Getting to Choose

…I’m grateful that every day I get to choose Him. I have to reach for Him, again and again. I ask Him for faith and trust and He gives me enough for the day, and I use up every last bit. And each morning when I ask, He gives me more. ~Jeannie Eurich

Every day, I get to choose Him.

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Every morning, I am faced with the opportunity to run like a little girl into her loving Daddy’s outstretched arms, knowing He has a surprise in store for me. Good gifts from a hand that knows only kindness.

The gift is always enough to last me through the day, but not more than enough to keep me from coming with arms flung wide again and again. Not because my Father has a shortage or is in any way stingy with His lavishness. On the contrary, He has an endless supply of “more than” that would easily sustain me throughout eternity. But because my Father loves me, He wants me to come to Him.

Day after day after day.

He never grows weary. Never tires of my incessant chatter or my needs. He just gives and loves and gives some more because at the very heart of His character is pure goodness.

I empty the gift of faith upon each day, shaking its contents desperately at times when fear grasps at my heart. Casually sorting through hope and trust on other days when I’m restless for something of which I’m not even sure I understand.

In the solitude of me, I long to breathe more freely. To use the gifts more purposefully, because I really do believe there’s a higher calling than the one I’m answering at the moment. I know I hold what is needed, but in moments of panic, I fear the gift is not enough to last me through the night.

Perhaps He will not come tomorrow.

Perhaps He has forgotten me.

Perhaps He has more important things to do than bend low to needy child once more.

Sometimes I forget what is truth and what is lies.

Sometimes I neglect my birthright and ignore the One who stands with gift in hand, day after day, with arms outstretched to provide my every need.

Sometimes I ignore the Father who looks and lingers, waiting for His prodigal daughter to return to the homestead. To claim her inheritance. To be wrapped up again in arms of everlasting love.

But not today.

Today she remembers.

Today she wraps her heart around the blessing of getting to choose Him.

And she throws herself headlong into His arms, confident that she will be cared for and carried one more day.

One gift at a time.

And always it is enough.

Perhaps you need the reminder as much as I do: Today, we get to choose Him.

May we do so with grateful hearts.

And without hesitation.

Today. Tomorrow. And forever.

Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

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Why Write?

I have a confession to make.

I am a logophile.

I simply LOVE words.

I love to study their origins, searching for hidden treasures tucked within the original translations. Scratching beneath the surface, looking for more. Squeezing life from letters as one might clench a lemon simply for the joy of making lemonade.

Words well-written draw me into their depths, inviting me to discover new things about myself and the world around me.

Stories flowed from pencil tip quite naturally when I was a young girl, and words still flow, albeit now they are more often written in ink or typed upon a keyboard pad. But instead of flowing naturally, they are sometimes yanked from the center of my heart, kicking and screaming in their efforts to remain hidden. To return to their confines. To avoid exposure.

Because sometimes words hurt.

Sometimes the truth hidden within scars the heart that holds it.

Sometimes it would be much easier to allow the pen of my soul to remain still.

Silent.

But that would be a dishonor to the Master Storyteller.

And so I write.

I write so I remember.



I write to build memorials of grace and truth that rise like monuments across the pages of my life.

I write to express gratitude to the One who makes all things new.

I write to encourage myself to walk freely in this precious gift of Life which I’ve been given.

And somewhere, in the midst of the raw and messy, I write in hopes that my words will provide an altar for others. A sanctuary of worship. A place of rest where it is safe to connect with another soul. With a Savior.

And so, I will continue to piece together the words within, threading them tenderly upon the tapestry of my life.

For myself.

For others.

For His glory.

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Today’s post on WRITE was prompted by Five Minute Friday. You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Be blessed!

Ordinary Miracles

So, I’m stepping WAY out on a limb here and jumping in with a group of writers to take the Five-Minute-Friday challenge over at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Basically, we are all given a prompt, then turned loose to write (uninhibited and unedited) for five minutes before posting to a link and sharing our raw thoughts with others. Needless to say, this is pushing me out of my comfort zone and stretching me to write and post quickly without the editor in me rising to the surface. And I have to admit that my first attempt at this was more like eight minutes instead of five, but please be gracious since I’m new to this. As long as they don’t place a time limit on how long I have to link up to all of this, then I should be fine. Can you say, “technologically challenged”?

Here’s to today’s word of ORDINARY:

Mountains of laundry, meals to cook, groceries to buy, school work to grade, emails to write, prayers to pray, articles to edit, bills to pay…

The list of the ordinary continues to grow and morph throughout the years with the unbroken rhythms of life. Nothing much exciting happens as days slip by turning from Monday into Tuesday, then rushing to catch Wednesday and Thursday…week after week, month after month, season after season, year after year.

