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

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“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

Cycling Class….

Image from Baby to Boomer Lifestyles

Thursday mornings are so much fun because I offer a Cycling class at the best gym in the world. Class preparation is pretty basic: show up early and get your bike; wheel it into place; make some adjustments to the seat and handle bars; strap in and get those legs moving. At this point, the lights are on in the studio; some are grumbling about sore, tired bodies; some are wiping the sleep from their eyes; caps are pulled down low; and most people are moving pretty slow.

But, something magical happens at 8:30 when the lights go off and the music cranks up. You can feel the mood of the room shift, heads down and focused, minds shifting to the task at hand, legs finding the cadence of the beat. About thirty minutes in, people are out of the saddle, sweat is pouring and mouths are grunting as we climb that second hill. You can feel the class riding together, catching their second wind, and giving it their best effort. And when that post-aerobic cool down comes and we find our way back to flat road, you can see the look of satisfaction at the determined effort. We conquered yet another mountain, together, victorious!

Each morning poses the same opportunity in life as my Thursday morning Cycling class. All we have to do is show up, drag ourselves out of bed and get ready for the task God has given us for the day. We need to put on the proper gear and wipe that sleep from our eyes. And the ride is so much smoother when we strap in and gear up with the power of His Word, minds in prayer and the shield of His love and protection surrounding us.

Before we know it, we are out of the saddle, pumping hard, surrounded by our fellow Warriors in Christ in this dark world, giving it our best effort because He is worth it. He is worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears we have to offer because Jesus offered His blood, sweat and tears for us first.

And before we know it, the angel chorus will explode and we will be greeted with the sweetest satisfaction in Him, knowing that we conquered this mountain called life together, victorious.

Ride hard today! And be joyful!

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6‭-‬8 NIV

Mine, Mine, Mine!

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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

It’s Time to Make the Donuts…

I showed the students at our Leopards for Christ meeting this morning a very popular Dunkin’ Donuts commercial from the eighties. This commercial showed Fred, the Baker leaving his house morning and night, in all kinds of weather, to make the donuts. At the very end of the commercial, Fred actually finds himself running into himself. You see, the monotony of the daily task left him blurry eyed, confused and half brain dead. He couldn’t remember whether he was coming or going, let alone whether he actually made the donuts!

Much of daily life is the same for us. The paper work, the laundry basket, the car pool, the dead lines, the yard work, our studies, the gym, conversations, and even our time with God can fall into drudgery. Before we know it, we find ourselves simply going through the motions and finding little motivation, let alone joy in our daily tasks.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” I can’t think of a better way to combat the mundane tasks that confront us in every day life. When our focus shifts from going through the motion of the task to trusting God to pattern our steps and guide our understanding, everything changes! We find a revitalized soul and a purpose. (Even when it means scrubbing the toilet for the 100th time.)  Seeking God’s will each and every day, makes the day seem limitless in possibility and wonder. Our obedience to the minutiae that every day life requires can actually bring blessings we could never imagine.

When it’s time to make the donuts again, trust that God has a bigger purpose. Even the smallest of tasks can result in the greatest rewards. By simply fixing your eyes and heart on Jesus, those donuts start to look and smell amazing. And before you know it, you find yourself taking a big, ‘ole bite, thanking God for each delicious morsel of life!

Be joyful!

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NLT

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