Let There Be Joy - Day 6

You Call This Favor?!

Mary was perplexed!  A strange man had just entered her room and had started to talk about things like favor and God and greetings!  Who is this assertive man and what in the world is he talking about? 

I can nearly hear Mary’s racing heartbeat as she attempted to process all that was happening around her this day.  The Bible says that “Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of salutation this was”.  Mary’s cheeks were probably flushed and her heart was beating wildly.

As the Angel Gabriel continued to tell the message of heaven to this young girl, perhaps Mary’s fear subsided and a humble awakening began to dawn in her heart.  Gabriel had heaven’s perspective on this miraculous announcement and saw absolutely no reason for fear.

Sweet Mary, who was trying to wrap her heart and mind around the message of the angel may have been incredulously pondering, “Me?!  God chose me?!  I am the chosen one to carry God’s child?  The mother of the Messiah?”

Christmas, for Mary, was about understanding that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways.  Mary was learning, like all of us must, that when Divinity invades humanity ... Divinity always wins!  Christmas is a reminder to me ... and to you ... and to Mary ... that His ways are always higher and better than anything that we could ever think or imagine.

Christmas has nothing to do with dancing elves, reindeer with red noses and snowmen who sing.  Christmas is about an invasion!  Christmas happens at the moment when heaven’s light invades the darkness of planet earth!

Christmas will always drive the worst of sinners to ponder what kind of salutation the Christmas story brings.  Either Christmas is a bold-faced lie or it is ultimate truth.  It can be nothing else.

Either the manger should be placed in the same category as elves, jolly old Saint Nicholas and flying reindeer ... or it is absolute, divine and eternal Truth.

Christmas is not about the holiday spirit that rushes toward us the day after Thanksgiving and compels us to shop, spend, and eat.  Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth.  It is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one life.  Christmas commences the moment when a person realizes the longing that has always existed to be overshadowed by all that He is and all that He does!

It happened for Mary ... and it can happen for you!  Perhaps an appropriate prayer to pray this Christmas would be,

“Holy Spirit!  Overshadow me!  Overshadow my dreams, my preferences and opinions!  Birth something new and something grand in me!  Create something in me that will change this generation for the Kingdom of Christ!”

Bible Reading: (please click the Scripture reference to open the reader)

Luke 1:29-35

Psalm 17

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Finish this phrase:  Christmas is …

Perhaps you could make a list of 10 things that “Christmas is …” to you.  Ask other people this week to finish that phrase as well.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 5

The Girl Next-Door

Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph, a carpenter’s son, who was several years older than she was.  Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for the darling Mary to grow up!  And now that Mary was 13 or 14 years old, it was settled.  Mary was to become his wife.

Engagement, or betrothal, at this moment in history held the commitment that marriage does today.  Although Mary and Joseph were not living together and would stay pure until their wedding night, the only way out of a betrothal was divorce and the only reason that justified a divorce was adultery.

Mary was in the house one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home when she sensed someone in the room with her.  Conceivably, Mary looked around to see if anyone had joined her.

“And coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one!”  The Lord is with you.”

Christmas, for Mary, was the challenge of understanding what the favor of God is truly all about.  Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of your dreams will come true.  There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored by God; what favor means, simply, is that God is willing to use you.

God is willing to use the young, the uneducated and the inexperienced in His grand plan for humanity.  Just as the favor of God targeted the womb of Mary, I believe that the favor of God is targeting everyone and anyone who is willing to be part of God’s strategy at this historical juncture.

Christmas, for Mary, was about discovering the intimacy of the Lord’s presence as never before.  Mary was about to be confronted with the reality that favor happens when God places a piece of Himself into an earthly life.  No longer was God a mere concept or a Divine Being Who never engaged Himself in the affairs of every day life.  Because of Gabriel’s message, the presence of God Himself had invaded the life of this young girl, who, prior to this moment had nothing but Joseph, her beloved, on her innocent mind.

Experiencing the favor of God in new ways is one of the best parts of Christmas for me!  To think that God would desire to use me at this time in history is a gift that I never imagined I would find under the Christmas tree of life!

Discovering a fresh lifestyle of intimacy in the presence of Jesus is God’s life-changing Christmas gift to you this year.

Christmas is proclaiming to your world, “The Lord is with me ... and with you!  What a wonderful surprise!”

Bible Reading:  (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:26-29

II Chronicles 16:9

Isaiah 9:2-7

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What difficult thing has the Lord asked you to do?  Perhaps it is the favor of God that requires diligence in serving Him not only in easy assignments but especially in difficult ones.

Spend some time today listening to Christmas hymns and Carols.  Expect God to meet you during moments of worship.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 4

Peace on the Battlefield of Life

British soldiers were spending Christmas Eve 1914 on a French battlefield  during World War I.  After four months of fighting, over a million men had perished in the bloody conflict.  The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of the opposing armies.

Life in the trenches was despicable.  Perpetual machine gun shelling took a high toll; the weather brought rain, snow and cold.  Many of the trenches in which the soldiers lived were flooded and exposed the soldiers to trench foot and frostbite.

It was in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, on December 24, 1914, that a miracle occurred!  British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit trees appeared above the German trenches.  The British troops stuck up a sign with the words, “Merry Christmas!” on it and the grandest holiday truce in all of history began.

“From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remember my German nurse singing to me ... the grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist.  It was all so strange ... like being in another world,” a young British soldier wrote in his diary.

            “Silent Night, Holy Night.  All is calm.  All is bright.”

When the German soldiers finished singing, the British decided to retaliate.  Rather than retaliate with the roar of a canon, the army chaps from England sang,

            “The first noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay ...”

When the boys from jolly old England finished, “Born is the King of Israel!”, the enemy began clapping and struck up a rousing rendition of “Oh Tannebaum!”

As the British troops began singing, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful!”, it was at that moment that the Germans immediately joined in.  They were singing with the enemy.

This was a most extraordinary event taking place in the middle of a blood-drenched battlefield!  Two opposing nations were singing the same Christmas Carol in the middle of a fierce war.  It is recorded that enemy soldiers greeted each other in the no man’s land that just minutes before had been a killing zone.  Soldiers wished one another a Merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles on Christmas Day.

The good will spread down the entire length of the 27-mile length of the British line.  It has been told that German soldiers shared baked goods and cider with the British soldiers.  A rousing soccer game began between the opposing nations while others just wanted to talk about Christmas at home.

Thousands of soldiers celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead. 

A solitary voice began to sing “Silent Night” in French ... he was joined by another voice singing in German ... and finally the words were in English.

Who do you need to make peace with this season?  Have you been engaged in a fierce battle that has extracted the very life from your soul?  Christmas is a moment in history when peace is abundantly possible because of the Baby Who came to bring peace for all of the ages.

Bible Reading:  (click the Scripture reference to open in reader)       

Isaiah 53

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Is there someone that you need to forgive this Christmas season?  Make a plan to reach out in love and then follow through.  Perhaps you can meet for a cup of coffee, or send this person a Christmas note or a loving e-mail.  

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Let There Be Joy - Day 3

Lord, Prepare Me For What You are Preparing For Me

In the days during which Elizabeth lived, it wasn’t uncommon for pregnant women to go into seclusion when their pregnancy became obvious.  However, according to Scripture, Elizabeth, who was old enough to be a great-grandmother, apparently went into seclusion from the very first days of her unexpected pregnancy. 

I have often wondered why Elizabeth chose to hide herself away much earlier than was culturally acceptable or required.  I wonder if perhaps Elizabeth found it necessary to prepare her heart for God’s plan.  Elizabeth may have been so filled with thanksgiving and wonder that she knew preparing for motherhood was the single most important priority at her very advanced age.

I can picture tears coursing down her wrinkled and liver-spotted cheeks as she prayed, “Lord!  A miracle!  A bona fide miracle You have given to us!”

I wonder, as Elizabeth began the joy of making sweet little blankets and sewing precious garments of miniature clothing with gnarled and arthritic fingers, if her heart cried out to the God of the universe, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me!”

I believe that during these days of quiet, yet joyful contemplation, Elizabeth had a heart overflowing with gratitude.  She may have been intent on changing her lifestyle during this time of delightful preparation in order to become the mother that raising a young man of greatness would require.  Elizabeth was preparing her heart for the day of delivery and blessing.

During this Christmas season, for what do you need to prepare your heart?  Do you need to make some lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the destiny that God has chosen for you?  For those that He calls to do a great work, He also calls away into His presence.

Christmas is the season of hope and miracles and it is also the season of preparation for the destiny of God.  I pray that you will take some time today, and every day during this wonderful season, to hide yourself in God’s presence.  Rather than wrap yourself in busy-ness and extravagance, snuggle up in His love for you and ask Him to reveal His destiny for your life.

