The Best Gift Ever

30 07 2010

What was the best gift you ever received? Stop and think about that moment. Can you remember the day? How you felt when you opened it? The face of the person who gave it to you? I don’t know if your favorite gift was extravagant or homemade. Maybe it was a small gesture or a grand presentation. It could have been a moment of quietness or a time of great festivity. Whatever gift you received, it probably isn’t the “what” that made it special. It was the “who”. Someone took an extra measure of time to think about you. They put thought and care into choosing something that spoke straight to your heart. The gift said something about how special your relationship is and how they value you and what you share together. Something about that special gift revealed a sacrifice made by the one who gave it to you – a sacrifice of time, money, energy, creativity, or love. That is what makes it the very best gift of all. They gave themselves to you.

We usually view sacrifice in grand and noble terms – big moments, extravagant surrender. Sacrifice is simply a gift of yourself. We give ourselves because the person at the other end is worth it. We are willing to give more, go farther, and dig deeper to give another a glimpse of our hearts. That is what Jesus did for us. He gave us Himself because He thinks you are worth it. He went to extraordinary lengths to show you His heart. It was for pure love and deep joy that He offered Himself as the very best gift. He fills today with the gift of His presence.

My Jesus Resolution today is to take time to open the gestures of love He places in my path today. I don’t just want to enjoy the “what”. I want to look for the “Who,” and say thank you. His presence in my day will be the best gift ever.





Driving

28 07 2010

I got to ride in the car with a toddler this week. I had forgotten how special those times in the seats can be. He demanded an ongoing conversation. He wanted to comment on everything, ask about whatever came to his mind, and look in wonder at dump trucks, school buses, and helicopters. Usually, driving my car is about getting from point A to point B. I turn on some music, put the car in drive, and focus on reaching my destination. My little friend’s joy came from enjoying the journey. We sang the traffic light song at every light. We squealed with delight looking for cherry pickers. We counted dump trucks traveling down the road and wondered where they might be headed. The drive became an adventure because he challenged me to pay attention.

How often do we live in auto-pilot? Going through our routines, walking through our days focused on getting to the next place and crossing the next thing off the list. How much beauty, wonder, and just plain fun do we miss because we don’t really stop to pay attention? Jesus challenges us to do just that – slow down and look. See His fingerprints on the world around us and catch our breath in wonder. Enjoy the moment because this is where God is present.

My Jesus Resolution today is to slow down and enjoy the ride. I am going to pay attention, really pay attention, to the ways God is making Himself known all around me. I want to look for beauty, watch for wonder, and find joy in the journey. His fingerprints are can be found in every moment. Each one reveals His deep love and His plan to bring me home. God has an adventure planned for me today. I am looking forward to the drive.





Disappointments

26 07 2010

The way we face disappointment says a great deal about our faith. We all deal with disappointment. Things just don’t always go our way. We have hopes and dreams that die on the vine. We get impatient about timing, feel anxious about the way things are unfolding, and, at times, watch as others live the lives we thought we were meant to live.

In those moments when disappointment defines our hearts, we have an opportunity. How we deal with disappointment depends in great measure on what we understand about the heart of God. It is easy in times of disappointment to blame God. Why didn’t He deliver? Doesn’t He care? Why did He let this happen to me?

God wants us to use moments of disappointment to realign our hearts with His heart. The truths we know about the heart of God have the power to put boundaries and perspective around our disappointments. God is always good. What He does or does not do on our behalves will always be His very best. God’s timing is always perfect. The “when” that I worry about so much is completely in His control. He will always move at precisely the right moment and in exactly the right way. God’s faithfulness is always sure. I can trust my heart to His loving care.

My Jesus Resolution today is to let God shape my disappointments. I am not going to let my disappointments define my view of God. Instead, I am going to look for His fingerprints and search for His movement. I am going to trust His goodness, rest in His timing, and depend on His faithfulness. I am going to step back from the disappointment and step into the arms of God. He will never let me down.





Quilting

23 07 2010

I just finished a new quilt. I put the final stitches in, pulled the basting threads, and spread it out on the floor to admire it. It is so neat to see how pieces of fabric, batting, and thread come together to create something beautiful. On their own, each piece of the quilt looks insignificant. Most are small. They are cut at funny angles. Crooked edges are mixed in with straight ones. Some of the pieces are brightly colored and eye-catching. Many are in ordinary, nothing-special hues. But put them together, use a needle and thread, invest some time, and the results are extraordinary.

One of the reasons I love quilts is because they are a reminder for me of the way God is working in my life. Our days, our choices, our relationships, and our surrender are the pieces of fabric. Occasionally, there is a spectacular one, but most are ordinary by themselves. We look at our days, like them, but don’t always see their beauty. Only when they come together in the pattern God is working into our lives can we stand back and catch our breath in wonder.

Quilting requires dealing with knots, untangling thread, stretching the fabric in a frame, and using scissors. The struggles, stresses, knots, and tangles of our days are a part of our quilt. Each one is part of the process of putting together something beautiful. Each marks a moment when God is working His grace into the fabric of our lives.

Quilts tell a story. Each one is unique. Every quilt bears the mark of the person who held it in their hands. Time, energy, creativity, and love are woven into its design. No one makes a quilt by accident. God is using every piece of your life to make something that will reflect His beauty. He is using the pattern of His own heart to take the ordinary, average pieces of our days and turn them into something that will help the world see Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to open my eyes to the way God is putting the pieces of my heart together for His glory. He is going to use each piece, each experience, each surrender, each prayer, each moment spent in service, each sacrifice, and each person who touches my day to imprint His pattern deep into my quilt. There will be knots to untangle, stretching to do, and needles to thread, but each moment rests in the hands of the Master Quilter.





