WGOD: A Newsworthy Good News Station

This morning’s Jesus Calling devotional (by Sarah Young) got me thinking… 

The media focuses so much on all of the negativity in this world — crime, natural disasters, terrorism.  You literally can’t watch the news without learning something awful — awful things that I don’t necessarily want my 5-year-old daughter to know at this tender age.  Yes, bad things happen in this world, but if you continuously focus on them, the fear will begin to grip and consume you.  There’s a better way to live — a way I’d rather be modeling for my daughter. 

So, this morning as I was reading today’s devotion, I felt a question rise in my heart.

What if there was a news station that focused on what GOOD things are happening in the world?  What if God’s miracles and brotherly love were showcased each day instead of the negative? 

I would tune in!  Mind you, I don’t watch the news by choice, but I would watch this.  Why?  The world needs to constantly be reminded that God lives — today!  Here and now He is still doing miraculous things in this world — not just the world of biblical times, but in this age.  We need to be uplifted.  We need to be shown the living hope that He still reigns supreme over all the Earth, and that nothing that happens is beyond His realm.  We need His light.

So, now what?

Well, I want to conduct an experiment, and invite you to participate with me.   Starting today, I am going to intentionally keep my eyes and ears open for miraculous works — places where it is undeniable that God’s hand was in the mix of a situation to bring about the good that He has in store for us.  And I am going to blog it here and share it with you. 

My invitation to you is to do the same — put a comment here or email me or send me a Facebook message or something and we’ll tell the story here. 

Because if we do not praise our Lord, He will raise up the stones to do it.  🙂  And I don’t know about you, but I find my entire demeanor is brighter after spending some time praising my Heavenly Father, and I’d rather let the stones lie where they are.

The Light of Hope in the Darkness

There are no words to describe the pain and sadness surrounding last week’s school shooting in Connecticut.  It’s foremost on people’s minds, especially as we head straight into the Christmas season.  I’ve heard many of my “mommy friends” comment that they want to hug their kids tight and never let go — I can relate, and I am sure many of you can, too.

As we were sitting in church yesterday praying, I felt the Holy Spirit speak into my heart on this matter.  Our pastor was praying for the families and friends of all of those who’ve lost and been traumatized by the shooting.  And my mind and heart lifted up the “Why?” question to God.  (I am certain He’s been hearing that one over and over lately.)

The Lord gently reminded me that He does not send or condone acts of tragedy into our lives — it is a product of the fallen world in which we live.  And because this world can be so incredibly dark at times, ridden with violence and anger, we must turn our eyes and hearts even more so towards the manger.  For in this manger, the most precious gift in all of history was given — Jesus.

I believe the gift of Jesus makes all things in this world and life as we know it temporary.  Nothing we suffer or endure here has any lasting impression, for God will restore all things to us when we are with Him in Heaven one day.  We shall no longer suffer, mourn, be broken or even susceptible to the darkness in this life — it will be behind us and God Himself with deal with justice on our behalf.

Because of Jesus, the darkness cannot shroud us forever.

This season I am choosing to keep my eyes and heart focused on the manger.  The world needs to see the hope and love and light God has for us there.  And I truly believe that even this tragedy, God can use for His good, for nothing is beyond His reach.  For it is in the darkest night that the light of Hope shines most brightly…

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your precious Son.  That You would send your child into this dark world to rescue us and bring us hope is a gift beyond compare.  I pray that every heart would be touched by your peace, which surpasses all understanding, and be overwhelmed by Your love for us.  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Touch It Only Once

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

Recently, I had the blessed pleasure of attending a Women’s Retreat with my church family.  We left behind our “to do” lists, loved ones, undone dishes and laundry, and all things that distract us (including cell phone coverage!) to commune in the majestic mountains of West Virginia, to contemplate “Our Daily Bread.”  The view from our balcony was breath-taking, and for miles in every direction you looked, you could see nothing but “God’s Country” and it was marvelous.  Creation is such a living reflection of God’s ever-present love and care for us, that it refreshes me to the core to be out in nature.  And I don’t do nearly enough of it.

I had been waiting for this retreat for literally MONTHS.  Having returned to the professional workforce right after the New Year, I was spiritually dry and desperate for some space alone with God.  I needed a place to pour myself out entirely, and to be utterly still and to hear His voice.  In hindsight, I had been juggling part-time career, motherhood, family life, ministry, and everything else entirely on my own.  I needed help.

