Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Follow - Grace in the Choice

Without Jesus and His grace I would remain a slave to sin.

He is the All-Sufficient game-changer.

Because with Him I am free. Indeed.

Free to choose, to shake off these shackles of temptation, rage, shame, and darkness. 

It was C.S. Lewis who declared:
"It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has." (Mere Christianity)
Yes, it is He who kills the carnal self, but I who must first open and surrender. I who must first ask Him to come.

God is ever giving, always pouring, constantly offering. So I suppose the question to me is, will I be a receiver? Will I take hold, or let all this grace, all these gifts, all this freedom slip through my fingers like air? Like oil. This freedom so slippery in the face of evil. Breathe. Open these hands.

And I do know that slippery oil through leaky fingers will require endless supply.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
 his mercies begin afresh each morning." -Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)
My one word for this trip around the sun: Follow.

The word implies a choice. Every spin of the planet I have an option - I could definitely choose not to. Could very well just throw myself down on the tile and pout, or even flail and scream. I don't have to. He doesn't drag me; just walks and invites me to follow. He doesn't push me ahead of him, driving, shoving, forcing; just shows the Way and makes it clear. Makes it straight. I could likely turn around and go back. Could just as easily take a path not His. This is my choice - and will I follow Him? 

I'm thankful for His Map today. Just opening and continuing to read is often all it takes. He lights the dark and broken way, this glorious, lovely Lamp illuminating my choices.

"For crooked people are detestable to the Eternal,
    but those with integrity receive His counsel.
 His curse lingers over the wicked and their families,
    but He forever favors residence of those who do      what is right.
 God treats the arrogant as they treat others,
    mocking the mockers, scorning the scornful,
    but He pours out His grace on the humble.
 In the end, the wise will receive honor,
 but fools will face humiliation." - Proverbs 3:32-35 (The Voice)

So, what will it be this day, Self?

Jesus, make me full of integrity so that I might receive Your counsel; make me righteous that I would have Your favor; help me to be humble so that I will hold onto grace; show me Your wisdom so that my hands will be ready for honor. I choose these keys to freedom, these courses of action above the ways of those who follow their own way. Spirit, please keep me away from crookedness, for I would never want to be detestable in Your eyes; block wickedness from my ways because I do not want any curses on my life or my family; please help me not to be arrogant or mock others or be scornful - I don't want Your scorn; and Father, please help me not to choose folly because humiliation and shame are not my goals. I want to follow You, Jesus. And I desire above anything else to be near You, walking in Your ways and not the ways of the wicked or deceitful. You are Worthy, Lord. I need Your help, Your fresh freedom and mercy today. I choose once again to receive Your gifts and to cooperate with whatever You want to do in me. Thank You for the choice. Help me to make good ones today.

I choose, I vow to follow You.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sabbath Bread {daily expect this}

"Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness." 
- 2 Peter 3:11-13 (The Message)

Lord, thank You for this hope. You might come today, Jesus - and I want You to make me ready in every way to see You. Refine me, Father. Fill my soul afresh with this glorious hope and perspective. This could be the day you open the heavens and lift us out of this wreckage into the hope of the aftermath. All I am hinges on this hope - today could be the day I see Your face. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dear Hungry Soul {a little bird told me}

Dear Hungry Soul,

Have you been feeling broken beyond repair, shattered into a million pieces with no one to sweep you up? Abandoned in a dark pit and no one peeking down or throwing you a hope or even a rope? Starving for something more than life has put on your plate?

These words are for you:

Precious One
Could it be today?
What if it were true?
Despite what they say,
Could God really love you?

I'm here to tell you, 
In case no one ever has -
Really, God adores you.
Really, He always has.

I want to tell you more - 
All about His Son Jesus.
Though your heart may be sore
God says, "You're safe with Us."

Please accept this invitation -
bring that hungry soul to the Cross.
Let Him satisfy and fill every hole.
He'll bring you from doubt to trust.

