Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013


      "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" Revelation 21:5.  This is the verse that my 2013 began with.  I remember staring at it and wondering what exactly God would make new and what He meant by ALL things.  The word "new" often comes with excitement and change. For some of us, the thought of change can bring hesitation and anxiety.  I had mixed emotions.  Ultimately my curiosity won out and I wrote it on a note card and put it on the refrigerator.  I figured that by the time the year was over I would have my answers.

     This is my New Year tradition. At the start of each year  I ask God to give me a Scripture verse.  Once He lays one on my heart I write it down and put it on the refrigerator where I can see it each day. I find that the verse often ends up being a guide throughout the year as well as a glimpse of what is to come and what to expect. Perhaps, now you'll better understand my mixed emotions upon receiving this one!

      Did making all things new mean  a new job for my husband? When He says ALL things, would that mean a new job out of the area that would require us to move? Moving would certainly make many things new!  If we are going to move, where and why?  These were a few of my questions. Now let me tell you about some of the things that He made new.

     In January of 2013 my grandma died.  I was there with her the day she died. I didn't want to go but  I had the overwhelming  urge to do so. My aunt and cousin were taking care of her in her final hours and I felt strongly that I should check on them and see how they were doing. I fought against the urge because I knew I would see Grammy too. Selfishly I didn't want that to be my last memory of her. However, that urge was from God and I couldn't seem to make it go away. I went and I have no regrets. God used it in ways I could never have imagined. In my grief I was able to be His hands and feet and comfort my aunts, uncles, and cousins. He made my relationships with them new. Being there that day  continues to give me an open door for countless more opportunities to share His love with them in a tangible way.

     At the end of March my husband decided to only work his car detailing business instead of having another job on the side with steady income.  Up until that point, the business had always been a part time thing and never made enough to support us. He felt that God was directing him to do this and he stepped out in faith. Our needs have consistently been met and our bills have been paid on time.

     In May my friend Hank died and I was surprised to learn that he left me His jeep.  I didn't know that Hank cared that much for me. He wasn't good at expressing those things. God had used him to teach me how to love an ornery old man. Spending time with Hank helped me learn how to listen well. God's blessing of this new vehicle and instruction on giving freely has made some things new inside of me. I'm being made new in giving more freely because of how freely I have been given to.

     These are just a few examples of how God has  made things new this year.  We didn't move. My husband didn't get a new job. The ALL in making all things new, was us. Through grief, new direction for work, Hank's gift, and many other decisions that we've had to make God has made us new. We haven't been able to plan ahead or see more than one step in front of us the entire year. Often times we didn't know where God was leading us until we were right up on it in the journey.  It has taken the entire year for this to be okay with me! I am not wired for surprise or flying by the seat of my pants it frustrates me to no end. The biggest thing that has been made new this year is my heart, my trust in Him to lead me in the dark. Isn't that really what He is always after? The things I wondered about when I first received the verse were all external. God looks on the heart. We can face the external only when we let Him have His way in the internal workings of our heart.

     I will enter 2014 tomorrow with a new verse.  I don't know what the year will hold or how that verse will play out. What I do know is that even if I walk through the year never able to see more than one step in front of me, I am more than okay because He is my light and He holds my hand. How precious that God loves us so much that we don't travel into the unknown alone!  I pray that as you enter into this new year you will know the comfort and the power of His presence in every moment. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wonders of His Love...

      He was one of the last few people to come through the line that night.  He came for food but left with more. Isn't that the way it always is with God, we come for one thing and we leave with so much more?  I came to pray with those who would come through the line for food and I left with so much more.

     I asked the man if I could pray with him. He began to tell me all of the things he wanted to pray about. Twice he repeated that he just wanted God to be pleased with the good things he was trying to do so that he might be considered worthy to be with God in heaven someday.  It broke my heart. So I did the only thing that I could. I interrupted him and I began to tell him the wonders of God's love.

     I told him about what Christ did on the cross and pointed him to the only Way to get to heaven. He replied, "I know all that. I've already prayed and received Him."  Then I asked him why he felt he needed to earn his way if he already received Christ as his Savior. He said, " I just want to make sure. It doesn't hurt to double check and pray for salvation again. I guess it's because of my childhood. I feel insecure."  Wow!

