Stars…

Recently, I had the opportunity to lay and look at the stars at night. It was at the close of a much needed beach day with a dear friend. We spent the day soaking up the sun, splashing in the waves, swimming in the pool and giggling endlessly. (The angel dog had a blast that day too. Although, he was less than thrilled with my friend’s big black lab who was also along for the ride.)

We ended the day on the porch of my friend’s beach condo just before midnight, laying on loungers soaking up the expansive display of stars twinkling over head. WOW! I can’t remember the last time that I took the time to take in the glory of the night sky. We were blaring praise and worship music, singing to our Father in heaven without a care in the world. It was fabulous!

It occurred to me that I have forgotten, in the chaos of my own life, the importance of simple pleasures. We have a front row seat to a creation that is stunning. Yet, we rarely get our eyes off of our phones long enough to realize it. Our God, the Maker, is crying out to us through His creation to pay attention! His presence is all around us! His radiance sparkled through every star that night. I felt like I was wrapped up in His Glory.

Look up my dear friends! Get rid of the distractions and take some time to look at the stars. I noticed that evening that my struggles and my ego became miraculously smaller. Praise God! He is greater than me!

Be joyful!

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:4‭-‬5 NIV

Life changes on a dime.

Last Friday morning, a beautiful woman and friend had a stroke around 7:00 a.m. Her son found her later that afternoon and called 911. Her daughter was my childhood best friend. The plan for that day was to go to the movies together, a mother/daughter afternoon indulgence. Yet, two days later, that sweet family made the decision to take their mother off of life support, sending her to glory. She was an amazing woman who loved to laugh, spend time with her family and cherished her friends. She was beautiful and a huge role model for me. Life changes on a dime.

Yesterday, some girlfriends and I went to visit a mutual friend in the hospital. She has been battling for her life….heart surgery, a collapsed lung, staph infection, and a whole lot of pain. It truly has been one thing after another for my sister in Christ. I was pleased to see her looking better than a couple of days ago, sitting up and talking. We spent about thirty minutes with her and the conversation was rich and full of love for one another. We prayed together before we left and I felt like things were beginning to turn around for my friend. This morning at 6:17, I received a text from her husband asking for prayer. You see, she has bleeding on the brain which caused a seizure. My lovely friend is now on a ventilator. Life changes on a dime.

Our time here on earth is fleeting and our days are numbered. Life is precious. We should treat each and every day as a gift from our heavenly Father. Take time to tell those around you how much you love them. Notice the beauty God has placed in your life. Take time to listen to the people who you encounter every day. Each morning that we wake up with breath in our lungs is another opportunity to show generosity, kindness, love, forgiveness and grace. Don’t hold back: laugh, dance, give the benefit of the doubt, be slow to anger, get rid of grudges, forgive and give thanks! Embrace life with complete abandonment, filled with hope and faith! Because life changes on a dime. And because our Father in heaven is good. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. His ways are right. And He is love.

Be joyful!

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. James 1:16-18

Sunflowers…

Sunflowers are my favorite flower. I noticed last week that they planted enormous sunflowers in one section of our downtown square. They were huge! I loved driving past and seeing how their sweet faces were turned toward the sun, stretching their necks to get as much light as they could.

This morning when I drove past, those once outstretched necks were now hanging with their faces completely downcast. You see, it is now time for them to sow their seeds. Their heads are bowed to allow the seeds to drop to the ground below them. The cycle of life for those lovely flowers, preparing for rebirth and regrowth.

What a lesson for us! We should also stand tall and turn our faces to the Son and let His light pour into our lives. We should reach our sweet necks out as far as possible and take in as much of that light as we can hold, allow it to fill our hearts and souls with all of its nourishment. Then, when it is time to sow His seeds, we need to bow our heads in prayer and bow our knees in servitude, allowing His seeds to fall, scatter and flourish. The seeds we sow here can also bring God’s light and life to those around us.

Today, let the sunflowers around you remind you to be His Sonflower.

Be joyful!

Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Mark 4:26 NLT

Kindness Matters…

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.
Proverbs 3:3‭-‬4 NLT

We live in a world where we all strive to be the center of attention. We want desperately to be noticed, appreciated, loved, admired. Favor is something that is longed for and cherished when found.

I watched a beautiful young woman address our youth group last night. She recently graduated as Valedictorian of one of our local high schools. She pointed out that wanting to stand out in high school typically requires fitting in to a certain group of students. You see, popularity requires conformity. She pointed out that the irony is that the only way we truly stand out in this broken world is to shine for God. This requires us to run His race and simply not conform to this world.

Loyalty and kindness are quickly becoming irrelevant in this world of self. To be loyal requires trust, integrity and selflessness. When we add kindness to the mix, we find humility in action. Yet, we see God ask us to bind loyalty and kindness around our necks and write them in our hearts. In other words, allow these traits to permeate our hearts and our minds. When we put these two things into practice, then and only then, do we find favor with God and those around us. Our reputation hinges on emulating Christ in these two acts of love.

