Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Time for change,

1 Samuel 16:7New International Version (NIV)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Time for change...
With the new year coming, many of us are thinking about what our hope and dreams are for the new year.  We are also thinking about change.  How I want to change.  With that comes resolutions.  We resolve to do better than we did the year before.
We set goals, prepare for failure.  Out with the old, in with the new.  New and improved behavior for the old bad ones.  Some call these habits.  Some call them addictions.
So we plan to get organized, quit being lazy, stop smoking, eating too much, don't work so hard, work some, don't shop so much, don't waste more time...the list goes on and on and on.
So we suck it up.  Make a game plan and into the new year our plans take us.  Only to find us a few months later back into our old habits and ways again.  They say it takes 2 months to change a habit.  But are we really changed?

I ask myself, why change anyway?
Do I want my life to go better?  Do I want the admiration of others or the praise of God some would say?  Do I want to feel better about me?  God wants me to change anyway right?  To get better...
This morning as I was having my time with the Lord, I ask Him to show me about addiction, habits.  

Here are some things I have learned...

1. One of the purposes for sin in our lives, for Satan's work,  and for the law is to bring judgement to us.  We must feel the hopelessness and guilt of our sin.

2. God tares down, but He builds us back up.  We become so desperate and hopeless only the rescue of Christ can hold on to us.

3. We are to set each other free from guilt, and oppression and wounds and give the good news of the gospel.  Christ died for sinners.  We are righteous in Christ.  Forgiven.

4. God's goal for us in our suffering is to make our heart tender.  God was pleased to bruise His Son.

I have shared before, I have smoked since I was about 18.  It has been the one thing I could not get under control.  It has broken me in pride, self righteousness and a hard heart.  There are other things in these last 20 years that have also done the same.

Many times I have prayed for God to set me free.  I have held a rotten lung, had acupuncture, been hypnotized, taken meds, worn patches and chewed gum, exercised.  Finally I just told my friends and came out of the closet.  I was tired of hiding.  They just loved me anyway.  In this addiction I have learned so much about God and His unconditional love for me.  About being forgiven.  I have received compassion for others with addiction.  Even for the lying and sneakiness and rebellion.   I do not condone it but I do not see myself apart from the grace of God any better.

I want you to know I am not giving you license to stay in your addiction.  It is such a bondage.  It takes away freedom and blinds us.  It can harden our hearts.  Or it can break us.  We are in Gods mercy for this.  It not only hurts us but it hurts those we love because we give our heart to it.

But what I am saying is God has got you.  If you are caught in a bad habit, it does not catch God by surprise.  He is not interested in getting the outside of you together.  He is interested in the humility of your heart.  Then the outside will happen as you lean into Jesus.  Only through humility and tenderness can we be obedient through dependence and reliance on Him.  Any other way is only self reliance, even if you pray while trying to get it done.  Not an excuse to sin but a call to trust Gods perfect plan for your life.

Change of habit is a fruit of the Spirit.  It is being set free from guilt, oppression and lies from Satan.  The more you are set free.  Ask God for His Spirit and look to Jesus to be Lord over your life the more free you will become.  I prayed so many times for self control. To know Gods love for me more and to have more faith and trust Him more.

This morning I prayed.  Father, I give you my addiction to smoking.  I want what you want in my heart.  I don't care anymore if I smoke until the day I die, I want you to work in my heart the work you want done through it.  I want a tender heart for you Father.  The Spirit nudged me to get up, run water in my pack of cigarettes and throw them away.  I said I can't Lord.  Then I thought you can always buy more.  Don't let the fear of failure hold you back.  Here is the way walk in it.

So I don't know what is going to happen.  I know the smoking thing is not the issue so much with me now.  I see why God allowed it in my life for so long.  I have been in such bondage in my heart with fear, depression and anxiety. I have had such wrong beliefs about God in my heart and Him towards me.  But before that, I was so so strong and self sufficient.  God had to break me to build me.  He had to bruise me to heal me.  I have to die to be raised.  Dying is painful.  Not getting our way is painful.  Giving up our control is painful.  It is a bitter sweet.  That is where there is peace and life.

