New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His plan will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

.

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Call it like it is.

“we begin by trusting our ignorance and calling it innocence.”  Ozwald Chambers

Hey Sis,

Did reading that sentence pinch you too?  Did it reach in and tighten around your heart a bit? Please tell me it’s not just me who sees herself standing right there.

Because on any given day it’s how I think…it’s my subconscious stance.

I can claim I’m a good person.  There’s no “evil” in me. I can proclaim with complete certainty I am not a murderer, adulterer, thief, liar, slanderer, etc. etc. etc.

But, here’s the point that pinches me and wakes me from that certainty. I can proclaim it today, but where will my heart stand tomorrow?  Or the next day?  Or the next?

Do you wonder if the people who commit these actions start their day with goodness and trip and fall into sin?  Do they wake up like me and you and somehow find themselves living an alternate life before days end?

Sis, are you like me?  Don’t we stand assured we are better, we are good, we are safe? Can you look back and recognize how this is faulty thinking?

When I look in the rear view mirror, I see the truth. The truth of how I have stood on the very edge of those very sins and felt the Holy Spirit grab the hem of my heart and pull me back just in the nick of time.  Have you seen it too? The ugly truth of the darkness that lurks just under our pure hearts?

Oh Sis, I know what is in me.  And to be honest I am frightened by it.  Sis, maybe you are staring at me with wide eyes as I confess my broken self right here in front of all the world to see.  Okay, so I haven’t murdered anyone.  But my heart has inched over the line in other ways and my certainty of how good I am becomes blurred by that truth. The ugly truth of what lies within.  Oh, I don’t want to look at it, confess it, even give it a name.  But nevertheless, it finds it’s way to the surface on any given day.

The truth is that the only good in me, the only thing that is certainly good is Jesus Christ.

And the only assurance that His goodness will triumph over my sinful nature is the Holy Spirit.  Without Him the evil in me will win.  It will eventually convince me I am more.

Oh you may be thinking “evil” seems like too strong a word to describe what’s within us.  But if we temper it and call it anything else aren’t we fooling ourselves. It needs to be ugly, and dark or we won’t be moved to run from it.  We won’t be moved to spend every single bit of God’s power within us to turn away.

So Sis, here’s a bit of homework, for you and for me and for us.  Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Let’s sit in front of a mirror and look for the dark spots.  Let’s find them and pick them out of the light, before they have a chance to grow and multiply and eclipse the goodness of God in us.

“We cannot trust our ignorance and call it innocence”—we must believe and receive the truth of what Jesus says….we need Him.  Every single day.

 

Here’s my prayer for us!

Dear Father,

Thank you for planting the light of goodness in us, even when you see the possibility of darkness.  We trust You to keep us turned toward the Light.  Thank you for reminding us of how easily we turn away when left to our own choices. Oh Lord, we live in a world that determines what is good enough and trick ourselves into agreement with it all.  So Father let your Word set the true standards, let your Word remind us of how far we are from Your perfection.  Lord we cling to the only hope we have that we can get one thing right, the hope of Jesus Christ who paid the price to light us from within, so we are perfectly good in Your eyes.  Thank you for knowing exactly what we would need and providing the Holy Spirit to guide us.  We need You…Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

Bible Study for Dummies

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So you’ve made the decision. You’ve taken the gift. You believe God is who He says He is. You want to follow Him. And you want to do it right. Now you are searching for the book titled, “Following Jesus for Dummies” because you have no idea where to begin.

I remember with great clarity my first steps as a Christian. I didn’t grow up going to church like many of my friends. I didn’t go to Sunday school and see the puppet shows about Moses, Noah, Daniel or any other story in the Bible. It’s hard for people who have grown up in the church to remember what it was like to learn how to find their way through God’s Word. As children there’s a common denominator, no one knows how to navigate. So they sit down in a classroom on a level playing field. No intimidation. No one feeling foolish. So how does this 45 year old person who has finally found her way to salvation learn about God and His great story?

When you come to the cross late in life, you struggle with great feelings of inadequacy. You long to know more, understand more and allow truth to mold you into someone pleasing to God. But there’s this barrier constantly tripping you up. It’s called doubt.

You are determined to learn from God’s Word, so you sign up for Bible study at church. The leader starts with prayer. Great. You are good here. Then you are asked to turn to a chapter in the Bible with numbers following it. You look around trying to follow what others are doing. Flipping anxiously through the thin pages of your new Bible hoping no one notices you have no clue where this chapter called Galatians is located. By the time you have found Galatians they are reading from the book and you have no idea what the numbers mean, so you sit completely still pretending you are right there with them. And because you are overcome by anxiety from the search you barely hear the discussion.

And satan has found his way in.

Discouragement is born in moments like this. Disbelief is born in moments like this. And the fear of failure turns us away from what should be an experience of joy and expectation.

Our insensitivity to new followers of Christ and their difficult journey into His beautiful Word has caused many to stumble and even turn away. It would be like sending a child into third grade not knowing how to read. It breeds hopelessness.

Think back to a time when you felt lost and alone? Embarrassed to ask for help? You had to fight every fear. They all came crashing in at once.

