Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Thankful

The last couple of years someone came up with the great idea on Facebook to post something you are thankful for every day during the month of November. I love the idea! I have participated in this the last 2 Novembers. This November however, as the end of November was approaching, I really began to think, "How thankful are we? Really..."

As I say that, I don't mean to take anything away from everyone posting things they are thankful for everyday. I LOVE the fact that so many do this. I love the way it makes me think everyday about things I am thankful for. But it also reminds of how many times I am thankful and yet don't acknowledge or praise God for His blessings.

There are so many things we take for granted every day. Things like water, food, shelter, clothing, even breathing. We tend to forget to thank God for these things. And I find that we sometimes sadly forget to thank God for the bigger thinks as well... when someone's surgery goes well, when that new job or promotion comes through, when a baby is born, etc. I know that we all pray and ask God for His direction, His strength, His courage, His ... fill in the blank; but when those things come to pass to do we always remember to "thank Him" for the outcome? Sometimes we get so caught up in our moment of need, that in the moment of relief or success we are so excited we forget to thank God.

So many things in our life, especially our spiritual life, have to be intentional. We live in a busy world, with lots of places to go, people to see and things to do. If we want to pray, we have to intentionally set aside time to pray. If we want to study God's word, we have to intentionally set aside time to study. And after this month of being thankful for something specific every day, I think it's time (for me at least) to start being intentional in my conversations with God to thank Him for something in my life every day. We are always thankful for the necessities... food, shelter, etc, and while those are wonderful things to be thankful for, I want to be more intentional in my thanks. I want to dig deep and find meaningful things to be thankful for. There is so much that goes on in our lives that we simply take for granted. I want to become more aware and learn to recognize those things daily so that I can be thankful to God daily instead of waiting until next November rolls around.

Even when days or times are tough, there is still so much to be thankful for. I think it's time I start acknowledging God more for those things, blessings and people that I am thankful for!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks
in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you
in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Seeing As Jesus Sees

I'm reading the book, "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning. I'm only about a third of the way into the book, but I read something a couple of days ago that I have continued to think about. He says... "The outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception."

While those are words that as a Christian should come as no surprise to us, why is it that we seem to look at people and make a determination about them based on what we first see. I think most of us when we see someone on the street, in a restaurant, in a grocery store and even in our churches base our first impression of someone on what we initially see. On whether they are dressed right, whether they look "proper", who they are with, and on and on. But how often do we look at someone and have our first impression be... Jesus loves them too!

After reading that a couple of days ago, I started "noticing" people when we went out to lunch. I looked around the room at all the different faces, all the different types of people, all the different races, all the different clothes and started trying to see each of them with the eyes of Jesus. I found myself wondering as I looked at their faces and their expressions, what was going on in their lives and reminding myself that Jesus loved them no matter what that might be.

We like to think we are always trying to imitate Jesus. And I think that most of the time we probably do a pretty good job. But when you think of the list of people described above, you probably don't think about those people actually being in our churches. But whether we realize it or not, they are already there. And those are the people who are coming to our churches to see if the people inside really are like Jesus. Do they walk the walk or do they just talk about it. And they are looking to see if we really will love them like Jesus loves them. And if we are supposed to be the representation of Christ, how are we going to show God's love to them if we don't see them as He sees them? How will they feel welcomed and loved by Christ if we are judging rather than loving?

The next time we look at some one who we think doesn't dress appropriately, I hope we remember that Jesus looks at them and says "they are beautiful no matter what they are wearing". When we look at someone whose lifestyle might not be what we would choose, I hope we remember that Jesus looks at them and says, "I love them even so". And when we see people, even in our churches, who may look or act differently than we think they should, I hope we remember that Jesus sees them and says, "I love you and I'm so glad you are here!"

I pray that we can all remember that Jesus excludes no one; we therefore, should not exclude anyone either. And I pray that we will see everyone through the eyes of Jesus and remember that He loves them, just as much as He loves us... no matter what.

Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I John 4: 7-8


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Watching For God

Our latest sermon series at Highland Oaks was called Engage. While at first look it actually always makes me think of Captain Picard in "Star Trek the Next Generation" because that was the word he used when it was time to take off... :-) the sermon series was actually about engaging the people we come in contact with everyday; people from all walks of life. Our minister, Pat Bills, actually had a different person come in each week, all from a different journey in life and have a conversation with them about what they wanted "us" to know about them and their journey. It was a wonderful & enlightening series! You can actually check it out here if you'd like at By clicking on the Engage graphic you can watch the video of each sermon.

That series has caused me to want to be more aware of the people around me and their circumstances. I want to always be ready to Engage anyone. Whether it's with a smile, a kind word, a drink of water, whatever it is that God presents me with or asks me to do.

