Thursday, January 31, 2019

Stay In

Journaling: Valerie Lindgren Smith

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 31: Today, I am grateful we can stay in. 

John 15:4 was one of my "Verse of the Day" deliveries this morning. "Remain in" seemed perfect for another day INside with arctic temperatures outside. I know good advice when I hear it. -14F is warmer than yesterday's -19F. (Hard to believe we will see it near 50 degrees ABOVE zero on the weekend.) Some days, it is good to REMAIN IN. 

Let's visit this scripture in multiple translations. Here are three:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me." John 15:4(NLT) 

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." -John 15:4(ESV)

"So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine." -John 15:4 (TPT)

Abide is one of my favorite ways this verse is translated from the original Greek. 

ménō, men'-o; a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for)

Why do I love it? I think it is because it isn't just sitting there in Christ... but embracing the relationship in the experience of being held by Him... through all of our days and nights. No matter the trial or the triumph. He wants us to be with him and in him. 

It is being fully present while living and steeping inside of his love. 

The Passion Translation calls it a "life-union". We give Him our lives and he gives them back better! He delivers life with purpose, healing,  abundance and fullness. Now, like the tea bag... there may be some hot water, which is uncomfortable in the beginning.  

Like the branch on the vine, we need pruning to produce more and better fruit. When we are fully in Him, we can love better. When we love better, we light the way better and carry the gospel better to those in need of His hope, His love, His grace, His light,  His mercy and His peace. 

Stay in Him. Remain in Him. Abide in Him. 

A perfect lesson for every day, but especially on a day we need to remain inside for safety from the bitter cold. Many are feeling a little stir crazy. There is safety and goodness when we trust, obey and remain in. 

Today, I am grateful we can stay in. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Any Warm Spot

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 30: Today, I am grateful for any warm spot.

I just checked. It was -19F and -34F with wind chill. There is nothing the slightest bit amusing about this cold. It is dangerous for man and beast. Crazy cold. Bitter is a good place to start, but this cold is beyond bitter. It will still be brutal at our warmest temps today and tomorrow. 

I noted on the news that there are businesses who will provide shelter for those who need it in this arctic blast. I am grateful for the warm spots these kind hearts provide. It might not be "good for business" to have the homeless and struggling sitting at their tables, but it will be good for their souls. 

"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love."-Ephesians 4:2

Our hearts and minds go to the homeless, but there will be others who break down on the way to or from work or their furnace breaks at the worst possible time. For those with no family or faith family... they may have nowhere to wait out this storm. Winter storm Jayden is relentless. These businesses creating warming stations are Jesus hands in the midst of this trial. 

I am grateful for those caring for the animals in this cold. 

Our Daisy Mae is a pretty girl, but she is still a puppy at just a year old. She has no common sense about the cold. She wants to play and chase anything that blows around in the backyard. The white snow makes it easy to spot a left over blowing leaf or branch that has broken. She attempts to collect the sticks and bring them inside. They snap sounding more like glass than wood. Baby, it's cold outside.  To keep her safe, we have to stay and watch her closely. We call her in long before she is ready. She has no sense of the danger in her own backyard.  

We are told to love our neighbors and care for the animals God created. In this winter storm, the opportunities are ample. There is always someone in need.  

If the heaters in your life are working, you are wealthy beyond measure. 

Today, I am grateful for any warm spot.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Light That Remains

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 29: Today, I am grateful for the light that remains.

Over the weekend, we had the privilege of grieving with dear friends as they grieved a beautiful soul that my youngest son called "Papa" along with the rest of his grandchildren. His church family called him "Chef Paul". He was an educator, an innovator, a leader and a man who passionately believed that adults must invest in children. Not just on the surface with great words and cute bulletin boards, but with their time, energy and a piece of their hearts. 

