Morning Thoughts on November 13, 2015

Intentional.

I am reading the bible chronologically this year and I am reading thru the crucifixion accounts in the gospels. The same account with various details coming out, giving a fuller picture. Today I was reading Luke 23 and John 18 – 19 and it resonated more than ever before how intentional Jesus was. He knew what was coming. He loved me, loved all of us that He was willing to go thru the process of taking on my sin, your sin, all our sins so that we could be redeemed.

I wonder as He took each step on the journey from the garden to the cross, if His steps became heavier and heavier. His compassion and love for us propelling him. He was intentional. When I read through John’s account of the events, Jesus spoke sparingly and when He did speak it cut to the heart of the issue and that was it. His intentionality with not just what he said but how he said it. He was intentional in asking for a drink on the cross and then giving up his spirit. He chose to die. He chose to. He intentionally made that choice. He chose to obey the Father.

I am tend to be intentional with stipulations. Its easy to be intentional when its going well. Its difficult to be intentional when life is hard. I am challenged, challenged to look at being intentional from a different angle today. I am challenged and reminded that being intentional is a choice.

I must choose to be intentional.

Intentional with WHAT I am doing.

Intentional with my time.

Intentional with my actions.

Intentional with HOW I respond.

My words.

My emotions.

Intentional with HOW I think.

John 19:17 says “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,” (NKJV) today what jumped out at me is the phrase “And He, bearing His cross” we see Jesus talking in the gospels about picking up our cross and following Him. {Matthew 10: 38, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27) As Jesus was walking with His cross there were people all around Him, I would imagine jeering, throwing insults, not making the walk pleasant. Each step took him one step closer to His death and bearing the sins of the world so that we could be redeemed.  I don’t imagine that it was an easy walk but yet He walked it. He could have not walked it yet He chose to walk it. As I follow Jesus, I have to choose to be more and more intentional at obeying what He says, of allowing Him to be in charge. That intentional choice to follow is not always received well. Yet I see what Jesus went thru so that I could have a relationship with Him, the intentional choice to obey, follow, and be his disciple is worth the cost. How do I be more intentional and in the way Jesus wants me to – with Jesus leading me and walking with me.

Every part of my life is an opportunity to be intentional. What I am seeing as I walk with Jesus is that I can only be intentional as He intends as I choose to let Him be Lord of my life. The greatest intentional choice I have to make is putting down what I want, what I think, what I feel, all the “I” of my life and follow Him. Today I am choosing to follow after Jesus; no matter the response of those around me (good or bad); desiring to be intentional with my words, my actions, my thoughts.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (NKJV)

~ personal reflection as I continue to learn to follow Jesus  ~
Gail

It is a matter of My Heart

It has been an uncharacteristically hot summer so far here in the Northwest. Temperatures are soaring in June and early July with what we we normally see in August. There are two ways I can approach it – I can work to keep a positive attitude or I can complain.

I have been reading about the kings of Israel and you see a mixture of behaviors and actions. Some followed God and did was right. Others did not. You see drama, murder, captivity and war. You see kings that started out by following God and then turn away from Him, and you see the consequences that came. In 2 Chronicles 25 we read about King Amaziah, one verse in particular jumped out at me today and its found in verse two. It reads like this “And He did was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart.” (NKJV)

Did you catch that, “he did what was right but his heart was not loyal” (paraphrase 2 Chronicles 25:2). As I read it and thought about it, I was reminded of the verses that I had heard in church yesterday; two specifically found in Colossians 3. Both talk about things in our lives that we should put to death and put away from us as we follow Jesus. (Colossians 3:5 and 3:8) Having a heart attitude of complaining is something that God has been working on me for a long time.

I am challenged to pause and really take a hard look at myself. King Amaziah was what I would call religious, but his heart was not in the right place. It was all about the check boxes. The rules. The to do’s and NOT about the relationship. What do I need to put away, not allow to have a place in my life. What is hindering a fuller relationship with Jesus?

