When You Think You Need More

I am pondering satisfaction over here, in the dark and cold dawn.
I love Psalm 145. It contains some of the “10,000 Reasons” for my heart to sing.
“Thou openest Thy hand,
Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” v. 16 (RSV)

“satisfied”…The Hebrew word here means be fulfilled.

In a world that brews and nurtures DISsatisfaction and misplaced longing, it can be tough to maintain an understanding of true satisfaction. Daffodils1apgart 2011

My mind is drawn toward God’s faithfulness at a time of perceived lacking.  Come with me to the Exodus, as the Israelites are released from slavery and wander in wilderness while God shapes their hearts.
How quickly the Israelites became worried and discontent! (How much like them I am…)  How interesting that what was demanded, but LEAST expected, and not really understood, was given to the Israelites to SATISFY them.

Ex. 16:12 “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” (NAS)

Manna from the Lord.

The satisfaction of hunger, provided by God, was at the same time both temporary (there could not be any leftovers), and ongoing (it happened multiple times a day, every day). It met their needs in abundance, while fitting their nomadic lifestyle. (storage needs were minimal, it was portable, they didn’t need to settle in one part of the land in order to grow this, it could be provided anywhere.) More importantly, it was for the purpose of the people knowing that He was the LORD their God. (Exodus 16:12)

In all of His care (His faithful, continuous, perfect care), He satisfied. Wasn’t that the biggest lesson He was engraving on His beloveds’ hearts?  “I satisfy.”

Psalm 81:13-16

 13 “If my people would only listen to me,     if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (NIV)

I love the heart of God revealed here. It’s like a longing on His part for us to allow Him to fill us up, to be abundantly enough.

I wonder how often I am more a complaining Israelite than a filled-up, fulfilled child of God as He intends and longs for…? I am thinking about how many times in my life (daily) I struggle with the temptation of dissatisfaction.

Here is some of my list. (I am breathing deeply here and counting on His grace, and yours, as I lay a bit of myself bare.)

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I am often dissatisfied with…

…the amount of time I have to accomplish something

…how long certain tasks take (or seasons of life)

…the brevity of certain blessings, like vacations, or reunions with sweet people

…a particular nuance to an opportunity that has been granted me

…a certain level of financial blessing

…the timing of an event, opportunity, responsibility, blessing

…the behavior or response from the people in my life (children, husband, coworkers, church family…)

…weather

…wait time

…leadership

…my own output (writing, cooking, house maintenance, household management, relationship contribution, employment tasks—Really, I could go on forever…)

…what’s in my refrigerator

Ugh, I have to stop. No, really, I MUST stop. As I start to write and think about this, I am becoming ashamed and too embarrassed to reveal it all here. I will take this ugly list and let God work His healing grace in my soul in our private corners together.

If I am truly, deeply honest with myself, and my Maker, here’s what my heart too often echoes (and I cringe to know He hears it loudly) Like Charles Dickens’, Oliver:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

For me, and it’s different for everyone, when I reflect on my list of dissatisfaction, I see that TIME is a frequent guest. I have known this all along, on some level, and it’s a frequent struggle. God is tilting my focus toward it so, I believe, I can allow Him to do His good work there. After all, I did ask for His help.

You know, when we pray the prayer of David, and honestly make it our own, He’ll get to work.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23, 24, (NIV)

The first step to growth is acknowledging a need for it and being open to the lessons and tools God uses to nurture it.

Today I am arming myself with God’s faithful words of admonition and promise.

He is enough:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (RSV)

“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work…(keep reading, because it’s good news!) 2 Corinthians 9:6ff (RSV)

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Here’s the SECRET revealed!)  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13 (NIV)

I’ll continue my list, because through it, He’s teaching me, and I continue to learn.

May you blessed today with awareness of rich satisfaction, in your work, your play, your love, your relationships, your struggles.

Some treasures to ponder:

In Phil 4:11  content is the Greek word, autarkes, which mea

ns: sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest

The word God uses in  2 Corinthians 9:8  for enough is autarkeia  (derived from the same as above).  I am especially struck by how externals do not penetrate this contentment.