It is like the Shepard who rescued the lamb from going outside the pasture where the wolves were.  He picked him up and broke his leg and bound it and placed him around his neck until he heals.  The lamb will never leave the shepherds side again.  

We all like sheep have gone astray.  We cannot find our own way.  We self destruct.  God uses the guilt, the oppression and the lies to bruise us.  Then He gives us truth, opens our eyes and sets us free to live and obey Him out of a love that we have never known before.  No one or nothing can hold us back and that is how I believe we can change.  It is for me anyway.  If you can learn from this.  If God can set you free beginning now, I praise Him.  Then so tell someone else what you have learned and how God is changing you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

I have a message for you....

This is the most wonderful Christmas I have had...

I have said this over and over this year.  Advent has been wonderful, I told my praying friends.  I think I will keep it up until Jesus comes again.  Then I will just be with Him totally and completely.

As I have posted my decorating and how absolutely Merry I the back of my mind I have also been thinking about loneliness.  How since the fall and the separation from God that we all still battle loneliness.  If we are still and quiet and don't feed it with the world we will sense its presence.

I also thought about those that this is a hard time of year.  We have all read the comments for those with compassion.

One thing I have ask myself over and over...why did Christ come.  Why...

There are so many thoughts here that man has made simple and complex.  It is inexhaustible.  Yes only man, God man could die for the sins of man.  It was the only way to have a perfect man to pay the price for imperfect man.  It had to be God.  But God could not die.  He had to become the perfect sacrifice.

He brought us near to God again.  But this time through His Spirit indwelling in us.  We all are just as called as Mary, the virgin, who had the indwelling of the living God with in her wound.  Us within our hearts is the very Spirit of God, for those who are His.  Never to be separated.

Christ had to come incarnate us to know our pain, suffering, in every way we would know it.  He had to know the affects of the fall on us to save us.  There is nothing you will ever experience that Jesus does not know first hand how you feel.  Because He is the answer to it all.

He came to destroy the works of the devil.  The one thing the devil has against us is our sin.  He tempts us and then makes us feel guilty.  Christ came to take away our sins.  We are justified.  Just if I never sinned.  This is how we are to God.  Sinless, spotless, righteous with His righteousness, really, right now!

It was a design to bring Him the most glory through a broken world.  Bringing life out of a dead humanity.  It is a beautiful plan through suffering and bringing wholeness and peace.

So is Christmas for the Merry?

I am sitting here sick, but much better.  My family will not be together this Christmas for the first time in my motherhood.  This is the first time I could not make my Christmas Merry for some of my children.  This year it is up to them and being with those they love other than me.

The plans I have had for weeks of exploding with joy to my family on Christmas day are not going to happen.

So who and why did Jesus come?  For the Merry?

So this Advent I finally know...

Jesus came not for just for the Merry but for the broken hearted.  The ones who won't be with family as they hoped.  Maybe it is a mixed family, a separated family, a broken family or no family at all.  Maybe there has been abused and oppression and death and illness.  Maybe there  has been more sadness for your loss of those you love than you can hardly bare.  Whatever your pain or your suffering Jesus knows it and He came near.  Emmanuel.  He is God with us!  He is our Peace.  We are told Jesus came for the sick not the well.  This is all of us.

He does not fix our painful circumstances always but He moves with us in them.  He redeems them in time but we do not always know when that time will be. But it is a promise from Him to us.  Don't be afraid to claim it.  He loves it when we believe Him.  Hebrews 11 talks about the people who believed but had not seen in their lifetime.  Can we see the hope?

It is not a celebration of the good life or the perfect people or the easy circumstances.  It is a celebration of Christ.  The baby, not born in a castle but in a dirty, smelly, dark manager.  He brought light and hope and celebration to a people and a world that cannot fix themselves or others or find life in anything they have tried...He really is all I have.  Even in the midst of my struggle I know, He really is all there is.  His grace and His mercy to me.  This is the cry of the brokenhearted.

So He is with us, Emmanuel

So why does He say, do not fear, I am with you?

Why does He say, be anxious for nothing but pray to me?  Tell me all about it.  I love you

Why does He say, Grace is for the humble?  I am with the broken hearted.  When you hurt I am near.