As you probably know, I work for Highland Oaks. This week while I had been thinking about the Engage series, I went out of our building to take the days mail to the mailbox. There was a lady sitting on the bench outside of our doors. I asked her if I could help her with something and she said "no, I'm just waiting on the food pantry to open". We then went on to have a wonderful conversation and she started asking me about our church. I gave her some general information and she asked me how long we had here at this location. She said "I have lived here for a long time and I have never noticed this building before this week". I told her God must have had a reason for her to see it now. She told me that she would love to come to church on Sunday but first she was going to have to see about her shoes because they weren't very comfortable. She was talking about her "Sunday" shoes. I told her she was great the way she was dressed and to come and not worry about her "shoes". She plans to come and I hope that I run into her again.

When I came back into the building as I walking to the elevator I saw this coming around the concourse through a stream of light. There was no one else in that area of the building except for me. After what had just happened with the lady outside I immediately thought, "that looks like the footprints of Jesus". It reminded me that no matter where we are or what we are doing, God is providing us with an opportunity. God is putting someone in our path. Not someone to preach to, or someone we need to convince to come to church, etc. Not that those are bad things, but sometimes God is putting someone in our path who just needs a smile, needs a drink of water, needs pleasant conversation and most of all needs love. Sometimes God puts people in our path so that we can touch them with the fingerprints and footprints of Him. I know that God had me go to the mailbox at that particular time for a reason. Because 9 times out of 10, I don't go to the mailbox. I take the mail when I leave. But that day, God had a purpose; and I was blessed because of it!

My prayer is that I will always be aware of the people that God puts in my path. I hope this lady comes to church on Sunday so that she can receive more of what God has to offer her. But that's not why I spoke to her. And if she doesn't come on Sunday, that's ok too. I did what God asked me to do in that moment. I'll let Him worry about the rest of it.

I pray that I will continue to see opportunities to be the fingerprints and footprints of God. And that I will be the kind voice, the drink of water, the smile that someone needs. May God be Praised!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Faith in Our Churches

God is so big... isn't He?? I ask that as a question because sometimes I think in our churches we forget just how big God really is. In our personal lives there are times when God calls us to step out in faith such as loss of job, requiring us to move, asking us to change something we've always done, etc. And, in our personal lives, we generally just do it, because we have no choice. If God closes a door, we have to step out in faith as we open another one.

Why in our churches is it so much harder to step out faith? If God calls our churches to move in a different direction, why do we generally resist that move? Is it because we don't have faith that God knows what He's doing? Or is it because it's different than we've always done it. If God's calls us to move out into the community and serve others rather than staying inside among ourselves do we move? Or do we stay in where it's familiar and comfortable? Sometimes we think different is wrong; but sometimes different, is just different.

I have learned over the years that God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be obedient. If we stay where we are comfortable, are we being disobedient to where God is leading? Are we trusting God? Or are we putting our trust in ourselves?

My advice if you are feeling very comfortable, is watch out. I have found that when you start feeling comfortable, God is about to move you... again.

In our staff devotional time on Monday morning we studied in Numbers 9 and the cloud covering the tabernacle. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they set up camp; maybe for a day, maybe for a few days, maybe longer. But always, they followed the cloud and where it was leading.

Do we as churches have the faith they had to just pick up and follow God at a moments notice? If we don't, we should. And back to my first comment, "God is so big... isn't He"? We all know how big God really is, so why is it so hard to follow Him when He's calling us to something different, something that might have to make us move our of comfort zone?

I am very thankful to be a part of a church that is not afraid to go where God is leading. I am very thankful to be a part of church that is not afraid to let God out the box and just dream about the places God can take us. A church that is ready to get up and move when the cloud moves. A church that is ready to do more than take a hop of faith, it's ready to leap. I heard one of the speakers this past week at the Tulsa Workshop (I believe it was Rick Atchley) say, "We all know where we are going, but it's the journey that makes it exciting!"

Is your journey going to be one of excitement or one of fear? Are you ready to let God out of the box and find out How Big God really is? I'm thankful to be a part of a church where the journey matters; the excitement never ends and the fear of letting God out of the box is gone!

For I know the plans I have for you, "declares the
LORD," plans to prosper you and not harm you,
plans to give you hope and future.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Perfect... Is What We Are Not...

We've been talking a lot at church about being the type of people God calls us to be; being Jesus to our community; being Jesus to those we come in contact with. I don't mean preaching to people, I just mean being Jesus to them. But for some reason that sometimes seems hard for us to do. It's hard for us to just except people where they are, except them for who they are. Could it be because we don't know how to be honest with ourselves? We don't know how to be honest about our relationship with Jesus and what He's done for us; so we really don't know how to be real with other people? Could it be that we are so worried about what others think of us, that we use that worry to judge others? That we judge others based on who we think we should be (therefore who we think they should be) rather than who we really are?

