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Seeing Them

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Paul, letter to the Philippians (2:4).

I am reminded of a morning while driving to work a few years ago. Cruising along, the traffic seemed heavier than normal for 5:15am.  Looking in my rear-view mirror, I saw the pretty orange lights of a big rig truck behind me.   The poor guy was trying to maneuver through the morning commute. Cars full of folks that I am confident had not yet been caffeinated to complete awareness of their surroundings.  Like that of a Chess game, I figured if I move over one lane, then move forward around this little white car, I could make room for the big truck to make his move.  Off I went.  Doing so, the truck driver saw the “move” and made his own advance.  As we continued down the road for a few minutes, just as I began my exit off the freeway, the truck driver passed on by, but NOT before reaching his hand out with a hardy wave of “Thanks.”

Do we look and see those around us?  Are we aware?   Do we CARE? Do we see the need and heed?  Or do we see and ignore with a hastily “Go around me!”  Paul speaking to the Christians in Phillipi, proceeding the above verse stating: “Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (vv2-3, NLT).

As we cruise through this life—may we be aware. May we take time to look and see how we can help others. When was the last time we made a conscious effort to look into the eyes of those we are with? May we offer a smile to the cashier and ask her how her day is going, looking at her nametag and calling her by name.  May we hold the door while another carries heavy bags of groceries.

Our words of encouragement don’t need to be big and profound, a simple text of “Thinking of you” can go a long way. Perhaps, when possible, hold them, laugh with them, cry and pray.   

Seeing them.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” Hebrews 10:24).

The Pattern

The trendy slogan “What Would Jesus Do” from the 1990’s has pretty much faded away, yet the principle is true. The principle is good. Following what Jesus did is always the safest, the smartest, the most impacting—the BEST way to go. 

Peter knew this.

Jesus.

Jesus is told by an agonized father; that his daughter is very sick (Mark 5).  Soon, some men from Jairus’ house came with the news, “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?”  Taking Peter, James and John, Jesus goes with them to Jairus’ home. There was a great commotion with loud weeping and wailing.  Sending them all out (ah…quiet) Jesus took just the mother, the father and the three disciples. Taking the little girl by the hand, He said, “Little girl I say to you, arise.”  Immediately her life was restored.  All were overcome with amazement (vv22-42). Peter was there—he watched Jesus.

Peter.

Peter was in Lydda when he was sent for (Acts 9). Tabitha, a good woman, a disciple of Jesus has died. Peter went to Joppa. When at the home where Tabitha’s body lay, he asked everyone to leave the room, the loud mourners were sent out (ah…quiet).   “Tabitha, arise” he said. Her life was restored. Taking her by the hand, he helped her up. He called the friends and family back in, seeing her, the news spread throughout the village, and many believed in the Lord (vv 36-42).

When the situation seemed hopeless, Jesus went. Peter too. Jesus told the noise to leave. Peter too. Jesus declared “Arise!” Peter too.  Jesus extended His hand.  Peter too. In both scenarios, life was restored.

Jesus was Peter’s pattern.

A pattern is a model or design used as a guide.  When Jesus called His disciples, He said, “Follow Me.”  Jesus—the ultimate Guide.

Life can be filled with twists and turns.  Known and unknowns.  Joy and frustrations.  What a gift God gave us to watch and learn from Jesus as He navigated the roller coaster ride of humanity.  He was quiet when needed.  Spoke boldly when required.  Slipped away for Father time. Loved unconditionally. Pardoned the guilty. He confronted the lies. Taught among confusion. He led with righteousness.

This year, may we look to and reach for THE Pattern. Choose our steps, make our decisions, speak, love, confront, slip away for Father time—as Jesus did. Impacting. What grace was gifted to us, may we extend the same to others.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Peace

Have you ever felt a shrug of heart, you know that “Blah” feeling? Perhaps the blah is leading to anxiety or even agitation.  The only way to put it into words is “I’m off, just… off.”  May I offer, something may have shifted.  Shifted from the sidelines to the seat; something/someone is now sitting on the throne of our heart.  This, my dear friend is found deep in the factory setting in the design of man, a component known as the Peace Barometer.  (Okay, maybe not—but that is what I call it). 

Peace.

