Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prison Break

"In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains..." Isaiah 14:3

Funerals always impact my life. I attended one for the father of a new friend of mine not long ago. In our understanding he died too soon. He was only in his early 60's. Although I never had the opportunity to meet this man, his funeral impacted my life. The tributes and memories shared by family and friends were beautiful. We viewed a slide presentation set to music, tracing the journey of his life. The one thing that really spoke to my heart was that this man had truly lived.

He was an adventurer. Fear didn't hold him captive. He lived out loud. He wasn't afraid to follow the dreams God had placed in his heart, and yet he didn't take foolish risks. He enjoyed life to the full. In many ways he has gone from living to living.

My life in comparison would be such a shadow. Many of us would be likened to "dead men walking" in contrast. Oh, maybe outwardly we're going through the motions. Jumping through all the right hoops. We know how to play the "Game of Life". For generations it's been the same. We've read the rules. We know the expectations. Years go by, but our passion is getting buried deeper and deeper. We are allowing ourselves and others to dig our own grave...only we're still breathing. We're being buried alive.

I read recently of someone who, though living, described themselves as dead. Have you been there? Have you been to that dark place that numbs the heart. Apathy is your new normal. You feel indifferent...listless. You've lost interest in all your surroundings. Dejection and weariness characterize your existence. You are no longer a participant, but a spectator. You have eyes that see, without seeing. Ears that hear without hearing. A heart still capable of loving has become your prison. You feel empty, drained, alone.

Unbelievers are not the only ones held captive. Many Christians live life behind locked doors. Self-imposed cells. Discouragement, pain, rejection, insecurity, fear, accusations, past, present, future all build up walls. Gasping for breath you feel smothered, yet weakness and familiarity keep you hostage. It's often comforting to stay in the security of this new normal. Realizing work and effort may lay ahead, awakening holds too many uncertainties. A strange part of you enjoys the attention, pity and compassion from others. Silence is your truest friend and your most consuming enemy.

The problem? Right now life seems too overwhelming. Negatives far out-weigh the positives. Somehow your focus has shifted from what can be, to what is. Often it's a slow fade. Unfulfilled desires in a marriage, demanding children, a stressful job, painful, abusive memories, illness, ...disappointment in God. Oh, you'd probably not come right out and say that, but somewhere along the line, you've felt God has let you down. You had plans. You had desire. Your life was filled with enthusiasm and drive. You've been robbed in the cruellest way possible. You don't have to worry about being one step closer to the grave, you're already there.

How can I write of this? I've been there. I am all too familiar with premature death. But, can I offer you hope? If you are still breathing, you are not dead. Like a seed that may sit dormant all winter long, you are experiencing a winter in your soul. The season will change. Like the story of the "Secret Garden", there are treasures in you to be unearthed. Darkness can have a valuable purpose.

I don't know what God will do to call you back to life again, but He will. God is a God of Resurrection. He specializes in bringing the dead back to life. He wants to see you running and leaping. He comes to you, as He did to the blind beggar named Bartimaeus and asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" He will not force Himself on you. He holds the keys to your release in open, nail-scarred hands and offers them to you. He is not the one holding you in bondage. Self-imposed shackles are the only things holding you hostage. He promises to bring rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains. Today could be your Prison Break!

Acts 16:26 "Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose."

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Monday, June 29, 2009

God's Umbrella

“He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.” Isaiah 4:5b,6

Rolling over in bed, I looked towards the window. The sun wasn’t shining. No bright stream of light cascaded across the room. My mood matched the weather. Dull. Cool. It would be another disappointing day.

Lord, why do you keep sending cloud covering to my soul?

My heart is overcast. I can’t see through this fog. Visibility is poor. Where’s the Son?

My dear precious child, the cloud that is cradling you is a canopy of protection. I know you can’t see My hand right now and don’t understand My ways, but beyond what you can see I am holding back storms. A thunderous battle is being fought and this umbrella is hiding you in the shelter of My embrace. Danger is being deferred, deflected and denied.

Have you ever thought of a cloud as a provision of safety? Have you ever thanked the Lord, for things unaware, that He has kept from touching you on this journey? In His love and wisdom the Lord is preventing us from seeing and experiencing unknown trials. Above the clouds, things too great, that would break a bruised reed, are being held in His hands. Sun that would dry up, burn and scorch is being filtered through His grace.

Today let’s thank Him for this loving safeguard and rest and wait under the cloud of God.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Right Tool

“A heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cumin; rather, it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin; instead, it is beaten lightly with a flail. Grain for bread is easily crushed, so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but it doesn’t pulverize it. The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom.” Isaiah 28:27-29

Early in my marriage I learned that my husband was a perfectionist. One afternoon I was standing in the kitchen preparing a vegetable side-dish for dinner when he began criticizing and correcting my methods. Apparently I wasn’t using the proper utensil. There was a specific knife designed for the chopping job I was attempting and I was consequently going about it all wrong. I wasn’t using the right tool.

In today’s passage we read of the farmer who uses a variety of tools, taking into account the fragility of each plant. Some tools would be too invasive for those with a smaller, more delicate nature.

