Knowing God

31 12 2012

It was Sunday evening and we had our Bibles open. Sitting in our usual spot, we allowed the familiar rhythm of worship and study to feed our souls and open our eyes. We were seated in a row in front of people that we love. There was a couple with a small child playing on his knees, grandparents who have enveloped us into their family, and two elderly women whose constant presence is a constant encouragement.

The preacher was pointing us to the cross, helping us see the powerful way God is moving in our lives and keeping His promises to our hearts. As he asked a series of questions, I noticed something remarkable. “How many of you know God?” he asked. Hands went up all over the room, but it was two hands in particular that caught my eye. The little boy on his knees and the 102 year-old woman sitting just down from him. With equal enthusiasm and confidence, they both raised their hands. Here is the miracle of faith.

Does that little boy know God? Yes, he does. He lives with a child-like faith that puts mine to shame. He knows no doubt. He lives in the certainty of God’s unshakeable character. He breathes God in like air, aware of His presence, confident that he is treasured by the King of the Universe.

Does that 102 year-old woman know God? Yes, she does. They have spent a lifetime together. She knows what it means to walk and talk with God in the highest and lowest places of life. She is committed to letting Him lead, surrendering where she needs to, and encouraging others to do the same. He is more real to her than her own heartbeat, and she lives as His beloved.

One just beginning. One nearing the end. Both know God. Both rest in His peace, experience His grace, live in His mercy, worship His glory, and are confident of His delight. The richness of both of their faiths gives hope to mine.

“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:24

My Jesus Resolution today is to get to know God better. I am going to spend time with Him, reading His Word, listening to His voice, walking with His people, and obeying His commands. I want to have the confidence and clarity of the little boy’s faith. I want to experience the deep richness of the older woman’s faith. Mostly, I want to be able to raise my hand without pausing when someone asks me if I know God.





Staying Together

28 12 2012

Chaos is the name of the game at the mall during the holidays. My husband and I had ducked into the giant retail space to see about exchanging a gift. We waded through the crowded shoppers, weaving and winding our way through the streams of humanity intent on completing their lists and heading toward home.

That is when she caught my eye. A mom and her two daughters were attempting to negotiate the traffic. Mom was forging ahead, moving through the roadblocks and urging her girls to keep up. Big sister was two steps behind mom, holding little sister’s hand. Together they were an adorable pair.

Abruptly, the crowd shifted, separating little sister from her family. Small and suddenly alone, she stopped in the middle of the mass of people, frozen and overwhelmed. You could see the panic rise in her eyes. She didn’t know where to go, what to do, or who to follow.

Just as we were getting ready to step in and help, big sister reappeared. She took her little sister’s hand, peace replaced panic, and together they skipped off to rejoin their mother. Watching them walk away, God reminded me of a profound truth.

Many times, I am that little girl. I do fine as long as I have somebody to walk with, talk to, and keep up with. When I let go or decide I can travel on my own, I end up alone and frozen in the middle of the chaos, panic rising in my eyes, wondering what to do and where to turn. Joy fills the moment when someone takes my hand and reminds me to stay together.

My Jesus Resolution today is to stick to my family. Holding hands, linking hearts, and staying connected with God’s family isn’t just an idea for Sunday morning. We need each other. In the middle of this pressing, pushing, crazy, chaotic world, I need others who will watch out for me, and make sure that I stay close to those who will help me look like Jesus. I need to keep my eyes open for brothers and sisters who are stuck alone in the crushing crowds, and be willing to reach out a hand and remind them of the power of staying together.





Home

26 12 2012

As memories of the recent season wash over us, take a picture of the moment. Catching our breath from the stress and exhaustion that inevitably overwhelms us, draw on the comfort that met you. As life settles once more into its routine, reignite your soul with the spark of anticipation that warmed your heart as you prepared to go home for the holidays.

