Fireworks and Thunder

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“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

My 9-year-old black Labrador retriever, Molly, is terrified of two things – fireworks and thunder. If she is outside and hears either, she freaks out, busts through the invisible fence, and takes off running. This past Saturday night was one of those occasions. As the SEC championship game ended and fireworks went off at a neighbor’s house, I immediately went outside to call Molly in. But, she was already no where to be found.

My husband and I jumped into the car and started driving around the neighborhood in search of her. As we rode around calling her name, I kept thinking to myself why in the world would she leave the security and safety of our house and run out into the unknown when she was fearful and afraid.

This thought kept running through my mind that night and the next day as we searched for her. It just didn’t make sense – she had an owner who was right there, ready to comfort her and take care of her, and instead, she chose to run off into the darkness in search of safety with no guarantee of finding it. And then it hit me… this is exactly what I have a tendency to do to God when life feels out of my control.

I started thinking of the times the “fireworks” of life have happened to me – a sudden, unexpected loss or change in life that rocks my world. Or when there has been a “rumbling” in the distance that threatens the “sunny” picture I have created in my mind of what my life should look like. And, I thought how I have allowed those moments to stress me out, and I’ve taken off. I may not have physically taken off, but I have definitely gone on a mental run. I’ve allowed my thoughts to take me places I know God would not want me to go – thoughts that bring me more anxiety, worry, and stress. I’ve had to discipline myself to “take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and not fear the unknown future.

I have to admit, sometimes it’s a struggle to not trust my fleshly instincts and let my mind race. Like Molly, I think running away is what’s best for me, when in reality my irrational thoughts are just placing me in further danger and harm. I have found the more I spend time in His Word, the easier it is to stay close to Jesus when those unexpected fireworks occur and when those thunderstorms strike. I’ve learned that a deep trust in Jesus is the antidote to my fear…a deep, unshaken, immovable trust. So… I try to abide in that trust – knowing Jesus has my best interest and has done indescribably more than earn “my” title of trustworthy.

Well, we finally found Molly that next day. After all of our searching, she was only a block away… inevitably trying to find her way back home. She was dirty and shaking and whimpering for my attention when she saw me. Of course, I lavished her with my love and told her how much I missed her (yes, I’m “that” pet owner :-)). And as I reflected about her returning home I thought, what a beautiful picture of when we turn our thoughts back to Jesus… He sees us, wraps His love around us, comforts us with His Holy Word, and welcomes us back into His glorious presence.

As this Christmas season begins, I pray you see Jesus with a newfound excitement, admiration, and love, and that you take all your fears and anxieties to the cross. He’s just waiting to help!

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He Knows You

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“This is what the LORD says, he who created you, he who formed you. ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'” Isaiah 43:1

Do you know that you have a Father in heaven who has twice ownership over you? He’s your Creator who first knitted you together in your mother’s womb, and He’s your Redeemer who came to this fallen earth to pay the ultimate ransom to bring you home. Twice ownership as Creator and Redeemer. Yet, most of us live our lives as if we are orphans trying to survive this world on our own. I know because I have a tendency to live this way on a daily basis. I have to remind myself that I am not alone. I am His and He knows me by name. Don’t those words just amaze you? The God of the universe knows who you are. It’s almost unfathomable. Every word you have spoken and every move you have made are known to Him. AND, despite fully knowing you, He unconditionally loves you and longs for you to intimately know Him and trust Him with the details of your life. Do you? Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect on this amazing God who says “you are worthy, you are accepted, you are loved, and you are known!”

Wag More, Bark Less

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“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalms 103:8

I love a good bumper sticker message. One of my favorites I saw a few months ago said, “I used to be cool.” It was on the back of a mini van. My daughter didn’t understand why I wanted to pull up alongside the lady driving the van and smile and wave at her (like we somehow had this sisterhood). Needless to say, I drove on, and the mini van went on its way – not before I got a picture of it and sent it to some of my girl friends, of course.

