The Day I Stopped Waiting

2 Peter 3:9a The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.

Christmas has past. The waiting is over. I will no longer be circling parking lots waiting for a spot. There are no long lines at the register in which to wait to make a purchase. All the gifts that waited under the tree for weeks unopened have now been opened. Waiting has been replaced with precious memories of the laughter and love that marked the day of Jesus' birth. Christmas was certainly worth the wait.

This morning I am reading James 5. James concludes his letter by encouraging his readers to wait patiently for Jesus' return. "See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."

That first Christmas morning was long in coming. For centuries, the Israelites longed for the long-awaited Messiah to come. Even once Jesus' pending birth was announced to Mary, she had to wait nine months for His birth and thirty-three years for His death. Salvation was worth the wait. No sooner though had Christ died and been resurrected when a few short years later His followers were already growing weary of waiting for His return.

We all have things we are waiting for. Reconciliation of relationships. Resolution of difficulties. Answers to prayers. This morning I ponder the farmer. How is it he is able to wait with such great patience? In an instant I know. He doesn't wait; he anticipates. The productive farmers sits in confident expectation for the rain to come, his crop to grow and his field to yield its' harvest. Today I need to stop waiting on God and instead begin anticipating the wonder of watching Him work the fields of my life and bring His harvest.

Jesus, anticipation brings hope; waiting brings worry. Today I will sit in confident expectation knowing You are at work. You are working my fields. You will bring the harvest. And Your harvest will definitely be worth the wait.

Dear Santa?

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.

Last night my husband and I had a fight. We felt misunderstood, unheard and possessed felt needs that are currently going unmet. He wants me to be more of the wife he desires and I want him to be more of the husband I desire. Therein lies the problem. We were too busy considering what we each want ourselves to consider the other person.

This Christmas Eve morning my reading is from James 4. I only have to read the first verse to know with certainty that Jesus is aware of what's happening in my life and ready at all times to walk with me right where I am. "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battles within you? You want something but don't get it." (Verses 1-2a) Yes Jesus it is true that selfish desires battle within me. I want certain things from my husband and when I don't get them I find myself disappointed and disillusioned. Thankfully you don't leave me at verse one. You always offer hope and healing.

"You do not have, because you do not ask God." (Verse 2b) Typically this verse is quoted within the context of the power of prayer. Indeed prayer is powerful and faith even the size of the tiny mustard seed leads to powerful and effective prayers. Today though God is speaking this verse into my heart not in the framework of my prayer life but instead into the fabric of my marriage.
  • I'm Asking the Wrong Person - My husband is not the meeter of my needs; God is. He is the supplier of good things that never runs short on inventory and whose delivery service is more reliable and speedy than overnight FedEx. Shannon, stop asking your husband to meet the most tender needs of your heart. That is a place God alone can serve.
  • I Fail to Ask - I want my husband to be a master swami who can use the Vulcan Mind Meld to anticipate my every wish and desire. Since I'm a woman my dear husband can scarcely understand my needs if I spell them out word for word. He has no chance if I do not communicate. I do not have, because I do not ask. Shannon, start asking for what you need. Just be certain to ask the right person.

Three of my four children were born via C-Section. I had the privilege of knowing in advance the day they would be born and preparing my heart and mind for the coming event. On that first Christmas Eve, Mary had no way of knowing the life that would change the world would come tomorrow. On this Christmas Eve I have the advantage of knowledge. I know that the presents so precious no person can give, Jesus has already wrapped up for me. He knows what I need. I just need to ask the right person.

Jesus, thank you for this special Christmas Eve present. You have wrapped a treacherous night of conflict in the beauty of forgiveness and healing. You have changed my heart because You have shown me how to stop thinking just of me and how to find You in the midst of my conflict. Today my attitude will be the same as Yours with all that is in me. I will set aside my selfish ambition and vain conceit and simply ask You with child-like faith to meet my needs.

What's That You Say?

James 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.

I am the youngest of four children. With this birth order position comes a special talent for bugging the stew out of your older siblings. I was exercising said capability one afternoon by marching around in a circle while playing the recorder as loudly as I could. This game was especially fun since my older brother was trying to watch television at that precise moment and was only feet away from me.

As I tromped around and tweeted my brother politely asked me to stop. After several requests his voice took on a greater degree of urgency and command until he finally hurled a pillow in my path in a desperate attempt to silence his pesky little sister. And silence me he did. One moment I was busy irritating my brother, the next I was stumbling over the pillow as the recorder lodged itself in the roof of my mouth.

This morning's reading is James 3. This chapter examines the power of the mouth to cause irreparable damage when careless words are hurled about. As Christmas rapidly approaches it is easy for me to recall Christmases past when beautiful words of love and affirmation have been penned to me by precious loved ones. Just as effortlessly, I remember words spoken by me or toward me that reflect a heart more reflective of the naughty list than the nice list.

Likewise, that long ago day when I aimed to bother my brother I used my mouth for the wrong without even uttering a word. What comes out of my mouth, starts in my heart (Luke 6:45). I never had to utter a word to clearly communicate my heart's intention. Similarly the silent treatment, my seating arrangement at Christmas dinner or even the ease with which I give love and affection to someone can speak volumes.

Soon we each with gather with friends, family or maybe even neighbors to celebrate the birth of Christ. The question is what will I say when I get there? Will my mouth bear glad tidings? Will my actions bring good will to men? Or will I carnage my relationships with careless words and actions like I bloodied my mouth so long ago with the antagonistic actions of my recorder toting mouth?

Jesus, Saturday is Your birthday. Help me truly honor You not only that day but every day with the words I utter and the actions I present. Feel free to lob a pillow my direction if my heart gets out of line so that when I speak my words form music beautiful to Your ear.

For All the World to See

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds ad praise your Father in heaven.

A few weeks ago Hannah was charged by her dance team coach with the task of coming up with a way to motivate her teammates and help ready them for an upcoming competition. Hannah has always been long on creativity so in no time she had forged a clever plan. She hid candy inside balloons of her school's colors. Then she blew up the balloons and attached a note urging her teammates to blow away the competition. Her note served as a clue signifying the treasure that awaited inside the balloon. What was on the inside was made known by what could be observed on the outside.

This morning's passage is James 2. This chapter's main theme is the relationship between faith and the outward expression of our faith through acts of kindness and love. Two Old Testament figures are used as examples of individuals that God considered righteous because their outward behavior evidenced their inward love for God. The first is Abraham, one of the most recognizable individuals of the Old Testament and the "father" of both Christianity and Judaism. The second is an absolutely ordinary if not somewhat scandalous figure.

Her name is Rahab. Known only as Rahab the prostitute, her story can be found in Joshua 2, 6:22-24. By the second chapter of Joshua, the nation of Israel has been rescued from Egypt and spent forty years wandering around in the desert. The time has finally come for the Israelites to occupy the land that God had promised to them. Their conquest will begin in a town named Jericho.

Two spies are sent to that city to scope it out prior to the attack by Israel and are aided greatly by Rahab. She provides shelter, a hiding place and a way of escape. In return she asks only that the lives of herself and her family be spared. A plan is devised and to signify her safety a scarlet thread is hung from her window. All Israel will know her home is to be spared when they see the scarlet thread.

Now that story is fascinating but as Paul Harvey would say, it is the rest of the story that makes Rahab's story truly stupendous. You see her scarlet thread dangled a bit farther down history's wall than just out an ancient window in Jericho. Twenty-one generations later that scarlet thread would wrap about tiny fingers lying in a manger. Jesus is her offspring. Rahab's life was spared by a scarlet thread. Jesus carried that scarlet strand all the way to the cross where He laid down his life to save every wretched prostitute that would ever live.

Jesus, thank you for holding out a scarlet cloth to me. I desperately needed Your rescue. My heart and life had been prostituted to other loves - the love of myself and the love of independence. Like Rahab, I want my heart for You to be so evident to others that my actions would write the story of the redemption of my heart. Today I will hang Your scarlet thread out of the window of my soul that others might see You in me.

Please Deposit 5 Cents

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

One of all-time favorite cartoons is Peanuts which features the character Lucy. Lucy is a know-it-all who for the mere price of five cents can give you the answer to any dilemma you happen to face. She never lacks for advice and is absolutely certain that the recommendation she makes is perfect every time. Sometimes I wish I could whisk myself into Charles Schultz' comic and ask her a thing or two myself.

This morning I started a new book of the Bible, James by reading the first chapter. There is enough themes in the first chapter alone to make you feel like you are jumping on a hopscotch board. Many topics from trials to temptation are covered in its' 27 verses. Today though I am having one of those wish I could call God on the telephone kind of days. I want some quick and easy answers and some snappy direction given to decisions I need to make.

"If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God." (Verse 5) I definitely need some wisdom and I keep asking but so far God hasn't sent me a text or Facebook message giving me the answers I am seeking. As I read on in this chapter, however, I note some clear action steps I need to take while I wait on that telegram from God.
  1. Listen - "Everyone should be quick to listen." (Verse 19) Maybe one of the reasons I don't hear God's voice is because I'm too busy talking over Him while attempting to get my point across. Just this morning my husband reminded me of the verse Psalm 46:10 which says, "Be still and know that I am God." In the silent pauses of my life, there is finally room for God to speak. Lord, make me quick to listen.
  2. Do What I Already Know to Do - "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (Verse 22) Often the answer I looking for has already been revealed in God's word. Too often I am waiting for a word from the Lord that I know in fact He has already spoken. I just don't like His answer and keep hoping He'll change his mind. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is no use shopping His answers because they are timeless and apply to every situation.

