Nothing

My parents became believers in the 1970’s. The Contemporary Christian music scene was just beginning and the Gaither Trio were a large part of it. My mom made a point to pour God’s truth into my brother and me. The Gaithers knew it was important too, and made albums for children to teach them of their value and worth in God’s plan.

When I became a believer in my early 20’s, the first Christian albums I turned to were the albums from my childhood. Music Machine, Bullfrogs and Butterflies, and all the albums I heard as a child were full of Biblical truths I finally understood.

Today as I went through my routine before work I found myself humming again. I couldn’t put my finger on the melody when suddenly a line came to mind. “You’re the only one of your kind.” I couldn’t believe it. Over 35 years later, the truths of those songs were once again coming back to me.

Isaiah 55:11 says, “ So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (KJV). In other words, when His word goes out, it won’t come back empty, there will always be fruit, it will always grow.

Thirty-five years ago, when my mom was playing those albums, she was planting seeds. All these years later, I still find the truth in those words. I know God made me for part of His purpose and I have a task that only I can do, no one else.

You do too.


That’s why He made you special
You’re the only one of your kind
God gave me a body and a bright healthy mind
He has a special purpose that He wants you to find
So He me something special
I’m the only one of my kind

Yes He made you something special
He made me something special
He made you something special
You’re the only one of your kind

Lyrics by Bill and Gloria Gaither

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Small things

I’ve mentioned before that I work downtown. There are a number of homeless people on the corners with their cardboard signs to share their stories. I have started to keep extra food in my bag so I can share it with them as I go to and from my building.

As I left work last night I passed a man trying to rest on a bench, all he owned was tucked under his head as a makeshift pillow. On another bench was a woman with a beautiful smile who asked if I was leaving work. I said, yes, that I was heading home. My heart felt a pang as I thought about the comfortable bed I had and the hard bench she had for a bed.

I thought about the things I could do to make a difference. I could contact different service organizations or even the city officials to draw attention to the “plight” of the homeless in my city. I could organize church groups to collect clothes, blankets, food and the like to hand out. While all of these ideas are valid and may be worth pursuing, I just didn’t see them as something for me to do.

Instead, I am going to take a page from Mother Theresa who once said, “Do small things with great love.” The homeless aren’t a statistic, they aren’t some dirty, less-than-human entity, they are a living, breathing, wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God, person.

I want to keep things on a personal level, not put them on a “cause” level. There are times to support a cause, get behind one, begin speaking out for one. Then there are times to take a moment, look the person in the eye, take their hand, and let them know they matter.

“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7).

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perfect peace

Have you ever heard your alarm and thought, “That can’t be right. I just went to sleep!”  I felt that way this morning.  I have had a number of late night/early morning days recently and my sleep time seemed very short today.  I took the boys to school and went right back to bed.  I slept for over two hours and woke feeling rested and much better prepared for the day.

Rest is one of those disciplines that doesn’t seem to be brought up in Christian circles.  Of all of the disciplines believers are called to live out in their lives, this one gets dismissed often.  We are taught to serve, give, donate, pray for, make meals for, read our Bibles for hours on end–if we are really devout. But rarely do you hear someone say, “So how is your rest coming along?”

One of my favorite pastors, John Ortberg, spoke on discipline a number of years ago.  He was sharing how when people go away on a spiritual retreat many of them will fall asleep when they intended to do a book study or spend time in prayer.  His perspective was, if you fall asleep maybe that was what you needed most. It seems that when we get away from our day-to-day events we realize how tired we are.

It is important to note that Jesus led us by example.  How many times do we read in the Gospels where Jesus “went away by himself.” Yes, He went to pray, but He also went away to find rest.  If the God of the Universe needed a “time out” from the world to refocus so He could be ready for His next service in ministry, don’t you think we should too?

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4

 

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Personal Best

” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

My sons had another cross country meet this weekend. My oldest son ran his course and broken his personal best record, the one he had set to beat by his senior year, he beat as a sophomore. My youngest ran his race and beat his personal best record as well. It was incredible to watch, knowing how far they have come in their years of training.

“Eyes up!” Was a phrase I heard often during the different races. If a runner focuses on his or her feet and not what is ahead, they will not be prepared for their next hill– ascent or descent. They need to look for the next turn so they can adjust their speed, the next straightaway for passing, and finally their goal– the finish line.

“Kick it!” Is another phrase called out to the runners as they reached the final 400 yards of the race. This is where the runner was to reach deep and pull out the last bit of energy they had stored up so they could run, all out for the finish. In their competition it was also a time to pass one more opponent before finishing the race.

As a believer we are called to do the very same things. We are to keep our “eyes up” focusing on Jesus and preparing for what is ahead. When we reach the end of our lives we are to “kick it” and push to the end, not stroll to the end. I don’t want to coast into Heaven. I want to come with all that I have, full speed, no holds barred, all or nothing into Heaven.

Paul used running races to symbolize our lives as we are called to live them. He shared this view in Philippians 3:12-16,20-21; “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

So let’s join together in our race. Let’s lace up our shoes, grab our bottles of the living water and run this race to the finish.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1.

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humming along

As I went about my daily to-do list I found myself humming again.  I have new people who need healing and lots of prayer and my heart and mind were processing these new concerns.  Suddenly words came to me.  Oh what needless pain we bear…

I realized my heart was telling me what I knew to be true.  Hand it over to Jesus.  He will care for those who are hurting in ways I never could.  I began to sing the whole hymn so that my heart and mind could reset and focus on the Truth.  Jesus is the Healer of all hurts and the Friend we can turn to when we are in need.  For that I can always be grateful.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

~~Joseph M. Scriven

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Three Words

My favorite author, Jerry Jenkins (of Left Behind fame) posted a request for his Facebook followers to give him three words to describe this week. I decided on the three words “challenging, engaging, and encouraging.”