I hope that you will pray with Elizabeth, and with me, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me.”

Bible Reading:  (click the Bible reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:24 & 25

Isaiah 40:28-30

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the great work that you have been called to partner in with God?

What are some of the ways that you can prepare for the great work that God has called you to?

What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

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Thanksgiving Prayer

Father God,

As we gather around the bounteous table of plenty and provision, May we be ever mindful that everything we have received is from Your generous hand.

Your hand.

Your hand bestows honor and healing.

Your hand offers forgiveness and friendship.

Your hand ushers in favor and grace.

Your hand.

In this season when our hearts turn toward thanksgiving, we are grateful for You, Father, and for the actions that come from Your miraculous Hand.

We are grateful for all of the seasons of this extraordinary life and for Your faithfulness and steadfast love so evident in each season.

We are grateful for the laughter of children and for the wisdom of the aged.

We are thankful for the possibilities that a new life brings … and for a lasting legacy of faith.

We are grateful for the snow of winter and for the sunshine of summer.

We are thankful for the glory of autumn and the rebirth of spring.

We are Your thankful people, Lord.

Your people … held in the hollow and safety of Your hand.

Your hand.

Father, would You move Your hand once again?

Would Your guiding hand bring home those who have lost their way?

Would Your healing hand touch those who are ill or in pain?

Would Your generous hand provide for Your children once again?

Even in our thankfulness, Lord, we are aware that we need You.

We need more of You.

And so, today, our thankfulness is humbly blended with a heart that asks for more.

More of You.  More healing.  More grace.  More favor.  More wisdom.  More guidance.

And it is with pure thanksgiving that we understand that the more for which we ache has already been found in You.

You have given us more than enough … enable us to be the receptacles of Your more.

Let us be more aware of Your hand than we are of our own desires.

Lord … you are our More and we are thankful.

And so we come to You this day, as Your children, and gather around Your table of more.

More of You, Lord, is all that we ask for. More.

Amen.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 2

Don’t Give Up!  Don’t Ever Give Up!

Zacharias was chosen to be the priest who would enter the holy place in the Temple to offer incense to God on behalf of the people.  However, as Zacharias was standing beside the altar of incense, he received a surprise visitor!  The angel Gabriel had been sent from heaven to bring an exciting message from heaven to Zacharias and Elizabeth.

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard,” were the words of the angel at this history-changing moment.  God had been silent for 400 years and at this instant, Zacharias heard the audible answer for which he and his wife had been praying since the day of their marriage many, many years ago.

After all of the years of waiting and praying and believing, heaven’s intervention was about to be experienced in the life and marriage of Elizabeth and Zacharias.  Could it be true?  Was it even possible after decades of marriage that they would conceive and bear a son?  Would Elizabeth’s elderly frame be able to withstand 9 months of pregnancy and then the pain of giving birth?  God, are You really this good?!

It is true:  God absolutely hears your prayers.  He is listening intently to your requests and loves it when a believer comes to Him boldly and unashamedly.  The Bible instructs Christians from every generation to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep right on seeking, knock and keep on knocking! (Matthew 7:7)

LTBJ Day 2.jpg

Don’t give up, my friend, don’t ever give up!  The message of Christmas  speaks into our silent world today: we serve a God Who answers the prayers of His children.  While you wait, and while you pray, don’t ever give up!  Keep knitting those baby blankets and when diapers go on sale, go out and buy a bundle or two!

For what have you been praying?  Perhaps an unsaved spouse ... a rebellious child ... a breakthrough in finances ... or health concerns have dominated your prayers for years and years.  You need to follow the example of Elizabeth and Zacharias and continue to pray with expectation and with hope!

It might seem like you haven’t heard from God in 400 years but the answer and voice of God might only be one more prayer away.

Christmas is a time when we should all expect heaven’s entrance into our dusty, dirty worlds.  Christmas is a time that reminds us that miracles really do happen, prayers are actually answered and that heaven is just one response away.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible!  Impossible is what the God of Christmas does best!

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:8-23

Matthew 7:7-11

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the best answer to prayer that you have ever received?

Make a list of others who are standing in faith for answers to their prayers.  Pray for them today.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 1

Let There Be Joy Podcast - Day 1



We thought we'd get you in the mood for Christmas with a song and video by Chris McLeod. Enjoy the music as you read today's blog post and Bible verses!    {ChrisMcLeodMusic.com}

It’s Christmas!  The most wonderful time of the year!  What makes this season so miraculously wonderful is not the scrumptious holiday cookies nor is it the lavish gifts … it is not the reindeer who dance or the shoppers who spend.  Christmas is not defined by the decorations … not by the parties … and not by chestnuts that roast on an open fire.

Christmas is wonderful because of Him … because of a Baby that was born long ago and yet continues to live on in the hearts and lives of millions who dare to declare, “Let there be joy!”

Let’s go on a journey to Bethlehem by taking a lingering and delicious look at the Christmas story found in the Bible.  The historical account of the birth of Jesus didn’t start in Bethlehem or even in Nazareth ... but it began with an elderly couple who knew the deep fulfillment of living wholeheartedly for God.

The Bible describes Elizabeth and Zacharias in the loveliest of ways:  “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”   - Luke 1:6

Elizabeth and Zacharias, had been married many years and yet still had no babies.  The heartache must have been wrenching for this man of prayer and his wife, but the Bible records they continued to walk blamelessly in every aspect of their relationship to the Lord.

For the priest Zacharias and his faithful wife, Elizabeth, there had been no 3 a.m. feedings, no messy diapers and no sweet giggles and baby smiles.  Their life did not turn out the way that they had hoped for or prayed for.

How do you respond to disappointment?  Do you use it as an excuse for over-indulgence or griping and complaining?  Although Elizabeth and Zacharias had empty arms and dashed hopes, they continued to serve God wholeheartedly as the years continued to pass.

The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous one avails much!  (James 5:16)  When you continue to live a righteous life ... and continue to pray ... your prayers will get the job done.

The Bible also says that the righteous live by faith. (Hebrews 2:4)  Elizabeth and Zacharias continued to walk by faith and not by sight.

Elizabeth’s name actually means “God is my Oath”.  Elizabeth believed the promises of God long after others would have given up in frustration.  She believed that God was listening to her prayers while her friends cooed over their own babies and then decades later experienced the joy of rocking their grandchildren to sleep.

I hope that the first lesson you will learn in the Christmas story is to be patient with God.  Trust God even when your circumstances are challenging.  Continue to live a righteous life through days of disappointment.  Pray fervently and believe that God is listening to your prayers.  Continue to embrace a positive heart attitude when you don’t get your own way.

Allow the steadfastness of Elizabeth to remind you that true believers walk by faith and not by sight.  Although she was barren, she continued to believe in the promises and nature of God.

Bible Reading: (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:1-7

James 5:16

Hebrews 10:35-39

Let There Be Joy in Me:

For what are you praying? 

What are some of the healthy responses you can embrace while waiting for God to answer your prayers?

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Thanks-giving to Thanks-living

The crackle of the fire in the blazing and inviting fireplace. 

My mother’s white linen tablecloth spread on the seldom-used dining room table.

The smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. 

Pumpkin pies cooling on the countertop. 

My grandmother’s tart but delectably sweet cranberry recipe.

Family gathered from far and near.  Tulsa.  Nashville.  Pennsylvania.

Missing deeply those who are unable to join us around the table.

It’s the thankful time of year.

Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays.  I love the seasonal reminder that there is so much that I have been given to which thankfulness is the appropriate and necessary response.

I delight in the knowledge that people across the nation pause for a rare moment in time and remember to speak forth words of heartfelt gratitude.

Thanksgiving is a time for remembering … for being grateful … for resting in all that He is and all that He has done.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving table will look like this year … or who will be gathered around it.  But I want to barge myself uninvited into your annual celebration of gratitude and share with you a few things that God has been sharing with me.

So … from God’s heart … to my heart … to your Thanksgiving table …

1 - Thanksgiving is not a single day on the calendar but it was always meant to be a lifestyle.  Thanksgiving is the particular way that we are able to access the presence of the Father.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” – Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving was never meant to be an annual celebration identified by pilgrims, pies and stuffing … but it was meant to be the most accurate demonstration of relationship between children and their heavenly, generous Father.  As the family of God, we are called to respond daily … hourly … moment by moment … as the beneficiaries of the miraculous blessings given from heaven’s resources to our wilderness table of life.

The only possible response is, “Thanks, Dad!”

And we must not wait for a month or a day on a calendar to provoke this heartfelt thanksgiving!  We are compelled to shout it out continually because we are simply quite unable to hold it back.