Jesus, thank you that You do speak when I take the time to listen. Today help me do that which You've already made clear to me to do. As for the rest, help me stay silent long enough to hear You. Your wisdom is both free and freely given and unlike Lucy, You actually are always right.

Unwelcome Visitors

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Last week I sat down to lunch with my brother, Scott, at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. It is my personal philosophy that one can not pile too much salsa on any given chip so as soon as the basket of chips and bowls of salsa hit our table, I mounded up the salsa on my chip and enjoyed the flavor Mexican flavor fiesta began. Several chips into my feast, I bit down on something too hard to be a chip. Instinctively I spit the contents of my mouth back out into my hand.

Disbelief washed over me as I stared into my hand that now contained a 1 inch triangular shard of glass. How had such a large intruder smuggled its way into my mouth? Had I dismissed its presence among the tomatoes as a harmless onion? Was I too distracted with other things to notice its ominous occupation in my bowl?

This morning's passage is the final chapter of Hebrews - 13. As I read these final verses, one echoes more loudly in my heart than the rest. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure." (Verse 4) I adore my husband and truly desire him to be my most important earthly priority. However, my marriage sometimes gets swallowed up by the busyness of life. When that happens potentially fatal objects can find themselves in the mix of my marriage. As I continue reading, I find several weapons Satan hides in my marriage and God's truth that can overcome each of these potentially fatal threats.
  1. Loneliness - Have you ever felt misunderstood, unimportant or neglected in your marriage? I know I have. When communication falters, loneliness results. The longer one goes without heartfelt conversation in a marriage, the larger this shard of glass grows. It pierces at your heart, allowing Satan's lie of isolation to trickle into the marriage. God's truth is that we are never alone. "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Verse 5) We can always draw on God's strength to be the first to recommit to the communion of conversation in marriage.
  2. Wounds - It seems as if our spouse is best suited to create or antagonize our emotional wounds. Hurts not covered by the healing balm of forgiveness fester into the sharpest of swords. I fail to forgive most often because I am afraid if I do I will suffer further harm. God's truth is that I should never fear doing the right thing. "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Verse 6)
  3. Discontentment - The grass always seems greener in someone else's yard. Her husband helps more with the kids. Or his wife does a better job of managing the home and the finances. In actuality the grass is greener where it has been fertilized. God's truth is that the greatest enemy of discontentment is gratitude. "Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise". (Verse 15) There is always something I can be thankful for about my spouse. When I choose to focus my energies on that instead, I begin to notice shoots of lush, green grass on my own side of the fence.

Jesus, thank you for Your protection. You protected me physically from the harm in my salsa but You also protect my marriage. When I choose Your truth, my marriage is surrounded by the strongest of fortresses through which no shards of glass will penetrate. Today I choose communication, forgiveness and gratitude not only in my marriage but in every aspect of this savory concoction called my life.

I Have Miles to go Before I Sleep

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

I remember that first afternoon as if it were yesterday. It was a temperate day for a North Florida summer. I had my running clothes on and was ready to impress my new friend. Though I had never run a days in my life I figured it couldn't be all that much harder than walking and I'd been doing that for over thirty years already.

It took me exactly one block to find out that running was far more laborious than walking. With my breath coming in desperate little puffs, I urged my body to continue. Then it happened. My running companion said, "If you need to slow down I'll just go on ahead and lap you later." I could not have been more motivated to run than if a Rottweiler were barrelling down on my behind.

This morning I am reading the 12th chapter of Hebrews. This is an inspiring passage that motivates that reader to want to know God more intimately and walk with Him more closely. "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Verse 1) That first day I ran eight years ago I had more desire than perseverance. Today I can run miles without even losing my breath. I have learned to run with persistence. This passage gives three ways I can learn to run in my faith with stamina as well.
  • Fix Your Eyes (Verse 2) - There have been times when the thought of running even a mile was more than I could imagine. Rather than thinking about running a great distance, I fix my eyes on an upcoming house, tree or mailbox and will myself to just keep running until I reach that marker. Then I pick out another roadside attraction and make myself run until I reach it. If I do this enough times, eventually I've run much farther than I originally thought possible. The author tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. If I want to go farther in my faith, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him lead me to the next roadside attraction He has in store for my life.
  • Do Not Grow Weary (Verse 3) - Some days I'm just tired and truly don't want to run at all or I want to stop midstream and just give up. On those days, I stop thinking about my present circumstances like my burning lungs or my aching feet and instead force myself to think about the better things that await me at home. I daydream about a dinner date Scott and I may be taking later in the week or a special activity I have planned with one of my children. In my faith walk I grow weary when I get all wrapped up in the here and now. Every moment of my life should be lived in light of eternity. When I refocus my mind on Christ my day takes on new purpose and the mundane an excitement that only God can give.
  • Do Not Lose Heart (Verse 3) - That first day I took off running, what I didn't know is that it was a lot more than just my legs that would require strengthening. My cardiovascular system was in for a major overhaul as well. At first I could only run a few blocks before I was out of breath with a heart racing out of my chest. Overtime, I began to gain control over my breathing and eventually I stopped "losing heart". Likewise, discouragement can have a major impact on my spiritual life. If my prayer life seems empty or my Bible study stale, I begin to feel like I'm wasting my time and want to quit. However, a healthy heart toward God is not developed doing sprints; long distance running is required. I have to spend time with God consistently over a long period of time to see real growth and change happen in my life.

Jesus, You are the ultimate personal trainer. You have taken this uncoordinated, unathletic girl and turned her into a long-distance runner. While it is true I run on the roads, it is the run of life You've taught me that is far more miraculous. On today's run, I will keep my eyes on You, not grow weary and not lose heart. Thank you for being my running partner.

Wrap Some Faith Up Under My Tree

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

I have a confession. I've been throwing a secret pity party for myself for several weeks now. You see it's the first year in my adult life that I have not been invited to a single Christmas party. Yes I've made merry with the cheer moms. It's true that I will soon celebrate with the pom moms. However, when it comes to grCheck Spellingoup gatherings one is somewhat included rather than invited.

Little did I know, God would interrupt my pity party for one with a surprise much sweeter than an invitation in my mailbox. Tonight some sweet soul prompted likely only by a motive of love, dropped a pear ornament on our front doorstep to mark the first day of Christmas. I can only assume that other surprises will follow. Perhaps even eleven of them. Now that far surpasses a fiesta. This is a festival!

Today I am reading Hebrews 11. This chapter is often referred to as the "Role Call of the Faithful". The faith of many saints is celebrated. "Big" names such as Noah, Abraham and Moses find a place here but so do lesser known individuals. Every person listed here has one thing in common. They believed God.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." True faith knows God pens every invitation that finds its way to my door. Real faith waits in expectation of what God will do.

Jesus, thank you for the sweet reminder You placed on my doorstep tonight. You are near. You are in control. You will meet my every need. That is why I can have sincere faith.

Makin' a List and Checkin' it Twice

1 Corinthians 13:5 Love keeps no record of wrongs.

One afternoon I happened upon one of my sweet darling little blessings who had just finished finger nail painting her room. Toys, shelves and walls were now accented with bright blue patches of finger nail polish. My initial thought was to lock said child in her room until her 18th birthday but after a few deep breaths I decided to talk with her about her new found art skills.

Our ensuing conversation went something like this:
Me: "Why did you paint your room, Honey?"
Child: "I'm mad at you."
Me: "Why are you mad?"
Child: "I can't remember but I know that I'm really mad."

Today's passage is Hebrews 10. This chapter continues to expound on the theme of Jesus' sacrifice for all mankind's sin. God's ultimate demonstration of love was dying a cruel death in our place. In fact, this chapter reminds us that God does not even recall our sin once He has forgiven it. Why is it then that I am so good at remembering? I can conjure up the most insignificant details of not only my own past sin but also those times I have been wronged by certain others.

Love keeps no record of wrong. Love does not make a list. Love doesn't check it twice. Love believes God. He is able to forgive me. He is able to help me forgive others. He will deal most sufficiently with those who've wronged me. (Verses 30-31)

Jesus, this Christmas I'm tearing up my lists. All the lists of past regrets, failures and hurts. I'm going to sling them past my stocking to the fire that shines underneath. There even lists written in blue fingernail polish don't stand a chance of survival.

Stocking Stuffers

Hebrews 9:26 ...But now he (Jesus) has appeared once for do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Last year Santa ran into a bit of a dilemma. After running all over town and traipsing through a good portion of the world wide web, he was too tired to place but a few items in my stocking. Our Christmas morning tradition is to open stockings in reverse age order, youngest to oldest. When my turn I arrived, I "oohed and aahed" over each of the items in my stocking though their number was far less than those previously opened. Noting the lack of goods Santa dropped my way, Clara inquired, "Mommy, weren't you good last year?"

