In search of a star

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:10-12 (CEB)

Today is the 12th day of Christmas. Tradition tells us that this is when the Wisemen arrived to see the baby Jesus. How did the Wisemen know that Jesus had been born? The Wisemen knew that something was about to happen because they had been watching. They weren’t distracted by things going on around them. They were intently looking. Not only did they notice that the star began its move they also followed.

There is much I can learn from the Wisemen. I can learn to patiently watch and listen as God reveals His vision for my life. Sometimes, even when I try hard to do so, I just don’t see God in the everyday things and events. But I think this is why we are given the story of the Wisemen.

Epiphany gives me the time to remember to watch, wait, listen, look, anticipate, and discern the light, life and truth of the Lord’s presence in my midst. It reminds me that it is important that I remember to look for Him in my life. It is vital that we remember to watch. Once I see His presence in my life I should not return to who I was before. I must seek a new path for my life. How applicable that this story comes so near to the first of the year with its opportunity of a fresh start!

Dear God, Thank you for second chances and for new beginnings. Thank You for signs in our life that show us the way to go. Help me to go down a different path this year. Help me to search for you in even the smallest moments. Help me in my search to be transformed through Your never endig grace. Amen.

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Psam 139

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand —
    when I awake, I am still with you.

I Thank You this day for knowing me inside out, Lord. I treasure Your knowledge of me. I thank You that when I come to the end of this day, You will still be here with me. Amen

The vast unknown

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. ~Jer. 29:11-14 (CEB)

I have a need to know. I need to have a plan. If you were to list my strengths, organizing and planning would be attributes that would make the list. As often happens, sometimes our strengths are also our weaknesses.

I like to plan and organize because it gives me a secure feeling of where I am going. Sometimes it even comforts me as I look back and can see where I have been. But when people ask me “what is next” when it comes to God’s call on my life I have to say…. “I have no idea”. I have no plan. I do not know what is coming next.

There is no information for me to neatly analyze and organize.

There.   Is.   Just.  The.   Vast…     UNKNOWN.

Here I realize that God does not want me relying on my self. If I knew what God’s big picture was for my life I soon would be busy, head down with calendar in hand, planning out all the steps that would get me there. I would stop looking up. There would be no trust.

Instead of giving me a big picture, God whispers in my ear, “Trust Me“. To trust God I must take my eyes off of the things I keep myself busy analyzing and organizing so that I can look up to see what is going to be the next step. In the unknown, I HAVE to trust God. With a plan, the trust lies on me. If the plan is with me I am limited to my abilities and knowledge. With me I am bound to fail. If the plan is with God, there is a vast wealth of ability and knowledge. With God…. all things are possible. Even if the possibilities are yet, a vast unknown.

Thank You Heavenly Father for walking with me hand in hand through the vast unknowns of life. Help me keep my eyes on Your and my ears open to hear You whisper… “This is the way you should go.” Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Lean not on my own understanding

Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.” He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.  Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.” She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” “John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied. Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb. ~Mark 6:14-29 (CEB)

In real life, the story doesn’t always end with “They lived happily ever after”. John gave his life for God. He never backed down from what needed to be said. He gave his all for God. He gave his life. The story doesn’t always end like it did for Daniel in the lion’s den or as it did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had great faith and stood up for what they believed and it all turned out right for them in the end.

I also can’t help but think of Paul. He tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians that there is something that he continually struggles with. He has prayed for it to be removed, but God didn’t. (2Co 12:7-10) Sometimes God asks us to live through or with a circumstance. Sometimes the answer is not deliverance this side of heaven.

Most of the time when we pray, we pray for God to do something to us or for us, But God wants to do something in us and through us. I have to remember that God sees time differently than me. I have to trust that He is working all things together for my good (Jer. 29:11) even when it doesn’t feel like he is, even when I don’t receive an answer to prayer in the way that I want it to be answered.

My part of the picture is giving my cooperation for God to work through me. God gives His self to us for His purpose only as we give ourselves to God. God does not ask me to give up who I am but for the death of self-centeredness. God asks that despite my circumstances that I allow myself to be used for His service. When I give my all in service to Him my story does have a happy ending. It might be different than the worlds’ view of the happily ever after version but when I do His will, my story in the end is happy one with Him forever in heaven.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3, 5-6

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. –Reinhold Niebuhr

Body, soul and spirit

Therefore we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. ~Rom. 6:4-11 (CEB)

As a believer I have all I need for a  life in Christ. If I don’t know it I can’t experience the reality of it.

One of the Biblical truths I grew up with is how when we are baptized we died with Christ, are buried with Christ and have risen with Christ. But I am sitting right here, alive. What died?

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.” According to this verse we are a three part whole. Thinking of myself in this way makes it a little clearer.

The invisible is easy to overlook until it’s not there anymore. When we look at the shell of a loved one that has passed on we are quite aware that we are more than just a body.

My body is the visible shell that the world sees. My soul, my mind, is the invisible part of me that thinks and feels. It interprets information that is received and it can only whether it is a lie or truth. We readily acknowledge these two parts of our being. But the third, my spirit is what links me to God.

If I take a moment and think back to the Garden of Eden I remember that Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge they would die. I distinctly remember them walking away from their encounter with God after their sin. (Gen 3) Weren’t they supposed to die? Their body and soul left the garden, but the damage was to their spirit, that invisible place that connected them to God is what died. Therefore every human was born into death, with a “dead spirit”.

The only way I can bring life to my spirit is to admit that it is dead and receive the One who is Life. God’s Holy Spirit makes life available leaving me with a choice. The choice I am faced with is that I can either receive truth from my circumstances by responding to what my soul, my mind tells me or I can listen to the truth that through Christ’s sacrifice I have now been united with God’s Spirit.  The Spirit feeds me Truth and leads me in the way I need to go.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your guiding Spirit that speaks truth to my heart. Help me to listen to the Truth and not respond to my current circumstances as if that is truth. Help me to keep all my ways straight. Amen

Saved from self

He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. ~Col.1.13.(CEB)

Darkness is the only choice when we don’t believe. When God rescues us he takes us out of darkness into the light. The initial passage from darkness to light is our coming aware of and the need for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to rescue the lost, the hurt, the broken and the lonely. We get that part but this understanding of need for forgiveness isn’t the only step.

It takes more than just trying to live righteously. I can’t do this by my own strength. It is not just understanding the forgiveness side of the cross and then working to earn life. This will put me back into bondage. This is not the freedom of living in the light.

I need to be saved from my self. God didn’t save me from darkness to send me off to make new masks. Masks of try-to-do-better, try-to-be-more. This just lands me back into darkness because I cannot be better or more on my own. I need to be saved from my self.

Five years ago this is where God found me. In a terrible self made mess of self-effort, self-reliance, self-righteousness which left me in a pit of self-doubt. Well if self is my addiction, that pit was my rock bottom. At this point I was very aware that I was not getting anywhere by my own effort to live right.

I missed the point. Jesus didn’t come just to save me form my sins…  he came to give me Life. True living that could only be found from the source of all life. There is only one place to find my identity. I no longer have to move from hiding behind one mask to another. My coping skills do not define who I am.

There are two sides to the cross. Death of my sins AND new life.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins. I thank you that you also saved me from my-self. I thank you for not leaving me in the pit of self-doubt trying to earn my life by my own effort. Amen.

A sheild

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe places of rest and shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot…

Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God…

Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart while I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on.

We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

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