Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Power in the Pause

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 91: Today, I am grateful for the power in the pause. 

"Practice the pause.  When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. When you pause, pray."- unknown 

What a great quote.  As a grammar girl...I love a it is a reminder to pause, think and look a little closer. Not a period.  This is a senior image of my niece. I found this wonderful quote to go with it.  As a senior in high school...not quite sure of what is is a time to pause. 

As an archer, Kenzie knows the power of the pause.  When your target is in sight, but you wait to be confident your aim is sure. There is power in the pause. 

As a believer in Jesus, one of the most underestimated acts is the power of the prayer.  Addison Road sings a song called "What Do I know of Holy?" A favorite line for me is actually at the beginning of the song: 

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time

I am so guilty of this!  I pray and talk the whole time.  How can He speak if I forget to wait?

"Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength." -Isaiah 40:31

Do I wait... or just blurt and run? What can possibly be so important that I forget to wait upon the mighty Maker of the Universe? In the "wait" is where he can penetrate my stubborn heart and clear my vision. There is power in the pause!

Prayer is not an act with the goal of completion.  Jesus never, ever taught that. We say the Lord's prayer...but it is a example of the components of prayer. Prayer is not an incantation or a chant... but a conversation. Look at Nehemiah 1 for another model with similar components. (This is a post for another day...or this will be painfully long). 

"Thy Kingdom come...thy will be done." This is a great place for a pause. Do we really mean it?  Do we submit our hearts desires to him...and line them up with His heart.  Like members of a marching band, moving in perfect we sync our plans with His desires.  

He is sovereign. If that doesn't require a pause...a huge pause...I don't know what does. 

Jesus paused. 

" Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself."-Matthew 14:13

This scripture follows the news of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, he paused.  He grieved. He prayed. I am sure offered gratitude for John's friendship, life, faith and commitment. He submitted to the will of the Father...when he could have raised him from the dead as he proved several times before his own resurrection from the grave.  Still, he waited. It was not yet time. 

On the night he was taken into custody, he paused for prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The disciples slept. He prayed with fervor. 

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” -Mark 14:36

Jesus... yes, Jesus...did not get the answer he hoped for, but in the the answer....even the "No"...he found strength and power to fulfill God's plan for his life. This moment is the mind blowing...heart opening...strength filling power of the pause.  

"Yet not what I will, but what you will."  
"Thy will be done." 
"Hallowed be your name." 

What do I know of holy? Not enough, but I am learning to pause.

These are the echoes of the power of the pause in our prayers and at our most difficult seasons.  

Today, I am grateful for the power in the pause. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Psalm 34

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 90: Today, I am grateful for Psalm 34.

This Psalm is chock-full of goodness...and it won't add one inch to your hips! 

This was the place my Bible opened to this morning.  It contains so many favorite verses that I couldn't choose just one to I decided to tell "the story" of the Psalm as it speaks to my heart with my Bible journaling tools.  

It starts with my soul crying out to "magnify the Lord" in the first verses.  Few knew God like David. David chased God with his whole heart and was fearless in light of the knowledge of God's hand on him. Only when his eyes turned to lust and worldly wants did he find himself in deep do-do. This Psalm 34, is my his best!  

Why?  Because it shows many parts of God's character and the many levels of relationship he and David shared.  David did not expect a perfect or easy life.  In fact, he anticipated trouble.  He had first hand knowledge of God's personality from the warrior to the gentle father. This Psalm sings of the whole relationship...and the promise of eternity fro those who put their trust in God. 

Let's look closer:
God, you are amazing!  Vs. 3 "Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!"  

God, I believe in you.  Vs. 4 "I sought the Lord, and he answered me  and delivered me from all my fears."

Tell your story. Vs. 6-7 "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of he Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. " We all have stories to tell about His goodness, protection and provision. He protects us...surrounding us with angels...tell how He is mighty to save. 

Celebrate. Vs. 8  "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" Not just in the rescues...but in the daily moments of living.  Let all of our senses take him in.  Taste and see the Lord is good. 