“Enter with the password: “Thank You!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise.  Thank Him.  Worship Him.” – Psalm 100:4 – The Message Bible

2 – Thanks-speaking is the language of the family of the Father.  It is our native tongue.  We don’t speak with words of complaining … in the tongue of lack … or with the accent of griping.  We are thanks-speakers every day of every year.  We have learned this particular language at the knee of the Father.

Words of rich gratitude fill the dictionary of our hearts and from its deep treasuries we write the story of our lives. 

I am thankful for my home, family and job.

I am grateful for food, for heat, for a car.

Thanks, Dad, for my church family and for my crazy family!  I love them both!

Father, thank you for coffee … and for the giggle of a baby … and for the local library.

I am so thankful for friends who make me laugh … keep me humble … and challenge my thinking processes.

I am grateful for people who enable me to respond like You would.

I am thankful for snow and for sunshine … for thunderstorms … and for spring days.

I am thankful for my Bible … for worship music … for prayers both answered and unanswered … and for YOU, my Father!

3 – Thanks-singing is the choice that has the joyful ability to turn the dry and barren wilderness into a fruitful and lush garden of life.

If you choose to wait to sing until you “feel” like singing … you may never sing again!  Feelings don’t determine the frequency of our song … the depth of the harmonies … or the breadth of its audience.

The song that fills the days of our lives is birthed in the heart of the Father’s love for us.  He loves me!  That gives me something to sing about every day of every year!

When the arctic winds of January are wailing … God gives a song!

When February 14th comes around again and relationships remain difficult and demanding … or your heart shivers from perpetual loneliness … He sings a love song into personal darkness and pain.

When the winter stubbornly lingers into March and April … He sings of His vibrant power and we join bravely in the duet with Him.

And then … when at last spring flowers bloom and the warmth of sunshine re-appears … the song delightfully grows in volume not because of human happiness but because of His dear presence.

And when the flowers fade …  and the leaves begin to fall … and the earth prepares itself for winter’s ferocious onslaught … the song remains steady and strong as the children of God sing with the saints of the ages,

“Great is Thy Faithfulness!  Oh God, my Father! 
There is no shadow of turning with Thee!
 Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
 Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

4 – Thanks-living is what life is all about!  The only reason that you and I are still alive this year is to give Him more thanks … higher praise … and louder worship.

We do not live for selfish ambition or for personal gain but we live to worship Him!

We breathe to sing to Him!

We exist to write a new song of wondrous thanksgiving and glorious worship!

Our lives are the song that He has been aching to hear this year.  Like a proud papa, He is bending low to hear our childlike attempts at singing a new and challenging song.

Frankly, the Father doesn’t care if we are on pitch or off pitch … He doesn’t notice whether we hit the right notes or the painful, wrong ones … He is not concerned with perfection or performance.  The Father just wants to hear the song. 

And so … when you sit down at the Thanksgiving table next week to indulge in the laughter of family, the bounty of provision and the delight of memories … don’t forget why you were created!  You are alive today in order to sing the song that the pilgrims of faith sang with gusto and with wholehearted joy!  You are here to join in the symphony of praise of those who have gone before but who have served with thanksgiving at their moment in eternity’s calendar.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;

Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

 

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,

Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;

So from the beginning the fight we were winning;

Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

 

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,

And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;

Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

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An Unexpected Storm

Oh my … what do you do when you receive a phone call that carries unexpected, potentially devastating news?

Wow … how do you respond when out of nowhere comes a diagnosis that is unexpected and cruel?

“Carol … it is cancer,” are words that I never thought that I would hear.

Cancer?!  Really?!!  Our family doesn’t get cancer.  Don’t the doctor and his brilliant radiologist know that?

And yet the words of a kind nurse named Sue invaded my healthy world Monday afternoon, November 3, 2014, at 3:15 pm.

“Ductal carcinoma”. 

How dare cancer slap me in the face?!!

How dare cancer slap anyone in the face?!

“Are you sure?” were the very first words out of my mouth when Sue gently reported what the biopsy had revealed.

“I know that is not what you wanted to hear,” she quietly said as I tried to wrap my mind and heart around this new reality.

After giving instructions concerning who to call, what to do next, which doctors were the best and what to expect as far as a treatment plan, Sue, the owner of a soft and gentle voice, said good-bye and wished me well.

My hair was half dry … I had a Bible Study to teach that night … would I ever feel like eating again?

In spite of human shock there were some things that I knew.

I knew that I knew that I knew that God was with me … that this had not taken Him by surprise. 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” – I Peter 4:12 & 13

I knew that I knew that I knew that I serve a powerful God Who is my Great Physician.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” – Psalm 103:1-5

I knew that I knew that I knew that I was appointed to take the joy and hope of Christ to the dark world of sickness and cancer.

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.  Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will be converted to You.” – Psalm 51:12 & 13

I also knew … that I needed my husband... so I called him and he came home.  Quickly.  Instantly.  Immediately.

I don’t remember if we cried or not … but I do remember that we prayed and began to share a Scripture verse or two with one another.  We were sobered but not destroyed … concerned but not worried … saddened but not sorrowful.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” – II Corinthians 4:7-10

Truthfully?!  I was mad!  I was mad as hell at hell and decided to fight this diagnosis the only way I knew how … with worship and the Word!

In the days since that phone call, my prayer times have become richer and more meaningful. I am learning what it means to pray without ceasing.

Since my world was invaded by a diagnosis of demonic proportions, reading the Bible is no longer a required discipline but is a time of daily delight and revelation.

Worship miraculously cuts through my raw, seething emotions and brings me into the presence of my Healer.

Enough about me … let’s talk about you.

Have you ever been in a place of shock at a turn of unexpected and undeserved events?

When was the last time that you received a phone call that took you out at the knees?

What does one do during those moments of heart-racing … adrenaline inducing … dry-mouth shock?

This is what one does … default to priorities when encountering a moment of human pain designed to detour your life off of its planned course.

When life throws that infamous curve ball in your direction, throw your hands in the air and begin to worship.  I’d rather worship than wail any day.

I would rather read the Word than sit in a chair paralyzed with worry.

The simple truth is this:  times of hardship and challenge are able to define one’s life in a way that days of ease and pleasure simply are unable to.

How does the definition of your life read in heaven’s dictionary? 

David = Heart after God’s own heart; worshiper.

Paul = Mass murderer became prolific evangelist and one who heard God’s voice.

Hannah = Barren woman who relentlessly prayed and worshiped; God answered her prayers.

Peter = Impetuous, stubborn fisherman who became a powerful leader when filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth = Righteous elderly woman who held fast to the promises of God.

This is what I long for that holy, one-of-a-kind, eternal, final-authority-on-everything dictionary to say about me:

Carol = When life hit her hard, she worshiped the Lord and declared the Word of God.

Lens of Faith.jpg

The truth is this … when viewed through the lens of faith, difficulties have the triumphant power to be the finest hour in the life of a believer.

Just ask Sarah and Abraham …

Just ask Joseph …

Just ask Joshua …

Just ask Carol McLeod …

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The Wait

What do you do when you find yourself in the wait?  We have all been there … in the wait.

Waiting for God to answer.

Waiting for mountains to move.

Waiting for provision.

Waiting for healing.

Waiting for breakthrough.

Waiting for the storm to pass.

Waiting for someone … anyone … to notice that you are in the wait.

Some people seem to get breakthrough so easily … for me it has not been like that.  I have spent years in the wait. 

Years waiting for God to answer.

Years waiting for God to move.

Years waiting for provision.

Years waiting for healing.

Years waiting for breakthrough.

Years waiting for the storm to pass.  Who knew storms could last so long?!

Years waiting for someone to join me in the wait.  Who knew the wait was such a lonely place?

Years in the wait.  Years.

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.” – Isaiah 41:28

Sometimes I wonder if staying in the wait is more a place of power and less a place of weakness than I perceive it to be.

The days … years … that I spend in the wait are the times that I find myself spending volumes of time on my knees and days on my face in His presence.  This powerful position makes the wait bearable.

The days … years … that I am in the wait, I spend more time in the Word. The Word comforts my weary heart while I am in the wait.

The days … years … that I am in the wait, I spend more time in worship.  Worship takes my eyes off of what I don’t have … and Who He is!  What power!!

It is in the wait that I discover I am not alone.  He is with me in the wait.  There is nobody I would rather wait with than Him.  There is no one I would rather hang out with than Him.  There is no one.  Just Him.

He never gets frustrated with me … or with the wait.  That humbles me.  I want to be like Him.  I don’t want to be frustrated in the wait … or with Him.

The time spent in the wait turns my attention away from stuff and things and toward Him. 

I find it a far more powerful choice to simply wait with Him than to wait for His hand to move

It’s in the wait that my life is joined to eternity’s focus, to heaven’s power and to His perpetual and unconditional love.  I become like Him and all that He is when I am with Him in the wait!  I am able to access all that He has for me when I spend time in the wait with Him!