This morning the passage is Hebrews 9. This chapter further expands on the theme of Christ's perfect sacrifice. I laugh when I remember that Clara thought my lack of stocking stuffers equated to a lack of goodness. My true stocking isn't hung by a chimney. Nor is it filled by a mythical figure on the basis of my placement on the "nice" list. Each morning I open my heart to the Savior. He fills it with treasure even Bill Gate's bank account could never purchase. I open it each day because an annual filling would prove far too infrequent.

In this chapter, the author lists many of the things Jesus stuffs in my stocking that hangs on the mantle of my heart.
  • Redemption (Verse 12)
  • A Clean Conscience (Verse 14)
  • Freedom (Verse 15)
  • Salvation (Verse 28)

Jesus, you died not because I was good but because You are perfect. No other sacrifice would have been enough to cover my mountain of sin. Thank you for filling me each morning. The treasure in Your pack is priceless.

All I Want for Christmas is You

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her first-born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

One of my absolutely favorite aspects of the Christmas season is the eagerness with which I have seen my children embrace gift giving. Their faces are full of joy as they wrap up items such as family portraits drawn by hand. Personally I like their renderings because I'm always drawn size 0 in stick form. They are equally delighted to race to the red bucket and place a dollar inside to the merry melody of bells ringing or to fill a shoe box with items they've never once asked to keep for themselves.

These little reminders keep my heart focused on the real gift of the season. He was wrapped not in a package festively tied with ribbon but in swaddling clothes. His parents couldn't afford luxury travel for the holiday; they took a donkey. No one filled his stocking but later wise men would find Him and give Him their treasure. Jesus will forever be the greatest Christmas present.

Today I am reading the 8th chapter of Hebrews. This passage describes in the detail how man's relationship with God was permanently altered when Jesus died for our sins. The author quotes a passage from Jeremiah 31 that outlines four gifts given not when Jesus came as a baby but when He died as a man.
  1. A Heart and a Mind to Know God (Verse 10) - "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts." God's love is etched onto the heart of every person who chooses Jesus. The Holy Spirit's whispers are heard in our ears, directing our steps toward God.
  2. Relationship (Verse 10) - "I will be their God, and they will be my people." Too often we are satisfied with mere acquaintance with the Savior when God offers close relationship. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God when mankind was first created. We were made for intimacy.
  3. Access (Verse 11) - "No longer will a man teach his neighbor...they will know me." We have each been given an all-access backstage pass to the ultimate rock star. We don't even have to bribe His manager or win a radio contest to get it. We just have to accept God's plan of salvation and surrender to our need for it. Better than acceptance in Harvard or an audience with the Pope, we can meet with God one on one and learn from Him for ourselves.
  4. Forgiveness (Verse 12) - "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Over the course of my life I have spent a great many hours searching for something I have lost. I at times take it for granted that I could search for the remainder of my days and could not find any trace of my sin. God remembers it no more. It is not in the lost and found. It has not been misplaced. It is vanquished.

Jesus, You are the most precious Christmas gift of all. May the gift I unwrap this season be time spent with You celebrating the forgiveness You died to give me. Today I choose to make my heart ready. Come Lord Jesus.

What's in Your Will?

Psalm 103:17-18 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him; and his righteousness with their children's children

Last night Scott and I were having a rather painful conversation with one of our children about the reasons behind some of the boundaries we've chosen to place in our home around relationships with the opposite sex. I'll admit some of our standards go against the grain of today's societal trends and are likely ridiculed not only by our children's peers but also our own. We were not surprised that she was struggling to accept our rules but rather how confused she was as to why we had put those standards in place. Boundaries placed in love were seen as choices made out of fear.

As we explained our reasoning, our daughter's heart softened but mine was left throbbing. I had been hurled back to the early years when I had interacted with boys. I was awkward. I felt ill-equipped physically or socially to attract a "top" candidate. As a result, I made poor choices in a futile attempt to attract and retain boyfriends. All I could think to myself was how much I don't want my girls to grow up to be like least in that department.

This morning I am reading Hebrews 7. This chapter references a fairly obscure Old Testament figure named Melchizedek. I'll just refer to him as Moe. You can read in detail about Moe in Genesis 14 but the short is this. Abraham's nephew, Lot, is taken as a prisoner when several kings band together and successfully raid a neighboring land. Abraham, clearly aided by God, successfully wages battle against these kings and brings home Lot, his family and everything previously belonging to Lot. As the victory party passes through the area that will later become Jerusalem they happen upon Moe.

Moe is described as a priest of God Most High (Verse 1). We are never told in Scripture who Moe's parents are. This is significant because every other person given the title "priest" in the Bible is a descendant of one of Abraham's great-grandsons named Levi. Here Jesus is referred to as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Verse 17) When Jesus died for each of us, He became our priest permanently. Generation upon generation, every other priest who served in the Jewish temple offered sacrifices for sin on behalf of God's people but also for himself. Jesus sacrificed Himself on our behalf alone.

Jesus' perfect sacrifice was intended to abolish the "old ways" but we try to carry our old ways into this new covenant. One of the most damaging is generational sin. These are the things about ourselves that we ascribe to our parents or where we come from or how we were raised and thereby assume will never change. It could be habitual such as growing up in around alcoholics. It could be sexual like growing up viewing pornography. It could even be something "harmless" such as treating our spouse in the same disrespectful way we saw our own parent treated, having a problem with unbridled anger or an uncontrolled tongue.

Jesus, You desire so much more for my life than children that turn out like me. You want my kids to turn out like You. I want to leave a legacy of faith, not sinful behavior. With You I know it is possible. Your love can visit my children's children. Now that's something worth writing in the will.

Do I Really Have to Go in There?

Proverbs 9:6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.

In my experience, the most profound conversations with your children take place in the car. A few weeks back, as I was winging my way around the greater Memphis area shuttling kids, running errands and generally saving the planet, a little voice piped up from the backseat. "Mommy, what will it be like when I go to Kindergarten next year?" This is a conversation I've had two prior times. No sooner had the words dropped from her lips than my heart began to ache. Experience taught me what she was really asking.

After a brief explanation of what Kindergarten is like, I gently probed as to why she was asking about school. "Because, Mommy, I'm scared to go there." My ache erupted into an all-out throb as I anticipated that soon-coming fall day when another love of my life would pass through the doors marked, "Elementary" but are no such thing for the brave little child who walks through them.

This morning's passage is Hebrews 6. As this chapter opens, I read these words, "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity." Leaving a familiar place is always difficult. Whether moving physically to a different city, changing jobs or professions, ending a toxic friendship or progressing spiritually, "leaving" can evoke a wide range of feelings and emotions.

As I pondered times I've been reticent to "leave" where I was in my faith, I realized my hesitation is no different than the reasons Clara has a level of anxiety about entering Kindergarten.
  • I Won't Know Anyone - Leaving requires change. The most significant change is often relational. This is also true as I progress spiritually. There is a certain apprehension that accompanies moving on spiritually. Spiritual maturity can be a lonely place where it can feel like "no one else is doing it." To this fear, Jesus whispers in my ear, "I am here, loved one. I will walk with you as you take steps of faith. You will not be alone." Who better to have as my traveling companion.
  • I Don't Know What to Expect/I Don't Want to Change - It is easier to stay the same than to change. In fact, I have heard it said that no person will change until the discomfort associated with staying the same outweighs the anxiety about the change. Many business books have been penned on this very topic, teaching managers how to manage through changes in organizational structure or strategy. My own misgivings might be the hardest to oversee however. What is really behind those doors marked, "Elementary" or "Next Step of Faith"? As my imagination runs willy nilly, Jesus whispers in my ear, "I am completely trustworthy. Believe that I want the best for you and am leading you somewhere you truly want to go. Let me be your change manager" Who better to manage my change?

Jesus, I don't have to muster up my own courage to leave the elementary teachings and go on to maturity. You are with me. You will lead me. You are trustworthy. Today I choose to go with You because the pain of staying the way I am far exceeds my apprehension about becoming the woman You want me to be.


Luke 22:42 (Jesus praying) Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.

Much to my chagrin I quite often find myself in a conversation with one of my children that goes something like this:

Child: Mom
Child: Mom
Child: MOM
Me: Huh
Child: So can I?
Me: Can you what?
Child: What do you mean can I what? Are you even listening to me?

Sheepishly I must admit to said child that although they are a profound treasure from God's very hand, I was indeed not listening.

This morning I am reading Hebrews 5. I know I have read this passage multiple times on past trips I've taken through the Bible yet today the 7th verse leapt off the page as if I've never even seen it before this morning. "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." Whom better to model my prayer life after than Jesus himself?
  • Passion - "With fervent cries and tears" - Jesus' prayer life was not characterized by repetition or boredom. When he communicated with His Father, He was filled with passion. The word fervent means showing a great intensity of spirit. I have a feeling that Jesus wasn't nodding off in the middle of his prayers the way I do sometimes.
  • Focus - "To the one who could save him from death" - If I found myself pleading for my life, I'll bet I wouldn't start formulating a grocery or errand list in my mind. Somehow the distractions of my day pound their way into my mind when I am supposed to be praying. Yet what is the purpose of praying for my children if not that God alone is able to save them? What is the object of prayer if not to spare my relationships? What is the function of prayer if not to rescue my heart? If I really thought about whom it was that I am speaking, I too would learn to pray with focus.
  • Heard - "He was heard because of his reverent submission" - Jesus was entirely willing to do things the Father's way. He was permanently on God's page. When I pray out of a heart that only seeks to know God more intimately, I pray with a submissive heart. Isn't the whole purpose of prayer that we desire God to hear our prayer? He hears the prayer offered in reverent submission.