As a human being I know I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I struggle. I have faults. But because of the grace Jesus has shown me in saving me, I have a relationship with him. Its about my heart. If I am not diligent to nurture the relationship and my heart, my actions and my words can come from a place of doing the right thing, more from a religion stand point and not from the heart standpoint of the relationship. The problem with that is seen over the long run. The kings of the Old Testament show us how we often will stray and make poor choices, listen to the wrong advice when our heart is not where it should be. And then reap the consequences of not keeping our hearts right in following God.

I began today talking about the heat and the choice I have to make about my attitude. The key to my attitude is my heart. It is simple but yet profound. Choosing to thank Jesus for the heat and its benefits helps me not complain. It truly is a matter of my heart. I find the more I let Jesus change my heart even something as simple as the really hot weather can reveal how He has changed me and what I need to continue to bring to Him for His redemptive power.

Today I am thankful for the hot weather, the sunshine that comes with it, the way it helps the gardens grow, and how it helps me to appreciate and to be thankful for the rainy days of winter.

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~ thoughts from my morning devotion

Gail


Photos and Writing Copyrighted 2015 Gail Campbell for use please email theredeemedprodigal@outlook.com
Photos taken in Wenatchee, WA – July 4th 2015 Weekend

Proverbs 15:4 and the Project

Have you ever had a project that never seemed to finish? You know which I am talking about. You work on it a few minutes here and a few minutes over there. You can see progress but it doesn’t seem significant. You can see the finish line but it just never seems to get there, you are tempted to give up. Tempted to stop or pause and do something different. Yet instinctively you know that if you will just keep going you will make it to the end. Next thing you know you are at the finish line, it is finished. Completed. Well done.

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I had one of those moments this week. I have a cross stitch project I have been working on for well over 5 years. Life has taken some interesting twists and turns; I have worked on this project for pockets of time over the years. I almost stopped working on it this week; but my husband encouraged me to keep working on it. Telling me how close I was to being finished. I am glad that I didn’t stop. Now the project is in the final stages of completion and I can sense the feeling of accomplishment and pride over finishing.

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The words my husband spoke made the difference.crossstichcelticchristmasB

Are your words to yourself helping or hurting the journey you are on?

Jesus is in the redemption business. Scripture says that He is making all things new. Do you find yourself impatient with Jesus and His time line in redeeming your life? Like the story of my project, we find ourselves at times in our journey of life wanting to stop being diligent in an area we know God wants to change and redeem us. Change is hard. Being intentional with our words and actions is not the easy way of doing things. The reward outweighs the work to get there.

Our words can stall us on this journey. They can help us or they can hinder us. The dialog of my mind is something God has been drawing my attention to lately. Proverbs 15:4 says “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” How is your self talk? Is it building you up or tearing you down? Is it encouraging you to continue to take the next steps that Jesus is calling you to take?

Four Quick Thoughts that I took away after studying Proverbs 15:4 today:
1. Being intentional with my words, my actions, my thoughts requires me to pay attention to what I am thinking, to what I say. If I am using words that bring life then my heart must be such that it is a natural outflow.
2. What I speak is an outpouring of what is in my heart; am I agreeing with Jesus in what He is redeeming and changing in my life? Am I fighting it? Am I giving up – what we think & speak is important to help us overcome those moments of doubts and wanting to give up.
3. Are we going to speak perversion and break our spirit or will we persevere and speak in such a way that life is breathed into our spirit; that we are agreeing with what God says about us and what He says we are to be doing.
4. We don’t always see the results of walking with Jesus right away; it can be easy to doubt but that is when what we say to ourselves and others is vital; I have been presented with this concept over the past week from a few different angles; there is going to be times on this journey where I don’t want to keep going, where it is frustrating and I lose sight of the point and the reason why I am doing this. I must then be ready to remind myself of ‘why’ I am doing that. Our why as followers can simply be because that action; that thought; that word is what Jesus says I am to do as His follower. Ex. Love your neighbor

Careful, thoughtful speech is a facet and outpouring of wisdom.

