Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peace On Earth

Merry Christmas, Dear Sisters!
I hope you are feeling the joy of the home stretch as Christmas is almost here and hopefully most of your many labors of love are done. As you gather with those most dear to you, I pray that your time will be blessed with peace and joy. Today has been a busy day of enjoying my family at the home of my husband’s parents. We’ve been blessed to make ourselves useful by taking care of a few of the items on their honey-do list. As I’ve moved through the last couple of days, I’ve heard these words in my heart and on my lips, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I have always been the kind of woman who not only sweats the small stuff, but is able to find stuff so small most people can’t even see it. The Lord was definitely showing his sense of humor when He gave me six children. By His grace, the Father has been teaching me over the last twenty-two years that the small people are a whole lot more important than the small things. Of course, my small people aren’t so small anymore, but the principle is still the same. Hearts are what matter. All the rest will work out.
Abba Father, please help us approach the celebration of your Son’s birth with hearts free to love, free to rejoice, and free to let go of what isn’t as important as we might think. Let your peace and rest float down on us like gently falling snow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Come to the Well

Yesterday morning I woke up to these words, “Come to the well.”  Isn’t that a wonderful wake-up call?  Are you thirsty?  Is your heart dry?  Do you need some living water?  “Come to the well.” 

Jesus once met a woman at a well.  He told her, “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  (John 4:13-14) 

Have you ever forgotten to water your house plants?  For years I refused to have any because I didn’t want one more living thing that needed me!  Now that all my kids are housebroken, I have a few and fairly often I will walk by and notice one looking a little droopy because I’ve forgotten to water it.  It’s always a little miracle to see the change that takes place as the water is soaked in and the little plant perks back up.  Our spirits are just like that.  We need to be watered by the refreshing water of the Word and the Spirit.  Both of these are life to our souls.  I confessed to you recently that spending time with the Lord has often been more of a duty than a delight.  That’s because I was looking at it as if it was something I was doing for a grade.  “Is this an A quiet time, God?  Just a B minus?  Well, I’ll try harder tomorrow.”  Isn’t that sad?  I am beginning to get a clue that taking time to spend with the Father is for my benefit much more than His.  I’m the one with the dusty, harried soul that needs to sit with my feet in the river and soak in His presence.  He loves me and He wants to be with me.  How hard it is to let that sentence sit there and not add another word to it.  Our Father loves us.  Jesus loves us.  The Holy Spirit loves us.  We are His treasure.  To stop and let ourselves rest in His presence is a gift – an invitation to pull away from the trivial and the terrifying, and savor a small taste of the wonderful, eternal, altogether good God. 

Dear Abba, please grant us grace to run to Your presence and stay there.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Glad To Be A Sister!

Yesterday, I got to enjoy a little taste of heaven right here on earth.  I spent the morning with a group of sisters in Christ who have made the choice to be real with each other.  We’ve shared our stories – the bad and the good.  We’ve shared our struggles.  We’ve shared the lessons we’ve learned – most of them the hard way.  Today, we heard a new song when one of our sisters shared the gift that God has planted in her heart.  Most of us were wiping tears away as our dear friend courageously sang her song.  Wow!  That is all I can say about how amazing God is in the lives of these women.  He has redeemed mistakes, bound up broken hearts, and given grace to carry loads that would crush most people.  He has shown Himself faithful to provide for every need.  He has birthed joy and creativity.  He has comforted those who mourn and touched those who hurt with comfort and healing.  He has imparted confidence, acceptance, and sisterhood to a group that really couldn’t be more diverse if we’d tried to be.  Our Abba Father has given us a taste of the unity we were meant to share as the Body of Christ.  We don’t all see things the same way.  How could we when we come from so many different places?  But we love the Lord with all our hearts, and we are blessed to be sisters with the same wonderful Father.  So, what do I believe the Father is saying to us today?  Be real.  Share your story.  Sing the song He puts in your heart.  Somebody nearby really needs to hear it.   

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  In Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.         
                                                                Ephesians 2:13, 18, 22
Abba Father, thank you for making us one in You.  Thank you for giving us friends for this journey.  Thank you for the wonderful truth that though we may not walk the whole way together, one day there is going to be a glorious reunion!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrate Tiny Triumphs!

It happens almost as soon as we are born.  Someone takes us away from loving arms to weigh and measure us.  For the rest of our lives, we are continually assessed in one way or another.  We must endure years of academic testing which give way to annual physicals, performance reviews, credit reports and of course the dreaded woman with the tape measure lurking in the lingerie department certain that you’re wearing the wrong size bra!  All of this however is nothing compared to the way we constantly weigh and measure ourselves.  Whether it’s climbing on the bathroom scale for a daily dose of torture or feeling guilty for not being a good enough whatever, it is so easy to live in judgment of ourselves.  This week, I’ve been wrestling with what it means to live in grace.  Our pastor preached this week on breaking free from the trap of performance.  I loved what he said about God’s standard of acceptance being based on relationship, not performance.  Monday morning, I was bracing myself to step on the scale when I heard the Holy Spirit so clearly say, “Stop measuring yourself.”  As I went on about my day, I realized how often I do just that.  Then the Lord spoke to me again, bringing to mind words I read from Sarah Young last week, “Rejoice in tiny triumphs.”  I believe the Lord wants us to stop looking for opportunities to grade ourselves and start looking for opportunities to celebrate every step our hearts take in grace.  I struggle with getting my kitchen floor mopped.  For some reason it is the hardest thing in the world to get it done.  This morning, by the grace of God, I mopped my kitchen!  I didn’t do it to earn a gold star on my internal performance chart, I just did it to bless my house and I celebrated it being clean – at least until school got out.  When it comes to my relationship with the Lord, I’m trying to learn to rejoice in it.  Instead of having a quiet time because it is the right thing to do, I want to take the time to spend with the Lord because He loves me and I love Him.  Wow.  What a difference maker.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is all still a struggle for me, but I’m also excited because my Abba Father has brought me so much freedom and joy and I know this is just another step in that journey. 
Sisters, I pray that you hear the Lord speaking to you today – Stop measuring.  Start celebrating.  Keep believing.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Facing Down Failure

