Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hearts Pressed and Squeezed

I can remember as a kid, my mom used to make homemade orange juice.  We had an old thing-a-ma-jig (an antique juicer) that you placed orange halves in and pressed down the handle, squeezing hard until the orange dripped dry.  Then, with the handle still pressed down, mom would turn the thing-a-ma-jig sideways so the juice would pour out of the spout and into our glasses.  It was the best orange juice in the world.  My mouth would water just waiting for the sweet juice to spill out so I could taste it.

From a squeezed heart the sweet can also flow.

Hearts all around me are being squeezed. Each are being squeezed hard by different, yet difficult, circumstances.  My long-time, sweet friend, who pours fuel into my soul on a regular basis, was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Pressing hard on this mama's heart is my son. This son who lights up my day when he walks into the room, is grieving hard a relationship lost.  My best friend's "mama" heart is aching because she left her son at the Naval Academy on Thursday. She is struggling to even breathe. She won't be able to have any contact with her first born for 8 weeks, and he won't come home until Thanksgiving.  These are just three of many precious hearts being squeezed around me.

Because friends and family are being squeezed, my heart is hard-pressed on all sides for these very special people in my life.  I hurt because they hurt. As I'm being squeezed on their behalf, my eyes leak tears and my heart bleeds out love, encouragement, faith and hope.  I cherish each of these precious relationships and welcome the privilege to walk along side them through these hard moments. 

Jesus too was squeezed on all sides as He walked and lived life on this earth.  Remember the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years?  Read the entire account in Mark 5. In the middle of a crowd, as Jesus was making his way to help a squeezed daddy heart, (Jairus' daughter was very sick and close to death), healing power was released from Him as He was being pulled and tugged on. The bleeding woman believed if she could just touch the hem of His robe she would be healed.  As the crowd pressed in harder, Jesus knew that power had gone out from Him. And when He called her out, He told her, "Your faith has healed you..." (Mark 5:34 NIV)

During the encounter with the bleeding woman, Jairus' daughter died.  This daddy's heart was broken!  Those who came to tell Jairus the news also thought all hope was lost.  Jesus was too late to offer any help now.  Little did they know, but Jesus was coming to do a greater thing.  He wasn't just going to heal Jairus' daughter, He was going to raise his daughter from the dead.  And He did! Jairus experienced joy like he had never known because of his hard-squeezed, faith-filled heart and what glory God received as a result!

Jesus didn't try to avoid people with difficult lives.  He took the time to be pressed and squeezed; to pour love, forgiveness, hope, grace, mercy, kindness, healing, and so much more, into the people around Him.  He raised the dead, ate with sinners, spent time with children, taught the masses and the few.  He met them where they were. He healed hearts. He was drawn to those who were hurting and were in need physically, and spiritually. He showed us what the Father's heart looks like.

Ultimately, God poured out of Himself, from the spout of His heart, an incomprehensible love for a sin-sick world in desperate need of a sinless Savior. The ultimate squeeze. His Son sacrificed. Squeezed hard until He died...for you. For me. 

Jesus had to be squeezed to death for JOY to freely flow. Dark places give way to JOY as it greets the morning!  Resurrection day! LIFE anew!

And for all who have faith in Him, we get to experience that JOY and LIFE every moment of every day!

Being hard-pressed isn't fun, but it is necessary for us to develop a heart like Jesus'.  Being squeezed is a two-fold process. First, we are squeezed to empty out ourselves so we can be filled with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.  Second, once we have received Him into our lives, we are to squeeze out His character when faced with hard-pressed opportunities. Whether we are being squeezed with our own hurts or with the hurts of others, Christ is who needs to be poured out of our hearts.  This is how we show what the Father's heart looks like.

Don't avoid those who are in need of the Savior's heart.  Take the time to be squeezed and hard-pressed, and drip Jesus into others who need Him.  God's heart is overflowing with compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, encouragement, and hope.  As we squeeze out the heart of the Father, joy fills our glass and swells our souls. Because what is squeezed out is real, sweet, transforming, and eternal. 

"All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV

My Pleasure,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Distinguishing Mark

I don't know about you but to me, words written on paper are priceless.  I love to discover old letters, notes, signatures, all written by people long ago. I also love to reread letters written to me or notes from years past.  I especially love the words written to me from my sweet husband, Rick.  Your handwriting no one can duplicate.  Your signature is like your fingerprint. It's yours and yours alone!  A piece of yourself, your distinguishing mark, swirled onto empty space on paper.

My daughter was finishing up thank-you notes to those who have given gifts to her for graduation.  As I gazed at her handwriting on the envelopes, I realized that a taste of her personality was on the front of each one, and her heartfelt gratitude tucked away inside.  It made me smile.

