Divine MajestyThe last day of vacation is the pits. After a couple months of planning with excitement and   great anticipation – BOOM – it’s over. Just like that. Our week at the beach came to an end and the “real” world was waiting for us.

It was a great week. We were surrounded by the work of God’s hand, immersed in His abundant grace and peace. The ocean itself is an amazing phenomenon with the rhythm of the surf, the tides, and the waves crashing on the beach. Looking up to the heavens I saw the fullness of the majesty and glory of God’s creation –the patterns of the clouds and bright sunlight during the day; the moon and the stars at night.

It felt sad to leave this beautiful place and even though this year’s vacation is over, God’s abundant grace and peace certainly are not, and we are still surrounded by His glory – the birds, trees, fields of wildflowers, and gentle breezes. His glory is everywhere! Fall is here and soon the leaves will be changing colors – just another example of God’s majesty. “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9)

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

Reading through my journal I came across some notes I had taken a couple years ago while watching Joyce Meyer’s “Enjoying Everyday Life”. She was presenting a two-part series entitled “Your Words Affect Your Future.” I remember watching this program during a time when I was feeling especially down and uncertain about my future. I felt stuck where I was, and my negative thoughts convinced me that I would never again be happy. 

The notes I took were these: “You’ll never progress beyond your own opinion of yourself.”; “If you’re going to talk to yourself, you might as well say something that’s worth hearing!”; and “Believe that God has a plan for you.”

Feeling convicted, I realized the crippling effect my attitude was having on me and those around me.  I knew I needed to get a grip…quickly! Taking her advice, instead of speaking negative thoughts into my life I turned on some serious positive self-talk and wrote down the desires of my heart.  A few days ago, as I reviewed my short list, I was delighted, and humbled to see that during these past two years, three of the four did indeed happen.

Apparently I had Chinese food for lunch that day because in my journal, taped next to my notes was a fortune cookie fortune that read, “Your secret desire to completely change your life will manifest.”  Coincidence? I doubt it.

Thank you, Joyce Meyer, for your wisdom and encouraging thoughts.

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Sherry and I have previously written about waiting for God, having grace and patience while we wait, and changing seasons as God calls us from one place of ministry into another. We pray for Jesus’ guidance when we are uncertain, and we pray for God to use us according to His will. We even pray and sing praises about willingly serving when and where Jesus calls us.

But how do we really react after waiting for what sometimes feels like an eternity and then God throws a curve ball by calling us to do something completely unexpected – something we never would have thought of on our own? Or when His calling is a life changing event – like when God called Abraham to pack up and move to a new land? Complete disclosure – I’ll go where God calls me, but I don’t always go gracefully and peacefully, and like the cartoon, sometimes God has to drag me into His plan.

I’ve come to expect the unexpected from God, especially when I’m feeling very comfortable with where I am.  Leaving our comfort zones makes us dependent on God.  It allows God to challenge and strengthen us so that we can grow for His purposes – not ours.  And when I get to the place God wants me to be is when I realize that while I was waiting on Him, some pretty incredible blessings were waiting for me. Not just any blessing, but blessings that have been prepared by God just for me, for just the right time. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Father Forgive Buzz 5-2014On November 14, 1940, Coventry, England was heavily bombed by the Germans. Among the many buildings destroyed was St. Michael’s Cathedral. Although devastated by their loss and this vicious act of war, the people of Coventry remained faithful to God by turning the ruins of their cathedral into a monument that reminds all of the horrors of war and God’s desire for peace. Using two burned wooden beams from the destroyed roof, a cross was formed that now stands in the ruins with the words “Father Forgive” inscribed on the wall behind it. This sacred place is a reminder to Christians everywhere that we are called to be peacemakers. A new cathedral was constructed adjacent to the charred remains of the former. [a]

I recently had the opportunity to visit this war-torn place that now symbolizes peace and reconciliation to the world. So often when we suffer an injustice, regardless of how large or small, our first thought is to seek revenge. I wonder how different our world would be if we would skip the desire for revenge and fast forward to forgiveness – like the people of Coventry. After all, isn’t that what Jesus died for? From the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

God wants us to be at peace – with Him, with each other, and with ourselves. If we can’t forgive, we can’t experience the contentment (peace) that God offers us through our salvation. Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean we make or declare peace wherever we go. Being a peacemaker allows us to share the inner peace that comes from God, thereby being an example of His peace. [b] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)Litany of Reconciliation Buzz 5-2014

References:

a(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Cathedral#Wooden_Cross_and_Cross_of_Nails)

b(http://anewchristianity.org/articles/whatispeacemaker.htm)

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” (Gen. 1:24)God's creatures-1

It’s no secret that my husband and I are passionate animal lovers…probably to a fault.  We live in a farming community where feral cats are more common than corn and tobacco. Too often, a kitten will appear at our door and before we know it, we’ve been adopted. Until recently, our cats have stayed indoors, mainly for their safety and their mother’s (my) peace of mind.  We finally reached a turning point where the cats’ need to be in their natural environment exceeded my protective instinct to keep them inside.  In went the cat door and out went the cats…with the security they could come inside at their leisure.  And soon, the cats returned with lizards, grasshoppers, and birds…so far.

My husband is quick to remind me of this scripture from Genesis and that the “creepy” things are biblical and therefore, not to be harmed. I have to admit he extends a lot more grace towards these biblical creatures than I do, particularly when they show up in the house.

Yes, these critters are God’s creation and verse 25 assures us that God saw that it was good.  But…in my house, not so good.

