Friday, April 20, 2018

Restoring my soul with Psalm 23....

As I took a long, long walk in Shawnee Mission Park today to clear the cobwebs out, it's pretty amazing to see how the Lord works in your heart and in your soul when you are weary, tuckered out, and just plain spent!

I remember back in 2004 when I first quit corporate America and had left a very dysfunctional job without another one to go to.........I retreated to SM Park on many days after my resignation. 
It healed me. 
It relaxed me.
It restored me.
It empowered me. 
It equipped me for something new. 
It gave me a fresh, new start for a brand new journey!!!

Once again, I am repeating the healing, the relaxing, the empowerment, and the restoration I need as I walk in this exquisite park that truly exemplifies God restoring our soul!

PSALM 23 is one of my favorite Psalms!!!  Years ago, I realized that having my birthday on the 23rd made me look up the Psalm for that day - what a pleasant surprise to read this:

"The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in beautiful, green pastures.
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in  the presence of my enemies,
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Restoration......just taking in the sight of these beautiful green pastures over so many acres...
Walking beside the creeks and small rivers that flow so quietly as you go along....
Seeing the path before you and taking the chance to walk a new way....
Realizing that His path is right. 
His way is true. 
His Holy Spirit in dwelling inside me.
His Word comforts me as I recite a psalm I learned as a child.
Even while I am in a dark valley, His light shines on my heart.
He is leading me.
He gives me strength to face another day.
He gives me hope that restores my soul.
He gives me more than I can comprehend.
He allows His Holiness to rest upon me.
My cup truly does "runneth over" as the original King James Version says.

As I walk, real bluebirds fly past me with their brilliant sapphire blue on their wings.
The blue glimmers in the sunlight.
Squirrels rustle past me in the woods.
Butterflies flutter past me on the path.
Cardinals call to their mate in the breeze.
Bumblebees taste the sweet nectar of the dandelions.
Violets peak out among the leaves along the path.
Trees are budding.
The breeze is swaying the tree branches. 
Nature sings the beauty of Creation.

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name is all the earth!!!" (Psalm 8:1)
Blessings abound - how can one be weary after all this???


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Rabbits in Winter


Rabbits in Winter
(by Donna Schaper/alive now!)

You probably don’t know my rabbits.  They moved here from Vermont in a box last July.  Some boy was handing them out on the street corner and all three of my children sat down in front of the box as we walked by.  The sign said free rabbits.  The kids said sit-down strike.
I thought it was fine to have rabbits outdoors in the summer, but I was scared about the winter.  I didn’t want them in the house.  Then somebody told me about the way rabbits grow fur.  They grow it as the temperature demands.  This no doubt is yet another piece of the majesty of God, putting fasteners on the seas, morning lights in the sky, fur on the rabbits.
Take a family that gets into crisis:  a child that fails to thrive or goes on drugs.  The day the tragedy announces itself the family does not have what they need to cope.  When they tell you they don’t know how they are going to cope, you have to agree.  They don’t know. Yet, their fur hasn’t grown.  But what we see – in the parents’ support groups of a thousand hospitals – is fur growing, capacity increasing.  Our strength is made manifest in struggle.  Our growth occurs because of the struggle.  The fur grows in response to winter slowly and surely.  The bread comes to us day by day.
            I see this in my personal life all the time.  I’ll say enough.  I’ll shout too much.  God won’t say much back.  And then I’ll find a new opening at the bottom of the well.  A new capacity to take risks.  A renewed capacity to love and forgive.  A crevice when I thought there were no more places to go to feed on the tree.
I have often heard it said: “First, you jump.  Then, you get your wings.”  In the deep of winter our fur grows.  Our capacity to handle trouble grows with the trouble.

(Reprinted with permission by the Upper Room)

    


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

God's Amazing Yes!


God’s Amazing Yes
(By Gregg Bunn, The Upper Room)

            Every day I stand in need of God’s amazing yes.  God does not look at me and say, “Well, you certainly messed up.  You aren’t the kind of Christian,” or the kind of employee, the kind of student, the kind of parent “that I expected.”  God is not indecisive about whether I am worthy of love.  On the contrary, even in spite of my sinfulness, God say yes to my worth.
            To fallen and sinful people, God continually says yes.  God says yes to people that I have not met.  We might shy away from a homeless person or a starving man in Haiti or a woman dying of AIDS in Uganda or a child who rummages through a landfill searching for clothes.  But to all of these and all of us, God says yes.  All of us are created in God’s image; each one of us is valued and cherished.
            By receiving God’s yes in Jesus Christ, I am able to say yes to others and to myself.  In the dark moments of life when I feel like damaged goods; when I feel I am no longer meeting my or God’s standards and expectations; when I feel lost, lonely, or rejected I know without a doubt that God’s unwavering word to me is yes.  And it is the only answer.

