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, December 30, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Hector the Collecter

Okay - I'm just going to admit it.  God is using Shel Silverstein to teach me a lot right now.  I'm reading through Where the Sidewalk Ends and spiritual truth is popping into my head as I read.  I'm really loving it!  So, my lesson for today is brought to you by Hector the Collector.

Hector the Collector



Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring. 
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin' guns that wouldn't shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn't float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn't toot. 
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
'Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul--
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved them more than glistenin' gold.
Hector called to all the people,
'Come and share my treasure trunk!'
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked ... and called it junk. 



I had so many thoughts running through my head after I read this.  Here are a few - and I'll warn you -- they jump around a bit!

* One of my first thoughts was God's ability to take what appears to be junk -- all our brokenness and junk -- and call is good and make it a treasure.  Oh, how I am grateful for this.  Who but Jesus could scoop up our brokenness and junk and fashion into His image?  2nd Corinthians 4:7-10 says:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

* I also thought about all the time and effort we put into things that are temporary.  Now - that is part of life.  Groceries have to be bought, homes are made nice and comfortable, clothing is essential, and so many more things . . . but it is always a good reminder that all of these things are "junk" in comparison to all that is of eternal value.

* I also thought about the quote, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  How we see and value what is around depends on our perspective.  I always ask the Lord to give me His eyes to see the people and situations around me.  I know that my own vision has such great limitations.  I need His unique way of viewing others to truly see them.  I don't want to be one of the sightless who can not see the treasure for the junk!

*I was also reminded that this perspective is not the norm.  Others may look at how I spend my time, or what I am investing in, or how I dress or how I act and it may seem very silly.  I, like Hector, may fall under some judgment as it appears that I am not doing something terribly important.  I'm okay with that.  When I look at that illustration of Hector all slumped over and sad because no one seems to understand, I think back on times when I felt that very same way.  It's okay.  This life is about being obedient to what the Lord calls you to do - not about having the approval of everyone else. 

* I was also reminded of Matthew 6:19-21.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth
where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven
where neither moth nor rust destroys, 
and where thieves do not break in or steal;   
for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I want to make sure that I am focusing on, investing in, striving toward and soaking in all the right things.  I want to collect only that which the Lord wants to write on my heart - those things that will make me more like Jesus.

What are you collecting?

Where are you investing?

Where is your treasure? 

Let's start out the year with our focus where it needs to be.

Happy New Year! 





Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts ~ Hug O' War

My sweet brother in love ~ Brad Goad ~ gave me a book of Shel Silverstein's poems for Christmas.  I was reading through the book this morning and came across a poem that describes my philosophy on life pretty well.

Hug O' War

I will not play at tug o' war
I'd rather play at hug o' war
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug
Where everyone kisses
And everyone grins
And everyone cuddles
And everyone wins



I am definitely a hugger and not a fighter!

Now, there have been times when I have had to be fighter and the Lord is good to equip me for that battle and there have also been some battles that He has simply fought for me as I waited per His instructions.

But, at the heart of it, I am a hugger.  

Is there anything quite like a good hug to 
just lift your spirits and warm your heart?

Isn't there a certain measure of encouragement that 
just comes in that form?

Can't a hug make such a difference?

Can't a hug turn things around in an instant?

There are only a handful of days left in 2013.

Who do you know who needs a hug?

Let's send 2013 out with a hug and ring in 2014 with love.

Catchy, huh :-)


Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Merry Christmas!

I have been a very delinquent blogger!  Of course, being too busy traveling around the country and spending time with those you love seems like a pretty good reason.

I am now in the mountains of Colorado  - waiting on my in-laws to arrive and looking out my window at some snow.  I love this time of the year.  
I love this place.



We got to go to The River Church yesterday.  We love our church here and look forward to actually being able to be involved in it one of these days!  Mark gave a great message on angels and the different responses of those that experienced an angel encounter in the Christmas story.

Zechariah responded in disbelief as the angel told him that his wife would have a baby boy.  It was a lot to take in!  Suddenly, an angel appears and then delivers some news that seems preposterious!  They were older and had not been able to have a baby (I wonder if he thought about the story of Abraham and Sarah!)  He won the prize of being silent until the baby was born 
and named John.

Mary was also visited by an angel.  She, too, was very surprised!  She took in what he said and then asked, "How can this be?"  After all, she was a young woman who was engaged, but had never been with a man.  As the angel gave her a few more details, she responded with acceptance, awe and belief.

Mary walked out Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.

