Wednesday, January 1, 2014

a january journey: all things new ... daily posts!

if you're interested in joining in this month for the daily devotionals, you might want to first take a look at my december 30th post, ( a january journey: all things new ) which gives more information about this month. and remember, you can find these posts also on my facebook page "even the sparrow -- jody mcnatt." 

JANUARY 1: {in the beginning}
genesis 1:1. what a perfect place to start the new year.
though God Himself has no beginning, He, clearly, shows us the starting line of everything else. He created time, ordered days, set up seasons and determines when things will begin and, yes, even when they will end. woven into these first God-breathed words of scripture is our introduction to His creation, His order and His power.
and it's no surprise we are people who crave measured time ... check calendars ... keep track. we love new beginnings and we need sure conclusions. it's a perfect gift from a perfect God who perfectly knows His children.
today as we step into a new year, let us celebrate our God who has not only ordained it, but our God who is already there in it.
january 1st.
begin it with God.
begin it with the only one who has no beginning and no end.
begin 2014 with the Alpha and the Omega

JANUARY 2: {a clean heart}
i don't know if it's all of the holiday-ing, but come january, i get a little clean-crazy. once the new year is over i'm just ready to put up and put away all that has so festively stretched across our home since early december. i attack the trimmings and tinsel like a mad woman on a mission. anyone relate?
and because i love to use fresh greenery everywhere in our house, it's a pretty big clean up. one year, i had so many pine needles and so much mess i was forced to use our leaf blower (indoors) to clear it all out. (worked like a charm)!
i wonder, in this psalm, if david felt the same way when he asked God to "create in me a clean heart and renew a right spririt within me." did he also feel in need of something high powered to blow out the dirt of his human heart? because i know how grievous my sin can feel. i know how desperate the cry of my dark heart. just like the pine needles strewn across our home, sin has a way of getting everywhere. getting into everything. hanging around and hiding in tiny places, sticking in tight corners. and we need more than a leaf blower to blast it out ... we need God to wipe it clean.
ask Him today. on this second day of january, let's ask Him to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit. a-men? a-men!
now, back to those pine needles ...

JANUARY 3: {a new heart}
yesterday we talked about God creating a clean heart in us. and, yes, He does continue to clean us up -- sanctify us. but let's not forget, first, He did a bit of a transplant. if you've said yes to Jesus than, be assured, you have been given a brand new heart. it's a done deal. God has taken our hard heart of stone and traded it for a beautiful heart of flesh -- a heart which isn't perfect, but is soft and tender to His ways. and just as our heart is new, we, too, are new. what's more, this didn't have anything to do with the arrival of january, but with the arrival of Jesus!
i just want to remind us of that this morning.
if we belong to Him, we have said goodbye to those heavy, hard hearts of stone.
i know we have lots of things in our lives which need attention and addressing. we have some rough edges and tough pieces which need a little heavenly-polish ... but (hallelujah) God is at work doing just that! He does that in us every day and will continue refining us until our last day. but, friends, make no mistake, the transformation from stone to flesh happened the day you asked Jesus to enter in. in this new week of a new year, let's remember to celebrate the wonder already done for us and God's continual working in us.

JANUARY 4: {a way in the wilderness}
for some of us, looking into the face of a new year is a little bit frightening. we know how hard some things were in 2013 and we might be a little bit afraid of what 2014 will bring. it's unknown -- that much is certain. but we do know, it's going to have it's share of hard stuff. it just is.
but God is so clear in His direction:
1. forget the former
2. do not dwell on the past
3. He will make a way
He knows we're prone to dwell and prone to doubt. i like how He even says in this verse "do you not perceive it?" oh my, how our God knows us! He knows how limited our perception and how little our faith. but still, He patiently promises. "I am making a way." not I WILL, but I AM. He is already in the process of forging paths for this next year. what's more, He's promising to do it in the tough corners of our life -- the wilderness and the wasteland. good news friends: we don't have to fear what's coming, because God is already there! He's making a way, clearing the path, carving out the steps, and leading the way.

(this picture is from last year living on lake minnetonka ... the first time our kids - and dog - crossed out on the lake and over to an island ... wilderness, indeed! big adventure for these southern kiddos)!

