Dark Days

25 02 2010

Some days are just hard. The darkness overtakes the sunlight. The worry creeps in. The fear squeezes a little tighter. The pain grows stronger. The loneliness seems more unbearable. Hard days. Dark days. We all struggle with them

Dark days make it hard to see God. His fingerprints fade against the swirls of anxiety and doubt painted on the canvas of our days. His hand is hard to trace, His voice difficult to hear, and His presence impossible to find.

Hard times require hope. God gives us three steps to help us reorient our hearts when they are spinning around because of the dizziness induced by dark days.

  ~ Trust My plan. God is still in control even when we struggle to see Him. He is working His purpose out in our lives. His plan still seeks to move us closer to His heart.

  ~ Remember My promises. God’s faithfulness is unchanging and immovable. We can rely on the promises He makes to us. He will not let one of His words fall to the ground in your life, no matter how low you feel.

  ~ Connect with My people. Dark days tend to find us hiding under the covers waiting for the storm to pass. God calls us into the warmth of His family. Others can help us carry our burdens, encourage and love us, and help us see His movement in our lives when we can’t see it for ourselves.

My Jesus Resolution today is to make a “dark day” action plan. I am going to renew my commitment to trusting His plan, especially on days when I don’t know what to do. I am going to make a list of His promises, and note how I can see Him working them out in my life. I am going to build my connections with His people, even when it would be easier to close the door and stay home. Dark days are a part of life. With Jesus, we can choose to move our hearts into the Son.

Defined by Jesus

24 02 2010

Walk through this list of names. What is the first word that comes to your mind when thinking about this person?

            Donald Trump

            Michael Jordan

            Julia Child

            Bill Gates

All of these people are defined by one thing. Donald Trump – money. Michael Jordan – basketball. Julia Child – cooking, Bill Gates – computers (and more money!) Their lives are, of course, complex, but they are known for one defining thing. There is one interest, one talent, one passion that centers their lives, making them recognizable in the world.

Look in the mirror. What defines you? If the people in your world had to sum your life’s focus and passion up in a word, what would it be? When people look at you, what do they see? What is the one thing they remember about you when they walk away?

Jesus. I want to be defined by Jesus. Too often my life is defined by the activity of the moment, my to-do list, the stuff that surrounds me, or the latest fad that catches my eye. Leaving a Jesus impression means having a Jesus focus. Being defined by Jesus means erasing all the other words, adjectives, and side notes that distract others from seeing Jesus in me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be defined by Jesus. I will measure everything I do and say against the picture of Jesus I want others to see in me. I will be aware that some people I meet today will only get one opportunity to see Jesus in me. I will begin today to build a legacy that connects me to Jesus.

Mr. Masterpiece

22 02 2010

Our house is filled with superheroes and villains. All the big names lurk around corners, pop out in hallways, and show up on the screens in our home. Boys love to pretend they are superheroes. Using their special powers lets them run faster, feel taller, and be more invincible than they can in “real” life. They can fight the villains, destroy evil, and conquer the world all because of a cape.

My favorite superhero is Mr. Masterpiece. When he was little, my son had a blue superhero cape with shooting stars across the back. He loved to put it on, run around the house, and be the hero who saved the world. He didn’t want to be one of the popular heroes on TV. He decided he was Mr. Masterpiece. I don’t know where he came up with the name, but it was firmly fixed in his mind. I am Mr. Masterpiece. He put on his cape, dazzling us with his heroic muscles and might. With arms stretched out to help him fly, he would run up to me and announce, “I’m a masterpiece, Mom!” All I could do was smile and say, “Yes, you are a masterpiece.”

You are a masterpiece. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10. You are God’s workmanship – His work of art, His poetry, the masterpiece of His artistry. That is what this verse means. You are more valuable than famous paintings in museums, or priceless works of art that hang on gallery walls. You are God’s masterpiece.

My Jesus Resolution today is to recognize the masterpiece in everyone I meet today. I want to see the masterpiece looking back at me in the mirror. I want to cherish the artistry that fills the hearts of those I love. I want to see the value of God’s handiwork painted on the souls of others. I want to hear the poetry of His love written into our hearts. Be a Masterpiece today. With God on your side, you don’t even need a cape.

Paper Hearts

19 02 2010

They are all over the floor. I have been picking up little slips of paper for a week now. Every time I turn around, I see another one floating to the ground. They are folded up in my socks, falling out of my books, and hiding in my shoes. I even found one attached to my computer mouse! Even though I have been picking them up for days, each one still surprises me. Little notes tucked in my world, each one written to remind me that I am loved.

