Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Live Today

"How we live our days is ... how we live our lives." This quote from the last chapter in the book Crazy Love has been occupying my mind tonight. I finished the book today while my 17 month-old grandson, Cruz, was taking a nap. It was good to spend the day with Cruz again, as I missed a few weeks while we were at the Getaway and then while Gary and I were taking some days off. It's always good to be around little ones; they give us such an innocent, refreshing view of life.

And reading this book these last few weeks has given me a refreshing look at how we should live our lives. The author, Francis Chan, writes, "I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives." It's our daily lives that make a difference. We "simply need to live out in our daily life the love and obedience that God has asked of us." Not just settling for the status quo, but living out the life of love that Jesus has modeled for us and taught us.

This means making God our greatest desire each day, above all else ... listening to Him, and living out the things that He teaches us. Living in response to His amazing "crazy love" for us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Thankful Heart

Some words from a blog entry I read this morning have stuck with me throughout the day today. It was a reminder to focus on having a thankful heart, to watch for things (big and small) to give thanks to God for. I consider myself a thankful person, but it is easy for me to become focused on my "to do" list during the day, and lose sight of the little blessings and joys.

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)

As I thought about this throughout the day, it also came to my mind that the two things that should characterize our lives as followers of Jesus are ... love, and a thankful heart.

So much to be thankful for ... let me share a little list I came up with from my day:

~ encouragement and strength from God's Word

~ summer days

~ the beautiful torenia plant on our patio table

~ my husband's loving hand over mine as we prayed before our lunch together outdoors

~ an email from a granddaughter, sharing a prayer need with me

~ an early evening walk across our quiet town

~ how quickly the words came to me as I wrote the rough draft of our next newsletter

Lord, thank You for all the little joys You opened my eyes to today ...

"Taste and see that the Lord is good,
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!"
(Psalm 34:8)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hold My Hand

I picked up an amazing little book last week while my husband and I were running the bookstore at the Student Venture Getaway Conference at the YMCA of the Rockies. In the book, the author, Sarah Young, models how to slow down and listen to God. Listening through His Word, and also listening, just by being quiet before Him. She has made it a practice of recording the thoughts that God brings to her mind while she is quiet before Him.

Yesterday morning as I read the portion for the day in her devotional book, Jesus Calling, I was so encouraged and refreshed. I want to try to put into practice some of the things that she shares in the preface ... about listening, and writing down the words that God brings to our minds as we wait and listen to Him.

Here are her words that I read yesterday:

"Hold My hand - and trust. So long as you are conscious of My presence with you, all is well. It is virtually impossible to stumble while walking in the Light with Me. I designed you to enjoy Me above all else. You find the deepest fulfillment of your heart in Me alone."

"Fearful, anxious thoughts melt away in the Light of My Presence. When you turn away from Me, you are vulnerable to the darkness that is always at work in the world. Don't be surprised by how easily you sin when you forget to cling to My hand. In the world, dependency is seen as immaturity. But in My kingdom, dependence on Me is a prime measure of maturity."

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken."
(Psalm 62:5-6)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Swimming Upstream

There are so many things in life to call for our attention. It often seems that it is much easier to focus on the things of urgency around us ... much easier than taking time to focus on God. It often requires a concentrated effort on our part to focus our minds and hearts on the things that matter the most.

Not that all these other things in our lives are harmful to us. Many of them, in fact, can be the very things that God has put into our lives for His purposes. But if we neglect connecting with God and pursuing Him above all else, we find ourselves losing His perspective, and eventually just going our own way.

I love how Francis Chan describes this in his book, Crazy Love.

"If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream."

"Or, to use another metaphor more familiar to city people, we are on a never-ending downward escalator. In order to grow, we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator, putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward."

Lord, in a world where so many things call for my attention, please help me to make the effort to seek after the things of most importance first of all. The other things will fall into place when I seek You first. I want to hold onto You as You give me the strength to swim upstream.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reverent Intimacy

My heart is captured by some thoughts that I read last night in the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I love his insight into our spending time with God each day, reading His Word and talking with Him.

"Jesus didn't command that we have a regular time with Him each day. Rather, He tells us to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' He called this the 'first and greatest commandment.' (Matthew 22:37-28) The results are intimate prayer and study of His Word."

And the author goes on to describe this "reverent intimacy" that we can have with our great Creator God. It's not a one-sided relationship, focused on our human efforts to love our God ... but it is a two-sided relationship.

Being the mom of six children, it helps me to compare this to our relationship with our children. Just as we as parents are filled with joy when our children choose to spend time with us and share their hearts with us, our God longs for us, as His children, to freely delight in Him and to love spending time with Him, choosing to live our days in continual communication with Him.

Lord, this takes my breath away. Not only do I desire You this morning, but You also long for me. Thank You for Your perfect, unending love for me ...

"How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up, You are still with me!"
(Psalm 139:17-18)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Created for a Purpose

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is so good to stop and consider God's amazing creation. And as we pause from our busyness and reflect on God's creation, we also have to deal with the question of why we are here, and what is to be our response to this great Creator God.

Francis Chan writes: "This is why we are called to worship Him. His art, His handiwork, and His creation all echo the truth that He is glorious. There is no other like Him. He is the King of Kings, the Beginning and the End, the One who was and is to come. I know you've heard this before, but I don't want you to miss it."

