Monday, June 6, 2016

City Lights

(summitpost.org)
Last night, as I find myself quite often, was incredibly tired. A well-spent day led to a lazy evening. After I packed my husband’s lunch, I gazed out my kitchen window. The view of the well-lit expanse that sold us on this house never disappoints. I saw the city below me, glowing. The lights of each home or business twinkled as the wind blew the tree leaves in every backyard behind me.

The sight is captivating and brings a smile to my face every time I take a few minutes to enjoy it. Sadly, many nights I go to bed without appreciating the beauty around me. Weariness stakes it’s claim on my body and my mind, and I fall into bed, hoping I don’t wrestle with the cacophony of thoughts that will dance through my brain on my way to slumber.

Long ago, when we first moved into this house, I watched the city below me, flickering with life. There were fewer businesses, and perhaps not as many homes. A thought struck my mind so profoundly, that it continues echoing to this day: “If the lights in each home where the Name of Jesus isn’t clung to turned off, how dark would my city be?”

Every member of every family that doesn’t know Jesus is literally in darkness.

Just how dark is my city?

Though you may not have a view of the city lights from your back windows, how dark is your city?

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12 (KJV)

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:5 (KJV)

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” – Matthew 5:14 (KJV)

As Jesus resides in us, we are the light of the world.

Again, I ask, how dark are our cities…….?

Paul prayed for and left instructions for those he led to Christ, and I believe, for us, as well.  In the book of Philippians we read, in part: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life…..” – Philippians 2:13-16 (KJV)


Rejoice! The time is now! Light your cities!

(The city lights pictured above are not those of my view. My camera can't do justice to night photos, this one came from summitpost.org)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Expecting?

(letterpost.nl)
“Answered prayers are all about one thing, us drawing closer to God.” – An enlightening line from the young man’s sermon tonight at Friendship Assembly of God here in Colorado Springs, Pastor Brad.

“We keep knocking, seeking and asking to keep maturing.” – Pastor Brad.

This young man says some really good stuff! And better yet, what he says makes me think. I love that!

God is looking for our faith, not the beauty of our prayed words. Are we trusting in the wording of our cries – or the God we’re calling out to?

Sometimes a thought crosses our mind that surprises us. Well, it happens to me, anyway.

In pondering the faith that fills my prayers (or should fill them), a prickly thought crept in: Am I looking forward to a day I’ll no longer need faith? Or to the day when my faith is all-consuming, abounding everywhere, always?

(virgin.com)
I savored the thought like a sip of old wine.

This would be the difference between looking at faith from the outside-in, as through a window at something we want to obtain vs. walking in that faith.

Our prayers can’t be uttered in faith when our lives are littered with sin. I wonder, what does God see when I pray without expectancy? Do I find myself in the same boat with the disciples when Jesus declared, “Oh ye of little faith…”

When I pray, “Heavenly Father, I want your peace, Your joy, Your power, Your presence…..” – How do I respond when He asks, “What will you do with it, Helen?”

Ouch! How would it feel to be praying and hear God call you out as a hypocrite? As the young preacher pointed out tonight, God isn’t afraid to speak plainly. Jesus instructed us not to pray like the hypocrites. As He taught us to pray, He was frank about those who prayed empty prayers for show.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others…” – Matthew 6:5 (NIV)
(bestsayingsquotes.com)

What do our prayers look like to God?


Another tantalizing line from Pastor Brad: “We’re praying because we know we’ve won!” I suppose too many of us are praying with hopes that we “win” – but the risen Christ is all the hope we need; we’re on the winning side!

Well, then what?

When God answers “this prayer” of yours – then what? For example, in response to a prayer for healing of some sort, “If I’m pain-free I can serve You better, Lord….”

Perhaps if we serve Him better, our pain will disappear. And by better, I mean, with a more open heart; willingly, not begrudgingly – with love. Maybe we need to walk out the “then what” as we pray…

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” –Mark 11:24 (NIV)

And to drive home the prayer of expectancy, Pastor Brad used this verse:
“But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.” – Philemon 1:22 (NKJV)

Roll a few of these tasty nuggets around in your head – then in your heart; ponder them with me. What are your thoughts on the matter?

(theunboundedspirit.com)



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Desert Call

(blog.hdwallsource.com)
Jesus didn’t just wander into the wilderness, He was led there by the Spirit of God. It wasn’t a wrong turn.

Why do we run from our wilderness experiences as if landing there was a mistake?

Why are we owned by our circumstances when we’ve given ourselves to God?

What if you’re right where you’re supposed to be?