If we allow new believers to walk into a Bible study without a partner to share the journey, we quickly become part of an epic failure to honor God. He called us to stand strong for one another in the journey. The whole journey.

My beginning was messy and to be totally honest I pretended a lot when I first started going to Bible study. I kept going because I longed to be around these women who loved God, because I loved Him too. I wanted to understand more about Him. Eventually one of these lovely women recognized my struggle and came alongside. She spent time explaining this amazing Book full of truth, love and promises. She made me want to know more, encouraging me in the times I couldn’t make any sense of what I read. She taught me about grace, and helped me understand growth comes with time.

I live thankful for this lovely friend who saw I was lost, longing to be found. I wonder if I would have turned away believing God’s Word was beyond my comprehension had she not stepped into my journey. Because she was the gift God provided for me in those times,

I feel a deep responsibility for those who are coming to the table hungry for His Word. I long to be the friend who senses the wavering and steps into the journey.

Would you consider joining me? Let’s introduce this magnificent Book full of promise to those trying to find their way. Maybe you believe as I do that it’s a journey best shared. Turning page after page, light spilling onto words of truth and peace and exquisite love. Pure joy grows here in the sharing.

Baby Bird Bravery

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Have you ever read a book that just stayed with you? The one that said so much more than it intended. Mine was a children’s book. The entire book circled round and round a simple, single question. “Are You My Mother?”

It was a little story about a baby bird who finds himself lost. Page after page tells of the bird’s unrelenting search for its mother. I quickly found myself drawn into this little feathered friend’s constant longing. A longing to feel part of something. To sit close and be one with something. To understand from where he’d come.

I believe we all must feel this unyielding pull. This tugging into a place of beginnings. Nothing makes much sense without it.

The baby bird in the story had the right idea. He asked each person, place and thing if they were his mother. Though they each answered no, his enduring memory of first love drove him on.

Who can unearth the place it all began? Place full of sweet belonging? I understand little bird’s carrying heavy heartbreak. We sometimes spend a lifetime longing to settle back into familiar love.

There’s another defining book that just stays with me. The entire book circles round and round a simple, single question. Are You my Father? I was first drawn to the Bible while searching for the place I belonged. A place where love lived. Just one stable, steadfast love.

I was much like the baby bird. I spent days, months, a lifetime asking every person, place and thing if they were the one true love. My one true love. Then, just when the journey seemed without end, I turned and there it was.

Extravagant love.

The same love I was born of. God designed every moment of light and life, holding and molding me throughout the journey. I am open book, incomplete story, full of twists and turns. My defining moments rising out of each chapter. I am swept into this true love story the Author has fashioned. Full of deep, unrelenting love from beginning to end. A place to belong. The only place I ever belonged.

If you are wondering what happened to that baby bird, he never gave up. Eventually he did find his mother. Just like us, his journey led him to many things he thought would answer the longing. In time perseverance and perspective drew him to the truth.

I wish for us a bit of baby bird bravery. He just kept asking the question. Even when answers were hard to come by and asking was risky.

Let’s be bold. Don’t give up the search. Won’t you agree risk is worth the promise of a happy ending?

 

Can You See Me Now?

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Can You See Me Now?

We began together. Me holding tightly to Your promise. You lighting the path with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I stood strong with You in full view. But I awoke this morning and You are gone from sight. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Where has my God of promises gone? I strain to see You up ahead. Doubt has found its way into this darkness. So many questions unanswered. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Oh my child, I have gone from Guide to Guard. From Sun to Shield. Remember my promise, I will not leave you or forsake you.

It was My heart beating with yours in the joy of new life, and in the grief of great loss.

Do you see Me now?

It was My hand that cleared the way to safety and freedom from slavery.

Do you see Me now?

It was Me who stood beside you in the hard journey, full of thirst and hunger.

Do you see Me now?

It’s My great love holding you close when you can’t take one more breath as the world comes crushing in.

Do you see Me now?

Will you find faith in the midst of your fear? Will looking back pave the path to trusting Me?

If seeing is believing.

What do you see?

I have never left you. I am with you, are you with Me?

Have you ever walked in my shoes?

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Have you ever found yourself walking down the same path? Ever wonder how you got here again?

It seems like the steps are different, the stride is different, even the scenery is different.

Nothing looks the same. It is a unique journey.

Yet somehow, the course leads you to the usual destination. Memory is fresh and bold. You experience this exposed expanse, a field of fear laid open.

You take a risk and venture in the pursuit of truth. You can’t settle on the road that leads to less than what is promised by God.
So you do it. You take the one step.

Steps are constant movement with measurement, the small things that propel us forward.

They are a repeated pattern, a combination of lifting up and putting down. Lifting up our hearts in pure hope and putting down our roots in pure truth.

It may look like uncommon terrain. It may appear you are wandering in a wasteland, with unfamiliar landscape. The road may seem like it’s strewn with obstacles.

So, how do we navigate the course? What compass will give us perfect direction?

Maybe it’s about staying in step.
Maybe it’s about walking in rhythm and harmony with our very present Guide.
Maybe then we can explore the world with daring and confidence.

No map needed because….
He’s planned the trip from the very beginning of time.

Psalm 32:8 ‘”The LORD says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.”‘