Why is it so easy to think of my every day as everyday? Why is it so common for us to look in the mirror or at the piles of laundry and dirty dishes piling up and accept that our lives are ordinary instead of seeing the miracle that dwells in each moment? Seriously, is any of this God-infused life truly “ordinary”? In reality, there’s nothing ordinary about this perfect rhythm which holds the universe in place. Nothing ordinary that keeps the gravitational pull between the moon and the earth and the sun and the stars in perfect synchronization so we don’t all go careening across the galaxies, and yet, I’ve been tricked into thinking that my surroundings are ordinary because they appear so commonplace.

Just because something is common does not make it ordinary.

The miracle of the moments lie in the eye of the beholder, and let’s face it, when I look in the mirror and behold my reflection, what I behold does not make me gasp in wonder and awe at the work of art that makes up me. Nor does my heart skip a beat as my hands sift through mountains of laundry, or scrub the dinner dishes, or grade the never-ending pages of schoolwork that make up the majority of my days. What I generally behold does not seem beautiful, it seems merely common. Nothing incredible about the umpteenth trip to the grocery or the gazillionth email to which I’ve replied this month. Just ordinary.

Because I have forgotten.

I cease to remember that every moment of living is a gift from my Creator. Every ordinary is merely an opportunity for the miraculous. Every breath, an invitation to connect with God as I inhale grace and exhale gratitude for this moment of living. A chance to see the world with eyes of wonder that are too often clouded with skepticism.

Seldom awed, but easily overwhelmed by the stuff of life instead of the God who indwells my moments and longs to make each one a miraculous reminder of Himself…

Right here in this moment of ordinary in which I’m living.

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Regifting Beauty

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I purchased a dozen roses to use in decorating for a small wedding reception held in honor of my son and his new bride. That same evening my husband presented this “gently used” bouquet to our youngest daughter at the conclusion of a dramatic performance in which she had a role. Apparently Lydia had requested for her dad to bring her flowers, and since there were some so readily available, my husband happily obliged.

The next morning, Jon once again gathered this up-cycled arrangement of floral beauty and extended it to me with a mischievous grin and a “Happy Mother’s Day!” I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at my husband’s face and  accepted the proffered pink flowers. Ah, the joy of a gift that keeps on giving!

Lest you think my husband is always so cheap… ahem, I mean thoughtful, I must tell you that our daughter was delighted her father would hold a bouquet of flowers throughout an hour-and-a-half-long performance just for her. She giggled as their shared sense of humor revealed itself amidst a handful of pale, pink roses. And I couldn’t hold back the smile when I noted the cute grin behind the unique Mother’s Day sentiments, either.

The more I thought about this bundle of blooms that continued to make its rounds from person to person, the more I was reminded of the importance of “regifting” the beauty that surrounds us each day.

All too often we think we have to come up with something extravagant in order to impress people, when all it sometimes takes is something as simple as passing on a bit of beauty that is within reach.

Sharing a portion of the gift that is within you.

At the same reception where the flowers made their debut, two of my best friends and my sister extended beauty to me through their willing hands of service. Because it had been a very full and hectic week for me (to say the least), they stepped in to help. My sister baked and decorated the cake. Another friend gathered pretty jars from her home to add to the decor. My other friend found some leftover ribbon and proceeded to take the initiative of making garlands of bows to run down each table. In short, they each used the beauty that was at their disposal and “regifted” it as a blessing to others.

Too often we are tempted to withhold beauty, thinking that what others have to give is somehow more valuable than our own rather wilted offerings.

I am so glad my sister and friends were not selfish or inhibited with their talents. I’m thankful they did not view each other as competitors, but instead worked together to serve in ways that were uniquely their own. Ways that were very much needed and appreciated. They simply shared what they had. Although they perceived their gifts of service as small things, to me, each offering was lavish and lovely. The combination of their gifts created a place for beauty to work its way into hearts, mine most of all.

Never underestimate the beauty that is within you or think that your gifts are somehow unworthy of bringing joy to others.

You were created with the purpose of bestowing YOU upon the world. And that makes the perfect gift every time.

So don’t hold back. Don’t bottle up the beauty within. Release it, and bless the world with the joy of offering yourself.

Regift the beauty.

No matter how small a gift it may seem.

Who knows? It may be the very thing God chooses to make someone’s day a little brighter.

