FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Broken Crayons Still Color

It’s February…the month of love! Valentines have been in the stores since the after-Christmas sales. It’s funny how retail runs all the holidays together – Valentines on the shelves while Christmas decorations are still on the end caps; wait another couple of weeks, and we’ll be inundated with Easter flowers and bunnies even though it will still be February. Oh well, I digress. This is NOT what this post is about.

It’s about February, love and heart break.

It’s also about understanding that Broken Crayons Still Color!

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that emotional pain may be more closely linked to physical pain than scientists previously realized, and heart break specifically registers in the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain. Further, heart break registers sensations much akin to broken limbs. Ever had a broken heart? Then, you didn’t need a study to tell you – it hurts!

Heart break changes you, consumes you. It drains and weakens, crushes and kills – joy and spirit. It separates and isolates. Yes, true heart break leaves you feeling out of sorts, depleted and alone. And were this not enough, heart break leaves you feeling imprisoned in a jail of sorts that surely you will never be able to leave.

But guess who has the key? Yes, our Father, God Himself. He, our King, who sits high and looks low knows what it is to have a broken heart! We (humans) have broken his heart for ages, and we continue to do so on a regular basis much like Gomer in the Book of Hosea (read the first three chapters; Hosea 1:1 – 3:5). Gomer repeatedly breaks Hosea’s heart, yet he loves her against logic and redeems her by taking her back. If you don’t know it, you’ve got to read the story and how Gomer leaves a man who loves her and passes from man to man until she ends up naked on the slave block to be sold!

And who buys her back?

You guessed it – Homer, her husband! But even that is not the BEST part of the story. Hosea pledges his love anew to his newly purchased wife – his wife the betrayer and prostitute, his wife the dregs of society, his wife who was broken. Now, the best part…Hosea’s love broke Gomer’s heart anew AND from this time on Gomer was faithful to Hosea. Gomer was restored!

Are you broken?

Have you loved someone only to realize that they don’t love you in return? Has a love betrayed you? Deserted you?

In your brokenness have you stopped “coloring?” There is a color that only you can paint in this world.  But have you ceased to be you? Ceased contributing positively to your work place, to your family, to your friends, to your home?  You may be a broken crayon, but you can still color!

Hosea paints for us an image of God’s love for us. We have broken His heart, strayed, turned from Him and sought other loves and lovers, yet He loves us and redeems us from the enslavement of sin. He sees our brokenness and calls us to come to Him in the midst of it. Our inclination is often to run from God and to seek worldly repairs for our broken hearts – drink, work, drugs, social networks. At best, they are temporary. There is no repair, but God. His love is true love – love that will not desert, betray or deny. His love is a love that has a plan for your good (Jeremiah 29:11), that stems from a desire to make you whole, that knows though you are as a broken crayon, you can still color and, thus, it is a love that redeems and restores.

THIS WEEK read Hosea 1:1 – 3:5. Who or what has broken your heart? (It doesn’t matter if the leaving was intentional, accidental or unavoidable as because of death, you may still experience heart break.)  Whose heart have you broken? What has been the impact of your brokenness? What temporary repairs have you sought? Your first step is to turn to God; only He can restore you. Ask Him to help you identify the next steps after that.

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Peace on Earth (Part 2)

NOTE:  We’re vacationing, so Monday’s post is early!

There’s a saying that’s been going around, “Every family has that one crazy relative. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”

Here’s another saying, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”

What do these two sayings have to do with peace on earth? Well, in our last post we discussed that before there can be peace on earth we must individually have peace within, so without a lot of extra words, let me just jump to the point. Might you be the one robbing yourself of peace? “No way!” you think. Well, let me just offer you three more quotes.

“Nobody screws me up better than me.”

“Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself.”

“Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your two ears.”

Again, are you robbing yourself of peace?

There are events and seasons that seem to thrust us into deep self-evaluation and self-reflection, and Christmas is one of them. This can be a good thing – pausing to consider the love of family and friends, the blessing of health, the satisfaction of a prosperous and fun career, the joy of children… It can also be not so good – dwelling on the loss of loved ones, failing health, the stress of unemployment or job disappointment, the fear of miscarriage…

The latter (and similar) thoughts can quickly launch one into a depression that robs one of personal peace.

