One word for 2019

Beginning in 2011, I ditched resolutions and started the practice of using just one word to give me direction and keep me on track the whole year. Today, I looked back over my words and then tied them together in a prayer:

I immerse myself in the Word and in the life of Jesus, with a resolve to keep on in this life of following him, to breathe in Christ and breathe out the love the Holy Spirit has breathed into me, as I gaze upon his sweet loveliness. I ask for help to decrease, even as Christ decreased for us when he came to earth as a baby and died on the cross, and may I have the same attitude of death to self, obedience and humility. May I keep steady and rely on the steadiness of God, and may I learn to value Jesus above all else, to recognize the value of knowing him – nothing else matters – and to understand how much I am valued, loved and accepted by him. May I be still before him and know he is God, remembering his majesty and holiness, and that he is the great I AM; may I also be still in my soul and in my tongue. Help me live in the simplicity of Christ and his love – the simplicity of single-minded, pure, undivided, genuine and innocent devotion to my Savior.

Happy New Year and may you be blessed with the simplicity that is in Christ.

SimplicitySign

 

More stuff you don’t see every day

On the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland, the boat goes behind a waterfall. The guide says, “Now here’s something you don’t see every day – the backside of water. I, however, do see it every day.” Corny joke but I always laughed. Somehow it was even more funny that every guide said it every time, on every ride. They not only saw it every day, they said the same joke every day, all day long.

Here’s something I don’t see every day – the beach. I took this photo while in Australia. I walked on the boardwalk every morning, enjoying the beauty of the ocean, sand and even some wildlife.

What about the things we do see every day? I don’t live near a beach, but I am only a few miles away from a beautiful, 10,000 foot high mountain. I enjoy looking at it and am thankful for the natural beauty around me. What do you see every day? Do you long for the beach when you have a mountain in your backyard? Let’s appreciate all we have and see it for what it is: a gift from God.

 

Making a ding

The world lost a brilliant man last week. Steve Jobs made an amazing contribution to the world of technology and communication and will be missed. He said he wanted to make a ding in the universe. I guess you could say he made a big one.

I think we all want to make at least a little ding in the universe. Most of us won’t make much of a mark, and I’m not even sure that’s what God wants for Christians. He no doubt wants us to contribute as much as we can to this world, but very few will have the impact of people like Jobs, Henry Ford, Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. For the rest of us,  our contribution will consist of what we find in Bible verses such as Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Philippians 4:5 – Let your gentleness be evident to all (or moderation, or consideration). John 13:35 – By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

We may not all be able to change the world as much as Steve Jobs, but we can all affect those in our spheres of influence by letting the Spirit produce his fruit in us. By loving people and treating each other with kindness, gentleness and patience, we can change the world by letting our lights shine in the darkness. Steve Jobs’ candle has gone out. May the candles of the rest of us continue to burn brightly.

He’s a rock!

The other day while out walking, I was praying about a speech for a women’s retreat. I plan to talk about Jesus so I was musing on who he is. I don’t remember which thoughts led up to remembering a favorite line from one of my all time favorite movies, Galaxy Quest, but somehow I got there. On an alien planet, the “captain” was trying to figure out how to fight a creature made up of a bunch of rocks. When Guy tells him to go for his vulnerable spots, the captain shouts, “he’s a rock, he doesn’t have any vulnerable spots.”

God is described as a rock and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have any vulnerable spots either. But if we were to take the liberty of thinking of him in this way, we might say he does have one soft spot. It doesn’t make him weak or leave him open to attack. It’s not anything that would cause him to be overcome, like Kryptonite did to Superman. It’s not an Achilles heel.

God’s vulnerability if I may, is his love for us. His amazing love is what moved him to become human and live as one of us. It’s so deep he died for it – to take our sins upon himself and conquer death so we will live. Yes, he’s a rock, with no vulnerable spots, except maybe his love for his children.

Attitude is everything

I’m a tennis fan, so when the big tournaments come around, I try to make time to watch some of the matches. I’m looking forward to the U.S. Open in New York this month. Just as in most sports, attitude can make all the difference. It’s easy to tell when players give up, especially if they’re competing against the top seeds. You can see their shoulders sag and their facial expressions change from hope to defeat. Some players don’t give up so easily and fight it out until the last point is over.

