Wallpaper

28 10 2015

The wallpaper had to go. Outdated and showing the signs of being the backboard for any number of boys’ balls, it was time for the baseball-inspired wallpaper to rest in peace.

I gathered my tools, climbed the ladder, and began the process of “off with the old, and in with the new.” As I started, my creativity took flight as I imagined fresh paint, warm colors, and beautiful charm taking shape in the space.

That lasted about six minutes.

The wallpaper didn’t want to come down. The old adhesive proved more durable than I imagined. I peeled, scraped, scored, and sprayed in an effort to expose this section of the wall to something more desirable, but it resisted transformation. I finally succeeded in getting a corner loose and, with some sense of satisfaction, yanked the piece of stubborn paper from the wall. Progress, I thought. But there, under the baseballs, was another layer of wallpaper. Spaceships, this time. I had forgotten.

Standing on the ladder, peeling away layers of glue, I saw a picture of my soul. Transformation always sounds appealing in the beginning. But looking like Jesus always involves the hard reality of stripping away the old in order to make way for the new. But my sin is stickier than I realize. It is more durable, more tenacious, and more comfortable than I would like to admit. And just when I think that maybe I am making progress, another layer of selfishness, coat of pride, or sign of shame peeks out from underneath.

My Jesus Resolution today is to watch my Savior and redouble my surrender. His blood is the perfect antidote for sin’s sticky residue. His power can pull away the guilt that clings to my soul. He is not discouraged by the layers of old, worn-out, stained, and tacky that too often seems to define who I am. He wants me to look like Jesus. He can see the beauty and potential of what lies deep inside, and He delights every time I open my heart, inviting His transformation to unfold in me.





Where Do You See Him?

26 10 2015

It echoed as a quiet whisper in the middle of the night. An email with one sentence – where did you see God?

The ability to see God moving in our days, in our activities, in our hearts, and in our circumstances is one of the essential keys to learning to be like Jesus. Jesus looked at fields full of crops and saw the Father. He noticed sheep lying in a pasture and saw God. He observed seeds growing, watched children playing, ate His meals, slept in a boat, caught fish, and with every step, every breath, saw His Father at work. Everywhere He looked, He saw a world permeated with the presence of the Loving One. He calls us to learn how to see with His eyes.

Some days it is hard. The question whispered in the dark didn’t flow from doubt or disbelief. Sometimes our vantage point makes it difficult to see Him. We need others to help us trace His hand, feel His touch, and spotlight His movement.

But here is the catch – it takes vulnerability to ask. It means that we have to be willing to admit that we can’t see. There is transparency required in learning how to open our eyes. We have to risk exposing our weakness in order to see His glory.

John the Baptist understood. Imprisoned by Herod, John sent messengers to Jesus. Are you the One or should we look for another? I am having trouble seeing, he admits. Where is God? Do you see Him?

My Jesus Resolution is to be like John. When it is hard to see, I am going to ask for help. I love Jesus’ answer. “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:4) John risked asking, and Jesus sent him people with stories – stories of the lame walking, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, and the dead rediscovering life. John also reminds me not to keep my God stories to myself. Someone out there may be asking – Do you see Him? Your story may be God’s answer.





One Hundred Times

23 10 2015

“…the seriously devout Jews of today still giv[e] thanks to God one hundred times a day.” – Ann Voskamp

I was reading – one of my favorite things to do – and came across this observation. One hundred times a day. I stopped and pondered the magnitude of thanksgiving that pours from lips committed to gratitude one hundred times per day. Do I give thanks that much? Could I? Would I?

One hundred times a day seems overwhelming. It would require a focus and dedication that would occupy the mind and the heart throughout the day. I realized that might not be a bad thing. Gratitude instead of grumpiness. Worship in the place of worry. Jesus occupying my thoughts, shaping my words, and sharpening my vision instead of the television, the radio, or my own misshapen perspective. One hundred times per day.

