want to unload on the people in my life who mean the most to me. Writing and journaling my thoughts becomes a sweet release for me, and I believe it becomes a sweet aroma to Him.

Did you know that the Greek word for psalmos, which is where we get our word psalm, means: “A poem sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments”? I don’t know about you, but that means a lot to me. So many of us have this idea that we can only talk to God by praying reverently with our eyes closed and heads bowed low. Don’t get me wrong; I pray like this too, but what if we allowed ourselves some room for creative expression like the psalmists? After all, Scripture tells us that King David not only sang before the Lord, he danced too, and the patriarchs set up memorial stones to remember those times and places when God did amazing things in their lives. Sounds a lot like creative expression to me.

I’ve written thirty devotions from my heart. Sherry French has created beautiful artwork from hers. This is a collaboration of two kinds of God-given inspiration. Following each devotion you will find a blank page where you can explore ways to connect with God creatively. Maybe you like to draw or paint or write. It’s not about what creative style you have; it’s about connecting with God creatively. Let God guide you, and enjoy the process. Instead of a prayer prompt or question to ponder at the end of each devotional, let the daily Scripture verse speak to your heart. Ask God to show you how to apply it to your life, as He showed me how to apply it to mine.

As Sherry and I have shared our hearts with you, we pray that you will be inspired to share your heart with God. Be real. Be honest. Be creative. But above all–connect.”

 

 

Reflections On The Psalms will be released on February 10 through Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC. You’ll be able to find it in the data bases of most bookstores and Amazon.com. Sherry and I will keep you updated on our blogs. (Sherry’s website is http://www.thesplendiferouslife.com.) There will be a FaceBook page where you can order books OR if you’re somewhere nearby Sherry and I will be hosting book signings, as well as mini retreats/workshops to help you find your creative voice.

To all of you who have read my blog over the past year I’d like to thank you. I may not have many followers or even many viewers,  but I know God has given me the gift of words. And now, He’s given me another gift…a published book. My honest little heart is full of emotion right now.

For those of you who may consider purchasing a copy, can I just say….Oh. My. God! Thank you. I am beside myself. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but may the focus be entirely on Him!

The Gift Of Time

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Dear Friends,

The older I get the more I understand what it means to see time fly. I’m so glad God in His infinite wisdom chose not to give me the gift of foresight. I can’t imagine how much differently I’d live my life if I knew what tomorrow held in store. I can’t say all the choices I’ve made in life have prepared me well for my tomorrows, but I know one thing…God knows, God sees, and God holds my future in His hands. When life hands me the unexpected or fills me with surprises, when my flesh may fail or my heart grows weak, when my enemy comes against me or temptation knocks on my door, I can live my days knowing God is still on His Throne. He is still in control. He is still in charge of time.

Like a watch-maker, God has fashioned my life’s clock to fit me. Somehow, I don’t think I run on a battery. I think God takes great delight in winding me up with gentleness and a whole lot of love to keep me in time with Him. He knows when I’m off-balance. He doesn’t ever forget to wind me and He doesn’t wind too tight. I do that to myself. When I’m not on His time schedule I can be a real piece of work, but the Watch-Maker knows how He puts His time-pieces together. I think I can trust Him to keep me ticking in a way that honors Him when I let Him take care of my inward parts.

As 2014 comes to an end and I reflect on all that was good and right or bad and wrong, I’m reminded that time is a gift. For every day God sees fit to give me breath I want to live as if there’s a purpose for every minute of every day. When time seems to fly by I can rest secure that in God’s economy time never really changes. It doesn’t fly across the friendly skies at the speed of light. It doesn’t walk at a snail’s pace or race around a track like NASCAR. It doesn’t sail across the oceans like a speedboat or gallop across the plains like wild horses. And even when I wish time would stand still, it doesn’t. Time is just…well…it’s just time.

I think it’s time for me to experience time through the eyes of my Time-Keeper.

