February 8, 2011 § 10 Comments
My eyes pricked with tears – tears seem to come frequently – as I choked out the words to the song. Grateful, humbling, overwhelming tears. The kind that come from deep joy, deep sorrow, and the awe of amazing grace. The joy that God would save me, the sorrow that my sin would cost Him so much, and the awe that He gave it all for me. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us we sang while taking the bread and the cup. Reminders of what He did for us. His body broken, His blood shed, to make “a wretch His treasure.”
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
As we sang, my sweet E, not yet eight-years-old, leaned in close.
“Mommy,” she whispered, her face bright and smile snaggletoothed, “my heart is on fire with joy.”
Through the tears I manage my own smile, my heart full as if God Himself had overfilled it, “Me too,” I barely choke. “Me too.”
Again I am humbled by the profound words my sweet girl utters. My heart on fire with joy…Joy that ignites my heart. Fire that burns away the pain of longing, regret. As Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh. 8:10) We often forget that our strength lies in finding joy in God. Finding joy in the Lord leads us to live according to His word. Finding joy in the Lord leads us to live a life of love and grace. Finding joy in the Lord means our joy is not based on human experience, capricious feelings, or others’ choices. No our joy is found in Him who “does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1: 17)
Is your joy founded in the Lord today? Is your heart on fire with joy that He alone brings? Share the joy that has your heart right now. I can’t wait to hear about it.
January 5, 2011 § 7 Comments
Nearly three years my quiet time was revolutionized when I was introduced to the Chronological Bible at a ladies retreat. It is a Bible that puts the Biblical account into chronological order and then into daily readings for each day of the year. For example January 1 the reading is Genesis 1:1-3:24.
Since the Biblical account is given in chronological order, when I read yesterday about Noah from Genesis, I also read some of the verses in 1 Chronicles that mention Noah’s genealogy. When I read about David hiding from Saul in a cave, I also read the Psalms he likely wrote in that cave.
This allows me to read through the Bible every year and I get such a great perspective of what and when God did things. I am seeing His hand and His story in more detail. I am more in love with His word than ever because reading this Bible helps me put the pieces together. Also Iva May does blog full of daily questions and commentary to consider over each of these readings. Her blog site is: http://www.ivamaystories.blogspot.com/
All that to say I HIGHLY recommend the Chronological Bible. It comes in different versions, so look around to find your favorite one.
Also I am throwing out a challenge. I have not been the best at memorizing scripture until I found someone in the last year or so to hold me accountable. Now that I have that person, I want to help others by being that person. I am also feeling compelled to memorize longer portions of scripture. Again, not because I am so cool, but because I am so needy of the word! Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (NAS) Without His word treasured or hidden in my heart I am certainly going to sin. I need more of Him and more of His grace. As I have been memorizing I am able to breathe grace in and out. I am able to accept grace for myself and give grace to others. Oh, but without His word, I am desperate.
So I am memorizing the book of James. I have finished the first chapter. I would like to have the whole book done by June. Can you help keep me accountable? If you tell me what you are memorizing, I will help keep you accountable.
I can’t wait to see where God is going to take us this year! May God bless the time you spend with Him. Praying, Reading, and Memorizing!
September 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
Call me crazy, but I love food and I love to try different things. My kids have watched the movie Ratatouille more times than I can count and I decided I wanted to try to make it. Mind you, I didn’t want to make the difficult gourmet version as Remi did on the movie. No I found a simple recipe for ratatouille in the crock-pot. Yes, I said crock-pot. Did you hear that? It was all the true foodies around the world are groaning that I would put fresh vegetables and spices in a pot that is bound to cook them until mushy. Was it mushy? Yes. Was it delicious? The answer is yes. Did my kids hate it? Well, I got mixed reviews, but the kindest response I received came from my seven year-old. “This isn’t my favorite, mom, but I am going to eat it anyway.” That is code for, “I don’t really like it, but I will swallow enough so that I can have dessert.” The dessert was a baked strawberry pie for those who wanted to know. It was a pretty good motivator for her, but my other two sweet children, well that is another story completely. Without including all the details (I would hate to incriminate anyone), daddy had to dole out some tough love. In the midst of the post tough love debriefing daddy said, “Who made this food? Right mom. Would mom or I make you eat food that wasn’t good for you?” The answer was given, “no.” The food was begrudgingly swallowed with the appropriate about of water to wash it down, and our meal continued.