Jesus, thank you that You never tune me out. No matter how weary or weak my cry, You hear me. Today when I talk to You, let my voice be passionate. Let my mind remain focused. Let my heart be surrendered. Today I will choose to believe that I am heard.

Beyond Packages and Bows

1 Samuel 16:7b The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

The other morning I was on a run with my sweet friend, Brenda. As we ran, we compared progress on our Christmas shopping and strategized what presents should complete our 2010 shopping lists. Brenda asserted that children should not be given necessities as presents. While I agree with this thought in theory, I must admit I tend too often toward the practical.

Hayleigh (soon 12) would definitely agree with that assessment. When Hayleigh turned six, her birthday presents were housed in boxes nearly as big as she. She ripped the wrapping off the first as folds of fabric peaked out from the box. She squealed with delight and she exclaimed, "It's a sleeping bag!" It was a coat. Never fear. There was another box of equal size. Her enthusiasm not curbed in the least, she tore the paper off the next box. Her excitement could not be contained as she shouted, "It's a Barbie dream house!" It was a lamp.

This morning, my reading is Hebrews 4. This chapter contains the exciting description of God's word as a "double-edged sword" (Verse 12). Its' words penetrate our souls and measure our thoughts. Immediately following this statement about scripture, the author notes that "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight." (Verse 13)

Like Hayleigh, I tend to judge a package from the outside. God sees through my wrappings and evaluates my heart. If I want my insides to evoke squeals of joy from God, I need to expose my heart to God's operating tool - His word. His word can pierce my box and change the contents from the inside out.

Jesus, reading and applying Your word is a necessity in my life. In doing so, You place the precious gift of becoming more like You inside my box. Today, I will let You transform my heart into something far more exciting than a Barbie dream house.

Encouragement: An Oasis in the Desert

Hebrews 3:13a But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.

As some of you know, I was a math major. This designation alone is enough to name me among the "geek" squad. If this were a real instead of theoretical club, I would no doubt be a card carrying member as evidence by the fact that the following circumstances bring me great pleasure:
  • Looking down at my car's odometer and seeing a "cool" number like 43434
  • Buying a whole cart full of groceries and having my total with tax end up being an exact number such as $80.
  • Checking the time twice in one afternoon and having the clock read 1:11 and then 4:44 at the moments of my random glances.
  • Dates that can be made into math equations. For example, in a few days it will be December 2, 2010 or 12/2/10. This can be made into a math equation: 12-2 = 10.

Math interjecting itself brings certain amusement into otherwise ordinary moments of my life.

I have a narrow group of friends with whom I share this simple joy. One friend and I even enjoy wishing each other a happy day on interesting number days. These days pass without notice by the rest of the world but we pause and celebrate. What we actually treasure is the mutual encouragement of common interest. We both love numbers and more importantly we both love Jesus.

For most people, December 2nd will be a totally ordinary day. For me, it will be special because I will think of my friend and be encouraged by her friendship, her love and her love for Jesus.

Today my reading is Hebrews 3. In this passage, the author is comparing Moses as a servant in God's house with Jesus who is the servant over God's house. Moses is one of God's most famous servants. His leadership, courage and intimate communication with God make his story unique.

Moses' life can be separated into three forty year segments. He spent the first forty years of his life in Pharoah's palace living as Egyptian royalty. He spent the next forty years of his life in total obscurity in the desert tending animals. He spent the final forty years of his life leading God's people out of Egypt and to the edge of God's promised land. Twice Moses left everything he knew and began a new chapter of his life.

If you read the account of Moses' life in Exodus, you'll read about many people who complained about him and grumbled to him. You will read about those who opposed his leadership. What you'll read precious little about is those who encouraged him. Exodus 18 records one of those rare instances of an encourager in Moses' life. His father-in-law, Jethro, pays him a visit and with him brings loved ones (Ex. 18:6), affection (Ex. 18:7), fellowship (Ex. 18:12) and sound advice (Ex. 18:19-23).

The author of Hebrews seemingly goes "off-topic" in chapter 3. Just after his comparison of Jesus and Moses, he exhorts his readers to encourage each other "as long as it is called Today". Moses story though was short on encouragement. It is Jesus' desire that ours aren't. Since every day is a "Today", that means every day is an excellent opportunity to encourage others.

Scott and I have just completed our first year here in Memphis. We followed God's plan for our lives and it took us to a "foreign" land where encouragement has been a rare commodity. In the last year I have come to be so grateful for the "Jethros" in my life who pay me a visit via email, Facebook or text and bring with them invigorating, life-giving encouragement.

Jesus, thank you for the "Jethros" You've sent my way this last year to revitalize my soul. Whether it's a goofy text celebrating neat numbers or a kind note that inspires my heart, You've sent Your servants to encourage me. This day I will speak...or type...or text when You prompt and send on the comfort You've sent me.

The Taste of Death

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. As a symphony of tastes danced on my tongue, I relished every bite. The sweet potatoes were savored as they tangoed with their mashed cousins. The twang of marinated green beans waltzed with the turkey. It was a veritable flavor fiesta and believe me a good time was had by all. Eaten individually these foods are actually quite ordinary but when combined they form a banquet Conga line that dances down to your stomach.

This morning's passage is Hebrews 2. This chapter addresses the absolute miracle we have been given through Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for each of our sin. The author states that Jesus suffered death so that by the "grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Verse 9) He swallowed death so that we might taste life. Savor with me the flavors Jesus' death offers each of us.
  • Freedom from Captivity (Verses 14-15) - Sweet friend, what holds you in bondage? Emotional pain? Financial burdens? Past blunders? Jesus took your chains. Choose to taste freedom.
  • Release from Fear (Verses 14-15) - Fear cripples. Fear incapacitates. Jesus emancipates. Not only did He die to remove our fear of death, but also our fear of life. He died so we could live to the fullest. Choose to digest liberty.

Jesus, Your delivery is the most resplendent of tastes. You died that we all might experience unspeakable joy that makes Thanksgiving dinner bland by comparison. You tasted the bitterness of death. You offer me sweetness of life. Today I will, with thanksgiving, unshackle my life and taste Your freedom.

Jesus: My Thanksgiving Feast

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Today is Thanksgiving. A traditional Thanksgiving celebration is distinguished by two acts: verbal expressions of thanks and the consumption of a feast. I choose to partake in both. Before I heat the oven or set the table though I will enjoy these quiet moments feasting on the King of kings.

Today I begin the book of Hebrews. Hebrews has a certain mystique about it that I find fascinating. No one knows for certain who authored this book and its' language and theming distinguish both in style and form. It is a book that celebrates Jesus, through whom the universe was made (Verse 2) and earth's people redeemed (Verse 4). This first chapter of Hebrews, sets Jesus in His rightful place of preeminence. He is above all things.

Two verses stand out this Thanksgiving morning:
  • Jesus is God's Word - "In these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus)." (Verse 2) On this day where some hearts muster up words of gratitude perhaps for the first time since the calendar turned, I am reminded that every worthy word comes from Christ. He is God's living word to all mankind.
  • Jesus is my Sustenance - "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Verse 3) On this day where a banquet of turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables and dessert will be consumed, I am reminded that every morsel I receive comes from the hand of Jesus. He is the sustainer of every person.

Jesus, thank you for these peaceful moment with You. You provide everything I need. Thank you for being the Living Word who sustains the world. Every breath I take is a gift from you. Every word of praise that falls from my lips is made possible by You. Every morsel I receive is from Your very hand. You are my Thanksgiving feast.

Have I Got Somethin' to Tell You

Matthew 28:19-20 (Jesus Speaking) Go and make disciples...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

It was the first session on the first day of my first college class. Lucky me - that first course was calculus. My nerves were only intensified when the professor strolled into class, stated his name and the course title and immediately began instruction on the first day's lesson. By the end of the hour-long class, my hand ached in direct proportion to the mountain of notes I had taken.

While I may have been initially intimidated, that professor became my favorite in the entire department. His passion for math was evident in his desire to use every moment granted him to pass to his students his lifelong love of his chosen field of study. As I neared the end of my college career, I inquired one day how he had come to be so knowledgeable about math. His response, "I gave away everything I knew. The more I gave. The more I came to know."

Today I am reading the book of Philemon. Philemon is one of two books (Jude is the other) in the New Testament that has no chapters. It is so brief that it is a mere twenty-five verses long. The major subject of this passage is the slave Onesimus who is returning to his owner, Philemon. Paul implores Philemon to receive him with love and forgiveness. He also shares with Philemon the content of what he has been praying for him (Verses 6-7).

