Do You want a “Stable” Life?

img_3766We love Christmas. Advent reminds us of the wonder of childhood. And it’s an amazing and wonder-filled story, isn’t it!? After riding a donkey all day, Joseph and his wife Mary, a virgin, arrive in Bethlehem with her in labor — to deliver our King in a stable!

We were in a restaurant having dinner, just minutes from the hospital when my daughter-in-law was in labor… and my son and I were nervous to get her to a good, sterile place for a safe delivery!

But Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a room… the city was booked. A feeding trough in a cave filled with livestock was their best bet.IMG_1035

I heard a story about a 3rd grade Christmas Pageant. The Inn Keeper dressed in sheets had one line, “There is no room at the Inn,” but when he heard “Joseph” explain young “Mary’s” predicament, compassion overtook him and he went off script, “okay, come on in. We’ll find somewhere for you.” We might all do the same!

But our Sovereign God is intentional… nothing in the Bible story is off script or a Plan B detour.

Jesus came from heaven to earth to live among us; He lived a sinless life.  He freely chose to bear our sins, to pay our debt with His life, so that through Him we will never be condemned — though without Him, we deserved the wrath of God.

IMG_5886He would be born in a humble stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. He would perform many miracles, and teach with Wisdom unexplainable. But He would also be rejected and scorned. The “Inn crowd” would not recognize or accept Him. He would be greeted by shepherds (the lowliest, dirtiest crowd) and dine with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. His crowning Glory — the plan from the beginning — was His gruesome death on a Cross. He came to Save each of us, if only we’ll believe.

But the trouble is, as I have told you before, you haven’t believed even though you have seen me. But some will come to me—those the Father has given me—and I will never, never reject them. For I have come here from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to have my own way. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the Last Day. For it is my Father’s will that everyone who sees his Son and believes on him should have eternal life—that I should raise him at the Last Day.” (John 6:36-40, TLB)

IMG_1134“O Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. It gives wonderful insight into why Jesus left heaven:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

“And the soul felt its worth.” Jesus left heaven to rescue you because you are of great worth to Him. God loves you so much that He gave His very life so that you could be with Him forever.” (Michael Youssef)

If there had only been YOU, He still would have come. His love for YOU drove Him from his throne in Heaven to  a lowly stable on earth, to die and be raised to life to set YOU free. You, my friend,  are completely loved  — just as YOU are — by the Creator God of the universe. His Son Jesus, is His personal Gift to you.

Have you opened your incomparable Christmas gift yet?

Are you feeling anything as you’re reading? Could it be Him stirring your soul? God makes Himself known… and when He does, you’ll know it. Don’t be too smart, too proud, too anything to miss His gift, Jesus Christ.

“So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense.

He has chosen a plan despised by the world, counted as nothing at all, and used it to bring down to nothing those the world considers great, so that no one anywhere can ever brag in the presence of God.”  (I Corinthians 28-20, 28-29 TLB)

IMG_1142Do not harden you heart when He stirs you with the worth of your soul and His great love. What good is a gift that is never opened?

How then shall we to respond to this unbelievable act of love and grace? Listen to “O Holy Night” with fresh ears and an open heart. The end of the song provides the answer: Christ’s sacrifice (lowly birth, sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection) is a call for each of us to fall on our knees in surrender, worship, gratitude and adoration.

How may God be inviting you (personally) to respond to Him today?

Christ in your heart is your only hope of glory. He must reside IN you. Have you accepted Him? Not just believed the story in your mind? “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19 TLB)

Matthew 7:21-23 says “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’  But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.'”

Intellectual understanding or belief is not all He is asking.  Going to church isn’t the ticket. Giving and serving are not your admissions price — God has infinite resources.

IMG_1132He wants your heart. Your surrender. Your worship. The God of the universe wants an intimate and personal relationship with YOU through sincere conversation (prayer and reading your Bible). Would you talk to Him now?