Such trust . . . such leaning into the Lord . . . such faith and obedience.

Joseph was also visited by an angel.  
Unlike Zechariah, he was visited by an angel in his sleep.  
(God often speaks to me in my sleep - I think because I'm still and quiet!)  

One can only imagine how he was feeling as he laid his head down that night.  He has just been told by his beloved that she is pregnant but she has not been unfaithful to him.  Okay . . . sure.  I'm sure he was heavy hearted as he thought about the choices that he had ahead of him.

But, after the angel spoke to him, he immediately believes and obeys.  How critical that would be at that moment and in the future when the angel again came to him in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with his wife and baby.

From the earliest days of Jesus' earthly life, he has both of his parents setting the example to listen to God and to obey what He says.  

The shepherds also had an angel encounter.  Theirs was quite dramatic!  We are told that a heavenly host of angels appeared and sang!  I'm pretty sure that they were freaked out, at least initially.  

I love that the angels came to those who had time to hear them.

These shepherds had the privilege of knowing about this good news before anyone else did and they also responded in obedience as they went to seek out this baby King.

How will you respond to the good news of Jesus this Christmas?

Will you continue in disbelief?

Will you respond in faith?

Will you share this news with someone else?

Will you be obedient to God's call?

I am so grateful for this good news.  

I am so grateful that God became flesh and dwelt among us.

I am so grateful for the life that He gives me 
and offers to each one of you.

Merry Christmas, indeed.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings ~ The Alpha and Omega

Well - since my last blog, I have truly been wandering!  I braved the winter storms and left Chicago on Sunday, driving through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.  It was a bit dicey at times but I arrived at James and Ashley's house safe and sound.  Ashley skated out in her snow boots to greet me!

It has already been a great time of painting kitchen cabinets and visiting with friends.  I'll be making my rounds and then meeting up with Alan to head up to the mountains of Colorado.

I was taking a moment this morning to do my daily Bible reading in Revelation 1.  Revelation is such an amazing book and I love the descriptions of Jesus in this first chapter.

"John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from 

Him who is and who was and who is to come

and from the seven Spirits who are
 before His throne, and from Jesus Christ,  

the faithful witness

the firstborn of the dead

and the ruler of the kings of the earth

To Him who loves us and
  
released us from our sins by His blood 

and He has made us to be a kingdom

priests to His God and Father—
to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Behold, He is coming with the clouds

and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; 
and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen."
 
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” 

says the Lord God

who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. 
And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;  
and in the middle of the lampstands I saw 

one like a son of man,  

clothed in a robe reaching to the feet,

and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 
  
His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow

and His eyes were like a flame of fire.  

His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace,
  
and His voice was like the sound of many waters.  

In His right hand He held seven stars, and  

out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; 

and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
 
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. 
And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 

Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 
  
 and the living One;

and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore

and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 

What description is your favorite?

For some reason today, (maybe it is the sunshine that is melting all this ice!), I was particularly struck by the phrase "His face was like the sun shining in its strength."  I think about how hard it is to look right into the sun because of its intensity, but how the sun warms us and gives us light.  I love that description and and I think it speaks to how impossible it was for John to put what he is seeing into words.  "Sun shining in its strength" is a phrase that I think I understand and then when I read it again, I realize that is speaks of something so amazing that it defies words.

There is something comfortable about God as an infant.  There is something nice about Christmas lights, nativity scenes, pretty packages and trees that sparkle.  I actually love all of those things, but I never want to forget just Who that infant was and is and will forever be.

When I read that passage and those descriptions of Jesus, I am just in awe of the power and might of our Lord.  I am humbled that this Mighty God came down so that I could have life in Him.  This warrior was willing to war on my behalf.  

May the power of that babe in the manger be very real to you this season!



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Unexpected Friendships

I had a normal kind of busy day.  At the end of the day, I was scheduled to ride the train downtown and meet a couple who are in Chicago for a short stay and need some help.  Did I mention the windchill was somewhere in the teens?

I knew their names and a little bit of information about them.

I knew that the wife has MS and they were in Chicago for a trial treatment.  They had just traveled here and bless their hearts, arrived on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving (such horrible traffic to greet them!) 

I knew that they were Christians, but they were weary, lonely and in need.

What I didn't know was what a blessing it would be to meet them.  They are such a sweet couple who have been dealing with this devastating disease for the last 7 years.  They are diligent about being educated about the disease and about all the available treatments that are out there.  They are seeking to get the best care possible.

