Rest, self-acceptance, Uncategorized, worship

Get off the Cycle

 

violon-cartoonSometimes I feel like Mass Media plays us like a fiddle. From September through December, we are convinced that we must buy delicious foods and sweet treats to ensure awesome holiday celebrations. From harvest celebration candy (Halloween for some), to Thanksgiving with all the trimmings; then right after Thanksgiving it’s cookie baking and on to the grand Christmas feast! Soon after we’ve eaten the last stale Christmas cookie we look in the mirror and say, “Oh my God, what have I done? I have grazed my way through three different holidays!”

Work it Out…

Don’t worry! Mr. Ad man (or Mad Man), has the answer. Time to work it all off! Get to the gym! Buy new water bottles to match your new exercise clothing. Don’t forget to buy the new free weights to keep at your desk so you can do some reps between projects. What about all the new juicing gadgets and nutritional machines? We’ve got to buy those so we can mix up all the beets, carrots, spinach and berries. Don’t forget to add a touch of lemon to make it more tasty… Umm Ok…(still trying to get use to the juicing thing.)

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None of the things mentioned above are particularly good or bad. Having fellowship with family and friends, sharing good food is fine. It is also important to monitor your nutritional and physical condition; making sure you have proper balance for optimal health. The concern I have is how media advertising keeps us on a cycle that facilitates a false sense of control; an attempt to coax us into satisfying our needs on our own terms. The truth is that God created us with an internal hunger and full mechanism, endorphins and other metabolic processes that let us know that we need to get up and get moving. As we prioritize fellowship with, he speaks to us and gives us everything we need for life and godliness.

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A new year is upon us. It is a great time to adapt, change and develop new habits. One of the best habits to cultivate is listening to the Lords promptings so that you will know what is right for you moment by moment.  Look at the following passages of scripture.

Post them somewhere in your home. Let them be a guide to help keep you balanced in your perspectives about life and health:

exercise class

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

 I Timothy 4:8

 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3:22-24

I too have renewed my commitment to going to the gym at least 3 times per week. I am even drinking heathy juices with plenty of good fruits and vegetables; however, those behaviors are just meant to enhance my ability to live life well so that I may fulfill the purpose for which I was created.

What I really want see developed in me this new year is a new heart and a new mind. An increased sense of balance versus worrying about the next issue the media presents as a concern. I want to stay focused and  remember that I have a God who loves, cares and provides for me. I don’t want my life to be so much about my activity – the things that I do; but rather those times when I discipline myself to rest; physically, mentally and emotionally. Resting in His presence facilitates me to accomplish what he created me to do. To love God and enjoy him forever.

family life, Friendship, Gifts, Holidays, Rest, Uncategorized, worship

The Who’s Christmas

I have a confession to make. When I grow up, I want to be like Cindy-Lou Who from Whoville. When faced with someone stealing one of the symbols of Christmas, her beautiful Christmas tree, she graciously accepted the lie the Grinch told her about the broken light on the tree and went right back to sleep.  As much as she loved her tree, she knew that it’s absence wouldn’t stop Christmas from coming.

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Over the years, I have heard many discussions about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas. There are debates about timing of Christ’s birth, and the Christmas tree having pagan roots etc. It is not my desire to have a theological discussion about the history of this holiday and it’s origins. I’ll leave that to the heavy intellectuals. Instead, I want to talk about whats right with this picture.

One of the common arguments is that Christmas is too commercial. People shopping for things they don’t need, spending money on things they can’t afford. I think people do that all year long, not just at Christmas. What’s right with this picture is that in the midst of the commercialism, you hear more hymns about Jesus being played in the stores while people of all faiths shop. There is a sense of hope and anticipation of relationship building as people look for just the right gift to encourage a friend or loved one. Sometimes that perfect gift is about healing something that was broken, or maybe helping the relationship to grow stronger. The nervous husband asks, “Do you think my wife will like this”? Mothers of young children swap stories about their children, wondering if a toy is age appropriate. Connections are being made, even if they are just for a moment.

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Even after the Grinch stole Christmas, he was astonished to hear the Whos in Whoville still singing,

Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays

Welcome Christmas! Come this way

Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays

Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day

Welcome, welcome, fahoo ramus

Welcome, welcome, dahoo damus

Christmas Day is in our grasp

So long as we have hands to clasp…

Every Who in Whoville was singing without any presents at all.