I went to this retreat with one resounding question in my heart — one desperate plea of the Spirit.  “Lord, please show me how to live each and every day of my life with more peace and joy!”

I didn’t laugh enough.  In fact, I laughed for 3 hours in the car with a dear friend as we drove to the retreat, and we were in tears and stitches and our faces hurt by the time we arrived.  I hadn’t laughed that much in…I honestly don’t know how long, and that’s just a sad shame.

I was always grumpy with my family because I felt they didn’t pitch in enough and I was crumbling under the burden of caring for all of us.  My “to do” list never ended and it seemed the demands of my life upon me were more than I could carry.

I wanted God to show me how to be “lighter” — how to really be present with the people around me and to stop missing out on my own life because of my circumstances.

Faithfully, God met me where I needed Him!  He is so good!

After a few days of prayer, communion, love, fellowship, contemplation, hiking in the pouring down rain and being warmed to the core by the genuine love of my sisters in Christ, I was healing.  I was beginning to feel again — really, deeply feel everything and it was good!

I remember telling a dear friend that, in those moments of being so “one” with God and everyone and surrounded by such love, I almost felt as if my soul was just right under the surface of my skin.  And that if anything sad or happy or spiritually moving “pricked” me, I would cry.  I felt incredibly alive and at peace.

Upon returning home, I begged God to help me stay “present” and “abiding” in Him.  He faithfully met me once more.

After the “welcome home party” my daughter and husband threw for me (you’d think I had been gone for months, not days!) complete with cupcakes and balloons, I felt as though it was time to settle in once more and to start preparing for the week ahead — a week of work and school and many obligations.   As I walked into my bedroom to begin unpacking, the Lord nudged me with great counsel.

He said, “Touch everything only once.”

When I went to unpack my toiletry bag, He told me to leave it until the morning when I was showering for work.  I would need my shampoo and toothbrush and everything then, and I could retrieve it, use it and then put it away when I was done. Touch it only once!

I was stunned by the simplicity of this advice!  How many times have I utterly wasted time and energy doing and redoing a chore when it could have been handled in a fraction of the time??

He met me at the kitchen sink the next day.

As I stared into a messy sink full of dirty dishes, and the dishwasher which was clean and needed to be emptied, God once again nudged me and said, “Touch everything only once.”

I didn’t understand.  I had intended to empty the dishwasher and put everything away, and then move the dirty dishes from the sink to the dishwasher.  It was then that God showed me how I could actually pick up the sponge and dishwashing liquid and wash the dirty dishes in the sink by hand in a fraction of the time it would take me to do things my way.  Everything would be clean in the end, all the same, and with far less time and effort.

Wow.

Maybe to you this is elementary, but to me, this was life-changing, peace-giving advice!

Since then, God has nudged me about things to let go of — I had no idea how many jobs and chores and tasks I had imposed upon myself because I thought they needed to get done, and yet no one in my home cared about these things but me!  There are things that I have actually let completely go of doing altogether, and it is good!

There are things God has nudged to do far less often than I had.  One of them is the habitual, nearly obsessive, cleaning of my home.  My family genuinely has not noticed nor commented on the fact that I have cut the number of times I clean our home in HALF in a month, and I have infinitely more energy and free time!

Free time to sit and play and laugh with my daughter.  Time to really hug my husband and look him in the eye when I am saying Hello or Goodbye at the start of end of his work day.  Time to really talk with loved ones on the phone who are far away and really listen to where they are at in this life.

Time to pursue the things God Himself has actually called me to do!  To write notes of encouragement to people who need lifting up, to take a moment to call someone who needs to be listened to, to bake a cake that someone’s favorite for a memorial service to share, to hug a hurting friend…  to pray continually and regularly for the people in my life who desperately need to be lifted up to God each and every day because of what is happening in their lives and hearts.

To abide in His love every moment of every day for as long as I can humanly manage it, and in His strength and grace when I cannot.

Ask yourself today, what do you do regularly that God may be asking you to “touch only once” or to give up altogether?  The answer lies not in what you are losing, but in the peace and serenity and abiding in Him that you will gain.

Peace to you, this day and always!

Moments with Mary

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7

The young mother takes her tiny, fragile newborn and wraps him in clothes from her own body to protect him from the chill night air.  He is safe and knows that he is loved in her embrace.  She has been waiting all these long months to behold him, wondering what this child – fully human and yet fully Divine – might actually look like.  He is precious, and yet as she gazes into his tiny face, he could easily pass for Joseph’s son.  In her heart she thanks the Lord for this blessing, as it will make their family life a little easier.