Why does He say forgive as you are forgiven?  I forgive you more than you can know or understand. You could not bare it all.

Why does He say, you were lost but now you are found?  I will direct you, ask me.

Why does He say I have come to Redeem you?  There is no condemnation for you in Christ.  I will make all things right again but oh so much more.

I will give twice back what Satan has robbed from you.

Why does He say I am the light of the world.  I will bring you out of darkness.

Why does He say I am the way, the truth and the life.  Know my truth.  It will set you free.  Believe in me.

He is the great Physician, the healer, the comforter.

He knows all about you and He adores you more than you can ever imagine.

He tells us not to do the very thing He knows we will do and He says... I am,

                                                     CHRIST IS THE ANSWER TO ALL

So this is still the most wonderful Christmas I have ever had.

Because my family and I know this is a celebration of Christ.  I have sat in His presence and in His glory and rejoiced over Him. I must say this is the first year I have even come close to seeing His deep love and care for me in ways I never understood before.  I think all I had to do was say what a great Christmas it was for me for it to fall apart. Like I am going to see if it is really true.  We have all, you and me, been hurt and have hurt. We crucified our Lord but we stand today forgiven.   We have laughed and played and had great joy in our lives.  May this Christmas bring more peace and joy than you have ever had because Christ has come.  He has brought hope to a broken dying world.

                                                    He is the Prince of Peace...the Fourth Advent

So I have come with a message for know who you dear friend, the hurting, the sick, the abused, the oppressed, the anxious, the fearful, the alone, the struggler, the misfit, the ones with regret and a horrible past too painful to look at, the broken...Don't say this Christmas is not for me...I am sad.  You are the very reason there is a Christmas.  He came for you, for me.  To give us a peace, in a horrible circumstance, this world does not understand.  To bring glory to Himself.  Because it is not of this world but of Him.  Go to Him, tell Him, seek Him. You may not be at a place where you can see it now.  The pain maybe too great.  But the more you remind yourself of His love for you the more you will be able to see a glimmer of light in this dark, dark world.

 He has a wonderful plan for your life...It is to know Him intimately.  It is to turn ashes to beauty for His praises.  He is in control and He is with you in the midst of it all.  He will be found.  Peace on earth, good will, toward men.  Merry Christmas family.  I love you dearly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Give the gift of receiving.

Luke 17:11-19

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 
12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 
13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" 
14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. 
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 
16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. 
17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 
19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Grace Shatters Our Pride...

Yesterday was a hard day for me.  Many things had gotten me caught up in the corners of my mind.  There seemed to be no escape.

I went out, it was a beautiful day, and began gathering some pine.  I had some thoughts about placing around in the den with some pine cones I had also collected with a friend.

In the midst of it all, a friend called.  She is one of my most fun friends.  She has a little black convertible.  She ask what I was doing and did I want to go for a ride.

We did go and it was so wonderful.  She was such a gift from God to me.  In our ride we began to talk about gift giving.  Other things have brought to mind to me how Grace, the gift of God, shatters our pride.

It is so much easier to give than to receive.

As I think about Christmas, I ponder grace and the receiving of gifts from God.

Have you ever heard or made one of these statements before?

If you don't like it just exchange it.  Feel free.

I think I will just regift.

It is easier for me to give mercy than receive it.

I think I will just put this away.  It is too pretty to use.

I don't really like this but they were so sweet to think of me.

What on earth will I do with this?

I don't have them anything.

I wonder how much did this cost.

Is this all I got?

I don't deserve this.  I have to repay them somehow.

Oh no..not a present.

You know me...I hate to shop.

You can't please them anyway.  They have everything

Maybe these are more familiar?

Thank you, this is the most wonderful gift I have every gotten.

I have never felt so loved by you.

You make me feel so special.

I will think of you every time I use this.

You are such a blessing to me.  Thank you.  I love you.

I will cherish this forever.

You make me feel so special.

How kind of you to think of me.

 I gave our daughter a piece of my jewelry.  She wisely gave it back to me.  I thought my husband gave that to me.  Now is not the time to give it to my children.

