Friday, December 31, 2010

If You Want Me To

I'm taking some time today to clear out some clutter. I hate cleaning. But I know I have to do it. I don't mind cleaning house or washing clothes...I mean, I don't love it, but I can handle it. But going through clutter and stuff that I just haven't thrown away (thanks to those pack rat genes I have inherited)....I have to really be in the mood to clean!

Today as I've cleaned, I found lots of cards and notes from friends and family. And many were from my mom and dad. I found a letter they sent me for my birthday in 2005. As I read the note, written in my mother's handwriting, it was just as relevant today as it was then. And it was like a little gift from Heaven reminding me of the reason we are here.

We are not here for ourselves. We are here because God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. It may seem very dark at times and seem like we are wandering through a desert. But we are never alone.

As I was cleaning, I had my iTunes up and running. Boy, do I have a very eclectic mix in music. :) Everything played from Lady Gaga to Christian Kane to Allison Kraus to Martina McBride to Jason Derulo. Then at just the right time, as I was finishing up the last stack of papers, this song came on. See I don't believe in coincidence. Was it coincidence that I found that letter today? Nope...I cleaned some yesterday and could have found it then. Was it coincidence that this song came on right when it did? Nope...I had it on shuffle so it could have come on anytime. A gentle reminder from a loving Father that He sees to each and every matter how small or seemingly insignificant. And He IS at work in every detail of our life. Bad ones. Good ones. And those moments in between. He uses everything to work it our for our good. So back to the song...

My friend, Rachel, introduced me to this song a couple of years ago. As I listened to her sing it the first time, tears streamed down my face. Today as I listened, tears were streaming again. You see, even though I feel so alone at times and though it seems I'm facing life on my own, my heart knows that is not true. I have a Savior who is with me in every moment...through the laughter, the tears, the joy and the pain. And He knows best.

This upcoming year is one of big changes for my life. I'm scared to death and not sure how it is all going to work out. Between financial worries and housing worries and business worries and just plain worry worries, I've been freaking out a little. The plans include moving to another city, starting grad school and starting my own private practice. And while I know I'll have to work hard, I am learning to trust God for the impossible. And believe me, there are a lot of impossibilities involved. But I'm learning... Learning to trust in a way I never have before. Learning to follow even in the darkness and fire and valleys. Learning that I have grown so much as a person and am striving to be better. Learning that God does have a plan for me and He will see it fulfilled. Even when I doubt. Even when I question.

So as this year ends and a new one begins, my prayer for my life and for yours is that you will trust God as you never have before... That you will go down the path He leads regardless the cost, regardless the fear, regardless the unknown and uncertainty. Because as this last verse of this song says so eloquently: "When I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing. I'm gonna shout. I'm gonna look into Your eyes and see You've NEVER let me down. So lead me on the pathway that brings me home to You. And I will walk through the valley if You want me to."

Happy New Year 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Advent - Jesus