Even if it is comes in the form of a gently-used bouquet.

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Returning the Gift

Within the last 24 hours, I have read the same Scripture reference twice (one penned in a book, the other posted on a facebook status). Interestingly enough, in both accounts, the selected verses neglected to include the final three words of the complete sentence as quoted in the Bible. Perhaps you are familiar with the reference to which I am referring, as taken from the book of Micah: Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly.

While this thought implies a good directive, without the final three words, I can’t help but think that we are missing the fullness of its true exhortation. And perhaps, along with the missing words, we are missing out on the only way to fully live the suggested actions. The remainder of verse 6:8 reads: with your God. And I find it’s those last three words that “pack the punch.”

With your God.

It’s presence that makes a relationship.

God seems to get that. In fact, it’s the very reason that Jesus was sent to earth. Born of an unwed, virgin teenager, He came to the lowliest of men so that every person, from every station in life, would have opportunity to have a relationship with Him.

In Matthew 1:23, Jesus was fittingly christened Immanuel – which means, God with us. Divine nature uniting with human nature. Salvation come to earth at the mere mercy of God alone through the precious gift of His Son. Redemption found through the blood of a cross. Intimate relationship offered through the rending of the temple’s veil at the fingertips of the Almighty.

No wonder God longs for us to walk with Him in justice, mercy, and humility. His love poured out on Calvary’s hill to fulfill the law and deliver us from slavery, once and for all. No more need for sacrificial offerings of the blood of rams and bulls. It’s the offering of our hearts that He desires most.

The gift of our presence offered back to the Giver of Life.

Contrary to what some of us live as if we believe, the action God requires of us is not the paying a price for the pardon of sin, but the gift of love itself. And this gift is not even something we are asked to give of our own power and might, but a gift that naturally emits from having a relationship with our Savior. It is a love that is produced as we walk with God. We can only live lives filled with justice, mercy, and humble thanksgiving when we have fully acknowledged the redemption extended to us – by choosing to take God at His word and by inviting Him to become our God.

John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Jesus the Christ  – Immanuel – God with man – God in man – united with us by the power of His Holy Spirit – in the preaching of His Word – through the healing of His hands – by the promised and living Savior in our midst. Immanuel – the most holy and intimate fellowship between God and man imaginable.

As we walk the course of our lives, let’s not forget to include those final three words of Micah 6:8. Act justly… with your God. Love mercy… with your God. And walk humbly… with your God.

This Christmas, may we wrap our hearts around the truth of Immanuel and offer back the gift of our presence in return. This year, let’s not only celebrate the gift of God with us but invite Him to celebrate the gift of us with God.

May your hearts be overwhelmed by the gift of our Savior’s love.
Merry Christmas!

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Story Toppers

Recently, there has been a story bouncing around on my facebook wall. According to local news reports, an unnamed man walked into our community’s WalMart store with $30,000 in his pocket and proceeded to present it to the clerk working in the layaway department. This generous gift paid off hundreds of layaway accounts.

It seems this kind act has set off a chain reaction. Many of the recipients of this financial gift were reported to have been so blessed by this gesture that they, in turn, have also anonymously helped pay off other layaway accounts.

Paying it forward… in every sense of the word.

And while I do not mean to make light of this wonderful holiday happening, I’ve got a story that tops it.

The following words were penned by a Christian woman whose life has been threatened on numerous occasions due to her conversion from Islam. Despite the threats, she continues to share the Gospel in ways that are clear, public, and filled with God’s love. Ways that have invited many others into the true Christmas story in a manner that exceeds the material blessings of this mortal world.

Here is her story:
A fanatic Muslim man wrote to me: “Until the last drop of my blood and the last breath in me, I will find you and kill you. This is my life purpose,” he said. He sent his picture along with his message. In his picture he was holding two machine guns and wearing a commando outfit. He had a green bandana on his forehead and a writing “For Allah.” 

With a heavy heart, I went into my closet and I wept. I wept not because I feared my life. I already gave it up for Christ Jesus when I started going in front of the TV cameras. I wept because the intense hatred in a man’s heart hurt me. I talked to the Lord, “Lord, what would you do? How would you answer?” Jesus said to me, “Remember, I died for this fanatic Muslim man too,” and He gave me the answer. 

I responded to the man. “You wrote me until your last drop of blood and last breath you will find me and kill me. I tell you, Until the last drop in my blood and last breath I will love you. Because my Lord Jesus says: ‘Love your enemies.’”

After two weeks, he wrote me back, “I couldn’t believe what you wrote me. How can you love someone like me? How can Your God love me? Tell me your story.” 

