Look Me Straight in the Eyes

parent holding cheeks of child softRecently, I found myself focusing on my circumstances instead of God, who has control over them. This left me feeling out of control, and anxious. I thought about my children when they were small, and how they had similar emotions. One could snatch a toy from the other and “all chaos” would break out, leaving the empty handed one feeling anxious and out of control. To get their attention and calm them, I would cup their plump cheeks in the palms of my hands, lift their head, and say, “Look me straight in the eyes.” As they focused on my eyes, I would softly tell them to calm down and that everything was going to be okay. Once this truth settled in their little hearts, they would experience a calming peace.

Are you focused on your circumstances?

Maybe you’re like me when fatigue swoops in. It sets our emotions on our shoulders causing our focus to be on ourselves and our circumstances. Then, everything becomes amplified. For example, small things can feel like huge failures. Such as missing deadlines, not following through with paperwork for a volunteer position, procrastinating reaching out to that new friend, staying perpetually behind on the laundry…I could go on and crossover into worries and fears because when we intentionally focus on ourselves, we naturally build a list of all our failures.

By now, we feel like “all chaos” has broken out, and we have lost control.

As I was walking and talking through the details with God, I was reminded that He is the lifter of my head. I pictured God cupping my own plump cheeks in His hands as He said, “Look me straight in the eyes!” Focus on ME, not what is going on around you. Psalm 3:3 (NIV) came to mind … “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

Then, I remembered where my eyes are supposed to be. Psalm 121:1-2 …“I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. As this truth settled in my heart, a calming peace wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I wish I could always maintain this kind of peace, but my flesh is weak. However, I have a phrase I ponder on to help me, but it only works when I remember it and apply it: “I cannot do anything apart from Christ, but I can do ALL things through Him.”

Let’s choose to apply this truth today, and let God be the lifter of our head. He is in control. We can calm down … everything will be okay.

GO FORWARD!

God is doing a new thing 3For years, I have had aspirations for a specific dream. I often pursued it but my insecurities, doubts, and fears would wrap around me, hindering any movement forward. I have asked myself many times: Is it just the glamorous idea of it that keeps me holding on to it? Or is it something that God wants me to move forward with? I did not know the answer.

Can you relate? Maybe you have aspirations to open your home for foster care, start your own business, become a stay- at- home mom, or start a new friendship…  Are you uncertain if this is a leading from God or just a dreamy idea?

I find the uncertainty to be exhausting.

I was tired of holding onto a dream that goes nowhere.

I was ready for it to die or take on a new life.

I needed affirmation for my aspiration. So I began praying with a willingness to surrender my dream to God.  A willingness to let it die.  As I was praying, I heard the birds chirping outside.  I opened the back door of the house and the outdoors beckoned me. The sky was painted baby blue. The breeze was gentle with a relaxing warmth. The empty chair on the back deck was inviting, so I gave in and took my journal and bible with me.  Of course, I had a cup of coffee too. 😉

As I settled in my chair and soaked in the atmosphere, I opened my bible and asked God to use His word for clarity. I asked Him to speak and He did.

On this particular day, I picked up reading where I’d left off the previous day in Exodus 14,0].

Up to this point in the book of Exodus, the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years and for many of those years they were slaves.  They were now under the authority of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who had a hardened heart. God sent Moses to speak with Pharaoh to request that His people, the Israelites, be set free. It was not until the last plague God sent that Pharaoh let the Israelites free.  You can read about the plagues here.  As nearly a million of them fled, Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued them with his army and hundreds of chariots.  They came upon them near the Red Sea. “As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.” Exodus 14:10

This is where it gets real.  God’s about to do the inconceivable!

“But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.  The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.  Then the LORD said to Moses, why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to GO FORWARD.  As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.” (Exodus 14:13-16 NASB)

God was speaking to me through this passage.  He did not want me to stand by and keep silent.

He spoke as if a voice behind my ears (Isaiah30:21) GO FORWARD! Stop being lukewarm and pursue your dream with a hot passion! When you GO FORWARD, I will part the waters and make your path clear.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

I received my answer! My dream had new life breathed into it! (Now I need to Go FOWARD because God said, “GO FORWARD!”, and I can trust Him to equip me and make a way.)

Do you find the uncertainty exhausting? Lay your aspirations before God and find peace as He reveals a confirmation either way.  He may just be waiting for you to GO FORWARD so He can part the waters.

 

 

 

 

 

He Has A Big Ear

Psalm 116I stood before her in awe; paralyzed by what I was seeing. Her face was full of affliction, as tears streamed down her cheeks. She poured her heart out in prayer, seeking for answers, peace and a sense of release.  She would lean over and whisper in the ear of her god and straighten as if to gasp for air before leaning over again. Her god was an animal statue made from man’s hand; an idol with ears that could not hear, eyes that could not see, and feet that could not walk. One that could not offer her true peace.

My heart breaks for people that do not know the Living God I know.

“Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.  I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior beside Me.” (Isaiah 43:10b-11)

He is the creator of ALL things.  And to know Him is to know His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

It brings me great comfort and peace to know that God hears me when I pray (communicate).

One of my favorite scriptures to reflect on comes from Psalm 116:1-2

“I love the Lord because He hears
my voice and my supplications.
 Because He has inclined His ear to me,
therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.”

It demonstrates that when we talk with God, He hears and listens to every word we speak.

In turn, He asks us to incline our ear towards Him. Isaiah 55:3a says:  “Incline your ear and come to Me.  Listen, that you may live…”

God also desires us to incline our heart toward Him. Joshua 24:23 says: “Now, therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

To incline our heart towards God, we must put away the idols in our lives.

I want to share with you what Kelly Minter says so well about idols in her book, No Other Gods: Confronting our modern-day idols.

“Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people…In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on (Luke 12:29, 1 Cor. 10:19), that motivates us (1 Cor. 4:5), that masters and rules us (Ps. 119:133, Eph. 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or serve (Isa. 42:17, Matt 6:24, Luke 12:4-5). …An idol can also be referred to as a “false god” or a “functional god.”

So, my friend, an idol is not limited to objects like I mentioned at the beginning, where a woman was praying to a statue. It is anything that consumes us and takes our hearts away from God.

If not God, what or whom are you setting your heart on for answers, peace or a since of release? Let go and let God be first place in your heart, and seek Him for all you need and desire.  Tell Him anything you want.  He has a BIG EAR, and He can handle every word you share with Him. 😉

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods…” (Deut. 10:17). AMEN!

 

 

Why Did Our Paths Cross

Face of little girlA few years ago, while visiting South Asia, I crossed paths with a little girl on a bridge.  She was so tiny sitting alone on a piece of white cardboard. The sun was pounding on her. She sat there wrapped in a navy blue shawl, with a bowl containing a few coins with a rock begging for money. My heart was gripped with anger.  So many thoughts came rushing in…How could this be? Where are her parents?  Does she have a chance to survive in such a dark culture? Where are You, God, in this? Oh God, what do I do? Surely You want me to do something!  And yet, I felt as if I could do nothing.

From my perspective, I felt helpless, and her circumstances seemed hopeless.

Trusting God when I do not understand His ways are challenging for me.  Then I remember I am not to lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and also acknowledge what Isaiah 55:8 says about the Lord declaring that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and neither are my ways His ways.

We are left with a choice to either trust God’s heart and His ways, or trust our own heart and ways. To be honest, I think my ways are better some times.  I would not have chosen to allow such a little soul to be in a position such as this. But I also would not give my son over to die so that you or anyone else may live. God’s heart and character surpasses this flesh and heart of mine.

  • I see how His heart created such a precious soul in His own image and it is good. (Romans 8:29)
  • I see how His heart is to be a father to the fatherless. (Psalm 68:5)
  • I see a God who will deliver the needy when they cry for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. (Psalm 72:12)
  • I see His heart in the way He so loves the world (you, me and this girl), that He gave His only begotten son (Jesus), so that those that believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

I know that God allowed my path to cross with this little girl’s path for a specific reason: To intercede (pray) for her. Intercessory prayer reflects God’s character of mercy, grace, love, and compassion.  Therefore, I know that as I intercede for her, there is hope for her.  I believe that God is able to do more than I can ever ask, and because I do not know the details of her life, I often trust in Romans 8: 26-27:

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Are you wrestling through circumstances in your life right now and wondering where God is? Trust His heart. God is good, and He is faithful even when we cannot see Him at work.

Have you crossed paths with someone that you feel helpless to help? The truth is you can help.  Start praying for them today, and trust God is using you in their life.

“When you cannot see God’s fingerprints, then trust His heart.” He is for you! (Psalm 118:6a)

Get Off The Bench

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Have you ever felt like “confidence” is something you will never achieve? Maybe you have tried again and again to become the confident person you desire, but you fall short each time.  Maybe you secretly do not believe in yourself or feel like no one believes in you. I can relate.

One example is when I played sports in grade school (or should I say, I attended the games). Warming the bench was my usual “position”. Whenever the coach came to the bench to look for a sub, my heart raced in anticipation, but he picked someone else with me, almost without fail. I remember thinking that if my coach or teammates did not have confidence in me, I should not have confidence in myself. So I began to believe I would always be on the bench doubting I could ever be VALUED.

Experiences like what I just mentioned can cause us to doubt ourselves (lack confidence).  We doubt that we are good enough, strong enough, worthy enough…but those doubts are not from God; they are from our adversary the devil.  The enemy lies to us and causes us to lack confidence so we feel paralyzed and stuck.

I love how scripture speaks about confidence:

  • “For You are my hope; O Lord God, You aremy confidence from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)
  • “For the Lordwill be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:26)
  • “In the fear of the Lordthere is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)
  • “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Therefore, God is my confidence.