In the Old Testament, the word for peace (Hebrew) is shalom.  In short, meaning tranquility, harmony, wholeness.  It has been referred to as evidence of not having strife or war.  I would define peace not necessarily in what you do not have, but in what you do have.  Let’s give a nod to the New Testament: The word for peace (in Greek) is eirene, which literally means “to set at one.”  The picture is something that was once set in place has either been removed or toppled over (think of the game Jenga, remove foundational pieces and over it goes) chaos, strife, irritation even war are the results.  Once it is set back in place—PEACE reigns.

Here’s a brief (VERY brief) explanation:  Remember God and man (and Eve) in the Garden, their relationship was good and whole (peace-filled). Then there was a sin outbreak, the relationship was broken—toppled over.  For generations (begetting) generations there was a missing element, what was, is no longer.  Later Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Prince of Peace and the government resting on His shoulders (9:6).  Fast forward to Luke chapter 2, the angels announce, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace…” (v14).  Peace was back on earth among man.  Jesus is the missing piece (peace). He came bridging the gap (which was big and ugly) between man and his God. He set it all back in place. Relationship restored. God the Father planned it. God the Son accomplished it. God the Holy Spirit applied it.  The God package delivered. PEACE REIGNS.

Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” (Col. 3:15). Here’s where the peace barometer comes in: If God is not ruling on the throne of our heart, be assured another will occupy it!  We will know peace to the degree that we YEILD to Christ, the Prince of Peace, if NOT—chaos, strife, irritation.    

Paul again, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7, emphasis mine). Presenting to God means, we are NOT to go looking for solutions elsewhere. If we do, we can potentially be placing things on the throne that shouldn’t be there.  Our peace barometer will TILT if Jesus is not the center of our life, the One residing and reigning on the throne of our heart.  Peace is not about peaceful circumstances; it’s about yielding to the presence of Christ.  Let’s cut to the chase: God doesn’t come to take sides (help sort out our stuff) He comes to TAKE OVER.  It is His design, His throne.

May the God of Peace who makes everything… holy and whole, make YOU holy and whole, put you together–spirit, soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23, paraphrased, The Message). God the Maker—God at the center—God on the throne.

How is our peace barometer? What is the condition of the throne of our heart? What is there?  Who is there?

Peace.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Immanuel

Immanuel. We sing with a resounding “O come, O come Emmanuel…” Immanuel* (see below) meaning “God with us.” Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way do not understand Immanuel. Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matthew 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Corinthians 3:16). The God who dwells with us, among us and in us—God is Immanuel.

Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them. But the guy chose poorly. Alrighty then, let’s take a peek at just how much God is WITH YOU, His people and what He has planned: Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel” (v14, may we always pay attention to the ‘Therefore‘ of scripture). As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes. They STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence.

Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus. Matthew chapter 1: Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done deal). BUT she is pregnant (Hm…). He, a good man, plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her. Queue angelic messenger: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, the baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit, she will have a Son and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew gives narrative: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel – which means, “God with us” (vv 22-23).

God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed! God keeps His promises. The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us—He wants to! It is His plan. What a glorious plan.

This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left—back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand. Then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, revealed to John, “the dwelling place of God is with men…” (Revelation 21:3). Unhindered fellowship with God Himself. The thread of God’s reigning government is “God with us.”

So beautiful, so comforting—Immanuel. Jesus. Continue singing, “O come, O come Emmanuel…”

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings ultimately are because of different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. “Immanuel”) and Greek (N.T. “Emmanuel”) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.

YOU are the Reason for the Season

This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  It fits well as a lapel pin and written in gold on our Christmas cards.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet.

I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know—I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher. I watch how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions (hoping they are smiling behind that cloth mask).  The other day as I was Christmas shopping, I looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me—THEY are the reason for the season!

The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS—His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The best gift ever! Jesus came to earth, the divine, embodied in human form. His life message pointing to Godly Kingdom stuff. His death represents us. He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right hand of the Father—for US!  He came to fix the man-made mess. WE are the “whosoever.”  WE are the reason for the season! Even simpler, YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group-HUG!) Yes, it’s all about Jesus and we glorify Him! But what He did, He did for YOU!  He came for YOU!  What LOVE! THE best gift giving possible.  

Even with all the self-interest, self-immersion, self, self, self and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, up and over your mask and consider THEM!  What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus. Tell them why He came. Use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!”  Most know about the baby in the manger and most often, folks leave Jesus there—in the manger.  They either ignore or don’t know the rest. Now tell them about the grown up – KING.  