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” -Romans 1:16-17 (NLT)

For every hungry soul, I pray He shows you every quenching answer of His loving plan of Salvation, found in grace though faith. If you wonder what hope He has for your brokenness, I encourage you to ask Him. He wants you to ask too: 
“Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” - Isaiah 7:11 (NIV)

And how about you, Dear Soul - do you want to ask a question too? Here's the invitation I give on Saturdays here in the nest: Have you ever wanted to ask a question about life, God, the Bible, relationships, people, church, or anything? (That last one is scary, but that's why I need the Holy Spirit to write through me.) Go ahead and ask me! Just slip your anonymous question into the comments section below, and sign it with a fun salutation.  I'll do some research and write back to you next week here in the nest. My answers come from the Bible, revelation from God (as He generously gives - see James 1), and personal experience. And then, when it comes up in your conversations with others, you can always say, "Well, a little bird once told me ..." *wink*

In His Hand,

 "The greatest joy of your heart is daily fellowship with Jesus, and you will have that same joy, yet to a greater degree, in heaven. And you will always see Him as you dwell in His presence forever." -Charles Spurgeon

photo credit: Arslan Zahid

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thankful on Thursday {without anxiety}

I pull out the Scripture-printed leaf at random from my bag of gratitude verses. It's perfect, as if The Holy Spirit handed it to me Himself:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
And of course I have some anxious thoughts to lay down at the Cross today. Some days are harder than others.

But it's every situation that needs prayer (surrender), petition (asking the One who can and does provide), and thanksgiving (gratitude for who He is and everything He gives). This is the way to submit requests to the God who set the stars in place and keeps every atom of my frame. Truly the only way to approach Him with the honor He deserves. 

It's hard times like this when I need gratitude most. So why has my journal not been filling as fast these past few weeks? How can I remind my soul that I need to thank? That it's the best coping I have ...

Eucharisteo. Thankful joy for grace given from on High. Eight english words I just had for one in Greek. And that's just what gratitude does: reduces my focus back from all the anxious what-if's into the surrender of thank-You. Peace I couldn't manufacture. Stability only He offers.

On Thursdays I share a few of my counted gifts. I've found counting them keeps me thanking, and I hope the same joy for you. If you haven't ever started a journey to seek joy on the path of gratitude, I encourage you to begin today, because it's today when He's giving something to you. Do you see it? Are your hands open? Will you secure the holding of it by saying thank-you to Him before the devil snatches it away? Here are a few of my counted blessings - I hope they will inspire you to start (or keep) counting too!

- a little toddler carrying a baby-doll in the parking lot to the grocery store

- affordable glasses for J, and that we live in a nation where he can get them ... and also for insurance and health care

- inspiration for some bookmarks made from my paper scraps, and the freedom to get the paper back out again

- "Perhaps life on this fallen earth is no longer meant to be perfect, but we were meant to trust the One who is. Suffering is God's tool to expose our false belief, and the mess in intended to drive us back to the only sure hope we can have." - Gary Thomas [in Authentic Faith]  
- fat squirrels chasing each other in the rain

- homemade caramel pop-corn

- funny games with my toddler-niece at the table: "Whose belly is this?!"

- this invitation to follow You that humbles me. Floors me.

- tiny squeaks and snuggles with my newborn-niece - nothing fixes hurt hearts like baby-fixes, Lord. Pure therapy - thank You.

- "Fearing people is a dangerous trap,but trusting the Lord means safety." Proverbs 29:25
- hope (a precious gift in and of itself) expectant - waiting for good; Your definition of good

- free Beth Moore books on my new Nook - and time to read at work

- K & J fighting over a "blessing" at the store - You have a good sense of humor, Jesus

- for daily bread, and daily Bread; enough for my tummy and my soul

- sudoku, and the gift of mindless stress-relief

 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." - Jeremiah 31:33 (NLT)
- laughing and catching up with R again at Panera

- this veil to protect my heart

-  "Your need seems great to you, but it is nothing for Me to bestow on you. Help you? Fear not! If you had a mere ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it wouldn't bankrupt you to give him a handful of your wheat. And yet, in comparison, you are not even a tiny insect when you stand at the door of My all-sufficiency. 'I myself will help you.' (Isaiah 41:14)" - Charles Spurgeon 

Lord, You deserve my utmost gratitude, for You give abundantly every day, every hour, every breath. Jesus, I am thankful again today and I pray You will be honored and praised through this counting. May You use these words to inspire others to praise You as well in their own looking, counting, thanking, praising. You alone, Oh God are the Giver we seek. You alone hold our hope and our strength. I am so thankful for You. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Follow {my one word for 2014}

I've asked and prayed through another list of words this January, and Follow rose to the top. 

