Friday, December 29, 2017

Great Expectations

Hey Friend,

I read the book, "Great Expectations" in high school.  I remember the character, Pip.  Even though his hopes and expectations were continually dashed, he somehow persevered through it all.  Other characters became hardhearted, cruel, and bitter when their expectations and hopes didn't come to fruition. Their bitterness rubbed off on others and their expectations became tainted as well.

I find that expectations are a tricky....maybe even a dangerous thing.  I'm sorry to say this while all of you are making your New Year's resolutions and revising your "Bucket Lists".  More times than not, I have found that my expectations let me down.  For example:  When I expect my husband, when he comes home from work, to read my mind and my body language in order to ascertain that I've had a really hard day, and instead of taking me in his arms and whispering compassionately, "You, seem like you've had a rough day.  Why don't we go out for a bite to eat?", he pecks me on the lips, greets the dog, heads upstairs to change while calling down the stairs, "So, what's for dinner?"  Great, unmet, expectations.

I had envisioned that, at this stage in life, I would be an empty-nester with two fabulously well adjusted grown children and perhaps a grandchild or two.  I'd be snapping photos as I traveled to far away places and life would somehow be "easy".  Instead, in the past five years, I've had as many surgeries.  I've stared down cancer again.  Any small trips I took were dampened by pneumonia and then food poisoning.  My "children" have their fair share of adult problems, but I do have a sweet, though untrained, rescue grand-dog named Allen who thinks I'm the best thing since peanut butter.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

Granted, I've had to cancel more plans than I've been able to follow through with....But, God.  These surgeries were not on my "Bucket List", but literally not being able to walk for two months brought me into such a close and intimate relationship with God.  I couldn't "do" much, but I could be in His Word every day.  

I was able to not only read, but meditate on His Word, ask Him questions, explore my doubts, pray, and most of all just "BE" in His presence.  

I found that simply "being" instead of "doing" things enabled God to just delight in me and share with me His wisdom.  Focusing on "being" brought our hearts and minds together in such a way that took our relationship to a whole new level....a level that previously I had only dreamed about. 

After all, our main purpose in life is to be in relationship with God. This is why He created us....period.

My writing became richer and my faith grew enormously.  I lived out the scripture that says in the midst of our trials, His grace is, indeed, sufficient!

I haven't completely abandoned my "bucket list" nor my desire to lose 20 pounds, read more, take better care of myself including exercising and eating well, make plans I can actually follow through with, spend more time with the people I love.

But, I must say that I look to living more simply (ie: getting rid of stuff), delighting in the small and overlooked, enjoying where I am instead of wishing about where I'd like to be instead, being thankful for God's gifts I already have rather than looking for more.

I am concentrating on allowing God to set my course and asking for His enabling to be more open to the experiences He sets before me.

Yes, I will still make plans, but I don't place as many expectations on them.  Whatever happens, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can count on God to show up and be there for me.  That, in and of itself, is a pretty unbelievable gift.

Right now, I am simply enjoying being able to walk.  Not sure that would have been on my "bucket" list, but it certainly is sweet.  I walk slower these days, but that allows me more time to take in the beauty around me instead of rushing off to the next thing on my list.

I also take great encouragement that God used a lot of "senior citizens" to do some of the greatest works in the Bible.  Abraham and Sarah had long ago let go of the expectation of having a child, but look what God did in their very old age.  He met the desire of their hearts and it changed history. Sometimes we need to let go of our expectations in order for God to give us the very best.  And, the very best often looks very different than the expectations we once held so dear. 

Dear Heavenly Father,  I am so thankful that you give us more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Forgive me for limiting you with "my" expectations.  Help me to know that it is YOU that sets my course and has numbered my days before the world began.  Enable me to put my trust in you and look to you for what you would have me do.  Help me to not grow bitter when expectations are not met, but to persevere in your strength.  Help me to learn what you would have me learn from each and every experience.  More than anything, let being in close relationship with you be the first item on my bucket list this year.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What's on your "bucket list" or New Year's resolution list?  How does God's plan fit in with your plan?  Have you ever set your own course only to have unmet expectations?  Please share what you've learned in the comments...I'd love to hear!

Be blessed.....

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I Worship A God Who Continually Woos Us

Hey Friend,

I said I was going to take a break from blogging, but this post just came to me so distinctly and clearly that my mind wouldn't rest until I wrote it down.  So here I am to share what God shared with me in the midst and mystery of Advent.

My son has been distant lately.  It's not angry distant, or belligerent distant. As far as I know, we're okay, but I simply don't hear from him, nor does he respond to "Hey how are ya?" texts.  Christmas is approaching and I'm not sure what all this means.  I found myself thinking in my head....why would he be so distant from someone (me), who he knows, loves him to pieces?

