Tag Archives: peace

More than a Christmas Greeting

Don’t get me wrong, I love sending Christmas cards, but I’m often fatigued by the time I get to the last one. I don’t like to just sign my name and be done with it. To me the whole point of writing a letter or sending a card is to make someone feel loved and important.

In order to avoid greeting card burn out, I am starting my letters a bit early with the intention to not only mail a message, but to send up a prayer. Especially in a time when destruction and terror seem to be spreading globally, it is important to lift up our loved ones in prayer, not only for protection and peace but for salvation.

Whether you send cards, buy gifts or just make a phone call to those you love, send up a prayer before you do. As you bless them spiritually, you will find yourself blessed by peace rather than stress during this season of celebration. Gift giving, family gatherings and sending cards will become a response to your prayer and a labor of love.

This year lay down your burden and lift up a prayer for each and every loved one you encounter. You will see a difference when you do.

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No Algorithm for Love

Streamlined, that’s pretty much the way I like things at work. I like to perform a task efficiently, and I expect others to adopt the same efficient process or I adopt theirs if it’s more efficient. The point of being streamlined is for everyone doing a particular task to achieve the same result in the least amount of time, at least those are my thoughts.

Evangelism and discipleship is a bit different. No two people came to know Christ in exactly the same way, and yet it doesn’t stop Christians from developing a new algorithm to convert people. It seems kind of silly. I’ve been wrestling with this idea of strategizing for Jesus since last Sunday, and I can’t say I’ve come to terms with it just yet. In the great commission Jesus went to his disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus didn’t say do this, not that, in groups of 3, not 4, and meet once a week, every week for 5 weeks. Jesus didn’t say that because he knew that what was going to work for Jake Smith may not work for Mary Jones.

I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t adopt a way of evangelizing and discipling people, but don’t limit yourself to one method. Your method should be love, and love in its purest form given from the blood of Jesus. If you are befriending non-Christians for the purpose of converting them because you want to or because your pastor told you to, they are going to see right through that. And if for some reason they don’t recognize it right away, they will surely realize it when you stop calling once they are converted.

My advice would be to not worry about your method, the algorithm to use. Don’t waste your time considering exactly what you will do to convert a person or a group of people, just start your day in prayer and studying scripture. When you pray ask God to allow you to see people through His eyes. As you become more aware of those around you, you will start to develop friendships. If you are truly walking with the Lord, you’ve already evangelized just by dialoguing with them. “What?” You might say, “You didn’t share the gospel.” Wait for it…

When these new friends become less new (or maybe still new) they will catch you off guard and ask you, “Why are you so happy?” Now, for Christ’s sake, open your mouth and share the gospel, and share it like you really, truly believe it. Share it with the Holy Spirit in you, not some algorithm.

Jesus’ love, hope and peace, they speak for themselves, but every once in a while we get to share the why…

Bark Unto the Lord

In this day in age there are not many shepherds, so it may be difficult for us to imagine the Lord as our shepherd. One thing we probably can relate to, however, is owning a pet. Let’s just skip owning a cat because we don’t really want to use cats as role models for following…they kind of lack the ability to follow unless a bowl of fish is involved.

When asked to meditate on Psalm 23 this last Sunday I recalled a photo my sister posted of her dog Bruiser. A few things you must know about Bruiser is that he is a crazy hyper, little Min Pin with giant ears (now you know why they are usually clipped) and enormous adoration for my sister and niece. He just cannot get enough attention from his human family, which was even documented on a video my sister shot of him lying on the bed. His tail would slowly wag, but as soon as she would glance his way his tail will bounce from side to side like a metronome set to the fastest tempo.

Psalm 23 describes a person through the metaphor of a sheep, following God and obeying Him, and in turn receiving many blessings, even in times of hardship. Don’t you know, that even when Bruiser is punished he knows a treat is soon coming. Even when he doesn’t know where my sister is taking him, he doesn’t fear because she is with him and has his best interest in mind. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Why should we fear if it’s just a shadow? Because we don’t realize it is? Bruiser trusts that my sister knows the difference between a shadow and the real thing.

My point is, if a little min pin with attitude can trust and obey and reap great rewards in doing so, how much more can we? And how much more will God provide great rewards?

When I shared this with my sister she shared about a message she recently heard from some pastor friends who travel the U.S. preaching the gospel (or gossip as one of my Sunday School students said). Their dog takes part in their ministry, and recently they had to take the dog to the vet. When looking at the dog’s eyes they noticed a cataract in the shape of a heart. The vet told them that the dog’s vision is now heart-shaped. Dogs constantly keep an eye on their master. They are curious and hopeful creatures, begging for more when you’ve given all the treats. Isn’t that the way we are? When we see through the lens of love, we see that all we have is enough, and all we need is our Master.