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours,

In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Myrrh, “Wait…what?”

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving.  We are in the season of hunting for those perfect gifts. We roam the mall, the local Walmart, Target or order and excitedly await the Amazon truck.

Gifts.

We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels. “Fear Not” statements. The Star of Bethlehem, and yes, the divine precious baby in the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and less compelling items to be had in the excitement. 

Consider if you will, the Magi (Matthew chapter 2) as they prepare for their trek to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. Tradition, not scripture, says there were three wise men, only because the three gifts that were given. They are packing, (imagine with me) dividing the supplies list. Then they come to the gift inventory; gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another. “Oh yeah” the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer to the King of Kings, M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone). You may think “Why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?” White elephant it is not. It is one among the triune gifts that are of great value.

Have we thought about these gifts? Gold, we have that one down. Next, frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense, highly fragrant when burned.  And myrrh, what is THAT?

The divine significance of myrrh: It also comes from the sap of a tree, yet it is not just some sticky goo creatively used.  It was:

1)  In the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23).

2)  In the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:6-13: The ointment is “Myron” which is myrrh-oil).

3)  Also, as one of the spices wrapped around His body following His death (John 19:39-40).

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger. Jesus with dark curly hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, now set before Jesus—our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The same perfumed myrrh now before small feet—perfume that would one day be poured over a grown man’s feet, those feet that would hang on a cross and be pierced.  

Jesus was also offered wine mixed with myrrh while on the cross, but He did not take it (Mark 15:23). Scholars believe Jesus refused to drink the mixture, due to its numbing effect.  He wanted to be fully aware—fully present in the suffering for mankind.  Myrrh (spices) wrapped around Jesus’ body.  Wrapped.  Just. Before. His. Resurrection!

Wonderful gift giving.  Gold, frankincense and yes, myrrh.  We celebrate Jesus, a child, Who one day, would be the man fulfilling this gift. Myrrh—HOW PROPHETIC.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Note: For those of you who work Crossword Puzzles: 5 letters down: “Anointing oil of the Tabernacle, the priests and Jesus?”  The answer: “Myrrh” (YAY! You’re welcome).

Mary Pondered

There is a story of four young Jewish Yeshiva students, (Jewish seminary).  One afternoon in a study session, one student gave a book to one of the men asking him to take a look and “Tell us what you think.”

Later that night, curious of the book, in eagerness, he sat down and opened to chapter one. He started to read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  (Pause).  “What?” he thought.  He read it again “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Excited, he stood up, exclaiming, “NO!” And continues, “God’s not finished!”  And closed the book! You see, in the ancient writings, originally there were no chapters, no verses and no punctuation. According to Hebrew thought (and method) they never paused until the complete thought was finished, they read to the edge of the story.  The book handed to this young man was the English King James version of the Bible. 

The very first verse is just part of a story.  That story is part of a bigger story —the historical story of God.  We often read, pause, or stop before the whole of a particular story is in sight.  Or we come to a famous or familiar portion of scripture, so familiar with a “Oh I know this part” we run our finger down and turn the page.

We read the story of Christmas in both Matthew and Luke.  We know this story as well—very well.  Both Mary and Joseph are told great things, divine things through angelic visits.  Mary, although never being with a man, would become pregnant, conceived of the Holy Spirit.  This baby boy would “save the people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). At one point, Joseph and Mary head to Bethlehem for the national census.  There are some housing issues.  Once settled, the baby, who is to be called Jesus, is born. 

Luke chapter 2 tells of the shepherds living in the fields taking care of the sheep.  They too get an angelic visit, declaring good news, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (2:11). The shepherds are told what to look for. Then the backup singers appear, angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” (v14). When the angels exit, so do the shepherds. Excited, they go and find Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.  As they do, they tell any and all who will listen what they were told. 

Glorious and full of splendor! Yet we tend to stop here.  But the story isn’t over.  Keep reading.  All who heard what the Shepherds reported hearing were—amazed.  Then v19, this verse is challenging, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”   This young gal took all that has been said to her, to Joseph and now the shepherds and did some pondering. 

The Jewish people were (are) a storytelling culture.  From a noticeably young age, they are told the story of God and of their people.  From the very beginning when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, where mankind broke relationship with their God.   Throughout many, many generations, God used prophets, law and the lives of people to tell His story—the story of restoring relationship

Mary pondered the miraculous virgin birth, the coming of the Savior, and the declaration of “peace on earth.” It ALL slipped into the ongoing story line and fit perfectly! The story of restoring relationship, restoring peace.  Biblical peace isn’t just the lack of conflict; it is the presence of the rightness of God.  It literally means “to set at one again.” Conveying what once has been toppled over was now righted and set at one again—peace.  

