Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Heart of the Giver

Some things I've been learning lately:

A good, good Father gives the best gifts.
He does not give cheap gifts, even the things that seem small carry great value. His gifts are limitless and can't be put in a box. They are not limited to finances nor solely things that can be bought with money. They can come in the form of spiritual gifts, presents for special occasions, and even those little "just because" surprises. The Giver loves to give and the receiver loves to receive. The Giver delights in the delight of the receiver. There is great Joy in the gift exchange. The Giver expects nothing in return. The receiver is not expected to give or do anything but simply accept what's given. It's far more than the gift itself, it's an investment and stewardship of time: listening, caring, interceding, waiting, seeking, and finding. He relentlessly pursues His kids as well as what He chooses to give to them. The process of finding the best gifts is to never be rushed. Often the Giver is silent and may seem distant while He's preparing the gift. There is awe and wonder to be found in the mystery. God is the Creator of creativity, He is extremely detailed in everything He does. There are a ton of gifts out there, the beauty of the Lord is that He doesn't just give away any old gift...He hand picks the gift He has for you that best fits your personality, style, need, desire, and unique design. God does not give hand-me-downs, there are no favorites in the Kingdom. You are His first choice and His most prized possession as His child.

Sometimes His gifts are presented very beautifully, all packaged up and shiny. Other times, it can look like the furthest thing from what we typically perceive as a gift. the word tells us that even various trials are a gift. It may look like making big decisions for ourselves, learning to say no and the best yes to things in order to protect the freedom we have. Boundaries are a precious gift in themselves. It can look like dealing with things of the past that's coming to the surface so you can finally move on and heal. It can be yet another disappointment, let down, or shocking change in events. I can be _______(insert trial and view it as a blessing instead of a curse...) He does everything within the most divine timing. His thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways, they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). Though the revealing of each present may appear in parts, His gifts are always complete and whole. He doesn't do anything half way. All of His gifts are good and for the best.  Each gift is free to us because of that which wasn't free. On the cross, the ultimate price was paid which has made a way for us to fully receive today. Every gift is to reflect His heart and reveal more of His character. He's always after your heart. He outpours His perfect love and affection which can't be contained, causing an overflow. He's a good, good Father Who loves to lavish His gifts upon His sons and daughters.

Above all, He is the inexpressible gift and that's more than enough! He is all that we need both in abundance and lack.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” -James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” -2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.” -James‬ ‭1:16-18‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Mother to the Motherless

No matter what category you may fall under concerning this Mother's Day, I think we can all be thankful that the Lord is not only "a father to the fatherless"-Psalm 68:5 but a mother to the motherless as well. Maybe you had a superwoman of a mom. One who always showed up, displayed love, and went through loops and hurdles to make your day brighter. Or maybe you had the mom who worked so many long and hard days trying her best to be present for events but always seemed to be too busy. Perhaps your dad was more like a mom to you packing your lunches, doing the laundry, and rocking the mini van. Maybe you had guardians instead such as an aunt or uncle that took you in as their own. Maybe you were raised in foster care or adopted. Maybe you had a grandmother who was more of a mother figure always letting you eat sweets, cutting off the edges of your grilled cheese sandwich, and exposing you to the daily beauty parlor gossip. Maybe you were your mother's mother setting her alarm clock and clothes out the night before so she could make it to work on time, hiding the bottles when she'd have too much to drink already, and loaning her money every time she's in a bind. Or maybe, just maybe, you had to be your own mother. You were the one who read the bedtime story and tucked yourself in at night. You were the one who taught yourself how to put on your clothes, tie your shoes, and fix your hair. You were the one who made sure you had all the school supplies you needed and had something, anything, to eat each day.

Even the best of moms are human and humans make mistakes. Humans will let each other down. All humans fall short. I think we can all relate to at least one point in time that we've longed for a mother's love in the moment of heartbreak, craved a mother's touch in the moment of despair, and wanted a mother's nurture when not feeling well. Regardless of what the word "mother" means to you, I'm here to tell you today that the Lord is the entire family unit. Have daddy issues? He's a good, good Father. Momma withdraws? He can rock you to sleep. Brother betrayal? He sticks closer than a brother. Sister absence? He is a the best listener.

To all you moms out there: bonus moms, step moms, spiritual moms, cat moms...
Know that the pressure is off. You can't be a mother until you've first been a daughter. Above all, you are His daughter and He is well pleased. Fully discovering your identity will help you see that even on those days when nothing goes right, everything wants to break, and you just can't seem to get your life together...He is still good and nothing you ever do or don't do will change His perfect love for you. 

God is described as a woman in labor (Isaiah 42:14) and as having given birth to His people (Deuteronomy 32:18). He is compared to a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15), to a comforting mother (Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2), and to a mother teaching her child to walk (Hosea 11:3). God is described as a mother bear whose cubs have been taken away, as a hungry lioness (Hosea 13:8), as a mother eagle caring for her young (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), and as a mother hen (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). David compared God to a woman (Psalm 123:2-3), and Jesus himself likened God to a woman cleaning her house to find a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). God provided just enough healthy food for His people (Exodus 16:11-18), and He provides for us as well (Philippians 4:19). He urged His disciples to rest (Mark 6:31). He bandages our wounds (Psalm 147:3) and will wipe away our tears (Isaiah 25:8). He comforts us (Isaiah 51:12) and carries us close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).

