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, January 30, 2012

Monday Musings - Help, I need somebody

I'm reading through Exodus right now.  There is so much to learn from this journey that the Israelites made through the desert.  And then there is Moses - a seriously amazing man, with a somewhat sketchy past (this endears me to him) who is given a seemingly impossible task to manage this rowdy group.  As we all know, anytime you are traveling with a group, there are problems.  There are people who go along to get along - people that are always unhappy with everything - people who complain about the food - people who are tired - and those that enjoy every little thing.  The most helpful people on any trip are the ones that remember the purpose of the trip and keep their eye on that goal.

In Exodus 17:11-12 we find Moses in this predicament:

Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 

It is hard to even imagine how overwhelmed Moses must have felt!  The victory of this particular battle was dependent on his ability to hold his arms up!  Even those of us who have been working out would be put to the test if we had to hold our arms up all day.

In Exodus 18:18 and the following verses, we find Moses overwhelmed again.  Any time that the people had a dispute or were in need of advice, they would come to Moses.  I picture him with a long, as far as the eye can see, line of people with problems standing outside his tent.  His father in law, Jethro, gives him some very good advice to follow.

You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone . . . Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 

God sent the help that Moses needed in each situation.  When Moses grew weary, a stone was provided for him to sit on.  When his arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur held them up.  When Moses was overwhelmed with the counseling needs of the people, his father in law advised him to train and delegate responsibility.

I feel a bit overwhelmed right now.  I fractured a bone in my foot and it is keeping me from working out, walking Quincy and painting.  My heart is aching about a situation that a close friend is in.  In all these things, the Lord has been so caring and compassionate.  People at the schools have been so understanding and kind.  The Lord has given me encouragement and prayer partners to "lift my arms" in this emotional situation with my friend.  As my arms grow weary, the Lord sends people along side me.  He encourages me with specific scriptures and in Bible study.  He assures me that as I share His truth, He is at work.  I can rest in that.  I can trust Him.

Are you weary today?  
Do you need someone to come along side you 
and hold up those arms?  
Do you need some help?

The Beatles have long been known for their theology - okay - maybe not.  But this song kept coming to my mind:

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help.

When we cry out, the Lord hears.  He knows every detail of our lives and what we are feeling, responsible for and exhausted from.  He not only knows, but He cares.  He walks these days beside us.  Matthew 11:28-30 says:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

We were never meant to do it all, 
be it all or have it all together. 

Praise God. That is some good news right there.


His arms never TIRE.

His wisdom never ENDS.

His love endures FOREVER. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday: For the rest of your life

I got an email from Ann Taylor Loft.  It beckoned me to enter for a chance to win LOFT forever - a $500 shopping spree EVERY SEASON for the REST of your life*

 *Prize is limited up to 30 years.


Last time I checked, for life was for life.  I laughed out loud when I saw that.  Now, I love Ann Taylor Loft and I will continue to shop there, but seriously - how can you limit "for life?" 

There is often a catch, isn't there?  Gas stations here in Chicago like to advertise a low price per gallon (this is a very relative term) and then in teeny-tiny, almost imperceptible writing, it says WITH the purchase of a full price car wash.  Hmmm . . .  the car wash is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 so this is really NOT a good deal. 

Free gift with purchase . . . is that really a free gift?

When God offers the free gift of salvation - He means it.  It is completely a gift.  Jesus paid the price.  All I have to do is accept it.  I couldn't earn it, even if I wanted to.  I can't pay enough or do enough to earn it.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no no one may boast."  
Ephesians 2:8-9

Here is the really great news.
It is not only good for life . . . 

it is good for eternal life.

No strings attached.

It is the real deal.

Eternal life in the presence of Jesus.




Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Musings - Complain or Proclaim

I was reading in Luke 21 today and I was struck by Jesus talking about the persecution that would come.  He tells his followers that they will be drug into court, betrayed by family and questioned by authorities.  Then he says . . . it will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.  So make up your minds not to prepare before hand to defend yourself for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

I love the word opportunity.  So much of seeing opportunity is shaped by your perspective on life.  This passage is talking about some serious persecution.  I have never experienced this kind of persecution, so I looked at this in terms of hard times, discouragement, disharmony and life's struggles - particularly those that seem unjust.  

When we are experiencing something like this or perhaps even a more serious form of persecution, we have a choice in how we respond.

If I want to blend in with the crowd, I will . . .
*have a pity party
*be pessimistic
*narrow minded

If I want to stand out, I will . . .
*look for what God is doing
*remember the many blessings I have even in the midst of a struggle
*own up to my part of the problem
*focus on the Lord - not on the situation
*let the light of Jesus shine through
*give testimony of His goodness in all circumstances
*take every opportunity to exhibit genuine faith
*trust the Lord for the words I need

Will I complain or proclaim?

I can tell you which one is easier and which one comes naturally :-)  

I want to be different.  

I was to be a spiritual opportunist.

With Jesus, I want to be brave. 

I want to proclaim His goodness in each and every situation in my life.  

I want to be a walking, living, breathing testimony of His life changing power.  

I want faith to replace fear.  

I want courage to replace timidity.

I want Jesus to glorified - at all times, in all circumstances and for all to see.

Will you COMPLAIN or will you PROCLAIM?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday - it's the little things

On any given day, there is much to be thankful for.  I have been back for two weeks.  It is good to be home.

So - here are just a few of the things that I am thankful for in my Chicago life:

*Cold weather and snow
*my very warm coats, scarves and gloves!
*the privilege of painting at Hamilton
*the privilege of painting at the Sheridan's house
*the gym
*my wonderful neighbors
*my church
*my new eye doctor - Dr. Gandhi - yep, that's right.
*new small group start ups!
*God's amazing faithfulness
*my hard working, big hearted husband, Alan
*Marifran and Karen
*Jesus -- I'm so thankful that my relationship with the Lord is not locational - it is not contained in a building or only good in a few states.  It is everywhere, all the time, 24/7 access.  

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Musings - How NOT to parent

There are so many lessons to be learned in the scriptures.  I have been reading in Genesis this week and as I was reading chapter 27, I had to just stop and try to sort out all the lessons in that one chapter.  Unfortunately, it is one of those very real times in scripture where there is a lot to learn from the negative examples of others.  It is comforting to know that parenting has been tough from the beginning of time.  It is a big job, a difficult job and the most important job one can have.  Here are a few lessons to be learned from Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau.  

*Bad Parenting 101:  Play Favorites
Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for wild game.  Esau was a hunter - the outdoors type - and his Dad loved that.
Rebekah favors Jacob.  He is a momma's boy.  She has big dreams for this one and she is not shy about bringing them about by whatever means necessary.

*Deception Inc. with a side of Manipulation
Isaac wants to give Esau his blessing.  He is aging and knows that his days are numbered.  Before he dies, he wants to give the blessing . . . but not before he gets Esau to go and hunt for him - preparing him a meal.  You do this . . . I'll do that.
Rebekah overhears the two talking.  She quickly comes up with a plan for her favored son to get this blessing.  After all, he has already figured out how to manipulate his brother out of his birthright.  (The combination of Esau and food seems to be problematic)
Jacob goes along with the plan.  He and Rebekah kill a goat and prepare it to seem like wild game.  He puts animal hair on his arms to resemble his much hairier brother.  He pretends to be Esau and gets the blessing from Dad.

Jacob brought the game.  
Jacob wore the game.  
Jacob was the game.

The plan works.  When Esau discovers what has happened, he is devastated.  He then becomes angry and violent.  Some of the saddest words in scripture . . . Bless me, even me also, O my father . . . Have you not reserved a blessing for me? . . . Do you have only one blessings, my father?  Bless me, even me also, O my father.  You can hear the anguish in his words.