Gail

Resources:
~ Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study’s Next Study is all on words. It is Keep it Shut, Karen Ehman’s newest book. The study starts on the 26th of January. CLICK HERE for More Information
~ A group of us are going to be getting together locally to discuss the book and follow the OBS as well. E-mail me for more information if you are interested.
~ Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman

 

Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Anticipation of Christmas……. Advent 2014, Christmas Eve

 

“And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of teh Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son I her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1: 35-37 NKJV)

It is Christmas Eve. One more sleep and then Christmas is here. The air is electrified with excitement. Anticipation. Celebration. World-wide people celebrating the birth of a baby. Each culture slightly different.

In our house the excitement is building. Presents have appeared under the tree at the fireplace. The advent ornaments are just about finished, just two left. The stockings have disappeared. Time seems to creep slowly by.

While we are not near family, I know that family is gathering and spending time together. Eating. Talking. Playing games. Watching movies. Laughing.

Today our family will put together the gingerbread train. Attend the Christmas Eve service. Laugh. Eat. Spend time together. Christmas music playing through out the house. Look at the Christmas lights as we drive tonight.

Waiting.

Since we live after the event of Jesus birth we have an advantage that Mary and Joseph didn’t have at that time, we can read the entire story in a matter of moments. Reading through the account of events in the book of Luke today. You read of people who had to wait. Some of them could see the evidence of what God was doing, like Elizabeth and Zacharias (the parents of John the Baptist) or Mary and Joseph. Others just had hope of a promise to them. Such as Simeon in the temple.

In part because our culture is filled with instant responses the concept of waiting is not an easy one. The anticipation of Christmas mounts and builds. For children its the presents under the tree. For parents its watching their kids faces as they open their presents. Its also a time of year when people pause and reflect on what has been and what is possibly to come. Its a time of year where we anticipate and find ourselves hopeful for miracles. A new job. Health restored. Family reunited. Peace. We anticipate and almost sense that there is a power at work around us that could take all the “downs” and make them “ups”.

It took 9 months before Jesus was born, and that was after years of anticipating God moving and sending Jesus to earth. I wonder what it was like for Mary as she anticipated the birth of Jesus. She went to see her cousin Elizabeth for the first part of her pregnancy. I don’t think it was an accident, I would imagine it was a time of encouragement for her. Both her and Elizabeth had been blessed with miracles, both sons were part of the greatest event to happen on earth – the coming of the savior. One would prepare the way for Jesus, and the other was Jesus.

The other day we were working on our Jesse tree ornament and talking through the various stories of the Bible we had read about. I realized as we were talking that without faith one has trouble believing in the virgin birth; there is no other way to believe it. Growing up hearing the story its not something I have stopped to think about much. As we were talking the other piece that emerged was that no matter what you believe, this event in history; the birth of Jesus is a pivotal part of the world’s history. Our calendar is set in a new direction (count of years) back to the birth of Jesus. Culture may try and word it otherwise but it is set to the birth of Jesus. It is 2014 because of the birth of Jesus.

Are you in a season of waiting right now?

Waiting for God to give direction.

Waiting for God to heal.

Waiting for God to mend a broken heart.

Waiting for an answered prayer.

This year is a year of waiting for me. As I read the Christmas story I am reminded to be patient, to trust and to not rush the waiting. Each moment. Each step is important to the story God is writing. Joy in each moment.

The answer to your and my prayers, desires, and hopes God alone knows how it will be answered and when it will be answered. I do know and believe this with all my heart though – the time of waiting we find ourselves in is good for us IF we choose to trust and believe God. We grow. We learn. We have a chance to pray and seek Jesus as never before. Our faith is strengthened. Our reliance continues to be more and more on God. Like Mary and all the other people in the Christmas story who did not know what time would bring, we don’t know what will come or what our story will bring but God does. Believe. Trust. Rest in Christmas Hope – in one person, the person of Jesus.

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45 NKJV

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~ Merry Christmas ~
Gail

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copy right 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All Rights Reserved.

Thoughts as its 2 days before Christmas …. Advent 2014, Dec 23

“For such a time as this” Esther 4:15

Its from the story of Queen Esther and the response her uncle Mordecai gave her as she decided to either approach the king or not. There were risks no matter what she chose to do. You can read the whole story in the book of Esther in the Old Testament. This verse is one of those famous verses – the point Mordecai was making was that perhaps the reason God had allowed Esther to become Queen was to approach the king and save the Jews. It is easy for me at times to simply gloss over the story and miss how this applies to me, even now.

