Mourning and Dancing

30 01 2015

She is almost two years old. Blonde curls hug her face while she shyly peeks around her mother’s legs. It has taken patience and practice, but she now joins the other preschoolers in their special song time. She stands proudly in her spot, and her whole little body sings. It is fun to watch her engage with the wise man or let her heart sing the truth that Jesus Loves Me. She doesn’t just open her mouth. When she sings, she uses every part of her.

Then the songs end, and it is time to sit down. Grins and smiles quickly turn into protests and tears. She loves to sing. She firmly tells everyone who will listen that she wants “more song.”  Little wails of disapproval rise up as she moves back to her seat.

“…a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” – Ecclesiastes 3:4a

Little children move between despair and delight with ease. One moment finds them in tears, certain that all is lost. A few minutes later, you can hear squeals of glee floating across the air. One of the neat things about children is that whether they are in the midst of tears or laughter, they want to share the moment with a parent. When they are upset, a pair of open arms is the best place to be. When joy breaks over the moment, they run to tell a loving parent.

This is the lesson that I want to learn from my little friend. When she is singing with her whole body and spirit, she does so from the embrace of a parent. When she despairs that there are no more songs, she clings to the arms of her parent. Whether today is a time of joy or a moment of deep sorrow, the best place for me to stand is in the arms of my Father.

My Jesus Resolution today is to settle into my Father’s embrace. There will be times of mourning. Perhaps over sin, over injustice, over prejudice, or over loss. In these moments, I want to seek out the comfort, peace, and grace only found in His strong arms. There will also be times of dancing. Times to celebrate, laugh, enjoy, appreciate, and sing. At these times, I want to pause in His presence, knowing I am experiencing His goodness and the opportunity to praise Him with everything I am.





Laughing and Crying

28 01 2015

There is nothing quite like a good cry. You know what I mean. Sometimes the only thing that helps is letting the tears flow. A good cry eases the tightness that grabs hold of our hearts and the squeeze that stress and worry wrap around our souls. Tears don’t usually change our circumstances, but having a chance to release those emotions clears our perspective, allowing us to take a deep breath and gather up the courage to take the next step. Contrary to what the world often tells us, a good cry, especially with a friend, is an act of grace.

Here’s my reality. I do my share of crying. Things get overwhelming or my heart gets weary, and I can go through the tissues with the best of them. The truth is that it is laughter that I struggle with. As God teaches us about how to use His gift of time, He reminds us that there is “…a time to weep, and a time to laugh;” (Ecclesiastes 3:4a). I don’t know about you, but laughter gets lost in my days. Between the busy, the hurry, the deadlines, and just the grind of the ordinary, I go through too many days without taking the time to relax and laugh. Studies show that children laugh about 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15-20 times a day. What did Jesus say? “Unless you become like a little child…”

My Jesus Resolution today is to have a good cry and a good laugh. God gives us time for both. I’m going to cry when I need to, knowing that He bottles my tears and understands my pain. I am also going to laugh…hard. We know that our society tells us to take things seriously, get down to business, and work harder so that we will be successful. Perhaps, however, we would be better served if we laughed longer, smiled more, chuckled louder, and giggled faster. Our souls might be more luminous if we took the time to laugh every day.





Cleaning Closets

26 01 2015

Cleaning closets is one of my favorite, least enjoyable tasks. I like the end result, but the process, especially at the beginning, can be really overwhelming. It is amazing how much junk accumulates in my closet. Before I can get everything neat and organized, I have to go through all of the stuff, pulling out the where-did-I-get-thats, the unwanted sweater from Aunt Susie Jane, and the when-did-I-buy-that? Then there are the what-was-I-thinking pile, the I-have-no-idea-stack, and the just plain rubbish. All of that has to go before I can take what I value, what I want to keep, and what is important and make the closet workable and functional.

The wisdom writer had his eye on this truth many centuries ago when he wrote Ecclesiastes 3:3b – “…a time to break down, and a time to build up;” Here are a list of ten things that need to be broken down in our hearts before it can be built up into the image of Jesus.

  1. Break down despair – Build up hope
  2. Break down grumbling – Build up praise
  3. Break down hostility – Build up peace
  4. Break down selfishness – Build up generosity
  5. Break down comfort zones – Build up faith
  6. Break down guilt – Build up grace
  7. Break down fear – Build up joy
  8. Break down worry – Build up prayer
  9. Break down pride – Build up humility
  10. Break down apathy – Build up compassion

My Jesus Resolution today is to break down the world’s hold on my heart and build up Christ’s claim on all that I am. Just like my closet, it is easy for junk to pile up in my heart. A little bitterness here, a little anger there, and before long my heart is packed with so many negatives that there isn’t any room for Jesus to take shape. Breaking down those negatives isn’t a lot of fun, but it is necessary. Building up requires deliberate effort and specific focus. God gives us a little time each day to break down and build up. Ready to get started?





The Big, Fat Caterpillar

23 01 2015

It was literally the biggest caterpillar I had ever seen. I stopped in my tracks last week, watching a black, fuzzy caterpillar the size of a hot dog slowly make its way across my path. Of course, when I saw it, it was supposed to be dead. Seriously. A little guy visiting that day had spotted the big, fat caterpillar and went into ninja bug mode as little boys do. He stomped and stood his ground, his cowboy boots grinding the caterpillar into the sidewalk. He declared him killed. “That bug is really, truly, really dead,” he proudly said.

Now an hour later, I watched the caterpillar, clearly not dead, inching its way from one side of the concrete breezeway to the other. I couldn’t tell if it was injured or not. I couldn’t even tell which end was the head or the tail, but it was making progress, on its way to somewhere.