Christmas.  A time when a lot of people hurry around trying to find the best gift, cook the best food, wear the best clothes, try to outdo previous years.  But is that truly what Christmas is about?  
This morning on The Today Show I saw an interview with a mom and her son.  They were being interviewed about a video of the son receiving books for Christmas last year.  I think I’ve even seen several posts on Facebook of the video.  The video shows this child pitching a fit over getting books for Christmas.  Everyone laughed and thought it was cute.  I, however, was appalled.  Instead of posting a video of the tantrum and laughing at the kid, the parents, in my opinion, should have used this as a “teaching moment” for their child.  A time to teach him that not all children wake up to gifts on Christmas, that not all children sleep in a warm bed every night, that not all children have loving families.  Yes, I know the child was only three...but I have seen three year olds who know what Christmas is all about and who would be glad to receive books for Christmas.  And they knew this because they were taught this.  After the interview, the anchor gave the child a present.  It was a talking Woody doll from Toy Story 3.  Was the child appreciative?  Nope.  Yet again, instead of graciously receiving the gift, he commented that he already had one of these dolls.  His mom did tell him to say thank you, but you could tell he hadn’t learned the lesson from last year.  
Now I’m not dissing the parents.  I have no idea what goes on in their home or what they teach their child.  But I do know that over the last several years I’ve seen a decrease in genuine good old decency.  Thank you and please are not spoken as often.  Doors are not help open for others.  Smiles are sometimes non-existent.  Giving is only done if it benefits the giver as a tax write-off.  The mentality is “get what’s mine while I can.”  And this video of this child is a prime example.  All I know is that if I would have had that reaction to a gift at Christmas, I wouldn’t have received the rest of my gifts and I probably would have had a sore rear end.  I was taught gratitude.  And I really hope that for this kid’s sake, someone teaches him the same soon.  
Jesus came to bring us life.  He came so that we could live forever.  What if He had thrown a tantrum every time something didn’t go His way?  When God sent Him to be born in a manger in a smelly barn...when people called him a liar...when someone didn’t believe His message...when the crowd screamed out for Him to be crucified...  No, His life wasn’t easy.  Neither is ours.  But Jesus was our example.  He showed love and compassion and gratitude to those around Him.  His sacrifice was for ALL people...regardless of race or gender or denomination or whatever other barrier we try to put up.  And for that we should be thankful.  Thankful...  Do we get everything we want in life?  I don’t, so I’m sure you don’t either.  But when I ask for one thing and God gives me another, what do I do?  What do you do?  Do you kick and scream and throw a tantrum?  Or do you tell God you are thankful for His provision and for His knowledge that what we want and what we need are not always the same things?
This Christmas, I hope you will let the light of Jesus shine through you.  I hope you will take a moment to give to others.  I hope you will be willing to give to someone who has nothing.  It may come in the form of money, a gift, a meal, opening your home.  It may be as simple as saying thank you or smiling or holding that door open.  Whatever it is, give.  For it is in giving that we receive.  
I pray this Christmas you will be thankful for what you have and the gifts you receive.  Even if, like the little boy, you get books when you asked for a toy.  After all, the greatest gift we could ever receive was given to us so many years ago...a a manger....who came to die for our sins and bring us eternal life.  Doesn’t that make every other gift we could ever receive pale in comparison?
Merry Christmas!  May the peace and love of Jesus fill your hearts and homes this season!
Luke 2
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)   5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Advent - Simeon

Luke 2:25-35
 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon is not a name you often hear when Christmas stories are told.  But he is just as central a character to the story as anyone else. Here was a man who devoted his life to serving God.  He had been promised he would not die until he saw the salvation of Israel, and he trusted God for that promise.  Once the promise was fulfilled, he proceeded to bless Jesus, Mary and Joseph and gave a prophecy concerning the Child.  
I don't know about you, but there are many things I have waited for.  Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I have delighted myself in the Lord, sought His will, tried to live as He has led me.  But there are still desires I have not received.  Promises I'm still waiting for.  Maybe you are in the same boat.  Maybe like me, you have a desire for marriage...but you just haven't found the right person.  Maybe like I used to feel, you want children...but either due to infertility, not being married or other issues you don't have them.  Maybe you have the desire for a new job, new life, an opportunity to make a difference.  Or maybe you just have a desire to get out of debt or put food on the table or make your next house payment.  No matter what the desire, we are all waiting on something.  Waiting on some desire of our heart to be fulfilled.  And it's not easy.  Most days, I'm ok with waiting for the desires of my heart.  But there are those days every now and then when the reality hits hard.  When I wonder if that promise in Psalm 37:4 was meant for me.  Then I read about Simeon...  
I wonder how long Simeon had to wait for his desire, his promise to be fulfilled.  The Bible doesn't say, but I'm willing to bet Simeon was on up in years.  He had been waiting and waiting and waiting to see the salvation of Israel.  He had seen his share of corrupt church officials and oppression by the government and everything else that was going on in his time.  Still he waited.  And still he trusted God to do what He said He would do.  And in God's time, the promise was fulfilled.  Simeon saw with his very own eyes the Baby who was born to die for our sins.  The Child who came for the purpose of our salvation.  And if we continue to wait on God, continue to trust Him, He WILL fulfill the promises He has made to us.  Maybe not in the way we thought or the time we thought.  But He will give us those desires of our heart.  
Christmas gifts are the perfect picture of this.  As children, most of us remember wanting that certain gift...a doll, a bike, a toy.  We would plead with our parents to get it for us.  We would sit on Santa's knee and write him letters telling him how good we had been and that we really deserved that gift.  We would wait all December, hoping, praying.  And on Christmas morning, we would wake up to hopefully find that perfect gift under the tree.  Now I know not everyone had the joy of getting presents growing up, but everyone can have the joy of the all time, ultimate, perfect Christmas Gift. 
We do the same thing as adults.  "I really deserve that promotion."  "I've lived the way I should.  Why am I not married or have kids?"  "I don't understand why Joe has a nice car and house when I work hard every day for the little I've got."  And on and on.  Every day.  I know I'm guilty of thinking I deserve so much more than I really do.  We spin our wheels trying to find the things that can make us happy.  If I only had more money, if only I was married, if only I had a big house, etc.   What we need to do is to seek the One who can truly fulfill every desire of our heart...even if we don't get everything we want or think we need.  Everything we truly need is found in that perfect Christmas Gift.
See, whether you know it or not, there is a place inside each of us that can only be filled with Jesus.  We search high and low for something to fill that spot...friends, gifts, money, love, things.  But it can only be filled by the One we celebrate at Christmas.  However, unlike the Christmas presents we begged for and thought we deserved, this Gift is different. This Gift is free.  At least free to us.  It wasn't free to Jesus, but He was willing to die for us.  He loved us enough that He was willing to go through the agony of the cross.  We don't have to beg and plead with God to save us.  He has already provided the way.  Another difference?  We don't deserve this gift.  The Bible says in Romans 3:10 that none of us are righteous.  We all sin.  We don't deserve salvation.  Jesus was the only perfect person to ever live.  And He did what only He could do to provide our salvation.  And God fulfilled the promise He made.  
Like Simeon, we wait.  We wait for God to do what only He can.  Yes, it gets tiresome.  And frustrating.  And we wonder at times if He even hears us.  But you can rest assured that the God of Heaven who would give His only Son to die such a cruel death DOES hear you.  He hears every cry, every sigh, every scream and every prayer.  He sees your heart.  He knows your pain.  And He gave us Christ as the gift that fulfills every desire of our heart.  
My prayer this Christmas is that you will take God at His word and trust Him to fulfill the promises He's made to you.  That, like Simeon, you will wait on Him to do what He has said He would do.  And, like the anticipation of Christmas, you will wait hopefully, expectantly for Him.  In His time he makes all things right.  So my wish for your Christmas is that you will be full of Expectant Hope, full of Joy, full of Peace and full of Love for the One who makes everything right and who WILL give you the desires of your heart if you will only trust and wait on Him.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Advent - Opportunities to Give

