Do Not Dwell on the Past

"Well, you can’t do anything about the past." How many times have you heard a similar statement? Although the past cannot be reclaimed, restitution and forgiveness are possible. Dwelling on the past at the expense of the future has a significant set of ills.

Looking forward toward what is to come in a positive, proactive way seems the better choice. Is it easy to do? For some, perhaps, yet for others this focus toward the new can be a great challenge.

As the sun sets for the final time in 2008, we can choose to fly high above the clouds, headed away from the past and into the future that God is directing us to.

"Forget the former things;
       do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
       Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" 

       Isaiah 43:18,19a

 

 

 

The Beauty of the Lord

  Though an army besiege me,
       my heart will not fear;
       though war break out against me,
       even then will I be confident.

  One thing I ask of the LORD,
       this is what I seek:
       that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
       all the days of my life,
       to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
       and to seek him in his temple.

  For in the day of trouble
       he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
       he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
       and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:3-5

 

 

 

 

Set My Heart Free

I recently heard someone speak of taking the time to slow down and notice things in life more often. Their young son had encouraged them not to hurry, but to take time to look at their surroundings. His son even wanted to start a club called "The Slow Club." Unknowingly, I could’ve qualified for membership. Seeing the details of the environment seems to come to me naturally.

Only a member of the Slow Club could’ve witnessed the momentary appearance of a small, brown rabbit near the thick brush. He sat by the path, crouched and still. I was blessed with the opportunity to observe this creature in the wild; I would not have seen him if I had only hurried by. If I had not intentionally walked to that particular path, I would’ve missed the experience all together.

Do I frequent the paths of obedience to God? Do I take the time to slow down and listen to His leading? Do I understand the freedom I enjoy living inside the boundaries He has lovingly set for me? His commands are filled with many delights known only to those run freely within His walkways.

I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.  Psalm 119:32

 

 

 

 

Heads Held High

A popular television game show for many years has enjoyed quite a success. The basis for the game is the presentation of an answer. The contestants much then ask the question which corresponds to it.

I’d like to try something similar. Here is the definition of a term; let’s see if you can correctly guess the word.

       1. the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself  or another: 
        2. susceptibility to this feeling: 
        3.

disgrace;

 

Before you choose your "final answer," let me tell you that I personally feel that almost everyone born has experienced this at one time or another, perhaps only briefly, yet often for a lifetime. When we feel the pangs of this treacherous word, we often withdraw in hiding, so as not to reveal our condition. After all, who would understand? Just this evening, I spoke with a person who appeared to be very troubled about something. Not knowing them very well, I simply asked if someone had hurt their feelings. The reply? No, I’m just tired. Honestly, I don’t think that was the case at all. Were they hiding? Probably so.

Once we come to the place where we realize our helplessness before God, lost in our sin, we are ready to accept His forgiveness. Having done so, it often seems that something lingers on in our minds to weigh us down, keeping us from our full potential. Just as God is able to forgive us for our failures, He is also able to redeem us from this burdensome companion.  Are you ready for the word?

Shame.

Since God has set us free, we should walk in His strength with our heads held high, ready to do His service, fully forgiven.

 

Maidens Will Dance

Lincoln Brewster’s song "Amazed" begins with these lyrics:

You dance over me while I am unaware
You sing all around but I never hear the sound

In Mercy Me’s "I Can Only Imagine," the composer queries,

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel ?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
?

God dancing over His children….His children dancing for Him. Movement is so expressive of what actually lies deep within our hearts. With movement, we can express our praise to God. Somehow, I can visualize angels dancing before God in adoration. Can you just picture yourself dancing in God’s presence in Heaven?

Jeremiah 31:13 states:

       Then maidens will dance and be glad,
       young men and old as well.
       I will turn their mourning into gladness;
       I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

God is the author of gladness and joy. It is He who gives us the capacity for praise.

 

 

 

Your Salvation

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
      you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel."

