Friday, December 09, 2011

Jesus is . . .

... my Savior and Lord.
...the way, the truth, the life.
...the light of the world.
...the only way to the Father.
...the door, gate, bread of life, true vine.
...Messiah.
...Son of God, Son of man.
...created everything alongside God.
...born of a virgin, crucified, died, buried, rose on third say, ascended to Heaven, sits at God's right hand, intercedes for me/us.
...canceled my certificate of debt, nailed it to the cross.
...forgives all my sin and sins, past, present, future.
...was/is sinless.
...exchanged His righteous robes for my unrighteous rags.
...is a propitiation for sin.
...is the Prince of Peace.
...is the sacrificial passover lamb.
...is my High Priest.
...was tempted like me but did not sin.
...is all and is in all.
...is the exact representation of God.
...is God in the flesh.
...learned obedience through the things he suffered.
...existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.
...holds all thing (in creation) together.
...is the head of the church, His body.
...is the beginning.
...is first in everything.
...reconciled all things to Himself.
...is the Good News.
...fulfills the Law.
...proved He was the Son of God when He rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven never more to die.

Celebrate Jesus this Christmas for who He is!




Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Through the Eyes of a Bystander

So many strange occurrences in Bethlehem lately. First Herod decides to take a census but makes it difficult for everyone because He requires them to return to the city of their ancestors . Nothing like keeping his thumb of control on all of us "peasants." So there have been throngs of people flooding our sleepy little town. So many that the 'no vacancies' signs have been put in all the inn windows. Visitors had to scrounge around to find a place to lay their heads. Some even wound up sleeping in the stables with the livestock! At least they were out of the frosty dew that settled on those less fortunate.

A few nights ago I saw this spectacularly huge star in the sky. Some say it was a comet. It blazed across the dark night sky lighting up the heavens like no one has ever seen before. Then it seemed to linger on one particular place for several days, when as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. The more superstitious of the townfolk said it was a sign from God, but what could a huge star mean?

About the same time, some shepherds from the outskirts of town rushed in with great excitement, sharing with everyone what they had experienced. Personally I think they were imbibing in too much wine, but they swear they heard the most glorious sound in the sky about same time as that star appeared. They saw ghostly images, hundreds of them. They "said" they were angels, supposedly telling them to visit a baby in a feeding trough. Now tell me, who in the world is crazy enough to believe you will find a baby in a stable, no less in an animal's feeding trough! But I guess those heavenly hosts were convincing enough because those shepherds left their flock (unheard of) and ran into town. Lo, and behold, after searching several stables they noticed that brilliant star shining down on a stable at the far end of town and when they arrived, there was a brand spanking new babe wrapped in some cloths and he was actually lying in a manger! The funny thing was that according to the angels,  this wasn't just any baby, but  this baby boy was the Messiah, the One Israel has been waiting for - the Savior - which I guess means the one who would save us from the evil rulership of King Herod and Rome. He's a mighty special baby if that is who he really is. But how strange that this would-be king was born in such a strange way and in such a strange place.

I'll be keeping my eye on this one - see how he grows up and what happens with him.  We sure could use a Savior right about now. But I'm guessin' I'll be having to wait a few years before we see any saving going on, since he's just a baby. I'm not sure what I believe, but those shepherds sure were convinced. Those angels made believers out of them for sure. I've never seen such a thing, but as they went back to their flocks, they were singing and even dancing a jig, big smiles on their faces as if something miraculous just took place. They were even praising the name of God, quite the contrary to what usually comes out of their mouths about God. Like I said, I guess I'll just have to wait and see what's gonna happen.

Hmm, I think there is a word for that - waiting to see what's to come - is it Advent?





Thursday, December 01, 2011

You are blessed!

Luke 1:45
 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.

I have never seen that before, that Mary was blessed because she believed that God would do what He said He would do - the impossible! I've always thought Mary was blessed because she was the mother of Jesus and how that was unique only to her. Because of that she was elevated to a place I couldn't relate to. But now I see that we can all be as blessed as Mary if we will just believe God when He tells us He will do the impossible in our lives too!

But wait! We CAN be like Mary, a dwelling place for the Lord Jesus, not in our wombs but in our hearts. We need to say yes as Mary did to allow the Holy Spirit to come inside us and "impregnate" us with Jesus in our hearts as we first see our need for a Savior and invite Jesus into our hearts and as we daily surrender our will to the will of God. Thy Kingdom come! My Kingdom go! on THIS earth as it is in Heaven.

Ponder this as you journey s-l-o-w-l-y through this sacred Advent season.







Friday, November 11, 2011

His Colors



I am reading through my last year's journal and came upon this entry that once again spoke to my heart.  