The Choice

21 07 2010

Our lives are filled with thousands of choices. Some are simple – what shampoo to use, what’s for dinner. Some are complex – where we will invest our hearts, the decision to have children. Our most profound choice, however, is whether we will accept the invitation of God. We, who don’t get to decide about tomorrow’s weather, are given the opportunity to choose where we will spend eternity. The invitation is extended to every person – regardless of race, background, wealth, or gender. And only you can decide for you – you can’t choose for your spouse, children, or co-workers. It’s your choice and yours alone.

It is interesting in our pro-choice society that there is so much pressure not to choose anything related to the soul. The world would like you to think that everything is gray; that there is no longer black or white, dark or light. And Satan is laughing because, once again, he has managed to steal the invitation from the heart of man – the same one he stole in the garden…

As the account of creation unfolds in Genesis 1-3, we see with joy that the most important provision the Lord makes for Adam and Eve in the garden is the gift of Himself. They had an intimate relationship with God as they walked and talked with Him. Yet, despite this gift, we all know how the story unfolds – the command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the temptation of the dangling fruit, the lie that there was something sweeter than the presence of God. And the choice was made.

Heaven and hell held its breath as Eve reached for the fruit on the tree. With the first bite, those in hell cheered and, in heaven, God’s heart broke. Yet, even as He drove Adam and Eve from the garden, the promise of a way back formed on His lips. Barely had the fruit’s juice run down their chins; barely had Satan’s cackle quieted, before God announced the plan to redeem His children – Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to deliberately choose Jesus. Everyday I face the same choice that Adam and Eve faced in the garden. Satan’s offer echoes through our society – “Have it your way.”, “You only go around once.”, “I deserve it.”, “Whatever.” Jesus quietly invites me closer to His heart – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:26) Today I am going to choose Jesus. What about you? The choice is yours.





Identity Theft

19 07 2010

Someone I love has been touched by identity theft. A routine check revealed that someone had invaded my daughter’s privacy and is using her personal information. In a single moment, her name was being used, her integrity questioned, and her sense of security shaken. We were blessed. There hasn’t been a lot of damage done. No money is missing. We are following law enforcement procedures, wading through the paperwork to set things right.

Nothing is more central to how we walk through our days than our identity. It defines us, guides us, sets our priorities, and shapes our days. Our identity is at the core of who we are and is the lens through which we see and interact with the world. Being a Christian means, at its heart, that our identity is defined by Jesus. He names us, claims us as His own, purchases our freedom, and calls us His children. Our identity is rooted in the cross, empowered by His blood, and defined by His love. It shapes our perspective and gives us new eyes.

Satan is the ultimate identity thief. He wants us to question who we are, doubt where we belong, and fear the One who calls us His own. His greatest desire is for us to take on one of the many identities offered by the world – to define ourselves by power, money, education, or beauty. Anything but God. He pulls at our hearts and tries to strip away the confidence we have in wearing the name of Jesus.

Our daughter is learning the necessity of protecting her identity. We need to learn to do the same.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be vigilant about protecting, guarding, and living within the identity I have in Jesus. I am not going to let thieves tear me away from the purpose God is working out in my life. I am going to safeguard my soul from those thieves trying to sneak in to steal my joy, confidence, and peace. To protect my identity, I am going to keep myself rooted in the cross, define my heart by His character, and keep my eyes open for His presence. I am a Christian – God’s beloved. Nobody can steal that from me.





A Well-Worn Bible

16 07 2010

It has been said that a Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t. I like that. The well-worn pages of a Bible tell a beautiful story. Every wrinkle marks a spot where someone came to meet God. The notes written in the margin are reminders of lessons learned, questions asked, and surrender given. In a few places, you might find smeared ink where tear drops have fallen, battles have been fought, and sins have been forgiven. The cracked, worn binding of a Bible reveals strength that has been unleashed in prayer as the words of God have breathed life into a soul.

The Bible is more than a book. God breathed and His heart took shape in the form of words on paper. His Word is a window into who He is, how He loves us, and what He is doing in us. It is a mirror by which we can see our own hearts. It shows us the truth about who we are, why we need Him, and who we can be in Him. It is a light that shows us where to go, who to trust, and how to be filled with joy.

In opening our Bibles, we receive an amazing gift. Each word echoes with the voice of God. Every book points to Jesus. Every verse reveals His plan, His purposes, and His passion for you. Every time you open your Bible you meet God. You come into His presence and have the chance for a fresh start, new beginning, radical transformation, or quiet grace.

God gives us a stunning promise about what will happen when we allow Him to unleash the power of His Word in our lives. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” –  Isaiah 55:10-11

Do you want to flourish? Do you want to be fruitful? Fill yourself with the words of God. His Word will not return to Him without fulfilling His deepest desire in you. Opening His Word makes it possible for Him to achieve His purpose in your life. His purpose is transformation. He wants to fill you with Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to open my Bible and meet God in its pages. Today I am not going to read just to check it off my list or quiet the guilt-o-meter. I am going to still my spirit and listen for the voice of God. I am going to let my heart beat in anticipation of being with the One who loves me beyond measure. I am going to let the richness of His Word feed my deepest hunger. I am going to let the living waters of His presence fill the deep crevices of my soul. And if my Bible looks well-loved, it will just be a reflection of a heart that has taken a journey of joy.