No I am not a queen of a nation. I am not in a position of power and prestige. At least I am not by the standards the world sets. Wait a minute though, when I said yes to Jesus I became a daughter of the king.

Do you believe you can make a difference?

When you hear that question what comes to mind? Is it something big and massive, like ending world poverty? Maybe its equality for all? Perhaps its that the children in your town all have Christmas presents? A wayward child, spouse, family member and you wish you could do something to help their trajectory change?

Why do we think we are not called to be a part of the solution? We quickly dismiss that we have a part to play.

I think one reason we do this is because we under estimate the power of a simple prayer. We may not be able to give money, solve the problem or concern; but I have never seen a situation where we could not approach it with prayer.

Fear. Fear is a big one. When we know that we have a part we can and should play in a situation and we hesitate…for me a lot of times the hesitation is rooted in fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of looking silly. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure or success.

Lack of _______________: resources, wisdom, knowledge, time …..fill in the blank, there are many excuses we come up with to not act

As I look at the quick list I make it comes back to self, I care more about myself than I do what God is asking me to do. My pride, my desire to self-persevere paralyzes me so often from action.

I read a great quote in one of the advent devotionals I am going through, it says this: “Humility is the byproduct of being with Jesus. Anyone who walks intimately with Him will not think more highly of himself than he should. To be loved by Jesus and invited into a relationship with Him, is all we need to right-size ourselves and to assume His gentleness and grace.” (December 18th – Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope) The more I hangout with Jesus, the more I learn and walk with Him, I can not stay the same. The more I walk with Jesus the more propelled to action I become. The more I get to know Jesus, the more I follow, the more I imitate Jesus – the more I hope others see Him in me.

One of the questions posed in The Greatest Gift has to do with what is my “for such a time as this.” What if that moment is what is right in front of me. The opportunity to love on my family in a new way. The opportunity to share what God has placed on my heart. The opportunity to learn more and more about leadership. The opportunity to pray. There are so many moments where I react versus purposefully respond. Moments that Jesus has come across my path, and so often I choose to not be intentional. Part of the story of Esther that really hit home was that Mordecai knew God would take care of His people with or without Esther; but he also saw that God had orchestrated events in her life so that she would have the opportunity to be the tool used to effect the solution.

God has placed me in a unique position. No one else has the same sphere of influence as I do at this very moment. The opportunities for interactions, for prayer, for compassion, for learning are unique to me. We each have a unique path that intersects and connects with others in a way that God can see and allows. This year my ‘for such a time as this’ is leaning into the very moment I am in. Right here. Right now. Not sitting at my desk pining away for what has been or what could be. Instead enjoying and embracing right where I find myself. That is where I start. When we embrace the right here and right now the way God designed then I can approach the throne and ask about the what is next; to dream and to goal set. I am able to intentionally approach what is to come so it becomes the best right now. Humbly. Intimacy with Jesus – keeps me in the position of following Jesus confidently.

I am excited. As we approach Christmas and 2015 God is calling me to pause and meet with Him. To see what He wants for the upcoming year. To lean in and learn all He wants to teach and show me through out today and the days to come. It would be easy to gloss over the surface of this time but then what would I learn. More than likely I would have to wander and come back to it again; that is not something I want to do.

What is my ‘for such a time as this’ – it is leaning in and walking thru each moment of the right here and now. God has shown me the path we are going to walk to set goals & dream of the future. Its a future that requires me to be very present right here and now. Being mindful of what God allows to come my way. Not hesitating to act but to be walking so closely with Him, I have a confident response.

~ personal response ~
Gail

What is your “for such a time as this? What are you excited about for Christmas 2015? Would enjoy hearing your thoughts here, facebook or by e-mail.

Christmas Music Video of O Come, O Come Emmanuel by the Piano Guys (You Tube Link)

Advent Resources:

Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope by Louie Giglio

Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience printables & much more, including the book

Scripture quotations taken from the The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Eight (yes that is 8) days till Christmas ….. Advent 2014, Dec 17, 2014

It’s 8 Days till Christmas!

