A Whole New World

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I grew up in a faith-based home, went to a faith-based school, lived a faith-based life that all seemed to wrap around the idea of a point system, a score card or even a report card.  I always felt I was earning something or getting graded on what I was doing.  Don’t get me wrong!  Hear me out!  No one ever used these words or put these parameters on my life, but somewhere along the way I found myself living a perfectionistic, fear-based, point-gathering, approval-seeking life!  The kind of life that is absolutely EXHAUSTING!  Everything I did was in the hopes of keeping the peace, making people happy, earning their love, and out of deep-seated fear that I would disappoint them and lose their approval and love.

This was a horribly exhausting way to live!

But I brought my messiness right into my relationship with Jesus!  I transferred all my human rules that I had learned, or assumed, or even came up with on my own, into my relationship with Jesus.  He was one more person I had to work to earn His love.  I had to do all the right things to make and keep Him happy.  If I did something wrong then the apple cart was tipping over and I lost God’s love!

Again, what a  horrible way to live!

But then there was GRACE!

I had a friend of mine explain grace to me in a way I have never forgotten.  I went something like this:

You are speeding down the highway and you get caught by the police.  They pull you over and write you a ticket.  That is JUSTICE.  You get what you deserve.

You are speeding down the highway and you get caught by the police.  They pull you over and they don’t write you a ticket, they only give you a warning.  That is MERCY.  You don’t get what you deserve.

You are speeding down the highway and you get caught by the police.  They pull you over and they give you a check for $20,000.  That is GRACE.  You get what you don’t deserve.

I am in a delightful season of learning about GRACE!  God’s AMAZING GRACE!  His grace gives us what we truly don’t deserve!  Once we have walked into a personal relationship with Jesus we find this unending JOY and LOVE that can’t be earned, only given to the children God loves SO MUCH!  There is NOTHING you can do to earn His love and there is NOTHING you can do that will separate you from His love once you are His child!  This my friend is the GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST!!

So where are you in your walk with God?

Have not realized a personal relationship with the Creator God of the universe can be obtained by simply acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the solution to our problem of sin in our hearts.  Once you see that Jesus is the Son the God sent to earth, in the form of the baby in the manger to save us from an eternity apart from God, you are on your way to new found freedom!  Realize that you are a sinner, which is not too hard when we look at our sinning lives, and ask Jesus to forgive your sins and take up residence in your heart.  Jesus will come and remove your heart of sin and replace it with a new heart full of His Spirit.  God will move in and take up residence in your heart and you will start a whole new world of learning about and enjoying the love and grace of God who is CRAZY IN LOVE WITH YOU!  How could He not be?  He made you?  He loves you!  And that’s why He has a solution for the sin that separates you from Him.  You only need to accept what God is offering you.

Or are you like I was living a perfectionistic, fear-based, point-gathering, approval-seeking life?  This is not the life we were intended for!  When we live like this we miss the love and grace that God is offering us . . . . . FOR FREE!!  We need to open our eyes to the love around us and enter into it by fully participating in this love relationship with God!  For me that meant keeping a gratitude list each day of where I saw God doing things for me that said He loved me.  It could be something that made me smile in nature, or an occurrence that made my heart dance a bit, or something I read in the Bible that reminded me of the Truth of God’s love.  It was practicing noticing God.  It was giving credence to the fact that God can do anything He wants to get my attention and love on me, but am I noticing them.  I keep track of big things and little things that I know God sent that put a smile on my face and make me feel noticed and loved by the Most Holy God.  This is what making this relationship personal looks like!  What makes you smile?  What does God do to remind you He is around and loves you?

In my world I love when the time on the clock says 6:33, it reminds me of Matthew 6:33 which says to seek God first.  When I see that I feel like God is reminding me of the priority of our relationship.  It reminds me that because God adores me so much I want to return that love right back!  Scripture says that we love because God loved us FIRST – 1 John 4:19.

Another thing that always reminds me of the amazing and lavish love of God is when I see bunnies.  Yes, bunnies.  This is something that God and I have had going on for longer than I’ve been married!  I have always loved bunnies, but I began noticing they were showing up a lot in my world.  I would begin to see them in the oddest of places when I was going through some super tough seasons, and then I was noticing them showing up when I was needing reminders that I was loved.  Then I realized that my love for bunnies wasn’t a coincidence!  It was one of the many ways God was reminding me of His active presence in my world and of His lavish love that was always freely given!

