Thursday, September 21, 2017

Word for the Week: Celebrate!

We can never see the sunrise
by looking toward the west.
Japanese Proverb

With all that is happening in the world it may be difficult to find reasons to celebrate. We need the sunrise to remind us of hope. And it is hope that gives us a reason to rejoice.

Belize received its independence on September 21, 1981. However, the celebrations and decorations begin as soon as the calendar changes from August to September.

Seven years ago we arrived in Belize on September 6th to witness the country of Belize already decked out and decorated in red, white, and blue in anticipation of the holidays to come.

We have been present for Independence Day in several different countries. And the one thing that is uniquely Belizean from my perspective is that Belize doesn’t wait until the day of celebration to start celebrating. And it made me think that we shouldn’t wait for a reason to celebrate either!

Why celebrate?

Because of LIFE:

Life is short. Each breath, each moment, and each heartbeat is a cause for celebration!

Everyone will experience ups and downs in life but the more you praise, give thanks, and rejoice in spite of your circumstances the more you will find to praise, give thanks, and rejoice over!

The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and His life brought light to everyone.
John 1:4

This life is filled with enough Light for everyone. But, if you’re not looking for it you will miss out! The sun rises in the east not the west. Turn your head the other direction and look to Him for reasons to celebrate the life you are living in this moment.

Ponder the path of your feet. Are they leading you toward or away from the Light? It’s never too late to turn around and run the other way and begin to celebrate life.

Why celebrate?

Because of LOVE:

Love is priceless. If you find it embrace it, cherish it, nurture it. Never take love for granted.

Loneliness can be a deadly disease but those who are blessed with loving relationships can survive the harshest of conditions.

Four years ago on September 21st our son married the love of his life and we gained a daughter-in-love. We celebrate their love because it brings joy to our hearts to see two souls in love with God and in love with each other.

Our family has expanded to include a granddaughter and we rejoice each time we see her face or hear her laughter. There is hope, life, joy, and a sense that all is right with the world knitted within the laughter of of a child.  

Who are the loved ones who bring a smile to your lips and joy to your heart? Give God thanks for them right now. Hand write them a letter or speak the words face to face.

Living in another country away from my birth family is hard at times. We’ve missed out on many special occasions large and small over the past 12 years of missionary life.

As I get older I realize that my family in the states has gotten older as well. Tom and I made it a point to express our love and appreciation verbally to my 98 year old grandmother last October. The three of us cried together and spoke words normally reserved for a funeral. I’m grateful that Tom got the ball rolling on that conversation. It is a priceless moment to think back on and cherish.

Why celebrate?

Because of CHRIST!

In Hebrews there is a passage that speaks to me as a reason for celebration and gives a picture of a great celebration to come.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

There is a great crowd of witnesses cheering us on! We can endure to the end no matter how long our race is. Christ is our example as He endured the shame and pain of the cross to redeem us from sin. Each time I wonder, “why celebrate?” God whispers in my heart, “what about Me?”.

I pray that you will hear His whispers of the heart and look to Him for a reason to rejoice.

Make a list each day of one reason to be grateful for life, one reason to be grateful for love, and one reason to be grateful for Christ in your life.

Begin today to truly value and celebrate life, love, and our Eternal Source of Hope, Jesus Christ!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Do You, Boo!

“You do you, Boo!” such earthly wisdom from reality stars like NeNe Leakes may cause you to fall short of glorifying the King of Kings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched my share of the Real Housewives of Atlanta in the past and NeNe was my reason for watching! She does her in a big bold way at all times and in all situations.

However, I’ve discovered that a constant focus on ‘doing me’ can be toxic to my spiritual life.

It’s important to be authentic. We are wonderfully made. As children of God we are living stones being built into a spiritual house. In view of eternity, knowing Whose I am should lead me to being all that I am for Him and not for my own glory. Does that make sense?

Our behaviors are tied to our beliefs. Much like how the fruit on a tree is connected to the earth by its roots. The fruit has a root.

Our behavior is rooted in what we believe about ourselves, our family and friends, our view of the world, and our concept of God.

If ‘doing you’ leads to ignoring Him Monday through Saturday then what does that say about your relationship with God?

If ‘doing you’ leads to spiteful actions and speaking unkindly all the time then what does that say about how you see yourself?

If ‘doing you’ leads to damaging your marriage then what does that say about your commitment to your vows?

What root does your fruit come from? It’s important to dig out all the unhealthy roots that lead to harmful behavior.

Dr. Dan Allender says in Cry of the Soul, “We are not machines that can be repaired through a series of steps--we are relational beings who are transformed by the mystery of relationship.”

