31 December 2012

Enjoying the Journey!

Enjoying the Journey!

Well, it is New Year’s Eve and, as the year draws to a close, I have thought about what message I wanted to post. I could recount all the ‘highs & lows’ or any one of the variety of lists that exist for 2012:
·         Top Artists
·         Top Songs
·         Memorable Events

 Yet the overwhelming thought that comes to mind as I sit here this morning is – THANKFUL!

I am thankful and enjoying the journey …
 finding joy in the journey,

Now, don’t misunderstand me –
The journey has not been perfect (not by any stretch of the imagination) but it has been memorable in that I know that God has been with me every step of the way. Whether those steps were literal in the miles I’ve had to walk every morning to get work or whether they were more symbolic in the steps I have taken to hope again and to envision a reality different than the one I am currently experiencing, there has been this Presence, His Presence, that of my LORD and King.

He has gone before me, walked beside me, watched my back and carried me when necessary. And every step has carried life-lessons. It is amazing the things you think you know until you walk through some additional situations and circumstances that highlight just how much there is still to master.
This year –
I have gained an even greater appreciation for friends and family and even casual acquaintances.
And, if I had to focus on three crucial areas, these would be them:

I have probably laughed more this year than I have in recent years – whether it’s joking with someone at work, listening to my children talk, spending time with friend or even in the middle of praise and worship, I have been touched in ways that can only be expressed with a hearty chuckle or a nose-crinkling snicker. There have been instances where I have gotten a complete abdominal workout just spending an evening with my best friend having coffee. I’ve shed more tears this year from laughing than I have from crying – a nice and welcome change. And my encouragement to others is this: Learn to laugh so hard it hurts! There are enough challenging situations in life … find a way to laugh at, at least a couple of them.

For all the joys – there have probably been just as many instances where my heart has ached for others, as if I had experienced their storm myself. I have had a friend diagnosed with cancer and another (like the little sister I never had) who died because of cancer. My heart has grieved as I have watched friends and acquaintances lose their homes. I have prayed for those who experienced great personal loss due to storms. And my heart has grieved for those who have lost loved ones as a result of senseless violence. More and more, I have found myself thinking about, praying for and crying for others. Long after the headlines have left the newspapers or nightly news, there are still people trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts – people in need of a little bit of compassion. But … compassion requires selfless observation and an investment of time.

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was that He frequently allowed what we would consider interruptions but that were a common part of His ministry. It is amazing how many opportunities we have daily to bring comfort and even freedom to others if we will look beyond ourselves. From Thanksgiving to Christmas this year, I experienced 30-days of unexpected blessings. Yet, the greatest of those unexpected blessings were the days that I was able to be an unexpected blessing, by listening to a co-worker, being there for a friend or being an agent of peace in the midst of troubling situations. The encouragement: Keep it simple by … Loving God & Loving People. And know that whether it is a call, a note, a smile or a hug … a little bit of caring goes a very long way.

This one goes hand-in-hand with the caring & compassionate heart. However, it is deeper in that it goes beyond the common concern for a fellow man and focuses on the more unconditional aspects of love. This is where close friends and family come into play. I have placed a much higher premium on my relationships than I do on my comfort levels, my feelings or my pride. It sounds like a simple thing, I know. However, you and I both know that there are countless people who have let a friendship or even family relationship go to the wayside because of a refusal to forgive – because someone would rather hold on to an offense rather than grab hold of a loved one and say, ‘Let’s work this out’. Most people are not even willing to apologize for the things they have done wrong, let alone offer an apology when they feel as though they are the one that has been wronged. Yet, the ability to love and forgive is crucial to having sustained friendships.  Employers, friends, children, siblings, spouses and parents will not always do what you desire, yet this is admonishment remains: ‘above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.’ (I Peter 4:8)

Every relationship brings with it the risk of being hurt but it also brings with it opportunities for us to demonstrate just how much of the love Christ is in us – and how desperately we desire to share it with others. ‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ (Philippians 2:3-4) This is what Christ modeled for us.

My prayer this morning, is that whatever you have experienced this year, that you will be able to find some joy woven in between the fabric of all those situations and circumstances. I pray that you too have walked away with some areas of focus, ones that are personal to you and the things that you experience. Take the opportunity to recycle the less positive moments – making sure that the pain endured is not wasted but that it becomes something positive – offering hope, encouragement and freedom to someone walking through a similar situation. And by all means, celebrate the joyful moments!

I mean, if you have to go through life anyway … you might as well go through joyfully.

It’s been a great year!
I have enjoyed sharing the joys, the pains, the challenges, the blessings and the growth opportunities.

It’s a pleasure to share my life…
May God bless your life, exceedingly and abundantly!

22 December 2012

It's That Time of Year ...

It’s That Time of Year …
It’s that time of year, when people are traveling home for the holidays
It’s that time of year, of 'hustle & bustle' as people wrap up Christmas shopping
It’s that time of year, that can become so busy that we lose sight of the simple pleasures …

Time with family
A special Bible verse
A quiet evening on the sofa
The soft glow from the Christmas tree
Remembering and praying for loved ones
That 'feeling' you get and the memories that rush in when you hear that special song

I heard this song today and I think it is simply wonderful …

The Christmas Waltz by Nancy Wilson

 Praying You're Having a Great Holiday Season
That You Will Have
A Very Merry Christmas!

