Sunday, February 28, 2021

When God Says, "No"

Hey Friend,

I had been gathering "life research" for almost sixty years. I'd journalled, written blog posts, and stored up experiences and lessons in my mind, all the while asking God, "Is it time, yet?" To which He'd whisper to my heart, "Not yet."

So, when I got this undeniable nudge, from God, in the early months of 2020 to begin writing the book which had been churning around inside me, this thoroughbred hit the dirt running as if the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby had suddenly been thrown open.

COVID-19 hit and I buckled down even more - almost glad to have more time to write without distraction. I was blessed to participate in an awesome but grueling book proposal bootcamp. For months, I forgot to eat meals and the hours flew by as I hunkered down writing words I was certain God ordained for me to write. 

I'd dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl and here, just before my 60th birthday, it was going to come true. Except it didn't. Ultimately, seven writers' proposals were chosen for potential publication. Mine wasn't one of them. 

"Why, God?" I whined. That's not fair I thought to myself. I'd sacrificed a lot and had put many important relationships on "hold" to pursue what I was certain was God's calling. It made no sense. Why would God call me to it only to just say, "No?"

When God says, "No," our reaction is to think He's not being fair. 

As my dad used to say, "Fair is where you go to get cotton candy." (grumble, grumble)

If I was a writer for a magazine and my editor asked me to write a story for the upcoming edition then told me she wasn't going to print it, I would be justified in saying, "That's not fair."

But, God is not my employer and I'm not His employee. He is my Father and I am His child and that changes things dramatically. Sometimes Fatherly love and wisdom together equal a "no." I need only remember times Ive said "no" to my children - not because I wanted to steal there joy but because I saw the bigger picture. Perhaps I was protecting them from something, or perhaps my "no" was leading to an even more important "yes." I knew better because I was the parent.

As God's children we don't get everything we ask for because we don't really know what's best for us. 

Here are a few categories in which God says, "No.":

1. Sin: God will always say "no" to sin. We're not just talking about the "big" sins like murder, stealing, or adultery. Actually sin is sin and it's the more insidious sins like jealousy, pride, anger, or wrong attitudes that trip us up. It's not a sin to experience anger, but if I lash out at my husband because of how I feel, that's sin. Or, if someone wrongs me and I harbor unforgiveness because I feel justified in clinging to my grudge, I'm sinning. 

God gives us the guardrails of His Word. When we obey and stay within their confines we experience joy. 

When God says, "No" to our sin, He is fighting for our ultimate joy.

2. Comfort: God often says, "No" to our comfort. We are to make ourselves "living sacrifices" according to God's Word (Romans 12:1). I admit I have tried to wiggle off the sacrificial altar a time or ten. When I have to choose between my comfort or dying to my comfort, it's not fun. God is asking whether I will choose self or am I willing to dye to self? Sacrifice is not comfortable.

I can relay many stories about experiencing anything but comfort. If given a choice, I imagine few of us would choose pain and suffering over comfort and happiness. Hindsight is 20/20. When I look back over those times, it is clear God was in the process of humbling me or transforming me. In Luke 9:23 we are encouraged to take up our cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Taking up our cross will not be comfortable.

We won't experience true Life unless we die to self.

3.  Dreams: God will occassionally say, "No" to dreams. When this happens, like it did to me, we want to shout, "Why?" - especially if we feel we are in line with His will. This is when we have to embrace perhaps the hardest challenge - to look beyond the "WHY" and focus on the "WHO" saying, "No." 

Why? = Focus on me.      Who? = Focus on God.

When I focus on what I don't get, I've forgotten about what I have already received.

I have received the very best "YES" - my salvation which I did not deserve.

I deserved death, but God said, "NO" to death and "YES" to life for me.

Jesus, literally sweating blood, begged His Father to be spared from the cup of a tortuous death on the cross and God gave a "no" that forever changed the world. We can measure God's compassion by the cross - the seizmic "no" that threw open wide the gates of heaven for us.

