Keep Looking Up

Snoopy keep looking up

The page is about to close on January. I mean, pink and red heart decorations are EVERYWHERE so it’s practically Valentine’s Day already. But before we talk about love (Surprise! February’s theme) let’s look at our resolutions one last time on here, and focus on the year ahead of us.

As I shared in my last blog post “And Then I Broke My Toe,” I shared how my heart usually is not in the right place when it comes to something not going my way, or going as originally planned. But that will likely happen A LOT in 2018 because that’s life, at least, my life. (Sorry if I bursted any bubbles there….) 2018 is still mostly an open, unwritten in book, waiting for our stories and our lives to blossom and develop on the pages within. The reality is, it’s possible for many of us that 2018 could be the best year of our lives so far. There is also that possibility that 2018 could be the worst year of our lives so far. I mean, I hope not, but I’m also a realist. So as 2018 continues marching on, is it possible for it to be a bad year, but also a good year? Yes. I’m not talking about having good moments and bad moments in the same year, because, duh, that happens every year.  I’m talking about can we, no matter what happens, believe that this will be a good year? Yes.

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It’s all about perspective. What are we looking to or looking for this year? Are we looking at our resolutions, or to the things we believe will bring us satisfaction? Or are we looking to Jesus and keeping our eyes and our hearts fixed on Him? Do we believe He is for me or against me? Do we believe that He is good?

The goodness of God is something that I have struggled with a lot in my life. I’ve experienced a lot of pain in my life physically and emotionally, as well as seen loved ones go through situations that I could never fathom. So I am not taking this “goodness” lightly. I know first hand how bad things can get, and I’m sure you do too. Knowing that God is on my side is also something that I’ve fought against because so often when life doesn’t go “my way” it honestly doesn’t feel like He’s cheering for me. But He is. Oh, friend, He is. god is good all the time

 Romans 8:28-32, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 

Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:9-13, “Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

1 Chronicles 16:34, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”

As Christians we say we believe that God is on our side and we say that He is good. But do we live this out in our daily lives? Do we especially live this out when the going gets tough? This year, I’m certain I will have plenty of opportunities to pick my perspective. There will be opportunities to cower in fear, or to trust God. Opportunities to complain or to give thanks to God. Opportunities to see the pain in my life, or opportunities to see how good He is, and even how He uses my weaknesses, pain and insecurities for an ultimate good and for His glory. Calendar

No matter what this year may bring to you, 2018 has the potential to be an incredible year. Because no matter what happens, God is good and God is on our side – if only we choose to trust Him.

Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” 

And Then I Broke My Toe…

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Taking a wild guess I’d say probably not well. We’re inching up to the end of January and by now many people have experienced the “New Year’s Resolution slump”.

Like probably every other girl in the world, I REALLY wanted to begin this year by getting into shape. (A.K.A get my bikini body back kind of deal.) Oh wait. I don’t wear those…ok, moving on. But still, like a bride prepping for her wedding day I have a similar motivation right now to look my absolute best. (Redeployment is coming!!!) I already walk my dog every day, but that’s not a full blown, sweating bullets kind of walk. There’s a lake that has a 3 mile trail around it not too far from my house. I had this grand plan that the next day, I would go walk the lake and maybe walk it TWICE.

Lake Hollingsworth

And then I broke my toe.

I applauded myself in the fact that this is the first broken bone I’ve had. But still, the timing was “impeccable” and I didn’t even have a heroic story to go with my poor pinkie toe turning black and blue. I’m just a klutz and that is all. But to be honest, I was way more upset that my grand work out plan had failed than the fact that my toe was in excruciating pain. Why?

Because I’m a perfectionist. And a control freak. And when something slips out of my control that I thought really was, then I don’t have the most mature attitude about it. I get an A+ at being hard on myself and then shaming myself if I don’t follow through with my plan of x y and z. But there is grace. Grace that I generally am freer at giving other people than myself.