What if all the decisions you’ve made up to now were all taken into account before you made them? Any turns in the winding path through your life have already been orchestrated, making up for the escapades the enemy meant for your destruction. You’re still putting one foot in front of the other; you’re still drawing breath.

God is calling you. He’s leading you.

There’s an old anonymous quote that says, “Bidden or not, God is here.” Whether you’re excited about walking with God, or scared half to death that you can’t make such a commitment, God is here – with you every step of the way.

Ponder this, Jesus’ ministry days began after He came out of the wilderness. It was there in the dessert, alone with His heavenly Father, that He was equipped for the tasks ahead of Him. It was there He recognized the power of faith, both the faith He has in His Father, and the faith His Father had in Him. In that faith lay the secrets to His power.

In those dry spots, those hard places, those circumstances you don’t think you’ll make it through – reach up to heaven and tear through the fabric of time and space with the cries of your heart. God hears you.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

“The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” – Psalm 14:2 (NIV)

(sobadsogood.com)
You are never closer to God than when you need Him. Don’t panic and run from God, use that same energy balled up in your gut, and instead, run TO Him. He’s right there – you can feel His breath on your face. Believe it! Call out to Him! He hasn’t placed His hands over His ears so He can’t hear you. He wants you to reach out to Him! Wait a moment longer, reach a little further, stretch yourself; put your whole heart into it.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” – Isaiah 55:6 (NIV)

“This is what the LORD says to Israel: “See me and live…” – Amos 5:4 (NIV)

Let’s encourage one another. Let’s invite one another into the presence of God! We’re not alone. The people around us are hurting, too. They’re going through trials of their own. Reach out and bring them with you.

Take my hand. Say to your friend as was written in Zechariah 8:21 – “(…and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say,) ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and see the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’…”

To quote an old hymn, “He’s as close as the mention of His Name – Jesus.”

Rejoice! You’re meeting with the King! This is where you’ll gain the strength you’ve been looking for. Here is where you’ll embrace the power He has for you.

Hallelujah!
 
(defenders.org)


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Peek Inside

(photo from pinterest.com)
Now, looking back, I see I may have set out to do something without asking God if it was even something He wanted me to do. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was something I would do instinctively; surely, it would be easy enough to do.

However, I don't actually remember asking for God's input on the matter. You know, you don't ask God if you should stop at the next traffic light. If it's red, you stop without giving it a second thought.

Then, I heard God weigh in on the matter.

After wrestling with my version of failure and questioning everything remotely related to the issue at hand, and redundantly asking the input of others, I opened my heart up enough to listen.

God's 'still small voice' said, "That wasn't your assignment."

No explanation necessary.

Surely, He might have frowned at the look of astonishment that overtook my face. Like a teacher who's stubborn student just 'doesn't get it' no matter what teaching approach they use, He might also have wanted to roll His eyes. A lesser god could even have given up on me.

But, no. He's long-suffering. He's patient. And, no, He didn't bite off more than He could chew when He took on loving me and drawing me to Himself.

He didn't scratch His head and whisper to the rest of the Trinity, "What do we do with this one?"

He didn't scrap His plans for my life.

He didn't rethink the purposes He created in me.

Instead, I felt His warm presence wrap me safely in the mantle of His mercy.

Shame fled.

Anger fell away.

Frustrations faded.

Loss was once again replaced with purpose. This time, I eagerly inquired of HIS purpose, pushing my puny human plans aside. Plans, mind you, that I'd thought ideal.

If you’ve ever found yourself sitting on this very same step, tell me your story…..please?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
(pinterest.com)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Helen, Where are You?

(mindfulbalance.org)
Am I hiding? 

Again?

God knows exactly where I am when He calls to my spirit, “Helen, where are you?”

He knew where Adam was in Genesis 3:9 where we read, “…the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you?”

He knows where you are, too, when you hear Him calling your name.

Since God already knows where we are, in every aspect of location, I believe He wants us to locate ourselves, and find ourselves in Him; tucked away under the safety of His wings, protected and empowered by the Blood covenant that ended our slavery to sin and self, living a life of abundance and blessing.

Feeling “lost” doesn’t necessarily mean we’re wallowing in a pig pen of sin and defiance. Perhaps we’ve just meandered off course and need to make our way back to Him.

Sometimes circumstances come up that catch us off guard. God knew what was coming, He knows He’s prepared us for it. Yet, sometimes we flounder, trying to fix things on our own. And sometimes that’s something only He can do.

