Sunday, January 29, 2012

Doing What Matters Today

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

As I sit reviewing my previous week and assessing my calendar concerning the commitments that glare at me in the week ahead, I feel my soul languishing over the lack of margin in my schedule. I can already feel my adrenalin gearing up. How will I navigate the landscape that stretches out before me? I know God reminds us that lack of planning leads to failure, but this is not my problem. My problem is that the plans distract my attention away from the "matters" that lie at my feet today. I cannot seem to enjoy today. My children, along with their cousin, are laughing and dancing, while the sounds of their youthful joy become a distraction to my stratgic "game planning". I began to realize that something was out of sync, because the unknown outcome of tomorrow was casting a shadow of the music and beauty of today. How can God entrust me with tomorrow until I act responsible with the gifts and purposes He has laid before me today? I decided to stop gearing up for tomorrow and give massages to each one willing to trust me with their bodies and minds. I had a line of willing participants. The outcome was family bonding and mutual love exchanged. My lesson-joy is found in doing what matters today. Surrendering my gifts and talents in the moment and not to an unkown future. Being present minded with an eye toward the future. To live with hope is to know that tomorrow will take care of itself. What plans do you need to lay down, so that you too can do what matters today. Today. It is filled with promise and purpose. So, surrender tomorrows plans to today's joy.        

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Be Still and Know that I am God...Psalm 46:10

Recently I received another invitation to be part of a new and exciting ministry. Flattered? Yes. Able? No. As this opportunity lay before me, I struggled to do what I knew was right--gracefully decline. But this decision was wrought with pain. Why? Because, it meant I would have to disappoint those who placed their confidence in me and extended the invitation. I would be left to wonder if I had neglected to be a good steward of the gifts and talents that God had infused within. It would be my teary-eyed state of exhaustion that would jolt me into a greater reality. The reality I am referring to is that God created me a "human being" and not a "human doing". God does not desire a relationship with me because I am a good steward of His gifts. I was created to know Him, and this requires me to "be still". Yes, I will serve with my gifts and talents, but not because I have to or fear living with the guilt of disappointing others. I will serve because He loves me and I love Him. Laurie Beth Jones in "Jesus Life Coach" states that we need to choose between what is good and what is great, and that when all the endless acres of "diamond" opportunities lay before our feet, "we [will] need to be able to understand what to pick up and what to put down". Today, I am going to have to say No, so that I can say yes to what really matters-family, friends, and most importantly, God. What do you need to say no to?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lasting Legacy

...each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 
1 Corinthians 3:13

Driving down a very familiar road, my husband and I were enjoying a quiet afternoon with good company and good conversation. As we trekked further down this serene, county road, I anticipated once again casting my eyes toward a home that had been remodeled into anyone's dream home. The owners had spent several years transforming their once simple abode into a magnificent work of architectural "envy". I was not prepared for what my eyes would behold next. Where once stood the testimony of hard work and creative ingenuity, sat a charred, empty space. This home, the home I had  admired and fawned over, had completely succumbed to the ravages of combustion. The owners must be devastated, I mused. As we continued our course, I couldn't stop thinking about the builders, the owners of this home. I challenged myself by  questioning how I would manage this type of loss? Then I began to think about how God reminds us to build things that can withstand "fire". In fact, He reminds us that the work of our lives will be tested by fire, and that only what is of eternal importance will endure and survive. Careers, degrees hanging on walls, fine homes and eye catching cars will not withstand the heat, but how we manage the people we encounter in our careers, how we use our degrees, homes, and cars to serve humanity will decide what lasts. Today, consider the work of your hands and the state of your heart. Is building a house as important as building a home where spouses, children, family and friends feel loved and wanted? Is having the "dream career" going to outlast the relationships we build along the way during our career? When our fast and eye catching car rusts, and it will, will it dis-enable us to continue carrying a friend through a difficult time? What matters is what lasts. What matters to you? Will it endure, when tested by the fire of life? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vision Restored