Do you feel the excitement in the air?

Around our house the excitement is building.

The youngest is hoping we see snow on Christmas – the chances are very slim at the moment, but he still hopes. He also is helping keep the count down going so we don’t forget just how close it is to Christmas.

The older I get the less I have the same sense of excitement. I wonder if its because I have lived here on earth longer. Maybe its because I am the one buying the gifts now for my kids. This year the excitement is different than when I was a child, the excitement is over the anticipation of celebrating that Jesus, my savior came to earth and was born. My life is different, I am different because of that day and another event (Easter….the cross….the resurrection) long ago. The wonderment and joy that comes from knowing Jesus, I hope continues to grow and not diminish over time.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Excited and Inspired to be Grateful for the ability to celebrate when Hope and Truth came to the world as baby Jesus.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

  1. Immanuel
  2. Wonderful
  3. Counselor
  4. Prince of Peace
  5. Mighty God
  6. Everlasting Father
  7. King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15)
  8. the Word  (John 1)

Eight names (of many) that describe God.

It is easy for me to lose sight of what my role is in the story. My part to play is to be faithful. Faithfully serving. Faithfully trusting. Faithfully walking right where I am, following Jesus & obeying.

The players in the birth of Jesus were not well known leaders or those that society believed were the elite; rather it was a group of people like you and me. Shepherds. Carpenter. Teenage Mom. I don’t want to lose sight that Jesus choose me and its not because of who I am or who I am not. Its because of who He is.

Thankful for the Christmas season and the opportunity to intentionally pause, reflect and remember the story of Jesus birth.

~ a personal reflection ~

Gail

ChurchlessCoverThe Latest Book Review: Churchless by Barna & Kinnaman (Click Here)

 

 

Advent Resources:

Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience printables & much more, including the book

Scripture quotations taken from the The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Wrong Question……Advent Day 16, Dec. 16 2014

That moment when you stop and sense…..  perhaps the question I am asking is the wrong question.

Maybe its only me, but its what happened to me this week. I was stopped in my thoughts and gave pause. “God what question should I be asking? What question do you want me to ask? ”

I was reminded through the sermon I heard over the weekend, sometimes we have to wrestle with what we are anxious about before God brings us clarity. It is not easy nor is it enjoyable, but God has a purpose for it. At times I find myself frustrated because I want God to give me an answer right now. I think my question is important; it has value, merit. I have learned that God tends to let me wrestle before I see clearly.

The advent verse was 1 Kings 18:21 “Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (NIV)

Before I even turned the page to read the devotional – this verse jumped out at me. Now the verse is out the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, a sacrifice and a challenge to see who was God. Was it the Lord God, the Hebrew God or the Baal. God showed up and clearly showed He was the one true God. Wrapped up in this verse though is the question God is asking of me. I am allowing what I thought was the question I was wrestling with to distract me from the bigger question. The question on where to serve, what is next, where is next – isn’t really the question – the question is do I believe that The LORD is God? If He is , and I do believe that He is – then I need to follow Him. That means me letting go of control. Letting go of preconceived ideas of what following Him looks like. I am trying to figure out what the future holds; what comes next; where is next. There is a balance of vision and goals AND trying to tell God what you want to see happen and then looking for God’s confirmation of that.

What gets in my way of following God?

Me.

I get in my way of following God.

My thoughts.

My attitude.

My perception.

My desires.

My idea of what it all should look like.

“And you let everything go. And kneel. Kneel here and behold only Him – the only place where you can receive the gift of acceptance, so the gods of acceptance have no hold on you.” Pg 150 The Greatest Gift

How do I rid myself of frustration? Get myself to the place where I don’t have battling questions, battling opinions? Worship. Pause and stop at the throne of God.

My job is not to answer all my questions. I have one question that God is asking of me to answer. Will I follow Him. Will I choose to trust. Will I live out following Him.

I have chosen to follow Jesus. Chosen to follow Him with all of me. This is a deeper call to follow than ever before. I feel kind of like Peter when Jesus asked him do you love me three times. I know He hears my prayers; hears my frustrations; hears my questions. He cares. More than I can begin to fathom. But will I choose to follow Him each and every moment. Will I choose to follow Him in the big things. Follow Him in the little things. Follow Him moment to moment. Each conversation. Each decision?

