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Son of God

One of Jesus’ more well known names was first revealed in Mark chapter 3 when “Son of God!” was shouted by unclean spirits as He cast them out of people. My takeaway? Even the demons recognize the power & authority of Jesus, why do we even question?

As we prepare our hearts in this Lenten season, contemplate the power available to you through the mighty name of Jesus.

Anointed One

Other years I’ve blogged through the days of Lent. This year it’s time for something different. Though I love writing, I also enjoy taking photographs, so this year, I’ll be posting pictures of my interpretation of the many names of Jesus

Christ, from Christos, meaning “Anointed One”

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. Some choose to abstain from food, some decide to stop a certain behavior or habit. One year I have fasted coffee. It was ugly.

But Lent isn’t about food, or fasting, or ashes. It’s all about preparing our hearts for the ultimate sacrifice – Jesus. The Christ. The Anointed One.

Matthew 16:16 – You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

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Birthday cake to share with my Troy Mills JAM friends. And I wore the right color sweater!

Today’s the day. I made it. Born on this day in 1960, today I turn 60. Quite a milestone, actually, and one I do not take lightly. Thank you for reaching out to me through social media, texts, cards, in-person visits, and phone calls. I am blessed to have an amazing family and many wonderful friends, near and far. I’ve heard “Happy Birthday” from places like Istanbul, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as states coast to coast. I’ve received beautiful cards with heartfelt sentiments, flowers, coffee, cake, and time spent with family and friends. Those are my birthday presents.

But my goal today is to have birthday presence. To listen, to observe, to acknowledge those in my circle of influence; to be present wherever I am. Life is short. I don’t have time to mess around anymore. I’ve got to be about the important work God has given me to do…and I can’t do it if I’m not present. I can’t stayed mired in regrets, disappointment, and unforgiveness based in the past. My eyes are fixed forward.

I may not be in Istanbul with my sister, but I want to be present with her, listening to her stories, encouraging her in her adventures. I want to give her my presence (even when I can’t be physically present). I want to learn and grow through the expertise and stories of my co-workers, I want to be encouraged by the acts of kindness I witness on my daily walks, or in the grocery store line, or through a Facebook post. I want to share stories of triumph and victory, as well as mistakes and failures.

It sounds a bit arrogant but I want to give my presence to my youth group, the next generation of leaders, teachers, scientists, writers, pastors, artists, mothers, fathers. I don’t mean I’m the greatest person ever – but I know these students need someone outside of their family dedicated to loving them, listening to them….

I want to be a better aunt, sister, mom, wife…and I think if I commit to being present wherever I am, that’ll be a good start. May mean putting the phone and remote down, turning off the music, closing the book, turning my eyes and ears away from distractions and then, connecting.

Focus – my word for 2020 – is taking on deeper meaning, just two weeks into the year. Here’s to greater days yet to come and even more birthday presence.save-image

 

Own_Your_ChoicesI ate a cookie this morning.

I usually eat healthy foods during the week…fruit, nuts, salads, veggies. If I eat sweets, it’s because one of my colleagues has brought in something she’s baked and I’m not going to hurt her feelings by saying “no” to banana cake. But today, I caved. I ate a cookie. A plain old, comes in a box, cookie. I have no excuses. No one forced me. No one threatened me. I made the choice. I. Chose. The. Cookie.

We all have choices every day. We choose what to wear, what to eat, what route to work, what to spend money on, where to go to church (or not), what to do with our time. Our choices are just that. Ours.

If I want to achieve a certain goal, I’m going to need to make certain choices. Sometimes those choices involve sacrificing what I WANT RIGHT NOW, for what I want down the line. If I want to be a healthy 60-year-old, I’m going to have to choose to live a healthy lifestyle. (P.S. – It probably won’t happen tomorrow. I will be eating sweets on my big day). But if I don’t make those healthy choices, I won’t be blaming someone else. It’s on me. And I’m good with that. I’m tired of seeing social media postings blaming everyone else for the circumstances in our lives.

“I can’t believe that cop gave me a speeding ticket.”
“My teacher gave me a D – just for one missing assignment.”
“I have no time to exercise (read, pray, call my dad, visit with my grandma, shovel my neighbor’s walk…)”
“It’s my mom’s fault.” (A particularly touchy one – Thankfully for them, this has not been posted by my children)

Yes, there are a lot of people in our world who have very few options.  Circumstances, and other people’s sinful choices, have kept them in bondage. But for MOST of us, we must take ownership of our choices. If we want a different result, we need to make a different choice. We want a different life. We want a smoother road, We want a better job. Or financial freedom. Or healthy relationships. It begins with one step, one choice. And only you can make it.