What are you telling yourself? What script do you keep running through your head? “I’m no good.” “I’m all alone.” “I can’t make it.” “Nobody loves me.” “I’ll never – have children, get that job, leave this town, be able to afford a house, get married, be in love, go to college, be healthy again…”

It’s time to replace those thoughts. It does no good to simply try to just stop them; you have to replace them. Craft some new thinking based on Philippians 4:8 (NKJV): “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

What does this mean? What does it look like? Sound like? The Message translates the same text: “…filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from Me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Do that, and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7b NKJV)

THIS WEEK: Make note of the thoughts that rob you of peace. Write substitute thoughts then practice using them. (e.g. THOUGHT: I’m just no good – always have been, always will be! SUBSTITUTE THOUGHT: In Christ I am a new creature – old things, thoughts, ways and deeds are passed away! (2 Corinthians 5:17)


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Tis the Season

I love Christmas!

It really is a special time of year.  Already I have watched several of my favorite childhood movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn.  I’ve also joined a few celebrations and parades. As for shopping, I finished that in September.  I’ve put the wreathes on the doors –front and back. That’s pretty much all the decorating we do because we always travel, but I’ve perused my cookbooks and planned to bake some goodies while at our host’s home.  And I am looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas drama.  This year’s performance is entitled When Hope Comes Down and is announced with a subtitle – Come Experience the Hope of the Season!  Our church also offers a Carols and Communion by Candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Since we will be traveling, I’ve searched the website and consulted friends to find a similar worship opportunity for us in our destination city.  Now, if only we had a little snow, but that is doubtful since we are traveling to a MUCH warmer climate.

The movies, decorations, treats and presents are all wonderful, and snow would be awesome.  But none of those things are what Christmas is about!

Christmas is a time of God showing His great love for us and His call for us to love others.  Just look at the Christmas Story!  No, not Ralphie shooting his eye out with his BB gun, but the second chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew

Luke 2:4-16 (NIV)

“4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

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

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

15 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.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

“11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born of a virgin in lowly Bethlehem. His birth brought great joy and great hope. His birth was much anticipated – not just by His parents. Angels, shepherds and wise men all knew this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby. Hundreds of years before prophets had told of this birth and this baby.

Jesus was born so that one day He could die on the cross paying the price for our sin. It is His birth and death that brought the gift of salvation to us. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Without Jesus, we would die in our sins, but loving us, God sent the great gift of love – Baby Jesus.

But Christmas is not just about God showing His love for us by sending Jesus; it is also about His call for us to love others. God’s love is a gift to us, but we must release it to others. How? Through words and actions.

Understand that this season of joy is not a happy time for some – those stressed by not having money for bills much less presents or turkey dinners, those who grieve their loved ones who are not present to share the season with them, those who feel alone and lonely.   Tis the season for us to release the love that God has given us.

This week, read the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you during this season to real and practical acts of love for someone who really needs a gesture of God’s love. Thank Him for how He blesses you and positions you to bless others!

A TREAT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ecIXyYRnoo


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Rushing for Lazarus

Have you ever been disappointed?

“Are you kidding” you’re thinking, “Who hasn’t?!”

We’ve all had the experience of thinking that we had found that special one of our dreams to later realize that (s)he was actually the one of our nightmares.  We’ve also experienced our children saying and doing the unthinkable and being nothing like what we thought we had “raised” them to be.  And we have been excited to begin a job and then dread going to the very place that used to bring us such joy.  And, let’s be honest, we have had times that we couldn’t place the blame anywhere else other than at our own feet, and we have been disappointed in ourselves – can’t believe we said that, thought that, acted like that.

Now, let’s be real honest – especially since you have only to tell yourself the truth.  Have you ever been disappointed in God?

Yikes!  Surely that must be blasphemous!

Sheila Walsh says, “God is big enough, and His love is fierce enough to deal with anything we feel or must face.”  In other words, He can take it.  In better words, He can help you through it.