Attitude is important in everything – in fact, it is everything. No matter what we do, no matter the trials or triumphs, a positive attitude can make all the difference. An attitude filled with hope, gratitude and grace toward others will help us run this race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1) and ultimately win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). We can run complaining all the way, or run with the hope of heaven in our hearts and a smile on our faces.

Like Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of this game is half-mental.” In tennis as in life, attitude makes a difference in everything we do and can help us run with hope all the way to the finish line.

The value of life

Kidnapping is a subject frequently addressed in movies.  There’s usually a ransom note with the demand for a large amount of money. The family of the victim is more than willing to pay whatever it takes to get their loved one back. The amount demanded prompts the question, how much is life worth?

Some religious and philosopher types believe human life isn’t worth much and some argue about when life begins, believing life isn’t worth protecting until birth. Some equate humans with animals, believing we are all equal. So what is the value of human life?

God the Father has such a high view of human life he sent his son as the ransom for the whole world. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us. He values and loves us so much the one who was God, was with God and created everything (John 1) gave us his own invaluable life to give us life with him. Praise God he values us as much as he does his Son!

What do you think about God?

Toward the end of several recent You’re Included interviews on gci.org, the interviewees are asked the question: what would you most like people to know about God? One answered how much God loves us; another that God is right beside us all the time.

A.W. Tozer said the most important thing about us is what we think about God. For several years, I’ve been trying to find out more about him. I want to know who he really is, not rely on other’s opinions and misinformation from people with a grudge or an agenda. The Bible holds clues to his character and nature in every book.

To me, the most important thing to know about God is that he isn’t who I thought he was. For many years, I had God wrapped up in a neat little box. That box was smashed about 17 years ago and thankfully, has stayed smashed. What is coming together is knowledge of who God is as revealed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Because knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), it’s important to not try and fit him in box of our own ideas or an image of who we think he should be.

What do you think about God? Maybe it’s time to rethink – he may not be who you think he is.

Jesus hasn’t left the building

On a visit to Memphis, Tennessee, home of Elvis Presley and Graceland, I drove by the mansion and saw a wall in front where people had written notes to Elvis and signed their names. A line of people awaited their turn to tour his home. Billboards advertised hotels with 24 hours of Elvis movies and guitar-shaped swimming pools. Candlelight vigils and memorial services are held yearly. He’s been dead for over 30 years, yet his memory lives on. Some say Elvis is still alive.

I can’t help but contrast the attention a dead singer receives and the lack of attention given to a man who died 2,000 years ago but is still alive. Jesus receives little public notice until Christmas and Easter, but to most, he seems to have left the building the rest of the year.

For some reason it’s easier to focus on celebrities, living or dead, than on the Lord of the universe, to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess his sovereignty. Jesus doesn’t show up on the pages of celebrity magazines, but his home is the true grace land, and we can visit every day, just by sitting at his feet. Jesus lives!

Everyone wants to win

At a convention I attended, the “prize patrol” gave away prizes to people with a certain color wristband. I didn’t win anything, but of course hoped I would be one of the lucky ones. Everyone wanted to win. We all clapped for each other while wishing we were the ones to receive the prizes.

Aren’t we all like that? Don’t we all want to be winners? In this life, that just doesn’t happen. Only some get to feel the excitement of winning. That’s what I love about God. In his eyes and in his economy, we are all winners. We are his beloved children, and we will all get to spend eternity with him if we just believe. He doesn’t withhold good from anyone who seeks him. He lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust, so even those who aren’t seeking him receive his blessings.

If you don’t feel like much of a winner, just turn your eyes to Jesus. With him, we’re all winners. What a wonderful God!

Wit & Wisdom, part 5

At the end of the workout, we do stretches. One very enjoyable stretch puts me on the floor, on my knees with my arms stretched out in front. Tony says: “You can pray now – thank God it’s over!” I always come back with: Thank God I can still do this! I think of my ability to exercise and move freely as a big blessing.

Many dread exercise and either avoid it or just get through it, believing it to be a necessary evil. It can be the same with life – it’s normal to wish for the hard parts to be over quickly, especially when we or our loved ones suffer. But life is short and I remember my mom telling me not to wish my life away. One of my favorite movie lines is from Steel Magnolias: that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Being thankful, even in and through the hard parts of life, makes life richer and stronger. Let’s wait to say thank God it’s over for the very end, when we cross the finish line and win the race.