My son, as we're vacationing at the beach, is rediscovering his cursive handwriting at age 23. As he writes in his journal, he's remembering the concentration it takes to be precise in letter formation. Handwriting really is an art, something that develops through the years.
How vast is the knowledge of God to design each person with his or her own unique style of handwriting?  It's incomprehensible the variety.  
I can remember as a little girl loving to watch my mother write.  It was so artistic.  Every letter so precise and elegant. Even her letters in those tiny little boxes of the newspaper crossword puzzles she did every day without fail were perfect, and in cursive no less.  Even her recipe cards were written in cursive; pieces of her I still have.  Her signature on a card, her lists, every stroke a treasure.  I'm so glad I have this memory as she would be 84 today!
Why do we not write as much anymore?  I know the answer already. It's because of the progress of technology. We think we're saving time, but we're really giving up a part of ourselves that God has uniquely created us with.

The Bible- the written Word of God.  God used men to write His message to us. His love letter recorded by human hands so we would know how much He loves us.  He used men of faith, filled with His Spirit, to write His heart on paper in their handwriting so we could hold and know His heart. 

In 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, Paul wrote, "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." What a treasure we have been given. 

So whether I'm writing an encouragement note, signing a birthday card, or composing a love letter to my husband, I am leaving each recipient a special piece of myself with each stroke of the pen.  What will you write today?  How will you leave your distinguishing mark for those you leave behind?

My Pleasure,


Friday, June 7, 2013

Cope or Hope

How do you greet the day?  Some people really struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. Some, like my husband, wake up with this cheery attitude that annoys the rest of us who like to move a little slower as we pry our eyelids open. I prefer to have my coffee before even speaking a word. "Mmm... Good morning, Lord!"

We all develop skills and habits that help us face and get through our days.  But who wants to just survive when there is something greater to help us live fully alive?

Now I know there are legitimate medical reasons for why some people struggle through their days.  I have dealt with some depression and fears through the years.  I know what it feels like to feel defeated, worthless.  I've fought hard against Satan's mind games to win against the feelings of worthlessness as a wife and mother during post partum depression.  I've also experienced anxiety attacks on occasions; fearful of not being able to escape closed in areas. These feelings are real scary and those who deal with these things on a daily basis have my utmost empathy and prayers. I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist, but I do know One who offers something greater than just coping skills to get through the day.  His name? 

What does He offer?  
Hope is for more than just survival.  Hope is revival.  Every morning I'm renewed because of Jesus.  He is the reason I get up.  He is the reason I live.  He is the source of my strength.  He's my strong tower, my refuge, my hope. 
"God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5b) 
Want to see light in your day?  Seek Him.  Run to the Light and flee the darkness.  Speak His sweet  name...Jesus. Jesus.  Speak it right now!  He will break through the walls of darkness in your life. He will give you more than skills to cope. As you speak His name, your clouds disappear.  His light will burst forth.  Hope will move you forward, not just get you through.  Hope gives life. Life breathes hope and says, "Yes!" to the day He has given.
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.  Everyone who has this HOPE in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (I John 3:2-3 NIV emphasis mine)
My Pleasure,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Getting the Most Out of a Gift


Preparation for the Summer Book Club evening was an all day process.  There were suppers to pack, gifts to wrap, a DVD to watch, questions to ponder, and prayers to whisper.  But as I began preparing for the evening, I had renewed strength because I was exercising one of my spiritual gifts, hospitality: making people feel at home. The gifts, sack suppers, lemonade, and of course, sweet tea, all served up with a touch of southern hospitality.
What I love about these ladies is that they "ooh and ah" over the simplest of pleasures.  One in particular said something to the effect, "This is the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've had in a long time; (laughing) probably because someone else made it for me."
Because time was short, (I had had 4 events in 4 days) I prepared something simple, sprinkled with a splash of color.  My favorite part of the evening was the laughter, the conversation, and the encouragement spilling all over my home as the women received their sack suppers.  They opened their first gift of the evening, ate, and were filled.
Jesus loved visiting people, and especially with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Because He visited with them in their home on many occasions, and the fact that He wept over Lazarus' death, it's easy to conclude they probably were close friends.  Martha paid special attention to the details when Jesus came to visit and have a meal.  She wanted their home to look nice, smell good, and for the dining experience to go well.  Jesus knew what she was doing, but because He also knew His time on earth was brief, He wanted her to pay attention to what was most important- knowing and experiencing Him.
Jesus is the best gift ever!  Once He is received into the home of our hearts, we are to do more than to just set the Gift on the coffee table.  The most important part of receiving a gift is experiencing what is inside.  Opening the gift leads to the wonder inside.  We need to experience Jesus, the amazing wonder that He beholds.  He wants us to know Him, to spend time with Him, to bask in His glory and gifts of grace; He showers gifts on us every moment of every day. 
Yes, the details of our lives are important, but the God who is in the details is of utmost importance.
The ladies received a wrapped gift as well.  To really understand and experience this gift, they had to open it and then go experience after day after day after day...!
Dear Jesus, as we experience the wonder of your grace, keep our eyes wide open to who You are and how You love us.  Today, we open our hands to receive, and our hearts to express thanksgiving. Amen.
My Pleasure,