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The Miracle

Oh, the incredible depth of Christ’s love for us. He was fully God, yet He humbled Himself to be born in a stable, lived as a man among hateful people, and willingly yielded His life to be crucified, even though He’d done no wrong. The beauty of His life was displayed in the unconditional love He demonstrated to the broken, sinful, and vengeful people He came to redeem. He treated the adulterer, tax collector, leper, prostitute, insane, outcast, and forgotten with such compassion that they were irresistibly drawn to the love and new life He offered. Those closest to Him, He trusted fully and served unreservedly, even washing their feet on the very night He was betrayed with a kiss. He quietly retreated to a lonely garden to cry out to His Father about the brutal path that was before Him and His dearest friends fell asleep. He healed a soldier who had been sent to the garden to lead Him to His death and then faced a court of enraged religious leaders, haughty Romans, and a blood-thirsty mob convened to crucify Him. He was brutally beaten, spat upon and ridiculed, then carried His cross along the path of suffering, weeping over those He had come to save. He finally arrived at the place of His death where He allowed soldiers to force a crown of thorns on His head, gamble for His clothing, pull His beard, spit on Him and mock Him as they nailed His bruised and bloody body to the cross. Even as His life was ebbing away He reached out with forgiveness to a thief on the cross next to His, and pardoned a world that wasn’t asking to be forgiven. With His last breaths He cried out to His Heavenly Father asking why He’d been forsaken and finally declared, “It is finished” ripping apart the veil that had shrouded the entrance into God’s presence. With a final thrust of a sword, mankind stabbed the heart of the One who had died to rescue them. Broken hearted, pierced and bloodied, His body was laid in a borrowed grave as His spirit entered the gates of hell. The tomb was sealed and satan boldly boasted that death had won.

Three days of desperate darkness shrouded the earth; hopelessness and despair reigned, accompanied by the malevolent taunts of everything evil.

Until…In one earth shattering moment the Father spoke; forever crushing satan and his demonic legions with the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Love. Jesus Christ broke free from the chains of sin and death; the enemy was defeated and Love was victorious!

This Easter may you experience the love of God and the undeniable power of Christ’s resurrection. He Has Risen.

The angel (at the tomb) said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Matthew 28:5-6

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NAME by Hillsong Worship.    https://g.co/kgs/VLLdB4

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Where Are We Going?

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“I’d turn back if I were you.”

There are times in life when the path ahead is shrouded in darkness. Even the next baby step seems covered in grey mist. Or, we may be able to see the next step or next few steps on the path ahead but it offers little comfort when it appears that the path we’re on is leading us deep into the woods; a place that is even less certain than the dark place we are in right now.

 

Do you remember the scene in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy and her companions “follow the yellow brick road” as it leads them into the Haunted Woods? They know they are on the right path that will eventually get them where they need to go,  but as they step into the creepy forest, they see a sign that says, “I’d turn back if I were you!!!” Isn’t that exactly what we’d like to do when it looks as if the path God has us on is leading us into the dark unknown? As tempting as it is to heed the advice of that sign warning us to turn around and hide, God’s voice says something completely opposite.

 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

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Our challenge is to continue to listen for God’s voice in the midst of the uncertainty. This is challenging on so many levels.

We have to silence the clamor of all the other voices that in essence are telling us to “turn back” or “go this way”. Listening to these voices has a devastating effect; we become immobilized, unable to move forward or we start down a path that leads us away from God’s best. Instead, we have to be “tuned in” to hear God’s voice above the noise of our past, our fears, the doubting voices of others, and the deafening shrieks of the enemy.

We also have to put ourselves in a position to be able to recognize when God is speaking and where He is leading. There are no “shortcuts” in listening to God’s voice; it takes time and persistence. This is so contrary to what we’ve been taught living in the world. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” No, we have to make time.  Being able to discern where God is guiding requires that we carve out real time to spend in the Word and in prayer. The bible is the road map, showing where different paths lead and prayer (listening to God’s voice give direction) is the GPS. God is faithful to speak, but it’s according His time table. Our job is to be persistent; to quiet our hearts and go back to the Word and prayer, repeatedly. This takes real discipline and patience, but is never a waste of time. We may feel unproductive, but this is the work of the journey. Sometimes He is asking us to work through a struggle deep in our heart or He may be weaning us away from the need for approval from others. Any time we spend in prayer or in the Word is preparing and equipping us to take the next step.

