Thursday, April 28, 2011

Connecting the Rabbit Trails

Sitting, waiting in the drive-thru line at Sonic, my eyes begin to explore and my mind wanders, provoking random thoughts building upon one another, leading into the next until finally....a bridge, connecting the rabbit trails. 

And this is why I keep pen and paper in my car  (And in the absence of paper, sometimes McDonald's napkins become my journal pages....).

In front of me is a beautiful, shiny new car with a sunroof, perfect for welcoming the sun on days like today.  My SUV is not so shiny...ten years old but faithful, red snow cone stains on the carpet and dings and scratches on the doors from years of carelessness by strangers parked next to me at the grocery store.  The car in front of me will soon, too, lose its shine and new car smell.  The newness lost in tomorrow... things get old and wear out, their value often determined by flash and physical perfection.

I pay for my drink and turn onto the highway.  A police officer interrupts traffic to allow mourners the opportunity to pass by....united in their grief they pay their last respects to a life that once was, but has now ended.

Across the street a building loses its presence in our city one scoop at a time, the big mechanical arm reaching, grabbing, destroying.  This building that once broadcast from inside its walls to cities miles away....this building where my dad and my boys each received their first haircuts so many years apart...this building whose walls echoed the secrets of men no longer here....its existence soon to be found only in memories and photographs.

As these scattered thoughts collide, a theme emerges and my ears begin to listen. I consider the shiny new car, my old SUV and the tired building now resting in a pile of debris.  These things exist and then cease to exist....get old and then replaced.  Each created for a purpose and at the end of its usefulness, tossed aside or destroyed, no longer of value.  Temporal in its being, each thing has no meaning beyond its death.

The body carried in the hearse has a similar ending.  It, too, will return to dust.  But the living, eternal soul that once dwelled inside of this temporal shell of a body does not cease to exist.  All is not gone.  The soul now abides in a place unseen by human eyes. 

Then shall the dust [out of which God made man's body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it ~ Ecclesiastes 12:7

Each of us, created for a purpose, given and appointed a number of days by our creator to live in this body on this earth....will one day meet our maker.  How will we spend eternity when this body has expired but our soul is just beginning forever

And how will we live our right now?  Do we seek after those things that are temporal and will one day pass away, or do we seek after those things of eternal value? 

Do we find ourselves grasping at things destined to return to dust?  Working toward goals whose ends will be found only in memories and photographs? 

The world places value on the external, physical appearance and material wealth but God looks at the condition of our heart and our soul. 

Unlike the temporary material possessions and things of this world, our journey does not end here.  One chapter is closed but our story continues.  And we, like an author with pen to paper, develop our unending plot by not what we choose or even what we do, but by Who we choose.

In light of Easter, I am consciously aware of the sacrifice Jesus made at the cross and the value of the gift of salvation He has given us. 

His love is immeasurable and He desires that when we breathe our last breath on this earth that we spend eternity with Him.  

And....He has provided a way.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
 Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
 John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus Has Risen!!

(Part 3 of 3 - Click to read Part 1 - Crucify Him and Part 2 - Is Jesus Really Gone?)

With not much sleep the night before, one by one they awaken and remember. 

They remember that Jesus has died... and the memories of the harshness of His death come flooding back. 

Deep breath.

It's difficult to wake up and grasp what has happened.  Two days ago proved to be the most tragic and hardest day ever imagined.

Yesterday offered no relief.

But somehow this morning is different.  It feels different.

It's the third day.

Suddenly the ground begins to shake!  Another earthquake?!

Quick....get everyone together!  Where are Mary and Mary Magdalene?

A peek inside the scriptures shows us an accurate account of the rest of the story as found in Matthew 28....

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(from biblegateway)

Jesus has risen! 

He is alive and our sins have been forgiven!

And this is why we celebrate.

Not the Easter bunny.....but the Resurrected Christ!

Happy Easter, my friends!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is Jesus Really Gone?

(part 2 of 3......find part 1 here)

I can imagine the morning after Jesus was crucified.

His mother, eyes and face swollen from tears emptied from the depths of her heart...her body void of strength...

