Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God

Look to the Lord and His strength; seek his face always    Psalm 105:4

That was one of the devotional scriptures I read on January 2nd.

God is so amazing!

Another new year. Another new chance to expand and grow; to learn and reach.

Last year I wrote about choosing a single word as a theme for the year; rather than a long resolution.

The word I chose for 2014 was Trust.
Uh boy.

It meant walking through some big fat difficulties in order to learn to trust in the Lord. And though I did learn to trust him and He worked it out for good; it was largely an experience I didn’t want to repeat.

And so recently I had begun my search for 2015’s word. I prayed to God and said I’m afraid to choose my own word because I don’t want any trouble…..which I am often heard to say.

I asked Him to show me what my word would be for the new year instead of the other way around.

A few days later on a quiet drive out to the beach I was pondering what the word might be and fell into that mode where your expectation inflates and edges out most all your other cares until the calm anticipation becomes the focus and anything is possible.

I walked the breach that spans the bay and then headed for the ocean. I chided myself for spending an inordinate amount of the time gleaning the sand for beach glass instead of admiring His handiwork of ocean and sky.

I’ve learned time and again the Lord often leaves us treasures in the sand when we look to Him.

There were piles of stones at the water’s edge and I headed straight for them. I was turned away by a low quick tide that threatened my boots. When the second wave rushed in before the first could ebb I knew in my heart the Lord had something better for me. I even said it out loud.

I turned my back to the sea and took another path.

I took ten steps away from the water saw this glorious aquamarine piece of beach glass standing upright in the sand. It was huge. And right in the path beach combers had been walking for hours.treasure

I picked it up and praised God. And I mulled over what the glass meant in context with the knowledge that he has something greater for me. A better path, If I look to Him. If I search Him.

The same expectation filled me as I drove to church the next day. I thought my word would be to look for God. To search for him; to seek him.

I sat down at my place in church and read the bulletin. The word “seek” in the quote on the back of the bulletin leaped out at me.

The quote read:

“Look not back on yesterday, So full of failure and regret. Look ahead and seek God’s way

All sin confessed you must forget” –Dennis DeHaan

Then came came the sermon. Our Pastor began with the destruction of Jerusalem and rounded to this point– “Seek The Lord”

There it was- His word.

Seek.

Funny how Pastor even said, as he explained important ways to seek the Lord, that we “could even look at the notes” as he had not planned to speak about seeking the Lord.

Every fiber of my being was smiling!

He said we need to read scripture everyday, study scripture with others, share in fellowship with others in the body and pray.

And looking back at what I wrote at the beginning of 2014, the word seek is in the scripture too:

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.   Lam 3:24-25

It came full circle and I’m so thrilled that God honored my request. Happy New Year!

Father God,

I thank you that you hear our prayers. Help me to seek you first in all I do each day of this new year. Help me to pause and look to you for guidance, and grace in all things. I pray that others would seek you and find that you are only a genuine plea away.

I’m so grateful to you Father God.

Amen!

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Where The Truth Lies

Spending the day with a narcissist will teach you a thing or two. All the hollow exchanges that always pony back around to them. The noisy chatter impersonating caring conversation, floated with “yups” when talk doesn’t pertain precisely to them. Sometimes they invest in making it about you  only so that it can’t be about them and what they are really up to.

So much to be learned from observing these impostors. Amazing how they can so easily fool themselves! Luckily the truth can’t be faked.

Psalms 25:10
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Some observable facts:

Truth is not acquiescent, it won’t bend to whims and fancy.

Truth is naked, simple, stark. It stands alone, unvarnished and solid.

It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, where certain facts are inadmissible; omitted as if truth can be coerced and molded. Where one fact is accepted but the larger stand of evidence is dismissed.

It is not accurate to say there is more than one version of the truth. That is precisely how the truth gets manipulated into falsehood. 

Truth doesn’t have to make room for multiple perspectives -yours or mine. Points of view are not necessarily the truth, but skewed by convenience and motive and lack.

The truth is consistent. It displays its self repeatedly like a chorus. Evidence of it’s nature builds with tidy perfection.  

When truth is neglected chaos results. 

Chaos is the enemy of the truth. 

God is not the author of chaos. He is the God of order.

Truth will not be ferreted out only to be trumped, reduced and cancelled. It will not be quieted. Truth will not be asked to be excused, labeled as ranting borne out of disgruntled enmity. 

