Monday, November 28, 2022

Tis the Season to Remember...HOPE

I remember when...

I used to wait with anticipation for the first Advent candle to be lit in the church my family attended. 

Officially (at least in my mind), it marked the start of the Christmas celebration. 

And...Oh! How! Magical! 

As a small child, I loved everything Christmas...



Decorations.

Colored lights - on the tree inside and adorning the roof line outside.

Two weeks of school vacation.

Shopping (which is unusual, because I AM NOT A SHOPPER BY NATURE).

Music.

The free Saturday matinee at my dad's theater right before Christmas Eve.


Santa Claus, with his jolly "Ho! Ho! Ho!" - a ready knee, and a listening ear to hear my whispered requests...

Candy Canes and Sugar Cookies (with lots of icing!).

Merry Christmas greetings and good-byes. 

AND....presents! 

In my head, I knew Christmas wasn't just about Santa Claus and presents, after all, we had a nativity scene spread out across the top of our console TV. 

In my heart, though, Christmas really was about me...

Until... 

...52 years ago, when I intimately and eagerly entered into, and developed, an ever deepening relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ, the one born of a Virgin, the Sinless Son-of-God, who came to earth to die as payment for my sins. 

Jesus: the reason for the season.

So, the first Advent candle has been lit...the candle of HOPE.

With the lighting of each candle, we mark the days until we celebrate the first coming of Jesus, but, we also deliberately mark the fact that He is coming again!

In the meantime, we wait for the Advent.

Not just with presents and decorations and candy canes, but with an invitation to slow down and make each day of waiting count.

Advent is an ancient invitation to slow down.

-David Mathis-

This week, to mark the days of waiting, I want to let the candle of hope remind me that if I truly have entered into relationship with the Son-born-to die-and-raise-again-on-our-behalf, then,  I am God's walking, breathing, living hope. 

You and I...

We are to be Hope-Dispensers in the middle of the wait. 

Is there any question our world needs more hope and a PLACE / PERSON to do so with certainty? 

So, this week...

Let's be a pharmacy of hope to a world, like the one Jesus entered as a babe, that has very little of it.

Hope is a rare commodity...but, I/You/We have it in abundance because of Jesus.

Who around us needs a little extra poured out to make this season a little more MERRY?

It's sure not going to be found in the "Christmas magic" we put up around our homes.

It's only found in Jesus.

#Tistheseasontoremember

XXXXXX

By the way, God the Father did not command we celebrate Advent, or Christmas, or even Easter, for that matter. 

Celebrating Advent is a glorious, God-given OPPORTUNITY.

I want to make it count.

So, YeS!, putting aside all the superficial things we do to typically memorialize the season, let's #simplycelebrateJesus.



Thursday, November 17, 2022

Splitting Ears & Giving An Encore - A Thanksgiving Reminder

In one week, here in the US, we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

It is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it isn't quite as commercialized as others, but also because it reminds me of how lavishly the Lord has poured out blessings upon me.

Is my life perfect?

Of course not!

But, I am deeply grateful for the life He's given me.

So, the following verses ring in my ears this morning as I settle down to post this blog:  

O come, sing to the Lord; 

let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our Salvation.
Ps. 95:1


Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth,
break forth into joyous song, and sing His praises...
Ps. 98:4



Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth...
Ps. 100:1


There are four common words in each of those three verses above.
I know you picked up on it immediately (I did offer a little help)...
Those words are exactly why I chose these particular passages.

MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE!!

This next week, we set aside time to express our gratitude to our good, gracious, and gift-giving God.
It's time to sing His praises for our many blessings.
It is time to make a joyful noise.
Literally, the words mean "to split the ears because of joy."
Or..."to raise a sound, a shout...to applaud." Kind of like we do at sporting events (hmmmmmm…..).


We all know the back-story of Thanksgiving.

We read in every history book that in 1621, the Indians and the surviving Pilgrims, met together to celebrate a meal together, giving thanks for the Lord's gracious harvest. It was a turning point. The successful corn harvest meant a better winter ahead...a future and a hope.


In 1863, in the midst of the brutal Civil War, President Lincoln institutionalized a day for us to set aside and forget hardship, come together, and focus on that which reminds us we have much to be grateful.


It's as fitting, and as needed today, for our country to come together in Thankful-Solidarity, as in 1863! 

  • Nothing ushers us into God's presence like giving of thanks (Psalm 100:4).
  • Nothing drives out complaining and arguing and bitterness of spirit as the expression of gratitude.
  • Nothing gets our minds off of self, and our struggles, as focusing on the litany of blessings bestowed on us.
  • Nothing counteracts self-pity, and yes, even depression, when we are overwhelmed with the goodness in our lives.