Dare to be different. Different is good!  Vs. 13-14  "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

You & Me, Lord. It is about relationship. I am yours and you are mine.  Vs. 18 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."  You are close and you save. I am never heartbroken and alone. You tenderly rescue my injured spirit and restore my joy. 

Have optimism. You will have troubles but will not be defeated.  Vs: 19-20  "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken."

Just breathe. Vs. 22 "The Lord redeems the life of his servants;" Note the semicolon...not a period.  Pause and think.  The Lord redeems the life of those who are His. He heals all brokenness.  He breathes into us our first breath and celebrates our eternal breath when we choose life in Him. I believe we are souls with temporary bodies...not bodies with temporary souls. 

So much packed in just a short passage. 

Today, I am grateful for Psalm 34.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Standards Set High

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 90: Today, I am grateful for standards set high.

I absolutely relish when I find a Biblical truth that weaves perfectly into real life in today's world. I found one this morning!  

Our human hearts long to achieve a higher standard than the one set by the world. God is not asking too much of us when he calls us to holiness...but setting a standard to reach for and achieve through training, knowledge of His word, prayer and whispers of the Holy Spirit. 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:14-16

We long to be a part of something bigger and something better.  There are so many examples that begin in childhood. Codes of ethics and behaviors that are expected for members and achieving high rank, promotion or position depend on it.  Humans seek it. Buy into it. Promote it. Create "languages" and "buzz words" around it.  It creates a sense of belonging, satisfaction and success.  

Boy Scouts have Eagle scouts
Martial arts have colored belt...Black usually being the highest. 
Six Sigma in industry has levels to promote industry excellence.
Education has levels. 
AA has coins for achievement.
Job titles can indicate rank in the workplace.
The military has rank that is usually displayed on a soldier/sailors uniform.
Athletes play at different levels...dreaming of making "professional status". 
Some vocations have levels based on experience and skill set...moving toward "master" status. 
Remember "perfect attendance pins" in Sunday School?  I do. 

Something inside most of us wants to be a part of a higher standard and recognized for success and excellence.  It does not always have a financial "pay off" but an emotional one. At the end of the day, we want to feel valuable and accomplished no matter the size of our paycheck. the scripture reminding us that God's standard is not the world's standard.  In fact, His way is often "flipped" from the the way of the world.  But, His standard leads to peace, contentment and joy. 

Do we fail at meeting His standard of holiness? I sure do...pretty much daily. We are in a training program that has the highest of standards. Eternity is at stake. He knows we are going to fall, suffer failures, get a little beat up on the way and have struggles...but He promises to be with us...for us...and waiting to hand us our crowns. 

For those who seek His face with their whole hearts, He pours love, hope and light into any darkness  or discouragement this world doles out. Hold onto "The Rock"! Seeking the higher standard brings us into a deeper fellowship with Him.

Today, I am grateful for standards set high.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Everything Else Pales

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 89: Today, I am grateful that everything else pales.

Jesus is risen. The Lamb who was sacrificed has conquered death and!  He is risen indeed. He is the same... but different.  The one who seemed so human, is now filled with the power of resurrection. 

Mary Magdalene did not know him through her tears and distress, until he spoke her name. 
Thomas...a dear friend...wanted to see the nail scars in his hands. awe...but carrying the baggage of his failures.
John...trying to figure out what it means for the next step.

Jesus told Mary Magdalene to wait as she tried to touch him...he had not yet returned to the father.  Interesting that he would wait to show himself to the grieving that hope could be reborn. Then he headed home for what must have been quite the celebration in heaven. Only, to return quickly for another brief season to commission and send out the ones he had taught and trained.  The students will become the teachers. Now...heaven's clock is not on our time, but within our contained time and space...everything happened quickly. 

His time here was only about 33 years. His ministry about three.  His time in the grave three days. His time on earth after the resurrection 40 his ascension is 10 days before Pentecost.  For the more than 500 who witnessed Jesus walking, talking, cooking breakfast and bearing testimony to his victory over death...everything else paled!  Everything. 

