Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Story in a Chinese Restaurant

Merry Christmas friends!

I'll start by explaining what we were doing in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. Twenty-four years ago, I was pregnant with my fourth child, Kyle. My three oldest were gone for the first time ever on a holiday, spending the day with their Dad. Chuck and I were alone. All of our holiday celebrating had taken place on Christmas Eve. We decided to go out for dinner, quickly finding out that this was not going to be as easy as it sounded. Who knew that there wasn't one restaurant open on Christmas Day? Don't people have to eat on Christmas too?

After driving all over the proverbial half-acre, lo and behold we found a place to eat. Much to our delight we learned that there ARE establishments open on Christmas Day...Chinese restaurants! I remember feeling a little like a loser. As I looked around the room at the other patrons, I remember wondering what their stories were. How does one find them self in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day? No family? Family doesn't want anything to do with you? Or, like Chuck and I, maybe they had celebrated the day before. Whatever the story, there were a lot of folk in that restaurant, on that Christmas day, nineteen years ago. And every Christmas Day since then.

We decided to make this a Christmas tradition. We haven't missed a Christmas Day dinner at Wong's Garden .. not once. I remember the first year we took Kyle. He was only nine months old and I'm putting it nicely when I say that his behavior was abominable. Most years it was just the three of us. There was one year when my daughter Kelly joined us because she and I had spent the afternoon in the ER with strep throat, and she didn't go to her dad's house. My brother joined us one year, our son Brian another. But Chuck and Kyle and I have faithfully taken our egg drop soup together at Wong's for nineteen years. Last night was no exception.

The scene was the same. In the far corner was a large family, adults and little ones. Many tables were full with couples and foursomes. There was a line for carry-outs. The Christmas tree was up. It's been the same tree every year. A large statue of Buddha sat in the same corner as always. Kyle remarked that he couldn't understand how anyone would worship Buddha. Good question. Christmas music was playing overhead. WNIC...100.3. Waiters and waitresses bustled about and seemed particularly busy and disorganized this year. The owner was helping out and took our order.

A couple of tables away sat an elderly women with gray hair, at a table for four, all alone. She caught Chuck's eye first, and he said that he would really like to pay for her dinner. I asked him if he was sure that she was alone. He was sure. He had checked it out. She was actually done eating and getting her traditional carry-out containers to take home. Our hearts were touched by the sight of her, alone for dinner on Christmas Day. Now I can vividly recall years when we were counting our last dimes to make sure we had some money to carry on our tradition. In those days we would be cut short until the next pay day for sure, but we weren't going to miss this dinner. And there were years we barely had enough. Yesterday, to God be the glory, He is so faithful...we had enough to buy this women's dinner and ours. So it wasn't about sacrificial giving. But it was definitely about something.

When the owner took our order Chuck explained to her that we would like to pay for the elderly women's dinner. No problem. We watched from a couple of tables away when she explained to her that her bill was taken care of, but we couldn't see her face. Here's where it gets good. She bundled up her coat,taking her carryout containers in hand, and proceeded to go out the door. One of the waitresses started screaming for her to come back! She thought the lady was skipping out on her bill! The table next to her started yelling, "No, No, the boss lady said that someone paid her bill!" Whew! Out the door she went.

Once she was gone, "boss lady" came to our table to ask if we were a relative of the woman. Now if we were, don't you think we would've been sitting with her? Anyway, she told us that the lady had begun to cry when she found out that someone had paid her bill. It turns out that her husband passed away two weeks ago, and her son was a no-show for this very Christmas dinner. Sweet Lord Jesus!

I mean that! Sweet Lord Jesus!! Over two thousand years ago, God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, Jesus. Jesus ... Immanuel...God with us. Over two thousand years later, on a cold Christmas night in Michigan, He is still God with us. He was God with that elderly woman. And He showed her, up close and personal, how much He cares for her. What I didn't tell you is that we almost didn't go to dinner last night. We almost got carryout. But something inside of me was saying that we should go and not break the tradition. Oh, thank you for the promptings of your Holy Spirit!

