New Things

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See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.                                                                                                 Isaiah 65:17

 

This verse is full of hope and promise, and now is a perfect season to explore it. So let’s dive in:

See…”

Realizing the truth that God has a plan is comforting in itself. But just think – not only is He in control, He is generous to share His plan with us. And it gets even better: we can actually be a part of the work.

“…I will create…”

Our Lord is amazingly creative. He loves both making new things and making things new. Do you see the difference? That means we can always find signs of His hand in and around us. It’s important for our spiritual health to take the time to look for His handiwork.

The former things…”

God is giving us a glimpse of the world to come, a bigger picture. Meanwhile, we are still living in this world – one full of care and even hardships. But in God’s view, those situations that cause us such pain are temporary. That can be hard to believe in the midst of struggle, but one day we’ll all be able to look back with clearer vision.

“…will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

This isn’t the only place in scripture where God promises to forget. Hebrews 10 says it’s our shortcomings that God will “remember no more.” He has the power to remove and separate us from our sins. Why show us such mercy and grace? Quite simply because He loves us.

This year, I want to spend more time soaking in scriptures like this. They keep my focus less on any of my current troubles and more on my powerful and wonderful God. I can’t think of a better way to start 2017.

 

A New Years Wish

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Happy New Year!

It’s December 31, and like the rest of you I’m caught in that funny in-between place. You know, looking back and doing a year-in-review kind of inventory, while making my list of goals and dreams for 2017.

Whether this past year was full of delights or difficulties, each of us “pressed on.” Hopefully you can can say that you have moved at least a few steps closer to God. No matter where you’re at right now, just take a moment to savor how delighted He is with you!

In the spirit of New Years Eve, I wanted to share a scripture from Isaiah 42 that reminds me that our Lord is always up to something in and around us:

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare…”

I wish all of you the best for the coming year. Let’s continue on our journey, encouraging one another as we go!

In Christ,

Heather

 

 

A Zig-Zag Day

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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”                                                                                                   Ephesians 5:15-17

 

I’ve had a zig-zag day today – do you ever have those? I started out with a plan – a good one, I thought. Not too busy, with just right amount of to-do’s on my list. But, it was not meant to be. From the get-go, things and people conspired to distract me: a husband on vacation, computer and car troubles, phone calls…

(Ironically, just after I finished typing that first paragraph, I got up and made myself a snack. Yummy, but not helpful to my cause!)

Now it is nearly 3 pm and I’m taking a quick inventory of what’s been accomplished. The short answer is, NOT MUCH. That’s kind of discouraging. But is the short answer totally accurate?

No, I didn’t get my blog done by 9 am, but I was able to give my husband a ride home from the mechanic’s. No, I didn’t make the big batch of lentil soup for lunch like I planned, but I did some shopping so my daughter could make a special dinner that she’s been craving. And no, I didn’t put time into working on my new website, but I got to connect wtih a couple of people and offer them some support.

I guess whether I see my day as a success or not depends on what I use as a measuring stick. If I rely soley on my original plan, then yes, my day was a distracted mish-mash. My verdict would be: “Oh well, I’ll just try again tomorrow.”

But after starting down that road, the scripture from Ephesians came to mind.  And that phrase, “making the most of every opportunity” especially caught my attention. What kind of opportunity was Paul talking about? The context was a teaching on how to walk in love, so the oppotunity had to do with modelling Christian behavior wherever and whenever we can.

What does that have to do with my zig-zag day? Well, I think Paul’s overarching theme here was to aim  be as Christlike as possible, and to use whatever the day brings as a way to show God’s love to others. If I look at what I actually did today in those terms, it paints a more positive picture.

I had opportunites to help, to support, to equip, to pray, and to encourage other people. And though I could have just stuck to my own plan, I chose to take advantage of the opportunities the day offered me.Did I align myself with the will of the Lord in doing those? I think so, at least for the most part. And that makes for a successful day, doesn’t it?

I still hope I can get more of my stuff done tomorrow. But in the meantime, I can thank God for providing so many chances for me to show that love to others – that doesn’t happen every day!

 

In The Midst Of Chaos

While getting ready for church this past Sunday, I stopped and lifted up a few prayers. I was feeling overloaded by things going on in and around me, and wanted to be able to really  worship once I got in the doors.

After some deep breaths, I realized how tired I was – so I started with that item first. Next I poured my heart out about how chaotic I felt life had become lately. And in the midst of expressing some serious angst about that, I got what I affectionalely call a “God nudge.”

Do you ever get those? “Aha” kind of moments where pieces of truth you already know come together to form a whole new insight? They usually hit me right between the eyes (in the gentle way only God can do it), and this one was no different.

Here it was: God answered my cries about life feeling chaotic by reminding me of two qualities He has.

I am a God of creativity and I am a God of order.

That stopped me in my mental tracks and switched the direction of my thoughts. On the heels of that statement came a rush of examples from scripture where He demonstrated both qualities together.

