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Thank YOU!

Thank you for the gift of your time today. My prayer is each time you stop to visit you are blessed with truth, and encouraged to keep going ~ one foot in front of the other, chin up ~ simply because you've been reminded you are on the road to VICTORY!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Where's the JOY?

I've asked myself this question many times over these weeks since Thanksgiving.  Normally, it's easy for me to feel joyful and triumphant this time of year.  I LOVE the celebration of the Christmas season.  The decorating of our home, extra gatherings, candies, cookies, songs of the season, and gift giving are all a part of the enjoyment of the season.


But this Christmas season is different.  I struggled with motivation just to pull out the boxes of decorations from the basement.  And this year, I only used about half of our decorations around the house.  


Shopping is not my favorite activity any time of year, but the crowds, the stuff of commercialism, it's all just too overwhelming for me this year.  I hear myself saying, "None of us needs one more thing from a store!", and then feel guilty for sounding like the Scrooge, "Humbug!"

So, in an attempt to take a positive view of my struggle and make it worthwhile, I've determined it's more important for me to do the most with little, and to persevere through the lack of 'feelings'.  After all, obedience is a more meaningful motivator than feelings. 
(I Samuel 15:22 ...to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.)


So, where IS the JOY to be found this Christmas season?
As we move into this last week of Advent, the week of LOVE, I am realizing my desire is to celebrate Christmas as a spiritual Ebenezer - a time of remembering what God did for us when He sent His only begotten Son to us.  My desire this year is to focus on the purity and the holiness of the celebration...to magnify the One we celebrate, and not the celebration itself.

I've decided to keep an account of the moments I experience Jesus this Christmas season.  And as I ponder these moments, I recognize these are the places I have found JOY!

For many years I've wanted to have a nativity set up in our front yard.  I've wanted to offer a place of peace and tranquility and hope and safety for others to come and worship Christ with a visual remembrance of how God sent His Son into our world.  And I've wanted to say to those who would pass by, "Come and meet Jesus!  Come and adore Him Who came and is coming again...our King!"  

This year our family set up our handmade nativity, crafted and painted by my mom and dad.  My joy is full in knowing these were handcrafted in love for me.  And so, I pray this memorial is a blessing to many as it speaks JOY to my heart through this Advent season!

After setting up our nativity, we invited friends from church and from our neighborhood to gather round and sing Christmas carols.  Delightful to my heart, many came out on a chilly December evening to drink hot chocolate and sing old fashioned songs of Christmas.  There were small children trying to sneak as many sugar cookies as possible, a neighbor leading us on his guitar, a baby for me to rock and hold, and a joyful noise to fill the night air! 

Where's the JOY this Christmas season?
Our 20-something sons took the initiative for a family photo with which to create our annual Christmas card...tidings of GREAT JOY!


Setting out a giant chocolate bar wrapped in ribbon along with a Christmas thank you card for our mailman and our trash collector.

Leaving Christmas cookies with Christmas blessings in neighbors' mailboxes.
Creating a Scripture prayer card and then handing them out to random people at work. More JOY when unexpected people came and asked if I would indeed pray and bless them in the name of Jesus!

Leaving Scripture cards at restaurants, hotel, gas stations, and nursing home where we're visiting our own Mom B., my mother in love, five long months after suffering and surviving a massive stroke.  Singing Christmas carols to her, brushing her hair, anointing her dry lips with lip balm, and reading to her from Jesus Calling (Sarah Young).  

Joy fills my heart when I'm speaking to her about Jesus and she opens her eyes to look right through me; I'm sure she is seeing Jesus...present with her in her circumstances.  I keep reminding her that Jesus, her Good Shepherd is holding her close to His chest and will carry her home!

Experiencing Jesus in surprising moments...prayer and thanksgiving with a group of girlfriends...receiving birth news of a baby boy for missionary friends...receiving good news from young friends of a baby in the knitting...getting to provide for strangers who lost their wallets and needed gas money to make it home, and secretly buying the meal for a family whose young Dad was wheelchair bound.

