on starting the God-conversation

2996587_s

A few things occur to me this morning while reading Luke’s account of “Jesus sending out the seventy-two” (Luke 10:1-24). In particular, I’m focusing on two sentiments/phrases that Jesus instructed his disciples to use in their evangelism campaigns. What strikes me is their simplicity, while at the same time their capacity for profound, kingdom results. Those phrases …

1 – “Peace to this house.”
2 – “The kingdom of God is near you.”

And here’s my thought as it pertains to my evangelism campaign, maybe even yours. Wherever your feet take you today, whatever group you wander into (either by accident on through intention), whether he or she is a stranger or friend, why not start the God-conversation with a little, “Peace to this house” followed up by a little, “The kingdom of God is near you.” It might flow a little differently than that. Maybe something along the lines of:

1 – “Peace; God is near.” or
2 – “Peace out, peace in. Peace here, peace near. Peace everywhere.” or
3 – “Peace. God. Now.”

Words like that. Words that are reliable. Words that are true. Peace is here, because God is near. And wherever God is, his kingdom follows alongside. How do I know? Because he said so.

Once having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” –Luke 17:10 (emphasis mine)

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you carry the kingdom of God with you wherever you go. Why not speak a little peace and a little kingdom into the hearts of those within arm’s reach today? It certainly would be an interesting way to start the God-conversation. It might even be effective.

Peace out, peace in. Peace here, peace near. Blessed Peace in and for our journeys, everywhere. I’ll meet you on the road!