Grownups like to pretend. They play one another like consummate orchestra leaders.  Until they wholeheartedly believe their own truths, the ones they rehearse as they drift off to sleep. The ones they practice in the morning as they stare in the mirror. They tell just about anyone with a pulse, “Look? See? See my truth?”

Impostors inflate their concocted lies until like parade floats they take on a life of their own. It becomes difficult to maintain them and the ensuing struggle to keep them from crashing becomes a full time endeavor. I would imagine it difficult to keep track of which version of the lie was told to whom and for what aim and at what time.

Sometimes a common refrain is heard when they embark on the truth, “No! I’m not even kidding this time! I’m serious!” That qualifier like a hashtag signals the rest of us that this time they are actually telling the truth. They think that “kidding” is synonymous with lying.

Impostors are adept at mimicry, they utilize tidbits of information, mangling the details and lacing in their own hair-brained opinions until they believe they thought it up! Nodding and complicit behind the facade.

These sound bites are trotted out instead of acquiring any actual facts. It’s so much easier to know one tired kernel on a topic than to dig a bit and learn the entire subject. Repeating handy one liners on any subject makes it seem as if they know a little bit of everything. But after a while the same rusted lines become the clanging cymbal drowning actual knowledge.

Proverbs 12:19
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

When Impostor’s grandiose dreams are given legs toting them around becomes a fight with reality because hatching plans is easy, doing the actual work indescribably tedious.

Meanwhile truth is at work; mechanical forces grind to a halt, shoddy work passed off, bank accounts drain, machinery breaks down, people revolt, tempers flare, the loyal are shunned. All day long impostors shift the blame and frequent disappearing acts become the norm, the actual work being left to those who will be first denounced and then denied because they dared to speak the truth.

The second things don’t go their way impostors become martyrs acting as if they are the ones being put upon. Pouting and ranting and bullying in a pathetic tirade because their lies are spinning out of control, forcing them to look cartoonish and small.
They squirm and their masks sit askew on their heads, their bloodshot eyes work to and fro and they always opt out of the truth. The fact that their own lies have chauffeured them to this situation is always lost on them.  Frustrated they fall squarely back in their own mire and rewrite history immediately.

But that’s all impostors can rely on. Because one ounce of the actual literal truth would be their undoing. 

Jeremiah 9:3
And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.

Many impostors have a dreadful neurosis that they fear above all else. And that is dread of being caught dead wrong in a lie of their own manufacture. Contorting the truth is how they relieve their neurosis; layering falsehood upon falsehood like a Ferris Wheel of giddy nonsense.

What happens to the chaos birthed from idle untruths?

Trust is broken. Completely and irrevocably.

No one operates in a void. All of our actions have repercussions. One well placed word has the ability to lift or to tear down. But impostors are nothing if not insensitive, so consumed with their own woe, and lacking the insight that their actions injure at all.

Thankfully our omniscient God  is every where at all times, and witness to all of our actions. So walking up to someone and verbally assaulting them is done in God’s very presence. Shredding them behind their back, done in God’s presence. Backing over them with a car and driving away, done in God’s very presence. All of our slights, our daggers, our slaps every single sin we commit– God is the ultimate witness….. and Judge.

And when you realize that an impostor could care less, and wonder when they will get a clue, it is imperative to remember that the choice of good versus evil has been presented to them too and if they don’t get accept the invitation…….God will not be entertaining them through out eternity.

And ultimately– that is where the truth lies.

Father God,

Please protect us from Impostors who shamble through life destroying any semblance of truth. Open the eyes of their understanding that they be humbled and choose You Father God. Only You can help them.

Psalms 25:5
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on thee do I wait all the day.

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Easter Zeal

But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Mat 6:33

I’ve heard it said before “For the Christian every day is Christmas and everyday is Easter”. True enough. But how do we remember this in the face of daily assaults on our senses?

How do we remember the miracle of Christ’s birth, our Savior, in the body of a little baby, every single day? And His sacrifice on the cross 30 years later for our redemption, every single day? When our time is less than constructive, our attitude more than destructive and our souls pulled in ten directions before breakfast?eggtree

  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusts in thee.        Isa 26:3

When our eyes fly open in the morning and we sleepily look to the clock to see what time it is, our first thought is “What do I have to do again today?”  When it should be “Good morning Father God, thank you for this day,” followed by the last ditch effort to snuggle under our covers.

 Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Phi 4:4

In the next ten minutes we generally reach for our coffee and our (somewhat) smart phones, check the weather, the stock market, the news, our email, not necessarily in that order. What we should do first is read a daily devotional (handily downloaded to our phone via a free e-book reader app). Get a first dose of spiritual tonic into our brain to jump start the day. For me reading a morning devotional is like putting on a sturdy pair of stilts that I can rise above all the morass of my day and see the horizon like a plumb line. Morning scripture will steady my teetering mind.

