Just say YES

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Have you had intentional or unintentional moments when you did not say yes to God when He called you to something?  Have you brushed that feeling off, that little nudge to help the person on the side of the road or the homeless person at the corner?  Perhaps you keep telling yourself you will write that book, talk to your friend about going to church or serve in that ministry you keep being asked about?  Sometimes I think procrastination and fear of stepping out of our comfort zone are Satan’s favorite in keeping us from saying YES to God in the moments He is calling us.

What if Mary procrastinated or just didn’t feel comfortable saying YES when St. Gabriel told her she was chosen by God to carry and deliver His son.  What would that story look like?  Would the Bible end at the Old Testament?  Would Christmas even be a day of celebration?  What about Easter?  What about us?  What would life be like for us sinners?

I think it’s interesting to look at salvation history if Mary had not said YES, if she had not trusted God and His plan for her.  Seriously, could you imagine the fear she must of had, being so young and told that she would be the mother of God’s son?  The fear of potential shame of being pregnant and not for the one she was betrothed to?  In our world that’s a scary thought and would be considered a heavy burden.

jesus christ figurine
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In this perspective of Mary’s YES, I think about the many times that I have said NO out of fear or I procrastinated something that perhaps God was calling me to do.  I wonder how much richer life would be if I said YES and trusted God at least 75% of the time when He is nudging me.  I honestly wish I could just kick FEAR to the curb and didn’t make so many excuses of why I don’t have time to do something except put it off.  As I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating writing two other pieces because I’m afraid of what others may think about it.  In fact, my plan as my day started in prayer was to spend my day writing.  I found so many menial tasks to do today and didn’t pull my laptop out until 8 pm.  At that point my mind is restless and ready for bed.

Some time ago, I noticed an elderly man on a chilly morning sitting near the curb in front of a department store.  I felt this nudge to give him some cash and then began to talk myself out of it.  I could feel this sense deep within me to help him out.  I drove by where he was and lowered the window.  Gave him the cash I had.  The smile on his face and the words of blessings that he spoke told me that this was a God moment.  I’m not sure what that little bit of cash was able to do for this gentleman but that wasn’t for me to know or understand.  I was only to say YES to the feeling in the pit of my stomach to do something that would make some difference in God’s plan.  What if I had just kept driving?  Would God have nudged someone else?  Would that person have helped him out?  Would that poor elderly man been able to get something warm to eat or drink?  What if this man was the face of God calling me, calling you to compassion and mercy, love and kindness?

When St. Gabriel came to Mary, did she know or understand God’s plan?  Or did she just trust that God knew what He was doing and she was His humble servant?  I’m always astonished by Mary’s model of trust.  She is one of the greatest example of trust alongside Abraham in my opinion.  This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s take a minute to thank Mary for her YES and ask Jesus for the courage to resemble the trust that His mother had in accepting God’s plan for her, for Him and for us.  Without her YES – would we be celebrating Christmas, would we celebrate Easter, would we have eternity to look forward to?

A Christmas twinkle that never burns out

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

lighted candle
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Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the decorations, the atmosphere and the excitement of all the children.  There are times, when Christmas seems rushed, running around trying to make everything perfect but at the same time missing the moments.  At other times, their is sadness, painful reminders of the past or loneliness that fills the air.  I think each of us can relate to some of these seasons through our life journey this time of the year.  Yet, we each know that the season of Advent is not about the decorations, the presents, the rushing, the perfection, the pain, the sadness, or the loneliness.

It’s a season of waiting, waiting for Christ.  

Interesting that in the midst of all the preparations so many of us go through that the focus of the season is to wait.

So, let’s explore what this “waiting” may look like? 

Perhaps it’s a time of stillness, a time of anticipation, a time of readiness.

In the waiting are we preparing our hearts?  Are we excited in a joyful anticipation?  Have we made space, reviewed the areas in our lives that are too busy, preventing us from sitting with Jesus?  Are we hopeful that the darkness in our lives will be brightened by the light of Christ?  Are we open to seeing God around us?  What about welcoming change within us to be a good and faithful servant?

A few days ago, there was a heavy fog present as I walked along the pond at work.  I always look for God’s presence as I walk around this pond.  It gives me a peaceful start to my day, a hopeful anticipation of what God may reveal to me throughout my day.  During these walks,  I listen to the sounds around me, open my eyes to see all that I can take in and I just talk to God.  On this morning, I thought about the limited view that I have, the dark areas that have not been uncovered, not illuminated.  As I circled around the pond, I noticed a white pelican.  He walked cautiously into the shallow end of the pond’s edge, rapidly dipping his bill into the water in search of food.  I wondered if he could sense the feel of where the fish may be or if he just randomly dipped his bill in, in hopes he would scoop up some fish.  I think this is kind of what Advent is.  It’s that stillness, being open to where God may reveal Himself to us.  Yet, it’s also a time of anticipation and hopefulness of what God has in store for us that we cannot yet see.

