Questions

30 11 2012

Questions are great. They are at the heart of the learning process. Two-year-olds ask questions about everything. “Why?” seems to be their favorite word. They ask because they are learning how the world works. Teens ask a lot of “why?” questions as well. Theirs don’t always seem to have the open-ended curiosity that a toddler’s do, but they are the same question. Why that decision? Why can’t I? Why do I have to? They are learning how the world works. Their questions help them understand how the adults in their lives make decisions, to see the perspective that gives mom and dad a different answer than the one they would have come up with for themselves.

What questions do you have?  Not the “What’s for dinner? Who’s going to pick up the dry cleaning?” type. The deep questions. The ones that keep you up in the middle of the night. The ones that pull at your heart. They are “why?” questions too. Except with our deep, difficult questions, we suspect that we will never understand how the world works. There is too much uncertainty, too much selfishness. So we hush up our questions, tucking them into the back of our hearts where they only haunt us in the night.

God wants you to ask your questions. The answers we need are not found in this world. He wants you to seek Him out. He invites you to bring Him your questions, search His heart, and discover how He works in your world. As you do, you will make a delightful discovery. When you trust God with your big questions, He will always point you to His Son. The cross is His exclamation point. The answer is always Jesus. His grace is the balm that will soothe our souls.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask my questions – all of them. Faith doesn’t mean never having questions. It means being willing to go to God for my answers. God doesn’t promise to give me easy answers, or comfortable answers, or quick answers. He does promise that His answers will be filled with His goodness, framed in His truth, and immersed in His love. Having questions means I am growing and learning. Listening for His answers will always direct me to look to Jesus.





Bold

28 11 2012

“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” – Proverbs 28:1

Do you think of yourself as bold? For most of us, bold isn’t the first descriptive word that comes to our minds when we are asked to describe ourselves. We tend to have a love-hate relationship with boldness. We like the idea of being bold – of standing up and standing firm for Jesus, of calling others to the cross, and of being willing to risk ridicule and resistance for His name. The visions I have of being bold for Jesus often collide head-on with the reality of my silence, fear, and desire just to blend in. I hesitate when I should speak up. I nod politely when I should walk away. I whisper when I should shout. I look around and hope that someone else will stand up and say the right thing.

Looking up the word bold in the dictionary highlights the definitions that we expect to find – fearlessness, daring, and courage. However, a glance down the list of meanings brings to light another definition. “Bold – clear and distinct to the eye, conspicuous.” Perhaps the greatest boldness is not found in a single action, but in a lifestyle that consistently reflects the light of Jesus in a dark world. We are bold when those around us can clearly see that we belong to Christ. Our faith makes us distinctive as we strive to live out His nature and character in our families, at work, and among our neighbors. Looking like Jesus makes us conspicuous. Grace empowers us to be bold as we walk in His steps and imitate His example.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be bold. God doesn’t want me to live a blend-in, blurry life. It takes boldness and determination to look like Jesus. I want His character to be stamped clearly on my heart. I long for His image to be distinct in my words, actions, choices, and relationships. Being bold isn’t about grand gestures. It is about exhibiting the courage required to look like Jesus with my neighbor, at my job, in my house, and at the grocery store. In those ordinary, regular moments, I want boldness to make its mark. I want to leave the people I meet with a clear and distinct impression of Jesus.





Expectations

26 11 2012

It didn’t fit. Shaking my head, I stood by the mirror and checked my reflection again. The package arrived in the mail after days of my waiting and watching for its arrival. I had ordered a new dress online, sure that it would be the flattering, practical answer to my wardrobe dilemma. Now, turning this way and that, there was just no denying that reality didn’t meet my expectations.

Expectations are interesting, sometimes difficult, things. Within an expectation, we set our hopes and our anticipation about tomorrow. Some expectations are grounded in experience. We expect that the red light is going to eventually turn green. Other expectations are grounded in communication with others. I expect to meet my friend at noon because that is when we agreed to get together for lunch. These expectations shape our movements and direct our behavior.

The expectations that get me in trouble are the ones I develop on my own. I have a tendency to set expectations that are not necessarily based on experience or interaction, but rather my own desires. I set a standard for the behavior of others that is defined by what will benefit me. If they love me, they will…. call me, see me, make time for me, invite me, do for me, or notice me. I then hold others to this unspoken expectation, judging their behavior, attitudes, motive, and care on whether or not they meet my pre-determined ideas about how I should be treated. Even worse, sometimes I do this with God.

My Jesus Resolution today is to set my expectations in the reality of God’s goodness. God is not always going to bless me in the way or in the timing I desire. He is always going to do what is the very best thing for me at the perfect time. I can cement my hope in the myriad of ways that I daily experience His grace and His faithfulness. I can set my compass by the truth that He has revealed to me in His Word. God calls me to set my expectations and anticipation about His movement in my life within the reality of His love and the certainty of His purpose. When I do, I will never be disappointed.





Thank-Full

23 11 2012

“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” ~Robert Caspar Lintner

The seasons have already switched. The dishes are barely done. There are still leftovers in the fridge. Kids aren’t back in school yet, but we have moved on. Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas season has already been launched. Our national attention to gratitude is ushered out by pre-dawn sales and the rush to make the most out of the next holiday.

Don’t let Thanksgiving go so easily. Hold onto the beauty of a day spent resting in your blessings. Hang onto the contentment you felt in the company of family and friends. Soak in the awareness of God’s hand on your life, His grace on your soul, and His love filling your heart.

