Monday, April 28, 2014

Picking Up the Pen and the Pace

Dragging my feet AGAIN with my gifts journal.  Why? Why do I slip back into the habit of NOT giving thanks; writing gifts down? Why?

Why do any of us fall behind in life-giving habits that are worth our effort and time to do?  Just like with my lack of walking - I can fall behind, replacing the healthy with the unhealthy faster than you can say, "Jack rabbit!", or "Dab-nab-it!", or "Cheez-its!" 

The answer for me is easy, but not so easy to swallow.

I'm lazy!  I don't want to walk on the treadmill. I would rather write, sip coffee, read, or watch an old movie.  But, although there's nothing wrong with what I want to do, I need to get moving. I need to pick up the pace with my health and stop ignoring the inevitable. Sedentary people become more sedentary and less healthy.

And what about those things which draw us nearer to the Savior - those healthy, Spirit-filled habits that keep our minds pure, renewed, and so full of Jesus? Why do we ignore His best and settle for less?

Not being intentional with spiritual habits which keep us spiritually strong (reading God's Word, meditating on His truth, praying, etc...) produces an unhealthy, unfruitful relationship with our Savior.

Our lack of giving thanks pushes us back to a place of less joy; missing what is right in front of us; missing the Invisible God through His visible gifts.  Our lack of searching for those precious gifts of joy speaks loudly about our state of laziness, forgetfulness, and busyness. How can we be too busy to be thankful? Allowing some good things to cloud our thinking obstructs our vision of the best things God has for us.

So today, I'm admitting my laziness, my forgetfulness, my sinfulness - my lack of thanksgiving in ALL things. As I seek to pick up the pen and the pace with a grateful heart, I'm focusing again on this verse, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

Lord Jesus, I want to be diligent, faithful, and true to Your purpose for my life. I want to give back to You through thanksgiving as You have so generously blessed me with gifts beyond measure.  As I pick up my pen and pick up the pace, moving forward into the summer, help me stay focused on the Spirit-filled task of thanking You, my King, for EVERYTHING! "  Amen.

Why don't you join me in penning gifts as we count it all joy this summer?

1037. Blue skies in SC
1038. The smell of fresh, brewed coffee
1039. A hands free basket (Psalm 81)
1040. Resurrection Day
1041. Loss of a few lbs.
1042. A Holy Spirit Who transforms us
1043. Bright pink rose buds
1044. 20 minute treadmill walk

My Pleasure,

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Tisket, a Tasket, a Hands Free Basket

Without fail, when I enter our laundry room and open the hamper, I could truly think I'm losing my mind.  Wasn't it empty yesterday? I just washed every load imaginable. But instead of an empty hole, it's filled again to the brim!

 Filled with the same stuff as yesterday.

Towels, underwear, pants, shorts, work clothes, socks, etc....

Every time I empty it, someone fills it back up!  It's never-ending.

Isn't that the way it is when we carry around the "basket of dirty laundry" from our past?  We take it to Jesus, empty it at His feet, but instead of leaving it with the One who will take care of it, we return with our empty basket back into life and allow it to fill up again with the same old stuff.

This morning as I was reading in Psalms, I came across this verse:

He says, "I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you..." (Psalm 81:6-7a NIV)

"Their hands were set free from the basket."  The God of Israel set His people's hands free from their basket of burden.  The Psalmist is reminding them that God set them free from the vice of the Egyptians - their chains and their hardship - into a new relationship with Him.  They were free to follow the God of their fathers, to worship Him and serve Him only.

But they chose to hold on to the basket of their past because it's what they knew.  They didn't trust God with their future, so they took their baskets back to their past.  Because they wouldn't let the "basket" go, God gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.

Are we any different on this side of the cross?  Why would we, those who have been given the gift of salvation, our freedom in Christ, choose to hold on to the heaviness of hurts, bitterness, anger, an unforgiving spirit, any sin which holds us captive, and carry it around when our hands have been set free from the basket?  