Do you see how our God cares so deeply and personally for each and every one of us? He knows how many hairs are on that grieving woman's head. Her name is engraved on the palms of His hands. His voice spoke from Heaven. He chose to come to her intimately, in the middle of a Chinese restaurant filled with strangers, and tell her... "I love you daughter. You are not alone. I am with you." And I'm humbled and so intensely grateful that He chose to use our little family to bring His message.

When all was said and done, "boss lady" told us that she had told the woman that God was looking down on her. I don't know if "boss lady" is a believer, if she just said the word "God", if she's a Buddhist, or what. But she gave "God" the glory and so do I. She also told us this, "I have never before seen people like you."

Oh, boss lady, I have never before seen anyone like my Jesus!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas Greetings

From Our House
To Your House...

From Our Hearts 
To Yours...

Merry Christmas
and A Blessed New Year!

"You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift."
--John R. Rice

"Tuesdays with Jesus" will return in January

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

#224 Good News Bad News

Has anyone ever come to you with the question, "What do you want first? The good news or the bad news?" Me? I choose to hear the bad news first, thinking that when I hear the good, it will take the sting out of the bad.

Around 700 B.C., the prophet Isaiah couldn't wait to share good news. 

Characteristically, people ran from Isaiah, because if he didn't have bad news, he'd have no news at all. In sharp contrast to warning words of coming judgment and doom, the prophet had news that when it came to pass, would change the course of history forever.

"A child has been born for us.

We have been given a son

who will be our ruler.

His names will be

Wonderful Advisor

and Mighty God,

Eternal Father

and Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 9:6 CEV

Fast forward about 700 years. In Bethlehem Ephrathah, small among the clans of Judah, in the fullness of time, wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger, the child, the son, the ruler, the One of whom the prophets spoke, was come into our world.

That's the good news.

"He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him."
John 1: 10-11 

That, my friend, is the bad news.

I don't know if reading those words had any effect on you, but they never fail to take my breath away, no matter how many times I've read them. To me, they are the saddest words in all of holy Scripture.

The long awaited, the One to whom every small letter and stroke of pen pointed, the vision of every prophet's dream and sound of voice, the light, the life, came into the world flesh, tabernacled among men, and they neither recognized nor received Him.  

Fast forward again. A little over two thousand years.

Do we recognize Christ in Christmas?

Do we recognize Him at all?

Do we recognize Him in every rising and setting of the sun? Hear Him in a child's laughter? Smell His fragrance on a newborn baby's skin? Behold Him in the strength of a widow, wife of 50 years, her first Christmas without? 

Do we recognize Him in a drop of rain that yields yellow and pink and purple springs? Do we see Him in the snowflake, uniquely different from every other? Do we bow to the Giver when we see breath in cold winter air? 

Does the bell peal for Him? Do the carols sing of Him?

He is the face of hunger, the parch of thirst. He is the stranger and the naked. He is the sick. He is the lonely. He is the imprisoned. 

Do you recognize Him?

Are you even looking?

Bows and boxes. Malls and madness. Debt and delirium. 

Do we know it's Christmas time at all?

He is in the world. A world that doesn't recognize Him.

That which is His own, doesn't receive Him.

Bad news for certain.


"Behold, I am coming soon."
(Revelation 22: 7, 12, 20)

Then, Kyrios, the name above every name, will fell every knee to the ground, in heaven, on earth and under the earth. Every tongue will confess that Jesus, the  Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That is Good News!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#223 One More Thanksgiving Post

What can I say about Thanksgiving that hasn't been said a thousand times on Facebook and Twitter and all over the blogosphere during the last two weeks?

I must confess that I'm cheating today. This post is an edited version of one that I wrote in 2005, when "Tuesdays with Jesus" first began. I admit that I have used it on some other Thanksgiving weeks since then.

I repent.

Many of you have never seen this post, and for those of you who have, I believe that the message is still as sweet for this very holiday week. Psalm 98 was my inspiration, and I would encourage you to stop what you're doing and read those words before you continue. Won't you please?       