His love for us is beyond our comprehension, but is something that we can grasp an idea of and would be very sad if we missed it!

I picture a beautiful dance, with women in such lovely gowns and men in such handsome tuxedos.  And Jesus comes walking over to me and extends His hand in an invitation to dance with Him.  What will my response be to His invitation to the dance of a lifetime?

What is your response to entering into this amazing love relationship with the God of the universe that is CRAZY IN LOVE WITH YOU?!?!?!?  Will you receive this lavish love (1 John 3:1) and amazing grace-filled life that comes through His Son Jesus (1 John 5:12)?

His hand is extended towards you . . . . . . the next move it yours!

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HE IS ALL WE NEED!!

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I have some big needs in my world!  Some places where if Jesus doesn’t show up I feel like my ship just might be going down!  I can’t be the only one who in this place!  The place where if one more thing goes downhill I might have to crawl back into bed and wait until tomorrow to see if things are better!  I can’t be the only one!

It’s in this place where God settles my heart into Isaiah 9:6 . . . . when I need Him to send me some help, some relief, He hears my cry and sends me just what I need!!  But as typical with my precious Lord, what He sends isn’t what I expected, or what I thought I needed . . . . but it is PERFECT!!

For unto us is born, to us a son is given

And the government will be on His shoulders

And He will be called

WONDERFUL COUNCILOR

MIGHTY GOD

EVERLASTING FATHER

PRINCE OF PEACE     (Isaiah 9:6)

He sent me a baby in a manger.

But not just an ordinary baby . . . .

As I look at this list, describing Jesus, I am in AWE!!  Here is everything I need!!  In the swirling details of my life, when I’m not sure what to do next or where to go, I desperately need an amazing counselor to listen to my heart, help advise me of where to go and what to do!!  Someone who will take the time to sit with me, pray with me and open my eyes to things I wasn’t seeing!  Someone who isn’t in the position for what they get out of it, but purely for the sake of helping me in my journey!  And He comes with an all-knowing wisdom that defies what anyone on earth can offer!

He also sent me a God that is not just able to do some stuff, but he can do anything!  He is not weak, or intimidated or mousy . . . . He is MIGHTY!  I need a God that can still move mountains on my behalf and can still do miracles and can still heal and set captives free!!  I don’t need a god that sits on a shelf, but a God that moves about in the world and can not just be there for me, but for everyone that calls on His name!  He is the God that is greater than all and mightier than all and surpasses them all!  There is no god like OUR GREAT GOD!!

And yet I need a Father who is both strong and tender to come and be with me!  Not just for today, but for all my tomorrows as well!  This Father is staying here FOREVER!  He is a Father unlike any father on earth!  He is so much more than what our eyes have seen in a father, and He will never leave, never disappoint, never disrespect,  never walk out, never hurt, never abuse, never forget, never turn His head, never stop loving!  We are the focus of this Father’s heart!  His love for us is more than our finite minds can comprehend!  But His love for us is there, and it’s everlasting . . . . just like He is!!  And He can be my strong father to fight for me, or He can be my tender Father to hold me in the midst of my storms!  Wahtever I need, I have a Father who adores me, that will never leave me, that will never forget me and will always be with me!

And in the midst of this crazy world I need peace!  But not just a temporary peace, I need peace in the center of my soul, where turmoil tends to breed and breath, I need peace!  And this baby not only offers peace, but He is the Prince of Peace!  Now that is some serious peace!!  My heart just breathed a sigh of relief as I considered the truth of the peace He offers to me!  This means that in the middle of my mess I can know that if I turn towards Him I will find the peace I am looking for!  But I have got to turn into the peace that He offers and not away from it!

But how about you?  Where do you need this baby in the manger to show up for you?  Where do you need His wonderful counseling?  In what places in your world do you need a mighty God to show up for you?  In what moments does your heart need the father to come, settle in and never leave you?  And where is it that you need some peace?!

We need to look no further than that precious baby in the manger!  HE IS TRULY ALL WE NEED!!

 

Isolation is the Wrong Direction

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Sonshine, bright light, happiness, joy, colorful, delight . . . . . these are words that come to mind when I think about FREEDOM!!!  These are the things that I want FLOODING MY HEART!!!!!  This is where I want to live, 24/7!!!!!!!

