Monday, February 24, 2014

For I Know

For I know the plans I have for you,” says theLord
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, 
to give you a future and a hope. 
In those days when you pray, I will listen. 
If you look for Me wholeheartedly, 
you will find Me. 
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Some days we have to come back to center.
The centering point of the universe 
is the love of God,
and when everything around 
looks shaky and uncertain,
we have to come back to what we know.
God is love and His plans for us are good.

"In THOSE days when you pray..."
What are those days?
In Jeremiah 29, "those days" were the days
when God's people were in Babylon,
which in Hebrew means "confusion."
There are still days when we feel 
the effects of that spirit of confusion.
God assures us that His plans for us are good.
When we pray, He will listen.
When we seek Him, we will find Him.
Today. For this present moment.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and His faithfulness continues 
to each generation.
Psalm 100:5
We must be those who can stand in the midst 
and know the love and faithfulness of God,
not swayed by the winds and waves.
How else will we be able to demonstrate the 
love of God to those who haven't known Him?
Trouble doesn't separate believers from unbelievers.
What separates us is that we know the
love and faithfulness of the One who says,
"I have plans to give you hope."
The world is desperate to know of hope.
His plans are to give us all a hope.
Our hope is Him.

I may not know everything 
the Lord is doing at this time.
But I know Him.
So I stand and pray because I know He hears.
I seek Him because I know I will find Him.
I am recentering on His unfailing love 
and faithfulness today.
And by His abundant mercy and grace, 
I will not be moved.
For the sake of those whose lives
I will have the privilege of touching today,
I must know.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

If You Love Me

When we fully surrender our wills to His--
because we have gotten a 
glimpse of His love for us--
we are more free to hear His voice
and do what He tells us to do.
Even if we must choose against ourselves.
"If you love Me, you will obey."
Obedience will require sacrifice, 
but it is always motivated by 
"because I love You..."

Sacrifice for its own sake
is not always motivated by love.
It is often motivated by self.
If our sacrifice becomes self-driven, 
it becomes a pathway to expectation, 
and ultimately, if not checked,
to demand and entitlement.

"Obedience is better than sacrifice."
That is because obedience is "to" 
and sacrifice is "for."
The "to" has to come before the "for."
If I am obedient to His voice, 
I am obedient to love.
I can trust Him with the outcome.
My obedience is my expression of love.
To whatever degree it involves sacrifice,
the sacrifice will be as unto Him.

Sacrifices that are not a response 
to His voice, from a heart of love
are sacrifices for something.
A little bit of this for that.
It can create a “you-owe-me” attitude, 
and a carefully disguised sense of pride.
We are all guilty of this from time to time.
"I did this...and I thought that...
but my X did not lead to my Y."
And so we get angry.
At our kids, our spouses, our friends, God.
"You didn't give me what I deserved
after all I did for you (You)."

But when I am motivated by love,
I am not held in bondage to expectation.
Every time my attitude sounds like, 
"But I thought it would look different,"
I have to look at my motives.
Did I do that out of "obedience to"
or did I do that as a "sacrifice for?"
Am I sacrificing the fat of a ram 
to get something 
or pouring out an alabaster jar 
to love someone (Someone)?
Some things haven't gone the way I thought.
I have experienced sadness, anger,
disappointment and grief in varying degrees.
Whatever was done out of obedience to Him
can be counted as a love offering.
He can be trusted to make all things work
together for good to those who love Him.
If any of it was self-sacrifice for 
the sake of personal gain,
I have a chance to repent and 
allow Him to restore my hope
in His complete goodness.
If I love Him, I will trust Him.
He will "perfect those things
that concern me," 
even my concern that I need
to love so much more.

We know how much God loves us, 
and we have put our trust in His love...
And as we live in God, 
our love grows more perfect. 
1John 4:16, 17

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Something New

"I love to think of nature as an 
unlimited broadcasting station 
through which God speaks to us 
every hour if we will only tune in."
George Washington Carver  
Yesterday I looked out our back window 
and saw this single blossom.
Like the young child who puts on his cape
and ventures out on a rainy day--
because there are bad guys to be fought
and good guys don't care about the weather--
this bud seemed to have some childlike quality.
It was as if this bud looked around and thought,
This is a damp and cold and dreary winter day.
Why not do something heroic?
Why not bloom when it is not expected?
Why not defy the odds?

These days have been a bit challenging
and I have been desperate to hear God.
He has told me He would show up  
in unexpected ways both 
with people and in places.

So this single flower was a message that
in the middle of circumstances which
have shown no signs of life,
He is breaking through with 
something new, something beautiful.

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! 
Do you not see it?
Isaiah 43:19

See. He has already begun.
We have to have eyes to see it.
God will use everything around us 
to speak a word to us.
We just need to see Him in the midst.

He is always making things new.
That bloom was a reminder that
He is not defined by a season.
He is always breaking through and 
giving hope where it is needed.
Our hope is Him.

By taking a long and thoughtful look 
at what God has created, 
people have always been able to see 
what their eyes as such can’t see.
Romans 1:20

His beautiful creation pointed me up.
"Behold, I am doing a new thing."
I will keep looking until I perceive it.
What looks cold and dark and dreary to us
is just a perfect backdrop to pop a blossom,
a sign that He is living amongst us,
making all things new.
All the time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Still I Will Trust

Some days are hand holding days.
I am holding you by your right hand…
Do not be afraid. I am here to help you.”
Isaiah 41:13

I need every word of this verse today.
There are times I sit and think about
secrets and mysteries,
and many days I meditate on
the depths of His love.
But today is about holding His hand.
Fear has been knocking on the door lately,
He knows that and comes to assure me.
“Do not be afraid. I am holding your hand.”
Taking someone’s hand can be
a demonstration of love or
a tender act of compassion.
It connects us on a very personal level.
And He is that personal.