Yesterday was quite a day at my house. From the 6 a.m. alarm until the parent meeting at the high school that took longer than I was hoping it would, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it. However, in the midst of the whirlwind of activity, there were a few moments where the Lord met with me that made all the difference. The first of those moments happened during prayer at Ladies Bible study. As Elaine prayed, the presence of the Holy Spirit lifted the lid on a box I had been shoving aside and ignoring for days. Inside that box was an overwhelming sense of failure. I've been telling myself I'm fine, but I've been lying. I've been talking to the Lord on behalf of others, but refusing to come to Him for myself. In those few quiet moments, I was able to face the truth about the box. Dealing with it would have to come later, but spending those next couple of hours with the wonderful ladies in our Tuesday gathering really encouraged me and strengthened me for coming home and taking the lid off again. Coming together with other believers in a group where you can share your life and your heart makes all the difference.  

So, in the afternoon, after settling my sick little girl on the sofa for a nap, I slipped outside to sit on my deck and talk to the Lord, hoping that He had something to say to me. I've been running from the Lord. Why? Mostly fear - fear of rejection, fear of hearing nothing, fear of seeing His back turned against me because I still think it's about what I'm doing. I had twenty minutes before the oven timer was going to go off. I brought my Jesus Calling, silently daring God to speak to me through it. Here's what the day's entry said, "Don't be discouraged. I know your heart. Don't let feelings of failure weigh you down." About this time I had to laugh because not only does God totally have my number, He has arranged for me to read exactly what I need to hear. One of the scripture references at the bottom was Hebrews 4:14 -16. On my way there, verse 4:2 - the second part jumped out at me, "But the message they heard was of no value to them because those who heard did not combine it with faith." I have to choose to believe what God says about me. Here's what He tells me I need to do - this is Hebrews 4:16 - in my words, "We need to run to God's ruling seat of mercy full of confidence that He will receive us and give us the mercy and grace we so desperately need." That is what I intend to do. Run to His mercy. Believe that the blood of Jesus has covered all my failures once and for all. It is done. I choose to enter His rest.  I choose to quit believing that His love for me varies with how well I'm doing my job, how much I weigh, or how clean my floors are. 

Father God, please help us believe the wonderful truth that You receive us and our performance has no bearing on Your love for us. Help us get this Lord, because I'm still not sure we really do. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Looking Back/ Moving Forward

This week we’ve been enjoying a visit from my father.  He lives in Virginia where he works full-time as a hospice chaplain, so we don’t get to see him very often.  More than a few years ago, he and my mom packed up their little girls and moved to Fort Worth from central Florida for my dad to attend Southwestern Seminary.  On Monday, we decided to take a nostalgic trip to look at the campus and snap one more picture in front of the little apartment building that was our first home in Texas.  As we drove around, my dad recounted for us the story of how  they were given the president’s special suite on campus to spend the night, prompting one administrative assistant to ask, “Who are you?” assuming they must be vip’s.  My dad told her, “We’re just God’s kids.”  My sister and I have our own faith-building memory of praying all the way to Texas for bunk beds and being ecstatic when we entered our tiny new bedroom and found a set. 
These are stories I remember hearing over and over growing up.  They were part of our own version of Psalm 136, which recounts God’s faithfulness to Israel and repeatedly affirms the truth that His love endures forever.  We need to take the time to remember and tell each other about the epic faithfulness our Father God has shown us.  Remembering how good God has been and how far He has brought us strengthens our resolve to stay the course to the end.  However, looking back is only a good idea if we keep it brief – whether we are changing lanes on the freeway or remembering the way things were.  In order to keep moving forward, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and He is always out front!  His word to us is always, “Come, follow Me!” 

Father, please help us remember all the good things You’ve done on our behalf.  Please give us courage to follow Your lead, even into unfamiliar territory.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  2 Corinthians 2:14

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Transition

This week I’ve been hearing this word:  Transition.  During the process of childbirth, there is a stage of labor called transition.  It is the time when the intensity ramps up, and it becomes clear that things are about to change.  The process of dilation is almost complete and soon you will be saying hello to a brand new someone.  Not surprisingly, transition is the time when many moms start feeling like they can’t handle being in labor any longer.  They are done – sick of contractions, sick of breathing, ready to call the whole thing off.  Hopefully, when a mother reaches this point there is someone there who understands and who can encourage her that she is almost there.  All the pain has a purpose and soon she will get the payoff when she holds that precious baby in her arms.  Okay, so what does that have to do with us?  Well, for those of us who belong to Restoration Church – we are in transition.  It is clear that change is eminent and sticking with the status quo is no longer an option.  I don’t know what we are going to like on the other side of this transition, but I do know this:  Our Father God is good and He delights to bring forth new life – especially in unexpected places!   