My husband, Ken, is the mastermind behind the avalanche of paper hearts. They aren’t really heart-shaped, but that is what I see. His heart on little slips of paper. He learned to do that by watching God.

God sends me paper hearts every day. Sometimes they come wrapped in the hug of a friend, or on the melody of a song. One day it is a flower in full bloom. Another in the answer to a prayer. Little reminders of His love are tucked in the folds of my day. Each one provides a word of encouragement, a reminder of whose I am, a special moment of joy, or a call to be still and seek His face. Even though I have been picking them up for a long time, they still surprise me. I never know when I am going to find a reminder that He is thinking about me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to tell someone about my paper hearts. Show them the way God reveals His love for me. Talk about how each one helps me anticipate seeing His face. Maybe point out the paper hearts scattered around their floor. Look for a paper heart today. Let me know what you find.

I’m Opening Mine

17 02 2010

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11a

This is a day made especially for soaking in the beauty of God! Take a look around and notice all the ways that His splendor fills the earth. Each one is a chance to stop and notice the presence of God. Pause in praise today. Sit still in silence. Walk in wonder. Kneel knowing that God wants to pass by you today.

Use today to reflect on the extraordinary gifts that He gives each one of us. With each blessing and opportunity that God places in our lives, we are also given a choice. Will we open the gift and take a step of faith, or keep it safe in the box and never experience the power of God at work in our lives? It always seems so much more logical, reasonable, and realistic to stay in our comfort zones. Faith, by its very definition, trusts God to do things in us and through us that we could never even imagine. Where in your life is He calling you to trust Him? What step of faith will bring you closer to His side?

My Jesus Resolution today challenges me to open all the gifts God sends my way today. I am going to pay attention, noticing how each one calls me to move deeper into His heart. I want to step out on faith – trusting, depending, and relying on His great love for me. Faith is an adventure. His presence is a gift. I’m opening mine. How about you?

Romancing the Soul

15 02 2010

Valentine’s Day may be over, but the romance is still going strong. God doesn’t limit the expressions of His love to just one day a year. He romances our souls every day. He whispers to our hearts, tries to catch our eye, and fills our days with promises of walking in relationship with Him.

God is crazy about you. His love for you stretches deeper than the ocean, higher than the stars, wider than the horizon, and is stronger than you can imagine. He leaves love notes everywhere, just hoping you will notice His loving kindness. He sings to you on the breeze, fills the world with flowers, lights up the moon, and creates perfect sunsets just so you can spend time together.

The record of His romance with your heart covers the pages of your Bible –

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14

“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”   – Zephaniah 3:17

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  – Jeremiah 31:3

“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” – Hosea 2:19

“…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” 

– Isaiah 62:5b

“Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy;…” 

– Isaiah 60:5a

My Jesus Resolution today is to let myself be romanced. I want to be swept away by His love. I want to be overwhelmed by the delight He has in me. I want to make space in my heart for the relationship He wants to share with me. Every day is an “I love you” day with God.

Be Mine

12 02 2010

It is almost Valentine’s Day. Flowers are everywhere. Hearts are around every corner. Pink and red dominate certain aisles in the stores. It is a day invented to celebrate love. While we can argue about over-commercialization and unrealistic expectations, the idea of being purposeful about sharing our love is a good one. How many times do we let the moment pass? How often do we fail to express our appreciation to someone for being a part of our lives? Take some time today to think about love. Make a list of the people who have touched your life for good. The people who bring a smile to your face. The people who are there for you when things are hard. The people whom you love that make life lovely. Then say it out loud. Write it in an email. Cut out little construction paper hearts. Bake a cookie. It isn’t the form of the expression that matters. What matters is that you tell them what a difference they make in your life.

God does it every day. The sun that is shining this morning – that is God. The flowers that are starting to bloom – that is God. The warm hug, the answered prayer, the clothes we wear – all love notes from God. He never misses an opportunity to paint His love across our lives. He loves to tell you how important you are to Him. He delights in you being in the center of His heart. Every day is filled with love notes from God. Each one is a valentine that says Be Mine.

My Jesus Resolution today will be to celebrate the love God pours into my life. Valentine’s Day may only come once a year, but God proclaims His love to me every day.