She is grateful for her husband who chose to take on this strange and awesome responsibility.  When Joseph asked her father for her hand, he had no idea that with it he would also be receiving the task of caring for the Savior of the world.  What a brave and kind man Joseph turned out to be!  Again, she lifts thanks to the Lord for providing a good and caring husband to her and their baby.

And in the stable where they now begin their family journey, the air is still and peaceful as never before.  The dark night shines with star radiance as though it were nearly day.  Visitors begin to appear awkwardly in the doorway, and yet for their own hesitations they cannot help but ask to just see this new baby born into the world.  As each one peers into the tiny face, the reaction is the same – a softening of the eyes and with a leap of the heart, there is spontaneous quiet worship.  And while people love to see newborn infants, she knows this is no ordinary circumstance.  They linger caught in adoration, and yet still aware of their intrusion on this young, new family.

Above and around them, both far and wide, the dwellers of Heaven come to sing peace and joy.  Even though the air is laced with sweet song and starlight, the baby tenderly slumbers undisturbed.  She wonders if this is so familiar to the child that he finds it comforting, and again, lifts up thanksgiving in her heart to the Lord – that He would even think to provide comfort to aid the child in this transition from Divine to earthly!

As the child begins to stir with his first pangs of hunger, she ever so gently takes him to her.  She has wondered what her role might be in providing for the King of Kings, and yet now she understands that to love him with the very best of herself is all that is required at this moment…and for all of the moments to come.

 

Everlasting Father, there are no words to describe the magnitude of the gift You have given us!  As Christmas approaches, my heart is filled to overflowing with thankfulness and wonder at Your love for mankind…that You would give us Your only Son, so that we can freely approach You and live in Your love!  Lord, I pray for each Friend who dwells here for a moment, that You would touch their heart with that Love, and give them a glimpse of Your peace this Christmas season.  For the world should pause at the manger, gaze into the face of Love, and behold the moment that changed Your universe for all eternity…  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A small note about this writing…By Christmas of 2007, I was a brand new Mom.  Sophia Angelina’s entry into the world forever sweetened my heart and perspective.   That first Christmas together, I found myself pondering Mary and her first moments as a new Mother — the Mother of our Savior.  Especially during nighttime feedings, when the world was silent and I was loving Sophia, I imagined Mary and all that her heart held … the joy and wonder, the overwhelming thanksgiving, the perspective of being a new Mother…and this little bit of fiction was penned.  Until today, only my sister has ever read it.

Transforming By Degrees

This morning I ran.  Again.  It was cold when I started (28 degrees with heavy frost on the ground) and warm when I finished (43 degrees with warm sun).  At the beginning of my run, I was tucking my freezing fingers into the sleeves of my jacket to keep warm, and by the end of the run I was struggling to keep my tied jacket around my waist.  It’s amazing to me how just a couple of degrees of the sun rising on the horizon makes SUCH a huge difference in how warm or cold we feel!

God led me to a place this morning where I have never run before.  It’s a long, paved path with rolling hills.  I know it well because I cycle on it often.  But I have never run here.  I am learning to trust God’s nudging about these things and just “go with it.”

It was a good run.  A quiet run, surprisingly.  After Wednesday, I was anticipating dialog and more of God telling me what I need to hear.  This morning, there was only quiet nudging.

It was a lesson in Zen.

I’ve noticed that when my mind drifts to what my legs are doing, or how much it hurts, God nudges me to “come back up here” into my head again.  I refocus myself in my mind — almost physically taking my mind off of my legs (or my chest, or whatever else might be aching or uncomfortable) and moving my conscious state back into my head once more.  By NOT thinking about these distracting things, I am free to enjoy my run and to tap into whatever mental energy I may need in the moment to get up a hill or not get hit by a car.  God reminds me that my legs and lungs and everything else are still learning how to run, and they will come along in their own time — for now I must learn to focus my mind.

And so I repeatedly kept moving my mind back up into my head when it would drift away.  It became easier to do, and I had to do it less and less as the run went on.

And then I felt a whisper in my heart…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Romans 12:2

I rob myself of my own time in this life.  This morning God showed me that I have been calling it “multitasking”, but it is really a lie.  My time and energy scatter like fall leaves in the wind and I feel frazzled most of the time.  I can barely finish a thought sometimes because I am distracted by another thought that crosses my brain.  I have to stop talking mid-sentence to write things down so that I “don’t forget them.”  Well, maybe they’re not really worth remembering!