However the question was still ringing in my ears. As if God Himself was looking at me saying, “Angela, who brought you to this point in your life? Who gave you air to breathe; who makes your heart beat; who has provided food, shelter, clothes for you?”
Gulping I look up into His eyes. His eyes are tender, loving, but also full of sadness. “You,” quivers my tiny voice.
“Will I allow you to go somewhere I do not go with you? Do I not deliver you from trials, do I not hem you in? Then why do you struggle against what I am bringing into your life? Why do you seek your way, when My way is better?”
Yes, why must I have it my way? Maybe it is possible that I am high-strung a bit…Ok, I was on the debate team in High School. I like being right, to have it all together, to orchestrate my day, week, month, year, life. Admittedly I can be self-centered and God doesn’t really go for that. In fact the last time I checked the universe doesn’t exactly revolve around me. Nope, it is God who has it all spinning in the right direction. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, the sun would still shine. All my scheming and planning are exercises in futility. So why am I compelled to continue? I am a sinful selfish creature and I often do not trust God. Oh, I say I trust Him. I sing songs about His faithfulness, but then I get angry and bitter and frustrated when He makes ratatouille instead of pizza. Am I the only one?
Here is the amazing thing: God loves me anyway. God tells me in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” So God is there before I am. He is ahead of me, He knows what will happen and He is there. He isn’t only two steps or more in front of me, He is also with me. Always. He won’t desert me or forget me or leave me hanging in the wind. No, He is there. So I don’t have to be afraid or discouraged. I also don’t have to try to keep all the plates spinning in my perfectly choreographed life. God already knows where I am going, He is there. He is also with me now and He will never leave, even if I don’t want ratatouille.
September 6, 2010 § 2 Comments
Have you ever tried to change a two-year old’s clothes while he or she is clinging to a “treasure.” It could be a book or a toy or a shoe for that matter, but he does not want to let it go. You pull the shirt over his head and his hand will not go through the sleeve. You try to convince this child to let go of the treasure in his hand. You promise to give it back. Yet he wails and moans as you tear it from his hand get the shirt off and put the new shirt on. Quickly you thrust the item back into his hand and you marvel, “If only he would trust me to give his treasure back.”
I have a hard time laying things I love and treasure down at the feet of God. I admit that I hoard things, dreams, plans, people. Sometimes I even hold tight to the time God has given me and act as if I can make my day go my way. God can and sometimes does tear our treasures from our hands. Oh, but He longs for us to lay them down. He doesn’t promise us that He will give them back, but He is faithful, He has a plan. Isn’t it worth the risk?
God is infinitely more loving and faithful as a parent than I am. If I know how to give my child good things, then God knows better than I. (Matt 7:11) So why is it so hard for me to let my dreams, plans, people go at Christ’s feet? I make a mess of things, but “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Eccl 3:11) You would think I was a child who couldn’t understand that God has a different plan or a different time or even a better treasure in store for me. I just have to trust Him and lay my treasures at His feet.
It isn’t as if God doesn’t know what it is like to lay down His own treasure. Colossians 2:3 when speaking of Christ says, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” God allowed Jesus, arguably the treasure of heaven, to be crucified. He gave up His greatest gift, a special part of Himself, His Son. God the Father planned to do it before the world began. So if God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, can give up Christ for enemies, can I give up my treasures for God’s glory? Can I lay my hopes, dreams, timing at His feet and trust Him to give me what I need?
Sometimes we have to lay our dreams and hopes down in order to move on to a new or different stage in life. In order to change clothes for the day my son had to set down his treasure. So God calls us to let go of our hopes, dreams, and treasures so that He can prepare us for the next thing. He has plans for us (Jer 29:11) and is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Eph 3:20) So why do we think we have to hold tight to things we cannot keep anyway. Why not let the rest in the safest place, God’s hands?
