Surprise!

My brothers had a favorite hiding place in our childhood home. All the bedroom doors and the main bathroom door all converged into a short hallway that also had a small linen closet. When no one was in the bathroom we would keep the door wide open since it swung out to open….and it perfectly concealed that hallway linen closet. THAT is where, countless times, my brothers would wait to jump out and surprise me. Their mission was a complete success almost every time! Just as I was about to pass that spot they would jump out and do their lion roaring impression.

I laugh when I think about it now. But back then I would get so mad at them…and mad at myself for not anticipating the scare! I knew they could be hiding there. Why did I repeatedly let my guard down? They loved to try to make me jump and, better yet, jump and scream. Truth be told – there is a bit of a blind spot here at the radio station – just outside the studio and several times I’ve been caught off guard and jumped in surprise. Even once let out a scream! Although I think I scared my co-worker more than they scared me! Every time it happens it reminds me of my ornery brothers.

It also makes me think about how easily we can forget that there is a very real enemy who doesn’t need to think up new ways to surprise us and cause fear to grip us. He uses the same tactics and trickery over and over. And if we are not on guard and alert to his attempts, the devil can catch us. He is even bold enough to hide in plain sight! 1 Peter 5:8 (CEV) makes it really clear: “Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.”

This is no time to let our guard down! Our enemy may be sneaky…but our God is greater! And He is always with us.

Walking In The Sand

It is true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Impressions count. We can make a bad impression just as easily as we can make a good one. How we respond in various situations. How we show up…early, on time, or late? The way we dress and the way we engage with people…all leave some kind of an impression. But impressions come and go. Think of walking on the beach near the ocean. As we walk we leave footprints in the sand. Each time a wave rolls in – the impression of our presence there is washed away. Don’t mistake what I’m saying. It is important to make a good first impression. As believers, we are called to be different, to be image bearers of the King.

You know what is even more important than making an impression. Making an impact! Having a powerful effect on our sphere of influence…now that is impact. Imagine walking along that same beach only this time instead of focusing on how the waves are washing away our footprints we find ourselves noticing our surroundings and see a number of starfish, or where I live it would be horseshoe crabs, that have washed up onto the sand. We could show up just in time as they are washing up on the shore. We could speak kind words to them. Pitch a giant beach umbrella to help keep the sun from beating down on them directly. We could even encourage them that they are so close to the water if they would only move a little farther they could get back in the water where they belong. That might impress them. But what they really need is someone to help them get back to where they need to be. Where they were born to thrive…in the ocean! Actually helping them get back into the water…THAT is making an impact!

Galatians 6:2 from The Passion Translation says this: “Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.” Do we just want to make an impression or will we push through to make an impact to the Kingdom?!

Every Thought

I am thankful that God created us with the ability to choose. I’m not sure I would’ve done that if I were in His position. Don’t get me wrong. I am so thankful that He is God and I am not! God could have made us without free will. But He did not. His story is filled with our stories. And none are sweeter than the ones told of those who call Him Father.

I can’t imagine a greater feeling than knowing you’ve been chosen. You and I know how loved we feel knowing that God chose us. Imagine how God’s heart must be moved when we choose Him!

He created us with the ability to think for ourselves and the choice to reject anything that would try to come between us and the Lord. The Apostle Paul knew there would be many things that would try to disrupt our connection with God, including, and especially, our own thoughts! That is why Paul gave us this direction in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV). “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Day by day. Minute by minute. We must take captive every thought that isn’t of God. Choose Him today!

Swaddled

When my daughter, Abby, was born she didn’t like anything that moved. When I would lay her down she would suddenly throw her little arms out and begin to cry. I learned there is something called ‘startle reflex’ that can be pretty normal for babies. Leaning over to put them down can make them feel like they’re falling. The doctor gave me two instructions: hold her as close to my body while I was leaning over…and swaddle her. You can google the step-by-step for swaddling but wrapping her up tight in a thin security blanket, like a little burrito, worked wonders for her. Swaddled…and held very close to my heart.

I read 1 John 4:18 from The Message. It’s the Bible verse that tells us that perfect love casts out fear. “There is no room in love for fear” grabbed my full attention. Listen to the whole verse: “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Just imagine being fully wrapped up in God’s love and held tightly to the heart of Jesus. The more we lean into His love the less afraid we will be. I love the thought that ‘well-formed love banishes fear’. It’s not any kind of love we could make ourselves. It’s the Jesus kind of love that holds us close to His heart and sets us free all at the same time.

Context Counts

Context matters. In fact, context makes all the difference in making sure we have the full intention of a statement. For example, I have loved the Bible verse in Psalm 27:13 that gives me a promise to believe…that I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That is, by itself, a powerful word to pray. So as I sat with Psalm 27 a bit recently and read the verse before and after it, it becomes even more meaningful, because the context reminds us to speak it, believe it and declare it…especially when we don’t see it!

Here is the context of Psalm 27: 12-14 (NIV). “Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

There are times in our lives when accusers may rise up against us. There will be times that we may feel on the verge of losing it, deliberating over the desire to run away or stand in faith believing. This full context Word of the Lord gives us our battle plan! Look to God and pour out our concern to Him. Wait for Him in courage. And be confident of His promise…in THIS lifetime…we WILL see His goodness in our lives. Take heart!

