hot topic: get ready!

It seems like I spend a massive amount of energy, focus & time for Christmas:  food, parties, gifts, cleaning, prep, wrapping, cooking, concerts, etc all squeezed into 2-3 weeks of seemingly frenzied activities.  By the time Christmas is over, I’m ready to sing Handel Messiah’s “Hallelujah” chorus, kind of 🙂

Having come through another Christmas season, on the other side, I find myself in recovery mode:  less food, less activities, no wrapping, less cooking & lots of delightful cold, snow, quiet & still.  But in my own way, I’m also in prep mode because I’m praying for 2015 and continuing to listen and be attentive with what God has for the upcoming year.  We are on the cusp of turning the page on 2014 to begin a new chapter for 2015.  Let’s not enter 2015 as a leftover, wrung out rag from 2014.  Let’s seize the time, space and pause to not only nourish our souls but also to prepare us for the adventures that God has for us in 2015 🙂

Some prep ideas:

  • make a list of gratitudes from 2014 – reflecting on God’s amazing work & presence in your life over 2014
  • consider some places, situations, experiences that need some active forgiveness work (shortcomings, failures, idols, disobedience, etc)
  • take some time to maybe take a walk & listen to God – not only for what God has in store for 2015, but more importantly to be together
  • ask for the Holy Spirit to help you know the Helper better in 2015 than you have known in 2014 🙂

Happy New Year prep! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

the other side

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when we celebrate lots of things & in lots of ways.  We lavishly spend time, money, people interactions, parties, etc and revel in the celebrations of the season, opulence and abundance.  Then there’s the day after, today, when we might be groggy, overstuffed and possibly fatigued.  On this day, I find my heart longing to recover a sense of balance, desiring some still and quiet, centering into what’s really important, the One Thing that Jesus spoke about with Martha at her dinner party in Luke 10:42.  Sometimes it helps us regain our core when we sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary, waiting, listening, watching and paying attention to Who is the most Essential in our lives, Jesus 🙂

#selah

No Thank You to Fear

Fear isn’t cool. We can all probably remember at least a few times when fear was entirely horrifying. For me, I remember some walks home from school that were terrifying, waking up from a nightmare that virtually paralyzed me & the ever so common fear of not being liked. In our world today, people are afraid of Ebola, ISIS, losing their job, not getting married & lots more.
So let’s you & make a pact to say, “no thank you” to fear & then make the active choices to support that pact:
*be attentive to our decisions that we allow to be controlled by fear
*be aware of conversations that magnify fear – change the subject
*watch for places in our lives where we are cozy with fear
*actively choose love over fear because they are mutually exclusive (perfect love casts out fear)
*forward this to your friends to help grow an anti-fear mob!!

quiet prayers

Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have been really tricky:  conversation I didn’t agree with, uncomfortable situations that made me feel insecure, topics being discussed that are WAY outside of anything I know about, etc.  As I’ve been in these situations, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what to do or say because there didn’t seem to be any easy or obvious solutions, answers or escape routes.  In the past, I’ve found myself saying stupid stuff, or just withdrawing to a wall flower status & getting internally frustrated.

But I think I’ve found some help with these types of problems:  quiet prayer.  In the last few days as I’ve been in these challenges, I’ve stayed quiet, but quietly in my heart asked God for help and that’s exactly what’s happened.  God has answered my quiet prayers in several different ways by giving me:

  • insight & wisdom into the situations & conversations
  • patience & strength not to say something stupid or that I’d later regret
  • discernment on how God was leading the discussion or situation
  • awareness that God has purposes for stuff that doesn’t always make me feel good

There’s a boatload of value in long & loud prayers, but also in short & quiet prayers:  the full truth is that prayer is very good 🙂

hot topic: Ebola in the US

Yesterday, we heard in the news that a person in Dallas was diagnosed with #ebola.  The man who was diagnosed had flown from Libera in mid-September to the US and showed signs of being sick a week later.  There’s plenty of news circulating about this development & this is a very important thing on which we should be aware.  While I know that it’s important to be educated about this kind of stuff, let’s be mindful of some fundamental & important bullet points:

