He’s not hard to please!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b

Have you ever thought about what you can do to make God happy? I asked Him that question once and here are the things that came to my mind as I sat in His presence:

• Enjoy My creation.
• Support the weak.
• Encourage someone’s faith.
• Have a grateful heart.
• Listen for My direction.
• Take care of your body.
• Nurture your soul.

Then I realized all these things have been shown to us in His Word. We find commands there,  of course, and our obedience pleases Him. The Bible also reveals God’s heart and gives us glimpses into what brings Him joy. Some of those things are on my list above, but we find others as we read the prophets or the psalms, or see Jesus at work in the Gospels.

When we grow to know Him more intimately, we begin to see Him as a loving Father. It is then we discover He is not hard to please. What He wants most from us is relationship. Loving connection with us is such a deep desire for Him that He sent Jesus to make it possible for us to be adopted as children into His family.

Just as a caring father expresses enthusiasm when his child presents him with an undecipherable crayon drawing, our Father in heaven is delighted with our sincere, but less-than-perfect, efforts to please Him. If we just tell Him, honestly, we want to make Him happy, He will show us how. Our efforts will bring Him joy. And I guarantee God’s joy will make us happy, too!

“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.” – A.W. Tozer

 

 

 

 

A Slow Process

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” – Galatians 5:22

I want patience – now! Can you relate? We really would like to be kinder, less anxious, more self-controlled, but getting there is a slow process.

No wonder! When we look at spiritual characteristics we realize these are not gifts, but fruit. We don’t unwrap the package and try on love; instead, love develops over time and grows in seasons. Here’s how it’s been for me.

Love, joy, peace: It took the first 50-some years of my life to see these life-anchoring fruits take root. They happen only as we learn to abide in Him and, for some of us, that learning takes a long time.

Patience, kindness, goodness: Then for a decade, God gave me the job of caring for a good person with many needs – companionship, listening ear, errands, appointments, counsel. At some point in the middle of it all, I realized God, in His grace, was giving me a chance to practice patience, kindness, and goodness.  Apparently, I could learn these things in no other way. Maybe God has given you a person to practice on, too.

Gentleness, faithfulness, self-control: I am now in the mature phase of my life and the Spirit’s focus seems to be on my becoming more gentle; faithfully finishing well; and exercising self-control with my time, body, and speech.

God uses circumstances to grow us into fruitfulness. It’s OK if it’s slow – watching progress through the seasons is gift enough! He is cultivating something in you right now. Look for it!

“We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate.” – Brennan Manning

 

Each Day

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“. . . inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16b

How’s your day going? Sometimes our days get lopsided with work, serving, distractions, or anxieties. Over many years, I have found that being intentional about how I fill even the tiniest of openings in my day will have an overall effect on my sense of well-being and even my usefulness.

For me, each day should include something that

• Builds relationship
• Feeds my mind
• Takes a step toward a goal
• Refreshes my spirit
• Shares God’s love
• Is kind to my body

These things don’t have to take a lot of time, but if we don’t seek them out, they won’t happen. For example, building relationship might be spending the evening with a family member or it may be a simple hallway conversation at work. Being kind to my body might be a complete workout or it might be making good food choices at lunch. Refreshing my spirit might be taking a walk or could be as simple as gazing out the window for a few minutes, thanking God for His beautiful creation. Feeding my mind might be reading a chapter in a thought-provoking book or simply listening to a TED Talk on my iPad.

God is at work in the small stuff. He loves to use our minutes and hours to redirect our thoughts to Him. Over time, these little things change the way we see the world around us. Then, as we pay attention, we find ourselves becoming more joyful, hopeful, and peaceful. And that’s pretty great!

If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all. – Frederick Buechner

It’s Not Easy

"Here I am - it is written about Me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God." - Hebrews 10:7

“Here I am – it is written about Me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.” – Hebrews 10:7

Can you imagine what it would would have been like to be Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem and preparing to give birth to a child they believed to be God’s own Son? They must have looked at their desolate surroundings and asked: What do we do? What do we need? How can we manage such a birth in such a place?

Have you ever felt that way? God has given you something to do (maybe marriage, parenting, work/school, ministry), but it seems impossible. We, too, may have to look around, see what we have, and commit to seeing it through wherever we are and with whatever we find.

Then, as Mary’s painful labor went on, maybe for hours, they might have wondered about those angelic visitations. Is this baby being born really God? If so, why is it so hard? Why is it taking so long?

