Little things

Teach me to do your will for you are my God, Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. ~Psalm 143:10

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Changes may come slow but while I wait for change to come I can celebrate the surprises that each day holds. As I shift my sights from what I am not yet, I can celebrate new spaces and places in my heart. I can anticipate new friends and opportunities yet unseen. God’s promise to me is that He will never leave me or forsake me and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb. 13:5,8) In the midst of changes I can hold onto the fact that God never changes.

Heavenly Father, as the year is still so new and with the unknown looming so large, I ask that You walk with me and help me see the little things along the way. Amen.

Assurance

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. ~Phil 1:6-11 (CEB)

God is in the business of saving hearts. It may come in bits and pieces here and there but it doesn’t come over night. It takes time and it is a process. God changes our hearts through grace. It rewires us. In his book You Gotta Keep Dancin’ Tim Hansel says that we are rewired from insecure to God secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly.

As I enter into this second week of the New Year I am starting to question some of my New Year’s resolutions. When I was making them there were sound arguments for the changes that I wanted to make and with the New Year it seems like a good place for fresh starts. But change comes slowly.

The same Voice that calls for me to change will give me the strength to make the changes that are needed. I just need to hold onto God’s promise, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ezk 36:26) But where does this “new heart” come from? Paul said in Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior he moved into my heart, transplanting my heart for his. I may not be perfect but Jesus is and through the grace that God has bestowed on me I am being changed every day, shaped every day, strengthened every day, emboldened every day… softened every day by that grace.

I may not always see the changes in me, but scripture tells me “… the one who started a good work in you will stay with [me] to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

So I have the assurance that maybe not in my time but in God’s timing I will one day be who I need to be.

Day by day, Lord, strengthen me, shape me, change me, embolden me and soften me so that I am always moving on towards that perfection that is promised me for the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.

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.

Love… the greatest thing

From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.

To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~Romans 1:1-7 (CEB)

“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world- stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death- and the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?” ~From The Spirit of Christmas by Henry Van Dyke

I sometimes need reminding that love is the strongest thing in the world, that Light will always outshine the darkness. Christmas is the story of how love came into the world. Through Jesus we can see how we are to respond to the hate and evil we see. He was angry when anger was called for, showed compassion when it was needed and forgave freely. Only through God who strengthens me would I be able to live in such a way. But every time I do evil loses some of its footing.

Merry Christmas!

Help me Heavenly Father to keep Christmas every day. May I love and forgive where compassion is needed, may I speak up when strong words are called for, may I always remember that love is the strongest thing in the world. Amen.

To love one another

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. ” ~John 13:34-35 (CEB)

“When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them.   Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another.  When people realize that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.

Many times this happens even without our planning.  Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it.  Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Merry Christmas!

Heavenly Father, help me this day to be free of judgements so that I may be a safe place for others. Help me to be more vulnerable so that walls can be demolished permanently. To be Your hands and feet and to love those I meet are all You ask of me. Help me to do Your will. Amen.

For the New Year

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.

If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, Be reconciled to God! ” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11-21(CEB)

“What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus?  Our task is reconciliation.  Wherever we go we see divisions among people – in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents.  All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God.  The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible.  Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task?  Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another.   As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation” (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18).  So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Merry Christmas!

Lord, in the words of St. Francis, “make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

 

What’s there to hold on to

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.”

But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. ~Romans 8:31-39 (CEB)

 

“Life is unpredictable.  We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next.  So who is there to hold on to?  Who is there to feel secure with?  Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ.  He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend.  He came from God to be with us.  He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God’s right hand to welcome us home.   With Paul, we must be certain that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:38-39).” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

A New Year looms ahead. The possibilities are endless. Sadness and happiness are mixed at the close of an old year; anxiety and excitement greet the New Year. What will it hold? For most there is the underlying hope that the New Year will be better. I may not know what tomorrow and the New Year will bring but I do know that Jesus came down from God to hold my hand through whatever I face, both the good times and the bad.

Merry Christmas!

I ask you Heavenly Father to walk with me into this New Year. I welcome Your Presence in my life. I thank You for the gift of Your Son to guide and direct my steps as I enter the New Year with a clean slate of possibilities. May I ever hold close the belief that You will use all things for my good. Amen.

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