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Bare Room

A post-Christmas God-lesson: It looked so bare!

The Twelve Days of Christmas came to an end. So with a heavy sigh, I boxed up all the Christmas decorations. The tree, the wreaths, the garland and stockings on the mantle, the potted poinsettias (fake because the real ones are highly toxic to cats), and of course my two Creche scenes with the Holy family and my advent wreath and candles.

space-1715058_640I stacked the boxes in the back of my closet, stretched the kink from my lower spine, and walked back into the living room.

My heart sank. It appeared so bare.

Okay-maybe not as bare as in this photo, but in my mind it looked about the same.  Perhaps you have had that experience.

It made me wonder how that manger over 2,000 years ago looked after the Holy family vacated it. Did the innkeeper scratch his head in confused wonder and whisper to the livestock, “Funny, it never looked this barren before.”

As I pouted, God tapped my soul’s shoulder. Julie-I’m still here.

“I know, God. You are always there. It’s just at Christmas it seems we can see You more easily. Joy and good cheer, charity and giving make the season bright. It is as if we finally take being Your light in the world seriously.”

I heard His celestial chuckle. Christmas is the incarnation of me coming into the world, dwelling in flesh. Now, I dwell in you, and every Christ believer. You carry on my incarnation, guided by my Holy Spirit. Right before I ascended into heaven I said, “Lo I am with you always.” I meant that. You don’t need to see a figurine of me as a baby lying a manger to remind you of that fact, do you? You don’t need a candle flame or a star topping a tree to know I am the Light, correct?

I cast my gaze downward and dug my toe into the carpet. “No, Lord.” Then my mood brightened. I glanced around my living room, and then to the ceiling.

“Lord, may my life, as it begins 2017, be a bare room. May You, as the months go by, fill it to Your glory so everyone I meet knows You are here, even it is is not the Christmas season. Decorate it as You please.”

I think He smiled.

After all that is the theme of this blog, which He inspired, and ID-100141400it has been for the past four years. May this blog be filled to His glory this year with ways I’ve found God in my daily journey so you can be encouraged to seek Him in your day as well.

 

There are many posts, blogs, articles and thoughts about the New Year. Make a resolution or not. Turn over a new leaf. Find a meaningful word. What is our focus?

ID-10018835If it is on us, then perhaps it is why we seem to fall short each year. After all, Paul reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

I once heard that both SIN and PRIDE have “I” in the middle. In today’s “me-ism”  world of selfies and all-about-me introverted thinking, our society suffers from too much of a focus on ourselves and not others. Whether we meet our goals or not, the focus is still the same…it is on us. How quickly that can absorb us, right?

In contrast, the Christian is supposed to strive to be more other-focused. Paul also told the Philippians, and tells us –

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (2:3-8)

ID-10024045Perhaps, instead of focusing on how we should change, become more aware, adjust our weight, habits, etc. we need to shift our focus to the Cross. Not rely on our own strength, or even ask God to give us strength, but for Him to be our strength. May we choose to be other-orientated and open to being used to His glory. Let God set the path, and be pliable enough to be molded in the way He wishes so we can be His hands and feet in this world and point others to Him, not ourselves.

Who knows. In the process, we might discover by the end of 2017 we met our original “goals” after all. I personally pray I will have done infinitely more than just that – because my actions and reactions will have eternal consequences either way.

Blessed Christmas

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

May you find God in your life today, and every day.

nativity4

The following is written by Penelope Marquez, an author I know. It is taken from her novella, Hoping for Joy, part of the Love Is series based on 1 Corinthians 13, releasing today.  http://www.prismbookgroup.com/love-is-series.

Soon after Logan’s sister dies, her preschool aged daughter, Joy, who is now his responsibility, disappears.  His father has had a debilitating stroke and his fiance is severely injured in a car accident, possibly intentionally caused by the drug lord who killed his sister.

Now he is stuck in a mega traffic jam and can’t get to her. His anger at God increases. Prayer seems futile. He ponders if God really cares, or is even real.

 

ladybug-169943_1280When he opened the bag, a ladybug flew out. It landed on his hand.

His sister had loved ladybugs. He glared at it. “Fine. I give up. This is a message. Give it to me straight.”

The ladybug crawled along, struggling over each hair in its path. Every hair was an obstacle to its goal. Logan pondered over his own plight. His life was littered with obstacles, too, but unlike the ladybug, his problems involved people. He could not protect them, or fix them, or find  them when they were lost.

The ladybug stopped when it reached the cuff of his sweater, which undoubtedly looked like  a mountain to the little insect. It turned around briefly and stared at where it had been before it swung back to attempt to conquer the woolen peak. He frowned at the insect, but held still so he wouldn’t disturb it. The ladybug believed itself capable of scaling a vertical wall of yarn. It fell backward and landed upside down. All six of its tiny legs swirled in the air. He gently touched it with the fingernail on his pinky and set it upright. It held still for a moment and then flew out the window.

He was sad he had lost his small friend, but hoped it would find a safe place to rest. He wondered if he was like a god to the ladybug. How many of those small insects fell over with no one to help them?  How many people simply crushed ladybugs?

A chill slid up his back. Though Logan had struggled to do what he could, he had no control over life’s circumstances. He was powerless. He was alone. His burdens would crush him if he didn’t share the load with someone. Who could help him?

For a long time, he had denied God’s existence. What if he was wrong? What if there was something bigger than everyone? He was a giant to the ladybug. Could the tiny bug see him, or only his hand and sleeve? Maybe he couldn’t see God because God was too big for him to see all at once.

