One, Two, Three, Pray

29 06 2012

She stood on the hillside overlooking the cold water below. The teens were taking turns jumping off the embankment into the deep waters of the river. Screams of delight and shouts of encouragement filled the air.

Having swum across the river, climbed up the tree roots, and hiked the trail to the top, she now stood at the edge. What had looked like so much fun from the bottom now had a different feel.

She stood frozen for a minute contemplating her options. Possibilities meandered their way through her mind like the river water far below. Fear pulsed through her veins. For just a moment, her world was reduced to one simple question – jump or not jump?

She jumped.

Arms in the air, a thrilled scream of terror echoed in the trees. She plunged below the surface and came up with a grin. She then scrambled to do it again.

Later, she swam back over to where the less courageous were sitting. One lady asked her how she did it. She answered, “I said, ‘One, two, three, prayed to God, and jumped.” The woman sitting in the shallows shook her head in disbelief. “No really. That is what I did. One, two, three, pray.” In her words, I heard a formula for facing my fears.

My Jesus Resolution today is to jump. There is a fear that is holding me back. It keeps me from being and having all that God wants for me. It is a fear of the unknown, of looking foolish, of being transparent, of being rejected, of being accepted, of messing it up, or getting it right. Today I am going to take a leap of faith. I am going to trust God and jump – into His arms. I am going to take a deep breath, ready my heart, and shout – one, two, three, pray, and then soar.





Changed

27 06 2012

It is the simple things that catch your heart and leave you different. I just got back from taking a group of teens to do VBS for underprivileged children. There were no burning bushes, no writing on the walls, or seas parting at our feet. There were, however, enough encounters with God to leave you humbled, wide-eyed, and changed.

These God moments came in the form of little arms and giant hugs, small voices singing the big truths about Jesus Loves Me and the B-I-B-L-E, and hungry hearts being fed the Bread of Life. Children absorbed love like sponges. Teens saw with new eyes as little ones copied their steps, their words, and their attitudes. Adults stood amazed as God moved in and reminded us of the power of living fully in His presence.

Wrapping up the week, we stood in a circle talking about all the ways we had seen Jesus. Best things and blessings piled up in our hearts, breaking the hard places, and opening our eyes. One of the gentlemen standing there with us remarked that you can’t help but be changed by coming to this place. “You will always leave different. Every time.”

His words echo in my mind. Every encounter with God has the potential to leave us changed, transformed. And every day holds the possibility of meeting Him. However, in the ordinary surroundings of my routine, I miss Him. Busyness creates blinders to His presence. The familiar sometimes prevents me from seeing His face.

My Jesus Resolution today is to expect to be changed. He is here, as much in my heap of laundry as the hill country of Texas. As much in my workplace as in worship. As much in the familiar as the foreign. The difference is in my expectation. When I go on a mission trip, to church, or into someplace new, I have my eyes open for His presence. Today I am going to expect to see Him around the corner in my laundry room, at the grocery store, and in the dishes. And every time I meet Him, I am going to be changed.





Contagious

25 06 2012

The sign made me smile, and set me to thinking. The front of a local tire company asked passersby the question of the day. “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”

The sign is right. Attitudes are contagious. Being around someone who is grumpy makes me grumpy too. Laughter is infectious. Worry likes to find company. Joy flies best when it can spread its wings. Anger tends to crawl through the cracks, while a sunny disposition lights up the whole room.

The Bible bears witness to this particular truth. The fear of the ten spies spread through the camp like wildfire. David’s confidence in God gave Israel courage to face the giant. Hezekiah’s dependence, Joshua’s courage, Elijah’s boldness, and Daniel’s integrity all “infected” those around them and pointed them to God.

Attitudes are the focus that we bring into a moment. They have the ability to point us in the right direction or spin us around until we have lost our bearings. Attitudes won’t change our circumstances, but they are powerful tools that allow us to see God’s hand, live in His purpose, and lean on His love.

My Jesus Resolution is to examine my attitude. Is it worth catching? Would seeing my eyes, hearing my words, and listening to my tone of voice in another cause me to cringe or be thankful? Encouragers are people who are deliberate about sharing their Christ-infused attitudes with others. Today I am going to remember that my attitude is contagious. I want to spread Jesus everywhere I go.





Roots

22 06 2012

He is six years old, with a head full of curls and dark brown eyes. He brought his paper to the preacher with wide eyes, anxious to see how his masterpiece was going to be received.

Each week the young children in our congregation are challenged to listen to the sermon and draw a picture of the Bible lesson we share. This week, our minister began a new series on growing deep roots. Walking through Jeremiah 17:5-8, we dug deeply into the prophet’s holy horticulture lesson, and committed ourselves to planting everything we are firmly in the person and presence of Jesus.

What picture would you draw? A small plant barely sticking its head out of the ground is the first thing you see when you look at the little boy’s picture. Three-fourths of the page is sky, room to grow, thrive, and flourish in this bright world. It is, however, what is below the surface that causes you to stop and reflect. Below the brown line that serves as the ground, there are a myriad of roots. Each one stretching out to hold the plant in place, giving it the anchor and nourishment it needs to grow. But he didn’t stop there. He named the roots. Each one was identified with someone who is helping him grow to look like Jesus – mom, dad, brother, sister, preacher, friend. It was a humbling, “aha” moment.