If you already know you are saved, know Him and love Him — His gentle words will be even more direct and personal. The more we return to Him and spend time seeking His face and understanding who He is, the more peaceful and joyful our lives will be. The more you and I will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus — and God will be glorified in our beautiful worship!

In the midst of the wonderful energy and excitement of the coming weekend, I pray your soul feels its worth. And that with all that is in you, you find time to praise His holy name. Merry Christmas.IMG_1139

 

 

Is Prayer Your Steering Wheel? Or Your Spare Tire?

“How are you?”

Traditionally, we’ve answered, “fine.” But more commonly, the new answer is — “BUSY!  I’ve been crazy busy. Not sure what I’m even doing.”

Fine implied a sense of well-being. Busy suggests our time is occupied. But how we are doing has a lot to do with what and Whom is occupying our lives.

IMG_3079I long for peace, stillness, quiet — but I feel busy, distracted, overwhelmed and scattered much of the time. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing. Which begs the question — what do I WANT to be doing? What really matters?

We frequently talk about our goals and priorities. But we can’t truthfully have priorities unless we are willing to STOP doing one thing in order to do the better thing. So many of us constantly ADD to our schedules… saying yes to the next thing without ever subtracting anything! All of us are stewards of the same 24 hour day. Which of your priorities is getting squeezed out due to your chronic busyness?

IMG_4110For many Christians, Jesus (seeking His face) gets lost in our fast paced busyness. We profess that prayer, worship, praise, petitioning God, and reading our Bibles is foundational to our Christian walk. Of utmost importance to us. But some days we barely squeeze in a minute at bedtime to sigh… “Lord please forgive me, bless me and those I love, and please — could I sleep through the night, just this once? I’m so tired.”

We believe these few moments are all we can afford to give Him. Recently I had a 16-month period worthy of a country song.  Three weddings, my father’s death, my first grand daughter’s birth, a fire, and a move. Complete with their own caprice, all were squeezed into my already crazy busy life.

I wish I could say it was my priority on maintaining a rich and constant prayer life that got me through this overwhelming season. In truth,  my prayer life shifted to one of abiding prayer (I was with God: thankful and aware of Him), but my time devoted solely to being in His presence was inconsistent at best. I believed I was just too busy for daily, deep, relational prayer time.

IMG_4032I want to change that moving forward… because “normal” only exists as a setting on my dryer! “Normal” days won’t magically follow this “season.” Maybe I will have a little reprieve, but not for long. Life keeps coming. I’m responsible to choose how I will be.

I needed union with God through all the craziness. I don’t need to take another step without the Holy Spirit’s hand. I’ve missed out on blessings these last months by letting distraction and busyness curb my prayer life — why?

Even when we say we say we WANT to make prayer a priority, we’re neglectful. Following are two simple reasons:

  • We believe the lie that we don’t have time.
  • We don’t believe the Truth that prayer will really make a difference in our lives — that it’s necessary.

First — you and I both have time. How much time do you spend watching TV? (average is 5 hours a day) On social networks? (average is over 2 hours/ day) — you get my drift. Screen addiction is real! As are the idols of worshipping our children, work, hobbies, etc. Whatever it is you are doing, we all make time for what we want to do. For Who we love.

We know the right answers. Maybe we need compelling reasons to believe in and obey God’s command to pray.

Prayer — stepping away for quiet, devoted time with His Father — was necessary even for Jesus, who was God! He knew his time on earth was short, yet in the midst of His demanding, important ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, saving the world form destruction and teaching about God — He frequently slipped away to a solitary place. Left all the many miracles He could do… to be with His Father (Mark 1).

IMG_4685If anyone could have justified busyness it was Jesus. One with God. Always successful. Always good. Infinitely able — but He consistently left demands and to-do lists undone to be alone with God the Father in prayer. It was His priority. And he knew it was necessary and fruitful. How much more so for us — no matter what all we have on our plates?

Jesus said not to even try doing life without ample time spent seeking Him. It would amount to nothing!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

While He was on earth Jesus himself was dependent on spending vital time in prayer with the Father. How much more so should we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord.  Jesus knew prayer to the Father was necessary on this earth.