Family together, sons home from college, my husband spending Christmas break with me at home while he seeks a new career assignment, parents joining us for time away at our healing place...the salted air, white sanded gulf coast, and mission work of prayer seeking to bear great and beautiful fruit in the next generation...JOY for all Jesus joins with us along our journey into a new year.

There is JOY in this Christmas season!  I've had to look a little harder than usual.  I've needed to focus in...eyes fixed on Jesus, my Savior.  I've needed to spend quiet time in His word and listen.  It's there...JOY on this journey...and I pray you experience Him too!

Blessings of GREAT JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!
Lisa

Friday, December 19, 2014

Five Minutes on Being Prepared

Several Scriptures wrestle for first place in my thinking.  Jesus telling us He has gone to prepare a place for us in Heaven.  John the Baptist, the forerunner for Jesus' ministry, preparing the way. Preparation of the Passover meal, sacrifices and thanks offerings.

Finally though, relating preparation to my own life, a personal testimony from my earlier years pushes through to the front of the line bearing the lessons of the following Scripture verses from Proverbs.

The heart of man plans his way
    but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV


We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God's purpose prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 MSG

And so the year was 1993, March, actually.  Our oldest son was about to turn two ~ March 14th, actually.  Additionally, I was just about 9 months pregnant with our youngest son, whose due date for arrival was March 19th.

As I went to my then weekly OB visit, I received the good report that all was well and we seemed to be right on time for our scheduled arrival date.

I was so excited.  Everything was working out for my plan.  All my ducks in a row.  We would have a 2 year old birthday party for our oldest son, and then clean up, rest up as much as possible.  Finally, we would welcome our youngest a few days later.  Perfect timing!

Perfect according to my plan...until March 13th.  Before dawn, I awoke, feeling rather uncomfortable.  Unable to go back to sleep, I wobbled downstairs to lay on the couch and watch the unbelievable winter wonderland accumulating outside.  Now if we didn't live in Atlanta, Georgia, a massive snow storm might not seem unusual in mid-March, but as our southern landscape became overwhelmed with inch after inch of fresh snow we watched in amazement!

Our son, who would be 2 the next day wandered out with his dad, eyes wide and unsure what to make of the cold white covering his normally winter brown yard.  I continued to feel uncomfortable, staying inside and resting as much as possible until...my water broke around 5 p.m.  Oh, but wait, little one; you're not due to arrive for another 5 days.  And tomorrow is your big brother's birthday.

I called my doctor's office and told the answering service my situation.  The woman on the phone took my pertinent information and told me to get prepared to go to the hospital.  My doctor called shortly after indicating I would be going to our local community hospital rather than the planned hospital since the weather was too bad to travel... and electricity was out downtown.

"Wait, so you're coming out to this hospital?", I asked dazed and confused by all the upheaval in "my plans".  My doctor told me no, and not to worry, the doctor on call would do a great job and the hospital near us would be just fine.  "Don't worry!", he said several times and then wished me the best before hanging up.

That was it!  Wait, go to the hospital early.  Go to a different hospital.  In labor, meet a doctor I've never met before, who would most certainly deliver our second child in the midst of this wintry mess! No, I was a mess.  No longer did any of my plans matter; there was a new plan, and I needed to get on board.

I truly believe this experience was a pivotal moment for me.  My Father was using circumstances for a teachable moment.  His purposes were for my good.  It was time for me to have a spiritual growth spurt, and take the next step in learning to trust Him more and more.  Father was teaching me the truth of His word in practicality.  It's fine for me to make my own plans and be prepared, as long as I hold those preparations loosely and comply willingly with His greater plan!

Suddenly new preparations spun into motion.  Dear neighbors came to care for our oldest son for the night.  My husband, who is from Ohio, skillfully navigated the snowy roads, and got us to the different hospital without incident.  We were able to get a delivery room immediately, and our youngest son was born just 2 hours later.

