Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zebra

What does a zebra have to do with drawing closer to Father God? Well, a few years ago, seeing a zebra live and in person was a very special love gift from my Father God. I had always doubted when some scientist kind of person told me that the stripes were for camoflage. We have at times dressed prisoners in black and white stripes just to make them obvious. How is that good for concealment?

In fact, as our safari vehicle got close to the zebra herd, they stood out in the landscape. When we were close enough to make them nervous, however, they moved closer together and it became very difficult to see where one animal ended and another began. How confusing to a predator. Good plan. It inspired me to write a poem about the zebra that I think applies to us as well.


Black and white
so vivid
in a field of
tan or green.

What kind of
camoflage makes
it easy
to be seen?

But when a lion
roars around,
I know
just what to do.

My only safety
being still
and very
close to You.

I bless you today and in the days to come to be still in your soul and ever closer to Father God.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yearning

It seems that the more we experience the sweetness of God's presence, the more we want of it. But consider how much He yearns for fellowship with us. God -- Father, Son and Spirit -- so longed for restored companionship with us that they agreed to pay an enormous price to have it. Jesus came to re-introduce us to His Father and paid the price of a sinless life, the crucifiction and the resurrection so that our failings wouldn't disqualify us from being in their presence.

When I have disappointed myself in some way, I hesitate to seek Father's face. It's a learned reaction from life experiences. But He is watching like the father in Jesus' story, just yearning to work through whatever has shamed us, and work through it together. 

I bless you today to have increasing yearning for the presence of Father God. He has already paid the entry fee and is waiting for you in joyful expectation.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xiphoid Process

Xiphoid means sword-shaped, and the xiphoid process is a sword-shaped bone that stands in the gap between our two sets of ribs to defend our hearts from physical injury. What a picture it is of our militaristic attempts to defend our hearts from the trauma of emotional injury, too. We wield our inner vows and resolutions like weapons: "I'll never let anyone do that to me again." "Nobody's going to get close enough to hurt me that way any more." "I'll never trust a......." 

Unlike the ziphoid process, our self-made armor does its own damage to the heart by hardening it. When we stiffen our hearts against pain, we also reduce their capacity for joy and love and peace.

I bless you today to risk the pain of an undefended heart so that Father God can soften and heal it. I bless you to be able to feel His compassionate tenderness and to rejoice with Him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wounds

Nobody gets through life without wounds. Some are exterior. I remember a bath night. My dad was anxious to get us dried and into pajamas and silent at last and he was toweling vigorously. Mine was the typical seven-year-old body of a daredevil tomboy and sprinkled with a variety of scrapes, scratches and scabs, each of which was objecting to being roughly rubbed.  "Ow!" he teased me, "Look out for my big toe! Be careful of my left bumpernickel!"

I didnt think it was funny. Nor have I laughed in the years since about some of the inner wounds that have hurt much more than those superficial scrapes. I learned and I practiced the ancient rule of warfare: Never let them see your pain. There are those who will do worse than tease you if they see your weakness.

At times I have even tried to hide my pain, my woundedness from my Father God. I tell myself that it was nothing, that I just have to let it go. But He knows our every pain because He feels it with us, and He doesn't just want us to just get over it, but He wants to truly heal it. There is no wound that we suffer that He sees as trivial. There is no pain in our hearts that He will laugh at. He cares for us.

I bless you today to be able to trust your Father God with every wound, let Him tenderly cleanse and heal it and to experience His loving care.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vinedresser

Living for over twenty years where the yard was heavily shaded by mature maples, I delighted in my new home. The new development had few trees of any size, so all the sun-loving plants I had longed for are quite at home. I positioned one of my favorites, a clematis, to climb our front lightpost. I have spoken blessing over it, carefully trimmed and trained it, and delighted in its glorious blossoms. I love being its vinedresser.

My vinedresser is Father God. He blesses me and lets me know His delight in my blooming. But He also trims and trains me. That's not always comfortable. In fact, I have seriously grieved some of the shoots and branches He has deemed unproductive and removed. I'm so thankful that I have the example of my own tender vines in my life. They remind me that Father always has my good, my health, strength and beauty in mind as He prunes.