It is in the wait that I am changed.  Revolutionized.  Transformed.  It is in the wait that I discover a strength I never before had.  It is impossible to wait and remain weak when one waits with Him. 

We all surely know that, if nothing else, one needs strength to wait.  And the strength that is so desperately needed due to the wait is found in the companionship of Him Who is strong.

            If you wait alone … what frustration ensues!

            If you wait alone … what weakness prevails!

            If you wait alone … how slowly time passes. 

            But when you wait with Him … what miracles happen!

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” – Isaiah 41:29

Waiting is not for wimps.  But then again … maybe waiting IS for wimps.  Perhaps it is in the wait that wimps become warriors.

Have you ever noticed that in the wait … temptation strikes with a ferocity unheard of in other places and in other situations?!

Have you ever noticed in the wait … that you are tempted to say things that you shouldn’t even think much less have the audacious bravado to say?!

Have you ever noticed that in the wait… the temptation to compromise beliefs and to forget about the promises of God is at a dangerously high level?!

It is Who you wait with that makes all of the difference.

If you are forced to wait … wait with Him.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that I discover a tenacity that I never before possessed.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that I discover the purpose for which I have been born.

It is also … in the wait with Him … that vision is refined and that desires are purified.

I need the wait.  I need to wait with Him.  I need the work that happens in me during the wait.

“Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly …” – Isaiah 40:30

I think that I am only waiting … just hanging around until life happens … but He sees the wait as the stuff of which life is made.  God made me for the wait and for the work that it accomplishes in me.

God designed the wait to be the place where treasure is discovered in my life.

The wait.  It’s the place where I become the person He desires. 

The wait.  It’s the place where the pressure reveals the value.

The wait.  Him and me.  Me and Him.  It’s my favorite place.

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31

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Grace...What Is It?

Grace.

We all need it … but what is it?

Is it just another religious word that translates into empty chatter in real life?

Grace.

We all need it … but what is it?

Grace.

I need grace for when I win and for when I lose.

I need grace for climbing the mountain and for when I spend time in the valley.

I need grace for valuable relationships with dear friends and for dealings with fractious and difficult people.

I need grace for the hard stuff of life and for the easy stuff of life.

Grace.

I need grace for the possible and the impossible … for the ordinary and for the extraordinary … for the mundane and for the miraculous.

I need grace. 

I need grace for the dishes and for the laundry … for finances and for car repairs … for stressful driving and for mice under the dishwasher.

I need grace.

I need grace when I am running on empty and when my plate is way too full … I need grace for when I am lonely and for when others refuse to leave me alone … I need grace for those I love and for those who drive me crazy.

I need grace.

Now … if I only knew what it was.    Grace … what is it?!

Oh … I know what it is in my heart but I am not sure that I could define the word … or explain the word … or understand the word. 

Grace.

Sometimes I think that if I could define it in human terms that my feeble definition would devalue grace.  And so rather than define it … understand it … or explain it … I will simply pray for grace knowing that I can’t live without it.

I know where it comes from.  There is only one place to get grace.  From Him.  From the One Who created it.

Grace is only one aching prayer away.

“Jesus, I have found myself in a spot of my own making and choosing.  I need You.  I need what only You can give to me.  I need your Grace.”

And in that place … and with that prayer …  I find it.  I find grace.

If there is anything that I know about prayer … it is this … prayer is the grace place. 

Worship is the grace place.  

Forgiveness is the grace place. 

Grace is favor I don’t deserve.  It’s love that I didn’t earn.  It’s strength that wins over weakness.

Grace is joy that sings in spite of horrific suffering … it is a tranquil peace in the middle of confusion …and it is glorious healing in the midst of raw pain.

Grace.  I need it.  He gives it.

Grace is perseverance that rises richly from within … it is wisdom that quietly answers and affirms … grace is able to flourish and triumphantly bloom in the desert.

Grace is unearned acceptance and undeserved love.  Such sweet stuff.

I don’t know what you need today … but I know that God has what you need.  He gives whatever you need in the form of His grace when you are bold enough to expose your human condition to the grace place. 

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

When I press into grace … I am pressing into Him.

I need grace to be a mom and to be a wife.

I need grace to be a friend and to carry on.

I need grace to stop stomping through life and to glide instead.

And you better believe that you need me to stop at the grace place before our lives intersect or collide!

The grace place changes everything for every person … for every relationship … for every desert … for every minute … for every mountain … for every suffering soul … for every challenge … the grace place.

If you are weary … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are stressed out and frustrated … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are angry … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you are … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

If you have questions … go to the grace place.

Prayer.  Worship.  Forgiveness.

I’ll meet you there … in the grace place. 

We will know each other by the desperation in our eyes and the arid condition of our hearts.  We will know because we are one and the same.

Sinners in need of grace.

Saints in need of revival.

Weary travelers in need of strength.

Empty hearts in need of love.

Discouraged souls in need of joy.

People in need of God.

How wonderful that He knew that we would need Him and His grace!  And so He offers it willingly and without blame.

Grace.

He has it … I need it.

I always knew we were a match made in heaven!

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Motherhood and a Frozen Family Announcement

I am obnoxious … totally out of control when it comes to my family.  Of all of the things that I have accomplished or completed in my life … my family ranks at the top of my list.  The very top of the list.  Every single day. 

There is absolutely nothing like bein’ a mom.

I am not a helicopter mom … but I have been known to be braggadocios.  Yuck.  Sorry about that.

I have been a mom for nearly 34 years!  Well … actually a little over 34 years because I really do believe that life begins at conception.  Motherhood has comprised the grandest, most challenging, most fulfilling, most humbling, most gratifying moments of my life.

Motherhood has kept me on my knees.

Who knew that I had the tenacity to sit in pouring rainstorms while cheering for high school football teams?  Who knew?!

Who knew that I would perfect the art of grilled cheese sandwiches to maximum gooeyness?!

Who knew that I could change an explosive diaper without gagging … teach 5 teens to drive without harming them … and play a competitive game of H.O.R.S.E. in the driveway with neighborhood boys?

Having raised 5 children … I wonder how many potatoes I have peeled over the last 34 years? I wonder how many PBJ’s I have made … I wonder how many silly songs I have written … how many books I have read out loud … how many stinky towels I have washed … I wonder.

I wonder how many boo-boos I have kissed … how many candles I have placed atop birthday cakes … how many prayers I have prayed.  I wonder.

I wonder how many legos I have stepped on … how many beds I have made … how many nights I have fallen into bed utterly exhausted but gloriously fulfilled.  I wonder.

And now … as I look at the men and women that my children have become … I stare in utter awe of what God has done.  Any weakness in them I take full responsibility for … and any strength or gift that they possess I will give God all the glory for!

Matt & Emily.jpg

Matt … a coach of coaches.  A leader of leaders.  A dynamic speaker … a voice of integrity and righteousness.  A lover of God.  A husband who serves and a father who cares.


Chris & Liz.jpg

Chris … this kid was born with a song in his heart.  A worshipper.  A creative genius. Kindness exudes from every pore of his body.  A great dad and loving husband.



Jordan & Alli.jpg

Jordan … the one for whom we prayed.  The baby who was born after losing 5 babies.  A musician of unsurpassed excellence and a reader of great literature.  There is not a mean bone in his body.  How did I get to be his mom?!


Joy … the first splash of pink after 3 boys.  She lives up to her name.  A classical pianist … the pied piper of children … she possesses a wisdom that would make even Solomon take note.

Joni … my missionary to the nations.  Immovable … focused … a scholar and an athlete.  She embraces a call so rare and so heartfelt that we are all moved to tears dreaming about the nations that she will impact.

(I told you I could be braggadocios.)

And now the next generation has begun to make their significant arrivals!  If you think I am an obnoxious mom … just let me begin to talk about those grandbabies!

However … I will spare you the details of my brilliant, beautiful and anointed grandchildren for now.  But what I do want to share with you today is that there is another one on the way!

Another little gift from heaven … filled with potential and sparkle and promise.  We don’t know yet whether it is a girl or a boy … but we do know that God has ordained this little life since the very beginning of time.

“You saw me before I was born.  Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single moment passed.  How precious are your thoughts about me, Oh God!  They cannot be numbered.  I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, You are still with me.” – Psalm 139:16-18

And so, in honor of this nameless and growing mass of potential, I thought I would share the announcement that Chris and Liz created to let their friends and family know that another little McLeod is on the way. 

This miniature McLeod person, while yet in sweet Liz’s womb, has the potential to change the world … to write a symphony … to heal disease … to feed the poor … and to love the difficult.