Ok, I’m exposing my soul a lot in this post, so something you need to know is that I’m a diehard Anne of Green Gables fan. Yup, unashamedly. Besides the romance between her and Gilbert Blythe, something I really appreciate about the story is Anne’s outlook on life after she does yet another (gasp) stupid thing. Doesn’t she grow out of her mistakes? Well, yes and no. Like all of us, there (hopefully) is maturity along the way, but we will make mistakes this year. We will even have days when we do everything “right” but nothing in that day will go our way. We will ‘break our toes’ in the most inconvenient times which will tempt us to have a bad attitude for the rest of the week. We will disappoint people, and we will be disappointed. But in the midst of these, and especially as our new year resolutions begin to slide, there are two things I have recently become mindful of: GRACE and TRUST.

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.” ~ Anne Shirley

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Anne realized things didn’t go the way she thought they would. Her grand plan was thwarted. Yes, being in the depths of despair was always a tempting option, but she wouldn’t stay there forever. One of her “mottos” became the quote above. She had the ability to pick herself up, looking to the next day as a clean slate full of opportunities instead of one being tainted by past mistakes or ‘broken toes’. She allowed herself grace – and I need to allow that too!

Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

John 1:16: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 
The reality is, having an immature attitude when something doesn’t go my way, or condemning myself instead of giving myself grace and allowing myself to receive grace is contrary to what God wants. This is not reflecting Jesus, and so I’m not doing the best job at keeping my New Year’s Resolution that I wrote about in my first January post. (And it’s not even February!)
The love of the Lord is there for us. His mercies have no end and they are NEW every morning! How incredible. God doesn’t keep a tally score when I wake up each day thinking about all the ways that I made mistakes the day before. No. He gives me a fully fresh dosage of mercy. It’s a dosage that I don’t have to share with anyone because it’s specifically given to me, and specifically given to you. And we do not run out of it!
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In Him we receive grace upon grace. Grace is what the Gospel is about. Not me, abiding perfectly by my plans and my “righteousness” and then beating myself up each time I fail. How dare I think that I am better than receiving the grace upon grace that He freely gives me. But oh, I do. God, forgive me.
One of the most powerful testimonies we have as Christians is the one of not having it all together, and not trying to, or pretending like we do. I mean, in our heart or hearts we know that we don’t, but there is no reason to hide or be ashamed. When our weaknesses are exposed it’s an opportunity for God’s power to show up and show off in our lives, and to demonstrate to us and to those around us that His GRACE is what is enough. Not what I can or cannot do. Weakness means boasting so that the glory of God can be brightly displayed in our lives. Isn’t that what this life is all about anyway?
Earlier on I shared that I’m a control freak. Similar with beating myself up instead of receiving grace, clinging to control isn’t trusting the Lord. It’s basically telling the world that I got it together and that I can do things by myself. And this, this is pride and not at all trusting in God’s plan for my life, let alone my day. So again, I ashamedly share with you that this is something I struggle with practically on a daily basis. God, forgive me.
Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
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Even if my plans for my day – or my plans for my life – end up being completely different than I anticipated, then I need to learn that that is ok. As long as the Lord is the one establishing my steps, then how can anything really go “wrong”? Because if my life is in the will of God, then He will lead me, and guide me and fulfill His purposes in me. What a beautiful promise we have as followers of Him!
So as your New Year’s Resolutions begin to ride the slip and slide, or if you also broke your toe remember that God gives us grace upon grace. It’s there, I promise. But it’s up to us to actually receive it. And as our day turns out different than we wanted, maybe it’s a good time to relinquish some control and remember that God is the ultimate one who directs our paths, and He can and should be trusted. No matter what.
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Following Kings

Three-Kings

I decided to write a blog in honor of Three Kings Day. (Yea, I’m a little late…) But still, I wanted to write about these guys because this past Christmas season, they fascinated me. So, what does that have to do with my January theme of New Year Resolutions? Well, it actually has a lot to do with it.

The story of the Magi found in Matthew 2 is brief but powerful. It’s a story that shows the dedication of people following Jesus, people who were willing to risk their lives to worship the Promised One. People who wanted to give nothing but their best, and people of high rank bending down on a humble knee.