How typical is it to write about Thanksgiving this week? It doesn't surprise you, does it? I think that you may find what you are about to read is a little different. Are you up for a challenge?

The Lord asked me to do something this week that is quite out of the ordinary, and I invite you to accept the challenge with me. From today until next Saturday evening, give thanks. "Easy enough", you say. No, I mean ONLY give thanks. Don't ASK God for anything - ONLY give thanks.

Verse 1 of this psalm says, "Sing to the Lord a new song". The "songs" we typically sing are full of  requests and petitions to God. I would guess that your "asking" time outweighs your praising and thanking time, when you go to God in prayer. Let's sing a new song - one of ONLY giving thanks. No whining, no complaining, no begging, no asking - ONLY thanks!

Do you believe that your Heavenly Father knows everything you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8)? Let me assure you that just because you aren't asking for a few days, doesn't mean that God will not be aware of your needs. He's not going to say, "Gee, I haven't heard any requests from Sally and Joe today - I wonder what's going on; I wonder what they need?" How absurd! Your Father knows! Yes, we are told to pray, but I believe that it will be refreshing and pleasing to God's ears to hear nothing but our heartfelt thanks for a few days.

We can thank Him because He has done marvelous things (v.1). His right hand and holy arm have worked salvation for Him (v. 1b). He is righteous (v. 2). He makes His love and faithfulness known to all the ends of the earth (v. 3). He is our King (v. 6). He is the judge who will judge in righteousness and equity (v. 9). He forgives all your sins, heals all your diseases, redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion, and satisfies your desires with good things (Psalm 103: 1-5).

Thank Him - Praise Him!!

When I'm talking thanks, friend, I'm talking real thanks. Look at the commands of Psalm 98. Verse 4a says, "Shout". To "shout"is to utter a sudden loud cry. "Burst into jubilant song with music". (v. 4b) "Bursting" is like an explosion - "jubilant" is rejoicing in triumph. Explode into triumphant rejoicing over your God!

Sing - shout for joy (v. 6)! When David brought the Ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem, he was leaping and dancing before the Lord to the point that the Bible says his wife despised him. He told her, "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this" (2 Samuel Ch. 6:16,21-22).

The sea, the mountains, the rivers, the whole world, is commanded to sing before the Lord (Psalm 98: vs. 7-9). Jesus said that if the people didn't cry out, "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40).  

Don't be put to shame by the rocks!

The praise and thanksgiving set forth in God's word is not quiet, reserved, or afraid of what other people think about it.

It is shouting, dancing, joyful music, and exuberant praise to the One who is worthy!

Not only will days of only thanksgiving be pleasing to the Lord, but I believe that it will be beneficial to us as well.

Try something for me. Say your name five times in your head. Now try and think about your address while still thinking your name. Can't do it, can you? We can't think about two things at the same time! While thanking God, we cannot worry. While expressing thanks, we cannot complain. We can't fret. We can't murmur or grumble. We can't work out our own plans to take care of our problems.

There's freedom in the midst of the thanksgiving!

I believe that our joy will increase and overflow as we thank. If we really concentrate on what we have been given, we will become joyful. Our focus will shift from what we don't have, to "every good and perfect gift" that God has given us (James 1:17).

You may be thinking that you don't have much to be thankful for today. Oh, my friend, you do! Start with your spiritual blessings; the Cross, salvation, God's love for you. His faithfulness, His mercy and compassion. The forgiveness of all of your sins. The Blessed Holy Spirit living on the inside of you. If you are reading this right now, I assume that you have been blessed with a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food to nourish your body. I praise God each morning for eyes that see, ears that hear, lips that speak, and a body that moves. Each breath, each heartbeat - a gift from God.

Do you hate doing laundry? Thank God for a husband and children who wear those clothes and that you have the means to buy them. Do you hate house cleaning? Thank Him for providing shelter. Do you hate your job? Please don't!! Thank Him that you have one -- so many do not! You get the point...