As I approach 2015 I want to learn to truly appreciate this gift from the One who holds the Kingdom Clock. I want to treasure it and use it well. This is my prayer. I don’t want to hoard it or throw it away. I don’t want to neglect it or worship it. I don’t want to wish I had more of it or less of it. I don’t want to lose my patience because it doesn’t move fast enough or lose my mind because it moves too slow. I want to make the most of the time God has given. I don’t know what that means for me. I don’t know what it means for you. I just know I don’t want it to pass me by. As of this moment, time no longer flies.

It lives…one day at a time.

So, my friends, here’s to a new year and, hopefully, a new attitude. I’d love it if you’d join me in treating Time as precious. May we see God move mountains, enlarge territories, and part rivers in the new year….in His time and in His way…for His Name’s Sake.

Jesus Joy,

Nina

 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, 14

The Thing God Did For Love

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Probably the most recognizable and most quoted Scripture in all of the Bible is John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Gosh, I hate to say it, but I’ve been fighting for joy this Christmas season. The weather’s not helping. The clouds have been relentless, the rain horrendous. Yesterday it rained so hard and so much the streets flooded. And there I was in the middle of it.

Years ago I made a selfish rule: Don’t go anywhere on Christmas Eve (except to the Christmas Eve service at church).

For the first time in a long, long time I broke that rule. My Jazzy was sick. Very sick. So sick she could barely stand up. She could hardly walk. She quit eating. She quit drinking. She trembled. I had to carry her up and down the porch steps to go to the bathroom. I thought my dog was dying. When I called her veterinarian on Tuesday afternoon the only appointment he had was Christmas Eve. What else could I do?

So yesterday morning at 8:30, I picked Jazzy up and carried her to the car in the pouring down rain. As I was driving the 18 or so miles to the vet’s office I crept along the highway with a few other half-crazy drivers strong enough to brave the torrent, traveling along at 45 miles per hour because visibility was so poor, you wouldn’t believe how God spoke to me.

I was frustrated and because I believe in being honest with God about what I’m feeling in my heart I told Him so. I was sick of rain. I was sick of dark skies. I was sick about some things that hadn’t been going my way lately. Sick of battling fear and anxiety. Sick of worrying about my dog, for Pete’s sake. Oh, I admit, some of my rant was ridiculously petty and small in the grand scheme of things, but some of it was big. At least to me. And then….out of nowhere….I heard the melody and words from this really secular, completely UN-spiritual song,

The things we do for love….

Like walking in the rain and the snow

When there’s nowhere to go

And you’re feeling like a part of you is dying

And you’re looking for the answer in her eyes (The Things We Do For Love, Hit song by the British Band, 10cc, in 1976)

I was a teenager back in the 1970’s. I graduated in 1976, the year this song was a hit. Since I don’t hear well, I never knew all the words to this song. I didn’t listen to the radio or buy a lot of records. Most of the time I just learned words to songs as I heard my friends sing them. I longed to be able to join in with them, but to tell you the truth it’s probably better that I didn’t. Hearing impaired people don’t always sing on key. At least I don’t. I may think I do. My family has made it very clear that I don’t, but I think hearing impaired people are blessed in a special way. They often learn to be content with silence. Maybe that’s why God speaks to me in such unconventional ways. When the words to this song began to play in my mind, God shut my mouth and ended my rant.

The thing I did for love…

Like walking in the rain and the snow

When there’s nowhere to go

And you’re feeling like a part of you is dying

And you’re looking for the answer in My eyes. (God, 2014)

As the rain beat down on my car like a jackhammer and my windshield wipers swished back and forth in double-time, Jazzy kept her eyes on me, shaking and shivering, her eyes pleading with me to fix her, to make it better. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t tell me what was wrong, but she trusted me. I remember thinking I might let her down. I remember thinking she might not go back home. I remember thinking there’s only so much a vet can do for a dog or other beloved pet that’s reached the end of its days. And I started to cry.