For many of us this change means saying goodbye to a place that has represented home.  We have many wonderful memories from times spent in this place.  It’s hard to say goodbye and it is okay to be sad as we anticipate doing so.  It is natural to be a little overwhelmed as we pass through this stage of transition.  What I believe I hear the Holy Spirit saying this week is this:  Trust me.  This pain has a purpose.  The end result will be worth it.  New life is coming.  Be encouraged.  I brought you this far and I’m not leaving you now.  Hold on to My Faithfulness and be faithful to Me. 

Father God, please help us to hang on to You and please remind us that You never let go.  We love You, Lord and we trust You to bring us through this season and on to times of rejoicing on the other side. Bless Your Name Lord for You are Yahweh – the great God who was and is and always will be.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Comparison!

Comparison shopping is one of my favorite indoor sports.  Trying to find the very best deal possible is something many women enjoy.  Unfortunately, the skills of evaluation and assessment that make us great bargain hunters can also make us miserable when we begin to apply them to ourselves and those around us.  From the time we are big enough to step outside our own front doors, we begin to be aware of the differences between ourselves and the kids next door.  She has streamers on her handlebars and a basket with a flower!  I’m still riding a hand-me-down tricycle.  Sniff.  And so it goes all through life.  We compare our appearance, our intelligence, our possessions, our skills, even our personalities, and most of the time we decide that we are the ones who are lacking.  Church isn’t even a safe zone.  It is so easy to begin comparing our Christian walk with someone else’s and feel that we don’t have what they have.  What I hear the Lord saying to all of this today is simply “No Comparison”.  I believe He wants us to know that He never intended us to look at each other or ourselves in this way.  He wants us to know that we are accepted “in the Beloved.”  In Christ, we are all completely received by the Father and for the same reason – the covering of our sin by the blood of Jesus.  All the rest of it – how we look, how we act, what we have, what we don’t have – it just really isn’t that important.  If we can look at ourselves and say, “You are accepted by the Father”, then we can look at everyone else around us and say the same thing.  All those differences just don’t have to matter so much once we know, really know, that we belong to Him.  He is our Daddy God and He delights in our differences because He designed us that way.  He loves variety and while we may value one set of characteristics over another, who says He does?  He seems to enjoy people in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors.  If you haven’t noticed this, you probably haven’t been to Six Flags lately.  Bottom line, it’s time to keep the comparisons where they belong – on the produce aisle.  Go pick out the best watermelon or the juiciest peach, and give yourself freedom to be the best at one thing – being the person you were created to be. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  Ephesians 1:3-6

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

God is Speaking!

Our Abba Father is so amazing.  His love is so great for all that it is always sad when people turn their backs on Him.  I was driving to church today for Ladies Bible Study and I saw one of those signs by the road that indicates who is volunteering to take care of keeping it clean.  The sign said Metroplex Atheists.  I was surprised and saddened.  I thought about how wounded you would have to be to devote yourself to a group that wants to convince people God isn’t real.  I don’t think Bigfoot is real, but I’ve never felt the need to start an Anti-Sasquatch group. To my mind, actively trying to disprove someone doesn’t exist is pretty much an admission that they do and that you have a problem with them.   I’ve decided to be thankful for that sign because it can remind me to pray for those folks and ask the Lord to make Himself real to them.  I know God is able to do this and I believe He wants to. 
Throughout my day today, I have heard the Lord speaking through many different people.  A Facebook friend posted an amazing prayer.  Several women at my Bible study said things this morning that had the ring of Holy Spirit inspired truth.  A friend wrote me an email that was filled with wisdom and grace.  God is speaking and He has so much to say if we will take the time to tune in and listen.  I am so grateful for this!  Just like the disciples, I can’t imagine ever turning away from the Lord Jesus.  He alone has the words of eternal life!  (John 6:68)    Today, I want to encourage you to take time to listen for what the Lord is speaking straight to you.  It may be in your Bible reading.  It could be in your thoughts as you drive down the road.  If you listen, you will hear Him.  Don’t be surprised if the first thing He tells you is how much He loves you.  Don’t let the enemy tell you that is just wishful thinking.  He loves us.  Oh, how He loves us!  And He desires for us to know Him.  Draw near to Him today. 

“This is what the LORD says, He who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is His name: 3 ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’  Jeremiah 33:2-3

Abba Father, Lord Jesus, please speak to our hearts by your Spirit.  Help us tune in to Your frequency.  Help us find the quiet places where we can listen and truly hear.  Calm our hearts and help us hear You.  Thank You for always hearing us.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forget Perfect!

Heart to Hear is going to be a little bit different today, but I believe this is God’s word for us.
She dreamed of a jar of magical cream whose contents smoothed away every blemish, each spot and wrinkle.  When she saw herself in the mirror, the face reflected was completely flawless, like a painting of a beautiful woman by a rather unimaginative artist.  Gone were the worry lines etched by loving concern.  Also gone were the lines of frustrated patience delved in the trenches of motherhood.  Not a trace remained of the joys and sorrows of a lifetime of loving, struggling and overcoming.  It was like the face of a doll – lovely, but without a soul.  Devoid of any human imperfections, it had ceased to be attractive and was now merely decorative and easily dismissed.  In horror, she dropped the jar and covered her face with her hands.  This empty soul-less beauty was grotesque on a living being.  She wept as she realized that true beauty doesn’t come from the lack of imperfections.  It comes from the light and life of the person inside shining past every line and scar and making the individual unique, alive, and real.  When she awoke to the morning sun and looked in the bathroom mirror at her own face – spots, wrinkles and all – she smiled and said, “Forget perfect.  It’s over-rated.  Let’s just focus on being real.  Be yourself.  Love other people.  And hey, let’s quit spending so much time looking at each other!” 