Do you realize that God does the same with us? God’s Word says that He observes our frame. He knows we are dust. He considers our individual circumstances and is well aware of our personal weaknesses. He deals with each of us sensitively. Although we are all loved unconditionally, always and forever, His care for us is unique and suited to fit us personally. No production line dispensing of care, He treats each of us as if there was just one of us.

We too should be mindful of the character and needs of others, giving special attention to specific personality types. Refrain from treating everyone in “cookie cutter” fashion. One friend laughs at your jokes, while another’s soul might be too tender, interpreting your carefree response as insensitive. We need to be attentive and mindful of our relationships so that we don’t crush a delicate heart.

Father, thank You for knowing me so intimately and choosing the “right tool” to harvest my heart so that I can grow into Your likeness.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Welcome Home

"...'I will bring them home again,' says the LORD." Hosea 11:11

Every Tuesday I find myself sitting in a music studio for an hour while my son has his piano lesson. Half of the hour his teacher devotes to written theory instruction and the remainder of the time is spent at the piano preparing for his practical exam. Although I could just drop him off and use the time to run errands, I have come to look forward to this hour each week. I write letters, read, prepare for Bible study and basically enjoy an uninterupted hour on my own.

Recently as I was listening to his teacher as she reinforced some Analysis and Counterpoint rules, I heard her give the following advice: "If at all possible, always come home." Now, she was referring to writing music and ending a composition in the tonic or 'home' key, but her direction spoke deeply to my heart.

God is calling us all to 'come home'. To come home to peace. To come home to rest. To come home to forgiveness. To come home to hope. To come home to acceptance. To come home to freedom. To come home to love. Being a wilderness wanderer at times myself, I'm so thankful that God always has the welcome mat out, the door open and the porchlight on.

Not only is there a welcome, but God Himself is waiting and watching for us. He doesn't scold us for leaving. He doesn't list all the "I told you so's". He doesn't gloat over the failure that could have prompted our return. He doesn't lay a guilt-trip on us or list our faults. He gives us a shoulder to cry on. His arms of love encircle us. He smiles and holds us tight. He knows where we've been, but at this moment, that doesn't matter. What thills His heart is where we are right now. We've made a decision to come home.

Do you need to come home today? He's looking with longing for you. If the journey seems too far, the distance too great, remember, the first step is always the hardest. Recall the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. It says in verse 20, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him". This is the only time in the entire Word of God when the Lord is described as running. Let that grip your heart. Do you understand what makes God run? A child coming home.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still running towards anyone who turns their heart toward home. It doesn't matter what forces your return. I heard once that it wasn't pangs of conscience that sent the prodigal son home, but pangs of hunger. The prodigal son didn't go home until his desperation was greater than his pride. God will use whatever it takes to bring someone back home, even if it is just to satisfy your own personal needs. Take that first step and you'll find you are home. Zephaniah 3:20 says, "At that time I will bring you home". Let God be your dwelling place today in whatever situation you are facing. Don't just call home....come home.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Desert Dwelling

"I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope." Hosea 2:14

Desert times. Barren. Alone. Dry. Have you ever thought of God leading you into the desert? I've always thought I've wandered away myself down dusty roads and felt the deep loneliness of abandonment.

It almost makes me weep to read of God's purpose for the desert. He draws me away, by myself, to speak tenderly to me. How precious. The Lord desires to spend some one-on-one time without the distractions of daily living. The routine, schedules, busyness, family, friends are all blocking my view of Him, so He leads and escorts me to a place of nothingness so that I can refocus, listen and be loved upon. It's about relationship. Mine and His.

The word 'tenderly' is so beautiful. It means lovingly, being considerate and protective, characterized by gentle emotions. Can't you just feel God's arms around you as you rest in His embrace down this weary road?

The verse goes on to say that God will transform her Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. God will take whatever circumstance or situation that is breaking your heart and make it become an entrance of possibility. It is a door that opens to better things ahead. God takes a negative situation and uses it as an opportunity.

Desert dwelling has a purpose and a plan. My sandals have walked this road. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes by necessity. When I'm parched by the drought, Lord shower me with your living water that brings cool refreshment. May I surrender to its walk and may Your Son always be the greatest blessing in this arid, lifeless land.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Desperate Housewife

"Then she will think, 'I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.'" Hosea 2:7

Choosing the lesser of two evils, as the saying goes. Resigning oneself to a decision based on comparison and desperation. A hopeless situation forces a choice to be made. Neither option is desirable, but one might just seem a little more favourable.

My Mom stood at that crossroad yesterday. Tired and exhausted after learning that Dad was turned away from yet another long term care facility, and feeling that she could not expect her three daughters to continue the daily visits and travel to visit Dad, Mom made a decision. A decision that shocked me completely when I received word of what is to come. My Mom is bringing my Dad home.

This decision from a lady who only days ago was crying on the phone with me, saying she could never bring Dad home. She was feeling pressure from others to remove Dad from the hospital and she was distraught and overwhelmed. Now this announcement. My head is spinning.