It is not often I write about pets because I don’t have any of my own. Not many landlords in the Bay Area allow pets, but I get to enjoy others’ pets and they truly teach me so much. Every moment has the potential for joy, hope, anticipation, forgiveness, the list could go on and on, but in our humanness we forget the simplicity of all of it. This week I hope you feel free to pant for God’s attention and follow His every step. You are sure to receive many treats.

A Day with My Lover

As the eldest of three sisters and still single at nearly 34 years of age, I experience both real and assumed pressure to walk down the aisle sometime this century. Some people beat around the bush, and others just blurt it out, “Are you ever going to get married?”

Well, first off, getting married is not a one-person decision, neither is it a two-person decision, but a bride, groom, and God decision. When people ask me if I’m ever going to get married I feel like screaming! When has it ever been okay to ask a barren woman when she will ever have children? Don’t you think if I had a choice in the matter that I would get you off my back in an instant if I could?

Sometimes, however, no one has said anything, but I just feel a pressure to not be single anymore, to give my parents the grandchildren that they want so very much, but again, it is not my choice. Sure there are things I could have done differently in life that may have gotten me hitched, but I can’t change the past now. Fortunately God has given me so many other reasons to live and enjoy His creation. Believe it or not, world, life goes on even when you are single, and life can go on down in the dumps or happily jumping in the puddles while the storm blows through.

Yesterday I missed my friends’ wedding because I didn’t want to face the questions of why I am still single. That’s sad. I instead slept in, had church at home in the peacefulness of my living room while listening to the choir at the church next door belt out hymns (talk about making a joyful noise!), sang some worship songs of my own (well, not my own), read the word, and prayed and listened. You know what? After I prayed, asking God if I should go to my friends’ wedding, telling Him my fears of judgment, and listened quietly, all I heard was God’s perfect peace telling me to just rest in His goodness. There would be enough guests to celebrate with my friends, and without me there would surely be more food for them. At that moment I was feeling the joy of being with my Heavenly Lover, and He knew that was all I needed. Plus I knew my friends would understand.

Instead of saying someday God will give me all I wish for, I say I wish for all that God has for me because He’s already given me more than I deserve, more than I wished for…and that was exactly what I needed to feel yesterday, today, and forever. I’ve spent the last several weeks feeling like the future was too far away, but it’s true what they say, the present is a gift (or a present).

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You understand my every need. You know when to make me rest and when to get me up moving around, serving others. You give me strength in my weakness, and wealth of spirit when I am poor in spirit. Sometimes You let me suffer, but You always rescue me before I fall to pieces. You catch me in Your arms, not only like a father catches his child, but like a groom carries his bride. Thank You for Your gentleness, Your mercy, and Your grace. Even when I have forgotten all You have given me, You still give me more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have you ever had a special day with Jesus that you would like to share?

Also, I just want to take this opportunity to wish my friend Maura a very happy birthday. Thanks for always reading my blog.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

What do you fear? In my Sunday school class this week we pondered the same question. What makes us afraid? Each of us comes from our own set of experiences, and therefore we form our own fears. As children we probably have more fears than as adults. I recently saw a photo of my friend and her two-year-old Lauren. Lauren was latched on to mommy, crying because she was afraid to ice skate. As children many of us rely on our parents to comfort us during scary times, but as adults we tend to depend on ourselves. Did you realize your independence in times of fear can actually be a sin?

God wants us to rely on Him for our strength. Our basis for our Sunday school lesson on “finding God when we are afraid” was 1 Kings 19:1-17. In this scripture Elijah gets word that Queen Jezebel is going to have him killed, so he flees and hides in a cave. Sound familiar? This is happening now! Christians are being killed right now! How will you respond when standing in the face of fear? Will you run and hide like Elijah?

During our prayer time in my Sunday School class I ask the kids to quickly share what they are going to pray for. We first praise God for who he is, ask God to intercede, confess what we have done, and finally we thank God for his blessings. Adding this prayer practice has really made the class blossom from buddies to accountability partners. One student has been asking God to help his baby teeth to fall out on their own. He has been persistent and faithful in asking, but it didn’t happen. He had to go to the dentist to have the teeth extracted. In the past when he underwent the same procedure he was full of fear the whole drive there. Seeing that either his teeth fell out or they were extracted before last Sunday, I asked him how it went. He explained that he had to go to the dentist for the extraction. I inquired if it had effected his faith in God now that it seemed God maybe didn’t answer his prayer. His answer was amazing. He said something to the effect of, “I felt peace.” He went on to explain that the rest was horrible (the procedure and recovery), but he didn’t place any blame on God that his teeth didn’t fall out naturally. He knew God was with him when he felt complete peace on the way to the dentist, and that was enough for him to keep believing.