Luke 2:25-32

 

 

Delight

Christmas Day. A day of memories, a day of gifts. A day to remember the birth of our Savior. Earlier in the morning, our family gathered in one room as our oldest son read a section of the second chapter of Luke from The Message. It was time for our traditional family Christmas meal together. From my usual place at the table, I am able to look out a nearby window. It was a cloudy day, warm and humid with occasional raindrops here and there. I noticed the clouds as I gazed beyond the glass. As I announced my intentions to go photograph them, I found my camera and headed out the door. The clouds were indeed beautiful, but….suddenly I saw them in the air coming toward me—a small flock of birds. Gracefully they soared, closer, closer. I began to thank God out loud as I took shot after shot of their approach and departure until finally, they were gliding on to their next destination.

Birds flying overhead? That’s not uncommon. However, I know that my heavenly Father loves to give good gifts to His children. Among the infinitely long list of blessings that God has granted to me this day—family, health, food, shelter—He added another. I was drawn to the outdoors by the striking colors of His canvas sky. Almost as if on cue, the birds appeared; a special gift to delight my heart.

Thank You, God, for allowing me to see Your birds soaring high above and for bringing joy to my heart as I captured their beauty in flight.

 

 

 

Appeared

 

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Luke 2:8-12

 

The Lord’s Purpose

Today I had to make a business call. The woman at the office I had contacted apologized for her inability to help me in a more timely manner. They were staffed with only a skeleton crew, due to the severe weather they were experiencing—-in Portland, Oregon.

For the past ten years or so, I have lived in a very warm climate. As I recall, I didn’t even turn the heat on last winter. Right now, flowers in the yard are blooming and this spring-like season continues on.  A couple of days ago, as I was standing near some of those flowers, a beautiful butterfly began to explore around me. Butterflies and flowers in December—it’s just different here.

Curious to know just exactly what type of severe weather had befallen Portland, I asked the woman assisting me over the phone if it had snowed there. It had. I further inquired as to just how much it had snowed.

TEN FEET.

Not ten foot drifts, mind you. Ten feet of snow, flat out on the ground. No apologies were necessary; I don’t know how this dedicated employee even made it to work.

In her part of the country, everything is covered in a blanket of frosty snow, cold and barren. Where I am, life is renewing itself daily alongside the buzzing of bees, the emergence of colorful blooms and green grass leaning in the wind. God’s creation of the seasons, appearing like clock-work at their appointed times, can neither be altered or fully predicted. His ultimate sovereignty in our lives is mirrored by the majestic forces of nature. What He has planned will prevail, right on schedule, every time.

Pause and consider your own life for a moment. Are you experiencing "winter," with it’s cold winds of change and it’s slippery ice of uncertainty? Perhaps it’s a budding season for you, as new warmth wraps its arms around emerging opportunities. Whatever the case, He is fully aware of your circumstance.

He may even provide you with a shovel…

 

 

God With Us

The music was simple, yet captivating. The lyrics to the old Christmas hymns coupled with the echoing melodies and glistening percussion created a message of warmth and love that permeated the church. There was a special presentation centering on the reality that God is truly with us, no matter who we are or what stage of life we are in. The Advent candles were almost directly in front of me as I sat silently in a front row seat.

At the close of the service, I decided to drive by the Resurrection Garden to visit our son’s grave. As I bent down to brush away some leaves from the bronze marker, I heard four calm words from well within my mind.

"You’ll see him again."

So quickly were the words delivered, I was almost startled. I knew immediately in my heart that God was speaking to me. Speaking words of comfort and assurance. He was with me there, as I came face to face with grief once more. I was not alone. Suddenly aware of His presence, I was encouraged deeply within my soul.

Jesus came to the earth as a baby, grew to be a man and died to pay the price for all my transgressions. He came to life again, gaining victory over death. He is with me now, never leaving me or forsaking me.

God with us.     He really is.