When God calls, “Helen, where are you?” He’s asking so much more than my location. He wants to know why I’m crushing myself beneath a load I was never intended to carry on my own, and why I’ve stopped trusting Him to meet my needs and answer my prayers. Just as Paul asked the Galatians why they’d come so far in the Spirit, only to now return to the flesh (Galatians 3:3), God is asking why I’ve been behaving so foolishly.

(lifetime.org)
And, not unlike Adam, I’ve tried to hide – like a child covering his eyes and hoping we can’t see him.

Where am I? I’ve been pouting and crying and throwing a temper tantrum because things aren’t going according to the script I laid out.  

I haven’t forgotten God is in control, but I’ve tied His hands. I’ve attempted to “run interference for Him” and reroute the river of life – maybe even in the name of making Him look good.


Forgive me, Lord.
Your will be done. Your will, Your way.
Here I am, repentant and yielding to You.
I am not my own, I belong to You.
You are with me, I am with You, You are in me and I am found in You.
See me here in Your shadow, Almighty God.
Yes, I trust You, completely. Have Your way in me, O Lord.

 He's waiting. He's patient, long-suffering and kind, gracious beyond measure.

Answer Him.




I Don't Care Where You've Been Sleeping - Don Francisco
(gospellive.org)



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Maybe It's Just Me...

(petfinder.com)
Okay, so I used the puppy to get your attention......but, since you're here...

This morning in church while singing a song that’s new to me, I heard the words to the chorus rolling off my tongue…

“I’m chasing after you, no matter what I have to do….” Great words, if they’re words that Jesus sings to me. But – I’m singing them to Him.

So maybe it sounds a little more like this when I’m singing the words: I’m chasing after You, Jesus, no matter what I have to do……unless that means waking up earlier or spending more time in prayer or in Your Word; or unless it means less time in front of the computer/phone/video games/television. Oh, and unless it means spending more time or resources on or with those who don’t yet know you – or those who can’t provide for themselves, or those who are sick or lonely…..

(joyousoasis.com)
Can I get a sad, pathetic “amen”?

We fall into our own little ruts, living in our own little worlds where everything revolves around “me”. Don’t we? Or am I the only one that gets tunnel vision?
I can’t recommend highly enough the book "Fervent" by Priscilla Shirer - I’ve recommended it before, because she’s down to earth, practical, hands-on about how to pray and why it’s so important to pray fervently; having a plan of prayer-action. It’s a book I plan to read several times. It’ll be worn and frayed around the edges of the pages. I’ve already marked up so much of it. The book’s tag line reads: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer.
Seriously, it’s that good.

How invested in the kingdom of God are we, really?

Is it just me, or do a lot of us compartmentalize our lives?

Do we allocate a compartment for Jesus and the things that burn with passion in His heart? Do we give Him five minutes of prayer time in the morning as we bob and weave in and out of traffic on our way to work, more focused on the cars around us than we are on the things we have to say to Him? Where’s the opportunity to listen to what He has to say to us?

(bringbread.wordpress.com)
I’m reminded of the disciple’s example in Mark 14:32-42, when Jesus asked them to pray with Him….and they fell asleep; three times.

Jesus asked, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38 NKJV)

Self comes first, even for those who walked with Him. I'm preaching to myself, here....

Maybe we tithe. Maybe. Apparently only about 2-3% of Christians tithe! That statistic blows me away. I’ve heard, “We can’t afford to tithe….” I’m telling you, you can’t afford NOT to tithe. It’s one of God’s kingdom principles.

(thoughtsfromparis.com)
Maybe we let it suffice to spend a few minutes in God’s Word – each Sunday morning as our pastor directs us to turn to a certain passage, from which he plans to teach. What about getting into His Word on our own time, gleaning what He has to say to us personally?

Maybe this year’s resolution or life changes should have less to do with weight-loss and more to do with spiritual gain. But, let's do it out of love, not fear, not guilt, not outside pressure.

Or maybe, you’ve already got it all together and I’m one of the lone fish swimming along in the seas of nonchalance, not noticing life passing me by, missing a good portion of what God wants to show me each day.

Either way, pray with me – or pray for me!

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous [wo]man avails much!”
– James 5:16 (NKJV)




Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Hammer

(sacredhearterie.org)
This time of year I normally share my version of a Christmas story. The way I see it, you can't have the life-giving joy of the nativity without the gruesome, life-giving joy of the crucifixion. One is pointless without the other.

Without further suspense for those of you who’ve not read it, and with no more waiting for those who have, here it is.