Being out of town for a few days right now with my husband and son, it wasn't until later last night I had opportunity to reach Mom on the phone and speak with her. I believe she has made a decision fraught with urgency. With the summer upon us and my sisters and I planning holidays with our families, I feel Mom has acted in haste, thinking the only possible solution for her to continue to see Dad daily is to bring him home. A decision made out of desperate need.

Do you ever turn to God out of an extreme need or hopelessness? God will accept you regardless of the way you come, but how the longs for us to seek Him out of thankfulness and love. He isn't the better choice of two options. He is always the best choice.

Friends when you read this, will you pray for my Mom and our family?

I want to join with Isaiah and be able to say,
"I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The LORD GOD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory."
"Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things." Is.12:2,5

Father, how I pray this will turn out to be not just a wonderful thing, but God's desire for our family.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Channels Only

“But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it? Can a wooden cane walk by itself?” Isaiah 10:15

My husband is into tools. He has a large, well equipped workshop in the basement of our home. Router, table saw, lathe, drill press, planer, joiner, compound mitre saw etc… Oh, I can hear Tim Taylor from “Home Improvement” grunting already. Each piece of equipment is designed for a specific purpose. Each is unique and valuable, yet accomplishes nothing unless placed in the hands of a skilled workman.

“No instrument or tool accomplishes its purposes without a greater power.” “When a tool boasts of greater power than the one who uses it, it is in danger of being discarded.”

This is true of us, as God’s instruments as well. “We are useful only to the extent that we allow God to use us. If God has given us resources and special talents, we must not regard them as our own creation or special privilege.” (Life Application Study Bible, NLT.)

Father, it’s not the I, but the You in me.

“Every good thing I have done, everything that I’ve become
Everything that’s turned out right is because You’re in my life.”
(1995 David Mullen, Da’dra Crawford, Steve Crawford, Mary Tiller; Word Music/ASCAP)

How has God gifted you? Are you using those abilities for and with Him? It is my desire to remain a channel only. Do you remember that old hymn?

“Channels only, blessed Master
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou cants use us
Every day and every hour”

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"I Can't Hear You"

"'No,' he said, 'I will not test the LORD like that.'" Isaiah 7:12

At first glance this appears to be a righteous answer by King Ahaz, not putting the Lord Thy God to a test, but it comes in response to the Lord telling him to ask for a sign of confirmation. I think King Ahaz didn't really want to know what God had to say. He was justifying and excusing his behavior, because in reality he didn't want to talk to God, hear what He had to say and be put in a position of making a decision to obey. It's easier not to know what God desires, than to know and be held accountable and responsible.

Wondering...are there times when I do that too? Times I really don't want to listen to what God has to say to me because He might upset my schedule, convict me, or call for a deeper following that is way outside my comfort zone? Are there times I purposely refuse to ask for direction or seek His will because my heart has not come to that place of surrender to whatever He will ask of me. Like a little child, I place my fingers in my ears, start singing loudly and repeat, "I can't hear You."

Father, may my own excuses never keep me from hearing and obeying You.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Three R's

"I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory." Amos 9:11

Repair. Rebuild. Restore.

Replace or put together what is torn or broken in an effort to make new. To return life.

I KNOW there are areas in me that need the touch of the Carpenter's hand. There are "damaged walls". There is an area that sits in "ruin". The "glory" has gone...but God is a resurrection God...bringing the "dead" back to life. He desires to take what is crushed, wounded and broken and bring healing and restoration.

God is speaking specifically to my heart today and reminding me of Is. 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."


What an encouraging word - JOY WILL BE FOUND! The following verse from Jeremiah 31:4 continues to speak healing to my heart - "You will build me up again and I will be rebuilt. I will take up my tambourine and go out to dance with the joyful!" Anyone want to go tambourine shopping?

He came to minister and mend. He came to secure and save.

Praying that the God who restores will repair and heal any brokenness in your life and my life today. "There is a time to mend". Ecc.3:7

"To heal a broken body
To mend a broken heart
To knit together healthy homes
That once lay torn apart
To glory in the praises that
His grateful children sing
These treasures are the pleasures of the King"

("The Pleasures of the King", Steve Green)

Surrendering myself to God's reconstruction and rennovation plans.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Be or Not To Be

"I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." Amos 5:21-24

WHOA...does it feel like I'm getting my wrist slapped or what?

The Sunday Christian living between two worlds...talk and walk. One I learned early the other is still on shaky ground. The writing is easy, the living is hard. Words flow. Life fails. The desire to do comes face to face with the longing to be. The cards are dealt. Emotions often play the trump card.

How easy it is to convince myself that playing the game is right and best. It certainly is easier...being all things to all people...dressing the part and doing the expected. Giving in. Pretending to follow suit even when all the cards in my hand wear a different design. Not wrong, just contrary.

The famous words of Shakespeare resound in my ear:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts..."

It takes courage to resist the expected script and improvise. It takes great strength to be real. The cast of players that fill church pews often all play the same role. Dressed to impress in perfection's finest, the masquerade parades through practiced, pious scenes, well rehearsed and well delivered. Masks hide heartache, unforgiveness and pain. Cast in a role as a child star, I've played my part well.