Abba Father, thank You for being the One who will present us to Yourself blameless and perfected.  Thank you that though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being made new.  You are amazing!  Your love is astonishing. Help us see others, as well as ourselves, through Your eyes.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“…as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” Ephesians 5:25b -27 (New Living Translation)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  2 Corinthians 4:16 (New International Version)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Does it Matter?

Most of us would agree that what matters to us matters to God.  The Bible tells us that our Father God is a God who cares about us personally, even going so far as to number the hairs of our heads.  He stores our tears up in a bottle, and He hears the cries of our hearts. (Psalm 56:8)  Today, however, I believe He is challenging us with this question:  Does what matters to God matter to us?  Are we as interested in knowing how He is feeling and what He is wanting as we are in telling Him how we feel and what we want?  When was the last time we wondered what was on God’s mind and heart without it being all about us?  As I have prayed about this thought, the words to one of Steven Curtis Chapman’s songs came to my mind. 
“There’s more to this life than living and dying,
More than just trying to make it through the day”

Lately, I’ve wondered about my life and what it means.  I’ve been seeing things in Scripture that have challenged me and caused me to wonder if my life is all that it is meant to be.  Matthew 25:31 – 46 really has my attention.  Here in my comfortable suburban home, I never see need.  My prayers aren’t for daily survival.  The naked, hungry and desperate are far removed from view.  Even if I am confronted with the needs of the world through the Internet or television, it is all too easy to click away or switch channels.  Jesus told Judas, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”  (Mark 14:6-8)  I grew up hearing this quoted, but usually without that middle phrase, “You can help them any time you want.”  Instead, my take-away was that there would always be poor people and there really wasn’t anything we could do about it, so we should just focus on Jesus instead.  Now, I am beginning to wake up to the fact that my thoughts in this area have been wrong.  Jesus never advocated ignoring poverty and need.  Which takes me to back to the question – what does God care about and do I care, too?  What if I am His answer to someone else’s prayer?  I’ll be honest – this is scary, unfamiliar territory.  I’m not sure where this path will take me.  On the other hand, I’m wondering if this isn’t the answer to my heart’s cry for more to this life.  Pray for me, and I will pray for you that our Abba Father will give us hearts to hear what is on His heart and the grace to respond in ways that bless Him. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No More Sloppy Thinking!

Early this past Saturday morning, this thought ran through my head: “No more sloppy thinking!”  I believe the Father was telling me that it’s time to be more intentional about my thought life.  The enemy often takes shots at me via little condemning thoughts pinging off my brain.  “Can you believe you said that?”  “What were you thinking?”  On and on, but now I believe the Lord is saying, “Enough!”  It’s time to crack down on this unnecessary personal verbal abuse, and start making more of an effort to think the truth.  When I did the Breaking Free Bible study by Beth Moore, one of the best things I took away was the idea that you can cover the walls of your mind with the truth of God’s Word instead of the lies of the enemy.  In my mind, I like to imagine a big poster on the wall that says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I do not have to listen to these thoughts anymore.  It isn’t the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is just the enemy trying to find out how much torment I’m willing to take.  I used to think I deserved the torment, but now I believe the truth.  I am beloved of my Father God, so much so that He put His Spirit of adoption into my heart that calls Him “Abba” which means “Daddy”.  I am accepted in His beloved Son Jesus.  I am clean and righteous before Him.  That’s the truth and that is where He wants me living.  After all, He set us free so we could be…free!  Why would we settle for anything less?
Abba, thank You for the amazing love You have shown us. Thank You for sending Jesus to redeem our lives from the pit and set us free to live in You and for You.  Help us think the truth, and please show us the places where we aren’t.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Romans 8:1, 15; Ephesians 1:6, I John 1:9; Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where is the Joy?

Where is the joy?  Anybody besides me been wondering that lately?  I haven’t really been seeing it or feeling it.  Joy.  I know it’s something followers of Jesus are supposed to have and yet, for some reason I just don’t.  I think part of the problem is simply not maintaining my awareness of all that the Lord has done for me. 
One of the things David - psalmist, shepherd and king – did best was to remind himself of all that the Lord had done for him.  Psalm 30 is an enthusiastic declaration of how wonderfully God saved, healed and redeemed his life.  Look at the last two verses with me. 
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise You forever.  Psalm 30:11-12
David remembered what the Lord had done and he used those remembrances to stir his heart to worship and praise.  That my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.  I was convicted when I read that because all too often my heart is silent.  If I do feel moved to worship, I can turn on a cd and while I know that I can genuinely worship the Lord with the help of a recording, I also know it is easy to let the singers on the cd do all the worshipping while I just enjoy the music.  To truly worship, I need to think about the Lord and who He is to me.  I need to remind my heart of all that He has done for me, and I need to open my mouth and sing His praises.  I need to remember all the times He has met me at the point of my need and declare that I know He always will.  Worship isn’t a weekly event at a building.  It’s something I need to engage in every day because when I do, joy isn’t hard to find.  It’s a well springing up inside me, a river of living water. 
Abba Father, please help us take the time to focus on You and Your goodness.  Please bring to our remembrance all the good things You have done.  Help us learn to sing Your praise and not be silent – not just at church, but in our homes and cars, too!  Help us engage in true worship.  Thank You for giving us a reason to sing.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Relationship Not Religion!