Today's blog is a departure from the usual.  This will probably be my last update until Monday.  Today I wanted to share a couple of verses on giving and then give you two opportunities to give if you live in this area.  If you don't live in the area, I want to encourage you to go out and find somewhere to give of your time, talent, money, prayer - whatever the Lord lays on your heart - this holiday season.
Luke 14:12-14
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Matthew 6:1-4
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Here are two local opportunities to give and join in the Christmas spirit and joy this year:
Donation Drop-off for Hope House of Memphis
Friday, December 10, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
15 S. Idlewild, Memphis, TN
Hope House, an organization dedicated to assisting HIV-impacted children and families, will be hosting an Open House and Donation drop off on Friday, December 10th from 9am-Noon. Community members, local churches, businesses, and organizations are invited to celebrate the Holidays with the children of Hope House. Hope House will be hosting interactive activities all morning, and visitors will have time to mingle with the children.
Community members are also encouraged to bring donations for the children and families served by Hope House. All of the children served by Hope House rely on donations for Holiday gifts. A complete wish list is available online at
Tours of Hope House will be provided throughout the morning. Refreshments will also be served. For more information contact Kevin Dean at 901-272-2702 ext. 216. 
The Baddour Christmas Spectacular
Friday, December 10, 7:00 pm
Northwest Mississippi Community College Fine Arts Auditorium
Senatobia, MS
I would like to invite you to attend our 3rd Annual Baddour Christmas Spectacular. The Baddour Center is a non-profit residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  This will be a fun night featuring 77 of our residents...complete with Carolers, Mime Team, Nativity, Tone Chimes, Guitar Duo, Scripture Readers, a Toy Parade and Santa!

Doors will open at 6:00 pm. General Admission seating on a first come, first serve basis. No tickets will be issued. Free to the public. Donations are much appreciated and will be taken at the door.  Please feel free to share with and invite your friends!  For more information, please contact Lori Parker at 366-6914 or  For more information on The Baddour Center go to
If you live in the mid-south area, please think about taking part in one of these opportunities.  If you live elsewhere, please give back to your community in some way.  
Remember the true meaning of the season:  Jesus!  Share His love and compassion this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Advent - Praying for Others

Matthew 25:34-45

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

I had another topic scheduled for today's blog, but as things often go, plans change.  Life happens.  And God shows us something different or new.  During this time of year, while we take time to celebrate and be joyful, we are also aware of those who are hurting.  Some have just lost someone they loved.  Some are faced with poverty.  Some have just received bad news about health issues.  Some are faced with financial issues.  Some are battling depression and other mental illnesses.  Some are facing spending Christmas alone.  Some are dreading a time of year that brings up feelings of sadness, loneliness and pain.  Others may not be facing anything in particular but are just doing the best they can to provide for their families.