You take for granted the beautiful, rich, vibrant colors of the autumn trees because you have seen them year after year for so many years. But think of the miracle that you are looking at! How can a green leaf on a tree actually turn a totally different color around the same time every year?  Not all trees turn the same color! There is an infinite variety of fall colors that I have created. You are viewing one of My gifts of beauty that reflects the beauty of who I AM.  Enjoy the colors because I created these just for your pleasure and delight. And to give you another way to know Me more. Never take Me or My Beauty for granted.  Romans 1:20 NLT Though everything God made, you can clearly see His invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature (in nature!). So no one has an excuse for not knowing God.  Here's another version:
The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. The Message

                           Enjoy God's glorious colors on display for us to see and delight in today!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

His Imprint

My life is like sealing wax. If I do not allow the fire to often me, I will not be able to receive God's imprint and be molded into His image. The press on hard wax will grind it to powder. (paraphrased from Thomas Merton)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The New Day



The beauty of the new day greets me, smiling
Coolness even though August
and He awaits my company
Heart delighting, smiling
as I come to meet my God . . .
Precious moments are these few
never enough, always fulfilling
spilling into me, out of me into the day ---
solitude and serene.
The babbling brook reminding me
Streams of Living Water live in me
IN ME! I cannot take it in -
His gift to me is He, Himself
within my very flesh
so I am not alone.
"My Delight," He smiles into my heart.
"My Delight," I echo to His heart.
Union.

Fear Criticism? Why avoid it?

Recently I was challenged to reframe criticism from rejection to growth opportunity. Criticism can be . . . a new perspective on what I haven't seen before that could help me grow into who God wants me to be . . . shared because someone loves me and wants the best for me (even if their approach could use a little help!) . . . uncovering my blind-spots . . . a nugget of truth in every criticism even if the criticism is not totally true . . . used by God to help me release pride and grow in humility . . . makes me approachable if I'm open to it. Can you see any other way to reframe criticism to help you grow? Give it a try next time you encounter the pointed finger in your face.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Invitation from God



What party is that? The BEST party you would EVER want to experience, one where you get the best presents, the ones you always wanted and ones that fulfill your every desire and wish. Where is this incredible party you ask? Heaven! Here's how I picture this party to look like for me, maybe for you . . .

The party begins the moment the angels close my eyes on this earth for the last time. Then the adventure begins. I get a special escort; angels will be on either side of me; when I arrive at the Celestial City and open the door (is it really an actual pearl gate? who knew?)I hear an excited and celebratory "SURPRISE!"
Every friend, every family member even some I don't know who have gone on before me will be there to celebrate my entrance to the Party. Streamers, confetti, celebration, music, a feast greet me!!!! Then my brother, Jesus, is standing in front of me, smiling, saying "I couldn't wait for you to get here!" He puts His brotherly arm around my shoulder and hugs me tightly. Then he places an exquisite jeweled crown on my head. I can't believe my eyes. He tells me that every burden, every trial, every affliction that I embraced for His sake has turned into a unique sparkling jewel that was place in my crown, made especially for me, no two crowns alike. I turn right around and take the crown from my head and present it to Jesus saying "It was all YOU! You deserve this crown." He graciously receives it from my hand and thanks me with a smile that warms to the deepest place in my heart.

I realize this is like the best surprise party I never had on earth, only a million times better because there are surprises awaiting me that are beyond my wildest imagination.

Now Jesus walks by my side as escorts me into the Presence of the King, my Dad, Papa. God enfolds me in His arms and I realize this is what I was made for and I never want to be anywhere else. Oh the joy, contentment, excitement, abundance! Every good feeling that I'd ever hoped to experience, I will experience in that moment. And the good news is this Party never ends! The focus may change but it is an ongoing Party nevertheless and one that continues into infinity and beyond!

By the way, you are invited; Are you coming? Oh how I hope so. If I get there before you, I want to see your face when you open the door and I yell, "SURPRISE!" and give you a huge hug and we get to experience your homecoming together with exceeding joy. For "in His Presence is fullness of joy." Ps 16:11

This party is really not that far away . . . I can't wait! How about you?