We also have to make the choice to walk in obedience. God tells us walk by faith not by sight.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7  ESV

 It takes a sheer act of our will to obey and take that next step, even though we are CLUELESS! Sometimes that means just doing the “next right thing”. It may be that the next right thing is making a phone call, going to work, or just getting up in the morning and getting down on our knees to pray. We can’t know the whole plan but God is always faithful to show us just the next step, even if it’s a baby step. Wow! You talk about blowing the minds of control freaks! This can actually be physically painful but oh so necessary if we are to walk in obedience. We walk in step with God. He is faithful and we step out in faith. We can’t do everything but we can do the “next right thing.”

As we continue down the path, though it’s one tiny step, we can trust God even if it looks like He’s leading us into the unknown.  God has already gone before us and has given us fellow trail trekkers as traveling companions and has given us songs to sing along the way. This community of worshippers remind us that we’re not alone and make the journey so much easier. Once you’ve been down the path of the great unknown you can be an encouragement to a hiker that is at the begininng of the trail head.

The unchanging, all-loving, all-knowing nature of God allows me to walk the path that He reveals step by step, in complete confidence, not because I see where the path is leading, but because I trust the Trail Blazer. Whether the path may turn to the right or to the left or appear that it is leading me deeper into the woods, I will listen for the voice of my Heavenly Father and keeping walking!

“He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as He has promised.” Psalm 23:3 GNT

  • What can you do to silence the distracting voices so you can hear God’s voice?
  • What “next step” is God asking you take today?
  • How are you practicing obedience in the baby steps so you will be ready to take a leap of faith?
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35 Years

 

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Obviously there is no perfect marriage because it is a union of two imperfect people. But as I reflect on 35 years of marriage, I can confidently say that I could not have asked for a more “perfectly” suited partner. I’m so very thankful for a godly, loving man who is fully aware of all my faults but chooses to give grace instead of criticism and always encourages me to aspire to all that I can be. He is not threatened by acting as my cheerleader, as I have been his.

From the early days of being very young newlyweds to the birth of our 3 treasured children and the devastating diagnosis and eventual death of our precious Jessica, our marriage has grown stronger. He has remained steady as we have weathered cancer, chronic illness, multiple ministry challenges and moves, joblessness, and financial stresses. These are the normal trials of life and marriage but I am so grateful for a husband who has done his very best to look to God to fill him with wisdom, bountiful patience, faith, persistence and love, knowing that his own resources would never be enough to overcome those trials. I love his peaceful spirit, his gift of faith, and his incredible humility; something rarely seen in someone who is so very talented. I love that he uses that talent to glorify God and to share his faith. I love that he is a servant-leader and that he helps people accomplish things beyond their level of confidence because he instills his own confidence in their potential. I have witnessed this over and over again in our home life and in his ministry. I’m thankful that he has been diligent in balancing home and ministry life so that our family has never felt that the church took priority over our needs. I love that we can laugh together when one of us says or does something really stupid, feeling no judgment or embarrassment. Taking bike rides, watching football or movies, singing together or long trips in the car are ordinary things that become much more than ordinary because I’m doing them with my very best friend. As we celebrate 35 years together, I am the most thankful that God is the center strand in the cord of our marriage and has been a strong rope to hold on to as we’ve wrapped our lives around Him.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

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Sunrise

Sunrise

It’s been wonderful. I’ve spent almost a week at the ocean and have been able to witness multiple sunrises. My soul has been refreshed and my heart renewed. It’s been such a joy to start the morning with God before my mind is cluttered with all the noise of the world. Before I’ve turned on the radio, the TV, or Spotify…before I’ve seen who has posted, tweeted, or instagrammed….before I’ve opened my mouth to say anything to anyone, I began my day with the Creator of the Universe. I sat quietly and watched with anticipation as the Master Artist would call up the sun from below the vanishing point; the breaking waves providing the soundtrack.

