Monday, December 8, 2014
This simple word emits many images. Some people think of an actual house, while others think of mom, dad and fresh baked bread, sitting on the front porch and raking leaves in the front yard.
This word also emits many emotions. For some the emotions are happy, fulfilling and encouraging, while for others they are sad, bittersweet, angry, confused, discouraged and apathetic.
It is no secret that the holidays stress and capitalize on home. Classic Christmas melodies are filled with what home should be, and that Christmas simply isn't Christmas without being home.
For many, "home" is emotionally distant and unkind. Home is out of reach, being thousands and thousands of miles away. The physical home could be in the process of being sold, leaving it's former tenants scrambling around boxes and eating on paper plates. For some home is their car, because they simply have no other place for its rightful name.
I find it ironic that baby Jesus wasn't born in a comfortable home, but in a manager shared with livestock. Shortly after the birth of the King, Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus and fled to Egypt for safety, not being sure what home is or what it would look like.
They had but one truth to cling to: home is where Jesus is.
And where is He?
For those who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior, we have a home in His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us; a promise that the very tiny Prince of Peace babe came into this dark world to shed light and hope for its inhabitants.
He is in the heart of servants who are spreading this message of hope from the pulpit and all the way across the world through a missionary who has learned to speak another language.
He is in the face of a brand new baby, and in the tears of those who know their loved one has gone home to be with Jesus.
You see, there may be "no place like home for the holidays" but the truth is that there is no place like home than in the arms of Jesus Christ. Our physical home will change and sometimes even disappoint, but our home in Christ never will. The door is never locked and the candles in the window are always lit, leading you to your home in Him.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Driving along highway 25 this afternoon, I found myself consciously making an effort to make sure my attitude was positive and in top notch condition for whatever awaited me at my shift in retail. It seemed like I was behind every slow poke in North Carolina, as well as every garbage truck or utility vehicle, which was just adding to the challenge of achieving a positive attitude upon entering the doors of the Christmas retail games at the mall.
About half way there, the classic Christmas song "Breath of Heaven" ( made popular by vocalist Amy Grant in the 1980's and 90's) came on the radio. I have always, always loved the message that that song brings; Mary's song. There is so much beautiful truth woven into the lyrics, but this time a specific phrase rose above the others.
"But I offer all I am, for the mercy of your plan."
The Christmas season as we know it makes me sad. It is so full of everything that you can obtain, should obtain or don't obtain. It is often more about the way your house is decorated, getting a sale on butter for Christmas desserts or finding that perfect gift than it is about offering all that you are to Jesus Christ. Although these elements of the season aren't wrong, it is clear that the world gives Christmas a focus that is so out of focus.
For the Christian, this season is a time to celebrate and rejoice in the coming of a tiny baby King; a baby who brought hope and still brings hope to a dark and scary world. At the very least we can make an effort to ponder what it means to offer all that we are.
This is not a plea to burn out, but to burn with Christ's love in such a way that offering that light to those around us will be unavoidable. In a world whose pain and lack of hope is drowning in consumerism, perfectionism and self, we can hold our little candles of Christ hope and trust that the illumination is brighter than we can see.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."-Matthew 5:16
Monday, October 27, 2014
What is home? I used to always say "home is where my mother is". Home wasn't four walls with rooms in a certain location, but home was where my mom resided. So far my life adventures have taken me to several different states and through a variety of experiences. It was such a comforting feeling to know that if something ever happened in a season of life, that mom was home. I could always go home.
Now I am married. I love marriage, but my little girl heart is transitioning from "home is where mom is" to "home is where my husband is". Just as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say while clicking the heels of her ruby red slippers "there's no place like home...there's no place like home", so I find myself wishing I had a pair of those slippers; then I come to my senses and realize that this is home. My husband, North Carolina. This is my new home.
As human beings it is natural to want to cling to something that is consistent and won't fall through. Houses can be sold, jobs will end, friendships will turn sour, but the deep and intimate love of a parent or a spouse stays in tact with the strength and by the will of God. We find ourselves resting in the rooms of their heart, finding safety from the outside world.