 

 

 

His Star

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:1,2

When I was in college many years ago in the mid-southern section of the United States, something fascinating happened. It was incredible. It was glorious. It was frightening—and I missed it.

I had only seen pictures of the beautiful ribbons of light known as Aurora Borealis—-The Northern Lights. Living as far south as I always had, I didn’t even consider viewing it as a possibility, unless of course, I visited Canada or Alaska. Yet, one day as I began my day on campus, the news of the spectacular show of the previous evening reached my ears. As I recall, it seems that someone had even thought it was the "end of the world." The Northern Lights had actually become visible that night in Arkansas. Where was I? Somewhere inside a building, oblivious to what would have been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. As stories of the red bands in the sky reached my ears, disappointment filled my heart. I wished that I could have somehow known.

The Magi had been looking. They were aware of the methodical changes in the appearance of the night sky. They saw the unusually bright star. They were also aware of the prophecies. They knew there was to be born a king of the Jews. They must have been living out their lives with an attitude of informed expectancy. They were prepared.

How many things in my life would God have shown me—the fascinating things, the incredible things, the glorious, yet frightening things—if only I’d been watching, waiting,,,,,expecting.

Lord, help me to learn to look for You—to watch expectantly for Your presence and activity.

 

 

 

Your Will

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.

Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.

Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God;

May Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Psalm 143:8-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the Crowd

 

Have you ever just gone along with the crowd? I have. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter. A group dinner choice. Which museum to visit. Sometimes it really does matter, though. What movie to see. What kind of person to date. Attend a party or not.

Our decision to follow the crowd can be life threatening. As I think back on earlier days, my decisions to conform to the attitudes and actions of others were mainly to "fit in" with the people I wanted as my friends. I didn’t project much assertiveness because I was afraid of being rejected…..rejected by the nameless "crowd."

God instructs us not to follow when it concerns doing wrong. The path apart from the one our friends are choosing may be a lonely one, yet it is ultimately the choice that will bring reward. When we are tempted, we can ask God to strengthen us in making the right choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seasons

 

 

Recently, I read something about the moon being the brightest its been so far in 2008. Astronomers keep up with the mathematically precise movements in the heavens. Although I think I would like to be a part of such things, for now, I just enjoy looking up and seeing the beauty that presents itself at the moment.

The moon is truly bright, as well as beautiful. It does, however, have another function. The Bible tells us that it, "marks the seasons."

Everything that God has made was created for a reason. I’m thankful that things exist because they have a purpose. I am also thankful that purpose is sometimes coupled with beauty….

 

 

 

Drops of Water

 

 

The grass in my own yard was drenched in dew this morning. As an added surprise, tiny spiders had spun webs in the grass to add a lacey decoration to the green blades already glistening in the sun. When I reached the school where I teach, the sun was highlighting the low lying webs and droplets in the grass there, as well. The students love to find things for me to photograph. I was especially interested in the dew drops.

Reflection is such an intriguing thing. We look into the water and see a likeness of ourselves; we look into a mirror of glass or polished metal and see the same. It isn’t really us at all, yet it reveals exactly what others see. God has given us reflection in nature, through the globe of a water droplet or the surface of a pond. With His complete knowledge of all things, He causes the water that reflects to evaporate, only to bring rain to another place at another time, continually reflecting.

What image do I see when I look in the mirror? Is it of someone who is trusting in God for all their needs? Is it of someone who has a grateful attitude? A forgiving heart?

 

 

 

  He draws up the drops of water,
       which distill as rain to the streams;

  the clouds pour down their moisture
       and abundant showers fall on mankind.

Job 36:27, 28

 

No Condemnation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I once heard a pastor explain something about sin.

When we get our hands really dirty, we go to the sink and we begin to wash. The question that was brought out was, after we have washed, do we look down the drain and wonder where all the dirt went? No. We forget about it and go on.

