Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The about to break!

Luke 1:78-79
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace.

This verse struck me as I came across it this morning.  I have read Luke 1  before.  It's the story of  Zechariah. a priest in the time of Herod the king of Judea.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, are good people, in fact the Bible says they 'were righteous in God's eyes'. Who wouldn't want God to say that about them?  But they had no kids and now they are both very old.

Then one day, Zechariah is on duty at the Temple and he is chosen to be the one to enter the sanctuary and burn incense while the people prayed outside.

That's where it happened!
An angel of the Lord shows up!

Zechariah is overwhelmed, you can imagine!  But the angel says, "Don't be afraid Zech! God has heard you praying and you will have a son. Name him John! "

The angel tells Zech incredible things about  his son, that he will be a man of spirit and power and accomplish great things.

Zechariah's response is to ask a question, "How can I be sure this will happen?  I'm an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years."

The angel gets ticked!  At least I think he's ticked.  He says, "I am Gabriel!  I stand in the presence of God.  He sent me to tell you this good news.  But since you didn't believe  me- you won't be able to speak until your child is born."

And he didn't! Not a word!

Right after that story is when Gabriel shows up to talk to a young girl named Mary.  Again Gabriel says, "Don't be afraid! "  (I wonder how many times Gabriel has said that in his angel life.)

Gabriel tells Mary "you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son. Name him Jesus!"  Again he tells Mary that her son will be very great and that he will be given the throne and will reign forever.

Mary's response is to ask a question, " But how can this happen. I am a virgin."

But Gabriel doesn't seem to get upset with Mary.  He doesn't take her voice away like he did with Zechariah.  He seems more gentle, more patient.

And he tells her, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age.  People used to say she was barren, but she's now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God."

It was like I reading this chapter for the first time.  Seeing similarities in the passages I had not seen before.  And yet the differences astound me.

Why did Gabriel react to Zechariah's question as he did and yet not treat Mary that same way when she questioned.  Was it in what they insinuated in the question?  Was it in their tone of voice- which of course we can't hear.  Hmm?  I may have to study that a bit more.

But the other thing I noticed is that, unlike Zechariah,  Mary was able to respond to Gabriel's message right away.  And in amazing faith, she says, "I am the Lord's servant.  May everything you have said about me come true."

I can't say for sure- but I wonder if I had just encountered an angel that's telling me not to be afraid and he tells me that I'm going to be an unmarried pregnant virgin that I would say, "Yeah, I hope it all comes true."

And a few days later, her response swells to an incredibly beautiful song recorded as the  Magnificat. 

Zechariah, in the meantime, is completely silent.  Silence that has been forced on him because he refused to accept the angel's word as coming from God.  Until the day his new baby turned 8 days old.  As these new parents take their son to be circumcised,  everyone is asking what the child's name will be.   Elizabeth states that it will be John. No one believes her because there's no one in the family named John.   So they start 'making gestures' to Zech (not sure why, he was mute, not deaf), anyway, they ask Zechariah what the baby's name should be.  Zechariah writes on a tablet.  HIS NAME IS JOHN.  Immediately he is able to speak again.

That's when Zechariah breaks out into a song of his own.   A song he could sing with great emotion, and deep gratitude for the gift of this child.  A hymn of praise to the Most High God. 

At the end of his song, he sings these words.
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Ah Lord God, let your light break upon us, give light to those who only see darkness this advent season.  To  all who sit in the shadow of death, guide us to peace!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons Learned as a Beauty Queen

This morning  I woke with a vivid memory of a conversation I had years ago.  Actually it was two conversations, with two different sets of judges for two local beauty pageants.  My experience as a beauty queen was short lived, but never the less life changing!  And obviously these two conversations impacted me significantly enough to be brought to mind again today.

What made these two conversations stand out was how different they were!

The first time I appeared before judges was for the Miss Lipscomb County pageant held on the 4th of July.  I had often dreamed of being Miss America as a young girl, but never dreamed I would ever be in a real pageant.  I write more about that part of the story in my E-book called "What's Your Story Telling You?" (If you would like a free copy, go to my website, 

But now through a miraculous turn of events, I was preparing to walk into the judges chambers.   I was so excited just to be included in all the festivities. I had no expectation of winning so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain as I spoke with them.  I shook out any jitters I had before i walked in.  I engaged them fully, answering their questions with delight and even asking them questions about their families and careers.  We laughed together and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them.