Image credit: nruboc / 123RF Stock Photo

Search and Work

24620691_s“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; … There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” –Deut. 12:5,7

~~~~~

To that place I must go, to that task I must apply my hand.

These words have been my portion this year, the great search of my heart and the great work of my hands. Great, because all search and duty rooted in God and in the advancement of his kingdom are great undertakings. Worthy pilgrimages. Excellent yearnings.

If I’m honest, the now, almost four months of search and work in 2014 have felt anything but great. The search seems to have yielded little; my work the same. This has been an odd year of spiritual shaping. The soil of my heart has been disrupted by distractions, a few of them welcomed as friends but most of them shunned as intruders.

Family commotion. Ministry complications. Writing dilemmas. Homeschooling stressors. Medical concerns. The list is full and, consequently, so is my heart . . . full of so very much. It’s tough to process some days, difficult to discern the next steps God would have me to take in each situation.

Where would I be without Jesus? Where would I turn if not to his Word? How would live if not for his sustaining grace that carries me from strength to strength?

Strength to strength. Yes, I see it in my mind’s eye and, by faith, I’m holding on to it in my heart. These have been valley days, times of grunting it out in between mountaintops. I know this; I’m not surprised by this, and, oddly enough, I’m learning to be OK with it – this seemingly endless wandering from peak to peak. This is how God is building my faith muscles, and while it’s not a new teaching strategy for him, it feels raw, new, and every now and again, great to me.

Why great? Because there is strength in movement and because there is great peace in relinquishing one’s heart and feet to the valley floor after years of trying to walk the tightrope suspended between two mountains. For so long, I’ve prayed about that place I must go, and that work I must do. It doesn’t seem as if I will ever reach that place of understanding and rest. What does seem to reach me, instead, is the ever-present search and work of the present.

This present. Commotion. Complications. Dilemmas. Stressors. Concerns. This is the valley floor, and this, too, is the place of God’s dwelling. To search for him here and to work for him here, well, this is something great, someone great to take hold of in the valley. Steady as we go, we walk these next steps together. I will not tumble to my death; instead, I’ll be held tightly through to the finish line.

To that place I must go. To that task I must apply my hand.

That that? Jesus Christ – the search and work of my present and my forever. By his grace and for his glory, I am sustained. I am blessed. And I am . . .  

Kept in peace.

my 48th year

26750977_s

I’m turning forty-eight this week … again. Let me explain. For the past year, I’ve been telling folks that I’m forty-eight. I’m not kidding. Somewhere in the madness of this last year called My Life, I lost a year. So when my birthday rolls around on Thursday, really I’ll have gained a year. Make sense? Me neither. Safe to say, I have another twelve months of being forty-eight, and it’s likely to be my most productive year ever since I’ve been granted these extra 365 days of fruitfulness.

Ah . . . the blessedness of an extra year! I know. Not really, but it’s a delightful consideration, is it not? To wake up and realize you’re not as old as you feel?

Somewhere along the way, I stopped counting my years. Candles on the cake (after nearly five decades) don’t garner as much enthusiasm as they once did. Turning double-digits and turning twenty-one were milestones met with eagerness. Back then, I had an entire world in front me. At forty-eight, there’s a whole lot of world behind me—a lot of life lived, enough experiences had, mistakes made, memories collected, and highlights celebrated to fill several dozen scrapbooks.

How much more can there be?

So much more.

Consider the possibilities of an extra year. With an extra year I’ll be able to . . .

  • Have the conversations I meant to have.
  • Write the letters I meant to write.
  • Make the calls I meant to make.
  • Pray the prayers I meant to pray.
  • Give the love I meant to give.
  • Send the gift I meant to send.
  • Drive the miles I meant to drive.
  • Invest the time I meant to invest.
  • Do the work I meant to do.
  • Pursue the dreams I meant to pursue.
  • Speak the truth I meant to speak.
  • Plant the seeds I meant to plant.
  • Share the fruit I meant to share.
  • Afford the grace I meant to afford.
  • Offer the apologies I meant to offer.
  • Extend the kingdom I meant to extend.
  • Enlarge the Jesus I meant to enlarge.

Indeed, a delightful consideration. With all of these extra days added to my year, I’ve been granted the rich benefit of more—a second chance of sorts, a way to re-invest my energies and my heart in the right and good direction. There’s nothing to dread. There are only opportunities to embrace. Another year, when cast in the light of sacred potentialities, is the gift that keeps on giving long after the cake has been eaten and the balloons have deflated.

This is the blessed do-over of my 48th year. I’m so grateful for another opportunity to live the life that I meant to live last year and to do so alongside the Giver of Life who graciously grants me this privilege.

Don’t dread the candles, friends. Instead, count them. Remember them, and then get busy living the life you mean to live. I’m so honored to share my 48th year with you . . . again. As always …

Peace for the journey,

Image credit: zerbor / 123RF Stock Photo

when God drops diamonds . . .

diamonds on lake“Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” –Rev. 4:6

Every now and again, God drops diamonds from the sky, dressing his earth with a glimpse of heaven. He did so today, right around dinner time.

I wonder if anyone else noticed the brilliance as they dashed past me on their way home after work. Likely, they didn’t. Busy days make for tired evenings, and when a soul is worn out—overexposed to the duty and function of everyday living—diamonds often go undetected.

Oh the many ways the Father adorns his earth! The heavenly dressing room is overflowing with enough baubles to accessorize an entire world without duplication. Today, he adorned the neck of my neighborhood in diamonds. Tomorrow, perhaps rubies or sapphires. The possibilities are endless because the Artist is endless, and he likes nothing more than to surprise his children with jewels from his heavenly treasure chest.

I pray that God awakens your spirit and opens your eyes to catch a glimpse of eternity today. Push duty and function aside (if only for a few minutes) and pull up a chair to watch his show. God has something more for you than currently meets the eye.

Diamonds really are a girl’s best friends, especially the ones God drops from his heart into ours. May you find yourself so lavishly adorned, friends. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

A Harsh Splendor – a Lenten thought (guest post by Chuck Killian)

23812312_s

The Gospels make it clear—you can’t make the ‘Lenten Journey’ without the desert and wilderness. That forty-day trek is rough terrain. All that stuff about wild beasts, temptations, and hunger, we’d rather not talk about it. And the cruelty of it; “Lord, can we do an ‘end run’ around the wilderness? We can meet you in forty days and celebrate.”

I never go through Lent without thinking of the Harsh Splendor. That is how Death Valley, California, is described. It is three thousand square miles of desert. The weather is hot and dry, reaching 134 degrees. The rain turns to steam before it hits the ground. Yet, in this place, stories abound about eager and greedy miners, who came in search for gold and silver. Instead, they found borax, and with mule teams made their way to the railroad 160 miles away.

Upon closer examination, some other amazing facts are known about Death Valley. Over 1000 different varieties of flowers grow there. Sheep graze atop Cottonwood Range, and the mesquite bush sends down a single tap root 100 feet in search for water. In spite of the fierce landscape, abundant life goes on; even the bristle cone pine has made it for more than 3000 years.

So, I ask, where is this Lenten Journey going to end? We know—the Cross! It is hard to find water there. Where is life amidst a grizzly death? In our Lord’s ‘death valley’, where is the splendor?

The harshest thing you can say about it all is that once this trip is over, it is death for Jesus. But, the splendor of that is there must be death before there can be a resurrection. And for that, there will always be ‘streams in the desert’.

It is recorded that an old pioneer once said, “Someday folks won’t have to make excuses or have a reason to come to Death Valley; they’ll just come because they like it and it’s good for their souls.”

Can it be that the wilderness is rich and verdant in its promise of healing and transformation? What is Lent but getting ready for the feast! Yes, come to the desert—it’ll be good for you soul!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DSCN0253PS: So honored to have my dad guest posting today. He was the first man to ever hold me in his arms and to teach me about my heavenly Father. His walk with Jesus continues to radically shape mine. Love you, Daddy.

 Photo Credit