I decided to do the math. Taking out seven hours for sleeping (probably more a dream than a reality), there are seventeen hours left in the day. Giving thanks one hundred times per day would require gratitude to bubble to the surface six times per hour. Once every ten minutes.

How would I be different if I stopped and gave thanks for the blessings I had experienced in the last ten minutes, every ten minutes, all day long?

My Jesus Resolution is to give thanks one hundred times today. It is a risky challenge, living out I Thessalonians 5:17 so literally. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I can only imagine how my eyes will be different, how my heart will be softer, how my spirit will be more attuned to His presence, how my worship will be reshaped, how my soul will be transformed. Do I dare give thanks one hundred times a day? Do you? I dare you.





Thin Places

21 10 2015

The Celts have a tradition that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places the distance is even smaller. Thin places are spots where the threads between heaven and now are stretched and sheer, allowing us to catch of glimpse of God’s glory. They are the moments when we catch our breath in wonder, and experience the grace-filled reality that fills the other side.

There are thin places in nature. Places of such intense, raw beauty that we can’t help but cover our mouths and stare. Awe makes us rub our eyes as we soak in the splendor of a vista that boldly, persistently proclaims the majesty of God. These are places where it is hard to leave, to tear our eyes away from the truth that God is in this place. We walk away humbled, eyes wide open, our sense of how we fit into the universe realigned. Thin places.

There are thin places in time. Moments when we feel God’s presence in an almost tangible way. Some of these are times of vivid, overwhelming joy. Others are marked by the intensity of grief or pain. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper that catches our ear, encouraging us to stop and pay attention. These thin places in time come like a streak of lightning, illuminating, for just a moment, a different reality than what we usually see. Thin places.

Sometimes thin places are found in people. Someone who shows you Jesus, extends grace, offers a hand, reminds you that you are loved, or helps you take the next step. In watching them walk with God, we catch a glimpse of His face, hear His voice, or feel His love. Spending time with them leaves us both hungry and satisfied. With them, we have moved a little closer to heaven, hearing angel wings. Thin places.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for a thin place. I am convinced that they permeate our world. Places where we are allowed to see glory, witness majesty, experience beauty, and let heaven touch the here and now. The thinnest place of all is found on a hillside planted with three crosses. The one in the middle holds back the fabric of earth and invites us to peer from this world into the one beyond.





Seeing God

19 10 2015

I love church signs. You can tell so much about a church by what they choose to put on their sign. The one that just caught my eye read, “If you want to see God, focus on Jesus.”

I love it. In nine words, this sign sums up the message of the Bible. Jesus came to reveal the Father to the world. He came to show us His heart, give us a glimpse of His glory, and embrace us with His love. His words resonate with the Father’s truth and purpose. His actions reveal the Father’s power and compassion. His movement uncovers the Father’s deep desire to make you His own.

The Hebrew writer put it this way – “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3). When we focus on Jesus, we are ushered into the radiance of the glory of God.

When we listen to Jesus, we hear the voice of God. When we believe Jesus, we respond to the truth of God. When we follow Jesus, we walk in the will of God. When we surrender to Jesus, we live in the purpose of God. When we focus on Jesus, Jesus tells us that we are able to see the Father.

My Jesus Resolution today is to focus on Jesus. Seeing God is the desire of my heart. I can’t wait to behold His glory, bow before His majesty, and live fully in His presence. Through Jesus, I can do all of those things today. Christ’s character reveals the heart of God. His commands provide a pathway into His presence. His call invites my heart to live in His abundance. Setting my sights on Jesus has the power to open my eyes in ways beyond what I can imagine.





Grace Street

16 10 2015

Driving with a GPS is a lesson in faith for me. I turn off the familiar path, following a voice that gives me directions that will take me to my destination. For me, this is an exercise in trust, and it highlights exactly where I struggle in my walk with God. I want to know the ins and outs of every road I am going to take. I want to call the shots about where to turn. I want to make decisions about my direction.