The little boy caught the most important lesson of the day. Roots are not intangible threads we throw out and hope they catch. Roots are the people who have a hold of our hearts. The friends that listen, encourage, and open doors into His presence. Family members who show us what it means to look like Jesus day in and day out. Brothers and sisters in Christ who model Him so that we can glimpse who He calls us to be.

My Jesus Resolution today is to name my roots. Who are the people who have helped to anchor me in Christ? I am going to stop and give thanks for each one by name. Who nourishes my relationship with Jesus? Who encourages me to be more like Him? I am going to pause and praise Him for the people He uses as blessings in my life. In what way can I be a root for someone else? Who can I help today take in more of Jesus?





The Water Dish

20 06 2012

He wouldn’t move. Stubborn and weary, my little dog planted himself on the tile in the kitchen, his pink tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth. His breath was coming in bursts as he sprawled out on the floor, taking in the cool air.

We had just come in from a walk. The hot, humid temperatures pierced even the early morning hours in a way that announced that summer was settling in for a long stay. I poured myself a glass of water and started working on my list for the rest of the day.

Several minutes later, I found my dog in exactly the same place. I called him, but he wouldn’t budge. Lying next to his water dish, he ignored me with a tenacity that signaled his determination to stay where he was. He wasn’t going to move.

Walking all the way into the kitchen, I finally saw what was inspiring his resolve. His water dish was empty. He needed water, and wasn’t going to go anywhere else until his thirst had been quenched. I filled his dish with cool water, watching him lap up the liquid before finally finding a place in the sun to take a nap.

He taught me a lesson this morning. When he was thirsty, he knew where to go. He didn’t run around looking for another solution. He didn’t try to solve his own problem. He waited. Quietly, determinedly, patiently waited. I need to be more like my dog.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1

My Jesus Resolution today is to wait for water. Walking with God has the power to make us thirsty for His presence and hungry for His voice. I am going to satisfy myself only in Him. The world tempts me to search for my own answers and meet my own needs. I am not going to do it. Instead, I am going to tenaciously wait for God, and enjoy the sweet refreshment He has planned for my soul.





Juneteenth

18 06 2012

June 19th is a celebration day. It is known as Juneteenth, marking a day of freedom dating back to the Civil War. On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law freeing all slaves in the United States. The news, however, of the President’s proclamation of freedom was slow in spreading across the country. In our world of instant access, internet updates, 24-hour news channels, and cell phone communication it almost seems unthinkable to us to imagine news taking years to get to the people who need it most. But that is what happened. Juneteenth celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, a year and a half after President Lincoln signed it into law. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing with them news of the end of the Civil War and announcing freedom for the state’s quarter million slaves. Today more than half the states in the United States celebrate Juneteenth as a memorial for the day freedom rang across the country.

Can you imagine the faces of slaves hearing this news for the first time? They had been free for eighteen months and didn’t know it. They hadn’t heard the good news. No word had reached them, and so they continued to see themselves as slaves. They spent those eighteen months hoping and praying for a deliverance that had already arrived.

The parallel is easy to see. Jesus is God’s Emancipation Proclamation. He signed it in blood, nailing it to the cross for all to see. It declares freedom, new life, and hope for those held in slavery by sin. But word spreads slowly. There are many who haven’t heard the good news. Chained by guilt and bound by shame, they walk through this world unaware that freedom has already arrived.

My Jesus Resolution today is to proclaim freedom. I am going to celebrate the freedom I have in Christ. I am going to be humbled and thankful for the gift that is mine because of Jesus. I am going to ask God to open my eyes. I want to see the chains that bind others, the slavery that ensnares them, and sin for the dreadful taskmaster that it is. I have an opportunity to proclaim freedom today. A Union soldier walked into Texas, bringing with him news of freedom and life changed forever. Where are you going to walk today?





Video Calling

15 06 2012

He begged. I resisted. Technology and I are not best friends, but my son, who is spending the summer in another country, pleaded with me to download a program that would allow us to video chat. Email is good. Talking on the phone works well, but video calling would allow him to see our faces.

I wasn’t convinced, but yesterday we had our first video chat. It was wonderful. There is so much more that you can capture in a conversation when you can watch someone’s eyes, witness their smile, and match their voice with their expression. He was right. It was worth it.

His desire to share this face-to-face time made me hungry for more. And it offered me a mirror for my soul. Worship, Bible study, and prayer are excellent connection points with Jesus. They allow us to interact with His Spirit, listen to His voice, and open our hearts to His purpose. But they are supposed to make us hungry for more. Hungry to be in His presence and see His face.

When John describes heaven, he describes a place of indescribable splendor, unimaginable riches, and sublime perfection. Heaven’s intense beauty, however, is overshadowed by one singular, amazing reality – we will get to see His face.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” – I John 3:2

My Jesus Resolution today is to be like my son. I want to have a deeper longing for home. I want to develop a hunger that can only be satisfied by seeing His face. We are God’s children and seeing His face should be my most aching desire. I can catch glimpses in His Word, the people who shine with His likeness, and in worship and prayer, but I don’t want to settle for a glimpse. I want to lock my focus on the cross until I can look into His eyes.