Look at John 11:1-3 (ESV).

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.'”

Hmm. Mary had anointed the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. It was her brother that was ill. Surely Jesus is going to drop everything and make a beeline to their home. And if that wasn’t enough, verse 3 emphasizes that Jesus loved Lazarus, too. That’s like the cherry on top; He is coming now for certain. If we look ahead, even verse 5 of this text says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Can’t you picture Mary and Martha – and even Lazarus? They’re not sad. They’re not worried. “Jesus loves us, and He is coming!” I picture them sitting around reminiscing about the miracles they’d seen Jesus perform. THIS will be NOTHING for Him.

But He didn’t come.  At least not right away.  And Lazarus died.  Then Jesus came.

Let’s skip way ahead in this text to verse 20. “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.”   This being a Christian blog, let’s just suffice it to say Mary was probably a bit disappointed. Her hopes and expectations were dashed on several rocks – first Jesus not coming when they had sent for Him even AFTER she had wiped His feet with her hair AND Lazarus has now died!!!!! Then Jesus just strolls in rather nonchalantly. Are you serious?

Yes.

Jesus had intentionally delayed. Look back at verse 6 which reads, “So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

Jesus was not running late. He wasn’t caught up or caught off guard. He hadn’t bitten off more than He could chew. He heard about Lazarus, and He intentionally stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

And Mary was disappointed. In verse 32b she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

You know how women say one thing and mean something else? (I can write that since I am a woman.) I read that Mary said, “If you’d been here, Lazarus would still be alive.” I imagine that Mary meant, “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? Don’t you care? Didn’t you know? How could you not have come? I thought you loved us! Is this how you show love?”

It didn’t help either that there were a bunch of naysayers hanging around in verse 37 – “But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

There are SO many lessons in this text.

But let’s go back to Mary’s disappointment. Did you notice that it didn’t faze the Lord? He heard her – her spoken words and the words of her heart. He loved her no less. He let her pour out her heart, and then He did what He came to do. In verse 40 He reminded them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And the glory of God is what He showed them as He called Lazarus from the grave. Wow! Healing the sick is one thing. Raising the dead, that’s another!

God loved Mary. He loved Martha. He loved Lazarus. But He didn’t rush to their aid.

He loves you. He may not rush to your aid.

He will, as the old Negro spiritual says, “come right on time.”

You may be disappointed, and you can tell Him, but never doubt Him. Keep believing, and He will show you the glory of God!

Read Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) each day this week then reflect on the given questions.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Monday Questions for Reflection: What are the disappointments of your life? List them (preferably in a journal). At the top and bottom of the page write, “Hope does not disappoint.” Revisit your journal periodically and the list of disappointments. Make note of how God reveals Himself and His glory in relation to each one.

Tuesday Questions for Reflection: Could it be that God delays to build endurance in us? How do you think Mary, Martha and even Lazarus changed after Lazarus was raised from the dead? When was a time that God’s delay brought you a greater blessing?

Wednesday Questions for Reflection: Identify a current disappointment in God. Can you choose to worship Him through it? How does that make you feel?

Thursday Questions for Reflection: Look at those who have surrounded you. Are they feeding and encouraging your disappointment (like the Jews who asked “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”) or are they encouraging your hope in the Lord? Might you need to separate yourself from someone – at least for a season?

Friday Questions for Reflection: Examine your own actions. Are you feeding someone else’s disappointment or are you encouraging their hope in the Lord? What do you need to start doing, stop doing or do more of?


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Hurry Up; the Red Light is Coming!

My father taught me to drive.

If you knew him, you would find that statement scary.

Let me be clear; I loved my father.  In the words of my paternal grandmother, I loved him better than Peter loved the Lord.  I was probably 30 years old before I thought he could do wrong.  He and I were like two peas in a pod.  We would stay up late at night talking and laughing.  My mother would scream down the hall, “Go to bed you two!”  And he and I would laugh and keep talking.

My sister and I were reminiscing just recently.

Who got up when we were coughing during the night?  Daddy.  He gave you some cough syrup and poured most of it down your pajamas because he was still half asleep.