So! Pay! Attention!
Make a list.
Write it out.

This week......Let your thankful-list visibly wash over you...we all have much to be grateful for...



Allow me to jump start you with the first things on my list: 

I have a Great and Mighty God who is FOR ME...
He allows me to know Him personally...
He calls me His precious possession...His treasure...His child...His bride...His church...His sheep...His beloved.
His great, sacrificial love for me is steadfast...
His faithfulness is enduring...
His plan for my future is beyond belief (not for calamity, but for a future with HOPE)...
My salvation is secured...
My home in heaven reserved...for eternity!

Why does He offer all this?

Because I am so good?

No...because He is so good!!!


Now, after writing a list, join me in making a joyful noise.

Split the ears of everyone around you...

Stand up and applaud Him...

Give our God an encore...

Let Him know you're excited for more of Him...

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Dumfungledness...and God's Oxygen

 


Dumfungled is a word I learned this week. 

A Scottish term, meaning: To be mentally and physically exhausted.

I've added it to my vocabulary.

Right now, I just might be enirely dumfungled.


But, there isn't time to be dumfungled. 

As I type this, I am on my way to Idaho to speak at a women's retreat for the weekend. 

However, my soul hasn't quite caught up with my body just yet. 

It may be still hovering over the Atlantic somewhere, or possibly still in the Chicago airport. 

Fortunately, my luggage all arrived in America, I'm just waiting for my passion and enthusiasm to show up at my door. 

I thought it might be nice to submit a claim to United Airlines,  like I would if my luggage is lost, but realized that isn't quite their thing...

We can't go to some counter, submit a request, and receive a revived spirit. 

However, we "can do" in the spiritual sense. 

So, as I sit in the Durango airport waiting on my flight to Denver, I've submitted my "claim" in the form of an honest note in my journal to the Lord.

It basically reads: I'm tired and my brain feels like mush.

Here's the thing about journaling...

As I write, a conversation begins to take place between the Lord and I. 

His quiet voice whispers in my ear bits and pieces of Scripture references that remind me, He's already on it.

And, as He whispers, I'm reminded He really does have it all under control. 

I jotted down the snippets I was receiving, and then looked up the references.

Maybe, one day, in your tired, these promises will be as renewing to you as they are to me as I sit and ponder them.

Psalm 62:1.  Truly my soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.

Matthew 11:28.  Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest for your souls...

Jeremiah 21:35.  I will refresh the weary, and satisfy the faint.

Isaiah 40:29.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Colossians 1:29.  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Psalm 73:26.  My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!

AND...MY FAVORITE...

 My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest!

Exodus 33:14. 

These truths, they are like Oxygen for my soul!

So, if you're feeling a little dumfungled...you can join my club.

But, keep in mind, when the Lord calls us to action, in spite of our "dumbungledness," we will never tire in doing what is good and right; and we will not lack in zeal when it comes to serving the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:13 and Romans 12:11). 

I really just wanted to remind us all when we are feeling this way...

GOD'S GOT THIS, Y'ALL!

And, there's time for a Sabbath coming....

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Just Give Me Jesus… (and a few pictures from Israel)

This morning our women’s retreat in Migdal, Israel ended. 

I’m always amazed at the bond the Lord gives between sisters in Christ.

One of our volunteer team members thanked the Lord this morning for connecting her with women she didn’t even know she needed and now can’t imagine her life without. 

She wrapped words around what we all felt and couldn’t express.

I tell you this to also say I truly felt the Lord’s anointing on the messages I shared. 

This is not as a pride thing, but because I believe I need to thank so many of you who follow this little blog. I know you have prayed. 

Many of you wrote notes just to say so.

Right now, every “thank you” I can think of, in every language I can speak it in, runs like ticker-tape through my mind, right beside mental video memories of you (gotta say, though, some of those video memories are pretty hilarious). 

*****

This will be a quick, and to the point, random thought this morning.

As I mentioned, I am grateful to the Lord for using me as His vessel, His mouthpiece, both in Romania and here.

(my friend, Beth, praying over me before speaking)

Because of the prayers of so many, I actually think I sensed a different level of anointing. 

In my quiet time this morning, I spent a significant amount of time expressing to the Lord my gratitude for this blessing, asking that He would use anything I said to resonate in the hearts of these precious ladies, thereby bringing glory to Himself.

I deeply mean that prayer.

As the Psalmist prays, 

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name be the glory (Ps 115.1)…”

Always, I pray this before speaking.

Then, this morning, I picked up Oswald Chambers devotional (My Utmost for His Highest). This little book follows me wherever I go.

Sometimes the man is just downright convicting.