The Hammer
by Helen Williams!
Mary and Joseph had been turned away from the inns and told they’d have to stay in a barn; their child would sleep in a manger after he was born. That’s where they found themselves the next morning, sheltered with the animals.

Their child had been born long into the night, a boy child. They named him Jesus. He lay quietly on a bed of hay in the manger. As Mary sat there watching him sleep, she couldn’t help but notice what a beautiful manger it was. Considering it was built to hold hay for the cows, she wondered why its maker took such care and put so much delicate work into it. Her husband, being a carpenter, might know. She called it to his attention and asked him why he thought the carpenter that built it would have made it so ornate.

‘Well, either he just takes a lot of pride in his work, no matter what he’s making, or he had nothing much else to do and decided to put all that detail there to keep himself busy. Or perhaps God told him that our child – His child, would lay there. Only the carpenter himself knows. And yes, he did a wonderful job on it. But, we’ll probably never know who made it, dear.’

As he was answering, Mary saw straw from the hayloft sift through the boards and they heard a rustling coming from above.

‘But then again,’ he whispered, ‘one never knows.’

He tiptoed around to steps that led to the hayloft and as quietly as he could, climbed them. When he got to the top he boldly asked, ‘Who’s up here?’ He waited for an answer. At first there was silence. But, when he saw the straw moving, he asked, 
‘Shall I come see for myself?’

At that, the straw moved a lot and from it emerged an old man. He tried to stand, but lost his footing and sat down.

‘Hello, master. It is only I, the keeper of the animals. I mean you no harm. I sleep here alone. I’ll be on my way about my chores now.’

He got up and hobbled to the top of the steps as Joseph descended. He came down slowly. By the time he reached the last step, Mary eagerly asked him if he knew who had made the beautiful manger.

He nodded his head. ‘It was I, ma’am.’

Mary noticed that even though he was on the ground now, he didn’t stand up straight. She complimented the craftsmanship he’d so skillfully used on the manger but had to ask, ‘Why did you make it so special? A manger is for animals to eat from. You made it look like a piece of furniture for a king’s house.’

‘Ah yes, ma’am. I did make furniture for the king’s palace, and he did like it to be perfect. I can still work as well as I used to, even though I’m all bent over now. So my work carries on. Though the only job I could get was here. You see ma’am, once you’ve worked for the king and been let go, no one wants you. I’m a reproach among men and they don’t even know why. The king didn’t like the way I look. When I was young and strong looking they liked to have me as the king’s carpenter. But as I’ve aged, time has not been so kind to me. The longer I live, the more bent over I stay. When the king dismissed me, with little appreciation for my work, no one would even look at me. I felt as though he’d spit on me. All I managed to bring with me was that big ol’ hammer there.’ He pointed it out.

‘So now, you must know that God’s hand is upon me for me to make that beautiful piece using such a big hammer. The other tools I use, I’ve made myself. They too are meager, but that big hammer was once in the king’s carpenter shop. I guess it’s rather special to me. I worked there a long time.’

As he rambled, he came closer to the baby, straining his neck to see him. Joseph sat down behind Mary, putting his hand on her shoulder. They smiled at the man. Mary asked, ‘Would you like to see our baby? Come closer. He’s awakened by your voice, but he won’t cry.’

‘Why, his eyes are opened and he’s just a newborn. I’ve never seen the likes of him,’ the old man said with a chuckled. ‘It looks as though he’s looking right up at me, almost as if he knows me. Precious little boy. What did you name him?’

Joseph spoke up, ‘His name is Jesus. Come closer. Would you like to hold him?’

‘Oh, you can’t trust my back. I don’t think I should.’
But, there was a look of yearning in his eyes.

‘God’s hand is upon you, remember? You said so yourself.
Pick him up and hold him close,’ Mary said.

The old man bent lower to pick him up, praying he’d be able to hold the boy Jesus. As he stood up, he kept straightening himself to a standing position. At first he didn’t even realize he stood up straight, as he did in his youth. He smiled at the child and talked to him ever so quietly. He looked at Mary and said, ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to tell me that he knows me. Just the wishing of an old man…’ His voice trailed off.

Suddenly realizing he was standing tall, he exclaimed, ‘Why, little Jesus, if you could see me now! I’m standing again! It’s a miracle!’

He held the baby close to himself and began to dance around the room. Joseph smiled at Mary and she said, ‘It’s not the first one to happen in this barn.’