With all of its tinsel-wrapped glitter and lighted-ornament dazzle, the most anticipated part of the holidays is not the boxes and bags, but the warm embrace of family and the comfort of home.

Home. Let that word roll in your imagination for a moment. What picture does it bring to mind? Let your soul soak in the gentleness of your mother’s touch. Feel your father’s hand on your back as encouragement floods your heart. Lose yourself, for just a moment, in the unconditional love of those who know you best.

Does it make the day seem just a bit brighter? Is your load a little lighter? As the anticipation of holiday homecomings fades, commit to daily igniting your soul with the anticipation of going home. Not the house with the wooden door, but the mansion surrounded by pearl gates.

Heaven. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? With all its gold streets and jewel-encrusted walls, the most anticipated part of heaven is not the shimmering crystal sea, but the warm embrace of the Father and the comfort of finally being home. Close your eyes. Let your soul soak in the gentleness of the Savior’s touch. Let your heart melt as you hear the Father whisper, “Well done.” Lose yourself, for just a moment, in the unconditional love of those who know you best.

My Jesus Resolution today is to let the anticipation of that future shape my present. I am going to let thoughts of heaven fill my mind. I am going to fill my heart with the love of God’s family and dream…of going home.





Christ-Mas

24 12 2012

God uses my kids to catch my attention. Driving in the car together, we were talking about the history of Christmas. Stockings filled with surprises find their roots in the generosity of a man named Nicholas. Evergreen trees became focal points of celebration as people left paganism and learned about Jesus. Even the name Christmas has its origin in the worship of Christ.

It was here that my youngest son threw out an observation that stopped me in my tracks. In order to understand his comment, you need to know that we live in south Texas. Hispanic culture and the Spanish language are as common here as humidity and tacos. As we were talking about the roots of the word Christmas, he acknowledged the traditional origin of the word, but noted that Christmas took on a deeper dimension if we remembered that the word mas in Spanish means “more.” Christmas becomes a season in which we can stop and acknowledge that we need more Christ.

More is a theme of the Christmas season. More toys, more clothes, more food, more electronics, more presents, more ornaments, more parties, more cards, more people, more time, more energy, more debt, more stuff, more exhaustion, more frustration, more anxiety, more expectations, and more pressure. Rarely, do we hear any one talking about the need for more Christ. And yet is there anything else that we need more than Him?

My Jesus Resolution today is to reframe Christmas into Christ-Mas. I need more Christ. I need the gift of His presence. I crave more of His grace. I long for an extra measure of His glory. I want to celebrate Christmas with new purpose. As we spend time together, I am going to ask Jesus to fill my family with Himself. Opening presents is going to direct my heart to more gratitude for the gift of His grace. Sitting at the table, I am going to be deliberate about inviting Jesus to be present in our conversation and laughter. The idea of opening our hearts and making room for more Christ during this season opens my eyes and fires my imagination. It is at the heart of my prayer for you today. Merry Christ-Mas!





The Oil Light

21 12 2012

He was driving on a country road, almost to his destination, when the oil light came on. Before he could puzzle out why the oil light was suddenly illuminated, other warning lights started to appear on the dashboard. He pulled over, stopped the car, and did the best thing a boy can do – he called his dad.

Long distance, they talked through the situation and began sorting out the problem. Dad walked him through the steps to take as they investigated the trouble. God worked in the timing, location, and people to keep him safe. In the end, a tow truck came to the rescue and brought the car and the boy back home.

The next morning found the dad in deep conversation with the mechanic at the garage. A simple problem, but one that could have caused great harm if left unchecked for even a short time. “You were really lucky that he didn’t keep driving. It would have meant replacing the engine.” The boy’s willingness to stop and ask for help saved the day.