The next time was not so enjoyable.  This time I was competing for Miss Wheatheart.  This time I knew what was at stake.  I knew what it meant to win and was afraid  to lose. I saw everyone as competition. I couldn't shake off the fear in the interview with the judges, so I responded nervously and was consumed with what they wanted  from me rather than who I was.

So what did I learn from this?
NOTE to self:
Shake out the jitters so you can
Be who you are!
Engage others-not to be consumed by them, but be authentically interested in them.
Laugh together
Live as if you have nothing to lose!
     Everything to gain!

So anyway, what does any of this have to do with Advent?  Well, I asked the Lord the same question.  What does an ordinary high school girl who had nothing to lose have to do with the Christ Child coming to us?

His answer was "Everything!"

First of all, at His coming He had everything to lose.

John 1 tells us
In the beginning the Word already existed.
     The Word was with God,
     and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
   and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Imagine! Being with God AND being God!  Existing at the beginning!  Creating all that was to be!
Having the ability to give life to everything that was created and in that life, bring light that can never be put out.

But then comes vs 10
He came in the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him.
11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

He who had it all- who WAS all- made His entrance before humans who became His judge!  And they deemed Him not good enough.  They rejected Him, and therefore rejected the Lift and Light that He brought with him.

Those who have lost- whether it's a job, or relationship, perhaps a loved one, (or a myriad of other losses) know what it is like to lose. We know the pain, the ache that cuts deep to the core of who we are.  We know that if we had a choice- we would not choose to lose something so central to who we are, especially if we knew that our sacrifice would not be received after we made it.  Yet even knowing that would happen, He came!  So that an ordinary little high school girl trying desperately to figure out how to live could find LIFE itself.

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
13 They are reborn- not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan,
     but from a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became a human and made his home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son.

How grateful I am!  How about you?  What is God saying to you this Advent season?
I encourage you to take a moment to listen right now!  Open your eyes to SEE His Light!


Monday, November 28, 2011


This is the title theme for our church's Advent season!  (   It is followed by
... a word of hope that bursts like streaming light into the dark nights of the journey.
Behold is God's invitation to witness how love makes all things new, including us.
This Advent season, open your eyes and your heart and BEHOLD! 

I missed the first Sunday of Advent with them because I have been sick.   I plan to listen to the podcast, but it hasn't been posted yet.  But it's this concept of BEHOLD that the Lord has been replaying over and over in my thoughts in the past few days!  BEHOLD, SEE, RECOGNIZE, SHOW

I love the description they gave---
BEHOLD... a word of hope that bursts like streaming light into the dark nights of the journey.

Last Wednesday, I began hosting the HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS Telegroup.  On the call, was a woman who understands deeply the" dark nights of the journey" having lost a son 6 years ago and now her husband this summer.  My friend is living in the darkness even now as she seeks desperately to see God's light & life in all of this.  As we spoke, I was reminded how dark the images of past Christmas' have been for me.  I actually see black surrounding the memoires I have of certain times during the past 5 years. 

How do you SEE when it's dark? 
How do you find a glimmer of light when the source of light has been hidden from view? 
What do you do when you can't DO anything- you are in too much pain, too much hurt? 

Sometimes I think all we can do is close our eyes, and ask God to show us His light in our minds eye.

The more I reflect on these questions, the more aware I am that so often I try to make the Christmas season something sweet and sentimental.  It's as if I must now deny the reality in which I live and create this ambiance of light and joy, of glitter and sparkle. Somewhere in my decorating of my home and tree, my mood is supposed to capture that same beauty and all things messy now become festive in the soft glow of the Christmas lights.

But think about it!

The Christ Child wasn't born into a world of sparkle and glitter.  He didn't arrive at the palace of a King with all of it's trimmings.   He was born into a messy world, in a stable no less!  He, who was the King, was born a helpless babe, and became part of the mess with us.   He was born to human parents.  Yes, He was conceived of a virgin, but the two people God gave to raise Him were good, but not perfect.  The shepherds who came first to visit didn't take time to 'clean up' before they entered His world!  Can you imagine the smell of these people who had been out taking care of smelly sheep on a hillside for who knows how long?