And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Genesis 15:5

Yesterday I had an "Abram" moment. I had lost sight of the promises of God. Like Abram, I needed a visual reminder of a God that is bigger than my doubt and fear. Abram must have been ruminating on what he thought was not to be when he stated, "O Lord God, what will you give me, since I am childless....?" I too was ruminating on what may not be, as I found myself pondering on the results of a most recent diagnostic exam. So absorbed in my thinking, that I failed to look outside and see the beauty that rested before me. A beauty that extolled the majesty of God and illuminated the promise hope. It was then that I realized I was allowing my doubt and concern to shroud the sovereignty of a God whose plan is perfect. My focus was turned inward, where darkness concealed hope, and not outward and up toward a God of great vision. I wondered how often I had missed God's message of hope, because the eyes of my soul were cast down. God took Abram outside and told him to look up and count stars. Stars reminded Abram of the covenant promise. Yesterday, I too was reminded to look up and count blessings. As I took in the beauty of the sun's brilliance blanketing the earth's cold and snow, I realized how important it was to look out and up and not in. I wanted to cradle myself in this moment. What are the eyes of your soul cast upon? Do you find darkness or hope? Are you looking inward when you should be looking out and up? Hope is found when we look toward heaven and count God's promises and His blessings. Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us that we can, with great confidence, declare that the "The Lord is our helper and we need not be afraid" (emphasis mine). Today, what is keeping you from looking up and having your vision restored?  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Whatever is True"

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Reluctantly I tossed back the warm, fleece sheets that dons my bed and literally rolled out of bed this morning. I really had no pressing demands that required me to stand upright, but I decided that it was better then allowing my mind to race and ponder upon uncertainties that lay before me. With night grit still in my eyes, I went on autopilot and sat with my Bible open and my brain still in REM mode. After two hours of  read, yawn, and feeble prayer trance mode, I stumbled across an old photo of my dad leading me, and my very young daughter at the time, on his horse. We were all much younger then, but what caught my attention was the smile emanating from the depth of his soul and spread wide across his face. Captured in the moment was a picture of joy. It has been several years since that moment, and I sat wondering what happened. Somewhere along the way my dad lost sight of what was true. We loved him. He was loved by others. But most importantly, he was loved and cared for by God. Somewhere along the way parasites entered his mind and captured his heart. Parasites that spoke lies regarding the hope he had in Christ. An infestation that veiled the truth of the power we have to overcome any adversary and circumstance. A truth that states that "nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable, absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love" (Romans 8:38-39 the MSG). I contemplated how my father could have lost site of this truth. As I sat looking upon past memories with a smile, I was reminded that I too have the same hope my father once held dear-God's love for me and all of His created. A love that is unchangeable in the mist of a changing world. This truth is for everyone, and we all must guard against the lies and daily parasites that threaten to cloud this truth. We must stand like a sentinel against soul sabotaging lies that imprison our hearts and minds and rob us of the joy that belongs to those who are in Christ Jesus. We must dwell on only what is true and honorable and of good repute (Philippians 4:8). Today, know that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from God and the love he lavishes upon us each day, except the lie. What lies are you believing?  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reaping the Harvest

Do not be deceived...whatever a man sows, this he will also reap....Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So...let us do good to all people....Galatians 6:7-10

Yesterday I had a fairly frustrating day. My dear friend and colleague was gracious enough to absorb my expression of this inconvenient day. However, what made my day frustrating was not the events, but my response. Life happens, and it happens everyday. People forget to follow through on their assignments. Family members cast unreasonable, and often unattainable, expectations at our feet. Colleagues work with different ideas on how to accomplish the same goals. Words are cast out of mouths without a safety net to protect tender hearts. Yes, everyday we live in a broken, sin saturated world. However, the harvest we reap in our lives does not come from the actions or words of others, but from the actions and words emanating forth from our response. Yesterday was frustrating, because I responded in frustration. Period. I reaped my harvest based on the seed I had sown. The lesson. If we desire a different harvest then what we find in our "life basket", then we must farm with a different "life seed". If someone forgets, then extend forgiveness and understanding, because one day you will need the same grace when you forget. If someone cast harsh, hurtful words at you, catch them with gentleness in return. One day you will be grateful that your harsh words were caught and cast out. Respond with the same response you desire. Yesterday I ate sour grapes, but today those grapes are sweet. The difference? I choose to plant with a different "life seed" today. What is in your "life garden"? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Living Life as an Investment

