Life is all about change. When you trust an unchanging God - you have the ability to embrace change and trust Him in the midst of it. Join me as the Lord leads me through a new phase of my journey.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings - Go Home

I'm sitting in my den, looking out of the window at the beautiful fall colors.  I love the changing of the seasons and the transformation that it brings to the trees around me.  In the midst of this transformation - I was reading in Mark 5 about the demon possessed man in Gerasenes and the transformation in his life.  When Jesus encountered this man, he was possessed by a legion of demons.  He had been living among tombs as a mad man - completely disengaged from family, friends and any semblance of normal, everyday life.  He screamed, cut himself and lived in constant torment.  Jesus set him free from all of that - and there he sat, clothed and in his right mind.  As Jesus was leaving, he implored Him to allow him to come with him.  Jesus said, "No - Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you."

I was thinking about that.  If I had been that man, I would have wanted to go with Jesus too.  I would have wanted to travel by His side and tell others of the great things He had done in my life.  Surely - that would have been a fantastic testimony to have around as Jesus spoke to different groups!  And yet, Jesus tells him to go home and tell his own people - the ones who have known him forever - the ones who have seen him as this beastly man - that his life had changed.

I'll be honest - sometimes it is easier to go and tell than it is to stay and tell.  I have never been a long term missionary - but I have been on a lot of short term mission trips and I loved sharing with others.  I somehow felt bold and fearless in these new surroundings with this express purpose to the trip.  I can hear Jesus' voice telling me that He loves that I want to do that - but that really, what He needs for me to do is to "go home to my people and tell them what great things the Lord has done in my life - how He has had mercy on me." 

BUT LORD, those people - those people that I have been around and that really know me -- it is hard to share with them.  It is hard to tell them that you have changed my life when they see me fail, make mistakes and act anything BUT like You.  What if they won't listen?  What if they are too busy or disinterested?  What if they just think that I am really strange?  

What if I just what if myself to death?

All of us have a story to tell.  If you belong to Jesus - you have gone from death to life.  This is your greatest story.  The Lord has done great things - He has shown tremendous mercy.  I want to have the same boldness and purpose here - in Chicago - in my every day life - that I would have out on the mission field.  

It's true - people who know me know my shortcomings.  I am anything but perfect.  But - maybe that is truly good news because my life is proof that God can change anyone - that He can work through anyone and that no one is beyond His grace.  Like this mad man among the tombs - Jesus has taken my life that was reeling out of control and transformed it.  He took what lacked meaning and made it meaningful.  He took my wandering and gave it purpose.

Where is home for you?  Who are your people?  
How has God shown mercy to you?  
Will you tell your story?

I really believe that Jesus is waiting for each one of us to be His people right where we are - whether that is in your hometown or in a new city or even a new country.  Your story of mercy is His story of hope to someone else.

Here's to mad men and Jesus transformed lives.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday - OHIO

I headed out of Chicago on Wednesday.  I drove through Illinois, Indiana and ended up here in Columbus, Ohio.  There was beautiful fall color all along the way.  Seeing the familiar skyline just made me smile - I love everywhere that the Lord has sent us over the last 29 years.  Columbus was a very special place.  

We lived here for 6 years in the 90's.  Our kids went to school here during some really formative years.  They both made professions of faith and were baptized in our church here.   Alan and I worked with the youth and our girls were youth group mascots.  They got to learn so much and had lots of big brothers and sisters that loved them dearly. 

I'm here visiting my good friend, Aimee, helping her with some remodeling in her basement.  Hanging out with Aimee feels a lot like coming home.  We spent a lot of time together - as much family as friends - and it just feels so good to be in the same place for a short while! 

Being here reminds me of God's faithfulness to me over the years.  It is not easy making moves across the country, but I wouldn't trade the experiences that we have had for any amount of comfort.  We grew as a family.  We grew in our faith.  We made friends that we will have for a lifetime.  We learned a lot about life  - we made some mistakes and we received a lot of grace.

I am thankful for the 6 years that the Lord placed us in Ohio - for the ways that those years shaped me and prepared me for all of the years since.  I have full confidence in the future because He has been so faithful in the past.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings - Unexpected Freedom

Freedom - something that we value highly and are very appreciative of.  I was reading Acts 12 this week and the subject of freedom came up in an interesting way.  In this instance, freedom was the opposite of imprisoned. 

Acts 12:5-7

5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. 6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 

Peter was facing death due to Herod's attempts to please the Jewish leadership.  Peter is already in prison - but even inside he is heavily guarded, actually chained between two guards with another set of guards outside.  And yet - he sleeps.  There is such trust in the Lord that he can actually fall asleep even in these dire circumstances. I love that the angel had to poke him (it actually says, struck him - a deep sleep?) to wake him up so that he could be led out of the prison.  Although these believers had seen many miracles, I don't know that they could have envisioned anything like this!  The intervention of God through an angel - pretty amazing.  Freedom instead of death.  God always has the last word.

