31 05 2010

They are playing Scrabble in the other room. Gathered around a checkered board, they put words together, add up points, call for the dictionary, and laugh. It is a neat picture, and one that captures more than the essence of a game. It is the essence of life.

Scrabble is a game that demands that you take the letters you are given, use the language, vocabulary, and learning that you have poured into your life, and put words together. We are all given letters in life. Pieces that we are supposed to take and make into something meaningful. Not only do we have to come up with words, they have to fit on the board and mesh with everyone else’s words. But here is the opportunity – we can choose the words that we create.

Every day, we get a new set of letters. We can complain about the letters we are given and refuse to play. We can roll our eyes, throw down a three-letter word, and pass our turn. We can plan and plot and then get frustrated when somebody takes our play. Or we can get creative, take inspiration from the words that others have laid down before us, and make the best out of what is in our hand.

The truth is that words have power. Words can build up or tear down. They can give life or cut away at someone’s heart. We can choose the words we put on the board, committing to creating words with our lives that will point others to Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to build words that will last. I am going to fill my mind with God’s words so that they will be there for me to draw on when I look at my letters. I am going to look for the opportunities to seek His face that are built into my hand. I am going to build on what the people around me have already discovered about how to walk with God, letting their letters become part of my life’s words. I can’t wait to see the letters I get today. I know that God is in control of my day. Whatever happens, He will pour out enough grace so that I can find the letters J-E-S-U-S.


28 05 2010

I have a cold. Nothing serious or major, just several days of tissues, medicine, and misery. You know the feeling – sore throat, drippy nose, and stuffiness. Everything feels clogged. My ears feel like they have cotton stuffed into them. My voice is scratchy and running at about half volume (of course, not everyone thinks this is a bad thing). My nose is sore, and I can’t breathe.

Breathing is about more than taking air into our lungs. Breathing is life – both physically and spiritually. When God created man, He fashioned legs, arms, eyes, and smiles, and then He breathed the breath of life into him. This breath did more than animate the body. It gave life to the soul.

Our language reveals our understanding of how breathing is connected to life. If something amazing happens, we talk about how it took our breath away. Spectacular beauty can cause us to catch our breath. When stress overwhelms us, we encourage someone to take a deep breath. We cry with joy when babies take their first breath. We weep when someone breathes their last.

When Jesus wanted to assure the disciples of His presence in their lives, He breathed on them. It is a moment that echoes with Eden-like significance. New life in the Spirit. Peace beyond understanding. Joy without limit.

My Jesus Resolution today is to breathe. I am going to let each breath remind me of the presence of God. I am going to remember that life flows from Him and be grateful for each breath He gives me. I want to live in such a way that I breathe love, graciousness, encouragement, and thanksgiving into the lives of those around me. Take a deep breath with me today. Fill your life with Jesus.

New Every Morning

26 05 2010

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:21-23

I love this insight into God’s heart. After a particularly trying day, these words are especially refreshing. His compassion is new every morning. It never runs out. No matter how much grace we draw on today, there will be an inexhaustible, unquenchable supply of it available tomorrow. God’s love is always on “full”. It is always there, always inviting, always reaching out to touch our hearts and shape our souls. He stands ever ready to flood our lives with hope, peace, joy, and power. No matter what today holds, no matter how dark the night, no matter how much we have dipped into the well of His mercy, the new dawn will reveal the faithfulness of God. The morning sun will shine with His glory and open up new possibilities for us to see Him at work.

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace the hope, love, compassion, and faithfulness God has stored up for me. It is today’s gift. I want to use it well and share it openheartedly. I will revel in what it teaches me about my Father. I am going to let it soak into every minute. I am not going to worry about using it all up. Tomorrow He will reveal His fullness to me all over again.

To-Do Lists

24 05 2010

Everybody is busy. We all have full calendars, long to-do lists, and priority-filled agendas. Sometimes in the midst of all my busyness, it becomes hard to see God. The days become blurs of activity, and I miss His presence. I run, try to catch up, cross things off my list, and don’t connect with the One who loves me beyond measure.

What if I could look at my to-do list differently? My to-do lists tend to be “me” focused. This is what I have to do. These are the places I have to go, the things I have to accomplish with my time and effort. What if, instead, I could see that list as a roadmap for spending the day with God?

Here are a couple of ideas that might change the way we look at our to-do lists –

Make your to-do list a pray-do list. Use your to-do list as a prayer guide for the day. God wants to be intimately involved in each piece of your life. He wants to help you with the laundry, your work deadline, and paying the bills. He longs for you to be as aware of Him at the grocery store as you are reading your Bible. Praying through your to-do list invites God into each movement of your day. Ask Him to bless you and walk with you as you complete each task. Ask for His wisdom as you make decisions. Open the door for God to be a part of each conversation you have, and present in the places you go.

Put God on the list. Plan specific times in your day to meet God. You have other appointments on your list. Why not God? Take two or three minutes every couple of hours to be still before the Lord. Refocus your mind and your heart. Come back to center. Seek His face. He promises you will always find Him.