Mary took ALL this and she pondered it.  Her pondering isn’t mere tucking it away and thinking on it now and then.  The word Luke uses conveys “putting together.”  She connected all the dots.  She lined it all up. When all strung together, all the pieces fit. Each piece has beauty in itself. But what a glorious bigger story.  Mary, the shepherds (and those amazed) were told their whole life, the Jewish people were waiting to be rescued—the Messiah. God has just sent the answer to their waiting—His Son, Jesus. 

When reading our bibles, don’t stop or skim over the famous or familiar parts. Keep reading, like the young Jewish men—beyond to the edge of the story.  The same Holy Spirit that inspired, breathed on the writers, He breathes on we, the readers. Invite Him to read with us. In this Christmas season, may we truly treasure the bigger story. May we ponder, putting together all the divine stuff—God’s gracious, loving restoring of relationship, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord… “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…”

Mary pondered.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

God is in the Not

Expectation. “A strong belief that something will happen” (so says Webster’s Dictionary). I’d offer, we generally take it further. We not only believe it will happen, but we list out HOW, WHEN, and WHERE. We define the outcome. Once the occasion has come, we hold it up to our expectations and scrutinize as if looking at a counterfeit bill with squinted eyes.

Our expectations (although good at times) can be a distraction.

Recently I went through some health issues, and still recovering. What an amazing learning season. As I was preparing for an upcoming surgery, I was rather anxious. Taking Paul’s divine inspired words to heart, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6, NIV). I prayed. I prayed specifically. I prayed the surgery would be “textbook.”  I prayed with heartfelt longing. I wanted God’s best. I wanted Him.

Thanking God—off we went.

Following the surgery, the surgeons came in and said everything went well, one stated (without any prior prompting) “It was textbook.”  (Check √). As some time went on, I grew exhausted. In my exhaustion, I picked up my “expectation list” and began to review it. Running my finger down the list, I was looking for that warm—wrapped—in—blanket—presence of God. I didn’t sense it. I had in the past. Where were You God? Where are You?

When we ask God pointed questions, be ready for an answer.

“Besides the textbook surgery (I can almost see God winking) … How was your pain level, were you in pain?”  No, I was not. “Were there complications?” No, there was not. “Are the doctors concerned for the outcome?” Nope, they are not. “Will there be any long-term limitations?”  No—not.

God is in the not.

So often we look for highlighting moments worthy to write in our journals. Things, events that stand out as extraordinary (There WILL be those). But, how often we fail to see, in the quiet, tucked behind our personal hype—God working. God orchestrating like only He can.

Through all this, I have asked God to move me beyond MY expectation, to true anticipation: awaiting, preparing, longing to see how HE moves. King David wrote: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul…I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:8-10). Putting my trust (unconditionally, without my advice) in God, WILL enable Him to “show me.” Giving myself, hiding myself in Him, enables Him to “teach me.”

THIS has been a “write in my journal” (if I had one) moment. Highlighted. Circled. Underlined. “Positioning ourselves according to OUR expectations distracts us, potentially missing God in the process.”

God is in the not.

Please know, YES, there are times we need to contend, to move beyond an appearing “No” (prayer, fasting, spiritual warfare) but there are times, we need to accept God working, giving Him glory.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

A Reason for Thanksgiving

Turkey, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad. (Breathe) Dinner plates, napkins, silverware, glasses, AND centerpiece. THANKSGIVING! I love this holiday. Food, family, and football. A set time to pause, consider and ponder what we are thankful for.

There are seasons when it may be difficult to pull forward on the shelf of our life something to be thankful for. We may have just lost a job or a loved one. Or our bank account matches our emotional bucket of strength—empty. Yet there IS something to be thankful for. You have a REASON for thanksgiving.

The great Psalm of thanks opens with, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good” (136:1). The Hebrew language renders a beautiful word picture, “Give thanks…” painting the idea of reverent acknowledgment and of worship—with extended hands.

His love endures forever.” The author found it needful to repeat this phrase twenty-six times throughout the rest of the Psalm. This word love (in Hebrew) is “hesed.” We know it biblically as mercy, goodness, loyalty and steadfast love and even—grace.  What a pivotal word.