Hypocrisy has it's own shade of insincerity. Lacking real conviction, like a chameleon, moods and environments blend colours easily. How foolish. How draining. Keeping up appearances is exhausting. Transparency, on the other hand, allows God Himself to shine through.

I may not always be a delightful bright. God paints treasures in darkness. A variety of shades and hues have been hidden. I may not be the family 'pink', but I can let my colour speak of individuality in who God created me to be.

Outwardly my life, like those described above, may appear like everyone else, while inwardly a battle rages. Visibly I look the part, but my attire conceals a hurting, searching heart that is unresponsive and wasting away.

This religious apparel comes in many shades, shapes and sizes. It's a hypocritical covering that needs to be addressed and undressed. It's so easy for others to assume my spiritual depth, and therefore have my heart go unnoticed, when I carry the right Bible, lead two Women's Bible studies, hold a diploma from a Bible school, write a daily devotional and speak at different Ladies events.

For me, writing has been my colour of camouflage choice and my place of safety. Growing up in a Christian home, I learned very early the 'right' answers and had no problem articulating the expected words and responses, but they often came from an empty heart. My ritual religiosity kept me from searching the depth of my being to discover the girl inside. Tired of the war within, the Lord has been encouraging me to expose and discover the Joy within, and the finding is priceless. God is awaking this atrophied adventurer from her comfort-fit Christianity and calling me to be all He created me to be. New colours and shades are going to be part of my wardrobe as He dresses me in all He has planned for me.

Do you know what still breaks my heart though? Hearing wonderful Christ-following friends of mine say that they could never walk into certain churches again or feel comfortable visiting because of the performance and exclusiveness found there. I know we could find fault with the generalization of such a statement, but how my heart aches that the overall reaction has not been acceptance and love. To feel like an outcast among fellow believers is so unbearably sad.

God is calling for a flood of justice and a mighty river of righteous living. He desires we empty ourselves of the deluge of performance and receive the downpour of authenticity. Without this purging He doesn't even accept, notice or hear our worship.

I wish I could find the following song on You Tube, the melody is captivating, but I've had to settle for the lyrics alone. Read them slowly. Let Him speak into your heart. May my life not obscure the view of any seeking heart. It's time to throw off costumes and masks and walk in freedom.

He was a friend to sinners
He was a gentle man
Beautiful, humble master plan
His voice could pierce the darkness
Quiet an angry sea
I hear Him saying follow me
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe

Could you believe if I really was like Him
If I lived all the words that I said
If for a change I would kneel down before you
And serve you instead
Could you believe

He was the Lamb of mercy
Undying hope of men
Waiting for love to come again
He is the light of heaven
Radiant Prince of peace
I Hear him saying, “Follow Me”
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe

Could you believe if I carried my own cross
If I saw that the children were fed
If for a moment I held my opinion
And quietly led Could you believe

I am meant to be a pure reflection of the truth
So above it all I pray that I will not obscure the view

Could you believe if I stood here transparent
And through me you could see his eyes
Could you believe if you saw right inside me
and there was no disguise
Could you believe if I was really like him
If I lived all the words that I said
If it was clear that I held in my heart
What I know in my head
Could you believe, could you believe
Looking at me, could you believe
Could you believe?

I just have to add that our church was devoid of pretense this morning. We hosted a Father's Day Barbecue and Car Show. We served a free lunch to well over a thousand people. Through some eyes today our congregation could have looked quite "wordly". The band's music could have been frowned upon. The casual dress could have been criticized. One man who had received an invitation to this event questioned, "Are you allowed to do that? I didn't think you Christians had this much fun." Have we turned heaven into a prison of rules? The Lord says, "I hate all your show and pretense..." Our guest speaker, NASCAR driver Randy MacDonald, shared his testimony with passion through tears. It's obvious God is Lord of his life as we didn't have to look through layers of deception to see Jesus.

Who wants to join me in stripping off all false disguise and simply being? Let's not make it so difficult for others to see Christ through our layer's of costuming.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Much More

"The LORD is able to give you much more than this!" 2 Chronicles 25:9

How small my request at times. How great my God.

Moments ago as I opened His Word, I was praying for just one truth to capture my heart. Lord, just one, that's all I asked. In His bounty, He has drenched me this morning, and it's been both a cold awakening and a refreshing soaking.

King Amaziah did what was pleasing in the LORD's sight, but not wholeheartedly. How often my outward is a false reflection. Doing without being. Action without attitude. A reminder of God seeing my intent and motives.

In Uzziah's climb up the ladder of power to pride, I have seen my own lofty view and prayed again for humility. Lord, when opportunities come my way and position is granted at Your hand, keep me from the sin of becoming arrogant. I am so undeserving. When the battle for recognition rages, let meekness mark my life and may You alone receive the glory.

Jonah's deliberate walk in the opposite direction. God had commanded Him to "get up", (vs2) but Jonah went "down" (vs3). Without speaking a word, he intentionally disobeyed and demonstrated a judgemental heart. Father, keep me from taking a path in direct opposition to Your way for me, because in doing so I lose sight of You. With my back turned in willful resistance it's impossible to see You face-to-face. Keep my eyes fixed on You and my heart surrendered.