God doesn't need to explain Himself to me. Perhaps I need to embrace the answer I didn't want because it is leading to joy beyond my wildest imagination. Or maybe, I need to embrace the "no" because I am being transformed into Christ's image and He accepted the greatest "no" that was ever given...for me.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have given me so many blessings. Enable me to accept the "no's" graciously. I praise you I have an eternal "yes" because Jesus accepted the greatest "no" in order to save me. Teach me to respond as Jesus did, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Let me dwell in your Word so that I may be obedient in obeying your commands and run from sin. Help me not to value my comfort too greatly and be willing to serve others by sacrificing my time, talent, and treasure. I acknowledge your "no" may be paving the way to a greater "yes." But, even if not, let me humbly accept your sovereignty, mystery, and unfathomable goodness, even when my dream is not answered in the affirmative. Let me lean into the "Who" and forget the "Why?" It is in the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

What about you...has God ever said "no" to you? What was your reaction? Was God trying to protect you? Transform you? Humble you? Do you ever squirm under the call to be a living sacrifice? Any lessons you've learned that you'd care to share?  

Be Blessed...

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

How Can I Smile at the Future?

Hey Friend,

For several months I've felt like the character Tom Hanks plays in the movie Castaway. Hanks, a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, has one friend on the entire island - "Wilson" - played by a Wilson volleyball.

My situation hasn't been that dire, since the refrigerator is only steps away, but I have been alone with "Dell," my laptop, in my writer's world - gritting it out in a book proposal bootcamp. I developed a pinched nerve in my elbow from all the clicking away on Dell's keys. I haven't seen or talked to friends in months. It's been a focused, awesome, grueling, lonely existence.

After going from 1000 to 100, I found out on Monday that I didn't make the final seven who will most likely go on to having their books published. I won't lie - the disappointment hit hard especially due to the sacrifice of missed time with those I love. 

I'm leaning in to find out what God would have me learn from this whole experience. Afterall, it was at His shoving that got me started writing this book in the first place. What up, God?

Most of my life, I have entertained the notion that I've got to be continually on the move building God's kingdom. Everything I do has to have an eternal good purpose. Talk about self-pressure?!

I can't remember the last time I read a fiction book for pleasure. Is this what God wants for me?

I also admit to feeling an urgency in sharing the hope that is in me because I believe the days are evil and numbered. I don't see the rapture being some far off event seen only in the distance of the high beams. 

Jesus implores us to be ready for His coming which could happen at any time (Mark 13:33-37). What response are we to have? This is what I gleaned from a recent rereading of Revelation:

1.  Obedience: We are to be living in obedience to God's word. We are to not only be hearers of His word, but faithful doers. This chaotic and lost world is watching us and we need to live in such a way that we are not ashamed of our behavior. How would you appraise your behavior in terms of will or Thy will?

2.  Worship: God has provided a way to escape His end-time judgments - His free gift of salvation offered through Jesus. Our job is to receive His salvation and live in gratitude before Him. Our worship on earth will one day become worship in heaven. What song are you currently singing?

3.  Proclamation: The message of God's gift of salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truth of His second coming need to be proclaimed for all to hear, especially to those who don't yet believe. We must give everyone the chance to turn to God, repent, and be saved. Revelation 22:10 says, "And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What are you doing to proclaim this life-saving message?

4.  Service: As believers we should be diligent about carrying out God's will and performing good works. Yes, this has become more challenging during COVID distancing, but there are creative ways of serving others. We do not enter heaven based on our works, but 2 Corinthians 5:10 says this, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." You are saved by grace, but what will God say about how you used the gifts given to you?

No, this is not meant to be a giant guilt trip. I have always taken these precepts a little too legalistically which is not God's intent. I need less guilt and more joy in my obedience. 

I felt a certain urgency in proclaiming God's love and faithfulness through writing a book. I have served others by founding a Christian non-profit which brings the Good News to a dark corner of the world. Those are big things, but maybe, my obedience, worship, proclamation, and service need to be based more on the everyday right now?! How can I encourage someone who is discouraged and downtrodden by this pandemic? How can I be a friend to someone who is lonely or suffering? How can I serve those I abandoned while chasing the grandiose?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to get back to basics - loving those around me in my everyday world. Let my life-arrow point to Jesus in the grocery store check-out line, as I walk my dog and greet my neighbors, in lifting my voice in worship as I wash the dishes. 

Sometimes God calls us to extraordinary challenges...and sometimes He calls us to simply know and love Him and love our neighbor as ourself. If I know God - I mean really KNOW Him because I've spent countless hours with Him to the point that thoughts of the future bring eagerness and comfort, then I'm walking in His will and can smile about what is to come. Second, what have I done for my literal neighbor lately? 