Some mornings He would decide to announce the day with a shout as the firey orb would break the horizon without a cloud in the sky to soften its arrival. The sun in all its red-orange radiance pushing over the edge of the world, ready to burst forth to proclaim to all creation that it was time to get up and jump into the day.

Other mornings I would notice a pinkish-yellow hue begin to spread a muted glow to the edge of the ocean. Resting behind pillow-soft clouds, the arms of the sun would turn peach-yellow and reach into the sky, gently stirring the world into awareness that a new day had dawned.

On some of my favorite mornings, the sunlight was completely blocked by a blanket of wooly-gray clouds. The sky began to lighten gradually, a pale gray in contrast to the gloomy clouds. I couldn’t actually see the sun but I sensed it was hidden just behind the dark barrier. Gradually a portion of the solid wall grudgingly transformed into a wispy veil and the sunlight would press forward through the mask to prove its presence. The somber clouds would then try to conceal the light once again and it became a playful game of back and forth; the dark clouds looming, the lacey puffs floating and the cheerful sun peeking out. The sun was persistent and claimed victory, finally announcing to the sleepy world that it was indeed the sunrise, opening another day.

Each morning the sky was a pristine canvas, waiting in expectation for the Artist to paint the sunrise. With an endless supply of nature’s color as His pallet, He daubed textures and brush strokes as all of Creation obeyed His voice. He adorned the expanse with breath-taking beauty, faithfully recreating the very First Day. I was overwhelmed with the authority and power of His creativity and would respond with all of creation in worship, right there on the beach. I would humbly ask if I could be a part of His design for that day and would quietly wait for His instructions. He was so faithful to speak and I was actually listening, knowing that He was guiding my days to have a balance of rest and productivity.

Because I was looking at multiple days stretching out before me in this blissful serenity, I was able to leave the frantic future in the future along with my lengthy “To Do List” …until the last morning.

On that particular morning as I was sitting on the beach witnessing the formation of His beautiful masterpiece, I asked Him. I knew with a painful awareness that I was about to transition back to real life and inquired, “What do you want me to take away from this place?” I heard the words, “Dial it back.” I thought what in the world does that mean? So I sat silently and observed, confident that God would show me. He directed my gaze at the crashing waves battering the shore, powerful and forceful; knocking down things in their way and stirring up sand from the ocean floor. I heard Him speak to my heart. “Don’t be like the waves when you leave here.” And I knew exactly what He meant. I was going back to a very busy schedule, with a lot to accomplish in a fairly short window of time. When under pressure to get things done, I have been known switch gears to what my family not so fondly refers to as, “production” mode. I get revved up: my tone of voice changes, I become extremely focused and I go into hyper-drive. Basically, I begin barking orders like the captain of a speed boat and throw people overboard if they don’t move fast enough… I knew precisely what God meant. “Okay, I got it,” I thought. I was humbled and vowed not to be a crashing wave.

I looked back out at the sunrise and God painted another picture for me to contemplate, even more penetrating than the first. He focused my view on the smooth glassy parts of the ocean that purely reflected the sun. It was dazzling and breathtakingly beautiful; a mirror image of the sun itself. The sun shining on the pounding waves was the polar opposite. The white caps were churning in the ocean and crashing against the shore, moving in such a frenzy of activity that the sun’s reflection was impossible to see. The image was distorted, misshapen and unable to reflect the true image of the sun at all. I heard God say, “I want you to be a reflection of Me.” Ouch!

When I get into “production” mode I am rarely a reflection of the Son. I may be productive and get the job done but I have crashed over people and left destruction in my wake. I am not reflecting anything except my own agenda. When I “dial it back” I am like the smooth, glassy sea, able to mirror the character and calmness and light of the Son.