My prayer for you today is that you will go back to the Father Who created you and dream big dreams with Him.  You are here for purpose and destiny and He has not forgotten why you were created.  The fingerprint of the Divine is upon you.

You are God’s “for the first time in forever!”  He couldn’t wait for your grand entrance upon planet earth.  The angels cheered your arrival and wait in breathless anticipation for all that you will become!

It is never too late to be who God has called you to be.  God meant your minutes to matter and calls you to live a life beyond regret.  Today is the first day of your forever … so live big!  Live exuberantly!  Live with the song of heaven in your very soul!

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Today You Are You

Youer than You.jpg

Mrs. Dombrowski, an Australian war bride, who was also my second grade teacher, wrote this in my second grade yearbook:

“This above all:  to thine own self be true,  And it must follow, as the night, the day,  Thou canst not then be false to any man.”    -William Shakespeare

Please!  I was only 7 years old!  I had no clue what these words were trying to communicate or what Mrs. Dombrowski was thinking!!

Why didn’t she choose to quote the esteemed Dr. Seuss?

"Today you are you … that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

Don’t both quotes mean the exact same thing?!  Well … you have to admit … they are close!

Mrs. Dombrowski, although she never had children of her own, had chosen to convey two very different but oh!  such rich possibilities to me … the little blonde girl who believed that her teacher walked on water.

First of all, Mrs. Dombrowski was instructing me to stretch beyond the simple yet wonderful wisdom of Seuss.  She was challenging the 7 year old in me to think like a 10 year old … or a 14 year old … or even like an adult.

Secondly, the never-to-be-forgotten Margaret Dombrowski, with the words written in my second grade yearbook, was telling me, “Carol … I believe in you!  You are made for more!”

figure out who you are.jpg

Now … I didn’t understand Mrs. Dombrowski’s chosen Shakespearean quote in the second grade … nor in the fourth grade … nor in the sixth grade.  But by the time I arrived in Junior High School, I was beginning to understand what my beloved lifetime influencer was endeavoring to say …

Figure out who you are … figure out why you are here …

Figure out what you believe and what you stand for!

Don’t just be one of the crowd …

Don’t compromise who you are to please others.

Think thoughts bigger than you are able to think on your own …

Stretch your brain!

Do you want to know what I truly believe more than five decades after Mrs. Dombrowski wrote those words in my black and white yearbook?  I believe that the brilliant Australian war bride was declaring to an impressionable, wide-eyed daughter of the heart,

"Carol … any average second grader can enjoy Dr. Seuss with all his quirks and colors and 4 letter words. 

But Carol … you were made for more than average … you were made for more than above average.  You were made to be a person of virtue and character.

Don’t give in to the whims of the day and the fads of your culture … defy whims and fads with well-chosen values and with the commitment to noble character.”

And now … allow me to turn Mrs. Dombrowski’s opinion and inescapable challenges in your direction …

Why are you here?  Why are you still sucking in the atmosphere of planet earth?

Are you here to raise a significant family or perhaps to take care of the elderly?  Are you here to run for public office or to take care of the sick?  Are you here to teach children to paint … to sing … and to pray?

Why are you here?

Do not short-change your life with mediocrity.  Any average person can settle into a rut and be content with mere status quo.

But you were made for more.

You were not made for average … you were made for extraordinary!

Figure out who you are … why you are here … and be passionate about it!

Stand up for something noble!  Let your one voice be a resounding voice of excellent values, immovable integrity and passionate kindness.

I know that I know that I know that there is not one common person reading these words today.  Inside of each one of you lies a seed of greatness.  However, … if left unfertilized and unattended … that is all it will ever be … a miniscule, nearly invisible seed of greatness.

It is up to you, as an uncommon gift to this world, to fertilize your great seed, which may currently be lying dormant, with big dreams and with goals both short term and long term. 

It is up to you to pull out the weeds around that seed of greatness.  Extinguish mediocrity and compromise.  Choke selfishness and small thinking before they even have a chance to grow.

Discover why you were born and go for it with every ounce of creativity and passion in your soul!  You will make Mrs. Dombrowski proud when you determine not only what you were made to do but more importantly who you were meant to be.

And so, my gift to you this October morning is a quote.  Just as the words of Shakespeare were deposited in my innocent soul by a woman of great character and intellect so many years ago, allow me to share with you some soul-shaking words today!

"When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, He goes about it in a very unusual way.  He doesn’t stir up His earthquakes or send forth His thunderbolts.  Instead, He has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother.  And then God puts the idea into the mother’s heart, and she puts it into the baby’s mind.  And then God waits.  The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts.  The greatest forces in the world are babies.”                   – E. T. Sullivan

You were that baby born 18 … 27 … 32 … 48 … 60 or more years ago into which a great idea was deposited.  You have more potential than an earthquake or a thunderbolt.  God has been waiting for you to become the force you were made to be!

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7 Priorities for Living Life Well

Did you know that in just a little over 2 months I will be turning the big 6-0?!  Yes … I believe that I have mentioned it a time or two … or three or four!

You know some things in life are worth celebrating and I believe that significant birthdays are one of them!  I am not ashamed of being 60 … but I must admit … I wish that I could be 30 again … there are many moments when I wish that I looked like I did at 20 … or weighed what I did at 20!

Oh!  The bliss of being able to “start all over again”!  Now … wouldn’t that be something?

If I could do the last 6 decades all over again what would I do differently?

It’s all about priorities, isn’t it?  What we prioritize in our youth may not be exactly what we prioritize later in life.  What we deem as important and valuable during those exciting and challenging days of the teens and 20’s begins to mellow and evolve as each decade flies by.

And so, in the twilight of my 50’s, I’d like to share with you some things that I have learned about priorities.  My prayer is that wherever you are on your life journey that these musings from a nearly 60-year-old heart and mind will enable you to live the life you were made for.

1 – Read your Bible

Of all the things that I have done well, reading my Bible remains at the top of my list in every year of every decade.  When I open its eternal yet rejuvenating pages, I become the very best version of me. 

Because of the transfer of power that happens when I take the time to nestle into a Psalm … or am challenged by the writings of Paul … or read the life story of an ordinary man or woman who was used by God … it is with that power that my life explodes with possibility and with strength!

2 – Spend time with your family

In the hustle and bustle of working, paying bills, soccer games, church responsibilities, volunteer activities, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, mowing, and exercise …sometimes we lose sight of what is truly important in life.  The loud call of the expendable drowns out the whisper of the valuable. 

There is nothing as valuable as the family you have been given.  Nothing or no one should be allowed to distract you from the treasure of these imperfect people who have your DNA. 

People who have lost a dear family member understand this priority painfully well. 

Listen to your children when they speak … make time for a date with your spouse … call your cousins who live far away … plan a family reunion … take ice cream to your grandmother’s house … call your mom. 

Your family may not be perfect … they may even be weird … but they are still your family.  And guess what?  If their weird DNA is running through your cellular structure … that would make you weird as well!

3 – Make healthy choices when you are young

Go for a long walk every day … take your vitamins … eat healthy foods … make time for relaxation. 

I intend to do everything within my power to slow down the aging process!  Growing older is a non-negotiable …  getting old is optional! 

I want to keep on jogging when I turn 65 … I intend to have a youthful spring in my step when I turn 70 … I will have a mischievous sparkle in my eye when I turn 75 … I plan to go on a missions trip when I turn 80 … I can’t wait to have long and meaningful discussions with my great-grandchildren when I turn 85 … I want to cook for the entire family when I turn 90 … and when I turn 95?  I want to still be able to bend my knees in prayer.

4 – Give your money away! 

Tithe every paycheck … be generous by investing in missions and ministries.  Help someone less fortunate than you.  You are not defined by what you earn but you are defined by what you give.

5 – Spend your money wisely and save more than you spend

Oh!  How I wish I could do this part of life over again!  Life flies by and how we handle our money when we are young impacts our latter years.  If all you can put away is $5 a week … do it now!  You will never regret saving your money.

6 – Keep a journal.

A journal is the story of you.  It is a record of your emotions, your prayers, your growth, your failures and your successes.  No one else may ever read it but you and God … but in the writing of life experiences you will discover that you are not the same you as when you started this glorious adventure of life.

As the years pass quickly by … and they will … when you re-read the story of you … you will bask in the treasure of the pilgrimage that was uniquely yours.  You will be able to discern the fingerprint of God upon the ordinary days of your extraordinary journey.

Your journal is a poignant reminder of the girl or boy you used to be. 

Even if you have passed your 60th milestone, today is a wonderful day to commence the delight of writing down the adventure and history of your life.

7 – Be kind.

Kindness is the richest legacy that a person is able to leave.  Kindness is the most valuable asset one can possibly own.  Kindness is all that really matters in the end, isn’t it?

Be kind to your family and to strangers. 