There in the midst of my tears, in the middle of a downpour on Christmas Eve, God reminded me that when the rain is a torrent and roads are flooded and people I love are hurting He loves in a way that I can’t. He can go where I can’t. He can reach people I can’t. He can heal hurts I can’t. All because He loves. Not just a little. But a lot. Enough to fill a river.

I looked up the words to this song online and thought how appropriate…

Too  many broken hearts have fallen in the river

Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea

You lay your bets and then you pay the price

The things we do for love, The things we do for love. (10cc, 1976)

God sent His Son. His name is Jesus and everything about Him is love. His love pulls broken hearts out of rivers and lonely souls out of seas. I can’t take love out of Him. I can think He doesn’t love, if I want to. I can say He doesn’t love, I can even believe in my heart that He doesn’t, but why would I? I know it wouldn’t be true. Not to me. There are just some things no one can take away from me. I can’t separate God’s love from Him and I can’t separate the Father from His Son. They are One.

“This is how God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I can never, ever be separated from the love of God that I have in Christ Jesus. I can try, but I’d waste a lot of energy. I can try running like Jonah or hiding like Adam and Eve, but I’d waste a lot of time. I’d rather live in this love than live apart from it because I’ve found that the love of Jesus is an amazing thing. He was born to be the greatest gift I’ve ever known. He gave me His life. This love is a powerful thing…

For God so loved the world…For God loved to such a great extent….For God loved extremely…Like a downpour…Like a flood…that He sent His only Son. 

This is the thing God did for love.

So Jazzy stayed with the vet yesterday. He took some x-rays, gave her fluids through an IV, started her on some pain and anti-inflammatory medications and I’m happy to say she came back home. We’ll be monitoring her arthritis and learning to manage it over the next few years, I guess. She slept well and this morning she seems her usual, energetic self. She keeps coming to me, laying her head on my leg, nudging me for a hug and attention. She needs reassurance because the clouds are still looming outside and we’ll most likely see some more rain, but love is in the air.

And today is Christmas. The day God gave the world the greatest gift ever and Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving…and giving…and giving…and the greatest gift I can give to others is this love.  

The Star Still Beckons

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I have a star on the very tip-top of my Christmas tree. I had an angel for many years, but for as long as I can remember I always wanted a star. One year I found one I loved. Maybe I’m partial to a star because I love that God used one to guide the Wise Men on their long journey to see the Christ-child. I love it when God meets us where we are. Only God knew how to draw the Wise Men to Him. He knew the Wise Men were looking up. So…He used a great light.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Blessed Light. 

The prophet Isaiah foretold of a Light that would dawn on the darkened hearts of men.

Don’t you ever wonder why God uses light in Scripture to symbolize His presence? Darkness can be oppressive. Depressing. Blinding. Frightening. God is none of those things.

I guess one of my most favorite names for Jesus is the “Bright Morning Star.”

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

What a beautiful picture He gives us of Himself. How lovely. It’s the bright, morning star that heralds a new day. As the sun rises, I’m reminded that no matter how bad my day may be, I can start fresh every morning. There’s always the hope of a better tomorrow. The Morning Star that rises in my heart is Jesus. He’s my hope in a world still filled with much darkness.

It’s no wonder that when Jesus was born God chose to do something remarkable to herald His birth. He brought forth a supernatural, cosmic miracle in the heavens. Something rare. Something that would make the Wise Men stand up and take notice. God put a special star in the nighttime sky. And, behold, those men would never be the same.

Matthew 2:1-12 records for us the journey of the Magi. Wise Men from the East, possibly Persia, who dedicated their lives to educating themselves, to learning, to studying the ancient texts and Holy Scriptures. They studied prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. They read about the coming Messiah and they read that He would be born in Bethlehem-Judah. They also read about a star in Numbers 24,

“I shall see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob…” 

I just love that the Wise Men believed what they read.