Philippians 4:19, 20 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our god and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Some of those meanings of supply (pleroo) are:

to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full

to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally

to complete

to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, f

ill to the brim

to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.”  Hence we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” (RSV)

Back to the beginning…

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In a world that brews and nurtures DISsatisfaction and misplaced longing, it can be tough to maintain an understanding of true satisfaction. Look around, we are pelted with stones of discontentment daily through media and social connections. The LORD, however is faithful and gracious. He satisfies our sin debt and through that, our varied longings, in ways that often surprise. May you blessed today with awareness of rich satisfaction, in your work, your play, your love, your struggles.

Let’s help each other (the second step!)…

Where do you struggle with honoring God with grateful contentment? What helps you in this battle? 

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When You Need a Valentine Every Day

Yesterday, a sweet-faced and gentle-spirited student of mine carefully carried a beautiful orchid and little box of chocolates into school and left them on my desk for me to find. His family takes every opportunity heralded by Hallmark to bless me with acknowledgement and appreciation. I am so grateful for them. The children were lining up to go to the libraryValentine from Johnapgart2014 when I called out and asked who placed these gifts on my desk, and who were they for? Little John quietly acknowledged his gift, and smiled sweetly as I exclaimed their beauty. “I feel so special!” I called out. Another student, standing right in front of me, one of my thoroughly all-boy “Tiggers”, said quietly, “You are special.” You know my heart soared in that moment. That’s all it took–those three simple words (and the shy grin)—to lift me beyond the fatigue, above the countlessly ignored “Voices off Everyone” commands, over the neverending list of ‘to-dos”, and through the doubting of why I drag myself into that building on days when my nose won’t stop running and my head is full of fog.

You ARE special.

THAT is my best valentine–delivered two days early, and right on time.

I don’t need chocolate to be validated. (Remind me I said that when I go begging down the corridor for someone to open their secret stash, or find myself rummaging through cabinets to find remnants and ending up in the chocolate morsels intended for cookies…)

My heart doesn’t need flowers, or dinner at a restaurant, or a ring to be strengthened by love. In fact, it doesn’t need anything in particular on February 14th.

What my heart does need, is that echo of Truth called out on every day of the year, reminding me of how special I am. Doesn’t every heart need this?

I’m not one for succumbing to a culturally-pressed obligation to celebrate.  By nature, I am a Hallmark rebel. It seems to me, that what’s all wrong with this ‘holiday’ is that once again, our culture presses an external conception of what it is to be loved and valued into our needy human hearts. With it comes a set of expectations and values that we swallow. The external interpretations of love get it all wrong. They lead us to discontent and deflation when these expectations are not met.

Husband and wife love is expressed through costly purchases and contrived occasions. If your spouse does not buy an overpriced piece of decorated cardboard, accompanied by cellophaned decadence or floral arrangement, he or she does not love you.” Really? What about going to work every day, even when it’s hard, to provide for your life together? Or getting you ibuprofen for your aches, or fixing that gadget that won’t work, or getting gas for your car, or rubbing your neck, or cooking you a favorite treat, or saying yes to an activity they’d rather not go to, because you enjoy it? How about when they stay, every day, even when it’s hard?

Love is for the beautifully fit, flawlessly faced, working-off-a-Hollywood script type of people. The truth is, those are just two-dimensional characters, written to perpetuate a profit. Real humans love raw and rarely say things as poetically as authors who sacrifice endless hours to turn a phrase. They stumble over words and look foolish, gain and lose weight, lose hair and limbs. In all of it, the truth is, they are the special ones. They are real, and noticed, and loved by God.

“You must be romantically attached to someone in order to be celebrated and worthy of love.” And another sour falsehood: “Romantic love is the only love worth celebrating.” This turns Valentine’s Day into (as my college-aged daughter once said) Singleness Awareness Day, and is quite frankly, a lie that Satan would have many believe. You alone, yes, alone, are loved and worthy of that love by the grace and creation of your Maker. He says it. I would not argue with God.

The truth is, however we are– single or married, broken or healed, successful or struggling, widowed, young, old…

Heart in Shadows 2011apgart

We are so loved, we have been found worth dying for.

We are so loved, we are worth saving and spending eternity with.

We are so loved, we have been crafted by God.

When these Truths become covered by culture, and obscured by Hollywood, it’s up to us to stand for what is real and right. Someone we know may need our help erasing the damage of misplaced expectations, or may need reminding they are loved.