Rebekah and Jacob get what they want - but the consequences to their deceit are huge. Esau is literally angry enough to kill.  Jacob has to run in order to live.  Rebekah never sees him again.

What a cycle of deceit, manipulation and loss.  It looks awful when I see it in this family, but I know that I have been guilty of all of the above.  Wanting the best for our children can come at a very high price and they are watching and learning all along the way. 

The good news is that the Lord can redeem even behaviors and mistakes like this.  The consequences remain, but there is redemption in relationship.  Esau and Jacob make peace with one another.  God uses these imperfect people to advance His kingdom.  

What are my children learning from me?  They are young adults now.  What have I taught them about parenting?  I am hopeful that they will veer away from deceit and manipulation and be drawn toward honesty and the willingness to wait on the Lord - not manipulate a situation to their liking.  I hope that they have learned from my mistakes and my victories - my good examples and my not so good examples.

Do you trust the Lord with your children? or your grandchildren?  
Do you feel the need to manipulate situations for your own benefit or for the benefit of someone you love?  
Do you appreciate each of your children or grandchildren for who they are, without comparing them 
or favoring one over the other?

We are all human.  We all fail and make mistakes, but let's learn from Isaac and Rebekah.  Let's trust the Lord with those that are most precious to us.

No favoritism, no deceit, no manipulation.
Lord Jesus - keep me ever mindful of what I am modeling.  Let Your Holy Spirit convict me when I am being manipulative or deceptive.  Help me to be transparent, supportive, encouraging and faithful.  I want to honor You in every aspect of my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Treasures in Heaven

I am thankful for so many things in my life and I am very fortunate in so many ways.  If I have learned anything over the years, it is that things come and things go.  We have lived in big houses and small houses.  We have had plenty and we have had times of very lean means.  We have had times of great joy and courage - and times of sadness and fear.  We have been confident and we have been insecure.  We have been faithful and we have been weak.

I was reading in Luke 12 today and it got me thinking about treasure.  We are all pretty enamored with treasure.  Occasionally we see reports about sunken treasure being found and brought up from the depths.  People win the lottery and others become overnight successes at a business or maybe they win American Idol.  People have an old family heirloom that they discover is worth thousands.  A cheap painting is found to have a masterpiece underneath it.   Sometimes, people find out that they have a huge inheritance coming to them from a long, lost uncle.

While something like that might be really exciting, the Lord tells us to store up treasures in heaven.  That sounds good, but what exactly is He talking about?

Luke 12:15  says, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."

You may be thinking - I don't have much at all. No danger here - but in reality, even the poorest of people in the United States are well off compared to the rest of the world, so I believe this warning applies to all of us.

Luke 12:22 says, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing."

So - what kind of treasure should I be storing up?  The last several days of my devotional have been about storing up trust.  Interesting . . . The premise is that each time we trust the Lord, even in small things, we are storing up treasures of trust.  When the big things come, we have stored up all these small experiences and have an ample "treasure of trust" to carry us through the hard times.

So - into my spiritual treasure chest - I will put:


I want to keep filling up my treasure chest with those things that are pleasing to the Lord and those things that will sustain me.  I have a lot of treasure to draw on when I am feeling low, weak, exhausted or just sad.  

These treasures will not have to be left behind because they are investments in eternity.  They are all part of shaping me into the follower of Jesus that I desire to be - and getting me ready for my face to face meeting with the One I love.

At the end of my days, I will have stored up a huge amount of heavenly treasures.  

This is treasure that multiplies as it is spent.  

Who but God could come up with a concept like that?

 How is your heavenly treasure chest doing?
What are you filling it up with?
Are your treasures in heaven or only on this earth?

Today - I am thankful for heavenly treasures that do not rust, can not be destroyed and never lose their value. Let's invest in eternity together. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

MM: Judgment vs. Accountability

I've been thinking about this subject quite a lot lately, and my reading the other day was in Luke 6 which deals with this subject.  Here are a few of the verses that deal with relationships.