More lion than lamb at that moment...and nothing compared to the promise of what comes next.  One thing did not change. His style was not to grandstand or beat anyone into belief. His life bore the testimony of His power.  It all comes down to choice. 

Remember Beanie Babies? "Tickle Me Elmo?"  How about Cabbage Patch Kids? Teddy Ruxpin ring a bell?  Barely, right? How about the latest and greatest in phones or other high tech devices.  We had a "bag phone"!  Here today and gone tomorrow when the next best thing comes along. 

Jesus is not the "next best thing"...but the real thing.  Everything else pales by comparison. 

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,which is the testimony given at the proper time. -1 Timothy 2:5-6

"Ain't nothing like the real thing baby." Earworm (the one who sings the songs stuck in  your head if you are new to the daily gratitude team) is awake and singing old Coke commercials in his best Marvin Gaye voice.  Yes, Jesus is the real thing. 

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! -Psalm 119:10

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13 (if we claim verse eleven...we cannot forget is the success guarantee)

 ...that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, -Acts 17:27

"He is actually not far."  He is risen. He is amazing. He is near. 

He is! 

Today, I am grateful that everything else pales. 

He is risen!

Year 4-Day 88: Today, I am grateful he is risen! 

A lot can happen in three days. 

The grave lost so we can live as free people. The tomb was empty. The victory won. Let the weeping end, for there is joy in the morning. 

Nothing...absolutely nothing can separate us again, for those who chose to call him Lord and King. He rescued us, our sin debt paid in full. The Light has crashed into the darkness and overcome.


Today, I am grateful he has risen...and we can be free.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

3 Days

Year 4-Day 87: Today...I am grateful for what can happen in three days!

It is a somber Sabbath for the disciples. Jesus has been brutally sacrificed on a cross.  They are in hiding in the very room where they shared the last supper and he tried to prepare them. They are a depressed mess. Grief was full and hope seemed gone.

Judas had betrayed Jesus and them...and he took his life. Peter had fulfilled Jesus prediction that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed at dawn. They had lost their leader and were questioning all they had believed.

They were in the waiting place. The waiting place is hard. The grief is real. The agony is soul deep. They fear the ramifications of their association with Jesus. All of their hopes and dreams had died on that cross with Jesus. They were a mess.

What "scene" replayed in their minds? Their calling to discipleship? The night on the boat when he walked on water? The miracles too many to count? The resurrection of Lazarus? Was all hope lost or was it just dim?

It was a somber Sabbath Saturday...a Passover they would never forget. Friday's horrible events are over, but everything else seems to hang in a state of limbo.

Today, I am grateful that a lot can happen in three days!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The "Good" in Good Friday?

Year 4-Day 85: Today, I am grateful for the good in Good Friday.

Good Friday. Imagine the smells of the Passover feast all around.  Women hustling to market to finish the meal preparations and attend to the details. Men trying to get the work done before sunset on the Sabbath. 

Jewish tradition was that the Sabbath was the 7th day of the week. Saturday. I have read something twice recently and my friend, Clara Jo, shared it, too, so and it makes me pause and read some scripture with a different perspective. 

While we observe a 24 clock. They used sunup to sundown (a twelve hour day about 6 am-6 pm). Observance in the Hebrew Bible was universally from sixth-day sundown to seventh-day sundownEvening preparations with intentional rest were how they "started" their new day. They didn't wake up late and behind. They were ready for the day.  I could learn some things from this practice. 

Today, we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. It has become known as "Good Friday". I thought that was an oxymoron as a child.  It felt horribly sad and wrong, that Jesus would suffer and die.  The knowledge that it was for my sins was a burden to a child's heart. I didn't understand fully the why...mostly the shame and the guilt.  Somehow...I missed the love message. Not His duty and obligation...but Christ's choice. I return to a favorite thought ...nails didn't hold Jesus to the did. 