He simply did not mince words, nor did he worry about whether or not he stepped on toes in the process of bringing truth.

He did not tickle anyone’s ears.



(Excavation site if the synagogue in Magdala, where Mary of Magdala lived. This site was discovered as recently as 2009)

I quote him:

Allow nothing of the old life to remain and embrace only simple, perfect trust in the Lord. This is trust that no longer wants God’s blessings, but only wants God Himself.”

Immediately, these questions popped into my head:

Have I been seeking the blessings or the BLESSER?

Have I been seeking the provision or the PROVIDER? 

What if the Lord didn’t come through for me in my speaking session the way He’d been over the last few weeks? 

Have I come to this point, where my faith and trust would remain unshaken, and would I still see the goodness of the Lord, even if He withdrew the blessing? 

In Exodus 32, the Israelites turned their back on the Lord God who brought them out of Egypt, out of bondage to slavery, and requested a new god…

So, they gathered their gold and threw it into the fire, and “out popped a cow,” according to Aaron. 

The Lord’s wrath burned against the Israelites, He decided to eliminate them all and begin again with Moses.

Of course, Moses implored God to turn His compassionate heart back towards His children, and, because of Moses’ prayer, He did.

Exodus 33, the Lord says to Moses (in my words), “Ok. I’ll send an angel with you into the Promised Land, but I’m angry enough that I will not go.” 

Again, Moses begs God not to remove His Presence. 

“If You don’t go,” he says, “then I don’t want to go any further.” 

I found myself challenged by Mr. Chambers and Moses.

I want the Creator more than the Creation.

I want the One who Blesses, more than the Blessing.

I want the Healer, more than the Healing…

…the Anointer, more than the Anointing.

But, the good news is the Lord can hardly separate who He is from what He does.

This morning I realized this truth from the life of Moses:

The blessings of God are meaningless without the presence of God. 

I simply, wholeheartedly, completely JUST WANT JESUS. 



Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Varnished Poop 💩 and….(what else?) HUMILITY!



Greetings from the land of the Bible!

It’s a hazy day, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, but I was able to snap a few pictures from the upstairs balcony of the guesthouse where I am staying with about 10 other women. We arrived this afternoon from Romania, and are preparing for the other ladies who will be joining us for our upcoming retreat. 

I anticipated that I’d be a bit more tired than I actually am having just finished one retreat and already starting another, BUT GOD…He seems to be re-fueling me and I am excitedly looking forward to our new group of gals. 

As is typical, when we close out one retreat, we do a debrief to discuss how things went, what we learned, what might need changing, and evaluating not just what the Lord did in our attendees, but what He was speaking to us, individually.

This debrief in Romania ended rather differently than any I’ve attended before. As the Holy Spirit began to move during our sharing time, there were a lot of hard things that came up, things that we wouldn’t have been able to address had we not formed a unique bond and community. Some vulnerable tidbits that only reveal themselves in safe settings. Seriously, I applauded the honesty and transparency of our volunteers. 

As we spoke together, one of the ladies shared an illustration she often uses. She referred to how much better it is to get stuff out in the open, off of our chests, and not just present what she calls “varnished poop.” 💩 

That got me thinking. 

I have some varnished poop…just happens to be elephant poop from Kenya. 

(Photo courtesy of my husband back home…the cup is to give you perspective of size)

It was a gag birthday gift for my husband from a dear friend of ours, who recently passed away.  Karen would love that there was a “spiritual application” for her gift…

And, of course, the application has to do with humility. 

A few weeks back (here’s the link), I mentioned that the word “humble” comes from a Latin word “humus.” It means “of the earth.” 

In order to be humble, we need to be brought “low” - to the ground - and, humus is the actual decomposition of dead materials, including animal waste. As it rots, rich soil is formed…out of the decay come lush vegetation and good growth. 

Here’s the lesson:

humble folks are honest folks

They are willing to be vulnerable and transparent!

They are willing to go low, in order to be lifted up.

If we want to walk in humility, we can’t let the “junk” inside of us just sit, nor can we varnish it and try to make it look pretty on the outside, simply hoping we’ll fool somebody else that we are something we really aren’t.

Humble people find their safe community and let the waste within come out…and, after it does, the decomposition process can begin…

As it decomposes, it becomes something of great benefit and value to others.

So, like me, do you have any varnished waste sitting around? 

Maybe there’s something far better you can do with it!

It seems one can never quit learning humility lessons.


And…a few more pictures from Romania - this is the village of Sinaia and Peles Castle (built in 1873 by King Carol I, and the setting of “A Christmas Prince - Netflix)

Peles Castle


Sinaia


Open air market, Sinaia


the village of Sinaia


Sinaia

Peles Castle