I Saw God today…

The manager at the gym where I work has started placing my initials on a bottle of water each morning. So, when I arrive to teach, I find my very own bottle of water waiting for me in the cooler. She even takes the time to make my initials into bubble letters. It truly delights my heart because it is such a simple act of kindness.

It occurred to me that simple daily acts of kindness are a reflection of our Father. We could change our communities if we would seek to practice kindness towards those around us every day.

Our ability to be kind comes from our Father in heaven. He is love. He is good. And He is kind. His kindness extends to us every day. We just have to take the time to look for it. You see, the initials on the water bottle pointed to simple kindness, which pointed to God. I saw God today!

Every day, when our eyes open and our feet hit the ground, God has placed His initials all over us! His initials are carved in our breath, our blessings and our steps. We have the opportunity to point our hearts and minds to this incredible truth and delight in it!

So, today, look for an opportunity to practice a simple act of kindness. And do it with the full knowledge that God delights in your initials and in your obedience.

Be hopeful!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 NIV

Authority…

Yep. I’ve been thinking a lot about authority lately; largely because we now have a 17 year old who is trying to thwart some of her own authority in our house! I think it is safe to say that most of us would rather be in the position of authority, rather than under someone else’s authority. The definition of authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.

We live in a culture that no longer respects authority, particularly if that authority steps on our toes in any way. We also live in a culture where parents shy away from being the authority for their children, especially when life gets uncomfortable. And it shows in endless levels of disrespect and miscommunication.

I think it would be wise for us to remember that God holds all authority and He ordains authority too. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1).

Make no mistake, God is our authority and He is in control. And any person who holds a position of authority (i.e. leaders, parents, teachers, employers) are accountable to God for how they handle this authority.

It has been a challenging week for my husband and I as parents. As my daughter pushes back on some of our household rules, it is easy to lose our patience and focus.

Ya’ll, isn’t that a picture of what we do regularly to our Father in heaven? He places rules and ordains order and authority in our lives. Yet, we push back and demand that our way is better. All the while not realizing that those rules and boundaries are for our own good!! And instead of losing patience and focus, He sent His own Son to save us, providing us a way back into His loving arms of forgiveness and grace.

Authority. I’m so glad I have a Father who has the final say on this subject. What a relief! What a mighty God we serve!

Be hopeful!

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:5‭-‬7 NIV

Every Single Day…

The question showed up on my Facebook wall yesterday and literally brought me to my knees. You see, I consider myself a relatively thankful gal. I express and show appreciation often. I feel that my blessings are abundant and think that I live my life accordingly. But, how am I measuring up on daily, expressed thanksgiving to my Father in heaven? Do I take time to truly inventory all the things that I have to be thankful for?

The truth? If I woke up today with what I expressed thanks to God for yesterday, I would not have even woke up. You see, the very breath in my lungs is a gift for which I rarely give thanks. These feet that swing out of bed each morning and touch the carpet….nope never gave thanks. The bed, pillows, sheets, carpet, water, plates, cups….the list goes on and on and on. It is actually quite sickening to realize how many things I have that I take for granted. Things that I need to thank God for. Every. Single. Day.

But, not just things. Do I really express thanks for the mind that God gave me? Do I thank Him for the spiritual gifts that He has given me? Do I realize that the perspective that He gives me is also a blessing and utter thanks? My very personality which enables me to lead an aerobics class or the eyes that I have to enjoy the expressions on my husband’s face. These are all items that I need to thank God for. Every. Single. Day.

Speaking of my husband, what about the people around me? Friends, family, even strangers who cross my path, do I give proper thanks? Or have I gotten in the habit of my prayers being rote and full of requests? Do I thank God for His Son, His Hope and His Grace. Every. Single. Day?

So today, I come to my Father with a heart and mind bubbling over with thanksgiving. I will make it a new habit to truly stop and ponder blessings anew each day. And I will be thankful. Every. Single. Day.

Be joyful and thankful!

