“Love…Electricity…Maybe Some Magic Too.”

Eliana and her grammie.
Eliana and her grammie.

“What is the world made of?”  I am not sure who asked the question, but I can absolutely picture the thoughtful look on my granddaughter Eliana’s face as her answer floated through the air: one . . . ingredient . . . at a time,

“Love…
Electricity…
Maybe some magic too.” 

Some people might say that Ellie’s five-year-old view of the world is sweet but naïve–given the ugliness of daily world events.  However, Ellie is most certainly aware of sin in the world–she has three older brothers to contend with each day and, just this week, was quite relieved to hear that her mommy was not going to be taken to fight in Ukraine.  (Not that she does not care about the people in Ukraine (she does) but, for right now, Ellie knows she still needs her mommy to take care of her.)

Actually, Ellie’s answer is full of wisdom and closer to the truth about the world and how it is made than many may think.  With regard to love, Scripture tells us:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . .”  (John 3:16)

Electricity?

“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you:
      God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”  (I John 1:5)

And magic?  Look around, beyond the ugliness sinful man creates, to the backdrop that enfolds us:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

What I like about Ellie’s response is that it is so full of HOPE!  I confess that there are times when I give way to despair when I hear about the rotten things people do.  Were it not for the love . . electricity. . . and magical reality of God’s Sovereign Goodness, this world would be a much darker place. 

This morning I was thinking about Easter approaching and playing around with Ellie’s list of ingredients in my head.  I thought about God’s mysterious will being worked out through the sacrifice of His only Son; how love came down to seek and save the lost.  (Luke 19:10)  I thought about Ellie’s formula, interjecting mystery alongside of the magic, and realized that Christ’s coming as the fulfillment of His Father’s will, was the ultimate magical mystery tour of all time!  It was then that I was struck by how love, electricity and the magical mysterious will of God have continued to dramatically move in the hearts of men, women and children throughout history.   My mind started to race as I thought about Hebrews 12:1-3–where the Cross of Christ stands as the dramatic fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for all who would trust in His Son.

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame,
  and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

 “Love . . . electricity . . . maybe some magic too”?  Yep, Ellie Honey, throw some mystery into the equation and that about sums it up!  Happy Easter!

All to His Glory!

“If Any Of You Lacks Wisdom . . . . “

I can still remember the first time I read James 1:5,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

 I was a new Christian with much to learn as a wife, a mother and a daughter of God Most High.  In my world before Christ, making mistakes or showing oneself as weak was a dangerous thing.  Once exposed, the resulting fault-finding and blame-shifting were elements that tore at the soul of this wounded and confused kid.  I had lived most of my life desperate to please and keep peace at just about any  price.   The thought of not having to guard against being ridiculed for showing weakness intrigued me and was downright revolutionary.   In the thirty-plus years I have walked with Christ since reading James’ letter, I have tested this promise many times and in various scenarios:

Crying out to God in fear. . .
Turning to Him with deep regret . . .
Seeking Him for the comfort and assurance I lacked–
 
God has proved Himself faithful . . .
EVERY . . .
SINGLE . . .
TIME . . . .

In my last post, I wrote to you about humility being the key to helping others as we rely on God for the wisdom and strength we need.  We looked at a picture of relationships being lived as God designed them to be–“Two are better than one . . . “–in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12.  We focused on what happens when we invite God into those relationships as the powerful “third strand.” We marveled at how God’s people are strengthened and how those relationships become cosmic because of His Presence.

As I concluded that post, I promised to write in my next post about a very practical tool/exercise that has been helpful to me and has benefited many others.  I ask but one thing of you–I ask that you apply it personally before attempting to help someone else with it.  I make this request because you will never appreciate the value of what is offered unless you have personally reaped its benefits.  Also, by applying it first, Christ’s admonition that you, “take the plank out of our own eye” before going after the speck in the eye of a friend or neighbor (Luke 6:42) will have been honored.

The goal of the exercise is to discern (or expose) who or what the primary influence ruling your thinking and responding at various times is.  It is based on the assumption that there is always a rule or authority that influences how you think and/or act.  We start with the bare bones:

  1.  Draw a triangle on a piece of paper with a heart placed in the center of the triangle.
  2. Write your name next to the right bottom tip; to the left of the triangle write either “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or a specific problem or concern that comes to your mind.  (The point here is, that this illustration holds merit in both difficult (challenges) and easier (joyful) times.)
  3. Draw an arrow from where you have written your name to the top of the triangle.
  4. Draw another arrow from the top of the triangle to the bottom left where you have written, “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or have entered a specific problem or concern.

