Only Practice on the Days You Eat

29 01 2010

My son is in the orchestra. He plays the double bass (the big instrument in the back). He loves it, and it has been a lot of fun to watch (hear) him grow over the years. His very first orchestra teacher gave him a great rule of thumb – only practice on the days you eat. She knew that consistent, regular practice was essential to becoming a great string player.

Everything we want to do well takes practice. There is a little book that was written over three hundred years ago by a man named Brother Lawrence – The Practice of the Presence of God. In this collection of letters and conversations, Brother Lawrence tells of a choice he made when he was assigned to work in the kitchen. He decided that he would devote his days to being with God, no matter his task. He peeled potatoes with God. He washed dishes with God. He learned to spend His days with God.

I like the title of his book. It highlights the truth that fully experiencing the presence of God requires a learning process. It is a journey. It isn’t a switch you turn off or on. It is a determination to seek out His presence more today than I did yesterday. It takes practice. Practice means that there will be A+ days and days that don’t go so well. Days in which I dive into the process with anticipation and days in which I have to push myself to participate. Practice trains my eyes, my heart, my ears. and my soul to gradually be a little more sensitive, a little more ready, and a little more alert to His presence.

So here is My Jesus Resolution. I will practice the presence of God. I will practice seeing Him in the kitchen, in the laundry, in the people around me, and in the places I go today. I will do my homework, knowing that the lessons will help me see His face. I am only going to practice on the days I eat. Will you practice with me?

Checking for Fingerprints

27 01 2010

Some days it is just hard to see God. There are days when His presence just explodes across my day. It seems I couldn’t miss Him if I tried. And then there are days like today. Not a terrible day, just one filled with distractions. Deadlines loom, the phone rings, laundry piles up, and the dishes threaten to topple out of the sink. Worry, stress, and frustration make the evidence of His presence hard to find.

One sure-fire way to refocus my heart is to spend ten minutes counting my blessings. Like the song says, “Name them one by one.” Our blessings are the clearest evidence of God’s movement in our lives. It doesn’t take long into my list before my vision clears. The longer the list grows, the lighter my heart feels. My blessings are tangible reminders that God is here. He loves me. He cares about the details of my day. Blessings are God’s arms wrapped around me. The more I count, the tighter the hug.

An awareness of God’s presence is essential, and nothing is better at connecting the dots between His hand and my heart than counting my blessings. The Jesus Resolution challenges you to keep a running list today of all of the ways God touches your day. Count your blessings. Name them one by one. When His fingerprints are hard to find, counting your blessings helps highlight where His hand has touched your day. Ready?  1…2…3…

Shhhh… God is Near

25 01 2010

Do you know how to be quiet?

I don’t mean the “Shh, I’m on the phone” kind of quiet. I mean the “Shh, God is near” kind of quiet. The quiet that requires I deliberately move away from the noise of the world in order to better hear the voice of God. The stillness that demands I release the worry and frustration of the day in order to rest in the presence of God. The silence that compels me to stop talking and soak in the myriad of ways that God wants me to be aware that He is near.

Stillness and quiet are disciplines that call us to deep surrender. We live in a noisy world. Our lives are filled with family, jobs, neighbors, friends, media, electronics, and demands that constantly vie for our attention. And those aren’t even the noisiest parts of my day! Even in the pockets of quiet I find in my day, my heart isn’t still. There is a running list of things to do, people to take care of, events to be attended, and worries about all of the above.

In order to become like Jesus, I need to surrender to the stillness that is necessary for me to hear His voice and listen to His heart. I need to learn to quiet my heart because everything changes when I move into His stillness. The quiet of His presence gives me a new perspective about the activities that fill my day. When I am still, I can find His fingerprints all around me. I can hear His voice even in the chaos that often seems to fill my days. I develop a special sensitivity to His presence that sticks with me.

My Jesus Resolution today calls me to be quiet. For just a few minutes, I will turn it all off and set it all down. “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” Shhh…. God is near.

Obedience Training

22 01 2010

God can teach us lessons in the most unusual places.

Yesterday I was taking a walk with our dog, Shelby. Shelby is a sweet little sheltie mix who came to be a part of our family about six years ago. She was a rescue dog who never ceases to be grateful for a family to love.

Shelby and I were walking through the streets of our neighborhood. Normally my mind is focused on other things, but today I was watching Shelby and noticing how God was using her to teach me about walking with Him. Shelby always walks by my left side. She stays put. If I go faster, she keeps pace. If I slow down, she is right there with me. If I stop, she sits and waits. While she is walking, she turns every few seconds to look at me. If I veer a little to the right or the left, she moves with me. She keeps her ears tuned to my footsteps. Any change in the rhythm causes her to check and see where I am. She learned how to walk with me this way because she undergoes obedience training.