I'm going to bake something and take it to my nextdoor neighbor. I'm going to write a note to my other neighbor battling pancreatic cancer. I'm going to pick up some flowers for my elderly neighbor who lives alone. I'm going to think of creative ways to be Christ to the next person with whom I come in contact. What about you? How do you plan to be mistaken for Jesus? How might this help you smile at the future?

Will you share some ideas you've done or want to take on to pursue obedience, worship, proclamation, and service?

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Friday, January 29, 2021

Will You Settle for "Return to Normal?"

Hey Friend,

"I just want things to return to normal," I heard the woman lament as she stood six feet in front of me in the grocery checkout line.

Her words rolled around in my head and I admit part of me longed for the "good old days" simply because I'm frazzled, weary, and my fuse has grown short. But, her words contradicted what I had just read in Hebrews during my early morning quiet time.

God told Abraham to pull up stakes in his cozy little hometown of Ur. Why? Because God was going to take him to a place, a land rich with milk and honey, which would be his ineritance. 

Abraham, being a God-fearing man, agreed. The Bible says that Abraham "Went out, even though he didn't know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8). Before he got to the land God had promised him, Abraham lived through some hard times - in tents mind you. His worries were greater than, "Will I be able to get toilet paper and hand sanitizer."

I'm certain Abraham had many doubts, even regrets about leaving his comfortable way of living behind for this? Yet, he clung to God's promise He was taking Abraham to a place God himself was preparing for him. Though his heart may have wanted a "return to normal," Abraham fixed his thoughts on the good God had promised.

Noah lived in a time, not too unlike today, in which the days were evil. While everyone around Noah made merry and indulged in every sort of wickedness, Noah, in faith, listened to God. He built the ark, laboring day after long day, as onlookers called him a fool. He, too, had no idea where he was going or how long it would take to get there.

When the rains came and after many weeks cooped up with the stench of animal dung, Noah probably wished things could return to normal. Still, he clung to God's promise despite what his circumstances dictated.

As I read through Hebrews, one by one famous names of the Bible were called out for living by faith:

By faith Abel...

By faith Noah...

By faith Abraham...

By faith Sarah...

By faith Isaac...

By faith Moses...

By faith Rahab...

By faith Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Samuel, Mary...

They were willing to trade in what was comfortable, accept that the interim would be terribly hard, but they knew, by faith, that God would lead them to their promised land. They trusted that God was good.

Right now we are living in figurative tents in the wilderness. We are sick of eating manna everyday, and we long for what was. We're weary, worn, and overwhelmed by life. We don't like discipline and times of testing. It feels like God is shaking the earth to loosen the junk so as to see what of quality remains. It's so easy to slip back into the old way of doing things simply because it's comfortable. If we go back, what might we be letting go of that lies ahead?

My husband ran cross country in high school and college. If you've ever watched a cross country race, it takes perseverance, endurance, coping with agonizing pain and still pushing through. Some runners fall down or have to bow out along the way because the course is too grueling. 

The race we are running right now is grueling, but there is a glorious prize at the end. You don't even have to win the race, you simply have to finish.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

What are you willing to endure to experience the joy that lies ahead?

What did Christ endure to provide a perfect eternity for you?

Does it make a difference that others are watching to see how you react and respond to our circumstances?

In the Book of Life, do you want your name to fill in one of the blanks?

By faith (Your name)...

So, will it be "return to normal," or set your sights on what's to come?

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that you have promised me a mansion in heaven which you are now preparing. I can't wait to walk the streets of gold and fall with gratitude before you. Forgive me for my grumbling and lack of gratitude. Give me your sufficient grace to persevere through the wilderness and keep running the race laid out for me. Even if each day looks like putting one foot in front of the other with your praise on my lips, then I will give thanks. Help me to see the bigger picture - to look through your eternal lens. Keep my eyes focused on you. This world is not my home, I am but a foreigner passing through, but as I pass through, let my life be defined by my faith in You.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you? Might you share your answer to one of the questions above? What keeps you going through these grueling days?