  • pray:  let’s keep the Dallas patient in our prayers as well as the West Africa nations of Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone – super important to keep these nations in our prayers, along with the healthcare workers who are on the front lines in these nations
  • be smart:  stay informed and current with what’s happening in our world so that we can know how to pray and make wise decisions
  • fear:  let’s be mindful that we don’t let fear get a foothold in our thinking or decisions
  • love:  pray that we can find some ways to help the babies & toddlers in Guinea, Sierra Leone & Liberia with Saving Moses!!

earthy

Living in America has the very subtle & sneaky attempt to be blinded by glitz, glam, image, shiny, trendy and veneer.  Whether we realize it or not, our culture bombards us with airbrushed faces, glimmery white teeth, body images that are almost physically impossible and lots more.  If we aren’t careful, we can be seduced by image and forget that substance, character and integrity are very important.

With this in mind, I find it very interesting that the person who heralded Jesus’ arrival was the antithesis of image conscious – John the Baptist was very earthy and for that matter, so is Jesus.  The Son of God, robed in splendor, glory and the ultimate glitz put on our skin, lived among us and was often mistaken for a mere man.  May the Holy Spirit help us to reveal Jesus through our daily and earthy living 🙂

be fresh ,)

These are a few of my favorite things:  peaches, pho, fresh coffee, clean sheets, snuggling with my kids, a good read, a heartfelt conversation, prayer,  . . . . . And one generality that holds true for all of these things is “staying fresh”.  For example, I recently bought like two boxes of peaches because I know that we are coming to the end of peach season & I ABSOLUTELY LOVE peaches.  But the problem is that these peaches are getting “tired” – not as good as when they’re at the peak of freshness & season.  Pho is another example of keeping stuff fresh – whenever I bring home leftover pho & it sits in the refrigerator, it gets gross.

I think this is also true in our relationship with Jesus.  A stale, old and tired walk with Jesus can get pretty ugly.  So here are a few ideas that could be helpful in keeping fresh with Jesus:

  • Bible reading:  change your translation from time to time
  • spiritual conversations:  talk with a friend about Jesus and what you like about Him
  • take a bath:  sometimes we need to wash off some dirt & road wear;
  • fasting / prayer:  periodically, it helps me to do something extra (fast a meal or a few days, take a lunch to pray, look for someone for whom to pray
  • time:  it always takes my breath away when I consider that God considers my presence to be a present ,)

Rustle Bustle

Seems like we all juggle lots of things: kids schedules with sports, practices, dr appointments, work responsibilities, relationship stuff, . . . the hustle, bustle & rustle of everyday living.
In all of these things, let’s be mindful to nurture in our hearts our relationship with Jesus. Lots of things want your attention so we must daily chose to fellowship with Jesus beyond the quickie “help!!!” requests. While these are important & good, our hearts are designed for deep fellowship with Jesus so lets yield to our design & align our values, focus & time to nurture the deeps with Jesus!

Rustle Bustle

Seems like we all juggle lots of things: kids schedules with sports, practices, dr appointments, work responsibilities, relationship stuff, . . . the hustle, bustle & rustle of everyday living.
In all of these things, let’s be mindful to nurture in our hearts our relationship with Jesus. Lots of things want your attention so we must daily chose to fellowship with Jesus beyond the quickie “help!!!” requests. While these are important & good, our hearts are designed for deep fellowship with Jesus so lets yield to our design & align our values, focus & time to nurture the deeps with Jesus!

provision

!!!!!MORE!!!!!!

Our culture tells us that “more” isn’t enough.  We need more money, more time, more status, more popularity, more followers, more friends, more activities, more education, more clothes, more muscles, more fitness, more image, more contacts, more influence, . . . . . . . I’ve been thinking about “more” in light of what the Bible says about the demands of our culture for more & increased provisions.