Last week I found myself having one of those days where it is a struggle to string one clear thought to the next.  Too many things were screaming for my attention and I couldn’t decide where to put my focus.  Ever have one of those?  I hate that kind of day because I always end up feeling like I didn’t accomplish much more than spinning my wheels and driving myself crazy.  When I got up the next day, I made a point of talking to the Lord about how the day before had gone.  I sure didn’t want to repeat the experience.  It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to take me straight to the bottom line.  Yesterday had been so miserable because I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do without actually asking Him.  Why?  Because I was afraid to ask for fear of it being too hard, not what I wanted to do, or both.  Yep, I was totally busted; nailed for trying to find a way to make God happy without it interfering too much with my plans.  Isn’t it insane that I would rather stumble around in the darkness of my own mind rather than turn to my Father and simply ask Him to light my way?  That’s religion for you and it flies in the face of the fact that what the Father wants for us is a relationship built on trust.  If I trust Him and His love for me, I won’t be trying to weasel out of doing what He has for me.  I’ll know that even if it looks hard, Jesus is in me, enabling me to do what He asks.  I’ll trust the Holy Spirit to lead me and tell me which way to go and I will have peace,  knowing that I’m right where my Abba Father wants me.  Jesus went around doing what the Father told him to do and that’s what He wants for us, too!  Just in case you were wondering, once I submitted my agenda to the Lord, I had a great day!
 No one can come to Me  unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  John 6:44-45

Abba Father, thank you for drawing us to Your Son Jesus.  Thank You for being a patient teacher.  Please help us stop running from You.  Help us believe Your plans are good and not evil.  Help us live in unbroken fellowship with You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Than Able

More than able.  God spoke those words to my heart during worship Sunday.  It is so easy to slip into a mindset of seeing our problems as mountain- sized in comparison with the small strength we have to meet the crisis.  But God is not a man that He should be perplexed by our difficulties.  He is more than able to handle whatever we face.  Not only is His strength enough, He says it is actually perfected when we are weak and unable to stand on our own.   (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This week, my Abba Father has been challenging me to thank Him even in the face of difficulty.  Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in all circumstances.  When I thank Him for my problem, I invite His presence and His power into the situation and free Him to make something wonderful out of something the enemy wanted to use to tear down my faith.  That’s what being a Redeemer is  all about!  He can redeem ANY thing in our lives and use it to bring His name glory and transform our hearts.  Just in case you were wondering, I’m not thanking Him for evil, but I’m thanking Him for being more than able to overcome it with His goodness.  Our problems are where we can meet our Father God face to face if we choose to take them to Him with thankfulness. 

Abba, please help us trust You in the hard things -  even to the point of thanking you for them.  Please bring Your Kingdom to life in our lives.  Thank You for being more than able!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Believing His Promises

This week, the Father is talking to me about trusting Him to do what He has promised.  I don’t know what you might be waiting on the Lord to do in your life, but I do hope that you have some things that you are believing He will do.  If you don’t, I hope you will take a look at your life, especially those messy areas you have no idea how to straighten out, and ask Him what He wants to do about them.  In at least one area of my life, I’ve asked the Lord to give me a picture for my heart’s wallet of what He plans to do so that I can take it out and look at it whenever I start to doubt.  This week, I needed His reminder to do just that.  Here is what He had to say:

You must not look with your eyes and think that is all there is.  I’ve called you to trust Me – to believe Me for what your eyes don’t see.  Believe Me!  Believe what I’ve promised!  Call those things that are not yet revealed into being in your life.  Trust me to make happen what I have shown you with your spiritual eyes.  As in heaven, so on earth - as you believe and trust Me for it all. 

To be honest, I wrote those words down during worship on Sunday and Monday morning I sat down with my Bible to be sure what I heard lined up with the Word.  The good news – it does!  Romans 4:17 states plainly that the God Abraham put his faith in is “the God Who gives life to the dead and calls those things that are not as though they were.”  Abraham believed God’s word to him concerning his righteousness and concerning his circumstances.  As one of Abraham’s children of faith, I can do the same. 

Bottom line, faith in our Abba Father brings peace.  Looking at our own meager resources brings anxiety.  Even when we have nothing, He says, “I am enough!” 

Thank You, Father God, that You are all we need.  You are faithful and You keep all Your promises.  Help our unbelief.  Help us hold on to your promises without wavering.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Floating on the Ocean of His Love

I just have to start off today by giving a shout of praise to the Lord for His wonderful goodness to us over the last two weeks.  Thank you for praying for us as we took a long-desired trip to the beach with our six children.  Our time there was truly blessed with many fun and unforgettable experiences.  My youngest daughter Rebecca had a deep desire to see dolphins while we were in Florida.  We had to tell her to pray about it, because we couldn’t guarantee it would happen.  Well, the Lord answered the desire of her heart and we saw not just one, but groups of dolphins surfacing out in the ocean one morning when we went out on jet skis.  It was an incredible thing to cut the motor and sit there on the crystal blue water with my little girls and watch those amazing creatures appear.  We were all blown away that God would do that for us. 

Whenever I look at the ocean, my heart is singing about my Abba Father’s incredibly big love for me.  I always think of Dennis Jernigan’s song, “Wider than the ocean, deeper than the sea is my Father’s love for me.”  A few years ago, during a time of great struggle for me as a wife and mother, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Stop trying to push the waves back and forth.”  I saw so clearly that I was living as if everything depended on me making it happen.  When the Lord said this to me, I could see for the first time how foolish and futile my way of life was.  It also explained why I was so tired all the time!  I wasn’t getting anywhere, but I sure was wearing myself out!  Then the Lord began to reassure me that He had all the things that concerned me under control.  What He wanted from me was trust and rest, and obedience when He did have something for me to do.  I began to get a wonderful vision of the ocean of His love and how I could float on it if I would just lay back and breathe, relaxed and trusting.  Since then, I’ve been learning to do just that.  At the beach last week, I was able to act out this spiritual truth in the physical realm.  My husband and I took pool noodles and swam out far enough from the shore to get to the clear, beautiful water where we could see the sandy bottom down below.  As we floated there enjoying the cool water and the beautiful scene all around us, I realized how far the Lord has brought me.  The last time we visited the ocean, I was afraid to go more than waist deep.  This time, I was free to swim out into the deeps and trust my Father to take care of me.  My prayer as I come home and take up once again the life the Lord has given me is that I will continue to float in His love and trust Him to take care of all that concerns me, no matter how deep the water gets. 