That same Christ Child is the one who has come into my mess, my darkness, my world.  Not to make it perfect, but to make me new! To make you new!  To show us His Light!

Behold is God's invitation to witness how love makes all things new, including us.
This Advent season, open your eyes and your heart and BEHOLD! 

 Psalm 69:32 says "the poor will see and be glad- you who seek God, may your hearts live!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seeing Green Hope this Advent Season!

Today is the first  Sunday of Advent!  For years during this time of the year, our family has celebrated Advent  in some way. 

When the girls were little we used an Advent Calendar made out of strips of brown paper bag, very similar to what we had used in my home as a child.  The strips were filled with numbers from 1-25.  Each day we cut off another number to remind us of the number of days till Christmas.

Then as they got a little older we started using the Jesse Tree.  The name comes from Isaiah 11: 1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." (NASB)   The Jesse tree represents the family tree, or the genealogy of Jesus.  It tells the story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah.

Our Jesse trees usually consisted of a small bare branch that we stood up in a Styrofoam  base. The girls would make ornaments out of felt or construction paper  that represented the various  prophecies foretelling Christ's coming or the ancestors in the line of Christ.  It is an excellent way to teach our children as they anticipate Christmas Day.  (You can find more about this online.)

Often we had an Advent Candle in the center of the table, each Sunday lighting the next candle as scriptures were read from the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Or  we would follow a Advent guide or devotional readings written for the season.  A couple of years ago, our church put out an ACTIVITY Advent guide where each day we were encouraged to do something significant, such as;
 listen to a favorite Christmas song and think about why you like it
Have some friends over for a potluck dinner
Think about someone you are having a hard time with and pray for them though-out the day…
You know...things that remind us of the real reason for Christmas.

But you know, my purpose in writing is not to present all the different means by which people observe Advent. 

I'm here to observe Advent!  I woke this morning with the realization that I want to BEHOLD this One who came the first Christmas.   I want to RECOGNIZE Him when He shows up in my world today.  I want to SHOW Him to others and help them SEE Him!

Remember when the shepherds heard the news of the baby, they said to each other "Come,...Let's go see…"

I'm saying that to you today.  Come!  Let's SEE this One we celebrate!  The ONE who gives the gifts of hope, and life,  and joy and purpose and victory.  Let's SEE Him!

Here's to you- and me- SEEing GREEN this Advent Season!

Friday, November 11, 2011


11 Days of Worship Complete

It has been an amazing 11 days. Not because I was so very faithful at my worship time.  I have to admit, this was hard!  It wasn't that I didn't want to spend time with the Lord- it was just tough to do.  The more I wanted to schedule time in, the more crazy my schedule became.  It was as if everything was against me doing this.  Hmmm!  I wonder!!!

The precious thing was that when I asked the Lord for help to even spend time with Him, he did help!  He wants to be close to me, so He will do His part to help me do that.  I just have to be aware of those moments He opens up for me! 

Yesterday, it was in my car driving to meet a friend for lunch.  As I drove, I acknowledged who He is , and He helped me to see how the GREAT I AM is intimately involved with so many areas of my life.  By the time I got to lunch, I still had some residue of concern for certain areas- but many of the emotions I was experiencing had found 'peace'.  

The day before it was after a telephone conversation with a friend.  Knowing that God had brought that precious woman into my life a just the right time to keep my own eyes focused  on what was most important.

Today, it was in a moment of panic!  Different than the day that Ren's mom was put in the hospital (she's home and doing great by the way).  Today it was feeling like all the variables in life took a shift at the same time and I was left desperately trying to find my footing again.  Once again, I fell to my knees and asked the Lord to help me see Him.  Life still felt uneven, but I found myself  standing on a firm foundation.

Why?  Because I found answers.  No, but I took my eyes off the circumstances and place them on the ONE who knows them all.  I used the alphabet to remember some of the attributes of God!  I challenge you to try this.

Start with A- Almighty, you are the Alpha, the All-Knowing, the Always present.
You are Bold, Beautiful, benevolent.
You are the Creator, Caring, …

You get the idea!  It's a powerful way to keep your focus on Him, not on you!