As thunder rolls I have seen "O LORD, you have sent this storm upon (me) for your own good reasons," Jonah 1:14. Yes, I am learning that storms have purpose and discovering that my anchor holds. Without the storm, the anchor is never tested. My faith is standing. Praise the Lord.

God's mercy and forgiveness brought me to tears, as in His unfailing love, He was eager to turn back from destroying the rebellious people of Nineveh. I was reminded of 2 Samuel 14:14 that says, "God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him."

Oh Father, thank You for the "much more" you have lavished on me. How small my hopes this morning, yet how great my need.

Lord may You lavish each seeking heart today with the bounty of Your Word.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Repentant Heart and a Listening God

"Then Jehoahaz prayed for the LORD's help, and the LORD heard his prayer..." 2 Kings 13:4

We read in 2 Kings that Jehoahaz reigned in Samaria for 17 years, but he did what was evil in the LORD's sight. Imagine, living without the Lord for 17 years...in fact not only living without Him, but blatantly rebelling, and then after all that time turning and praying for help "and the LORD heard his prayer."

That amazes me. I think of those who maybe "ignore" me for one reason or another, or have hurt me in the past. Would I be so quick to run to listen and offer help should they suddenly call on me? Would my reaction be so filled with grace and forgiveness? Would I even want to listen?

Reminds me of the thief on the cross. He didn't live one day as a Christ-follower, yet he received immediate forgiveness as Jesus said, "today you will be with Me in glory".

God always listens to the repentant heart turning towards home. So thankful for the times my own wayward heart has found forgiveness at God's unending mercy.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Not One Day

"'You have abandoned the LORD, and now he has abandoned you!'" 2 Chronicles 24:20

Did that sentence make your breath catch in your throat like it did mine? The thought of being abandoned by the Lord is unimaginable. No, Lord. Please never abandon me.

Have you ever been there? Have you endured a dark night of the soul? Have you ever wondered if God had withdrawn His presence from you? You know those are just feelings...right? God's Word tells me that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me. That's a promise I can hold on to during times when God seems distant.

He is my all in all. I throw my head back and sing with unreserved passion, I can't live a day without You.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do you know peace?

"'What do you know about peace?'" 2 Kings 9:18

Peace. The state prevailing during the absence of war. Harmonious relations; freedom from disputes. The absence of mental stress or anxiety. A treaty to cease hostilities. The general security of public places. These are all dictionary definitions, but they have omitted the one thing alone that can bring peace...God

We can know peace with God, (Romans 5:1), and the peace of God, (Philippians 4:5b-7).

I was listening to a message on CD one day when the speaker quoted probably one of the most famous "peace" scriptures in the Bible. The one I gave reference to above from Philippians.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

As my heart thrilled with the expectation and hope of experiencing such peace, one woman, with resignation exclaimed, "I wish". The tone in which these words were spoken brought me to tears. Such defeat. Accepting anxiety as the inevitable and her lot, words were uttered in despair. She had given up on the possible presence of peace. This was an elderly, godly, Christian woman. A woman who had devoted her life to following the Lord. I hear her voice in my head yet today. My heart still aches for her loss of belief in God's promise. What did she know about peace? Sadly, nothing.

For those of you who know me well, you are aware that I struggle with many fears and insecurities, yet my heart thrills and gets so excited at God's promised peace. Worry is not my portion. It may appear to be my passion at times, but it is not God's plan for me.

God is asking us all today, "What do you know about peace?" Have you first of all met the God of all peace and surrendered your life to Him? And, if you have peace with God, have you experienced the peace of God? He desperately longs to be that peace to you today.

I want to close with a story I heard years ago, and I have never forgotten.

Once upon a time, there was a king who offerred a painting contest requesting the artists draw picutres of peace. Three of the best painters in the kingdom responded to the request of the king.

When the time came to unveil the masterpieces, a banquet was held and many people came. As the first painting was uncovered, the people marveled as they saw beautiful scenery of fields with the outstretched horizon as its' backdrop.

The king was pleased with the first painting and ordered that the painting be placed in the courtyard of the palace where everyone could see it. After this, everybody was anticipating the second painting to be revealed. Again the citizens and the king were in awe as they looked at the beauty of a sunset. “Peaceful,” the king uttered with a sigh. The king ordered that the painting be placed in the palace’s biggest hall where people of high importance always walk.

The king couldn’t wait any longer as he ordered for the third and final painting to be unveiled. Murmuring filled the room as the king was shocked by the image before him. Despair marked the king's countenance as he looked upon the dark clouds and raging storm of the last painting. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds laced with streaks of lightning. The foreboding sky was filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm. “This has nothing to do with peace,” he thought. But suddenly, he noticed something that made him leap from his throne and stand in front of the painting. As he smiled he said, “Place this piece in the master’s bedroom so that I will always be reminded of peace.”

What the king saw after he gazed on the darkness of the painting was a small mother bird with her babies all nestled under her wings, sleeping. Now that's peace. Not the absence of the storm, but peace in the middle of the storm.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal." Isaiah 44:2-3

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Broken Bottles

"'Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" 2 Kings 5:13

Isn't that always the way? We're always looking for the bigger and better. We always want to be part of a grand plan. Being told to 'go and wash' was too ordinary. Not only that, where was the prophet himself? Naaman was delivered this message from a mere servant. Didn't anyone recognize that he was a mighty warrior? Naaman desires a healing ceremony worthy of his stature.