I first met Paul when I was married with no children, not long out of college. I remember being impressed with his warm welcome into his school building and that he genuinely cared about what we did as social service providers.Usually, I was greeted by counseling staff or secretaries. Paul always came and said "hello", made sure we had a spot to meet and expressed value in our work. I had know idea that our paths would cross again and neither did he. He was full of life and light. 

Rev. Dr. Robert Collins gave  the best devotional on this scripture from 2 Kings. It was really short and this scripture is the whole story as it is written. Still, it brought a full reflection on a wonderful life of love and service. Paul leaked Jesus. Even when being firm and leading as a principal must... he was love first. This was the scripture God gave Rev. Collins to help us remember Paul. 

Once when some Israelites were burying a man, they spied a band of these raiders. So they hastily threw the corpse into the tomb of Elisha and fled. But as soon as the body touched Elisha’s bones, the dead man revived and jumped to his feet! -2 Kings 13:21

Does it seem an odd choice? After hearing the stories of his life from those who spoke, not at all. He made things better simply be showing up. His life touched others and brought new life and energy. 

You see, Paul's love of the Lord and love of people (especially children) brought life to all who knew him. He and Nancy were an example of love and marriage for all who knew them. He loved all children... but his children and grandchildren were his favorites. He smiled when he saw the children he knew in their youth grow to be good men and women. 

He lost his eye sight in his last years, but he could still hear the music that meant so much to him for all of his life. Now, he is restored in heaven. I am pretty sure he is dancing, too. 

I am grateful for his life. I am honored that he poured light and love into my child. 

Today, I am grateful for the light that remains.

Monday, January 28, 2019

New Discoveries

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 28: Today, I am grateful for new discoveries.

A secret part of me wanted to be an archeologist. A few of my Nancy Drew books and a visit to King Tut's exhibit with my family as a child planted the seeds for savoring new discoveries. I love history and storytelling. Archeology tries to do both.

In recent years, I have come to truly savor a dig into the Old Testament, because it illuminates the New Testament. The more we understand of the "before Jesus" part of the God's love story with humans, the clearer his purpose in Jesus becomes. I find I have a burning desire to dig deeper and learn more.

My Bible study group is reading Job. Not exactly light reading, but it is good stuff. We are all learning from the mistakes Job's friends made as he suffered. To contrast Job, we have been spending time in 1 John each Sunday in worship and Sunday School. Do they seem related?

Suddenly, is was if there was a new door unlocking and a tunnel in front of me. From the OT to the NT. The open door was inviting us to a deeper understanding. It is so exciting to make these discoveries.

Job spoke these words: “God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together. The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.
-Job 9:32-35

Feel the heartbreak? God, in His time, supplies an answer to the cry of Job's heart.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. -1 John 2:1-2

He makes all things beautiful, in His time, but we have to be patient. Keep digging in The Word! New discoveries are ahead.

Today, I am grateful for new discoveries.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cozy Dwellings

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 27: Today, I am grateful for cozy dwellings.

Just a few days ago, we considered cozy scents. What about our cozy places.

Where do you go to find comfort? Do you have a comfort dwelling place or spot? I love home. I love my grateful spot where I write, create and study. Nights by the fireplace with the Love-of-my-Life nearby are another favorite cozy spot.

Some feel cozy in a familiar coffee shop with friends. I am pretty sure the local grain elevator was a cozy spot for my Dad and Uncle Mel. It was the rural equivalent to a coffee shop. The coffee was strong... the interests mutual... and the conversation comfortable.

A house of worship with familiar church family can be a place of comfort and warmth. It is a place where people come together to lift up, encourage, learn, praise and share their lives and their spiritual adventures. We are all works in progress. Dwelling on His word... in His house... with others together is good.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. -Colossians 3:16 ESV

Here it is in the NLT version. I like both.

"Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts." -Colossians 3:16 NLT

This morning, we don't "have to God to church". We look forward to the warmth of the connection we find there. The people know us and we know them. Together, we spend some time seeking His face and chasing His heart. 

Spend some time in your cozy space and you will find a grateful place. 