Here is what I know to be true in my life . . . . . when life gets hard, or I’m up against a huge challenge, I want to isolate instead of running towards Jesus and Christian community!!!  I want to go home, crawl into my bed, dive under the covers and be left ALONE!!!!!  I’m still trying to come up with a Scripture to justify this action!!!!!  I have yet to find one!!!

What I do find is that we are NOT meant to do life alone!!  We are NOT meant to battle the enemy single-handedly!!!  We are NOT meant to isolate!!!!!!!!!!

DISCLAIMER . . . . yes there is solitude!!!  This is key and critical in the life of the believer!!!!  But this is totally different than isolation!!!!!  It’s the attitude of the heart that matters!!!

Isolation . . . . hiding, ignoring life, keeping people away because they annoy us, usually accompanied by a pity-party attitude, or a desire to be sad, lonely, hopeless, scared and alone.  This is a place we seem to slip into either gradually or quickly.  We had no plan to get there and no plan to get out of there either!!  When one stays here they have a tendency to get sucked in deeper to isolation and being alone . . . totally alone.  This can be a very Godless place!!

Solitude . . . . planned time away with the goal of being quiet and alone with Jesus.  The reason is for spiritual direction, leading, enjoy His presence, grow closer to Him.  It’s a spiritual discipline that has an intentional starting and stopping time.  Solitude is intention and done with purpose, design and desire.  The outcome of time away is a deeper walk with Jesus and more resolve in the life we live.

DISCLAIMER #2 . . . . . there can be a mix of the two at times, but the heart is the judge of what the heart is truly doing.

Here is my point . . . . . I can fall easily into isolation and I don’t think I’m alone in this either!!  If I am alone too long I slip into isolation mode and things don’t go well for me at all and it’s never a good thing!!!  I get sad, mopey and defeated!!!!  I can fall way too quickly into a downward spiral and getting out can be super tough!!!!

But when I PLAN times of solitude these are some of the sweetest times with Jesus I have!!!!  They are planned out and within a set time frame.  They are times with Jesus when I walk away having GAINED SO MUCH!!!!!!  They strengthen me, gird me up, cement the ground I am standing on in Jesus, sharpen my vision on Him!!!!

OUR HEARTS KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!!!!!

Here is my bottom line for today . . . . . isolation is the WRONG DIRECTION FOR OUR HEARTS TO BE GOING!!!!!!!!!!  This is never what God has for us!!!!!!!!  When we start to withdraw from the world unplanned for long periods of time these is the risk that we are not going in the direction of the Light, the Son, and JOY!!!!!!!

So the question of the day is this . . . . . . What is God saying to your heart about ISOLATION and SOLITUDE?!?!?!?!?

Content at CHRISTmas?!?!?

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Manger picCHRISTmas is the season that strengthens my ability to look up and down, and keeps me from looking side to side too often!!  Let me explain . . . .

This is the season where the pull from retail is SO STRONG and they work SO HARD to make me feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have what they are selling!!  There are more advertisements, flyers, mailed items, e-mailed items, Facebook posts, etc. . . . all centered on one thing . . . . . . WE NEED MORE STUFF!!!!!!!  And this particular item is what we need!!!!!  With all this coming at me it creates a certain stress in my heart!!!!!

And yet on the flip side . . . . . . .

I love to wander around Target . . . . alone . . . . with an empty shopping cart.  It’s one of my GREATEST JOYS, and yet at the same time one of my husband’s GREATEST FEARS!!  But this time of year is my favorite because all of the CHRISTmas promotions are out and all the special packaging and ???????? are out.  I love to see what’s new and cute and fun.  It doesn’t all make my shopping cart, but I do enjoy just wandering around and looking at it all.

This always starts out as a good trip, but it can soon turn sour as I see all the stuff I don’t have and yet maybe I should have it?!?!?!  But I don’t have it, and I never knew it existed, but now for some strange reason I don’t just want it, I think I NEED IT!!!!!!!!  And what started out as a fun trip around my favorite store has turned my heart into a downward spiral because not only can I not afford to buy all the stuff I’m seeing, but I really don’t want all this stuff in my house!!!!!!!!