So today I just wanted to post a reminder to remember those who are hurting this year.  The verse above says it so much better than I ever could.  Words straight from the Miracle of Christmas, Jesus.  When we take the time and make the effort to help someone in need, we are in turn helping our Savior.  He takes very seriously how we, as humans, treat each other.  He commands love and compassion for our fellow man.

So this year, put differences and prejudices and anger and selfishness aside.  And give.  Give as you never have before.  Give your love.  Give your time.  Give the hope of Christ.  Knowing, that in giving to your fellow man, you are giving to the One who is the giver of the greatest gift we've ever known.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Advent - Mary

Luke 1 :46-55  Mary's Song 
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel,remembering to be merciful 
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Wow.  Mary was one amazing woman.  Or rather young girl.  Back in this time arranged marriages were the norm and girls usually were married in their teens.  I remember myself as a teenager, and I sure didn't have the strength and insight Mary had.  Of course, I'm sure that's part of the reason God chose her.  Or as I've said numerous times in this blog, God gave her what she needed to accomplish His will.  Or maybe, as most of us are when we are younger, she trusted with a simple faith beyond human logic.

Mary finds out she's going to have a baby.  And not just any baby.  A baby boy.  A baby whose purpose was to grow up and die.  Die for you.  Die for me.  Die for her.  I've never had children of my own.  The closest thing I've come to that kind of love is the love I feel for my cousin's two little boys.  I cannot imagine being told they were sent here for the specific purpose of dying.  But Mary is told she will have a Son who will be the Savior of the world.  And she sings.

Her song flows freely from her heart.  A song of praise.  A song of thankfulness.  A song of joy.  A song of salvation to come.  I am a songwriter...a not so great songwriter...but I do write occasionally.  But I have never written anything like the song Mary sings.  The first thing she does is praise God and thank Him for choosing her.  Choosing her to have her life turned completely upside down.  Choosing her to face possible shunning by her family and fiance.  Choosing her to bear the loss of her son.  But she also makes a choice.  A choice to trust God.  To trust that He will provide.  To trust that there is a reason.  To trust that she has been chosen by the Almighty God.  Her song also shares the joy of salvation and gratitude that God has finally brought true salvation to His people. 

Can you imagine being a teenage girl, engaged to be married and suddenly you get a visit from an angel?  And not just any visit.  But a visit telling you that you will give birth to the Savior.  When I was a teenager, my main concerns were what I was wearing to school, who I was listening to on my radio, who was going out with who.  But Mary is faced with an upcoming marriage and a baby.  And not just A baby but THE baby.  The One who would save us from our sins.

Even though Mary seems to be completely resigned to God's call on her life, I wonder if she doubted.  I'm sure she had some fear and insecurity.  Fear that Joseph would leave her.  Fear that her family would disown her.  Fear she would be stoned.  And even after Joseph stayed and her family still loved her, I wonder if she doubted she would be able to raise this child?  For how do you raise the One who came to save you?  How do you, being a sinner, raise the One who is perfect? 

But Mary obeyed God.  And in her obedience, she not only received a blessing beyond measure but also provided a way for Salvation to enter the world.  She trusted God for her part in the plan.  

I admire Mary's strength and resolve and obedience.  Overnight, she went from being a simple teenage girl to the mother of Jesus.  Wow.  

My prayer this Christmas is that you will accept the gift that was made available through Mary's humble obedience.  That you will see Jesus for the gift He truly is.  A gift with no strings attached.  A gift that will change your life forever.  A gift that never ends.  A love that never ends.  A love no one can take away.  Ever.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Advent - Mary's Angel

Luke 1:26 - 38  "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”  38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her."

An angel appears to Mary and tells her she is favored and will have a son.  I wonder if this was the same angel that appeared to Joseph or a completely different angel.  The Bible doesn't say.  Regardless, this angel had important news to share with a frightened girl who was wholly submitted to God.

