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!

Old Love Songs…

I used an old Chicago love song for our cool down in Silver Sneakers exercise class yesterday. Chicago songs always bring back a flood of memories for me. I can remember watching my dad sing Chicago songs to my mother when he was battling cancer. I can also remember slow dancing for the first time with a boy at a friend’s birthday party to a Chicago song. Both of these events happened within a year of one another. It’s funny how music can take you back in time.

I have been thinking about this time of my life ever since class yesterday. As horrible as it was to have a front row seat to my own father’s losing battle with cancer, there were also such sweet memories that brought light, love and life to a dark, fearful time in my life.

Isn’t that how God’s grace works in our lives? He provides a hope and light when we feel like we are at the end of our rope. He brings that friend into our life that brings unexpected laughter when times get tough. And God shows true love to a young girl watching her parents sing and dance to Chicago while engaging in the battle of their lives. What a picture of hope He was providing for me.

You see, God will not leave you in darkness. He will not leave you in hopelessness. He will not leave you in grief. He will hold you. He will comfort you. And He will reveal His goodness in the toughest of times.

God will use old love songs to take you back in time and see just how far you have come. With Him. And He will remind you that He is with you, holding you and loving you in this time. No matter what tomorrow might bring.

Be joyful!

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV

Depleted.

“Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

A sweet friend of mine asked me this week if I ever get tired or burned out. She shared that she was feeling completely overwhelmed by everything right now in her life: job responsibilites, parenthood, working out, errands, life in general. Her zest for life had vanished. I asked her how her spiritual life was going. More specifically, I asked her when was the last time she just spent some time with her Father. Her precious face told me the answer before her lips even spoke. She had let her focus shift from Jesus’ face. She was feeling depleted because she simply was depleted. She needed her Father.

“O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

Yes, I have experienced seasons of my life when I have felt completely overwhelmed, holding on to life by a thread. I have noticed that when these seasons hit, I am typically not plugging in to the power source. I am not spending time in God’s Word. I am not carving out time for prayer or devotion. I am not letting God rule in my heart, nor my life. I am completely task driven and have shifted my focus from Jesus’ face.

When my first husband called and said that he wanted a divorce, I was a shell of the woman God intended me to be. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I had traveled on my own road for about ten years and had not cultivated my relationship with God. The results were astounding: 100 pounds of added body weight and probably twice that in emotional weight. Yet, amongst all that added weight was a spirit that was literally starving.

“Leave behind your regrets and mistakes, come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling.
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy, from the ashes a new life is born. Jesus is calling.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

Where do you find yourself today? Tired? Depleted? Trying to simply survive yet another day? Jesus is calling. Turn to Him and let Him tend to your weary soul. Crawl up in your Father’s lap and let Him take the burdens of this life from you. You see, His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I am living proof that no matter how far you wander, He can reach you, revive you, and restore you.

Be joyful and find rest!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NIV