Friday, December 31, 2010

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” Psalm 48:14

It’s that time of the year. When people make their lists of resolutions, commit to a healthier lifestyle and many, join the gym. You may think I’m crazy, but I actually really love working out. I was a fitness instructor through college and the bug just stayed with me. There are a lot of reasons why I love it, but being strong and healthy are my top two.

As I’ve gotten older and busier with life, exercise has become harder and harder to fit in. There are many nights when I’m trying to exercise at 9:30, after the kids have gone to bed. That, my friend, is not an easy time to be sweating it out with any form of gusto. Because of that, I’ve let myself cheat, try to take short-cuts and even attempted to use supplements that were later deemed unsafe – all in an attempt to maintain my fitness level without the full dedication I’ve had in the past. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every “fad” there was. Six-minutes for a full workout (seriously?) or express cardio. You’ve seen the commercials. What I’ve learned is that the only true and trusted way of being fit, at least for me, is a dedication to the basics. Simple weight training, good old fashioned cardiovascular exercise and smart food choices. There really are no short cuts.

Don’t we approach our spirituality that way sometimes? I know I have. I have found myself caught up in a certain teacher’s work, or felt that if I just read “that” book, some key would unlock and I’d “get it.” What I’ve learned is that I’ve made those books or teachers an idol to some degree, giving them much more power and authority than I ever should. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot to be said for insightful teaching and practical application. It’s just that none of that should ever take precedence over the one place where it’s all there – The Bible. No short cuts. I never want to replace the teaching and insight gained from time in The Word with a book or message – those things are designed to enhance, not take the place of, the ultimate teaching source. For me, it can be more challenging to glean application from the Bible, but when I do, it is much more powerful.

So, as 2010 draws to a close and I look ahead to 2011, I’m looking forward to really digging more into my Bible to see what God has to say to me this year. I’m recommitting myself to that dedication to the basics. Reading my Bible, praying, journaling and just listening. Of course, there will still be Bible studies and books and all, but those will be in their proper place. Just like exercise and healthy living habits, there are no short cuts. As a result, I think 2011 could be the best year yet. Anyone with me?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.” Psalm 89:15

Every morning I take three of our dogs outside. They love it. They run, play, wrestle and chase until I spoil it by putting one of them, Macy, in the indoor/outdoor kennel. That sounds much easier than it typically is most days. She likes to run, so sometimes, getting her in takes 10-15 minutes. Usually, that’s when it is freezing cold and this warm-blooded wimp can get rather antsy during the process.


The mornings are brilliant when the sky is lit up with star after star. And, some days, the only star that shines through is the morning star. I’ve learned to look for that every day immediately when I walk outside. It’s like a smile from my Heavenly Father that says, “good morning.” I’m learning to seek those moments. Looking for Him in the surroundings because He is there and wants me to know it. A twinkle of sunlight. A beam of reflection from the moon. The crisp contrast of a crystal clear blue sky against the snow-covered mountains. A sunrise or sunset that takes my breath away and begs me to soak it in. Those are moments when I have a small idea of just how infinitely big God really is. That in the minute chaos of every day, He’s right there with a touch, a feeling, guidance. I just need to be open to it, seek it and follow it.

The time in the mornings with the dogs can feel chaotic and stressed if I let it. If I keep my eyes fixed on them, the ground and the smallness of the task at hand, I can lose sight of the fact that the Maker of the Universe is right there with me. But, if I look up, it all changes. The other morning, I walked out with the dogs, as usual. As they were running and playing and I looked out and saw the morning star. It calmed me as I thought, “good morning, Lord.” Just then, I saw a shooting star! How amazing is that? A direct answer and reassurance that yes, I AM is with me – in the small and large stuff of life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

I have to admit, I had gotten caught up in it. You know, the hustle and bustle and craziness that can overcome a person at this time of year. For lots of reasons, I was not prepared ahead of time and Christmas seemed to sneak up on me. All of a sudden, it was December and I was not ready.