He Keeps Us

We sometimes sing this song in church. It’s called ‘Awesome (My God Is)’. The chorus is, “my God is awesome. He can move the mountains. Keep me in the valley, hide me from the rain.” As many times as we’ve sung that song…one day the lyric – keep me in the valley – struck me. Why would God keep me in the valley???

It would be easy to misunderstand the intent of that some days when we feel like we will never come out of the darkness, the pain, the depression or sorrow. Why would God keep me in the valley? But, don’t miss the real meaning of that verse, dear friend. Yes God can move the seemingly insurmountable mountains. He can shelter us when it feels like there is only rain in our lives. But He is NOT keeping us like prisoners in the valley. Psalm 145:20 tells us that “The Lord keeps all who love Him.”

It is certain that we will encounter valleys in our lifetime. The promise from God is that He is protecting us or keeping us while we are walking through them. Yes, our God is awesome! He can move the mountains. He protects us in the valleys. And He covers us in the rain. Did I mention how awesome our God truly is?!!

It’s The Little Things

Don’t you love it when you catch all the green lights on the way to work? Or you are putting on a jacket you haven’t worn since the Spring and find a $10 bill in the pocket. Maybe you pulled up to the window at the drive thru this morning and someone ahead of you paid for your coffee! It’s the little things, isn’t it? I’ve said that so often at times when something totally unexpected happens and makes me smile and it gives me pause to be thankful for His unexpected blessings in my day.

Likewise, we sometimes are frustrated by little things that don’t happen as we expected. We arrived five minutes too late at the Post Office to mail a package in time to arrive for someone’s birthday. Or we’re rushing to get our kids to eat their breakfast before school and the milk we pulled out of the refrigerator has soured. We’ve taken extra measures to dress just right for our big day and no one even noticed! No one thing that is life altering but still we might find ourselves saying in frustration…it’s the little things, isn’t it?!

Here’s the most important thing to remember. Little things aren’t little to God. He cares about every little thing in our lives just as much as He does the big things. Isn’t it odd that we don’t spend much time talking with God about the little things? 1 Peter 5:7 (TPT) tells us to “pour out all your worries and stress upon Him and leave them there, for He always tenderly cares for you.” It bears remembering that little things aren’t little to God!

Tuning Up

I played marimba and the chimes in our high school concert band. If you’ve ever heard an orchestra during the warm ups before the orchestra begins you know it can be a chaotic, jumbled fray of noise! Everyone is warming up, preparing to play their own parts and no one is paying any attention to what the others are playing. But, when the orchestra director steps up to the platform, taps the baton on the music stand and raises both arms up high, every musician immediately quiets and comes to complete attention. What follows is the most beautiful sound as everyone follows the lead and plays in beautiful harmony.

I was reading Colossians 3:15-17 from The Message and it reminded me of that experience. Here is what it says: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”

When the peace of Christ rules our hearts we begin to step away from the chaos and get in tune with one another more and more. There is so much in Colossians 3 that deserves our attention. Allow God’s Word to have the run of our heart and our household. When we begin to follow His lead it produces the most beautiful song that honors God in every way.

Finding The Best Deals

Sometimes you have to search for the best deals. From a very young age, my mom taught me not to let my eyes get caught up in the front of the store items. While those things sparkle and shine and might be the latest and greatest…much of the time they are over-priced and usually out of our budget range. As we would make our way to the back of the store we’d find…the clearance racks! I can still hear the sound of the metal hooks of the plastic hangers scraping across the metal racks as we swished through garment after garment on the racks…looking for great finds that so far had been overlooked and now marked down. It might’ve taken a while but we found some of the best deals digging through what others had passed over. In fact, I’m convinced that’s why when you compliment a girlfriend on her outfit she will tell you where she got it and how little she paid. Celebrating the discovery of the treasures, once left behind, until you saw their worth.

It reminds me that sometimes we overlook the treasures in others. We don’t take the time to dig deeper than what we see to find the real gifts and abilities that people tend to cover up. Or we’re just too busy to even look. The barista who froths our favorite coffee blend. The bus driver or teacher. Our co-workers. People we sit near every week in church or see in line at the grocery store. Maybe YOU are feeling overlooked or discarded. Unseen. Doubting that anyone will ever see anything of worth in you.

Listen to how much God decided you are worth in Ephesians 1:4 – 8 (ESV): “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God was willing to dig deep to find us. We must be willing to do the same for each other.

Think On These Things

Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! Have you ever used that expression with someone? Truthfully, I was told that more than once when I was growing up. I just was not a morning person back then. Honestly I am more of a mid morning person if there could be such a thing!

I have learned a few things over the years about how to start my day out on better ground than the wrong side of the bed. And one of them comes straight out of the Bible in Philippians 4: 8-9. Listen to it from The Message: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.”

From the moment we are coherent in the morning we get to choose which direction our attitude is going to go. Yes, negative thoughts, disruptive behaviors, challenging opportunities all try to capture our attention but beginning our day with the goodness of God and the good things we have going on in us and around us sets our feet on a path for the day to line up with God’s instruction to us in Philippians 4.

Imagine that today is a song that God is writing…working everything together. When we choose to put His Word into practice in our lives we become a beautiful harmony part in God’s orchestration.