As I left that beach paradise my heart was full and I had a renewed resolve to be like the smooth glassy sea, a pure reflection of the Son. An hour or so later as we were driving home, my resolve nearly capsized as we encountered a detour and vacationing motorists who acted like they had all the time in the world! Didn’t they know I had someone coming over to my house for a time of prayer that very morning and if they didn’t hurry up and at least go the speed limit, I was going to be late!!! For goodness sake, I was going to be praying!!! The roads become perilous waters to navigate in the pursuit of godliness.

Somehow the irony of the moment was lost on me and I felt justified in my impatience. It was probably a good thing that my husband was driving the car instead of me since I can become a bit “instructional” with the horn if I feel that other drivers on the road would benefit from my tutelage. I texted my friend and alerted her of our delay and finally zoomed into the driveway with only minutes to spare. I walked into the house and immediately detected an unpleasant odor! My resolve ran aground and I was shipwrecked.

I had asked my daughter who was home for the summer, to make sure she cleaned things up because of my “Prayer Appointment” that morning. My dear daughter, Emily had made the house spotless but there was a distinct “not spotless” odor hovering in the air. Without stopping to greet my daughter or thank her for cleaning up the house while I was lounging on the beach hearing from God, I grabbed the Bic lighter and began frantically lighting candles. As I hurriedly called out my thanks for cleaning up the house I tagged on the thoughtful question, “…but what is that smell??” I searched desperately for the Bath and Body Works Cinnamon Room Spray and immediately took the matter in hand. My daughter emerged from her room coughing and choked out, “Mom, what are you doing? You’re only supposed to use one spurt of that stuff! It’s too strong!” Well, I thought if one spurt was good, five must be great, and I continued my purification process. It was certainly the covering of God’s grace that kept our house from exploding as I sprayed that aerosol room freshener into a room full of lit candles. My daughter just shook her head and went back into her room. Suddenly, at that very moment, I knew I had been a crashing wave and had just knocked my daughter down into the sand. This would require an apology and hopefully she would see the humor and the irony as I shared what God had just revealed to me at the beach.

As I wandered through the cinnamon haze to the laundry room, I saw the culprit. There, perched against the door was a bag of trash, waiting to be taken out to the garbage bin in the garage. I grimaced as I lifted the offending bag and carried it out to be disposed of properly. It all made sense to me now. My daughter, who was home alone that evening before, had cleaned up the house and had remembered to empty the garbage. Taking the garbage out into the garage at night normally wouldn’t have posed a problem except that particular night was the Eve of the 4th of July. When we had spoken on the phone that evening my daughter declared that she felt like she was in a war zone. Our very patriotic neighborhood was filled with “celebrations” that repeatedly shook the house. Because there were multiple celebrants, setting off a variety of fireworks, the explosions were erratic and unpredictable. Knowing that she was alone in the house and feeling a bit on edge, she decided not to go out into our creepy garage; the trash bag could sit in the laundry room overnight. I laughed to myself and by the time my friend rang the doorbell, I was short of breath, but I put on a smile and answered the door.

I’m grateful for a forgiving daughter with a sense of humor. I am so very thankful for a God with those same qualities in lavish measure. He knows that the desire of my heart is to be a smooth glassy sea that reflects the beauty of the sun. He also knows me so perfectly that it comes as no surprise to Him when I become a crashing wave instead, even mere hours after I pledge to be a mirror image of His Son. I can humbly go to Him, ask Him to brush off the irritating sand of my failures and wash me clean in His sea of forgiveness. Each sunrise is a new promise of grace and power to become a reflection of His Son.

“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

Are you a crashing wave or a peaceful reflection of the Son?

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The Dance Of The Uncertain

Clouds and Sun on the water

I’m at the beach this week. I’m here to work on my writing; awaiting the flow of creativity and instead I find myself drowning in reality. My mind is filled and fuzzy with all the uncertainties in life right now…which I have no business thinking about because I’ve got to hurry up and get busy and be creative….Then it dawned on me….