Have you ever limited God by your expectations? Your heart's desire is to serve God and be used by Him, but you pictured yourself receiving a call to position and public recognition. To go "jump in the lake" seems ridiculous. Why, you told God you'd do anything and go anywhere, yet your days consist of the mundane and the routine. Laundry. Car pool. Cleaning bathrooms. Making meals. Refereeing quarrels between your children. Yet, I ask you as I ask myself, if God had called me to do something very difficult, wouldn't I have done it? So I should certainly obey him when He says simply, serve your family...be a great wife...be an amazing mom...be a treasured friend...be a faithful neighbour...tackle that laundry...scrub those floors...scour those toilets...hold babies in the nursery...make a meal for that widow...write that note. I am being obedient as I honour the Lord in the "simple" things. God places great value on these things that society views with little importance. Though He speaks "simply" there is nothing 'simple' about our calling.

God is not a genie in a bottle, squeezed into our design. Naaman reluctantly obeys and God shows Himself mighty. The bottle filled with preconceptions within which Naaman has tried to tame the divine is broken.

Though we often seek to grasp at God and limit Him, for now we can only know Him in part, for He remains mysterious and unpredictable. It is my prayer that He will move and touch my life in ways my bottles of theology, doctrine, faith and belief are too small and fragile to contain. I need to meet the God who works outside my box. The God who gives simple instruction with great power. And then, in that encounter, Lord give me longing to obey.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

More Jars

"'Bring me another jar,' she said to one of her sons. 'There aren't any more!' he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing." 2 Kings 4:6

This story of the poor widow in 2 Kings is just so beautiful for so many reasons. What a precious heart this woman displayed. She cries out in her need. She responds in obedience. She walks out her faith. The Lord responds and supplies not only for her now, but for her future.

One thought kept returning though as I read through this account. The prophet Elisha had instructed her to borrow as many empty jars as she could from neighbours and friends, and then pour olive oil from her flask into the jars, setting each one aside after it was filled. I can only guess she had no idea what was really going to happen, because I believe if she had truly understood she would have had her sons on an endless quest, going from town to town, bringing home more and more empty jars. Would she have extended her search if she had realized the blessing she was about to receive? Maybe she wouldn't have "shut the door" so soon.

God always can give more than we ask. I love how the Biblegateway commentary expressed this, "were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them; enough for all, enough for each; and the Redeemer's all-sufficiency will only be stayed from the supplying the wants of sinners and saving their souls, when no more apply to him for salvation."

Sometimes we need a greater vision...a vision that welcomes more jars.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ships Destroyed

"Jehoshaphat also built a fleet of trading ships to sail to Ophir for gold. But the ships never set sail, for they met with disaster in their home port of Eziongeber." 1 Kings 22:38

Plans destroyed. Effort wasted. "Ships" that never put out to sea. Dreams unfulfilled. Hopes that were shattered before they "sailed". I'm sure we all have a "fleet" of them.

Regardless of the 'why's', it's what we do after the calamity that determines our survival. If we allow the shipwreck to keep us from 'sailing' again we will drown in the waters of disappointment and sorrow. Maybe we did the wrong thing. Maybe the timing was off. But, how do we respond to the sinking of our ships?

I believe there is purpose in pain and strengthening through sorrow. The 'ships' my family are building right now keep getting bashed on the shore as waves continue to beat their frame. Sea billows are rocking our plans and storms continue to brew. We are all swimming in uncharted water, but our anchor is holding firm. Our "home port" is facing some extreme weather, but God is with us. We are trusting our lives into the hands of the Captain and know that He is working in ways we cannot see.

Our design might have been incorrect. Our method faulty. Our motivation selfish. Our timing rash. I firmly believe that each 'ship' that has been demolished thus far is for our protection and safety. Being "met with disaster in their home port" is easier than hardship in the open sea. What grace. What mercy. A 'dock' and 'shoreline' offer comfort and peace.

When the Lord finally christens our 'ship' with His blessing, it will set sail and the journey will be lovely.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

No Random Arrows

"An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor." 1 Kings 22:34

The word "randomly" here made me smile. Did the author of 1 Kings have tongue-in-cheek as he penned those words? Did he really believe that arrow was the work of chance? The kings death had been foretold, albeit mocked. That arrow flew in direct proportion to God's prophecy. Do you realize how exact that shot would have been to pierce so specifically between the joints of the king's armor? That was not a big bullseye, but a tiny target.

I've been reminded today that God is in control. "Random", although a word used often as an expression by the younger generation, cannot be found in God's vocabulary. He does nothing by chance, but all by design.

That health crisis - an arrow precisely chosen.
That job loss - a preplanned walk.
That disappointed relationship - a foreknown journey.
That struggle with emotions - a watched over battle.
That prodigal child - a chapter, but not the end of the story.
That financial stress - an opportunity for God to provide.