You might say, "But Donna, you just don't know what I'm going through right now. It's so hard to be thankful." The Bible tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All -- not some. Even in bad situations we can thank Him because "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Thank Him because "the testing of your faith is developing perseverance (patience). When perseverance has finished it's work you will be mature, complete, not lacking anything" (James 1: 3-4). Maybe you can't see the end from the beginning today? Thank God for teaching you how to trust Him!!

Today is Sunday. Won't you join me for the next five days on this journey of total thankfulness? It won't be easy, I assure you. We're not used to it. That old, ugly father of lies may even put on a stronger attack. Let me make a few suggestions:

When you have a thought or a  situation that would cause you to worry or fret or complain, just say "Jesus". There is power in that name.

Say, "Jesus" and then begin to thank Him, once again.

If you are in a prayer group this week, dare to be different - tell the others that you're doing nothing this week but thanking Him. Who knows? It may catch on....Hallelujah!

Thank Him for what He WILL do, ahead of time, "calling things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). Thank Him for that healed marriage. Thank Him for that saved son or daughter. Thank Him for the provision He is sending...right now!

Put your laundry list of requests in your pocket, immerse yourself in the Word, and see all His benefits (Psalm 103:2). Shout for joy even if you don't feel like it. Be undignified! Let "Thank you Jesus!" continually be in your mouth! Then go to worship Him on Sunday morning. Praise, sing, dance, if you're not embarrassed. You will have "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

I believe that God is going to do some mighty things in our lives this week. I really do. Won't you try it with me?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

September Morn Remembering Noah

As I fill the bird feeder with seed and pick cherry tomatoes off the vine, the air feels the same. It's funny how a chill in the air, but the promise of a beautiful fall day, can take you back. It feels the same. The same as that last September morn.

I pull my morning jacket close around me and remember. That day held such promise and hope. Standing on a balcony, telling my sweet girl, "Go have yourself a baby."  A bassinet and a welcome home sign were waiting. I can feel it all, today, on this September morn.

Hours later, a phone call. A weeping doctor said that the baby died. Noah was gone.

My tears are flowing freely now. I couldn't cry then. I couldn't cry for days.

I've never felt so helpless in all of my life.

Today I can feel it all. I relive it. The events. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. The weight of it threatens to blanket the sun that is rising in the east.

But the sun rises. Nevertheless. It has risen and set for the last 365 days. The days since that September morn. The days where we were sure that the sun would never shine again.

The only thing that would "never be", was that we would never, ever, be the same.

Maybe that's why things have just seemed not right this week. Just off kilter.

Geese fly overhead in V-formation. They feel it. They know the winter is coming. Their senses warn them. They are graciously allowed to fly away. They won't return until it's over.

Oh, to be one with them! To sense the coming cold and bitter winds, and take flight. To miss the frigid. To avoid the harsh. To bask in warm sunshine south, and not come back until it's over. If I could have...

Instead, He makes us stay. We stay and we cry and we bleed and we scream and we hurt and we endure and we lean and we trust, and we don't trust. We believe! Forgive our unbelief!

I am hiding. I am under the shadow of His wings. He holds me close and whispers in my ear through the words of this morning's devotional.

A verse that He gave me years ago for Noah's mom. Now He reminds me. For Noah.

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11: 40)

It took my breath away.

While we would love to be planning a 1st birthday party this week. While Noah's mom and dad would rather have held a breathing baby in their arms. While Gigi would've loved to add Hot Wheels to the toy box and watch army men decapitate Barbie dolls. All the while glory shines.

Glory is flesh and blood having close encounters with the Living God. Growing closer to Him by watching Noah's parents. A village in Uganda thriving because of a well bearing Noah's name. Drinking not only clean, physical water, but learning of the "Living Water" that is Christ Jesus. Holden Uganda. Hope Mommies. Tragedy that points folk to triumph that is possible only in Him. Learning what strength and provision and grace that is amazing really means. Enduring. Enduring well. Having this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us. Seeing God in a way that could never have been possible without the horrific.