I need go no further than the first line of Paul's prayer, to hear God whisper into my heart. "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." There are many reasons someone might be hesitant to share their faith but here are a few:
  1. I'm Unqualified - Many people, myself included, feel unqualified to share with others about their faith. I do not have a seminary ph.D. I can not read the Bible in it's original languages. Therefore, I am unqualified, right? Wrong! This verse tells me that it is in the sharing of my faith that I gain greater understanding. Like my college professor, God just wants me to give away what I do have. It's in the giving that I continue to learn.
  2. I Have to Be a "Weirdo" - If we have the impression that sharing our faith only means donning a sandwich board marked John 3:16 or shouting at passerby from a street corner, we may be overlooking a few opportunities. Sharing my faith can be as simple as telling a friend about a meaningful verse or taking a moment to let someone I'm praying for know that I am.

When I first started this blog, my biggest fears were feeling unqualified and being thought of as a weirdo. I'll bet you'll never guess who's life has changed the most these last few months. Right. It's mine. The more I've given away, the more I've had to give. And while some of you might find me a bit odd, I promise I've never typed in a sandwich board. Not even once.

Jesus, I've so often heard it said that "you can't out give God." That statement is made in reference to money. Today You've helped me see that it is also true of my faith. The more I give my faith away to others, the more faith You give me in return. I'll likely never attend seminary, but today I will pass on what I learn, remembering that tomorrow I'll know more than I do today.

Give a Hoot...Don't Pollute

John 14:26 ...The Holy Spirit...will teach you all things and will remind of everything I (Jesus) have said to you.

I was walking around the living room frothing and working myself up into Threat Level Red mom fit as I picked up a trail of candy wrappers that would cause envy even in the likes of Hanzel and Gretel. It was a just a few days past Halloween and my home had been converted to a candy wrapper trauma center. As I huffed, puffed and picked up wrappers, I flashed back to a Christmas over a decade ago when I had "graciously" provided the candy wrapper pick-up duty for my nieces and nephews. As I did so, I thought to myself what a great mom I was to my solitary child whom I had in my watchful eye at all times. She would never be so inconsiderate because I was after all a superior mother and wouldn't raise a child with such poor manners. I was absolutely correct. I didn't raise a child with sub-par candy wrapper manners; I raised four of them.

Immediately my candy wrapper pity party evaporated as I considered my heart - past and present. My heart had once been filled with judgmentalism and a harshly critical spirit. Now it was showcased with an attitude of wanting to be served instead of serving others. God has transformed my life one hundred percent but in that single moment I was reminded just how much further I have to go. My heart can still be polluted by sinful thoughts and attitudes as easily as litter flutters to the floor.

This morning, I am finished the book of Titus by reading the third chapter. In the first verse my heart is captured. Paul opens, "Remind the be obedient." This statement struck me as odd. Perhaps even out of place. Certainly a mature, growing believer does not need to be reminded to be obedient. However, just as my children are still leaving wrappers lying about, my heart still tends toward selfishness. My packaging may even appear to contain a treat but inside my wrapper sometimes there are attitudes more bitter than sweet. I need to be reminded to be obedient.

Jesus, You never grumble when I drop candy wrappers or any of my other garbage in Your lap. No matter how many times You've taught me a lesson, You just gently remind me of Your truth once again. This morning Your word is a "Post-it note" to my heart of how important it is for me to stay tuned into You. Today may Your patience with me be reflected in my dealings with my kids, my spouse and anyone else who happens along my candy-wrapper ladened life.

Plumbed By God

1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace sanctify you through and through

Several nights ago in the midst of the fog associated with the deepest sleep, I could faintly hear a dripping sound. The incessant cadence slipped through thick fog to implant itself in my conscience mind. I considered the possibilities. The sound could just be imagined. More likely, a faucet might be slightly "on" and occasionally splashing its' alert to me. Surely something so faint could not cause more harm than a bit of extra padding to the water bill. I ignored the quiet plea from my bathroom and continued my meandering journey through the subconscious playground called sleep.

The next morning, the validity of my nighttime evaluation was tested as I stumbled up to my bathroom cabinet to brush my teeth. My feet registered the sensation of dampness. "One of my four little blessings was a bit careless during last night's bedtime ritual and baptised my floor," I mouthed to the sleepy reflection. Then a momentary flash of distant dripping flashed through my mind. I crouched in front of the cabinet and realized to my horror that the cabinet was dripping water on top of my foot. My cupboard was flooded as was the surrounding flooring. That "harmless" little drip had been a warning long ignored that a pipe was leaking under my cabinet.

Today I am reading Titus 2. This chapter is brimming with practical instruction. Included in these thirteen short verses are guidelines for a variety of life stages for both genders. My personal favorite is Titus 2:3-5, where Paul lists some topics in which older women are to train younger women. I'm partial to any scripture that indicates there's a possibility I might still be able to be classified as a "younger woman".

This morning my heart is drawn just a few verses farther down the page to these words: "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Verses 11-12) I so desire to be taught to say, "No" to behavior that does not glorify God. These verses tell me that grace is my instructor. God's grace doesn't just woo me into relationship with Him, it instructs me in the path of righteousness.
  • Grace Warns Me - The whisper of the Holy Spirit may be as faint as ping of my leaky faucet. Ignoring His correction and guidance allows a drip of sin into my life that results in a flood of damage to my reputation and relationships. I need to familiarize myself with His early warning system and respond to the drips before any real structural damage is done.
  • Grace Sustains Me - The power of the Holy Spirit allows me to keep the faucet in the off position. My inclination is to wipe up the floor of my sin over and over rather than allow God to turn the shut-off valve. God's grace imprints the word, "no" over my lips and empowers me to utter those words when otherwise I'd be mute.
  • Grace Transforms Me - Once I learn to hear His voice and give Him control over my faucets, God changes my plumbing. He replaces leaky joints like my mouth that talks out of turn with one that is pleased to keep silent. He refurbishes my tubing by replacing my negative thoughts with His gratitude.

The best thing about my Plumber is His services are free...they don't cost me anything but the willingness to rid myself of my old, rusty pipes. My bill and yours was stamped "Paid in Full" over 2,000 years ago. The Plumber's son pre-paid all our services. We just have to sign the bottom of the statement accepting His payment on our account.

Jesus, You are indeed the handiest of men because You are God become man. I will never fully understand the mystery of Your trek to earth and home but I know Your trip was worthwhile. You stayed just long enough to satisfy my account that was long overdue. Now Your skillful hands change me one leak at a time. Today, Jesus, I will remember Your grace that warns, sustains and transforms.

From Alone to Overseer

Titus 1:7 ...An overseer is entrusted with God's work.

An overseer. This is a term that a few years ago I honestly never thought would apply to a member of our household. Yet here we are in Memphis where a year ago Scott came to lead the largest church in the state of Tennessee.

Today I am reading Titus 1. As in 1 Timothy 3, Paul covers the qualifications for someone to serve as an elder or overseer in a church. As my thoughts turned to my husband, I received an email celebrating his first anniversary at Hope. It is here for you to read in his own words.
Today is the one year anniversary at the church in full time ministry. I wanted to thank you for (your) prayers and say how much we appreciate your friendship and support. It's been an amazing year for our family and I can sum it up by saying that God has blessed us over and over again and I'm thrilled and humbled to be serving in ministry. It's much harder than I would have imagined personally and on the family but also more rewarding as well. I still pinch myself and say how did this happen that I went from focused on self at age 40 with no family or faith, and 7 years later a follower and servant of Christ with a beautiful, loving wife and family. Grace...

Scott's note says it all. All the Biblical qualifications in the world could be met but in the end it is by God's grace alone that we are saved and used for His glory alone.

Jesus, today I am so overwhelmingly thankful for your grace. Your grace has given me a second chance at life, a husband who loves me, leads our family and now oversees Your church. Amazing!

What's Your Season?

2 Timothy 4:2b Be prepared in season and out of season.

The Christmas season at the Milholland household has officially commenced. Today I wrapped the first seven packages. Four will be given to my children on Christmas Eve. One is Hannah's gift to her daddy and two are Hayleigh's gifts to her younger sisters. As the pile of presents builds so will my anticipation. It is almost as if the preparation for the season is as delightful as the actual season itself.

This morning I am reading 2 Timothy 4. As Paul concludes his final letter to Timothy, he is aware that the dusk of his time on earth is drawing nigh. In many ways, it makes these last remarks more meaningful. Have you ever thought about what you would say to your spouse, best friend, parents, children or siblings as you entered the twilight of your life? Would you offer advice or choose to reveal a deeper layer of your heart? Paul chooses one theme for this final chapter - preparation. He admonishes Timothy to be prepared and asks for his logistical help in equipping Paul to be more fruitful in his final days.

