Storing Up

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But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

It was a beautiful warm November day.  My parents were in town and while both kids were in school we spent some very special time – just being together. Daddy was feeling great and even walked through a couple of stores with us. Then we sat outside at a local café. We talked, laughed and tried to solve of few of the worlds problems. Just enjoying our time together. Making memories. It was a spectacular day. That evening as I reflected on the day, I felt like Mary as I  stored up all those words and memories in my heart to treasure. I will have them always – even after they are gone.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. Luke 2:19 (The Message)

Do those days where time stands still and we stop to savor and treasure each moment seem few and far between for you? As the Christmas season approaches our calendars fill up, our “to do” lists grow longer and longer and our obligations clutter our minds so there isn’t room to store up the treasures of the season. The memories we are making with friends and family. The only thing preserved when they are gone and our hearts long for the days we had with them.

And Mary was preserving all these things, pondering in her heart; Luke 2:19 (YLT)

What have you been storing up? I pray this holiday season, we all stop and consider what we are storing up. I pray we make a conscious decision to put aside the stress and hurry that acts as a blockade at the door of our hearts and we chose to store up memories of laughter, loved ones, joy and peace. If we do, we not only have lasting memories to treasure and ponder, but we have hearts full of love and joy that will overflow to others throughout the year.

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Striking Glory

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Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3

For the past few weeks I have watched this beautiful tree in the middle of my back yard turn the most vibrant color of yellow. When the sun hit it mid-afternoon it looked as if it was on fire.

I would sit at my desk or stand at the kitchen window for minutes unable to take my eyes off of this striking tree. However, this morning I found that during the night half of the leaves had fallen off making the ground a beautiful color, but my tree so frail and bare looking. Half dressed. No longer standing in glory in the center of the yard. Although, I know it will bloom again in the spring and we will go through the cycle of its beautiful fall display I wish it could stay as it has been the past few weeks all year round. And then again, if it was, I’m sure I would grow so accustomed to it that I would eventually lose interest and my awe in its beauty would wane.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2

It reminded me of the seasons of pruning in my life. I understand that if life was perfect and beautiful all the time, I would grow stagnant in my relationship with Christ and the depth of our intimacy would suffer. Yes, there are times I feel fragile, bare and vulnerable but I trust God that the next season is coming and I will again stand vibrant before Him and in awe of His mighty grace having endured again, grown again and preparing to do it all over again.

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

As difficult as it is sometimes, I am thankful for pruning! Happy Thanksgiving!

Vapor

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Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:13-17

We recently had the opportunity to enjoy a weekend in the NC mountains. It was glorious! One morning we awoke at the top of the mountain in our cabin and were among the clouds in a hazy fog. After just an hour the fog had lifted and we were enjoying the beautiful scenery that had been hidden by the mist.

James speaks of our lives as a mist that appears for just a moment and then vanishes in chapter 4:13-17. Other translations use the word “vapor” and the Greek word is “atmis” which means a “swirl of smoke arising from a fire”.

A vapor or mist is defined as insubstantial, or fleeting. That is our life, isn’t it? A quick mist that passes through earthly life and then onto eternity. Some might see that as depressing, but I find great comfort in it. Surely, we can endure hardship and pain to grow closer to Christ in this short vapor of life. There are days my life feels like a fire and I pray for just a small break from the heat and the smoke that is strangling the life and joy out of my soul. Then, I step back and remember that my joy comes from the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6) not from this world. I hear God whisper to my soul, “endure . . . persevere . . . take comfort that this life is only a vapor and when you arise from the fire you will live with me for eternity.”

If you will stay with me for a minute I want to share another incredible insight that came to me while researching this passage (and using my dictionary). The imagery and parallelism came like poetry from the pages of James to  my ears.

1. In verses 13 – 14 James is asks us, “Who are you to make plans past today? You life is temporary and God is in control of your today and tomorrow” Looking closely at the archaic definition of vapor you’ll see that it means a “fantastic or foolish idea”. That’s exactly what James is saying. Making plans for tomorrow is foolish, we should instead seek God instead of our own agendas.

2. James goes on to explain that bragging and boasting (v. 17) about our plans are sinful. Again, if you look it up, you will find that the intransitive verb for vapor is brag: to talk boastfully. Does anyone else think that is as cool as I do? Did anyone else even know there was such a thing as an intransitive verb or an archaic definition. I have to admit – not me! Until I started digging into scripture and finding new ways to make it come alive.

Isn’t it amazing how James plays on a small 5 letter word (vapor) and incorporates all it’s meanings into just 5 verses? Did he realize he was doing it? I don’t know if he did, but I bet God did! Did this take you to a deeper level of understanding and memory of these verses like it did me? If we take the time to sit down, read a different translation or two, pull out our dictionary and pray God opens our eyes to His Word – He will rock our world and open up our eyes to see beyond the flames of this vaporizing life and into eternity.

Sneak Peak

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This is a new peak into Revision of  a Heart: Lessons learned in and old house and a new lifestyle, my next book due out December 2011.

The leaves are falling again. The acorns coming down like bombs. It’s been a year of wrestling. Is that possible? In one instant it feels like an eternity and in another just like yesterday.  It’s been a year of God breaking down the strongest parts of my being that I had no idea were there. I wonder how I am still standing, how God brought me through the other side and revised a heart that had been programmed by hackers.

In this year, new closets have been constructed, but I try to promise God I will only store tangible things – not guilt, not shame, not anger. New flooring will cover the old kitchen floor in just a few weeks, but I know the old I’m covering up has been dealt with properly (God saw to that) and the new only brings a fresh start. A fresh and clean start like Jesus gave when He died for all of us on that wooden cross. Basement stairs have been covered over after a fall that left a six inch scar on my leg. A visible and permanent reminder of what this year has taught me that I will carry and wear with honor. A war wound from my wrestling match? Maybe.

Now I understand why God placed the word JOY on my heart nearly a year ago. My word. The word He gave me for this year. It has penetrated my mind, my prayers and crossed my path again and again. He knew I would need this reminder. Three letters to cling to during this time of wrestling. You may wonder, did it work? Did you find joy in the suffering? Did you have joy as you watched the gash on your leg being sewn up? Did you find joy in the plan that He had for you?

Honestly, not at first. I guess that’s why it’s a revision. It takes time, it hurts, it can leave scars and many days you feel like it will never happen. The wrestling match will never end. There is no end in sight. And then it happens – JOY! The master and creator finishes the chapter. He puts the final touches on His masterpiece and closes the book. It’s over. This challenge. This revision. This wrestling match. Like the sun coming through the clouds after a rainstorm. He has brought you through to the other side and you are changed forever.

He has changed the heart of this woman. He has shown me His love never fails. His plans are best. He is sovereign and trustworthy. He is worthy of praise. He is joy! God is joy! There will be more revisions – more challenges – many more I’m sure. But, this I know. God is able to revise broken weary hearts so that they see Joy in the suffering!

New Devotional now on Amazon

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GodChick Devotions: Putting Down Roots is now available on Amazon.com.

In this devotional, I am incorporating the skills introduced in In the Mi[God]dle Bible study with reflections from The Whisper of God devotional. My prayer is that by combining these skills your devotional time will launch you into a deeper relationship with our Father in Heaven and give you a solid foundation in His word.

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8

I’ll be selling and signing books (including Putting Down Roots) on November 16th at the Hayes Barton Methodist Church Bazaar in Raleigh and on November 20th at the NC State University Club’s Holiday Shoppe. T-shirts and bumper stickers will also be available. Come and stock up on Christmas presents for family, friends and teachers. All books and t-shirts will be $10/each.