Friday, December 23, 2011

Be Still

"Be still and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10a
The other night I woke up at 4:12am.  Yeah, I know, strange time to wake up...especially for this loghead.  I started thinking about all the things left on my list to do: 12 more presents to wrap, a few more gifts to buy, Christmas Eve breakfast and Christmas Day dinner to plan, shop for and prepare.  In the middle of these thoughts, the verse "Be still and know that I am God." came to mind, along with a vibrant dream that took my breath away:
Stillness filled the air. Rich, warm light flooded the open space. Stars broke through the darkness to shine like brilliant diamonds that had been strewn across a black velvet canopy.  Bearded men, who smelled of pungent earth, wore long robes and held staffs in rough, grungy hands. Surprisingly, they were on their knees. Yet it was their eyes that caused me to gasp. They were huge--wide open and filled with  unspeakable awe, humility and amazement...all at the same time. Tears slowly rolled down their beaming faces. I followed their gaze to see what had captivated them so.
It was was Jesus!  I had always thought the first time I would ever see Him, He would be an adult with a welcoming lap for me to crawl up on. This was a baby.  Not just any baby.  This was the Savior of the World...Jesus. Helpless to the passing glance.  Arms flinging.  Legs kicking at white linen strips of cloth that served as a makeshift blanket.
I was there. the manger...with Baby Jesus. As I drew nearer, I knew He was anything but helpless. My heart raced.  I couldn't breathe and my mind was swimming, shaken with jumbled thoughts and emotions.  My soul fell before Him, but my body was motionless.  I could not move. Magnificent rays of light streamed upward from the manger. Light, Love Eternal...revealed in this sweet, holy baby.
I could hear the words again:  Be Still and Know that I am God.
The Story I had heard more than a hundred times hit me like the north wind and awakened in me a fresh sense of reality at the miracle and magnitude of that one holy night.  I had seen God incarnate...Immanuel.  God with us.  Come to save the world.  To save me. To save you. My heart will never be the same.
Christmas has passed once again. Each time I go back to that moment, my heart stops and my soul is filled with an indescribable reverance and awe. A new year is right around the corner and I pray that it is not just another blur for you or me...filled with a billion things to do and places to go.
O Holy and Ancient One, I confess that sometimes the nativity story seems to fade in between the busyness, tasks and demands of everyday life. Yet You are the One I want to know more.  Help me to be still and know You are God...You are that sweet Baby Jesus lying in the manger...God incarnate, Immanuel.  God with us...with me. May my life reflect your beautiful Light into your world. In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's All About Us?

 "That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!" -Luke 2:8-11

Several years ago, Rick Warren came out with a major bestseller entitled The Purpose Driven Life.  It is a phenomenal book that God used to spiritually revive churches, small groups and individuals.  In it, we learned that "It's not about me." True.  In our "Have it Your Way" mentality, we do, at times, act, think and believe we are entitled to what we want, when we want it. Yet I, for one, missed a huge truth. While it's not all about me, I have learned that, through God's eyes and His heart spoken in His very Word, for Him, it is all about us. It. Is. All. About. Us.

God and us, that is. A profound, mind-boggling relationship that He designed.  When I stop to consider all that He great, how mighty, how loving, how forgiving, I simply have to stop before my heart bursts with wonder and awe at how He could love me so. Yet from the moment that Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden and He called out to them "Where are you?" He has fervently pursuited us. His passionate pursuit of us was the impetus for His ultimate sacrificial plan of salvation.

This plan started out with a sweet baby's cry that summoned angels to sing Glory to God in the Highest!  The same angels who were heartbroken on crucifixion day. The same angels who victoriously leapt and danced with joy on resurrection day.  Meager beginning. Horrific sacrificing. Triumphant ending.  Creation, Crucifixion and Resurrection collide and explode, forming God's New Covenant with and for us...Jesus, our Salvation, was born to us. Not just some of us. All of us.

Salvation wrapped in swaddling cloths was born for all people...from heathen shepherds to orient kings...from those we study the Bible and Worship God with on Sunday mornings to those who desecrate  dimly lit alleys or stand on street corners or lie in cheap motels. God's love story, written to us, beautifully speaks of God's love for us. 

I'm thoroughly convinced it is all about us...God and us.

As passionately as He pursuited you and I, there are others He longs to rescue.  You know, after the shepherds went to see Baby Jesus, we are told they did four things:

1) they told EVERYONE what they had seen and heard and what the angel had told them about Baby Jesus;
2) they went back to shepherding
3) they glorified God
4) they praised God...for all the things they had seen and heard.

So, where are the rest of us?  How do we find them? What do we say or do when we find them?

Father God, thank you for making a way to come to us and be with us. Though we are undeserving and unworthy, through the gift of your sweet Salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord, you have made a way for us to be with you forever. We know there are others your heart is burning to redeem.  Allow us the privilege and honor of passionately joining you in your pursuit of "the rest of us."  Give us enthusiastic courage to tell everyone what we have seen and heard so that you may be glorified and praised!  In the beautiful name of your Son, Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It is Time