Today, I am grateful for cozy dwellings.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Tongue Lassoing

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 26: Today, I am grateful for tongue lassoing.

It is an art that isn't often practiced today. 

The advent of social media allows us to let our thoughts and opinions all hang out. Sometimes... our opinions need Spanx more than they need a platform. You know, what Spanx are, right? The undergarment that holds things in and smooths out problem spots.  

Do kids today even know the phrase "tongue lashing"? Probably not. The tongue is sharp and hard to control, like the opinions that start it wagging. 

"Burning down others opinions doesn't make us right. It makes us arsonists." -Bob Goff

That quote made me laugh. Bob is a storyteller at heart. He uses so many word pictures to help us understand his meaning. Opinions can be so hurtful and he lays it out clearly. Putting others down, because we disagree with them does not make us right. Mama Ina Mae always taught us that it is okay to disagree with someone, but you have to be respectful. She always tried to teach us to trust and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in the lives of others. The "Spirit of Correctiveness" is not a fruit of the spirit. 

We can debate respectfully. We can disagree on interpretations. We are instructed to choose love. God does not stutter on that note. Jesus said it again and again. We are to love God like crazy and love each other like crazy. Our tongues can quickly build walls and tear down relationships. 

"People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God." -James 3:7-9

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor." -James 4:10

We are all works in progress. If we encourage each other in our walks with the Lord and share His Word together, we will grow in wisdom and build a faith community. His grace on our lives changes everything. In Him,  we can learn to lasso our tongues. 

Today, I am grateful for tongue lassoing.

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Car That Starts

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 25: Today, I am grateful for a car that starts.

At a windchill of -14, I am grateful for every vehicle that starts. On any day, a car that runs is a blessing. At dangerous temperatures, it feels even more important. 

I am reminded that Jesus taught us to pray:

"Give us this day, our daily bread." -Matthew 6:11

Our daily bread is what we need for today. Not for tomorrow or next week, but for this day. So many times I neglect to be grateful for the little blessings of the moment, until the little blessing feels like a big one. 

Short post. Full heart. 

Today, I am grateful for a car that starts.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Cozy Scents

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 24: Today, I am grateful for cozy scents. 

If you have been in our home, one thing you might notice is that it is important to me to have good smells. I am super sensitive to scent, so we always have something going to scent the air with goodness. This time of year, cinnamon and other winter spices are often in the mix. 

It gives me great pleasure when a friend says, "You're house always smells so good." Homey scents make us feel at home. We want people to feel at home and welcome.

In Song of Solomon, the scent of the home sets the stage for romance in the following verse.  

"fragrant cedar branches are the beams of our house, and pleasant smelling firs are the rafters." -Song of Solomon 1:17

I can practically smell what he is describing. Earthy, clean and fresh. 

God created us with noses that we might know pleasure... and avoid danger (smoke means fire). Scent is a gift, except perhaps on hot days in a Jr High for those who have not yet met my dear friends "Mr. and Miss Deodorant"

He has gifted us with a wide variety of spices and flowers, so that we can choose our favorites. They are something we can celebrate on the coldest days of winter... and for my friends in Australia... on the hottest days of summer. 

Savor the cozy scents today. Take in the aroma of a warm spiced berry tea. "Wake up and smell the coffee" is an old saying indicating that you might be intellectually missing something important. I truly wake up to enjoy the smell of coffee. Breathe in the aroma of hot cocoa with the melting marshmallows on top. Oh the goodness of warm beverages. The memory of wassail is still fresh after our holiday gatherings.  

Simple pleasures are some of the best. 

Today, I am grateful for cozy scents. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 23: Today, I am grateful for synergy. 

The collective energy of a group or synergy as we called it in organizational communications classes. It is a powerful thing. Positive cultures are created. They do not happen by accident. They are intentional. 