God is good and trustworthy.  He is Father and He knows what He is doing.  Gratefully, our delivery experience was even more wonderful and satisfying than our first experience as the doctor on duty was both skilled and careful for my desire to deliver our baby naturally.

Even to this day, we tease our youngest son about wanting to make his arrival the day before his brother's birthday.  We delight in having a fascinating story to tell of God's plan, which was not my own, of a baby boy born in the Blizzard of '93.  And how could I have ever prepared for two sons with birthdays one day apart?  No, that was Father's idea.  His good plan prevails, indeed!


Blessings of Greatest JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!
Lisa


Monday, December 15, 2014

JOY*Week*Advent

Reflections on JOY this third week of Advent.

Preparing for the coming of the King.

Standing on tiptoes...expectant...anticipating His arrival.


You love Him (Jesus Christ), though you have not seen Him.  And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious JOY, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:8-9

The celebration of the coming of our King makes this a JOYous season...just this simple fact alone! The JOY of this Christmas season is not dependent on my current life circumstances.

Perhaps we (Charlie Brown, Cindy Lou Who, and I) are not the only ones wondering if it's even possible to celebrate Christmas in this current season of feeling a bit less than exuberant.  So, here we smack face first into the importance of truth - the inestimable value of God's Word sewn often in the furrows of our hearts and minds.


The reason for our rejoicing with inexpressible and glorious JOY...
we are receiving the goal of our faith...
we are receiving the greatest gift...
the salvation of our souls.

This Christmas season JOY is possible because my eyes are focused on the One through Whom I receive the greatest gift.  How about you, my friend, is JOY possible in light of or despite your circumstances?  Are you able...even willing...to pray with me?

Jesus, I love You, though I have not seen You.  And though I have not yet seen You, I believe You and I am filled with inexpressible and glorious JOY because I am receiving the goal of my faith, the salvation of my soul.
Thank You, Jesus.
Amen.

Blessings of GREATEST JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!
Lisa

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Prayer for You*December 7, 2014*



My prayer for you and me this second week of Advent...

PEACE

Hold peace, as Mary held peace, 

The Prince of Peace in her arms.

For to us a child is born, 
to us a Son is given...
And He will be called...
Prince of Peace...
from Isaiah 9:6

Lord, Jesus, my prayer for this week of peace is that You will enlighten the eyes of our hearts with understanding through the power of Holy Spirit, to grasp the truth of Mary's testimony.  Make real to us in light of our own life circumstances the chaotic and dangerous environment You were born into.  

Reveal to our hearts and minds the power of Your presence ~Prince of Peace ~ in the flesh as Mary held You in her arms.  She was Father's obedient maid servant, and by His equipping and favor, she fulfilled the real life assignment ~giving birth to You, our Savior.


Dear Jesus, Mary was not understood, and maybe never vindicated among her own people.   Her peace came from within ~ carrying You in her virgin womb.  Her peace was found in beholding you; knowing You were given to her to be her son and Savior.

Lord Jesus, thank You for providing for Your disciples ~ even to this present day ~ the opportunity to carry and to hold peace in our chaotic and dangerous world.  Though You returned to the Father to sit at His right hand in Heaven, You sent Holy Spirit to dwell within us as we submit ourselves under Your Kingship.

Thank You for this amazing truth; we carry You.
We hold You within our earthen vessels.
~Prince of Peace~
You are our peace.
You are my peace.
Jesus, for Your glory, 
Amen!

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
John 14:25-27 NIV

Dear One*Five Minute Friday*

When I first began attending a Kay Arthur Bible study, Lord, Is It Warfare?, I heard her, Kay Arthur by way of video, address a whole audience of people, "Dear one..."  

I thought that was odd.  

Why would she call me, "Dear one"?  She didn't know me, so how could she refer to me with such a term of endearment?  I actually felt she was not being sincere!