JANUARY 5: {the frost of heaven}
this is our second winter living in minnesota, and i am still breathless at the intensity. the snow, the deep cold, the frost, the every single thing frozen ... it's hard to describe. and as brutal as it can be (today's forecast: -29 today with wind chills reaching -50) i am enthralled with the ethereal beauty of winter.
we can't help it, we talk a lot about weather up here in the northlands. everyone is on top of it, but no matter how planned out and prepared these pioneer-types are, there's not one of us who can do anything to change it or control it. we can add layers to our bodies and logs to our fires, but we have no say when it comes to the forecast.
as this verse in the book of job points out -- that's God's deal. He is the sole source and only creator of this season of ice and snow. "and the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?" God! it is His breath which blows and causes wind chills to plummet and water to freeze. “out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold. from the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen.” ~ job 37:9-10
yesterday, i walked along a creek bed with our dog, minnetonka, and was just amazed at every twist and turn -- what an incredible demonstration of God's creativity and what a fresh reminder of His power. january might not be your favorite month of the year, but God created it and controls it. i know we like to think we have a little say in things. i get it. i'm kinda wired that way, too. but then God reminds me with something as fierce as a blizzard or something as delicate as a snowflake ..."and the frost of heaven, WHO has given it birth?" God.
and today, instead of looking at it as a nuisance or irritation, i encourage you to see it as more evidence of God.
so bundle up, build a fire, stay home and hunker down ... but don't miss the chance to get a glimpse of God's beauty.

JANUARY 6: {the new is here!}
i'm not sure there is a better picture of "new creation" than adoption. when i look into the eyes of our youngest daughter, adopted from china 3 years ago, i understand transformation; i understand our adoption into God's family; and, i understand His pursuing kind of love and how it changes us.
every day, for many, many reasons, we thank God for leading us to this little gal. but one of the extra gifts our family received when we received her, was the chance to understand better our own transformation in entering God's family.
maybe you've seen a picture or two of bella (on my blog) when she was in china. bella was living in an orphange of 3000 children, no mama or daddy, no place to call home, but then God brought her into a family. (and i'm so glad it was ours)! in these three years, we've watched a little girl bloom and grow into a new creation. those empty eyes and flat affect -- gone! a new girl twirls across my kitchen singing songs, teasing her brothers and telling corny kindergarten jokes. transformation.
that's how it is in Christ.
we are transformed. changed. different. new!
the old has gone, the new is here!
when, through Christ, we are adopted into God's family, we are brand new. and this isn't a january 10 step solution or a 12 step process, this is just one beautiful transforming step to Jesus!
on this cold january morning when the weather is starting to feel a little bit old, let's be encouraged by the warmth of that reminder --friends, we are new!

JANUARY 7: {renewed in knowledge}
this time of year is overflowing with ways to get a "new self." a new you. a new attitude. a new look. a new this. a new that. this week on social media, i have seen countless posts promising 10 steps to a new something or other. all of it good, but none of it really about God.
want to know the secret to fixing you?
fix yourself first on Jesus.
 -- yes, that!
fixate first on Him.
when we fix ourselves on knowing Him better, we, in turn, become fixed. that's just how it works. and it works in all areas of our lives, because Jesus works in all areas of our lives. there's nothing too big or too small for the one who knows each hair on our head. He cares about the details in us which need some work. in fact, He knows, even better than us, what are weaknesses and rough spots and issues are.
Jesus, came as a babe, grew as a man, died as a sacrifice that we might be able to see Him. know Him  -- His image. God in flesh, so that our flesh might be able to set our eyes on Him.
"let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." ~ hebrews 12:2
true renewal comes to us when we come, first, to Him.
to quote one of my favorite authors, "in the new year, the only HOPE of a NEW me, is only CHRIST in me."  ~ ann voskamp

JANUARY 8: {a new attitude}
with five kids and three of them teens, we talk about attitude a fair amount in our home. and i won't just pin it on the under 21 crowd ... i struggle, too. there's no question of that. sometimes i just wake up in a bad mood. sometimes i can't even put my finger on what's wrong and why this is -- it just is. i can blame it on hormones or unwanted hassles or those occasional hindrances ... or i can own it and know it just comes from my lack of humility and my self-centered heart. i think too highly of myself and forget my place. and my place is to put others and their needs first. it really is. that isn't an idea popular in the world, but it's an idea made perfect in God's Word. and when we actually follow God's lead on this, our attitude falls in line. in philippians we are told to "have the same attitude of Christ Jesus."
so what exactly was the attitude of Christ?

1. HOW DID JESUS VIEW HIMSELF? "though He was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant ... He humbled Himself ..." - philippians 2:6-8

2. HOW DID JESUS VIEW OTHERS? "but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." - philippians 2:3

3. HOW DID JESUS VIEW HIS CIRCUMSTANCES? "count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." - james 1:2

the attitude of Christ was one of perfect humility and joy.

we aren't going to achieve perfection, but, with His grace and strength, we can follow His model. when we do, our attitude and our actions will fall in step with Him.
to be honest though, i am cringing as i type. if my kids or husband or anyone, really, who knows me read this, they'll shake their heads. i don't always do that. they know me and they know my sin nature. they see evidence of it every day. BUT, we are talking about new attitudes here. and Jesus isn't asking us to be perfect each day, but, He is asking us to each day put on His perfection -- His robes of righteousness. oh friend, we can't do it on our own, but amazingly, God sent His son to earth that we might see HOW to live ... through WHO Jesus was and is.

