His Garden of Grace
PRACTICE HIS PRESENCE I am practicing a new discipline this month, prompted by the book “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I haven't read the book yet, although I plan to. In fact, I was going to get it at church this weekend, but I told a friend about her devotional, “The Jesse Tree Devotional” and she went to the website, fell in love like I did and has already ordered the book for me. (But if you want one, they are on sale at CBD.com right now for 6.99!) Amazing how God provides when he has clearly told me not to buy myself anything and watch him provide. But that story is for another day. Maybe tomorrow. But before I forget, let me give you the link to her website in case you are looking for something wonderful to do as a devotional this advent season. It isn't too late. Start today with day 1 and do 2 days at a time. You will be caught up before you know it. The website is www.aholyexperience.com You will love everything she writes. She paints beautiful word pictures that draw you in and hold you there. I just love her work. You will also find the inspiration for this post, December Joy Gifts there. But back to today's post. The discipline I am practicing is the December Joy Gifts Challenge. In it, you find three things daily that you are grateful for. Each day she asks for something different. Todays was 3 gifts from your Savior. Mine are: His Presence, His love, and His Discipline. Discipline. How I dislike that word. The very thought of it send shivers down my spine and makes my knees go weak. I am so undisciplined. But I need it. I want to be more disciplined. But I do not want to work at it. So God forces me with situations that I have no control over and teaches me to run to him instead of acting like the world.To have a Christ like response rather than a worldly, knee-jerk reaction. I do have a choice. But it is only through disciplining myself that I can make the right choice. Our children are a great example of this. As babies, they react to situations. If another child takes a toy from them, they cry. If they want a toy another child has, they take it. No please, No thank you. They hit if they are angry, they cry when they don't get their way, and they do any number of other unacceptable things if they so desire. Unless we discipline them. Teach them and train them to respond rather than to react. Proverbs says: train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it. Often we use this verse for a wayward child and that they will eventually come back to Christ. And that is often true. However, it can also be interpreted for this situation. The same is true for our hearts. We must learn to let God discipline our hearts and lives, and one way we can do this is to practice his presence. That means to get the idea into our thick skulls that we are able to be always in his presence. But our sin kicks us out the door. So we must discipline our hearts to keep short accounts, and realize that any life lived outside his presence is just existing, not truly living. He says he has come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Which means that we can live in his presence thereby living life to the fullest possible measure. Today, I am missing him. Alicia (my oldest daughter) has a friend visiting from Canada and the days have been so full that I have not taken the time I need (which is a lot) to be with Him at the beginning of the day, and so it gets shoved aside and then I am too tired or too lazy or just preoccupied and don't do it later. And so I am missing him. I want to be with him, but I haven't taken the proper time to. I haven't disciplined myself. I know he is always there, but I am not. So what will it take for me to do what I know is best? What do I need to do to get back to where I need to be? Anne Graham Lotz says: If you cannot hear Gods voice anymore, go back to the last time you heard it, do what he told you to do, and then you will be able to hear him again. It is as simple as that. One step. It is amazing to me that we can wander ever so far from God and all it takes to be back in his presence is One Step. Not a giant leap. No penance. No nothing. One Step. Because Jesus Paid it All. He did what he did so you and I could practice his presence all the time. We could mess up, and he still loves. We could wander and he still forgives. And we could learn all the while to Practice His Presence so that those times of wandering would be few and far between. If you and I only realized how very much he loves us. How much he gave up for us. How far he was willing to go for us, I think we would wander less and figure out what is truly important way sooner in our lives. Col. 1:24-27 says: 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Imagine that! Paul rejoiced in suffering for the people. And he took on in his flesh the afflictions of Christ so people could know the message that had been hidden, but now was revealed among the Gentiles which was "Christ in you, the hope of glory". Christ, living in me. My living hope. In His presence always, if I choose to live there. But I have to fight my flesh and discipline myself to do it, and stay there. It is hard work. But so worth it. And now it is time for me to discipline myself and take that step. Here I go.... I love you!Leslie
