Monday, December 29, 2014

Now What?

So, "now what?" is a question my husband sometimes lovingly asks me when we finish doing something.  I find myself working my brain to come up with a snappy comeback but honestly, I am not usually terribly clever.  Oh well.

But "now what?" really is about life today; maybe you can relate.  The gifts have been opened and the Christmas celebration is history; however the tree and decorations are still up.  On the other hand, the regular ebb and flow of life is not yet ebbing and flowing as we look toward the beginning of another year.  We are thankful to have one of our boys still in town and want to focus on our family time.

Now what?  Well.....2015 is looming large on the calendar.  Is January 1, 2015 just another day?  Or maybe you gather with friends to usher in that day and another new year.  Do you bring friends and/or family together for a special meal on New Year's Day?  I have wonderful memories of my mother (now with Jesus) loving those televised New Year's Day parades.

Now what?  This could be one of the most important questions we ask ourselves as we prepare to move into a new year.  In fact, I would like to suggest it is an important question to ask ourselves as we open our eyes every morning.

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions; I believe the moment we are convicted to make a change, if that conviction is a serious one, the change begins immediately, not at some fixed future date (assuming we have that choice). But "now what?" is a challenge....a challenge to fix my eyes on Jesus for all that is  coming my way in the very near and not so near future.

We just finished celebrating the birth of Jesus....and He is coming back!  That's a promise and it could be any day!  How am I to live?  I believe living in the reality of His return makes my "now what?" answer easy.  God provides all the information I need in His Word, to live out a wonderful "now what?" every moment of my life.  Just imagine how fulfilling, how adventurous, how productive, how joyful, how comforting, how peaceful (and I could go on and on) life would be if I stopped every day, after the completion of a task, and asked God "now what?"!  Think of it!  Seriously.

Happy New Year to my blog readers.  May you live every day asking and living out "now what?"!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Evidence for Christmas

Everyone has an opinion about Christmas:  how it should be celebrated, should it be celebrated, fresh tree or "silk", if fresh, long needles or short, tinsel or not, and on and on it goes.  I LOVE Christmas music and yesterday we enjoyed a recital held in a lovely old church in town.  Many young people shared their vocal and instrumental skills.

Besides being preoccupied with the usual preparations of gift buying, wrapping gifts and cooking I tend to get very sentimental.  I observe and celebrate Christ's first coming with my heart fully engaged.

But yesterday's sermon offered another look, a perspective that fully engaged my mind and out of that experience, I want to share some scientific, historical and archaeological facts...the "evidence for Christmas".  Faith is a wonderful thing, a gift from God. But He also wants us to KNOW...with our minds, that He is as real as can be.

I am attempting, with my very unscientific brain, to net out a bit of the information I pondered yesterday morning.  I am much more relationally oriented and science, math and history were subjects I had to get through, "back in the day".  Let me quickly say, just because my brain does not get stimulated by science, doesn't mean there isn't good science; it is not about me!  I didn't originate this information but I love learning about the amazing ways God reveals Himself through science, history, archaeology, etc.

Let's begin at the beginning.....with God.  The very scientific law of cause and effect establishes that material (key word) effect must have an adequate cause that existed before the effect.  So the universe could not have created itself from nothing.  Nothing comes from nothing right?  Stay with me here: the scriptures say God created the heavens and the earth (see Genesis or Psalm 90:2).  So, the question begs to be asked: who created God?  Let's go back to the word, material.  The Bible tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:26).  There was a "first cause" and God was/is the only One suitable for the job.  The very "material" universe needed a non-material cause - God!

God's Word/Scripture:  Now that we have figured out "God" (ha!), how do we know  His Word has validity?  I loved hearing, once again how science, archaeology and history support the Bible.  For example, in the story of the battle of Jericho, the walls came down because of an act of God. Those same walls were excavated 3 times over the last century and all 3 times it was concluded that they all fell at the same time....outward....on top of themselves.  It would not have happened that way if those walls had been attacked.