This mercy-filled love is enveloped in personal involvement and commitment to relationship. That is our God. He is pleased when it is reciprocated “For I delight in loyalty (hesed) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, emphasis mine). Our God desires faithful love in relational awareness of Him.

His lovingkindness is precious (Ps. 36:7) marvelous (Ps. 17:7) undeserving (Ps. 103) abounding (Ps. 86:5) reviving (Ps.119:159) satisfying (Ps. 90:14) and everlasting (Ps. 103:17). Thankful yet?

David’s well known and beloved Psalm 23 (v6) “Surely goodness and MERCY will follow me all the days of my life.” Mercy is hesed.  This “follow” is not a mere tag along behind, but—PURSUIT. David knows the concept of pursuit. God’s unending, steadfast love, full of mercy, pursued David. He pursues us! He pursues YOU. He is unrelenting. Aren’t you GLAD He does not let up, let go! Reason for thanksgiving indeed! “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

As we share around the table amongst the laughter and love, the blessing of health and family, may we too declare, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…” (Psalm 107:1-2a)

From our table to yours. Thankful.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Encourager

Encouragement, we all could use it now and then. Whether in the form of a kind word, loving gesture or standing along side us in troubled times.

Recently I was studying the conversion of Saul (known later as “Paul”) in Acts 9, when I ran head long into Barnabas. I love this guy. When Saul went to Jerusalem and attempted to have fellowship with the disciples, they were afraid and would not accept him. They didn’t believe him to now be a true disciple (a learner, in this case, a learner of Jesus, one who positions himself to understand, accepting the instruction given and makes it his rule of conduct). Saul’s prior “conduct” was contradictive of the teachings of Jesus. What was this man’s angle? The man who “breathed out murderous threats” (9:1), who now claims to be a Jesus follower and wants in their ranks.

  • We tend to fear what we don’t understand, what we don’t see. They hadn’t seen any true evidence —yet.

But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (v27). Barnabas, (Joseph) a Levite, he is first mentioned in Acts 4:36. He is nicknamed by the apostles “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement” which is quite fitting as he introduced the newly converted Saul to the circle of believers. Barnabas also stood up for the young John Mark when Paul did not want to take him with them on their missionary journey (15:36-39).*

What did Barnabas see in Saul that the others didn’t? We can speculate till the cows come home, yet it seems to be Barnabas’ nature; he was an encourager (one who invokes courage with presence and action). After all, he did take Saul to the apostles, testifying that Saul HAD an encounter with Jesus and Saul “preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (v27b). I doubt Saul went kicking and screaming, but what a bold act for Barnabas, putting his own relationship/reputation on the line with the spiritual leaders for the former persecutor of the church now turned promoter.

Not only was Barnabas an encourager, but he was also a reconciler. Placing Saul before the church leaders, was an act of reconciliation, for Saul AND the leadership and the believing church. Reconciliation where there was once strife, hostility, and of recent, misunderstanding.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Many read that quickly and interpret it as “peacekeeper.” There is a difference between maker and keeper.

Peacekeepers listen, notice, pay close attention and draw others in (Group hug). Peacekeepers tend to the comfort of others, embracing both sides of an argument—equally. Attempting to please both sides, hoping to not rock the boat—playing a balancing act. But peacekeepers can make themselves small and keep their own voice quiet to avoid conflict, settling for a false peace in hopes of avoiding relational fallout.

Peacemakers promote God’s peace, (total well-being and wholeness through the redemptive work of Jesus) with “whatever it takes” tactics. It is active, intentional, and discerning. They engage in messy, back-breaking, work—and they don’t care so much whether anyone is comfortable (including themselves). Their goal is God’s goal. Bring what has been toppled over back into its slotted place, erecting God and God stuff at the center of it all, which is true peace. 

Barnabas was an encourager, reconciler, and peacemaker. May we all have a “But Barnabas” in our life. May we all BE a “But Barnabas” for others.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

* Paul later sees the good (and God) in Mark and makes mention of him (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Phm 1:24).

Seasons Unaware

I love autumn, the crisp morning air, the weather changes from hot sunny days to now wrapping yourself in your favorite quilt. Oh, and those vibrant yellow, orange, and red leaves. I find it fascinating that so much beauty can come from a season of change. 

Seasons. 