We expect that if God is in it, things will go well. But not always. Doing things God’s way can be hard. Mary’s giving birth to Jesus definitely was God’s plan, but it wasn’t easy.

And finally, joy.

The struggle, the anxiety fade away when the baby arrives. I imagine Joseph looking into Jesus’ face and saying, “Oh, Mary, He is so perfect!” And He was. The perfect Son of God, come to earth to live among us.

Reliving the story of Jesus’ birth reminds us that doing what God wants can bring anxious moments, doubts, or discouragement, but if we see it through, the end result is always joy.

“Our waiting at Advent – our sacred waiting – is not just anticipation of the coming of Christ, but a commitment to be consumed in His service.” – David Timms

Heavenly Daydream

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“Send forth Your light and Your truth. Let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell.” – Psalm 43:3

I was greeted at heaven’s border and told I had to leave everything at the gate. “Don’t need your purse – it just holds money (everything’s paid for here) and i.d. (we know who you are). Don’t need your clothes – you need to forget about whether you’re dressed right. Here’s a robe. You’ll fit right in. No shoes.” I took them off.

All possessions, worries, and responsibilities had to be dropped on the ground.

I left it all, and then, unburdened, moved with complete freedom toward where I sensed the Throne would be. I could hear flowing water and music. There were uncrowded crowds of people, many worshiping with faces to the ground. Angels moving, singing. Joy, peace, love, excitement, contentment.

The group opened to accommodate my unspoken (and very earthly) desire to be “up front.” Then I realized position/place didn’t matter. He was everywhere, encompassing time, space, everyone.

The overpowering feeling was one of belonging. My thoughts ran like this: I belong to God. I belong to these people. I belong in Heaven. I fit in. I am accepted, loved, valued. Not for what I do or only if I behave correctly. Just because I am me, as He made me, as He wants me to be.

You belong, too. Let Him reach you, forgive you, love you, and encompass you in His earthly embrace and then, someday, in the wide circle of heavenly belonging. It will be great to see you there!

“Life on earth matters not because it’s the only life we have, but precisely because it isn’t – it’s the beginning of a life that will continue without end.” –  Randy Alcorn

 

 

 

He’s First

Do you ever wish God would just write His will across the sky so you can understand it clearly? Something like that happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it wasn’t the sky He wrote on, it was a mountain.

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“My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning, my spirit longs for You.” – Isaiah 26:9a

I got up, started the coffee in preparation for my early morning time with God, and began a conversation with Him as the coffee began to brew. As I waited, I looked out the kitchen window toward the mountains to the southwest. A prominent snowfield was visible on one of them and had melted into the shape of a giant “1”. I looked again thinking I must be seeing it wrong. But, no, it was really a “1”. God had written His will on the side of a mountain for me to see: He wants to be first in my life!

As I prayed, I realized He wants to be the first one I think of when I wake up in the morning, the first one I turn to when I need help, the first one I recognize when something good happens in my life, and the only one I ever worship.

The snowy “1” remained there for the rest of our stay in the mountains and was a many-times-a-day reminder of God’s perfect will for me – and for all of us who are His children. When we make Him first, we are less afraid, worried, and frustrated and more often filled with love, joy, and peace. It’s the best way to live!

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Some of His Best Work

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“I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”Psalm 146:2b

My husband and I are in Colorado at this writing, having arrived a few days ago from our home in Michigan. It is an amazing retreat for us to come here surrounded by several Fourteeners, (14,000+ foot mountain peaks), adjacent to the Arkansas River (known here as the “Mighty Ark”), and under a canopy of sky that is sunny and blue most days.

So why was I so bummed out yesterday? I kind of got on a downward spiral of “If only”s.

• If only it were warmer.
• If only the storm hadn’t rained on the outdoor concert we had planned to attend.
• If only my email account hadn’t jammed.
• If only . . .

For no good reason, I ended the day feeling dissatisfied.

Then this morning, I opened my day with this prayer, as I usually do, “Good morning, heavenly Father. I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.”

It was as if He said in return, “Do you mean that? Creator? Have you looked around lately? You are sitting here among some of My best work saying ‘if only’. Really?”

Busted! Immediately something came into my mind I could say “thank You” for and I did that. Then another and another and another until a deep sense of satisfaction came over me. From frowns to smiles in about two minutes! God’s way is much better than my way.

And there’s nothing like seeing, really seeing, His creation to remind us of how great our God is. I bet there is some of His best work around you, too. Take a look!

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.” (Anonymous source)