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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He Showed Them His Hands

What is it about this time of year that excites you the most? Is it the shopping--going out and finding that perfect outfit, with coordinating shoes and accessories? What about purchasing all the goodies to fill the Easter baskets? Do you snitch the jelly beans or nibble the ears off the chocolate bunnies when no one is looking? Are those Cadbury eggs irresistible? Does the sight of daffodils and tulips blooming make your heart dance? No doubt most folks are ready for the warmer temperatures.

When we consider what we like the best about the different holidays, Christmas usually comes out on top with a long list of favorite songs, recipes, and family traditions. But if we didn’t have an Easter, Christmas would be nothing more than an opportunity for family get-togethers. Yes, the virgin birth is miraculous, but the Resurrection is what makes the Christian faith different from any other religion. Many religions have a leader who died a martyr’s death, but no other faith rests on a Savior who rose from the dead.

If ever there was a time for us to examine the depth of our faith, it is at Easter. So many of us deal with tribulation on a daily basis. It can tend to take over our thoughts and attention if we let it. Work-related stress, family problems, money woes, illness or physical affliction, hurtful personal relationships can all overshadow our walk with God. Sometimes God’s blessings come to us wrapped in a disguise of pain or trouble. If we are attentive to the touch of God’s hand or the whisper of His voice, we can see His finger of grace. If we cling to His hand and stay beneath the shadow of His wing, our trust deepens to a level greater than our adversity. The Resurrection proves God’s love for us to such an extent, how can we not cling to Him in full and contented trust?

Consider this: Christ’s apostles were in hiding after the crucifixion. They were confused and fearful—their circumstances seemed to overwhelm them.

“Then, the same day, at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, JESUS CAME and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19-20

We don’t have to understand everything we are going through. In fact, God doesn’t ask us to understand. He doesn’t expect or call us to understand. He only calls us to trust. If God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, if Jesus is so powerful that the grave couldn’t hold Him, how can we not trust a Savior like that?

This year, look past the eggs and Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Set aside the new outfit and shoes. Appreciate the warmer temperatures and spring blooms, but concentrate on the Giver of life. He is the One in whom you can place your full trust and rest contentedly in His arms regardless of your circumstances.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Be Still And Know...

I was taken aback the other night when I was flipping through the TV channels and happened upon a program about hoarders—people who never throw anything away and slowly become swallowed by mountains of trash in their own homes. The obsessive organizer in me shuddered at the appalling conditions in which these people lived, and it was really difficult for me to understand how they could let their lives get so out of control. But then it occurred to me that physical and material trash isn’t the only thing that can litter my life.

Our pastor has been encouraging us recently to spend time being silent before God. While the concept of spending as much prayer time being quiet and listening as I do making my requests known isn’t new, it’s something I tend to forget when my schedule becomes cluttered with things I deem important. In the past few weeks, I’ve asked God to sharpen my awareness of His voice. I want to be certain that it’s Him I’m hearing and not my own selfish desires or my agenda.

Jesus said in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.” How can I understand when God speaks if I’m not familiar with His voice? I can pick out my husband’s voice in a crowd because I know his voice, I love his voice. But thirty-seven years ago, I had to learn every subtle tone and intensity of his voice during our personal times together—just the two of us—before I could detect his voice in the midst of a noisy world.

God invites us over and over in His word to “incline your ear, and come to Me.” Yes, he repeatedly instructs us to heed his Word and listen to Him, but to “incline your ear” means to listen for Him as well. I believe this is what our pastor had in mind when he exhorted us to be silent before God.

Isaiah 55:2 says to listen carefully to God, to eat from His table, to satisfy my thirst from His cup, to delight my soul in His abundance, to listen for Him and come to Him, to hear… and then He adds this promise: "and your soul shall live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” A promise that precious takes my breath away—to even imagine that He wants to spend time with me leaves me in awe.

But first I must clear away the clutter, the worries, the fears, the “to do” list, the self-imposed schedules and demands—all those things that heap up around us like trash in a hoarder’s house—and incline my ear to seek God’s voice. My desire is to draw close to Him, to stay within His shadow, and to become so acclimatized to the sound of His voice, that I can pick it out from the cacophony of the world. When God says, “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks; behold it is I.” (Isaiah 52:6), it is the desire of my heart to instantly recognize God’s voice.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Making It Real

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” Hebrews 10:22-24

Have you ever been embarrassed to admit that you didn’t make something from scratch? We women tend to be proud of our culinary accomplishments, especially when it comes to church fellowships. We have this secret desire that people will pronounce our dish the most amazing they have ever tasted, scarf it down, and beg us for the recipe. Almost every woman alive has made something from a mix and immediately buried the empty box in the bottom of the trash can, especially when company comes for dinner.