The intriguing beauty of this scene can’t be fully experienced unless you step back and view it from a distance. So it is also true in my life. When I am in the turbulent spray of the waves, my eyes stinging with salty tears, watching with dread as the storm clouds gather overhead, I fail to recognize the artistry of contrast. It is the sun shining behind the clouds that give depth and radiance, far more glorious than the clouds or the sunshine alone. The display becomes even more remarkable as the shadows of the clouds obstruct a measure of the sunshine as it is reflected on the choppy gray sea peppered with frothy whitecaps. When I’m in the deep, I hyper focus on the dark clouds overhead or the churning waves that pull at me. I worry about what might happen next…”How can I endure another storm? Will I be pulled under?” and I completely miss the potential delight of the moment. The sun is happily dancing on the waves, the drifting clouds a partner in the pas de deux and I could have missed it.

On this particular day there was no storm or danger; just puffy white/gray clouds filtering the frolic of the sun, shimmering on playful waves…and I saw it…the grace and the truth of it. When I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful and hopeful and joyful and made me smile. It was the radiance of God’s glory unveiled in the midst of the uncertain. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…” Hebrews 1:3

My prayer: Father let me rest and rely on Your grace in the depths of the uncertain. Open my eyes to the disguised splendor of the unknown. Remind me that You are the Master Artist, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Present, Lord over all the earth…and my Abba Father. When I am over-whelmed, weary or worried, remind me that You love me and I can rest in the shadow of Your wings.

Honor the Lord you sons (and daughters) of God; honor the Lord for His glory and strength. Honor the Lord for the Glory of His name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. The Voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of Glory thunders. The Lord thunders over the mighty sea. The voice of the Lord is Powerful; the voice of the Lord is Majestic. Psalm 29:1-4 NLT

How precious, Oh God, is your constant love! We find protection under the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 GNT

 

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Fill My Cup

ant in cup of coffeeLate one cold, rainy Sunday afternoon I made a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy while I snuggled up with a book and a blanket in our sunroom. After I drank about half the cup, I got sidetracked and left my book and beverage on a table while I attended to the laundry. A few hours later, I remembered my abandoned chocolaty goodness and knew it would have grown cold, but after all it was chocolate and I’ve never been one to waste something so precious. I walked through the now darkened sunroom, reached for my cup of chocolate deliciousness and took a big drink. Immediately I knew something was terribly wrong. Chocolate milk was supposed to have a smooth, creamy texture and what I had in my mouth was anything but smooth and creamy.  My concern grew as I walked toward the light of the kitchen and peered down into the cup. To my complete and absolute horror the cup was FILLED with tiny sugar ants. I let out a blood curdling scream as I ran in to the kitchen and spewed the chocolate-milk-covered ants into the sink. Throwing down the cup, I screamed again as I re-lived the sensation of those horrid little creatures swimming around in my mouth. I shuddered and spit into the sink once again, even though my mouth was completely empty.  I finally summoned the courage to get a better look into the contents of the cup and sure enough, it was still SWARMING with tiny sugar ants. Not a “couple of” not a “few” but an entire “army” of sugar ants!

I hesitated, certain that I’d seen enough, but a warped sense of curiosity compelled me to get an even closer look. There in the middle of the teeming ants was the remnant of a puffy, white marshmallow and a company of ants efficiently using it for a dual purpose: as a snack and a raft, nibbling and floating peacefully in a sea of chocolate.

Of course I screamed again, unable to erase the grotesque image from my mind and the harsh reality that I had actually swallowed some of the vile creatures.

As I approached my unflustered husband who was calmly sitting in the family room trying to watch a basketball game on TV, I began to wonder at his unresponsiveness to my noisy ordeal. Admittedly, it wasn’t the first time in our many years together that he’d heard me scream, and I finally decided that he had probably assessed the intensity of my outburst and reasoned that once again, I was overreacting. Eventually, I was able to compose myself enough to tell him what happened and because I was already laughing, it gave him permission to laugh with me as he said, “Oh no!”  It was actually quite a significant response coming from my unflappable husband.

