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Shine Where You Are Planted

 

Uncertainty is one of the most significant barriers to a prolific life. There is a formidable enemy who loves to entangle our eyes and command our concern with questions such as, what if…?

In the presence of the unknown, and that would be every moment forward, it is easy to stumble into the mire of temporal thinking. The danger here is that we are rendered useless in the present because of our preoccupation with the worrisome possibilities of the future.

Lord Jesus, we often lug old crosses into the New Year, some shaded in a cloud of ambiguity. Help us to fix our senses on You, our unwavering Father, not an uncertain future. Give us the grace to be fruitful where we are right now, not where we think we need to be.
Comfortable, peaceful and problem-free are not prerequisites for productivity, as evidenced by the life of your Son. May we remember that and move forward with the perseverance that only comes from a dependant heart rooted in You.

Friend, I pray 2018 is a remarkable year for you, but this I know for sure, trials will come. There will inevitably be a voice telling you, “I cannot do anything until I get through this, (fill in the blank).”  If we live our lives listening to that lie, we will be shackled by stagnation.

We are just as valuable in the midst of our limping as we are running, sometimes even more.

Shine where you are planted and watch what grows not only inside of you but also around you.

I wish you an abundant New Year! I love you all.

 Photo: Havana, Cuba.

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Even If, Friend

e4e0f616baab44c6ddf10e96516992faThere was a time when I would head into every new year thinking maybe this will be the year. Maybe this year (blank) will change. Maybe this year (blank) will be easier. Maybe this year (blank) will be less painful. Maybe, maybe, maybe. In retrospect, all those maybes were born from a shifty hunger within myself rather than a sure hope in my Savior. No wonder the cycle repeated itself every year. I measured the success of my years by earthly fortune instead of eternal fruit.

My craving for certain circumstances to change is not wrong, and neither is yours. However, my concern should be more about spiritual maturation and less about situational modification. When I focus more on what God is doing in and for me, and less on what the world is doing around me, my outlook completely shifts; my joy increases, thankfulness thrives, I bemoan less and believe more. It is not that griefs dissolve, but gratitude dominates.

I know 2016 and his predecessors have left scars, friend. I know some have left you weary and wishing for relief, but although you carry those scars you don’t have to cower to them. Yes, they are painful, but if we are believing, we can know we are benefiting as challenging as it sometimes is to reconcile.

As you walk into 2017, I pray you tuck two very powerful words from scripture in a pocket of your heart and carry them into the new year with you. EVEN IF (Daniel 3:18). Even if (blank) does not change, I will focus on my Creator not my crosses. You are loved.

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A New Year an Old You?

 

Indeed, it is the second day of 2016, and it seems as if everyone is talking about a new year, new you, new goals and even new happiness.  But you, you are lugging old crosses right across the old and into the “new” calendar.   There is illness still present that is old, not so new.   There are prodigal children and missing loved ones still pricking the old pain and seeming to prevent the new picture.   If only our hearts had zippers, so they didn’t have to be ripped out maybe the pain would be less, just maybe.

You cannot seem to shed the trials and a new year just feels like the continuation of past troubles.  Nothing new, nothing better, nothing changed, just the same struggles sabotaging your progress.

You look at others who seem to have it all, not a care in the world, and you feel discouraged.   Comparison is a free invitation for the thief to come in and send you further into distress.   Pain is not prejudiced but we forget that, feeling like only a few of the unlucky get chosen.

Friend, if you try and make one change in 2016, let it be your thinking.  Our thoughts are responsible for the stability of our souls.

We are only as healthy as how we think about our most challenging circumstance.

You may be lugging chronic challenges into a new year, but with significant obstacles come eternal opportunities to nurture a refined you.   It is not a date on a calendar that steers us in a fresh direction.  It is the desire of our hearts for a Savior that is the only one who can make all things new.  (Revelation 21:5)   Do not look at dates and set deadlines for out with the old and in with the new.   Our plans are perishable, but the will of the Lord stands forever.

There is nothing wrong with setting goals, but if it is our responsibility alone to obtain these objectives, we are creating a set up for disappointment.  

We must hold our ideas with free hands, not firm hearts.

We are only as strong as our understanding of our dependence on a Savior outside of ourselves, our doctors, our pastors, counselors, self-help books and the list goes on.   If we are placing our hope in where instead of Who we will remain in a vortex of despair.

You will prosper from your pain.   If not now, someday soon.   If we do not believe that, (Romans 8:28), life becomes void of hope.   Hope is a beautiful burden.  Why not focus on the beautiful?   Isaiah 40:31 ~ but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

You are loved friend.

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A Love to 2015

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As the hours of another year fade, I am thinking about the things, the hard ones, that I would have never chosen in 2015, but they chose me.   They brought much grief but were always accompanied by gratitude.

Our years are made of days, some ordinary and some extraordinary.   Those days, the ordinary and the extraordinary, occasionally conquer but also create us.   They sometimes shatter us but subsequently sharpen us.   We experience triumphs, and we endure tragedies.   Some days break us only to build us. Days can be messy but NOT without meaning.   Refinement and restoration marry well with an available heart.