His family, His friends....His disciples...

All who followed and believed...

The air is heavy and it's hard to breathe.  Even the birds find it difficult to sing.

Is Jesus really gone?

The image of His agony, His bloody body, the things He endured....How...did...this...happen...

The nightmare is real and there is no escaping the grim reality of His cruel death and all that was witnessed just yesterday.

As Jesus' family, friends, disciples, followers, and even those who crucified Him existed in this day - this day after He died and this day before the third day that He spoke of - aside from the gut-wrenching grief I can imagine another war was raging. 

To believe or not believe?

It seemed so impossible.  But again, it was Jesus!  The Son of God!  ....Or....was He?...

As I try to step inside the minds of those who loved Him most, on this day when all seemed lost, my own thoughts and doubts intersect and look strangely similar.

On my darkest day when I feel separated from my Savior, when my own choices and selfishness have removed me from His presence...doubt skillfully weaves its way into my weakest moment, questioning and confusing...opening a door I was not meant to walk through.

Is it real?  Is HE real?  Can He...Will He?

What would tomorrow hold?  Difficult to comprehend and mind-boggling to think about.  But something happened!!  Those hours of darkness over the land and the earthquake and the veil!!  The earth quaked!! The veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom!  Something happened yesterday.....and still something was could feel it...uneasiness and anticipation swept over the city and throughout the countryside.

Even the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said after three days He would rise.  So they sealed the stone to the entrance where Jesus had been make sure the disciples could not steal the body and then claim that He had risen from the dead.

What would tomorrow bring?

How could anyone sleep tonight?

The third day was soon approaching....

(To be continued....Click here for Part 3 - Jesus Has Risen!)

Crucify Him!

I close my eyes and I can see the trail left in the dirt.

I can hear the shuffling of His feet.

The sun beating down, the crowd unrelenting.

"Crucify Him!"

Shouts of hatred fill the streets.

"Crucify Him!"

Moments before, it was clear that Jesus was innocent.

"Why?  What crime has this man committed? I have found in Him no grounds for the death penalty...." (Luke 23:22).

Crucify Him!

...with loud shouts they insistently demanded that He be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.  So Pilate decided to grant their demand.  He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will."  (Luke 23:23).

Falsely accused.

Despised and rejected.

Willingly led to die.

Hung on a cross.

Mocked, Ridiculed, Abused, Broken, Wounded, Pierced...






It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.  When He had said this, He breathed His last."  (Luke 23:44-46).

To be continued....(the story doesn't end part 2....)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Give Me Grace To Rise...

I am praying for inner transformation for me personally....and the grace to rise.

This prayer seems appropriate...

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee, I long to be filled with longing, I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away."  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

(from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's That Smell?

There are no words to describe what I found in my refrigerator this week.

Hidden way in the back, growing in secret, changing colors until it was no longer identifiable, and smelling really bad.

Really, really bad.

In fact, the smell is what prompted my investigation.

I take pride in my house smelling good, so when Child #3 opened the fridge and unleashed an odor not so fresh and lovely, I knew there was an intruder.

My DH gets frustrated with me for putting leftovers in the fridge.  I always do it with the best of intentions, but we rarely eat them.

And sometimes something gets pushed to the back, and we forget.

Until we get an unpleasant reminder...

It's time to clean out the fridge.

Armed with Chlorox Clean-Up and a large trash bag, I set out to remove anything that looked suspicious.

Isn't it funny how God can speak to us in the oddest of times and places?

As I considered the unidentifiable, smelly, mystery food item hidden in the back corner of the refrigerator, my spiritual ears began to tingle.

How often do we have issues (sins) that we set aside for a later time and forget about them?  Unresolved conflict, offenses, doubt, unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, addictions, lies, anger...all get pushed to the back, out of sight, but eventually they begin to stink.

The fact is, the longer we ignore them, the worse they become.

Is your relationship with Jesus not as intimate as it once was?  Have apathy and complacency taken the place of the abundant life promised in the Bible? 

Maybe it's time to clean out the refrigerator.