They are also trusting the Lord through it.  I appreciate the husband's honesty as he talks about what a struggle it has been. There have been a lot of ups and downs. He has experienced anger and resentment.  His faith is real and it is raw.  But - he continues to seek the Lord in the midst of the struggle and faithfully serves his wife. They continue to be hopeful while accepting whatever path the Lord takes them down.  They are living out their vows to love one another "in sickness and in health" to the fullest. 

Why did they reach out to my church out of all the churches here in Chicago?  How did we get connected?  I would have to say it is completely the Lord.  He led them to us and He brought us together. 

I am thankful for the bigger picture of God's plan and the faithfulness of His children.  There is just something so encouraging about seeing someone who is struggling and suffering choosing to trust the Lord and be His witnesses. 

I am thankful for unexpected friendships. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Wrapping it up

This week ends a semester of small group time.  
We have been doing Jennie Allen's study called, CHASE.  
What a fantastic semester it has been!  
We have spent time studying David's life, 
his amazing writings in the Psalms 
and his relentless pursuit of our Almighty God.  

It has been a wonderful, sometimes difficult, gut wrenching, 
hopeful, amazing journey to share with 11 wonderful women.  

This week is one of those "wrap up" weeks which 
seems appropriate with Christmas coming.


I love wrapping packages and piling them under the tree.  
I love finding the perfect gift and watching 
someone open it up and smile.  

For me, that is exactly what the Lord has done with this study.  
He took me on a journey that ended with a beautifully 
wrapped up package that He chose especially for me.

Here is a peek into some of that gift and what I have been learning.

What has most convicted you while studying the life of David?

For me, I found shades of legalism and performance mentality that linger.  Oh, how I would love for those two things to disappear.  Of course, becoming aware of them has to happen first!  I also found that I can be guilty of an attitude of entitlement and putting my hope in this life instead of the next.  I am not entitled to anything in this life. God does not owe me.  I know this is my mind, but I don't always exhibit it in my attitudes and actions.  I want my hope to be solely in the Lord Himself - not in anything else.

What did you discover you believed about God that was incorrect?

I don't know that I discovered something new here - but I was reminded that He is not placing check marks by my name for good behavior.  He is not impressed when I perform.  He loves me and He values my obedience because that obedience is an expression of my love and trust in Him.

What have you learned about His character?

I love to sit back and marvel at the character of God!  He is good, just, merciful, gracious, kind, loving, giving, forgiving, powerful, refining, trustworthy, faithful and more than enough.  

How do you want to live in light of this?

I want to live in such a way that no one can deny God's power and presence in my life.   I want His goodness and His character to be seen so that He would be glorified and lifted up as I live in obedience and trust.  I want to place my hope in Him alone and live like I truly believe that Jesus is real and heaven is coming.  I want to make a difference while I am here and I want to be completely spent when I enter into His presence.  

No holding back
 
no fear of the future 

no thought for myself 

I just want some serious Jesus 
oozing out of every part of my being.

I want to CHASE after the Lord every single day of my life here and chase after Him right into eternity.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday's Thoughts ~ The perfect fit

It's Thanksgiving week!!  I had a birthday.  My friends in Chicago gave me a surprise party (first one I've ever had and it was so much fun!!) and my kids are all here.  Here I am - at the corner of grace and bliss, once again and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet!

In the midst of it all, God speaks.  I love that about my life.  No matter what is going on, God has things to tell me and teach me. This has been a season of studying David.  There has been a sermon series about his life at church and my small group study has been based on his life also.  David's life is fascinating and one that is so raw and real that we can identify with him in numerous ways. 

This week at church, we focused on a couple of verses in 1st Samuel 17.  It is the picture of Saul giving David his personal armor to fight Goliath.  A sad picture, really, since Saul should have been the one to step up and take the challenge.  Now there is a lot to say about that, but I have always been fascinated by the armor incident (as I like to call it!)

"Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor. David tried to walk but he could hardly budge.  David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this. And he took it all off."

David is a teenager at this point.  He is young and most likely not full grown.  Saul places his man-size armor on this boy and needless to say, it does not fit.  It is heavy and bulky.  David can't even move in it.

That got me thinking about how we, at times, try to take on something that is not ours.  For example, we admire a particular talent, job or ministry and decide that is what we will do.   We can also do this to others.  That is really what happened here. Saul tried to take something that God had asked him to do and put it on someone else. 

I love David's response.  He took off the heavy armor of another and went back to the things that God had equipped him to use.

"Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath."