I find it interesting that Paul advises Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season (Verse 2). Just a year has four seasons, every life a natural rhythm of unique seasons. In what season do you find yourself?
  • Winter - Winter is a time of cold and barrenness. It could be a time of loneliness, mourning or simply a period of nothing seeming to go your way. In winter, your heart can grow as frigid as the circumstances which swirl about your life.
  • Fall - Fall is a time of transition. Kids go off to college or perhaps are born. Jobs or occupations are switched. Relationships change. Change is difficult for most people. Like the class business book, "Who Moved My Cheese?", most of us would prefer our cheese and everything else about our lives to remain as we are familiar. In autumn, a whole pendulum of emotions can lead us to make poor decisions out of a desperate attempt to keep things as they are.
  • Summer - Summer is a time of intense heat marked by lengthy days. Heat comes in many forms - financial distress, marital conflict, child rearing woes and job loss just to name a few. The stress of these events often lead to worry, anxiety and sleeplessness - hence the long days. In this season, our natural inclination might be to attempt to control people and our environment or simply to check out of life for a bit.
  • Spring - Spring is a time of hope and renewal. It is the honeymoons of our life. In this season relationships bloom and achievements blossom. As we experience the euphoria of success, we may be tempted to believe our good fortune is attributable to our talent rather than the goodness of God.

In every one of the seasons, God word to me is the same - be prepared. God finds us useful in each season of life. It is up to each of us to be prepared and available.

Jesus, on any given day the season I'm in could be a combination of all those above. In whatever season I find myself, I know with certainty that You are with me. You long to use me and all your sweet children to impact this place, this time and this generation with Your love that endures through every season of life. Today I choose to be prepared.

Say What?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the (woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

"Mommy, you would be so proud of us. We told that man how much we love Daddy and that he's the best Daddy in the whole world.", Hannah and Hayleigh bubbled as they got into the car. We were embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with my ex-husband over the terms of our divorce nearly three years after it had originally been finalized. I knew the my sweet daughters were saying those things about my current husband, Scott, whom they called Daddy. I also knew the psychologist would misinterpret their statements in favor of my ex-husband. The psychologist's mistake was perfectly understandable as I might have drawn a similar conclusion had I not known my girls better.

This morning's reading is 2 Timothy 3. This chapter opens with this description of a group of individuals:
  • Lovers of Themselves
  • Lovers of Money
  • Disobedient to Their Parents
  • Proud
  • Abusive
  • Boastful
  • Ungrateful
  • Unholy
  • Without Love
  • Unforgiving
  • Slanderous
  • Without Self-Control
  • Brutal
  • Not Lovers of the Good
  • Treacherous
  • Rash
  • Conceited
  • Lovers of Pleasure Rather Than Lovers of God

What group of individuals floods your mind when you read that list? The first time I read it, I assumed God was referring to non-Christians. However, if you read on it says these individuals have a form of godliness but deny its power. (Verse 7) In other words, these individuals are either Christians or people who have been exposed to God's truth enough to have some form of godliness. When I read this list in that light, my heart breaks.

So how can I keep from falling into that company myself? Paul finishes this chapter by emphasizing the power of scripture to not only save but to rebuke, correct, teach and train believers. It is through the learning and application of God's truth that I can have more than a form of godliness and experience all the power God intends for me.

Jesus, thank you for Your word. When I stray off Your path, it gently guides me back to You. Today I will measure my life in light of Your truth and allow Your word to teach, train, correct and even rebuke me when necessary. Your word is truth. Your word is power.


Psalm 119:30, 32 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

One of my all-time favorite movies is "The Shawshank Redemption". The main character, Andy Dufresne, is falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned in Shawshank prison. After nearly twenty years of incarceration, Andy escapes. As his intricate plan of departure unfolds, the audience realizes that Andy had spent many painstaking years chipping away at the prison walls with a tiny pickax he had hidden in the pages of his Bible. The vile warden had quipped years earlier that, "salvation lies within." That certainly proved true for Andy Dufresne.

This morning my passage is 2 Timothy 2. Paul writes Timothy while shackled in prison (Verse 9). He even invites Timothy to join him in his suffering (Verse 3). That is one party invitation I do not want to find in my mailbox. In reality, rain falls into the life of every person. God doesn't skirt storms around the homes of those who love and worship Him. The difference between one walking with God and one who is not isn't whether the storms come, it is how they react to the weather.

As Paul writes from his dank confinement, he relates to Timothy that "God's word is not chained." Power, promise and provision lie in those pages. Andy Dufresne found logistical freedom tucked between the covers of his Bible. It appears, however, that he missed the greatest treasure - what was written on the pages he destroyed while concealing his implement.

God's word isn't chained but all to often we keep it neatly tucked on our bookshelf instead of hiding it in our hearts. When we do so, we render its' life-changing power useless. For many years I knew about the Bible. I even knew all the major stories, characters and passages. Like Andy, I allowed myself for many years to be wrongfully imprisoned. My prison was a joyless life devoid of knowing the pleasure of walking with God. As I began to open the pages of God's love letter I found the secret to handling the storms of life. My rain clouds gave way to sunshine. No the weather did not change but my reaction to it altered dramatically.

Jesus, thank you for Your word that delivers Your people from chains. Salvation truly lies within the timeless pages of Your book. Thank you for releasing me from the prison of keeping Your word on the shelf. I love this daily adventure called life now that I live it with You.

No Resume Necessary

2 Timothy 1:9 (God) who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of...grace.

I spent my teenage years in a small church in rural Alabama. I'm not sure exactly what the content of my pastor's sermons were but I know that I thought I heard the message that a solitary sin post-salvation meant my ticket was repunched in a southerly direction. I decided then and there I was not qualified to be a Christian.

I spent my twenties striving to be the best wife and mother I knew how to be. I tried desperately to kindle a love between my husband and I. We divorced anyway. I decided then and there I was not qualified to be a spouse.

I spent my entire academic and occupational career in the field of mathematics. I attempted to obtain a delicate balance between interaction with coworkers and the peaceful solitude of my cubicle. I socialized with a particular coworker a bit too frequently and he married me. I eventually lost my job. I decided then and there I was not qualified to work.

It will probably come as no surprise to you that when God first began to move in my heart to write, my answer was a definitive, "I am not qualified." I feel no more qualified today then I did that very first day. In fact, in some ways I esteem myself less competent to write now than I did then.

This morning my passage is 2 Timothy 1. Paul has opened his second letter to Timothy with a reminder to be faithful to his calling. It is clear (See 1 Timothy 4:12) that Timothy was young. Based on his youth alone, he likely felt inadequate to fulfill the role of evangelist and church leader with which Paul had charged him. I personally have little trouble imagining the litany of excuses Timothy had ready to recuse himself from his post because I've probably used every one of them myself.

God doesn't desire any one of us to run from our calling. Instead He wants us to run to Him as the competency. Note how Paul describes what our reaction to God's call should be:
  • Fans at the Ready (Verse 6) - "Fan into flame the gift of God." When I see a fire, I grab the closest bucket of water or fire extinguisher I can find. That small spark of the Holy Spirit's prompting isn't meant to be ignored but to be fanned into a fiery inferno as God works through me.
  • Fear in the Garbage (Verse 7) - "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear)." Fear is a call killer. It is fear - fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of the unknown that makes it so natural to say, "I'm not qualified." As we cast fear to the side, power, love and self-discipline take its' place.

Jesus, You have called me not because I am worthy and not because of anything I have done but because of Your amazing grace. Any gift I have is from Your hand. Today I choose to once again set aside my fears and walk in faith. Turns out I am not qualified but You are.

Just Tell Him What You Need

1 Timothy 6:18 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in their wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

I had been married eighteen months when I found out that I was expecting Hannah (now 14). We were not financially ready for a baby but it was the absolute desire of my heart to be home with her. My faith was still relatively new to me but I had learned enough to know that God wants us to pray about our needs. Therefore, I decided that I would not do the typical first time mom thing and rush out to buy this or that for the baby but would instead pray for God's provision for our family.

One Sunday, our pastor preached a stirring sermon on the power of prayer. He ended his sermon with a challenge to gather right there with our family members and pray together for our single greatest need. My husband and I prayed for a crib and changing table. As we rose from our pew a couple from our Sunday School class stopped us and said, "Hey we've been meaning to ask you. Do you perchance need a crib and changing table?"

It was just a few short weeks later that I received stunning Noah's Ark patterned bedding from my sisters and mother. Within days, I was browsing in a home store over my lunch hour when I happened across a precious Noah's Ark light switch cover. It was only $3 but I had made a commitment in my heart to allow God to meet my needs. If I needed it, God would provide it. The next day at work, I found that very light switch cover on my desk. A coworker had stopped by the same store and purchased it for me as a present without my mentioning a single word about it.

Today I am reading the last chapter in 1 Timothy. Paul concludes this chapter by addressing the issue of money. While wealth is not in any way a sin, unfortunately the desire for it and means of attaining it often can be. In this regard Paul makes the following points:
  • Don't believe godliness is a means to wealth (Verse 5)
  • We brought nothing into the world and will bring nothing back out (Verse 7)
  • Food and clothing are all we need to be content (Verse 8)
  • The love of money can lead to much other sin (Verse 10)

My portfolio, home, clothing and vehicle are all testimony that fourteen years have passed since the time I relied on God so heavily to meet my needs. Looking back I realize that kind of dependence on God partners with joy and contentment.

Jesus, I am grateful for the abundant way You have blessed my family. Today help me focus on Your truth. My needs consist of food and clothing. The hearse that hauls my body to the graveyard will not be pulling a U-Haul. If I set my heart on the attainment of wealth, other sin will follow. The rewards You give godly people cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I want Your truth to saturate my heart. I choose to put my hope in You as I daily trust in You alone to meet my needs. You really are all I need.