Last week, as high taxi season settled in (a.k.a summer), I saw a bumper sticker that really stuck with me (no pun intended).  It said – wag more, bark less. The word picture hit home – maybe because we just adopted an abandoned dog, or maybe because the kids are out of school and chaos has officially begun in my house, or maybe because I need to slow down and appreciate all that God has given me and reflect on His love more in my household.  Basically, I think God was telling me, I need to wag more and bark less.

Our incredible Creator is described as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” – an illustration used eight times by six different authors in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, God gives us Jesus as the perfect example of these attributes.  Just look at the patience Jesus had with His children as they argued as to who would be the greatest in Heaven (Luke 9:46), look at His compassion as He approached those who society had cast aside (think woman at the well), look at His graciousness towards those who plotted to have Him killed (think Judas Iscariot), and finally look at His amazing love as He begged for forgiveness towards those who were killing Him (Luke 23:34).  Today, I pray for a summer where I show my family the face of Christ.  A face full of  patience, kindness, compassion, graciousness, and love.  Help me Lord today to wag more and bark less.

In Christ Alone

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“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 Peter 3:18-19

Memorial Day.  A day given to us to remember those who have fought and died for our freedom.  How thankful I am to be blessed to live in a country that has given me the incredible gift of independence.  However, as I remember those who went before me, I can’t help but think of the One who came and died to give me my ultimate freedom – deliverance from this life of bondage.  Don’t get me wrong – my life here is abundantly full of blessings that I’m incredibly grateful for, but I also recognize this world carries with it a price called sin – and sin inevitably leads to a fallen world full of sorrow and pain.  So, today, as I approach His throne in remembrance of heroes who have battled for my blessings here on earth, I’ll also recognize my Savior, Jesus Christ, who took on flesh specifically to die for me, so that I may experience a divine and glorious freedom like no other in a country I was made to live in with Him.

The following are the words from one of my favorite songs “In Christ Alone.”  The words fill me with thankfulness and hope.  I pray they touch you as they do me.

“In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song; This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!  My comforter, my all in all – here in the love of Christ I’ll stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe!   This gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save.  Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; For every sin on Him was laid – here is the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay, light of the world by darkness slain;  then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!  And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me; For I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death – this is the power of Christ in me; from life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.  No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand; till He returns or calls me home – here is the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

On this Memorial Day, may you be blessed beyond measure with the hope that is found in Christ alone!

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“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Thank You Lord for redemption and transformation.  Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who lives within me and never forsakes me.  You know my fears and my failures, yet You continue to call me by name – a child of the King.   This is not a title I’ve earned and certainly not one I deserve, yet You unconditionally offer it to me.  I’m in awe of Your grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.  Help me God today share these with those You place in my path today.

Redemption in Action

Close Your Eyes and Hold My Hand

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49737761 Peter 1:8 “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Eight months have passed since I last posted. Eight months full of ups and downs. Eight months I’ve debated on whether to write what I’m feeling or just stop writing at all. You see 2013 caught our family completely off guard with the shock of losing our 13-year-old god-son in January and my 74-year-old father two months later. Over these months, my emotional, mental and spiritual walk has been at extremes to say the least. I’ve delighted in the thin veil between heaven and earth and relished in the intimate relationship our Creator desires to have with us on a daily basis. While, at the same time, I’ve allowed my mind to be bombarded with doubts and despair, and I’ve longed to feel God’s presence in my spiritual walk. Believe me, this roller coaster hasn’t been an easy one to ride, but… God is faithful, and I’ve learned He does some of His best work when we are literally torn apart.

Three actions I’ve had to examine over these past few months are ones I thought I had, quite honestly, conquered in my relationship with God – trust, belief, and seizing hold of faith. I’ve learned how much these actions intermingle in our spiritual walk and how indispensable they are in the life of a follower of Christ, especially when you are faced with earthly circumstances completely out of your control. I’ve been reminded on more than one occasion that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).” I’ve clearly recognized that faith is essentially trust and belief in action – blind action.