Abba Father, thank You for being so good to us, Your children.  You are a good Father and so patient.  Keep us aware of Your everlasting love.  Help us trust You in all things. Please use us to bring glory and honor to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Really Good News!

Early Monday morning I woke up from the strangest dream.  You know how it is.  Some dreams seem significant; others just seem bizarre and make you question your late night snack choices.  This dream appeared to be in the latter category, but as I gradually came to full consciousness a message became quite clear.  In my dream, I was trying to shampoo a little boy’s hair.  I had the soap in his hair, but he kept resisting my efforts to rinse it out.  I was also struggling to get the water to pour over his head.  In that odd way of dreams, the water ended up going everywhere but where it was meant to.  The harder I struggled, the bigger the mess I was creating became.  As I pondered these things, it was clear the Lord had a lesson for me in this crazy scenario:  I can’t change anyone.  If I insist on trying, I will only make it harder for them to change.  Funny thing about the timing on this revelation, I had been praying Sunday morning and asking the Lord to help me love my family with His love.  Once again I was up against the truth that my love isn’t like His love at all.  As I read over 1 Corinthians 13’s wonderful exposition of what God’s love is all about, I became convinced that this kind of love is impossible for me.  If I choose to walk in my own strength, I will never demonstrate this kind of love.  However, as I dug in a little deeper and headed over to Romans 6-8 to look at what Paul wrote about sin and my victory over it through Jesus’ death on the Cross, I found some hope.  Eventually, I arrived at Romans 8:13-14: 
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

This is really good news!  It may not sound like it at first because putting to death the deeds of the body doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?  You have to make sure you put your focus on Who is doing the heavy lifting – the Spirit of the Almighty God.  The same power that raised Jesus is at work in us!  I told you this is good news!  So here’s the bottom line – as I sat there and tried to take this in, the Lord Jesus made it very simple for me.  Here is what He said:

I love you and I will lead you by My Spirit in you.  Do not be afraid.  Simply take My hand and follow Me.

And He gave me the grace to do just that.  Sunday was a great day because I had no agenda except to follow His lead.  It was a really special day, and I hope, a taste of freedom and victory to come.  I’m still absorbing these lessons and learning to walk in them every day. 

In the meantime, part of God’s plan for me is to take some time off to spend with my husband and my children.  This means I won’t be publishing a “Heart to Hear” for the next couple of weeks.  Pray for us - it’s always exciting when a mom, dad, and six kids get in the car for an extended period of time! 

Abba Father, please lead us by Your Spirit.  Give us grace to see what You are doing and follow Your lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Love That Never Fails

The Father has been speaking to my heart lately about His great, unfailing, never-ending love.  It truly is amazing.  There was a time in my life when I searched the scriptures looking for evidence of God’s love.  It was there in black and white for anyone to see, but somehow I was blind to it.  Little by little, the scales on my eyes have been removed and now my eyes see and my heart hears the great love of the Father pouring forth on every frequency.  I’m learning to believe that I am loved unconditionally and accepted completely because of Jesus’ atoning death on the Cross.  I’m learning to come to the Father in confidence, unafraid, and without a checklist in my hand.  Growing up in a Christian home, I learned to do the things believers did, but I didn’t always understand why they did them.  Now I know that there is a crucial difference between wanting to please God because He loves me versus wanting to please Him so He will love me.  I’m being transformed by the renewing of my mind just like Paul talks about in Romans 12:1-2.  The world’s pattern says make a sacrifice, make lots of sacrifices, and maybe you will get mercy.  The joyful truth of Jesus – the good news – is that through His sacrifice we get complete mercy and absolute acceptance.  Now we offer ourselves as living sacrifices out of hearts full of love and gratitude for the mercy and love in which we already rest.  Learning to rest in God’s love is wonderful and yet sometimes scary.  I’ve had to let go of the mind-set that says “I’ll do it all right and then God will bless me.”  I’m learning to embrace the mind-set that says, “I am blessed because God loves me.  Getting it all right is His job, not mine.” 
Today, I hear the Father saying, “Tell them I love them.”  So, just in case you were wondering. Just in case you’ve been feeling like God isn’t interested in talking to you until you get your act together.  Just in case you’ve been wondering if He even cares about you at all - the answer is a resounding yes!  He loves you. He loved you before you ever thought about doing anything to please Him.  Believe it!  Take joy in it!  Rest in it! 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Laying Down My Map