Whatever we're facing, we can rest in realizing it isn't random. That "arrow" had to pass through the bow of God's permissive will.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Under the Influence

"...under the influence of his wife..." 1 Kings 21:25

If you are married, do you realize the persuassive power you have with your husband and children? God's Word even talks about how a believing wife, by her life, can win her husband for the Lord. "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior." 1 Peter 3:1

Unfortunately Jezebel was not a good influence for Ahab. 1 Kings tells us that no one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD's sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel.

What kind of impact is your life making on those around you? The dear ones in your household are under your influence.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Seventh Hour

"Finally the seventh time..." 1 Kings 18:44


It's almost rare today to find anyone with this type of determination. Few seem to demonstrate sticktoitiveness in any area of life. Children tire of music lessons, paper routes and dance lessons and parents find it easier to relent than teach the ability of seeing something through until completion. It's truly no wonder the divorce rate is so high. Many are taught that when the going gets tough, you simply leave. We need to be learning resolute tenacity.

What would have happened if the prophet had quit on the sixth time? What if Elijah had stopped praying, or the servant had stopped looking? They kept believing. They stayed the course. They trusted God. God answered!

Maybe you're like me and you find yourself caught in the sixth hour waiting for that distant little cloud to appear that brings hope. Keep looking up. His rain is coming.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Completely His

"The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chronicles 16:9

God is constantly looking for hearts that are abandoned and surrendered. Fully committed. No compromise. Completely His.

As His eyes move to and fro, do they stop and consider me?...or you? Does my life receive His pause? He longs to show Himself strong on my behalf. “It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him.” (Henry Varley to D. L. Moody)

I long to capture His attention and pray my heart reflects my unwavering love and devotion.

Lord, choose me...choose me,

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ah-Ha Moments

"At the LORD's command..." 1 Kings 13:1

Do you ever hear God's voice speaking to you? Do you have God-stories of specific times when He has clearly given you direction? Times when a still small voice, bible verse or messenger from the Lord has provided the exact word you needed to hear and you had an "ah-ha" moment as you were overcome by the awesomeness of God to speak into your need.

Each one of the following statements has a precious story behind it. Each gives testimony to God hearing and answering prayer.

At the LORD's command we enrolled our son in the Public School system.
At the LORD's command we moved to a new church.
At the LORD's command I drove a couple of hours to serve at a Women of Grace event.
At the LORD's command I continue to lead Bible Study, even though I'm exhausted.
At the LORD's command I faced my fear and boarded a plane to attend "She Speaks".
At the LORD's command I began praying for some dear friends regularly.
At the LORD's command I've been called to speak at ladies events.
At the LORD's command I now faithfully teach a 3-year old Sunday School class.
At the LORD's command I trusted when no evidence was apparent.
At the LORD's command I closed my eyes and slept through the storm.
At the LORD's command I wait for His will to be done.

What are you doing at the LORD's command?

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Monday, June 8, 2009


"Remember him..." Ecclesiastes 11:3

This might sound funny, but I have a favourite word, and that word is "remember". I enjoy taking time to let my mind wander down halls of memories, reliving the good times and releasing the difficult. So many cherished thoughts fill my heart. They are precious and I am thankful for the gift of recollection.

To remember is an invitation to pause and journey through an album of mental pictures and thoughts that have helped shape my being. Today the Lord has called me to remember Him.

Remember His goodness.
Remember His faithfulness.
Remember His sacrifice.
Remember His forgiveness.
Remember His love.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009


“If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.” Ecclesiastes 10:4

Do you ever need specific direction from the Lord?

This verse came as a direct answer to a situation a very dear friend was sharing with me just five days ago.

Don’t you just love how the Lord is so personal with us? I could share story after story of how the Lord has provided a particular answer in response to my need. It maybe didn’t come as quickly as I wanted, but His timing is always perfect.

He is aware of whatever circumstance seems cloudy right now, and His answer is already on the way. Keep seeking and searching. He's speaking.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Look Up!

“I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless - like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14

Up to this point in my journey through Ecclesiastes, I have read the phrase “under the sun” a dozen times.

Maybe everything “under the sun” is meaningless for a purpose, so that we will see our need to look up and place our efforts above the sun, and focus on the Son.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Head or Heart?

“The LORD had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’ Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway.” “He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the LORD’s command.” 1 Kings 11:2,10

I read here about specific, personal teaching ignored. Solomon refused to apply God’s warning. He disregarded God’s instruction and faithlessly disobeyed God’s command. He held fast to sin, insisted on his own way and recklessly abandoned the clear directive from God. For all the wisdom Solomon possessed, he still chose to act foolishly. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what God required; he made a conscious decision not to obey. Head knowledge alone is not enough. God is looking for a heart change.

I remember a very dear friend saying to me years ago, “Joy, you do not need to read any more books!” Her message to me was clear. My head was packed full of learning, but where was my living? How had all this knowledge changed my life? Quite truthfully, it hadn’t. I was still a fearful, insecure, people-pleaser.

