He will wipe away the tears

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Rev. 21:4 (CEB)

“Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.” ~ From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

During a time of waiting it is important to hold on to the reality that every trial is just a moment on this journey. Some moments are longer than others. Some more painful than others. But in waiting I have that peace that passes all understanding that should not be mistaken for living in denial. It is a confidence that God hears me when I pray and that eventually God’s Kingdom will come and this too will be just a moment.

Heavenly Father, through Your Word I know that a time will finally come where death will be conquered and our tears will be dried. The struggles I have will pass. I have Hope where once there was darkness and the confidence that all will be made right through You. Amen.

An abundant God

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one mind so that they may worship me all the days of their lives, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to stop treating them graciously. I will put into their hearts a sense of awe for me so that they won’t turn away from me. I will rejoice in treating them graciously, and I will plant them in this land faithfully and with all my heart and being. ~Jer. 32:38-41 (CEB)

“God’s apparent lack of restraint when it comes to creating things is but a symptom of a deeper” problem”: God lacks restraint when it comes to loving, too. In fact, God is most unrestrained when it comes to loving. Put another way, God cannot love except abundantly.

We see this abundance of God’s love demonstrated throughout [Hebrew Scriptures]. The Chosen People turn away from God again and again. What does God do? Does God throw up his divine hands in disgust and cry, ‘Enough already!’ and zap those Israelites into kingdom come? No, God continues to love them, taking them back again and again and again. There seems to be no end to God’s love. There is no end to God’s love.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

From beginning to end, God has only wanted one thing from us, a relationship. This theme runs throughout the Bible. God is a God of relationships. That is why He sent His son into the world to physically show us how to have a relationship with Him. During Advent I always marvel how He chose to come into the world: as a defenseless tiny infant, completely dependent on the humans around Him.

Heavenly Father, you are a God of relationships. You came into the world to model how we are to have a relationship with You and Your children. Help me today to remember those around me, help me foster relationships with them so that Your Kingdom can be realized here and now. Amen.

Waiting

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil. “When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’ “Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’  “But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut. “Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’  “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’  “Therefore keep alert because you don’t know the day or the hour. ~Matt 25:1-13 (CEB)

“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life.  But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting.  It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for.  We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus.  We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory.  We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting.  As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen.

In my time of waiting, I must still be prepared… looking for the time when circumstances will change. I must be working and preparing myself accepting the changes as the come; piece by piece, moment by moment… alert… finding the joy… active in this journey that God has sent me on.

Heavenly Father, help me to not become impatient in my time of waiting. Help me to feel Your Presence as You make my heart and mind ready. Keep me alert with the Hope You have hidden in my heart. Amen.

Change

I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit in them. I will remove the stony hearts from their bodies and give them hearts of flesh so that they may follow my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. ~Ezekiel 11:19-20 (CEB)

When my daughter was young she would worry ahead to things that were in the future. For instance she always worried about the time when she would be grown up and “have to live on her own.” She was nine at the time so I would tell her that she was supposed to want to live with me forever. That was where she was at that time in her life. I would also tell her that when it was time for her to live on her own God would have prepared her heart and she would be ready.

Today, I don’t think she remembers the conversations we had about her wanting to live with me forever and never leave me, but I do. I remember the conversations slowly changing from living with me forever… to buying the house next door where she could still be close by… to buying a farm when she grew up, naturally not next door since we live in a sub-division.

I like the book of Ezekiel because amidst the imagery found, I see God working on the hearts of his people. Among the promise of punishment for apostasy I see God preparing their hearts for their time of trial. Through the use of imagery God is showing His people that He is a mobile God not just found in the Temple but a God who can move anywhere in any direction. This was a new concept for the Israelites who felt that God lived and was to be found in His Temple. I also see that He was planting in their hearts even then the seeds that would one day help some of them accept Jesus as that promised Shepherd. That Shepherd who would gather them from among the scattered the nations and make them one nation again.

Change doesn’t come quickly. God must prepare our hearts, our minds and our circumstances for the change. God had promised that He would give the Israelites a new heart a heart of flesh with which they could live healthy and strong in His promises and be His children.

Sometimes in the waiting for my circumstances to change I forget that my heart and mind must be readied so that when new circumstances come I will be strengthened for the task. It is not that God has abandoned me in my trials, He is mending heart, mind and soul, those places unseen, so that I will be able to walk forward with my head held high into those Promises He has made me.

Heavenly Father, grant me patience for my circumstances, peace that although I don’t see changes happening that You are doing a good work on my heart mind and soul so that I may walk into Your Promises with the confidence of the daughter of a King. Amen.

A new day

The LORD your redeemer, the holy one of Israel, says, For your sake, I have sent an army to Babylon, and brought down all the bars, turning the Chaldeans’ singing into a lament. I am the LORD, your holy one, Israel’s creator, your king! The LORD says— who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and battalion; they will lie down together and will not rise; they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick. Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. The beasts of the field, the jackals and ostriches, will honor me, because I have put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness to give water to my people, my chosen ones, this people whom I formed for myself, who will recount my praise. ~Isaiah 43:14-21 (CEB)

Every day we are given the chance to start anew. New beginnings are available all the time. There also is always the opportunity for a new beginning in our relationship with God. God is infinite so there is the unlimited possibility for growth and starting anew. No matter how intimate our relationship with Jesus Christ is there is always room for growth and new beginnings. The changes He is calling us to might be slight or it might be radical.