Trust. We don't trust the One who gave us our freedom.  It's the lack of faith to leave the basket at Jesus' feet - the Savior who hung on the cross, took our pain our sorrow, our guilt and spilled out His blood because He loves us that much. How can we not trust Him who paid our debt in full?

I carried a basket of burden around for 15 years, holding onto hurt, anger and bitterness toward someone who had hurt me.  Every time I picked up that basket, it was exhausting and draining. It faded my sparkle, my joy, and Satan would score a run every time I chose to return with that basket of unforgiveness.

When I finally let go of the basket and left it at the feet of Jesus, my hands were free to praise, my heart was free to forgive, and I was free to live fully alive again in Christ. It was exhilarating. I could breathe again. My joy was back and I was moving forward and trusting Him to make me into what He had designed me to be.

Are you carrying around a basket that Jesus has already set you free from? Don't you want to have free hands?  Set down that basket in front of Jesus. Let Him know you trust Him with it and that you don't want to pick it up again. Confess your sin and sorrow for holding onto it for so long and not trusting Him with your future.

Now, with a grateful heart, get up and walk away from the basket of defeat. Breathe in the freedom you have been given in Christ.  Sing for joy! You are free! Free indeed!

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beyond Belief

In the days following the Resurrection, where did Jesus go and what did He do?

Read Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21.

Much wondering went on in the hours following the discovery of the empty tomb. Mary and Mary Magdalene wondered where His body went. Peter, after hearing that He was not there, ran to the tomb to see for himself and he left - wondering.

But Jesus didn't leave them grieving and wondering. He appeared to them and to many others to console and reassure them that what He had told them had come true.

He had risen from the dead - just as He said.

I've wondered many times what it would have been like to have seen the risen Savior on that first Easter morning.  What an honor and humbling experience to be one of the witnesses to the greatest historical event in heaven and on earth; to see with my own eyes the empty tomb, the grave clothes folded, to hear with my own ears, the angel, as he announced, "He is risen! He is not here." (Mark 16:6 NIV) And to be told, "Go and tell!"

Jesus knew there would be much wondering and disbelief. He appeared to many, including Thomas, one of His faithful disciples, to remove his doubts about the claim of the resurrection. He said to Thomas as the disciples listened, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29 NIV - red letter added)

Blessed! Jesus said we are blessed because we believe in a Savior that we have not seen with our physical eyes.  We are blessed because of our faith. We are blessed because we have placed our faith and our hope in a risen, personal Savior - Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Not only does Jesus bless us because of our belief, but He wants to bless us beyond our belief.

Those who saw, heard, and believed were now commissioned to go, tell, and teach.  Those of us who believe today are commissioned as well to go make disciples, tell the Good News of Jesus, baptize and teach the truth - His Word.

Belief in a risen Savior is just the beginning - the first step!  Now, we must move forward and exercise our faith in the Person we believe in. Walking our faith journey will test our faith, strengthen our faith, and take us beyond our belief to places we never even imagined. The Christian walk is called discipleship - the process of becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ.

But we have to move.

Just believing results in a stand-still, stagnant, lethargic relationship with Christ - no growth, sickly, and in need of nourishment. To be a vibrant, radiant, fully alive Christian, growing in our faith, we must move beyond our belief into living a life of faith.

A healthy relationship never stops growing.  A healthy relationship with Jesus is constantly moving towards His presence and becoming more like Him everyday.

Are you living beyond your belief today? Are you in a vibrant, fully alive relationship with Christ? Are you growing more in love with Jesus through reading, hearing, and studying His Word,  an active part of a vibrant church family? If not, I pray you begin that blessed beyond belief journey today.

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV- red letter added)

My Pleasure,


Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Reason We...

The reason we worship!

The reason we sing!

The reason we love!

The reason we're called Christians!

The reason we live!

The reason we...

JESUS! Yes, He is risen, indeed!