The angel tells Mary she is highly favored by God.  She has been chosen.  She will have a child though she has never known a man.  Even her cousin Elizabeth is going to have a child in her old age.  And Mary, even though I'm sure she had doubt and fear, accepts what the angel tells her.

The angel has the privilege of telling Mary she is favored.  Favored by God.  Chosen by God.  Have you ever been told you were favored?  When I was growing up, I was the chubby kid who always got picked last to play games.  I wasn't popular.  I had braces and glasses and acne.  I had no idea what it meant to be favored.  Until I allowed God to show me that I truly was favored.  I believe that God favors all His children.  I believe He has a purpose for each of our lives.  I work with adults with intellectual disabilities and with children affected/infected with HIV/AIDS, and I see every day how God's plan for our lives, for their lives is played out.  Whether they know it or not, they each touch my life every day with their smiles, hugs and unconditional love.  Each of them, each of us is special to God.  Favored.  And each of us have been give this life to live.  No matter who you are or what you do, God has a plan for you.  Not all of us are called to be a Mother Theresa or a Billy Graham.  But we are called.  Called to help the elderly lady at the grocery store put her groceries in her car.  Called to feed the hungry.  Called to send a note of encouragement to a friend who's down.  Called to care for the sick.  Called to do our best each day with what we've been given.  And just as Mary accepted the call on her life, we should accept the call placed on our matter how big or small.

God may not send angels to us, although the Bible does say to be careful because we may entertain angels unaware.  But most of us will never experience a visit from an angel the way Mary or Joseph did.  However, God does call us.  In the face of a child who needs a coat for winter.  In the sound of a woman crying over her loss.  In the words of a man who has done all he can for his family but it's still not enough.  In the halls of hospitals, in the classrooms of schools, in the pews of churches, in the office cubicle next door.  God calls.  Calls us to share.  Calls us to love without judgement.  Calls us to show compassion.  Calls us to be His hands and feet in this world.  He doesn't always call us to do what is easy or comfortable.  Sometimes He calls us to step beyond that ease and comfort.  But He always gives us what we need to answer the call.

What if Mary had not accepted the call?  Said it was too hard, too scary?  What if she said she wasn't able or didn't have the skills or just didn't feel like it?  She would have missed out on a blessing.  We would have missed out on eternal life.  You never know the impact and result your obedience to God may have on the life of another.  We may never know this side of Heaven what comes from our obedience.  But God knows.  And trust me, even the smallest thing you do for another is noticed.  Noticed by God.  And definitely noticed by the ones we serve.  

Will you, like Mary, accept the call?  Will you, like Mary, utter the words, "I am the Lord's servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled."?  This Christmas take that step of faith and answer the call of God.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Advent - Joseph

Matthew 1:24 - 25  "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son.  And he gave him the name Jesus."

Joseph.  What an amazing man.  We could use some good men like him these days.  Men of integrity.  Men of courage.  Men of God.

Joseph was living his life.  He was engaged to be married to Mary.  He was probably looking forward to starting a family and growing old with his wife.  He lays down to sleep one night and instead of restful sleep, he gets an angel.  An angel sent to him in a dream.  An angel that will turn his world upside down.  The angel tells him Mary is pregnant.  And not just pregnant - pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  The angel tells him she will have a son and that his name is to be called Jesus.

Now I don't know about you, but I am someone who dreams.  A lot.  Vivid and in color.  I suppose I get this from my mom.  She did the same thing.  But not once ever have I had a dream like Joseph's.  Can you imagine?  God chooses YOU to send an angel to.  And so God chooses Joseph.

While at first glimpse it seems a wonderful honor to be chosen by God (and it is), take a closer look at what this call on Joseph would mean...

Joseph has been told that the woman he is to be married to is already carrying a child.  He knows there is no way that the baby is his.  And even though he has received this message from an angel, I wondered if he doubted.  Wondered if Mary had been unfaithful.  Wondered how he would raise a child that he did not father.  I know what most men today would do.  They would turn and run quickly in the other direction.  But Joseph stayed.  He remained faithful to his promise to Mary.  And he remained faithful to the call of God.  He chose to obey and love Mary and this child as if it were his own.

And what would the town say?  What would their families and friends say?  In this day and age, it is not that uncommon for an unmarried or engaged woman to become pregnant.  However, back in Joseph's time, it was unheard of for a woman to become pregnant outside of marriage.  The punishment?  Stoning to death.  Stoning.  Joseph knew that, if he left Mary and revealed she was pregnant, she would be stoned.  He loved her too much.  He trusted God too much to walk away.