“Close your eyes and hold my hand” is a directive I’m given quite often from my 11-year-old daughter. So, I close my eyes and stumble, clinging onto her hand, knowing she has a great surprise waiting for me when I open my eyes. It’s a saying I’m sure many of you have heard in your life – “close your eyes and hold my hand.” I’ve come to believe over these past few months this is how God wants us to approach our life here on earth – to close our eyes and hold His hand. We try so desperately to see ahead – we anticipate, we prepare, and we plan. But, we are so very limited in our sight and in our knowledge of what lies on the path in front of us. We must give control over to Him. We must close our eyes and cling desperately to our Creator if we are going to survive this world. For as Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

So, today, I encourage you to shut your eyes. Let go of your agenda and take hold of His hand. He has great plans for you and for your family.  And remember that when you finally open your eyes, you will have been led to the greatest surprise of all – face to face with our Lord, standing in our rightful home with our Father in Heaven, finally seeing everything from His perspective, with His eyes.

Until next time, eyes closed and hand clasped with our Creator… Katie

God With Us

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3538790“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel– which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

The Alpha and the Omega. The Messenger of the Covenant. The Author of my faith. The Gateway to my salvation. My fountain of Living Water and my Bread of Life. Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Mighty God. My Vine. My Refuge. My Strength. My Rock. These are just a few of the glorious names that come to mind when I think of my Lord Jesus Christ. Each of them hold special meaning to me, but there is one name that stands out above the rest and gives special meaning to my soul, especially during the Christmas season – Emmanuel, God with us.

The true message of Christmas should stagger the imagination. The second Person of the Trinity, the Son of the Most High, the eternal Word becoming flesh so that sinners could be saved. Completely human, yet completely divine. Over two-thousand years later, I have to wonder if we really understand the significance of this magnificent gift. God with us. The birth of the final Passover Lamb that would save the people from their sins and offer eternal life to all.

In the Old Testament, we are told of God’s presence with His chosen people. The nation of Israel, including Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David, show us time and again not only how powerful and mighty the Holy Spirit is, but how personal and intimate He is as well. David writes of this experience with God’s presence in Psalm 139, “you know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me (2-5).” On that silent night in Bethlehem, Psalm 139 came to life to all believers. God with us. The gift that would lead to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” – a promise given in the Old Testament (Deut. 31:6) and the New (Hebrews 13:5) – a promise fulfilled as a result of the baby asleep on the hay. This is our antidote for the ramifications of living in a fallen world. This is our eternal hope when we are in fear of the present day. What sent the shepherds back to the fields rejoicing, what made the Magi travel hundreds of miles and risk their lives to witness, what made the heavenly host of angels sing praises to God that special night was the fascinating realization that God was now with us. The Christ-child that would become the King of kings and the Lord of lords was in their midst, and as a result of His death and resurrection, He is in ours as well.

I’ve learned over the years, without God with us, we, as sinful humans, are incomplete at best. A baby wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger brought all of us to absolute wholeness with God. Do you feel the power of God today? If your answer is no, don’t worry. There are many days when I don’t experience His power, but I know I have His presence, and as a believer, you do too. Emmanuel, God with us… this gift means He came to this earth to stay.  Yes, His body left as He ascended to heaven, but His precious Spirit remained as a result.  Claim, as His child, that every second of every day His Spirit is flowing through you and you are made complete.

This Christmas, as you exchange gifts with your loved ones, recognize the greatest gift of all in Jesus Christ, and allow His presence to fill your homes with the insurmountable joy and love that was felt that first night in a stable in Bethlehem.  And if you want to retrace that wondrous night through Amy Grant’s song, Emmanuel, God with us visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sdghXzCdAY.  I pray God’s blessings on you and your family.

Until next time, celebrating the birth of our Savior… Katie