This day found me driving in an unfamiliar part of town. I left the main road, listening to the instructions about where to turn, what path to follow, and when to make lane changes. I was just trying to stay on course when the GPS announced that it was time to turn onto Grace Street.

I couldn’t help but smile. It was a God moment. My thoughts while driving had been overwhelmed by the similarities between driving with a GPS and walking by faith. Now He showed me the blessings of trusting His direction. Follow His lead, and I will always end up on Grace Street.

Grace Street is both our destination, and the road on which we travel when we go with God. It is a place where mistakes are forgiven, wrong turns are corrected, leaky hearts are mended, and flat souls are reinflated. It is a place with room to grow, transformation to be experienced, and wonder waiting around the corner. When we walk in the Way, we will discover that the home for our hearts is located on Grace Street.

My Jesus Resolution today is remember that I live on Grace Street. If I take a wrong turn, I can turn around and find my way back home. I can rest in all that it means to live in a place defined by grace. I can tell others my address, and invite them to come and stay. I am going to trust His lead, follow His direction, and walk in His steps. I may struggle with wanting more control, but I am going to set my heart to listen to His voice and match His moves. A GPS can sometimes send you in the wrong direction, but God’s compass is always set toward Grace Street.

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Praying For You

14 10 2015

It came as a quiet, hurried phone call. “Please pray. Pray right now.” The tension in my friend’s voice was obvious. Stress was fracturing peace. The jagged pieces of broken hearts were shredding joy. Tears flowed with such ferocity that it made it difficult to breathe. Drowning in a sea of desperation and despair, my friend sent up an SOS – please pray.

My heart jumped into my throat even as I fell to my knees. I prayed. I prayed hard. I struggled with a desire to do more than pray. I wanted to help, ease the pain, find a solution, or open a closed door. Anything to heal the situation in which I heard my friend’s heart breaking.

Walking through these days of prayer, God reminded me of a precious truth. Prayer is the first, best gift we can give to those we love. There is nothing more powerful than inviting God into the circumstances that challenge us. There is no better answer than asking the Lord to move in the ways He knows are best.

God stands in the middle of our homes, workplaces, friendships, and churches. He knows our struggles, sees our tears, understands our fears, and witnesses our worries. Prayer asks God to unleash His power, unfold His purpose, and unveil His presence in our days. It pleads with Him to take what we cannot control, and bring it under His sovereignty and into His light.

My Jesus Resolution today is engage the power of prayer. Prayer’s potency doesn’t flow from our words, our faith, or our timing. The power of prayer is rooted in the power of God to intervene in our lives. Prayer acknowledges our dependence and deep need for grace. It speaks a profound truth into our hearts that God is able enough, faithful enough, loving enough, and mighty enough to change what seems to be unchangeable, answer what appears unanswerable, and move the seemingly immoveable. Prayer changes things because prayer changes people. Starting with me.

 





Uphill Climb

12 10 2015

Have you ever felt like you just were never going to make it to the top? Sometimes the road seems pretty level, things are going well, and the walk is easy and energizing. Other times, however, finds you digging deep for the strength just to take the next step. The grade is steep, the climb all uphill, and the horizon just never seems to get any closer.

When you are standing at a distance, it is easy to talk about the mountains. They soar majestically into the clouds and grace the horizon with images of strength and beauty. Stand at the base of a mountain and you might find yourself with a lump in your throat. Things look a little tougher from the bottom of the hill than they did when the mountain stood in the distance.

It is in the uphill climbs that we become the most transparent. What lies at our cores is revealed as we struggle to take each step and find our footing on the rocky terrain. Uphill climbs highlight on whom we depend, what we understand about our purpose, and how we see the journey. It is in the midst of the climb that transformation is most deeply at work in our souls. It is here that we catch a glimpse of what is really true, what is worth the effort, and just how much endurance and grace are bound together.