In the Bible, God is revealed as God our Provider / Provision in Genesis 22, when Abraham discovers the “ram in the thicket” as he’s about to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Our culture thoroughly affirms the truth that God is our Provider and we revel in experiencing God’s provisions (in an already abundant country).  But Abraham’s journey to experience God as his Provider was on the path of sacrifice.  The whole journey that ended up with Abraham experiencing God’s provisions was the preparation and journey of obedience & sacrifice.  Maybe what we really need is more sacrifice 🙂

selah

frying pan

Out of the frying pan and into the fire:  I was reading about how David was trying to stay away from King Saul in 1 Samuel because Saul was trying to kill David.  It’s really interesting to me that God sent David a prophet in 1 Sam 22 & told David to leave the stronghold where he was staying & go back to Judah, where he was more vulnerable to Saul’s attempts to kill him – out of the frying pan and into the fire.

No one likes to be uncomfortable or in difficult situations.  If you’re like me, we often look for the paths of least resistance & opposition, along with the areas of greatest safety and comfort.  But clearly, this wasn’t how God was directing David in 1 Sam 22.  It seems to me that we often trust God the least when we are the most comfortable ,)

don’t settle

We have a joke in our family about my cooking – when the smoke alarm goes off in our house, it’s a good sign that we’re going to have a great meal and the more smoke alarms that go off, the better the meal.  It’s become kind of humorous among all of us and we’ve become somewhat accustomed to a dinner time smoke alarm – which can be a little scary.  Alarms are meant to alert us that something is amiss and should be immediately checked upon.  When we get dull to alarms, things can become severely dangerous and God forbid that we should sleep through such alarms!

I wonder if there could be some alarms in our lives that alert us to spiritual lethargy, passivity and languor.  I wonder if we don’t sometimes become so comfortable, settled, cozy and tucked into our daily routines that our spiritual lives become dull, shallow and even moribund.   Perhaps God is making a clarion call to our hearts to shake off the allure of comfort that can unknowingly poison us with a sleeping sickness that deadens our senses to God’s alarms

The enemy of great is good, the adversary of excellent is average and the foe of extraordinary is moderate.  Let’s love God with great sincerity, excellent pursuit and extraordinary passion.

turkey update

Happy post Thanksgiving! I hope your day went well, with lots of peace, joy and enjoyable food 🙂  A few days ago, I posted about how I don’t really care for cooking turkey because of the litany of failed attempts my family has endured over many years.  Well, I’m happy to report that yesterday’s turkey was totally tasty!  It wasn’t burned, not too dry, not undercooked nor any of the other ways that I’ve ruined turkeys over many years – yahoo!!!

So here’s some encouragement.  Think of something that you’ve been trying to get good at for a long time, then consider a few things:

  • perhaps the lessons you’ve learned from the failures just helped you to understand better what doesn’t work
  • be thankful that you don’t have to make the same list of mistakes – you can make new ones
  • perhaps you next attempt will be the one that brings you success
  • if you next attempt doesn’t succeed consider that you’re one step further from failure & closer to success 🙂

 

cooking turkey

With Thanksgiving  popping up in less than 48 hours, I am facing my age-old nemesis, the turkey.  I think that I’ve figured out almost every way to ruin a turkey (undercooking, overcooking, offering a burnt sacrifice, along with many other accidents).  So I’m totally keen to throw in a lasagna & call it good 🙂

But alas, I will do the traditional turkey & there’s a good chance that I’ll get it right this year – hope springs eternal.  And this is exactly my point:  hope springs eternal.  Just because I’ve had a litany of turkey traumas doesn’t mean that this year is going to be another “challenge.”  After a 1,000 failed attempts with his light bulb invention, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Happy Turkey Day! 🙂

