Friday, February 22, 2013

Happiness is...

Happiness is...

* A perfectly ripe avocado

* A shared secret smile with a stranger

* Boots on just about any yucky weather day

* Smart Wool socks

* Cuddling up in bed after hearing someone shoveling your sidewalk on a snowy morning

* A perfectly timed song that meets you right where you are

* A coat in your perfect shade

* Romance viewed with a hope-filled heart of excitement

* Seeing an idea blossom into reality

* Trying something that once caused you trepidation and now brings satisfaction

* A clean kitchen

* Pedicures and flip flops...the perfect partners

* A heart-to-heart hug

* Sunshine on my face...or anywhere for that matter.

* Worshipping Jesus heart, soul, spirit, and body

* Watching raw talent emerge and be recognized

* Belly laughs in any way, shape, or form

* Solo dance parties

* Having friends who know you so very well in the smallest and biggest of ways

* Books that are written as if for your heart alone

* Hugs from nieces and nephews

* Dogs

* New views, new roads, new horizons, new mysteries to solve

* Snow falling gently when you have no place that you have to be

* Love

* Sharing with others what makes you uniquely you and what makes them uniquely them

* Views that stir your heart to create, worship, sing, and live deeply

* A "randomly" chosen Pandora station filled with songs that sing your heart's song

* Sunroofs, sunny days, and loud music

* A place to pour out the words that fill your heart

What's on your list?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A New Lens

A lightbulb went A-Ha moment for me. Our culture is trained to focus on the drab, to highlight what is wrong, to use a critical eye. It comes in small ways such as our food preferences and clothing choices or big ways like where we choose to live and which neighbors we reach out to love. Sometimes it manifests in the spoken word where other times the criticisms grow inside of u like a vine climbing up the side of a house.

Eventually those vines will spread from a straggly growth to a wall covering, changing a tan colored house to green. Vines starve and creep and entwine and spread until they can no longer be pulled away by hand but require clippers, gloves, ladders, and brute strength.

A quote I read by Erasmus says,

"A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit."

What if we consciously choose to focus on beauty, to highlight the positive, to train our eye and our thoughts to dwell on loveliness?

The Bible tells us,

"Let all that is within me bless His name."

So if I choose to dwell on loveliness, I am essentially blessing God for His creation in people and in my world. This does require practice though...practice until it becomes second nature. Hammer out those nails and hammer in beautiful thoughts of thankfulness and honor.

And as I practice thinking on that which is good, pure, lovely, kind, true, and admirable in everything around me (Phil 4:8), I'm essentially putting weed killer on the roots of those creeping vines. That makes it much easier to live free, unentangled, able to run!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Just Around the Riverbend

I often think in song. Phrases and choruses ring through my head at random moments of the day. Whether it's riding on the escalator at the mall to "Movin' On Up" from The Jeffersons or in the midst of a serious moment, thinking of "I Love to Laugh" from Mary Poppins, tunes ring through me and often pop out for the random passerby to enjoy. :) 

As for today, a song from the Disney movie Pocahontas is the winner. It goes something like this:

What I love most about rivers is:
You can't step in the same river twice
The water's always changing, always flowing
But people, I guess, can't live like that
We all must pay a price
To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing
What's around the riverbend
Waiting just around the riverbend

You see, I am fascinated by what is around the corner. I love that random road where you can't see over the hill and you never have the opportunity to drive down so you are filled with wonder.

I'm a curious person by nature, but if I only wonder and never explore...where does that leave me? Stuck? Stifled? Never satisfied? 

So every once in awhile, I like to satisfy those wonderings and follow a rabbit trail...whether it is a physical path to follow, a concept to research, finding out the correct lyrics to some song that I know I've sung wrong for years. Whatever it may be, I think the wonderings keep life interesting and exciting and keep me moving forward, ever growing. 

"And then I realized adventure was the best way to learn." 
Author unknown

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Embracing My True Colors

Just the other day, a friend came by to help me fix a bedroom. It had become a gathering place for all the wrong sorts of things and was desperately in need of a face lift. Move a dresser here and place a used bookshelf here and, voila, a sanctuary emerged. Piles of books now have a home. Order is restored. Precious items once buried are now proudly on display. And peace has entered the place.

Upon one wall now hangs a large picture of a peacock with its plumage in full display. I was conflicted when I first saw it. I was drawn to the image; however, at the same time all I could think of was negative connotations involving pride. "Proud as a peacock," in my thoughts transitioned into scripture such as "Pride goes before destruction," and "When pride comes, then comes disgrace." (Prov 16:18 and 11:2 respectively). Did I want a picture that inspired these thoughts to adorn the wall of my sanctuary?

Then I heard that Voice within that often comes in necessary moments whisper, "Have you thought that sometimes I like pride?" "God, You like pride?" I inquired. And then I considered pride in my life. Pride can go all wrong when I boast in myself, my accomplishments, my stuff. 

However, what about the times that I boast in the good things God is doing in me? Should that cause me to wither like a wall flower? On the contrary, I am quite certain that being proud of God in me and allowing God to magnify His gifting in me would cause me to stand taller with my head raised and my shoulders back. A peacock can walk about dragging his tail, or train, along behind him. Or he can raise it up high and spread out every colorful feather, creating a beautiful display of God's creation, thereby revealing God's perfect design in him.