God gives us an amazing truth to hang onto during the uphill climbs. Listen with wonder. Let His words soak deeply into your heart.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” – Isaiah 46:3-4

Our lives are spent in the arms of God. He carries us close to His heart from infancy to old age. From before your birth, God loved you. When your hair turns gray, God will still be carrying you. Up the hills, over the mountains, through the valleys, and around every turn, God holds you tightly and carries you.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rest in His arms. I never make the uphill climbs alone. I can walk in the stability of His grace, move in the refreshing rhythm of His mercy, and find sure footing in His faithfulness. Today I am going to stop for just a minute, close my eyes, and feel His arms around me. Too many times I try to walk in my own strength, and end up tired, frustrated, and disillusioned. Being carried changes the uphill climbs into times of intimacy, dependence, and trust, but it requires surrender. Are you going to climb today or let yourself be carried?





A Smile

9 10 2015

Have you ever noticed the power of a smile? A simple smile can change everything. It can diffuse a difficult situation, build bridges, overcome language barriers, and bring grace into a dark moment. Smiles help us conquer our fears, touch the heart of another, and create a connection between souls.

I imagine that Jesus smiled….a lot. A smile is a gift of the heart. God created smiles. He wants us to use them. He made us to be a people who share smiles with everyone. We live in a world that is stingy with its smiles. Smiles invite connection. They open the door to conversation, promote transparency, and offer hope. Smiles help to remind us that we don’t walk alone. No matter our background, color, economic status, burdens, or gifts, a smile allows us to see God in the face of another person.

Mother Teresa once said, “Love begins with a smile.” It is a simple act of courage in a world that encourages us to keep to ourselves. It is a ray of sunshine in the darkness, an offer of friendship and unity. Frowns erect fences around our hearts. Smiles are gates, avenues of access and windows into joy.

My Jesus Resolution today is to smile. We are called to a life of love – radical love, outside-the-box love, generous love. A smile is a simple way to step into God’s call to love. I can offer a smile to everyone I meet today. I can smile at my postal carrier, the grocery clerk, my neighbor, the coworker in the next office, and my family. I am going to remember the power God built into a smile and offer each one as an act of worship and thanksgiving. And sometime today, I am going to turn my face toward the heavens, think about Jesus, and smile. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that God is smiling too.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

                                                                                    – Numbers 6:24-26





Heart Healthy

7 10 2015

Have you noticed all the health foods in the grocery store? Everything these days seems to be marked with a label designed to draw our attention to the nutritional value of the product. Heart-healthy, low cholesterol, reduced sodium, no trans-fats, extra fiber, and no refined sugar food abound on the shelves. Everyone is trying to focus attention on the need to be careful about our physical health and what we put in our bodies.

Today it was the heart-healthy label that caught my attention. Red hearts grace the boxes of items that claim to be heart-friendly. Choosing those products is supposed to be a step in the direction of good health and a longer life.

I wish they had those kinds of labels for things beyond the physical. Wouldn’t it be neat to see a heart-healthy label on a television show or the cover of a book? I wish we could attach them to music labels and internet sites. It would even be helpful to be able to adhere one to certain people. Are they individuals who will help my heart be healthy or someone with whom I should be careful of my exposure?

As important as it is to be physically heart-healthy, it is absolutely vital to be spiritually heart-healthy. We need to be even more careful about what we put into our spirits than we are about what we put into our bodies. We need to read the labels, measure the goodness factor, and use God’s wisdom to help us determine what is best for us.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask, “Is this heart-healthy?” I am going to examine the things that I put into my heart through the lens of Jesus. I want to know if they are going to help me look like Him. I want to spend time with people who encourage me in the Lord. I want to read books that point my mind to Him. I want to listen to music that lifts my soul in praise. Being heart-healthy is about more than living a longer life. It is about living forever with Him.