Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mary’s Faith

Happy Thanksgiving! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are in Chapter 3 “The Virgin Mother Kind.”

This week, we move from Elizabeth and Zechariah to Mary’s visit from the angel Gabriel.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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 conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants 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 on 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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
I find it beautiful and amazing how seemingly easy Mary laid down her plans for God’s will for her life.

No doubt, Mary had plans. She was engaged to Joseph, a good man in the line of King David. Perhaps they were looking forward to a quiet life together. He made a living as a carpenter, and they would raise their family, without calling attention to themselves. No drama. No questions or gossip from family and neighbors.

But God had different plans. Wonderful plans. Plans that would be for all people.

Mary would be the mother of Jesus.

According to Scripture, she asked one question, not because she doubted what she was being told, but because her human mind only knew one way to conceive a child, and that one way had not yet occurred.

Did she wonder what she was going to tell Joseph? Or did she just know that God was going to work it all out His way?

It’s hard for me to not think of next steps and consequences. But if Mary thought about this, she didn’t voice it.

Her faith shines here.

One question. Gabriel’s answer. And without hesitation, Mary willingly embraces God’s will for her life.

What a moment that must have been for her—chosen and blessed to be the mother of God’s Son.

God will never choose another for that role, but He calls us for work in His Kingdom all the time.

Mary walked in faith. She let it guide her.

Will you?

In Christ,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 3

Happy Thanksgiving week!

In Christ,

Week 3 – Nov. 24-30
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 3 “The Virgin Mother Kind.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 3 study questions on pgs. 184-185.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 3.

Friday – Review this week’s reading and spend time in prayer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Expressing Thanks

Throughout November, the writers at 5 Minutes for Faith are expressing thanks.

What are you thankful for today?

In Christ,

Linking up with Still Saturday and Jumping Tandem - The Sunday Community

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Letting Go

Welcome! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are in Chapter 2 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

I’ve still been thinking about something I wrote last week, while looking at Elizabeth and Zechariah…“At some point, they must have decided that a child was not in God’s plans for them.” And I’ve been wondering…

When is it time to lay down a dream, and does laying it down mean I’m putting a time limit on God?

Maybe the difference is whether or not we take it into our own hands and try to make it happen any way we can.

For Elizabeth and Zechariah, they could have decided that since they were getting older, and Elizabeth was unable to conceive, Zechariah should have a child with another woman. But they didn’t.

Scripture tells us they were faithful and God saw them as righteous, so they must have laid down the dream for a child, and depended on God to get them through the disappointment.

I don’t think laying a dream down means giving up on God, but instead, forgoing our plans and desires for what God has planned. Even when we don’t know what that is.

There will be disappointment and sadness with accepting that we may not ever have something we desire so badly (a child, a spouse, healing, the perfect career, etc.), but letting it go allows for time to grieve and the ability to move on.

It releases us from the worry, obsessing, and trying to figure out how to make it happen. We let go and let God be in control.

Elizabeth and Zechariah didn’t know when they let their dream go what God had planned. Maybe for Zechariah to be the chosen priest from his order to enter the sanctuary and burn incense was another dream of theirs. And that day, they saw their dream come true. 

They never turned away from God, but in faith, they kept hoping in expectation of what He would do.

And there was no way they could have imagined that on that same day, God would resurrect a dream they had given back to Him—their dream for a child.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Ephesians 3:20 The Message

How about you? Is there a dream you’ve let go, in hope and anticipation of what God has planned—even when you have no idea of what that might be?

In Christ,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time to Regroup

Last week, I sat in a meeting where a project I was involved in was presented. Unlike an earlier presentation, this meeting did not go well and almost every part of the plan was picked apart, as if someone was in a particularly bad mood.

My teammate and I left the meeting confused at the reaction and frustrated with the thought of starting over, but decided to meet the next morning to regroup.

As I drove home, I thought about how my personal plans often seem like the best route to take, only to encounter one roadblock after another. Although God doesn’t tell me how each step isn’t going to work, He does slow me down and close doors where I’m not supposed to go.

It can be just as confusing and frustrating as this meeting was. The prospect of scrapping my plans and starting over feels tiresome and discouraging. While I want to get right to the end goal, God’s timing usually involves waiting.

But waiting doesn’t always mean God has said no. Sometimes, my way just isn’t what God has in mind. To wait for what He has planned, I have to slow down and regroup, letting God lead instead of rushing ahead.

The next morning, we looked at what worked, and what needed to be tweaked. By adding some new details and adjusting the time frame, the project came together—looking better than it was before.

Isn’t that the way it is with God’s plans? I can choose to push forward putting what I want into action, but if I pause and spend time in prayer first, I’ll most likely find that God has a better way in mind. 

And with His way, I’ll have a guide—Someone to travel with.

Certainly, that’s worth slowing down my steps to see what God has planned.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. 
Proverbs 16:9 NLT

Has there been a time when you slowed down your plans to regroup, and God showed you a better way?

In Christ,

Photo credit: Stock photo: people

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 2

Have a great week!

In Christ,

Week 2 – Nov. 17-23
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 2 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 2 study questions on pgs. 183-184.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 2.

Friday - Reflect back on this week's reading and study questions. Catch up on Chapters 1-2, if necessary.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Choosing God’s Way

Welcome! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are looking at Elizabeth and Zechariah in Chapter 1, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.”