The Bible has been proven to be the most historically accurate book ever found.  Two 20th century archaeologists, William F. Albright and Nelson Glueck, both lauded the Bible (even though they were non-Christian and secular in their training and personal beliefs) as being the single most accurate source document from history.

The names of over 40 different kings mentioned in the Bible have all been found in contemporary documents and inscriptions outside the Old Testament and are always consistent with the times and places associated with them in the Bible.

And get this!  The hydrological cycle of water is described back in the book of Job (36: 27-28).  And....the roundness of the earth (way back before the time of Columbus) is found in Isaiah 40:22.  Ocean currents are referred to in Psalm 8:8.

And finally, what about Jesus?  There are hundreds of ancient prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament - ALL fulfilled with total accuracy.  Just a couple: Isaiah 7:14 fulfilled in Matt: 1:18, 25; Micah 5:2 in Matt. 2:1; Isaiah 40:3 in Matt. 3: 1,2.

Using the modern science of probability in just 8 prophecies, we find that the chance for 1 man to have fulfilled just those 8 from the OT to the NT is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.  That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000!  (This makes my head spin!)

In the interest of keeping this blog readable (just scratching the surface today), I will wrap it up.  We have a very real God Who loves us so much that He wrote us a love letter (Bible) and provides us with a way to Him (Jesus).  At this special time of year, we can "take that to the bank" (as the saying goes).

In closing, C.S. Lewis once wrote: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.'  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse."  And then Lewis adds: "you can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to." (Quotes from More Than A Carpenter.)

Friends, the evidence is irrefutable.  We can worship the
Christ child with the full knowledge and assurance that He did indeed come and that He is coming again!  Hark, the herald angels sing!  Glory to the newborn King!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Journey With Jesus

It's 9 days before Christmas (this was written yesterday, obviously) and we find ourselves hanging out in the Detroit on delay...major delay.  Had a fabulous trip to Oregon and LOVED being with our adult children and their two adorable boys (Henry turns 5 in March and Gus is 7 1/2 months).  It was giggles and drools, snuggling and story reading and I loved every last minute!

But, departure time comes way too fast and yesterday morning, very early we were headed for the airport for our return trip back to Michigan.  Because we live in a small town in the Upper Peninsula, air travel connections leave something to be desired and we usually need three airplanes each way, to get us to and from our west coast destination.  Oh well, I pretty much would walk the whole way....over hot coals be with that precious family.

On that return trip the first two flights were great.  In Detroit, however, when we checked the airport monitors we saw that terrible word after our final leg, CANCELED!  Well, the airline people were wonderful but we still had to spend the night at a hotel, without my luggage (Charlie very wisely travels with carryon only);  my bag was heading to our home destination at some point and we didn't want to chase it down.  No deodorant, no get the picture.  We tried standby today (at the gate we met folks who had been waiting 3 days to leave!) but for us, this flight was a "no go". We are scheduled for the last flight tonight.

This is one of those experiences that provides great opportunity:  am I going to view this delay as a reason to complain and (mentally) ring my hands?  Or am I going to look for God in the midst of it all? Could there be hidden blessings within this delay?

At this time of year I can't help but compare my journey with the one Mary took on her way to Bethlehem as she sat on the back of that donkey, for miles, in her extremely pregnant state,  My journey is my choice, in a relatively comfortable airplane seat, at least compared to the back of a donkey.  Furthermore, this grandmother hasn't been pregnant for many years!

But I think what strikes me is God's amazing provisions in the midst of all of our "inconveniences" (and let's face it, this is nothing more than an inconvenience).  HE has provided the financial resources to spend the night in a clean, safe hotel room along with a nice meal.  We had hot showers and a hair dryer and even a toothbrush (for me; remember Charlie had his things with him) and toothpaste provided by the nice hotel people. We were able to use our cell phones to be in touch with loved ones.  The airline employees have been nothing but kind.  I woke up this morning with a heart filled with gratitude. And you know what?  If we have to stay here again tonight, I will still praise the God Who provides.

We are all on a journey that leads us somewhere; with Jesus it leads us home. 

