Monday, February 29, 2016

Personalized blessings

It is nearly impossible these days to consider God as the impersonal God I thought I knew years ago. I can't really think of Him as anything but my Heavenly Father, Who wants only good for me and loves me enough to be in every detail of my life.

I can't tell you how many times during our vacation that I tried to put into words the gratitude I have for everything Jesus has done for us, only to have that gratitude come out as tears.

If someone told me that seeing my daughters meet Disney princesses in person would tear me up, I might have believed them. But tears also came in response to the squeals of delight I heard from the kids during the Indiana Jones ride and on Hyper-Space Mountain as well. (To be fair, that one might also have been the Star Wars fan in me coming out a bit.)

While my business continues to strengthen, I never imagined it would be possible to put together an entire vacation for us without going deeply into debt. But going away with all of the kids before my oldest leaves for college was weighing heavily on my heart, and God knew exactly what we needed. He provided and continued to provide while we were there.

We got a bargain on plane tickets and our hotel room as well. When reaching out for what I hoped would be a small discount on our Disney tickets, a friend stepped in and helped all five of us get into the park for the cost of about one ticket. My mom paid for our tickets for the activity that brought us to my very favorite, most heart-stopping moment of the trip. Over and again we were blessed beyond measure.

Here are just a few of my favorite moments from the last week...

Hanging out with my brother while watching my kids play in the ocean, 
at my favorite beach, during a California sunset. 

Seeing my oldest appear on-air with James Corden. 

Putting together care-packages for the homeless with the kids in our hotel room and seeing their faces light up when they saw someone in need because they were excited to be a blessing. 

Walking to the beach before sunrise, all on my own, just to treasure 
the awesomeness of God's creation and what He has done for us. 

Dolphins. So many Dolphins. 

While our vacation didn't go as perfectly as I had planned, it was full of amazingly perfect moments that I can't wait to write about. Not because I want to brag about our awesome vacation, but because each of those moments was God reminding me that He cares for us on an individual level.

He chose those moments for us because He loves us. Not because of anything we do, but because of our faith in Him. (John 6:29)

When you truly understand how much God loves you on a personal level, you can't help but see Him everywhere. When you know what He thinks when He thinks about you, and that all those thoughts are good, you start to believe that He does want good things for you and your life, not just in Heaven... but here and now.

Psalm 107 talks about how it doesn't matter who or where you are, He sees you...

Some gathered in the desert wastes. (Verse 4) 
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. (Verse 10)
Some were fools. (Verse 17)
Some went down to the sea in ships. (Verse 23)

But what does it say about all of these people?

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress. 
(Verses 6, 13, 19 & 28) 

If you read the whole chapter, you'll see that God not only delivered them from their distresses, but He did it in a way that was individual to their needs.

God loves each and every one of us and wants to not only deliver us from our distress, but to bless us individually. If we look around, with open eyes and an open heart, we can't help but see what He is doing everywhere...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Today I met Jay for the second time.

Standing on the same corner as before, holding a similar sign, Jay didn't make eye contact, or even look up when I drove through the intersection. I did see him lift his eyes enough to read the sign on the side of my car. I wondered for a brief second if he remembered me.

About six weeks ago I stopped at that same corner to give a guy with a sign a few dollars. I asked his name and told him things would get better, that God wanted better for him. Jay told me thank you. That he had been clean and sober a number of months, but he needed to get by until he found a job and got an apartment.

When I saw him today, I went to the next closest restaurant and bought him a small gift card. I also took one of my "Who Am I?" cards and wrote a note to him on the back telling him that God wants more for him than he can even imagine right now... that Jesus loves him and I do too.

I returned, but Jay was gone from his previous spot. Disappointed, I thought, "This is what You wanted me to do, God, right? Didn't You put him right in front of me again for a reason?"

Looking both ways, so I could drive off, I saw Jay was actually walking down the street right towards me, eyes still directed at the ground. I waited until he got closer. When I realized he intended to walk around me without looking up and rolled down my window and called out to him.

"Jay! What happened? I thought you had a place lined up."