     I can't relate to feeling insecure about Christ's love for me or feeling insecure about my salvation. I committed my life to Him at four years old and I had parents and grandparents who loved me. I was secure in their love.  I was blessed to grow up with a church family that regularly demonstrated Christ's love and Pastors who preached it. Until I met this man at food pantry, I had no idea what a difference that makes in one's ability to feel secure in Christ's love.

     As our conversation continued God blessed me with the opportunity to share some Scriptures with my new friend.  God gave me the words to tell him that he belongs to Christ. He is loved, he is known by name, and he will never be forsaken. We talked about Isaiah 43:1b "Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!"  Then I told him about Isaiah 49:15-16a, " Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands."  He couldn't get over it. The God of the universe would not forget him because his name is written on God's hands...he is THAT loved!  When we were done talking and it was time to pray, I asked him again what I could pray about and he said, "That I remember all of this."

     Christmas, the holiday,  has come and gone since that night at food pantry. It occurs to me that Christmas is really every day when we have Christ. When we have Christ we have the wonders of His love. Love that won't leave us and love that knows us by name. Sharing the security of His love with others is a joy and a gift!  When we are convinced of His love for us...when we are secure in His love for us, we can't contain it. We must share it. We must share it because there is a world full of people just like my new friend at food pantry.  Sometimes we can get intimidated by the thought of trying to share these things with people. Praying with people I don't know at food pantry in recent months has taken me out of my comfort zone. However, it has quickly become the place where I have the most joy and the place where I regularly sense God's Presence. How about you? Do you have any idea how much God loves you? Then share it, be it, radiate it!  There is a world full of people who desperately need it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Room...

      He came small. He came vulnerable. Jesus, the King of Kings made His grand entrance in a simple stable because there was no room in the inn. He came quietly, without red carpet fanfare. As I reflect on how He came, I must consider how I celebrate Him. Do I make room for Him?

      I have only ever thought of making room for Him in the context of making room in my schedule to spend time with Him.  Yet recently when I asked Him what it means to make room for Him I heard Him say, "You make room for me when you make room for others."  So I've been thinking about this a lot these last few days.  How is it that I make room for Him when I make room for others?  Then I was reminded of what it says in Matthew 25:35-40,  "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' "  

     When I make room for others I make room for Him. What I do for others I am actually doing for Him.This is a humbling thought especially during what tends to be one of the busiest times of the year. Is there any room? In the middle of Christmas shopping and Christmas baking, is there any room? When I am running from one Christmas  event to the next, is there any room?  Matthew twenty five makes it seem so simple but in the fast paced, activity filled world we live in it becomes complicated.  So how do we do it? How do we make room for Him by making room for others?

     I believe we can find the answer by looking at how He came. He didn't come with fanfare. Jesus came humbly and in the most vulnerable form...as a baby.  Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, came as a servant. This is how we must come and make room for others and by doing so make room for Him. We must make ourselves vulnerable and be willing to share of ourselves with others even though we chance getting hurt. We must be humble. Pride and ego will always get in the way of loving others well. We must be servants. Servants give sacrificially...and isn't that what Jesus did? He made the ultimate sacrifice and gave us the ultimate gift...His life. 

     There is plenty of opportunity to make room for others.  I suspect that these opportunities may be easier to spot if we truly looked at spending time with others as spending time with Jesus. What if I saw listening to someone share their joys and struggles with me, as spending time with Jesus? What if inviting someone into my home for dinner wasn't just making room for them at my table, but making room for Jesus at my table? ("I was hungry and you fed me.") What if making room in my schedule to visit someone who is sick, depressed, or lonely is really making room for Jesus? What about our children? What if choosing to play with them instead of checking facebook one more time, is making room for Jesus? 

     I am challenged by the thought that the best way to truly celebrate Christ is to make room for others and by doing so, make room for Him. If this is the best way to celebrate Him, then the celebration  lasts my whole life through and is no longer confined to Christmas. If this is how I choose to celebrate Him, then I can become a gift to others and this will be a gift to Him as well!