Thought for the day:  Where do you hear God’s amazing yes in your life?

Prayer:  Good and gracious God, thank you for your amazing yes!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who feel not good enough.


(Taken from the Upper Room by permission)
February 5, 2013


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Release...

Well, once again I have come to a place where I need to release and let go of something I thought I really wanted in my life and ultimately found out that it is not what I thought it was going to be.
Have you ever encountered that in your life? 
And, if so, what do you do at that point?
Are you like me and fuss and fume that it did not work out?  Or, do you trash yourself and degrade yourself for ever even thinking it would work out?  Or, do you doubt that you have a reasonable mind at all?  Or, do you accept that it did not work out the way you thought it would and simply acknowledge that?  Without blame, without shame, without guilt, or without regret?

Before you go belittling yourself, beating yourself up, or feeling sorry for yourself, let's look at the definition of release:
1) To free from confinement or bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; to let go, to release a prisoner, to release someone from a debt.
2) To free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.; to release a catapult.
3) To allow to be known, issued, done or exhibited; to release an article for publication.
4) Law: to give up, relinquish or surrender a right or a claim.

Hmmmmm......to free, to free, to allow, and to give up!  Relinquish, surrender....release.  Then, go one step more and feel the relief of letting it go..........hook, line and sinker!!!
Yes, that's right unclench your fist, unclasp that hold on it, release, let go, leave it behind, let loose of and unhand it!!!

Just think!  Once you really let it go, there is room for something NEW!!!
WOW!!!

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year, A New Adventure!

January 1, 2018 - wow!  How did we get here???  It's a new day, a new month and a new year!  What a great way to start thinking about what adventures we want to take in this new year....

One of my favorite authors is Melody Beattie who has a wonderful way of approaching the new year with these sentiments in her book Journey to the Heart:
"Let yourself begin anew, pack your bags, choose carefully what you bring....take along some humility and lessons from the past, toss in come curiosity and excitement about what you haven't learned yet.  Say your good-byes to those your are leaving behind.  Don't worry who you will meet or where you will go.  The way has been prepared.  The people you are going to meet will be expecting you.  A new journey has begun.  Let it be magical. Let it unfold."

So, which one of these ideas resonates the most in your heart?  How will you pack your bags for this coming year?  Where would you like to go?  What would you like to do?  What are you curious about?  What are you excited about?  What would you like to explore for 2018?  If there something you need to let go of to make room for the new?  Contemplate these ideas and see what comes up for you as you begin this new year...

One of the ideas that sinks into my heart is the idea that there are people I am going to meet this year that are expecting me!  Think about that!  Who would want to meet me?  Or you? Then, reverse it!
Who would you like to meet?  Who would you like to have come into your life?  What are you hoping to happen in 2018?  What are you expecting?  Dig deep into your hopes and dreams for this year.  Think about your expectations and see what surfaces for you this first week of the year.  

Then, try something new!  Think differently about how you approach your life!  Allow yourself a new way of viewing the coming days, weeks, and months.  Get excited!!!  It truly can be a journey and an adventure!!!

It's new!!  It's begun!!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Wonder.....

Wonder.....ahhhh....as Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, we move towards the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!!"  For some of us, it IS the most wonderful time of the year. 
However, for many it may be the Most Difficult Time of the Year.....I am sorry if you are hurting and that this time of year is hard.....let's take a peek at how we might make it wonder-ful for you this year!!!

Wonder is the emotion excited by what is strange and surprising, a feeling of surprise or puzzled interest, or sometimes tinged with admiration.  Wonder may be a miraculous deed or event - a remarkable phenomenon.  Wonder can be thinking or speculating curiously about something or someone.  For example, to wonder about the origin of the solar system.  That's true wonder!!!  Or, to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe - to marvel at something so phenomenal that we can hardly believe it has happened!

Our Crossroads Church here in Cincinnati, just started a series called:  Rediscover the Wonder and today's message was Wonder-ful!!!  Chuck Mingo talked about finding something this season that is meaningful or transcendent.  What would that be for you?  Would it be going outside of your comfort zone and donating to a great cause?  Would it be delivering meals to shut in elderly people?  Would it be offering a family member forgiveness when you haven't talked for over a year?  Would it be inviting someone to Christmas who has no family?  

Many churches and organizations around the country had a Thanksgiving Drive or project to feed families who were not able to get all the trimmings or "fixin's" for a Turkey Dinner.  Did your church do something like that?  Crossroads Cincinnati did - they gathered 115,000 boxes and delivered them to families in need this year just in Cincinnati - that is pretty remarkable to me!!!  WOW!  What a blessing that was for those families receiving that gift!  And, guess what?  For those of us who participated it was a blessing for us to give....