You see, David had been in training for this event all of his life.  He had faithfully been tending sheep which involved protecting them from danger.  David had been to the school of the brave and courageous and that is exactly what he needed in this moment.

What has the Lord asked you to do?

Are you doing it?

Are you using the gifts that He specifically gave to you?

Are you leaning on Him to give you everything that you need?

When the Lord calls you, He prepares you and equips you.  All your experiences are preparing you for what is next. 

I laugh at myself sometimes when I find myself in the midst of something and realize that it is exactly what the Lord has prepared me for!  He is so faithful.  He is always at work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

So . . . suit up!  Just be sure that you are using the armor that the Lord has given you and not someone else.  Fulfill the ministry He has given you, not anothers and don't ask someone else to fulfill yours.  

Trust Him to use you to 
slay some giants.

 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Overflowing Joy

I am in one of those sweet places in life where I am keenly aware of all the amazing blessings around me.

You know how sometimes everything seems to be in  
BOLD print and 
BRIGHT colors?

I am in a very rich season of relationships.  Over the past week or so, I have had the privilege of spending time with so many people.  I've had amazing conversations and I've listened . . . a lot.  I've been able to encourage and speak God's truth.  I have laughed, cried, rocked a baby and shared the news that I'm going to be a grandma.

In fact, I have a bliss hangover.

Is everything perfect?  Am I problem free?  

NO

But, I am way too busy seeing God's goodness 
to worry too much about the things 
that aren't right.  

Seems fitting with Thanksgiving on the horizon.  I want to encourage you to take time over this next week to ponder God's goodness in your life.  In fact, start to make a list and then read it on Thanksgiving day.  I think you will find yourself in some serious bliss.

What if things are really not good right now?  
What if your circumstances are tough?

Let me help you get started.


God's mercy
God's grace
God's presence
God's provision
God's peace
God's plan

LIFE

JOY

SALVATION

Heaven awaits but the Holy Spirit indwells

Now . . . you can add blessings that are of the earthly nature.

Isn't that amazing?!?!?!

There isn't enough room to list everything that I am thankful for . . . 
but I'm sure going to try.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday's Thought ~ Living in the Moment

There is a stinkin' lot going on right now!  There is no grass growing under my feet -- that is for sure!  God has been speaking to me about something from several different angles, so I thought I'd attempt to put a few thoughts down.

There is a lot to think about in the coming months and even years.  My mind seems to want to jump to those places and live awhile.  I have to make a very conscious decision to pull it back where it belongs!

Heather is at 12 weeks in her pregnancy today.  Whoo!  I am so excited.  I want to enjoy every day of this adventure - every change, every feeling, every thought . . . I don't want to jump to June too fast.

Alan is beginning to think about what is next in his career.  We are anticipating being grandparents.  We can even look ahead to retirement . . . eventually.


What's wrong with that?

Nothing, really.  

We all like to look ahead and dream a bit.  

It is quite natural to anticipate the next stage of life, whatever that may be. 

BUT, if we are always looking ahead, 
we may very well miss what the 
Lord has for us here and now.

I don't want to do that.

I want to soak up everything that the Lord has for me 
right here, right now.

I want to serve Him with my whole heart - 
completely engaged where He has me.

In this moment.

I want to learn, and grow, and stretch, and respond with faith.

I want to grab every opportunity to be encouraging, 
help someone out and LOVE big.

After all, we really only have this moment.  

We are not promised another one.

LIVE BIG and LOVE BIG

Find Jesus in every moment.  
He is here, right now.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Where does the time go?

April 25, 1987 ~ Heather Rene Goad arrived on the planet.  What amazing joy!  It has been such a great privilege to watch her grow and mature into such an amazing woman of God.  She is my joy, my sweet friend and precious daughter.

What could be better?

Well, that wonderful daughter bringing another sweet little one into the world!

That's right . . . I'm going to be a grandmother!


Here is sweet baby Brenton!

Alan and I are thrilled.

Cooper and Heather will be amazing parents and we are going
to have so much fun!

I am praising God for this miracle and thanking 
Him for this sweet gift.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Musings ~ A week of Blessings!

Well - here I am, running behind on blogging again.  It has been such a fantastic and busy week. Life has changed quite dramatically from last Monday.  Why, you ask?




The birth of Ezra Atlas Cauble!!

What a privilege to welcome this sweet little man to the world.  We have been anticipating his arrival and it was everything we hoped for.  He is a happy, healthy, beautiful, bouncing baby boy!  
 