Tiny but Mighty

I read this morning about how Samuel was working on picking the next king for Israel after Saul & was being introduced to Jesse’s sons, from the oldest to the youngest. When Samuel first met Jesse’s oldest son, Samuel thought he was a shew-in, but God quickly corrected Samuel & told him not to make decisions based on external appearances – God looks at the heart & isn’t influenced by what’s on the outside (tall, handsome, suave, etc). After meeting supposedly all of Jesse’s sons, Samuel didn’t pick any of them. Finally, Jesse mentioned that his last son, the smallest & maybe the least likely or eligible, was out herding sheep. Once they brought in David, Samuel knew he was to be the next king. David was the least likely & seemingly most ineligible – tiny but mighty. In my mind, tiny by mighty, was often a theme in David’s life (Goliath, fighting the Philistines, running from Saul, overcoming Absalom’s treachery & more). Tiny can most certainly be mighty 🙂

tasty

My son told me that he ate half of a rolly polly yesterday – I think this was during recess, but I didn’t ask for too many details.  For most of us Americans, this sounds pretty gross, but it’s my own fault because I introduced him to eating beetles and grasshoppers when we were in Cambodia last year.  Clearly, he’s overcome the standard Amercian resistance to eating insects & now he has a wider range of protein options ,)

So perhaps we can learn from my son’s expanding dietary pallette and pray that God would instill in us a taste & hunger for spiritual things more than natural things.  Just something to consider on this lovely Fall day 🙂

Obstacle Course

When I was growing up, I thought obstacle courses were really cool & if the truth be known, I still think they’re cool. I like how they make you use different ways to overcome obstacles – whether it’s climbing a wall, crawling though a pipe, hoping into small platforms, etc, I like all of that stuff (and the TV shows that do the spoofs on obstacle courses are nothing less than hilarious, but I’ll save that for another day). But here’s something to consider: everyday we face various obstacles (big, little, emotional, relational, financial, wisdom, etc). We can perceive these things are obstacles & hardships or we can see them for what they really are: helpful exercises to enable us to be closer & more intimate a God. So let’s celebrate the various obstacle courses in our lives because we are letting them work into our hearts a deeper relationship & trust in God! 🙂

let’s get comfortable

Being comfortable conjures up different things for different people.  For some people, being comfortable can be the experience of sitting by a fireplace in a cozy blanket & reading a book.  For other people, being comfortable is best described as being at a really fun and vibrant party.  For me, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be comfortable and I’ve learned some interesting things to pass along to you:

  • being comfortable can sometimes be an impediment to a deeper relationship with God – discomfort usually makes me do something different
  • I never want my comfort zones to exclude God – indeed, life with God is a more accurate expression of who I really am
  • I’ve learned that I can be extremely comfortable in a variety of external situations because of an internal contentment that comes from some very sweet & rich communion with God
  • when I’m uncomfortable, I tend to lean into God better

 

cause & effect

When I look at Jesus’ life, He left LOTS of results:  healings, redemption, restoration, forgiveness, resurrection and BOATLOADS more!!!  It seems to me that wherever Jesus went, He left a trail of astounding, outrageous and highly desirable results.  Because of these results, He was quite popular.  Get around Jesus and:

  • your blindness will be removed;
  • your brokenness will be repaired;
  • your deafness will be healed;
  • your death will be resurrected along with SO MUCH MORE!

Like the people in Jesus’ day, I think we all want these things in our lives.  But also like the people in Jesus’ day, I’m not so sure that we always want the Cause of these results.  In actual truth, Jesus had very few followers compared to the amazing number of fans who liked Him for His results.  When we become legitimate followers of Jesus, we are continually changing and making adjustments so that Jesus can have more maneuvering space in our lives – increasing His presence / Cause and His effects 🙂

Don’t settle for the special effects when you can have the Original Cause 🙂

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts about fasting

A few years ago, I did a fair amount of fasting & was totally enthralled with the amazing spiritual experiences I had from fasting. I have to say that some of these experiences were nothing short of indescribable & I quickly became a fasting advocate.
Here are some quick benefits from spiritual fasting: I hear & sense God more fully, there’s an intimacy with God that’s deeply satisfying & I wrestle out some questions & challenges.
So here’s a few quick practical points for spiritual fasting:
*spiritual fasting isn’t the same as dieting so it should include some extra praying & time spent w God
*fasting can happen in lots of configurations: Daniel fast (no meats & sweets – Dan 9-10), a meal a day, fasting social media, etc
*drink lots of water & be patient
*consider keeping a journal during your fast & pay extra attention to what God is saying & to God’s presence
Happy fasting!