So how have you done the last few days?  I don't know about you , but I'm going to keep trying.  It's so much better than the alternative.   Will you join me?  How about we make it longer than 11 days.  How about 11 months?  That takes us to next October 2012. 

I'm in- how about you?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 6 of the 11 Day Worship Challenge

Ok- so I know I haven't written for 3 days- but this time, it does not mean that I haven't been in worship.  It does mean that my time in worship has been 'transformational', let's say! And that sometimes takes a while to process. I'll share about that part soon.

Today my worship was 'urgent'. This morn, Ren's mom was taken to the hospital for chest pains- we were told she would be life-flighted to an Amarillo hospital.  That's really all we knew for a while. Our imaginations were left to do what they tend to do.  I fell to my knees by my sofa and cried out to our God,
       the Great Physician, who alone knew what was really going on in her body.
       the Healer, who had the power to heal in an of Himself,
               but also to guide those caring for her to see and diagnose and provide healing options for her.
       the Provider, who knows not only what she needs, but also what Daddy Ray needs right now as he
               watches this one he loves struggle.
       the Comforter- who cares deeply for those emotional needs and comforts them in this journey.
       the Strength- for Barb,  & Ray, but also for Ren's brother, Devin and his wife Becki, who live close and
                are the ones who carry much of the concerns like this up close.  And also for Ren, who feels as if the miles have quadrupled between him and his parents in just a few minutes. And for the two grandsons and the two granddaughters who love this Grandy dearly.

I wish I could say that as I knelt there in worship the knot in my stomach went away.  It didn't!  I know FULL WELL that my prayers are not always answered as I would wish. But I also know FULL WELL that He is the Only One who knows all, sees all, heals all- and that's where I place my dear second mother!  This woman who drew me right in long before I was dating her son.  This woman who taught me in high school, and then in marriage and in life.   I trust her to HIM! The Great I AM!

Who are you concerned about today?  What do you learn of God in your worship that helps you to lift that person to Him?  I challenge you to kneel before Him today!

(note: due to storms, Barb was driven by ambulance (2 1/2 hour drive) to Amarillo.  Still no word on what is the cause.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hmmm! Nothing Much to Post!

It's not because I didn't have a lot going on today- I did!  It's not because I didn't enjoy my day- I did!  It's not because I didn't learn new things- I did!

I don't have much to post today because I didn't take time out of my day to just spend with the Lord.  I didn't take time to hear His voice, to sense His heart.  Now does that mean He wasn't part of my day- or didn't direct my steps- No!  I've known Him a long time!  I've heard His voice before! I sensed His Spirit directing conversations and opportunities all day long.

But...I missed the moment, sitting at His feet, gazing into His eyes, listening to thoughts for the day, recognizing WHO HE IS!

I'll not miss tomorrow!  How about you?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trade Offs & Cravings!

At church, our current theme is TRADE OFFS!
"Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we can't add the life he offers in God's Kingdom as another addendum to our already ecelctic, hectic and complex living. When he says, "Come, follow"... he also tells us that we will need to leave something else behind. In other words... "To be an authentic follower of Christ, we will need to be willing to trade off other parts of who we have been in order to live more authentically in Christ.

You know, I arrogantly excused myself from the message this weekend feeling like over the past 7 years, I had given up lots of things that were very important to me.  Though it occurred to me later, that most of them had to be pulled from my hands. I hadn't given them without a fight. So I cautiously said, "Lord, show me what I am still holding onto that has become a TRADE OFF for knowing you, for hearing your voice."  It was quite clear to me that to have time to spend with the Holy One, something else had to go.

Just just as I expected, the Lord took my willingness to seek His face- with all the conditions and fears- and answered me, over and over again.

I was prompted to pull out two books from my shelves this week.  One is by Linda Dillow called, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul: For I am Desperate for Your Presence.  The other is by Lysa Terkeurst entitled,  Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food.  The first is specifically about worship- a lifestyle of worship.  But so is the other!  I bought it to help me focus on my weight issue- but it is leading me to seek the Only One who can satisfy my cravings!

CRAVE is defined as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly and beg for. Wow! What do we CRAVE really?  What is it that we are TRADING OFF to get it?