In addressing the lukewarm church in Revelation 3, Jesus encourages believers (yes, believers) to repent.  Verse 19 says "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent."

Notice we are to not only repent, but to do it with zeal: eager desire; enthusiastic diligence; passion!

We should so eagerly desire His presence, that we become passionate to repent.

Our cry for revival is futile without repentance.  How can God dwell among a people harboring hidden sins, self-seeking and unwilling to lay everything down for the sake of the Gospel?

Jesus continues in verses 20-22, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Let us hear what He is saying to the church. 

To us.

If we are neither hot nor cold and remain in our current state, Jesus says He will spit us out of His mouth  (v.16).

Search our hearts, O God.

Search our souls.

Shine Your light and reveal those hidden things that are keeping us from You and You from us.   We long for the fullness of Your glory!  Purify our hearts, cleanse us from iniquity, forgive us our sins...that we might dwell in Your presence...that You might dwell with us. 

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Limitations, Plane Tickets & Sponsorship Info :)

I often hear and read articles about how to go beyond limitations put on us by other people.  This is true...people do place limits, restrictions and unhealthy boundaries on us (according to their own ideals and convictions)  if we allow them to.  And they can have a profound effect on our destiny.  But what about the limits we place on ourselves?

I was reading a post the other morning about how we compare ourselves to other people.  I believe this is one of the ways we can put limits on our own God-given potential.  We look at what God is doing in another person's life instead of what He is wanting to do in our own.

We cannot compare our calling to someone else's.  The plans and purposes God has for us may be similar to another, but are unique to the gifts He has placed on the inside of each of us.

If what you feel God has called you to do seems impossible, it's because it is.  If we could do something in our own strength how could He receive the glory?  When we look to and rely on Him for the tools and equipment needed to complete the task He has placed before us, the pressure to perform and impress and succeed and be the star of the show....disappears.  It is not about us anyway.

If I allow my feelings and insecurities to dictate or give orders, I will never even begin my assignment.

If I allow past failures, people's opinions of me, or negative thoughts to speak louder than the Truth (God), I will stay where I am. 

As you know, I am making plans to attend my first writer's conference this July.  I feel like this is part of my next step in ministry and am stepping out in faith to follow Him.

Last week, after applying for and not winning two scholarships (among some other discouragement that tried to sneak in), I began to question if I was "good enough" to even go to the conference (enter negative thoughts, peoples opinions, insecurities...).

Are you kidding me?

Of course, I'm not "good enough" at anything!  Isn't that what faith is all about?  Isn't that what makes the impossible such a miracle when it happens? 

I am not good enough.  But because of Jesus - what He has done, Who He is and what He has placed in my hands - that which is impossible for me (and for you) becomes possible in Him.

Purpose to take the limits and restrictions off.  God is wanting to bring His people (you) out of obscurity and use them (you) in strategic, new ways.  We must hear His voice over all the distractions and noise that would try to prevent us and keep us from His plans and purposes (which are far greater than ours).

So, I am going to purchase my plane ticket to North Carolina (She Speaks Conference) within the next two weeks and there will be no turning back!

I am currently raising funds for my registrations fees.  Proverbs 31 has provided a sponsorship letter to help raise can find it here if you feel God leading you to help me with this next step.

And thank you, always, for your encouraging words! 

God has great plans, friends!  Believe for the impossible!  Let us hear what the Lord is saying and obey.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Six Words

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. ~Proverbs 19:21

I could write a book on all the plans I have made for myself and all the times I've tried to figure things out on my own.

In fact, I am writing that book :)

But for now, I'm entering another chance for a scholarship to the She Speaks Conference in July to attend the Writer's Track.  Our assignment was to write a story IN SIX WORDS and post it on our blog as well as the blog hosting the contest She Reads  (You can enter, too!).

So what's my story in six words?

Over-planned and Unfulfilled.  Finding His Rhythm.

I'm walking it out.

And He's working.

Messy places and all.

All my planning has left me tired and unfulfilled.   I'm finding His grace at a time.

Not sure what the She Speaks Conference is all about?  Hop on over and check it out!  And if you decide to go, maybe I'll see ya there! :)