I bless you today to receive the tender loving touch of the vinedresser in your life with a joyful expectancy for the fruit to follow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Understood

The physician's assistant was trying to establish rapport as she took my medical history and answered most of her questions herself. She had catagorized me and made judgements based on -- my age? My hair color? The size of my slacks? I don't know, but she totally alienated me and she knew no more about me at the end of the interview than she had when she began.

Think of the times we have all experienced when a word or action intended to be a help or a blessing to someone was taken the wrong way. Sometimes we have made a wrong assumption; sometimes the other person has.

How different it is with Father God. He knew us before we were born and hasn't lost sight of us since. He has no misconceptions about us and he sees our hearts, our motives and the forces that drive us through the eyes of His compassion. We are always safe with Him, always accepted.

I bless you today to feel safety in knowing that you are completely understood and absolutely accepted by your Father.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Trust

Trust is another word for faith, and Father God says that it is impossible to please Him without faith in Him. So, I have engaged in "faith-building exercises" in the past, and been harangued about my lack of faith at times. But I have also known those who trusted people and things that were totally untrustworthy. Where's the balance? How do we not get off track?

First, we can't trust our own faith. It can be affected by our emotional swings, by false information, by the winning influence of others. Trust can be given to us supernaturally as a gift from Father for a special need, but mostly it is the result of knowing the nature of what or whom we are trusting. For reaching a high shelf, I reasonably trust a step stool more than a rocking chair to stand on.

Consider the nature and character of Father God. He loves us so much that He paid the price of Jesus' death and resurrection to bring us into relationship with Him. How can I not trust Him to take me through the rest of my life? He bought my healing at a tremendous price. How can I not trust Him to make it manifest in my body?

That's the key. It's not how much we trust. It's whom we trust.

I bless you today to recognize who Father God is in your situation and to know how much you can trust Him.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Seeking

There are many things that I have sought and never found. The back of the earring that fell into the neck of my blouse and vanished there, that recipe that uses the rest of the ricotta in the fridge, even my husband's great grandmother's ruby and pearl ring are a few. Some are more important to me than others, but none of them is a guaranteed find. Father God's presence is another story altogether.

If I am seeking Him, He promises me I will find Him. He says He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, and the reward is Himself. The more my hunger to be with Him, to experience Him grows, the surer I am that it will be satisfied, because the hunger itself came from His own heart.

This is not an occasional happening. The more I find Him, the hungrier I am to find Him more. So the search goes on and on, deeper and deeper into His written word, into His manifest presence, into corporate times of seeking. There is no end to Him, so there is no end to the search.

I bless you today to seek Him earnestly and to enjoy having Father find you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

R is for Reciprocity

Please forgive me for missing the Saturday deadline.  I had the blog written and thought it was scheduled for publication, but it somehow disappeared into the ether without a trace. One more novice mistake, I guess. Anyway, I attempt to recreate:

I have a vivid memory of my first awareness that the people I loved the most didn't love me the same way. As a devastated four-year-old, I made an unconscious decision not to invest myself emotionally in people who couldn't or wouldn't pay dividends on that investment. That decision was probably the reason that I never swooned over a musician or movie star, never joined a fan club, never let myself expect very much from a relationship with Father God.

Whenever I plotted to run away from home, I planned to run to my favorite aunt and uncle's family. They always loved you back.

What I learned about God was that He loved us first! His written word tells us that and promises that He never changes. He's going to love us now and through all eternity.  We can't invest any more love in Him than He has already given or any more than He will continue to give.  Holy Reciprocity!

I bless you today to experience Father's love in a deeper way than you have ever done before so that you can love Him back more and more.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quiet

I am often frustrated in my search for a quiet place to spend time with my Father God, and I have heard many other people share the same frustration. The phone ringing, the dog panic-barking or my husband's sock searching may be noisy, but they really disrupt my time with Father when I let them steal my inner quiet.

There are days when I can investigate my dog's reason for alarm or answer the telephone without ever leaving Father's presence. Of course! He has promised to never leave or forsake us! So as long as I am quiet within, I can access His presence even as I go about dealing with interruption or even an emergency. How I long to be able to do that more consistently. Instead I am likely to bristle with annoyance and drive my inner quiet right out the window.