One of the things that fuels synergy is the ability to think beyond what I want and think I need, to consider the greater good of the group. In this world of trials and tribulations, there is plenty of good work that needs to be done. At times, the workers are far too few. 

"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works." -Hebrews 10:24

We can motivate each other to goodness. If someone drops a handful of stuff, and one person pauses to help pick up, often others will join the cause to collect whatever needs to be gathered. It divides the labor and multiplies the joy. This kind of goodness is contagious. 

For that person in front of you at McDonald's who pays for your order... anonymously... they may not know the good they do, but the recipient feels it deeply. Someone did that for me one day. The funny thing is, all I remembered about their vehicle was that I prayed for their loved one serving in the military while I waited. The van had a sticker that said, "Proud Navy Mom" or "Proud Air Force Mom". That is my habit with military bumper stickers... I call it a "prayer trigger".  I was shocked when my coffee order was paid in full. I wanted to pay that goodness forward as I went about my day. 

Our annual "Help-a-thon" at our Jr High is a service event. Students gather pledges for funds, and they they go and serve in our community. It helps fund our PTO projects that benefit the school, but the extra benefit is that youth experience volunteerism. For some, it is the first time. Some, who have been recipients taste the joy of being able to give. It is one of my two favorite days of the year at school. Some will feel the call on their lives to service fields later on, never forgetting that experience. 

"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works."

Today is a great day to act out in random love acts. Surprise may follow or disbelief, but keep on loving. This world is hurting so deeply. Remember, what Maya Angelou said so brilliantly:

"People will forget what what said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel." 

Go out and have a great day! Leak love. You won't run out when you are connected to the source. God is love. 

Today, I am grateful for synergy. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sparks Fly Up

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 22: Today, I am grateful sparks fly up.

The image is shared from my Bible Study group. I can almost feel the heat. 

Fire is a powerful thing.  For those who have  watched "Survivor" on television, you have witnessed the life saving power of fire for warmth and for cooking. Cooking makes some things safe to eat, that would make a person sick if left raw. But with the good of fire, comes the dangers, too. 

We've recently seen the power of wildfires. One little fire can start a forest or neighborhood burning. I am reading Job this week. It has brought this scripture to light. 

"People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire." -Job 5:7

Now, this is an observation from one of Job's friends.  His friends were more of a comfort on the seven days and nights they sat with him, sharing his grief ... in complete silence. But, being human... they began to speak. Not everything they said was hurtful, but not everything they said was helpful, either. Our tongues are so uncontrollable at times. His friend, Eliphaz, spoke the words in Job 5:7. It is a truthful observation. 

Trouble comes for a season. Sin exists and Satan has not been bound to Hell. His day will come, but until that day... we press on. Sparks fly up... and we are going to have trouble. Still, God is sovereign. There are some things he allows that somehow, in His time... work out for the good of those who love him. But in the midst of the trial, we have a burning desire for relief. 

Sparks fly up. I've never really thought about it, but it is true. At least, they don't typically shoot off to the side. By flying up, they get a chance to cool in the air and time for the spark to die out, before hitting the ground. 

If fire behaved differently, we could never enjoy a campfire or a fireplace. I am so grateful sparks fly up. Cozy fires are one of my favorite parts of winter. It makes winter more bearable. 

Today, I am grateful sparks fly up.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Car Heater Works

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 21: Today, I am grateful my car heater works.

It is -ll (F) with windchill... which translates into -24 (C). That is cold. Wickedly cold! If you have somewhere you have to be today, and your car heater works... you are blessed. 
Some have no car and it is a cold day to be at a bus stop or walking. It is dangerous out there. I find it a huge blessing that many kids are not in school today in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday. If the cold must come, I am grateful the kids are not walking to school or waiting on a bus that is delayed because of the weather. 

For those new to Daily Gratitude. I try to keep it fresh with something brand new, but there are some simple blessings that make my once a year list. A working car heaters is one of those items, because life without them is miserable. We don't think of them as a blessing until they don't work. 