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 NLT

I Won’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing…

I struggle with worry. It creeps into my thoughts even on the brightest of days. The worries can be small, “is so and so mad at me?” or “why did I eat all of that ice cream?” to bigger worries like “what would I do if something happened to my mom?” or “what if my daughter gets in a car accident?” Big or small, daily worries can add up and leave us mentally exhausted. Have you ever noticed that worry can cause our thoughts to spin out of control? Before you know it, that small mole hill has become Mount Everest. It’s no wonder that God tells us so often in His Word not to worry.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.'” Matthew 6:30‭-‬34 MSG

I love this version of these assuring passages in Matthew. It would do us all some good to steep our lives–hang out and soak up–some God-reality, God-initiative and God-provision. The definition of worry is to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. In essence when we worry we are putting blinders on, zeroing in on the trouble at hand. When we allow God’s Word and Hope to penetrate that worry, we allow God to remind us of His reality, His love, and His peace. And just like that those blinders come off and we can see Him, in all of His radiance. He is bigger than any trouble. Stronger than any worry. And He is in complete control. Glory!!

So, let me put some assuring lyrics into your heart that we learned this summer at Shipwrecked VBS. And I encourage you to sing along the next time worry tries to take over…

Free like a bird in the big blue sky. Not a cloud or a care for a million miles. I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing.

God loves me and He loved me first. He rescued me when I was in a lurch. And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

To the left I’ll fly, fly, fly.

To the right, I’ll glide, glide, glide.

No, and I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing!

Gonna scoop down low, low, low.

Gonna soar up high, high, high.

And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

Be joyful and don’t you worry ’bout a thing!

Dream Small…

Dream small!
Don’t buy the lie you’ve gotta do it all.
Just let Jesus use you where you are.
One day at a time.
Live well!
Loving God and others as yourself.
Find little ways where only you can help.
With His great love.
A tiny rock can make a giant fall.
Dream small!”

These lyrics by Josh Wilson have really left me pondering. I love the message: simple obedience in our daily walk can add up to a lifetime of huge changes in our world for Christ. Missionary William Carey said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” More often than not, those great attempts by us allow God to do monumental, remarkable, life changing things!

Recently, there has been a very disfigured young man who has begun working out at our gym. He obviously is battling a type of disorder, which limits his mobility as well. His workout buddy is another man who based on appearance alone might be considered a rough and tough dude. He has lots of tattoos including several on his face. He used to work out by himself at the gym and he always kept to himself.

But, over the last month, he meets the disfigured young man and works out with him. He is gentle and caring to this young man. He even helps him with his ear buds and fixing the weights on the equipment. They both still very much keep to themselves; but, the message this man has taught me has made a lasting impression. We are called to make a difference in our community and serve others like Christ. Quietly. Obediently. Without public recognition.

We live in a world where everyone is looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Everyone wants that reality television, youtube or vine notariety. Even our service to God can fall into this trap. We look for the big moments where we can make a big splash. We even boast about what we are doing for God on social media, shifting the focus from God working through us to me, myself and I.

Yet, this rough looking man reminds me through his kindness how important it is that we attempt small acts of obedience everyday. And that we should never judge a book by its cover. Go visit that friend in the hospital; teach that Sunday school class; send that text of encouragement to your friend who is struggling; celebrate birthdays; volunteer with a child in need; listen to your teenage daughter when a boy breaks her heart; bake that pie for a friend after surgery; stop and pray for those in need; mow your yard; do the laundry; the list of small acts of kindness and obedience goes on and on.

Keep loving, keep serving,
Keep listening, keep learning,
Keep praying, keep hoping,
Keep seeking, keep searching,
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger.
The God who does all things makes oceans…from river.” (Josh Wilson, Dream Small)

Yes, dream small and serve God through the mundane, every day tasks of life. Before you know it, He will reveal that these dreams were never small. They are all part of His story, His dreams, His plans, His glory. And trust me, it doesn’t get much bigger or better than that!

Be joyful!

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1‭-‬4‭, ‬6 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!

Mine, Mine, Mine!

pixsharkimage
Image from pixshark.com

When my mom brought me home from the hospital, my brother met us at the car, exclaiming “my baby, my baby, my baby.” (He was an extremely intelligent boy and knew greatness when he saw it. 🙂 ) I carried my “blankee” for much longer than I will ever admit and it was definitely my property and mine alone. Try and take food away from my daughter and see what happens to you. How often have we witnessed children grab a toy away from someone else’s hands all the while exclaiming, “mine”?