The image of the big, fat caterpillar has stayed with me. It reminds me of some of my bad habits. Like my little ninja friend, I kick and stomp and declare them killed, only to find them later inching along as though nothing has changed. I watch and shake my head. There are habits, attitudes, patterns, and choices that just need to be stopped in their tracks because they don’t help me look like Jesus.

“…a time to kill, and a time to heal;” – Ecclesiastes 3:3a

One of the consistent messages in the New Testament speaks to the need to kill the old person, with its worldly desires, selfish motives, and limited vision, and allow God to shape us into people healed and made whole by grace. Killing seems like such a harsh reality, but it is necessary if Christ is going to be formed in me. I can’t be healed by His mercy until the poison that is choking my soul is put to death.

My Jesus Resolution today is embrace 2 Corinthians 5:17 –“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” God wants to create something beautiful in me. In order for that to happen, something is going to have to pass away. Today is the day to go to the altar and kill the habits and practices that are holding me back from being all God wants me to be in Christ. I really hope that big, fat caterpillar turns into the most spectacular butterfly, and I pray that I can be courageous enough to kill what needs to go so I can fly as well.





Glimpses

21 01 2015

He was just a little guy when I had my first glimpse. He was visiting his grandparents on a hot summer day. A repairman was working on a problem with their garage door, and my little guy couldn’t resist watching the gentleman use his tools. He planted himself in the garage, fascinated with the work going on. My son sat out of the worker’s way, even as the older gentleman and my little guy carried on a lively conversation. At one point his grandmother poked her head in to check on my son and the workman told her he was doing great. “He is preaching me a sermon about Jesus!” the man replied.

Every once and a while, God gives a glimpse. We plant seeds all around us, praying that Jesus will grow in our families, our friendships, our work, and ourselves. The growing process, however, is long and we tend to lose sight of progress when it is so easy to see where we fail and fall short. That is where glimpses come in. A glimpse is a small peek into the way God is working in and around us. They are moments when we get to stop, see, and savor.

“…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;” – Ecclesiastes 3:2b

We tend to think of harvest time as far away and that our job today is to focus entirely on planting. Planting is necessary, but so is taking time to rejoice in the harvest. There is a time to stop and measure the blessings God has poured into the day. When I heard the story about my son and the garage door repairman, I knew it was a glimpse. I wasn’t done planting Jesus in his life, but it was a moment to recognize what God was already starting to grow in him. Glimpses of the harvest give us the courage to keep planting.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to the glimpses. There is a time to plant, and with it to pray for Christ to take deep root. There will also be a time to pluck up the fruit of what God is growing, hold it close to my heart, and give thanks. These little moments remind us in the midst of the ordinary, everyday, over-busy stress of life that God is present, at work, and encouraging His children to keep planting and trusting Him with the harvest.





Birthdays and Funerals

19 01 2015

We tend to think of time in very physical terms. This is natural because our physical lives are measured and move within time. We count days and weeks, years and decades, watching our children grow, our bodies change, and the people around us move through the seasons of life. It is with no great surprise, then, that we read a passage like Ecclesiastes 3 in the light of birthdays and funerals and the very physical ramifications of time.

“…a time to be born, and a time to die:” – Ecclesiastes 3:2a

If you are like me, my mind goes to the days that mark the beginning and end of life. We celebrate. We grieve. We come to understand the truth of these words of wisdom. Interestingly, however, the Bible spends more time talking about being born and dying in spiritual terms than it does in physical terms. Perhaps the physical realities of birth and death are meant to introduce us to a spiritual truth we desperately need to understand.

Our physical lives begin with birth and end with death. Spiritual transformation begins with death which then gives way to life. In order to be conformed into the image of Jesus, we have to die to self and be born of water and the Spirit into a new life. And that is just the beginning. Every day I am called to put to death those things that do not look like Jesus, and open my heart to the wonderful, sometimes challenging, things that God wants to bring to life in me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to surrender to the dying and birthing my heart needs to grow. Dying to self is hard work. Being open to Christ being formed in me isn’t always easy. But within the precious time God has given me today I have the opportunity to bury the old and embrace the new. Today there will be a time to be born and a time to die. In order to look more like Jesus, I will need to recognize the opportunity and seize the moment.





Enjoy Today

16 01 2015

What is your favorite season? We all have a time of year that speaks to our hearts. I have a friend who spends the winter counting the days until spring. Others love summer with its bright sunshine, hot temperatures, and sense of freedom. Some enjoy fall with its cool breezes and brilliant colors. Whichever one is your favorite, they each have their own special beauty and own unique purpose.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here is God’s first lesson about time. Recognize the balance and beauty that comes with the seasons. Each season works within a divine rhythm that allows the whole year to unfold, revealing His wisdom and creativity. The same is true of our lives. Our lives move within an unfolding series of seasons, each one having its own beauty, struggles, wonders, and tempo. Many times, rather than enjoying the season I am in, I either look back with regret, look ahead with worry, or believe that I have to accomplish the work of four seasons in the timeframe of today. We put so much pressure on ourselves to push through this season in order to get to the next one. God calls us to live fully in today. Enjoy today. Discover the unique pleasures that fill this moment. We couldn’t enjoy crunching through bright autumn leaves if spring didn’t come and fill the trees with green. The same is true in our families, in our friendships, in our work, and even in our relationship with God. All of the seasons of life work together to grow us into the image of Christ.

My Jesus Resolution today is to enjoy today. I am going to find ten wonderful things to celebrate about today. I am going to walk outside in the brisk winter air and marvel at the way God allows the earth to rest and renew. I am going to run inside, thankful for warm quilts and hot coffee. I am going to take a picture of my kids in order to capture this moment that will be gone too quickly. I am going to rest in the truth that God created this season in my life in order for me to walk closely with Him. I don’t have to rush it, over pack it, or wish it away – just enjoy it while giving Him praise.