As the day progresses thank God for all things. Thank God for socks that match. Thank God for moving all the cars out of the way on the freeway. Thank God that the boss is absent again.  Thank God that there is no line at the grocery. Thank God that your kids are sitting politely side by side and not punching each other. Thank God that we can clean the cob webs tomorrow because today went just fine and there will be a tomorrow.

Being aware of His grace all day long taps you into a conversation with Him. It acknowledges that God is with you always. Even in the little things. I used to think God has so many things to worry about, volcanoes, wars, famine, asteroids, why should I bother him about where I left my keys? But He does care about where I left my keys. Amazingly if I acknowledge that I can’t find my keys without His help, I suddenly find them.

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Phi 4:6

In “nothing” be anxious. In “everything” be thankful by prayer. Nothing and Everything. Mighty big words. No. Thing. Every Thing. That pretty much sums it up. Doesn’t leave any thing out. Any. Thing.

It’s the  consistency of this prayer and supplication that builds the relationship. If I in obedience continually give Him the glory for the mercy He bestows, then the relationship and the conversation stays real all day long.

biblecandleI love end of the day rituals. Lighting a candle, listening to a favorite worship song and reading a different devotional than the morning’s or a bible study that will place your mind in a receptive mode as your sleepy thoughts revolve around what God has gotten you through in the last 12 hours and the new lessons He has prepared for your tomorrow.

So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Rom 10:17

I read the scriptures and take out a pen and underline the meaningful sentences in my bible. There God speaks to us always, across the ages, with as much guidance and wisdom as the words written so long ago.  As you read His word, connections from the morning’s scripture to your day’s experience will reflect back to you  and entwine with what you read in the evening. The t’s will be crossed, the i’s will all be dotted and it will all make sense.

You will have that epiphany moment when it’s all stitched together in your mind by the Lord and you will realize, He did come just for you, and He did die just for you.

And it’s Easter and Christmas all over again.

Father God?

Thank you for allowing us to have the conversation with you. That the sacrifice of your Son Jesus opened the dialogue. That we can come to you with our concerns and you do hear us.

We are so grateful to you.

Amen!

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Go and Get Your Own Box

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.  2 Cor 9:15 

When it is quiet and you can lay all the pieces of your life down in front of you, what do you see?

In church during praise time this morning I saw in my heart a set of gift wrapped boxes. They were all set in a row before me from greatest to smallest.

lightboxThe first and greatest gift box was so immense that I couldn’t see the entire thing. The box could not contain the light that was bursting out from it. All the boxes so neatly lined up beside it could barely be discerned in the shadow of this huge box overflowing with glory.

I knew that box represented God’s place in my life, radiant and holy, overwhelming with mercy and grace constantly pouring out to me. His light spilled over onto the next beautifully wrapped box, my place as wife to a man who has delivered love to me everyday. I am so very grateful that he is in my life.

The next gift box contains my role as mother to beautiful, intelligent, strong and confident children with big hearts and strong ties to one another. It’s almost too much to comprehend that I’ve been blessed with such good children to count on in my life.

After that each wondrous box in succession revealed the precious gifts God has bestowed on me. My role as In-law,  my role as Grandmother.  My role as friend and neighbor. I learn so much each time I step into these roles from those God has placed in my life.

Each subsequent box opens to a joy that I have only God to thank for. Member of my beloved church family. Pet owner to endearing creatures who regale me with joy and laughter. Writer, gardener, knitter, avid reader, cook, craft-maker, and so on all the way to chief floor and bottle washer and lastly employee.

tinyboxIn my heart I saw that smallest box in the row. This box smaller than the nail of my pinkie toe was the at the end of the row, with it’s own shadow and the barest sliver of light shone on it. I contains the problems that consume me the most.

This itty-bitty box where my mind keeps idling is so insignificant compared to all the gifts that our Lord has given me.

 

Father God?

I thank you for the imagery you so graciously poured out to me this morning. You are so faithful to me.

Those last boxes Lord, the ones that represent the least of who I really am, Lord I surrender them to you today. Thank you for reminding me so clearly Who You are in my Life and though I learn from the problems you permit me to experience they do not define me. I can place my trust in you that you will see me through, so that I can be who you’ve created me to be.

Your presence is what I cherish most because first and foremost I am yours.