Maybe someone has given you so much you can never repay them.  A family, a person, ministry.  All you can do is say because of you I know grace.  I am so thankful for you and pray for you.  I promise to pass all you have given me on to another.  There is no way I deserve it.  All I can do is be indebted to grace.  TO give myself away.

The love and all that went with it I will give away.  I am different because of you.

This is all Jesus ask.  The Father ask.

Grace, Jesus, is the unearned favor and gift of God.

I want it to grip me daily what the Father has done for me in Jesus.   I want to be one of the ones to return and say thank you to all.  Only through Christ can I have this kinda heart to recognize the blessings in each and every day.

God not only gave us His Son

He keeps on giving

and giving

and giving.

Receiving and enjoying the gift and the giver is one of the most wonderful, blessed, humble things we can learn to do.  It not only blesses us but it blesses the giver.

It is more blessed to give than receive we are told.  There has been a time I have given to be blessed.  Sometimes when I have given I have given for me to be blessed.  It made me feel good to give.  That is ok.  It does feel good to give.

But when someone gives to me.  For me to bless them.. by being blessed by them... is an amazing gift to all.

This is what God did for us.  

He taught us how to receive when we don't deserve it.  He reached down to us in our unworthiness and made us His own child.  He took us off the streets and brought us into His own home and loved us.

When a person gives you a gift they are counting you as valuable and loved to them.  You are important in their lives.  You are special, unique, and they want you to enjoy the gift.  To enjoy them.

So this not only a good gift giver but even better, a good gift receiver.  

No matter if that gift is a very small package.  If it is completely not understandable to you. If you cannot see its purpose.  If it is not something you thought you needed or wanted.  If you think you don't deserve it.  If it is dirty and smells.  If it doesn't look like you expected.  If it did not come from where you thought it did.  If it is not pretty and esteemed not by appearance.  If no one else recognizes its value but you...

                Look into the eyes and the heart of the Gift Giver.  

That small bundle is more than you can possibly imagine.  Welcome Him and receive Him.  And all He brings with Him,  with love in return and gratitude more than you have ever had.  More than you have ever been given before, to the 
                                         Present Giver.

Then you will know no greater joy than this...The Third Week of Advent...JOY!

P.S. God gives us sursies each and everyday.  Look for them.  Expect to be surprised by Him.  He will be blessed and so will you.  He loves you so and is only about good gifts to His own.

Friday, December 11, 2015

God and Santa Claus. Santa was a real man. So was Jesus.

I love to pretend, to imagine...

I love to pretend and imagine.  Isn't that a lot of Christmas?  Knowing what is real and what is not.  What is truth and what is not.

Just imagine you are here at the farm.  Sitting on my back porch having coffee with me and cookies.

Just suppose we were able to talk about Jesus and Christmas and what it means to us.

I use to dread the coming of Christmas.  The decorating seemed a chore and the guessing of what to buy to please people was a strain.

This Advent Jesus has infiltrated every part of my CHRISTMAS.  I no longer see it as the WORLDS CHRISTMAS and the CHRISTIAN CHRISTMAS.  But I see everything in it, pointing to Jesus and His coming.  It is a party of gift giving and lights and celebration and family.  It all is Jesus to me now.

I have loved every part of it...

 I am a woman created in the image of God.  I love beauty.  A woman's beauty and gentleness reflects the love of beauty in my God.  As a mans strength and servant hearts and leadership reflects Him.  Women we are not to use our dress and our beauty to lure men into sin but to reflect the wonder and beauty of the glow of the Lord. It is a heart for God.  That trust in Him and loves Him more than anything.  That His desires are hers.  God is more beautiful than this life but this life reflects His beauty just as all of creation does.   It has been a joy to make things beautiful this Christmas and enjoy Him the creator who mades all things beautiful in His time.

I have cut greenery at the farm, made cookies, given inexpensive gifts I put together.  I went and bought a tree and ribbon and made a wreath.  It felt good to create.  To play my music and sing and see the joy in my friends faces.

This advent has been so special as I have thought about so many reasons why Jesus came.  Why God sent His son.  This week of advent is LOVE.  I WONDER and I WONDER  how the love of God has moved and shaken me recently.  What difference it makes in me and how I love people.  How I trust God and His plan for me.  Even in the hard.