Ashley and Aaron are some of our dearest friends, 
so we celebrate this big event with great joy. 
 
As if that wasn't enough, I got to participate in our very first Women's Retreat for Destination Church here in Chicago.  We traveled to a camp in Michigan.  It was a beautiful setting.  37 of us shared a wonderful time together of worship, fellowship, teaching and sharing.  I stand back in awe of all that the Lord is doing in the lives of these women and the privilege I have to share in that journey.  I don't even know how to express how much I love and care for these women.  They make my life so very rich.
 


I don't know why I get to be a part of so many wonderful events, have so many wonderful people in my life and such incredible blessings beyond what I could have imagined.  But I can tell you this . . .  I am so very thankful.

God's Grace

God's Gifts

God's Goodness

 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Jet Lag and Japan

I have never experienced the power of jet lag quite like I have this trip!  Perhaps that is because I never traveled to the other side of the world!  I stay awake all day and function okay - but I can't sleep at night.  I'm having a bit of an out of body experience!  Unfortunately, I'm still responsible for various things in life that can not be put off for another week so I just keep plugging away! 

Disclaimer:  If I say or do anything goofy - it is obviously due to jet lag because we know I wouldn't do that normally, right?

Here are some unique things about Japan:

It is quiet.  SHHHHHH!  I have never been to such a quiet place. 

Even as people pour out of the train station, it is quiet.  You really only hear the sound of footsteps.  They patiently stand in line to go up the escalator or the stairs.  There is no pushing and shoving.  There is no rude language.  Let's just say that is quite the contrast to our train stations here in Chicago!  Even as we walked along the streets of Tokyo, it was so quiet.  Even the construction was quiet - seriously, it really was!



 The Japanese are very practical.  Space is used so well providing everything you need without anything you can live without.  Our hotels were the perfect example of this.



I don't know if you can tell, but this is one tiny bathroom.  There is a lever on the sink that you can switch to use water in the sink or water in the shower.  You have to shuffle a bit to fit in there, but it works!  Heated toilet seats are standard, also, so I would say they have their priorities right!  A toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, dryer and even in some instances, a hairbrush, are provided.  They also supply you with pajamas which people wear down to breakfast.  If you were a business traveler, you could travel around the country taking very little with you.  It makes sense!

There is an expectation of perfection.  The work day is long and the expectations are high. It is a beautiful country where order and fitting in are highly valued.  For much of the country, being different or individual is not valued and could even be shunned.   Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  Death is chosen over failure in too many instances. 

That breaks my heart.  The message of grace is desperately needed. 

I did have the privilege of sharing the story of The Prodigal Son in two different locations.  What good news that even as we sin and go our own way, God runs toward us ready to welcome us back.  The righteousness of Jesus covers our sin.

This is the symbol for grace.

Don't you love it?  The cross makes all the difference.  The message of grace is powerful in any language but in Japanese culture, it is difficult to accept.

I'm so thankful for the wonderful people we met who are willing to spend their lives delivering the message of God's grace.  He loves His people and desires for all of them to come to know Him.  My heart will never be the same.  I long to see these people come to know Jesus.  In a country with less than 1% of the population professing Christianity, there is a great need for believers to go and to share.  I am so grateful for the Japanese who have made the choice to follow Jesus and are reaching out to their fellow countrymen.  

Would you pause and pray for the country of Japan and continue to do so as the Lord brings it to mind? 
 
Will you take advantage of the opportunities you have to share Christ with those around you?  His grace is desperately needed here in the USA as well.
 
My heart is forever changed.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Two Wedensdays

Konnichiwa!  Greetings from Japan.  I had a fantastic 10 days seeing a beautiful country and spending time with a precious missionary family - the Towerys.  I will be talking a lot more about this trip in the weeks to come.  Here are a few highlights.

Best of all - Yu, Luke, Logan and Michael Towery.


They are an amazing family who love Jesus in a big way.  They love and serve the people of Japan both tirelessly and selflessly.  They are a light in a country where very few have heard the gospel. 

They challenge me to be bold 
in my own part of the world 
and to love others with abandon.

I'd have to say that the children of Japan stole my heart.





Seriously - Are they not adorable?  We got to play with them, sing with them and teach them a little English.  They are precious.  They are Japan's hope for the future.

I was a bit sad about not being able to go to Colorado this fall.  
Well - the Lord had a HUGE surprise for me!