Lessons from the “Kings” to apply to our New Year:

  1. They sacrificed their own comfort and security in order to worship God
  2. They walked in obedience instead of fear
  3. Their immediate response to Jesus was worship
  4. They gave Jesus their best
  5. They feared God more than they feared man

Matthew 2:1-2 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

There was no airplane or Uber back then. So a group of men (we don’t know how many) packed up their camels with supplies to last them months as they journeyed across the desert, across the wilderness, to Jerusalem – a place where royalty would be found. They may have traveled with their families, and they definitely traveled with servants and caretakers of their animals. These wise guys were not the only ones who had to sacrifice their comfort and security. They set off on a journey, with the star to lead them, not a GPS. Each step they took was one of faith, not knowing where exactly their steps would take them. But this was a special moment in time – a moment that they had been waiting for. The King of the Jews had come, but His announcement was not made only to the Jews, but to people of all nations. Emmanuel, God with us, has come.

desert path

They approached King Herod, a man who many feared because he was crazy. (Killing wives and sons and people just because.) First of all, it would have taken a lot of guts to be a foreigner approaching any king. But they approached the dreaded King Herod. They were clear in their message that they journeyed a long way not to bow down to Herod, but to go and worship a different King. They were intent and unwavering in this mission. They obeyed the tug God placed on their hearts, and they listened more to Him than their fears.

Verses 10-11 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
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Not finding the King in a palace or in the center of society where the rich and mighty could easily be spotted, they continued steadfast on their journey. The Star stopped above a small, humble home. They walked in with full and complete confidence and the moment they saw Jesus (a toddler!) they fell down and worshiped! Can this get any more beautiful?! Men of great riches and who had spent their lives growing in wisdom and knowledge immediate responses’ were falling to the ground before a child. They saw Jesus as He was – the King of the Jews, but their King also, and the Savior of mankind. And. They. Worshiped.

How often are we overcome with awe of God that we fall to the ground in worship? My bet is not often enough…

These wise men also gave Jesus their very best. The three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh were super expensive gifts that only really kings could own. (My Young Living peeps know that Frankincense Oil is no joke!) We don’t exactly know how rich these wise men were, but somehow they were able to acquire these – not just one, but THREE ridiculously expensive presents. They put them not on display in a mighty palace where people could ooh and ah over their generosity. But they put them with the rightful owner and ultimate giver of good gifts. They put them in a tiny house (before those were cool) with a dusty dirt floor, with a young mother and a small child. These gifts giving were not about them at all. This was about giving Jesus – the King of the Jews and THEIR King – the best of the best of the BEST.

Verse 12 “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

They had heard about the Messiah, they were waiting for Him to come. God chose them to be able to see this Star and have the impulse to go and follow it – no matter the cost. Once they saw Jesus, they fell down and worshiped and gave Him their everything. They saw Jesus face to face and encountered His presence. King Herod gave them specific instructions to return to him, but they did not care. They ignored him and didn’t even consider the consequences. Remember, Herod was crazy so they deliberately disobeyed not just a king, but a wacko king who could have easily tracked them down and destroyed them and their families if he wanted to. But they did not care. Jesus became their one and only King. Jesus became their everything. Once they encountered God-in-man, the fear of man was driven far from them because the fear of God had moved in.

kneeling in worship

As we’re in the first month of 2018 I’m personally facing a lot of unknowns. I have some doubts, and I have a lot of fears. But I am thankful that God shared with us the story of the wise men because I think I have a lot to learn from them. My prayer is that my heart and my attitude would mirror the wise men. My prayer is that I would be on a daily search for Jesus, that I would worship Him, that I would give Him my best, and that my fears would be overshadowed and taken away because my fear of God would move in.

What about you?

Resolution of Reflection

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“New Year, New Me” has been a common phrase this past week with the anticipation of the beginning point of 2018. New Year’s Resolutions are popping up everywhere: exercise programs, diet changes, dating and relationship goals, and social media fasts just to name a few. It’s interesting how the act of the earth fully making its journey around the sun can bring so much hope and rejuvenation to people. People line the streets of NYC to watch a ball drop so that they can begin the year fresh and new.