There's another interesting result of displaying the plumage. In doing so, the peacock actually improves his ability to hear similar to a human holding a hand behind his ear. So when I allow all my "feathers" to show, allowing God to use me to my fullest potential with all the gifts He has placed within me, it magnifies sound. I can actually hear better when walking in my full identity. 

Luke 11:28 says, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" Hebrews 2:1 says, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

The good form of pride comes from living in obedience to God, allowing God to display us for His glory. Take the story of Gideon, a son living in fear of the Midianites. An angel appeared, spoke life, vision, and identity into him and Gideon responded with a humble offering. Gideon listened and obeyed, allowing God access to every part of him. As a result:
But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.
In Judges 6:34, The Spirit came upon Gideon or "clothed" him in fortitude, zeal, strength and might, using him to lead 300 men to subdue Israel's enemy. This victory resulted in 40 years of rest for Israel (Judges 8:28).  God's purposes were accomplished through the beauty of Gideon's God-given giftings fully surrendered, now on display for all to see.

So now I look at the image of the peacock upon my bedroom wall as a reminder...a reminder to humble myself before a mighty God who has the power and the desire to come upon me and use me in mighty ways. And that is the stuff to be proud of...Christ in me, the hope of glory! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crockpot Living

So I went shopping this week. I had met with a friend who spoke to me about making chicken soup in the crock pot. Took a few days to purchase what I needed, but I thought about it for awhile. Once I found the right stuff, I rinsed the whole chicken and put it in the crockpot overnight. It cooked and bubbled in pure water...spring water actually. I woke up several times overnight, smelling it and wondering what I was smelling. I worried about it, but left it alone. Then in the morning I pulled it out in pieces. It was so moist and tender that it just fell apart. But it wasn't done yet. I put it back in, all shredded, and added more ingredients and cooked longer. I took some out for lunch and put the rest in the fridge. A couple days later, I pulled it out again and added more spice to it. I may add some rice to thicken it, but I'll keep it in the crockpot to reheat.

That's us. We're in the crockpot and God's adding new spices and new vegetables. We'll cook for a bit, pour out, refill, cook more. All this is good. It produces tenderness. It prepares us for the situation so we're just right. But nobody said it wouldn't hurt. It does. Thankfully, we're not alone! There's lots of other veggies in the pot to bump into.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Test Are You Taking?

Standing in line, people make polite conversation to pass the time. I remember nervously awaiting entrance into the testing center after Grad School and people would ask that question, "So what test are you taking?" If you found someone taking the same test as you, it brought comfort. "They get it! They feel my pain!"

I was reminded of that day as I read James 1:2-3 this morning.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."

I began to ask myself what my faith test is in right now. Where is God allowing me to be stretched and pressed in order to grow me? As I pondered this question, I was aware of noise. Worship music in the background, the traffic outside, a bubbling toilet that needs repair, the ding on my phone announcing that it is my turn for WWF. All these things calling my attention...all pulling me away from the quiet.

Remember that story about Elijah in 1 Kings 19...the one about the voice of God? Elijah was at his wit's end and had traveled 40 days and 40 nights without food to get to the mountain of God, Mount Sinai. The Lord asked him why he was there. Elijah poured out his heart before his God.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:11-13

We travel great distances to conferences, listen to messages online, have stimulating discussions with amazing fellow scholars...yet what about the gentle whisper?

So what test am I taking? Yep, you guessed it...I'm taking the sound test. Time to shut out the distractions, to go the distance and to wait out the wind and persevere through the quake and to face the fire trusting in the whisper that is sure to come. God speaks. He speaks in the softest of whispers and in the gentlest of tones and in the love song of the Bridegroom.

As I pursue God with great joy, endurance will come. In Luke, it says that by standing firm you will gain life. And if my standing firm points to Jesus, my strength and my Deliverer, than that is true gain and I will have passed the test with flying colors.

So, what test are you taking?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Feast that Satisfies

Yesterday was one of those days where I was just weary...the kinda weary that you feel deep in your bones. The kind where you have tears stuck behind your eyes that threaten to come but never appear. The kind that calls for time spent on the couch recharging. It had been weeks of being on the go, and I had just come off a 2 day conference with limited sleep. Relief was in sight with only one more day to push through, but the weakness was settling in and all I could think of was a feast. Ice cream was on my meltaway to be exact. Why is it that in our time of exhaustion the body craves sugar in the form of a food that can be connected with emotional comfort as well? Succumbing to the craving will result in temporary satisfaction, but the end result inevitably will be sleeplessly spent yawning on the couch surfing Facebook and passing the early morning hours with Rick Steves touring Oslo on PBS. Sigh.
Rewind 15 the moment of craving...was there another desire for a feast, perhaps one more subtle but equally compelling? Yes, it was the one calling me to feast my eyes, my heart, and my spirit on the new book I'd bought...the book about the stunning beauty of the Lord God and His view of us as His bride. What kind of emotional release might this choice have offered and would the result be different? Less guilt...more peace? Fewer calories...more zzzzs?
The challenge is in the moment of decision. It's about choosing to feast on that which brings soul satisfaction and ministers to the root of the heart condition. It's about making the snap decision that brings well as restful sleep.