Growth Measurements

When we moved into the home we had built for us – our kids were very young. In fact, our daughter was only 5 weeks old at the time. Our son had just turned 6 and so a tradition began that on each birthday we would mark their height on the door frame of my office with their initial and the year. Some years there wasn’t much more than an inch or so difference. Some years they were several inches taller than the year before. What a sweet tradition to see their growth over the years and celebrate it with them!

Some days while I was working in my office I would find myself staring at those markings and remembering how much joy we had in keeping with that tradition. I regret not finding a way to take that doorpost with us when we moved out of that home a few years ago. On the bright side, I will always have the memories of watching them back up to the doorpost and stand as straight as possible while I marked the post over the top of their head. Watching them spin around to see how much taller they were than the year before…such joy!

There is another important growth track for us. It has nothing to do with how tall we are. It has everything to do with our faith journey – our walk with the Lord. Our spiritual growth track has eternal value. There may be days when we feel that we haven’t learned a thing…that we aren’t growing as we should. And we must pay attention to what the Bible says to us about growing in our faith.

Romans 12:2 (NIV) is a clear measuring stick. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Learning what God’s will is for our lives so that we walk in it happens when we purpose to lean in to Christ every single day. We may not feel like we’re growing in the day to day. But there will be times when we realize we didn’t respond to a situation or a person the way that we used to…and we’ll realize that God is surely at work in our lives. And guess who is right there celebrating with us??!!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is ‘bloom where you are planted’. When you have something you love to do and you have the seed of a dream within you to share it with the whole world!… Where do you begin?

Do what you do – and – keep doing it. Hone your craft. Study it. Practice it. Do it! I believe that God gives us dreams to inspire us, to stretch us, to motivate us and to keep us moving forward. The truth is the world needs who we were created to be. And God has a plan for just what part of the world gets to experience it.

And then…give your dream to God. It may seem absolutely counter intuitive to hand over your dreams. In fact, at the time, you might even wonder why God would want us to give our gifts and talents and dreams back when He gave them to us in the first place! I believe when we trust God with our deepest dreams we keep His command to love Him above all else.

When we are faithful to our corner of the world, blooming exactly where God has planted us, we may be surprised at where He takes us next. Romans 8:28 (NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Bloom where you’re planted.

Oh The Waiting

The waiting room. No one likes the waiting room because no one likes to wait! It’s inconvenient. It holds us up from being productive. If it’s a doctors office, clinic or emergency room we add in that we’re not feeling well. We find ourselves surrounded by strangers…who are also inconvenienced, possibly ill and frustrated at the wait.

Earlier this year I ended up in a hospital emergency waiting room. I was really sick. The room was packed. It was 10 hours before I was able to be seen and once they made the decision to keep me I waited another 42 hours before being moved to a room. That is a lot of waiting! I didn’t have anyone with me and my phone battery was low so what could I possibly do? A person can only watch so much HGTV! So I started praying for the people around me in the waiting room. Pain relief, healing, peace, comfort. After a while I realized that despite the fact that everyone was tired and hungry and needing some sort of medical attention there was a calmness in the overcrowded waiting room.

The more I prayed for others the less time I focused on my own pain. And, the more compassion I felt for strangers who really didn’t seem like strangers anymore. I wish I could say that I make that choice every time I find myself waiting. It might not be a room we find ourselves in. It might be a situation being controlled by someone else. Perhaps a doctor’s report is keeping us waiting.

Oh the waiting! Here’s the thing: It’s not just about the waiting. It’s about what we do while we’re waiting. Do we take it to God? Do we turn to Him first or do we worry and make noise about our situation? Do we trust God? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (or humble pleading), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We may be limited in our waiting…but we can always pray.

Who’s Writing Your Story?

I love to read and I have a favorite author. Actually, I have several favorite authors. And every time one of them publishes a new book I am putting my order in as soon as it’s available! I will literally block out a day to read it cover to cover when it arrives. If you like to read you know the kind of book that holds your attention so well that you can’t put it down. I love that! I think it’s because I love stories.

