Not now, I’m busy

My 86 year old grandmother received a phone call from her doctor.  Not the nurse or an assistant.  The good doctor called directly.  He told her that she needed to go to the hospital because of the results of her bloodwork. She responded (graciously, I’m sure), “I can’t.  I’m doing my laundry today.” I can only imagine the many thoughts that must have gone through his head.  And while I’m concerned for my grandmother’s health, I couldn’t help but chuckle at her response.

Before we’re quick to judge, I wonder how often we do the same thing to God.  We have our daily plans and agendas all figured out and often with not a minute left to spare.  So what happens when we encounter an “interruption” to our plans?  Do we get annoyed?  Do we say, “Sorry, I’m too busy to help.” Or, do we welcome the change in plans and possibly acknowledge that God may have other ideas for our day? Let’s be careful not to become so busy with our days that we aren’t able to make room for God. We might just be missing the adventure (and blessing) of a lifetime.

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.  Matthew 6:33

You’re Invited (Part 2)

Our prayers aren’t magical and there isn’t a formula to make sure that God answers the way we want. 

Then why do we pray and what purpose does it serve? 

I’m so glad you asked!  You see, there have been times in my life when I wondered, “What’s the point?”  Doesn’t God already know what’s going to happen anyway?  Does it really matter if I pray or if I don’t?  And, even though, I still wrestle with those questions at times, I’ve learned a lot through my prayer life.  I’ve learned that God wants my prayers.  He wants to hear my heart. And, He can use my prayers to reveal Himself to me.  But there’s more…

 Jesus demonstrated the importance of prayer during His earthly ministry. Even though He was fully God and fully man, He sought His Father’s will – through prayer.  It’s how He communicated with God.  And, we learn from Jesus that it wasn’t about Him, it was always about the Father. 

 What about our prayers?  Do we make it about God or about us?  Do we seek Him and His ways or are we seeking favors?  How often do our prayers consist of bless me, heal her, and bless me some more?  I’m not suggesting that these are bad things to pray – God wants to hear our heart.  But, hopefully our prayer life is bigger than that.  Hopefully, we spend time seeking Him and really listening for God’s direction.

I’ll close with a challenge: Watch the attached link and consider ways that you might invite God to be a bigger part of your prayer life.

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

Coffee with Jesus Video

You’re Invited (Part 1)

Our meeting was seemingly random.  She’d somehow heard about my new book and contacted me to share that her preschool daughter was terminally ill.  She was looking for hope and comfort and was seeking our God Almighty for strength.  She requested a copy of the book and I began to pray for her and her daughter. 

 A month later, I had pressing thoughts of her.  She kept coming to mind throughout the day.  On the way to Target, I thought of her and prayed.  On the way to Home Depot, I thought of her and prayed.  As I was cleaning up from dinner, again I thought of her and prayed.  I woke up the next morning and my thoughts continued to wander back to her… and I prayed some more. 

 I decided to send her a message to let her know that I was praying for her and her precious daughter.  Her reply indicated that her daughter was admitted to the hospital the day before and that the doctors continued to wrestle with finding the right balance of medications.  I had been praying for her daughter throughout the entire hospital admission without ever knowing what was going on.  Once again, I’m awestruck.

 God prompted me to pray for that little girl in her time of need even though I was unaware of her struggles.  He had it all under control.  He didn’t need my prayers, yet He invited me to join His work.  He wanted my prayers.  And what an amazing reminder of the importance of prayer. 

 Never underestimate the power of prayer.  We need to pray for our family, our friends, our church, our community, our nation.  Let’s be united in prayer!  God invites us to join His work and it begins with prayer.  Join me as I pray:

 Dear Heavenly Father,

 You are an amazing and wonderful God.  Thank you for loving us.  I pray that you will  give us ears to hear and eyes to see where You are at work around us.  Thank you for inviting us to join You as You accomplish Your good plans. May we seek You through prayer in all things and be united together in Your love.  Use us to do amazing things for Your glory.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Pruning Shears

I hurt.