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of  wisdom. Psalm 90:12

As I lay in bed this morning mulling over how I am to approach a student who has been cheating on my biology exams, I began to rehearse my responses to her deception. Do I humiliate her in a subtle, calculated way, so that she will remember to cheat in My class no more? Should I use shame to coerce her into honesty? Do I sweetly confront and present loving pats on her back and kindly platitudes to her ears so that she feels good about herself, but does not count the cost of her Sin? What is my response to be? And then I awake to Psalm 90. A psalm that reminds me to plead out, "O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!" (Jonathan Edwards) A psalm that declares that what is temporal is going to pass away, and that what matters most in life is eternity. Eternity. As I think about eternity, I realize now that my response to this student must be an investment into her heart that will lead her back to the God that lovingly created her and desires her to gain a "heart of wisdom". I must respond with a wisdom that understands that the "Word of God and the souls of men" (Holman Old Testament Commentary) are the only two things going to be ushered into eternity. It does, then, matter how I approach this young student. In fact, everything we do matters. Every action, thought, word, and intention rings a note into eternity. Considering eternity, I must step back and ask whether or not I am investing my life or spending it. In this Psalm Moses reminds us that we are under the constant sentence of death, and that we must seek wisdom on how to invest these few, small years we have. Will I confront this student today? Yes, because her eternity depends upon it. Will I, however, point her towards me as being the one transgressed upon? No, because I am not God. What will matter is my response. It matters that I love her and remind her of a God that sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for her and "take away the sins of the world" (John 1:9). My response matters, because eternity resonates, or should, in my heart today. What matters to you today? Getting revenge, or seeking restoration for a soul side lined by sin? Eternity requires our souls not our personal agendas. Today, I will choose to invest my life, so that another soul will see the value of serving Christ. How about you? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Constantly Nourished

...constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine.... 1 Timothy 4:6

Well, I am back from sunny, warm Central Florida. I brought back lots of citrus and great memories. I left skid marks on the aisle, as I walked off the plane and into cold weather and life's responsibility. I was not disappointed, as the air was cold and laundry awaited my attention. Additionally, I awoke this morning to a furnace that decided to pause and an inside home temp of 59 degrees. Welcome back, I thought to myself. I layered in warm clothes and began to sort and put dirty clothes into the washing machine. Not my laundry, but my families laundry. Perhaps they forgot that the machine does all the work? Here I am, and New Year's resolution number five is already being put to the test: "Do all things that you will...appear as lights in the world." (Philippians 2:14) So, what do I do with this "reality" test?  I choose to live "constantly nourished on the words of faith". I will choose to believe God when He tells me that I do not have to worry about the necessary things in life, for He already knows what I need before I ask (Matthew 6). I will choose to nourish my mind  with thoughts that are true (I have a great husband and two wonderful daughters), honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise (thank you, God, for a washing machine, warm clothing, food, resources to repair my broken furnace, and steady employment for my husband) (Phil. 4:8 emphasis mine). I will not allow the parasite of complaining to rob me from living a life "constantly nourished" on the truths of God. Today, I will choose to live "content in whatever circumstances I am in" (Phil. 4:11). What are you allowing to "nourish" your soul? Is it based on truth? What parasites are robbing you of standing firm in God's faithful promises? Today, I challenge you to stay "constantly nourished on the words of faith". It begins by opening up these Words and taking the first bite.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Living Saturated

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts.... Romans 5:5
Visiting my sister's church last night, the worship team sang an unfamiliar chorus. Although I did not know the song, I did know the message. The song's message was about hope: "Let hope swell in our lives." Hope. It is the reason I get out of bed each morning. In fact, hope is the reason you got out of bed and are reading this blog entry. We all cling to the belief that in the midst of life's greatest challenges and trials, we can find a nugget of truth that will move us forward to the next step in our lives. Hope is why we write and contemplate resolutions each new year. We are hopeful that our intentions will produce fruitful outcomes. Hope allows us to believe that the sins we committed in 2011 will become the triumphs of 2012. Hope-Hearts Open to Promise. But what happens when the challenges we face do not fade, and the trial we are in becomes more heated? What do we do when the kindness we resolved to display backfires and we find ourselves standing in the pool of someone's anger? What if the body we resolved to morph into a sculpted masterpiece remains unchanged? What happens when loss enters our comfort zone, or the expectations we place on life changes and we find ourselves standing in the midst of a deep, dark valley? Do we then throw our hands up and forget that it was Hope that opened our hearts up to promise? If hope is going to "swell up in our lives", then we need to live saturated. We need to let hope drive all doubt away. Hope reminds me that when I sin there is forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And that I awake to brokenness each morning, but that I serve a God who promises to make all things new (Revelation 21:1-6). Hope reminds me that when I break my resolutions and promises, that He, God, is faithful and will never Give up on me (1 Cor. 1:9 MSG). Hope reminds me the "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) when others punctuate my imperfections. Hope  allows me to see a Shepherd, Christ, who leaves the entire flock to search for me when I have lost my way, and promises abundant life in Him (John 10). I can live in the reality of this sin stained, broken world, because God's love is poured out over me and He gives me Hope. I awoke this morning to a God that has promised that His "compassions never fail, [because] they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). This is why I can get out of bed each day and know that my God is faithful to restore my brokenness and sin through His love and Son Jesus Christ. To live saturated is to live with Hope. When I allow Hope to pour over my soul, then there is no room for anything to compete. Today, let the promises of God saturate your heart and mind and restore your soul.