So here's to no longer putting God in a box. Anything you need, He not only gives it...He is it. He is love. He is peace. He is Joy. He always provides and protects. He works everything together for good. He makes all things new. He restores. He heals. He is a minister of reconciliation. Allow Him to show you His heart today whether He's the only mother you've ever truly had or you have a mother figure as an example here on earth. Either way we can celebrate motherhood the way He created it to be, beautiful and radiant.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Sweet Reveal

"Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon, Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and said to them "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him..." -John 20:1-3

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" Who are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be a gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned around and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"-and that he had said these things to her."-John 20:11-18

"Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it."
 -Mark 16:9-11

Out of the many women I've looked up to in the bible such as Esther, a woman who was as courageous as she was beautiful or Ruth, a woman who's loyalty was stronger than her grief...there's one woman in the bible that, for some reason, God has really put on my mind a lot. Typically, someone who was once demon possessed wouldn't be the first person on the list as a potential role model. What's so special about her? Why do I feel like I can relate to her so much on this day two thousand years later? Many people saw this woman as a crazy lady all of her life. Why was she the first one at the tomb? Did she truly feel in her heart that this couldn't be the end?

Mary was an outcast. She probably had only a few friends, if any. I'm pretty sure she was lonely and depressed a lot. She must have felt as if there was no hope for her and this evil that had taken over her life. She was out of control but longed to have control. Jesus cast out seven demons that possessed her. What a miracle. Jesus became Mary's best friend, probably her only friend at the time. I'm pretty sure she found it very hard to shut up about what He had done in her life. Heck, He's the reason she's alive and free! I can relate to that. She was free from torment and manipulation because of Christ. She did not only know of Christ, she knew Him. She loved Him so much that she was restless after His death. I can't imagine what went through her mind this day 2,000 years ago. All the hope she gained through Christ was probably shaken and questioned. Was she crazy to be at the tomb so early before dark thinking "Is this really it?"

A part of me thinks Mary had a similar feeling. Mary still had faith that this was not the end. She believed that there had to be some reason why she felt led to go to the tomb. Maybe it was due to curiosity...maybe it was due to her still longing to spend time with Jesus. Even though the disciples left after searching the tomb for Jesus, she still felt led to stay. She stood weeping with the thought that someone had taken her Jesus away. She then felt led to look back in the tomb. That's when Jesus revealed Himself to her once again. After His death she still had a sense of hope. He was alive! HE IS ALIVE! I can't help but wonder what I would have done in this situation. I probably, like her, would have been so wrapped up in the fear of having my Jesus taken from me that I wouldn't comprehend the fact that He was right in front of me. What comfort, joy, peace, relief, and hope she must have felt in that moment. She responds "Rabboni!" which means teacher. This is one of the sweetest moments ever in my opinion. Mary loved Jesus so much and cherished her relationship with Him. She truly mourned His death which made seeing that He had resurrected that much sweeter. Both the angels and Jesus said to her "Woman, why are you weeping?" kind of as a way of being like "Woman, rejoice! Open your eyes and see what is happening in front of you." When she sees....oh man does she get it. This is a woman who has been rejected all of her life and thrown to the curb. Jesus saw her and delivered her from the things she could not control in her life. Jesus was her Everything. Because of her faithfulness, she saw Jesus after He rose from the dead! What an encouragement. If I were in this same situation, I honestly feel like I would have had the temptation to keep Jesus all to myself. After all, everyone will think I'm crazy and won't believe me right? Why not just enjoy time with Jesus and not worry about telling the disciples or any others?  I'm pretty sure that's definitely something that Satan wanted to see happen. But Jesus said to her "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." and she did just that. She couldn't keep silent about the miracle she witnessed. Why would you want to stay silent after experiencing such a thing? This moment for her was so sweet and special. But when trying to tell people that Jesus has risen, she was seen as crazy yet again. I'm pretty sure she didn't care what people thought at this point. She had Jesus and the assurance that He is Alive! She wasn't afraid to boldly speak the truth of the things she had seen and experienced.

The awesome thing about this is that unlike movies and story books that have happy endings...this is not a happy ending but more of a happy beginning. Through this Mary is not being the one glorified, but it is all about Jesus. Mary was making Jesus the Big deal. What I am wrestling with concerning this is "Will I live my life as if I'm mourning the fact that Jesus was in the tomb?" or "Will I live my life in such a way that it reflects the same hope and joy that His resurrection brought to Mary?"  Will I reflect it so much that I won't care what anyone thinks or if people will believe me?  I have my Jesus and I know that He is alive. No one can take Him away from me. Though it's easy to want to keep Him all to myself, I know that what He has done in my life can be the same for others. A lot of times it's so easy for me to get so wrapped up and stressed in everything that's going on that Jesus is saying to me "Woman, why are you weeping?" when I should be rejoicing in the fact that He is alive within me. Oh the faith that Mary Magdalene must of had that day. It's a faith I am beginning to pray more for. The faith in knowing that my Jesus is capable of overcoming the grave. He did overcome the grave. My beautiful Jesus overcame death. If my Jesus is Bigger than death, than I know that my Jesus is Bigger than any struggle that I face. I have been delivered from a life of torment and manipulation. He became my friend at a time that I was friendless. God calls me daughter.Because of the cross, I'm adopted into the bloodline of Christ. He cast out the evil that was in my life and the things that I could not control. He saw me as someone who was precious when others saw me as an outcast, a rebel, and one who was crazy. He Reveals Himself to me which calls for the sweetest and most intimate moments that no other relationship can give or ever compare.

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all Fear is gone."