I used muscles today that have been lying dormant for too long.  I spent hours carrying, digging, tugging, hauling, scooping and planting. But honestly, it was long overdue. 

After more than eight years in our home, our front landscaping had blossomed out of control.   Our shrubs looked like they were on steroids and as fast as we could trim them, they were peering through our living room windows again like a peeping Tom.  We had Creeping Jenny that was viral and had crept its way into every vacant space, being the bully of the bed.  And, the other plants looked as full as the guests after Thanksgiving dinner.

It was time for a drastic change, so we (my husband) did the unthinkable and cut everything back to their roots.  We decided to start over.  So, after planning, shopping, chopping, and amending the soil, we were ready to start afresh.  Although it was hard work, the front of our home now looks beautiful again… and I’m left with some inspiration.

The pruning was severe. It was painful. But it was necessary for new growth and beauty to emerge.  Sometimes God needs to do some radical pruning in our lives too.  God is so patient with me, but at times it takes something bold and drastic to get my attention.  And when He does get my attention, I try to take note because I know He’s up to something.  Although that “something” may not be evident yet, and may take some self examination and pruning in my heart, there’s always something good on the horizon as a result.  God is in the business of making things beautiful.  It’s who He is.  If you’re feeling that He’s got the shears out right now, take heart and be encouraged.  Growth and beauty are sure to follow.  

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 15:1-2

Are You Pretty Yet?

My two year old son loves to tell me and his big sisters that we look pretty. But have no fear, I promise not to let it go to my head.  In his sweet and charming way, he keeps me humble.  As I was getting ready for church on Sunday, he periodically came to check on me.  He rummaged through my bathroom drawer, applied his lip balm and went back to playing.  A few minutes later, he returned and asked, “Are you pretty yet?”    I wanted to reply, “This is as good as it gets. What do you think?”  Instead I decided to play it safe and simply said, “Almost.”

 Immediately, two thoughts came to mind.  First, although I may have to work harder than others to achieve physical beauty, my heavenly Father thinks I’m beautiful just as He made me. He created you and me and deemed all of His creation is good.  And as dearly loved children, I have to think that He views us as better than just good.  We think our own kids are adorable so we dress them up, take pictures of them, share our pictures with our friends, scrapbook our cute pictures of our cute kids… Don’t you think that God feels the same way about us? Although His standard of beauty may be different than ours, I absolutely believe that He delights in us.

 The second thought that popped into my head was that I’m a work in progress.  As much as I grow and learn and strive to be who God wants me to be, the truth is that I’ll never fully arrive.  That’s not meant as discouragement – quite the contrary.  It should encourage us that we’re always able to grow and that God never gives up on us.   His gives us the perfect tool for teaching us: His Word. If we study it, digest it and practice it, the Bible will indeed produce positive change. I challenge you to seek God in knowing how He wants you to grow – and then give Him permission to work in those areas of your life.  God’s hand in our lives always produces blessing.  Embrace His refining tools, even if makes you squirm.

 He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

The Father’s Love

I love how God tends to my needs.  I know I’m not His favorite… we’re all His favorite.  But today, I felt especially loved.  

It started with an email I received from someone who disagreed with an opinion I shared.  Although I was completely OK with the fact that they disagreed with me, I was not OK with the manner in which they responded.  They were rude and condescending. My initial reaction was anger, followed by hurt, which quickly progressed to tears… which made me more angry that I allowed this person to make me cry.  Ugh… what an emotional mess!  And all of these reactions occurred within a three minute time frame.  As I walked to the bathroom to pull myself together, my phone rang.  It happened to be a very good friend of mine.  Because of busy schedules with family activities on weekends, we typically just talk during the week, so I was pleasantly surprised by her call. She went on to say that she was reading my book last night and she felt a need to share a verse with me that she thought applied to some things I have going on in my life right now.   And of course, the verse spoke directly to what I had experienced seconds earlier. 