If all we are doing is amassing facts, the accumulation without the application is useless. We can be zealous and diligent to our daily time in God’s Word and be praised for our commitment and dedication, but without the obedience accompanying our learning, quite frankly, it‘s all for naught. Change must be evident. Every morning as I leave my quiet time and move into the rest of my day, I need to ask myself, how is today going to be different than yesterday because of my time with the Lord?

More than knowledge, God desires knowing Him.
More than research, God desires response.
More than hearing His Word, God desires heeding His Word.
More than gathering facts, God desires growing faith.
More than religion, God desires relationship.
More than intellect, God desires intimacy.
More than study, God desires surrender.
More than learning, God desires living.

I long to allow His Word in me to make a difference today.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009


“Promise me,…not to awaken love until the time is right.” Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5; 8:4

Do not awaken love before it’s time.

Years ago I began praying this prayer over my son. Television, radio, internet, video games, magazines, theatre are all doing their part to seduce and entice. What used to be deemed as “inappropriate” is now the “norm”.

“Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up - until the time is right, and you’re ready.” (The Message)

Staying away from the awakening of romantic thoughts protects so much more than the mind. It shelters feelings that give way to actions. Vivian Padilla-Chapman writes in her article, “The Mother’s Heart”, “It is God’s wonderful plan for romantic love. However, if these awakenings happen during a season when they can’t be righteously fulfilled, they often lead down a path of hurt and regret, not only a loss of virginity.”

I'm trusting that consistantly praying for the Lord to shield my son’s heart will keep it from breaking unnecessarily. It will spare him from crushes, ruined friendships and unneeded distractions, enabling him to focus on what the Lord desires.

I long to help my almost 17 year old son, see this season as a time of preparation and opportunity to be learning how to discern God’s voice and develop a deeper relationship with Him. May he seek God first and trust Him to awaken love in His time.

“Though it tarries wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yes, You!

“I am teaching you today - yes, you - so you will trust in the LORD.” Proverbs 22:19

Do you remember this childhood clapping rhyme?

“Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
Joy stole the cookie from the cookie jar.
Who, me? Yes, you!
Couldn’t be! Then who?"…etc…

“Yes, you” here was accompanied with a tone of accusation. Sometimes it’s repetition was just for clarification. Often times it’s used to confirm recognition. Whatever it’s purpose a ‘yes, you’ is personal and the recipient becomes the center of attention.

I hate being the center of attention. I’m a back row girl all the way. I avoid being up front as much as possible and I despise all eyes being fixed on me. I embarrass easily and turn a lovely shade of red. I don’t enjoy being the object of everyone’s focus.

This morning I felt God’s eyes on me as I read the above verse. I mean, I KNOW he’s always watching me, but this was an intent concentration. As I looked around trying to squirm my way out of this lesson, hoping His finger was pointing past me to some other student of His Word, His voice spoke loud and clear…Joy, I am teaching you today - yes, you - so you will trust in Me.”

Who, me?

Yes, you!

Being singled out for instruction is a little intimidating, but also exciting.

Lord, what is it? What do you want me to learn today? Give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Help me sit up taller and be attentive to Your Word and world today. What teaching needs to be imparted? What subject needs upgrading and refining? Where have I neglected application? Please Lord, don’t let me miss the truth You desire to write across my heart today. It’s for the purpose of trust. Definitely an area that always needs stretching.

Lord, with eager anticipation I look to You, - yes, You!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Without Knowing

"The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?" Proverbs 20:24

I tend to over-analyze everything. I want to know the how, what, where, when and why. I'm looking for reason and purpose to provide explanation. Often times I come up empty. There is no comprehension...no answers...only questions.

To come to a place of contentment in the not knowing is difficult. Acceptance can be a difficult travel. Storms shatter peace and my heart longs for clarity while logic is hiding.

I have to willingly surrender, and frequently blindly trust the path. When nothing is making sense and the next step appears to be going in the opposite direction to my desires, I have to walk it regardless, believing the One who left the imprint of His sandal in the dirt ahead, is guiding my way.

Sometimes I work so hard at understanding...having to know before I go. My feet remain firmly planted, while my stubborn heart awaits clarification, removing all aspects of trust.

Will I abandon reason and simply follow because of the One who calls?

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones, But....

"The tongue can bring death or life..." Proverbs 18:21

After discovering her body and trying to come to grasp with the 'why's', a suicide note was found. Two words. "They said..."

The power of life and death truly is in the tongue.

We all wield this weapon of mass destruction, yet at the same time this tool has great potential for good. On it's own it is neutral. It's the coupling with our heart that fuels it for good or evil.

Words alone are weightless, yet they can crush or empower. Build up or tear down. Encourage or devour.

Charles Swindoll has said that "gossip is the Christian's favourite indoor sport."

Stephen L. Talbott said, "The flood of careless, unconsidered, cheap words is the greatest enemy of the profound word."

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Words are alive. Cut them and they bleed."

Mother Teresa said, "Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

Napoleon Hill said, "Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another."

A Chinese Proverb says,"Words are the keys to the heart."

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.” (Unknown)

"Many things in this world are opened by mistake, but none so many as the mouth."

"Sometimes the best word said is the one not spoken."

"For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Jesus Christ

What words are echoing in the minds of others because of your speech?

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