Walking with God is a matter of obedience training. That is what the law, commands, and expressions of will are meant to do. They are not burdens to be carried. They are training tools that teach me how to be obedient so I can best walk with Christ. They help me stay right by His side. I want to keep pace with Him – measure my steps by His movement, rather than my own tendency to hurry up or lag behind. I want to keep my eyes on the Lord. I want to always check to make sure that He is in my line of vision – that I am measuring where I walk by where He is. I want my ears to be so used to hearing His steps that any change in His movement catches my attention and calls me to match my steps with His.

My Jesus Resolution is a resolve to enter into obedience training. To let God shape my life to His glory. To surrender my will so that I can be conformed into the image of Christ. To learn to be so aware of His presence that a mere glance will tell me where to move.

10 Places to See God Today

20 01 2010

1. Open your Bible – The Bible is living ground on which to meet God. From the pages of His book, He speaks to us and invites us to move in closer to His heart.

2. Say a prayer – Getting on our knees changes our perspective in amazing ways.

3. Take a God walk – Psalm 19 tells us “the heavens declare the glory of God.” It doesn’t matter what season it is, what the weather is like, or what time of day it is, creation lifts a chorus of praise that beckons us to join in.

4. Hug a friend – The people we love help us see God in their kindness, laughter, acceptance, and goodness. Each special relationship in our lives is a blessing that God intends to be a reminder of the relationship He wants to share with us.

5. Watch a child – The innocent play of a child frames a picture of faith that is worth holding on to.

6. Eat some chocolate – Let its sweetness remind you of God’s compelling call to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

7. Wash your hands – As the soap and water run over your hands, thank God for the way that He washes you clean through the blood of Jesus. Rub your hands together and remember that He has your name engraved on the palms of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

8. Sing a song – What is your favorite God song? Sing it out loud – in the shower, in your car, in the middle of your living room – and watch how it lifts your eyes to the Father’s face.

9. Be quiet for five full minutes – “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

10. Look in the mirror – God is working in your life to create the image of Christ in you. That is what The Jesus Resolution is all about. Don’t sell yourself short. When God sees you, He sees Jesus. So do I.

Open My Eyes

18 01 2010

One of the first moves into The Jesus Resolution is learning to live with an awareness of God’s presence. It is the word learning that is the key. It is a process; a journey in which we train our eyes to see beyond the physical into a world that is far richer and grander than appears on the surface.

Of course, we cannot teach ourselves how to see God. This is part of the deep transformation He works inside of us. Our task is to recognize our need for new eyes and take that need to Him. We have to learn to pray Elisha’s prayer.

It was an ordinary morning. Doing chores, preparing for the day, the servant stepped out into the cool dawn. He didn’t know the forces of evil had been moving through the night. He looked around, and jumped back. The entire city was surrounded by horses and chariots demanding to be noticed and feared. Panic squeezed his heart, even as the desperate words raced out of his mouth. “What shall we do?”

Elisha’s response in 2 Kings 6:16-17 inspires me and challenges me. “’Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Same situation, different vision. Where the servant saw only the enemy, Elisha saw the power and faithfulness of God. I want to be like Elisha. I want to see God at work even in places where others only see darkness and feel fear. I want to experience the full impact of God’s goodness, regardless of where I stand.

Learning to be aware of God’s presence begins with asking God to open our eyes. That is my prayer for you today. I pray that God will open your eyes wide and help you see Him clearly.

Afire with God

15 01 2010

Where did I see God today? That is the question we must learn to ask ourselves. Our eyes don’t naturally seek His face. Our hearts don’t instinctively reach for Him. It is all too easy for me to go through my day and miss Him. I get busy, and my eyes spend more time looking at my to-do list and my watch than looking for the Savior. The Jesus Resolution challenges me to discover the difference a constant awareness of His presence will make in my day.

A short poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning cuts straight to the heart of what I need to learn about looking for God.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

I love the picture painted in the first two lines. Earth is crammed with heaven. Stuffed into the folds of today are tastes of eternity. Moments when we can experience deep wonder, overwhelming joy, and profound peace. The words contain a dare to open our eyes and behold the truth that every common bush is afire with God. The ordinary holds evidence of the amazing. The average frames the awe-inspiring. God’s fingerprints are everywhere. His presence explodes across the canvas of our days if we are willing to look.

The second two lines cause me to look deep into my heart. Only when I see, only when I raise my focus and cast off the blinders that so easily slip over my eyes, will I be drawn to my knees in worship. The moment when I recognize that I am in the presence of God, I can slip out of my shoes and stand on holy ground.

It is easy to miss. God, however, goes out of His way to color the world with evidence of His presence. I don’t want blackberries or BlackBerrys to draw my eyes away from the astounding truth that God is near.