I'm so glad that Father has promised to continue to perfect and equip us. I can count on Him to teach me how to maintain that inner peace that can always draw on His presence no matter what the situation.

I bless you today to have the quiet you need -- inside and out -- to thrive in your Father's presence.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Performance

What does performance have to do with growing closer to Father God? Not a thing. There are no performance standards for seeking deeper relationship with our Father. There's no minimum or maximum word count, no spell-check or grammar review expected. All that's required is a heart that honestly wants His presence.

Of course we have many options for moving our hearts in His direction. Music helps many people and using devotional writings can help, too. Recalling Father's character and His amazing deeds on our behalf, thanking Him for our past and current blessings, and reading His written word can all be helpful actions. But what helps me is not a requirement or even necessarily helpful to you. Each of us has a unique path to Father because He made each of us different. (On purpose!)

I bless you today to discover a spontaneous  path to Father's presence and to lay down any performance standards that you may have picked up on your journey to Him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Overcoming

As the events in Boston and the reactions around the world pressed in on me, I found I had no words to write. I can understand individual madmen, casualties of war and natural disasters, but I have no reference points for the people that applaud and rejoice and dance in the streets over the deaths of innocents however they occur.

As I sat with Father God and let the tears come, I was reminded of Jesus' teaching. He said that the world would hate us because of Him. Our blessings would arouse envy. Our goodness would contrast with the world's evils. Our light would expose the daily increasing darkness. The result is a rage that even the angry cannot explain.

The size of this issue threatens to overwhelm me unless I keep listening.  Then Father lets me know that the answer is the same as it has always been. If we keep taking Light and Truth into the darkness and keep loving people one at a time until they see Him, we are His answer. We once lived in the same darkness and He came and sought us out. How can we do otherwise?

Light always overcomes darkness. Love never fails.

I bless you today to be re-armed with love for a desperately needy world and to overcome the darkness with the light He has placed within you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Never Quit

Sometimes it's just so hard to feel the presence of Father God.  It's a rush-rush season. There are issues bugging me. The music is too loud or too weird. My body aches, itches or twitches. It's too hot or too cold to concentrate. We have hundreds of reasons, but whatever they are, we are in some "dry, deserted spot".  These wilderness times can last an hour, a week or for years. But Father doesn't deserve our attention because of how we feel. He deserves it because of the wonder of who He is.

Once, as I sat with Him, He gave me a mental picture of myself in a prison cell.  I was in a corner formed by concrete walls with no furniture at all, no books, nothing to write with and nobody around. I knew this was a picture of those who are suffering for their faith in Him. Then I felt Him ask me, "How much do I love them?" I was overwhelmed with the sense of His tender affection.  Again I felt the question, "What can they do to earn My love?" Of course, the answer is nothing at all.

I believe His heart is touched when we continue to seek Him in our driest times, those times when we feel we have nothing to offer and our prayers and devotions seem pointless and fruitless. When our times seeking Him don't feel comforting and there isn't any pleasure in them, He is still unchanging, still worthy of the worship of all of heaven and the earth. And He sees.

I bless you today to continue past negative circumstances and unlovely feelings to the bed-rock reality of communion with Father God, to never quit seeking no matter what.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Memo pad

I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to time in the presence of Father God.  The clock chimes, or the dog alerts to some imaginary menace, or I remember something I want to get done today and my mind just takes off in some other direction. Other times I feel impressed to do something about some situation that I'm praying for. In either case the best defense I've found is a memo pad at hand beside my chair. I can make a note or list and refocus.

It annoys me to be such a scattered thinker, but there are little things that can help me get past it.

I bless you today to find ways to spend the time and focus that you desire with your Father.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Linger to Listen

I am terrible at arguments, especially when they seem to me pointless or uninteresting. Maybe I've been corrupted by too many witty scripts of too many movies and TV shows. Or maybe I'm just arrogant. Either way, when an argument goes on and on, I tend to offer my sterling wisdom and walk away to refill my coffee cup. End of discussion.