One day during my trip to Charleston, I had a wonderful time with the Lord out on the hotel terrace watching the waves roll in as the sun began to light up the sky.  My heart was at rest, full of humble gratitude and content to simply wait on the Lord to take me where He was going.  For once I was able to lay down my map and do what my daddy always told me, “Sit back and enjoy the ride.”  I do love to have a map when I’m going somewhere.  Of course now everybody likes to have their GPS.  My Aunt Judy hit the wrong button on her GPS during her drive down to the shore and it started speaking Polish which was really not helpful.  Lord has a trip plan, but sometimes I am all too aware that it is written in a language in which I’m still not very fluent.  Many times, I simply have to sit back and let my Abba Father – my Daddy God- drive.  My dad delighted in piling the family in the car on a Saturday afternoon and taking off without telling us where we were going.  That always drove me crazy!  Now that I’m older, I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell us where we were going because he had no idea where we would end up.  It didn’t matter because he knew how to get us home.  Isn’t it good to know that our Heavenly Father knows how to get us home?  He will get each one of us there in His good time and on the scenic route of His choosing.  What sweet pleasure it brings to His heart when we sit back like trusting little children and look out the window in expectation of a wonderful adventure, safe and secure with Dad at the wheel.  No telling where you might find yourself – with my dad it might be a stop at a country store for a soda in a glass bottle from an old timey cooler.  With our Abba Father, it might be someplace you never imagined you would go – like a crowded Shanghai subway at rush hour.  Wherever He takes us, one thing is certain – all the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful to for those who live in covenant with Him.  (Psalm 25:10)
Abba Father, please give us grace to rest in You even when we don’t know exactly where the road leads.  Help us delight Your heart by trusting You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You've Got a Friend

Yesterday was one of those days when I had absolutely nothing to say.  I prayed and I asked the Lord what He would have me share today, and into the loud empty spaces echoing in my head I heard a song.  It is an old song, released 40 years ago by a woman named Carole King.  The song is “You’ve Got a Friend”.  I’m sure most of you know this song.  If you don’t, look it up.  You won’t be sorry.  Here are some of the lyrics: 
When you're down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend

I don’t know about you, but this was a really good reminder to me of a couple of things.  We need to be sure we don’t get too busy to nurture our friendships.  It’s an easy thing to do.  Life gets busy and we don’t take the time to reach out.  Then we wonder why we feel dry down deep in our souls.  We need our friends and they need us – to listen, to laugh, to cry, or maybe just be there.  The other thing is that God is my friend.  I know He is God and I’m not.  This is definitely not a relationship of equals.  However, James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was God’s friend and as believers who consider ourselves children of Abraham, it is not a stretch to say that we are God’s friends, too.  He comes when we call.  In fact, He delights in answering when we cry out to Him.  Psalm 107 repeats this theme over and over.  No matter our trouble, when we call out His name He hears and He responds with His unfailing love. 
Abba Father, thank You for being our very best friend and thank you for blessing us with friends to share our journey.  Please help us take neither You nor them for granted.  Help us remember that being a faithful friend is often the best way to show Your love to a world of lonely people.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Lesson of the Loaves

Hello Ladies!

Jennifer's getting a little R&R at the beach this week and asked me (her husband) to share with you something the Lord spoke to me recently while she's out verifying that SPF 50 is in fact all it's cracked up to be. But, before I can share the word with you I have to tell you a story first:

As a father one of the great burdens I bear is the responsibility for making sure that my kids are as prepared as I can possibly make them to be successful out on their own when it's time for them to leave home and, for me, that last step before "Go forth and conquer!" is a college degree.
Given the cost of college and the size of our tribe that's no small objective and one that was eating my lunch until a couple of years ago when, while at church, the Lord spoke to me and said "I'll take care of it." Upon hearing those words the elephant that had been riding shotgun on my shoulders got up and walked off and I was thinking "Cool! God's going to provide and I don't have to worry about this anymore."
Well, that was then and if we fast-forward to today we've got two in college and financially it's been, shall we say, "interesting". Although some remarkable things have happened I've not exactly been a pillar of faith and it was while I was out jogging the other day and thinking about money and excusing myself for taking on a general posture of austerity with regard to extra giving due to our circumstances that the Holy Spirit appended my thoughts with "for they still had not learned the lesson of the loaves" - and immediately I was convicted.
You see, I've been reading through Mark lately and that verse is Mark 6:52 and it comes after Jesus feeds the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fishes in verses 37-44. This event is immediately followed by Jesus telling his disciples to go ahead of him by boat to Bethsaida. That night, while the disciples are in the boat struggling against the waves, Jesus comes walking by them over those same waves and when they see him they panic! Jesus tells them to calm down and when he gets into the boat with them the wind dies (verses 45-51). It's at this point that scripture says "the disciples were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened".
The Holy Spirit was telling me that I had made the same mistake as the disciples! I had forgotten God's word to me and the fact that He watches over His word to perform it. (Jeremiah 1:12) In all three situations God had clearly spoken His intentions and we summarily got overwhelmed by the circumstances (only five loaves and two fish, lots of wind and waves and too little money for tuition), doubted his word and had our hearts hardened. Rats!
So, I took advantage of the grace offered me though the Holy Spirit's conviction and repented and now, by faith, in the face of our continued need, we are going to start giving extra again. We are going to actively affirm the Word of God in our lives through giving when reason says that we should be saving. I haven't a clue as to how that provision will come but I'm returning my family to our front row seats to watch the show because the One who initiated the promise is faithful and He will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:24)
Let's roll!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

He Trains My Hands for War

Earlier this week I was praying for my children and asking the Lord to cut off the enemy from them.  There’s nothing wrong with this prayer, but on this particular day I felt the Holy Spirit leading me in a different direction.  I began to ask the Lord to teach them to recognize and reject the enemy’s schemes against them.  I also began to pray for Him to reveal His strategies to them for standing against the attacks that were coming their way.  I think the Lord is showing me that it is time for them to start learning some spiritual self-defense.  Sometimes the Lord steps in and fights for us.  I love those times!  Then there are those occasions where He trains our hands for war and tells us to get in there and kick butt!  