Let's return to Jerusalem on that day...and Jesus is hanging on the cross. Pain and suffering beyond what we can fathom. There...not because Rome was against him or any wrong doing of his own, but because church leaders were furious, fearful and frustrated. They had found a way to get him arrested and crucified. The officials tried to get him released.  The people chose a murder over Jesus the miracle worker.  Public opinion changes like the wind. It is often unwise, with allegations unfounded. Are things so different today? 

Jesus spoke very little from the cross. Science says every breath to speak added to his pain. He didn't have much human life left. Things were about to change.  What he did say was recorded and significant. 

1. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Matthew 26:47
2. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” - Luke 23:34
3. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" - Luke 23:43
4. “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” - Luke 23:46  
5. “Dear Woman, here is your son!” and “Here is your mother!”  -John 19:26-27
6. “I am thirsty” -John 19:28
7. “It is finished!” -John 19:30 

Then, about 3 pm, as the temple priest are preparing the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and Jesus is on the cross.  A little time passes and the work to prepare is nearly complete...on the cross and in the temple. The shofar (a horn) blew to signify the Passover would officially begin with a sacrifice in the temple. Jesus cries out "It is finished" with a sacrifice on the cross. The Passover sacrifice is slain.  The earth shook, the sky went black and the temple curtain ripped. 

The traditional perfect lamb had been slain. A new covenant was in place as another Perfect Lamb hung lifeless on a cross on a hill not that far away. The ripped temple curtain had separated the "holiest of holy" places in the temple. Only the high priests were allowed to enter after much preparation. The presence of God so strong, it was awe evoking. That temple curtain...torn and open, because Jesus had changed everything. 

The Messiah had come. He was rejected and crucified. Propitiation (what a great word) for all who would accept the gift of grace for simple, true belief.  

This CS Lewis quote is new to me: "It cost God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion." 

Such a high price. Yet, in my grown up feels different.  I can see the "good" in Good Friday.  I can see the love that knew no limits.  The love that hung from a cross so we could be joint heirs in eternity with Jesus. The love that raged a death defying war against hell and won the fight to rescue His bride.  That, my friend is crazy love in action. 

As you make your weekend preparations...if you are heading to a place of worship out of obligation, guilt or duty...don't. Go in love. Fall in love. Accept His grace. Be renewed and restored to fellowship. His love never fails. It changes everything. In His time and according to the Master's plan, but I can assure you that love... always... wins.

Today, I am grateful for the"good" in Good Friday. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

Year 4-Day 84: Today, I am grateful Maundy Thursday lessons.

Today is the day we remember Jesus with his disciples in the upper room. They were together in fellowship to dine, Jesus would predict Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial and his death and resurrection. He would explain the deeper meaning of his death through the bread and the wine, so that they would remember. It is the introduction of the act we know as communion, "The Lord's Supper" or the Eucharist. 

Matthew, Mark and Luke record the the meal we call "The Lord's Supper". It is interesting to hear the evening from four perspectives.  It is likely that most of them did not record it until years later. Still, the points they penned are all significant... with great consistency... from different points of view. John is the only one who focuses on the footwashing. The others focus on the bread and the wine. John understood love and relationship. Jesus called him "the beloved". 

Luke records the disagreement where they argue over who will be the greatest. Two continue to wonder at "the man carrying the jar" who had the room ready for their Passover dinner. All capture pieces of the conversation. All three, who record the Eucharist, note that before breaking the bread - he "blessed" the bread...or he "gave thanks". Giving thanks as he stood before the his best friends knowing that one would sell him for 30 pieces of silver, one would betray him 3 times before the rooster crowed at dawn, and knowing the suffering ahead.  He gave thanks? Yes, he did!  

John tells how Jesus washed their feet.  He must have appeared crazy! It was a servants job. Even in today's society, those who wash and clean things are considered to be in the lowest positions of society. Think about it.  At a fancy restaurant, is it an honor to meet the dishwasher? When you check into a hotel, do they rave about the staff who scrub the bathrooms? When important dignitaries come to any area, do they gather the maids, the car wash personnel and the ones who sterilize instruments in a hospital?  No...they look for CEO's, CFO's, Mayors and other important people. 

