On Wings Like Eagles

We were blessed to have a houseful of family and friends join us for Easter. It was a delightful time of celebrating and visiting.

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And by the end of the day, I was ready to put my feet up for a few minutes after being sure the food was properly stored.

 

On Easter Monday, with a quiet home, and a lovely, sunny day, I began to strip bedding, gather towels and clean the floors. What surprised me most was the negative feelings for all the “work” that was left behind.

 

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WHAT!?!

 

It surprised me to realize that resentment was welling up within my inner being.  I had enjoyed the company. There was plenty of help. I had simplified the menu, largely because of what I have learned through observing Sabbath.

 

As I continued to do the clean-up, I asked God to change my heart. In answer to that, He whispered in my ear, “Pray for those who slept on the sheets, who dried themselves with these towels, who took time and effort to come to your home and shared their time with you.”

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What a difference it made! Soon my heart was singing with thankfulness for having family and friends to celebrate Easter Sunday.

 

Practicing Sabbath gives me space each week to tune into the quiet, gentlemanly voice of God. As I listen each week, I am more sensitive to the gentle whisper and more quickly repent—turn 180 degrees—and return to walking closely with God.

 

Had anyone been watching me that day, they may not have seen any change. But my heart went from weighed down to rising on wings like eagles!

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Saving Our Lives

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:23,24

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These words and ideas don’t make any sense, but they are what Jesus did for us.

He sacrificed his comfort, his leadership, his position with the Father, in order to save you and me.

How do we give up our selfish ways?

For many years, I thought that filling my schedule with good deeds, and thoughtful words was giving up my life.

Until I realized that I was trying to draw life from those to whom I “gave” myself. Without a conscious decision, other people had become my idol, my focus, my false god.

It was never enough. People disappointed me. Even when I received the compliments and recognition that I so desperately wanted, the “high” didn’t last long. I even made a “Warm Fuzzy” file to try to refill my empty soul.

I ended up drained, hopeless, with feelings of despair and loneliness mixed in for good measure.

After a long season of pain and the sin of demanding my own way, I asked God to give me a heart that was ready to repent.

 

It took time. More pain. Looking at myself and despising who I was. At the end of my rope, I was willing to submit. Willing to give up everything—reputation, safety, even family, if necessary–to fall under His Lordship.

It wasn’t easy, but it is simple. Lay down my life to follow His leading.

It wasn’t instant, but He is patient. Asking again and again for a fresh start, washed in Jesus’ blood.

It isn’t perfect, but He is faithful, even when I am faithless.

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The Lord wants us to draw our life from Him, to lose ourselves in love and worship.
To breathe in His words, His mercy, His graciousness.
To exhale our own wounded pride and ambition.

Pray that you will learn to let go of your personal agenda and learn to be fully open to His love so that it spills over to the ones around you.

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Reminders of His Promises

When I got to the end of the driveway this morning there were thick gray clouds stacked high in the west. Like a wary dog growling deep within, the rumbling of thunder was distant toward the hills.

So thinking I could beat the rain, and preferring to walk in the fresh air, I set off.

The pink edge of the sun peeked above the horizon at 6:31 and was completely visible two minutes later before sneaking behind bluer and grayer clouds just moments later.

Then raindrops began falling.

But I was nearing my set point, so I walked faster, dodging most of the wetness.

Reaching my spot, I turned to go home. And there, in its silent splendor was a complete rainbow! So high and wide that my phone camera could not capture all of it in one shot.

Praise was my response.

And then, unbidden, almost like the Holy Spirit’s whisper, was the reminder “God put the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise to never again destroy the entire earth with water.” (Genesis 9)

If God the Eternal needs reminders, I certainly do. And I find the best reminder of all his promises to me is to be in his word consistently.

Take time today to read his promises!August 16 2ndAugust 16 2016

Renew Your Mind

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1,2

The first time I read through the entire Bible systematically was during my year at Bible college as a class assignment.

Though there was a great sense of accomplishment for reading the entire Bible, it wasn’t enough. For multiple years I fell behind after the book of Exodus when the readings were mostly lists of families or rules for sacrifices. Even when I tried plans that mixed up Old and New Testament readings, I’d miss a few days, and give up.