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven   and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it... 

The angel said to the women,"He is not here; He has risen, just as He said." 
(Matthew 28: 1-2, 5a, 6a NIV) 

I hope you have had a wonderful Easter celebrating our risen Lord with your family and friends!

My Pleasure,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Almost Ready

War escalates between Good Friday and Sunday

Shackles shaken as death is defeated

Jesus battles to conquer the grave 

The Earth trembles with hope 

Joy comes in the morning

The tomb, almost ready

For dawn's first light


Precious Jesus,
As we wait for Resurrection Day, we remember the battle You fought so gloriously to conquer the sting of death and the grave. We are deeply grateful for providing the only way to the Father, for the indescribable gift of eternal life, by grace through faith in You, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  

My Pleasure,

Friday, April 18, 2014

Don't Miss the GOOD in Good Friday

Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday.  Today we reflect on Good Friday.

On Palm Sunday our church family sang together, witnessed two beautiful baptisms and a sweet baby dedication. The choir sang a powerful "Jesus Saves", we heard the Word proclaimed and...

we remembered what Jesus did for us on the cross as we shared in the Lord's Supper; the greatest act of love the world has ever known.

As I played on the piano the story of the cross, thoughts ran through my mind about how this was the last time our church family would ever experience this in this place all together again and I was overcome with sadness.  I was experiencing a "final" as Holy Week began.

As I reflect on and remember the sequence of events of Holy Week,  I'm reminded of the deep sadness Jesus must have felt as He began His final week on earth.

- the final celebration of Passover with the people He had lived with for 33 years
- the final Passover meal with His disciples, The Last Supper
- the final lesson taught on becoming a servant by washing the disciples' feet
- the final plea for deliverance from the cup of wrath He came to bear in the Garden of Gethsemane

His next visit to Jerusalem would be as Jesus, the Lamb of God - our Savior and supreme sacrifice.

Behind Him was a very full, 3 year ministry of pouring His heart into His disciples and teaching those who would listen to His divine message.  Just ahead of Him was the reason He came to earth - the cross.

Palm Sunday was the beginning of the annual celebration of Passover for the Jewish people, but for Christ, this week would end on a horrific and humiliating cross.

On Sunday, the people proclaimed Him king, little "k", because they thought Jesus had come to rescue them from the cruel and oppressive Roman Empire as their earthly king, but the King of kings, big "K", had come to defeat a much greater vice than the Romans. He came to break the chains of sin, to set them free from its power, by becoming their sin sacrifice.

Riding into the city on the back of a donkey as the people proclaimed Him King of the Jews waving palm branches and shouting, "Hosanna!", it should have been a happy time, but...

"He was sorrowful and acquainted with grief."  (Read Isaiah 53) 

Even after 2000 years, they still didn't understand why He had come.

He came to die.  To become sin.  For them.  For us.  For all mankind.

Jesus met the Father's requirement to pay for all sin. He was holy, without blemish, the perfect Lamb.
As He died on that cruel cross, in excruciating pain and agony, the Son satisfied the Father's wrath with His perfect, blood-spilled sacrifice.

It was GOOD! It was finished! Our debt was paid in full!

Don't miss the GOOD in Good Friday!

And there's more...

Sunday's coming!

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Prone to Wonder

An old hymn, full of rich doctrine and pure truth, lay relatively dormant after being sung for a couple of hundred years in the Church. Of late, it has been resurrected. Even a chorus has been added by Travis Cottrell to modernize it.  Once again, standing the test of time, this beloved hymn is on the forefront of worship song choices.

This beautiful hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," was written by Robert Robinson and John Wyeth in the 1700s.

The title of today's blog is on purpose because of a line in the hymn that says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love..." 

Because of our sinful nature, we are prone to wander away from the One who loves us more than we can comprehend.  The good news is, because of His incredible love toward us, He is never prone to leave us, no matter how hard we try to pull away at times.