So many are still seeking the purpose and plan for their lives. Our sweet Noah fulfilled his purpose and the plan God had for his life without ever breathing earth's air. Now He resides with our Savior. A job well done, good and faithful servant. He gave his life for eternal purposes, just like his Jesus. He is more like Him than we can ever hope to be. He sees His face. He knows what it feels like to be held in the warm embrace of the everlasting arms.

Would I take that from Noah...even if I could?

I walk by faith and not by sight.

Aside from Christ, I have never, ever loved anyone that I cannot see, more than my grandson, Noah Daniel Mahalak.

September Mornings Still Can Make Me Feel That Way!

Happy First Birthday, Mister Man! You are a beautiful, beautiful boy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#222 "Are They Amazed?"

If you browse through the Gospel pages of my old and worn-torn Bible, you will notice that over the years I have circled every instance where Scripture says that someone, or a group of someones, was "amazed" by Jesus. I've never taken the time to count, but there are more than a few. 

My morning readings this month have been from the book of Acts, and I'm excited that my church is also doing a series on this same book. As I was reading from chapter three a week or two ago, I came upon a verse at the end of a story where Peter and John had healed a lame man who used to sit at the gate called Beautiful. (Acts 3: 1-10) This man was now walking and jumping and praising God. This man who used to sit at the gate because he could do nothing more. This man, who by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, danced. The Scripture says that all who saw "were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

Jesus amazed people. His life and miracles amazed the crowds, the religious leaders, and the government rulers. Now "all the people" were amazed at the acts of His apostles and I take liberty to say, they were amazed at the apostles themselves.

Two thousand years later, are we, His apostles and disciples, amazing anyone?

Are we amazing them with our hypocrisy?

Are we amazing them with our unbelief ?

Are our lives indistinguishable from the value system of this world?

Are we more about what we are against, rather than what we are for?


Are we amazing them with the way that we love?
Are we amazing them with the way that we give?
Are we amazing them with the way we love our husbands, raise our children, handle our finances, and conduct our lives?
Are we amazing them with the way we forgive? 

The way we sacrifice?

The way we stand strong in the storms of life, full of faith and unwavering belief?

Are we more about what we are for, rather than what we are against?

Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.   (Micah 6: 8)

The suffix "-ians" means "belonging to the party of." 

Christ is the Anointed One and the Messiah. 

Put together, the word "Christian" means "belonging to the party of Christ, Anointed One and Messiah."

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Gandhi

Lord, let it not be so!
Two thousand years later, Christ is still amazing. He continues to amaze people every day. 
We, His followers, should be amazing too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

#221 "Divine Discontent"

I wrote a book, but I'm not a famous author.

I speak messages, but I'm not a famous "speaker."

I write words on a blog, but I'm not really a "blogger."

I don't know a famous musician, singer/songwriter.

I haven't traveled around the world to do mission work.

I can write. I can speak. I can blog. I can do good work. But at the age of 54, I am seeking. I'm still trying to figure it all out. I've got the "Who Am I?" question pretty down pat. Who I am in Christ, that is. That was no small feat, let me tell you.
I've learned to separate my "who" from my "do." It's that "do" part that's got me stumped.

It's hard to see the young women, seemingly "getting it" at such an early age. Oh, how I wish I had "gotten it" way back then. I would have been more committed. I would have been more forceful. I would have invested more. I would've let dishes pile and dust bunnies frolic, to make way for more of the important, the eternal, the best. I've reconciled all of that now too. Can't go back. Can't change a thing.

But God...

Can restore the years that the locusts have eaten.

Can redeem my stupidity, my mistakes, my straddling the fence.

Can make beautiful things from the ashes of my ignorance.

But what about now? The here and now.

I convinced myself that I am in a season of rest. Ceasing from all the "do's" of late, it would appear that I am resting from the work. A book published. A speaking engagement done. Family life calmer now.

Nothing calm about what I'm feeling inside. I want more. I want to be closer. I have a longing that I cannot put into words. As the deer pants.

"Divine Discontent", my friend Phillis used to call it. Ya, that's it.

Asking, seeking, knocking. Tears streaming. Telling God, "You know what I mean."

Even when I don't know what I mean.

Let His Holy Spirit pray with all manner of groaning.

