Thursday, April 25, 2013

Standing on the Sidelines

Hey Friend,

With all the evil taking place in this world...I dedicate this post to encouraging men and women of faith to rise up and share their faith with those lost and living in a dark world.

When Nicole was six and a half and Steven was two, Nicole used to have soccer games on Saturday mornings.  I would go and cheer her on from the sidelines.  Steven, however, was not content to merely stand on the sideline, he wanted to be IN the game and would pull away from me and run onto the field after the ball.  One morning, after multiple times of scooping my son off the field, the ref kindly suggested that I go elsewhere.  Embarrassed, Steven and I slunk our way to the safety of the nearby play area.

Lately, I've been asking myself, why don't I have the tenacity that my two year old had? Why, when it comes to sharing my faith am I content to stand on the sidelines?  Perhaps one answer is procrastination (after all it has taken me 52 years to finally write my blog).  It is so easy to say, "I'll do that tomorrow."  Satan is all too glad when we let laziness overcome our conviction.  But, the reality is...our days are numbered.

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  (Psalm 90:12)

And, not to be morbid, what if tomorrow never comes?  Or how do we know how much time we have?

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."  (2 Peter 3:10)

Another hindrance is self-doubt.  We doubt our ability to share eloquently the good news of the gospel.  But God doesn't care about our ability, He cares about our availability.  Get in the game and the coach (God) will call the plays and give you the words.  Sometimes we are suited up to go into the game, but when the Coach actually says, "You're in", we freeze like a deer in the headlights.  Don't despair though, you are in good company.  Many famous leaders like Moses, Jonah and the Apostles wanted to run the other way when God called them to be a light unto His people. Eventually, though, they obeyed. 

Mix in a good old dose of fear and we'll stand on the sidelines forever.  But God has not given us a spirit of fear...

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.  (2 Timothy 1:7)

Being a light unto a dark world will call you outside your comfort zone.  I can guarantee that, but you don't go alone.

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."  (Exodus 23:20)

We need to be about the Lord's business.  That is our calling.  We need to be a giant directional arrow pointing to God.  Where's your arrow pointing?

"Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day."  (1 Chronicles 16:23)

The world needs you.  Only you can share your personal testimony.  It is your thumbprint and no two prints are alike.  Someone, somewhere, needs to hear what you have to say in only the way that you can say it.  God has uniquely equipped you to spread the good news through words and deeds.

So I ask you, "Are you content to stand on the sidelines?"  Or are you ready to say, "Coach put me in?"

"No one knows the exact hour of Christ's return not even Christ himself."  (Mark 13:32)

I pray you will go with God's speed into the game, bravely throwing off all hindrances, and making a mark in a way only you can do!



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Practicing Thankfulness

Hey Friend,

With all the wondrous gifts God has bestowed upon us, you would think that we wouldn't have to "practice" thankfulness.  But, we are sinful, fallen creatures and with that comes a natural bent toward  selfishness.  Selfishness can breed a critical spirit.

How often do we see it happen that nine out of ten things are going right, but we will focus on the one thing going wrong?  Conversely, nine things could be going wrong; one very good thing going right, and we forget to say thank you to God?

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all  His benefits..."  (Psalm 103: 2-4).

A friend of mine once told me to "practice with the small stuff." How often do we overlook the small blessings, let alone the big blessings?  After my knee surgery, I pulled into the Target parking lot.  Thinking I'd have to park out in the back forty, I groaned.  Just then a spot right in front opened up.  "Thank you God,"  I praised Him.  Small stuff, but definitely worthy of praise!

I have my own little form of sign language I created as a way to thank God (silly I know), but I touch my fist to my heart; I then kiss my fist (symbolizing my heart); then I open up my hand pointing one finger up to God as a way of releasing my kiss and my thankfulness to God above.

Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of our lips that confess His name.  (Hebrews 13:15).

A friend once drove by when I was walking Zoe (my dog) and she saw me pointing up to the sky.  "What were you looking at and pointing to?"  she later asked me.  "Oh," I said, slightly embarrassed, "that's just my sign language for thanking God for the sunshine."

"From the fullness of His grace, we have received one blessing after another."  (John 1:16).

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."  (Psalm 107:1).

You know it's hard to be grumpy and thankful at the same time.  Thankfulness, other than being what God calls us to, is a mood lifter.  Here are some simple ways to practice thankfulness. (Warning, some of these may be best done alone lol!):

*  Put praise music on in the kitchen and lift up your hands in praise.