What was it about this star that caused these men to seek, to follow, to want to behold the promised Messiah? What was it about this baby? A baby born in a small, insignificant village…in a tiny, smelly stable…with dirty, stinky animals…lying in a hard, crude feeding trough…to a young, peasant girl who had journeyed far on the back of a donkey…who probably hadn’t bathed or changed her clothes in weeks. Why would anyone want to travel thousands of miles to a place like that?

Because darkness is oppressive. Depressing. Blinding. Frightening. But put Jesus in the hearts of men and everything changes. Moods. Sights. Fears. This once-in-a-lifetime heavenly phenomenon that lit up the nighttime sky shone on the One True Light and this world would never be the same.

To think…the Star shone on this dark, stinky, hard, dirty place. But isn’t that how Jesus still shines on us today? I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that Jesus came to me in a place like this. Just as He met the Wise Men of old, He met me where I was…A young girl who had journeyed far from home. It was this bright Morning Star that beckoned me. The Light of the World that called to me. And I followed, never to be the same again.

It scares me to think of what I would be like without Jesus. It scares me to think of the dark places without the Light that shines in the darkness. It scares me to think of how hard my heart would be, how dirty my soul. Now that I’ve seen this great Light I know why the Wise Men traveled so far. Sometimes you just have to see Jesus for yourself. Sometimes you just have to seek Him for yourself. Sometimes you just have to follow for yourself. There’s an urgency. A need that only Jesus can meet. Sometimes it’s in the darkness that His light shines the brightest. Sometimes…

I believe some of the greatest miracles God still performs today are the miracles of changed hearts. When hearts are softened by the power of His mighty love, when lives are washed clean by His saving grace, when stables become palaces and stars become beacons of hope.

This is the Jesus that still saves. This is the Messiah that still comes in darkness. This is the Star that still beckons the hearts of men today.

And me…I am a woman who still seeks. Looking up. Like the Wise Men I am captivated by the Light of the World. I may not be where I want to be yet, but that’s okay. I still follow because I know any other light will lead me astray. He is my bright Morning Star. Beautiful and lovely. I believe…I behold…

my Blessed Light. 

His Name Is Wonderful…

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The season of the year when Christians everywhere celebrate the birth of Christ is upon us. For the past two days I’ve been thinking a lot about the prophet Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah,

“For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder,

And His name will be called Wonderful,

Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I memorized this verse in Sunday School when I was a child. I can remember reciting it exactly as it is written, with a pause after Wonderful because there’s a comma there. Modern translations of the Bible omit this comma and use one title, Wonderful Counselor. For some reason, though, I still want to separate the two because…well…I just can’t help it…I like to think of Jesus as just plain Wonderful.

I looked this word up in the Blue Letter Bible to get the exact Hebrew definition and it means simply this: extraordinary, hard to understand; or something admirable, a miracle of God. Another source claimed a deeper meaning: incomprehensible!

To compare this definition I checked my online dictionary and found the word to mean: inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good, marvelous.

I’ll be the first to admit, I throw this word around a lot. I’m just expressive that way. Most of my friends have heard me say at one time or another, “Oh my goodness, it was just wo-o-O-o-nderful!” But, truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I told someone, “I think Jesus is just W-o-O-o-NDERFUL!” I think it. I feel it in my heart, but I don’t proclaim it like I should. I’m going to change that. (I think I feel a bit of drama coming on…)

How does the song go? “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” I think Andy Williams made it popular back in the sixties, but I don’t think the song speaks at all of the birth of our Savior. It speaks of the merriment that accompanies the Christmas season, the parties, the food, friends and family. All these things are wonderful, yes, but somehow I think this word has been greatly downgraded in comparison with Isaiah’s description of Jesus.

