The Wow Factor

 

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I was loading clothes into the car when I heard, “Nana! Hi, Nana!” With his mom’s permission, Nick ran for me, unable to hug me because his hands were too full of little cars. I hoisted him up to eye level, and then he saw it—a newly assembled fort awaiting him in his backyard, complete with a rock wall (of sorts) and a wavy slide.

“Oh, my house! My house!” he cried, hardly able to contain himself as we made our way through the fence and over to the gift his mom had found and his dad and “Pop” had worked on most of the day.

You’ve all seen moments like that, times when a child responds to life with unbridled glee. When do we begin to lose that enthusiastic voice of youth coupled with an untarnished gratitude for the good gifts of life? Nick didn’t pause to decide whether or not the green and yellow canvas tenting on his fort were the colors he would have chosen. He was unfazed by the fact that the swings were not yet attached. He was excited about the gift as it was.

Are we? Do we approach our days ready to be excited about what God provides—when, where and how he provides it? Do we say “Oh, wow!” enough? Or has our richly blessed western culture caused us to be jaded, no longer noticing life’s daily blessings?

Let me challenge you to begin anew today to be wowed by God, to open your eyes in a fresh way and proclaim your joy, whether silently or aloud, over the many good gifts, large and small, that will come your way. And won’t you let me know what you discover?

Thanks be to our Father from whom all good gifts come!

*Photo (not my grandson, by the way) by Ben White on Unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Real

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The April 1 devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling[1] includes this eye opening statement:

“But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.”

That tough for me. Is it for you?

  • I want my desk to be uncluttered. (And it often is, for about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon, after I’ve cleared the stacks from the weekend but not yet acknowledged the new ones awaiting for the coming week.)
  • I want my calendar to be uncluttered—balanced perfectly between work, rest and play, time alone and time with other people. Planning ahead helps, but…
  • I want my home to be uncluttered, except now I have grandchildren, who have put a whole new positive spin on having stuff strewn all over the place.

So, I’ll have to agree with Sarah that an uncluttered world is a fleeting fantasy. We can’t have it. Or if we have it, we can’t keep it. And if we try, we’ll probably lose a great deal of flexibility and joy.

What’s a body to do? If you’ve read this blog before, you already know my answer. Trust the Lord! Our “keep life tidy” leanings stem from a penchant to control. Once we let God be the one in control (the pilot, not the co-pilot, as my husband is quick to remind me) then a messy life can be an adventure.

Speaking of which, my grandson is on the way over to make my house messier, so I’m keeping this one short. Let me know, if you would be so kind, where in your life you have learned to relinquish the fantasy of the uncluttered and enjoy the adventure!

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

[1] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. [S.I.]: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

A Hymn by Any Other Name…

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“Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise!” How true! Those words are from “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” and describe so eloquently our need for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Certainly hymns are not our only option when it comes to singing loudest praise. However, copyrights make recounting the lyrics of contemporary works a bit “sketchy,” as my kids would say. And so, let me simply nod to the more modern works you readers listed and say with you, “Well done!”

  • “Here I Am Lord” by James Kilbane
  • “In Christ Alone” by Keith and Kristyn Getty
  • “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither
  • “Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here” by Jesus Culture with Martin Smith
  • “This Little Light of Mine” (author disputed)

That last one, recommended by one of you with reserve, is actually published in at least 38 hymnals. Its simplicity mirrors the simplicity of our calling as Christians. Let it shine!

Loudest praise. Joyful noises. Making music in our hearts to the Lord. Worship tunes. The Book of Psalms. Historic Hymns. Scriptural Chants. We have a wealth of ways to lift our voices in adoration to the Lord who loves us.

When? As often as possible.

How? In whatever way we are inclined.

Why? Because all that is within us is meant to bless his holy name!

Was your favorite song of worship included in this blog series? I hope so! If not, tell me about it in the comments box. I’d love to read the ones I missed!

Questions from a Traveler

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Spring of 2017 brought great adventure. Steve and I left home for weeks, enjoying the world, our “kids”, each other…and taking time to re-think how the next season of our lives should look. Here are four questions I’ve found myself asking as I reflect back on the experience:

What is home? For ten weeks, I rarely slept in the Houston house that I call home. Furthermore, we’ll be moving from that address before the summer ends. Even though I am a homebody, I’ve been able to remain sane. I’m finally learning that particular walls and windows aren’t that important. When I have Steve with me, work to do, and a quiet place to pray, I can settle in. (Okay, having a kitchen helps, too.) Maybe home isn’t where the heart is, but where the Lord is. And since he’s everywhere, he can make us feel at home wherever he sends us.

How much stuff do we really need? I’m usually limited to one small suitcase and a backpack when we travel. I pile what I want to take on our bed, then start putting things back until I have a collection of items that will actually fit. When I’m finished packing, I’m always amazed at how much is still on my shelves and in my closet (and in the whole house, for that matter.) I rarely miss any of those items when I’m gone. This will be an important lesson to remember as we decide what goes with us to our next home. Furthermore, it’s time for me to think twice about how much time and money I ever need to spend adding to my belongings. There’s generally a better place to allocate those resources.

Do we keep the Story before us? I’ve spent countless hours in art museums lately. Many are chock full of tremendous paintings and sculptures that tell the story of Christ—his birth, his death, his resurrection. Each one evokes in me a moment of worship, of thanksgiving. But we can’t spend all our days in art museums. We need to be about the business of living—at the office, at home, in the car, out on errands. Even on those days, we need to keep the Story before us. As we attempt to keep our minds on Christ, art—perhaps in the form of music, pictures, or printed Bible verses—can help.

Do we grasp that Story with elation? I was in Germany on Easter Sunday. At 10:50 a church bell began to peal. Another joined it, then another. Soon the whole city seemed to be exploding in melodious proclamation. “He is risen!” I imagined the elation of the disciples as they shouted the discovery to one another. I need to recapture that elation every day.

On the easy days, on the hard days, the truth remains: He Lives! We have a good reason to rejoice!

Defying Gravity

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Last year, after listening to the music for quite some time, I finally saw Wicked on stage. Since I grew up watching Wizard of Oz once a year on television (our only option back in the dark ages of video technology), I enjoyed the new spin on an old story. One song still sticks in my brain and pops into my thoughts on occasion. Actually, it’s only one line that keeps on repeating itself. In my imagination, I can hear Elphaba declaring that she will try defying gravity. More than once, as I’ve trudged up my stairs feeling low, I’ve heard those three words resound within my thoughts. I want to try defying gravity this year too.

Before you think me crazy for wanting to fly, let me tell you exactly what I mean.

My grandson is so delightfully quick to laugh. I suspect you and I were the same way as toddlers. When does that fade? And why? I know that Nick is unaware of the difficulties adulthood will bring, but he also knows little of the joys that await him. He laughs in the present moment.

We live in a world that fixates on the grave details of life, and not just the ones that are facing us today. We mull over the pain of the past and our fears of the future, often for no good reason at all. Matthew 6:34 says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Actually, I like the King James Version of that verse even better, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And as we face the “evil” of each day, how often do we falsely imagine ourselves facing it alone, forgetting the One who goes before us and stands behind us?

Here is how I want to try defying gravity. When heavy concerns come into my brain, I want to take them to my Lord in prayer without pause. When I catch myself frowning with furrowed brow, I want to lighten my countenance in a way that confirms the song God has put in my heart. And when I am tempted to join a discussion centered only on the failures of man or the bleak landscape ahead, I want to either walk away or change the course of the conversation. Who would have thought the Wicked Witch of the West could remind me of such important truths? This year, I hope you will try to defy gravity right along with me.