Count the Cost

31 08 2011

My mom used to give us a nickel before we went in. There was a little five and dime store near our house with bins and bins of penny candy. (Yes, I know I am dating myself.) Holding our five cents tightly, we dreamed of filling our pockets with delicious treats.

Taking us to the candy aisle, Mom would stand back and let us make our selections. I don’t really remember how quickly my brother and sister made their choices. I do remember standing in front of those penny candy bins agonizing over what I would choose for my sweet tooth. If I chose the hard candy, I had to give up the taffy. If I went for the gum ball, then the chocolate chew was out. And a jawbreaker, which would last hours and hours, required my entire five cents. I stood in the candy aisle at that store and learned to count the cost.

I learned another lesson in that aisle as well. Just once, I hesitated too long. I went back and forth, juggling the options, weighing the choices, imagining the flavors, and smelling the scents. I couldn’t decide. Then it was time to go. Mom called my name, telling me that I had had long enough. I left broken-hearted and empty-handed, yet wiser.

Sometimes the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of risking it all.

Sometimes I hesitate too long. I don’t invest my heart, and then it is too late. I hold on to a talent, and it dies on the vine. I miss seeing God in the moment because I let fear or worry close my eyes. I don’t say thank you, speak His name, or say “I love you,” and the opportunity passes.

I could have made a new friend, experienced a new joy, tried a new adventure, tasted a new flavor, discovered a new beauty, and seen a little more of God, but I hesitated and now it is too late. In the moment, I thought taking a step of faith would be too costly. What I need to remember is that doing nothing, risking nothing, refusing to take a step of faith has a cost as well.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count the cost of doing nothing. There will be a moment today when it will be easier to be quiet, more comfortable to let it pass, and more convenient not to bother. But what will it cost me to sit on the sidelines? It is stickier to have candy in your pocket than a nickel. But it is also more delicious.





The Birthday Party

29 08 2011

She just turned three. The weeks before her birthday were spent dreaming about her party. Presents, balloons, and friends filled her imagination as she excitedly waited for the big day.

Preparing for the celebration, her mom asked her what kind of party she wanted to have. She expected her to pick a princess or a popular character party. Instead, she got an amazing answer. “I want a John the Baptist party,” the little girl exclaimed.

There are so many things that I love about her answer. This little girl chose someone from the Bible to be her hero. When she wanted a theme to set the tone for her party, she picked someone who dedicated himself to pointing others to Jesus. It didn’t matter that he wore funny clothes and ate bugs. He was God’s man, and she wanted him at the center of her special day.

The star in this story is her mom. Quietly, she has embedded the story of Jesus in her daughter’s life. At a very early age, she has managed to give her daughter eyes to see hearts that respond to who God is and who listen to His call on their lives. The stories in the Bible are more than just stories to this little girl. They are real and more compelling than the glittering glamour of the figures we usually hold up before our children.

The little girl did indeed have a John the Baptist birthday party. Her mom didn’t try to talk her out of it. She didn’t push for the easier convenience of a prepackaged party. She went out of her way to have a cake made, complete with John the Baptist, dressed in camel’s hair, standing in the Jordan River.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pick someone from the Bible and celebrate. Maybe I will walk with Ruth today and learn from her choices. Perhaps I will spend the day with Joshua and Caleb exploring what it means to live in God’s promises. I would love to stand with Moses on the mountain, walk with Peter on the water, and run with Elijah as he races a chariot. I don’t want to look to the world for my heroes. The Bible is filled with people who challenge me to look more like Jesus. Maybe I will start with John the Baptist.





So Blessed

26 08 2011

Have you ever just been overwhelmed by your blessings? Blessings are God’s fingerprints on our days. They mark His movement, trace His presence, and help us see how intimately He is involved in our lives.

To help you on your way to being amazed, here are ten places to look for ways God has touched your heart.

1. Look at the pictures in your house. Trace the ways He has walked with you through your life.

2. Look at the names in your contact list on your phone. Thank Him for all the people He uses to point your heart to Him.

