Discourage or Encourage?

It’s interesting that the root for the words, “discourage” and “encourage” is the word courage, which traces to the Latin root for “heart.”  So when we are discouraged, this literally means, “away from the heart”.  And encourage, by contrast, means “into the heart”.  But the common ingredient for both of the words, encourage & discourage, has to do with the heart.

So let’s think about this:  what happens in my heart is only known between God and me.  People can observe the external results of that internal status, but the state of my heart and what happens there is known most clearly by God.  Maybe this is why Solomon said, in Proverbs 4:23, that we should guard our hearts, since this is where the wellspring of life starts.  With this verse in mind, let’s be certain that we are keeping our hearts wide open to God’s presence because this is how we can live in a state of encouragement rather than being discouraged by experiences, conversations and various other challenges that can arise.  Choose to live with God’s presence in your heart, encouraged and deeply loved!

Wrapping Presence

It’s defintely true that I can struggle with the right spelling of words from time to time.  But in this situation, the title for my blog isn’t a misspelling.  Instead, it’s an intentional play on words to catch your attention & maybe challenge you to some ongoing generosity with Jesus.

How so?  What Jesus likes more than your words, money, service, clothing, church attendance, etc. is your self.  When we give all of ourselves to Jesus, it seems to me that this gives Jesus the greatest pleasure!  So here are some wrapping ideas for your presence with Jesus:

  • time:  we can give Jesus time in all kinds of ways – as we drive, in those unexpected moments of pause with a cancelled appointment and in the morning / night to be present
  • words:  it’s always good to give thanks to Jesus (for daily things, miracles, unexpected blessings, rich conversations, etc ), as well as some worship for who Jesus is
  • attention:  let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase our awareness of Jesus’ presence, since He said He’d never leave nor forsake us.  I ask, throughout the day, for help with my focus and attention to sense Jesus

Be sure to wrap your presence with time, words and attention, to give your self wholly to Jesus!

sitting with a friend

Job 2:13, “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

These friends that sat with Job in silence for 7 days were the same friends who were not very gentle in their words to him for many chapters throughout this book.  Nonetheless, it gives me great pause to think that these guys travelled for several days to be with Job at the lowest point in his life.  When they saw how despondent he was, they sat with him for 7days without saying anything.

Their behavior really challenges me to consider if I’m this kind of a friend who could sit quietly with a friend in their greatest time of suffering.  This is the idea of keeping company with someone even when they aren’t very pleasant or enjoyable.  It begs the question, “Am I a ‘fair-weather’ friend, or am I reliable in the skinny / thin times?”  Consider Matt 26:38 & Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

It seems to me that we aren’t very comfortable sitting with someone when they’re suffering or struggling, but sometimes, keeping company with a friend in a hardship is a tangible expression of genuine love.

I like what Mother Teresa said, ““Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.””

Christmas Presence

  
If you look carefully at this picture, you’ll see that Jesus is inside a transparent “box”, made to look like a present. And it’s not a stretch for us to see Jesus as God’s present to us. John 3:16 comes to mind with God loving & giving Jesus to us. 
But let’s think about this in another way: perhaps Jesus modeled for us God’s core desire – presence equals present or gift. 

When we give God our presence, this is one the greatest presents we can give God. Of course money, serving & worship are vital gifts that we give to God, but giving God our presence is the expression of whole hearted love. Let’s be sure to make time in this busy season to be present with God 🙂

STOP YELLING – maybe

I’ve learned that typing in all caps in social media is the same as yelling & I’m not attracted to yelling, full stop. Indeed, when I would practice piano & my dad would yell at me for something, I seemed to make more & more mistakes the more he yelled. 
The problem with yelling is that the listener can easily get distracted by the method & miss the message. With my dad, his emotions would get so intense that he’d yell but I can’t really remember what he said. 

  
With saying all of that, I shot this picture last night:  I was trying to concentrate on a really important writing assignment & I kept noticing that the sky was getting increasingly pink. Finally, I stopped my writing & man am I glad I did! As I took a pause to look at this unbelievable sunset, I heard our Triune God whisper, “Thanks for looking Sarah, We love you”. 