I grew up in a lower middle class family with a single mother where presents were not a given at Christmas time. What I anticipated more than presents was the sense of connection that come with the holidays that strengthened my sometimes fractured family. We came together sharing special meals; telling wonderful old family stories. We laughed and cried and connected heart to heart and hand to hand.

So if you happen to encounter any Grinches this season, just drink a glass of water and rest. Be kind, like Cindy-Lou Who. You may be the one God uses to increase the size of their heart. Because as Christians we know the real message:

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Keep singing the Christmas carols and other songs that make your spirit light. Light your homes to create a warm atmosphere of hospitality. People will notice. Some may even slither down the mountain like the Grinch to join you in your celebration. Make them feel welcome! Like the Whos in Whoville.

Evangelism, family life, trust, Uncategorized, worship

The “In Crowd”

Be_Our_GuestMany years ago, when my children were young, The Disney company had a slogan that shaped the values of the entire organization. That slogan was, “Be Our Guest”!  There was a song written with the same title that was song by one of the Disney characters that would fill my children with excitement and glee every time they heard it. When they heard the first couple of bars of the song, “Be… Our… Guest…”, they would stop whatever they were doing and start dancing and singing. The next thing out of their mouths were, “Mommy, Daddy, can we go to Disney World?” That’s powerful marketing.

This theme set the tone for every activity in their parks as well as the company at large. The Disney brand was recited and emulated in businesses throughout the world. They became a company known for the excellent way in which they treated their guests. Walking onto the Disney property, guests immediately feel secure that the proper preparations had been made to ensure that all of there expectations would be met and possibly exceeded. Branding is powerful. It drives everything.

The Shepherds Brand

Psalm 23:1 is a passage of scripture that I have read many times and even memorized. I was taught to recite it as a child. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”. Many of us can quote these familiar scriptures, but I wonder if they really make for change in our lives. I recently re-read this passage in another translation. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”  Upon reading that phrase, “in want”, I realized that my relationship with the Shepherd Jesus was also based on branding. Living under the Shepherds covering represents a well thought out plan by God the Father to make perfect provision for all of my longings and desires. Just like a person paying for a ticket to enter the Disney park has expectation for a time of family fun and connection; we have been purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which grants us access into everything we need for life and godliness. When we are abiding in the Shepherd, we don’t have to be in want.

To be “in” is a present tense phenomenon that requires faith for today. Just like the children of Israel, I must trust God to provide for my daily needs. Storing up manna for fear of lack only causes things to go bad. John 15:7 says:

“If you remain in me (abide in me), 

and my words remain in (abide in) you, 

ask whatever you wish and it shall be given unto you.”

People are always talking about “out”; coming out, outspoken, outsourced, but perhaps the real key to peace and joy is being “in”. In the secret place. Abiding under the shadow of his wing. Psalm 91:1-2 says:

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, 

my God in whom I trust.”

Disney’s brand offers you a world of fun as long as you stay in the park. The Shepherd’s brand offers abundant life as we live in Him. Acts 17:28 says,

“In Him I live and move and have my being”

“In”, is a function word used to indicate inclusion, location or position – within limits.

My children were not disappointed when we vacationed at the famous theme park. They squealed with excitement when we walked through the gates and they realized that they were finally “in” Disney World. Maybe we should do a little more dancing and celebrating the fact that we are “In Christ”. Our marketing strategy of love, joy, peace etc. should make people long to be a part of the “in crowd”.

I like being part of the “In crowd”. How about you?

trust, Uncategorized, worship

You think You’re Cute

woman in the mirrorPsalm 139:23, 24 NIV

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Even though I have lived with myself for  over a half century, I am still amazed at what I still don’t know about myself. I often hear people say things like “you don’t know me, or that’s just the way I am”. The truth is often times, people really don’t know us…and further more, we really don’t know ourselves.

This is why we need to follow the example of David the Psalmist who asked God to search him; to know his heart. There are times when I think I’m doing just fine. Times when I believe my heart is right toward a person or situation, and I boldly make statements, make decisions, or come to certain conclusions that may not be in line with the heart of God at all.

David asks God to test him and know his anxious thoughts. I find that when I spend time worshipping in God’s presence, or even when I simply am quietly listening for him, I realize that many of my thoughts and actions are born of fear or a need to control or manage things in my life. It’s so easy to revert to lordship over my own life versus remembering that I was purchased by God through the blood of his precious son Jesus. My life belongs to him. Colossians 1:17 says that, “He is before all things, by him, all things hold together”.