Challenging
As I have mentioned I started working at a new job. I like what I do, I work in the customer service field helping people understand a confusing area in their lives. The “however” is that I have a learning curve that has seemed more like hiking a mountain than a walk over rolling hills.

Engaging
I am blessed with seasoned co-workers who have been helping me as I help the customers on the phone. My co-workers haven’t made me feel foolish or hopeless as I learn skills I will need every day.

Encouraging
The customers I help, even the ones who are frustrated in the beginning, always tell me that they appreciate the steps I have taken during our call to resolve their issues.

I ended my post on Mr. Jenkins’ Facebook page by saying, “because my God is bigger.”

Immediately a chorus came to mind. I smiled because it is true, I hope the words encourage you today with whatever challenges you face.


He Is Able
Words and Music by Rory Noland, Greg Ferguson

He is able more than able
To accomplish what concerns me today
He is able more than able
To handle anything that comes my way
He is able more than able
To do much more than I could ever dream
He is able more than able
To make me what He wants me to be

© 1989 Maranatha Praise Inc.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

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joy unspeakable

I love looking out the window.  Whether it is car window, house window, or airplane window; there is always something to see.  Yesterday while I was doing dishes, I looked up to see a bluejay sitting on my railing.  I haven’t seen a blue jay since we moved from the farm.  I watched it check out its reflection in our sliding door and then eventually fly away.

God created this bird with an imagination that cannot even be fathomed.  Each item He made: tree, fish, plant, food, animal, star, mountain, etc. was made to inspire and bring joy. What if God decided to only give us monotone sunrises, and a handful of animals.  We wouldn’t know any differently of course, but He didn’t.  God created animals and insects that we have yet to understand or discover.  Why?  If He is the only one who can see them, why make them?  Simply put, to bring joy.

God is the giver of joy.  There is joy in the face of a baby when he recognizes his parents, there is joy in a lover’s expression when he or she sees their partner.  Joy can be found in a piece of music, a painting  or a sculpture, anything if the seeker chooses to find it.

My daily desire is to see something that brings me joy.  It can be the changing colors in leaves, hearing a bird singing just for singing sake. I will look for a smile in a stranger or give a smile to a stranger if he looks like he needs something to be happy about.

What about you?  How do you go through your days?  Is your head looking down at your feet or is it up, looking around at all the amazing things God has made?

Find joy.

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” Psalm 92:4

 

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Patches

My favorite past times include knitting, baking, and quilting. At the moment I am working on a blanket made from patches or pieces of fabric, called an English paper quilt.  The most common pattern is called “Grandmother’s Flower Garden.”  My quilt looks more like a crazy quilt though, as I was challenged not to make a pattern with my fabric pieces.

I love this quilt.  It reminds me of the way that God brings His children together.  Each piece has been intricately sewn to the piece next to it, the stitch-work is what keeps each piece connected to the others.  While each piece may seem simple, when it is paired with the next piece the beauty of the fabric is enhanced.  So too, with the people God brings into our life.

We are to live this life with others; we were not created to be “lone rangers” riding the trails by ourselves.  We were meant to be in community.  Scripture makes that clear in Acts 2 when the “new covenant” church begins to live in earnest.  Each member of the Acts 2 community played a part in the lives of those around them.  Each person encouraged, supported, and blessed those around them.

I now live far from the people who have poured into my life so faithfully.  It is hard to remember that I cannot meet them for coffee on a whim, or visit with them for hours on their back deck.  My relationship with them needs to be more intentional now.  Yet, I know that miles and miles cannot sever the life I have lived with them.  My memories, the laugh lines I have, the laughter that has spilled out from our hearts and mouths over the years isn’t gone just because the distance has increased.

God has drawn me together with them with a Heavenly stitch-work that cannot be undone.  I am blessed so deeply because I have been connected to them.

Who have you been stitched to in life?  How are you working to keep the threads tight?  Are they threadbare?  Do you need to work to repair any loose threads?  Make an effort, don’t let time, distance, or events keep you from being connected to them.

We are called to community.  Don’t be a lone ranger.

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I keep coming back

As I sat in church this morning and sang with the congregation about His Amazing Grace and the Doxology I found myself washed over by the truth that the Cross is where I return. My whole belief system, my value, my worth, my hope, is all wrapped up in the redemptive love Jesus showed through His death and resurrection.

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My heart fills and my eyes overflow with tears every time I think of this amazing, glorious Grace that God has given me. Ephesians 1 explains this incredible Grace in this way. God loved us before we were ever here and it is this love that draws Him to lavishly pour it out on us through His Son, Jesus. (See Ephesians 1:6).

We can chose to believe in God’s love for us, enough to be saved or we can chose to believe in God’s love for us as a new way to live life. The way I see people, the way I see myself is through this second lens of Grace.

One of my favorite hymns is In Christ Alone. I think the words explain it best. I hope they encourage you as well.

In Christ Alone.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Lyrics by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty

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Leaders

My sons are on their high school cross country team. The coach is a man of Faith and all the students greatly respect him.

The students know that Coach cares more about them than any record they could make or break. He challenges the students to make wise choices in every area of life. Even when their grades aren’t the greatest, he will remind them that their ultimate goal is doing their personal best, and how to keep that goal in sight.

Today the team is running a “Combat Run” with Coach at the lead. The team is following him, no matter where he leads them on the course. On the trail, off the trail, through creeks and mud, wherever he leads them, they follow. They have seen him live his life with integrity and the team knows he is worth following.

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Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” (See John 10). Just like the cross country team follows their coach, we as believers follow Christ.

Who are you following? Is the person leading you toward your ultimate goal line or leading you astray?

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