I love meeting someone and hearing their story. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the dramatic highs and lows of the story that I find myself forever changed by it. And sometimes I find myself connected to the storyteller by something our stories have in common. A shared joy…a familiar pain…a similar loss.

Your life…and my life…are stories. And God is writing our stories WITH us! Whether we came to know Him as a child…or we just came to know Him last week…regardless of our age…we can look back over our lives and see His fingerprints, His ink, all over our story! After all, God made us in His image. Our pages are filled with hope, anticipation and love! We may not always feel that way…but maybe its because we haven’t read to the finish yet.

Are you like me – trying to pick up the pen and write a few pages on my own? Oh I find myself in serious trouble when I do that! How much better we are to rest in God and trust that every chapter He writes of our lives will be filled with scenes that only He could bring to life. And the most beautiful part is that He is in every single page! Jeremiah 29:11 confirms it. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’

Some days our stories read like a barnburner. Some days are like a cliffhanger! But every day, between the lines, on every page, our story is a love story, carefully crafted, written in red, by the Author who is Love. You and I….are God’s love story…and, He says it’s a best seller!

Worship Like Breathing

If I were to ask “when is your worship service?” you would probably answer Sunday morning…at a particular time. Maybe you attend a Saturday evening worship service. Either way, there would likely be a specific block of time that is designated as the time we intentionally go to worship.

What if we could go to worship every day instead of one day a week? Truly we can! The deepest part of God’s heart calls to the deepest part of ours to live there! Worship is defined as an act of devotion. But worship can be and should be so much more than an act. It is a discipline and it is beautiful when we worship Him daily! When we create space for God in every area of our life it becomes intrinsic to our being, like breathing. In fact, Hebrew scholars, when looking at the sacred name of God (YHWH) have expressed that when we breathe, we breathe the very name of God.

1 Chronicles 16:23 (ESV) beckons us to live a life of worship to the King. “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of His salvation from day to day.” Not just one day a week…but EVERY day of the week. Let Jesus show up in every area of our day. Not just our worship space. But our work space, our workout space, our living space…our family space.

May the Lord find our worship in this moment and throughout today holy and acceptable to Him.

Service With A Smile

We went to dinner with my parents the other night at one of their favorite restaurants. I loved keeping company with my family so I was thrilled that we could do it and that was the best part for me. But in my opinion, the ambience of the restaurant was just ok. The food was so so. What made our evening outstanding?..Jamal!

Jamal was our server. While he was tending to a number of tables that evening he attended to us as though we were the only ones in the restaurant. He was respectful and helpful and Jamal’s smile lit up the room! While I would’ve given the restaurant a 3.5 out of 5 – Jamal made the experience a 5 and we left feeling like we’d had an amazing evening all the way around.

How many times have we had an experience not be everything that we’d hoped for but someone came along and brought their light and their intentional joy to our space and made all the difference in the world?! When it happens it becomes such a memorable experience that we don’t want to forget it. We may even tell others about it!

It made me wonder – do WE make the difference in someone’s experience? Do WE bring the light and the joy to the place where we serve? If Jesus walked into our office, our classroom, our job site…would we suddenly change our demeanor and serve differently? Colossians 3:23-24 is really clear about what we should bring to the table. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what he has kept for his people. For Christ is the real Master you serve.”

How may I serve YOU today?

Seasons Change

I love the fall season! Aside from the obvious…my fondness for Pumpkin Spice Latte(!)…I also love the feel of the crisp, cool morning air. Watching the leaves on the trees turn different colors. Roasting marshmallows by the fire pit. There is a change coming and we can sense it.

Sometimes the seasonal changes are internal. As we grow older we go through different seasons of our life. As much as we try to keep things the same in our lives we can count on things changing. Change is the nature of this life.