So Joseph made an honorable decision.  He took Mary as his wife.  He cared for her and loved her and waited along beside her for the birth of this child.  The child who would become the Savior of the world.  And I wonder if during those months Joseph was overwhelmed with the knowledge that he would be raising God Incarnate.  He would be raising the One who came to save him from his sins.  How could he, a sinful man, raise Jesus, a perfect man.

But Joseph did.  He carried Mary to Bethlehem due to a decree by Caesar that each man had to take his family to his hometown and be taxed.  But this decree wasn't coincidence.  God was working out every detail so that the prophecy would be filled to the letter.  As they approached Bethlehem, Mary probably started to go into labor.  Joseph frantically finds a place for them to stay.  A barn.  A smelly barn full of smelly animals.  I wonder if he was worried that this was the best he could provide for his wife.  I wonder if he was worried that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would be born in a stable.  But again, God's plan was at work.  And so amidst the hay and the stench and the animals, a Savior was born.  And because Joseph chose to be faithful to God's call, he was witness to the greatest Miracle ever!

Joseph.  A humble man.  A grateful man.  A faithful man.  A compassionate, caring man.  A man who chose to follow God when everything could come crashing down.  And by choosing to step out in faith and do what didn't make any human sense, he became the earthly father for the heavenly Son.  He was part of the plan for our salvation to occur.  If only more men would stand up today and be humble, grateful, faithful, compassionate, caring.  And obedient to God's call.

On a side note... The story of Joseph raising Jesus as his own shows me that adoption is also part of God's plan.  As someone who always wanted a house full of kids but who has never been married, I have looked into adoption.  I have been told that adopting a child isn't "the same" as having one of your own.  But I beg to differ.  A child is a gift.  Jesus was the ultimate gift.  If God chose to have Joseph "adopt" His only Son, that shows me adoption is part of his plan.  And it also shows that sometimes it takes more courage to love a child who is not biologically yours.  Joseph's story proves that.  So if you are an adoptive parent or someone who is considering adoption, please know you are fulfilling a great call on your life by God to love another human being as your own.  And if you have children of your own, be thankful.  Regardless of how you received your little "gifts", all children are a gift from God and were put on this earth to make a difference.

Oh what a precious promise,
Oh what a gift of love;
An angel tells a virgin that
She’s gonna have a son.
And though it’s a precious promise,
She wonders how can this be;
What will the people say
And what if Joseph can’t believe.
And her questions and her fears
Are met with an overwhelming joy
That God has chosen her.
Oh what a precious promise;
Mary waits as heaven comes to earth.

Oh what a precious promise,
Oh what a gift of love;
Joseph makes his choice to do
What few men would have done:
To take Mary as his bride,
When she’s already carrying a child
That isn’t his own.
Oh what a precious promise;
Mary and the child will have a home.

And shepherds stand on a hillside,
Their hearts racing with the news the angel told them;
A star's light fills up the dark sky,
As the night of precious promise is unfolding.

Oh what a precious promise,
Oh what a gift of love;
The waiting now is over and
The time has finally come.
For the God who made this world
To roll back the curtain
And unveil His passion for the heart of man.
Oh what a precious promise,
Lying in a manger in Bethlehem.
Oh what a precious promise,
Lying in a manger in Bethlehem

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Advent - Joseph's Angel

Matthew 1:20-23:  "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)."

Here he was. This angel of the Lord.  At his post in Heaven.  Then God calls.  Calls him to deliver a message.  A message to a simple man.  A message that would forever change the course of this man's life.  A message to wild to be believed.

So the angel takes a trip to earth and appears to Joseph in a dream.  The message?  Don't be afraid...  To take Mary as your wife even though she's already pregnant.  Even though your community may shun you.  Even though your earthly mind cannot comprehend this.  Even though you will be raising a child who is not yours.

I wonder if the angel was worried.  Worried the message wouldn't be accepted. Worried Joseph might object.  Worried he wouldn't use the right words to deliver the message.

Of course, I have no idea if angels worry.  I kind of doubt it.  But I do.  I'm sure some of you do.

God calls us.  To share a meal.  To give some money.  To volunteer to help someone in need.  To witness.  To serve or give or do beyond what our minds can comprehend.  And we worry...

What if the message isn't accepted?  What if the recipient objects?  What if I mess up and don't do it right?