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to having peace.  Because I have lived this way for SO long, I have actually trained my mind to NOT be peaceful…but to be a place of “organized chaos”.

This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I went to leave the bathroom to go and stage my running clothes.  I thought I was “multitasking” when God stopped me in my tracks and asked me just how good a job of brushing my teeth am I really doing, if I am going to be gathering my clothes and shoes in the midst of it?

Slam!  Yes, Friends — convicted on the spot.  I stopped and turned back into the bathroom to finish brushing my teeth.  And I’ve been making a conscious effort since that moment to finish what I start before moving on.

I am also trying to turn my thoughts back into the task at hand.  The other day I shared that I worry about everything — that’s exactly what this all is — living beyond the moment I’m in because I’m “planning”, “staging”, “multitasking” or whatever else you want to call it.

And so, this grasshopper must now go on to the rest of her day.  I cannot put into words how grateful I am that God is getting right into the heart of my moments and helping me straighten this crazy, crooked path inside of me!  These small degrees of change (just like the sun rising during my run this morning) are making SUCH a difference in how I feel, Friends!  The quality of the moments of my life is dramatically improving with every tiny adjustment.  🙂  But isn’t that just like God?

Lord, I am thankful and overflowing with gratitude for the gift You are bestowing upon me right now!  Thank you for taking the time and care to help me exactly where I need it, Lord.  I am eternally thankful that I do not need to rely on my own strength or understanding to grow, but that You will teach me what I need, in the time when I am ready for it…and You even provide the strength to do it.  There is nothing like You in this world, Lord, and while I love my life, I am thankful that I don’t have to call this place my eternal home.  There’s a better way to live than what this world has to offer — thank you for continually showing me this truth!  And I pray that You will nudge my friends today, in just the way they need to be nudged, to know You more.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

Cleaning My New Running Coach’s Temple

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.”

I ran this morning.  I’ve been running, at God’s request, for a couple of weeks now.  It’s painful.

At the beginning of this year, I read “Made To Crave” as part of an online study with Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I was transformed by what I learned.  After the study was over, I went through most of it a second time with a fabulous group of friends from my church.  For the last 4 months of my life, I’ve been plugging along, but I hit a wall.  I’m going through the motions, but nothing’s changed.  That’s when I felt God nudging me to start running again.  I wrestled with it for weeks, and finally decided to obediently follow His urging on this.

When I began running, I immediately employed all of my old ways and found that they do not work.  I loved to listen to my iPod and get lost in the music as I move, and run on the treadmill.  The entire time I run, I am secretly hating it and fighting a huge mental war in my head to keep my body moving forward.  I used to love to run, and have no idea how to get back there again.  That’s when God stepped in with answers.

He has prompted me to leave all equipment behind – no cell phone or iPod, no heart rate monitors, no pedometers – nothing but me and sneakers (no vibrams) and even the sneakers are not to be fussed over. No treadmill — it’s all to be done outdoors, in nature, in the elements — the way it was meant to be.  It’s truly not about the equipment at all this time – it’s about letting Him re-teach me how to run. And I can feel deep within me, that He’s telling me that the time has come to do this, and that it’s the answer to the next phase of my health and weight journey.

So I get out of the car this morning, and start to run.

As I am running up my first hill, my body is screaming at me. My knees hurt, my legs are still sore from Monday and my brain is yelling to stop. In my anguish, I lifted up a prayer to God, “Lord, can’t I just skip this and go home and clean my house?”

His response still makes me laugh! Loud and clear, I heard the booming answer “You need to clean my Temple!”

I think I actually laughed out loud when I heard it! And of course, I ran. And as I was running, I wasn’t feeling entirely great. God also gave me some more advice at that moment… “See? What you eat matters! It REALLY matters!” In that moment I realized that it’s not just about getting checks in the blocks each day for carbs and protein and stuff — it’s about freshness, quality and minimal processing. Processing gunks up our engines. So I asked God to help me as I grocery shop today — help me to spend more time in the produce isle and give me fresh ideas for adding more healthy fresh foods to our diet every day.

Welcome to Phase 2 of my Made To Crave journey.

