Friday, February 14, 2014

Love First

It’s Valentine’s Day.  Today is loved by some, hated by others.  It’s known as S.A.D. (single awareness day) to some, the Hallmark holiday to others, and in some circles, it’s an extension of Desperation Day (in which people desperately search for a date to prove that they’re worth being with someone and someone worth being with – for at least one day).  So what’s the big deal?  Why does this one day of the year illicit such strong emotions – whether positive, negative, or adamantly apathetic? 

I actually find it quite comical to see how everyone responds.  What’s funny to me is how one calendar day can turn an entire nation on its head.  Now hear me: romance can be awesome.  I don’t mean to downplay that.  But I do wonder how much of this “love” is a game (much like the Super Bowl) on this particular day of the year.  There’s so much pressure surrounding today that this “day of love” can, for so many, turn into a day of stress, disappointment or loneliness, instead of a celebration of, well, Love.

This year I’m renaming and reclaiming this day.  I declare today “You are Loved Day.”   That’s right.  No more striving for someone’s affection (anyone’s affection) to prove that you’re worth it.  You ARE worth it.  God Himself thinks so, and so do I.  You ARE loved – today, and every day.   Why not celebrate that? 

I’ve been in relationships on V-Day and I’ve been single, and honestly, I’ve never felt more complete than I do this year:  where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loved by and completely, completely, complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) - not that other guy.  In fact, it’s because I am loved by Him that I can love that other guy (and my neighbor as myself).  We love, because God first loved us.  (1 John 4:19).

For anyone who has ever felt lonely, disappointed or like there was just something “missing” (whether you are in a relationship or not) today, I pray for a manifestation of Love Himself.  When the cheap perfume fades, the flowers wither, or the niceties wear off, know that there is a Love that does not fade and will not quit. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). 

Know that YOU ARE LOVED.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Active Prayers

Have you ever told someone, "I'll be praying for you!" and then promptly forgotten as soon as you walked away, hung up the phone or got distracted by your newest text message?  I have.  One time the Lord arrested my attention about that and it has forever changed the way I view prayer.

But before I get to that, let me explain.  Here is one of the most common prayers people know today: "Thank you, Father, for this food; bless it to the nourishment and strength of our bodies, and bless the hands who've prepared it, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen."  (Or some derivative thereof).  More often than not, you've probably heard it like this: '"Thank-you-Father-for-this-food-bless-it-to-the-nourishment-and-strength-of-our-bodies-and-bless-the-hands-who've-prepared-it-in-the-name-of-Jesus-Christ-Amen!"  Like some sort of speed race.  Translation:  "Let's get this formality over with, so we can get to the good stuff.  I'm hungry."  Saying "grace" over every meal can become a tradition where we no longer even think about the words we say.  We can get to a point where we no longer mix faith with the words we speak.  And that's a dangerous place to be.  Our words become diluted and powerless, because they lack meaning.  The scripture implores us to avoid vain repetitions.   7"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.8"So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.…" (Matthew 6:7-8).  But for most people, that's the only way they know. 

So, why pray anyway? 

Maybe you're like me and you've moved past the initial infatuation stage with God (if you'll pardon the expression).  I mean, you've known Him for awhile and you've gotten used to Him.  Maybe you know the lingo, the religious-speak that lets you slide beneath the radar in church circles, but maybe your fresh faith has lost its luster. Maybe you see Him sitting across the breakfast table in the morning, but you just pour your coffee and start reading the newspaper without a word to Him before you go about your day.  Not that you don't like Him, but He just sort of blends in now.  Maybe the excitement's worn off for you.

I admit that happened to me once (not the coffee part, but my sense of over-familiarity with God that lulled me into complacency).  One time I was praying (as was my custom) and I just kept thinking of the phrase, "I'll be praying for you."  I was convicted on the spot for having said that to someone without following through.  The next thing I heard from the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit was this:  Whenever you tell someone that you will pray for them, imagine yourself saying,

"God Himself is intervening on your behalf through my intercessory prayer for you." 

Think about that. 

Imagine God Almighty literally moving around circumstances in people's lives for good. 

Imagine the cancerous tumor on that pancreas being removed right now. 

Imagine that man about to end his own life tapped on the shoulder by Love Himself. 

Imagine the broke widow who just gave away her last penny hear Him whisper, "I give you the keys to the kingdom." 

Imagine your highly talented friend who is uncertain about his or her future awakening to the calling that will accelerate them beyond their wildest dreams.

I'm talking about the God who sets the captives free (Isaiah 42:7), who makes the lame to walk and the blind to see (not just giving sight to people who can't physically see, but to people without a vision for their lives) (Matthew 11:5).  The God who rescued you and me. (John 3:16)  The God who gives voice to the voiceless (Prov. 31:8), hope to the hopeless (1 Timothy 1:1), peace to the restless (2 Thessalonians 3:16), Who comforts all who mourn (2 Corinthians 1:4), brings joy to the joyless (Nehemiah 8:10), strength to the weak (Isaiah 40:29), healing to the sick (James 5:15), light to dispel darkness (Matthew 4:16).  The God who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3), wipes away all tears (Revelation 7:17), banishes all your fears (1 John 4:18), and Who swallows death in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).  I'm talking about my God.  The One who is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11).  He is Just (2 Thessalonians 1:6) and He is Good - all the time (James 1:17).  He never leaves you nor forsakes you (Hebrews 13:5).  His Love is unfading and never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  The One who never quits on you (Romans 8:38-39).  He is always merciful and forgiving (Psalm 118:29), gracious and giving (Psalm 145:8).  He is the Father of Truth (John 14:6).  He is Life (John 14:6).  He is the God Who never sleeps (Psalm 121:4) and Who always gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2).  The Living God (Hebrews 3:12).  Who always wins (2 Corinthians 2:14). 