Jesus is extraordinary. His heart is sometimes difficult to imitate. He’s a marvel of God. I wonder at His radical teaching and His remarkable testimony. I am blown away by His marvelous mercy and His matchless grace. I celebrate His abundant goodness and His abounding love. I am delighted in His exceptional forgiveness and His excellent kindness.

Jesus is incomprehensible. His ways are sometimes hard to understand. He’s a miracle of God. I wonder at His holy conception and His humble birth. I am blown away by His compassionate healing and His sympathetic helping. I celebrate His triumphant resurrection and His jubilant ascension. I am delighted in His powerful presence and His perfect guidance.

This is the Jesus I call Wonderful and I want to remember the wonder of Him in all that I do this Christmas season. 

 

For every party I may attend I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about celebration.

For every person I may entertain I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about relationship.

For every patch I may decorate in my home I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about beauty.

For every place I may shop I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about giving good gifts.

For every pie I may bake I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about feeding the hungry.

 

And then I’ll remember that there’s a pause after Wonderful because the name of Jesus is the name above all names and wonderful isn’t just a word, it’s who He is and that’s something to celebrate.

Being Thankful For The Little Things In Life

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It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Some may call it Black Friday. Not me. I’m so glad to be in the comfort of my home, sipping my Maxwell House Master Blend coffee with International Delight Coldstone flavored creamer, relaxing beside my black iron boxwood stove generating that blessed heat, and listening to the soothing sounds coming from the cage in front of my kitchen window. Muffin, my zebra finch, is serenading the rising of the sun. While the rest of my tiny part of the world is in a shopping frenzy, I am completely lost in the little things. The simple pleasures. Yes, today I’m thankful for the little things in life.

Because today is another day. A new day.

Truthfully, I am very tired.

I got a flu shot Monday. On Tuesday I got the flu. This has never happened to me before. My common sense tells me I’ll never get another flu shot again. I keep asking myself, “How could this possibly be a good thing?” I’ve been keeping myself medicated with over-the-counter flu medications because I was not about to cancel Thanksgiving dinner with my family. No way. If you read my last post, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I may not have felt my best, but I determined in my heart to live in the moment.

This hasn’t just been a physically draining week, though. It’s also been emotionally challenging. Some things have happened to cause great sadness in my spirit. Big things. Difficult things. Hard things. Messy things. Things that affect the quality of life. Not mine personally, but people I care about. Disease. Death. Damage. What do you do when your heart is broken for the Broken? What do you do when your soul is downcast for the Downcast? What do you do when your spirit is crushed for the Crushed?

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3

When how could this be a good thing? rings in my ears I am comforted by these words from the prophet Isaiah. They proclaimed the role and purpose of the coming Messiah. During Christ’s ministry on earth, He opened the scrolls and read these words in the synagogue, fulfilling this prophecy.  Now that He’s in heaven sitting at the right hand of the Father and His Spirit lives and breathes in me, I can now minister in His name and in His power just like this. To the broken. To the downcast. To the crushed. In the darkness. In the prisons. In the ashes.

That’s how I do it.

When the ugly things rear their nasty heads, I tend to appreciate the little things all the more. The simple pleasures. I refocus because I don’t want to miss what’s right with the world. I don’t want to miss what’s good. I don’t want to miss the faithfulness of my God in the ugliness of life. I don’t want to miss the Spirit of Christ in this coming season. I want to keep my eyes on Him.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” Lamentations 3:22-27

I may not be so young anymore. I turned 57 on Sunday, but I had a few difficulties of my own as a child. As an adult, I can now see the good that has come from bearing the yoke when I was young. In the midst of the ugly, I still see the beauty of Christ and that is such a good thing. I can recall to mind so many wonderful, beautiful things that have happened and they greatly outshine all the ugly. God is so good like that. Full of compassion. Full of mercy. Full of grace. It’s not suppose to be a hard thing to grasp for the heart that truly seeks. I don’t think it’s meant to be difficult. I think Jesus wants it to be simple.