Jesus is waiting there to welcome us with His arms wide open.  As we celebrate His birth, let us remember that He is the BEST gift. It is because of Him that we are assured this earthly journey will one day take us to our true, forever home to dwell in safety and joy.  I think I can even hear the sounds of angel wings (do you hear that magical "whooshing" sound?); or perhaps, if we listen carefully, we can hear the heavenly choir tuning up.

John 3:16 tells us, "God SO loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have life everlasting".  In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  NO one comes to the Father except through Me".  Friends, that is great news!
Jesus is the way! When we choose to love HIM, we are assured we are going the way that will take us home!  Let's journey together that we might "dwell in the house of the Lord forever".

Monday, December 8, 2014

What about Joseph?


Christmas is right on the horizon and even though it is only Dec. 8, I have already enjoyed “holy Christmas moments”: my church’s Women’s Christmas Event, the CrossBridge Church Women’s Christmas Tea in Ishpeming (one of the many small communities in the U.P.) where I was blessed to share a message of hope, and a concert this afternoon at a local church in Escanaba with amazing music and bells.

This week we are gearing up for a quick visit to see our west coast children and grandchildren – and that is one of the best gifts we will enjoy this side of heaven.

Yep, in our house, Christmas preparation is in full swing.  However, the most significant preparation is taking place in my own heart as I ponder that Biblical story, yet again.  And whenever I take time to do that, God so faithfully reveals yet another piece, another thought, another understanding that adds even more depth of understanding and awe.

Do we think much about Joseph and his reactions, his fears, his insecurities?  What was his life like when God was preparing for Jesus to enter this world?  We give Mary the spotlight (and rightly so) when it comes to the actual birth event but let’s take a few moments to ponder and imagine what it may have been like for Joseph.

Imagine this: Joseph is a hardworking man, a carpenter.  He is surrounded by sawdust and the noises of other hardworking men around him.  The Bible indicates he was a man of faith (well, he kind of had to be!).  Joseph has a future planned with Mary.  But Mary comes to him and tells him she is pregnant.  MARY IS PREGNANT! And she gives him this story about an angel and the Holy Spirit, etc.  I don’t know about you but if I had been Joseph I would have been majorly stressed! But, remember, he was a man of faith….and that makes ALL the difference.

In that culture, at that time, Mary could have been stoned to death for being pregnant before she was totally and officially married.  But God had other plans and when God has other plans, nothing on earth (or anywhere else for that matter) can stop them.  (I find that comforting.) While Joseph, in his great kindness, was considering ending the (betrothal) relationship quietly because he did not want Mary to be shamed, that same angel visited him.  What was the angel’s message?  DO NOT FEAR!  What was Joseph’s response?  OBEDIENCE.  We don’t really know if he was fearful but he moved forward as God had instructed.

Now, let’s just let this story speak to us, shall we? Especially if you are a man or woman of faith (as Joseph was described), I challenge you in the same way I challenge myself.  How does God speak to me, to us today?  Dreams can be interesting but He always talks to us through His Word, the Bible.  He loves it when we set time aside regularly just to experience His quiet presence…called “prayer”.  Giving you a peek into the personal side of this…often when I am struggling with something, the tears flow during my prayer time. Those are sweet moments when God really gets my attention.  But He also speaks to me through sermons and messages, the ones based on God’s perfect Truth.  He speaks to me through fellowship with other believers and definitely through Sunday morning worship.

Ok, so….when we hear His voice…then what?  Ah….this is the next big challenge, right?  Do I take Him seriously?  Back to Joseph; I can envision him waking up from that monumental dream but instead of reacting with a “really, God!”, I am imagining that he was actually thankful, joyful, relieved.  He knew for certain that he had heard a message from God, he now had a plan and it was a joy to move forward, no matter how scary.

That can be our response as well.  When we are faced with something challenging or monumental and we know for certain we have heard from God, we can RELAX!  We can claim joy, no matter the circumstances.

 What is going on in your life this year as Christmas arrives… in such a short time?  Are the finances tough?  Do you have a loved one far away, unable to come home? Do you have a fractured family?  Is illness threatening to steal your joy?  Jesus broke into history at just the right time and we can celebrate that fact!  And God tells us Jesus is coming again!