So it wasn’t without chagrin that I had to admit that I’d used a boxed potato casserole and pre-made, frozen meatballs when some friends came for dinner recently. Our new pastor and his wife are sweet people and we were delighted to have them over. It just so happens that some of my never-fail “recipes” are very quick and easy, and include the above-mentioned items. When they complimented the dishes, I had to come clean and tell them I’d used “ingredients” that I had not prepared myself. We laughed about it, and to be honest, I wasn’t really embarrassed because of the relationship we have with this dear couple. They aren’t just our pastor and his wife, and they aren’t company anymore. They’re family.

But how many times have we tried to be artificial and pass ourselves off as something we aren’t? When scripture encourages us to draw near to God with a true heart, I have to laugh. There’s no other way to draw near to God. He knows my heart anyway, so even if I try to pull the wool over His eyes, it’s not going to work. He knows me completely. But being part of fellowship of faith means, as the verse in Hebrews says, we should consider one another to stir up love and good works. I believe God is telling us here to be real with each other, and being real means to open your heart and allow people into your life. For some of us, that’s a long step away from our comfort zone. For several years, I allowed old wounds to keep me separated from God’s people. I didn’t want to be real in their presence. I didn’t want them to know the real me because that would mean allowing myself to be vulnerable again.

Gradually, God began to loosen the bricks in the wall I’d erected around myself. He worked through a few very special friends to heal those old hurts, and He showed me I needn’t fear being real with these people. In order for me to allow these people to stir up love and good works in me, I had to let down my guard. If I expected God to use me, it had to be on His terms, not mine. Being real is scary until we realize it’s God who makes us who we are. Not only is He the One we are called upon to trust and obey, He is the One with whom we seek sanctuary. He provides the shelter and comfort. We aren’t alone. He never intended for us to sequester ourselves from others, thinking we’d be safe in our own little shells. At some point, if we desire to be used of God to minister to someone else’s hurting heart, the wall has to come down and we have to be real.

I don’t believe our pastor and his wife felt slighted when I told them I’d used frozen meatballs or Betty Crocker potatoes. God has already used this precious couple to minister to my heart, and I hope we are as dear to them as they are to us. But doggone it, next time they come, I swear I’m going to cook everything from scratch!!

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Parable Of The Lost Ring

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog entitled, Why I Write What I Write. In that post I pointed out that Jesus used parables when he taught, because sometimes a story connects more readily and people can relate to the characters or the circumstances in the story. One such parable appears in Luke chapter fifteen.

Jesus was teaching the people who had drawn near to hear Him, and He said, “What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’”

When our son died a little over four years ago, I took his Marine Corps ring to a jeweler and had it sized so my husband could honor our son by wearing it in his memory. Then, a little over a year ago, my husband lost some weight, which made the ring a little bit loose. He was always careful to take the ring off and put it on his dresser. One day about six weeks ago, the ring disappeared. Like the woman in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, we turned the house upside down looking for that ring. We moved furniture, searched corners on our hands and knees, shined a flashlight in closets—there wasn’t a square inch of this house that we didn’t search. No ring.

After several days, we could only assume that the ring had been accidentally knocked off the dresser into the waste basket, which was emptied into the garbage. By the time we realized the ring was missing, the garbage man had already picked up the trash. My husband and I were both heart-sick. That ring meant so much to us.

Sunday evening, my husband was filling visitor gift bags at church when he reached into a box to get some little cookie packages. And there was our son’s ring. Joyous tears flowed. (Our poor pastor probably thought we’d both lost our minds.)

The woman in Luke fifteen rejoiced because what was lost to her had been restored. Our son’s Marine Corps ring probably isn’t worth much to anyone else except us, but to my husband and me, it’s irreplaceable.

That’s exactly what we are to God—irreplaceable. How much more does God rejoice when a person comes to know Him in a personal way, asking Him to forgive sins? Why else would God sacrifice His own Son to provide a means for us to get to heaven? Because we are His creation and He loves us so much. Why would God go to such lengths to give us a sweet mercydrop and let my husband find the ring? For the same reason—He loves us so much.

Rejoice with us, for we have found the ring that was lost, just as God rejoices over us, his children, when we come to Him.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.