Fall in Japan





Can you even believe that?  It was hard to capture it in a picture.  It was breathtaking (and did you notice the snow :-))  It was a sweet smile from the Lord as if He was saying, "Chrisann - just take a look at my beauty.  It is all over my creation."

And then there were the three people that I traveled with, prayed with, talked with and worked with.  They are a HUGE blessing in my life.  My life is richer for sharing this experience with them.  They each bring something unique to the mix and if I say so myself, we made a good team.  Hats off to Jerimiah for leading us well.

Jerimiah, Deanne, Mary and myself
My life will be forever touched by their faith, humor, energy, passion and gifts.

Two Wednesdays? 

Yes - We left Japan on Wednesday at noon and landed in Dallas on Wednesday morning at 9:00 (hard to wrap your mind around that one!)  I then flew back to Chicago, had small group and crawled in bed around 11 (at the end of my second Wednesday!)  I was awake for about 29 hours, so I thoroughly enjoyed both.

Today - I didn't make much sense, but I enjoyed today too!

I can't wait to share more about the trip as I process all that the Lord did with that time.  I learned a great deal and shared in so many great things. 

Pondering . . .

Until then.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuesdays Thoughts ~ Window Shopping

I thought I would try to squeeze in a post before I take off for 2 weeks on my Japan adventure.  I'm looking forward to writing about that experience and all that I know the Lord will do.

In the meantime, I thought I would tell you about a brief conversation that my friend, Stacie, and I had the other day.  It was early morning, last Thursday, when Stacie and I were walking to Illinois Masonic Hospital for a day surgery on Stacie's knee.  As we walked down Belmont (a major street by my house), we commented on the window display in a store called "Something Old, Something New."

It is an interesting shop, to be sure, but we both agreed that the best things the store has were typically in the window.  Once you walked in, there wasn't much else to see.  In other words, the window dressing didn't accurately represent the contents.

Well, that got me thinking.  Nice window displays are great but they don't mean much if there is not anything great in the store. 

Wait a minute . . .

Have I been guilty of that very thing myself?

Are some of us trying to fool the world with some pretty window dressing that lacks substance?

We learn to make the outside look good.  We know the right things to say and how to smile even if our insides are crumbling.  

We can be pretenders.

What if we stop it?

What if we choose to be authentic?

What if what you see is what you get?

The world is all about window dressing without substance. 

Let's be different.

Let's be real, and honest, and unafraid.

Let's allow God to be BIG in us and through us.

Let's introduce the world to a relationship with substance.

Let's show others our loving, gracious, forgiving, ever present Jesus.

Let's have a window display that includes pain, despair, disappointment, confusion, forgiveness, mercy, grace, love and hope.

That would be real.

What is in your window display?




Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ October

I love the month of October.  It is a delightful time here in Chicago.  The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning beautiful colors and gang activity slows down (seriously - colder weather has its perks!) 



Small groups start back up at church.  Now - I know I have written about small groups before, but just let me say it again.  I LOVE SMALL GROUPS!  I have a group of 13 women and we are going through a study by Jennie Allen called CHASE.  We are already being challenged and encouraged.  I already LOVE these women.  They are from different places, of different ages and in different points in their walk with the Lord.  It is so much fun to see them already growing to love and care about one another. 

October brings the Chicago Marathon and my hubby is running in it this year.  He has worked hard and I'm proud of his dedication.  I know he will do well.  One of his closest friends, Greg Creasy, is coming to run it with him.  Should be a great experience for them to share.  I'll be happily waiting at the finish line.


October also brings a trip to Texas to celebrate with my parents as they are honored at Baylor University.  I can't say enough about my parents' generosity and service to Baylor and its students.  They are amazing people who have made such a difference in so many lives.  I've known how fantastic they are all along - but it is fun to see them honored in such a wonderful and well deserved way.


October also brings an unexpected opportunity to go on a mission trip to Japan!  I'm heading to Japan on Oct. 21-30.  This truly came out of the blue and I am excited to see what the Lord has up His sleeve (so to speak!)



October seems to stand for opportunity this year.  

I am thankful for all that the Lord is up to this month and the privilege of being a part of it. 

Embrace what the Lord has for you in the coming weeks!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday's Thoughts ~ Invisalign your Life

I am wrapping up 6 months of invisalign braces.  I never had traditional braces, but I could probably have used them!  By the time someone suggested that, I was graduating from college, and teaching High School with braces on just didn't seem wise.  These days, I would venture to guess that almost all kids have braces at some point.