There is a Casting Crowns song called "Stained Glass Masquerade". The first part of the chorus of the song has the following words:

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles that hide our pain

I think that sometimes, deep down we are hurting. Maybe hurting so deeply that we have no idea how to reach out to others. We pretend that everything is ok and put on our happy plastic faces because that's what we think we are supposed to do. We put walls around our weakness because we are supposed to always be strong. We can't let people see the real us because they might not like what they see. We have built up these walls not only around ourselves but around our churches. We can't reach people and show them Jesus because for those on the outside looking in, we all look perfect, we have it all together; because that's what church people do right? We don't want to looked flawed, we want to look perfect. What we don't realize is that by trying to "look" perfect, we are missing opportunities to show others what Jesus is really all about. We are missing opportunities to tell others how we make it through our imperfect lives. We are turning people away from us without us realizing it because they feel like they can never measure up to this perfection image that we've unrealistically created. We know we really are not perfect, we know we really don't have it all together, but what we do know is that because of Jesus that doesn't matter. Maybe if we quit trying to be so perfect and let down the walls around us, then those we come in contact with either personally or through our churches might see more of who and what Jesus is really all about.

The second part of the chorus says,

But the invitations open
To every heart that's been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

If we begin to realize that God's invitation to us is to just come; to come and let Him heal our brokenness, maybe we can stop trying to be perfect. And maybe then we won't see so many flaws in those around us because we will realize more of our own flaws. There was only one perfect person and he died hanging on a cross for us. I think it's time we stop living for perfection and start living for Jesus and who He's called us to be.

May we all be a blessing to those we come in contact with as we show our imperfections and may we all be Jesus to those around us. If we can do that, God will take care of the rest.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I
will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,
in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 9,10


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Being Filled With God's Glory

We sang a song this past Sunday in church by the Zoe Group called "Let Your Glory Fall". I love that song. At Highland Oaks we are trying to be more intentional about being out in "our front yard". We want to be more intentional about being available to our community and being a good neighbor. I love that we are moving in that direction. It is what God has called us to be as His people.

The first part of that song says...

Let your glory fall in this room,
Let it go forth from here to the nations.
Let your fragrance rest in this place,
As we gather to seek your face.

I have not been able to get those phrases out of my mind. As we sang that song, we sang it as a church. And while I am extremely thankful and grateful that is who we want to be as a church, I cannot help but look at it from a personal perspective. The phrase "let your fragance rest in this place"... I want that more than anything. I want the fragance of God to rest in me personally. If it's not already resting in me, it's going to hard for it to rest in us as a church. But when I/we are around others, is that the fragance they smell? Do they smell the fragrance of God? Do they smell the fragrance of hope, of peace, of compassion, of love? Or do they smell the stench of judgment, of anger, of hatred.

If we want to be churches where the fragrance of God rest, we first have to be people where the fragrance of God rest. We have to individuals where the fragrance of God rest. Only then will that fragrance of God not only rest with us and within our churches but it will go forth into the nations as we show the world and our communities what God smells like.

We have staff devotionals every Monday morning. A great blessing of working in a church! While Monday's are a drudgery for many people, I love Monday's because of our devotional time. This Monday, we started with the following quote from Parker Palmer, Leading from Within... And it again reminded me of our song from Sunday morning.

"A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what's going on inside him or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good."

So before we can have the fragrance of God as a church, we first have the fragrance of God within ourselves. Oh how I want to smell like him! Our minister Pat Bills is fond of saying at the end of our devotional time, "let those thoughts frame your week". My prayer is that the fragrance of God will frame me and then our churches always!

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:5


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Time... It's one of those things that is really hard to get a handle on. It seems like there is never enough of it; and it moves so fast we wonder where it went and then we wish we had more of it or could get it back.

The Rolling Stones sing a song called "Time is on my Side". While this song is more about a girl than it is time, the title does make me think. Because time really isn't on our side. From the moment we are born, our days are numbered. There is no infinite amount of time here on earth. There is no guarantee of how much time we will have or if we even have the time of tomorrow. Yet, I know I do not always make the best use of my time.

When you are young it seems like you have all the time in world, but the older you get the more you realize that time is fleeting. And time is such a hard thing to handle. If you work a full time job, work at home raising children, go to school full time etc., there are not many hours in the day that are truly your own.

How do we use the time that we call our own? I know that I don't always use my time in the best ways. It's really easy when you are busy all day to get home and really want to do nothing. To do what I call "vegging out" so you can just empty your mind and your thoughts. While that is definitely ok to do, I think sometimes we let ourselves fall into a trap of feeling like we just don't have time to do anything once we get home. We don't have time for prayer, we don't have time for bible study or reading books, we don't have time for exercise... the list could go on and on.

While I think it's very important to take time out to just rest & be still, it's also important not to let rest or "vegging out" take us over. We always find the time to do the things we really want to do. So even those things we say we want to do but we don't have time for, we really do have time for if it's important to us.

We have to be intentional about most things in our life that are important to us. Prayer, study, reading, spending time with our families, those are all intentional things. Time is no different. If we want to make the most of or even a better use of our time, we have to be intentional. Time is fleeting; and the older we get, the faster it goes. And if we aren't careful, one day we are really going to look up and say "where did the time go". We are not guaranteed tomorrow and only God knows how much time we truly have. I plan to be more intentional about my time and the things that are important to me. I wonder what life would look like if I was more intentional about my time every day. I wonder what it would look like if I started framing my day with what God wanted me to use my time for instead of what I want to use my time for. I don't want to miss anything God has in store for me and my time, so I plan to be more intentional and find out!

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8