Pause today and give thanks for your working car heater. If you have heated seats or a heated steering wheel, you are living like a king or queen. If you have a heated car blanket (I just learned about these)... any vehicle can be turned into a luxury ride. 

On days like today, comfort and safety must come first. Be careful. Be wise. And, don't forget to sing a song of praise when warm air begins to flow from your car's heat vent. Our ordinary vehicles can become a sanctuary of praise for a God who provides for our needs and so much more. 

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name." -Psalm 100:4

Today, I am grateful my car heater works.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Sense of Knowing

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 20: Today, I am grateful for a sense of knowing.

What do we really, truly and deeply know? What a big question,right? 

Isn't change the only thing we can truly be certain of as we go through our days here on earth?  Absolutely, not. We can be sure that our God will stay true to His character. 

We know that prayer can move God. Prayer can lead him to pause, when he would act. We know there are times His will and His plan are bigger than our situation and it requires us to accept a "no" or a "wait". He shines light into our darkest days, even when it seems that everything is falling apart at the seams. He is bigger than any trouble we might face.

I've recently been reading Genesis with my Bible Study Group. We are a gathering of believers from around the country... and perhaps the world. We come from many different denominational backgrounds, which adds a richness to the fabric of our fellowship, as we dig into The Word together. We took a dip into Job this week and I know there is much to learn beyond Job's pain and suffering.

In both Genesis and Job, there is an amazing emphasis on the difference between knowing about God and truly knowing Him. I had never really noticed it to such a degree in previous readings of the Old Testament. Perhaps, it is because we are reading in chronological order. The flow is better. The dots connect. God's love story with humans began in a garden. 

One thing that stood out these past two week: God limited our days as we grew more wicked. The lifespan of humans was much longer in the beginning. 800-900 years. Then by the time of Noah, it was much less. The longer we lived, the more wicked we became. Granting us long life was defeating his purpose of bringing us into a closer walk with Him. He shortened our days in hopes that we might stay true and on course, keeping Him our "true north".  

There were some who walked closely with the Lord. Enoch walked in close fellowship with the Lord all the days of his life. Noah found favor with the Lord. Job, too, walked in close fellowship with God. Most were not able to stay the course. Earthly pleasures, wants and desires displaced God in their lives. Were the people of that day really any different than modern culture? God was patient, until he could no longer bear the wickedness. 

I am grateful that we can know the peace of a God who is with us, for us and not against us. We can trust his heart. We can say, "Thy will be done." with an open heart and an open mind, knowing that His plan is good, even if we do not understand it. 

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."James 1:2-3  

Whispered pain in the middle of the night is heard. Simple hallelujahs for a parking space are known. Praise in the middle of the storms and gratitudes offered before dawn on a cold winter's morning catch his ear. We can know this... beyond a shadow of a doubt... He hears our cries and our praises. He delights in our songs and counts our tears. 

Beyond knowing who God is... we can know Him with childlike faith. He is good. 

Today, I am grateful for a sense of knowing.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

To Be Warm

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 19: Today, I am grateful to be warm.

Baby, it's cold outside. But, today, I am warm. Any quote that mentions fire or burning is getting my attention this year. This C.S. Lewis poem, "Nearer" fit the bill:

"If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them." - C.S. Lewis

To be warm, we have to get close to the heat source. Be it a fire or a heat vent, near the source is where we find the most warmth. 

When looking at the spiritual connection, Lewis suggests that we not just get closer... but literally into "the thing that has" what our heart desires. Not a religion with well planned and executed rituals... but an intimate relationship with a God who deeply loves us and wants to be our best friend.  

A brush with His love leaves our hearts longing for more. His warmth is beyond anything this world has to offer. His peace calms our storms. His joy springs from an eternal well. 

The winter seasons come and go. In the midst of them, I am reminded of the blessing of being warm, no matter the weather outside.

Today, I am grateful to be warm.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Things that don't change...