But, like the angel sent to Joseph, God gives us all we need.  It's in those moments of doubt and worry and weakness that God can use us the most.  When we have lost all sense of "I've got this...I can do it."  And He calls.  And He sends.  Sends us to minister to a hurting world.  To share a message that seems to good to believe.  And we have a choice...

We can surrender to the worry and doubt and fear and turn away.  We can give up to our thoughts that "someone else will do it" or "surely God would understand that I just can't." We can walk away from an opportunity to relieve suffering, to offer a kind word, to share what we've been given.  

Or, like the angel, we can go.  We can surrender to God and answer His call.  We can tell the fear and doubt to go away.  We can trust that God would not call us to do what He hasn't equipped us to do.  And we can know that He will provide all we need to do what He has asked.

So you have a choice.  This Christmas, surrounded by a hurting world full of pain and need that can seem overwhelming...will you go?  Will you serve?  Will you help?  Will you believe that YOU can make a difference?  Will you believe that no good deed is too small, no act of kindness goes unnoticed?  Like the angel, will you choose to go and share and love? 

Or will you choose to walk away?  Choose to miss out on a blessing?  Choose to let someone go without?  

Can you imagine if the angel told God no?  What if he said, "I'm too busy" or "I have other things I need to do first?"  What a blessing he would have missed!  But he chose to go when God called.  He chose to share the Good News with Joseph and assure him of his part in the plan.  He chose to comfort and encourage and love.  

This Christmas take time to look around.  To see the needs around you.  Stop a few moments in your busy life to make time for someone else.  Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season and see that the only gifts that truly matter are those that are from the heart, those that encourage and lift others up, those that flow from a heart surrendered to God, those that give to those in need, those that show the love of Jesus.  Don't miss out on a blessing God places in your path.  

Learn a lesson from the angel sent to Joseph.  When God calls, go.  And remember what the angel told Joseph.  "Don't be afraid...all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said..."  

Be a blessing to someone this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Advent - Isaiah

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)."

Isaiah.  A prophet and preacher to the people of Israel.  Sent to share God's word.  66 chapters.  And in the middle of all of this we find this short, simple verse.  The virgin will conceive.  She will have a son.  He will be called God with us.

Back in Isaiah's time the term "God with us" was, I'm sure, somewhat of a strange concept.  In the Old Testament times, a person had to go through the priest to get to God.  There were sacrifices to be made.  Not that God wasn't with His people.  He was.  But to have a personal relationship with Him?

So here in the middle of a conversation with Ahaz, Isaiah tells him to ask for a sign.  Ahaz refuses.  But God's plan will be done.  So God, through Isaiah, gives him a sign anyway.  "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

Can you imagine being Isaiah?  He was a prophet of God sent to reveal God to the people.  It seems he was always looking over his shoulder for the next person who would come after him.  His messages weren't always, if ever, popular.  But he was faithful to God.  And God chooses to entrust him with one of the most vital prophecies concerning Christ's birth.

A virgin would conceive.  In a world today full of in vitro, surrogates and test tube babies, technically a virgin could conceive.  However, let your mind drift back to Isaiah's time.  For a virgin to conceive would truly be a miracle.  And would be one of the distinguishing factors that set Jesus' birth apart from other babies born in His time.  It is what allowed Jesus to be completely human yet completely holy.

He will be called "God with us." Isaiah was telling us that there would be a way to God, a way to a personal relationship with God.  No more going through a priest.  Jesus would become that high priest and our entrance to God.  No more sacrificial lambs.  Jesus would become the ultimate and final sacrificial Lamb.

Can you imagine being Isaiah?  Can you imagine being entrusted with the good news that a Savior was on the way?  The people of Israel had struggled for so long.  They had been subject to slavery and rulers and rules.  Now there was Hope.  Hope for freedom.  Hope for peace.  Hope for true salvation.  And Isaiah was the one who was chosen to be the first to share this promise.

And this promise has been fulfilled.  Many years after Isaiah spoke these words, God IS with us!  Jesus was born and everything changed.  We can now come into God's presence at any time, in any place and speak with Him.  We don't have to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices anymore.  Jesus' sacrifice covers us and makes us whole.   And we have Hope!  Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  The people of Isaiah's time looked forward in faith for that hope.  We look back in faith for that hope.

And hope is here!  Hope of a new life.  Hope of love.  Hope that in God's time all things will work out for our good.  Hope that we are loved beyond what we could ever imagine.