Be blessed...

ps. I've been on hiatus while I completed a twelve week book proposal bootcamp through COMPEL by Proverbs 31 Ministries, but it's good to be back.  If you've enjoyed what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Simply go to SUBSCRIBE above, enter your email address and then be sure to check your inbox. There will be a CONFIRMATION LINK YOU NEED TO CLICK TO CONFIRM YOUR SUBSCRIPTION. You can always cancel at any time.  Thanks for reading...

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Have We Broken God's Heart?

Hey Friend,

After this week's post, I'm taking a few weeks off to allow myself to reflect on Jesus' coming. My mom will be here with us and bootcamp still calls.  This is the last week for the "Take Heart" devotional and prayer journal GIVEAWAY so make sure you read the rules for entry below.  May you and your family have a peace-filled Advent season!

Have we broken God's heart?

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, "I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, I will destroy every living thing - all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them."  But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-8)

It occurred to me that ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Noah, I had fixed my mind on the fact that God wanted to destroy every living thing.  If you really wanted to sum up the story...I may have told you, "The whole world was wicked and so God wanted to destroy it all." 

The part I kept overlooking was the sentence, "It broke his heart." 

I can think on times as a parent that my children, whom I love dearly, did things that broke my heart.  It wasn't that I was angry with them, it was more that I wanted the very best for them and by their disobedience they wound up doing things that ushered in harsh consequences.  It was at those times that my heart grieved. This wasn't what I wanted for them. I wanted so much more. My heart of love wanted abundance for them.

I am learning that God has a heart...and it hurts.  It hurts with what hurts us.

Perhaps the Great Flood was millions of tear drops of sacred ache.  Maybe the expanses of water that covered the whole earth were slow drips of sadness from the omniscient eyes of God.  Perhaps the floodgates of God's grieving heart burst open and every crevice of the earth filled with the sheer weight of His brokenness. 

The Flood was the flood of God's grief born of love.

God in His love and goodness, had mercy on His creation and so He made a way with the rough hewn timbers of the ark for Noah, his family, and two of every creature He'd created, to find their way to safety and salvation.  

God's love outlasted His grief.

God could have wiped the world clean and washed His hands of the mess, but He chose to keep suffering along with His creation.

God then gave His people the Covenant of the Old Testament.  On tablets He gave His people laws to obey that would lead to freedom.  Keep the ten commandments and be able to live in communion with the Alpha and the Omega.  

But no, His people grieved His heart, not once, but many times.  God, instead of sending an ark, fashioned a cradle of holy timbers that would hold this God-made-flesh Savior in its arms. 

God looked at the world and once again, His heart broke.  Tears fell and He knew He had to bring heaven down to earth.

God chose to come and live among His people as Jesus Christ the Son.  He put on human flesh and He endured human pain and suffering.  As an infant Jesus wept.  He knew pain from hunger and cold.  He grew to know the pain of being ostracized and hated.  When His friend died, Jesus didn't preach...He wept.  

In His ministry Jesus was mocked, betrayed, lied to, forsaken, abandoned, beaten, broken, hated, forgotten...He experienced heartbreak from a complete human perspective.  He cried real human tears.  

God the Father grieved once again.  He had sent His Son, but the world rejected Him.  He sent a Savior and the crowds yelled, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus was stripped, beaten, flogged and inhumanely nailed to the timbers that made the cross.  While His Son died the cruelest death, God wept.  The love that poured down from God's broken heart was like holy water to our parched souls.  The flood of Christ's blood made white our sinful stains.

Ann Voskamp writes, "On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love."  (excerpt from "The Greatest Gift")

In everything God has done, the motivation has always been love.  Love that came not in sparse drips, but in raging and fierce floods.  Because we broke God's heart, He opened up the ark, the cradle, and the cross.  Because He loves us so much He allowed His holy heart to break in two and make a way for us to draw near.

It's a tale of tears and timbers from a God of love who cannot deny Himself.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your heart of love for me.  Thank you for hurting when I hurt.  Thank you for being willing to grieve the loss of your precious Son so that I could be with you forever.  Forgive me for thinking that you are an angry God that keeps score of my sins.  Let me see the God of love that would flood the earth with water and flood the souls of man with Christ's blood so that we would be saved.  From the cradle to the cross nothing can hold you and no expanse is too great to encompass your great love.  Let my own tears remind me of all the tears you've shed over me and lift my head to gaze into your eyes of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about God?  Do you see Him as a God of anger or a God of love?  Do you believe that God grieves over you and all of creation; that He endured the pain of sending His Son for us because of unfathomable love?  How does that change you this Christmas? Will you share?