"The job didn't work out. I have a record and no license. It will though. I'll find something."

"When I saw you over there I wanted to get you something and let you know I remember you. I'm still praying." Then I handed him the things I had for him.

I know some people will call me gullible, an easy mark. Some would say that I had no idea if he was lying or telling the truth about anything. He could still trade a gift card for drugs or alcohol. He could throw that note I gave him away without even reading it.

But in that moment, when I handed him the things and he dove through my rolled-down window without warning to give me a hug and say a smiling thank you, I knew I had done the right thing.

I'm not writing about this because I believe I did anything special. I'm telling you because you have opportunities to bring people hope every single day.

You don't have to be able to give someone a job or fix their life. You don't have to go broke trying to rescue somebody. A moment of kindness can give them hope... and that hope may be just what they need to get through another day.

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 
 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
No other commandment is greater than these.”
~Mark 12:30-31

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A spark of enthusiasm

I know you've heard the verse before. Some of you even have it committed to memory.

Take delight in the LORD, 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4
I spent years holding onto that verse, expecting God to give me what my heart wanted. I would pray faithfully, for a while, because I somehow had the idea that if I asked enough times, God would give in. Then, when begging through prayer didn't work, I'd try something that pretty much amounted to bribery.

"Do You see how good I'm being God? I'm following all Your rules. 
If You want it to continue, then just give me what I want."

To me, "take delight in the Lord" meant "follow all the rules." And "He will give me the desires of my heart" amounted to Him handing over whatever I wanted at any given moment. And I was often angry that it didn't work out the way I planned.

I was reading a passage in Haggai today about the rebuilding of the Lord's Temple by the Israelites. When they discussed rebuilding the temple among themselves, they decided that it really wasn't the right time. They just weren't feelin' it. It wasn't a desire of their heart.

God sent a messenger to tell them to get on it. "Is anyone going to ask Me if it's time? You are spending so much time doing what you think you want, you aren't listening to Me. Start building!" and they did.

The Bible says they did it because they were afraid of God. Their fear was understandable. They still lived under the old covenant. Unlike us, they were still being rated on performance. But what interested me most about this story is in the 14th verse of chapter one.

"So the lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the lord of Heaven’s Armies,"

They changed their minds to agree with God... and were they miserable about it? Did they drag their feet and have to force themselves to get up every day to do His will? No! It says He "sparked the enthusiasm" not just of the leaders, but of the group of people involved.

You can tell from the beginning of the passage that the Israelites didn't want to rebuild the temple. They weren't praying daily for God to please let the right time come soon. But when they heard God's voice and agreed with Him, He gave them a desire in their heart to do His will.
My favorite view of Praise and Worship
is from the sound booth.

I am in charge of the A/V department at church. I find, train, and schedule volunteers, design lighting scenes, record and edit services for online viewing, and often run the presentations from the sound booth during services, among other things. It is a time consuming and often frustrating position to be in. 

Considering all the other things going on in my life, all the reasons I have to say, "Sorry, I don't have time." why do I do it? Because I love it.

God put a desire in my heart to help my church share His Word this way.
He sparked my enthusiasm for this area of ministry.

I truly believe, and I did long before I ever read that passage, that God wants us to enjoy what we do in life. God did not create us to be miserable. If you aren't enthusiastic about your job or your area of ministry, or maybe even your family situation... you have to ask yourself two things. 

Am I delighting myself in the Lord?

What desires is God putting in my heart?

Maybe He wants to put a desire within you to change your family dynamics. 

Maybe He wanted you to take that job you were excited about, but seemed like too big of a risk. 

Maybe that thing you used to love doing that now feels like an exhausting chore, is a thing He wants you to let go of to make room for something more fulfilling.

Maybe, that area of ministry that you want to be a part of, but you just "don't have time for" will bring you more joy than you can imagine right now. 

Ask Him, and remember that God wants better for us than we can ever even dream of wanting for ourselves.

Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. 
By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. 
~Ephesians 3:20 (GWT)

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Take delight in the LORD, 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~Psalm 37:4 (NLT)