Yes, I’m tired, but honest-to-goodness, I’m oh-s0-thankful for the little things.

And maybe, just maybe, I can learn to be thankful for flu shots again because they really are a good thing. As many times as I’ve had one, I’ve never gotten the flu before…until now.

As Muffin continues to fill my kitchen with her song, I’ll determine to live in this moment and give thanks for God’s simple pleasures…drinking from the cup of His blessings, warming myself in the Light of His presence, and listening to the soothing sound of His voice.

It’s another day. A new day.

And I am still very thankful.

 

Thanksgiving, My Happy Place

 

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November is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month my mother gave birth to me, the day God chose to bring me into this world. Sometimes my birthday even falls on Thanksgiving Day. But, that’s not the real reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have fond memories of spending the holiday with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. It didn’t matter whether my birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day or not, my grandmother always had a birthday cake for me. I learned early in life that Thanksgiving was all about giving thanks and treasuring family. This was a happy place for me.

Twelve years ago, something memorable happened to me in the month of November. I had brain surgery nine days before my birthday. Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning for me that year. I may not have been able to spend any time at all on preparations, but I never felt so loved, so grateful, so safe. Surrounded by my family, I knew in my heart that I had been given a great gift…life. God had preserved my life.

One year later I would come to understand that not only is life a gift, life is hope.

And hope does not disappoint.

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Hope, the joyful and confident expectation for a certain thing to happen, like eternal life. The indescribable gift of life forever with my God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift…with Jesus, the Keeper and Sustainer of my heart.

One year after brain surgery…in this beautiful, wonderful month of thankfulness that I love…the day before I would celebrate my 46th birthday…my friend, Leslie, passed from this earth and entered into her heavenly home. Her brain surgery had been one month before mine. She spent a month in the hospital. I spent four days. Her tumor was malignant. Mine was benign. She grew weaker. I grew stronger. She endured radiation and chemotherapy and then, sadly, hospice came.

I went to visit Leslie four days before she passed away. Her husband had warned me not to be disappointed if she didn’t respond to me. The pain medications were keeping her sedated, but God in His infinite grace and lovingkindness gave me the most precious gift. Leslie lit up and responded to my presence. I told her stories. She listened. I laughed. She giggled. I held her hand. She held mine back. I prayed for her and watched tiny little tears fall from the corners of her eyes, trickling down behind her ears as she lay back on her pillow. I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her. Then, I said good-bye.

Her mother-in-law walked me to the porch and told me that Leslie had come “alive” for me more than most people who visited her in those last days. I think I know why. We shared a common bond. Brain tumor. Brain surgery. Though we suffered afflictions–Leslie’s were oh-so-much-more than mine–we knew the process of enduring, of proving our character, of producing hope. I still witness the reaction of others when I tell them I had brain surgery–jaws drop open. Hearts race. Fears rise.

I had once asked Leslie in the midst of her chemotherapy treatments and radiation, “What is the one thing you fear more than anything?” She didn’t hesitate. There was no fear for herself, only for her sons. I got that. Before my surgery, I had pondered similar fears. Oh, the depths of a mother’s love.

Sometimes life is so very sad, but in the sadness we come to experience new ways of relating to our heavenly Father. I came to understand hope in a way I never had before. For several years after Leslie’s death, every November I became melancholy. Maybe not so much in sadness as in deep reflection. Why does God increase the days of one life and not another? I’m convinced God wanted Leslie in heaven with Him. She was ready to meet her Maker. There’s no fear in that. Only hope. The best way I can honor Leslie’s life is to live mine well.

I’m learning that a heart of thankfulness doesn’t mean I thank God for hardship or heartache or handicaps. I don’t thank Him for cancer or disease or tumors…I thank God for what these things produce in me. I thank Him for the endurance to persevere under afflictions. I thank Him for the fruit of Christ’s character produced from the roots growing strong in the soil of my heart. I thank Him for the hope of heaven…

…where there will be no tears. No pain. No sadness. No sickness. No death. No more good-byes.