31 - Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.
35 - Love your enemies and do good.
36 - Be merciful as your Father is merciful.
37 - Do not judge and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.  Pardon and you will be pardoned.
42 - First take the log out of your own eye - then you can see clearly to take out the speck in your brother's eye.

There are a lot of other scriptures that deal with this subject and also scriptures that deal with church discipline, accountability etc.  I'm not putting them all down here, but there are many more to look at.  What I was trying to figure out was how to discern the difference between being judgmental and holding another believer accountable for ungodly decision and behaviors. 

This whole tension between judgment and 
accountability is interesting to me. 

Judgment seems to be the natural human response.  It is easy to find what is wrong with someone else.  Their faults and missteps seem to be blinking, neon colors whereas my own faults seem to be cleverly hidden.  It seems to be human nature to fault find - even in small ways and even in people that we love (or especially in people that we love) and certainly in people that annoy us anyway.

So - how does judgment differ from 
holding each other accountable? 

*Relationship - judgment is usually one sided.  I tend to keep it to myself or tell someone else - not the person I am talking about.  This is certainly not one of my finer moments.  WARNING   In accountability, there is a mutual relationship of love and respect.  It is "winning the right to be heard."  There is a solid foundation of relationship that can withstand a little tough love.

*Motivation - This one is really important and pretty tricky.  The real question is - What is to be gained?  Overall, it is for the individual's spiritual health and well being.  If there is another motivation in there (prove I am right, make me look better, make them look bad etc.) then I need to take a step back and reevaluate what is going on.  God knows the motivation of my heart, so pretending it is other than it truly is would be foolish.  I want to get this right.

*Desire - does the person I am speaking to desire accountability?  Maybe they will not always be jumping for joy - but have they been walking with the Lord and are now heading down a potentially destructive path?  Have they voiced their commitment and love for God?  If so, I believe that the Lord is already tugging at their heart.  

*Self-inspection and reflection - Have I looked closely at my own life - taken it before the Lord and allowed Him to bring up areas of sin that need to be dealt with?  I want to be able to move ahead confident that I am clean before the Lord.  He might even change my perspective on the situation during this time.

*Prayer - no steps should be taken until the matter has been bathed in prayer.  Pray that the Holy Spirit is already preparing the other person's heart as well as your own so that the message does not fall on deaf ears.  

*Love - there must be tons of love and assurance. "Let all you do be done in love." 1st Cor. 16:14  It is difficult to hear a hard truth.  Our first reaction tends to be to get defensive.  For any real conversation to take place, the other person has to feel safe, cared for and loved.

*Freedom - the person you are speaking with has to have the freedom to disagree.  This can be devastating, especially if you know their behavior is destructive to their life - but hanging in there with them - loving them no matter what and trusting the Holy Spirit to do a work in their life is a must.

*Be Open - be open to what others have to say to you.  Model accountability in your own life.  As you set this example having a teachable heart and humility, you will set the stage for meaningful relationships that glorify the Lord.

Difficult conversations are hard for me.  I am a go along, get along kind of girl.  Part of maturing spiritually is being able to have hard conversations with those you love - those that the Lord has given you to mentor, to teach and to guide.  Truthfully, most of the time this person knows good and well that what is going on is not right.  They may just need you to confirm that and to believe in them enough to know that they can make better decisions, even if it is hard.

Whew - that wore me out!  God is so good to continue to challenge me to be who He wants me to be.  He is so patient to work in me to move me ahead.  Praying that my heart will remain teachable and that when the going gets tough, I will solely rely on Him.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Thoughts - Setting Sail

My bible readings are starting back in Genesis for the new year.  I love to read the book of Genesis.  Since I grew up in church, these stories are stories that I have heard literally my whole life.  It is so fun to study them from an adult perspective.  There are so many layers of truth and so many examples of God's faithfulness in them.  I just read the story of Noah - very familiar - very challenging!