There is a verse in Philippians that holds power for me. I’ve memorized it, I personalize it, and I rely on it.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT
Although, Elizabeth and Zechariah wouldn’t have had Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi to read, God’s power was very much a part of their lives.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. Luke 1:6 NLT
Glancing at the verse, I could think obedience wouldn’t even be a question. Zechariah was a priest; they would have had to obey the Lord’s commandments and regulations.

But God saw them as righteous.

For Zechariah and Elizabeth, it was more than just following the rules. They weren’t obedient to earn God’s favor. They were obedient because they loved God.

Like Abraham, so many years before, it was because of their faith that God counted them as righteous, not because of what they did.

So, for me, the question isn’t whether or not they were obedient, it’s how were they able to stay faithful and obedient?

Like our lives today, theirs weren’t perfect. Despite years of praying for a child, they were childless. And aging. At some point, they must have decided that a child was not in God’s plans for them.

And yet, they continued to live their lives for God.
Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. Luke 1:6 The Message
How did they not let their disappointment, discouragement, and sadness get between them and God?

How do we?

They made a decision to rely on God, and through that decision, God’s power and strength were at work within them giving them the ability to stay faithful and obedient.

God’s power and strength is for us too.
God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. Philippians 2:13 CEV
It is God who gives us the desire and strength to stay faithful to Him.

How often do we find ourselves at a cross-road with a decision to make?

We see God’s way and know staying faithful is the right thing to do. But we know what we want, and maybe we could make it happen by going the other way.

Temptation is powerful, and the enemy uses it to encourage us to go the other way.

So, how do we choose God’s way when we’re weak, tired, and discouraged?

By relying on the strength and power God gives. He won’t force it on us, but it’s there—freely given for anyone who chooses to accept it.

And not to accept it just once, but every day, every hour, even every minute, relying on God, instead of ourselves.

In the face of temptation, we often don’t want to choose what’s right, or don’t have the strength to choose. But when we keep calling out to God—trusting Him to provide what we need to make the right choices—He is there.

He is the One who gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him—to act in obedience and stay faithful—in all circumstances.

In Christ,

[Photo credit: Stock photo: the way]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Small Steps to Big Growth

Last week, I was at Gloria Dei talking about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between.

Today, I’m there continuing the conversation…

Transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?

Please join me on the Gloria Dei blog to continue reading as we talk about taking small steps toward big growth.

What small steps are you taking to deepen your trust in God?

In Christ,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Women of Christmas Study - Week 1

Welcome! This week we begin our study of The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. If you're reading along, the suggested reading schedule for this week is below. Each Wednesday, the author is doing a Bible study to go with the book on her blog. The link will be included in each week's schedule. Stop back later this week when I'll post my thoughts on Chapter 1. 

In Christ,

Week 1 – Nov. 10-16
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 1 “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 1 study questions on pgs. 181-183.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 1.

Friday – Reflect back and journal on this week’s reading and study questions.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

What I Learned by Not Going to Allume

A few weeks ago, the annual Allume conference—a gathering of hundreds of women, meeting together as a community of writers, bloggers, and speakers—was held in South Carolina. I wasn’t there.

I would’ve liked to attend, but certain factors, like cost, timing, travel, etc., got in the way. Most of the time, I was okay with not going. Other times, the enemy used it against me, telling me I’d never get there and everyone was moving ahead in this online world, while I was left behind. Every time jealousy stirred my insides (You know, that feeling of being eaten from the inside out?) I tried my best to give it to God.

Meanwhile, God was asking me to give up some particular dreams I was tightly clinging to, and I wasn’t particularly happy with His request. But, being the awesome God that He is, He explained. At a completely unexpected moment, He whispered to my heart…

You want them to think you’re important.

I was speechless—literally, mouth open, but without a word to say. I replayed His words to me over and over in my mind, and something clicked.

I realized I was looking to these dreams to define me, instead of how God defines me.

I thought about it for days, as the Allume conference came and went. Over the next week, I read posts by other writers and bloggers about what they learned at Allume.

I was surprised to read that many of the women who went, felt the same need I did—the need to feel like we belong…to measure up to others’ accomplishments—the need to feel important.

It didn’t matter whether I had attended Allume or not. It seemed God was teaching us the same lesson.

It’s not the people we know or what we accomplish that makes us important. It’s Who we know. And His opinion is the only one that matters.

It’s made me realize that I wasn’t left behind by staying home, because this is where I was supposed to be, right where He called me.

As for the Allume conference, I still want to attend someday…when God says it’s where He wants me. Until then, I think I like this little place He’s given me in the online world.

In Christ,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Other Side

License: Public Domain
For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing at Gloria Dei about the Land Between—when what used to be normal in our lives has changed, and what the future will be is unknown.

Today, I’m there talking about when we reach the other side of the Land Between. Whether it’s sooner or later, eventually, life settles down, and we can look back at where we’ve been and what we’ve gone through.

The question is…

When you look back from the other side of the Land Between, what do you see?

Is your relationship with God stronger than it was before? Or, have you realized that somewhere along the way, you stopped turning to God?

The Land Between is a perfect time for transformational growth to occur, and one of two things will happen—we will move toward God or away from Him.

Join me at Gloria Dei to read my post The Other Side. What do you see when you look back on your journey through the Land Between?

In Christ,