Don’t Just Do It!

just-do-itdo-whatever-avJust Do It” is a trademark of the Niki brand. As a sports logo, it is an encouragement for all athletes to just go out and do whatever sport they may choose. Not a bad slogan, but I want to do more than just do it. I want  to “Do whatever He tells you.” To clarify, “He” is Jesus and these words are recorded in John 2:5. Mary spoke these words to the servants at the wedding in Cana when the supply of wine was depleted.

“Do whatever He tells you.”
John 2:5

I am thinking about these words as we begin 2017. I am not fond of New Year’s resolutions because most of us, myself included, tend to break them before many days have passed. However, this time of year offers me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life goals. I try to prioritize such things as how much time I will spend writing my blogs and how many days a week I will commit to volunteer endeavors. Family and friends, household duties and errands rightfully occupy significant space in my time. I just need to do whatever He tells me! But, how do I know what He tells me to do? I find my answer in Psalm 32.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
Psalm 32:8

This promise was spoken to David by the Lord. It is also a promise that the Lord gives to help me know what He wants me to do. However, I must make it a priority to listen for Him if I am to hear from Him! So, here is something for me to add to my To Do list for every day of the new year just as David did in another Psalm.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3

Beginning each day with prayer must be a priority! As I look closely at David’s words, I become aware that he not only spoke to God but He also expected to  hear from God. I must follow David’s example if I want to do whatever Jesus tells me to do. This is the only way I will know what He is telling me to do! However, I cannot just lie in bed all day. It is time for action and I follow the guidance of James.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.
James 1:22

Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said and now James tells those reading his letter to do what the word of God says. It doesn’t matter if I think I can do it or not because Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The Lord will equip me to do whatever He tells me to do! One day God may just tell me to put one foot in front of the other while another day He may tell me to contact a friend I have not seen in a long time. Ann Voskamp has said, “Miracles keep happening in the mundane.” The Lord may just be telling me to do something simple. Ann Voskamp also assures me that my Heavenly Father is infinitely bigger than my fears, so I do not need to be afraid of anything He may tell me to do. Surprisingly though, the most important thing He is asking me to do is to deepen my relationship with Him. My goals for 2017 are not simply a “just do it” list. My life goal is “Do whatever He tells me to do.” This requires much more commitment than New Year’s resolutions.

May God bless and guide you throughout 2017!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Back in Alignment

Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…

Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…

 

gratitude-2spine-4Recently I encountered some back problems. I have heard enough about spinal adjustments, misalignments, vertebrae, joints, discs, tendons etc.! Although this somewhat debilitating season lasted longer than I had hoped, I learned several lessons. Often when I face a problem, I look upon it as a time when I am put upon a shelf and I cannot wait until the struggle is past so that I can again be active for the Lord. This time, at the beginning I asked the Lord to use my injury for His glory. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares that He has, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  If I was to trust God to fulfill the plans and purposes He had me, then I had to have faith that whatever was happening to me would be used in a positive way to glorify Him.

My problems began with a misalignment of joints in my spine. The chiropractor was able to adjust my spine but the tendons and muscles of my back had been weakened by the injury and were not able to support the adjustment. Little by little, my back had gotten out of proper alignment without my being aware of it. Then suddenly a sharp pain in my lower back got my attention. My discomfort helped me to realize that I can also allow my life to get out of alignment with the Lord. I decided that I did not want to wait for a sharp spiritual pain to make me aware of my need for the Lord’s strength. I believe the spiritual tendon that holds my body, soul and spirit  in align is gratitude. Gratitude keeps me in line with the Lord! I do not feel that it was by happenstance that I decided to reread One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp this summer while recuperating. The Lord’s hand has restored health to my back through the help of my chiropractor and the Lord has strengthened by faith through a deeper understanding of gratitude.

In her life, Ann Voskamp expresses gratitude unto the Lord by writing a list of gifts for which she is thankful. Her list of gifts includes not only good gifts but also hard gifts for which she has learned to express gratitude. Hmmm. Was my back problem a gift? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God wastes nothing! Did God have a better plan for how I would spend a couple of months of my time than I had planned? Of course He did! Since I have now moved beyond the time of most limitations, I can  see how God used me in ways not possible if I had been involved in all of my normal activities. In gratitude, now I try to perceive that all circumstances are gifts from God.

If I were to make a gratitude list, one of my highest priority gifts would be God’s sovereignty. Although He does not promise that everything will always be easy, He is still my Lord. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The following three scriptures were helpful to me during my season of back problems.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and I will heal.

Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB
The
Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21 NKJV
Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened,
and just as I have planned so it will stand.
Isaiah 14:24 NASB

I do not claim to fully understand sovereignty and gratitude and alignment but I am learning. However, an opportunity for spiritual growth came to me through the difficult time when my back was out of alignment. Often it is in hindsight that I can see the benefit of a hard time. God can reveal important things about himself and life through these experiences.

I want to emphasize two statements made by Ann Voskamp. She points out that the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is. (There were times that I doubted that there was any joy in the pain and stiffness I felt in my back.) And then she says that the art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. (The longer I struggled, the deeper I looked for the possible gratitude and joy within during this season.) While experiencing a time when it was hard for me to move physically, I came to realize that the only way to move into God’s presence is was through gratitude. In Jeremiah 30:24, I am reminded that “The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind.” The Lord had a greater purpose to achieve in my life than just helping me get rid of back pain. He wanted to teach me about gratitude – for that I am grateful!

I close my thoughts quoting Sarah Young from Jesus Calling for May 29.

I am with you, watching over you constantly, I am
Emmanuel (God with you): My Presence enfolds you in radiant
Love. Nothing including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials,
can separate you from Me. Some of My children find Me more readily
during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me.
Others feel closer to Me when tier lives are filled with good things.
They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the
door to My Presence.

I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me.
Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you.
Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.
When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to
be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: I quoted two of my favorite books in this blog. I want to give credit to One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, 2010 and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004. I highly recommend both of these books for your reading.

Garden of Grace

garden-heart

grace-3My Reader, just as you would dig into the dirt of your flower gardens, are you ready to  dig a little deeper into the understanding of how Jesus unlocks the gardens of our hearts? This week we look at the last stanza of the praise chorus entitled The Garden of My Heart. Although the Lord inspired me to write this chorus many years ago, I will admit that I have gained more insight into the meaning of the words through writing these blogs over the last four weeks. I pray our garden times together have been beneficial for you as well.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I
 want to sit at Your feet, as the great mercy seat,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to gaze in You eyes, so that faith may arise,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to feel Your embrace, and receive Your grace,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus has unlocked the garden of my heart! Now I receive a personal hug of grace! I have the privilege of being embraced by Jesus after I have sat at His feet and gazed into His eyes. There has been a progression of intimacy throughout this song.

My favorite definition of grace says that grace is God’s empowering presence that enables me to be who God created me to be and do what He has planned for me to do. When I choose to embrace God’s desires, He is able to embrace and support and empower me! I must have close contact with the Lord if I am to experience the infusing of His power into my life. There must be close contact, whether physical or spiritual, for a hug to be experienced. Psalm 37:4 ESV says, Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When I choose to find pleasure in being with the Lord, whether it be sitting at His feet or gazing into His eyes, His desires and my desires mesh together allowing us to embrace.

A shorter definition for grace is simply the word favor. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” When I think about grace as the goodness of God from a positive perspective as expressed in this scripture, it is very appealing to me. However, I am provoked by Ann Voskamp’s comments in her book One Thousand Gifts. She challenges me regarding my willingness to freely receive whatever God gives, whether it feels good or bad. While reading Ann’s words, I begin to realize that God’s grace often comes in the form of His being with me and helping me through difficult situations rather than His immediately resolving my trials in a positive way. I must not pull away from His presence simply because God’s grace is not manifested in the way I might want. I must let go and let God be in control. God is good so I want to yield to Him by relying upon His grace. In the first and second stanzas of this little song, I referred to receiving mercy and faith. Now I see how I need both of these gifts if I am to fully embrace grace in whatever form God chooses.

Looking at the last lines of the song, I proclaim that I want to dance in addition to laughing and singing. I do not merely want to dance, but I want to dance with the King. This is a dance I want to reserve for Jesus who is King of kings and Lord of lords according to Revelation 19:16. With Jesus as my dance partner, I want to follow His lead. I want to go where He goes. I want to move at the pace He moves. Preparing for our dance, Jesus puts His arm around me while I place my hand in His right hand. Psalm 98:1 says, “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” As His dance partner, I feel my hand being held by the hand of God described in Psalm 18:16, “The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!” When I am this close to Jesus I can hear His heart beat!

The garden of my heart is now open to feel and hear the heartbeat of Jesus. This is my goal when asking Jesus to unlock the garden of my heart. Love is awakened in me. I John 4:16 assures me that “God is love.” His love allows me to sit at the feet of Jesus at the great mercy seat, and to gaze in His eyes so that faith may arise, and to feel His embrace and receive His grace in the garden of my heart! Now I laugh and sing and dance with the King of kings because of this understanding!