God’s message & methods are altogether riveting & I’m entirely addicted to the divine love experience, no yelling needed 🙂

presents and presence

I haven’t wrapped a single Christmas present yet & a few years ago, I didn’t wrap any until 11pm on Christmas Eve – what was the point in that?!???  I don’t think I’m generally a procrastinator, it’s just tricky to remember & find time.  Maybe this year, I’ll wrap our presents soon, maybe.  One question worth a little consideration is what will you & I be giving Jesus this year, to celebrate His birthday.  It seems kind of counterintuitive to give everyone but Jesus a present on Christmas, the day when we celebrate His birth 🙂

So going with the 5 Love Languages idea, here are some gift suggestions for Jesus:

  • affirmation – take some moments to sing one of your favorite praise / worship songs  directly to Jesus or make a brief list of reasons why you love Jesus and tell Him
  • touch – consider giving someone a hug that would appreciate that;  sometimes when we touch someone with genuine love it’s a nice way to communicate genuine love to Jesus (when you do this to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25:40)
  • gifts – think about giving a coat, hats, mittens, socks, etc to a homeless shelter or discretely helping a needy family in your church, maybe make an extra donation to a charity (Saving Moses is awesome – smile)
  • service – every church has extra services, usually, to support the Christmas season:  consider volunteering a little extra to share some love 🙂
  • quality time – consider dropping by a park and taking a brief walk with Jesus or waking up maybe 10min earlier just to give Jesus your presence, which is possibly the ultimate present He desires 🙂
  • coffee – that’s all I have to say on this one ,)

Merry Christmas!

coffee with Jesus

10174921_803160386399804_598511222473935002_n   Coffee, tea, hot water, soda, . . . . . whatever floats your boat, in this holiday season, let’s be sure that we dial in some time and attention to hanging out with Jesus.  Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

  • go through the drive through coffee place, collect your coffee / beverage and then pull into a parking space for a few minutes to enjoy some pause and fellowship with Jesus
  • go to a concert or Christmas production that you have nothing to do with for the simple purpose of being present with Jesus in this season
  • wake up 10-15min before everyone else to be still and quiet – giving Jesus your presence as a present
  • ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pay attention and increase your awareness of Jesus’ presence in your daily living
  • pray with someone, briefly and sincerely, who expresses a need
  • take a walk at night (in a safe neighborhood or park) and think about the shepherds in the field who received the angelic announcement about Jesus’ birth – what a SHOCKER!!!!!
  • be in church – there’s a good chance that someone there will be talking about Jesus during this month ,)
  • do something nice for someone who doesn’t have the ability to repay you 🙂

Coffee with Jesus: God’s divine gift to humanity is Jesus, love in skin                #lookforJesus

Jesus wept

My son & I were talking this morning about being sensitive to people and their needs.  In our discussion, I was reminded of the story when Jesus came to Martha and Mary after their brother Lazarus had died, landing in possibly one of the darkest moments of their lives.  If you remember, Martha & Mary had sent to Jesus before Lazarus died, asking Him to come & heal their sick brother.  Despite receiving this information, Jesus waited where he was and purposely came to Martha & Mary after their brother died.  Jesus’ delay was extremely disappointing to Martha & Mary (“If You had been here, he would not have died”).  Nevertheless, Jesus had a really insightful conversation with Martha about resurrection & if you have some moments, I’d encourage you to read John 11 to look into that chat between the two of them.

After talking with Martha, Jesus connected with Mary who was a virtual basket case from her grief, disappointment, anxiety and loss.  Jesus listened, watched, observed everyone’s grief and didn’t reply with a cliche’ quick fix answer – “Oh he’s in a better place now,” nor did Jesus try to change the subject, distract everyone with a miracle,  discuss theology with the attending religious leaders, or do the All Knowing God answer.  After taking everything in, Jesus wept.  When you read to the end of John 11, we see that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so there’s a really unexpected and extremely happy ending to the whole story – but Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead before He experienced the grief through which everyone was going with the death of Lazarus.

Jesus wept.

Daily & Divine

You & I have lots of responsibilities & things we have to do. Every day we have the “must do” stuff & even the daily mundane. Sometimes my days don’t seem very divine & yet when I’m attentive, I can see & sense God’s presence. When I ask God to help me in my daily living, I begin to be more aware of God & I see God doing stuff & catch glimmers of God’s influence.
Daily + Divine = Incarnation 🙂

after Christmas

I wanted to write up a quick post yesterday but I had more work than time – sorry!