So today, the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day, and on every other day of the year, BE that herald of truth! Remind each other of the uncontrived and pure love of God. Look for ways to let your children, your friends, the teens in your youth group, the person you hardly know (yes, the one that sits alone all the time!), your preacher, your coworkers, your family KNOW that they too, are welcome to the well of deep love in Christ.

Faith in Action…

One of my favorite memories is the tucked-into-the-lunchbag love from my mother each

Valentine’s Day: a tiny (was it Russell Stover?) box of chocolates and a note with her little smiley face.

What are ways YOU can live a valentine of God’s love today? (Oh, please do pop in and let’s share ideas!)

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**********************Bird tracks in winter apgart 2010

God’s TRUTHS to ponder…

For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for LOVE COMES FROM GOD. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is LOVE. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but HE LOVED US and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:16 (NIV)

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through HIM WHO LOVED US. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

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Something You Can Count On

There’s just something about the midnight blue dawning, where Night meets Day to hand off the sheltering of all that is living. There’s a strip of beauty in this relay of ending and beginning. As the baton of time changes hands, a growing glow highlights hidden color of night and joins it with promising brightness of day. Woven within this morning ritual, is color and fire that sings. The soft and steady chorus proclaims the steadfastness of our Jehovah Creator. He who tucked the first blanket of dark rest around our planet, Oahusunriseapgart 2011and folded over its edge with light and promise of day, continues this dawning of care, day after day. The sun still rises. Morning always comes, until He declares it done. Above every grey and cold cloud, laden heavily with rain or snow, is a new beginning. Some days we can’t see the dawn of hope, covered as it is by persistent grey, but above the hovering mists, we can count on its steadfastness. What a lesson our Father provides for us every day! Despite what we see, what we live, His steady hand of promise is there. Some seasons are parched, and the clouds of refreshment and cleansing never gather in the places we would call them, but the sun always rises. Even after funnels of destruction unexpectedly rip through our sweet places, carrying away who or what we had the privilege to love or live, the sun rises. Day after day, and if we rise early enough, we can witness this declaration of God’s care. Some seasons are full with vibrant beauty. In them, there are not the bright lines of contrast – dark vs. light, despair vs. hope– rather there is a steady stream of blessings to count, that we can miss because of their abundance and our tendency to overlook the details. Let us rejoice also in them and remember God’s steady love is proclaimed just as loudly in peaceful days.

There are some attributes of our holy God that are more precious to me than others. In a world, a job, a family that keeps changing, I treasure this holy steadfastness. When He says:

For I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6 (RSV)

and

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV),

I cling to those truths. Every sunrise underlines them. Every moonglow calls them forth.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8

I’ve been up for a while now, watching the sun rise and proclaim a day of hope. What beauty God has wrought!

Beloved, always look up, for beyond what grey and rain-laden heaviness is above your roof, the sun always rises, as a reminder of Hope and evidence of its Giver.

What do you see above your roof today? Snow? Clear skies? Grey thickness? Come let us remind ourselves of what’s above that. WHO is above all of that.

P.S. I began this post yesterday, and ironically, today’s dawning was very different. Instead of the gentle ebbing of blue night giving way to orange dawn, I awoke to a sky cloaked in a snow-filled veil. There was no view of the glowing orb that God placed in the sky so long ago, to mark our days and shout His faithfulness. I noticed, though, proof that it is still there, rising and warming. From dark, there grows a gradual distinction of Cardinalinsnowapgart2014trees and flakes. There remains, even in the storm, the coming of light. Diffused as it is, behind the veil of steadily falling snow, it cannot be kept hidden. Daylight in a snowstorm still comes. This storm, as all others, shall also pass. How true that is for us! God is faithfully present, day after day, in both clear weather and storm. I love these physical reminders of His character, and am grateful for His wisdom in providing them.

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. Luke 19:39, 40 (RSV)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

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More than Death and Taxes

Today I am thinking about what we can really count on in this life.

There aren’t many things that are a sure thing.

Yes, death, taxes. What else?

That we will eventually be hungry again–hungry for food, hungry for time, hungry for relationship.

Our bodies will fail us, our minds will stutter.

We will disappoint—ourselves…other people…those we love…God.

We can’t be in two places at once, no matter how rent our hearts are.

Perfect outcomes of all our decisions will not total 100%.