We sure do like to lay claim to our possessions, don’t we? I have noticed a pattern developing culturally that seems similar. More and more often, I hear people refer to their own “truth” or they might comment about another person saying something like, “that’s her truth.” I hear things like, “do you girl” or “look at what I made” when it comes to our children. I recently used hash tags under a picture of my own daughter laying claim to her softball status: #lovemynumber6 and #thatsmygirl. I know, you are probably thinking that these are innocent claims that come from an innocuous place. But, I think that they might speak to a larger issue that comes from our self-absorbed, self obsessed nature or as my Pastor likes to say, “Me-ville.”

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus also said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) We see God say to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.'” It seems to me that we need to be very careful when it comes to “truth” and laying claim. The only truth that stands firm in this world is Jesus. It is not my truth or your truth, it is His Truth. And the truth of the matter is that anything good or right or fair that flows from our lives is simply a reflection of God working through us. Further, any possession or gift or talent that we lay claim to was entrusted to us by our Father. This includes our children.

Thank God that He shouted, “mine, mine, mine” and sent His Son to save us. Thank God that Jesus shouted, “mine, mine, mine” when He gave up his last breath and conquered death, rising victorious for us. Thank God that His Holy Spirit shouts, “mine, mine, mine” as His very life pours into our very being. Glory Father, your truth is everything! You must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLT)

So, this weekend, I dare you to claim “His Truth” in your life and instead of “doing you”, let’s “do God”. He is the only Truth that matters.

Be joyful!

If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all be myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”–well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors–as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 MSG

Humility…

This one word packs such a powerful punch! God has been working on me in this area of my life. I am finding that He is offering lots of opportunity for me to practice humility, as well as my daughter and husband right now. I must admit watching my daughter navigate this one lately has been incredibly difficult. But, the lessons that God is teaching are beyond important. They are life changing.

Webster’s Dictionary defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” Yes, I agree. That is one hard pill to swallow, especially in this generation of self. We are hard pressed and often rewarded when we practice the exact opposite of humility. It’s no wonder that antonyms for humility are words like pride, arrogance, self-importance, egoism. The world teaches us that we actually should have the highest opinion of self. We should put ourselves above all other things: our desires, our thoughts, our opinions, our success. And the world tells us that it doesn’t matter who or what we need to step on in order to get ahead. We can cheat, lie, steal, gossip and take any advantage possible to put self ahead. No offense here folks, but isn’t the beloved “selfie” about as narcissistic as it gets?

God knew that we would need a fresh reminder about the importance of humility throughout each generation, which is why He reminds us over and over again in scripture to humble ourselves before our Father and to humble ourselves in our relationship with one another. In Philippians 2:3, God tells us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above self.” God reminds us in Proverbs 11:2 that “when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 15:33 also tells us that “wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.” Ephesians 4:2 shares with us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” And finally, God boldly proclaims in 1 Peter 5:6 “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

We are called to swallow our pride and practice humility always. Jesus is the Author and Perfector of humility. He laid down His life for me: for my pride, arrogance, self-importance, egoism. In contrast, He is the only one who has the right and reason to hold a high opinion of Himself. Yet, we see Him practice the opposite, not just practice but teach and equip us to do the same. With our humble obedience, He will give us wisdom, honor and He will lift us up in His perfect time. (Can I get an hallelujah from the back row?)

Yes, the lessons God are teaching are beyond important. They are life changing. If I will simply get my “self” out of the way.

Be joyful and humble!

“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Mark 10:31 NIV

Birds on a Feeder…

My Sunday school gals are crackng up right now. Yes girls, I am writing about the birds on the feeder. Ha! (Please excuse a little inside joke here.)

Bird-Watch_101698698_web
Picture from Lowe’s website.