After several weeks of correspondences, he surrendered his life to Jesus.
WITH MAN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. NOT WITH GOD. WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

My precious sister in Christ is paying God’s love forward… in every sense of the Word. She chose to overcome hate with love, and I have a new brother in Christ because of it.

But believe it or not, I have yet another story that tops this. In fact, it not only tops these stories; it is the very reason these stories exist:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
 and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)

Perhaps you have read or heard this story from Luke many times before, or maybe it is the very first time you’ve ever encountered the retelling of the birth of Jesus. The point is not in the number of times you have heard it, the point is in the hearing of it. The sad truth is that most of us hear much throughout our lives, yet remain unaffected by what we hear.

I pray that is not the case as we read the words of God. Because God’s Word is meant to affect us. It’s meant to pierce the depths of our hearts with the light of His love. It’s meant to change our lives.

The reason my friend could respond in love to the man who threatened her life was because she was secure in the love that Christ’s life offered her. The reason the man responded in wonder to her ability to choose love was because he had only been taught to hate. He had never heard about  the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Until someone loved him enough to tell him.

The real Christmas Story is the ultimate message of love:
The Son of God born in a manger because there was no room for Him elsewhere.
A King who wrapped Himself in the humble confines of humanity so we could see His glory here on earth.
A sinless Savior who embraced a cross so we could be declared innocent.
A triumphant Lord who conquered the grave so we could be freed from the grip of death – forever.

Today, I  invite you to step into the ultimate Christmas story – a life that lives to show His love. May we pay it forward so that the giving of the Gift continues.

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The Shunning of Christ (A Re-post from Christmas Past)

The other day, my daughter and I decorated the Christmas tree. This long-standing tradition also included the setting up of nativity scenes. Yes, that IS plural. Somewhere along the line, we have accumulated THREE of these treasured creches. Which is actually a good thing, considering the fascination my children have had with nativity sets throughout the years.

While some folks have beautiful figurines of great value, mine are of cheap ceramic, which means they have offered many years of “Baby Jesus and the manger” playtime. The largest set takes primary placement beneath the Christmas tree, while the other two are positioned in locations at the discretion of the chosen manger caregiver (aka: whoever gets to the boxes first). To be sure, there is much rearranging that takes place throughout the weeks leading up to the actual celebration of said manger baby’s birth.

This year’s placement was not nearly as dramatic since there was no one fighting over – I mean, attempting to carefully place – the beloved figurines. In fact, in my haste to complete the decorating task, I rather unceremoniously emptied the contents of Nativity Set #2 with instructions for my daughter to arrange them as she pleased. Considering to whom I was giving such unreserved rights, I should not have been surprised by the arrangement that was chosen. But still, I was caught off guard when I glanced at the set and saw Mary and Joseph with their backs firmly turned toward Baby Jesus. When I asked my daughter what on earth she was doing, she smiled and answered, “They’re shunning Him.”

IMG_2518While I could not help but smile at my daughter’s sense of humor, I had to admit her arrangement seemed much more appropriate considering the reality of how the Christmas season often appears to be celebrated. For while we all say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, sadly, our actions seldom align themselves in accordance with our declaration. In a bit of holiday silliness, the two of us came up with what we considered would be an even more appropriate rendition of the celebration of Christmas in America.

Perhaps our nativity set would appear more fitting as the following:

IMG_2516When my husband noticed our circle of gift-worshipers, he suggested we keep it that way in order to make a statement… or perhaps simply to serve as a reminder of the true meaning versus our true actions. Regardless, this simple act has spoken volumes to my heart and is challenging me to resist getting carried away with the world’s twist of all things godly. Instead, I am determined to keep my focus firmly fixed on Jesus this year.

While it’s tempting to shun the Christ Child amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, I pray we will never find ourselves glorifying anything or anyone more highly than the Most High. Instead of shunning Jesus, may we determine to set our hearts and our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth.

May we shun shunning even as we turn our faces to meet and accept the greatest Gift of all — the Savior who has come to deliver us from our sins.

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Do you fight the temptation to turn from the true meaning of Christmas as you’re tugged toward the glow of tinsel and lights? What are some practical ways you can keep Jesus as the center of your Christmas celebration? It may be as simple as taking time to read Scripture and encourage yourself in its truths, or it may mean you need to cut back on the gift-giving and spend your efforts and your dollars on things that pour love into the lives of others less fortunate than yourself. Regardless of how you readjust your position, may you find yourself forever facing the steady glow of manger’s light.