Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wind of Change

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Looking out the window of the exercise center that I attend several times a week has become one of my favorite pastimes.  It literally is a “pastime” because it makes the time past more easily and faster as I am doing one of my least most favorite, but necessary things to do. The views are nice; there is a lake where dozens of geese have taken residence, fish that we can actually see when the lake is not frozen over and all sorts of foliage that change with the seasons.  You might say that I really get a “bird’s eye” view from the center’s second story perch, and it is beautiful with each season. 
One thing that I am learning about myself, even at this (ahem)...later stage, notice I didn’t say older, is that God speaks to me through nature, my surroundings. Now while I know that this is certainly not unique, it is exciting for me because His messages always line up with His Word and it is as clear as a bell to me. That is why none of us will be with an excuse when we stand before Him to say “Lord, I just didn’t know, You never showed me Your Truth.” He is a beyond fair God, a just God, not willing that any should perish and be separated from Him for eternity; and so He tentatively and patiently uses whatever means necessary to get our attention so that we know that He is not only with us, but He is for us.

One of the things that caught my attention as I looked out of that window is a tree, that even in this cold of winter and the other trees are bare, it still holds some of its “fruit”.  Now while this may sound very noble of this tree, the fact is that because the “fruit” is beyond its season of harvest, it is now useless.  The frost, and fluctuating temperatures have made it just a piece of nothing hanging on the tree. This scenario brought to me another lesson the Lord showed me…now go back with me several years…
It was the end of the fall season 1995, this was before the back porch was enclosed and I would get up very early to sit there to have my time with the Lord before getting ready for work.  It was a cool morning with the sun just rising and as I sat quietly gusts of wind came by and rustled the leaves on a nearby tree, causing them all to fall off and dance with the wind. I heard a voice in my heart say “My Spirit is moving and those that flow with me, those that are willing to trust me, let go and flow with me, will follow me, just as those leaves flowed with the wind.”  To this day I don’t know why I did this, but God knows me is all I can say. Anyway I looked over in my neighbor’s yard and there was an Oak tree with lots of its leaves still attached. The same wind was gusting by, and yet the leaves on

that tree remained. So I asked “Lord but those leaves are still holding on.”  And to that He replied to my heart “There will be many that will cling to what they believe is trustworthy, but whoever trusts in Me will hear My voice and flow with Me.”

Now you have to understand that was also during the time when a message coming from some nationwide pulpits was “God is doing a shaking and those that are not submitted to the leadership will be shaken off.”  To be quite frank with you...that scared me! And that was because I did not know the character of God for myself.  God does not shake us off and toss us away because we are not submitted to a man…He wants us to be submitted to His love, which He demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice. Now I see that He was speaking to me during a time when I had many questions about what I was experiencing.  Thank You Lord!
That was many years ago and I have never forgotten it.  Many changes have come into my life…Major ones, minor ones. Some that made me feel as if I could not take the next breath without crumbling to pieces. Some that meant letting go when I thought it would be forever…some that meant taking a long good look at myself and seeing the real me who was not what I thought I was. False humility is a terrible thing. But through it all God has been so very faithful: assuring me it’s okay to breathe, I won’t fall apart; showing me it’s okay to let go, because He is there to catch me; and gently and lovingly holding the sides of my face as I look into the mirror of reality and see that though I’m not perfect, He is… and I can hide myself in Him as I surrender to His will.

The Wind of change is constantly blowing in our lives, God is constantly offering direction to flow with how His spirit is moving.  Will we be like the tree whose leaves surrendered to the wind and effortlessly let go and danced with the wind, following its lead?  Or will we be like that mighty Oak tree I saw that was tenaciously holding on to its leaves no matter how the wind blew.  Or like that tree I see out the window that had its little fruit still holding on even in the winter, fruit but absolutely useless.  There is a whole other message right there.  Folks still holding on to things that God may have effectively used years ago, and refusing to change with His movement…
Oh! As for my neighbor’s 40 foot Oak Tree that was holding on to those leaves, well a little storm came by a couple of years ago, called Hurricane Sandy, ever heard of it? Well Mr. Oak Tree was introduced to Ms. Sandy and guess what? Sandy must not have liked it, because down Mr. Oak tree went, all 40 feet of it.  My neighbor could not understand how the tree that is known for its sturdiness could topple so easily, when the other more fragile trees withstood the storm.  Well, and this is another message within itself but, in a nutshell: apparently the roots (foundation) of the oak
tree had been compromised when some stump grinding of nearby trees in close proximity were done earlier in the year. Mr. Oak Tree’s exterior appearance looked very stable but its roots weren’t as deep as it thought, so when Sandy came along that October 2012, it literally became a push over…with all its leaves still firmly attached…  ‘nough said.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Season of Joy!

Oh what great memories I have of Christmases past!  Growing up in South Carolina we did not have cold weather or snow for Christmas, but still it was an exciting time. Going to the Christmas parade with all the local high school marching bands, the department stores (we only had about 2 big ones) all lit up with Christmas decorations and Christmas music piping through the speakers, all made my heart as a little girl race with excitement.

On our local radio station, every Friday night after Thanksgiving, "Santa" would come on and read all the letters that he received from us kids in the community. Of course I sent one every year (until my brother told me that there was no Santa Claus and it was stupid).  But back then it was so exciting to hear when "Santa" would read my letter over the airwaves. He would say "...and this letter comes from Veronica Byrd that lives on Lincoln Avenue...she says that she has been a good girl and would like me to bring her a Tiny Tears Doll, a china tea set (yes I loved tea things even back then) and lots of fruit and candy Ho Ho Ho!" Oh my gosh I thought I would pass out because my heart was beating so fast!  Santa read MY letter...he knew ME and heard my request!  And as a child I had no problem believing that...it makes me smile now as I write this...oh a child's faith!  Is that the kind of faith that Jesus talks about in Matthew 18:3? And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Oh God may we have the faith to believe without a doubt that You not only know us, but You hear our requests and to be confident that You will answer us according to Your will...

Now we know that Santa is not a real person and parents have many theories and reasons for encouraging or not encouraging their children to believe in Santa and I respect that; and I am in no way comparing Santa to Jesus...trust me there is NO comparison.  But as I was just thinking about the joy and happiness I had in Christmases past and how as a child I was so free and unhindered in believing that something good was happening. As you get older and experience life, I believe that simple joy and happiness wears off. We gain wisdom and knowledge but lose that simple childhood "faith" that this Christmas season is a good thing! 

Of course it is not about the decorated trees, toys, gifts and such; it is about celebrating Christ's birth, no matter what day it actually happened.  The fact is that it DID happen and when the folks in the world don't acknowledge it in that way, we who know the TRUTH can certainly celebrate it with that in the forefront with... yes! decorated trees, gifts and toys for the children all while glorifying God!

I don't think God is so much concerned with how the Christmas tree was originally started by the Druids or somebody like that, as He is about whether or not we are celebrating the Birth of Jesus and with that pure motive and consecration in our hearts! God is a holy God, and He knows the motive of every heart. So we cannot allow the bondage of what others may think to steal our joy of this season.

What a Blessed time of the year it is! We Celebrate YOU Jesus!  with bright lights shining, garland and tinsel, special music, gifts, good friends and fellowship...Oh! and good food too!  Jingle bells! LOL!
"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." Philippians 2:10