Precious Holy God. Forgive me for hoarding my “treasures.” In comparison to Your glory and heaven, my “treasures” are dust. Oh Father, help me to lay down my hopes, dreams, my children, my husband on Your altar. That You may have Your way with them. That I may do what You have called me to do and noting more. Father help me to rest in Your faithfulness. Help me to remember I can trust You to do more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for being that big. In Jesus’ precious and holy name I pray. Amen.
So what treasure do you need to lay at God’s feet today?
September 3, 2010 § 9 Comments
Yesterday I made dinner and dessert for a friend going through a hard time. I was feeling pretty good about my endeavors as I loaded the food into my van. One of the latches of the cake saver failed. At least one-third of the cake was now in the back of my van. Literally, it was laying on its side. I salvaged almost two-thirds of the cake, all mangled and sad-looking. I took the meal to my friend, mangled cake and all. She laughed and later told me the cake was delicious anyway. I then ran my kids around, made dinner, put them to bed, spent some time with my sweet husband, but never got around to cleaning the cake out of my van.
I look up at the clock. “Yep,” I sigh, “it is time to take your sisters to school. I will have to wait to change you until we get home.”
One of his sisters declares, “I don’t want to smell his poop mommy,” as we wander out to the van.
Suddenly the smell of mangled chocolate cake, left in the car since yesterday afternoon, mingled with the smell of poop from my son’s diaper reaches my nostrils.
My oldest dubbed the smell, “Poop Cake.”
Nasty, but as I was thinking about it, it is true. How often do I try to make what I am doing for God to look like a beautiful cake? Chocolate, moist, yummy. I bake it beautifully and try to decorate it so that it is irresistible. However, I am not baking the cake for God, I am baking it so that others see what I am doing or to hide that I do not want to do what God is calling me to do. See what a great Christian I am? I made a cake for God! Maybe I do not want to share a certain part of my past that would touch women, so I minister to children instead. Perhaps I don’t want others to see the depth of my sin, so I don’t seek a mentor. Instead I mentor others. I make meals for people to hide the fact that I am not praying for them as I should. People see my beautiful cake, they think it is chocolate, but soon they discover it is poop cake. I am dressing up my sin of pride, omission, gossip, whatever as a cake, when the truth is, it is filth. The world may not know what it is and I may receive accolades for my service, but God knows. He sees that my offerings to Him are nothing but waste. I can dress it up any way I want, but God knows. He knows that instead of my best, instead of my all, I am giving poop cake.
When we take time to be real with others, when we share our mangled cakes, we honor God and bless others. How? It is only then that God can shine through our lives. Max Lucado put it this way (this is my revised version of his quote), “God’s smile is not for the healthy hiker who boasts he made it on his own. No, it is for the lame leper who begs for a back on which to ride.” Our mangled, messy lives are what God wants us to offer Him. Psalm 51:17 tells us,”The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God isn’t asking you to come beautiful and pretty. He isn’t asking you to offer what you think is right or good. He doesn’t want your poop-cake. He wants your broken lives. He wants your contrite heart.
Father, forgive me for offering You poop-cake. Forgive me for being more concerned about what others think than of obeying You. Help me to offer my all to You, mangled cake, and all. Thank You that I don’t have to be perfect to come to You. You perfect me. Amen.
August 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
I have mentioned in the past that I have been writing things down for YEARS. In fact I have some thing I wrote in grade school squirreled away in a notebook. For grins I started reading some of the things I wrote back when. Unfortunately I rarely wrote a date on things. However the fact that I have not only a pencil and paper version, but also a dot-matrix printed version of this article, dates it to high school or early college. I will attempt to edit it some, but for the most part this is exactly what I wrote.