Because of the Father's never-ending, unconditional, sacrificial love for me, demonstrated by His Son on the cross, I am prone to wonder

Wonder is defined by Webster as "a person, thing or event causing astonishment and admiration; marvel." 

The Person of Jesus Christ, His holiness, and His unmeasurable goodness causes me to wonder, to adore Him. I marvel at the undeserved grace-FULL life He blesses me with every. single. day.

Aren't you? Hasn't the magnificent, extravagant grace of God caused you to wonder?  My sincere prayer is that God helps us to not wander away, but to stay in His presence in a state of wonder, awe, and adoration.

My Pleasure,

Monday, April 7, 2014

All You Need Is a Little SOAP

I began a treasure hunt last evening with a group of women who are searching for some refreshment from the only One who can meet their spiritual needs, Jesus Christ.

As a college student, I was given a very useful tool to help me dig into and study the Scriptures.  It impacted my life so much that when I found something similar to it on Pinterest, I was ecstatic! I'm such a visual learner that the simplest of things bring me much joy!

S.O.A.P. is the visual tool I found and is what I shared with these precious ladies as we began our 8 week study.

S.O.A.P. is all you need to begin digging deeper into God's treasure chest (His Word) loaded with infinite, eternal nuggets of truth.

Here's how it works:

S.   Scripture: Write out the verse(s) being examined.
                       (This helps the Word to sink in.)

O.  Observation: What do my eyes see in the verse?
                           (Key words, phrases...)

A.  Application : What is God saying?
                            (Generally speaking)
                            What is God saying to me?
                            (Specific truth applied to my life)

P.   Pray:  Pray God's Word back to Him.
                 Confess any sin revealed.

Here's my prayer back to God today on our behalf:              

 "Thank You, Lord Jesus for the privilege of exhorting (encouraging) each other daily. I pray our hearts will not be hardened to Your voice through Your Holy Spirit by the deceitfulness of sin. For we are partakers of You and desire to hold our confidence in You firm to the end. Forgive us for not listening when You've spoken so clearly.  Help us to honor You and obey Your voice today.  (Hebrews 3:13-14)

Now, you try it!  All you need is a little SOAP!
I'd love to know what you think!

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Play On!

Another brown paper bag was left at my back door on my adopted day, March 27.  I love the way my neighbor has taken the baton since the passing of both of my parents.  She is a gift herself! Thanks Barbara!

Two years ago, on March 11, 2012, Mom went to be with Jesus.  A couple of weeks later on March 27, I was feeling quite sad that Mom nor Dad were here to remember that special day with me anymore. No more going to the Shrimper for lunch, reminiscing, or celebrating with the ones who had always made me feel extra special for 49 years.

That's when the first brown paper bag showed up.  Inside was a cd of jazz piano hymn arrangements.  The perfect gift on a day I thought would be forgotten. My friend didn't even know that it was my adopted day, but God used her to hug me in a very real way that lonely day.

Ever since, she has dropped a brown paper bag at my back door on March 27 as a reminder that I'm not forgotten. God has used these brown paper packages to flood my heart with sweet joy and assurance that He is continuing the good work He began in me and will be faithful to complete it. Even if my precious parents aren't here physically to celebrate with me anymore, I know they are a part of that great cloud of witnesses cheering me on.

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)

And the card! I love cards! I even buy them for myself if it contains a message that really speaks to my heart. (I know. That's really strange. But for me, it's like buying a piece of art to place in my house.)

So, guess what!  You guessed it. The card was one that I had bought for myself!  It has a piano on the front with a message about how God has created us to do things that only we were designed to do. And "in this great orchestra we call LIFE, we should play sublimely." The inside message says, "Play on."

Love it!

I framed the one I bought for myself to remember this truth. Now, someone else thought this truth was for me as well!

If you don't think God cares about what we care about, then you better think again!

God was telling me once more to continue on with the journey He has designed for me, and to "Play on."

My Pleasure,