3. Look in your closet and pantry. Be grateful for the very physical ways God cares for you.

4. Look outside. Every blade of grass, bird in the tree, flower on the stem, and butterfly in the air testifies to His goodness and tender mercies.

5. Look at your family. See Jesus in their faces.

6. Look in your laundry room, under the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, and at the cross. Be overwhelmed by all the ways He gives you to be clean and have new beginnings.

7. Eat something delicious. Chew it slowly. Savor every bite. Enjoy the blessings of taste, texture, and delight.

8. Sing your favorite hymn. Let the words of praise wash over you and fill you up.

9. Read your Bible. Feel God’s passion for you. Experience His delight as you walk by His side. Discover His purpose. Live in His presence.

10. Look in the mirror and read Psalm 139:13-18 out loud.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count my blessings. I want to be especially aware of His movement in my life because it helps me to center my heart, focus my eyes, and surrender my spirit. My blessings help me carry my burdens. They give me perspective, and lead me into His deep purpose. My blessings reveal how tender God is with me, how intimately He is involved in every part of who I am, and how much He loves me. He longs to take my breath away with His goodness. Today when someone asks, “How are you?”  my answer is going to be, “I am so blessed.” What will you say?





Shadows

24 08 2011

It was the middle of the night and the unfamiliar shadows spooked me. It took me a minute to remember where I was and slow down the beating of my heart. I folded the blankets around my shoulders and tried to lie back down. It didn’t work. The shadows still raced around the walls, drawing my eyes and unsettling my thoughts.

Shadows are created when something stands between a surface and the sun. The light goes around the solid object leaving a dark tracing with just enough form to catch our imaginations and spark our fear. While shadows are real, they do not represent reality. Shadow and substance are not the same thing.

There is a Swedish proverb that says, “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” Too many times I let worry shadow my days. I allow it to cloud my vision, darken my thoughts, and obscure my peace. But the shadow of worry is not a true picture of reality. Worry draws me to focus on what might happen if I can’t control the moment, figure out how to handle the situation, or don’t do the right thing. The reality is that God is sovereign and already prepared to meet whatever needs I will have tomorrow.

It is difficult to deal with a shadow because it has no substance. The only way to put things back into perspective is to turn around and face the Son.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember that shadows are just shadows. I can let them spook me or I can let them remind me to turn my face toward the Son. The shadow of worry is created when I allow something to stand between me and the Light. When I am tempted to worry today, I am going to worship instead. I am going to praise Him for His power, remember that He is bigger than any problem, and let His Sonshine chase away the shadows.





Speed Limits

22 08 2011

How do you feel about speed limit signs? Most of us roll our eyes, and press the gas pedal. We might look around to see if a police officer is on the job and adjust accordingly. We impatiently move through traffic in a hurry to get to wherever we are going. We want to get there fast.

What is interesting about speed limit signs is that they are put there for our safety. They help us know what speed will both help us get to our destination and arrive there unharmed. Yet, speed limit signs rarely make us feel cared for. We see them as signs that infringe on our freedom and hem us in as we are traveling on our way.

Did you know that the Bible is full of speed limit signs? There are really two different types – there are the signs that begin with the word wait and others that start with the word listen or hear. Both of them encourage us to slow down, stop speeding at our own breakneck pace, and heed the instructions of One who knows what lies down the road.

How we react to those speed limit signs says a great deal about our hearts. We can look at the “Wait on the Lord” signs with impatience and disdain. Too often I want to go, to do something, and to act now. Waiting on the Lord calls me to move at His pace, trust His wisdom, and surrender my desire to speed ahead on my own.

The call to listen acts like a yellow traffic light. It is a time to pay attention, reassess our direction and speed, and perhaps even come to a stop. How many times do I hear the gentle whisper of God and hurry through it, rather than being thankful for the safety, perspective, and guidance it provides?