Remember how scared you were of your dad when you were little? Let’s face it, he could spank harder than mom and he was BIG!!! The thing was that the fear you had for your father never stopped him from loving you nor you from loving him. He was the guy that showed you how to play basketball or softball, who would read you bedtime stories, and who would give you a hug and a kiss before he tucked you into bed. He often frightened away the monsters in your dreams. He was wonderfully scary. You respected him because you understood that when you did something wrong he would spank you. At the same time you knew he loved you and would never let you down. So why do we often forget that fear is part of the whole father package? Look at how we as Christians treat God. We are often lackadaisical towards sin and how we treat Him. Sometimes we forget that God can spank harder than even our dads and that He is MUCH, MUCH bigger than our dads ever could have been. So why should we are about fearing God? God is the author and pure picture of love. Without God there would be no you or me. Nothingness would reign. We forget that God gives us air to breathe, families, and friends to love and most importantly His son to die for our sins. God not only loves, He also disciplines. God is perfect and holy and He is not beyond disciplining His children. Since God has everything under His control His discipline can hurt much more and cut much deeper than our own earthly father’s spankings. So in fear of God lies complete love and trust. Without the fear of God no one can get to know God. You must come to Him in fear and trembling!! Understanding why you should fear God brings you one step closer to knowing and understanding Him. If we fear our earthly fathers, how much more should we fear God, our Father, the Father of the universe?
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
So I ask you, do you have a healthy fear of God?
August 18, 2010 § 2 Comments
Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”
I am in a season of change. I often feel like nothing will be the same and I honestly am not sure I like it. Do not getme wrong, most of my changes are good ones. Some however are not so good. All change for me is scary. I prefer to keep things the same. I am comfortable there, I even find comfort in the slimy, miry pit that God has rescued me from. Sometimes I start making my pit homey. I add my pictures to the walls as I cling to the things of this earth for my comfort. I get satisfied with life that is less than victorious. LIfe that is not full of purpose or meaning for eternity, but life that is comfortable.
I am thankful that God doesn’t leave me like that, in the miry pit decorating muddy walls. Instead He rescues me from myself. There are times He shakes my world. He changes the road I pictured long and straight takes a sudden bend. I call out to Him and He rescues me from my pit. However life outside the pit is now on a firm rock. I love it, but I also fear it. On this rock I do not have my comfortable sin. I have firm places to set me feet sure, but the sun is also brighter out here. It hurts my eyes. I have to be willing to let go of that past. Let go of the sin or just the way things used to be, so I can cling to the Rock. Jesus.
The amazing thing to me is that once I truly let go and accept the change God is doing in my life or circumstances, He does put a new song in my mouth. Can you see the psalmist and me? We are in the pit we are crying to get out, but once change occurs I struggle at first. God puts me on a rock, then gives me firm places to step. The journey isn’t over from the pit to the rock. It has just begun. As I walk in that change and accept the change from the pit to the rock, God changes my heart. He puts this song of praise in my mouth. Why a song of praise? First because God deserves the credit for rescuing me, changing me, bringing me a firm purpose and direction. Second because I need Him to remind me He deserves the praise. Honestly, it is easy for me to claim the praise for myself. I want to think I pulled myself from that pit, I figured out which rock to stand one, and I have discovered the firm paths. In reality it is God. God rescues me from the pit of my sin, my circumstances that are holding me back, and even myself. Finally God puts this song of praise in my mouth so others hear.
Yes I said others hear. I realize not everyone sings on key. The song is a metaphor for the praises God deserves from us. Did God work out circumstances so that you got the job you currently have? Praise Him. Has God freed you from addiction? Praise Jesus. Has God worked in ways only He could to provide you with money and groceries. Thank God. However the next line in Psalm 40:3 is quite important. God isn’t asking us to praise Him in the shower or in our hearts, He is asking us to do it out loud so others can hear. He is asking that we tell our stories. The stories where God did amazing things like rescuing us from the pit of ourselves, from the pit of addiction, from the pit of complacency. When we do share those stories the end of Psalm 40:3 says, “Many will see, and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” Our stories of change, of pit rescues, of redemption, even of victory through painful times, can help others put their trust in God.
Father, help me to sing a song of praise to You that others will put their trust in You. Amen