Purpose.That is a word that can be pregnant with meaning. My mind reels with possibilities. I could take so many paths here, but I am, for right now, going to take the obvious. What is our purpose? Why did God place you and me here on the earth? What are you to do with the time God has given you? Col. 1:21-23 says: 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior.22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. I love the way The Message words this passage. 21-23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. Isn't that the truth? We are a case study of what he does. He takes someone dirty, ragged and messy; one who hasnt a thought of him except for giving him trouble at every chance, and dies for us. Whether we accept his gift or not. Even if we never love him back, he still loves us and he still died on our behalf. I hope I never get over the wonder of it. When I was in college, I used to pray for God to show me his will. And after marrying my dear husband, I still wondered what "big thing" God wanted me to do with my life. What was "His Will"?I thought it was some etherial thing, that he would reveal and it would be huge. Then I would pursue it, and do great things for God. I still pestered God about it even after I had kids. Up until one night. On this particular night, after I had been married several years and had 2 small children, I had a dream. In it, I was trying to decide what was God's will for me. I had such a dilemma. I was trying to decide who to marry- my husband, or my former boyfriend (who in real life had been out of the picture for several years) or if I wanted to pursue a career in opera (in my former life I have a degree in Vocal Performance and was auditioning for the Palm Beach Opera. I gave that dream up when I got married. It was my choice, because I wanted to be a full time wife and mother.) But in my dream, I had to decide. Marriage? and Who would I marry? Or a career? This dream was so real and so intense, that when I awoke with a start, I was so anxious that I was panting, and could not even open my eyes. What should I do? What was God's will for my life??? When I finally got up the nerve to open my eyes and saw my bedroom, and my husband lying beside me, a wave of relief washed over me. And God spoke to me. He helped me realize that Gods will wasnt something that I had to "find". Gods will was for me to walk so closely with Him and love Him so dearly that I could hear his voice and let him lead and just follow. His will was for Him to lead in this beautiful dance and I was to learn to follow. Sometimes it was to learn just to try not to step on his toes! Sometimes we have waltzed together. Sometimes it has been more like a rhumba. Sometimes it has seemed like a disco dance, where the lights were flashing and the room was spinning around. But all the times, He has been the Lord of the Dance. I wish I could say that I have always been a good follower. That I have let him lead, and that wherever he led, I wanted to follow. But many times, I didn't like the music. It was too slow, or too loud, or just not music that I liked. And sometimes, I couldn't even hear it, because I chose my way or I was too busy or prideful to spend time with him. And in those times, he would allow me to dance away for a little while. However, all the time he would watch from a distance, and hold out his hand and whisper to me, "Come over here my beloved. I'm just over here. Listen to this music. Bring your feet back over here. I know you don't know this dance yet. Let me teach you. Don't be afraid, my dear. I love you." And eventually I would get tired of trying to do it alone and shuffle back over to him and let him lead again. At first, he would let me stand on his feet while he did the dance. But eventually I would learn it. He has always been ever so patient, showing me the steps over and over until I was fluid at it. And every time the music would change, throughout all the seasons of my life, He would teach me the new dance. Leading me. Helping me to learn to trust Him. Showing me His Purpose for me. And today, I am still seeking. Still learning to dance this new dance. I dont know where it will lead, but I know if I do my part and follow, he will lead me where I need to go. I am learning to love to submit my will to his, and relax in his arms. And as I do, he can make it look effortless. But anyone who dances knows it is not effortless. It looks that way because the partner is so confident in her leader, and they have practiced and exercised and worked in unison for so long that they have become part of one another. And that is my goal. My purpose. My joy and my greatest Blessing. I am my Beloved's, and He is mine.