Saturday, August 20, 2011



As I think about the good, the bad and the ugly in my story, I see the good as the blessings of God, the bad as the trials and sufferings I've experienced from those who have sinned against me as well as just because that is how life on this side of eternity. But the ugly . . . the ugly is how I have sinned against others, the parts of me I avoid looking at because, well, they are UGLY! Attached to the ugliness is much shame and condemnation, so not only do I unconsciously avoid going there, I realize that I've buried my uglies deep in my soul. Yet because they are still there, a part of me, the pride part of me, has to prove to myself "I'm really not THAT bad" and so I choose to focus on my goodness and wind up hiding a part of my story that God wants to heal.
So God begins to put his Holy Spirit spotlight on the basement of my soul to focus on my ugly . . . and it hurts and feels so shameful I want to hide even deeper in my darkness. Then by His every so gentle grace, He reminds me, "Confess your sins to one another and be healed." (James 5:16) He offers me healing, NOT condemnation, but mercy. The catch is I have to reveal my ugly to another, risk being vulnerable and rejected, bring the dark into the light, to receive the healing. God in His gentleness reminds me that He allowed His Son to experience and suffer MY shame on the cross so I wouldn't have to. He invites me to confess so I can be healed and free of the condemnation that holds me captive. That what awaits me is not what the Accuser speaks, rejection, but freedom, freedom from my false self which tries to prove I'm okay without God and looks to other 'things' to meet a need that only He can fill. Freedom to live into my true self, that person God originally created me to be in union with Him.

As I confess my sin to another trusted friend who loves me, all of me, the good, the bad and the ugly, I receive the healing that dissolves the shame and bring an overwhelming gratefulness to God for His extravagant love toward this sinner turned saint, not though my efforts but through His amazing grace.

I'm reminded of the story Jesus told abut the woman who had been forgiven much, loved much. (Luke 7:47). Because my sins were so great and God freely and joyfully forgave them and me, it makes my love for Him so much greater. The greater the sin, the greater the debt paid and the greater gratitude and love there is in my heart. If my debt was $1000 and He paid it, I would be grateful. But because my debt felt more like $1,000,000, my grateful love reflects that exponentially.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sacred Echo



I love when God repeats himself to me, I call it a Sacred Echo (taken from Margaret Feinberg's book by the same title, one I highly recommend). It is as if He doesn't want me to miss what He is saying to me, something He deems important enough to say again, just so I don't miss the impact.

It happened this morning. I was reading in Spiritual Disciplines Devotional by Valerie Hess, talking about the discipline of submission (ugh, none of us want to submit, do we?) I like to think of it as the discipline of surrender (to God). That sits better with me. Since my "signature sin" is pride, (thinking I can do it on my own without God or forever learning to take my "God coat" off and not try to fix people or situations to be happy, comfortable or in harmony with me), my ears always perk up when i hear the word "humility." Hess says, "The discipline of submission is also the best route to a spirit of true humility... the root word of humble gives us the word humus or earth.
In the discipline of submission we become so firmly rooted in the soil of God's love that we are able to live in an attitude of service and humility, full of joy and peace. We know who we are and we can let others be who they are. There is no envy or competition; we have nothing to prove because Jesus has proven it all for us in His death and resurrection." Letting others be who they are were the exact words I've written in my journal, asking God to help me LET GO of my expectations and agendas for people and accept them for who they are and truly be okay with that. So those words jumped off the page to me. And God was giving me a glimpse of HOW to do that: be humble.

Then I picked up Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts, which, if you haven't read it, you MUST! A life changer of a read. The exact same words about humility grabbed my attention:"The word humility comes from the Latin word, humus: the kind of earth that grows good crops. God gives the earth to humus people (Matt 5:5 Blessed are the humble for they shall inherit the earth). Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yield abundant joy." Then I read this quote by GBF Hallock: "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts."

Kind of like Jesus stooping to wash the feet of the disciples. They should have been washing HIS feet, but He humbled himself, taking the form of a bond servant instead of grasping for His rightful place as God, He chose to submit to His disciples. It is called "the way of the towel."

Lord, help me to humble myself and be willing to walk the way of the towel.

Listen, be aware and you, too, may hear His sacred echo... it's worth listening for.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Harmony



I want harmony with the people in my life. As I think about this, a musical harmony is two different musical lines which, when put together, complement each other. They're not the same but they sound good together and it works to make the song more melodious. This is the kind of harmony I desire. Me being me and me allowing, accepting, even appreciating them being them. Different but together we make a sweeter song.

"All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of Jesus' death, his blood that poured down from the cross." Col 1:20 MSG

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

God is my Island Hideaway



I love the picture this gives my mind: tropical breezes, sunny days but not too hot, total relaxation, getting away from the stress and strain of everyday life, just hanging out with the One I love and the One who adores me. "God-addirmers find themselves loved every time they turn around. Celebrate God!"
I celebrate the joy You bring to my heart when i dwell in Your Presence on our island hideaway, a place I can go to any time of day with You!


Psalm 32 the message

1 Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start,
your slate's wiped clean.

2 Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you're holding nothing back from him.

3 When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.

4 The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

5 Then I let it all out;
I said, "I'll make a clean breast of my failures to God."

Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

6 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we'll be on high ground, untouched.