Next, we move to the Angel Tree project.  Many organizations and/or families participate in this project so that children of parents who cannot provide a gift for Christmas get a gift.  Maybe because their parents are incarcerated or some other situation where their kids will not have a gift for Christmas.  So, we step up to the plate and provide PJ's, sweat pants, dress pants, outfits, hoodies, PS4 games, etc. etc. so that these kids can have one gift to open.  It is quite a project to undertake in some ways, and yet, so wonder-ful in others!  If we can give so that others can receive, isn't that what Christmas is all about anyway?

Chuck also suggested that we "disrupt our lives for God" this year.  What would you be willing to give or give up to pursue God?  What would you do to pursue a more meaningful holiday season?  What would you do to pursue a relationship with Christ?  What would you be willing to say "Yes" to for the sake of making someone else's Christmas happy?  Who would you be willing to share love, joy and peace with this year? 

I loved Chuck's suggestion:  Would you take 2 hours and $10 to do something of value for Christ?  It could be buying a cup of coffee for that person or old friend in your life you have been meaning to spend time with........maybe they lost a loved one, or their job, or their house.....would you be willing to make this season special, meaningful or wonder-ful for them?  Maybe YOU need that 2 hours to relax and regroup!  Would you be willing to be kind to yourself and take some time to find some peace amongst the chaos of the season?  Check out his sermon at Crossroads.net.

Awe and wonder..........they are gifts of the season if only we have the eyes to see it - if only we are willing to rediscover it!!!  Remember the longing you had when you were a kid?  The anticipation of Christmas morning?  What treasures are you hoping for this year other than a material gift?  Maybe it's slowing down and enjoying the wonder of the season!  Maybe it's grace or forgiveness with someone you have been estranged with.  Maybe it is visiting that neighbor that had to move into a nursing home this year.  Maybe it's the kid or parent across the street that never seems to get a break.  Maybe it is connecting with a group of people you have lost touch with and long to see again....pick up the phone!  Write out a text or email or perhaps a REAL hand-written note!  Connect with other people this season and see if the wonder doesn't shine through!!!

Wonder...........The Wise Men followed the star - they were in awe of the coming of the Christ Child.  Some say it took them 45 days to get to Bethlehem, some say 3 years!  What star will you follow this year?  Would you be willing to follow it until you found the Babe lying in the manger?

Isaiah 9:6:  
"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Child is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders.
And, He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

My prayer for you is this:  That you find the Babe lying in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes....that you find love so rich and rare that it makes your heart sing!  That you sing Joy to the World and really mean it!!! That you make peace with those you need to and find peace on earth, goodwill toward men in your little corner of the world!!!  That you stop and feel the wonder of what God has done for us.  That you look for the incredible, remarkable, phenomenal, spectacular, meaningful, transcendent and WONDER-FULL sights and sounds of this miraculous season!!!  

Blessings abound as we choose to make it the Most Wonder-ful time of the year.  Choose to see and experience the wonder and awe.  Every day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Stranger than truth.........

Have you ever thought of Christmas as "strange?"  I never have until I listened to Brian Tomes, Pastor of Crossroads Cincinnati this past weekend.  If you want to hear his message in its entirety, go to Crossroads.net and look up the message for December 3, 2017.  It is strange..........yet beautiful.

Strange.....yet, in listening to Brian's explanation, it made sense to me!  On many levels the events of Christmas over 2,000 years ago WERE strange....

1)  A prophecy from centuries before coming true?  Yes - Jesus' birth happened!
2) A young Virgin  girl giving birth?  How is that even possible???  Yet, it happened!
3) The Wise men or Magi traveling a very long journey and led by a star?  What??? That is strange!
4) Angels speaking to humans saying:  "Fear Not!" - Yet, it happened, and it is strange!
5) Strange gifts given to a baby:  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh - Gold, incense and embalming fluid?  What???  When was the last time you gave or heard of giving such gifts to a baby?  Strange!!!
6) Christmas is baked into our DNA - into our hearts!  Why do 87% of people celebrate Christmas if they don't believe the story of Jesus?  There are statistics out there that say even Buddhists and Hindu people celebrate Christmas - strange!!!

I hope this Christmas you will contemplate the strange things in your life and look for the beauty in them..........Strange events, strange people, strange feelings, strange places you have never been, strange words that someone might say to you, strange anything!  Think about them..........contemplate them........try to figure out what God is saying to you!!!

Yes, I believe that God does still communicate with us.........maybe not in an audible voice, but He is there........trying to get our attention...........trying to point out His Good Tidings of Great JOY!!!

Luke 2:10-11
"But the angel said the them, Do not be afraid!  I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

May you find the strange and absolutely wonderful news of Christmas settling into your heart this year.  Look for the Babe, lying in a manger, in swaddling clothes, in a strange atmosphere.........He is there...........and He is waiting just for you to come and adore Him!!!