I have been talking with Jesus a lot about CONTENTMENT these days!!!  My heart gets all jumbled up as I look at what everyone else has around me!  At the ministry opportunities others are getting!  At the piles of gifts that others are giving and getting!  At all the CHRISTmas parties and activities swirling around me!  At the perfect children in all the CHRISTmas cards!  At the beautiful decorations that are decked on everyone’s halls!  I could go on and on and on at how my heart keeps comparing my world to everyone else!!!  And what is so hard is that with each comparison I COME UP LACKING!!!  Or so it seems to me!!

Comparison . . . . this is what kills me every time!!!!  When I look at those AROUND ME . . . . side to side . . . . it’s NEVER A GOOD THING!!!!!  All this breeds in my heart is DISCONTENTMENT!!!!!!!!

God doesn’t want us to be looking side to side!!!  He longs for us to LOOK UP . . . . . TO HIM . . . . . our SWEET and PRECIOUS PRINCE OF PEACE!!!!!!!!  That baby in the manger, the one we are celebrating this season . . . . if we keep our EYES ON HIM we will find all the peace and contentment that we long for!!!!!!!!!

I find myself over and over having to stop and correct my gaze!!  I need to stop looking side to side, but to tip my head back and look up to the Lover of my Soul!!!!!  It’s AMAZING!!!  When I do that all of the stuff of the side drifts away and I am engulfed in His HOLY STARE and I can’t get my eyes off of the one that brings such a change of heart to me!!!  I have to confess my jealousy, envy and wandering eyes off of Him . . . . . but He scoops me right back up in His arms for a wonderfully warm CHRISTmas cuddle and at that point NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!!  For in the arms of the Prince of Peace I am the most content I will ever be!!!!

So as I continue to walk through this season I will continue to allow God to strengthen my ability to keep my eyes from looking side to side, but instead keep them focused LOOKING UP to the cross or LOOKING DOWN to the baby in the manger!!!!

Jesus on the Zipline

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I have to go back to our Disney visit again.  You would think we were there for a couple weeks, but we were truly there for ONE DAY!!!  We just packed in so much, and it was such a HUGE EXPERIENCE that I can’t help but share pieces and parts with you!!  Again!!

Once we finally arrived at the Magic Kingdom we walked through the gate, around the train station and made our way to Main Street.  Once we turned to look down main street there IT was.  You couldn’t miss IT!  At the far end of the street, over some flowers and such, IT stood in such majesty and splendor!!!  I just stood in my tracks and started Disney Castleat IT!

Cinderella’s Castle

OH MY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Set aside any ill-will you may have to Disney, and imagine seeing in person this castle you have only seen in pictures, movies or on TV.  It was so over-whelming to my heart!!!  WOW!!!!!!

Later on that night was stayed for the fireworks that began with Tinkerbell careening down a zipline from the top of the Castle!  She was lit up so you could watch her on her travel.  It was so fun!!

As I sat there pondering all I was experiencing and all I knew to be TRUE I found myself contemplating the Kingdom that I am MOST LONGING FOR!!!!  If there is all this hype for Cinderella’s Castle, can you imagine what Heaven will be like?!?!?!  Will there be a tram, a monorail, a journey just to get to the place where you get to see GOD’S CASTLE?!?!?!?!?  How AMAZING and MAGNIFICENT will that be?!?!?!?!?!

And will there be fireworks?  Or something better?  And I don’t mean to be irreverent nor disrespectful, but I wonder if Jesus will go zipping down the zipline for all to see and cheer!!!!  And if He does, I’m hoping He lets us go with Him, one by one!!  Could you imagine being on a zipline going over Heaven with Jesus leading the way?!?!?!?

I love to let my Holy Imagination out to play every now and then!!  Not to downplay the holiness and reverence of God, but I think He has some playful in Him as well!!!  And if He gave me this imagination I want to be able to use it when I think of Him as well!!

So what do YOU think Heaven will be like?  Maybe it’s a futile mind game, wasted mental gymnastics . . . . . but I know that when I anticipate a date with my husband, or a long awaited trip, it’s the anticipation that I enjoy as well!!!

So are you ANTICIPATING the Holy Kingdom?!?!?  Have  you wondered about your heavenly body?  Your heavenly garments that Revelation talks about?  And how are you getting yourself READY to meet YOUR KING?!?!?!?!?!?