With so much uncertainty in the world, there is however a guarantee, according to God’s design.  There WILL be another season. Fall and eventually winter. Winter turns to spring, where again it carries new life bursting forth.

The Lord has shown me that just as the atmosphere changes (often it is packaged within the holiday season) we too can personally experience a change of season. This season comes with a potentially entangled set of habits or life patterns and not to mention (but I will) a set of emotions.

For some of us our season is lingering. The cold emotional winter drags on, and on and on. Or perhaps something triggers you and an unhealthy season reappears. A season of your life you were confident had passed. A season when you chose quite unwisely, and the memories haunt you like a hungry hyena. Or you flip the calendar page and there it is – THE month. The one you dread. The month you experienced betrayal or the death(s) of a loved one. *

I experienced something similar a few years ago. It was a beautiful sunny fall day. I was driving to my granddaughter’s school to pick her up. Once in the parking lot, backing up, parking, stepping out—instantly I stopped—feeling complete dread and sorrow. Then again walking towards the school. I asked God, “WHAT is this?”  He reminded me, the same scenario; sunny day, cool and crisp, orange, and red leaves, school buses, and it was HERE! Here, I received a phone call with very traumatic news.  Sorrowful news – stop in your track’s news. News that tore my family to its very core.  It was all so familiar, in a way that I was not aware.

With this revelation, I knew this needed to be broken! “In Jesus’ name!”  I couldn’t go through life filled with sorrow whenever the leaves changed. So, I took authority over the familiarity, over the dread, the sorrow. Breaking the emotional AND spiritual hold.  The fall season still gives brief twinges of pain, but no longer holds its pain-filled traumatic grip on me.

God does not want us living in the past.  Each new day is a gift.  If we keep our hands full of the old stuff — there is no room for the new.  And folks we got us some stuff.  And if we are not certain what it is that is overwhelming us—ask God!  

Times and seasons CAN be broken! Daniel praised God saying: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever. Wisdom and power are His. He changes the times and the seasonsHe removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise. And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” (2:20-22).

Pray with me: “Father, may You reveal to us the seasons we may not be aware of.  Seasons we only feel the effects. Show us. Perhaps it is time to lay a few things down, some habits, patterns and emotions. Empty our hands as we wait in expectant joy as You “… change the seasons.”  Break the familiarity in JESUS’ NAME!  Free us. Let there no longer be “stop in our tracks” unaware – but moving forward with each new day. With NEW stuff in our hands. Good God stuff. Your stuff. All for YOUR glory. Amen.”

Please know, we don’t forget. However, we allow ourselves to be freed from the heavy blanket of the past. God has new, restoring, healed, and healthy seasons.  

  • He changes. 
  • He removes. 
  • He gives. 
  • He reveals. 
  • He KNOWS!

*For my brothers, Jeremy and Jeff—when the fall season hurts. Yet, God!  

He brings the new.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Selah, Pause & Praise

Our lives tend to ramble from one crazy thing to another in quick motion. Our pockets buzz with Twitter, Instagram, texting and of course Facebook. All the while #hashtagging each moment of each day. Our lives—on the go.

Fast.

Busy.

Tired.

I have one word, Selah.

“But Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head.
I cried unto the LORD with my voice and He heard me out of His holy hill.
Selah
” – King David, Psalm 3:3-4

Selah is used seventy-four times in the Bible. All but three are in the Psalms, the others are in the Prayer of Habakkuk (3:3,9,13). The purest meaning of the word really is uncertain. A common thread however conveys Selah to be rendered from two Hebrew words: salah to pause. The other, salal, meaning to praise

Scholars creatively speculate:  Selah, due to its poetic usage in the Psalms can refer to a musical or worshipful note indicating a transition. “Here, take a breath, here” (before moving on). It can be a crescendo (the high point in the gradual increase of intensity). Or it can be a musical interlude; a pause designed to disrupt or to draw attention (may I offer) draw attention in the pause.   Pause leading to rest and reflect on the preceding words. Meditating on the depth of insight.

The Psalm above was written when David was being pursued by his “seeking the throne for his own” son, Absalom. He opens the Psalm with, “O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying, “God will not deliver him.” Selah.” Can you hear the earnest tone, the anguish of heart? Verse 3BUT YOU are my shield around me, O LORDYOU bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hillSelah” (emphasis mine). 