Reading forward: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…and let them have dominion…over the birds of the air… and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (v. 26)  By giving us dominion over these creatures, God intends for us to take care of His creation.  Extending grace to “creepy” things isn’t easy.  However, sometimes grace can be extended with the sweep of a broom.

Jesus Isn't LostOur cat, Scooter, is a kleptomaniac. She loves to pick up small items and usually deposits them under the couch for safe keeping.

One of my most treasured belongings is a 1” X 1” picture of Jesus.  It belonged to my mother and holds great sentimental value for me. Because of its size, it’s a likely target for Scooter.

One morning when I awoke I immediately noticed that my picture of Jesus was gone.  I just knew Scooter had taken it somewhere. The first place I looked was under the couch and became very concerned when I didn’t find it there.  I looked everywhere.  Soon panic set in when I couldn’t find Jesus.  We even moved furniture thinking that maybe she dropped Jesus down the heating vent.  But Jesus was nowhere to be found.

In my heart, I knew that eventually Jesus would turn up, but the feeling that He was gone was very upsetting.  Maybe that’s how the disciples felt when they saw the empty tomb.  Halfway through the day I remembered that when we discovered that Scooter liked to hide things, I moved the picture to a safer place.  I ran downstairs and sure enough, there was my picture of Jesus in a glass cabinet – right where I put it.

Jesus wasn’t lost after all. But He never is the lost one. Sometimes we feel like Jesus isn’t where He once was in our lives – like maybe we lost Him.  Sometimes we put Him aside and we forget where He is.  Jesus is the one constant we will always have in our lives. Don’t misplace Him! “…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Don’t lose sight of Jesus this holiday season!  Wishing you Christmas joy from Grace, Peace, and Coffee.

Choose GraceIt was a horrible week. I sat thinking to myself I’m just too old and too tired for this crap. Yes, crap.  And, if I had checked my dipstick I would have seen that I was running about a quart low on grace. Let’s be honest, there are times when we are so worn out from the circumstances around us that we feel graced out – like it’s just impossible to be gracious towards others.

So often we get caught up in our own world and we forget that there are others around us who are dealing with their own set of personal issues.  Friends, it’s really not about us.  Every job carries its stressors; every family has its conflicts; everyone is busy.  Everyone needs grace.  Everyone should offer grace.  When life doesn’t go your way, choose grace. When a co-worker rakes over your last nerve, choose grace. When your husband leaves his dirty socks in the middle of the floor, choose grace.  During the upcoming holidays, choose grace.

Jesus didn’t withhold His grace because he was having a bad day.  Praise God that He knows the exact amount of grace we need every day. God freely and abundantly extends His grace to us so that we can extend it to others – especially on those days when we feel like we are fresh out of grace.

So, my child, draw your strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus… Accept your share of suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus…Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. (2 Timothy 2:1; 3; 14)

Life is too short.  Choose grace.

Your character goes before you.  Those were the encouraging words spoken to me as I prepared to face an audience of my peers who had been going out of their way to discredit me and ruin my reputation.  Until then I had never really considered the difference between character and reputation.

Dictionary.com defines character as “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing”; and reputation as “the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public”.  In other words, our character comes from within and defines how we live.  Our reputation is what others see and believe about us.  People won’t know our true character if it is stained by our reputation.

To say that your character goes before you means that people will see the values by which you live your life.  When people say or do things to hurt us or to try to make us look bad, it is actually a poor reflection of their own character.   In the end, they are the ones who look bad.  One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 12:23: The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly. This verse proved itself true in the case of my peers who tried so diligently to hurt me.   In the end, their pride and foolishness earned them the reputation of being untrustworthy and dishonest and eventually cost them their jobs. Proverbs also tells us: “Pride goes before destruction…” (16:18)

Other people may say untrue things about you and try to ruin your reputation, but no one can take your character away from you.  Your character goes before you.

What am I doing here?  I asked myself this question years ago when I was hired to do a job and was then faced with opposition from the very people who said they would help me.  But the opposition went beyond anything I had ever faced.  The opposition involved unethical behavior.  My choices were to either let it continue and risk damaging my career, or try to stop it and risk losing my job.

Throughout my struggle a dear friend kept reminding me of the story of Esther. Esther was a Jewish maiden who was named queen of Persia.  After foiling a plot to assassinate the king, she courageously saved her people from annihilation.  Perhaps the most well-known verse from this book is when her relative, Mordecai, tries to convince her that she must save her people.  “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

My ‘time such as this,’ according to my friend, was to bring God’s truth to light in the midst of deception and greed.

We all have times when we wonder how we ended up where we are.  I call those times “Esther moments;” when God puts us in a place for “such a time as this.”  And “this” is different for everyone.  It may be as messy as shedding truth on moral misconduct.  Or it may be simply to encourage someone else who is wondering: What am I doing here?   Whatever task you are called to, remember that God always has a purpose and a plan “for just such a time as this”.

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This morning I had the very rare, but pleasurable opportunity to enjoy my coffee on the front porch. Usually I’m the one who is up and out before dawn, but today was different which is why I treasured the moment so much. There in the quiet of the morning were the sounds, smells, and sights of God’s creation right before me – a clear blue sky, humming birds, bees, the smell of gardenia, and the lush green grass of our front yard bordered by magnolia and pine trees. The moment was topped off by the warmth of the sun at just the right temperature. I’m convinced these moments are not man-made. Only God can create the perfect environment for us to experience the fullness of His peace at just the time when we need it the most. Enjoy your day and live every day in the fullness of His grace and peace.

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