God calls us to do just that with Him; He desires us to make our hearts His home. He stands at the door knocking ever so gently, but with consistency, waiting for us to let Him in. Without the Lord in our hearts, how are others going to seek refuge in the arms of the Savior? So often we forget that who is within our hearts is what enables us to love, protect, guide and to serve.
May you find comfort in the shadow of His wings. May you have the courage to answer His knock on your soul. And last but not least, may you never forget that though our physical "homes" of people and places will alter and sometimes disappear, but God is your home; always open, welcoming, and He is always home.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Yesterday while driving up the mountains of North Carolina, surrounded by leaves adorned in their beautiful fall wardrobe, I found myself praying out loud. There is something about the mountains that makes me feel closer to God. I think it's a combination of the colors, the towering heights and the peacefulness that reminds me of how small I am and how big my God is.
As I was praying, I found myself saying something like this "God, I ask that you would make whatever you want out of this. That you would create a something out of my nothing."
When we ask for Gods will to be done in our lives, it will be Gods something. What a comfort when we don't know anything, not even the "next right thing"! However, in my humanity I tend to withhold from God what is needed to create His "something". For some reason I fight back and forth with giving the fear, pain, anxiety and general nerves to the one who holds my future in His hands.
Does this sound familiar?
I find myself trying over and over and over again to control and produce something, anything that will give me some level of comfort or make a lick of sense. Before I know it, I'm tired and have found myself in this semi-deep black hole that just gets deeper and blacker as I try to create something out of my nothing.
It is simply impossible.
A classic job interview question is "Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are your goals?". I used to have an actual answer or at least some idea as to how to answer that question. Now I just laugh! Five years ago I would have never imagined that I would be married to a red headed southern man, living in North Carolina and surrounded by Baptists. When we give our nothing and our everything in a simultaneous manner to God, He creates His something.
Something that was always supposed to be exactly what it is.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Grasping the depth of Gods love for me is not a one time experience. It is an event that takes place in different ways and at different times, with each reach being completely unique for the season of life that I'm in.
When I was a child, I learned to grasp Gods fatherly love. I learned that He would never leave nor forsake me, and that when everything around me was unreliable and shattering into jagged pieces that would continue to cut into my security and wellbeing, He was there. There to comfort, heal and make things new.
When I was a single, unmarried woman I learned to grasp Gods friend type love. During those lonely hours when I wished I had a girlfriend to get a cup of coffee with, I learned to get a cup of coffee with God my Friend. He would always listen, as well as give insight if I would just be quiet long enough for Him to get in a word edge wise.
Now as a married woman, I am experiencing the ultimate depth of Gods love for me through my best friend. Every day I see and experience the love and faithfulness of my husband, but can't help but think that God loves me even more.
The greatest human love that we can experience on this earth has no comparison to the love of God the Father. Grasping for a better understanding of this concept has not been within my reach. Through each season of life my God has been love to me in the way that I needed it, because that is just like Him....loving me even more than anyone else in this world ever could.
He desires even more of you than what you have given Him. I often think that I have given Him everything, but in my brokenness I am reminded that so often I hang on to just even a tiny piece of something that belongs to Him. Have you been here friend? Can you relate?
May you have the courage to understand the depth of His love as being the greatest love you will ever experience, and may you understand even more the purpose that this love holds. His purpose, His will, His love.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
God is God, and I am not.
This is a statement that I have found myself saying over and over again in countless scenarios that have taken place in my life. There is such great comfort in the reality that I am a broken and sinful human being by default, and that the Maker of the Heavens is my perfect, heavenly Father. When I think of what a gift this is.... a flawed, unmolded piece of clay that has fallen off of the Potter's wheel time and time again with a giant "SPLAT!"... how can I ever question His ways, His timing, His plan?
As I sit here in my Tuesday morning insomnia, I feel a very strong urge of the Holy Spirit to convey this profound truth:
God is God and I am not.