God came down so He could get us. I don't just mean come to get us but He could understand us.  He moved into our loneliness and our pain.  He had to experience us to rescue us.  From the guilt and shame.  The fears of punishment and judgement the separation.  From the losses and the ache and disappointment.  From the discouragement and grief.  He came to comfort and to say I know.  I am with you.  I have been there, right where you are.

Experiencing His Wounds, I know the wounds of others.

Friends have come to my home and we have enjoyed just being together.  Sharing, laughing, listening. I use to meet my friends out to lunch.  This season I have had them in my home.  I hope it is a safe place.  I want them to experience Christ when they are here.  To feel accepted and loved.

Who can I bring Christ to through Christmas this year?

My advent this morning is who can I bring Christ to through Christmas this year?  I want to give cookies to the mail lady.  A wreath to the indian girl at my local store.  I may get some candy canes and just pass them out.

The reason I want to do these things is because of all my friends and family have done for me when I was really down.  Mental hospital material.  They brought me food, did my clothes, called me and loved me when I was not well at all.  When Jesus loved me when I was His worst enemy.  When I rejected Him and crucified Him on the cross.  When I was at my lowest my family and friends and God has loved me over and over again.

When you know what you have been given, you just want to give.  Even if just myself.  My smile.  My encouragement or prayer.  A heart of empathy that really truly cares.

For years I have heard God is not Santa Claus.

What about the prosperity gospel?

I don't want to imply that the Christian life is name it and claim it.  Or that everyone that loves Jesus lives in a big house and has a new car in the drive way.  Has a happy marriage and obedient children. A healthy body and money in the bank.

But I want to say God is greater than Santa. He created Santa.  Santa was a real man who had a heart for giving. Giving to the poor.  Tell your children of him.  They will see Jesus in him.  It will bless them and help them see the real meaning of Christmas even more.   This Santa no longer lives but is portrayed even today.  He is in the hearts of every child.  God is greater than the prosperity gospel. He is the real Gospel.  He gives us so, so much more and free.  By His grace and mercy He saved me from hell.  He has met me in my weakest point and given me strength I do not have.

In my depression He has gotten me out of bed and made me thankful.  He has given me joy every morning and peace that makes my anxiety afraid to show its ugly head.  He has given me life in my dry bones.  He has given me a love for people when all I knew was to be selfish and think of me.

He has given me His love for His Son and placed it within me.  He has taken me from the chains of perfection and thinking I had to get everything right to admitting I am wrong.  To learning from others unlike me.  He has given me the perfection of His Son's life to trust in and give me hope.  When I was afraid to come out of hiding.

God has taught me to turn to Him and not run away to destruction, bitterness and a hard heart.  I have not arrived but I am learning to receive His gifts.  This is the best Christmas I have ever had so far.  Being in His presence has shown me a love I never knew possible.

He gave me everything.  Even His life.  How can I not give mine away too?  How can I not sit with a friend and say me too.  I struggle too.  I know what it is to be so fearful and can't leave my home for more than an hour.  I know, I have anxiety too and fears and loneliness.  It is a wake up call to draw near. To find myself safe and secure under His wing.  To meet with a friend or my family.  To give with no expectations.

He has given me perseverance and to expect surprises.

I have come to where I don't quit any more. But I still fall down and He picks me back up over and over again.  I look for God in all things, to bless me and give so generously to me that I am overwhelmed.  I see Him everywhere and in everything.  Even the suffering gives me joy as I learn to know Him more.  It still hurts and I ask Him what do I do with this Lord?  Somehow He takes it and gives me trust that He has got this.  He has got it all.

It is a wild ride this Christian life.  My life is more full and rich that I have ever known.  I am blessed beyond any desire I could have had.  It didn't come when I was on the mountain top but when I knelt and bowed at the manger.  When I was willing to pick up my cross and follow Him.  In His time and in His mercy He sought me out.

The gates of the manger are wide open and so is His arms.  He is not angry but good and loving and kind.  He is about good gifts.  He is the best gift of all.  He is love and His love came after me.