Many people know the story of Noah whether they study the Bible or not.  Nurseries are decorated in Noah's ark themes and there are ark toys with lots of little animals.  You can't really talk or think about a flood without that flood of all floods coming to mind.  

I have always loved this story.  I am inspired by Noah's obedience.  It is hard to imagine what it must have been like.  He looked foolish . . . for a long time.  He endured mocking, teasing and humiliation. 

I wonder if he said, "Really God?  
Are you sure about this?"

I wonder if there were days when he wanted to quit and yet he persevered.  It would have been so easy to give in to the voices around him.  I'm sure there are days when he felt like a complete idiot.  Yet . . . he kept going.

Gathering up animals of every kind and getting them into an ark would have been nearly impossible.  The scripture tells us that God brought the animals to Noah.  God made this happen.  God made this work. 

When everyone was in the ark - animals and Noah's family - God shut the door.  Really - scripture tells us that.  I think that is so awesome.  He went before Noah in the preparations and He brought up the rear, so to speak, by closing the door.  One of my favorite things about the Lord is that He goes before us and behind us.  (Psalm 139:5)

There were no instructions for a rudder on this boat.  I believe that God Himself was the guide.  He sent that ark on a path of His choosing - keeping it safe and secure to rest in its final destination.

 I love how personal all the interaction was in this story.  Noah and God were hand in hand.  As far as we know, no one had seen rain up until this point.  This was such an act of obedience and faith.  

What is the Lord asking you to do that seems impossible?

Are you willing to look foolish in the eyes of others in order to be obedient?

How have you seen God go before you and come up behind you as well?

How does this increase your trust in Him?  
Do you trust Him to guide your life and 
be your provision?

I do.  I am trusting Him for huge things in 2012.  I am believing that He will provide everything I need to accomplish what He gives me to do.  I believe that He is going to love people to salvation and a closer walk with Him through me.  I believe that He will challenge me, demand much of me and give me so much mercy and grace that anything is possible.

It is not about me.  
On my own, I am weak, selfish and sinful.  
BUT - with my Jesus, the impossible fades to the probable to the DONE.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone!  I love the start of a new year.  I love to anticipate what the new year will bring and look toward it with Holy Expectations!  I got an end of the year email from my health club in Chicago with some questions about goals and accomplishments and thought I would alter the questions a bit to help me look at this past year and ahead to the next one.  No, my health club did not ask me questions about my faith - but their questions got me thinking about all areas of my life.  I hope you will find it useful, also.

  • What were my blessings in 2011?
  • How did I see the Lord work in my life?
  • In what ways am I closer to the Lord at the end of this year than I was at the beginning of the year?
  • What contributed to my spiritual growth the most?
  • What have I learned this year?
  • How can I apply what I learned to move forward in 2012? 
  • What does the Lord want for me in the year to come? in relationships? ministry? family? work?
  • How have I grown from the accomplishments and challenges of the past year?
  • What am I most grateful for as I reflect back on the year?
  • Who are my greatest supporters that I can rely on as I move forward?
  • How can I show my gratitude and appreciation to those who have supported me? 
  • How can I be an encouragement to others in my church?
  • How can I be involved in a small group Bible study?
  • What would I like to be different in the upcoming year?
  • What am I willing to do to make this change a reality?
  • What barriers do I anticipate and what strategies can I put into place to overcome these barriers?
  • What is the first step I need to take to get closer to my goals?

  • How do I get rid of these dots?
  • I don't know how to make these dots stop - so let's just live with it!  It is good to remind ourselves of the Lord's goodness to us - even in the struggles of life.  There are some years that we just as soon leave behind and some that we cling to.  Whatever the case may be for you - you can be assured that God's mercies are new every morning.  He has a plan for you and He is not surprised by the things that come your way.  He is walking beside you when all is well and when things are tough.  He is making you more like His Son.

  • Praying that this year brings you closer to the Lord as you follow Him - trusting Him to guide your steps, supply your needs and use your life to truly make a difference.  

  • Get excited~