I love the fact that David had such a love relationship with Holy God that he knew that his fleshy ways were offensive to God. God doesn’t think the flesh is cute!

Child having tantrum

One day last week my daughter told me, “You’re in a way today!” That was her response to a fleshly tantrum I was having due to a place where I felt personally disrespected and misunderstood. I appreciated my daughter calling me to task. She was essentially saying; “this behavior that you are manifesting is not the character of Christ. What’s going on with you”?

I am very grateful to the Holy Spirit who leads me and guides me, that she did not recognize this as my normal behavior. The truth of the matter is, we feel good when we yield to the flesh. It feels “normal”. We justify the flesh because we compare ourselves to others who do the same thing. When I was young, there was a phrase that adults would say when a child would act out – “you think you’re cute”! The inference was that, “you think you are so cute that I won’t give you the discipline you need”. People who think they are cute play on the sentimentality of those they interact with. We must never forget that God is not sentimental He is just!

When David asked The Lord to lead him in the way everlasting, he was acknowledging that there was something greater that God wanted of him. That his life was not his own. We make elaborate plans, think elaborate thoughts, but how often do we ask, “what is the way that is everlasting”? The place of legacy for future generations.

I don’t want the legacy of my life for my children and others that I come into contact with to be one of fear or control. My legacy prayer is that everyone I encounter would see less and less of me and more and more of Christ who is my King!

So put a spot light on me Jesus – clear out all the junk…I don’t just want to be cute, I want to be beautiful like you…

Gungor beautiful things

Love, self-acceptance, trust, Uncategorized, worship

Deeply Loved

deep heArt

My Beloved,


I am so proud of you. Just thinking of you makes me sing (Zephaniah 3:17). You are the apple of my eye, my child in whom I have found great delight (Psalms 17:8, 149:4, Song of Solomon 4:10).
You are beautiful, my darling, unique, one of a kind (Song of Solomon 1:15, 6:9). I created your inmost being; I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). See, before I established the foundations of the Earth, I knew you. Before I parted the oceans, I was waiting for you, peering through the lattices of time: Let me hear your voice! (Song of Solomon 8:13). Your voice is like the choicest perfume, like sweet honey to my lips (Song of Solomon 4:11). Do not be afraid (Isaiah 41:10).
I have chosen you among your companions, I’ve called you by name, and you are mine (Psalm 45:7, Song of Solomon 2:16). Nothing can separate you from my love (Romans 8:38-39). I am here for YOU, every day, every moment, and with every breath you breathe. There is nothing I would not do for YOU, you can believe this because I have already given you the greatest gift of all, my Son (John 3:16).
Be still and know that I am God… and that since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you (Isaiah 43:4(a)) you can “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). In the temple of your spirit, I have built my resting place (1 Corinthians 6:19). So, draw near to me, and I will draw near to you (James 4:8). Even when you do not feel me, I am here. I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
For “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV). My love for you remains as steady as the rising sun (Psalm 103:17). It never changes, because you are my child, my creation, and I am well pleased with you (Hebrews 13:8).


Love always and forever,


Your Heavenly Abba

 

journey, trust, worship

As I Lay Dying…

Dying things are most beautiful …
 
The fall season is a wonderful time of year. The air is crisp and refreshing. We can finally turn off the air conditioners and allow the cool breezes to flow throughout the house. My favorite part if this season is the beautiful vibrant colors of the leaves. 
 
During a recent road trip, I was engulfed with the beautiful landscape of deep reds, yellow, and orange on trees of many different shapes and sizes. 
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While enjoying the scenery, a strange thought invaded my mind… The leaves on the trees are most beautiful as they are dying. I shared my thought with my husband and he said, “it’s the same way with people – people who have relationship with Christ”.
 
I immediately thought of what Paul the apostle said, “for me to live in Christ, to die is gain”. (Phillipians 1:21) Nature seems to flow with this easily. The leaves seem to know that it’s ok to die to make room for a new season. We as humans struggle to stay alive. 
 
Maybe we fear the winter season that quickly emerges after the leaves die. It’s often cold and lonely. It may even feel like the winter season of our lives will never end. But just as sure as the earth turns on its  axis, the seasons will always change. Spring time always emerges at just he right time, bringing with it a beauty  unique to its time.
 