Let your list be a living record. As you cross things off your to-do list, make a brief note of where you saw God in the moment. Pay attention to beauty seen, prayers answered, doors opened, wisdom bestowed, energy infused, comfort felt, resources provided, friendships deepened, and blessings received. Crossing something off the list is only half the fun. Let each part of your list become a testimony to the way you and God have walked through the day together.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look at my to-do list with new eyes. Instead of a mountain I have to climb by myself, I am going to look for all the opportunities that my list gives me to meet God and allow Him to touch my day. I am going to pray for the people and activities on my list, asking God to fill each part of my day. I want to meet God throughout my day. so I am going to be deliberate about turning off the noise and turning my heart to Him. I am going to keep track of the way I discover His fingerprints on my to-do list. I am going to see my to-do list as a record of God’s movement in my life, rather than a speedometer of my day.

Bare Feet

21 05 2010

Summer is near. The temperatures are creeping up. The sun hangs around longer in the evenings like a child begging for five more minutes of play. The end of school is getting close, air conditioners are starting to hum, and we are kicking off our shoes.

Bare feet signal summer. There is something special about walking through soft grass or feeling the squish of warm sand between our toes that speaks to our hearts. It slows us down, compels us to be aware of our senses, and encourages us to enjoy the moment.

There are actually a couple of special bare feet moments in the Bible. Moses stands before a bush burning with the presence of God and hears the call to take off his shoes. Unlacing his sandals creates a heart picture of loosening the cords that hold us to the world. He removes the shoes that represent the way he chooses his own path, identity, and purpose. Standing bare foot before God helps us see the need to come into His presence with transparency, humility, and surrender.

Joshua had a bare foot moment outside of the walls of Jericho. Meeting the commander of the army of the Lord, Joshua learns that victory is not found in his strength, wisdom, or courage. The walls of Jericho will fall because God moves among His people. Joshua receives the word to take off his shoes because the place where he is standing is holy ground. God is here, and that is enough. As soon as Joshua takes off his shoes, the victory is won.

My Jesus Resolution today is to kick off my shoes and walk with bare feet. I am going to let my bare feet remind me that God is present, and I walk on holy ground. I want to take off all the things that tie me to this world. I want to loosen the laces of should, could, or would and trade them for deep desire and breath-catching wonder. I am going to stand before the big walls of discouragement, fear, stress, and guilt and deliberately take off my shoes. Standing with bare feet reminds my heart that God stands with me, and in Him the victory is already complete.

Bathtub Water

19 05 2010

The most profound conversations always seem to happen in the car. We were driving to school, having a talk about the sun. It had reached the point with my three-year old buddy that the answer had to be “because that is the way God made it.” (Amazing how quickly a toddler can show you how little you really know!) His next question was, “Who is God?” A big question for a little guy.

How you answer this question is incredibly important. Here faith is boiled down to its essential elements. CS Lewis said, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.” It will determine the depth of your surrender, the strength of your commitment, and the surety of your hope.

Wanting to give my little friend a wise answer, I replied, “God is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and the sky and the trees.” He thought about this for a minute and said, “And bathtub water.” God and I both just had to smile.

I wanted to give him a picture of God, but he gave me the wisest answer of all. He defined faith in simple terms, reminding me of the power of understanding who God is. God is the Lord of the heavens, earth, sky, and trees. Those are grand, majestic pictures. God is also the Lord of the places where I live, where I spend my time, where I am most vulnerable, and the most at home. He is the Lord of bathtub water.

If God is Lord, He must be Lord of every part of me. He is Lord of the cosmos, world events, stunning vistas, and the stars beyond the stars. He is also Lord of my first cup of coffee, the way I look at myself in the mirror, what I watch on television, and the conversation I have with the clerk at the store. Big events. Small moments. He is Lord.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask myself, “Who is God?” I want to think about His heart, see His character, imitate His nature, and look for His face in every part of my day. I want to surrender to the absolute truth that He is Lord – sovereign over each piece of my heart. I need to remember that there is no area of my life outside of His notice or desire or control. I want to walk through my day acknowledging that He is Lord of everything, especially bathtub water.

Brown Sugar

17 05 2010

I took Home Ec in seventh grade. I learned how to make an apple braid (wish I still had that recipe), omelets (I have this one, but still don’t like eggs), and made a backpack that no one ever really wants to be seen with in public. One of the lessons I remember was on measurements – dry measures, liquid measures, and the importance of measuring correctly in order for everything to turn out in the end.

Brown sugar turns out to be the most fascinating thing to measure. It is boring to measure out flour, granulated sugar, or salt. You just scoop those ingredients up, level them off, and pour them in. Not brown sugar. Brown sugar you have to pack. You fill the measuring cup. but then make room for more. Pressing it down with your spoon, brown sugar packs the maximum amount of sweetness into whatever measuring cup you use.

Did you know that there is a brown sugar promise for you in the Bible? Luke 6:36 says, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Think about this amazing promise for a minute. Every time that we open up space for God to work in our lives, He promises to pack it full of Himself. Spiritual formation – the process of becoming like Jesus – is a process of emptying and filling. Every time we die to self, deny our own desires, put pride, selfishness, guilt, and greed to death, we create an empty space for God to fill. The promise in Luke 6:36 tells us how God will honor the empty places we bring to Him. He won’t use the flour way of measuring things. He packs Himself into our hearts like brown sugar – pressed down, packed together, overflowing with sweetness.