IMG_4300In John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

And we try to rationalize that we are too busy, important, overwhelmed… to pray?

God made us to do good works… the opposite of busyness isn’t laziness. But when our prayer life falters, we easily land in a sloth of distracted activities (maybe seemingly productive), but it’s just fruitless busyness without God at the center. How much better all our efforts would be (even if we had less time to give to service and work), if we refused to squeeze out God. Do we really believe that? Do we believe His Word?

It’s a matter of the heart. Am I a people pleaser, proud of my accomplishments, relying on my own strengths and ability to perform? Do I have something to prove? Am I over achieving? A martyr? Seeking comfort and ease? How am I making life about me? The list is endless.

Why am I doing “this” (fill in with our current excuse) and claiming it leaves me little time for prayer? We are finite. Time is finite. We need to embrace our inabilities and believe that God is the One who accomplishes all things. The Bible doesn’t tell us we’ll be held accountable for outcomes. We will, however, answer for disobedience and how well we KNOW Him.

IMG_4080We are too busy (like Martha, reprimanded for doing what did indeed need to get done), if we cannot sit listening at the feet of Jesus when it’s appropriate. Mary was commended for doing the better thing in Luke 10:38-42 . When I am too involved, overwhelmed, pressed, etc. for unhurried time in prayer, the Word, and the Presence of God — I am too busy. No excuses. Just repentance.

God and time with Him must be my undisputed priority. With God at #1 all the worthy and wonderful second things can fall into place. If I make ANY second things first, nothing can work well — not even a country song.  God demands the worship that is rightly His (Exodus 20:5).

How’s your prayer life?  Today is the day to make God and prayer our undisputed top priority.

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)IMG_3650

title credit to Corrie Ten Boon

 

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On the 13th Anniversary of my 40th Birthday

I read an article a few days ago assuring 40-somethings that increased life expectancies and healthier lifestyles have pushed the official midlife age from 41 to 53! How wonderful… for THEM! My Granny Mabel lived to 107 (giving me 6 more months to the half way point) — but no matter how I slice it, dice it or determine to define it — “midlife” is in the house.IMG_5052

Reading on, that scholarly article said, “You are seen as middle-aged if you enjoy afternoon naps, choose comfort over style and groan when you bend down.” Busted.

I take comfort in the fact that when I ran into my similarly-aged doctor at the tennis courts last week, he said, “At our age, if you aren’t hurting, you aren’t moving enough!”

I’ve written about midlife several times in the last few years. It’s definitely been a journey. But lately there have been BIG things to process. And everything points in the same direction — sort of a changing of the guard. After a lifetime of my focus being primarily mom and homemaker, this new season is not just an age.

Recent mid life changes bring with them a lot a heightened perspective as I celebrate – yes, CELEBRATE – that I am 53! So, what’s been happening?

ONE –All three of my children will be married within 15 months — two down, one to go. As they start new families (I’m grateful to be blessed with two beautiful daughter-in-laws and a wonderful soon to be son-in-law), I am full of joy. It’s an answer to many years of prayer for their some day spouses. We are close and see each other pretty often, but by definition, I have become their “family of origin” as they create distinctively new family units.

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Webster’s Definition of Family

  1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
  2. all the descendants of a common ancestor  —  I have moved to definition number two in reference to my children — still important! but secondary — HOWEVER, I have a chance to make up for lost time with ROB who now shares my #1 family definition with no one (except two adorable Springer Spaniels!). Despite appearances, the picture below is from a Wedding Luau Celebration and NOT an old folks cruise. We can still hang til midnight with the 20-somethings — listening to “our” 70s and 80s music that they claim as theirs! IMG_4777

The many emotional changes and challenges involved in my growing and aging family really mean that things are are as they should be. And I am certain God has an abundant, new plan for us all moving forward. He will use everything for our good. All is well.

And lest we think of “slowing down,” Rob’s given me two more adult children in the pipeline to keep us busy and active!