Amen!

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Mission Impossible?

 But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.   For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition                Eph 2:13-14

Imagine if you had to impart  a crucial connection to someone.   It had to bridge time and  place to confirm the truth. In this absolute moment this person needs to have the clearest reckoning that all the bits of information and experiences they have learned must boil in their mind to a ripe temperature and percolate into their soul to reveal the purest truth.

Could you do it?

missimposs

If it were up to me it would look like a cross between old reruns of Mission Impossible and Laverne and Shirley episodes.

Kinda like this:

Mission Control: “So, for the umpteenth time this month Jane hears the basic truth:       To-Get-Out-Of-Her-Own-Way

This has been shown to her in television ads, conversations at work, the premise of the novel she has just finished, and yet, she still sits like a gigantic mountain in her own way.

She knows she’s at her wits end. She knows she can’t go on like this, yet she is loathe to figure out her biggest impediment. Herself.

Your mission should you chose to accept it, will be to make sure that when she comes home from work today; having avoided doing any work at all, and just gossiping the day away; that in the stack of bills in her mail box will be an important letter that will empower her to change her life.”

Me: “That’s easy enough. So I just have to put a letter in her mail box. Consider it done.”

Mission Control: “But, the catch is that she needs to actually open the letter. To actually read it and comprehend what the letter says. It can’t be strewn aside unopened. She must see that she is not alone in the universe, and she has the opportunity to be saved from herself.  All it takes is for her to surrender and look Up.”

Me: “Oh.”

Cue Video: Here is where you would see the video of the stacks of unopened mail her cat sits upon in her dining room. catmail

Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.  Jer 33:6

Okay, so with some stealthy planning you’ll have to get into her house, and open that piece of mail and move it from place to place without her seeing you do it, until she can no longer avoid reading it and the connection is finally made.

This is where Laverne and Shirley come in. Remember the time they broke into someone’s apartment to retrieve something? The episode was replete with the usual antics of falling in through the window and trying not to make any noise, frightening each other. Smacking heads, knocking things over. Then somehow in the dark they wind up hooked up, way up off the floor on the hangers behind a door. Swinging wildly in the dark, feet dangling in the air, madly trying to get down.

Naturally, this is where they are caught.

And that is exactly where Jane would find me, hanging by my neckline, behind her door trying desperately to get down, waving the opened letter around and pointing at it like a loony-tune. When the police arrive, I’d be saying over and over, “Yeah but! Jane just read this letter! It will explain everything!”  laverneshirlely

But God makes these connections so easily all the time. He easily reaches down and lifts you by the collar unhooking you from the back of the door and setting your feet down on solid ground again and again.

How does God do it? His mercies are new each morning. He invites you to listen to Him time and again with all the patience that’s ever been invented. God can cut right down to the bone with well placed verse or word that bangs around on your heart until you can no longer deny Him.

He uses every modality available: scripture, sermons, fellowship, devotionals, loved ones, life experiences, mistakes, loss, email, Christmas cards, commercials, sky writing…the list is endless. We need only to be open and listen for Him.

 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…   Exo 31:3

Left to us we would spin and spin desperately trying to get the message across, swinging crazily from the back of the door with little or no results.

…….Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord;        Eph 2:20-21

Father God?

You are so amazing; so neatly tying loose ends together for us. Your unfailing love and faithfulness never ceases to amaze me. How I can ask a question and you will answer me a thousand ways before breakfast arrives!

Were it all left to us we’d scurry around scheming and smashing into things like an old episode of “I Love Lucy”. We thank you that you always hear our prayers and graciously give us answers when we first seek the Kingdom of God.

Amen!

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New Mercies – New Year

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.   Lam 3:22-23

Happy New Year!  happynewyear

It’s a bright shiny new year.  It’s the time of year when we stand at the helm of hope, we gather up all of our self disappointments  and try to paste together an amalgam of disciplines. We want to apply a balm of resolutions so that we find ourselves down the clear path of righteousness at the end of this year. Or at least a path of virtuousness.

But God’s mercies are new every day! Everyday we get the opportunity to do it right.

Every day is New Year’s Day. The only way a resolution will work is by breathing it every day. New air in, old air out. New chance in, used chance out.

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.   Lam 3:24-25

I love the concept of One Word 365, boiling down your new year’s resolution to just one word that resonates with your inner need for improvement. The aspiration mitered down to a few syllables , much more memorable.  Way easier to remember than say my new year’s resolution from 2010: “I promise to never ever stick my thumb into molten-lava-hot baked clams to see if they are ready to eat yet.” See? Catchy, but clumsy. A simpler term would have been “OUCH!” Attention grabbing, mind jogging, thumb saving.