Love Sees

10 02 2010

Love is blind. That’s what they say. Supposedly when you are in love, you are blind to all of the faults and failings of your beloved. You only see the good, positive, and lovely.

The problem with the “love is blind” definition of love is that one day you wake up. One morning, the honeymoon is over and real life (whatever that is) begins. You are now stuck with both the ugly and the beautiful, and it usually turns out to be more ugly than you realized.

This is how the world works. The world sees our shortcomings, flaws, and uneven places, and that is where it stops looking. It refuses to look beyond our reality to see our potential. Its love is blind.

God calls us to a deeper kind of love. He challenges us to understand that Love Sees. True love, His kind of love, isn’t blind to the struggles, stumbles, and scars in others. We see them, and choose to love through them. We see not only the broken places, but also the possibilities, dreams, and potential that often lay just below the surface.

This is how God loves us. He isn’t blind to our sin and struggles. Instead He loves us through them. He sees past the mess that our failings have made, seeing what we can be when we are immersed in Him.

My Jesus Resolution today is to see through the eyes of love. I want to see the possibilities in my children, the dreams of my spouse, and the potential in my friends. I also want to see those things in the people I meet at the store, in the neighborhood, and at work. I don’t want to love blindly. I want to have the heart of God, celebrating in them the unique possibilities that only love sees.

Happy _______ Day!

8 02 2010

Today I am taking my inspiration from my eight-year old nephew. Every morning, he gets up announcing what he is celebrating about the day. Yesterday, for example, was Happy Cousins Day! because he so loves to be with his family. Another day might be Happy Swimming Day! or Happy Pizza Day! I love the fact that he can find something to celebrate every day. No matter what is on the agenda, what has happened the day before, how he feels, or what the weather is like, he wakes up anticipating joy. As he said, “I am good at joy.”

In that statement, I hear the whisper of God. “I am good at joy,” He says. And it is a joy He wants to share with us. His desire is to listen to our hearts awaken each morning anticipating the joy that He will pour into the day. He longs for us to search the horizon of every moment, finding reasons to celebrate. Celebrate His presence. Celebrate His love. Celebrate His grace. Celebrate His goodness. Celebrate joy.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The fact that God made this day, filled it with possibilities to meet Him, hear His voice, experience His mercy, and be enfolded in His love are reasons to celebrate. He tells us that we can rejoice. Not everything in our day will be good, but we can celebrate the truth that in everything God is good.

My Jesus Resolution for today is to be good at joy. I am going to search for something to celebrate and rejoice in the possibilities God has planted in my day. Happy God Day! What are you celebrating today?

Transformation in a Paper Sack

5 02 2010

I make lunches. It is on my “mom list” of things to do every day. Kids going off to school need energy for all that learning I am sure they are diligently doing, so every evening I grab the paper sacks and fill them up.

There is a paper sack story in the Bible. We never meet the mom who packs the lunch, but I’m sure she wanted all the same things I want for my children. She sends her son off to listen to a great teacher, providing him with five loaves and two fish to get him through the day.

As the sun moves across the sky, people in the crowd get hungry. Stomachs begin to rumble and patience starts wearing a little thin. Jesus notices. He asks the disciples to feed the crowd. They pull out their pockets and shrug their shoulders.

In comes our little boy. He has a lunch. Not much, a snack really. But he gives it to Jesus. It is a simple thing. Yet in its simplicity, there is tremendous faith, trust, and surrender. The boy has no way of knowing what Jesus has in mind. He just gives Him his lunch. It’s not a lot, but he is willing to go hungry. Willing to give all he has.

The rest of the story paints itself on the canvas of miracles. Five thousand men fed, plus women and children. Twelve baskets of leftovers picked up. Talk of crowning a new king. But don’t take your eyes off the little boy’s face. He gave his lunch to Jesus. Jesus took his sacrifice and has used to feed people, physically and spiritually, for two thousand years.

We look at the things in our hands and measure them by the size of the need. That is what the disciples did. The little boy looked at his lunch and measured it by the size of God’s heart. He put it in Jesus’ hands, and let God take his gift and use it for His glory. Can you imagine the story he went home and told his mom?

My Jesus Resolution today is to give my lunch to Jesus. God has the power to transform us even through paper sacks. It doesn’t matter how big or small, my challenge is to put my lunch in Jesus’ hands. He’ll take care of the rest. Can you imagine the stories we might hear in heaven of how God used a few paper sacks to touch the world?