I felt stressed. I felt pressure to “get it all done.” In that state, I slipped away from focusing. I was talking a good game – reminding my kids that Christmas is all about Jesus, but on the outside looking in at me, you would never have known because I was still stressing about wrapping presents, addressing Christmas cards and mailing boxes, not to mention decorating the house.

In the midst of all this bustle, we heard an announcement at church that there was a Christmas concert. I thought, there’s no way we can cram one more thing into the schedule. But, I felt a nudge in my spirit – make the time.

Last night, we hurried through dinner and jumped in the car to go. The kids were arguing and I am fighting a cold – not the best attitudes going in. But that is where God fills us up when we need it most. Almost immediately, I relaxed. Seeing our wonderful church family calmed me down. Then, the music started. Everything that I had been stressing over began to fall away as we turned our full attention to the true meaning of Christmas.

Oh, how I needed that! As the night went on, there were tears, laughter and pure joy. I felt refreshed and refocused. Don’t you love how God does that? In the middle of all the stress, He reminded me that the true gift of His one and only Son is the only thing I need to be thinking about this time of year. And there is no packaging, mailing or decorating necessary. He is perfect as is.

As I unwrap that thought more, I remember that there is no gift that could be more perfect. Amid all the seasonal stresses are the realities of everyday life. Things that can easily threaten our joy and hope, if we are not careful. But, focusing on Jesus and how He, the only human who ever CHOSE to be born, did so in order to bear the burden of MY sins so that I may have life everlasting with Him, takes all those life issues and puts them in their proper perspective.

Every year, my kids make a gift for their grandparents. We had been talking about what to do this year when we watched a DVD focused on Christmas and the true gift of Jesus. The title was “The Twelve Words of Christmas,” by Louie Giglio. The picture was so real and vivid that we knew what this year’s gift was going to be, a painting of that first Christmas. I may have had myself stressed out over all the non-essentials of the holiday season, but the kids were able to create the true meaning in one, simple image. I pray we never lose sight of it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

A few weeks ago, a dear friend received very grave news that her brother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. It was shocking and sad. When we were told of the news, I immediately began searching Scriptures. Several came to mind, but I wanted to offer them specifically out of the Bible in prayer for her.

I was also seeking some understanding of my own. This kind of news can rock the very foundations of faith. It is not for me to understand, but to have faith and believe in what I know to be true. That God is faithful and He has a plan for His glory.

After praying and passing along some of the relevant verses, I tucked it away. I prayed for them and asked Jesus to comfort them.

Last week, we were preparing a fast dinner (typical in our house) as we were all coming and going and hungry. In the middle of it all, my mom called from Florida, 2000 miles away. Hurriedly, I answered. Our conversation stopped me cold. She found a mass and was having a mammogram the next day. She was asking me about the biopsy I had gone through nearly two years ago. We talked and I hoped to assure her that she’d be fine, it would be nothing. She wasn’t. She had to have a biopsy.

My flesh wanted to rebel and get angry at even the possibility of her having cancer. My flesh reacted like a 2-year-old whose toy is being taken away. No God, please, not this, not now. But, my heart stepped in and a voice whispered to seek Him. Seek the same One I had sought when the news was someone else’s. When I was trying to comfort and understand from a distance. So I did. And I prayed for peace and understanding, whatever the results showed. Oh yes, I cried. I cried a lot over the weekend. The idea of losing my mom scares the pants off me. She’s precious and sweet and a terrific Grandma. And, she makes me crazy and sometimes frustrated and happy all at once. And, so often, I see so much of her in me. The days of waiting were endless.

Today, the doctor’s confirmed that she has breast cancer. News we all feared, but somehow, were prepared for. And, strangely, at some level of peace with. When I drove in to work this morning, I was listening to a song by Chris Tomlin called “I lift my hands.” I didn’t know at the time that we’d find out about Mom, but as I sang those words, I knew God was holding us.
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful God forever

Thankfully, Mom’s prognosis is good. Her cancer was caught very early and she shouldn’t need chemo to beat it. We are praising God for that. I am praising Him for answering the one small whispered prayer I begged Him for during the waiting. More time, Lord, please. More time. He is gracious and merciful and in all things, to be glorified.