The thought was no sooner out of my head, when I heard God whisper, "Now you have an inkling of how I feel..."  That hit me powerfully.  Here is God, who has loved us since before time began, who has given us every good gift we have, whose only real desire is to be in relationship with us, who loves us to pieces and makes himself available whenever we have a moment for Him, and what do we do?  We distance ourselves.  We claim we're too busy.  We get caught up in the world's hierarchy of importance.  We get lazy and binge watch Netflix or surf the web.  Meanwhile God is wondering....why are they so distant from me when they know I love them to pieces?

God gave me a glimpse into His world that morning.  Thankfully, though, He doesn't react in human terms.  This is the mystery of God.

The image that came to mind is of God wooing us.  Like a young lover woos the apple of his eye, God woos us.  He pursues; He lavishes attention; He's patient and continually goes after the prize.  The Bible resounds with the imagery of Jesus (part of the Godhead) being the groom, and we (his people, the church) being His beloved bride.  God is the groom who never stops loving.

In our world, if the lover woos and pursues but is continually put off or spurned, he eventually loses hope, maybe even gets angry, and gives up.  God is not like that.  He isn't put off. He doesn't get disheartened or angry....He just keeps pursuing and wooing us.  He does this even when we are downright nasty and ugly.

Our God is a covenant God - He makes promises and sticks to them.

Some theologians believe that The Ten Commandments were actually two duplicate stones (written by the very finger of God).  One copy for us, His intended, and a copy for Himself.

I admit that I've always thought of The Ten Commandments as more of a legal code than a covenant to love.  But, I love how Ann Voskamp talks about them... more like a whisper of God's love to us in her book, "The Greatest Gift": 

"The Ten Commandments are more than God saying, "Here is My Law for you" - they are God saying, "Here is My love for you."

"Here I take you to be Mine, to be my treasured possession - have  no other gods, no other lovers that woo you, that take your attention or affection but me.

Here, I give you My name, my very name to make you mine - do not use it in vain.

Here, I long to spend time with you, holy time for you and Me - set apart the Sabbath day as holy time for you and Me....."   (end)

The Ten Commandments are a command to a loving, covenant, relationship.

Could we follow ten commands?  No, we turned away, disobeyed, busied ourselves with other idols and ideologies....

So in the New Testament, God puts on flesh to reach out and woo in love again.  Who can resist a tiny, helpless, infant babe, with little rolls and creases in his skin?  With tiny fingers that grasp yours and rosy cherub cheeks that beg to be kissed.  Who could resist this love?  

The same love that grew to hang out with the prostitutes and tax collectors, who made the blind to see and the lame to walk.  He wooed with patience and gentleness and kindness in a world where there was none.  But, yet we still rejected Him.  He came to save and once again we turned our backs.

I am so glad I worship a God whose patience is long suffering and who continually woos us no matter what.

No matter what your past, He woos you.  No matter how far down the prodigal path you've gone, He stands at the gate waiting to run to you when you return.  No matter how angry you are with Him, His shoulders are big enough to handle it.  No matter how many times you spurn Him, turn you back on Him, ignore Him, or distance yourself from Him, He still pursues you with a furious love and continues to woo you. When you cry in despair, He cries with you and catches your tears.  Quite simply, He loves you!

Why??  Because He wants nothing more than to be in relationship with the wonderful creation (you) that He made...the one He designed and knew before the universe came into being.  That's why.  

This Christmas, I've thought of what I could give back to a God who continues to woo me and lavish His mercy and grace upon me.  I think the answer is pretty simple. I will give Him what He wants....a covenant and genuine relationship with me which includes time spent.  What will you give Him?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I thank you so much that throughout time you never gave up on us.  You continually extended your hand in love to us and we disobeyed and turned away from you.  You gave us your only Son, in flesh and blood, for us to be able to relate to, yet we spurned Him and yelled to crucify Him.  Blessed are you who are faithful to your covenants of love that you make with us.  You never ever give up on us.  You continue to woo us (me).  You continue to pursue and persevere in order that we might see that we are, indeed, the apple of your eye.  Help us to see the same value in ourselves that you place on us.  If you pursue us this persistently, then we must really be of great worth.  Help that message to sink in and help us to give you what YOU would really like to receive for Christmas....real relationship.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you believe that God continually woos you and pursues you with His love?  If not, why not?  Do you believe what the scriptures say about how much God loves you?  Do you believe that these words were written to YOU, not just to other people?  What can you give back to God this Christmas?  What might He be wanting from you?

Be blessed.....again I will say that I'm taking a break, but am open to what God has in mind. 

ps.  After publishing this post....I got a call from my son that very day and we got together.  Thank you for your prayers.....prayer works!