“The pursuit of happiness is a matter of is a positive attitude we choose to express. It is not a gift delivered to our door each morning, nor does it come through the window. And it is certain that our circumstances are not the things that make us joyful. If we wait for them to get just right, we will never laugh again.”
― Charles R. Swindoll

JANUARY 9: {new mercies}
"the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“the Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore i will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3: 22-24

i'm not sure i'd call myself a morning person exactly, but, boy, i sure am in need of them! i like the fresh start, the new day, the blank canvas. i like the potential and the possibility. january brings a new year, but, as God's children, we get a new chance every day. no matter how consuming our problems, God's mercy meets us each morning. can't you almost see it in the sunrise or in the light peeking through winter trees?
His compassions never fail, because our God is always faithful.
i really needed to read that this morning.
last night, before falling asleep, i was making a long list of issues and problems and things which i thought i had to deal with; things which i thought were up to me to address.
ever make a list like that?
making one right now, by any chance?
let's, together, turn those lists over to God -- the God of great faithfulness and the God of morning mercy. He has promised each day to take from us the problems we think we must handle, and hand us, in exchange, His new mercy.
He doesn't want us to be consumed, He wants, instead, for us to know His compassion.
ask Him for it. today. this morning.
january or june or july ... we can claim with each new day, "the Lord is my portion, therefore, i will hope in Him."

JANUARY 10: {an old promise for a new year}
these are the greatest mittens ever! a local gal makes and sells them out of her home. she recycles old sweaters and each pair is unique! they almost make you want to move to minnesota, right?

but seriously, they aren't just cute as can be, but are absolutely wonderful to slip your hand into -- especially on a cold day, of which, up in these parts, we have no shortage!
these mittens are my daughter's, but when i borrowed them yesterday, i was amazed at how protected and warm my hands felt ... even in below zero temps.

mittens are great, but what's even greater is God's promise to hold our hands. it's an old promise, way out of the old testament, but one we need more than ever right now! right now in this new year and in this 21st century. "I hold you by your right hand ...don't be afraid. I am here to help you."
oh friend, i don't know about you, but those words and that image bring me great comfort. i don't want to walk through this day or this thing or this life without Jesus right by my side. taking my hand. leading the way. i've tried it on my own, and it's not pretty. but thankfully, just like a patient father, God steps in and takes my hand.

the God who holds the whole world in His hands, holds my hand too. amazing!

check out my new friend, melanie's facebook page. (mimi's mittens). she's making more mittens as i write!

JANUARY 11: {sing a new song}
"oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! SING to the Lord, BLESS his name; TELL of his salvation from day to day. DECLARE his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! for great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. for all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens." ~ psalm 96
sounds to me like we are being instructed to communicate! there is nothing in this psalm which suggests we tread lightly or be cool or downplay God's greatness.
so why is it that we can be so hesitant to share our faith?
why are we careful not to offend?
why are we afraid to share God's glory? His marvelous works? what He has done and is doing in our own lives?
as david says, "GREAT is the Lord, and GREATLY to be praised!"
we are quick offer up funny stories and recipes and helpful hints ... but what about sharing Jesus?
especially in a world which is confused and floundering; in a world which is looking desperately in every direction for something to worship ... "for all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens." in a world which is flat out ... lost.
do you remember when you first came to know Him? when you first were given a song? a NEW song? that's the music God wants to see flow from our mouths -- whether we've been walking with Him a few days or a few decades ... a new song. a song which makes known the glory and praise of our Father.
sing a new song!

JANUARY 12: {renewed strength}
"but those who hope in the Lord will RENEW their STRENGTH. they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ isaiah 40:31

i don't know if it's my age, my cancer medication or the sheer number of children in my home, but at the end of the day, i am sometimes often just plain worn out. bone tired. beat. the kind of tired where i can hardly keep my eyes open to read the rest of the chapter ...
being pretty high energy most of my life, i don't do especially well with this new lacking.
someone might tell me i'd feel better if only i would take a 5 mile jog at 9pm or drink a super-green-protein-shake or increase my vitamins ...and maybe they'd be right.
but, often, when i am feeling exhausted in my day or task or whatever, i find that it's usually when i'm trying to do it on my own. when i'm leaning on myself.
there's something in my wiring which makes me want to put my hope in me -- jody.
and i have to tell you, jody isn't exactly cutting it these days. she never has and she never will.
in fact, hoping in jody is what leads to weary running and faint walking.
but when we put our HOPE in Jesus ... God's word tells us we will SOAR on WINGS like eagles!
and dear one, even more than a five mile jog, i need to soar.
i need to HOPE in HIM.
it is that deliberate placing of my hope in the Lord which RENEWS my strength. each day. every day. this month. next month. every month.
Jesus has promised wings which soar. maybe it's time to trade in our tired feet and our feeble attempts, lean into Him and accept His gift of flight.
"those who HOPE in the LORD will RENEW their STRENGTH."