Only life.

I thank God for Novembers. It’s still my favorite month. I thank God for Thanksgivings. It’s still my favorite holiday. I thank God for birthdays. It’s still a day to celebrate. I want to live my life in a way that honors the Life-Giver because one day God will want me in heaven with Him. I’ll be ready to meet my Maker and I will not be disappointed. This is my happy place, even in sadness. And in my melancholy of deep reflection I picture Leslie’s reunion with her family in heaven one day…together again. And there I’ll be, watching and waiting my turn to greet her because she and I still share a common bond…

Life Eternal.

 

 

 

My Quiet Place

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There’s this sweet little bench in the woods across the street from my parents’ house. It sits on a little hillside overlooking a creek bed. The skunk cabbage grows in abundance along the marshy stream and the ground beneath my feet is rich and soft. It takes some meandering around brush and fallen tree logs to get to this bench, but I’ve always been very fond of a walk through the woods. This is one of my favorite quiet places in my little part of the world.

I guess what I find so welcoming about this place is that it’s not frequented by the rest of the world. I don’t know that anyone else ever visits. I don’t know that anyone else really cares it’s there. I don’t know that anyone else sees it for the treasure that it is. It’s just an old bench sitting on a hillside in the woods. Left to decay. Forgotten. Forsaken.

But not by me.

I’ve known of this bench for many years. It was built by a loving father who spent many days and many hours working the land where one day a house would be constructed by his daughter and her family. The father passed away and the land was no longer tended. Just a few years ago the daughter passed away, too. I don’t know that a house will ever be built there. The sadness is too great for the family and what was once a great dream may now be just a memory.

I’ll never forget the first time I ventured to my bench. I was heavy in heart. I needed a quiet place. I was visiting my parents and I remembered how I used to love a walk through the woods as a child. How often did I escape to the forest and lose myself in its solitude, sitting on a mossy bank or perching myself on a fallen log? I don’t know, it just gave me peace. What can I say? We all need a quiet place and in this crazy-mixed-up world, we don’t always know where to find it.

So, I made my way to the bench in the woods that day and I sat. I talked to God. No distractions. No interruptions. No one to hear, no one to see. Just me and God. All alone in the woods. And before I knew it I was weeping. I knelt in the rich, soft earth beside that bench and I cried my little heart out. I didn’t care, but I knew in that place that God did.

What’s a quiet place if God isn’t in it? I think sometimes we’re afraid of the quiet places. We’re afraid of solitude. Instead of embracing it, we flee. We keep ourselves so occupied, so busy, so distracted that the silence becomes elusive. I think I learned early in life, though, that silence really is golden. In some ways, my hearing disability is a blessing. Maybe that’s why I loved a solitary trek through the woods even as a young girl. Maybe that’s why I love my bench. I’m not afraid of the silence. I want it. No…I need it. Because it’s there in the silence that I find my confidence.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15

…But you would have none of it…

Oh, Sweet Jesus…I don’t want to “have none of it.”

I want to experience the peace that comes in waiting on the Lord. I want to be confident in my waiting seasons. I want to experience the blessed truth that God will never leave me to decay. I am never forgotten by the One who treasures me. I will never be forsaken by the One who promises to be with me wherever I go. There is such a connection between faith and quietness. There is such beauty in learning how to trust that even in the silence God is present.

Sometimes when I walk in the door of my parents’ house, pass out the hugs and plant a few kisses I can hardly wait to head back out the door, cross the street, enter the woods, meander around brush and fallen tree logs to my bench. To others it may look like a lonely place, but I know it’s way more than that…

…it’s my quiet place. It’s where I know I’m not alone even in the desolate places. To the rest of the world it may be a place of decay. Forgotten. Forsaken.

But not by God.

Sometimes, silence isn’t just golden. It’s God.