 May you have a blessed Christmas and joy in the knowledge that you are furiously and passionately loved.... Bev

Monday, December 4, 2017

Revisiting "Fire" Again

Hey Friend,

Many of us choose a "watch word" or "guide word" for the year.  In 2017, my word was "FIRE" - as in I wanted to be "on fire" for the Lord.  I was captivated by a quote by John Wesley:

"Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn." - John Wesley

It made me think about my I live with a passion - a love for Christ - that is so intense that people would say that I'm on fire for the Lord?  I guess that's up to you to decide...

Lately, however, I have been reading the book of Zechariah and a different mental picture of fire has really stuck with me.  Zechariah shares eight visions that he has in the night.  This is happening during a time in which he has returned to Jerusalem and they are rebuilding the temple and the walls around it.

The temple is not yet finished, nor have the walls around Jerusalem been rebuilt.  Zechariah is calling God's people to re-inhabit the holy city, but I'm sure you can understand their trepidation.  Since the walls had not been rebuilt, Jerusalem was a defenseless city.  The people had every reason to fear their enemies in surrounding regions.  

But, here is what the Lord says that creates such a mental image in my mind in Zechariah 2:5:

"The declaration of the Lord:  'I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it.'"

God assures them that He will be their protector.  He will build a wall of fire around the city and His glory will shine within it.

There are many areas in my life where I feel pretty vulnerable.  The enemy knows my Achilles heel and where I am wide open to attack. Like the people in Jerusalem, I feel like a sitting duck. The words of this scripture give me a prayer to pray when I am feeling so vulnerable....

"Lord, be a wall of fire around me today."

Interestingly enough, I started this year wanting to be on fire for the Lord.  I wanted the Holy Spirit to set me ablaze for the glory of God.  Fire brings light in the darkness.  It brings clarity and lights a path for those who can't see where they are going.  I had visions of me being the one on fire.

Fast forward a year and here I'm reading about fire again, only this time, it is the Lord who is the wall of fire.  

Fire also provides protection.  It provides a shield that the enemy cannot penetrate or extinguish.

My vulnerability makes me very aware that I need the fire that the Lord provides more than He needs the fire I provide.  I know that God takes a very personal interest in me.  His love for me is not just's fierce.  His grace and mercy for me are not sappy,, they are furious.  God is continually waging a battle for me in the heavenlies that is nothing short of ferocious. 

He wants me to not just be a conqueror (I am victorious one day, but someone else is victorious the next), but to be MORE THAN A CONQUEROR (I am victorious and no one, no how, no way can take the victory from me).  This means that nothing can take away my prize won in battle.  The prize I have is salvation and the sacrifice in the battle, fought on my behalf, is His Son.  That's intense.

If you ever question just how much God loves you and to what lengths he would go to protect you from your enemies and those who wish to harm you.  Read Psalm 18 where David is crying out to the Lord and read, with what intensity, the Lord responds.....

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.....

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.

He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[d]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils....

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.
(Psalm 18: 1-2, 6-15, 16-19)

So what am I thinking after this year of "Fire"??  I'm thinking that ALL things are possible with God and apart from Him I can do nothing.  He chooses to set my heart and soul on fire for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, but I must choose to continue to fuel and stoke the fire with the reading of, and meditating upon, His Word.  

It's not by my strength and not by my power that the fire burns brightly, but by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord's fire will always burn more brightly than mine because He is God and I am not.  If there was ever any doubt about just how much God loves me (loves you), read this passage again.  If the enemy so much as touches a hair on my head he will awaken a fire breathing dragon that is jealous of the ones He loves.  He will protect me (you) with a wall of fire so great that our enemies and the enemy of our soul will cower at the sight.  

God will provide a fire so hot that no one will be able to pass through to harm me (you).  That's just how hot the fire of His love is for us.    

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit that you have given me.  May you continually fan the flames of my heart so that others may see You when they look at me.  Even more than that, thank you for the fierce love you have for me that burns with an all consuming intensity.  Thank you for you grace and mercy that are furious in that nothing can stop them and they will never run out.  Thank you for your protection that is ferocious when anyone attempts to hurt me, your beloved child, in whom you delight.  Lord, work this truth deep into my soul so that I will never doubt for a moment your great, all consuming fire of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you believe that God loves you with this kind of intensity?  What makes you doubt His love for you?  Have you ever thought of His great love, grace, and mercy for you as fierce?  furious?  ferocious? Do you ever pray for God to build a wall of fire around you?  Do you believe He will if you ask?

Be blessed.....

Between recuperating from surgery and then battling pneumonia, I'm kinda tired.  I think I'm going to take a couple of weeks off and prepare my heart for Christ's coming as well as spend some time with family.  I'll be back after Christmas.  In the meantime, I invite you to browse the Archives for some titles that pique your curiosity.  

May you have a blessed Advent season and a joyous Christmas knowing just how much you are loved....