When God, through His Word says, “DO NOT FEAR”, He means it!  And the great news is….we can choose not to fear!  Is it easy?  Sometimes but not always.  NEVERTHELESS, within us (believers), all of God’s power resides and we can choose to trust Him instead of indulging in fear.

In closing, consider Joseph.  Let his story, his faith, his obedience remind you that there is no better place to be than inside of God’s perfect will.  To quote Oswald Chambers, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you cannot understand at the time.”            

Monday, December 1, 2014

How “Extraordinary” comes from “Ordinary”


The Christian world is preparing, looking ahead, planning; in fact, many who don’t claim a Christian worldview are joining in that anticipation. Thanksgiving is now a memory, “black Friday” has come and gone (well, kind of) and Dec. 1 is a reality. Yikes!  Yes, Christmas is soon upon us!  Yes, the arguments and discussions abound about the curse of “busyness”, the commercialism of it all, and on and on it goes.

But for now, let’s go back, and back even more and let our imaginations take us to that little town of Nazareth where a young girl lived with her very ordinary family. Research suggests she was a young teenager, a lovely girl who brought joy to her family. (Well, some of it is how I envision her so I need a bit of license here.)  She was looking forward to being Joseph’s wife.  Joseph was a man who loved God and worked basically a “blue collar” job…as a carpenter.  So far I don’t see anything amazing about either of them.

And then the whole angel scene happens and life turns upside down.  This was serious business….to be pregnant before marriage. Stoning was often carried out against this “crime” in that day and time.  Can you imagine your own reaction?  I think I seriously would question if I had imagined or dreamed about an angel visiting me!  Not at all sure my reaction would have been “May it be to me as you have said.”  I don’t know about you but I sometimes have difficulty keeping my mind from wandering during my prayer time!  Well, an angel showing up in my presence probably would help me stay focused!

But, seriously, I LOVE how God came down into this challenging, sinful world as a tiny baby, born into an ordinary family, born among the smells and sounds of cattle and other animals. To quote G.A. Meyers,” God entrusts extraordinary things to very ordinary people.”  That’s you.... and me!  And because we are ordinary, we are exactly the people God chooses to love the unlovable, to serve the downhearted, to share the hope of Jesus.

I am looking forward to a very exciting week, a week God has called me to love others for His sake.  I am excited about our annual Women’s Christmas event on Thursday; I look forward to hearing God’s love come through our speaker.  It is such a privilege to be on the planning end of that event with a great team of women working hard to bring this about.  The next night I will be sharing my story of God’s perfect love, with women in another town in the U.P.  You see, I am amazed, truly, that God trusts me with His precious children.  He trusts me to share Him through my story of redemption and renewal.  And God has promised that HE will do extraordinary things through my very ordinary acts of obedience.

What is God calling you to do?  Can you share Jesus with a friend or neighbor who soooo needs to hear a word of hope?  Who is on your daily route?  Is there a mom who needs a word of encouragement, a relative struggling with a health issue who needs a hug, a needy and vulnerable child who needs a warm jacket?  These are such ordinary offerings but God can take them and accomplish something extraordinary through them.

What is God painting on the canvas of your life this Christmas?  Maybe it’s time for all of us who claim the title of “believer” to say to God, “May it be to me as you have said.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rescued - Redeemed - Restored

Those 3 little words have such enormous meaning, at least in my life!  Along the theme of the week,  Thanksgiving is a time to meditate and think about reasons to be thankful; being rescued, redeemed and restored is reason enough for my heart to overflow with gratitude.

Let's just mine the word, "rescued" for a moment.  Isn't it interesting that when we have an emergency of any sort... a fire, a medical crisis, etc. and the wonderful responders arrive, those folks who put their lives on the line for others...we are so grateful that we can't wait to thank them, to sing their praises, to let others around us know how thankful we are to have been rescued.