Jesus said that unless a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit. If a seed remains in tact, it is just one seed. (John 12:24)  There are times when we  become so self protective of the seed we call ourselves and determined to preserve what we have come to know as our lives, that we have difficulty imagining that there could be something greater for us on the other side of death.
 
Many of us are ok with physical death and have the faith to believe that we will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. However there is a great resistance to the death of our will and personal preferences for a life yielded to the Spirit of God.
 
Jesus said, he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Luke17:33)  He came to give us life more abundant. (John 10:10) Exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or imagine.
 
In light of these truths, it seems that we too can be beautiful in the dying process. Instead of stress and grief, peace and joy can make our countenances radiant. We can rest and embrace the colors that emerge from our lives.
 
The prayer of my heart is that when people are traveling on the road of life and pass by me, that they too would be overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s spirit radiant in me.

Christine James is a wife, mother and pastor at CareView Community Church. This is her first blog. She is glad you came.

journey, trust, worship

Journey Through The Desert

Some years ago my husband and I decided to use our vacation time creatively to kill two birds with one stone. We own a timeshare based in Las Vegas that often runs promotions to get you to come and see how the city is attempting to change its face from just being a gambling town to being a place for everyone in the family to enjoy. The primary goal of course was to get you to buy more property. It was such a great deal and airfare to Vegas was relatively inexpensive, so we decided to take advantage of the deal, and use it as an opportunity to visit our friends in Southern California. Our friends had been telling us for years that Vegas was only a three hour drive from their home which seemed very doable; like driving to Virginia or other places on the East Coast. Upon our arrival into Vegas, we excitedly picked up our compact car and proceeded with great anticipation. We were enjoying our time together and looking forward to the reward of reengaging with our long distance friends. The first hour was fun. We laughed and talked about the sights: The bright lights and gaudy hotels and casinos in the desert. However, as time continued on, the mood began to change. The landscape started to change dramatically. The sights began to conform to the natural habitat of the desert. All of a sudden, there were no more glitzy hotels, no more casinos and no more humans at all. There was just an arid landscape complete with the tumbleweeds that I’d seen so often in the westerns that I loved on TV—The tumbleweeds I’d seen in ghost towns. My mind began to race. I thought about all of the Mob movies that had depicted the desert as a convenient place to “dispose” of people who were “problematic”. As we traveled down the road, I realized there was no highway divider, or shoulder rails to stop cars from going off the side of the mountain. Only big tractor-trailers racing up and down the mountainous road. What if one of them decided that we had cut in front of them in the way they didn’t like. Or what if they just didn’t like the way we looked! Paranoia began to overwhelm me in a way that is not characteristic with my personality. I was horrified by the fact that we literally could drive a couple hours between points of civilization. No city lights, no people, not even an abundance of cars. Until that time I was not aware of how much I depended on a certain type of environment to make me feel safe. After all, what would we do if there was some type of emergency? Our cell phones would go in and out. There were not many cell towers in the mountains. What would we do if we simply had to go to the bathroom? I wasn’t getting out of the car in this “No Man’s Land”. I was holding my breath and my bladder, anxiously awaiting the next town. Very, very small towns with people who didn’t look or talk like me. About halfway through our journey, I heard the Lord speak to me. “I am El Roi, the God who sees”. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Lo, I will be with you, even til’ the end of the earth. My flesh wanted to say, “Okay, Lord, but will you be with me til’ the end of this desert place?” The desert had become a god to me. It became larger than life. Larger than my big hulking husband, who I knew loved me and would always protect me. It became larger than my normal rational thinking mind. It became larger than Jehovah God: The God who is more than enough. The desert place of the unknown can be an ongoing struggle for us as believers, but I think women can be particularly vulnerable to this because of our great need for safety and security. We like certain systems and norms to be in place to fuel our so-called faith. But real faith is that which is written in God’s word: “Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) When there was NOTHING to see in the desert, I realized how dependent I was on my ability to see versus God’s ability to see. Today, as you struggle with the unknown, trust that God has perfect vision and provision concerning you. Never forget that you are the apple of His eye. “Keep me as the apple of your eye; Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:8 NIV) Rejoice in the fact that you are safe in the father’s arms.

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Christine James is a wife, mother and pastor at CareView Community Church. This is her first blog. She is glad you came

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