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 18: Today, I am grateful for the things that don't change. 

This world seems to be speeding up. With technology advancing by leaps and bounds with each new invention and discovery, it can leave our heads spinning. Let's pause to  choose gratitude for the things that don't change. 

There is the mother's sacrificial love for her children. A father's desire to protect and provide for his family. The way a child's heart longs to love and be loved in return by their parents... and a parent longs for the same thing. 

"To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides." -David Viscott

The sun rises. The sun sets. The earth revolves around the sun and the moon gently calls the tides to rise and relax. The seasons will change in the same order, every trip around the sun. Ordinary miracles, we witness every day. The earth hangs perfectly in place. 

 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. -James 1:17

I don't know about you, but that verse calms my spirit like few others.  He is the Father of Lights, and he knows our names. He way is good. While evil operates often in the shifting shadows, our God stays true to His character in the light. He brings us good things. 

In the this verse from Malachi, he is reminding the Israelites of His promise to Jacob. He allows them consequences for bad behaviors and not following his instructions, but He ultimately protects them from complete destruction again and again throughout history.  

“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.-Malachi 3:6

Who are the people in your life who are the most consistent in behaviors and mood? Do you find a comfort in knowing what to expect? I do. Does God have different moods? We are made in his image, right? 

The scriptures tell of us His righteous anger... and the joyful times heaven celebrates. Sometimes he is pleased and other times disappointed and sad. The thing we can know for sure is that His character does not change. His intentional desire to seek a relationship with us... created beings... with a longing to love and be loved in return is real and true. He responds to our needs. He loves us ... even when we break His heart. 

To love and be loved by the Master of the Universe... is there anything better? 

Today, I am grateful for the things that don't change... and for our... God who doesn't change.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Truth In Love

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 17: Today, I am grateful for truth in love. 

I overuse the word love. I don't mean to do it. It is simply used so casually in our society. I suppose I could embrace the many synonyms for love. Perhaps that is something I will think about doing in this new year of 2019. 

I was reading scripture this morning. I curiously started looking for verses where the truth exposed love... but as I suspected... I could not find them. Love is what reveals the truth. Truth can be freeing, but love is part of the application process. 

It can become easy to be bold and condemning when we believe we are right about something. I love the many examples Jesus gave us to choose love over being right. It simply is not easy in our human nature. Only the Holy Spirit at work within us curbs our desires to be more right than more loving.  

In the scriptures, a woman is about to be stoned for adultery. Adultery is obviously wrong. Culturally, I shake my head that the man is not forced to take the judgement and punishment with her. It takes two, last I knew. I guess not much has changed in 2000 years.  The modern relevance of the Word of God shines in this record of an incident found in John 8. The church leaders were trying to catch Jesus in some act or answer they could punish by the law. 

 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus was her defense attorney before the church leadership. He put himself between the woman and the angry crowd and diffused the situation with love... and then truth. 

I will always wonder what Jesus wrote. It must have been very revealing to the people in the crowd holding stones. She recognized his Lordship and he freed her to leave different than she came. No longer condemned, but free to live a new life. 

"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church." -Ephesians 4:15

Love can reveal truth. Love is so much more than an overused word on a box of chocolates on Valentines day. It reveals our hearts. It changes lives. It can change us, one day at a time. 

"Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." -1 John 3:18

Today, I am grateful for truth in love. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Best Lyrics

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 16: Today, I am grateful for the best lyrics.

My opinion on what song has the best lyrics changes with the season, but there are some that change you forever. Some get us through a tough night or a hard day. Others are balm for a wounded soul and a reminder that any situation in this life is temporary. 

A song with amazing lyrics helped guide me to my one little word for this year... burning. It is the name of a song and it ignites something in me I want to pray on, ponder and play out for the next twelve months. 

Nichole Nordeman writes some of my favorite lyrics... and "Burnin'" is an old song I recently discovered. It talks about Moses, deeper faith and even the challenges that come when we lean in to who Jesus is and experience how he longs to lead us. 