We have quite a bit of bird activity in our back yard. The birds are magnificent around the feeder: bright red and orange beaked cardinals, blue jays, yellow and tan finches, ring neck and mexican doves and black grackles to name a few. They each take a turn and have their own unique way of feeding. Some wait their turn on the fence, swooping in and out grabbing seed at the feeder quickly and decidedly. Others land on the feeder and pick out the seeds that they like, tossing the unwanted seeds on the ground. While others eat the scattered seed on the ground under the feeder. And often, along comes a squirrel to dangle over the feeder in a variety of positions, even though we put corn out specifically for them.

It is fascinating and often comical to watch the activity and ritual of each bird at the feeder. I wonder if God feels the same watching over His little flock. Some of us swoop into life, not over thinking it and get things done; quickly moving in and out of our roles. Others wait patiently to see how things are done and then follow the lead and take their turn. Some of us are very picky and quickly sort what we like from what we don’t like, with unwavering discernment. And some of us like to wait and be served, happy when things are sorted out and decided for us. And some of us provide the much needed theatrics and comical relief of dangling it all out there, without a care in the world about protocol or procedure. Even when there might be an easier way to get things done.

There is beauty in each way, each gift, each approach to life. God orchestrated it perfectly. Each personality and gift needed, valued and cherished by God, our Father. He loves to watch us figure it out and I think He gets a good chuckle sometimes too.

Embrace your unique approach to life this week. Fly high. Soar. Dive. Embrace your bright feathers! You were designed to radiate His Glory and He loves you…most!

Be joyful!

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 NIV

A Seizure…

20180329_124330The angel dog had a seizure yesterday. It is the second tine this has happened to him. The first seizure was at least three years ago. The truth is that it has been so long since the first one that I had forgotten what they looked like. We were laying on my bed late afternoon and I was working on my laptop. One of my first blogs, “Early Mornings with the Angel Dog” was about our morning ritual, which depicted how the angel dog loves to snuggle under the covers each morning with his momma. Yesterday afternoon, he began scratching like he wanted under the covers. When I lifted the comforter so he could go under, I noticed that something was wrong. He was squirming on his belly and it seemed like he didn’t know how to get under the covers. I jumped up and put my hand on him and called his name. He again was squirming and seemed unable to stand up.

My husband works for a company that allows him to work remotely. So, his office is actually in a barn in our back yard. I called him and told him to please come in because something was wrong with angel dog. In the time that it took him to walk across our yard into the house, angel dog seemed to be calming down and was now trying to squirm his way closer to me.  I laid my body over his and kept whispering over and over that it was going to be okay. We called the vet and headed to the vet clinic. Angel dog was already feeling better and actually ran to the truck and hopped up ready to go for a ride, which is one of his favorite things. (My sweet husband prayed for the angel dog on our way to the vet clinic, which made me fall a little deeper in love with him.) Everything checked out at the vet clinic and the vet confirmed that it was a seizure and that often mild seizures in dogs are more traumatic for the owners than the animal.

I want you to know that I was completely calm, cool and collected throughout this incident. And if you believe that, I have some swamp land that I would like to sell you in my home state of Florida. I was so shaken that I called the wrong vet clinic. Then, was crying so hard that its no wonder how the poor woman who answered the phone at our vet clinic even understood who we were and what was happening. Fear had taken a firm grip on me.

I remembered a time about a decade ago when fear also took a firm grip on me. This time, the recipient of my phone call was my mother and I told her through choked back tears that my first husband wanted a divorce. What followed for months after were cries to my Father in heaven asking Him to put the pieces back together. Sometimes those prayers were with words; but, often those prayers were silent cries where the words simply wouldn’t come. Through all of it, Jesus laid his body over mine and whispered that it was going to be okay. And it was eventually okay. In fact, because of His grace, forgiveness, mercy and peace it became more than better. I found myself able to run again and hop up in the truck ready for a ride!

Maybe you need to be reminded this Easter that God is active and present. That He is capable of conquering death and resurrecting life. That we never go through life’s storms, life’s heart breaks or life’s fears without Him. He can and will, in His timing, make things good again. Make things great in fact! He will not leave you in the darkness of Good Friday….to borrow a well known quote…”Sunday is coming”! Hallelujah!

Be joyful!

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NLT