The self-reliant use tallies of good and bad days to calculate the success of their year.   It is perspective and the pursuit of meaning and quality of growth amidst days, broken and beautiful, that the surrendered use to measure theirs.   May I always evaluate my years from a position of obedience to the word, not obtainments of the world.

This year has felt like another year of wandering in the Psalms for me.   I have been desperate, and I have been dependent.   I have lamented, and I have praised.   The year cultivated both difficult and defining memories. It was pretty, and it was painful.   I have learned that all years are as long as we are living under the sun.

2015 was a reminder that the goal of life is not happiness because it is not happiness that brokers comfortable homes; but joy outside of circumstances found in a Savior that breeds content hearts.
I am reflecting on all the fragments of the past year, the brutal and the beautiful, and placing them within the context of Romans 8:28 today. ~And we know that God causes everything to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I can find meaning in much of the messiness, but there are other situations; however, I am still waiting.   I am aware as Deuteronomy 29:29 tells me, I may never understand.   Some things are only to be known by The Lord.   Many circumstances are unfair. I am tempted to wonder how God could be working right from something seemingly so wrong?   It is here that I must exercise unreasonable faith, not in circumstances I see but in a creator, I trust.   I am slow to submit daily my exclusory perspective to God’s eternal plan.   It is here, in the stuck places, I have to put away all the “whys” and rest in Who.   I do not say this lightly because this is a difficult assignment, but we are not called to an assurance of facts, but an acceptance of our Father.

We can view life through skeptical-glasses or Savior-glasses.   It is a choice and a very crucial one. 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011… They all had obstacles that shook and shaped me; not to my final destination but towards my desired direction.   It has been those dreaded moments, the broken ones, that have rendered the sweetest fruit. So while some are saying so long 2015, I cannot wait to forget you; I am saying may I always remember you.

Meaning is often disguised within the parameters of messy.   Jesus was born in the most unclean of environments.   Isn’t it beautiful how the sloppiest of circumstances can become sacred.   Jesus was crucified and suffered a painful death with the intent to secure the salvation of a sinner like me.   It is no wonder that pain is piercing, but priceless because our eternity was founded on that principal.

Thank you 2015 for all the opportunities you provided God to prune and protect me.   Thank you for all the sorrow that stretched me.   Growth is most fertile when planted in the soil of grief.   Thank you for the tears of pain and the tears of joy.   Thank you for the portraits of beauty and the scribbles of brokenness. Mostly 2015, thank you for transporting me deeper into a relationship with my Savior.

Welcome, 2016.   I know your terrain will be one indigenous of peaks and valleys.   I also know it is my triumphs over your tribulations that are for my growth and God’s glory.   May I be a good steward of all you behold, the pleasant and the unpleasant.   This year, nor any ahead, as I have finally learned, will I evaluate by happiness or success, but holiness and stewardship of the shattered and the shiny moments that meet me down roads I do not yet know I will travel.   What a blessing to enter a new year given the grace to understand that!

Happy New Year to all. May you be rich enough to embrace prosperity and rattled enough to experience your Savior.   Holiest of New Years, friends.

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Heart Reformations

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My success rate with New Year resolutions is 0%; therefore, I am not a fan!   I have been “planning” consistent commitment to exercise for more than half my life.   That goal was just a picture absent of prayer that bred exhausted expectations void of any rewarding realizations.   Healthy resolutions will not prosper without heart reformations.   I do not need a new year to be a new me, and neither do you.   We can be made new any day, any month and any year when it is not about us who corrects our habits, but He who changes our heart.   Progress only thrives in the shadows of prayer, and growth is granted under the wings of grace.   Without turning over control from self to Savior resolutions become rejections and dates breed despair.   Results come from my Provider, not my power and by His appointments not my agenda.   1 John 4:4…for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

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Rest for the Riddled Today

 

Hey you, hey me, the thirsty, the desperate, the depleted, the exhausted…those barriers, wounds and struggles in our lives are not present by accident.   They are there by assignment.   Things that challenge us to our core either create or crush us.   They are available for our gain and God’s glory.   The difference in destroying us or defining us is our resolve to find the meaning and mission in our messes.

Trials do not always come from God‘s hands, but they come through them.   We can rest in that. He has touched every tragedy and challenge before we endured it.

Our tears are sifted by God before they are shed by us.    He has held them, and He will heal them in His time and according to His purpose.

The new year is sometimes more of the old, the hard and the worn out.   You are not alone.   Let your perspective be colored by God’s purpose, not your pain.   He is working on our behalf.   Believe it, look for it, expect it and never lose hope!   We can give rest to our resolving, riddled souls, because one thing is for sure, relief will come through God’s strength, not our striving.   It will be in His timing not our tweaking. Father, give us all the grace to REST in your sovereign authority today and all days. When we forget, gently turn us away from our struggles and back to your safe shelter.   Amen.