Maybe the longing itself is the answer to prayer.

Maybe the longing is really the beginning.

But the beginning of what?

Ah. That's the hard part. The. Beginning. Of. What.

He made promises to me. Will He be like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?

He and I have a covenant, don't we? I cut my life in two and arranged the halves. The day He passed between the pieces and made a promise.

I've seen it from a distance. I've tasted a bit. I've been close enough to grasp, but never close enough to apprehend.

As best as this human brain can comprehend, I feel like I know.

So I make my way up Mount Moriah. My Isaac's bundled in my arms. My hands that write. My lips that speak. My heart that longs. Hopes. Dreams. Expectations. Even those I love so dearly. 

With every step, with every breath, saying, "Even if He takes this, He will provide."

I arrange it all on the altar. A divine exchange.

With the One who gave it all to me in the first.

It was never mine to begin with. So I give it back to Him.

My hand raised, knife in my grip. Perhaps He will stay my hand.

If I do not withhold from Him, my Isaacs.

Perhaps not.

But if He takes them from me, I will still say, "The Lord will provide."

God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.

God Himself DID provide the LAMB for the burnt offering.

Is that not what all of my soul-seeking has been looking for all along?

"If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it."
(Matthew 10: 39 CEV)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#220 Hiding in the Baggage

The first thing I must do is start this post with a DISCLAIMER.

I've chosen part of a verse of Scripture to base my writing on today. I will basically not reference the verses before or the verses that come after it. Well, maybe I will...maybe I won't. I'm not taking this verse in context. My goal is not to give you a formal exegesis. I am not saying that this is what we should take away from this particular Scripture. Today is just about something that struck me hard. Ready? Here we go...

"And the Lord said, Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage." 
(1 Samuel 10: 22)

About ten days ago, someone posted this verse on Twitter. Just the verse. No commentary, no nothing; just the verse. I haven't been able to shake it ever since. "He has hidden himself among the baggage." 

In the text, "he" was Saul, and he was hiding among the trunks, suitcases, and luggage used for traveling. For our purposes, how many of us hide among things that encumber our freedom, our progress, our development, or our adaptability? How many of us hide amidst the BAGGAGE of our lives?

If we've walked earth's sod for any number of years, we've picked up stuff along the way. The King James Version of this same verse says, "Behold he hath hid himself among the stuff." Baggage. Stuff. We all have it.  

Things that have happened to us in the past. Where we've come from. What was done to us. Things we've done ourselves. Experiences. Circumstances. Offenses. Conversations. Rejections. Abuses. Cuts. Bruises. Gaping wounds, sometimes scabbed, picked, and oozing poison once again. 

We hide because of them. We hide behind them. We hide amidst and among them. 

And we go nowhere.

Limits are placed on baggage when we board an airplane because lift-off and forward movement can only handle so much weight. Our emotional and psychological "baggage" will prevent us from soaring. It will impede our growth and forward momentum in every area of our lives. You were never created to carry all that weight.

One of the most gut-wrenching sermons I have ever seen and heard was one given by Bishop T.D. Jakes some years ago. I won't ever forget it as long as I live. The Bishop walked up and down the aisle and the front of the sanctuary, having someone place suitcases, duffel bags and all manner of luggage on him, piece by piece. Each one had a name. Names like those I listed above. In the beginning, he was able to move freely and rather quickly. With each added piece, his movements became more encumbered, slower, and eventually he could barely crawl up the steps of the altar before he collapsed under the weight of them all. What a visual of our beaten down estate when we try to function, all the while carrying around all of that baggage. I sobbed at the bare, raw truth depicted in that demonstration.

What would it look like, my friend, if we could reverse this demonstration? If one by one, we could deliberately take each bag off, and lay it at the foot of the Cross of the Lord's Christ? Imagine the increasing freedom of movement that corresponds with the discarding of each piece of baggage, until...until...we stand erect, unencumbered and free. And could we be so bold as to never pick those bags up again?

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)  

"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12: 1)

A runner cannot run loaded down with any kind of weight. We will never be a part of the race, let alone win the race of life, loaded down with hindrances and baggage.  