PRAISE Today is the perfect day for this subject. Because 12 years ago today I gave birth to our last child, Faith. The gift that was the best surprise I've ever gotten. She was the one that I wasn't planning to have. I was done. But God had other plans. And He knew that I needed her. That the world would need her.She was born 2 weeks before my 40th birthday. On December 6th, my mom had a proceedure done on her corroded artery which would dislodge some debris that two months later found its way into her brain, causing a major stroke. I spent the next month driving myself and my newborn everyday down to visit her in the hospital. And every night crying out to God while cuddling this precious bundle and nursing her to sleep.And then, as my mom was unable to recover the gift of speech, Faith was there for her to babble with.She had no expectations. She had never known my mom could talk. Faith was the only person in my moms life that didn't feel sorry for her. That didn't pity her. She just loved her.And as Faith grew and her ability to speak moved beyond my mom's, their relationship grew even more, because she became my moms defender and translator. There was such a bond between the two of them that Faith could understand my mom's garbled speech and communicate on a level that no one else could.And now that my mom is with Him, I feel so blessed to have been chosen to be her mom. I worry that I am not good enough. That I won't do this thing right. I have made so many mistakes but God knows she was right for me and I for her.And you are right for your family. They need you, not me.Col. 1:15-20 says:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.I think of the time when I found out I was pregnant. I asked God what in the world he was doing. I was too old to have a baby. My family was complete. 2 girls, 2 boys. But He knew better.And now, in hind sight, I have been the one blessed.He created her for Himself, and for me.The same is true for you. Of you.You were created for Him. For His good pleasure. The Son, the image of the invisible God, The firstborn over all creation created you. And He holds you together. He knows your weaknesses, and knows just what makes you tick. He knows what will get to your heart, and what will drive you to your knees. He WANTS to be in a deep relationship with YOU.And if that is not reason to praise, I don't know what is!So take the verse above and praise Him. Personalize it. Pray it back in gratefulness to Him. Thank him, Love him.It helps with the waiting to love the one you are waiting for. And it helps to love him when you realize who you are in his plan, and who he is and that is his plan is the only one that will work best.Love to you all!Leslie
PEACE Alright, I know. I missed yesterday. So BONUS!! You get 2 today! A 2 for 1! Now if it were at the Mall on the very thing you needed for a gift, that would be great! You would be rejoicing! But not so sure about this, right? But I promise, today's installment goes hand in hand with yesterday's. So here goes: Col. 1:9-12 was yesterdays verse. Guess what? it is today's too! but we are taking it a bit further this time. All the way to verse 14. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[a] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. So have you asked Him? Have you prayed this for yourself? For your husband? Your family?Pray the following prayer, filling in the blank with "ME" first. And know that I am praying this for you today as well. Then pray it for whoever God brings to mind. I ask you God, that you will fill _________ with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit of God gives, so that _______ may life a life worthy of the Lord and please you in every way. That __________ will bear fruit in every good work, and that he/she will grow in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to your glorious might, so that _______ may have (choose to live in) great endurance and patience (heres the waiting part from yesterday). May__________ ever be giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified him/her through his son Jesus, to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the Kingdom of Light.Praise be to you, God that you have RESCUED US from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son You Love. For it is in Him alone that we have our redemption and the forgiveness of sins. Doesn't that just make your heart sing?? Makes me think of the song "Rescuer". You're mighty and strong to save.You're mighty and strong to save.You're mighty and strong to save.Rescuer. From the heavens you came, to the depths of the graveto redeem for your sake,Rescuer. Oh what a Savior!Freedom Forever!We lift our hands with Chains Undone.Hearts that know mercy cannot keep silent.We sing the song of Saving Love. You're mighty and strong to save.You're mighty and strong to save.You're mighty and strong to save.Rescuer. If that doesn't give you peace, I am not sure what will. So in this crazy season, don't forget who's child you are. You represent His name. His Kingdom. You are not from here, so you don't have to live like it. Love you,Leslie