Why then, does this occur so often: we do something that displeases God–then we ask forgiveness. He makes us clean, yet we hold on to the guilt of our actions and wonder where our failures have gone.  We look down the "drain" of God’s forgiveness, searching for our sin.

We need not do such a thing, for the Bible tells us in the first chapter of Romans that, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…"  When we ask God to forgive us, He does. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are made clean.

Have you been looking down the drain lately?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed

 

 

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He beagan to teach them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of Briers

 

Near our home is a small field. It was intended as a retainment pond, which means that its function is to collect extra water should flooding conditions exist. Most of the time, it serves only as a vacant, green area of land. Filled with grass? No—sand spurs.

Sand spurs are sharp, jagged spikes that grow on a benign looking plant. As you walk on them or near them, they stick to your clothes or shoes. Removing them is terribly painful. No one EVER wants to see sand spurs growing, especially in their own lawn.

Life can be like the retainment pond sometimes. Things may look nice and green from a distance, yet, upon closer inspection, some painful spurs may be present. Ignoring the sharp spikes will only allow them to grow even larger in population, spreading and taking over even more fertile ground.

When God renews all things for eternity, the Bible tells us that, "Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow." (Isaiah 55:13) He will replace what is painful with what is pleasant. That will be then–but what about now?

As we come to recognize areas of our lives that have become victim to the spurs and briers of this world, we may choose to bring them to God and request healing from the wounds incurred by the sharp points we have endured. We may also ask that the fields that are currently inhabited by painful briers be replanted with the seeds of wholeness that can only come from Him.

Are there any areas of your life that need uprooting?

 

 

 

Never Fade

We have a very tall tree that stands close to the front of our home. During the winter season, the leaves turn a beautiful red color before they fall to the ground. I noticed that at the very top of the tallest branches a few leaves were still present. Vibrantly crimson, they were highlighted by the backdrop of a clear, blue sky. With the changing of the seasons, the old which is fading is replaced with the new.

As we grow older, do we "brighten" with a countenance more radiant with the knowledge of God and His goodness? Hopefully, yes. But even so, the time will come when who we are will be replaced by who we will be eternally. The old, which is fading, will be no more as we recieve our inheritance. Our crowns of glory will never fade away.

 

 

 

 

 

Light is Sweet

As I glanced quickly down the long foyer, I saw the sunlight streaming through the windows at various points. How captivating the light was! It drew my attention in an instant.

The Bible says, "Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun." (Ecclesiates 11:7) We long for light. The light of understanding, the light of awareness—- the light of hope.

We can be reflectors of God’s light to others. We can choose to allow His light to shine through us to brighten the lives we encounter— each and every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sign

 

 

 

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

 

Luke 2:12-16

 

 

 

 

Rising

 

Yesterday was a day with, well, let’s just say "some stresses." Nothing major, just a few incidences comparable to "Oh, there’s no mayonaise; I guess I’ll have to take mustard," or "I’m sorry, your membership ran out yesterday…"

It had been about a 12 hour work day, including the commute. As I was driving home, there was just a heaviness to my mood. I decided to begin singing as I drove. My voice was tired from the day’s events, and I was struck by how poorly it sounded. It didn’t matter. I sang praise songs. I sang scripture songs with my less than perfect ability at the moment. I began to focus on God.

When troubling times come or stress begins to build, remembering to praise God becomes a solace. Psalm 113:3 says, "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised."

 

 

Be Sure

This past Sunday, the pastor of the church I attend asked the congregation to do something a little differently. Instead of leaving monetary gifts inside a wooden box in the back of the church for collection, we were asked to bring any offering or tithe to the front of the room and place it there as an act of worship. During a time of singing, many people in the church brought their gifts up to the platform. This was not a prideful show of who was giving. It was to publicly express trust in God, thanking Him for His provision.

How is that an act of worship? Giving of ourselves—our time, as well as our money–shows that we value obedience to His will in our lives. Everything we have really all belongs to God, anyway. We are simply stewards of what He has allowed us to care for in this life.