But I wonder. How many resolutions actually stick? How many days pass without mistakes? How many regrets will take place? How many people will await 2019 with the same anticipation of “new year, new me”, or “next year I will be better, do better, be more”. I’m not trying to make this blog negative. I’m just wanting to be real, and I think you might just be nodding your head in agreement.

Newness, anticipation and hope fills the air. As we begin our resolutions, or search for answers for our questions, longings and dreams of this year, so often these things are approached with the concept that we’re almost like a new person. Or wanting to be “new”. But at the end of the day, we realize we have goals. Maybe even good goals that we actually achieve. But 2018 will be another year that will be mixed with joy and sorrow. Peace and suffering.

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So in the midst of making our way through resolutions and as we try (and possibly fail) at them, it’s reassuring that as followers of Jesus, we don’t become a “new person” with each passing year. There’s not major pressure to have only 365 days of making ourselves new only to hit the repeat button at the turn of 2019. We became a new person once we turned toward Heaven and said “Thy will be done”.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Our newness already happened. We are made new because of Christ. Our past is forever behind us and everyday, not just every new year, we have the opportunity to look ahead. It’s a journey though, the journey of sanctification. Not becoming “new” all the time, but deepening our love for God and growing in our obedience and dependence upon Him.

So in this New Year, I have decided to challenge myself and I’m challenging you to begin an internal resolution before adding on all the possible external resolutions. My challenge to myself is to begin with reflection of my own heart, and to reflect Jesus in everything I say, in everything I do, and in every interaction I have with people more in 2018 than I did in 2017.

That is my resolution.

Ok. You may be thinking that sounds like a good idea, but reflecting Jesus is a pretty broad statement. Good thought. I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t fully know what this resolution will look like. However, I am certain of three things: 1) Satan will not like it which gives me reason to stay on guard; 2) I am a selfish human and will undoubtedly fail at keeping my resolution for 365 days straight; 3) The Bible is a map for our journey, and it’s pretty clear on explaining the kinds of things that accurately reflect Christ.

Curious? Good. Let me unpack this.

One of my favorite passages is from Colossians chapter three. Like clothing that we put on every morning, Paul instructs us with what God–glorifying characteristics we should put on or adorn ourselves with. And people *generally* keep their clothes on all day. So, when he said “put on”, I think he means “stay on”. And this is my prayer for myself these next 365 days is that I will keep these on.

Colossians 3:12-15 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

So how will my New Year’s Resolution of reflecting Jesus look like?

Dear Jesus, I want to be more like you. Help me, by your grace, reflect you to all people and in all circumstances.

to do listHelp me in 2018 to:

Have a heart full of compassion instead of coldness

Be kind instead of bitter

Be humble and meek instead of proud

Be patient instead of rushed or anxious

Be there for anyone who needs me at anytime, instead of being tied to my own agenda. Help me bear with people including loving the un-lovable, without caring what others may think of me

Be forgiving instead of holding grudges

Be loving – real and genuinely loving that points people to You instead of being cheap or insincere with my love

Be peaceful instead of anxious

Be thankful instead of an ungrateful consumerist

Verses 16-17 “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. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Keeping our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus is the only way we can apply the list above to our lives. At least, it’s the only way I can apply the list to my life. And I am ok with that. If Jesus is telling me to do everything in word and deed in His name, then I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to be as sure as I can to properly reflect Him to all those around me. And thanks be to God that the act of reflecting Him isn’t some aloof concept that we try to grasp, but that He was kind enough to give us clear characteristics of how to adorn ourselves everyday in order to best reflect Christ.

Bible heart

The hard thing for me will actually be maintaining this resolution, just like everyone else in their own New Years Resolutions. My prayer is that I will not be quick to fall off track. But even when I do – and I will because I am a selfish human –  I thank God for the grace He gives and that His map will always stay open before me. It’s just my job to decide if I am willing and ready to daily read this map and follow the directions.

 

 

Happy New Year to all! May the Lord’s richest blessings be upon you and yours.