One short verse held so much promise.  So much hope.  So much love.  May we, like Isaiah, share that hope and love this Christmas!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Advent

I have been trying for several months to get back to writing and updating my blog.  For some reason, it just didn't happen.  I have started keeping a journal of ideas and verses when they pop in my head.  However, I have still not updated anything since August.  Not for lack of trying or will.  But as I've come to believe and understand, all things happen in due time, in their proper place and for a reason.

Over the last few months, I've made some life changing decisions...planning a major move, going to grad school, starting my own private practice.  All of these things are in process.  During this time, I've also "met" many fellow music therapists through Twitter, Facebook, email and blogs who have inspired me and have enabled me to feel as though I'm part of a community of people who "get it."  Several of these amazing people write blogs...which has led me to realize I really, really want and need to get back to blogging.

See, whether anyone reads my musings or not, writing is therapeutic for me.  I love to write but seldom make time to do so.  I've made the decision that I want to get back to updating this blog at least weekly and that I also want to start a couple new blogs (yes, I do push myself to the limits and sometimes think I'm Superwoman) - one on music therapy, my process of starting a business and eventually blogging about my experiences and services; one on being single and in my 30's and independent and focused and content while fending off questions as to why I'm not married (haven't been asked by the right guy) or why I don't have kids (because I'm not married, can't afford to do it on my own and am now approaching 40 and because by not having my own, I can reach out to so many more) or if I really can be content being "alone" (it's a daily struggle and it takes work, but yes, you can).  But I digress...  Those new blogs will hopefully get underway in the new year.

Now back to THIS blog.  I've used Expectant Hope as a way to share my views, thoughts, opinions, convictions on life and to share things I believe God is showing me.  It's a constant growing process, one I will never finish this side of Heaven.  It's called Expectant Hope because that is how I choose to live my life...expectantly hopeful of all God has in store and trusting that He WILL one day give me the desires of my heart.  Though I'm learning, those desires are not always fulfilled in the way I thought they would be. enough rambling.

The point of this post is to let you know that I intend to do a 25 day Advent blog to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ.  Christmas is a special time of year.  One that became dark for me after the loss of my mother.  Now that this is the third Christmas without her, I'm finally beginning to find some of that joy again.  And that only comes because I know she's celebrating in Heaven and I'll be there to celebrate along with her one day.  So as part of the celebration of life and love and salvation and joy, I wanted to share some thoughts on this season and the key people who had a part in Jesus' humble beginning on this earth.  I cannot promise each blog will be up at the same time every day or that I might not have to combine two in one from time to time.  But this is a challenge to myself as well as to you, the reader.  A challenge to dig a little deeper this year, to see the true meaning of Christmas and to share it with, not only family and friends, but with those less fortunate and hurting.

Over the next 25 days, I plan on talking about the birth of Jesus from the viewpoint of a different person each day.  From major "characters" like Mary and Joseph to lesser thought of "characters" such as Simeon and Jesus' siblings.  I may even throw in a lesson from the standpoint of the animals who witnessed the birth.  I don't claim to know everything or have all the answers.  I am just a simple girl with a love for Christ and a desire to share what He has laid on my heart.

I hope you will take the time to read each day's entry.  And I hope it will bring you closer to the One Christmas is all about!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trying to update

I sat down tonight to try to write a new post.  However, for some reason, my laptop is being a pain and keeps freezing up.  So unfortunately I won't be posting tonight.  However, I've learned that even in the seemingly mundane, God always has a plan and a reason.  I will attempt it again hopefully tomorrow night.  But in the meantime I leave you with these verses: to hopefully encourage you:

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (which tonight seems appropriate and I would like to add "though your computer decides to have a mind of its own"...and, yes, I'm trying to be joyful)
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

From Lamentations 3 (The Message)
"...I keep a grip on hope...God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up.  They're created new every morning.  How great your faithfulness!  I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).  He's all I've got left.  God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.  It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God...Wait for hope to appear."

Jeremiah 32:3 (The Message)
"Call to me and I will answer you.  I'll tell you marvelous and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm back...

After almost a year and a half away from updating my blog, I'm back!  As you may or may not know, I lost my mother in June, 2008.  It's been a tough couple of years, but I'm finally starting to return to normal...or as normal as you can be after losing your mom and best friend.  I am not quite sure how often I'll goal is weekly.  However, I hope to start back writing and sharing my thoughts.  Not sure how many people actually read this, but it is very therapeutic for me to write.  I hope that along the way some of my ramblings may touch someone else.  Look for the latest update coming soon...