The list is actually quite long, when you think about it, and rather depressing,

unless we look at the weight of what else is offered as a guarantee.

Oahu sun

Sunrise. Yes, even if it’s obscured by clouds, the sun always rises until the One who hung it there declares its rest. Begun on day four and continuing to this day, the sun is also always shining. I am reminded of this each time I soar above greyness in a plane. This was evident as we flew into the sunrise from Hawaii to the mainland. How amazing it always is to me, that once you fly out of the perimeter of a storm, or night, the sun is shining. It never stops. Now there is a lesson God exclaims to us each day!

 The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecc 1:5

The constant love of God in Christ Jesus. We cannot allow Satan to dull this truth with the temptation of familiarity. We must take each word, each morsel and savor its promise, its security.

“I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39.

Help. We are guaranteed God’s own Spirit as a constant and present Helper. Parakletos… “the one called alongside in order to help”– Advocate, the same word found only one other time in the New Testament, used of Christ. How blessed are we to not be deserted and left to flounder while on Earth!

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  Romans 8:26

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:5

“…but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” 1 John 2:1

The weight of what’s guaranteed as a child of God tips and maintains the scales decidedly in our favor. With all that is slippery and transient in this world- relationships, finances, church structure, family, health-we can moor ourselves to the immutable strength of these promises that are sure.

Some of us have lost our mooring, maybe for an hour, or a day, perhaps for a season. The rope that ties us there has slipped out of its knot, or at the very least, dangerously loosened. As long as it is called “Today” let us encourage one another to stay anchored in Truth and Hope.

Here’s to our journey today, and the good Company we keep. May we feel the strength of the mooring, and the power of promises guaranteed.

Blessings on your steps today. Oahu sunset tapgar 2011

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up… and encourage the fainthearted, help the weak..” 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14

Question of the Day: Sometimes we mean well, and mean to uplift, but our words or actions fall flat and do more harm than good. What are some ways YOU are most encouraged by others to stay moored and reminded of God’s promises?

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An Uncommon Song

Today I have been granted the quiet beauty of a Snow Day, no morning headache, and only the residual seal-barking of a cold. So here I sit, watching nature’s best television series out my bay window, quieting my soul to God. And I feel it, again. It’s still there… TApgar Birdview Bay 2014

Do you ever feel a prodding of your heart, like a gentle knocking that won’t relent? Less like an unwelcome visitor that carries a search warrant (Perhaps if you don’t open the door, you can’t be served…), it feels more like an insistent call to join a quest, as if you have something in particular to offer the mission. No, that’s not quite it. It’s as though the One at the door recognizes both a hidden need in your heart that can be fulfilled in joining the journey, and the potential that will flourish and contribute once that need is fulfilled.

Have you ever felt that knocking?

Before I digress into all sorts of wonderful, but distracting, analogies related to my recent viewing of The Hobbit, let me tether my mind and tapping fingers to the crux of the matter: In recent years, I have felt the Spirit calling me to worship. By call, I mean this: We are (I am) commanded and invited to be in the Presence of God while we reside here on this planet. The longer I spend in His Presence, the greater grows a desire to make my company pleasing to Him. That’s the calling. The more I gaze at God’s glory, revealed in His character, the more starkly aware I become of my human inadequacies, and with it, the humanity of His church. Then comes a tidal wave of relief and appreciation of God’s gift of grace through Jesus.  The longer I spend contemplating His character, the more I am aware that He deserves, and demands my best. Remember all those teaching rules of sacrifice: the FIRST fruits, the UNBLEMISHED lambs?

The question that is held in the Spirit’s hand that knocks, then, is …. Am I giving Him my best?

I am in Exodus once again, faced with the design of God for an element of worship that pervades all His plan. Time and again, it’s the anointing oil that I am drawn to: So very particular…so costly…so abundant. Holy. “It shall not be poured upon the bodies of ordinary men, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall by holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.” Exodus 30:22ff (RSV).

This anointing oil was set apart, different from ordinary. This has me thinking about what God teaches us as He moves through history:

‘I am holy. You are not. By the blood of perfect sacrifice—My Son –you are made acceptable to Me.’ Over and over again, He drove home the point that He is above all. He is unique and is worthy of something different than what we naturally give.