L is for the Laundry You Do For Me

Mathew 25:40 (Jesus Speaking) Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

As I was beginning my morning routine of trading out the laundry, I noticed the laundry fairy had visited. Some kind soul had taken a moment to hang out in one of the least popular locales in the home and leave me with a surprise. Folded amongst socks, shirts and jeans were kisses and hugs. No one but me could see them but I knew they were there because the hands that folded my laundry did so with love.

This morning's reading is 1 Timothy 5. In the early church it was a common practice that the church body would provide financially for women who were widowed. This chapter clarifies the guidelines for whom should be eligible for this kindness. One of the qualities Paul notes as important is a woman who is known for her "good deeds". He then gives four examples of what he considers good deeds to be:
  1. Raising Children (Verse 10) - Rearing children is a noble task indeed. Mundane tasks such as carpool lines and checking homework can be done for God's glory. Each Christian mother is God's agent to her children as she cares, loves and guides.
  2. Hospitality (Verse 10) - Who knew the barbecue grill was a sacred vessel? Ever since the first century, receiving someone into your home has been an opportunity to serve Christ. The simple act of opening the door can open a person's heart to Jesus or a deeper understanding of what it means to love and serve Him.
  3. Washing Feet (Verse 10) - The practice of washing the dusty feet of foot travelers has passed. Today our biggest foot problem might be the occasional gasoline that splashes our shoes. As I pondered this ancient practice, I thought of the bathtub. When we wash tiny toes, we serve Jesus Himself. But Christ is also served in many other often unrecognized posts held by women. The hands that rock a baby in the nursery so her mama can hear about Jesus. The voice that teaches young teenage girls the important of sexual purity. The lips that pray for the sick, lonely and hurting.
  4. Helping Those in Trouble (Verse 10) - The woman who stops to tie a toddler's shoes and the woman who gives godly counsel to a friend serve the Lord. A godly woman aids hundreds if not thousands during her lifetime. From phone calls made to encourage a hurting friend to the hand-me-down coat given to keep someone warm, small acts of kindness become acts of worship.

Jesus, how amazing it is that You can take the every day moments of my ordinary life and use them to touch hearts and change lives. Today may I see the opportunities for good deeds that lie all around me and not wait for some distant day of being widowed to perform them. Today and every day is a great day to serve You!

Don't Take a Walk

1 Timothy 6:10 Some people...have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Clara's genetic make-up is 50% adventurer and 50% independent spirit. From the time Clara could walk she had a tendency to wander. In fact, we call her the Israelite because just as the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, Clara can float away from her family at any given moment.

On two different occasions she has been misplaced for such a significant period of time that a full-on panic has overtaken me. Both times, I searched the house and yard as my cries of her name grew more desperate by the moment. In each of these incidents, I eventually found her...sleeping peacefully.

This morning my reading is 1 Timothy 4. This passage addresses the issue of teachers who either add to or subtract from scripture with the intent to lead their listeners astray. I want to follow Jesus with a passion and leave no room for my heart to wander. As I read this chapter, I noted two safeguards to help keep us tethered to Christ.
  • Nourishment (Verse 6) - The more I feed my mind and heart on God's Word, the easier it will be for me to recognize counterfeit ideology.
  • Training (Verse 7) - Godliness doesn't just happen; it is acquired through training oneself to be godly.

Jesus, I want to stay so close to You, it would be impossible for me to meander off. Today I nourish my mind by feeding on Your word while I train my heart in godliness. As I do, wrap me in Your arms and let me stay safely nestled on Your chest...sleeping peacefully.

Anchored Faith = Qualified to Lead

Hebrews 6:19a We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.

When Scott was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2009, we had to face the very real possibility that his illness could result in death. I will never know every thought that passed through his head or the substance of the tough conversations he held with God in those days. What I do know is that his life was marked by a quiet assurance that no matter the outcome God would take care of him and his family. His faith was firmly anchored in the goodness and provision of our awesome God.

This morning my reading is 1 Timothy 3. This chapter succinctly lays out the qualifications for someone to be considered for a governing position in a local church.

The overseer which may be titled elder, pastor, minister or priest depending on your faith tradition should be:
  • Above reproach
  • The husband of one wife
  • Temperate, self-controlled, respectable and hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not given to drunkenness
  • Not violent but gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money
  • Mange his own family well
  • Have a good reputation

The deacon which may also be referred to as a lay leader should be:

  • Worthy of respect
  • Sincere
  • Not indulging in much wine
  • Engaged in an honest and ethical line of work
  • Keep hold of the faith
  • Have wives that are worthy of respect who do not gossip and are trustworthy
  • Be the husband of one wife
  • Manage his own family well

These are daunting lists that make it clear those in church leadership should be the finest among those in our church and community. Later in this chapter, Paul notes that church leaders will have "great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." (Verse 13)

When God first began whispering in Scott's heart that He wanted Him to lead, he felt neither qualified or worthy. I suspect most anointed leaders feel precisely the same way. I, however, could witness his unwavering faith in Christ. I knew with certainty he was called and qualified to lead.

Jesus, thank you for church leaders. Today I lift them up to You and pray that You would give each one concrete assurance in their faith. You are the hope that anchors the soul.

Hand-Picked By God

Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

A few days ago mid-term elections were held that resulted in the largest shift in political power in decades. I was fascinated to note the next day on the social networking site, Facebook, that friends on both ends of the political spectrum were calling on God with either praise or petition as a result. As much as it amuses me to visualize it, I'm fairly certain the King of kings is not a card-carrying member of the Republican, Democrat or newly formed Tea party. However in His sovereignty and according to His purposes alone, He not only allows but establishes every authority on earth.

This morning I am reading 1 Timothy 2. As he opens this chapter, he advises Timothy to present requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for kings and those in authority. Frequently I have heard individuals beseeching others to pray for governmental officials but cannot recall a single time that I've been asked to give thanks for them.

Can you imagine how the fabric of our faith communities would change if the morning after every election we joined together in thanksgiving regardless of the outcome? In truth, this should be our reaction. Our leaders are hand-picked by God. Seeing God's work should always result in praise by His people.

Jesus, Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Help me keep my focus squarely on You not only the morning after an election but every morning. You raise up every leader and every leader You raise is according to Your plans and purpose. Thank you, Jesus, for every one of them.

Cast Away

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In the spring of 2002, everything about my life changed. My husband of eight years and I separated and divorced. I moved to a city where I knew not a single soul and became a single mother of two children. My life as I knew it had been torn apart. The pieces of my life were now flotsam and jetsam, floating amid the shipwreck that was my life.

This morning I am reading 1 Timothy 1. Paul considers Timothy his son in the faith and addressed him as a loving father. In this first chapter, Paul is helping Timothy identify the causes and symptoms of a believer who is wandering from his faith. Among the reasons Paul gives for this happening are distractions (Verse 4) and non-Biblical teaching (Verse 6).

As he ends this chapter he categorizes those who wander as having "shipwrecked their faith". I pondered what the life of a shipwrecked Christian looked like and realized it is quite similar to what led to the demise of my marriage. Perhaps both my marriage and my faith can be enhanced by guarding them against shipwreck.
  • Isolation - I associate being stranded on a desert island as the result of a shipwreck but in matters of marriage and faith this is often the catalyst for the wreck. Marriage and the church are institutions designated and designed by God to give us fellowship and encouragement. We are strengthened as we grow together not apart. At home, I must resist the temptation to live a separate life from spouse with divergent schedules and interests. At church, I must step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to live in authentic, Christ-centered community.
  • Difficulty - Storms are quite often the culprit that results in a shipwreck. Whether I choose to react or respond to disagreement and difficulty in life, will determine if I grow towards my spouse and church or away from them during periods of stress. Reacting means allowing my emotions to control me. Responding means allowing my emotions to serve as God-given signals that alert me to my need to further work on my relationships.

In the fullness of time, we know that many maritime disasters could have been avoided or greatly mitigated with proper attentiveness and preparation. If the captain of the Titanic had heeded warnings from other ships. If the ship had been properly equipped with enough life jackets and boats. When my marriage fell apart, I was left pondering the ifs in my life. If I had heeded the warning signals in my marriage. If I had properly equipped my marriage with Biblical truth. Disaster in faith and marriage can also often be avoided by attentiveness and preparation.

Jesus, You desire no person to find themselves shipwrecked. I choose to run toward my spouse not away from him. I choose to live in authentic Christian community, not without it. I choose to press into You when the storms of life hurl around me. You are the unsinkable.

Singing in the Rain

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

Clara (5) has a unique relationship with bad weather. For most of us, the presence of cloudy, rainy day induces a coma-like state best accompanied by a steaming cup of cocoa, a warm blanket and a blissful nap. Not my Clara. Rain inspires her to don her rain boots, grab her umbrella and go romping, laughing and playing in the midst of the storm.