Too many times, I flip the pages of my calendar and forget that thankfulness is supposed to be the defining characteristic of a life infused with Christ. Thanksgiving helps me see His fingerprints on my days. Gratitude is the best way to experience the fullness of His presence because it makes my heart tender to His nearness and aware of His gentle tug at my soul.

I am good at counting my problems, naming my burdens, grumbling about my grievances, whining about my work, fretting about my family, fuming at my friends, and cataloguing the circumstances that seem to be against me. Thankfulness is the tool God uses to turn me inside out. Joy flows from discovering the reasons to be grateful in the moment I am in. Love breaks through to my heart when I pause and say thanks. Peace moves in when I turn my eyes from my troubles to His tenderness.

My Jesus Resolution today is to stretch Thanksgiving out. I am going to make it a 365 day event. No, there won’t be turkey every day, but there will be gratitude. I want thankfulness to define the way I see my world. I want it to be evident in the way I treat others, the choices I make, the way I speak, and even the way I celebrate the next holiday on the calendar. Thanksgiving was never meant to be confined to a single day. Be full of thanks and let it overflow into every day.





Thanksgiving

21 11 2012

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Families are gathering, seasonings are lined up on the kitchen counter, pie pans are waiting to be filled, and the good dishes are ready to be set on the table. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and as we prepare for a day set aside to remember and recount our blessings, take a moment to pause and soak in the deep reality of what it means to be thankful.

Being thankful is more than just words that you say. It is a life-defining, eye-opening, soul-expanding, heart-stretching way to live. Thanksgiving is a commitment to live fully and completely in the presence of God. It is a resolution to open our eyes and be alert to the way He moves in and around us. It is a moment in each day when we breathe in and recognize our dependence on the One who gives us life. It propels us into love, helps us stop short in wonder, and invites us into worship.

Thanksgiving is the whisper of a heart touched by grace. It is traced in steps of humility, echoed in songs of praise, revealed in deep surrender, and evident in the way we love, laugh, and reach for His hand.

If people couldn’t hear your words, could they see thanksgiving in your life?

My Jesus Resolution today is to live thanks. President Kennedy is right. Thanksgiving is more than a holiday. It is a habit. I am going to make a point to express my gratitude today, but I am going to be deliberate about living out my thanksgiving each and every day.





Looking Up

19 11 2012

The sun was melting behind the trees. The cool evening shadows were pushing us towards home. My little friend and I were packing up and getting ready to leave the park. We had spent the afternoon letting our imaginations take full flight. Dinosaurs had marched through the sand. Boats were launched, mountains climbed, foes defeated, races won, scientific discoveries made, and we swung so high the toes of our shoes almost touched the blue of the sky. Now it was time to go home.

We gathered backpacks, water bottles, jackets, and the puppy and started walking. My mind was already down the road, planning dinner and checking the clock. My little friend, however, wanted to take the long sidewalk. I watched as he zigged and zagged. He paused to pick up an acorn, jump over a crack in the sidewalk, and stop to feel the trunk of a tree. I should have known better, but I said it anyway. “Hurry up. We need to go.”

That is when he ducked under the branches of a small tree. Still completely covered in leaves, the shape of the tree resembled a small umbrella. All I could see was the bottom of his sneakers sticking out from beneath the green canopy. “Hey!” he said. “There is a bird’s nest in here.”

Time froze for a split second as I weighed my options. I could let my rushing ruin the moment, or I could join him under the branches and be a part of the adventure. I scrunched down, entering a whole new world. The air looked different under the tree as sunlight filtered through the leaves. There, near the top, was a beautiful bird’s nest. We talked about who might live there, marveling at the way a little bird family had made its home in this quiet place on a busy path. I left the embrace of the tree branches changed.

Being willing to slow down and look up is an eye-opening, heart-stretching, soul-inspiring way to live.

My Jesus Resolution today is to slow down and look up. Hurry is the enemy of hallelujahs. Impatience robs me of opportunities to praise. Too many times I rush through the pools of refreshment God has put in my path, treating them like puddles to avoid rather than places to pause and breathe in His delight. Today I want to move through my day humbled and hushed, rather than hurried and harried. Wonder and awe begin with a willingness to bow my head, stoop down, and look up.





The Surprise

16 11 2012

It was just a regular afternoon in a day of ordinary errands, commonplace chores, and unending piles of laundry. I came in the door with my keys in my hand having just returned from another carpool adventure at the school. My mind was already thinking ahead about how to answer the inevitable “what’s for dinner?” question when I saw her. Standing in the middle of my living room was my daughter from out-of-state. She unexpectedly had a couple of days off and decided a surprise visit home was in order. I squealed. She smiled. And in record time we were hugging and dancing around the room.

We grinned and talked as she poured out her story of making the journey and anticipating the look of surprise on our faces. As she was telling me her tale, my thoughts started going down the list. Were there clean sheets on the bed? Fresh towels in the bath? Had I dusted recently? Did I need to find an extra blanket?

Her sweet surprise and my list of questions turned my thoughts to Jesus. He has made a promise that He is going to keep. There is going to come a day when He arrives unannounced. The day and the time will be a surprise. The question is – will I be ready?

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.” – 2 Peter 3:10-11

My Jesus Resolution today is to be ready. I can’t wait to see my Redeemer. I long to hear His voice, see His face, and bow at His feet. I look forward to the moment of final transformation as He completes the work He has begun in me. The moment will come as a surprise in the middle of an ordinary, regular, nothing-special kind of day. But knowing that surprise is coming should shape the priorities that fill today, and allow hope and anticipation to bubble under the surface of the laundry, cleaning, deadlines, and bills. What do you need to do to be ready for His surprise?