Rude? Undoubtedly. Plus I miss the opportunity to really get to know the workings of a mind that comes from another perspective. I am poorer for not having the grace to truly listen.

How much more so with Father God! When I pour out my heart to Him, ask for His intervention in my circumstances, worship His goodness, thank Him for His faithfulness, read some of His written word and then pack up my prayer journal and walk away, I have missed a great opportunity. If I want His perspective, I have to linger and listen.  I need to let Him have the last word.

I bless you today to linger and listen to Father, to receive the wonder of having His take on all the aspects of your life.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Knots

One of the most telling signs that I have been pulled away from the peace of the presence of Father God is dealing with knots. Knots in my laces, snarls in my knitting yarn, tangles in my thoughts all speak of pressure, hurry and anxiety. Often the people around me see other signs first, but my first clue is grappling with things that won't come undone, smooth out, or work right. Or I wake up in the morning with my hands in tight fists and the muscles in my arms in knots. What I didn't acknowledge while awake has made itself known in my sleep. I am struggling to "get a grip". 

I know of only one sure way to get those knots untied. I need to sit with my Father and let Him show me the root of my tangled and jangled nerves. I need to let Him begin to sort out the tangles in my thinking and unsnarl my emotions. I need to relax my grip so that He can untie my knots. Only the safety of resting in His presence allows me to do that.

I bless you to rest in Father God's embrace and allow Him to gently and compassionately untie your knots today.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Joy

Spring seemed to over-sleep this year and bumble slowly into wakefulness. Then suddenly it jumped into action. Flowering bulbs that had been peeking through the soil with one eye still closed popped out as though to yell, "Boo!" Then some trees stretched flowers across their branches like lacy morning coats. And the world was enchanted.  Or was it?

Almost immediately there were voices scolding about the heat being so summery so soon, about the chores that weren't yet done to prepare for this bounty, and so on. Some just couldn't enjoy the poetry, the dance, the party spread before them because of what it wasn't.

Our relationship with Father God can be the same way. He loves to bless, to heal, to teach, to encourage, to comfort and to love us. But it doesn't always happen in the timing or the order we would prefer. Then we have the same choice we have had this spring. We can choose to rejoice in what He is doing or we can focus on what He is not doing.

I bless you to choose joy today, no matter what your circumstances, and to make your life a celebration of the good things around you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Integrity

Some of the times I have felt most distant from Father God have been when I was trying to hide from some failing or fault. Since I was a child, I have fought the expectation of myself to be faultless. This became a pattern of denial, excuses and keeping a low profile. Rationally, I know that God sees it all and there is no hiding from Him, but who ever grows up rational?

As I have grown in knowing Father and seen His character revealed in Jesus, the need to be faultless has become almost blasphemous. If faultlessness were possible for me, than my purchase on the cross was unnecessary! How freeing to know that all my faults were paid for on the cross, and I no longer need to hide them from anyone, much less Father God. I can simply and honestly be who I am - faults,  blunders and all.

I bless you today with the freedom that comes with integrity and openly being, before God and before others, just exactly who you are. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Humble

One day recently I found myself doing more than my usual quota of airhead blunders. (Chemotherapy took the straight blond hair from my outside, but couldn't change my inside. That remains as blond as ever.) Humiliation has a way of making you feel humble.

The next day I heard someone giving glory to God for something that He and I were secret co-conspirators in doing. The God of the universe involved an airhead like me to show Himself to another person and receive glory for the wonder of His faithfulness. How humble of Him! And how humbling for me. 

I bless you to experience the humbling of being used, in spite of your human limitations, to bring glory to the King of the Universe. And may you sense His pleasure in it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Grateful

Every day we run into people who are hard to get close to. Some are prickly and defensive, some are hurt and lashing out, some are tightly wrapped in self-pity and despair. I know them pretty well. I was one of them before Father began to draw me close to Him. I still have my days, but there are fewer of them than there were.

How grateful I am that I was welcome in my Heavenly Father's embrace when I was prickly, full of self-pity and lashing out at Him and at the world. Expressing my gratitude for that grace and for the beauty that it allows me to see draws me ever closer.