Father, help me stand out in this dark world. Permeate me with loyalty to You, Your Words and Jesus’ example. Help me be a kind and gentle spirit to those around me today. And always. Amen.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

Control…

Okay, I have control issues. I have always known this about myself. However, being a mom sure has brought it the forefront! No wonder my mom frequently answered the question, “why?” with a firm, “because I told you so.” Enough said. And I totally understand that sentiment now.

One of the reasons that I like teaching group exercise is because at no other time during my day do people absolutely kill themselves trying to do what I ask. Flying jacks? Oh yes, how high? Burpees, my favorite. I’m on it! Windsprints? I’ve got this. I will run like the wind! You see, this is not a picture of real life.

If I’m honest, my need to control has been an unhealthy theme in my relationship with God too. “Okay God, I know you know best; but, could we just try it my way first?” Or “Are you sure Father that you want me to forgive? Did you see what that person did?” Or “I’m giving this situation to you God. Your Will be done. But, I’m going to continue to worry and fret over it just in case.”

I was absolutely brought to my knees this week listening to a praise and worship song by Hillsong, entitled So Will I. I have heard this song many times; but this time I really listened and what God revealed was astounding:
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

God has and always will be in control. Of everything. Not only did He send Jesus to die on the cross. He created the hill that held that cross. And He created the cross that would hold our Savior. Even in the darkness of that moment, God held the world tighter than ever. Stable. And completely in control.

We live in troubling times. God is in control. We battle sickness and disease. God is in control. People open fire on children, teachers and staff at our schools. God is in control. Volcanoes erupt, tornadoes wipe out homes and hurricanes flood communities. God is in control. We lose loved ones to death. God is in control. Friends let us down. God is in control. Our hearts break. God is in control.
And as You speak, a hundred billion failures disappear.
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here.
If You left the grave behind You so will I.
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done.
Every part designed in a work of art called love.
If You gladly chose surrender so will I.
I can see Your heart eight billion different ways.
Every precious one a child You died to save.
If You gave Your life to love them so will I!

God is in control, especially when it seems like things are spinning out of control. Why? Because He said so. And then He showed us through His Son.

Be joyful!

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:6 NLT

Is Your Glass Full?

I attended a fitness training over the weekend. Our instructor used an illustration that has really left me thinking. She told us that as fitness instructors we have the opportunity to see ourselves as a glass that is full to the brim. Each class that we offer provides an opportunity for us to pour into the lives in that room and hopefully fill them up by the time class has ended.

What a fabulous approach to fitness instruction. What a fabulous approach to life in general! When you really break it down, it rings true on so many levels.

We must, first, be full ourselves. In other words, we must have something to give to those around us. So to be a full glass, we must let God tend to our souls. We can do this by seeking God’s truth for our lives in His Word, praying and simply spending time with our Father daily. It is from Him that we will receive hope, love, forgiveness, grace and oh so many blessings.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we should take care of our physical needs too. Eat balanced, nutritious meals, get a good night’s sleep and get moving daily through exercise.

So, now that our glass is full, we have the opportunity and calling to pour into those around us and fill them up with good things. God things. And inspire them to then go and do the same!

“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,” (Matthew 28:19 NIV)

I encourage you to let God fill your glass full each day this week and then seek opportunities to pour Him into those around you. I am confident that there is enough of Him to go around. In fact, I have a feeling that we will find that when we approach life like this, our cups may truly runneth over!

Be joyful!

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:13 NIV

Too Much Stuff…

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Matthew 6:19‭-‬21 MSG

I love clothes. I learned the art of retail therapy early from my mom. Still to this day, shopping is one of our favorite things to do together. Some might say that I have earned my degree in “Buyology”.

I recently bought my husband a couple pairs of shorts. He liked them so much that the logical thing to do was go back to the store and get him a pair in every color. Not to mention they were an extremely good deal, which made it sort of my duty folks.

If you look in my refrigerator or pantry, you will find both full of my family’s favorite foods and snacks. My daughter’s drawer in our pantry is quite the envy of her friends.

Please don’t judge me too harshly. God has been working on me in this area of my life. The verse above from Matthew truly resonates. How often do we store up wordly things in our lives in an attempt to get approval, feel better about ourselves or keep up with the perverbal Jones’? God tells us that these earthly treasures will never last. They may bring a temporary sense of satisfaction; but the feeling is fleeting at best.

When we seek to store up treasures in heaven, we experience a change of heart, lasting contentment and satisfaction. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

When we turn our attention to eternal matters and seek to do God’s will here on earth, everything changes. Our investments reflect Christ: serve the needy, love your enemies, take care of widows and children, cherish family, fight for the weak ones, listen intently to the voices around you and look into their sweet faces. See people. Simply stand in the gap.

And then you will see Christ at work all around you. Because where your treasure is there you will be.

Be joyful!