Sometimes things look bleak and there appears to be no hope.  Death may even seem certain.  It could be an illness, a loss of a job, the death of a dream or the end of a relationship.  That stench of death may feel like heavy chains hanging around us.  I find that at times, there are chains around me - some of my own making and some from the outside.  The truth is, the Lord wants to set me free from those chains - they can fall to the ground just as those chains fell from Peter's body.  He holds the key, but there are times that I hold on to the chains even when they are unlocked.  It is about trust - it is about fear.  

We can become very comfortable in our chains - no matter how destructive they are.  Freedom awaits - but we are more afraid of the unknown freedom than we are of the known heaviness of our chains.  We have been accessorizing for so long that we are not sure we can do without them.  

Will you risk letting those chains fall? 

Will you stand up and walk out of that prison and into freedom?  

No doubt - this was an incredible miracle, but I believe that the Lord is waiting to perform that same miracle in many lives right now. 

What chains are binding you right now? 

The One Who loves you most is waiting to set you free.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Devo and Dragons

Thought I would write an extra post this week.  I often read a devotional out of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I wanted to share it today because it is just so profound and so meaningful. She writes as if God is doing the talking (I love that!) Here it is:

To live in My Presence consistently, you must expose and expel your rebellious tendencies.  When something interferes with your plans or desires, you tend to resent the interference.  Try to become aware of each resentment, however petty it may seem.  Don't push those unpleasant feelings down; instead, let them come to the surface where you can deal with them. Ask My Spirit to increase your awareness of resentful feelings.  Bring them boldly into the Light of My Presence, so that I can free you from them.

The ultimate solution to rebellious tendencies is submission to My authority over you.  Intellectually you rejoice in My sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place.  But when My sovereign will encroaches on your little domain of control, you often react with telltale resentment.

The best response to losses or thwarted hopes is praise. " The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed by the name of the Lord."  Remember that all good things -- your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time -- are gifts from Me.  Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude.  Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand!

I just loved reading that this morning.  It really challenges me to look at what I believe about God's goodness and His sovereignty and to truly only hold onto Him.

On another note - here is a picture of my last painting in the Hamilton library.  It was by far the most complicated and labor intensive painting I have done.  The Lord was so gracious to equip me to do it - because honestly, I'm not skilled enough to do this!  I marveled at Him every step of the way. 

So here is to a Friday morning with Devotions and Dragons.  Hope you have a blessed Friday and can truly rejoice in the Goodness of our Great God.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Small Group

One of my greatest privileges here in the windy city is hosting a small group of women in my home.  I LOVE SMALL GROUP!  We are meeting together this semester to study No Other Gods by Kelly Minter.  I have done this study before and I could not be more excited to share it with these women!

Our group has 17 truly amazing women that are a part of it.  For some, this is their first Bible study.  How fun is that!?!?!  I am already seeing lives in the process of transformation - women asking good questions, digging into the Word and taking a hard look at where they are in their relationship with the Lord.  It is challenging and it is encouraging.  There just isn't anything like it.

These women come from all different backgrounds and have arrived in Chicago from a lot of different cities.  Their stories are all unique.  Their wounds and heartaches are very personal.  They are all looking for answers, for a love that will not fail them and a life that is both meaningful and productive.  Here, in small group, they will find those answers - because here in small group, they will have the opportunity to meet Jesus.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have these women in my home - to know them and to love them - and most importantly, to see my Amazing God work in their lives.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Musings - God's Favor

The whole idea of God's favor really intrigues me.  Let me just start out by saying that I don't really understand it.  I've seen it - I've experienced it -- but even with that being said, there is a lot about it that I don't understand.  I was reading in Nehemiah 2 this past week and these verses grabbed my attention.

Nehemiah 2:8   . . . because the good hand of my God was on me
Nehemiah 2:18  . . .  the hand of my God had been favorable
Nehemiah 2:10  . . .  The God of heaven will give us success

What brings God's favor about?  
How do we/or do we fall in and out of His favor?  

I think those are some really interesting questions.  I have seen God's favor in the lives of others and I have certainly seen it in mine.  In verse 4, it says that Nehemiah prayed to God as soon as the King asked him what he wanted - so - I would deduce from that, that an intimate relationship with God and a habit of immediately taking matters to Him would be important.  What he was trying to do was something pleasing to God - so it makes sense that God would give him favor in his obedience.

I would also say that trials and struggles are not necessarily indicative of God removing His favor - it might, in fact, be the opposite.  Those very trials and struggles may be His favor on us to shape and mold us into His image.  

Does God sometimes remove His favor from our lives?  I don't really know the answer to this, but I do think that blatant disobedience and sin could cause this to happen.  God can not put His blessing on our sin and disobedience.  It just would not be consistent with His character. 

These are interesting questions to explore - but obedience, prayer, faith, trust and abiding seem to be key.  I have been amazed to watch the Lord give people great favor with builders, bosses, landlords, clerks, judges, neighbors, teachers, professors and many others.  I have seen some amazing things fall into place where you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God's hand was on it.  