Throw off the baggage. Run free!

Those bags are not sufficient excuses to justify our wrong choices.

Those bags are not sufficient excuses to sit on the sidelines and never be used by God.
Those bags are not sufficient excuses to avoid the people of God.

Those bags are not a hiding place. 

Those bags ARE heavy, destructive, devastating, limiting, suck-the-life out of you, straight from the pits of hell, weapons of the enemy of your soul. 

You will never rise, fly, produce, serve, or experience true Holy Spirit joy or peace, as long as you insist on hiding amidst your baggage. 

In the text, Saul was chosen to be king over Israel, but no one knew where he was. No one that is, except the Lord. It was He who said, "he has hidden himself among the baggage." 

You may be able to run and hide from others; maybe even from yourself. But the Lord knows. He sees you cowering and trembling and hiding yourself among all that baggage. 

Look. He is holding out His hand and beckoning you to come forth. He is calling you to step out into the light of His love and grace, forgiveness and mercy. He is ready to take those bags from you, one by one, and throw them into the abyss forever. 

Go ahead. 

Don't be afraid.

Come out of your hiding place. 

He is there.

You will never be the same again. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#219 "Fall Into Rest"

Green chlorophyll stands aside to make way for yellow, orange, and red, as the hum of food-making grows silent. Nature falls into autumn. The trees will rest.

I used to view the fall season in terms of death and dying. I even wrote from that perspective on this very blog. ("Beauty in the Dying") This year is different somehow. The wind dances  through the half-barren branches and whispers something new as she goes. "Rest", she says. "Rest." 

No word could be sweeter to my weary than that The last few months were anything but that. I spent three months writing and self-publishing my e-book. September was spent preparing to speak to a group of precious women about the Living Water that is our Christ. Just over a week ago, my daughter married the man of her dreams, and we watched our 3 year old granddaughter for 5 days while they honeymooned. All along I kept saying, "if I can just get through these four things....then I can rest." I've gotten through. I've come out on the other side. 

Weary. Tired. Empty. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. 

God's creation declares that it is autumn, and it's not about's about rest.

As leaves become crunchy carpeting under my feet, I think a lot about what parallels there are between autumn and my need for rest. God has ordained the seasons for their specific purposes. "There is a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Not only are seasons ordained in nature, but God ordains the times and seasons of our lives as well.

The Bible frequently mentions the "early rain", signifying the rain of the autumn. From May to October, no rain fell and the land became dry, parched and brown. The people patiently and expectantly looked for the autumn rains to come and prepare the earth for reception of the seed, and to revive the parched and thirsty soil. 

My parched and thirsty soul needs the autumn rain to prepare my heart to receive the Seed.

Rest is the rain that will fill this empty vessel so that I can give out again. 

Leaves fall. 

Flowers cut down and dormant. 

Production ceases. 

The land rests.

In autumn's soul rest, I can cease from striving to produce.

I can quietly receive and lay down the frantic of giving out. 

Holy Spirit rain falls afresh.

The harsh winds of winter will come soon enough. Rest only lasts long enough for one to get refilled. I want to give. I want to produce. I want to stand with face like flint against the winter blasts that will surely come my way. They always do. 

But for such a time as this, I will...

...sit across the morning table from Jesus, and have discussion about His Word, before the rising of the sun. I will light more candles. I will make my home. I will cozy up in soft blankets when night falls and the lamps are lit. I will read good books that encourage me to do greater things in the name of Jesus. I will linger long in His presence and talk to Him about everything. I will take naps and use my slow cooker more often. I will choose joy and live thankful for everything. I will rest. I will rest. I will rest. It doesn't come naturally but it becomes a necessity.    

I wait like the husbandman with longing to receive the Holy Spirit rain that will revive my parched and thirsty soul. I wait for autumn's refreshment, restoration and renewal, so that I may produce once again. 

Because rest only lasts long enough for one to get refilled.

"Behold congenial Autumn comes,
the Sabbath of the Year."
-  John Logan