Our roots have been affected by the relationships we have and their fruit will show the results of those seeds that were planted in us.

There are times when my thought life reveals negativity I thought that I had long let go of. I’ve struggled with envy, I’ve struggled with feeling left out, I’ve struggled with trying to be heard. I looked to the wrong people in the wrong places to get emotional and spiritual needs met.

But, those longings can only be filled by the One who intricately handknit them within me on the day of my creation.

My roots must be tended to by my Creator. Only His gentle hand can bring about the healing I so desperately need and desire.

All efforts to find “me”, so I can fully be the me HE crafted, are in vain if those efforts don’t include Him.

I must give Him those moments from years gone by as they come to mind.

I kneel before Him handing over the memory of getting caught bad-mouthing a friend. I place feelings of humiliation and shame at His feet that once overwhelmed my teenage soul that hot Kansas afternoon when my callous words came to light.

I cry out to the heavens confessing that the opinions of others have carried too much weight in my heart and I can no longer bear the burden. Realizing in that moment that although my body is 54 my brain remained frozen in time at age 14.

I confess that there are more roots of mine that have been damaged in relationships but I can only handle bringing them to Him one at a time. The pain of healing is worth it but I can only bear so much in one sitting.

As old wounds get reopened, cleansed, and stitched back together with love, mercy, and grace, I relax. A peace shaped smile begins to form in my heart. And the sensation of His tender Hands mending my soul brings that smile forth to my lips.

Wholeness in Christ reveals the right sense of self. A self that is worthy of revealing to the world. Because the highest self we can attain, is one that points others to Him!

Are there some roots you must attend to in order to live a life that glorifies Him? Take pen and paper in hand, kneel at His feet, and give them over to His care. And in that manner, continue to shine, and “You do you, Boo!”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday's Word: Unnoticed

Unnoticed. Have you ever wanted to go unnoticed. I certainly have!

Life in a small town doesn’t allow for anonymity. When I step out of my home there will be at least one person who hails me by name.

At the post office I hear, “Mawnin, Mrs Sharp!” At the market someone yells, “Hi, Miss Alida!” Even those who cannot remember my name want to make a connection. “Aren’t you Tom’s wife?” “You’re the lady who works with Miss Diana.” “You’re the one on TV with Ms Andrea!”

I simply cannot go unnoticed.

The bible passage that’s been on my heart is from Luke.

It’s the story of a woman who tried to go unnoticed.

Luke 8:43-48 says,
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Desperate for healing, yet avoiding a face to face encounter with Christ, she stealthily maneuvered through the horde of people to sneak up behind Jesus. Reaching out her hand with the only asset she had left, faith, she touched the edge of His clothing. Instantaneously healing came.

One touch ended 12 years of suffering, 12 years of spending all that she had, 12 years of not being clean in the eyes of her culture.

From bankrupt to blessed in a solitary moment!

It’s interesting to me that she tried to hide from Jesus. Even more interesting is that He called her out.

Who touched me? No one came forward.

Peter points out to Jesus that there is a large crowd. But that didn’t matter. He knew that someone had touched Him. And He knew that person was trying to hide.

Sometimes we just want relief from our pain. Sometimes we just want results.

But Christ wants relationship.

We are made whole through relationship. She had to come forward. She had to get right with Him.

Trembling with fear she came out of her hiding place within the crowd. Flinging herself at the feet of Jesus she confessed what she had done.

After she acknowledged what had taken place God lovingly and compassionately restored her dignity by commending her faith and releasing her from the presence of the onlookers to “Go in peace”.

As a result of her choice to get right with God, not only was she blessed with healing, she was also blessed with peace.

Right standing with God brings us a peace that passes understanding.

To have peace is have tranquility. Wholeness.

When we willingly surrender, confess, and testify at the feet of Christ He completes our healing with wholeness.

I confess that I am like this woman. I just want God to answer my prayer so I can go on my way.

I confess that I have valued results over relationship.

I confess that there have been times when I didn’t want to testify publicly about what God taught me through my brokenness, healing, and restoration. I didn’t want to acknowledge my imperfections so I kept quiet. And then felt remorse on the drive home.

God, sometimes gently, sometimes loudly, sometimes in front of a crowd, calls us into relationship with Him in order for us to experience the abundant life He came to give us.

He sees you.

He is calling out to you.

He is waiting for you to come into a face to face relationship with him.

He wants to bless you with peace.

He wants to make you whole.

Are you hiding from God? Has He called you out?

You, my friend, cannot go unnoticed!

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