Touching The Clouds

29 04 2011

We were on the top of a mountain. The air was clean. The sky was blue. The view was magnificent. Lush green valleys gave way to strips of sand holding back the vastness of the ocean. We drove to a lookout point near the top of the mountain, and hiked to the summit. We spent our time exploring, taking pictures, marveling at God’s glory, and chasing kids.

Stopping for a picnic lunch, we enjoyed the beauty that was carved into the stone around us. These walls had seen more sunsets than I could count. These trees were older than my great grandfather. The intricate play of life all around me spoke to the intimate involvement of God on this mountain.

One of the neatest things to see was the cloud line. The mountain rose against the sky and pushed its way up through the cloud line, allowing those who stood at its peak the opportunity to stand above the clouds.

Clouds look different from the ground than they do from the mountain. On the ground, clouds can look menacing. They can block the light of the sun, bring an eerie darkness to our days, and appear threatening as they fill with wind and lightning. From the mountaintop, the clouds are beautiful. Standing on the summit, you are protected from the storms that are playing out below.

Driving back down the mountain, my children were fascinated as we descended through the cloud bank. We stopped on the side of the road and let them touch the clouds. They tried to put one in their pockets. In that moment, the clouds took on a different feel. They understood that how we view the clouds depends on where we stand.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember the lesson of the clouds. What seems dark and scary to me is perfectly clear from God’s throne. He knows exactly which way the winds are shifting. He can see the temporary nature of the storm that threatens to overwhelm me. He invites me into His presence and offers to help me see things from the vantage point of eternity. Clouds don’t have the substance they appear to have when you stand beneath them. Today I am going to remember that clouds are something you pass through on your way to the mountaintop.





Super Star Day

27 04 2011

It is a play day at our house. I picked up our four year old friend from school, and we set out for an adventure. He settled into his car seat, wiping the sweat from his face and dumping the sand from his shoes. “Did you have a good day at school?” I asked. “Yes! It was a super star day!”

Super star day is a phrase that developed from another dear friend to help our little guy get over his nervousness about starting a new school year. Now a super star day describes any day that is filled with joy.

What would it take for today to be a super star day for you? Our minds usually jump to big, grand pictures, but for my little friend it is the simple blessings that make the day extra special. All it takes is a chance to play outside, friends who are kind, outrunning the girls on the playground, any kind of pasta, and seeing a cow or a helicopter as we drive down the road. Regular, ordinary, everyday things are all he needs to have a super star day.

I want to find that much joy in the simple treasures that fill my day. Many times I am too busy, too stressed, or too distracted to see the super star things that are all around me. I want the chance to be with friends to make me grin. I want the sight of a butterfly to stop in my tracks. I want to be fascinated by the sound of rain or the soft fur of a puppy. I want to be delighted to tell the story of Daniel, or sing Jesus Loves Me at the top of my lungs.

My Jesus Resolution today is to have a super star day. I want to expect joy. I want to anticipate the peace and purpose that walking with God is going to bring to my day. I want to keep my eyes open for all the ways Jesus is present. I want to catalog my blessings, catching each one in its moment and holding onto it with all the determination of a child. I am going to have a super star day today. How about you?





24/7

25 04 2011

We live in a 24/7 world. We expect stores to be open, the internet to be accessible, and television to run its programming 24/7. There is tremendous pressure to be productive, prolific, and profitable all the time. Busyness is a sign of good business. We seem to comfort ourselves with full calendars, hectic agendas, and overcrowded days. Anything less than a packed, 24/7 kind of schedule is viewed with suspicion.

The result, however, is far from the grace-paced life designed for us by God. Stress and worry are the main hallmarks of our hearts. Exhaustion takes its toll as we try to push a little longer, stay up a little later, and make it all go a little farther. We work hard to keep everything under control, and even harder when it seems like things are spinning out of our hands.

Rest is a word filled with blessing. In rest, we learn to align our hearts with the rhythm of His grace. In quiet, we hear the cadence of His voice. In stillness, we experience the pulse of His heartbeat. Our souls are starved for rest. Our hearts crave the respite of His presence, and yet we push off rest, treating it like a burden rather than the blessing God intended for it to be.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

Twice in these two verses, Jesus makes a precious promise – rest. It is a recipe for simplicity in the midst of a complicated, fast-paced world. Come, take, and learn. Come to Jesus. Rest anywhere else is only an illusion. Take my yoke. Hold my hand, and walk in my presence. It is so much easier than the world of care and weariness that you are trying to carry on your own. Learn to live in the rhythm of my grace.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rest. Really rest. Today I am going to stop, soak in a few moments of stillness, and let quiet open my eyes and ears to His presence. Rest will mean changing the pace of my life, the rhythm of my heart, and the cadence of my soul. Stopping will put me out of sync with the world, but in tune with God. In rest, I may just find the melody that my heart has been too busy to hear or sing.





Oxymorons

22 04 2011

An oxymoron will keep you on your toes. They can make you laugh, raise your eyebrows, or even do a double take. Phrases like “jumbo shrimp,” “definite maybe,” and “paid volunteers” bring a smile to my face as we stop and catch the contradiction captured in a play on words.

An oxymoron is a self-contradictory phrase. It comes from the ancient Greek root words – oxus = sharp and moros = dull.

A lot of oxymorons are seriously funny.  But sometimes there are oxymorons that interfere with our relationship with God. Oxymorons that blur our vision and steer us away from intimacy with the Father. One of the most damaging oxymorons is the phrase “self-righteousness.”