GIVEAWAY TIME:  To enter the drawing for the "Take Heart: 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay," just SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Go to the SUBSCRIBE tab, enter your contact information, and then be sure to check your email.  In the confirmation email you will have to CLICK THE ACCOMPANYING LINK to confirm your subscription.  You can cancel at any time.  You'll automatically be entered.  Drawing to be held Dec. 12.  Winner will be notified by email.  (US and Canada only...sorry).

Be blessed...

Sunday, November 29, 2020

When There Are Cracks in Your Soul & "Take Heart" GIVEAWAY

Hey Friend,

I'm still clicking away at the keys during publishing "bootcamp."  I am bringing this popular post out of the Archives - it was written in Nov. 2018.  Some things have changed, but others remain the same.  May you find some hope in these words...

I don't know about you, but the holidays, for me, are often bittersweet.  Our Christmas season doesn't resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and I find myself becoming envious of those who seem to have those perfect family holiday Facebook posts and Christmas cards.

Thanksgiving was filled with tears for more reasons than one. Surgery, family illness, unforgiveness, adult child issues, life struggles, then add in missing those who have passed, and a new "normal" has been thrust upon me that I'm not willing to embrace.  I realize I have cracks in my soul that need filling.

But, as I make this pilgrimage toward the birth of Jesus in a manger, I am drawn to the Psalms of Ascent.  These are Psalms, or songs, that the Israelites sang as they made their way back to Jerusalem for the various feasts and celebrations. 

I as read the Psalms, I was drawn to the verbs or actions of those making their way home:

1.  "Call"      Out of the depths I call [to the Lord]... Psalm 130
2.  "Wait"     I wait for the Lord, I wait...Psalm 130
3.  "Bless"    Lift up your holy hands in the holy place and bless the Lord...
                   Psalm 134  
4.  "Trust"    Those who trust the Lord are like Mt. Zion...Psalm 125
5.  "Fear"     Happy are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways...
     "Walk"    Psalm 128.

6.  "Rejoice"  I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let's go to the house of the                        Lord." Psalm 122
7.  "Pray"     Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem... Psalm 122

And perhaps my favorite:

8.  "Lift"       I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come
                   from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and
                   earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

My "help" does not come from better health, restored relationships, lack of struggles and trials, no, it comes from the Lord.  Through it all, I cling to the fact that God is good.  He is faithful, and His grace is sufficient in all circumstances.  He will never leave nor forsake me.  

So instead of looking around me to my circumstances, I lift my eyes to the mountains and I call, I wait, I bless, I trust, I fear the Lord, I walk, I rejoice, and I pray.  

God is gracious and He will fill in the cracks if we simply call upon His name and ask.

God not only fills the hole in our heart, He fills the cracks in our soul.

I think sometimes I get a little greedy and I want it all (all good and no bad).  The rain, however, falls upon the just as well as the unjust.  I need to realize that God has already given me every good thing. I need a renewed perspective.

He has given me Himself and He has given me the gift of salvation and Sonship through the sacrifice of Christ, my brother.  He's also given me the gift of a holy guide and counselor.  I have it all...everything else is just the cherry on top. 

God can take the broken pieces of my life, fill in the cracks with His love and grace, and build a beautiful mosaic of my life that points directly to Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me please to adopt a more eternal perspective as I view life.  Let my joy be in my salvation and in my relationship with You.  Give me the strength to count my blessings with gratitude instead of counting my sorrows.  I give thanks for this Advent season as I wait, with expectant anticipation, to celebrate the good, good gift of Your Son.  Thank you for filling, with love, the hole in my heart and the cracks in my soul.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

IT'S GIVEAWAY TIME!!  Could you, or someone on your Christmas list benefit from the newly released devotional:  Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay??  I'm giving away a copy of the devotional (I'm a contribuing writer) and the companion prayer journal in a TAKE HEART CHRISTMAS DRAWING.  Retail Value:  $32.98

To be entered to win, all you have to do is SUBSCRIBE to my blog (and nothing else) or leave a COMMENT saying "Enter Me!"  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your information, and then be sure to look for a CONFIRMATION LINK that will come in an email to your inbox.  Click on the link to complete your subscription.  You can cancel at any time and I never share my contacts.  Drawing to be held Saturday Dec. 19th - just in time for Christmas.  Share this post and invite friends to enter!  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Heaven's Looking Better and Better with Each Passing Day

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but Heaven is looking better and better with each passing day.  I dug this pre-COVID post out of the archives as it seems increasingly relevant as I look at the world around us. Maybe you've had some heavenly homesickness as well?  So what can we expect?  I did some digging among scriptures and theologians to get a better grasp, and here's what I found...