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to God’s speed limit signs. Speeding, whether on the road or through life, almost always gets me in trouble. I want to learn to wait on God. I long for Him to set my pace, outline my direction, and empower my movement. Listening to God always opens doors and pathways I never would have discovered speeding through on my own. They lead to paths of beauty, moments of discovery, and times of sheer wonder. As I read my Bible, I am going to pay attention to all of the Wait and Listen speed limit signs God posts for me. I don’t want to see them as restrictions on my freedom. I want to see them for what they truly are – signs reminding me to slow down and be loved.





Milestones

19 08 2011

Today is a big day at our house. We are taking our oldest son to college. We will settle him into the dorm, make sure he has his meal ticket, buy his books at the bookstore, watching him set out on a new adventure and take his first steps into the “real world.”

Milestone days are important. They help us measure our journey and celebrate our growth. Reaching milestones give us an opportunity to look back and trace God’s hand on our path. We can smile at the way He brought us through, the things we learned about being His people, and the blessings He provided along the way.

Milestones are also moments in which we can be overwhelmed with thanksgiving as we look forward. Standing on the platform between the past and the future, we get to celebrate new beginnings, hard work, and the possibilities that lie before us. It is a time to look in the mirror and recommit to the purpose God longs to work out in our lives. At a milestone, we can praise Him for the wonder of His presence in our lives and thank Him for the ways in which He is going to reveal more of His heart to us in the future.

A milestone can be anything – a date on the calendar, the completion of a discipline, the celebration of a choice well-made, or the moment when transformation reaches in and opens a door that was previously closed. It is a time to share the joy of God’s work in our lives with others, to humbly acknowledge His hand on our lives, and to make a deeper resolution to look like Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to mark the milestone. I am going to be deliberate about tracing God’s fingerprints on the fabric of my family. I want to point out the ways He has blessed us, provided for us, and made His presence known to us. I long to bless my children with a vision for how God wants to shape their lives, be involved in their days, and lead their steps. I am going to look in the mirror and know that this is a milestone for me as well. And an opportunity to commit myself once again to looking like Jesus.





Practice Love

17 08 2011

There was a time, a long time ago, when I wanted to be a tennis star. I dreamed about it as I hit those little yellow balls against the brick wall of the school. I imagined smashes, cheering crowds, aces whizzing over the net, and opponents who were stunned by my killer backhand.

I played tennis, watched tennis, followed the goings and comings of tennis stars, and submitted to practicing and following the directions of a coach. Nobody from Wimbledon or the U.S. Open ever called to invite me to play, but for that time in my life, tennis shaped who I was.

The German writer Goethe once said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Love is powerful. It drives our focus, sets our direction, fuels our passion, and gives us purpose. What we choose to love will profoundly shape who we are. Jesus said it this way. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

Our world wants to treat love like a magical force against which we are helpless. We talk about falling in love in the same way that we describe tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. It takes you by surprise and leaves you with bumps and bruises. The world is wrong. Love is a choice. It is a decision to set the heart on a specific path. Love requires more discipline, self-control, and integrity than anything else in which we can choose to invest ourselves. It also brings more joy, delight, and fulfillment. That is why love is at the core of who God is.

Becoming like Jesus is the decision to be shaped and transformed by Love. When we surrender to the full force of God’s love, He begins to change us at the deepest level. Our eyes see differently. Our ears hear the soft whisper of His voice. Our mouths seek to deliberately use words to gently point others to Christ. Our hands and feet are given to Him as instruments of love.

My Jesus Resolution today is to practice love. I want His love to define me, mold me, shape me, renew me, and transform me. I want to be careful about where I set my heart. Loving anything but Love itself will leave me empty and unsatisfied. When I listen to the world describe love, I am going to pass its words through the filter of I Corinthians 13:4-7. If the love they describe is anything less, I am going to let it pass me by. In tennis, you practice so you don’t get stuck at love – the lowest score in the game. With Jesus, love is the best thing there is.