My earliest teachings were that I should begin the day with a quiet time, starting my day with God.

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It was a set-up for failure when I had to get my family and myself out of the house by 7:30 a.m. Returning after long, taxing days, feeding the family, and often attending an evening activity seemed to absorb every minute. Some days I barely managed to offer a nutritious tidbit and keep the clothes clean, dry, and wearable.

My quiet times were sporadic at best, and most often neglected.

Nearly three years ago, a new friend invited me to read through the New Testament in a chronological Bible. It seemed more do-able.

  1. I discovered that the format of Bible readings for each day were grace-filled, allowing me to jump in on the date rather than feeling I had to catch up on a missed reading.
  2. I broke through my expectation of reading first thing in the morning.
  3. On-line discussion drew me to the reading whenever I had a chance.

After successfully-more or less, as I missed a day here and there-completing the New Testament, I accepted the challenge to read through the entire Bible in 2014. And I invited members of our church to join me.

The format of the printed Bible and accountability of a group have helped me continue to read God’s Word consistently.

Team 365 at retreat center

The second year, it was fun to make connections or comparisons of Scripture that I’d not seen or heard a teaching on before.

Nearly three years later, I’m discovering that my mind is being renewed. Last week, at training sessions in which I have a leadership position, my mind went to an example in the Bible to help illustrate the situation we faced.

The first year I read through the Bible, I was probably a bit legalistic about it. But it is becoming a necessary part of my day.

We don’t do the renewing, we simply subject ourselves to it. We submit our mind to God and let Him fill it with His truth. He is the guardian of our makeover.” From “Indeed: Exploring the Heart of God” from Walk Thru the Bible

In my garden, I can provide healthy plants, enriched soil, in a location with sunlight and water when the rains don’t come often enough, and keep the weeds out of the space. However, I cannot do anything to make the plants grow and produce fruit.

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Likewise, I expose myself to God’s Word, eliminate the negative inputs around me, but the Holy Spirit is the one remaking me to be more like Christ.

If you want your mind renewed and transformed, join me in the Bible reading adventure. It will help you learn to walk by faith!

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Bringing Courage and Hope

Ruth 1 through 4:12
The book of Ruth is one of my favorites. Even though it has a lot of grief and sorrow, it reveals the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer. Most often I have focused on Ruth, her loyalty to her mother-in-law’s God and her submissive response to what Naomi tells her to do.

Yet today, Ruth 1:19 caught my attention. “….When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.”

While we don’t know exactly how long Naomi lived in Moab, it was more than ten years.

Her little boys grew up into young men.

Her husband died,.

Her sons took wives from Moab.

Her sons died, bonding her with these young Moabite women in the sisterhood of widowhood.

In our modern era of instant communication, it is difficult to imagine that the women of Bethlehem hadn’t heard about the tragedies in Naomi’s life. It appears that they didn’t know of her devastating losses.

But they remembered Naomi. For all the many years that Naomi was in Moab, the women of Bethlehem still spoke of Naomi, who went with her husband and young sons when the famine was intense.

They remembered Naomi with joy. They celebrated her return, happy to have her in their neighborhood again.

But Naomi’s experience had changed her from a joyous, fun-loving young bride and mother, to a bitter, cynical widow.  She had given up on life and had come home to die. Or a place to stay bitter and withdrawn.

But bitterness cannot last long when it meets the impact of genuine love and compassion. Before long, Naomi is orchestrating a way to introduce Boaz to her daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Perhaps it would have gone like this anyway. But the women of Bethlehem, with their warm encompassing welcome, “greased the wheels”. Their love and attention gave Naomi the willingness to take a chance again.

 

After life’s difficult, painful journey, looking to the future with hope takes a transformation. God is love, but we are his hands and his feet, his ambassadors of love.

In what ways are you extending a warm, compassionate welcome to people that come into your life?

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There IS Rest

“Sometimes life feels like you’re running on a treadmill while someone keeps pushing the button to increase the speed faster and faster.” from “The Lies of Busyness: Devotions from Time of Grace”
 
As I read that, I remember that feeling. Even after the girls were grown up and creating homes of their own, it seemed there was never enough time in a day or a week.
Swinging
 
But as I read this quote this morning, a quiet voice nudged my thoughts.
 