I bless you to recognize how Father God has welcomed you on your journey to Him.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Faithful

When I was confirmed in my faith by the denomination my family attended, I made a public confession and was made responsible for my own walk with Jesus. I desperately hoped for a call to missions and Africa was my young dream. But I felt no such call and the adults around me would not have encouraged such a call if I had.

Many, many years later I had the opportunity to take a short-term trip to Africa. I realized that I was never created for that beautiful continent. My tolerance for heat and for sun exposure is so low that I would have been a hinderance more than a help to spreading the heart of Jesus. But my Father had remembered and allowed me to visit the place of my dream.

Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim 2:13), "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." Heavenly Father is the God who hears us. Even though my wish was never spoken out loud, was uninformed, naive, and eventually forgotten, Father never forgot because He is faithful even (or maybe especially) when we are not.

I bless you to remember today a way in which Father God was faithful to you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Enjoy

Often I seek to draw closer to my Father God out of need, even desperation. I have a problem, a decision, a painful issue in my body or soul. Or I have come to Him out of duty as if He were an aging auntie from whom I hope to inherit. I really ought to pay attention to Him if I want to get anything from Him later.

We know from the story of the prodigal that Father delights to receive us however we come. At our worst He still rejoices when we turn to Him. But how much more delightful is our coming when we come just to enjoy being with Him, asking what's on His mind today, seeking to know how He sees the things around us?

I bless you today to enjoy your time with your Heavenly Father and to experience how much He enjoys being with you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Determined

Life gets busy.  Challenges (even blogging challenges) get into the priority mix and the closest of relationships can suffer.  It is the same for those of us who want closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Time spent and attention to those things that please Him are important. When they get pushed aside by the pace of our lives, we feel the distance build. 
I can let the things around me hurry me into neglecting the sweetness of our relationship unless I am determined not to let it happen.  Father God always sees to it that there is time for what is necessary, if I put my time with Him first.
I wish I could remember that sooner and more often.
I bless you to be Deliberately Determined to be with your Father today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Calm

Although I know the written promises of the Bible that Father God will never leave or forsake me, when the circumstances of my life feel overwhelming I can find myself frantic. My mind whirls with details and possibilities and hindrances. At such times, I need to hear the words that Jesus spoke over the storm on the lake, "Peace, be still."  Or I need to hear the words of Psalm 4, "Be still and know that I am God."
Father God is never far from me, but I am only aware of that when I am calm enough to register His presence. Reading aloud and hearing those words can restore the calm I need to rest in Him, regain perspective, and hear again His still, small voice.
I bless you with the ability to calm your spirit and be still in the security of God's presence, no matter what your circumstances today.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My desire in attempting the A to Z Challenge was twofold:
(1) To share thoughts with others who were seeking to follow after Jesus more closely and be part of an earthly "cloud of witnesses" who cheer each other on in this endeavor.
(2) To become more disciplined about increasing my craftmanship in writing.

I decided to focus on ways that I can draw closer to my Father God and encourage others to do the same.

To that end I offer day two of the challenge:

B is for Blessing

When I focus my thoughts on the things that are on God's mind, I am aware that His desire is always to bless people. Even when their decisions, make that impossible for a season, His desire remains the same. I find it much easier to be close to Him when I line my attitude up with His and begin to think and to speak blessing over people.  People that I enjoy blessing, and even people that I may not feel like blessing when I start, all need the blessing of His touch. So I pray blessing over their:
Bodies - health, safety, restoration
Labors - jobs, earnings, satisfaction in their work
Emotions - peace, joy, healing of emotional trauma
Social life - family relationships, friendships, refreshing fellowship
Spiritual life - growth, enlightenment, discernment and life-giving community.

I bless you to give and receive multiplied blessings as you draw closer to your Father God.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

A to Z Challenge: A is for Adoration


Adoration speaks of appreciating the beauty, the vastness, the power and the tenderness of God toward His creation. Thinking of these things, for even a few moments, is like standing before a great work of art. I begin to notice details and connections that make me appreciate the artistry and complexity of the work, things not apparent if I look only casually in passing. If I pause and spend some time savoring the wonder and the artistry of God's works and the greatness of His love, I can't help but return that love to Him in adoration.  As I do, I am drawn in closer.