It's what He wants me to do and live and be. I'm nervously excited. 

Last night I read the passage about the practice of two goats to my son. In the days of Moses the Israelites began a ceremony in which one goat was sacrificed as a burnt offering and the other was banished into the desert to die after having been bestowed with the sins of all God's people. My boy, the funny-deep one laughs.

"That goat must have just fallen over, Mom."

I chuckle, confused. "Huh?"

"Those people had a lot of sin. They even lied about the golden calf they worshipped. 'Uuhh, they gave me their necklaces and this thing just appeared out of the fire...' " We're both cracking up now, even though I know it was far from hilarious at the time. "That goat had all the sins of the people on his head? He must have been like ..." and he gets up on his knees in his bed and does a faceplant into his pillow. I can't contain myself. Our laughter fills the house.  

After we pray and I kiss him, I walk down the stairs in shock. Sometimes I wonder if this goofy boy hears anything I'm saying through his constant bouncing and running and clowning. And then he'll shock me with a depth of understanding beyond my own. It's crazy-true and I shake my head. He really gets the weight of sin. Do I?

And I recall again with heavy gratitude another Scapegoat. The One who carried cumbersome sin of generations, of all. My sin, weighted on His head as He trudged, cross bearing down on His shoulders. Sent out of the city to the wilderness trash-heap. This Pearl of greatest worth trampled by sin-swine, Who followed orders from a heart compelled by the Father's love. 

And I know this year of learning to follow will take me there too. 

For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. - 1 Peter 2:19-21 (NLT)    [emphasis added]

 Isn't that what we all want? For God to be pleased with us? And I read this morning how and why that happens. He accepts us because His Son paid for us, and He is looking at Jesus covering me when He sees me. And He is pleased. I'm accepted and loved by Him, even if by no one else. And it's enough. By far.

"When identity is not drawn from a performance – but drawn toward a Person, the person of Jesus – this is the place where a life makes music. If your performance is fueled by a need for acceptance, that is what burns your life out." -Ann Voskamp

Lord, teach me what it is to truly follow You. I long to release un-surrendered sin, un-confessed fear, un-known reservations. I desire reckless abandon to Your voice, and I want to chase after You, step in Your footprints, walk in Your ways. I need Your help and guidance, but today I vow to cooperate with whatever Your Spirit wants to do in me; I vow to follow You. You are my Example.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sabbath Bread {Where He lives}

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
    He who lives forever, whose name is holy:
I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.
 I will not accuse them forever,
    nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of Me—
    the very people I have created.

I was enraged by their sinful greed;

    I punished them, and hid My face in anger,
    yet they kept on in their willful ways.
 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

    creating praise on their lips.

Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

-Isaiah 57:16-19 (NIV)
[emphasis added]

Thank You, Father, for your patient grace. I praise You because You live not only in the heavens, but also with each person who is broken, humble, contrite, and mourning over his or her sin. Though I have fallen into sinful ruins many times in my life, You are always there the meet my heart when I humble it before you, turning Your wrath to comfort and my ruins to glory. You amaze me, Father. Your mercy is amazing.

photo credit: Rebekah Ceol

Saturday, January 4, 2014

a little bird told me {invitation}

Happy Saturday, Dear Heart.

Here's my Saturday invitation:

Have you ever wanted to ask a question about life, God, the Bible, relationships, people, church, or anything? (That last one is scary, but that's why I need the Holy Spirit to write through me.) Go ahead and ask me!  I'll do some research and write back to you next week here in the nest. My answers come from the Bible, revelation from God (as He generously gives - see James 1), and personal experience. And then, when it comes up in your conversations with others, you can always say, "Well, a little bird once told me ..." *wink*

Go ahead, courageous soul - type your question right down there in the comments box and keep it anonymous. I think it's also fun to sign it with a clever salutation, like "Drowning In Sorrow" or "Wishing Life Was Easy" or "Wondering What You Think"

I can't wait to read your questions!

- Robyn