I’m particularly fond of the few days immediately following Christmas because they feel like an exhale to me.  The days leading up to Christmas can sometimes be a frenzied collection of meal preparation, last minute wrapping, gifts, holiday bustle and manic hustle.  But the days after Christmas seem to be more peaceful to me.  Everything seems to get more calm, peaceful and manageable.  Let me encourage you to take some time in these days to pause, reflect and rejuvenate.  Drink deeply of God’s presence and nestle into God’s unlimited love for you.  Jesus was born for us out of no other motivation than genuine love 🙂

On a quickie side note, please remember to pray for South Sudan – they’ve had close to 2 weeks of intense conflict and thousands have been killed there in the last 10 days.

Seeing Jesus

We have entered the Easter season when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection. But if we aren’t careful, we can get stuck in the mindset that Jesus lived 2,000 years ago so Easter can easily turn into a tribute to the past. Because Jesus rose from the dead, that means that He is alive today & since He lives today, lets watch & listen for Him in each moment of this day. He moves in so many different ways, speaks through so many different channels & occupies all time & space waiting for us to delightfully discover Him. Open eyes, listening ears & sensitive hearts for a fellowship permeated with infinite & genuine love 🙂

fellowship in the furnace

I’ve been thinking a little bit about Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego, the 3 Hebrew men who refused to worship anyone but their God and were thrown into a fiery furnace to punish them for their disobedience.  When these men were given a chance to back down & obey the king, they dug their heels in and said that their God could deliver them from the fire & even if He didn’t they wouldn’t worship any other god.  This was a really bold and even wreckless stance.  Nevertheless, they held their ground and as a result they were thrown into the fiery furnace.  When the king checked on their burning progress, he was totally SHOCKED to see the 3 Hebrew men walking around the fiery furnace along with someone who the king described as a man who looked like the son of God.  Sometimes our work with Saving Moses can be a little bit like a furnace with some pretty sketchy hotspots, but thankfully, Jesus is with us!

So for me, if Jesus is in the fire, then I want to be there with Him – better to be in a furnace with Jesus than without Jesus and no furnace.  And at the end of the day, the Hebrew men weren’t delivered from the fire but rather through the fire.  There’s tremendous fellowship potential in the furnace with Jesus 🙂

Wait a second!!

I was in a security line at the airport early this morning & it was moving rather slowly. Thankfully, most of us in the line were still pretty groggy so there wasn’t much complaining, except for the guy right behind me. He was really gripey & for me, gripey & groggy aren’t a good combination. Thankfully, God helped me to keep my mouth shut because when it was all said & done, we weren’t waiting for more than 10minutes – which points out a bit of a challenge for our modern living.
I think that if we aren’t careful, we can easily fall into the impatience trap & neglect to learn & practice waiting on God. There are LOADS of verses that speak to the importance of waiting on God & I would encourage you to explore what God says about waiting. But from my personal experience, waiting on God is a great way to be in God’s presence & God’s presence is my priority 🙂
So wait a second & grab some God time ,)

why pray?

 I’ve had an interesting recent 48 hours.  Sunday evening, I was doing our family grocery shopping & I was chatting with God about something that was really bothering me.  At the end of our chat, I basically asked Him to either help me accept this challenging situation & make adjustments or to change the situation.  Within 24 hours, I found myself in a conversation that was immediately addressing the situation that God & I had just discussed.  Needless to say, I’m thanking God for His speedy work!

Furthermore, this morning I was looking for a file on my computer & became frantic when I couldn’t find it because there were other people who are relying on this document!  So over the course of lunchtime, I shot up another quick prayer asking God to help me find this file & voila – I found it!

While these things may seem small to you, for me they’re indicative of God who listens & is engaged in my daily living.  What I like most about prayer is that its the place where I get to wholly be with God – where I eliminate distractions, tune into His presence & interact.  I love sensing God’s presence, voice, direction, etc.  Prayer is also a fun adventure to see the different ways that God answers our requests & needs.