I asked Jesus a question…..and He asked one back – do I trust Him to make the right decision? Hmmm…..stopped me in my tracks. Crux of the matter isn’t it….I was struggling to be okay with His answer, I was fearful. Following and trusting Jesus means letting go of the fear and turning away from it. The answer is yes, I do trust Him and I will follow Him.

I need to worship. Intentionally pause and be in the presence of God.

Pause.

Pause from life.

Pause at the throne.

At the feet of Jesus.

Worship.

Let go.

Simply be.

An amazing thing happens when I pause and I worship. When I am still. Quiet. Order from the chaos.

Emotions find their proper spot.

Repentance over the arrogance of trying to force an answer, rather than humbly submitting.

Jesus asks me. Asks you.

“Will. You. Trust. Me.

I. Love. You.

I. Am. For. You.

Walk.

Follow. Me.

Trust. Me.

I created the universe. I made Mary pregnant. I became a baby. Grew up. Endured suffering. Shame. The cross. Conquered death. For you.  For all who believe. I can handle this. Same amount of love. Same amount of power. Trust. Me.”

In His presence.

Peace.

 

~ a personal response this Advent Season

Gail

Advent Resources
Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience printables & much more, including the book

Scripture quotations taken from the The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday’s Sermon  From:  Abundant Life Foursquare Church :: Joseph

Hope thru the tears ….Advent 2014, December 9

The word for this Christmas resonating with me and seen all around me is “HOPE”. Our weather today has been torrential down pour of rain and wind, as I drove away from the mall over in the distance was a big clear rainbow. The storm was clearing and painted in the sky was a rainbow, a promise that God will not destroy the world by water again. It was a beautiful reminder of hope and that when the storms in life come they are not forever. Storms come and go but one thing is certain we experience them. And even more certain – God sees it and is right there with me.

Today’s advent reading was the story of Joseph, specifically honing in on his conversation with his brothers after his father’s death. Joseph had gone through quite the journey. He had been sold to slavery. A house servant. Accused and thrown in jail. Interpreter of dreams. Second in command of all of Egypt and working to prepare for a drought and save Israel and Egypt. You can read the full story in Genesis 37-50.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

This morning when I read the verse 20 the tears spilled over. You see I try and be strong, I try and look for how God is working when life gets rough. God’s grace and love for me is overwhelming. I can not be strong and receive His tender love in the recesses of my heart that need to feel His touch. Isaiah says “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said “ In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15 NASB) Strength to God and strength to me often don’t look the same. I tend to think that being strong means I have to have it all together, no tears, all the answers, guarded. The verse in Isaiah talks about strength means trusting, being quiet.  As we talked about yesterday – to cease striving. I must be still. I must be quiet. I must be vulnerable I must trust that He will and is taking the storms of life and working them for my good.

“The Cross stands as the epitome of evil. If God can transfigure the greatest evil into the greatest Gift, then He intends to turn whatever you’re experiencing now into a gift. You cannot be undone. “ Pg 81 The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Joy, being thankful? The places in my heart that hurt, are torn, are crying – they are experiencing God’s amazing grace and love. The storm may seem ugly now, but I believe that God is good & He is not done. Hope believes in the silver lining, the silver lining of grace, peace, healing, and love. That God will use all the torn and messy parts of my life for good. Its easy for us to see how God can use our gifts, our talents, our skills…..its difficult for us to believe that He can use the messy parts.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

My prayer is that God meets you right where you are, in whatever or wherever you find yourself in life. That you will experience God’s amazing grace. His powerful, wonderful, and redemptive love. Peace, rest, grace, truth meet you right where you are. Restoring and strengthening your hope that God is good and that he loves you. He has a purpose and a plan for you, for me, for each of us.

Like the rainbow that appeared in the sky by the mall, we experience the clearing of the clouds and the rainbow in our own lives. All around us are beautiful reminders that God is right there with us. Allowing us to smile, a smile that comes from the depths of who we are out for the world to see.