This week I thank God that He is a peacemaker. He knows our fears and our doubts. He hears our every prayer, and just when we think He doesn’t care He shows up and gives us peace. As a parent comforts their crying baby, how much more will God comfort you? In our times of crisis, even in times when we must choose denying God or dying for our beliefs, may we be strengthened by God’s comfort and peace.

Thank you for reading. Please let me know what’s on your mind.

Repentance: A Real Heart-Shifter

I’ll admit it. Even though I know God will make all things right, I still struggle with resentment and anger toward people that sin against God even though they know better. I realize that this is a character flaw, a sin, to point out the speck in another’s eye while I have a full grown sequoia log in mine, but I really take it personally when I see someone sinning with such determination. As you might imagine, bearing such a heavy load of disappointment and frustration can seem unbearable at times and can turn me into a person I really don’t like. To cope with all this pent up anger, I have discovered a solution.

Back in September of last year a member of my church created a 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting prayer plan for repentance and breakthrough for America. Included in this 40-day plan was repentance for various sins we ourselves have committed as well as those of our families, churches, state, and country. Through this repentance on behalf of others I found my perspective was changed. I struggled less with resentment and disgust for the sinner and felt more compassion and motivation to help.

I’m convinced that the enemy will use sin however he can to harm us. If you start feeling hate or disgust toward an individual that offended you and God, guess what. Satan will use that to produce more and more hate. Even if someone has offended God, He still calls us to love them. He even tells us He blesses the poor in spirit. He gives them the kingdom of heaven. How much more should we bless them? We are called to hate the sin, not the sinner. Oh, how hard that is to do, especially while watching the nightly news.

Perfect Father, we need your help. We are not perfect, and we live in a world that is not perfect. Lord, we know that this is not our home, but regardless of that You have put us here with a purpose. We are called to judge, but that judgment is directed at the sin, not the sinner. Lord, help us to love the least of these, the poor in spirit. Help us to bow our heads and thank You that You love us all. Change our perspectives as we say, ‘Heavenly Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and even if they do know what they do, Lord, forgive them and change their hearts.’ Cause a heart-shifting in us, that we may no longer resent, no longer hold grudges, but love the way that You love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Walk to Remember

The thing about divine appointments is you don’t get a reminder call or a postcard in the mail like you do for dentist appointments. God just kind of springs them on you when you are seemingly unprepared and unsuspecting.

I was recently inducted into the all-exclusive Facebook page “30 Days of Hustle” created by the talented Jon Acuff. My friend nominated me to be a member, and after a short waiting period, in which I’m sure Mr. Acuff conducted a background check and office surveillance, I was approved. Since I tend to stick to a goal when there is some accountability, I decided to shoot for a goal that I have not been successful reaching on my own, photographing churches for a future project. I gave myself the lofty goal of photographing at least 25 churches within 30 days. On the same day (yesterday) my wellness exercise coach gave me the goal of walking after work for half an hour. I accepted reluctantly, but figured I could lump the two goals together and take photos while walking in the neighborhood.

Throwing on my sneakers I strutted out the door, proud of myself that I’m taking the leap on not just one goal, but two. As I photographed the second church I saw out of the corner of my eye a young woman hesitantly approaching the front door. I turned to her and asked, “Are you waiting on me?” “Uh, yeah,” she replied. “Do you know if it’s open?” I stood up from kneeling and pointed at the church across the street, “They are usually open on Wednesday. I’ll walk you over.”

As we approached we realized that the church front doors were not, in fact, open, so we went around back. Finally we sneaked in through a propped door after the choir director told us it was closed. The young woman told me she had never seen a Christian church sanctuary. I explained the cross and why Christian churches generally don’t have statues or images of God in them, and that the Bible tells us that a church is a group of people who share the same belief in Jesus. I told her that she and I would make up a “church” if we both believed. Church is not about the building.

This conversation led to many personal, deep topics that she was struggling with. We laughed and shared about personal experiences. Before I knew it an hour and a half had passed, and day was quickly turning into night. As she gathered her belongings I asked if I could pray for her. Surprisingly she asked if she could pray for me as well, and then shared that she had never prayed. I asked if I could put my hand on her shoulder and she agreed, and as I prayed I felt the connection we had made and the Holy Spirit there in that church courtyard we had moved to. When I finished she said she wanted to try praying aloud for me. She gently placed her hand on my shoulder and started, “Dear God…” As she finished with “thank you” in the place of “Amen” we giggled and hugged each other. She shared that she was more at peace, and was happy we met. I gave her my phone number, and we walked out the gate together, an unlikely pair now bonded by this walk to remember.

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