Heavenly Father, show me how You want me to grow this day, what new levels in our relationship are you stretching me to. Give me the strength and courage to rise up to the changes You are calling me to make today. Amen

Seeds

Jesus began to teach beside the lake again. Such a large crowd gathered that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the whole crowd was nearby on the shore. He said many things to them in parables. While teaching them, he said, “Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” He said, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!” ~Mark 4:1-9 (CEB)

“The words of the Lord are the seed sown by the sower. Into our hearts they must fall that they may grow. Meditation and prayer must water them, and obedience keep them in the sunlight. Thus will they bear fruit for the Lord’s gathering.“ ~From Life Essential New by George McDonald

“I have always marveled at how plants unconsciously seek the light and warmth of the sun and how persons unconsciously seek the light and warmth of God’s Love. As persons, we do this at the level both of our roots and of our fruits- at a level of both of our being and our doing. When we become aware that our roots have been reaching for God all along and that God’s Love has been sustaining us throughout, we begin consciously and willingly turning inward toward God in prayer. This moment of prayerful turning marks a major conversation in our life and growth as persons.” ~From The Art of Passingover by Francis Dorff

Heavenly Father, may I be fertile soil for the seeds You plant in me. Water my soul with Your Word. Breathe fresh Life into me. May I keep my Face this day turned to the Light so that my feet may find good footing along this journey. Amen.

A new heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. Ezk 36:26-27(CEB)

After reading yesterday in the Bible how deceitful we all are in our hearts, here is a ray of hope from Ezekiel 36. It tells me that God will give me a new heart! With this new heart I will be able to live the right life that I have tried so hard to do. The verses around these scriptures tell me though that I shall expect a lot of work. God will have to cleanse me of my old ways before I can enter His promises. What is my reward for all the hard work that lies ahead? Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God…The LORD God proclaims: On the day that I cleanse you of all your guilt, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be farmed, and it won’t be like it was when it seemed a wasteland to all who passed by. They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited. ( 36:28, 33-35)

When I have tried to live life right on my own, it crumbles around me. But God will take the ruins I have created and help me build again. He will plant and water my new life and soon a garden will grow.

Take this heart of mine Lord, shape it and breathe new life into it. Remove all the shards of my self-living, create in me a new heart that beats for You. Amen.

Testing

The most cunning heart— it’s beyond help. Who can figure it out?  I, the LORD, probe the heart and discern hidden motives, to give everyone what they deserve, the consequences of their deeds. ~Jer. 17:9-10 (CEB)

The commentary in my Bible says that these verses are the strongest statement made anywhere in the Bible about the deception and sinfulness of the human heart made be the Lord.

It is hard for us to really know or understand this, but God does. He searches and tests what is in our hearts, and God knows them to be full of selfishness and injustice. It saddens me to think of myself in this way especially when I think how hard I try every day to live right. The good news is that God knows what is in my heart. And He loves me anyway! He also is willing to get down in the trenches and work with me to be more than I am. I don’t want to be deceptive and sinful. May I embrace the Psalmists words in 139:22-23, Examine me, God! Look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path!

Test my heart oh, Lord! Put me to the test! If there be any deception or sinfulness please bring them to my attention so that I may line my will with Yours. Amen.

Because my Bible tells me so

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You are my secret hideout! You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of rescue! I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you. ~Psalm 32:7-8 (CEB)

I have a pretty Bible that I carry with me to church. It has a nice compact size that fits well in my purse making it easy to carry with me.

My study Bible isn’t compact. It’s big, bulky, heavy and looks like it has seen some better days. When my son was 6 he knocked over a water bottle and now some of the pages are wrinkled. It is marked and written throughout with thoughts I have had and even some questions that I asked. It now holds a lot of memories. It has memories because I started reading it.

I began really reading my Bible several years ago because I started having questions like, “What does God expect of me?” I got this bright idea that maybe somewhere in my Bible I might find out what God wanted of me. As I read I underlined scriptures that I felt answered this question. Eventually I even found a verse in Micah 6 that actually says “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

As I read the Bible looking for what God wanted me to do and how he wanted me to act, I discovered scriptures that talked about his love for me. Psalm 139 is my favorite of all the psalms. It tells me that He knew me even before I was born. Before my mother even knew me, God loved me. I marked verses that talked of God’s love in pink.

Another thing I noticed when I read the scriptures is that the phrase “Do not fear” repeats over and over throughout the Old and into the New Testament. Whenever I would see the phrase “Fear not” or “Do not Fear” I would put a box around it.

What started out as simple curiosity lead me to discover answers to questions I didn’t know I yet had. “Does God really love me” “where is God when I am scared?” “Can I be angry at God?” “Is it okay to be sad?”

Reading my Bible has taught me when the world seems bigger than me and my problems are too many that God is not just with me but fighting for me. During times like this, I am reminded of my very favorite verse from Exodus 14:13 “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

Dear God, Thank You for Your Word that lives and breathes in me. Thank you for being bigger than my questions. Thank You for steadying my steps and fighting my battles. 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

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