Listening in on dad’s side of the phone calls reminded me of an important lesson. It’s okay to ask for help. Our hearts have warning lights. Joy leaks out. Peace deflates. We find ourselves running low on love or patience. Too many times, I keep going. I don’t want to stop. I want to ignore the warning lights and pretend that it will all be fine later. I tell myself I can handle it on my own. The results are never good. I end up doing serious damage. Taking a moment to slow down and call for help just might save the day.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to the warning lights and ask for help. I don’t have to do life by myself. It’s okay to let others know when I need a hand, a smile, a prayer, or a hug. Contrary to what the world tells us, sharing those moments doesn’t make us look weak. It helps us be real, and in being authentic, God has room to shine.





Shaken

19 12 2012

“’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10

Ever feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you? The phone rings, the mail arrives, the news interrupts, the door closes, the tests come back, the mountains shake, the hills move, and the world shifts. What you once counted on for sure footing feels shaky. What was once safe and dependable now holds fear.  You lie flat on your back, the wind knocked out of you, wondering how you will survive the pain in your heart.

This promise in Isaiah is centuries old and yet speaks to my deep need in this moment. No matter how the landscape around me changes, no matter what shakes my world, God’s unfailing love is constant. I can depend on His peace. I can rely on His presence. I can trust His power. He is sure and certain and true even when the rest of the world has turned upside down.

Today this promise is especially sweet. No one plans on the foundations shifting. No one expects the ordinary to be pierced with tragedy, or our worlds to turn upside down in a heartbeat. But they do. In those moments when we are disoriented by doubt, plagued by pain, surrounded by suffering, and overwhelmed by uncertainty, God speaks His love into our lives. He whispers hope, extends grace, and covers us with compassion.

My Jesus Resolution today is to hang on to God’s hand and His promise. Shaken is not an if, but a when. The moment will take us by surprise, leave us breathless and beaten, but it doesn’t have to be our undoing. Even if everything around me falls apart, God will still be there. Even if all that is familiar suddenly vanishes, God still loves me. Even when my worst fear becomes my reality, God holds me in His hand and promises to never let go.





Deep Groans

17 12 2012

Our souls ache. Our hearts have deep bruises. Evil has once again snuck in and left weeping, fear, disillusionment, horror, and questions in its wake. Sorrow explodes. Bewilderment stuns. Grief overwhelms. It is too much.

There is no way to make sense of evil’s logic. It twists in the darkness, leaving us shaking our heads and holding our hearts in our hands. Tracing the deep wound leaves us gasping for breath and wondering how to find grace in the midst of terrible tragedy.

As we absorb and echo the unspeakable pain of those who suddenly face empty chairs at the table, toys lined up waiting for little hands, and Christmas presents that will never be unwrapped, what do we say? How do we wrap our minds around something so horrific, so unthinkable, something filled with so much anguish? My hand over my mouth, I am left groaning, searching for words that will express the overflow of my heart in the aftermath of such darkness.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26.

Weak, vulnerable, fragile – those are all words that describe our hearts, especially today. Yet, it is in these very moments that the graciousness of God’s presence gently tugs us closer. The Spirit is speaking for us, even when we don’t know what to say. Our tears find voice in deep groans directed by the Spirit straight into God’s heart. He captures the rhythm of our pain and echoes it back to the Father. Our questions thunder in the consuming fire of grief. We don’t know what or why or how, but the Spirit reminds us that do know Who. And it is that Who that makes all the difference

God knows what it means to lose a child to a violent death. He has felt its heartbreak. He knows its sorrow. He saw this moment before it happened. He positioned grace to be unleashed in its aftermath. He promises to walk through the broken shards of our hearts and teach us how to trace His handprints even here.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray. I don’t have to speak any words. I can trust the Spirit to search the depths of my heart and say it for me. I can leave my wounded soul in His hands, knowing He will tenderly draw me near to Himself. I can offer the difficult, even dangerous, sacrifice of praise for the ways that He shows Himself faithful, sovereign, and righteous even when darkness splashes on our lives. It is too much for our hearts to bear. But God is bigger…and that is our hope.