But perhaps he could see parts of Him if he tried.

 

God finally got to the microbiologist  Logan, mourning for his deceased sister, by sending a ladybug. He touches each of us in unique ways. Where will you find God in your life today? What message does He have just for you?

Broken Wing

I strolled up the sidewalk to the church and noticed a grackle (Texas black bird and all around menace) pecking at side exit  door as if it wanted inside. It was the fellowship time between Sunday school and worship. That side door led into the room where people gathered for snacks and coffee.

grackle-591594_640Perhaps the grackle saw it’s reflection in the sunscreen-filmed glass, or maybe a juicy bug crawled up the door. I couldn’t be sure. But the bird pecked on the door then waddled back a few steps, cocked its head, and once again approached and pecked the glass.

What seemed odd is that there weren’t ten other grackles around. They usually flock together. This male seemed to be all alone. That’s when I noticed one wing dangling at a weird angle. It didn’t tuck in like the other one. My heart sank. The poor thing probably couldn’t fly. He’d been abandoned.

Then an unusual thing happened. One of the elderly men of our congregation wedged the door open. I watched as only his head and one arm peeked out. He crumbled part of a cookie onto the ground at the stoop. It took a half a second for the grackle to grab a piece.  Maybe I am personifying, but to me the bird’s demeanor did a 180. Crumb in beak, it held it’s head high and hopped under the safety of a parked car to gobble it’s meal. I couldn’t help but smile. Later I caught up with the man and thanked him. He seemed a touch embarrassed that someone had seen his gesture. He shrugged. “It looked hungry.”

324In our worship, right before we receive communion, there is a prayer in which we tell our Lord we know we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under His table, but He always draws us near in mercy. It is in reference to the Canaanite woman who boldly told Jesus even dogs get crumbs from the master’s table. (Matthew 15:27) Jesus commended her for her faith and answered her prayer. It reminds us worshipers that we also are in need of mercy but must have the bold faith to ask for it.

I thought of that grackle. And I wondered about all the broken people out there who feel all alone and abandoned. Ones who are not as bold as this injured bird to beg for help. Ones who may feel hesitant to tap at our church door.

Lord, may we seek out the ones in our communities who also feel they are unworthy to eat the crumbs. May we show them mercy, tend to them, and then bring them into Your midst to Your table. Amen.

Mow Me Down

I looked at the Psalm for the day and snickered at the appropriateness. He shall come down like rain upon the mowed field, like showers that water the earth.”  Psalm 72:6

This week I felt as if a giant lawn mower had plowed over me. My publisher gave official notice it would be closing. That meant all of my books published with it would now be as if they did not exist. I’d been an author with this company for four years and produced seven fictional works, with two more in the works.

If I wanted to self-publish these works or seek a new publisher I could buy the edited, proofed and formatted manuscript, and also the cover design– for a very fair price.  But, the two others I had under contract would not ever come to fruition. The two after that I’d queried in hopes of contracting…poof.

lawn-1812944_640Like a mowed field…

The editor in chief said she’d prayed about it and felt God calling her to close the doors, even though she knew our hearts would tear as much as her own. But she went ahead and put it into motion. We all prayed mightily for her future and our own.

God took that obedience, that freshly mowed to the roots field, and showered it with a new blessing. One that will make this publishing company, and our books, grow and flourish. Had she not made public its closing, it never would have been snatched up by a well-renown publishing house.  All of our books and contracts are in tact, and will have much more exposure to the reading public. All because she agreed to let the company she’d grown from tiny seeds be mowed down, and trusted God had a plan.

My father always rushed to mow the lawn before a thunderstorm. He said it actually would help the grass grow more lush and strong after the rains came.

DSCF8863Sometimes, does not out precious Lord do the same for us? This week, a group of authors were mowed down – now we will be more lush and perhaps a bit stronger in our faith. I know soon we will all blossom in ways we never imagined.

Replay

solitaireI downloaded a solitaire card game onto my computer. Each day it has a “win-able” hand you can choose to play. But often times, there are multiple choices. Move the card to the wrong stack or the wrong stack to a blank space and you might get stuck. Then a message pops up. “This is a winning hand. Do you want to replay or be shown how to win?” Most times, I choose replay. I want to figure it out for myself. A few times, I have ended up exasperated enough that I let the computer show me how to win.

Describes my life. A few wrong choices and I get stuck. I want a replay button. A “Do-over.”  I might even try to backtrack and correct some of the moves that got me where I am.  However, we live in a linear existence. It is very hard to go back.

That is about the time I give up, fall to my knees and ask the Master Game Designer to show me how.  I whisper what David wrote.  Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4 And He is faithful to do so.

The wonderful thing? Like my computer game, there is a new hand every morning. I can try to solve it on my own, or turn to Him and let my Lord show me how to proceed. Now, I admit, there are times He tells me to pray about it, then choose the next play myself. He understands humans want to be “hands-on.” He gave us free will. And, truth be told, we learn from our mistakes. However, every game has rules. In playing this game called life, we need to know those rules. The Bible provides that, step by step.

Even more wonderful? Because I claim Jesus as my Savior, I can hit replay. It is called forgiveness and grace. He will replayovercome evil with good (Romans 12:21). His mercy is newly provided every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) He will restore my life. (Psalm 17:20).

All I have to do is ask.  And yet…I can slip back into thinking my life is a game of solitaire. Lord, teach me anew, every morning, that I never walk alone. Show me your ways.

 

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