I enlisted my dear hubby’s assistance to determine how those annoying creepy-crawlies entered our peaceful abode. We were shaking our heads in disbelief (and denial for me) as we traced the trail of ants from the side table where my hot chocolate had been desecrated, to the nearby door that led outside. Sure enough, those ingenious insects had devised an ant chain leading all their friends, neighbors and relatives to the free beverage and swim inside the Yancey home.  I didn’t feel one ounce of guilt or remorse as we sprayed down the besieged area with bug spray and wiped out the entire population in addition to spoiling the fun of future un-invited pest-guests.

I was still chuckling to myself an hour later, mostly recovered from my ordeal and looking forward to my daughter’s return that evening so I could tell her the tale of  her crazy mother’s latest “antics”.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Have you ever had an experience like that? Not drinking a cup full of ants exactly, but anticipating something pleasurable and been disheartened when it turned out to be really unpleasant instead? Repeated disappointment can cause disillusionment and even cynicism and sometimes it just seems easier to set expectations so low, there is little danger of being disappointed. I have to be honest, I can’t drink a cup of hot chocolate without thinking about those stupid ants.  But I don’t want my enjoyment of a tasty cup of hot chocolate to be forever-clouded by my distasteful experience.

During the course of life, I’ve had to repeatedly ask God to take my cup that is filled with the disappointment of unmet expectations, betrayal, hurt and fear, and pour the spoiled contents down the drain. Then I’ve had to humbly ask Him to rinse out my cup and make it completely clean; I don’t want a single drop of residue to be left behind which might taint the good things that God desires to pour in. The key is to ask God to empty the cup as soon as I’m aware of the negative things beginning to ferment within. How can blessing be poured into a cup that is filled with toxic waste?

It’s true, every once in a while life may serve me up a “cup of ants.”  I still always have a choice: I can respond to disappointment by becoming pessimistic and skeptical, refusing to hope for something better, or I can ask God to help me dump my disappointment down the drain, present my cup to Him for a good scrub, and have faith that He will eventually fill it with His very best for me.

After all, I’ve enjoyed many cups of hot chocolate in my lifetime and have been served up only one cup of ants.

What disappointment or hurt have you allowed to ferment in your heart? What blessings could you be missing out on because the cup of your heart is already filled to the brim with those toxic, fermenting attitudes? Are you willing to present your heart to God so that He can cleanse it and fill it with His very best for you?

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5 NLT

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7 NLT

You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT

 

Mary’s Song

 

CHALK-MARY-AND-GABRIELEach Christmas as I read the account of the angel appearing to Mary, I am impressed and challenged by Mary’s response.
Luke 1:26-38, 46-55 NIV
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

I can only begin to imagine how stunned Mary must have been by the angel’s pronouncement. I’m sure in that one moment Mary’s world was turned upside down and all the plans that she and Joseph had made were changed forever.
Can you imagine the range of emotions that she must have experienced?
I wonder how I would respond if an angel came to me with this announcement?

I love Mary’s honest question and then her beautiful response in vs. 46.
“How can this be?” “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Mary re-stated her own relationship with the Lord (I’m His servant) and accepted God’s plan for her life even though it wasn’t the plan she had envisioned. I am deeply humbled by her response and I have to ask myself, how do I respond when the Lord “interrupts” MY plan for MY life?
Am I willing to accept His plan with faith (believing even though I don’t understand) and grace (trusting that God knows exactly what He is doing)? Or do I respond by complaining and arguing with God?
Fear is understandable, but do I allow fear to keep me from embracing God’s plan and instead, demand my own way? What if Mary had let her fear and the opinions of other people keep her from fulfilling God’s purpose for her life?
How do I let my fear and the opinions of others keep me from fulfilling God’s greatest purpose for my life?
Wow!