I want people to observe that I have confidence, not from myself, but because I have been with Jesus. I want other people to see me as they saw Peter and John after they had been with Jesus.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

I may lack confidence in a lot of ways but I can always have confidence in approaching God because I know He will always accept me as I am. I do not have to doubt that He VALUES me. I do not have to get my life together before approaching Him.  God says to come as we are.

My place is not on the bench, and neither is yours.  We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

So stand up! Dust off! Have confidence!

Prayer: God, help me see me as You see me. Valued. You are my confidence and I pray I will start living like it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s Alive People!

Bible aliveReading the Bible used to be laboring for me; now, I crave spending time in it. The difference is that I used to read it to see what I could get out of it. It was a perspective of, “What’s in it for me.” Now I read it with a new perspective of “what is God saying and what are His motives,” so that I can know the heart of God better.
The times when God speaks to me most impact-fully are the times when I open His Word looking for Him, not simply looking for an answer to a single question. For instance, trying to find a “fix” for your husband’s “issues” often results in frustration, but if you seek God, He often reveals that you need to practice forgiveness (Colossians 3:13) toward your husband. Or, if you are seeking a Word for “patience” toward that “special someone” who drives you crazy…you may not find the answer. However, when you seek God, He may reveal a lack of genuine love in your heart toward your “neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18).
God is always aware of my needs and He is faithful to speak truth. He knows my heart. What He wants most from me is for my eyes to be fixed on Him (Proverbs 4:25). God has my full attention when I focus on Him rather than on my perceived need. At this point, I realize just how alive His Word truly is.
For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.
My life is a testament to how ALIVE and ACTIVE that God’s Word is. God uses His word to shape and mold me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Sometimes God uses His Word to break me of impure thoughts, attitude, and wrong heart motives. He is faithful to do this, so when I am on my knees and answers are not coming… I know to adjust my prayers to fix my eyes and heart on Him. He is faithful to be God. He is my God– the God who purifies me so that I can have fellowship with Him. He is Holy. He is Righteous. He is Sovereign. He is Lord of lords. He is God of gods. He is my Redeemer and worthy of all of my praise.
I know that pursuing after God’s heart can feel overwhelming and intimidating at times. We can trust Him and need not be intimidated! God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). You too can have confidence in approaching God because He loves you and He is your Creator; But, coming to truly KNOW God requires that you apply yourself. Start with a simple prayer asking Him to meet with you as you read His Word. Let Him know you want to know Him more. If you need a starting place start in the Gospel of John.
If you have yet to experience the truth of Hebrews 4:12, I “double dog dare you” to pursue the heart of God through reading the Bible. Realize that we become more satisfied in Christ the more we get to know Him. I promise: it will be life changing in the best way.
Prayer: Lord, those who love Your Word have great peace…so stir my heart to love Your Word. Let it be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. As I pursue getting to know Your heart establish my footsteps in Your Word and do not allow iniquity to gain dominion over me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

She Was No Angel!

blonde-angelI had a jaw dropping experience at a Christmas parade! The atmosphere was electric with screams of excitement, blaring music, Christmas lights illuminating the sky. Just under one hundred parade floats were slowly making their way through the spectators.  Children were lifted onto shoulders to get a better view of the celebration of Christmas.  (Insert screeching halt here!) Celebration of Christmas? Not so much.  It was nearly void of any celebration of Christ’s birth.  Even the traditional Santa appearance wasn’t the focus of the parade. So, when the float of Angels wearing their wings representing the meaning of Christmas came along, I was excited! Then it happened! One of the Angels tossed beads to the crowd, but someone from the crowd hurled them back at her! Caught off guard, she intently searched for the perpetrator.  When her eye caught the guilty one she turned three shades of red and, if I read her lips correctly, “she was no Angel!”  She nearly came off the float to retaliate!

Have you been caught off guard this season in a way that hurt you? Maybe someone shared unexpected news, something from the past was thrown in your face, or a longstanding Christmas tradition changed unexpectedly…

Whatever it is that caught you off guard did not catch God off guard.  He knew what you were about to experience and He is waiting for you to turn to Him for guidance and peace.  If you react impulsively without considering how God wants you to react, you may end up more like the Angel I mentioned than a representative of Christ this season.

Is that who you really want to look like?  If not…


       
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” (Proverbs 10:19-21)

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

If the angel held her tongue and focused on being the light of Christ, how different would her reaction be? Would she forgive the one who hurt her? Would she have held onto her joy? Would she have shown grace?

Maybe you need to forgive someone.  My friend, bitterness can hold you in prison of your own design and steal your joy. But, if you choose forgiveness, you can be free!

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Let’s keep our focus on the reason for the season, Christ’s birth, where you will find hope, peace, and love.

Prayer: Lord, I can be so bitter sometimes.  When ______ caught me off guard, I responded in the flesh.  Forgive me and help me forgive ______. I desire peace and contentment as I work through the things that catch me off guard. In Jesus’ name. Amen