Where did you see God today?

Chillin’ with God

13 01 2010

Record freezing temperatures have gripped the southern United States. Houston (where I live) has held its breath, dug out the coats, and watched as news stations warn us about the dangers to the 3 P’s (pipes, plants, and pets for those of you in places who are shaking your heads because we need to be told not to leave our dogs outside in 19 degree weather.) Our little neighborhood is blanketed against the cold. No, I mean that literally. The yards are covered in sheets and blankets as we try to protect our tropical plants from temperatures that are the reason we chose to live in south Texas to begin with.

It wasn’t always this way for me. I grew up in Minnesota. Yes, that Minnesota. Years ago I would have seen a 19 degree day in January as balmy and begged my mom to let me go outside to play because it had warmed up so much. My brother, sister, and I would have worked on the snow fort and stockpiled snowballs for the next neighborhood war.

However you view winter, this season provides us with an opportunity to see God. We are, at this moment, enjoying the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise. Every time the seasons turn, the wind blows, the rain falls, or the sky changes, we are living in the full embrace of God’s faithfulness.

This is what God promised Noah in Genesis 8:22 –

“As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night will never cease.”

The Jesus Resolution compels me to look for God in every day. The very weather we enjoy (or complain about) speaks to His goodness, faithfulness, and movement all around us. Next time I watch the weather, I am going to see the map as a reminder that God controls every wind, plans each rain storm, and spins the earth so we can enjoy changing seasons. Each time He does, He remembers a promise He made to man who walked with Him – all so I can learn to walk with Him.

Messy With Jesus

11 01 2010

My daughter went back to school yesterday. She was home for Christmas break and it was a joy. She will settle back into her routine with friends, classes, homework, and papers and do great. The rest of us will jump into our schedules and miss her like crazy.

What I am noticing this morning is that my house is clean. Too clean. When she is home, you know it. There are shoes, jackets, purses, books, and “girl stuff” everywhere (did I mention shoes?) I stand in the house, look around, and know she’s home. The evidence of her presence is everywhere. There are chick flicks stacked next to a spot that is usually only visited by aliens and superheroes. I can tell when she has walked through a room because there is the hint of a different perfume in the air. The table has its extra chair back. We have to make room in the bathroom. Someone has to sit in the backseat of the van.

There was a time when the mess would have bothered me. Not today. Today she has helped me see God. I want my life to be messy with Jesus. I want the evidence of His presence to be so noticeable in my life that others can’t help but see Him. I long to look around and know that He is at home in my heart. That He has changed what I watch, filled in the empty spaces, challenged me to rearrange my life to make more room for Him, to humble myself so He can sit in the driver’s seat, to smell the aroma of Christ on the air and know that He is walking with me into each room of my life.

My Jesus Resolution calls me to be messy today. To be so filled with Jesus that others can’t help but notice His presence in my life. Want to be messy with me?

Fishing with Friends

8 01 2010

I am thankful for my friends today. Living out The Jesus Resolution doesn’t happen in a vacuum or on an island. It requires others – to help us, hold us, make us better, slow us down, laugh with us, cry for us, and cheer us on. I am especially thankful for the way my friends help me see Jesus – where He is working, how He is moving, the ways in which He is calling me to be more His.

Most of the time I am like Peter – stubborn and a little slow. Fortunately, he has a friend. There is a fishing story in John 21 that captures what it means for friends to walk in The Jesus Resolution together.

It is some time after the resurrection. Jesus has appeared to the disciples and they are now waiting by the Sea of Galilee. Peter really isn’t a sit-around kind of guy. He decides to go fishing, and all his friends pile in the boat with him. They spend a frustrating night casting lines, throwing nets, and coming up empty.

Early in the morning, a man appears on the shore and tells them to throw their empty nets to the other side of the boat. Immediately, the ropes begin to drag and the boat slows down. The men gather around the side of the boat and begin to haul in fish – a lot of fish! As the boat gets heavier and their hearts get lighter, one of the guys in the boat looks back at the shore. He takes a good long look and pokes Peter in the side. “It is the Lord!”

Stop and watch the re-play of this moment. Peter is busy with fish. He is hauling up lines, grinning at his buddies, pulling in nets, moving fish around the deck of the boat, and laughing some more. And he misses it. His eyes don’t look for God in the moment. But his friend’s do. All it takes is one mention of Jesus to redirect Peter’s focus and heart. Before we know it, he is out of the boat and on his way to Jesus’ side.

I need friends like that. Friends who will point me to Jesus. Friends who will help me see Him when I am too busy, tired, frustrated, or burdened to look for Him myself. Friends who will stand by my side and say, “It is the Lord!”