Remember the story of the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19?  He comes to Jesus and asks, "All these rules I have kept.  What do I still lack?" Jesus replies, "If you want to be whole, give up the one thing you crave more than me.  Then come follow me."

Ouch! The Lord is showing me I've made a considerable amount of trade offs in the past few years- but I haven't been trading for Him. I've been trading Him away.  How about you?

Is it possible that we love and rely on _______ (fill in your greater craving) more than we love and rely on God?  (Lisa Terkeurst, Made to Crave)

One of my favorite old songs from my past is an old hymn written by George Beverly Shea. This song was song often as he ministered with the Billy Graham Crusades for many years.  The words are:

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand...

Chorus: Than to be the king of a vast domain

And be held in sin's dread sway.
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name . . .

I choose to crave Him. I'd rather have Him! Pray for me as I make those choices everyday.  I'd be happy to pray for you too!  Just send me a note letting me know how to pray!

What' the one thing you crave more than Him?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

11/1/11 Eleven Days of Worship Challenge

A week ago, I was asked the question, "Where do I struggle to be obedient to God's promptings?"

My reply was that I struggle to be certain that I am hearing God's voice- and not some internal whim, or the sometimes 'beautiful' voice of the deceiver. I've spent so much of my life learning to be discerning that even when God clearly speaks to me, I hesitate- as if to judge whether He said it right or if this is scriptural.  Now don't get me wrong, those things are SO very important to do- but not as an excuse of not being obedient to what He's calling me too.  It's usually a change of some sort; a behavior, an attitude, a direction.  Change isn't easy, so I use the excuse that I must be sure GOD IS SPEAKING TO ME!

Well, my challenge this week was to just spend time in worship- listening for His voice, learning to recognize it when He speaks to me. (Yes,friends- this is the 20 minute worship challenge again.)  I won't lie! It's been hard. I've sensed a freedom in my corporate worship in the last few months.  But my time spent in private worship has been the most difficult for me since Leisha ran off to heaven.  For a while, it was because I was angry that He allowed her death.  Then it was just hard because it was such an intimate time and I felt too vulnerable in His presence.  I've come to Him, but it's been with thick layers of protection surrounding me.  I'm sure it was as much so that He couldn't see me or my anger (as if that could happen), as my fear of Him.

You know what happens when you put up barriers between you and the one you love- whether that's your husband, or child, or friend, or even the Most High God?  Intimacy is blocked!  Isn't that the one thing we all really crave?  To be fully known and still be loved deeply.  To be heard, but also to be able to hear the voice of our Beloved.  Intimacy means into me see!

Are you seeing your Beloved?  Do you recognize his voice?

Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6). He was undone!  He was a man who "understood much about God...but he had never been introduced to the presence of the Holy One."

"Looking UPWARD, he encountered the holiness of the Almighty, and this trembling prophet fell to his knees.  Whenever we see the holiness of God, we are forced to look at our own lace of holiness.  Looking INWARD, Isaiah was over come by his own sinfulness.  Graciously, God cleansed Isaiah's heart, and then he was able to look OUTWARD and respond to God's call to 'go'!  (Linda Dillow, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul) 

Isaiah was changed.  I want to be changed!  I want to know my God and  to recognize his voice.

I think we are back to my original question last week.
Where are you struggling to be obedient to God's promptings?
Are you able to hear the voice of God, and recognize it as His voice?
Are you spending time in His presence every day, to develop intimacy in your relationship with Him?

Today is the 1st day of the 11th month of the 11th year of  this decade, or even century. (1/11/11)  What a great day to begin to spend time with Him if you aren't already.

So here's the challenge for you!  Spend the next 11 days in His presence.  I don't know what that looks like for you.  You might use Isaiah 6 or I Chronicles 29:10-14 as a guide.  If you are interested, I could send you an article written by Becky Harling for Discipleship Journal several years ago. (Just send me a note requesting it.) But the focus is to see God and know His voice!

I'm accepting the challenge!  Join me, won't you?  Take the Eleven Days of Worship Challenge.  Let me know that you too are seeking his face! I'd love to hear what He is saying to you when you are with Him! Let's worship Him together!

Psalm 63:1-3 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land.  I have seen you in your sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Because your love is better than live, my lips will glorify you!