*  If you are a dancer, dance your thankfulness to God.  (Dance like no one is
    watching.)  "Let them praise his name with dancing... (Psalm 149:3).

*  Even if you can't sing (like me) sing along with Christian radio in your car.

*  Write or journal a simple prayer of thanksgiving to God.

*  Tell your family what you are thankful for at the end of each day.

*  Dedicate a run, walk, game played, drawing created, or instrumental piece
    played to the Lord.  I will even dedicate my sink of dirty dishes unto
    the Lord as I wash them.

*  Begin your prayers with an opening of thanksgiving.  "...but in everything,
    by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to
    God."  (Philippians 4:6).

*  Get creative...

One of my favorite quotes is: "When I met Christ, I felt that I had swallowed sunshine."  (E. Stanley Jones)

Will you join me this week in practicing thankfulness and go out and share a little of that sunshine?  Your heart, and God, will be glad you did!



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wrestling With God

Hey Friend,

Lately I have been wrestling with God.  Yes, you read that correctly - wrestling.  I've been asking God, "Why?"  Why did I go through a painful surgery and five months of rehab only to be at a place where I have very limited mobility?  Lord, you know the past few years have been more than difficult on many levels (ref: Church Lady? I Think Not), so why this?  Who am I...Job?

Well meaning well-wishers have reminded me it could always be worse.  Yes, no matter what we are going through, somehow it could always be worse.  I promise I will never invalidate what you are going through by giving you that cliché response.

I used to think that I always had to pray "pretty prayers" before God.  But, as my relationship has grown with God, I have come to know that my conversation with God can be riddled with why's and doubts and fears.  My prayers are often not even words; they are so painful.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

Wrestling connotes a close and engaging give and take.  You can't wrestle from afar.  Sometimes wrestling hurts and is painful.  Sometimes we struggle against God.  Often we are sad, angry, disappointed or all of the above.

In the Psalms, David wrestled with God.  He cried out to God on occasions too many to count asking, why?

"Why, oh Lord do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"  (Psalm 10:1)

Yet God still called David a man after His own heart. 

Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, wrestled with His Father.  He cried out,

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matthew 27:46)

Jacob wrestled one night with a stranger whom he recognized as God's representative, and asked him for a blessing.  The man then bestowed a new name upon him: Israel.  This name means "he strives (or wrestles) with God ." It is based upon a rare form of Hebrew for striving (yisar) and one of the words for God (El).

The common denominator - all of those who wrestled with God saw ultimate victory.  God did not shun or condemn those who wrestled with Him.  Our God is much bigger than that.  He can handle our anger, doubt and fear.  He wants to have a close and personal relationship with us even if it means we will wrestle with Him.

In order for there to be victory, there must be struggle.

Trust Love's heart.  He can bring triumph from our trial(s).

God grew His beloved nation Israel out of Jacob's struggle with Him.  God is more concerned about our character than our ease of living.  In His great love he allows us to be purified in the crucible of struggle, but he promises we will not be burned or consumed.  We will emerge victorious!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  (Romans 8:37).

If you are wrestling right now...know that the victory is coming!



Friday, April 5, 2013

You Are Covered In Love And Prayer

Hey Friend,

Do you know that if you are reading this you are covered in love and prayer?  Ever since you started reading my blog, I have prayed for you each and every day; day and night.  If this is your first time, I am praying for you as I type these words.  I lift you and your needs, wants and desires up before God.  I ask that God would speak to you where you are and wrap His ever-lasting arms around you.  The Bible instructs us to pray for one another, but I want to pray for you. It is my privilege!

God knows your name and He loves you even more than I do.  When I started this blog, I had small goals - Lord help me reach just one person with reassurance of your sacrificial love.  God, in His tremendous way, has hit that dream out of the ball park.  He's like that, you know, always exceeding our wildest imagination.  It's no coincidence you are reading this.  He wanted you here.

I've been taking some time off to spend with family, but will be back at it next week.  Meanwhile, I invite you to meditate on these scriptures.  And, perhaps read some of the posts you may have missed.

And we have this command from Him:  the one who loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:21)

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous. (1 Peter 3:8)

I'll end this post by praying this blessing over you:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
 and give you peace.
Know you are loved,