Deuteronomy 14:22 says, "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year."  Personally, I do not own a farm. i do, however, have a career that provides for me financially. Should I set aside a tenth of all my employment produces each year?

God has blessed us with an abundant life. What are you setting aside for Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten-stringed Lyre

Psalm 33: 1-8

  Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
       it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

  Praise the LORD with the harp;
       make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

 Sing to him a new song;
       play skillfully, and shout for joy.

  For the word of the LORD is right and true;
       he is faithful in all he does.

  The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
       the earth is full of his unfailing love.

  By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
       their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

  He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
       he puts the deep into storehouses.

  Let all the earth fear the LORD;
       let all the people of the world revere him.

 

 

 

The Kingdom of God

It was a regular Sunday morning service. As I stood there singing and praying, my prayers turned to a concern that seems to be ever present before me. The words, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God…." were suddenly in my thoughts.

Seek first? I am responsible for my own heart, be it made of flesh or made of stone. God desires a relationship with each believer—a communion of love and obedience.  Life has a way of drawing our attention apart from our heavenly Father and onto the urgency of the moment.

During this Christmas season, when distractions loom at every turn and memories surface once again from years gone by, may we "seek first" to know God and His righteousness.

 

 

 

Autumn

Autumn has finally come to the area of the world that I live in. The trees in my yard are turning a vivid shade of deep reds and golden yellows. Leaves that have fallen from them adorn the sidewalks and lawns like scattered flower petals glowing in the sun. It was raining this morning as I ventured out. Gently nudging this one and that, the drops send a new group of "petals" to take up residence on the ground below. Slowly and decisively, nature moves forward in its timetable, right on schedule—God’s schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water

 

It was a typical science workshop, I suppose. I am extremely interested in investigating our environmental surroundings, so it was a good day for me. During the afternoon session, the presenter gave everyone a piece of waxed paper. We were told that a drop of "mystery fluid" would then be placed on it for our perusal. We were given only a toothpick to manipulate the liquid.

I sat in the group as we all simultaneously began to ponder the properties of the fluid. After much consideration, we were told that it was simply colored water. The drops sat before us, elevated from the paper by surface tension, reflecting the flourescent lights above us, mimicking glass "jewels" and being just what it was made to be—water.

The testimony of God is found in all things great or small. Majestic mountains, a drop of water. Oh, the mysteries that have been discovered in just one drop!

I am passionate about scientific discovery. It has always been interesting. When I learn of something new, it’s like opening a present from God. 

Thank You, God, for the water You have created and blessed us with.

 

 

 

 

The Purpose

There are many prophecies in the Bible.  Some point to the birth of Jesus. The words that were penned proclaiming His coming to the earth to bring salvation were true upon their writing, even though the event had not occurred. When God says it is to happen, it is just as it already has. It is a sure thing.

God gives us His word in written form to reveal Himself to us. His encouragement, love and comfort may be found in its pages. He brings scripture to mind to guide us and to remind us of His presence. His word is powerful and true. It is sent out to accomplish His will. It will not return to Him "empty."

Many times, I have gained strength through specific verses. I have gained wisdom through others. I have received guidance and felt His love.

Before you settle in to sleep this evening, why not read a passage in the Bible and meditate on its meaning as you lay quietly listening to God. His word will accomplish what He desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starry Host

It was a beautiful sight. I had already noticed the sky even before he was tapping at the window. My husband had been walking the dog when he saw them; he came back to the house to summon me outside.

The crescent moon was only perhaps an hour away from disappearing into the darkness. Forming  a close triangle near it were two planets, brightly beaming alongside.  With a little online research, I confirmed the nameless lights: Venus, the brighter one, accompanied by Jupiter.  I wonder if anyone who ventured out last night could possibly have missed this display of God’s creation. With mathematical perfection, in complete sequence, and in total control of their Maker, the trio danced together toward the horizon—a gentle, quiet, magnificent reminder that God is on His throne.