Who made you rake the leaves with him and then let you jump into the pile?  Daddy.  Then we raked them again and tied them in big white sheets.

Who woke you up in the middle of the night, carried you on his back to the car and took you (still in PJs) to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts because it was time for the “Hot Now” sign?  Daddy!

And who taught me to drive?  Daddy.

Now, I loved him, but he was a horrible driver.  He wrecked his cars and then he wrecked my first car.  He would speed to work every morning because he never left home in time.  He passed 2, 3, 4 cars at a time.  He fell asleep at traffic lights then took off when the lanes next to him moved and crashed into the rear end of those in front of him.  Forgive me for telling this, Daddy – but He passed a stopped school bus or two in his day.  And he told me (true story) that the yellow light meant “hurry up ‘cause the red light’s coming.”  Once I put on brakes as I approached the intersection and the light was changing.  He said, “No, squeeze the lemon!”

Isn’t that what we do when God seems slow to move?  When He doesn’t answer, doesn’t move, doesn’t open the door, we rush ahead of Him to make things happen in our desired timing.  But, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How has that worked for you?”  Impatience and acting independently of God does not work.  He asks for our obedience, and red lights are often part of His strategy and plan. We read in Revelations 3:7 (NIV) that “what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”

In Genesis we learn of Joseph who waited years for the fulfillment of a God-given dream. Read the story; the wait was more than worth it. God opened a door wide for him and to the benefit of his family. If He did it for Joseph, He will do it for you.

God’s timing is perfect. Obey His signals – including His red lights and yellow lights. As Joyce Meyer says, “Trusting God brings life; believing brings rest.”

And patience brings green lights!


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Launch Out Into the Deep

Summer has ended and fall has truly begun – not just on the calendar, but in the weather.  We’ve had some really cool nights and mornings.  I love the change in the seasons, especially between summer and fall.  But I’m a little sad, too.  This summer seemed to fly, and it is the first summer in years that we did not get to the beach.  Once.  Never.  Not even a drive by.

I am really fortunate to live about an hour’s drive from the ocean – the real beach!  Ponds are nice.  Lakes are lovely.  But nothing compares to the ocean.  Waves lapping.  Squishy sand between your toes.  Seashells and Seagulls.  Sometimes we’ve driven to the beach just for a walk along the shore.  With sandals in hand we let the waves wash over our feet, and we occasionally stoop to pick up shells.

That’s a good day – walking hand-in-hand with someone you love along the water’s edge.  But to really enjoy (and experience) the ocean, you have to go beyond the shore.

The same is true with life.  The same is true in ministry.  We have to go beyond the shore.

“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:1-4 KJV)

Obediently, but possibly with some hesitancy, Simon launched out.  Isn’t this His command for us, too? Aren’t we to launch out into the deep doing what our Lord commands? No excuses. No hanging around the periphery? No sticking with the familiar and the comfortable. No waiting for something to wash up onshore.

Faith can bring the most unexpected of miracles. Verses 6 and 7 of Luke 5 (KJV) tells us that when Simon and his men had done what was commanded, “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Faith is about action. We can say that we have faith, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20 KJV). Simon could have responded to the Master, “Thank you for letting us know that there are fish in the lake. Wow, we were wondering since we didn’t catch any. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow night.”

Faith requires us to yield – our thinking, our possessions, ourselves. Our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) We must trust His commands and be quick to obey them.

As Alvin Slaughter sings, “…by faith we must climb into the boat, and follow His command” letting our faith take us somewhere that we’ve never been before. “Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”

Launch Out (by Alvin Slaughter)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVhSy8Ql6AQ

“Sometimes we hold on a little longer than we should   Letting go can be hard but it’s sometimes for our good   The fear of what’s ahead sometimes makes us fall behind.  We can see the times are changing but pretend that we’re so blind   You’ll never really know just what the future holds   But we know God holds us in His hand.   So by faith we must climb into the boat; And follow His command.  

CHORUS   Launch out into the deep. Let your faith take you somewhere that you’ve never been before.  Launch out into the deep. Let your faith make you fly. Let your faith make you soar.  Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”