I think I had a vision of heaven that many of us, unknowingly, share.  I envisioned that I would be some sort of ethereal, angelic type being with no real human-like features.  I'd be sitting among the clouds, and I would be strumming a harp and singing praises.  Yes, I would be with Jesus and with God which has huge appeal, but beside that, honestly....heaven sounded kind of boring. 

Actually, the final destination of believers is not an ethereal place somewhere out in space.  Our final destination is the renewed heavens and earth that Revelation 21 speaks of.  Heaven will be a very physical and concrete place.  The Bible has over 600 verses that speak to what heaven will be like, but we, too often, get our ideas from movies, literature, and television.

Revelation 21 talks about how heaven and earth will not be brand new, but instead will be this creation renewed.  We forget that when God made heaven and earth, He pronounced it good.  Earth was not just good, it was perfect.  That was, of course, until sin came in and messed it up.  

The type of "newness" that the Bible speaks of in the Greek translation is kainos which means a "newness in quality" - something that is, is made better or different.  It's quality has changed.  

God will renew, transform, improve, and refresh His creation.  It will be a kainos heaven and earth.  

Actually this makes sense to me, because I have seen some things that I have had to believe were glimpses of heaven.  I've seen views from mountain peaks that have taken my breath away.  I've had the unconditional loving licks from my dogs.  I've smelled the newborn heads of my children.  I've seen animals, birds, fish, and flowers - large and small - that just ooze of the creative nature of God.  I've seen colors that have dazzled my eyes, heard music and seen dance and art that have made my heart leap with emotion. I've felt kindness in someone's smile, and love in an embrace.   

I believe that all things good in this world will continue to exist in the next, but they will be transformed and improved in the renewed creation.  It will be THIS creation, renewed. 

So...what can we expect in Heaven?  There will be:

*  Physical bodies (Yes, I'll finally be a "10")
*  Emotions and relationships (joy, happiness, peace, love, but no drama!)
*  Nature with daily cycles of day and night and weather
*  Animals (including pets)
*  Work (Gen. 2:15)
*  Learning (1 Corinthians 13:12)
*  Science
*  Arts (Rev. 14:2-3)
*  Entertainment and Activities

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."  (John 6-39)

So to answer my son's question, from when he was ten, "Will there be ice hockey in heaven?"  I think I would now have to definitely say, "Yes!"

What will not be present:  no evil, no curses, no brokenness (emotional or physical), no more sin, no sickness, no death, no more suffering or sadness, no war, no famine, and no temples.  This last one made me pause for a moment, but in heaven we will be in God's presence continually so there will not be a need for a separate house of God.  

The closeness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit 24/7...Wow!  Most glorious will be that heaven will be a place where Jesus (the very definition of "love") will be present and we will bask in His love.  

So what does heaven mean to me now?  It gives meaning to this life - as in it is a preparation for the life to come. God is about building our character for our eternal life to come.  Therefore, hard times now, will reap future rewards.  It reminds me that in those very hard times, there is more to life than this world.  If we persevere and finish the race, we will receive a glorious crown one day!

It gives me hope for my future destination and strength for life in the present.  It gives me something perfect to hope for when this life is far less than perfect.  

It reminds me that this world, and its present troubles are but a blink of the eye in God's timing.  Heaven (perfection) will be eternal.  There will be no sorrow, or regrets, or guilt.  Rather, love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and other emotions that will be felt with new heights and depths.  Relationships will be all we can imagine and more. 