All of the sudden, prayer becomes active and real when you let loose the Living God into people's lives!  Prayer: it's alive!  

You want to see results when you pray?  Energize your faith and you will activate your prayers.  Start acknowledging the One to whom you're praying.  Start thinking about how much He loves you.  I pray every time you look in the mirror you realize how much God loves you.  I pray at breakfast, lunch and dinner, morning, noon and night, we give thanks - not out of obligation or tradition - but because we know how much He loves us and how good He really is.  


Jesus said, "Ask anything in my name, and I will do it." ~ John 14:14

I dare you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Climate Change

Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by weather.  I think it must run in the family, because my Dad shares my love of clouds and appreciation for nature.  I distinctly remember one time in Middle School when my Dad was driving me to All City Winds practice when all of the sudden the car pulled over.

Startled, I looked over at him. "What happened?!" 
"Look!" he said.  
"What?!"  I followed his gaze.

He was pointing to a beautiful magenta cloud formation as the setting sun illuminated the sky.  He was enraptured by the beauty of it.  (That moment is still one of my all-time favorite memories.)  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "It is the invariable mark of wisdom to see the miraculous in the common."  My dad has a knack for that.  I like to think my eyes are open to see the miraculous in the common, too.


I took the required geography and science classes throughout school, but I never really appreciated the difference between weather and climate until I started dabbling in aviation.  Weather means atmospheric conditions over a short period of time.  Rain, for example, is a temporal weather event.  Climate means a long-term pattern of weather (i.e. average temperatures) for a particular place, for a certain period of time.  If the storm clouds are rolling through, it's probably not a good day to go flying.  That's weather.  To weather we say, "Oh well, we'll just go flying tomorrow.  No big deal.  This will pass."  Climate, on the other hand, is a pattern of weather over time (ex: tropical, arid or ice cap).  Climate, more or less, stays the same.  I like to think of climate as the overall atmosphere of the place where you live.  The conditions you've come to expect.  Climate is like setting the thermostat at your house: temperatures may fluctuate, but that thermostat is set at 60 or 70 degrees.

So what's the climate like at your house?

I don't mean your room temperature.  I mean, how is the atmosphere?  Chilly?  Warm?  Hot?  Loving?  Depressing? Stressful?  Isolating?  Peaceful?  To what atmosphere are you accustomed to living in?  We've talked in very simple terms about the difference between weather and climate.  As it pertains to the environment of your home, an occasional hot spat or a moment of sadness is like weather: it fluctuates, but doesn't last.  However, if the norm is stress, isolation, depression or, conversely, love, joy, peace and kindness, then that's climate.  That pattern of thought and behavior has created the constant atmosphere of your life.   

Did you know that we carry our climates with us?  It's called character:  what people have come to expect from us.  If we live in stress, we project stress.  If we live in peace, we will project peace.  Some people try to fake us out by flashing a smile over a hurt.  "Yep!  Everything's great!" *Smile* "Well, gotta go!  See ya!"  Ha, don't ask me how I know this trick. ;-)  But it soon becomes evident to those around us what climate we live in, whether we try to hide it or not.   

A friend of mine told me once that some people don't know how to be well.  In other words, the atmospheric conditions in one's life could be so regularly chaotic that they wouldn't know what to do if peace showed up.  They simply wouldn't know how to act!  Or, conversely, one's life could be so full of peace that when chaos and stress showed up, they could say "Wait.  There's a problem here." 

The funny thing about climate is most of the time we're blissfully unaware of it.  Having lived my entire life thus far in the Northwest, I don't even think about having four distinct seasons every year, a cold, long winter and a hot summer.  It's just a way of life.  Just the way it is.  Too often, we live unaware of the climate in our own homes.  We think, "that's just how it is."  If a thundercloud comes rolling through because we've had a bad day, we just shrug it off and think, "this, too, shall pass."  It's weather, and we know it won't stay for long.  But if that thundercloud takes up residence in our lives and we become more used to cloudy days than sunny days....then maybe it's time for a climate change.

I don't mean pack your bags and move somewhere else.  (Or maybe I do, if that's what you need to do.)  Know this:  wherever you go, you'll be there.  If you move and the climate in your life there seems eerily familiar to the last place you lived, it's because you take your atmosphere with you.  Maybe it's hurricane season in your life right now.  You've been inundated with one thing after another after another.  Your life loosely resembles the book of Job.  Or you find yourself dreading the future more than anticipating it.  Maybe the forecast in your life looks dark and stormy as far as the eye can see.  Maybe that weather pattern has gone on for 30 years or more and you've just adapted to the climate.

Want a climate change? 

You're already half way there, because you've become aware of your current atmosphere.  Now start dreaming about where you want to live:  Peaceville?  Lovetown?  Joysburg?  Ha, ok.  That is ridiculously cheesy, but hopefully it makes the point.  The good news is we can pack our baggage without even leaving the living room.

So how do we change the climate in our lives? 

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.  - Philippians 4:8-9    

Psalm 127:2 says "It is vain (fruitless) for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He gives His beloved sleep."

Stop feasting on worry and sorrow.  Start dwelling on (and in) what's true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, and change your forecast - for good.  Be transformed by your renewed outlook and watch the atmospheric undercurrents of your life change.  You won't keep beating your head against the wall over the same struggles day in and day out.  Don't fight your climate, change it.  You'll be free to enjoy life and kiss those clouds good-bye.