It reminds me of the crosses I often see, many times I see them along my path during my morning walk.  Each time I see a cross, I smile as I know that God is opening my eyes to see His presence in my life.  When I come across a cross that has been formed by two twigs, pine needles, or branches, God is shining light upon the darkness in my own life, my crosses.  But He isn’t reminding me of the pain, He is reminding me of His presence in my journey as I carry these crosses.  He is opening my heart and my mind as I wait for Him to reveal what He wants me to see, hear, touch or smell during my walk.  He is showing me hope in the cross, reminding me how He has carried me or has lifted the weight and the burdens of these crosses.  But most of all He speaks to me within the transformation from the darkness through His love.

This Advent as I sit and wait for the coming of our Lord, I’m reminded that Jesus came humbly as a baby, born in a stable and died humbly through an unconceivable love.  It is the cross that was His destiny and it is through our crosses that we will reach our destiny, our journey home.  During this Advent, I pray for humbleness, stillness, peace, an anticipated hope and joy, knowing that life may have moments of darkness but that darkness can never overcome the light that Christ brings into this life when we are open to receiving Him.  Blessings and Merry Christmas!  May Christ shine His light upon all areas within you as you companion with Him.

Unveiling the heart

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Have you had your heart broken? Have you been in a failed relationship, with a spouse, a friend, a family member? Have you shielded your heart because of the broken relationship?

Brokenness is a part of our weak, sinful human nature. Almost everyone experiences a broken relationship at some point in their life. What is important to recognize, I think, is what we tend to do with that brokenness.

Do you take it and bottle it up, hoping it stays there? Do you perceive everything beyond that as shattered before it begins? Do you fear it because you are afraid of being hurt, afraid of the brokenness?

Recently I have realized a big nugget in my life and my faith. Or shall I say God revealed it to me. I have had a number of broken relationships, some very important. For some time now, I really felt or thought that I was open to being loved, to allowing myself to be loved, to embracing relationships in my life. Earlier this week, after listening to a mission talk at church I realized I have not been as open as I thought. In fact, I had not been truly living life as God is placing it before me, seizing the moments, particularly when it comes to relationships. As I sat in prayer, God pointed out that I had placed this shroud around my heart, not truly allowing me to be open to seeing the things He was placing in my path to seize. He whispered to my heart that I needed to unveil it, to trust Him with my heart and allow Him to bring forth all He wants for me, to love and be loved.

This is a major step in my spiritual healing, actually a step I thought I had reached already. I was quite surprised that I had only covered it with a pile of leaves and walked right over it. A few weeks ago, I blogged about open heart surgery, on a spiritual realm. I think this is an example of another heart surgery, may be not open heart but a heart cleansing, cleaning up the muck surrounding it.

Dear friends, I ask you have you evaluated your heart lately? Have you noticed an armor around it, placed there by you? Is it murky and muddy around it so that you can’t see the goodness God is placing before you? Healing of brokenness is a long process and what I am learning from this process is that sometimes you may mask spaces that need healing, thinking you have reached a summit of healing when in reality you have only veiled it and moved forward. Have you veiled your heart?

Dying to self, realizing that all is God’s

 

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

What does it mean to die to self and be a follower of Christ?  In this world we live in today, what does that look like?  How can I truly be as Christ is to me?  How can I, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, “produce much fruit,” John 12:24?

agriculture arable barley blur
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Pretty serious questions.  I often ponder these questions in my life along with am I fulfilling God’s Will by  acting on the answers to the above questions.

Is my heart truly mine?  Are my hands and feet truly mine?  How about the money in my bank account, my possessions or the children I am blessed with?  The more I contemplate this, the more my answer is – if I die to self and follow Christ, the answer to those questions would be no, they are all God’s.

When I lay down my heart and allow it to be in union with Christ, I will love others as He loves me.  I will embrace each person as if he or she were my brother or sister.  I would pray for them as if they were a part of me.

When I allow Christ to be my hands and feet, I will feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked.  If I see one of my sisters and brothers injured, I will pick them up and attend to their needs.  I will be a true servant to each of my brothers and sisters, giving of myself.

When I accept that my possessions are not mine but God’s, given to me to use to build His kingdom, I would trust that when my brothers or sisters reach out to me in financial need, I would give what I had to give, knowing that it was God’s to give in accordance with His will.

When I accept that my children are God’s, I would have less anxiety, trusting their lives into the hands of their true Father, their creator.  I would know that the hands that created them within me will direct their paths and their journey in life.

When I truly know that all I have is God’s, when I truly die to myself, my trust and peace will reach the heavens.  I would live the life God intended and I would be fulfilling His Will, building His kingdom here in this temporary home.  I think this is what it means to me to die to self and bear much fruit, just as the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it is then that the wheat is useful.  And so we, like the grain of wheat, will feed God’s people by bearing fruits of the kingdom through our service, love, compassion, and mercy given to us to be Christ in this world that needs it.

Dear friends, is your heart God’s heart?  Are your hands and feet that of Jesus?  Are your possessions God’s gift to use to aid His people?  Are your children His, given to you to spiritually guide and produce abundant fruit in the kingdom of God?  How simple would our lives be when we accept that all that we are and all that we have is God’s and was given to us to serve and love our brothers and sisters.