The last sentence of the brown sugar promise explodes with hope. Whatever part of ourselves we bring to God to fill, God promises to make sure that space is crammed with Himself. If we bring Him a teaspoon, He will make that teaspoon space overflow with His goodness. A cup of brokenness will be blessed with as much of His presence as can be pressed down and shaken together in that space. A whole, entire heart – the brown sugar promise means that Jesus will be packed into every imaginable crevice.

My Jesus Resolution today is to open my heart to God’s brown sugar promise. I am going to give Him the full measure of who I am. I don’t want to dribble myself out teaspoon by teaspoon. I want to be full of Him. I want Him pressed down, packed in, and overflowing into every part of me. This means I am going to have to open up space in my life today for God. I need to set down my agenda, give Him my time, let go of my wants, surrender control, and give it all to Him. But every piece of myself that I bring to Him, He promises to fill with Himself. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over with something sweeter than brown sugar. Overflowing with Jesus.

Peace I Leave With You

14 05 2010

We live in a world strangled by stress and anxiety. It seems we are always running, always worried, and always looking over our shoulders. Jesus promises us peace. Not the calm before the storm kind of peace, but real, deep-down, absolute peace. In a world in which we often feel suffocated by fear, regret, shame, and guilt, Jesus left us a precious gift – His peace. Here are ten reasons to let go of the stress and embrace His peace.

1. God has all the answers – no matter what your question is.

2. His blood will cover your sin, whatever it is.

3. You are profoundly loved for exactly who you are.

4. God is bigger than any problem, struggle, fear, or heartache.

5. God already has His eyes on tomorrow.

6. God’s presence is with you right now. You are never alone.

7. His grace is sufficient – no matter what the next moment holds.

8. He is able to do more than you can ask or imagine.

9. God is listening to you right this minute. Talk to Him.

10. God always keeps His promises – every one of them, every time.

My Jesus Resolution today is to step into peace. I am going to make a deliberate move away from worry and weariness into His peace and rest. I am going to choose to listen to His voice rather than the whispers of guilt and screams of stress that pull at my heart. Today, I am going to rest my head next to His heart and delight in the peace that envelopes me just because He is near.

Let Me Tell You A Story

12 05 2010

We are having fun today. A little friend has come over to play. He makes us laugh while we sing, growl like lions, hunt for dinosaurs, and play trains. In loving him, we have been impressed again with the profound truths learned at the feet of a little child.

Several times already this afternoon, our three-year old friend has said, “Let me tell you a story…” Each time he does, we grin. We love his imagination. We delight in the way he tells us what is on his mind. We smile at how our hearts are interconnected. But we grin because he sounds just like his daddy.

Children are amazing recorders of the way we act and speak. It doesn’t take long to discover our attitudes, priorities, and sense of God echoing in the voices of the little ones who share our lives. They teach us that our words and actions have an impact far deeper than we might have imagined. They help us see the world through new eyes as we reexamine what our choices might look like from their perspective.

Our little friend’s penchant for story-telling also reminds us of something else. We want the Father to be recognizable in our words. We want the echo of His voice to be heard in everything we say. We are called to imitate the One who loves us beyond measure, wraps us in His arms, and claims us as His own.

My Jesus Resolution today is to watch a child so I can learn how to be His child. I want to hold hands, forgive with ease, love with abandon, play with joy, and let the time with my Father soak deeply into every part of who I am. I want the family resemblance to be marked and noticeable. I want others to grin when they hear me say something that sounds exactly like something my Abba would say.

Whatever You Do

10 05 2010

I learned it in eleventh grade. My teacher made us memorize it for a test. The quote by Thomas Henry Huxley made a deep impression on me, sticking with me all these years. “The most valuable result of all education is the ability to do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not. This is the first lesson to be learned.”

Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. It’s just life. We wish everything could be the sweet things, the fun times, the soaring moments, but the reality is we have to do the other stuff too. There will always be laundry, bills to pay, messes to clean up, and not so pleasant tasks to get through. Huxley’s quote gives us a “just get in there and get it done” tool that is valuable. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and get through it.

Paul, however, gives us a context for all of our tasks – the tough ones and the easy ones. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” – Colossians 3:23. Everything we do can be an act of worship. Every task can be a moment offered to the Lord. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether we like it or not, or if it is something noticed and valued by others. When we live with surrendered hearts, every move we make takes on eternal significance. Our actions echo through heaven. When we offer whatever we do to the Lord, we are asking Him to infuse it with His purpose, presence, and power. The task that really isn’t your favorite can become a sacrifice of praise that sings His glory when you do it for the Lord, not for men.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look at my to-do list with Colossians 3:23 eyes. I am going to be deliberate about keeping my eyes on Jesus as I work through each task. I am going to offer each movement to the Lord as the sacrifice of a heart that is learning to reflect Him. I want to measure each moment, not by whether I like or not, but by how pleasing it is to Him. It is possible to find joy in everything I do today, because today I am going to do everything for Him.