What are the lyrics that lift you up, cut to the heart, or lead you to what your soul needs to know? 

I grew up on hymns, so many are dear and near to my heart, but it is without a doubt, Christian Contemporary music in it's early days that grew my faith, sustained me through some tough days and has become my first choice for listening on the radio. 

There are some secular song that touch us at a soul deep level, even if it was unintended. "Season of Love" from Rent, as I've noted before, is one of those songs. It is the song that gives me goosebump again and again because it marks the moments in life... not just the events. 525,600 minutes are in a year, but it is the moments that matter. 

Music can open our souls so that the Holy Spirit can be guide us:

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves." -Galatians 5:16 

One of the songs that will forever be written on my heart is "Motions" by Matthew West. It was like a wake up call to be more bold in my faith walk. Not to offend, but so others might see and feel the love of Christ at work in the ordinary moments of ordinary days. That song illuminated Romans 12:1 and made it a life verse:

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him." -Romans 12:1 

Look at some of the lyrics to "Motions". This is the chorus. 

"I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,

Instead of going through the motions?"

For me... these are some of the best lyrics. For another person, it will be another song that lights up something inside your heart and starts a fire within. Burning for His Word... and for time with Him and wanting others to know the hope and peace that comes from being known completely and loved beyond measure. 

Sometimes, I miss the mark. My "living sacrifice" is flawed with human ways and I fail. I think it happens to all of us. Learning to be more wholly reliant on His grace to cover our humanness is part of the sacrifice. When we intentionally bring him our best, he delights in the sacrifice and helps us take each step. Good lyrics can help us on the path. 

Don't forget to look for scripture songs. It is the easiest way for many to memorize passages. Sometimes, I note the song next to the scripture in my Bible, so I remember to sing it when I read it. 

Today, I am grateful for the best lyrics.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Humble Servant

Daily Gratitude Year 7 - Day 15: Today, I am grateful for humble servants.

I am grateful this week for the ones plowing the roads, throwing ice down on sidewalks and drying wet floors to prevent falls. 

There are people who end up pulling the extra duty when something storms occur. There were nurses, doctors, aides and lab workers sleeping on cots over the weekend... if they were sleeping at all... so the sick would have needed care. 

People in all pay ranges can be humble servants. There is a strong correlation between humble service and joy, but many miss the opportunity. 

I, too often, miss the opportunity. "Doing the right thing" is, indeed, right... but the joy comes when we embrace it. 

When Jesus IS our enough, the world loses its luster and sparkle. When Jesus is Lord of our Life... it is his opinion that brings us peace and contentment, no matter how humble the service. If acts of service make us proud... we've lost something in the translation. 

Look at what Jesus did after he conquered death and rose from the grave:

“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish." -John 21:12-14

I like how Bob Goff sums it up:

"When Jesus rose from the dead, he didn't make a speech, he made breakfast for his friends. - Bob Goff 

He didn't have to tell them he was great. They knew it. He didn't have to show off his miracle powers. He, actually, did the opposite. He made their breakfast over charcoal. We all know how long it takes to get charcoal ready, but it is worth the price. The same scent that caused Peter to remember he denied Jesus three times... would once again become a special pleasing scent. 

Our Lord doesn't miss a step, a beat or a detail. He gave Peter healing in asking three time if he loved him. Peter was able to cleanse his soul with his "Yes, Lord, I love you." with the smell of the charcoal to write the memory on his senses. 

When humility is a struggle and pride steps in... as it does with all of us who are truly human... I like to remember this verse:

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ -Matthew 25:40

We often associate it with opportunities to serve. It is perfect for that occasion, but it is more. What dawned on me this morning as I considered about Jesus serving his disciples breakfast after the resurrection in tandem with this verse is that even on my very best days... I am the least of these... and yet, he chose, in love, to take my place on the cross. 

Today, I am grateful for humble servants.