New Year’s Resolution…

As 2018 comes to a close, I find myself considering some resolutions for the New Year. But, before I resolve to do anything, I think there are some things that I need to leave right here and not take into tomorrow.

Let’s take one of my favorite go to combinations: guilt mixed with a little shame. Why don’t ya’ll just stay here? I’m done allowing you time in my life. Oh and that pesky guy pride? Well, he can stay in 2018. For that matter fear can stay put too. I’m not interested in living another minute with jealousy based on comparisons and assumptions. And while I’m cleaning house, negativite thoughts and words be gone!

You see, tomorrow brings the opportunity for a fresh start and to resolve some things, which means decide firmly on a course of action. I was reminded that because of Jesus I stand firm in hope. Hope is manifested through God’s love for us and we can live in anticipation of good things to come, even when faced with trials.

So, I resolve in 2019 to be more hopeful. I resolve to see possibilities when faced with challenges. I resolve to find ways to be thankful every day. I resolve to laugh more often and love more deeply. And I resolve to spend time with Jesus each and every day. For it is because of Him that I can resolve to do anything.

Be joyful!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

He’s Here…

We had a Birthday Party for Jesus last night at church. We played a version of the game musical chairs with the children, using a wrapped present. The children passed the present around their circle while the music played; then, when the music stopped whoever was holding the present unwrapped a layer of paper. The person to unwrap the last layer of paper got to keep the gift. This game is so much fun to watch! Each time the music stopped, all of the kids squealed with delight. One little girl in particular caught my attention last night.

She was absolutely “all in” when it came to this game. She squealed along with everyone else and while another child was unwrapping the present she whispered, “please let there by another layer, please, please”, eyes full of delight, she was so stinking cute!

It occurred to me that I want to approach these next four days leading up to Christmas much the same. I want to squeal with delight at the lights, trees, cookies, carols and gifts that surround me. I want to gaze at Jesus in the manger, eyes full of delight and remember that Jesus is born. He’s here for me. I want to whisper to that baby, “please let there be another layer of your love, your hope and your joy in my heart. Please, please.”

I don’t know where this Christmas finds you. Maybe you are dealing with a broken heart, illness, separation from loved ones, depression, anxiety or other disappointments. I encourage you to take time to gaze at that precious baby boy in the manger and find comfort, joy and peace. He dwelt among us. He could have left us on our own. But, He did not. There is nothing that Jesus did not endure after He arrived lowly in that manger and He went on to save each one of us. You are not alone this Christmas, this year or the next. He is here!

Francesca Battistelli reminds us of the beauty of Jesus with her song, You’re Here. I pray these words wash over you and give you Christmas hope!

Hold on now, I gotta take a deep breath; I don’t know what to say when I look in your eyes.
You made the world before I was born; here I am holding you in my arms tonight.
Noel, noel, Jesus our Emmanuel.
You’re here, I’m holding you so near.
I’m staring into the face of my saviour, king and creator.
You could’ve left us on our own, but you’re here.
Don’t know how long I’m gonna have you for; but I’ll be watching when you change the world.
I look at your hand, they’re still so small; someday you’re going to stretch them out and save us all.
Noel, noel, God with us Emmanuel.
Someday I’m gonna look back on this; the night that God became a baby boy.
Someday you’re gonna go home again; but you leave your spirit and flood the world with joy.
Hallelujah! You’re here! Hallelujah! You’re here!

Be joyful! Jesus is here!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Oh Christmas Tree…

Christmas season is in full swing. Like many others, I typically love this time of year! I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry and thinking a lot about Christmas. Honestly, I have been feeling a bit disconnected from the wonder and joy of the holiday. I don’t know if it is life or hormones (or both); but for some reason I am feeling a bit blue.

I just sat down in front of my Christmas tree, the room darkened from the incoming storm outside and realized that God was once again trying to get my attention. Sweet whispers, “you are blessed. I am light. Take my yoke. I’m still here.”

Consider the lights on your Christmas tree tonight. Have you ever noticed that those lights bring warmth and hope into the room? The lights of the tree are an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer.

Jesus is the Light of the World. And He enteted the world as a baby in a lowly manger to save us. His light is an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer. Jesus brings warmth and hope into our hearts. On such a day as this. Pure radiant glory! We are not alone! Consider His light!

I wonder if you might be feeling disconnected too? If so, I pray that God speaks to your soul today, reminding you of His presence. And I encourage you to look at those Christmas tree lights with complete innocence and abandonment. Jesus is calling. Can you hear Him?

Be joyful!

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 11:29‭-‬30 NIV

Sunshine….

An amazing thing happened yesterday in my part of Texas: the sun came out! It’s just so amazing how something as simple as a sun shiny day can refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step.

Now this particular day of sunshine came after days upon days upon days of rain, which made it even sweeter. I literally felt lighter yesterday and full of hope.

My husband and I took the angel dog for a walk this morning and now I am sitting outside with the sun warming my face. What a simple pleasure this Saturday after depressing rain.

And that’s when I heard God whisper, pay attention! My light is always around the next corner. I will not allow the rain forever. Just hold on. My SONshine will warm you. He will refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step. He will make your steps lighter and renew your hope. The rain is temporary; but, the Son lasts forever!

Be joyful!

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
Psalm 119:116 NIV

Change.

I’m going through a season of change right now. Shifts in my time, redirection in my focus, and God’s silent whisper that something new is on the horizon. Change. If we are honest, it isn’t always our favorite word. Change means to make or become different.

When we really break it down, we are in a constant state of change. From the moment we enter this world, change infiltrates. Our bodies grow, our minds advance, emotions ebb and flow, and hormones shift. Education, employment, marriage, family and the aging process marches on making us different, day in and day out. We are, simply put, always becoming.

Some seasons in life feel more full of change than others. And often God pushes change along that is needed for our own good, which is exactly where I find myself right now.

If I’m completely honest, this season of change is stirring up something else too. Fear. Fear of the unknown. And I find my myself asking questions: What if the change isn’t necessarily better? Isn’t it better to stay here in what I know? Different isn’t always better, right?

Then, it occurred to me. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). He is a good Father and He requires that I relinquish control completely to Him. His changes are necessary. His changes are not temporal. They are eternal and life sustaining.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16‭-‬18 NIV

Change. It is a fact of life. But, we do not have to face it with fear and uncertainty. God’s truth stands unwavering for us in every season of life. Our Father is steering our becoming to something perfect and complete in Him. As my husband just reminded me, change is evidence of growth!

So, I say, bring on the change! My hope is secure in Christ. And fear, well fear is just a liar!

Be joyful!

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you. Psalm 25:21 NIV

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!

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