Not Jesus. He went to the Samaritan woman at the well and changed her life knowing her sinful past.  He healed lepers. He made tax collectors friends, collected hard working but earthy fisherman as disciples and he allowed a woman to sit at his feet with the men hearing his instruction when society (and her sister) believed she belonged in the kitchen and at the well. Jesus went against the grain of what was popular to do show love, light and give hope to all who would willingly receive his grace. 

Jesus challenged everyone to upside down thinking. Especially his disciples.  Their rabbi...the master...the Son of God had no place kneeling before them and washing their feet. Ah...but there is the catch. He chose that roll. Humble servant...and mighty king.  Jesus came as a servant leader and a servant Savior. 

Jesus came to fulfill a mission from pay a sin debt he did not owe, so that we can live freely and eternally. He came in love, lived in peace and was filled with power. He terrified the church leaders and officials because he would reach out to the lowest on the social ladder and the most hated., and they changed. Jesus was rocking their world, so they put into motion the plan for his death.  

Jewish leaders had know idea they were changing Passover forever. The one they hated would hang on a cross...the Lamb of God...with the power to set them free.  But most denied and refused the possibility, despite the prophecies fulfilled.  

Maundy Thursday brings so many images to mind.  The King with a bowl and towel is important. Whose feet can we wash today? If not literally, with loving acts of service. 

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example,that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:14-17

Today, I am grateful Maundy Thursday lessons.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter People-Good Friday World

Year 4-Day 83: Today, I am grateful we can be "Easter People" in a "Good Friday World". 

My friend Javier Tamez posted this quote with a "Focus on the Family" link. It is powerful: 

"Praying for the people of Brussels. We are Easter people in a Good Friday world. But love always wins." - Dr. Clayton Oliphint

Read the quote again, if you didn't pause ... and think about it.  It is more than powerful. Compassion. Truth. Victory. All in two short sentences. 

Javier, also, posted a scripture: 
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

I smiled because I had texted this scripture to a friend who is deeply touched by this tragedy after living in Brussels with her family for a few years, just returning in September.  They had real people with names, faces and lives to check on. Friends, co-workers and church family living there. They were not untouched. It was up close and personal.  

Another couple from our church had lived there as well, with a few more years in between. They, too, I am sure, awaited word. How grateful I am that we have such "instant messaging" power. 

Still, there are times the news is not what you hope to hear.  Prayers change. Gratitude for all who survived, but asking courage, help, hope and healing in the midst of the hurts and the hurting.  

For their crime will they escape?  In wrath cast down the peoples, O God. You have kept count of my tossings; [or wanderings] put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.  This I know, that[or because] God is for me. -Psalm 56:7-9 

We are Easter People. Believers in a God who cares and loves a Savior who put on human form to be with us... and chose to die in our place to pay our sin debt. Still...He allows us to choose or refuse him. Loving him is not mandatory, but it is life changing.  

Evil is present and active in our world because Satan's day of reckoning had not arrived...but it is coming. I think - sooner than later. Dad's favorite quote - "The wheels of God's justice grind slowly but excessively fine. 

When injustice and tragedy strikes a nation or a people, my heart is always taken to this verse. It is the God desired response to trouble and trials: 

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  -2 Chronicles 7:14

When tragedy and strife bring us to a is always time to refocus. What is truly important. What really matters during our time We adjust our vision. Faith becomes more real. Family and friends become more precious.  Each breath is recognized for the gift it it is given. 

As were pray for Brussels specifically and for the global impact of hate and violence...we can pray for brothers and sisters in Christ...known and they reach out to the hurting and help them to comfort. Give them the right words and a quiet gentle spirit when there are no words. 

It is Holy Week. We ponder the Palm Trees behind Christ and the Cross before him...but I know that come Sunday, the tomb will be empty. 

I am grateful that whatever the state of the world, whoever gains the presidency...Jesus is King. 

He is close. He is for us.  He will forgive us. He will heal us. He is present. He is alive!

Today, I am grateful we can be "Easter People" in a "Good Friday World".