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
I have always loved this chapter of Ecclesiastes.  When I was growing up, I would actually recite “there is a time to dance” to my mom and dad who, I thought, needed convincing.  Fortunately, I did convince them but I also learned there is a time to dance and a time to say “I’ll sit this one out.” It all depends on who is asking you to dance.
Serving as the Children’s Ministry Director at Salem several years ago, I made some very close friendships which I still cherish today.  These sweet girlfriends would often say “it’s just not my season to…” Often, I wondered what that must be like to say “It’s not my season right now” and to be able to say it with an abundance of peace.  Contrary to my sweet friends, I have always had a dozen plates spinning in the air and, invariably, one of them gets dropped. Sometimes it might be the laundry or my home, all too often it was my husband or family and, ultimately, my intimate relationship with Jesus.
What immediately pops into your head the moment you hear the word “season?”  Understandably, right now most of us would think of the Christmas season.
What does your Christmas season look like?
Is it one you would like to skip this year saying “it’s not my season?”  Perhaps finances, the loss of a loved one or the emptiness of being alone, once again, has silenced your season of Christmas.
Curious about the word meaning of Christmas, I did a little research and found this actual etymology of Christmas:
 *Christmas literally means the Mass (celebration) of Christ. "Christ" is a Greek word and title, meaning "anointed" or one set apart by God for a special purpose. "Christ" is equivalent to the Hebrew word "Messiah." Based on the words of ancient prophets, the first century Jewish people expected the arrival of the Messiah promised by God as a great deliver[er] of the people. (*
So we celebrate Jesus, our great Deliverer! This season, He is the One asking you to dance.  The music you hear may sound like a train derailing on Main Street at high noon but if you listen close enough, you’ll hear His voice and His music…it is orchestrated and written just for you. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, Prince of Peace, is asking you to dance.  You might be tempted to say “I’ll just sit this one out.” Instead, place your hand in His and let Him lead you through this miraculous season of celebration we call Christmas. It is time.
Prayer: O great God! Thank you for delivering Your anointed One to us.  Jesus, You were, are and always will be, our beautiful Deliverer!  I praise You for being my personal Deliverer, many times over.  I can’t think of anyone I’d rather celebrate than You, Jesus.  This season, despite the many demands and distractions, please help me not to get derailed but to simply take your hand and dance.  –In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Walker or His Workmanship?

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. -1 Peter 2:9 (MSG)
Have you seen The Walking Dead? It’s a weekly sci-fi series where a disease has taken over an entire city, spreading to the nearby countryside, killing people and then bringing them back to life, if you want to call it that.  Only a ravenous hunger to suck the life out of any living thing that comes close gives them a semblance of existence…they are the Walking Dead.
Survivors have formed a makeshift family as they work to escape, and protect each other from, the walkers. Finding refuge in a countryside farm, they discover Doctor Herschel, the owner, is sheltering walkers in his barn.  In a heated discussion, his daughter, Maggie, asks her new-found friend, Glenn, not to call them walkers. “What do you call them?” he asks.  Insisting they are people, she adamantly replies “I call them mom, Mrs. Perkins, Mr. and Mrs. Stephens.” Family, neighbors, local business owners, once loved and accepted, now rejected to nothingness.
Thanksgiving morning I get to go downtown and help feed the homeless.  Some people scoff, calling them rejects, crackheads or the professional homeless who work the system, sucking the life out of the living. I want to know their names and call them Steve, Trent, Mrs. Perkins, or whatever their name is because I know Jesus knows their name. To Him, they are not rejects or walkers, they are His creation, fearfully and wonderfully made – His divine workmanship. His heart breaks for them. He longs to be their shelter and refuge. His blood poured out to redeem them, as it did for us when He called us from the shadows to His light to “speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made” for me and for you.
Who will you cross paths with this Thanksgiving that you would prefer to ignore or even hide from?  (You know, the one who just always seems to suck the life out of every living thing they come in contact with.)
Will you see him or her as a walker or His workmanship?
Will you speak out for Him?
Father God, it is so easy to forget that, were it not for your limitless grace, we, too, would be walkers. We praise You for lifting us up from the pit of darkness into your glorious light and ask that you give us the courage and the words to speak out for You. May Your light and love shine through us to infuse your works of art we meet in Your gallery of life. –In our Beautiful Creator Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Heart of Simply Devoted

If you are reading this, I already consider you a friend!  I just love those moments when we get to take a break, even for just a few minutes, to sit, breathe and say whatever’s on our mind to our friends. This is that kind of place. If you need to say something, say it. If you want us to pray with, or for you, about anything, just ask and we’ll pray it.
One thing I wanted to share with you is the heart of Simply Devoted: I am Yours! It’s a heartfelt cry of confession and devotion to Jesus, all at the same time. When I think about His great sacrifice, I can never get over my amazement at the depth of His love for me, for all of us.  As I get to know Him more, I love Him that much more and pray we will wake up each morning and go to bed each night with those words to Him engrained on the hearts of our souls – I am Yours!
Love ya lots in Christ!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Undivided Heart

"For You are great and do marvelous deeds; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, LORD, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever." -Psalm 86:10-12 (NIV)

What grabs your attention?  What lures you away from Him?

For me, it's not always what appears to be the "bad stuff" -- most of the time, it's the busy stuff. Sleeping until the last second, jumping out of bed and straight into the shower, I miss my quiet time with Him.  I am off to the races and thrive on adrenaline rushes and multi-tasking. There's a catch though: too often, I let the urgent overshadow the important. 

Not surprising.  Once I took a personal inventory/assessment and it showed that, on a scale from 1-10, my sense of urgency was a 9. What does that mean? It means that everything appears urgent to me.  I like attacking things and getting things done.  Especially, if it means I get to help someone else. Sounds like a great attribute, doesn't it?  The truth is, maybe it a job interview.  But in life, it's vital that I learn to take care of the important things too. Things like starting my day with my Maker, giving Him my undivided attention so that He, in turn, can give me an undivided heart.

Can you relate?

The coolest thing is that we don't have to create an undivided heart, all we have to do is ask for Him to give us one.

Father God, Creator of our hearts, we thank You for this incredible day.  It is in our very nature to want to take care of everyone and everything around us...all at the same time.  Yet in this race of life, we often allow the urgency of others to overshadow the importance of simply being with You. We ask that You give us an undivided heart for You and You alone so that in each moment of our day You will be glorified. -In Jesus' Name, Amen.