03 December 2012


I’m Alive!

It seems a fairly simple and obvious thing to get excited over. Yet, more and more, I find myself reflecting on that very fact. Alive! ... And recognizing that each day is a blessing, full of fresh opportunities.

Not too long ago, I heard this song and was overcome – not with sadness but with joy and thankfulness. As I thought about all He has already done to pull me through and bring me back to life - I was moved to tears. I see what the LORD has done in me. And while I am still not everything I need to be, I am nowhere near where I used to be.

I’m excited about that!

In Christian culture we are admonished not to look back. And there is truth and victory in that practice. However, continuously looking forward, we too often focus on how much of the journey is left instead of looking back and celebrating just how much road has been covered – by His grace, through His strength.

That song by Mercy Me talks about the instance when the hurt and the Healer collide and it makes me reflect on all Jesus has done:

'Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows' Is. 53:4

However, the truth is ... that collision takes place every day, many moments throughout the day. The Healer is constantly interacting with us and demonstrating His love and faithfulness - surrounding us with His grace and mercy and equipping us with His strength.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." II Corinthians 4:8-10

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18

Sometimes we can get so focused on the 'fight' that we fail to celebrate the 'life' that makes the fight possible. We can fix our eyes so intensely on what has been lost, on what has died, that we fail to recognize all the things that are alive and being renewed - the wonderful blessings right in front of us, the most significant being 'Jesus, our Hope!'

Celebrating life is a choice and I choose to focus on all the joys it contains.

It reminds me of when I went to Panama on vacation with my boys several years back. Upon returning, I was sharing my observations with a friend who grew up there. And interestingly enough, all I could talk about was everything positive and all she could talk about was everything that she hated about the country. 

We see what we want to see - and we will see the good in life and living when we take the time to look for it. So why don't you take some time today to just be thankful for being alive, counting your blessings ... large and small.

Enjoy the Journey!

02 December 2012

Jehovah ... Trouble Maker?

Jehovah … Trouble Maker? 

Seems an odd title … yet this is what came to mind as I thought about a verse I read a couple of days ago:

"I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create calamity. I am Jehovah, that does all these things" Isaiah 45:7

Webster’s Dictionary defines calamity as:
1 : a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss
2 : a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering <calamities of nature or economics>

And so often, in our frail and limited human thinking, we consider every situation which causes discomfort as coming from ‘the enemy’. However, God clearly points out to us that not everything which brings about distress is rooted in maliciousness - some of it flows directly from His hands and into our lives. Yes, the very instances which cause us to cringe are often part of His process to strengthen our character, to develop Christ-likeness in us and to manifest His good plans in our lives - to bring us to the hope and the future that He has prepared for us.

In the story of Joseph we learn of a young man who had two very powerful dreams at a young age. Subsequently, Joseph went and told his family – some of which became resentful and sold him into slavery. Ultimately, Joseph ended up in Egypt where he suffered many ‘calamities’ until he finally became governor of the entire land … thirteen years later.

Now, I have heard it stated on several occasions that Joseph spoke impulsively and should never have shared his dream with his brothers. However, this mindset is most likely rooted in the desire to attribute some of the ‘blame’ (if you will) to Joseph. Somehow, in our human reasoning, we can better reconcile a calamitous situation if we view it as being the fault of an individual rather than part of God’s master plan. Ultimately, if the 'burden of error' can be found in something that the individual did (rather than God's design), others feel more at ease that the same circumstances would not befall them.

Please do not misunderstand me – Joseph’s brothers were jealous and that is an entirely different matter (one of sinfulness). But do not let it escape our attention that Joseph had to get to Egypt, somehow. And all of the circumstances which he endured (painful and difficult as they were) were all a part of the process of him not only fulfilling his destiny but being a useful and proven vessel of the LORD.

‘He sent a man before them –
Joseph – who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the LORD tested him.'
Psalm 105:17-19

He sent a man –
Who sent a man?
God – God sent a man and 'the word [promise] of the LORD tested him.

The LORD is in control! There is not one situation which occurs where He sits up, scratches His head and says, ‘Wow! I did not see that coming.’ Yet, His plans for us do not always unfold in scenes of sunshine and roses. Things do not always come in neat and tidy boxes. And many of the troubling situations that you encounter may not be because you did something wrong because you are doing something right. 

Now, if you are living in a way that is not pleasing to the LORD – recognize it, confess it and repent of the sinful action. But if you have done what the writer said in Psalm 16:8 and ‘have set the LORD continually before you’ … understand that unfavorable situations may still arise, but you shall not be moved from your place in Him.

The key, then, to successfully navigating the situations of life is in praying for discernment to understand which 'calamities' are works of the flesh and which are by God’s design – and then to keep on standing and have faith that His ways (the light, the dark, the peaceful and those which bring about calamity in our lives) are perfect and that He truly is working all things together for your good.

Have a Blessed Day!