TWO — Full circle, I’m going back to the name of my earliest years: Easie. I will be a grandmother soon! A beautiful baby girl is on her way, and I’m already smitten. Tears fill my eyes as I type about her. I’m so excited to love her, meet her, hold her and watch her parents raise her.  I’m certain they will be amazing parents.

I am so proud, but a grandmother?!?  I’ve looked forward to this… but in my dreams it was always in the distant future. Grannies are plump, grey-haired, smiling, available, loving… could it be I’m becoming one? I’ve been getting a jumpstart lately on that “crown of splendor.” Again, all is well and as it should be, and God is on the move.

IMG_3041THREE — And I am moving. Not much more about that here, but Rob and I will soon be residents of Georgia. Know anyone who wants a great family home in Tallahassee?

Either God has a great plan for us in a new place, or we have misunderstood. 😉 Either way we are in His loving care and desire to follow Him, and that’s always a safe and adventurous place.

But it’s not easy. Home maker is a big part of who I’ve been. I’m beginning to emotionally divorce myself from this home I love. A home God provided to offer me peace, beauty, rest, and close proximity to my parents, just when all were most needed. I’m going through the many bins (5 children’s worth) of keepsakes and memory albums. Letters to Santa, poems, cards written with crayons. Handprints and endless artistic treasures.

Christmas morning photos… some of the sweetest memories.  And some of the hardest to let go of. Am I really finished raising children? Am I really the grandparent generation? I am, and it’s part of the passing years of time.

But God (the promise and hope in those two words will be the title of a post to come)… But God is a God of the present. His work in us is always redemptive. He has plans for all my family moving forward. Different than it has been, but Glorious just the same.

FOUR — My dad recently passed away. Tears of a different flavor flow as I type this.IMG_4685

It’s still too soon to write much about Daddy. Of course, God is my ultimate Protector, Provider, Advisor, and Father. But He gave me my Dad (and more recently, Rob) to put some skin on Who He is. To show me a Father’s love. I feel a vulnerability with Dad’s passing.

I am forever changed because of the part of me Daddy took with him. Nothing prepared me for losing my father. I’ve been distracted, unproductive and sad. I tear up at all sorts of reminders that all is now different in my world. I’ve learned that grieving can’t be rushed and must be felt.

If you’re over 45 you’ll get this: I feel like the same “me” on the inside as I was at 30. In the same vane, my vision of “family” exists in a world where I have parents, grandparents, siblings, children and grandchildren —  all the generations I have ever known and loved — together in one life, just as they are in my heart. The reality of my vision only exists in heaven. But OH WHAT A PROMISE!

I woke up on my birthday waxing philosophical and wanting to write after a long dry spell. Looking back at my life I am sure of one thing in the midst of overwhelming changes. God has been, is and will be faithful.

IMG_4300Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Psalms 119:90  “Your  faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.”

And I will place my full faith in God who loves me completely and has never let me down.

Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I am so grateful for the promise God gives us that all His children will be reunited one day in Heaven — from every generation and time. It motivates me to live differently here today.

I want to talk to everyone about Jesus. About how we can be assured of God’s love and our heavenly home for eternity. It’s what really matters. After 53 years I have so many wonderful examples of what God has done in my life — stories of His redemptive work, His faithfulness and His love.

And God-willing, I have half a life left to share HIM with anyone who will listen! The rest is in His hands. Hallelujah!

Anybody can know God and know you have eternal salvation through Jesus. Just pray something like this with all your heart —

God, I know I’ve sinned.  I need your forgiveness,  I believe you sent Jesus, your Son, to earth to live and die and to be raised from the dead. His blood was shed to pay for my sins, so I can be forgiven. I believe Jesus offers a free gift as an answer for my eternal life and for this life.  I receive this gift of eternal life. I want a personal relationship with you, God. Not a religious relationship only, but one where I know You love me, I love You, and You live in me and through me — to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. I love you God, and thank you for loving me. Amen.