Kay Arthur was not the problem.  I was...or rather, my lack of understanding of my true identity in Christ was the problem.  Quite a few years later, after the light bulb of GRACE came on in my head and my heart, I began to ask the Lord for healing in my identity.  


I read Ephesians chapter 1 with renewed vision and understanding. The eyes of my heart were being enlightened so that I began to know the hope to which He has called me, the riches of my glorious inheritance in the saints.  (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)

Though I had read them before, particular descriptive words popped off the pages of my Bible.  I wanted to know, "Lord, are these words for some of your people...your favorites?  Or, is it possible, these words are for me too?"

I heard a speaker, somewhere along the way, prompt me to read this passage with my name inserted in exchange for every pronoun in the passage.  So, I tried it out.  

As I read these words as descriptors of my name, my heart was overwhelmed with JOY and gratitude.  The word of God was transforming my understanding of my true identity.

Lies were being replaced with truth.  My heart and my mind began to comprehend...
I am blessed.
I am chosen.
I am holy.
I am blameless.
I am loved.
I am redeemed.
I am forgiven.
I am a receiver of grace.
I am marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Later, I attended a women's conference, in which Kay Arthur was one of the speakers.  She addressed us as, "Dear ones...", and I didn't cringe.  I had come to understand her reason for addressing us as such.  

In Christ, we are dearly loved and accepted.  Therefore as members of God's family we should indeed refer to one another, through our true identity, with terms of endearment.

Yes, dear one, in Christ you are blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, redeemed, forgiven, a receiver of grace, and marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit!  Receive this truth as your true identity in Jesus Christ, dear one, for His Glory! 

Blessings of GREAT JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!
Lisa

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What does HOPE look like when...*Psalm 69*

What does HOPE look like when these desperate words form your prayer?

Save me, O God,
for the flood waters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire;
I can't find a foothold.
I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me.
I am exhausted from crying for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping,
waiting for my God to help me. (v.1-3 NLT)




Reading this I feel the pain, my fists clinch with the sense of desperation, and I recognize the physical response to such anxiety.  I've felt choked and drowning in my own tears.  I've cried out to God in the deep dark middle, "If You don't show me something...anything of Your presence...I'm not going to make it!"


Did Mary experience these feelings?  Surely she felt a bit anxious...in the moment...in labor...needing to see Father provide a way...a place.  Yes, Mary knew the favor of God.  She had received a personal visit from an angel - God's personal messenger.  And yet, didn't there seem to be a disconnect between God's promises and her circumstances?



Have you been here?  Do you currently live here?  I've been in this place in a season or two.  I've camped out here during holidays...the Christmas season...more than once.  It's a hard place...reflecting back to a young couple traveling a long distance with a baby's birth imminent, and private shelter seemingly non-existent for all their seeking.



I personally know quite a few people who are really hurting in this Christmas season.  They are swallowed up in grief and pain and tears and questions too hard to utter.  So, where is HOPE...in the middle...in the dark?


The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
Let all who seek God's help be encouraged.
For the LORD hears the cries of the needy;
He does not despise His imprisoned people.

Praise Him, O heaven and earth, 
the seas and all that move in them.
For God will save Jerusalem
and rebuild the towns of Judah.
His people will live there 
and settle in their own land.
The descendants of those who obey Him will inherit the land, 
and those who love Him will live there in safety. (v. 32-36 NLT)






Do you see it?  Are you catching a glimpse?  Our HOPE is Him - God, our King.  He is our Creator and the One Who saves us!  He's coming...and when He comes, we will dwell with Him in safety and in peace!

"Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to His Temple.  The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming, " says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. (Malachi 3:1 NLT)

"He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon!'  Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!"  (Revelation 22:20 NLT)

Yes, stand on your tiptoes...anticipate His coming.  Our King is coming and He won't be late!


Blessings of GREATEST JOY on your amazing adventure journey with Jesus!
Lisa