How many of us need to gracefully transition from one circumstance to another? Selah. Perhaps take note and appreciate the high point. Selah.  When was the last time we stood still and took a breather, a serious breather —we paused and praised? Selah.  When was the last time we rested and truly became aware of Who God is and what He is doing? 

But You, O LORD.  Selah.

An amazingly beautiful word. May we too find selah among the poetry of our lives. Pause and praise.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

A Day I Can Forgo

It’s here, THAT season. It’s already in stores. Halloween.  Stores have freshly stocked shelves with 30% off ticket items by the rows. There are black cats, witch hats, spiders, eerie tombstones and yes, the ever-dreaded skulls.   I LOVE the fall; it is my favorite season. The colors so rich. I decorate seasonally my home with the warm orange, burgundy and brown tones. But Halloween does not roll this gals socks.

I am often asked why I have chosen not to celebrate Halloween. Why I don’t find it “all in fun.”  What is fun about it?  If you narrow it down, take a step back, the basic theme is of fear, death, and darkness—regardless of how we attempt to cutesy it or slap a smile on it.  No, not for me. Before I get all kinds of comments, emails, texts, and smoke signals, please let me explain why (for me) I choose not to.   My family used to do the Halloween thing when I was little. Sure, I wore the thin fabric climb in costumes with the sweaty plastic masks.  But, after I came to understand and was adopted as a daughter of the Most High God and learning of His Majesty and His glorious light—I do not participate in the day of darkness. Yes, you would say “darkness and light struggle 365 days a year, why be bothered by one day?” One-singled-out-day. 

Regardless. A day I can forgo.

I have seen (you can’t un-see or un-know) and experienced too much from the dark side to play with it like a child’s toy or pretend in dress up.  While the parties take place, the candy bowls filled and children run from door to door, unbeknownst to us in the background, far in the dark corners, there are cultic activities taking place.  Those deeply into the occult take this holiday very seriously and yes, the dark forces they are dealing with are very real!  (*See the history of Halloween below). And by the way, (standing a lil taller on my soapbox) there is no such thing as a “Good Witch” regardless of how Hallmark wants to title it. 

We must remember, “our great enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Darkness always has an agenda.  ALWAYS.  It will come again and again for any crack—any opportunity to subtly peek in with the ugly and the demonic. Anything to oppose the gracious love and beauty of our God.

Alrighty. Gently climbing down off my soapbox (as not to hurt myself) and dragging it back to the corner.  No condemnation, just offering insight. You are loved.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

*History of Halloween: “Halloween’s customs are thought to have been influenced and dated back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) the celebration of their New Year on November 1. They believed the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred (Oct 31) and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities, this done in attempts to appease them. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.” [History.com] In addition, according to Wiccans, Halloween is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is considered to be the thinnest. They celebrate and take advantage of such status. I used to work with an openly devout Wiccan (we sat next to each other). I was so distracted by her dark atmosphere. It was creepy. As I began to pray for her and over her, within a week, she was gone. I came in one day and her desk was cleaned out.

Intentional

Being intentional is defined as being committed to giving our attention to what is important to us.  What we prioritize we are eager and ready to address.                                                                  

King David was intentional when bringing the ark of God back to Jerusalem – the second time.  The first attempt didn’t go so well. Things went terribly wrong.   They loaded it up on a cart and headed out (2 Samuel 6).  The oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to stabilize it, but “the LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act” – Uzzah died. He was not authorized to touch it (see Numbers 4/see also Leviticus 10:1-2, regarding “unauthorized”).  The narrative states that David was not only angry but was also afraid – and now not willing to proceed.  So much went wrong in that first attempt.  Yes, David was zealous (ready & eager) but zeal alone, zeal without knowledge and what doesn’t have God’s approval makes for a terrible mess. (Anyone? Or is it just me?)

David soon finds out that where he left the ark (with Obed-Edom) he and his whole family is being greatly blessed. David realizes perhaps the ark is not the problem.  The problem was his transporting method.  There was God-given instruction to be followed (Exodus 25:12-15, leave the poles in the rings, so that there would be no mistake on HOW to carry it – see also Joshua 3:3, the Levites carry the ark).  David prioritized the ark of God and again committed to bringing it to Jerusalem, but this time he did it the right way.  He was intentional.  “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way” (1 Chronicles 15:13). The prescribed way. There was consecration, sacrifices and worship. They brought the ark to Jerusalem. The story goes on to say after all this, “The LORD had given him (David) rest from all his enemies around him” (2 Samuel 7:1).