Now, put some flesh on those bones:

  1. The premise of the exercise: we rarely respond to the challenges and joys we encounter straight on–draw an arrow between your name and the other side underneath the triangle, then “X” the line out.
  2. Instead, we are influenced by whatever “rule or authority” we hold to at any given time.   Identifying what is at the top of the triangle is the key to determining what rules the heart at any given time.  (When working with a Client I ask them, “who or what” is influencing their thinking about their problem?  The answers vary: pressure . . . fear . . . anger . . . hurt . . . anxiety . . . pride . . . money . . . confusion . . . guilt . . . resentment . . . and the list goes on!)
  3. The next step (remembering James’ encouragement)– ASK GOD for the wisdom you need to identify what is influencing your thinking toward what you wrote to left of the triangle.  (Write those influences above the top of the triangle.)
  4. Now, take a deep breath and consider this: Anything written there that is influencing you (other than God) is probably an idol.  Write “God or Idol?” above your reasons listed over the top of the triangle.
  5. Finally, ASK GOD for the help you need to clean out the excuses and keep Him in His rightful place–“God and . . . ” never works!

There are times when I know my attitude is not right or when I know what my problem is but I feel stuck.  In both cases, when I ASK GOD for the wisdom and courage I lack, He has delivered without fail.  I have learned through this simple exercise that when God exposes my sin He does so, not to ridicule me for my failures, but to free me by facing my sin to enjoy a deeper faith.

Proverbs 16:2 warns:

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

To hold onto our “reasons” for what we do is to lose what we need most–
the blessing of Christ’s Presence in our lives.
 Seek Him for the wisdom you lack to grow and mature spiritually through those difficulties.
He is worthy of your trust!

All to His Glory!

Self-Forgetfulness is Sacrificial . . . .

Their mother insists that they are “normal” children who argue and get frustrated with each other as all siblings do.  However, in this in this recording filmed to encourage others in their church, the love of Trenton Cochran for his disabled sister Lindsay is a beautiful example of self-forgetfulness as sacrificial:

In a separate interview their mother added that her children have a deepened appreciation for life and maturity beyond their years because of her battle with breast cancer . . . .

In His teaching about greatness in the kingdom of heaven Jesus taught:

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” 
Matthew 18:3, 4  

It is right to protect our children, however, we do ourselves and them a disservice when we fail to teach them that all of life is a gift from God.  To be self-forgetful is to honor His example of sacrifice by loving as He has loved us:

“Love is patient, love is kind.   It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking . . . .” 
I Corinthians 13: 4, 5a

All to His Glory!

Light in Dark Places to Warm the Soul~

 
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 
II Corinthians 3:18

Having grown up in Sunny Southern California, I am always captivated by the miraculous transformation of the landscape when snow falls.  The first “real” snow in our area was a “powdered sugar” kind of snow that demanded no fanfare but caught your breath with its quiet beauty.  What was fascinating about that particular snow was how it seemed to light up the darkness as it fell.  When my daughter commented the next day that she had to close the blinds in her bedroom to sleep because it was so bright, I knew exactly what she meant.

In a sense, the light of Christ transforms the landscape of the human heart, cleansing and filling the broken places with His peace.  No matter how dark life may appear, when we draw near to Christ in faith, the darkness is dispelled as the light of hope blankets and warms the soul.  Are you looking to lighten those dark areas in your life . . . perhaps to unhinge the icy fingers of bitterness or regret?

This week I was reminded of one of the best means of transforming the landscape of the heart as I worked with a young woman I have come to enjoy and respect.   Journey Notes Praise Journaling is a wonderful means of entering into the ongoing, personal soul-work we all need to stay fresh in our faith.    The young woman’s story is one of tragedy–raped at age 12, in and out of psychiatric hospitals after attempting suicide several times– until recently she lived a life sold out to drugs, rehab and more drugs.   Today, she marvels that she is still alive and is intent on getting to know God better.  We meet weekly, but the major work being done in her heart and mind is the conversation cultivated between her and her Lord as she does her Journey Notes.  In our last Session, I asked her if she wanted to share anything from her Journey Notes?  Her response immediately got my attention: “My voice has changed.”  I responded with a puzzled look and waited for an explanation.  She went on to say, “My Praises and Responses to what God says to me have changed.”  When she read some of her most recent entries I understood what she was saying; there was a new depth and passion expressed in her writing that wasn’t there before.  Ah yes, I have seen it before– the light of His Presence had filled and warmed her soul, dispelling darkness and giving hope.

What the Bible says is true, to contemplate the Lord’s glory is to be transformed . . .

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”  
John 12:46 

Are you in a dark place right now or is there someone you want to encourage?  Maybe you are absolutely fine, but are looking for a fun way to add joy to your journey?  Then I strongly encourage you to consider giving Journey Notes Praise Journaling a try.  You can do it on your own or you might ask a friend to do it also; committing to meet weekly or bi-weekly to share what God has shown you.  Truly a wonderful means of entering His light to warm your soul.

All to His Glory!

When Storms Bear Down . . . .

I wrote this in my Journey Notes over a year ago when a hurricane was bearing down on our community.  I share it in the hope that it will encourage you as it did me this morning.