He tells us not to be afraid because
fear is a "go-to" response in trouble--
or perceived trouble.
We have all battled it on some level.
I have entertained it, rebuked it, 
cast it out,  ignored it, and repented of it.
One thing I know for sure:
The Lord did not give me a spirit of fear.
So some days, like today,
I take hold of His hand and walk forward,
rehearsing His goodness and faithfulness.

Even if an army attacks me,
my heart will not be afraid.

Even if war breaks out against me,
I will still trust in God.
Psalm 27:3

Worrying about today strips 
all life out of the day.
Worrying about tomorrow…
well, we won’t even go there.
Wrong on every level.

So many great promises and much
encouragement for the challenges of today.
It was not their own strength that saved them.
It was Your right hand and strong arm
that helped them, for You loved them.
Psalm 44:3

His hand represents His security,
guidance, protection and love.
Today is a hand holding day.
Again I remind myself, though I wish
I could just do it once and forever,
that I will not be fearful of the “what if’s.”
His grace is abundantly sufficient for now.

Be at peace, my heart.
It is the only safe place for you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Water into Wine: All About Love

Jesus' entire life was about love,
first for His Father and then for people.
His first miracle was no exception.
Water into wine was a miracle of love.

If I had been consulted as to what 
should be Jesus' first miracle,
I probably would have suggested something
like toppling terrorism or curing cancer.
Turning water into wine?
Not in a million years.
It's quite likely that Jesus didn't plan on 
turning water to wine as his first miracle.
When Mary told Jesus they were out of wine,
He knew exactly what she was asking of Him.
"What does this have to do with Me?
My hour has not yet come."
But for the sake of love, 
He abandoned the other plan that
He had of displaying His glory.
It was a sacrifice of love.

His mother was concerned that her friends
would be embarrassed if they ran out of wine.
He could have stood firm on His declaration
that His hour had not yet come.
But this first miracle was a proclamation to
His disciples and those who would later read:
My love for you responds to what matters to you.
He was fully engaged in the interest of others.

So Jesus' miracle era began because 
there was a shortage of wine. 
There is endless banter about whether
it was really wine or grape juice.
I personally can't see the hoopla over
running out of grape juice.
I want to know more than this, though.
I want to understand the overwhelming love
that motivated the Son of God to sacrifice 
His plans regarding the revelation of His glory.
John 2:11 says, 
"In THIS way, He revealed His glory."
His love for others chose the first miracle.

And I am grateful for
 the demonstration of His abundant love.
And that His love responds to what 
matters to me and to others.
Sometimes I think my little corner of the world
and the concerns I have for myself and those I love--
all the challenges we go through--are too small.
Then I remember the water and the wine.
And how Jesus allowed that to be the miracle
that marked His ministry.
That kind of love should change me on 
the same level that changed water to wine.
Every miracle is about change at the molecular level.
Molecules respond to His love by rearranging 
themselves to become something better.
I want my heart to respond that way everyday,
His love rearranging me that
I become something better.
For the sake of those who need to see Him
and the miracle of His love in their lives.
Because His love is what changes us.

I recently read this line from Ravi Zachariah.
I want my heart to respond every time I see Him.

Capturing the beauty of the conversion of 
the water into wine, the poet Alexander Pope said, 
"The conscious water saw its Master and blushed."


Monday, February 10, 2014

Running through the Dark

"While others run fast, 
you can just shuffle with perseverance...
While others stop for the dark, 
you can run through the dark.
The race is won by those 
who keep running through the dark."
Ann Voscamp

I love analogies involving running.
as I have been running for many years.
I love how it relates to life.
There have been times, many of them, 
that I just flat-out ran fast.
Everyone has these times: 
everyone needs something from you,
the days are a blur and all run together,
the only thing you know is to run faster.

There have been times, a few of them,
that I just took myself out of the race.
Everyone has these times too:
you are overwhelmed and exhausted,
you are fearful and a bit hopeless,
the only thing you know is to retreat.

Those are opposite ends of the race
we call life and we have all done both.
But running super fast is exhausting
and retreating can be dangerous.
They can both lead to quitting.
Life really is about persevering
and being willing to keep running
even when the road is dark.
Honestly, running isn't even necessary.
Walking works too.
Sometimes it's all we got.

They who wait for the Lord 
shall renew their strength...
they shall run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint.
Is 40:31

Darkness is temporary,
whether it lasts an hour or a season.
If I stop, the darkness remains
and forward momentum ends.
It doesn't have to look heroic;
it doesn't even have to look pretty.
It just has be an acknowledgement that
He has trained me for this moment and
He is ever running with me.

Light will always overcome darkness.
Some days, I light a candle to
remind myself that it doesn't take much.
A little flicker of light extinguishes darkness.
It is never true the other way around.
So I keep running even if it seems dark.
His light will make a way.
For thou wilt light my candle:
the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
Psalm 18:28

He is infinitely good and doing
infinitely more than I can ask or imagine.
My eyes are adjusting and I can
see His eyes beckoning me forward.
Why would I stop now?