It is raining here today. True to form, Clara is as excited as a bee in field of wildflowers. She has sung, smiled and splashed all afternoon. Watching out my window, I was reminded of a day over 35 years ago when I splashed in the rain with my siblings. We were on vacation in New York City and no doubt had an agenda full of sight-seeing that summer day. Rain may not have been on the itinerary yet the laughter and wonder of those moments have settled permanently in my heart. Other than the Statue of Liberty, I do not recall a single other landmark I witnessed that vacation but I do remember the joy of splashing in the rain.

This morning's reading was 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul is finishing out his second letter to the church at Thessalonica. In this epistle, Paul has equipped the church to face hardship by focusing their hearts on the long-term perspective of everlasting life which waits after this brief stop here on earth. As he closes this letter, he yearns for God to "direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (Verse 5)

God's love is the single most compelling force ever known. God's love drove His only Son to die in my place and yours. It was Christ's perseverance that kept Him on the cross until He could cry, "It is finished." There is no rain that has ever or will ever splash down on my little world that could begin to compare to the agony Jesus endured on my behalf. In fact, Jesus died that I might be able, like Clara, to have joy amidst the rain of my life.

In James 1:2-5, he writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Indeed it is possible to have joy among the rain.

I must admit that when one of my children rebels, or I have an unexpected, unbudgeted expense or when illness befalls my household, my first inclination is not to splash around in the puddles of my storm. Maybe that's because I haven't let God direct my heart to His love and Christ's perseverance.

When I think about it, my response to trials is quite a bit like my response to rain:
  • I Stay Indoors - It seems everything is made more difficult when it rains. My hair looks bad. Traffic gets congested. It is so much easier to just go hide in my house and wait out the storm then to get out in that mess. God doesn't want me to hide from my problems. He is with me. I don't enter the storm alone. It is with His confidence that I can leave the safety of my home and go confidently into the rain.
  • I Use My Blanket - When I pull my blanket tightly around me, I can not even feel the temperature drop associated with the rain. I successfully completely insulate myself from the effects of the weather. I cover myself from the rain because I don't want to have to feel its' impact. It is in the storm not away from it that God transforms my attitude, life and character. This usually requires feeling some difficult emotions.
  • I Take a Nap - Wake me up when this is over. Have you ever wanted to just check out of life until the storm has passed you by? I know I have. When I sleep my way through a difficult time, I miss the lessons God could be teaching me. Like James noted, trials lead ultimately to wisdom. That wisdom is gained in the fiesta of a storm, not a siesta from a storm.
Jesus, You are able to calm any storm. Sometimes You choose not to but instead to use that storm to direct my heart to You. Today if rain falls in my life, may I not go run inside, hide under my blanket and take a nap. Instead, may I go romping into that rain with the joy of knowing the lessons you teach me in that storm will stay in my heart permanently.

The Joy of Re-Gifting

Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put this into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

It was Hannah's first year to go trick-or-treating. She was a few months shy of three and more than a bit adorable in her Scooby Doo outfit. I delighted in watching Hannah's face light up as she went to the first door and received her candy prize. After a shy, "Thank you", she was ready to head to the second house. Once there, she rang the doorbell and spoke her, "Trick or treat" with a greater measure of confidence. She then immediately reached into her bag and asked the homeowner which of her candies she would prefer. She had received and now expected to give away what she'd been given.

This morning's passage is 2 Thessalonians 2. The subject of this chapter centers around the prophetic events covered in greater detail in the book of Revelation. In light of these coming happenings, Paul admonishes them to, "stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you." (Verse 15).

Many theologians believe that Paul was taught by Christ Himself after his salvation on the road to Damascus. Whether it was Jesus or one of His faithful followers, someone taught Paul. Notice he says that he passed those teachings on to them. This implies someone first taught Him.

Do you ever find yourself hesitant to pass on a word of encouragement or something interesting that you learn? You are not alone. Many of us struggle with this very thing. However, it is God's intended plan that we would give away to others what we He teaches us.

Jesus, this morning I have been taught by You the importance of not holding on to what You teach me. Today I will look for others whom I can give encouragement and hope. The lessons You teach are so precious. Far sweeter than the finest candy and of much greater significance. Help me, like Hannah, to give away what I've been given.

Peace Be With You

Romans 15:13a May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.

A few days ago Carynne (3) was involved in an "incident" at school. She was one of a number of children who were misbehaving in her class. When confronted by their teacher, none would confess to what had happened. That is until Rynne uttered the words, "I will tell the truth." She knew that a consequence would likely follow her admission but her heart was at peace. However, her peace-filled heart found grace in the arms of her teacher.

Today I start the book of 2 Thessalonians by reading the first chapter. As I read the opening lines, I noted that Paul wishes grace and peace to his readers. Paul begins thirteen other letters with this same sentiment. Clearly these are important elements in the life of a Christian.
  • Grace - Grace draws us to God and sustains our faith. Grace infuses our faith with love and forgiveness towards others. Grace is the author of salvation and our hope as we draw our final breath.
  • Peace - Peace guards our hearts and enriches our testimony. Peace beckons the wanderer's heart. Peace calms the tormented soul. Peace smooths the rockiest of roads and relationships.

Jesus, thank you for Your grace - it truly is amazing. Your peace follows in the footsteps that led to the cross. Your pain granted me peace. Today I will offer my loved ones grace that flows from a peace-filled heart.

In Case I Nod Off...

Ephesians 5:14b Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

I have a talent for sleeping. I sleep through storms, babies crying and traffic. I sleep well when I travel and when I'm at home. The drawback to my aptitude is that I often exercise this capability at the most inopportune moments. I've been known to fall asleep in the choir loft, while someone's telling me a story but particularly when I'm praying.

Clara (5) is the earliest riser amongst our children. Some mornings she finds me peacefully "praying" and inquires, "Mommy, are you sleeping or praying?" Her sweet little voice is better than a double espresso to bolt me back awake.

This morning I am reading 1 Thessalonians 5. As Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians, he recaps his instructions. It is also home to this verse: "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled." (Verse 6) I laughed when I read this. A vivid picture of myself slumped over with drool trickling down my chin popped into my head. There stood Jesus smiling and whispering into Clara's ear, "Ask her if she's praying or sleeping." He chuckles as I sheepishly reveal the truth.

I'm afraid Paul may have had me in mind when he wrote this truth. My knack for sleeping can spill over into many areas of my life. The effective Christian is not one who sleep walks through life but rather one who faces every day with excitement knowing that walking with Christ is nothing short of a grand adventure.

So how do I wake up and become alert? Paul gives me three caffeines for the soul:
  1. Be Joyful Always (Verse 16)
  2. Pray Continually (Verse 17)
  3. Give Thanks in All Circumstances (Verse 18)

The combination of joy, prayer and thanksgiving can energize my sleepiest moment.

Jesus, with all my heart I want to begin my every day with you. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. It is joy, prayer and thanksgiving that aligns my desire and actions. Wake me up, Jesus!

Opposite Day

I have read before that the English language is one of the most difficult Western languages to master. A conglomeration of rules and vocabulary from dozens of ancient languages, English can be confusing even to someone who's inhabited an English-speaking country all their life. The upside is the boundless entertainment our confounding language has in the attempts of my sweet preschoolers to master it. They report me details such as:
  • Mommy, I readed that book
  • Mommy, Hannah learned me how to ride my bike
  • Mommy, I wented up stairs

I am probably less diligent in my corrections than I should be. Having two older children, though, I know they won't go to kindergarten...okay leave kindergarten saying readed. My basic advice to them or anyone on learning English is, "The rule is probably the opposite of what you think it is."

Today I am reading 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul spends this chapter instructing the Thessalonians in how to live a life that looks increasingly like Christ while waiting with great anticipation for the fulfillment of all God promises His children. In this section, he describes what the ambition should be of every Christian. Get ready because it's opposite day.

Make it your ambition to:

  1. Lead a quiet life (Verse 11) - A quiet life of gentle satisfaction is what our grandparents led. My generation has been instructed to get the most out of life, to leave no prisoners and to climb the highest possible mountain. This is a far cry from the contentment found in a quiet life.
  2. Mind your own business (Verse 11) - Nosy neighbors have gone the way of the black and white television. Many times today we don't even know our neighbors anymore so minding my own business is a slam dunk. The question is am I ignoring real needs or meddling? It is meddling that is to be avoided according to Peter (1 Peter 4:15). Jesus himself taught us that we are to see neighbors who are in need and rush to their aid (Luke 10:25-37).
  3. Work with your hands (Verse 11) - College, appliances and assembly lines were all created so we could avoid working with our hands. Let me be clear. I am not opposed to modern convenience nor am I discouraging my children from attending college but there is real validity that our country has moved from a nation founded on hard work to one floundering with a work force proudly displaying their "I'd rather be _______" bumper stickers. All hard work leads to profit, but mere talk leads to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23) God's economy is one is which each person works hard and provides for his own family.

Paul goes on in verse 12 to tell us our reward for living this kind of life. "...Your daily life may win the respect of outsiders." In other words, the best evangelism plan is one in which a church is filled with members that kindly and respectfully demonstrate a life of hard work and dedication. The gospel is best read on the pages of each of our lives.

Jesus, I want my life to be an open book where a lost and dying world can read of Your love and grace. I want my life's ambition to be Your ambition for me - a quiet, non-meddling life earmarked by hard work. Today may the pages of my life honor Your way of doing things.