With every turn we are bombarded with this idea of what we "should" have and what we "should" be feeling. We are told that debt is bad and more money is good. We inherently know with everything in us that pain is bad, though a person with leprosy would give anything to feel pain; to feel a warning that something bad is about to happen.
But that's just it friends. Bad things do happen without warning. Things that make us feel awful and cause us to lose sleep. But what is it that separates the good things in life from the bad?
If God is in all things....if we believe in our heart of hearts that He is sovereign and holds our lives in the palm of His hand.... why is there a distinction between good and bad, when God is in the good and bad and therefore, it is all Gods?
He created us to understand this distinction in our humanity. After all, who really wants to break an arm or lose a loved one to the disease of Dementia? Who wants to experience the death of a baby, the cancer that has invaded a spouse, or losing a job without any warning?
There are days where I wish that the amount of prayers I pray would move God to a result that I desire. These are not frivolous desires like being able to find my car keys or being able to lose weight without diet and exercise. No, these are deep seeded desires and cries to God for the Salvation of a family member, cures of the sick and healing for those who have been emotionally abused. It is in moments like these where I wished that if I prayed enough or even at all, that God would answer my prayer the way that I want it to be answered.
But what if God doesn't want a cure? What if the things that make us cry out to God are put in place and allowed for a deeper purpose than how I feel at that time?
If God is sovereign and I'm a sinner on her way to her eternal home, who am I to question His ways? All I can do is press deeper and deeper into my Jesus. All I can do is embrace His sovereignty and trust that through my pain, how I feel is a faded fact compared to this truth.
"Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose."- Isaiah 46:9-10
Monday, September 1, 2014
Clutter. It has the potential to be everywhere, while simultaneously driving us mentally insane. It starts with the mail from yesterday that got tossed on the dining room table in a moment of "I don't have the energy to face this right now", and throughout the weeks more and more things accumulate for different reasons.
Those who follow the "Zen" mentality will say that a physically cluttered environment equals a cluttered mind, of which I whole heartedly agree. Maybe that is why I feel like I can't tackle important things like written correspondence, writing, reading, etc., until the house is clean. Clutter can be a distraction on so many levels, but clutter can also stop us from reaching that space that is clean and clear and free of stress and limitations; a space that we are able to truly breathe and take in all of life as God intended it.
Many of you know that I am a personal care taker for a woman for one of my jobs. God literally brought her right to my place of work, in which He met my financial need and her need for assistance to make it through her life. Recently this lady has moved from a larger condo to a very small one bed room apartment, which has proven to be a very trying and emotional experience for her. I have assisted her in thinking things through to make decisions, physically lifting and moving boxes and being a general companion to shoulder life with two days a week.
Throughout the last six months it has been a never ending cycle of trips to and from her condo, emptying things into the sun room of her new apartment. Piles of "not sure what to do with this", " I can't bear to throw this away but I don't know why", and "I'm sure I will need this at some point" began to take up her entire apartment. But little by little, each box was emptied, trips to second hand stores were made and gradually she is beginning to let go.
Last week we made such significant improvement that she was now able to open the door to her porch that overlooks the mountains. The look on her face was happy and peaceful when she realized that she could now open up the door to the outside world.
As I watched her open the door, I couldn't help but feel the chill of the Holy Spirit in that room as He gently reminded me of how so many things can clutter my life, blocking the entrance of His presence. In a world that is telling us to "Go, go, go!", a world that is telling us that we haven't made enough of our time that day and to find purpose in our productivity, we have become cluttered, blocking off the very thing that we need to make it through this life.
Fear is often the factor that keeps us from being able to open the door. I am reminded of the TLC show "Hoarders", and how so many of those people developed the hoarding habit because their fear was so immense that they needed to be able to control something; they needed to be able to find solace in something physical.
Friends, it is the physical that clutters, serving as a barricade to the life giving source of Jesus Christ.
May you have the courage to ask God to show you your "clutter". May that realization prompt you to make way to stepping on that porch patio, drinking in the sunshine and breeze of His grace.