This time I wanted to cry tears of joy.  What an encouragement to me in my moment of need.  I don’t know why I am surprised that God would touch me with His gentleness and love in such a way, but I continue to be awestruck when He does.  I felt as if He reached down and scooped me into His arms, as I would do with one of my children when they’re hurting.  My heart bursts with love for Him and I’m thankful to be called a child of God.  You too, are His child.  I pray that you invite Him to tend to all your worries, burdens, and needs.  He is the ultimate Father, waiting to comfort His child. 

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

Fort God (Part 2)

In my last post, I shared about the church that was known as “Fort God.”  I can still see the paved driveway that encircled the main building which contributes to the image of a fort with its moat-like appearance.  I’m not suggesting that the church was walled off from reality or that it was difficult to enter.  Instead, the fort-like icon makes me think of God as a mighty warrior able to protect His church and people at all times. 

The Bible tells us we will be persecuted for our belief in Jesus and our allegiance to Him.  Yet, often we’re quick to take a defensive stance, or perhaps even retaliate when we feel threatened. We take matters into our own hands as we attempt to defend God. The reality is He’s our defender. And the battle is not about us or ours to fight.  The battle is the Lord’s and it’s between Him and Satan.  Satan wants to undermine the efforts of believers – he wants to derail us.  He wants us arguing, debating, building barriers between us and breaking relationships so that we lose effectiveness for God. Let’s not let the evil one dilute or taint our message of God’s love with such distractions. Instead, let’s join together, keep our eye of the Lord and watch as He wins the battle.  We know how the story ends…the victory is His!   

This is what the Lord says: Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Fort God (part 1)

The summer after my junior year in college, I ventured off to another state to participate in a program for students in my field of study.  Being about 500 miles away from home in a city where I knew no one, I immediately sought a church to attend.  There happened to be a very visible church nearby so I planned to visit the next week.  Although it was the same denomination of that which I was accustomed, it was also very different in many ways. Most notably was it’s size.  The building itself was humongous, at least relative to what I knew. There was a paved road that surrounded the church that served as a connector to various sections of the parking lot and remaining campus.  As I began to meet people in the community and my place of work, it would sometimes come up in conversation that I was attending this church.  After a short time, I learned the nickname of the church within the community — “Fort God”.  It clearly had a presence.
Whether you prefer the mega church, the country church, or something in between, how do you view your church?  Is it a place of refuge or a battleground within?  Is it the dwelling place of the Lord Most High or a social club where people come to belong?  Is it a place where we serve the Lord or do we go to be served — served with just the right music, just the right worship, just the right people?  Is it a place of unified believers who focus on the work of God or do people run when things don’t go their way?
These are tough questions but it’s helpful to do some self evaluation and reflection to make sure we’re moving in God’s direction. I pray that we keep our eye on the Lord and remember that the church belongs to Christ. As a church body we have a high calling to carry out His work, for His glory.  Are you up for the challenge?
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

What’s your 100%?

 “Is this 100% calories?” my daughter asked as she studied the nutrition facts label on the snack she was eating.  My heart melted with pride at her question.  (Remember, I’m a dietitian.)  

Although her question didn’t make complete sense, it did make me stop and think.  There were likely some non-nutritive substances that were contained in the snack as well as calorie-free components such as vitamins and minerals. However,  none of those things could be separated from the calories in what she was eating. Each bite was filled with the calories that came from the carbohydrates, protein, and fat it contained.  So, where am I going with this nutrition analogy? 

 If I’m a compilation of a spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional being, what am I filled with – what is my 100%? Or stated differently, what drives my thoughts and actions?

 Am I 100% committed to God?

Am I 100% filled with His Spirit?

 Or, am I 100% filled with me? 

 The true litmus test is found in Galatians 5:22-23.  We’re told that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  What fruit is produced and exhibited in our lives? If we’re impatient, we’re letting ourselves govern and not the Spirit.  If we’re unloving, unkind and stirring up dissension and discontent, we need to check to see how full we are of ourselves and how much we’re lacking in the Spirit.  Thankfully, God is gracious and He knows that we’re a work in progress.  But let’s not sit back and get cozy with our current state.  Let’s invite Him to do a work in us that yields amazing fruit for others to see.

I still have some things to tend to in the garden of my heart.  How about you?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30