Straight teeth are a luxury and not something that I had to have ~ but something I always wanted to have.  Of course, straight teeth are good for dental health, but I really just wanted to look in the mirror and see straight teeth.  Alan was kind enough to go along with this indulgence!

It is a process that involves a series of plastic trays that gradually move your teeth to the right spot.  It is done by subtle pressure .  You wear them all the time with the exception of eating a meal.  You brush your teeth many, many times a day.  As you switch out the trays every two weeks, they, step by step, move your teeth to proper alignment.  It is a pretty amazing process.

So - why am I writing about invisalign braces?  

Have I become a spokesman for the company?

NO

As I was finishing up this process this week, it made me think of that gradual work of spiritual formation in our lives.  I thought about Derek Webb's song, Crooked Deep Down.

good lord i am crooked deep down
everyone is crooked deep down
but good lord i am crooked deep down
everyone is crooked deep down
everyone is crooked deep down

I have to agree. 

We all need spiritual braces.

We are a crooked bunch.  We struggle with selfishness, a slew of crazy thoughts running through our minds and a desire to simply fulfill all our desires!

Sin runs deep.

The most amazing thing happens when we submit our crookedness to the Lord.  Much like my dentist, He accesses the situation and prescribes the solution.

He takes those areas of our lives that are truly crooked and begins the process of bringing us in alignment with His Word, His character and His desires.

Much like my braces, it is a gradual work of the Spirit.  As we seek after God, allowing Him to have His way with our crookedness -- He aligns our spirit with His and before we know it, we begin to look like our Heavenly Father.

And as you can imagine . . . we smile.

My braces were a bit painful at points.  That pressure was occasionally uncomfortable and I even had a few headaches.

There were times when I wondered if the hassle of the invisalign was worth it.  I grew weary of the process at some points and had to remind myself that the outcome would be worth it.

The same can be said for spiritual formation.  The changes that the work of the Spirit brings in our life are sometimes difficult.  There are moments that are very uncomfortable and even painful.  There is routine and discipline that is not always exciting, but much like my braces, the outcome will be worth it.

There is great joy in aligning our life with the life of Jesus.

In fact, there is no greater joy.

May the Spirit continually be aligning your life with the life of Jesus.

SMILE :-)






Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Tender hearts

The state of our heart is so central to our life.


Hebrews 3 has one of my favorite passages about our hearts.  It contains both warnings and encouragements.  God cares about the heart. 

In fact, there are 805 references to the heart in Scripture.  

805

They start in Genesis and end in Revelation.  That tells me that my heart and its condition are a very big deal.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:22-24
 
It's all about the heart.
 
Take care, brothers, that there not be in any one of you an evil, 
unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  
But encourage one another day after day, 
as long as it is still called, "Today," 
so that none of you will be hardened 
by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 3:12-13

The word for encourage can also be translated exhort or urge.  We are to always be helping one another grow up in our walk with Jesus.  Sometimes, that involves pointing out what we are not doing well and at other times it is just encouraging each other as we seek to follow Jesus.

We are warned against an unbelieving heart and against a hardened heart.  Both take us to a difficult place.

That got me thinking about what we can do to help each other have a tender heart toward the things of the Lord.

It also got me thinking about what we should avoid doing so that we do not contribute to someone's heart becoming hardened toward the Lord.

I believe that hard hearts can be a result of our own sin, rebellion and selfishness.  I also think they can come from criticism, negativity, judgment and discouragement.

As a heart becomes hardened, the ears become a bit deaf.  The voice of God is easily drowned out and eventually becomes silent.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  God's voice is still there, but we tune it out to the point that we simply do not hear it anymore.  
 
I'm not sure anything frightens me more.

How do we guard ourselves against a hardened heart?
 
We confess sin.  
 
We commit to see our sin as God sees it.
 
We seek to have encouragers in our life that build up our faith.
 
We stay in the Word and are continually filled with the Spirit.
 
 
How do we encourage others to have a tender heart?
 
Affirm it.  
Any time I get a chance to tell someone that 
God loves their tender heart ~
I do it.
 
Encourage others in the ways that they are like Jesus 
in both their actions and their character.
 
Be willing to speak up if you see that crusty edge appearing on someone's heart.  It is the kindest thing you could do for someone else.  
 
Let's love one another - one tender heart to another.
 
God loves a tender heart.
 


 
 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Strangers on a train

I saw the face of Jesus.

No - not that Sunday School picture of Caucasian Jesus :-)

I had an interesting experience on the Elevated Train here in my fair city that I felt like I needed to share.