In Phase 1, I was reading and learning and applying what I was learning. I was learning about what it means to prioritize your health because it’s His command to care for our bodies. I was learning what it means to be faithful in exercise — going and doing it all the time, whether I felt like it or not. I was learning to notice when I comforted myself with food instead of Him, and to unpack that baggage. I was learning as I was going through my days what foods are my friends, and what foods are liars.  (Liars as in they make me feel wonderful for about 30 seconds and then I feel horrible from the sugar crash and subsequent guilt that follows.)

Phase 2 is one-on-one training with God Himself.

He makes the work-out dates and tells me what to bring, where to go and how far to run. I show up and do it. I complain, He tells me to stay focused.

Today as I was running up a hill, with several more hills in front of me, I was complaining. He reminded me that I do not need to worry about the hills AFTER this hill — they will take care of themselves. Focus right now, right here, on putting one foot in front of the other and get up THIS hill. He reminded me that, in this moment, I have everything I need to get up this hill, if I stay focused on THIS MOMENT.

It was then that I realized how much of my energy is spent leaning out into the future and worrying about what is to come. I am RARELY in the moment. I am rarely present in the present. I know this about myself, but I didn’t realize how bad it really was. I covered this problem with words like “planning” and “research” and “preparing“, when all I have really been doing is worrying…which He has shown me is a complete waste of my energy…and more importantly, it robs me of what I need right here and now to do what I need to do.

Hmmm!

I heard someone call this Zen…being present and in-the-moment. This grasshopper has much to learn.

Lord,  I thank You so much that You care about my health and my life and the quality of my days, that You’d take the time to nudge and whisper to me such important truths.  Only You can tell me what I need to hear the most, and You do it with love and honesty.  I am in awe of Your works, Your faithful presence, Your steadfast love!  Nudge me when I need it and please don’t stop, for I long that my ways be Your ways.  Apart from You, nothing good comes …  and I am happy to be on this journey with You!  Please nudge my friends, too, in ways they recognize and understand, so that they, too, can experience Your love and greatness in their lives!  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

“No One Will Remember You Weren’t Wearing Socks”

Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

As we were backing down the driveway, and I was throwing on my seatbelt, I realized that we had forgotten the glaze for the coffee cake.  Slamming on the brakes, my husband bit his lip and asked if we needed to go back in and get it.  No, we don’t, I replied.

Even though it’s nearly the end of November, I could feel how the final ten minutes of rushing around the house and frantically pulling things together to leave had left me feeling overheated.  I unzipped my cardigan sweater and tried to relax.  That’s when I realized I had somehow completely forgotten to put on socks as I was getting dressed this morning.

I had intentionally chosen to skip putting on make-up, as we were already running late.  It was a tough decision because I like to feel “put together” when I’m going out to meet people for the first time.  But I also knew that the extra five minutes of preparation would probably mean we would be running into the office with Sophia because she’d be tardy for school, and that just wasn’t worth it.  I could live without the makeup.  But socks…  My lack of socks seemed to just underscore in my mind that I really didn’t have my act together this morning at all, and that I am totally frazzled all around the edges this morning.

As we drove to Sophia’s school, my mind was racing in overdrive.  What else did I forget?  I had rolled out of bed and hit the ground running.  Surely there was something else I had left undone.

And then I felt the small, familiar nudge of the Spirit within me say, “No one will remember that you aren’t wearing socks or makeup today.  The condition of your heart is far more important.”

The truth.  I chose to leave the frantic place in my brain and take advantage of the fact that my husband was driving and just pray for a moment.  I thanked God for interrupting my thoughts with the truth I so needed to hear in that moment.  I thanked God for my family, crazy as we were, and the coffee cake we were able to share (even without the glaze) and the car we could drive to get there.  I thanked God for the gift of our daughter, the way my husband loves us, and even that I wasn’t wearing socks.

Thankfulness changes the heart’s attitude.  Instead of focusing inward on what we are not, thankfulness moves our attention outward and on to what we are — loved, created with wonder, fully held and cared for, blessed beyond what we can even count…just because He loves us.

By the time we arrived at Sophia’s school, I was no longer the frantic person who had climbed into the car twenty minutes earlier…and that’s a beautiful thing!

Heavenly Father, I am forever grateful that You care about the condition of my heart and that You are there to help me!  Thank You for speaking the truth into my life when I need to hear it so very much, and thank You for loving me so perfectly.  Your truth changes the direction of my steps, so that I am once again walking on Your path — a path of abundant and peaceful life.  Lord, I pray You will continue to interrupt me and keep me walking by Your side!  In Jesus’ name…Amen.