Righteousness means “to stand in a right relationship with God.” It is a legal term which carries with it the picture of standing before God and being declared “without guilt.”

That is why self-righteousness is an oxymoron. It is impossible to be self-righteous. It is a term that we have developed to describe the attitude of someone who doesn’t recognize their absolute need to depend on the blood of Jesus. Someone who measures themselves by the wrong standard.

In order to escape the contradictory trap of self-righteousness, we have to fix our eyes on Jesus. When we buy into the idea of self-righteousness, we believe that our right standing with God depends on our actions, our works, our goodness, and our choices. We convince ourselves that it is up to us to keep our relationship with God on the right track, and we end up with a very heavy burden to bear.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:9.

My Jesus Resolution today is to anchor myself in His grace. Jesus is the only one who can make things right between me and God. It is only in living in Him, depending on His blood, and immersing myself in His love that I remain right with God. It is only at the cross that I can find forgiveness. It is only in the resurrection that I find the power to live in the righteousness He provides. When it comes to picking between self-righteousness and Jesus, Jesus is my only choice.





Singing in the Street

20 04 2011

It was one of those moments that just makes you smile. There is an elderly gentleman who walks by our home. He moves slowly, wears a hat, and is as regular as clockwork. He quietly moves through the streets, taking his walk, and enjoying the spring air.Today, he wasn’t walking alone. He was pushing a stroller.

The little girl was his granddaughter. He quietly pushed her on his usual route, but today the journey was transformed. The little girl, dark hair blowing in the wind, was bringing joy to everyone they passed. As they made their way through the neighborhood, it was clear that she was enjoying herself. She sang her way through the streets. She sang loudly. She sang with joy. She sang in response to the birds and the trees. She sang her own tune. She sang, and the neighborhood smiled.

I want to be more like that little girl. She sang her own notes. She sang even though no one sang with her. She sang because there was a song in her heart. And everywhere she went, she left a song behind for others to sing.

Psalm 92:4 says, “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to sing. Sing out loud. Sing for joy. Sing a song of praise. Sing because God has put a song in my heart. I want to move through my day and leave others with a song to sing, a smile to smile, and a reason to look into the heavens.





Investing in the Future

18 04 2011

They were beaming. That is the only way to describe it. After weeks and weeks of practicing, studying, working, and sweating, they were finally ready. Speeches had been written, puppet scripts polished, Bible readings practiced, and service challenges completed. All that remained was dress rehearsal. It was a big night.

In the blink of an eye, teenagers were transformed. One minute they were in t-shirts and tennis shoes. The next thing we knew ties and dresses filled the rows. But it wasn’t their physical appearance that captured my heart. It was the excitement you could see in their eyes.

They had grown. Probably physically, but definitely spiritually. They are stronger, wiser, more connected, and more confident than they were when they started. They look more like Jesus because someone was willing to walk beside them and help them take a step of faith.

All it requires is a little bit of attention, a willingness to share yourself, and some time. You have something to offer a child. It can be a baby or a high school student, but you have a lesson about Jesus that the next generation needs to hear. Maybe it is a word of encouragement, a testimony of faith, a prayer, a Bible lesson, or a pat on the back. You can write a card, color a picture, change a diaper, or teach someone your special talent or skill. Every time you reach out to a child and show them Jesus, you are investing in the future and helping to spread the kingdom into the next generation.

My Jesus Resolution today is to invest in a kid. I am going to be deliberate about modeling Jesus for someone who is taking their first steps of faith. I can encourage someone to stretch and grow. I can give a hug or write a card. I can share my excitement about the Lord and tell a story about what He has done for me. Thanks to all the teachers, youth leaders, cookie makers, VBSers, and faith challengers who modeled Jesus for me. Now it is my turn to invest in the future.





Listening

15 04 2011

Listening is a tender art. When we listen, we give ourselves into the hands of another. We allow them space in our hearts to pour out their thoughts, share their perceptions, and voice their ideas. We stop, quieting our own hearts in order to create room for another to inhabit these moments of our time.

In stopping, we set ourselves down. The best listening is done with more than our ears. It is done with our eyes, hearts, and hands. In listening, we learn to see through another’s eyes. We catch a glimpse of where another walks and the circumstances, pressures, and perspectives that shape them. Listening is also done with our hearts. It is a gift that gives honor and value to another. True listening moves our hands. It might move them to give a hug, write a card, hold a hand, wipe a tear, or fold in prayer.

Too many times I hear, but I don’t listen. Sometimes, I only sacrifice part of my attention. In other moments, I focus on my pride. I want to be right, look good, or sound impressive. Other times find me being defensive. The dialogue in my head takes center stage, leaving the other person talking with no one to engage.

One of the most touching things about Jesus is that He always listened. Really listened. Listened to the heart behind the questions. Stopped to see the fear behind the tears. Saw the ache of loneliness in a cry for help. Observed pride when it masqueraded as piety. In listening, He gave Himself. And in giving them Himself, He gave them the opportunity to see God and be changed.

My Jesus Resolution today is to listen…really listen. I am going to set down the multi-tasking that is really an excuse for not giving someone my full attention. I am going to listen with my ears, eyes, heart, and hands. Listening requires a slowness that is not in sync with the pace of this world. It does, however, match the rhythm of God’s heart.