David was also intentional about God’s presence, “I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). He was intentional about God’s word, “I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Praise be to You, O LORD; teach me Your decrees” (Psalm 119:10-12).

Being intentional is prioritizing with a plan and putting that plan into practice.

One of the greatest enemies of the heart is regret. Disappointed over something that has happened or a missed opportunity. Regret what we did.   Regret what we “didn’t.”  May we all like King David, be intentional about the things of God. Our relationship with Him and with others. If needed, make some adjustments.  Stay focused. Don’t get distracted.  Do it His way. Be purposeful of His presence –His word.  What a heartache if we heard the whispered “If only I had…”  escape from our lips because we were not –intentional.

Intentional is the word for the year at our church.  I love it. I have embraced it. 

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

Ishmael Issues

Have you ever had a goal and then do a course alteration? But in doing so, you find there were huge ramifications with the change?

So it was with Abraham* of the bible. “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3, NIV).

So off he goes. Through some trekking and delays, he and his wife, Sarah* and Lot, his nephew, end up in Canaan. It was here God said, “To your offspring I will give THIS land” (v7, emphasis mine). He was home. Abraham built altars to the Lord and pitched his tent in many places within Canaan.  Soon a famine comes. Abraham loads everyone up and leaves and goes to Egypt in hope of finding provision. He goes without God telling him to.  You can almost hear God say, “Wait, where are you going?”  

Once in Egypt, Abraham prompts Sarah to say she is Abraham’s sister (a half truth, she is his half-sister). Due to Sarah’s beauty, Abraham was safer as her brother, than her husband (as husband, he’d likely be killed). Sarah was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh at first treated Abraham well, because of Sarah. He gave Abraham sheep, oxen and donkeys. He also gave him male and female servants (Genesis 12:16). Personally, a gift certificate would have worked (just kidding).

This is where it gets interesting. Pharaoh finds out Sarah was Abrahams’ wife. Just in time.  God protected Sarah (and her future offspring to be only from Abraham).  They were sent out of Egypt with all Abe had acquired while there.  Abraham acquired “female servants” – one was named Hagar (Genesis 16:1).  To make a long story short: God had promised Abraham descendants, (Genesis 15:1-6) yet he and Sarah had no children.  So, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to bear her a child (as was the custom of the day).  Ishmael was born.

But Ishmael was not the true heir. Isaac – Abraham and Sarah’s birth son was the true promised heir of God (Genesis 17:15-21; 21:1-7).  Ishmael and Hagar are later sent away and the Ishmaelites grow into the Arab countrymen we know today, which the majority (not all) make claim to follow Allah (which is NOT Yahweh) within the Muslim religion. Since then, there has been friction between the Jewish nation (and Christians) and a large community of Arab Muslim practicing people. The Muslims claim that their ancestor Ishmael was the heir to the promise (but the holy scriptures of the Bible state otherwise).

Course alteration.

If Abraham had stayed put in Canaan and trusted that God would take care of him, provide and protect him and not flee to Egypt – where he tried to fix things on his own, he would not have brought back Hagar.  There would not have been an “Ishmael Issue.” 

I find it fascinating that when Abe and crew were in Canaan, Abraham built altars to God (symbolic of worship) but while in Egypt there is no mention of altar building.  Shouldn’t THAT have been a red flag for Abe? His situation, his location, his heart motive didn’t constitute worship for his God.  He wasn’t where he was supposed to be – worship didn’t flow from it.  If we can’t worship God where we are – we are in the wrong place.  Abraham did go back to Canaan, where he again built an altar to the Lord (Genesis 13:12,18).

How many times do we try to fix things ourselves? Go where we are not directed to go. Even if the detour is meant to be temporary, anything away from God’s will, can prove disastrous. Endanger others. Perhaps go and bring back what was not intended for us.  When we do, we too have Ishmael Issues.  Consequences. Hardships. Even birth friction where not needed. True obedience is doing what God says, when He says, and how He says to do it. Any course altering is ultimately, disastrously, sadly – disobedience.

Course alteration.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).

*Abram’s name wasn’t changed until chapter 17, for familiarity’s sake I used Abraham.  The same for Sarai, changed to Sarah.

Note: Canaan was the Promised Land – we see the history of the Israelites took quite a few detours and delays to get back home.