That's the way I feel about Jesus.  I was heading for hell (yes, harsh word but there it is); I was already in a life that was centered on self and that, my friends, was not a pretty sight!  Then I met Jesus, the ONE Who got bloodied, beaten, tortured, spit upon, mocked (I think you get the picture) for ME!!!!  And since He rescued me from a life of futility and an eternity apart from God, I am compelled to tell others about that act of love, done for me when I was (and still am) totally undeserving.  I want to love others the same way; I want to reach out to women and let them know they have already been rescued!  They just need to accept that gift.

How about "redeemed"?  Jesus delivered me out of my own self-made prison.  It cost God everything but was a free gift for me.  That is the simplest of ideas but so very hard to live out.  How can it be that simple?  But, that is exactly what happened.  Even though I continue to battle with sinful motives, ideas and attitudes, I am not habitually bound by them.  Through the working of the Holy Spirit in me, I am free to make choices that please God and certainly bring more joy to my life!

And finally, "restored".  Have any of you ever taken something broken, something you really loved, and brought it back to working condition?  Have you taken a piece of tarnished silver, polished it and then enjoyed its beauty?  That's what Jesus did/does for me!  I have many "dented" places in my past and my character was very "tarnished" in ways I don't even like to think about.  But through the love and grace of Jesus, I have been restored!

In fact, I have been restored to the place that God is using even me, of all people, to share His love and mercy and grace with others.  As a Christian speaker I LOVE to encourage other women to live out the purpose filled adventure God has waiting for them.  In God's eyes, we are worth it!

Back to the theme of gratitude and thankfulness: because I know what God has done for me through His Son, Jesus Christ, I desire to love others without conditions, without borders.  I Corinthians 13 has much to say about what love looks like from God's perspective.  (I would encourage you to read it.)  So my prayer today from my "Heaven Calling" devotional is this:  "Open my heart, Lord God, to love others as you have loved me".  Today and every day, that desire comes from a heart of gratitude.  Happy Thankful Day!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another New Beginning

What is it about new beginnings, new ventures, new paths that is both exhilarating as well as anxiety producing? My very first post on my new blog site and who knows who will even read it? And yet, here I am, leaning into this process that so many have already accomplished so well and with such apparent ease. I wonder how they all make this look so easy?

Over the years, God has placed a passion in my heart to bring His hope to women; hope through learning His Word, through one-on-one mentoring, fellowship, the organization of special events leadership training etc. My heart became sold out for Jesus when I met Him in a women's Bible study many years ago and although I have dealt with sin, wrestled it to the ground, repented of it and every day stare sin in the face, through all of that God has wooed me with His love and given me purpose. Because I have experienced that joy first hand, I want my blog to reach women who wrestle and struggle and question and fall apart and get back up and wonder....where do I fit in God's great plan?

This blog site, newly formed and in an ongoing process of editing (much like God does with each of us!) is the result of a new call on my life. I have had opportunities to speak at retreats and events occasionally over the last 20 years and discovered great joy in the entire process. I LOVE how God brings the thoughts, messages and words to my mind, helps me get them on paper and then participates in the delivery of the message. He goes before me; He prepares the hearts of the women listening and He equips me, of all people, to share His Words.

Jeremiah 1:9 is a passage where I believe God is speaking to me and it says: "Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, 'Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.' (ESV)

As I struggled with and prayed about what to do with this passion for speaking, sharing and encouraging, the Holy Spirit revealed His leading in several ways: first, I had very positive feedback from others who have heard me speak; second, my husband, Charlie, strongly encouraged me to pursue this ministry; third, God made the way for me to hand over other ministry responsibilities at my church so I could make the time for this new direction; fourth, a wonderful conference opportunity opened up and I attended the Christian Communicators Conference at The Cove in NC last August where I had huge affirmation that I was to move forward; and fifth, I believe the Jeremiah 1:9 verse (above) cinched it all!

The various pages of my blog will provide information if you are looking for a speaker. (There will be more written about that part of my ministry soon.)  I pray my future blogs will be informative, encouraging and personal enough to encourage women to know that we all can be used by God, no matter where we have been in life.  This blog site is still "under construction" (just like me!) but it is time to move forward. Sometimes we just have to go for it, right?!