But then I stumbled upon the 25 For Sanity Manifesto – by Ann Voskamp, and those 25 examples of living life are way too savvy and cool to pass up too. Each phrase waiting to be employed and displayed like a mantilla.

So which is it? A long mantra? Or one word, concrete and applicable like a Band Aid? 

There are soooooo many words to choose from. One of the first possibilities I thought of was “Magnanimous”, but first I had to learn to spell it. When I mentioned it to another she admonished me, “Oh no! You want to receive! You want to get things!” But ehhh, isn’t it better to give than to receive?  Uh Boy.

“Forward” is another word that I thought about. Last year I took the metaphorical horse by the reins and got unstuck from one job and moved “forward”. What a liberating and healthy thing to do. I moved on straight ahead leaving behind a world of dysfunction. Only to find a new and improved brand of dysfunction, tightly veiled, but not unlike a slip showing from beneath your pleated skirt.

calendarSo, do we leave the lessons of last year behind? Or are they a template for the new year? Do I Magnanimously move Forward until I get it right? or is Getting It Right the one (few) word(s) for 2014? Should it be a new word a day? Like a page a day calendar? Perhaps since God’s mercies are new every day.

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD   Lam 3:26

2013’s experiences shape our view of 2014, and if God wasn’t part of the equation for you, then I pray that you ask him to be so for this new year.

Father God?

In sifting through the experiences of this past year and looking forward to the new one, I pray for Your Word to guide me. Please express to me the path you’d have me take. Plant in me a new word to encourage me to meet your standards. Make me more Christ-like each day. Make me bold in your Word. Help each one of us to see what beautiful plans you have for our lives and to revel in the mercies you grant us each day.

Amen!

 

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Resist the Reluctance

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10

Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art, in which he describes his creative process and his personal struggles to accomplish his craft of writing. He examines the precipice that we often find ourselves perched on….the spot where you know that you were meant to create something meaningful ; and yet you are paralyzed by this unseen force that stops you from completing your craft, or art or song or what ever your particular gifting.

Pressfield calls it “resistance” and explains that it can come from within. The sneaky voices that tell you your not good enough or smart enough, learned or sophisticated enough. It’s strange how those sneaky little voices sound an awful lot like my own voice!

After watching his interview with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday show, the very next day as I read my morning devotional I found these words:

Don’t quench the spirit 1 Thess 5:19 yarn

I love how God knits things together so effortlessly.

Don’t quench the spirit. Yes! Don’t douse the flames of your creative longing before you put pen(cil) to paper, breath to voice, pan to stove, yarn to needle, tutu to waist.  Do not dismiss your God given talents. The Holy Spirit is with you always, coaxing you along, you can do it. Don’t lose heart before you start.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places. Eph 6:12

Often we get wrapped up in the concept and the trappings and then don’t even attempt the creation that fueled us to get dressed, to go to the store, to stand on line and bring home our clay and chisels, our thread and fabric, or empty music sheets……. Just to stare at them…….. All forlorn in the bag………… Making us feel empty………. And guilty……. uh-ahem……procrastinator

That’s the resistance we need to step up to and face down.

I remember watching a coworker once unload box after box of a towering 200 foot long greenhouse. Without stopping she began to open the boxes right there on the spot and erect the greenhouse. Without pausing for a cup of coffee, or to find the directions, or to call all of her friends to let them know how the greenhouse arrived, and what the driver looked like and how many boxes there were. Nope, she dug right in.

Get up and get your gear, do it. Plunge in. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Carve out time each day for your creative labors. Mistakes make greatness. Stinky poems get feelings to light, so they can be refined and compared to a summer’s day. paintbrushes

Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shine unto all that are in the house.

 Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Mat 5:14-16

Don’t quench the spirit! If you feel stuck pray to the Holy Spirit! Ask our merciful God in heaven the one who placed in you the desire to create, ask Him to birth it from you, to let it leap out into the light. Ask Him to help you move away from the “resistance” and replace it with discipline to follow your gifts. 

Father God?

Sometimes we get mired in complacency or fear. Sometimes we don’t use the wonderful talents you have placed within us. Help us Lord to be motivated to launch into our gifts with joy and overcome any strongholds that bind our creativity. Place in us  a spirit of confidence that stands up to any resistance and to push it aside easily. Help us always be grateful for our gifts.

Amen!

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