Speak only kind words with the utmost of kindness in your voice.  And remember, sometimes the kindest thing you can do is simply to be quiet.

Look for ways to exhibit kindness every day … at the grocery store … in your neighborhood … at church … in the workplace. 

Let’s face it … if you are too busy to be kind … you are just too busy. 

If anyone remembers me for anything at all … I want them to remember that I read my Bible … I valued my family … I never lost my zest for life … I was a giver … and I was kind.

My friend … whether you are turning the big “2-0” this year … or the big “8-0” … or anything in between … what will your legacy be?

"He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you?  But to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

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What Only A New Baby Can Teach Us

I am sitting at my desk this cool September morning with a steaming mug of coffee and my Bible open in front of me.  What a glorious day to be alive! 

A myriad of thoughts and emotions are running through my mind …

 … A friend who is battling for her life after a stroke is never out of my prayers ….  She needs a miracle ….

… How can I possibly be turning 60 this year when I still feel 26 in my soul ….

The years have raced by much too quickly …  I want to live longer and stronger.

… I get to write another book … My heart is beating with joy and incredulity … Only God …

… Bible Study starts tonight … I am traveling out of town this week-end to teach the Word … How am I so blessed to be used by God at this moment in history?!

… I need to record some radio programs today … Praying in financial support to take radio to the next level …  Father … You are my Provider …

… And then … my phone rings … it’s Matthew.  My oldest son.

“Mom … we are on our way to the hospital.  Emily’s contractions are just a couple of minutes apart.”

Baby # 4 for Matt and Emily will arrive sometime today.  Olivia … Wesley … Boyce … and now another little girl.  I will know her name in just a few hours.

How can this be?!  Matthew was just placed in my arms yesterday.  I’ll never forget looking at the miracle of life that the love of his father and I had created.

I will never forget his blue eyes staring seriously back at me.  I will never forget the McLeod cowlick … so dominant in his newborn forehead.

I will never … as long as I live … forget the overwhelming love in my heart for a little person whose chief accomplishments were to sleep more than 2 hours … poop in his cloth diaper … keep his pacifier in his rosebud mouth … and burp for the whole world to hear.

And now … we are eagerly anticipating his fourth child.

When Craig and I were expecting our second baby, I wondered how I could possibly love the new one as much as I loved Matthew.  How could my heart expand to unconditionally and completely love another child?  It has been the quandary of mothers since the beginning of time.

Is my heart big enough to love another baby?

Am I enough to mother a second baby?

A very wise mother gave to me some sage and loving advice when I was at that maternal crossroads of doubt, “Each new baby comes with its own little world of love.”

How right she was!  A new baby wiggles its way into your heart and life and brings as a heavenly gift the capability of loving more … loving bigger … loving to excess.  If a new baby teaches us anything, it is simply how to love.

A new baby teaches us how to love in the middle of the night.

A new baby teaches us how to love in the midst of searing pain.

A new baby teaches us how to love without a word spoken … without an act accomplished … without an expectation completed.

A new baby brings its own little world of love.

And so I wait at my computer for the phone to ring again.  As I wait, I will prepare for Bible Study … write a blog … record some radio shows … answer some e-mails … fill up an already too full calendar … and write some meaningful words for the new book.

But none of those endeavors will teach me how to love more completely.  Only a baby can do that.  A baby about to be born 2,000 miles away.  I won’t get to hold her for a month or more … but you can be sure that she will already be nestled deeply into this Marmee’s heart.

My prayer for you this autumn morning is that your world of love would be increased.  I hope that in the midst of busy-ness and productivity that you would take the time to love someone deeply.  Lay aside your calendar and pray for the people God has given to you … make plans to spend time together and to get to know one another on a deeper level. 

Babies grow up … friends get sick … relationships may become demanding … but the goal of life this side of heaven is to learn to love more deeply and with sweet intent.  Perhaps that is why God sends us babies … to teach us to love others like He loves us.  No one is able to ignore the world of love that only a baby delivers.

"But now faith, hope, love, abide these three: but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13:13.

One of my dearest friends, and Matthew’s favorite babysitter, wrote a song for Matthew when he was just a tiny bit of humanity.  We called her “Lynn” but Matthew, as soon as he was able to talk, named her “La-La” because she sang every minute of every day.

I have sung La-La’s song over every one of my 5 children and have modified the lyrics appropriately for each gender.  Today, however, I sing it to the new baby who is sweetly bringing more love to my heart … the new baby girl being born into this raucous, loving, enthusiastic, competitive, joyful family known as “McLeod”. 

            “Little girl … little girl … how do you do?

            Little girl … little girl … I once was like you.

            I was just that small, wanting all the world to be true,

            For little girls and little boys like you.

            And little girl … little girl … how are things this far?

            Little girl … my little girl … I know you’ll reach the stars.

            And little girl … my little girl … that’s why I sing this song.

            Because you won’t be a little girl for long.” – Lynn Parker Fields

Welcome little girl.  We love you already!

**Update - Elizabeth Joy McLeod, weighing in at 7 lbs 13 ounces was born shortly after this blog was written.  

Matt McLeod holding his newest baby girl

Matt McLeod holding his newest baby girl

Elizabeth Joy McLeod

Elizabeth Joy McLeod

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I Have Come Down to Bring You Up!

Is anyone out there doing “hard” today?  Have formidable circumstances and troublesome events  become a perpetual avalanche of disappointment?  You are at the end of yourself … at the end of your courage … at the end of your strength … at the end of your joy.  Perhaps your heart is not sure that it can gasp one more breath to get through one more day.

Is anyone out there dealing with the stress of difficult people?  You know who I am talking about … those misfits who are like fingernails on the chalkboard of life.  It seems that every difficult person in the universe knows your cell phone number and uses it.  Often.

Is anyone out there living in a rut?  Just day after day after day of the same old … same old.  No highs … no lows … just the mediocre existence of the common man or woman.  Ordinary.  Average.  Mundane.

Is anyone out there struggling because there is more of life behind you than in front of you?  And … you are seriously not sure that your life has ever meant anything to anyone.  “Regret” is your new middle name and even the hope of something better is elusive and flat.

Where is God in the hard … in the stress … in the rut … in the regret?  Does He even care that our lives are just so abysmally small and demanding? 

I have a feeling that the words that God spoke to Moses nearly 3,500 years ago might resonate in your heart today amidst the hard … the stress … the rut … and the regret.

"The Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferingsSo I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”                            – Exodus 3:7 & 8a

God had a message 3,500 years ago for Moses from a burning bush and He has a message for you today from a burning blog.

I have surely seen … I have given heed … I am aware … I have come down … to bring them up!

Are those words from the Bible stirring something within you yet?  God is speaking to you who are dealing with hard … with stress … with the rut … with regret.

I have surely seen!

 I have given heed to your cry!

 I am aware of your sufferings!

 I have come down to bring you up!

Never assume for one minute that God is ignoring your life or is unaware of your personal pain.  God has surely seen!  He is not blind nor is He oblivious.  He is intently looking at your life and has not left you to flounder alone.  God has surely seen!

God has heard your prayer and help is on the way!  God never ignores the prayer of one of His own.  A fervent prayer cried … or whispered … or shouted … or uttered … or even thought … by a desperate child gets the attention of the Father.  He has given heed to your cry!

God is aware of your sufferings.  All of them.  He knows every detail of every disappointment of every pain-filled day and long, lonely night.  There is nothing that you could tell Him that is “new” news to Him.  He is acquainted with every hard situation … every difficult person … every average minute … and every hopeless regret.  How wonderful to serve a God Who understands human pain!  He is aware!

And best of all … He has come down to bring you up!  God gets involved in the messy of our lives, rolls up His sleeves and gets to work.  He will never allow one of His beloved children to remain needlessly in the swamp of perpetual pain or meaningless existence.  He has come down to bring you up!

Scripture is not just a beautifully told, historically accurate story.  The power of Scripture happens when it is applied to each of our lives in a practical way.  I believe that when God spoke to Moses that day in the wilderness that He was speaking to you and to me.

God knew that we would all have times of “hard”.  Moses was in the wilderness because he had killed a man and was a fugitive from the law. Talk about hard!

God knew that we would all have times of stress.  Moses had no sheep of his own but had to be a baby-sitter for the herds of his father-in-law.  Then … God expected him to go talk to Pharaoh who actually wanted to kill Moses!  I don’t think that your difficult people are murderers.  Talk about stress!

God knew that we would all have seasons of ordinary.  Moses had been in the wilderness dealing with sheep drool and looking at the behinds of wooly livestock for 40 years.  That’s 14,600 days.  That’s 350,400 hours.  That’s 21,024,000 minutes.  But who’s counting?  It’s hard to measure mundane.