The train . . . there is nothing quite like it!  It is amazing to have public transportation and it is something that we have loved here in Chicago.  Of course, you have to take the bad with the good. 




There are some unique smells.  There are a lot of interesting people.  There is a lot of noise.  Some rides are silent with everyone on their phone.  Others have a group having a loud conversation or someone talking on their phone to a person that is apparently very hard of hearing.  There are those that have been riding the train all night right beside businessmen and school children.  It is a sampling of the City.

Did I mention that you are very close to complete strangers?

Yeah - there's that too.  Rush hour rides are a true phenomena.  You are sometimes right in someones face - literally an inch apart and somehow, it works.

I was riding the train back from downtown after meeting a friend for lunch.  It was around 3:30 in the afternoon so the train was only moderately crowded.  It was a typical ride - nothing too unusual until just a few stops before mine.  I was sitting next to a man who got on with a guitar and an ipad.  He was quiet and into whatever he was doing on his ipad.  We came to the Fullerton stop and a young guy got on to our train car. 

It was apparent that he was agitated as soon as he got on.  He was dirty and angry.  He began addressing the whole train car in a very loud voice. (This is a bit unusual!)  He started to tell his story.  He had recently been released from the hospital with a foot infection.  He showed us his infected foot to make sure we would believe him.  (Yikes) He needed money to get his prescription filled.  He made a lot of statements, such as

"I know you don't believe me."  

"I just need some help."  

"I'm homeless and no one will help me."  

"People won't listen to you when you look like me."  

"At least no one is cussing me out."

He was covered in tattoos and had a pretty wild look in his eyes. He had the look of someone who had traveled a very lonely and dark road.  One man gave him a dollar and then the man next to me and I gave him some money.  He sat down across from us and started telling us his whole story.  It was a story of gang activity, loss of a sister, jail time, being cut off from his family, regret, shame, being down and out with no where to go and no where to turn.

The man next to me was so compassionate.  He listened and nodded.  He empathized.  He looked him in the eye and carried on a conversation with him.  The young, troubled man got off at the next stop.

I turned to the man next to me and told him that he did a really good job of showing this guy true compassion and care.  He smiled and said that too often, we don't treat people in that situation like they are human - like they matter - that at least we can listen and empathize.  

We talked about the plight of the homeless in the City and the role that mental illness plays in it.  We talked about how overwhelming it is - but that even the small things we do matter. 

We don't know if that young guy used the money we gave him to get his antibiotic.  Perhaps he didn't.  I noticed him talking to himself and gesturing wildly as he got off the train and walked down the platform.  The man next to me and I decided that it didn't matter. We couldn't control what this young guy did with the money, but we could do what we could to let him know that we cared about his story.

I was so touched by the gentleness and caring spirit of my fellow train traveler.  I don't know if I will ever see him again, but he truly touched my life and increased my awareness of taking a risk on a train and reaching out to a hurting soul.

Thank you, Jesus, for showing up in the face of a stranger today. 

One stranger who was down and out . . .

                          one stranger who dared to care about him. 

I saw You in both faces.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Musings ~ Pathways

 What is your path like right now?

Is it dark and just a bit scary?

Is it light and welcoming?


Are you at a crossroad - wondering which path to choose?

I think I have spent some considerable time on each one of these paths.  Sometimes - I can see far ahead and am super excited about what is coming.  Sometimes, things are so dark around me, that I can't even imagine taking another step forward.  At other times, I am totally confused about which path to take and just a bit frightened about choosing the wrong one.

So - again -- what is your path like right now?

Some days, I've started out on a light and breezy path only to suddenly find myself tripping over a hidden tree root and sprawling out on the ground.  Things are not always what they seem - are they?  My vision is limited.

I think that is why the Lord always encourages us to take one step at a time; always depending on Him fully. 

He promises to meet our needs DAILY.

He promises to give us the words to say AS WE NEED THEM.

He promises to give us the strength we need for EACH SITUATION.

He promises His presence right by our side EACH STEP OF THE WAY.

He promises to supply our needs according to HIS RICHES.

He promises grace that is SUFFICIENT.

I am a huge fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He is one of my heroes.  I was reading a devotional by him today and loved His wisdom on this subject.

Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. 
But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. 
Discipleship is joy.
 
No matter our path at the moment, we have His assurance of mercy.  No matter our circumstances, we have His gift of JOY.  
Do not despair . . . you do not travel alone.  

He knows our path and ultimately, He is at the end of it.


 
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet
A light to my path.
Psalm 119:105