A fun gift/blessing / joy that I see from the window in my office – the lights on the neighbors tree…..doesn’t look very pretty during the day but its beautiful at night. It turns the tree with no leaves into a beautiful expression of the holiday season. Situations in our life can look like that tree – we see barren branches and a string of life – but we need power, we need Jesus to shine His light and make it beautiful. He is making and does make us beautiful, a beautiful reflection of Him.

My challenge to you and I – choose joy, choose to find things to be thankful for.

~ a personal response this Advent Season

Gail

Advent Resources
Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience printables & much more, including the book

Scripture quotations taken from the The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Cease Striving …. Advent 2014, Dec 8

Tis the season for busy, busy, busy. The air is drenched with the anticipation of Christmas and all the tasks that must be done. Food bought. Presents for co-workers. Presents for kids. Presents for spouse. Presents for parents. Presents for outreach project. Parties to attend. Food to eat. Decorating to do. Christmas lights to see. Christmas lights to put up. Christmas concerts to attend. Nerves frazzled. Emotions running high.

None of this looks, feels, or resembles Jesus – does it? Maybe it is just me, but I struggle to see Jesus in the midst of all described. One of the rooms in the house, fondly named “the mommy quiet room” serves as my office and a place I like to go when I need to quiet myself. There is something very peaceful and serene about the room. Perhaps its the coziness. The numerous windows. The placement in the house. More than all of that its the place where I choose and work to be still.

“Cease striving and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10a(NASB)

What would happen if you were still?

If you chose to no be grabbing after, reaching for, running hard towards, hoping you would be able to catch God? Catch His attention. His love.

Maybe what you are striving after is success. Title. Power. Recognition.

God has been gently calling me to stop striving in my strength and let Him lead. Let Him heal. Let Him lead the way. Rest in His ever present presence and believe that He understands, He sees, and He has not forgotten. He has a purpose.

When I read this verse this morning – it hit me between the eyes and pierced straight into my heart, I need to cease striving to understanding. To cease, to stop trying to reconcile things in my mind. And to just be. To be in His presence. To allow His presence to envelop me. His love to wash over me and breath life into each crack and crevice of who I am. I would have said I wasn’t striving, that I was resting in His presence and simply being – but when I saw the words “cease striving” I was convicted. There are areas in my life where I need to apply this. Its an action. Its a step I take. I replace the striving with knowing. With knowing, acknowledging – understanding that God is God. I need to pause and wonder at who God is. All He has done for me. The blessings. The miracles. The lessons. The joys and the sorrows. To remember all He has done so I can have hope for all He will do.

“ God doesn’t want to number your failures or count your accomplishments as much as He wants you to have an encounter with Him.” p70 The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

If I don’t choose to cease striving, I will miss Jesus, I will miss the Father. I will miss out in the fullness, the richness, the depth of all that God did over 2000 years ago with the birth of Jesus. As I choose to stop striving I am allowing room for an encounter with the Holy God of the universe, the Creator of the whole world. I know its difficult, areas that we need the healing power of Jesus seem to surface when we are still, it requires letting go of control, of believing He is leading our life. Being still is learning to trust what God tells us to do and to simply obey and let Him handle all the rest.

Where striving ceases and encounters with Jesus are the norm, we will KNOW Him.

The goal for this Christmas, to walk in such a way that I experience, I encounter Jesus in a fresh way. That the hustle and bustle doesn’t cause anxiety and frustration; but rather the beauty of Christmas spills over. The beauty of Christmas, the hope that Jesus gives – occurs in the stillness and the knowing. The miracle of watching Jesus show up in each of our lives and changing us.

Advent Resources:
Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience printables & much more

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

 

Laughter – Advent 2014, Dec 6

Today’s advent and Bible reading was about the birth of Isaac. You can read more about it here: Genesis 21:1-7

The challenge for all of us was to make 3 people laugh – laugh not from sadness and tears but from joy. Its going to be a fun challenge. We love to laugh around here.

The Jesse Tree is coming together – Jeremiah is our official artist.

 

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The Advent Book we are going through: Unwrap the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

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