God knew that we would all deal with regret and the vacuum of a hopeless existence.  Moses was raised in the palace to be the next king of Egypt but he had a problem with anger and then killed a man.  Is there any hope for an 80-year-old man with a criminal record?  Regret is the greatest exterminator of destiny known to mankind.

I have surely seen!

I have given heed to your cry!

I am aware of your sufferings!

I have come down to bring you up!

The God of Moses is the God of YOU!  How about meeting God in the wilderness of divine appointment and listening to His voice in a burning blog?  I have a feeling that I AM will say the same thing to you that He said to Moses …

            I have surely seen!

            I have given heed to your cry!

            I am aware of your sufferings!

            I have come down to bring you up!

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When I Look at Me

I am going to be 60 years old in 91 days … how did that happen?!  How did I evolve from a piano-playing, book-reading, bike-riding little girl into a grandmother?!

When did wrinkles and age spots appear on my formerly peaches and cream complexion?!

When did I start to look more like a post-menopausal woman rather than a fit and svelte 20-something?!

When did the golden blonde turn to mousy brown turn to gray?!

When?!

If there is one thing that is true about life … it is that life flies by far more quickly than you can begin to imagine.  It is impossible to lasso time … or to press pause on the soundtrack of your life … or set it to play on slow motion.  Time moves at lightning speed and the only way to capture time is in your heart.

There is an interesting aspect, however, to the effects and speed of time.  When the age of a person is viewed from the outside and from the inside, there are two distinctly different views indeed.

You might look at me and think, “Yep … she is a grandmother with highlighted hair and a diminished sense of style.”  However, when I look at me … I see something much, much different than what my outward appearance may present.

When I look at me … I still see a little girl who dreams about being an author.

When I look at me … I miraculously view a teen-ager whose heart aches when listening to an LP of Chopin or Gershwin because the music touches a deep spot in me that I didn’t even know existed.  While everyone else is listening to the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones … I am proudly addicted to the harmonies of the Letterman and to the lyrics of “Climb Every Mountain”!

When I look at me … I am able to conjure up a college freshman who is so homesick that she longs to be a little girl again in the safety of her pink and white canopy bed.  I can still feel the angst rise up inside of me as I cry myself to sleep night after lonely night of the fall of 1973 in a college dormitory room thousands of miles from home.

When I look at me … I have a vibrant peek at a young bride who is head over heels in love with the young man of her dreams.  How was I chosen to marry him?!  Did he really choose me?!  It is true, my 22 year old self remembers, when you meet “the one” … you just know that you know that you know.

When I look at me … I melt at the view of a first-time mother who watches her baby boy even while he is sleeping so great is the wonder and joy!  I remember putting my nose next to his little mouth and then smelling his baby breath … so fresh from heaven.  He is what love looks like … this squalling, red-faced night owl is the personification of the love of my husband and I.  Imagine that!

When I look at me … I am able to take a gander at a homeschool mom in a jean skirt who knows that she is divinely called to raise the next generation for significance and destiny.  In spite of piles of laundry and yesterday’s dishes still in the kitchen sink, I long to place inside the hearts and my minds of my 5 progeny the richness of Shakespeare … the fulfillment of solving an impossible and confusing algebraic equation … and the fact that all vocabulary roads lead to Rome! 

You only see the “me” of today … I see the “me” of every season of the life that I have been given. 

And, when I see me, I don’t just see “me” because life is the compilation of those who have invested and left a deposit of “them” in “me”.

When I see “me” … I see Grandma Blew’s love of Thanksgiving and Auntie’s commitment to children.

When I see “me” … I see my dad’s love for the Word of God and for giving one’s life to foreign missions.

When I see “me” … I see my mother’s love for the giving of extravagant and thoughtful gifts.  I see my mother’s ability to turn an ordinary day into a holiday.

When I see “me” … I see Miss Sullivan’s, my fifth grade teacher, love for words and for their meanings and their derivations.

When I see “me” … I see my second grade teacher’s, Mrs. Dombrowski, love for Laura Ingalls Wilder … and Louisa May Alcott … and Charlotte’s Web.

When I see “me” … I hear Uncle Doug, the world’s greatest piano teacher, encouraging me to memorize a Chopin Waltz or a Rachmaninoff Concerto.

When I see “me” … I see a little girl at the altar of the Batavia Assembly of God church simply wanting more of God.

And so, as I stand at the threshold of the big “6-0”, I don’t stand there alone.  I stand there with all of the people, experiences and events that have helped to write my story.  And although I know that there is more of life behind me than in front of me, I stand confident in the conviction that there is still much of life left to be lived!

There are grandbabies to love and books to write!

There are women who need to be encouraged by the power and principles found only in the Word of God and more friends to be made!

There are Bible verses to be studied, continents that need reaching and gifts to be given.

There are young women who need mentoring, blogs to create and dreams to be dreamed.

There are radio programs to be produced, conferences that need planning and Christmases to be celebrated!

I am nearly 60 years old … and I have only just begun to LIVE!  God is not finished with me yet … and He is not finished with you, either.  So, roll up your sleeves, and get to work serving God.  Never let creaking joints, a less than stellar memory or a few extra pounds stop you from pursuing passionately all of life that is yet to be lived!

I intend to cross the finish line sweaty … not rusty!  I will be the one with my hands in the air, a youthful twinkle in my eye and with not one ounce of regret. 

I have only just begun to live!

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He's Gotcha, Mom!

Parenting and motherhood.

The unending, never finished, frustrating yet oh!  So fulfilling call to be everything to a little someone.

What does it take to parent well?  Is there something that all mothers can do in every season of parenting that ensures raising healthy children?

*** Note – I didn’t say “perfect children”.  I said “healthy children”.

How does one woman make a profound and lasting impact on the little lives under her care?

How does a woman, filled with estrogen and human weakness, make it through all the seasons that childhood presents?

The sleepless nights and terrific two’s … the challenging teen years and the rapid ‘tween years …the days of preschool delights and the blink of babyhood …  the ache of the first day of kindergarten … the emotional implosion of sending a child off to college!

Parenting and motherhood. 

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Older women … encourage the young women … to love their children …” – Titus 2:3 & 4

As an older woman in the Body of Christ, may I gently coach those younger women with children still under their watch?

May I encourage you, tired and desperate young mom, how to love your children in a powerful and life-giving manner?

I believe that God, in His gracious goodness and divine providence, has allowed us, as frail humanity, to parent the little lives given to us because He wants us to parent  just like He does.

He wants us to be like Him!  Imagine that!  And there is no other calling or job description in which this is more true, or carries more weight, than in the arena of motherhood.

You are the first glimpse of God that your children ever see.

Your children will only see God as kind and as loving as you are.

Your children will attach the characteristics that their parents display to the characteristics of Father God.

If you are unbending and harsh with childish behavior … that is the way that your children will view God.  They will see God as a caustic and hard-to-please Father with little mercy for His children.

Mother … your life … your words … your responses … your reactions to your children should never be birthed out of human personality but should always reflect the character and nature of God!

Whew!!  That’s quite a challenge, isn’t it?!  How can I show the character of God to immature, disobedient, crying little people?

Well … you can do it because it is what you have seen and experienced in your relationship with the Father.

It’s what God does for you every day … you are the immature, disobedient, crying piece of humanity that God is perpetually kind and loving toward.

My encouragement to you, spent mother, is to put on the mantle of Christ.  The mantle of Christ fits very well … it never goes out of style … and the mantle of Christ always ensures beautiful results.

You don’t really want to be like you … you really do want to be like Him!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – II Corinthians 1:3 & 4

As a mother, our daily heartfelt prayer must sound something like this,

 “Jesus!  I can’t do this without You!  Lord, I pray today that I will decrease and that You will increase!  Lord, let there be less of me and more of You!

Less of my impatience of more of your patience!

 Less of my perfectionist tendencies and more of Your mercy!

 Less of my unbending nature and more of Your lovingkindness!”

If you are impatient and demanding with your children … that is the way that your children will view God.  Your children will falsely believe that God is indignant and ready to blow at the slightest provocation.

And nothing could be farther from the truth.

“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” – Psalm 86:15

Mothers … it is time to realize that if you truly want to be the mother that your children deserve and need … then you will become like Jesus.

You will be loving and kind with every word that you speak.

You will be gracious and compassionate with their childish behavior.

You will let them know on a daily basis that they are loved unconditionally … regardless of how they act.

You will not withhold affection or verbal affirmation but will cultivate an environment where even the most fragile of personalities is allowed to flourish and grow under your Christ-like care.

Our job description, as the children of God, this side of heaven is two-fold:

1 – To bring glory to His Name in everything that we do.

2 – To grow more and more like Jesus everyday that we are alive.