After returning the baby to the manger, the man said, ‘I’m blessed by the hand of God, indeed. I can’t repay God for the miracle He’s done in my life, but I do want you to take my hammer with you when you go. I want you to teach this young child to be a good carpenter. As he grows, show him how to bring life to something as simple as a piece of wood. And tell him about me when he’s older. And tell him about the manger. I wish I could tell him myself. If you were going to be around for a while, I’d make him something to take with him, from me. But, I’m sure you’ll be moving on shortly here. So take the hammer, please. The hammer reminded me of when I worked for the king. But, my walk will remind everyone that now I walk with the King.’

His eyes gleamed with joy and delight. Joseph accepted the hammer from the old man and promised it would be Jesus’ to use as he grew, knowing that he’d have to be quite a little man to swing that hammer. It was a big one, indeed.

When Jesus was big enough to lift the hammer, the first thing he made was a manger for his donkey. Though, he didn’t really use the heavy hammer much, he used other tools to carved, as best he could. He took his time and a great deal of care and lovingly made it after the pattern his mother had described so many times. When he’d completed his work, he called his mother to see it. He led her by the hand into the workshop where he and his father worked so diligently. She was proud of his work and her eyes filled with tears.

Jesus said, ‘Mother, if my donkey can come into the house, we can keep it there! It looks beautiful enough for a king’s house, doesn’t it?’

‘It sure does, my son. But, the donkey stays outside.” She laughed as she nodded her approval. “We’ll keep the manger forever. It’ll remind us how our heavenly Father wants us humbled before Him, so He can lift us up with His blessings. The manger you laid in was a blessing, to me, as well as to the old man. I wanted you to have the best, but God wanted you to be born in a barn. Yet, in the midst of that barn, He let us know that He was there with us. Oh my Jesus, I love you.’
She hugged him tight.

As Jesus grew older, he grew in the wisdom of God and in love. He always showed his love graciously, never esteeming himself more highly than others. He knew that it was better to give than to receive and he knew that he would give the ultimate display of love at the appointed time. He knew that when you lend, not to expect back what you’ve lent. And he always gave his best, which is why when a city boy came out to where Jesus lived, looking for the biggest and heaviest hammer he could find, Jesus gave him his.

The boy told him, ‘My father is the biggest man in the city and he has a big job to do. I told him that I would find just the right hammer for the job and I’ll keep looking until I do.’

Jesus stopped him and said, ‘Why did you promise to find this
special hammer for your father?’

‘Wouldn’t you?’ the boy replied. ‘Besides,’ he added with a whisper, ‘if I do bring home the perfect hammer, he won’t send my mother and me away.’

Jesus told him, ‘Well, you’ll need a little help to carry my hammer. It’s very big; just right for that big job. I’ll help you carry it.’

They walked together for almost a mile. Pointing, the boy announced proudly, ‘There’s my father. We live over there. He’ll be pleased.
Would you like to meet him? Come on.’

The boy ran ahead of Jesus, calling to his father. Looking up, the angry looking man saw them coming.

‘I’ve found the biggest and best hammer for you, Father!’ the boy declared, disregarding his father's furrowed brow.

‘Do I know you?' he asked Jesus. 'Your look says you know me.’

‘No,’ Jesus replied, ‘you don’t know me yet.’

He handed him the hammer and shook his other hand. After Jesus turned to walk away, the man looked at his hand, the one that held onto Jesus’, running his fingers over the palm as if he were feeling for something.

‘He was a big man, wasn’t he, Father? He sure had a big hammer,
and he gave it to us, Father!’

Years later on a hill called Golgotha, Jesus saw that hammer again, and it was certainly being used for a big job. After the soldier swung the last blow of the hammer, he looked at the man he was nailing to the cross. His eyes filled with horror as he recognized his face. He fell to his knees, but, quickly got back up before anyone would realize that his heart was being pierced. It seemed like forever as he looked into Jesus’ eyes, everything he’d ever done came up in his mind. He felt so helpless and he somehow knew why.

Jesus said to him, so quietly that no one else heard, ‘Now, you know me. And yes, I’ve always known you, and I love you.’

(lightstock.com)
It was no coincidence the man’s marriage began to mend the day he took hold of that hammer.

It was also no coincidence that his son was standing there beside him - also in a Roman soldier’s uniform.

He dropped the hammer and walked away from the cross, looking back only once. In his heart he grieved. But, he knew that God knew of his grief when Jesus cried aloud from the cross in the air,
‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.’

Soon afterward, he followed the disciples
– forgiven and alive for the first time in his life.


Have you yet to hold that hammer in your hand?

The house the King desires to live in is your heart.
What have you let Him build there – with His hammer?

(joeycope.com)
(www.lynnmosher.com)