But then I am completely blown away by Mary’s further response: She sings a song of Joy.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me– Holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.”  (Luke 1:46-55 NIV)

Now I know from an eternal perspective that what God asked of her was the ultimate honor but she still had to live in the real world. Mary had to face her husband-to-be, her family and all her accusers with the facts: she was un-wed and pregnant. Do you think other people would ever believe her if she told them that she was going to give birth to the “Son of God”? Just try to imagine the ridicule and the weight of the accusations that Mary was asked to carry.
Yet, Mary still chose to obey God with overflowing joy.
I am amazed and challenged by Mary’s joyful obedience. I truly believe that this is one of the most beautiful expressions of worship ever recorded:
Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.” Luke 1:46-49 NLT
It is only by the grace of God that she was able to accomplish what God had asked of her. Jesus was Her Prince of Peace and her Immanuel (God with us) even before He was born.

I pray that my life during this very busy Christmas season and throughout the New Year is an echo of Mary’s response to God, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! …For the Mighty One is holy and He has done great things for me.”

Desert Flower

In honor of our precious Jessica on the anniversary of her homecoming.

Janice Yancey

"I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14  “I will lead her into the desert and speak
tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

Growing up as a Michigan girl and after living in other lush, green locations across the country, when we moved to the desert, it was quite a shock.  At first I really missed all the green I had enjoyed my entire life, but after living in the desert for a while, I began to see that it had a very unique beauty and some incredible plant life. One plant in particular that continually amazed me was the Saguaro.

This classic desert symbol sprouts from the tiniest seed imaginable, grows an average of one inch per year, can live over 200 years, and has the amazing ability to bloom yearly in the spring even in the most severe drought. How can these sentries of the desert bloom in the driest and most barren conditions? I’ve witnessed a Saguaro literally growing out of a rock…

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The Paradox Of The Pot

We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NCV)

Clay Jar

In Biblical times it was customary to hide valuables in clay jars or pots which had little value or beauty of their own.  Because the vessels seemed plain and ordinary, they didn’t draw attention to themselves or the treasure within.

Today, people will do anything and everything to draw attention to themselves. The goal is to make our “vessels” appear almost flawless.  Millions of dollars are spent on creating the airbrushed illusion of perfection. We attempt to perfect our bodies through plastic surgery, make-up, clothes, exercise and diet programs, and elevating our minds through multiple educational degrees, self-help books and conferences, frantically trying to fix ourselves in an effort to refine and beautify these “clay pots”. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to be our very best self, but could it be that all our desperate efforts to make it appear that we “have it all together” be the very thing that limits our usefulness to God?  We try to hide all our flaws and deny our weaknesses, ashamed of them, desperately filling in the cracks of inadequacy with useless things, hoping we’ve hidden our deficiencies so others will admire and accept us.  How does that help the other person that is fully aware of their own cracks of imperfection?

A number of years ago, author and speaker Patsy Claremont, coined an expression “God Uses Cracked Pots”. I love the freedom that is revealed in that declaration.  As the trials and pressures of life begin to crack my clay pot, the radiance of God contained within begins to shine through those cracks. As this vessel gets more and more cracks and seems to lessen in value, the glorious radiance of God that shines from within, increases and the priceless treasure is revealed in greater measure.  What a paradox; the thing that makes me feel useless (being a ‘cracked pot’) is the very thing that makes me most useful in the hands of God. It’s very humbling being a cracked pot but I’ve found it very difficult to see God’s glory and power in someone who is full of pride. The very source of their pride: the illusion of perfection created by making sure all their cracks are filled in, is the very thing that limits their usefulness to God. The absolute insufficiency of man reveals the total sufficiency of God.

The apostle Paul experienced the truth of this which he expresses in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (The thorn in his flesh: his “imperfection” and personal trial) But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ESV)

Paul allowed his own insufficiency to reveal the total sufficiency of God. When the Apostle Paul realized this fact, the power of God in his life was unstoppable.

Life is hard and takes a toll; the older I get the more I recognize just how “cracked” this vessel is. But in addition to that revelation, comes the awareness that truly, my deepest desire is to allow God’s glory, power and grace radiate from within. So, I’m going to put away the super-glue and cease my useless attempts to fill in all the cracks of this clay pot and simply let God’s light shine.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 NIV)