Mothering is the greenhouse where these 2 earthly assignments are most on display.  And, mothering is also the venue where there is the most at stake.  Your children’s first perception of God will be reflected in how you treat them and in what they see in you.

So today, dear mother, lay down your personality.  Die to self and then flourish as you become more like Him!

Spend time with your children because God aches to spend time with you!

Laugh with your children because you serve a God Who rejoices over you!

Show mercy and forgiveness to your children when they don’t deserve it.

Be patient with their childish behavior because God has been patient with you.

The good news is this … where we are weak He is able to be our strength!  Christ loves to empower foible, imperfect mothers with His unending joy, love and strength.

He’s gotcha, mom!  Lean into Him and all that He is.  One of the greatest delights of motherhood lies not in raising perfect little robots, but in allowing our children to see Jesus in the eyes and heart of their imperfect mom.

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The Wilderness of Discouragement

Are you disappointed today?

Have you ever been disappointed?

If you are older than 5 years old, you know exactly what disappointment feels like.

It is that gut level feeling of just being sad … and at times sick over what might have been … what could have been … what should have been.

Disappointment is such a difficult emotion to process.  Unfortunately, disappointment, this particular regret of the soul, has the capacity to take a person to his or her knees in the hopeless place of “if only” … a place where hearts can be permanently paralyzed.

Where dreams are dashed.

Where goals are paused.

Where destiny is changed.

Or is it? Does disappointment actually have the power to change one’s destiny?  I think not.

“And not only this, we exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

Hope does not disappoint.

Some of life’s holiest moments are experienced during times of unwanted and undeserved disappointment.  God loves to meet sobbing, wandering children in the valley of setbacks and in the wilderness of discouragement.

He lives for the moment when you come running back to Him because life has let you down again.

When you feel that your life has fallen apart … He meets you there.  He is lovingly putting the pieces of your life back together.

When you mistakenly believe that you have been defeated one too many times … He is there.  He is perpetually cheering you on.

Truly, if you ever hope to experience victory again in your life, you will go to Him because victory only happens through Him.  In Him.  Because of Him.

So what does one do when dealing with the pain of disappointment?  What is the panacea for those achingly bitter moments in life?

Disappointment is able to produce a work of grace and power when handled with humility and hope.

Disappointment can be your finest hour when you place your well-laid plans at the foot of the cross and humbly ask Him for His appointment.

When your heart is a mangled mess … hope has the power to heal.

When you are nauseous with regret and heartache … trust gives life meaning again.

“And we know that all things work together for the good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Do you want to know what I believe?  I believe that Romans 8:28 means exactly what it says it means.

We serve a God so powerful and so wonderful that He is able to knit together the mangled mess of our hearts into something breathtakingly beautiful.

When we concentrate on simply and passionately loving Him … He is working behind the scenes of our lives to take every disappointment we encounter and work it to our advantage.

Although your heart may be hollow with the pain of aborted dreams and one downfall after another, hold on to hope.

Fan the flame of love for your Savior.

Trust in Him and in His goodness when your circumstances are bleak and discouraging.

Hope.  Love.  Trust.

Rather than remaining in a place of penetrating disappointment, know that because of the power and love of God, nothing this side of heaven has the capacity to “dis”-appoint you.

Nothing this side of heaven has the capacity to “dis”-appoint you.

You have been eternally and unflinchingly appointed for His purposes and His plans.

His appointment for your life trumps circumstantial “dis”-appointments.

Even if you were the cause of the disappointment … you are not “dis”-appointed. 

God has appointed you for favor, for blessing and for goodness in spite of you and because of Him.

“We exult in our tribulations … knowing that … hope does not disappoint.”

So when dealing with the frustrating pain of circumstances gone awry, what does one do?

“We exult …”

That word “exult”, that the Holy Spirit and Paul strategically chose to use in this verse, means “to glory in whether with reason or without.”

Rather than weep and wrap yourself in the flimsy comforter of discouragement, glory in your disappointment whether you can find a reason to do so or not.

You can glory in disappointment because God is still on the throne of your life.  He is still in control.  You have not escaped His love.   And … you are not “dis”-appointed.

He’s got this.  He’s got you.

I am praying for you today, disappointed friend.  I am praying that you will wrap yourself in the sure comforter of hope and then find a reason to glory in Him.

And if you can’t find a reason to glory in Him … do it anyway.

I am praying that you will experience His goodness in refreshing and extravagant ways.

I am praying that never again will you give someone or something the power to disappoint you.  Your appointment remains sure and certain.

And, if my human voice has any comforting power, may I just remind you of some of the most restorative words ever penned by humanity:

                       “O soul, are you weary and troubled?

                       No light in the darkness you see.

                       There’s light for a look at the Savior,

                       And life more abundant and free!

                       Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

                       Look full in His wonderful face.

                       And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

                       In the light of His glory and grace.

                       His Word shall not fail you – He promised;

                       Believe Him, and all will be well.

                       Then go to a world that is dying,

                       His perfect salvation to tell!

                       Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

                       Look full in His wonderful face.

                       And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

                       In the light of His glory and grace.” – Helen Lemmel - 1922

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Work in Progress

God is not finished with you yet.  Regardless of how weary you are … how old you are … or what mistakes you have made … God is not finished with you yet.

You may feel burned-out … washed-up … over-looked … or under-paid … but God has something for you that He has for no other person on the face of the universe.

His plan for your singular and ordinary life far surpasses anything that you have ever dreamed about … asked for … or imagined. 

You might ask incredulously, “How can that be true?!!”

It is true because He is God and you are His beloved child.

It is true because you are the crowning achievement of creation.

It is true because you have the DNA of the Divine Himself stamped upon your humanity.

It is true because you are not here by mistake or by chance.  You are here by His astounding creativity and by His focused plan.  When you wonder if He has forgotten you, in actuality, what you are doing is questioning and perhaps even doubting His love for you.

How can you question the God Who is defined with one eternal, perpetual attribute? God is love.

Perhaps you could identify with the bossy Martha who felt the extreme need to confront Jesus about whether or not she was on His radar screen.

In Luke Chapter 10, Martha, crabby and discouraged, accused the Lord of not caring about her or about her specific frustrations.  She called Him on it.  (Not a good idea!)

These were the careless words that came out of Ms. Martha’s overactive mouth when she was dealing with the false supposition that she was being overlooked by Jesus,

“But Martha, overly occupied and too busy, was cumbered (distracted) by the big dinner she was preparing. And she came to the Lord and said, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the preparations alone?  Tell her to help me.” – Luke 10:42

What “big dinner” has caused you to be overly occupied, too busy, cumbered and distracted?

What preoccupation has caused you to be frustrated with the Lord?

Have you been cocky enough … and mistaken enough … to accuse the Lord of not caring about you and your particular situation in life?

Have you been foolish enough, like the controlling Martha, to tell the Lord what to do?

I am guilty of it every single day of my too busy life!  While I am of preparing “big dinner” after “big dinner” after “big dinner”, my priorities become confused and I take out my earthly grievances on my heavenly Lord.

Back off, Carol … back off.  It’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

I have forgotten the power and the joy of time spent in His presence.  I have overlooked the fact that disciples must sit at the feet of the Teacher.

And so I find myself at His feet once again.  I discover, with Mary, the fulfillment that is found in only one place this side of heaven.

I determine that my “big dinners” aren’t worth the frustration.

Mary, the devoted, wise sister of Martha had chosen the good part … the very best part.  Mary had her priorities straight.

“There is only one thing that is worth being concerned about, and Mary has chosen (discovered) the good part (that which is to her advantage) and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

I want to be a Mary while living in a Martha culture.

I want to choose like Mary chose even when I am frustrated with my life.

I want to discover the importance of sitting at His feet when my world calls me to perform, to prepare and to produce.

I don’t know what you are going through today but I can tell you this … the historical account of the total opposite sisters is in the Bible for a reason.

Perhaps you are the reason that the Holy Spirit chose to include this very personal and embarrassing account in the Word of God.

You are not overlooked or ignored … He simply wants you to slow down, change your focus and choose the better part.

Martha blamed Mary for her frustration.  Who are you blaming for yours?

The source of your frustration is not the other people that camp out under your fingernails … the source of your frustration is that you have not discovered the part of life that is to your advantage.

Focusing on self and your particular disappointments in life will never reveal your purpose. 

You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense.  Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny.  So linger today … linger at His feet.

Spend time in His loving presence and while you’re at it … forget telling Him what to do.  He’s got it.  He sees … He knows … and He cares.

  • When Love meets bossy … Love wins.
  • When Wisdom meets controlling … Wisdom wins.
  • When Kindness meets frustrated … Kindness wins.

Jesus is waiting for you to choose what truly matters in life … time spent at His feet.  It’s to your advantage.

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