  • When He created the Earth, He brought order to it.
  • When He created the nation of Israel, He laid down commands and laws.
  • When He established His church, He established elders to lead.

Even the way we were each formed follows this pattern – God created our bodies, which are an intricate balance of organs and systems that have to work together.

I found this whole idea not only very interesting, but very comforting for a couple of reasons. If I am living in obedience to God, there may be a new way of looking at times where things feel totally out of control:

  1. Chaos may actually be a part of God creativing something new in my life.
  2. God will sooner or later instill His order into my life.

Though I didn’t get any specific answers or advice, I entered church that day with a sense of having gotten a peek into God’s mindset. And I truly did feel stronger for it.

 

 

The New Will Come

 

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”                                                                          2 Corinthians 5:17

 

This verse is talking about how when we accept Christ as our Savior, God starts to renew us from the inside out. But these words take on a new meaning for me as I think know over the changes I‘ve faced these last couple of years.

Before that, I was quite happy to be nestled in familiar routines. My daily schedule, my meal plan, even the ministry I did at church reflected my desire to stay firmly planted in status quo. Change, as I shared before, was always unsettling, a negative experience. With a mindset like that, God didn’t have much room to work!

As I look back, I see a list of both expected and unplanned circumstances that came my way.

Physical, emotional and financial issues have hit, some in combination. And most of them were things I never would have asked to happen. Can you relate?

In a way, it would be understandable for me to feel overwhelmed, even angry – and believe me, I’ve gone that route a few times. But when I do that, my vision is narrow. What I mean is, I get so wrapped up in whether a change feels good that I don’t bother to ask if the change could ultimately be good for me. After all, one of God’s promises is that He works all things for good, right?

Okay – I can see that, for instance, in the case of my daughter graduating from high school and spreading her wings. It’s bittersweet for me, but definitely healthy and right for her life. But what about my RA diagnosis? How could that be considered a good change? Well in itself, it isn’t. RA can be challenging and painful – an unwelcome change. But when I think about all the adjustments I’ve made, like a healthier diet and more consistent exercise, I have to admit that positive, even beneficial things for my body are taking place because of having the disease.

It’s not easy for me to make such a big turn in my thoughts. But I’ve realized lately that hoping to live without being touched by any changes is very unrealistic. Even more importantly, I miss out on the new things that God wants to do In and through me. This year, my first major goal is to pray for my Heavenly Father to give me a heart that can let go of the old and look for the new He is bringing in. A tall order, but I think He’ll honor it.

NOTE: Just a quick FYI that I’ve decided to change my blogging schedule from every day to 3 times a week. Look for my newest posts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays now!

Final Thoughts For 2015

On this last day of the year, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to each of you who have stopped in to check out my new blog these past couple of months. Your time is precious, and I am honored that you’ve chosen to spend some of it with me!

It’s a busy season (when isn’t it??), and for me that includes a trip out of town to visit family. But I’ll be back Monday with fresh blogs to get 2016 going strong. Until then, give thanks for what God has done for you this past year – even if it’s a “hidden treasure” so to speak!

Consider this quote from Brennan Manning, one of my favorite Christian authors, from his book The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedralled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out –

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.”

God is good – always. Happy New Year to you!

Mistakes & Mercies

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”   Isa. 43:18-19

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good: my joints weren’t as stiff as over the last few days, and I was somewhat rested. During my morning stretches, I felt led to thank God for His “new mercies”, so that I could really start the day fresh. Well, before I finished flexing my feet, I realized that I’d forgotten a family member’s birthday. Not by just a day or so, either.

A cold splash of embarrassment hit, followed quickly by shame, a familiar one-two punch for me. Then it wasn’t long before other goof ups I’d committed paraded in front of me. And I’m not sure which was worse – how I judged myself, or the judgement I assumed others have had about me.

If someone else were to share a struggle like this with me, I’d probably say something like: “Even if you did make a mistake, you’re being awfully hard on yourself. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change anything.  Make it right as best you can, then let it go.”

That sounds like pretty good advice. So why is it so hard for me to follow? Part of the reason may be low self esteem, or looking for worth in what i do. But I think another part of it is a lack of faith.

In many scripture passages, I can find God’s promises about this very type of situation:

  • He forgives our sins

he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…” 1Jn 1:9

  • He removes our sins

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103:12  

  • He forgets our sins

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”      Is 43:25
It seems like God has a lot more mercy on me than I’ve had on myself. And as His child, I need to concentrate more on what He says than how I feel. Yes, I’ll send a card and maybe even make a  call to express belated birthday greetings. But then it’s time to move on to those new things He’s doing!

Getting Nearer To God’s Word

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All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”                                               2 Timothy 3:16

The Charles Stanley devotional I read this morning was based on this verse. The gist was that God speaks to us today through His Word, and so we need to turn to it regularly. Reading scripture ought to be one of the Christian’s foundational habits, it’s true. In the Bible’s pages, we can find the comfort, insight or sometimes a not-so-subtle nudge we need.