But there is one constant that we can count on day or night. Winter, spring, summer or fall. Hebrews 13:8 promises us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!” That means that the God we read about in the Old Testament and the New Testament…the God of miracles and promises fulfilled, of kindness, goodness and love is still the same today and tomorrow, next week and next year! We can put our entire trust and confidence in Him in every area of our lives through every season.

Whatever this fall season holds for you and I we can lean into the One who walks with us through all of it!

When Good Isn’t Good Enough

That’s such a good movie! That restaurant serves incredibly good food! If you want a really good cup of coffee you have to try this coffee shop! We use the word ‘good’ to describe so many things. When we have children it becomes a directive we give them from a very young age – to behave well. ‘Be a good boy. Be a good girl.’

Even God used that description…as He created every living thing. Genesis chapter 1 records that “God saw that it was good.” When He created Adam and gave him directions about each of those living things, verse 31 wraps up chapter 1 with this, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Then sin entered the world and we have struggled to be good enough ever since. Think of the very best person you know or have known about. It could be your neighbor, your friend, your parent or your pastor…none are good enough for God! To be restored to relationship with God requires a goodness that we cannot attain by ourselves. Even Billy Graham and Mother Theresa, as good as they were, and as much good as they did in this world for others, were not good enough to stand in the presence of Almighty God on their own merit.

No matter how good we try to live – sin, the very nature of sin that we are born into, leaves us in a state of ‘not good enough’. But there is such good news. The Good News of the Gospel is that God’s Holy Son, Jesus, was born and grew up, perfect, blameless and He gave His life, conquering sin and death as He rose again. It is because of HIS goodness that we can be good enough to have a relationship with God.

On our own we could never be good enough. But we are not alone. When Jesus is our Savior there is no more striving to be good. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) reveals that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And THAT, my friend, is more than good enough!

One Lost Sheep

Ever lose sight of your child…in a store, at the beach or the park? Remember how you felt? Panicked. Distraught. Fearful. Remember the split second your eyes landed on your child? Relief! Gratefulness. The urge to kiss and hug them….and then give them a VERY firm talking to about staying where you could see them!! I know. I remember it well. I think the words I said began with this…”if you EVER run off again…!!”

Luke 15:4-7 tells us a similar story. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Notice it doesn’t say Jesus chastised the sheep all the way home. He joyfully puts it on his shoulders. He threw a celebration that HIS missing sheep was found! Have YOU experienced that moment when the Shepherd’s generous grace and forgiveness finds you in your lost-ness? Being the recipient…the one who was lost and is now…found! The Shepherd, who is Jesus, and all of heaven, celebrate when each one of us opens our heart to Him, asks forgiveness of our sins, and allows Him to rescue us and bring us home. That IS the best celebration of all!

Clear Plastic Covers

I was watching a movie the other night that started out with a friend sitting down on her friend’s sofa that was covered in clear plastic. As she lifted a fork full of cherry pie to her mouth she asked her friend, ‘when are you going to take this plastic off and live a little?’ You know what happened next, don’t you?! You guessed it! The cherry pie dropped right off the fork, onto the plastic and the response was…’that would be why I haven’t taken off the plastic.”

My grandmother had certain pieces of furniture she kept covered in this clear, thick plastic and mostly as kids we avoided sitting on them because, while they were protected from stains, they were not at all comfortable to sit on! Watching that scene from the movie made me think about how we tend to live life. Is it possible we have covered ourselves with a nearly invisible wall that attempts to shield us from really living like we were meant to live? We want to avoid the stains of life, but that’s what brings color into the fabric of our story…and builds character in our soul. It’s how we learn and grow.

Jesus said in John 10:10 (ESV), ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ Two very important things to know, really know, about these words of our Lord. There is a very real enemy who wants to harm us. And, Jesus left heaven to make it clear to us, beyond all doubt, that HE came to be sure we would LIVE, really LIVE!

Maybe it’s time to take the plastic off the furniture. Stop trying to make everything look perfect and living afraid that we’ll mess up the fabric of our life! Let Jesus come and sit awhile in His presence as He brings abundant, extraordinary life to us. Life is so much better without the plastic!