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A local coffee shop has the phrase “Live Passionately” on their wall in great big calligraphy. They have incorporated that phrase into their logo and have it on their to-go cups. It is who they are.

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What a great statement to embrace! It is inspiring but also causes me to contemplate my choices. It encourages me to live with purpose, with intention, with passion for whatever I’ve chosen to do, whoever I’ve chosen to be.

Back in November, when I started thinking about this upcoming birthday (2 days away), I worried a bit about how a 60-year-old woman would be perceived. That one year change from 59 to 60 seemed like such a huge chasm. The difference between January 15 and January 16 was monumental in my own mind. But as I mulled over all the lessons I’ve learned in the last six decades, the ones passed on by my mom and dad, the ones learned through parenting and pastoring, the accidents & mistakes that turned into blessings in disguise, I’ve come to realize that my birthday means only one thing.

I’m just one day older. One day closer to becoming exactly who God designed me to be. One day more to choose well – to live as an influencer for the Kingdom of God…salt and light to a world that needs to see the love of Jesus in action. And it’s not how others perceive me that matters. I live for an audience of One – and I know I matter greatly to my heavenly Father. He doesn’t see me as a birthday…He sees me as a dearly and desperately loved daughter of the King.

When I see “live passionately,” I don’t think of my local coffee shop. I think about the life I have left – be it one day, one year, or until I’m 100. I think about living so the passionate love of Jesus shines from my passionately lived life.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

Social media is lying to you. Viral rants from both sides are trying to lead us to believe our world is falling apart, that evil is winning, and no one cares about anyone else any more. That is just not true and I know because I saw evidence to the contrary today.

I’m always harping on “do what is in front of you to do.” This afternoon, Mary was in front of me. Coming in off the street, Mary appeared to only need directions. We get a lot of walk ins, asking how to get to the library, the post office, or the Human Services building around the corner. I’m always willing and able to give out directions. Today, I needed to invest a little more into Mary.

Mary was homeless. She’d been recently abused by her boyfriend and dumped downtown. Because she had her two cats with her, no shelter would let her stay overnight, so she walked the city streets all night. She was tired, hungry, upset, and wanting to get back to her home town, 30 miles away. She asked to use my phone to call somebody to get her home. “No one will help me,” she said, over and over.

So what would you do? How can I talk about kindness, and gratitude, and living my best life and not do something? I made some phone calls, tried some different options, but in the end, with the help of some wonderful co-workers, we opted to get Mary an Uber ride back to her home town. Her hometown police chief was going to be on the look out for her arrival so, hopefully, she’ll have a good night’s sleep in a warm bed, and a little peace of mind. As I helped Mary up into the truck, I tucked her coat around her and looked right into her eyes. “I’ll be praying for you. God loves you,” I told her. She thanked me over and over, eyes brimming with tears. The driver took off and I went back into my beautiful, warm office, and prayed for Mary.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons today. First, people are willing to help out those in need. I had multiple co-workers ask if I needed anything (as I was dealing with Mary),  and one came through with all the resources necessary to solve Mary’s dilemma. Even more importantly, I learned I must walk the talk. Blogs are fun and fine, but words mean nothing if you don’t follow through with actions.

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I’ve been leading off the teaching time each Sunday this month by telling the Bible story prior to Don’s sermon. Our theme is “unlikely heroes.” Last week I told the story of Gideon, and today, the well-known account of David and Goliath. My goal is to make these stories interesting by delivering the information in a somewhat entertaining manner. In other words, keep my listeners from falling asleep.

Don’t you love a good story? Me too. I love to read stories, watch stories unfold, and listen to stories. The very best ones are the ones that are true.

Therefore, my tidbit of wisdom today is two-fold: listen to other people’s stories and begin to tell your own.

Everyone has a story. The young. The elderly. Your kids. Your grandparents. Your friends. Your coworkers. Even strangers. We all have a tale to tell. Some are humorous. Some are heartbreaking. Some are touching. Some are educational.

Just like multiple movie and book genres, there are also genres of real life narratives. Some have lived through heart-pounding adventure. Others soul-stirring romances. Maybe yours is a hilarious comedy. Listen and learn. Pay attention. Ask questions. Hear the stories living lives around you. Nothing can touch your soul like a good story.

And finally, tell your story. Give it a voice and theme, settings and characters, conflict and resolution. Be a storyteller. Others need to hear what you’ve been through, the lessons you’ve learned, the hope you can give on our shared life’s journey.

Jesus was a storyteller. He knew the greatest lessons learned are those told as stories. The prodigal son. The persistent widow. The lost sheep. So many stories giving us a glimpse into the kingdom of God – stories of heaven, healing, forgiveness, and restoration.

I love to tell the Story.