And here are some words from Colossians that are filling my thoughts this morning:

"For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16)

What is my response, being a part of God's creation ... to Him, the great Creator God?

I am "created by Him and for Him". How often do I think that the world revolves around me? How often do I have a bitter or grumbling spirit when something doesn't go my way? How often do I tell God how I think something should go?

What if something that I crafted for a specific purpose could speak and tell me that they would rather be something else, would rather be used for a different purpose than what I made it for? And what if a beautiful china teapot decided that it would much rather be used as a cooking appliance that could produce delicious entrees, rather than being content to be used to serve soothing, refreshing tea?

I know I have done that. I have wished at times that I could be something that I am not, instead of embracing the details of how God made me.

As we surrender to our Creator and live for His purposes that He created us for, we find the fulfillment that we were created for. I can think of no better way to live.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our View of God

I have just started reading a new book that is already capturing my attention from the very first chapter. It takes me awhile to read a book, because I am compelled to stop and think through what I have read, and process it in my heart and mind before I can go on to the next chapter. Crazy Love by Francis Chan will certainly be one that will take me awhile to read ... so much truth, and so much to process. I've had this book sitting around for awhile, and finally am getting to it. And it seems to be the perfect time to read it.

The author says, "This book is written for those who want more Jesus." For those who don't want to just settle into the status quo. The author suggests that the reason we as Christians are not making more of an impact on our world, and the reason that churches are, as a rule, not very healthy ... is because we do not have an accurate view of God.

How often do we pause in our busyness and activity, to really take time to gaze at God, to learn more of who He is? We are quick to speak to Him when we are in trouble and need help, but when was the last time that we paused our activity to let the truths of His power and character just soak into our soul?

I am reading the first chapter of this book at the perfect time. We are here in a log cabin nestled in the midst of the Rocky Mountains near Estes Park. We have one free day here at my brother and sister-in-law's cabin before we join other Student Venture staff at the YMCA of the Rockies to help prepare for the arrival of 600 students on Tuesday for the SV Getaway conference.

Everywhere I look through the big picture windows of the cabin, I see evidence of God. And from the book, I read of some of the intricate details of God's creative work:

"Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head? How about the way plants defy gravity by drawing water upward from the ground into their stems and veins? Or did you know that spiders produce three kinds of silk? When they build their webs, they create sixty feet of silk in one hour, simultaneously producing special oil on their feet that prevents them from sticking to their own web."

How can we even fathom the intricacy of our world, and how can we even begin to wrap our minds around such a majestic God who called creation into existence? We are one of His creations, and our response can only be to praise and honor this great God who brought all of this into existence.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
(Psalm 19:1-4)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Priceless Treasures

Do you sometimes wonder why we often sense God's presence with us in extra all-encompassing ways as we go through big, even heart-breaking, trials? Gary and I have had that experience. We've gone through some huge trials in our lives. Maybe not as devastating as some of the trials that others have had to go through. But they have been quite overwhelming to us. And we are finding ourselves in the midst of some trials again, now ... one of these trials often feels like a very heavy burden, while the others are smaller, more insignificant trials that only affect us for brief moments at a time.

This morning I picked up a devotional that a friend gave me awhile ago, and read some words that reminded me, again, to welcome the trials that God allows into our lives. For it is often in the midst of trials that we discover the secret, hidden treasures that God has for us. Treasures that we would not find in any other way. We often look only on the outside of the package, and do not realize all the priceless treasures that can be hidden within very plain, or even rough-looking packaging.

"He that is mastered by Christ is the master of every circumstance. Does the circumstance press hard against you? Do not push it away. It is the Potter's hand. Your mastery will come, not by arresting its progress, but by enduring its discipline, for it is not only shaping you into a vessel of beauty and honor, but it is making your resources available." (From A Gentle Spirit)

Thank You, Lord, for drawing us close to Your heart as we go through difficult times. It is in those times of complete helplessness that we learn how strong and loving You are. You are the prize of limitless worth that our hearts long for. Thank You for the priceless, secret treasures that You have for me, packaged up in the trials of life.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." (James 1:2)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Listening Heart

As we spend time with a close friend, we find ourselves sharing the things of our heart with our friend ... our secret sorrows, and also our secret joys. So it is with our friendship with God. It seems that we often find ourselves talking to God about our deep sorrows, and also about our great joys. That is actually when we pray the most often ... when we are in the depths of trials, and also when we are experiencing great joy that just bubbles out of us. And as we grow closer to God, we discover that He cares about everything in our lives, and so we begin to share more and more of the everyday, routine things of our lives with Him.

This is all good. But in any healthy relationship, there must be listening on both sides. We know that God hears our prayers and listens to the cries of our hearts. But do we take time to listen to God's heart?

As we start each day, do we take time to pause and listen to God? Do we want to hear what is on His heart for our day? Do we slow down enough and wait, and listen ... to look at the new day from His perspective? And as we go throughout the day, do we just go ahead with the busyness of life, or do we slow down in our hearts at various times throughout the day, and pause to listen to Him?

I pray that I will have a listening heart today, and everyday. There is no one else whom I would rather hear from than my Creator. I want to be tuned in to what is on His heart today ... to what He is at work doing today. I don't want to miss out on what is most important. I don't want to miss out on the secret things He is at work doing in our world.

"'My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,' says the Lord. 'And My ways are far beyond anything You could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than Your ways and My thoughts higher than Your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9)