My Reader, I John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Is your heart an unlocked garden of love?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Clarification for our Journey

 

I want to make a quick clarification in regards to the blog I posted yesterday entitled Join Me on a Journey!

My Reader, I invited you to join me on a prayer journey for our nation during the season of Lent. I mentioned that I was inspired to extend this invitation to you because of a post I had read by Ann Voskamp. I encouraged concentrated prayer for our nation, the United States of America. The prayer project mentioned by Ann originated with the IF:Gathering and the prayers are for the persecuted church around the world. I first thought that the “IF” prayer project was for a more extended time than during Lent. However, the more I read about it, I think it too is for the Lenten season as I suggested. My goal was, and still is, to give you the option of a smaller circle of prayer for a limited time period if you were intimidated by greater vision she endorsed. I support and pray for the persecuted throughout the world and encourage you to do the same.

I hope you are taking time to pray today!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Join Me on a Journey!

(Ann Voskamp  inspired me to write today’s blog. In How to Really Get Serious about Slaying Your Giants, Demons, & Hidden Fears, she shares how over 100,000 women around the world have accepted a challenge to pray. This is the result of their taking part in the IF:Gathering via livestream. The focus of their prayers is for God to heal our lands and lives. More tools for this prayer venture will be shared during the season of Lent.
Ann says that this is “a trip you don’t want to ever quit.” My Reader, I encourage you to become a part of this trip, but if it is more than you want to undertake at this time, I hope you will accept my invitation to a shorter seasonal journey that I will share about in the following paragraphs.)

 

 

 

 

lentinvitationhighwayprayer-for-nationMy Reader, since today is the first day of Lent, I invite you to join me on a journey. Each step of the journey will be one day. Each step of the journey will be a prayer. Our journey will take place over the next 40 days, actually 46 days since we will be traveling during the six Sundays of Lent as well. Through prayer, we will travel the lands of our nation interceding for God’s hand to heal our nation and draw us closer to Him. By the time we reach the destination of our journey, we will be prepared to celebrate not only the power of the resurrection of Jesus but also the power of a new prayer life.

Where will our journey lead us? I am not sure of the exact route, but there is Someone who does know. His name is Jesus! According to Hebrews 12:2, we will be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The Lenten season is a time when we can reflect upon Jesus’ journey toward the cross where He died for us and then rose again on Easter morning. Jesus fixed His eyes on the cross and we need to fix our eyes on Jesus as we pray on behalf of our nation. Luke 9:51 NKJV says “Jesus steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” These words describe the determination with which Jesus approached the city where He would be crucified. Jesus set his eyes on the cross. As we travel our prayer journey together, our focus must also be upon the cross because that is where we will find victory. The season of Lent is culminated with Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning. Today, the power that raised Him from the dead is available to answer our cries for our country. I agree with Paul who says in Philippians 3:10 NLT, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” There is a need within our nation for this power to spread across the land. 

What promise do we have that each step we take each day of our journey will bring us closer to our destination? Listen to this promise from Jeremiah 33:3 MSG, “Just call to Me. I guarantee I will answer you….” His guarantee should inspire us to pray! Then He goes on to say “…I will make you strong and brave and courageous” for this journey. I’m ready for the journey! Are you ready?  There is a need for us to take this journey.

So, how will we take our steps or what will our prayers entail? II Chronicles 7:14 gives us some direction, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” If we are to affectively pray for our land, or specifically our country, we are instructed not only to repeat words, but to humbly come before the Lord, to seek His face as well as His hand, and to confess our personal sins and the sins of our nation. I believe a special season of dedicated prayer for our nation is a wonderful way for us to observe the season of Lent.  This journey will allow roads to open for our nation and for us to come into a closer relationship with the Lord.  My Reader, I extend to you a personal invitation to join me in a journey of prayer during the next 46 days. In fact, I also encourage you to join the extended trip described by Ann Voskamp. There already is a multitude of over 100,000 women taking part in this venture.  While traveling, we will take each step on our knees rather than on our feet, but we will cover and recover great territory for the Lord. Just one step each day. Just one prayer each day. The journey will take us on the road to victory where we will celebrate Easter morning.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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I would appreciate an RSVP if you choose to accept this invitation for the next 46 days. You can do so by responding with a comment on this blog post. Thanks!