Heaven, however, is more than just a hope for the future, it is the very heart of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.  It is also at the very center of the human heart. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the plan for creation that you have had since the very beginning.  Thank you that your desire is not to leave us in this sin-filled world.  I bless you for the hope and even the homesickness that lives in my heart and yearns for eternity with you.  Your creation is not evil and we look forward to when you will renew, transform, improve, and refresh what sin has tainted.  What you began in Eden you will fulfill in Revelation.  Oh, what a glorious place heaven and earth will be and how awesome it will be to kneel before you in your presence.  Thank you for this hope that keeps us/me going.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about heaven?  Do you have any heavenly homesickness? What do you most look forward to in heaven?  How does the knowledge of heaven get you through today?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Keep Sending Out and Receiving Messages of Hope

Hey Friend,

My husband and I were watching some special t.v. programs on Veterans Day.  One, in particular, told the story of veterans of the Vietnam War.  It detailed their journey of being detained as prisoners of war in one of the worst POW camps imaginiable - The Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam.  In this camp, known for its inhumane conditions and its horrific torture, prisoners were kept isolated from each other and were beaten and tortured regularly.  It was enough to demoralize even the hardiest soul.

One prisoner, a US pilot, wanted to keep the hopes of his fellow prisoners alive and to encourage them to persevere.  He began by using his tin-metal drinking cup to tap out messages of hope to his colleagues that he never got to see.  When guards were not patrolling, he softly tapped Morse Code messages on his decaying cement block walls.  G-O-D  B-L-E-S-S  Y-O-U was just one of the messages he sent.  Other inmates, farther down the cell block, would continue tapping out the message until all the prisoners heard.  

Among the other messages the pilot regularly sent were: "Rescue Will Come," and "Hang On."  Eventually, he was able to smuggle messages out of the prison using spy tradecraft. When he received messages back, he would tap out more messages of hope to the then weakened, beaten down, and emaciated soldiers...  H-E-L-P  C-O-M-I-N-G, K-N-O-W  O-U-R  L-O-C-A-T-I-O-N.  The code miraculously met its intended purpose.  It kept the men hanging on until finally most of them were rescued at the end of the war. A simple hopeful message can mean the difference between life and death.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  (1 Peter 5:10)

During these turbulent and uncertain times, we can feel like prisoners in our own homes.  The four walls begin to close in and though we're not being tortured, as days drag on, even the sturdiest of us begins to lose hope that one day things will be better and some sense of normalcy will return. Many are suffering from depression due to isolation and loneliness. Though weeping endures for the night, joy WILL come in the morning.  We need to get to the morning!

I encourage you to think about people to whom you can send out messages of hope.  Here are a few practical ideas to consider:

*  Call friends and family more often - particularly those in nursing homes or those living alone.

*  Send a humorous or uplifting text to several people you know at random times and let them know you're thinking of them.

*  Sit down and write a good old-fashioned "snail-mail" letter or note.  

*  Drop off an unexpected small gift of homemade treats or a potted plant to someone who is struggling.  

*  Pick a day of the week and make it a habit to email 2-3 different people each week.  If contacting older people, ask them to share a favorite childhood memory.  Revive the art of story telling.  When there's not a lot of new news to share, everyone loves telling a favorite old story.

As you continue to send out messages of hope, be sure to take in or receive messages of hope. We can't pour out if we're not being poured into. 

*  Make Bible reading and quiet time a non-negotiable priority each day.  Get up early if necessary.

*  Put on praise music at home or make your SUV a sanctuary in which you sing songs to the Lord as you run errands.

*  Take a devotional with you when you go to medical appointments.

*  Post a different scripture each week, where you'll see it often, and challenge yourself to memorize one new scripture each week. Do the challenge with a friend and share your memory verse for the week. Mine are posted by the coffee pot lol. 

*  Start a gratitude journal in which you write down 3-5 things you're grateful for each day - simple works well! 

Remember that God is not flummoxed or frustrated by what's going on.  Nothing can thwart God's sovereign purpose.  Ask Him what He would have you learn in this "wilderness season."  Look around for blessings you've experienced that will help you "flip the script" on 2020.  It's all there and is ours for the asking.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the messages you send me each and every day - for the way that you answer prayers before they've even left my lips.  I praise you that your will is sovereign.  Enable me to pray that your will, not mine be done.  Help me to be bold in sending out messages of hope to those who need to hear...not just hope for today, but for eternity.  Let me make spending time with you a priority and let me seek to know what you would have me learn from these days.  Grant me your peace, strength, and mercy.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Who do you feel God calling you to send out a message of hope to today?  What blessings are you thankful for in 2020?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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