I’d like to say that I’ve always loved digging into scripture – but that wouldn’t be honest. In fact, as a new believer opening up the Bible brought on more anxiety in me than passion. Reading verses, especially in the Old Testament was like trying to decipher some sort of foreign language. And Paul’s letters seemed so dense and wordy – by the time I got to the end of one of his sentences I’d forgotten how it started.

My husband thought it might be helpful to read together, which sounded like a great idea. That lasted about a week. The final straw was having to sound out the genealogy in Numbers 1. As I slowly sounded out “Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai”, my voice took on such an irritated edge that my husband suggested we take a break. We never picked back up, and I have to say it was kind of a relief.

I felt a lot of guilt and condemnation for my lack of zeal about the Bible, and wondered why I had such a problem. Was it my lack of church experience growing up? Or was it my late-in-life conversion at age 30? I wanted to ask advice, but was too embarrassed. Having been a believer for about 20 years now, I’ve come to understand that my issue with God’s Word early on was nothing to be ashamed of. It was simply an indication of how young I was in my faith.

Another aspect to scripture being “God-breathed” is that we need God’s Holy Spirit to understand it. He has filled His Word with treasures, and we need His help to discover them. Yes, learning my way around the Bible was important, as was starting to memorize certain key passages. But it was in asking for His guidance as I read that verses really started coming to life and having deeper meaning.

Do you feel intimidated or overwhelmed by God’s Word? Don’t despair – God intended for you to be blessed by it. As you open your Bible, lift up a quick prayer for His leading. He’ll be delighted to start opening your eyes, mind and heart to the richness that lies in the Book’s pages. This holy habit will begin to ignite passion instead of angst.

2 Christmas Gifts

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‘Tis the day before Christmas and all through my house, everybody’s going crazy…just kidding. So far, it’s actually pretty relaxed here – my husband is mixing up waffle batter after sleeping in for a couple of hours (WooHoo!). And I just heard my son clomping sleepily down the stairs from his room. Our vacation schedule has kicked in.

Amidst the busyness and anticipation of this week, an essay of E.B. White has settled into my thoughts. I first read White’s prose work a few years ago when my husband printed out a copy for me of one of his Christmas pieces. By the end of my first reading of it, I was beaming with delight at his blend of sharp humor and heart. And I’ve gone back to it every year since.

Today, I’d like to share a link to another one of his Christmas essays with you. I found it on Senseijfk’s site, right here on WordPress. In it, White gives us a great lesson in holiday evangelism. I hope you enjoy his writing – and check out Senseijfk’s other posts while you’re there, too!

https://senseijfk.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/eb-white-on-christmas-and-relative-pronouns/

As another little gift, I’m putting up a link to a song by Third Day called “Born In Bethlehem.” I used it as part of a recent devotional I gave at church. Like all beloved Christmas songs, it tells the gospel story, from Jesus’ birth to His sacrifice for our sins. I feel renewed excitement and joy each time I hear it.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Av7fPUem190

Wherever you find yourself this season, whatever life is sending your way, my prayer for you is that you find moments of joy right in the middle of it all. Jesus came for you, and now He lives for you – take time celebrate how much He loves you. Merry Christmas!

I’m Like The Cowardly Lion

 

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I caught a couple of minutes of The Wizard of Oz this weekend – the part where Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man meet the Lion. He was all bluster and bravado until Dorothy smacked him on the nose and he turned into a scaredy cat. It’s an amusing moment in the movie, and it hits a little close to home for me.

It’s not that I go around trying to frighten people. But I have often put on a facade of being strong and totally in control, especially around other people. But, like Lion, when I’ve been faced with unexpected challenges, that mask crumbles pretty quickly. I’ve even blubbered like him a few times!

When Lion went with his new friends to see the Wizard, he had no idea what a journey he was beginning. They all imagined the yellow brick road would be smooth, and the great and powerful Oz would quickly grant their wishes. But, as we all know, it wasn’t that easy. Each of them had to go through some trials and tests before learning that they possessed what they needed all along.

I can relate to that. I’ve been praying this week that God would give me more courage and boldness to speak His truth. But instead of just receiving a  spiritual “download”, I’ve been put into some situations where I’m being challenged to speak up. Why? He knows that when I learn by experience, the lessons will have more value. The qualities I asked for are already ther by His design, waiting to grow.

Lion faced his own fears as he helped take down the wicked witch. In doing that, He discovered a deeper pool of bravery beyond his surface. His growl changed from an expression of pride to a confident statement about himself. And part of the reason was a new focus away from himself to those he cared about and the greater mission.

Do you want more courage or more heart? How about more patience, or joy or peace? God has already put those qualities inside you, and they’re waiting to be discovered. Will you let Him send you on your own journey?