“You don’t experience this feeling too often anymore, do you?”
 
It is true.
Quietly, imperceptibly, I am learning that the treadmill continues to go around, but I can choose to step off.
 
Two things have changed that.
 
#1 – Observing Sabbath rest.
First, I chose to do only tasks that weren’t on my list, tasks that felt creative on that day. For instance, baking cut-out cookies and decorating them with my granddaughters was NOT on my “to-do” list, but on a “Make memories with grandma” kind of list.
When that got easier, I began to give myself permission to read for a couple hours. Something fun,something frivolous, something that wasn’t on any list except my own “Books I want to read someday” list, or a recent recommendation from a fellow reader.
Then I was introduced to an on-line friend friend at a retreat in the middle of Nebraska. Shelly Miller’s Sabbath Society is a weekly letter about learning to observe Sabbath through the ups and downs of life in our day.
So I am journeying toward observing Sabbath. Not always perfectly, not always quietly, but recognizing it as a day to invest in people, relationships, and my inner self. It is not a day to catch up on what didn’t get marked off my to-do list or, even more damaging, getting a head start on the list for the coming week.
Rather than dread Sabbath, as it seemed so terribly dull to me as a child, and wasteful as a busy, employed mom, it has become a defining rhythm of my week, and as I discovered this morning, of my life.
It is a gift of God, reaching down, helping me to step off the treadmill.
#2 – Hosting Christmas 2013, knowing that it was very likely the last Christmas we would have to spend with Kenne’s mom. Though I had begun planning early for the 24 hours her immediate family would spend together in our home, I found myself adding things to the list to make it a memorable time for all twenty-two of us.
While the last minute purchases of prizes for a couple games were fun, and the photo booth that my girls helped me put up at nearly the last minute made a back drop for some fun photos, it did not define our time together like laughter, singing, our traditional program, and spending time reflecting on favorite family memories.
But it did help me realize that while lists can help me to focus on what needs to be done, my tendency is to keep extending the list.
Sabbath reminds me that the list needs to have a stopping point. That Christmas’s never-ending list is a marker for realizing my propensity for continually adding to a list.
But what a gift this morning that I am learning, slowly as it may be, that time is not my master. God’s gift of Sabbath, once I embraced it, has helped me be more subject to Him, my Lord and my Master.
So yes, I am learning that God wants me to step off the treadmill, to slow it down, to rest in Him.

Even So, Come, Lord Jesus

“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Luke 12:40

Sweet little legs peeking out beneath a pink plaid summer dress dashed across the grass. First up on the swing, then bouncing on the trampoline, back to the swing set to try the glider, skipping up the slope to her Fischer Price outdoor kitchen.

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what a blast

wind blown hair

And her laughter, pure and clear, ripples across the late afternoon breeze, washed clean by an earlier shower from black clouds and northwest wind.

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Peek a boo

What a blessing to watch an infant learn baby skills, progress to toddlerhood, pre-school, and elementary stages. Growth is expected. We watch for it. We nurture it. Sometimes we even try to push it a bit.

Jesus reminds us that we are to look for the signs of his return, and to remain watchful. Not just now and then, but always expectant.

The story of the maidens with lamps, five with extra oil and five without, is told in Matthew 25. This parable explains what prepared means.  While the five with extra oil realized it might take longer than they thought, the other five expected it to be in the early watch of the night.

The tension of living always watching, always prepared overwhelms linear thinking.

Remember the child. The parents are mindful of the child’s needs, even without every waking moment occupied directly with the child. Initially, the infant needs close watch and care. But as the child grows, the support of care-giving changes to intermittent attention. At times, one just basks in the discoveries through the child’s eyes. And when they grow older, leaving for their own call to mission, we long for their visits with us.

Big Girl Now

This is how we are always ready for his coming, always praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and yet doing the work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). We need to spend time understanding the signs of Christ’s return and recognize it could be soon. At times, we need to bask in the thought that our Savior might return today for us, His bride. And underneath it all, He wants us to long for His coming.

Are you ready at any moment for His return?

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  Revelation 22:20