I am struck and convicted, shamed and inspired, by how very COMMON we seem to have made Him and our worship.

I wonder if it’s because we try to jam too many varied aspects of our relationship with God into the time that we set aside to try and do this thing called ‘worship’.

Fellowship…singing…prayerful petitions…announcements…a 3 point lesson…coffee and pastries…’church business’ conversations…social connection…financial contribution…the Lord’s Supper…

By trying to fit in so many things that both meet our needs and satisfy God, are we doing anything well? Let me rephrase that…are we offering anything holy? Do we give Him unhurried, set apart, consecrated time to whisper, to say, to cry out the acknowledgement of His holiness? Do we dwell there, or skim it by. Worse yet, do we include it in a cursory manner so that we can check off the “praise” section of the order of worship list and get to the teaching portion? God does invite us to cast all our cares on Him, to bring Him our needs, to share our sorrows. He does command us to be the unified Body of Christ that brings light into the world. He does expect us to exhort and teach each other His word. However, I don’t believe His word will support the practice of doing all that in the majority while reducing pure, uncluttered worship of Him to the minority.

Maybe it’s because we stay cloaked in culture that is constantly trying to mold God into a shape ‘relevant’ to humanity instead of molding humanity in relevance to God? Perhaps we are so busy with the holy job of building community that we neglect this truth: When it comes down to the core, it is the individual, it is you, it is me that is called to bow down before the Holy One and offer our bruised and battered heart to Him while clinging to the precious grace-covering of His Son. It is the responsibility of our shepherding leadership to help us do this. It is my ministry to help you ready your sacrifice, and yours to help me. It is my responsibility to offer my heart in a manner that pleases Him.

Today, my goal is to make my heart sing an UNcommon song to Him. A holy song. Call it a resolution, if you will.  My aim will also be to refine my heart toward true worship when I meet with the saints. This may mean I close my eyes when I sing so I am not distracted by a lyric-laden screen or the thread on my pants. I will sing the part I know well and not practice my new-found love of tenor. This will allow me to concentrate on the words and not the melody which delivers the words. I will try not to chatter and laugh or rustle my belongings up to and through the first moments of song or prayer. (Please pardon me if I stop our conversation in mid-sentence.) I may even walk into the room and take my seat without talking to you. It’s not because I don’t see you or love you—it’s because I am preparing my heart and mind to be quiet before the Lord. I will beg our leadership to have seamless movement from song to song, to prayer, to meditation on holy words, to songs again. Please don’t clutter the silence with distracting commentary or conversation. Help me build an atmosphere of consecration.

This is a work in progress. I am a work in progress.

Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father;
    we are the clay, and thou art our potter;
    we are all the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8 RSV

Today I pray you are safe and strong, no matter where you are.
May your UNcommon song today and in worship forever be:

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! Rev. 4:8 RSV

TApgarSnow-covered Japanese holly 2014

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Sing Like Angels, Speak Like Shepherds

Christmas songs keep getting stuck in my head this season, and I’m trying to drown out the gift-getting, Santa-soaked, self-centered ones with those that speak holy truths. Today’s unshakeable refrain is “Angels We Have Heard on High.” With each melodious pass through my thoughts, I am grasping for the hope and promise woven into the angels’ song. I arrive at the God-breathed record of holy proclamation:

“Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14 (RSV)Berries in snow on porch

I hear the angels lifting praises to God, rejoicing with each other and those lowly shepherds, who were caught completely by surprise during what began as an average third shift night of work. These were words of joy that underscored the gift of love, not fear, offered in their pronouncement.

My fellow sheep and I came together this week, humbled by our imperfections and His grace. In the minutes we carved out of the first day of the week, we spoke of returning blessings to God. At first glance, it seemed almost ridiculous that we, small and human, can bless our Father and creator. How can we possibly give Him anything He doesn’t already have? How can we, mere mortals-mamas and papas, sisters, brothers and friends-beings that don’t get it right so often– how can we provide a blessing to God?

God has never asked us to give Him anything we don’t have.

What do we have? Regardless of how many things we possess, or don’t possess, our guaranteed “always haves” are our actions, our speech and our thoughts. Those are the great equalizers of humankind. We all have them. They cannot be stolen and their ownership cannot be transferred. There are times we would like to leave those particular belongings by the roadside, especially when they get us into trouble, disappoint or wound. Still, they are what we have. They are what we can give.

“Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased…and the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Luke 2:13,14 (RSV)

I am thinking about what I can give Him, in this season and every season. I am pondering the cry of angels’ speech. I am moved by shepherds’ sacrifice of words and heart, and my soul says:

Let me return the blessing of our mighty Father by glorifying and praising Him for all I have heard and seen!

What have I seen and heard of Jesus?

I have seen Him walk the wounded through their trials, and they have come out strong and whole in spirit.

I have seen Him transform lives of selfish destruction into lives of health and purpose.

I have seen Him cancel out the past and lift the downtrodden to a bright future.

I have seen Him grant the deepest desires of hearts and withhold others, all in the best interests of His plan and in the love of those that bear them.

I have seen Him lift up the weary and give them strength to step forward each day.

I have seen Him grant reflections of Himself in creativity, intellect and purpose.

I have seen His artistry carved out of ancient mountains, riven in canyons, flowing in waterfalls, delicate in dragonfly wings.

I have seen His might displayed in incredible lightning, thrown jagged across skies.

I have seen His strength in storms that rip and rains that flood.

I have seen His restraint in gentle breezes on clear summer days, in shores lapped in tide rhythm.

I have seen Him carry hearts in the depths of unspeakable loss.

I have seen Him laugh and love and comfort and encourage.

I have seen Him call men, women and children, from across varied economic, cultural and social divides, always covering open hearts with His grace.

I have seen His love for mankind, recorded by man—a love of forgiveness and hope, healing and promise.

What have YOU seen and heard of Jesus? Come alongside and return to Him a blessing today and every day.

Sing like the angels. Speak like the shepherds.

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“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:38-40 (RSV)

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:11-20 (NIV)

Posted in Christmas Devotion, Sharing Jesus, The Walk, Uncategorized, Worship | 1 Comment

December Listening

100_6687I love how God works in the hearts of men, and how He provides for His will to be accomplished, and men to be called, by using all the world that is at His disposal.

How easy it would be to let centuries of humanity snuff out the power of His message of hope. Our selfishness and distractibility would be our undoing. All would be lost, if it not for our wise and insightful Father. He uses all the world that is at His disposal, including the passions of a 17th century composer, and generations of musicians that came after him.

It would be easy for these words of power and hope to be kept on fragile scrolls, or confined to dusty pages of unopened Bibles. Instead, He allowed the heart of one man to be inspired and create a refrain that would echo in the hearts of others for centuries. He uses concert halls, radios, and flash mobs to remind us of His Message.

My December devotions have a particular purpose. I seek to peel back the often suffocating layers of culture and humanity and cling to what is true about God in all seasons. I don’t want to get lost in the colored lights, or lists, or excess and lose the closeness of walking with Him. I don’t want to be like a parent that spends so much time managing the life of a child that he or she neglects to build relationship with that child.

Let us cast off the tinsel for a moment. Let us still the rustling of shopping bags and the rolling of pins over ginger dough. Remove all judgment of the musician and commercial context. Lay down the instrumental clutter. Listen. Listen past the orchestral swells to the Message in these words that were written long before they were put to choral triumphs:

“His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!” Isaiah 9:6 (RSV)

WONDERFUL, MIGHTY, EVERLASTING!

God’s words still proclaim power and hope. They still point to Jesus. They still call men to Him.

Who DOESN’T desire a source of life wisdom—a counselor who listens and guides with infinite understanding and your best interests in mind? God trumpets Christ’s power here. He is a leader we can trust, who can bring victory in the gravest of battles. He is faithful and doesn’t disappear when the sale is over, the season is done, or the relationship loses its glow. He outlasts them all.  It is He who brings peace to our souls and reconciles the warring forces of sin and holiness by His grace and sacrifice.

Today I am thankful that God is faithful. I am thankful that He uses the natural world, human creativity, the internet, and even those who do not choose Him, to draw my heart to Jesus. Today, and going forward, I will ask His hand to push aside the commercials, the shiny paper, the demands of parenting and working, and focus on the Truth as it is proclaimed in all of that. I will look for Him in all the usual and unexpected places.

Do you care to join me? There’s always room.

“In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; Him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious!” Psalm 11:10 (RSV)

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