“When storms bear down:

“Be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Deuteronomy 4:9

Remember . . . do not forget . . . teach your children and grandchildren about God’s faithfulness.  Lord, thank You for these reminders to remember and never lose sight of the miracles large and small that I have seen:

  1. The miracle of a changed heart that would have turned to stone if you had not stepped in.
  2. The miracle of three amazing children who love and serve You.  What a joy to see them care for their children and spouses as they honor You.
  3. The blessing of a marriage that has weathered many challenges and served to strengthen our commitment to each other and to You.
  4. The miracle of changed lives through Counseling–Your Spirit and Your Word are sufficient to convict and cleanse the repentant heart to make it whole.

Yes Lord . . . I will remember these things and many more!”

My praises for that day were:

  1. Haven’t lost power
  2. Marshall (my husband) is home.
  3. Joy in Your Presence

~~~~~

The sad thing is that on clear, sunny days I forget the blessings cherished in those tougher seasons.  I get sloppily complacent in my day-to-day living as I take God’s presence and provision for granted.  I hate that about myself but do I hate it enough to change–or to be changed?

“In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15

Storms that bear down can be good  because they heighten our awareness of our frailty . . . our vulnerability . . . our need for protection from on High.

Storms that bear down help us keep our priorities straight . . .
as we refuse to “sweat the small stuff,”
giving thanks that we . . .
are not . . .
alone . . . ..   

Today, the weather forecast is for rain and cloudy skies, colder temperatures but no big storms threaten . . . for now.  Should I pray for storms to shed my complacency and guilt?  Or, perhaps beat myself up for my failures and life’s unfairness and continue living as if I am alone (even though He is with me?)

What is the key to resolving this dilemma, when storms are no longer bearing down and we have lost our way?  I offer this to you, not as a Counselor but as a friend who has failed many times and known God’s faithful forgiveness:

  1. Prepentance offered on the basis of God’s character rather than focusing on ourselves is the important first step.
  2. Remember that every day is a spiritual battle and is therefore a storm that bears down one way or another.
  3. Give thanks to God for the miracles large and small witnessed in the past, as you meet the challenges/storms of each day in His strength and to His Glory.

“Be careful . . . watch yourselves . . . DO NOT FORGET!”

All to His Glory!

“The Quiet of Now . . . . “

“The quiet of now . . . .” It is a simple phrase that tumbled into my mind one morning as I was writing praises to God in my Journey Notebook.  I remember being struck by how it expressed the delight in my soul as I was aware of His Presence.  “The quiet of now . . .” is not so much about silence (although there may be a “hush” that accompanies it) but has more to do with the cessation of physical or mental busyness.  It can be experienced in times of blessing as well as in the midst of trial and heartache.  “The quiet of now . . .” refers to those rare moments when the world becomes distant as God awaits our stepping through the doorway to Him.  It is in such moments that Hope reigns supreme to both delight and comfort the soul.

Yesterday morning was one of those times when “the quiet of now” entered the forefront of my praises to God.  Our home had rocked for a week as our family of eight adults and seven children enjoyed the rare treat of spending time together.  Laughter, good food, messiness of varying degrees, old friends dropping in and a beautiful snow were the hallmarks of our week.  Several times, I found myself thinking about Mary who, after all the events that occurred around Jesus’ birth, “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)  In like fashion, I tried to store away odd moments in my mind to be savored later:

  • The way our kids and their spouses enjoyed each other.
  • Watching how the three oldest cousins sensitively played with their younger cousins.
  • The laughter shared by the five bigger boys while sharing stories about sledding one afternoon afternoon.
  • The two youngest leaving gooey fingerprints on our den windows as they excitedly watched the squirrels and birds romp around the bird feeder in the snow.

Yesterday, with everyone gone it was quiet–almost too quiet,  It was then that I pulled out those freshly stored memories and laughed “in the quiet of now.”  (I laughed even harder last night, when I noticed those gooey fingerprints still gracing our den windows!)  It was truly lovely to share those memories with the One who ordained them from the beginning of time.

Are you yearning to experience such a moment?  Perhaps you are feeling harried by the craziness in your life or are discouraged by the seemingly quirky unfairness of how things are right now?  Psalm 46 lays out a helpful formula to lead us to “the quiet of now . . .” when life is falling apart.  It concludes with this direction:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Consider this breakdown–

Step One:

~ BE STILL ~

Step away from what you are doing when you can; ask Him to help you see a window in time to be with Him,  (I guarantee He will help you to do this!)

Step Two:

~ KNOW ~

 Stop focusing on your problems and discouragement.  Focus instead on the One who loves you.  Ask Him to help you to know Him more intimately than you do— He will help with this one too!

Step Three:

~ I AM GOD ~

Bow before Him as you give thanks that HE IS GOD, AND THAT YOU ARE NOT!  (It is always such a relief to set that one straight!)

Step Four:

~ I WILL BE EXALTED! ~

If you got steps one through three in order, then enter His Gates (“the quiet of now. . .”) with thanksgiving and praise!

One final thought on entering “the quiet of now . . . .”  Since the fall of man we have sought and failed to create our own heaven/peace on earth apart from God.  The Bible makes clear, we cannot enjoy such quiet/peace apart from the Peacemaker–Christ Jesus–who unabashedly pointed to Himself as the path that leads to quiet we crave:

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  
John 14:6

All to His Glory