7 God's my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

8 Let me give you some good advice;
I'm looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

9 "Don't be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track."

10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.


11 Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Art Journaling


The other day I watched one of my all time favorite movies: Les Miserables with Liam Neesom. I am always deeply touched by how a pair of silver candelabra and one man's extravagant forgiveness transform another depraved (like mine) man's life. So many similarities to Jesus in this movie and how powerful grace and mercy and sacrificial love can be. I was so moved that I wanted to journal about my feelings and decided to do an art journaling page, the one you see above. It was a great way for me to capture my heart on page.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bloggers Prayer




I am no longer my own blogger, but Thine, O Lord.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.
Put me to service, or put me to suffering.
Let me post for Thee or be put aside for Thee,
Lifted high, only for Thee, or brought low, all for Thee.
Do with me and each post whatever you will, because You alone know best.

Let me not strive but submit Let me not compete but care
Let me not desire hits but holiness
Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers.

Let my blog be full of Thee, and let it be empty of me.
Let me crave all things of Thee, let me care nothing of this world.
Let my words be worthy of the greatest of audiences: You.
And You are enough.

May I write not for subscribers… but only for Thy smile.
May my daily affirmation be in the surety of my atonement,
not the size of my audience.
May my identity be in the innumerable graces of Christ,
never, God forbid, the numbers of my comments.
May the only words that matter in my life not be the ones I write on a screen ---
but the ones I live with my skin.

I freely and heartily yield every sentence, every title, every post, every comment… or no comments… all to Thine pleasure and perfect will.

My only fame is that I bear Your name
My only glory is the gift of Your Grace
My only readership, Your eyes that seek to and fro to find a heart hard after You.
Make this so, oh Lord…

Yahweh, You alone are my God, not Google
Jesus, You alone are my Savior, not site meters
And Holy Spirit, You alone are my Comforter, not comments

So be it, today, yesterday, and every post to come.

This is my prayer I have made on earth and over this keyboard… let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Copyright 2010, Ann Voskamp @ www.aholyexperience.com All rights reserved. Please do not copy, paste text or reprint.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Books, books, books



I LOVE to read!
Here are the top 5 books I've read this year and would highly recommend!
1. To Be Told: Dan Allender
2. The Help: Katherine Stockett
3. Walking with God: John Eldredge
4. The Me I Want to Be: John Ortberg
5. A Deeper Journey: Robert Mulholland Jr

Here's a list of all the books I completed in 2010.
January
The Shack: William P Young CD
Gift of the Red Bird: Paula D’Arcy
Sam’s Letters to Jennifer: James Patterson


February
Where the River Ends: Charles Martin
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: Kate DiCamillo
The Blue Book: Jim Branch
Divine Embrace: Ken Gire
Remember to Forget: Deborah Raney

March
Handle with Care: Jodi Picoult
Peace like a River: Leif Enger (CD)
The Last Song: Nicolas Sparks

April
The Organic God: Margaret Feinberg
Digging In: Robert Benson
Nice Girls Don’t Change the World: Lynne Hybels
The Host: Stephanie Meyer
Walking with God: John Eldredge

May
29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life: Cami Walker
When Crickets Cry: Charles Martin
Life of the Beloved: Henri Nouwen
Fresh Brewed Life: Nicole Johnson
An Altitude of Change: Anita Shreve
Messenger: Lois Lowry
Dropping Your Rock: Nicole Johnson

June
The File: Anita Keaggy
His Perfuming Process: Loretta Willis
The Lightning Thief: Rick Riorden

July
Idol Eyes: Mandisa Hundley
The Music of Dolphins: Karen Hesse
To Be Told: Dan Allender


August
In a Heartbeat: Leigh Anne & Sean Tuohy
The Help: Katherine Stockett CD
The Year of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion

September
Driftwood Summer: Patti Callahan Henry
The Cradle: Patrick Somerville
The Me I Want to Be: John Ortberg
The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: Kevin & Alex Malarky
Second Short Life of Bree Tanner: Stephanie Meyer CD
The Dead Don’t Dance: Charles Martin

October
The Summons: John Grishem CD
Gossamer: Lois Lowry CD
New Set of Eyes: Paula D’arcy

November
Song for Sarah: Paula D’arcy
Her Mother’s Hope: Francine Rivers
Choosing to See: Mary Beth Chapman
Little Bee: Chris Cleave CD
A Deeper Journey: Robert Mulholland Jr

December
Christmas Jar: Jason F Wright
Maggie: Charles Martin
Christmas on Jane Street: Billy Romp
God is in the Manger: Dietrich Bonhoffer

January 2011
Spiritual Mentoring: Anderson & Reese
Her Daughter’s Dream: Francine Rivers