When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I began listening to a voice telling me that something would be wrong with this child. Rather than kicking this thought to the curb, I allowed it to settle into my heart.  I even began to worry that the baby might die.  This went on for months until I was getting close to my due date.  I was so tired of the anxiety that had been tormenting me for so long, I did what I should have done from the start - I went to the Lord about it.  As I prayed, He showed me a mental picture of a wimpy little demon no bigger than a mosquito.  This was what had been causing me so much grief?  I felt like such a chump for letting this whiny little insect tie me up with fear and rob me of the joy of anticipating a new life.  All I had to do was quit listening to the lie and embrace the truth!  Did I have assurance that all would be perfect?  No, but I did have a certainty that my Father God was taking care of me and this child, and that was enough to give me peace. 

There are certain roles in life that I know I was never meant to play. I know for a fact that being a nurse or doctor is out for me.  My daughter recently had to have a few stitches and I’m still traumatized!  I also have zero dramatic ability. I find it hard enough just to be myself, much less someone else!  However there is one role we are all called to play in the Body of Christ and that is soldier.  We all have a mandate to put on the armor of God and take our stand against the enemy the Apostle Paul calls “spiritual forces of evil.”  (See Ephesians 6:10-20 if you need an update on this.)  The best part is our Father in Heaven equips us to fight and He trains us to win!     

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make Your saving help my shield, and Your right hand sustains me.  Psalm 18:32-35

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Storm Season

It’s definitely storm season right now.  Here in North Texas, the weather people and the insurance adjusters are staying very busy!  Sometimes life on this earth seems like little more than an endless series of storms.  Just about the time we have the debris cleared from one tempest, another gale begins to blow.  Every spring, I start wishing we had a storm cellar in our home – especially when the tornado alarm sounds!  I may not have one physically, but thanks to God’s Spirit inside of me, I do have a storm shelter; a safe place where nothing the enemy does can touch.  It is the place where I say, “I will trust You, Father, no matter what because You are good no matter what.” 
Last week the Lord spoke to my heart that He is good in everything, including the hard things we face.  This week, He told me that He is always at work to bring about the very best outcome possible.    Sometimes His best doesn’t look like my best, but He tells me to trust Him because He knows how it all turns out in the end.  When He spoke the world into existence He called everything He did good.  I believe that when His plans for this world are completed, and we see from His perspective, we will agree that the end result is good.

Psalm 31:14-16  But I trust in You, LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love.   
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  2 Cor. 4:17

Thursday, April 21, 2011

He is Good!

On Sunday, as we worshipped together, we sang to the Lord, “You are good!”  This truth just exploded in my heart.  I heard the Lord saying that He is good - even in the hard things, the things we don’t understand, and the things that break our hearts.  As I looked around, I saw the glory of the Lord reflected on the faces of those around me, even some who are currently facing intense trials.  He is good and His goodness is not changed by our circumstances.
During the night Saturday, the full moon shone so brightly it almost seemed to be lit from within.  As I enjoyed its beauty, the Lord reminded me of the moon’s completely barren nature.  The moon only shines with light reflected when it is turned toward the sun.  It is a dark and desolate rock, yet its lovely glow has inspired many.  In the presence of the Lord on Sunday, I saw the truth that if we turn to Him in our dark times, we can shine with His glory even though our situations look as bleak as a lunar landscape. 

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”   

 Psalm 34:5, 8

Abba Father, please give us grace to keep our faces turned to You, no matter what is going on in our lives.  Please help us trust Your goodness no matter what comes our way.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Treasure in a Chipped Pot

This week I have chips on my mind, and unfortunately they aren’t the delicious, crunchy kind that come with a side of fresh salsa.  I’m talking about those heartbreaking chips that all too frequently appear – in my kitchen countertop, on the chair legs in the living room, on the baseboards, and most painful of all - on the side of my car.  Ouch!  I never realized how many things I own are chippable!  All of these objects have one thing in common.  They carry a thin coating over an inner core that looks completely different.  It wouldn’t be such a tragedy if you bumped a chair leg with the vacuum cleaner and the wood that was exposed was the same color as the outside, but that never seems to be the case.  If my car doors were cast iron, I wouldn’t have to worry about where I park on a windy day in Texas.  Unfortunately that thin layer of paint on metal is no match for the impact of the door of another car when a gust of wind slams it into mine. 

What about me?  When I get bumped does my veneer of “good person” get chipped to reveal the hopelessly bad person underneath?  Yes, it does, frequently!  My desire is to be the same all the way through.  I want to be solid with the love and life of Jesus flowing through me 24/7, so that when life takes a chip out of me the same grace keeps shining through.  Unfortunately, as long as I am living in this tent of flesh, I will continue to struggle with letting the Lord live through me in all things.  I will still get incredibly angry when someone cuts me off – verbally or in traffic.  Sharp words will be springing from my tongue when I least expect it, and I’m sure I’ll be battling until my dying day to stay out of God’s way in the lives of my family.  Ephesians 1:13-14 tells me I have the Holy Spirit in my heart as a deposit guaranteeing that one day I will be wholly holy, but until then, I have these chips to remind me how desperately I need a savior.  But, here’s the really wonderful part – Jesus knows I can’t live a holy life without His help.  He knows I am a chipped clay pot and He came to save me anyway.  He hasn’t called me to a life of trying to be perfect for Him, but a life of being perfected as I live in Him.  

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  2 Cor. 4:7 (ESV)

Abba Father, help us bear the burden of our jars of clay with grace and may it continually be more of You that pours out on those around us.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.