I do know this - God gives us more than we could ever deserve.  His goodness and faithfulness know no bounds.  He is always for us - He always has our back.  I think life is more about living in God's favor (as in living my life a way that reflects Him) than it is about gaining His favor.  Jesus has put me in a favorable position.  

Won't you ponder this along with me?  I'd love to hear what you think.  

May the Lord's favor rest on you today!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday - JOY

I was reading in Nehemiah 8 this week and came across one of my favorite verses --

The JOY of the Lord is my STRENGTH.
Nehemiah 8:10

Where does strength come from?  Well, according to this verse, one source of strength is the JOY of the Lord.  Well - that got me thinking.  What is the JOY of the Lord?

Well . . . we know that JOY is something that comes from within.  It's source has to be deep and abiding.  JOY is certainly a choice - but I also believe that it is Holy Spirit created . . . Holy Spirit derived.  Because Jesus dwells in me, I have JOY - because Jesus dwells in me, I can choose to live that JOY out in my every day life.  I can choose to bury it too . . .

When Nehemiah wrote this, the people were mourning a season of sin and neglect of God's ordinances.  Nehemiah was encouraging them to repent - but to also move ahead and celebrate God's mercy.  We can get caught up in our failures and sometimes beat ourselves up for disappointing God.  I am so thankful that we have the freedom to confess to the Lord and be assured of His forgiveness.  We don't get bonus points for moping around - Jesus paid a high price to cover our sin and give us JOY.  

When I am feeling weak in my own sin or just not up to the task at hand, I must rely on my JOY in the Lord to carry me through.  My joy in Him will actually supply the strength that I need to be obedient or maybe just to make it through a difficult part of the journey.

I don't have to "muster it up."  
It is amply supplied by the Lord Himself.  
It is available 24/7.  
I must choose it.  

Joy in the Lord is all about the gift of salvation - the gift of grace, mercy, love and peace.  Joy in the Lord is all about my standing as His child - His beloved.  

I am so thankful that my life if full of JOY - even when happiness might evade me.  I am so thankful that the Lord's strength sustains me.  I am thankful that no one can take it away from me - I can only let it go.  No one can steal it - but I can give it away to others.

Let's be people of JOY - it is contagious - 
it is reflective of our Savior.  

Today - I am thankful for JOY.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Fall

Hey - this is a quick post before I run out the door to catch a flight to TX.  I get to see my girls this weekend!!!

I love fall.  Here is my one picture so far that really tells it all.  I'll update when I get back in town next week.  Blessings all!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Musings - The Prodigal

My all time favorite parable in the Bible is the story of the Prodigal Son.  I have loved this from the very first time I read it - have heard it preached on - have taught it numerous times and read some great re-tellings of it (the best is Phillip Yancey's modern update in What's So Amazing About Grace!)  So naturally, when I came across it in my reading yesterday, I got very excited!!

Why? do you ask . . . I can identify with every part of this story and every time I go through it, I learn something different.  Recap - There is a father with two sons.  The older one is very well behaved - compliant and obedient. (He has his own issues - but I will save that for another time!) The younger is rebellious and self serving.  The younger brother asks for his inheritance from his father (basically saying - wish you were already dead!).  His father decides to comply and give him what he asks for.  The younger brother takes the money and runs . . . far away to a distant city where wine flows and women are easy.  He is very popular with his new found fortune and throws a lot of parties.  But . . . as it goes, the money runs out, the friends disappear and he finds himself working for a pig farmer (low, low, low for a jewish boy) and wishing that he could just eat the food the pigs eat.  He begins to long for home and plans out the speech he is going to give his father to get back in his good graces.  He sets out for home and here it is . . . my favorite part!!

"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate."
Luke 15:20-24

I have certainly been like the younger son - foolish, impulsive and reckless.  I have often squandered what the Lord has so graciously given me.  I have taken my eyes off of Him and made choices that were like death to me.  I have pursued what I thought would make me happy only to find that it was utterly empty when I got there.  I have been that son that comes walking back to my Father with my head down, embarrassed and broken.  AND GOD RAN.  He was waiting for me with open arms and He took me back - clothed me with the righteousness of Christ and invited me to the feast of the Lamb.   God didn't just sigh and say, "Ok - I guess you can come back but I'm not happy about it!"  

He saw me from afar and He felt compassion for me.  He didn't plod along, walk or drag His feet - He RAN.  He didn't scold me or say, "I told you so."  He runs - He embraces.  Hope is reborn and I get another chance.

I don't know where you are today or how you are feeling about your relationship with God.  But, as one prodigal to another - He is waiting for you with open arms.  There is no line that you could have crossed that would tag you as ineligible for grace.  

Your Heavenly Father is not just sitting back and waiting. 

He is eagerly anticipating your return - 

watching for you on the horizon -

waiting to run and meet you.

Amazing Grace - How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I am found
Was blind but now I see.