JANUARY 13: {new eyes}
honestly, this isn't just the PRAYER of my heart -- it's the CRY of my heart -- turn my eyes, Jesus, from worthless things ...

how about you?
in this new year ... what are you looking at? where are your eyes? what do you see?

funny to think the part our eyes play in new life. but in this psalm, david clearly makes the connection between our eyes and our life. make no mistake, Jesus brings new life, but keeping our eyes on Him will allow us to experience more richly this new life.

it's easy to look elsewhere. easy to look at ourselves and our wants and our stuff and our issues and our day-to-day whatevers. just because Jesus has made us new, doesn't mean we have perfect eyes. someday, but not yet. no, right now, we have to careful, cautious, even vigilant, about what we're choosing to see.

worthless things?

maybe this is a good time to choose to look away.

what is it that is taking your focus from deeper faith in Jesus? what worthless thing is getting in the way?
because here's the deal, when we focus on the worthless, we leave little room for God's wonderful.
Lord, open the eyes of my heart that i might see you, know you, and love you more.
Lord, open the eyes of my heart that i might see new and wonderful life in your way.

"i pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." ~ ephesians 1:18

JANUARY 14: {fresh joy}
we woke this morning to fresh snow. the forecast called for it last night ... and we all went to bed a little hopeful. when you live in minnesota winter, you might as well have fresh snow. the alternative is a grey-black slushy mess. and where that may be slightly safer to drive in, it certainly isn't very pretty to look at.
me? i like the fresh white stuff.
i like the blanket, the covering, the clean.
and today, looking out the window in the dim morning light ... there it was ... clean white snow - fresh!
and maybe it's similar with our joy: fresh joy. new joy. more joy. real joy. that sure beats the alternative of gray days and black moods. i know that's what i hope my forecast calls for -- fresh joy! Lord, "restore to me the JOY of your salvation!" (psalm 51:12) yes, THAT kind of joy.
unlike the snowfall, though, we do have some say in our level of joy. we can choose joy. we can choose to be joyful in everything, in all circumstances ... even in tough stuff. and the funny thing is we actually NEED joy in the tough stuff. "for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (nehemiah 8:10)
did you get that? JOY BRINGS STRENGTH. i am not sure how it works, but as i begin this new year, i want to make a deliberate choice to pursue joy ... i don't know the challenges ahead for 2014, but i know that strength will be needed and joy must play its part.

joy and strength, hand in hand.

you don't have to be joyful about the snow outside your window ... but i can tell you it might help to have that kind of attitude. in a few minutes my kids will come tumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen. they'll press noses up against windows and the whooping and hollering will begin. they love fresh snow, too.
they choose it!
today, let's choose joy.

JANUARY 15: {draw near}
our family is a little ga-ga over fire. you may not think that odd since we live in minnesota -- a place where it's a matter of survival. but the truth is, we loved bonfires and fireplaces even down in the south! in fact, this is a picture of our fireplace back in georgia.

(in minnesota) we have it going all the time. literally we walk in the door and the first thing we do is push the button. the button is nice, but, for me, nothing takes the place of real wood. in fact, this fireplace in the picture was gas logs when we bought the home and i begged my husband to change it over to wood burning! (i sometimes make him crazy with stuff like this ...)

but, there's something about the fire which draws us in. makes us come closer. it's like the center point of our home. it's where we gather as a family. it's the place we come together. i can't imagine it being there and us not turning it on ... (by the way, in minnesota, it's possible to even use your fireplace in june)!

but this morning it makes me think of God. He's right there with us and yet we don't always remember to draw near. we don't always remember to pull up our chair and hunker down in Him, to nestle in deeper, to bask in His warmth. instead, we let other things attempt to warm us; to take our attention; to provide our distraction when really what we need is to move closer to Him and sit for awhile.

He is the source which meets all our needs. every single one of them. do you believe that today? we aren't going to feel His warmth if we hang out on the other side of the room ... we have to draw near.
that is what i hope this january journey is encouraging for each of you (for me!) -- a chance not to "try harder," but to "turn closer" to Him.

dear one, draw near today and sit in the warmth of His holy presence.

JANUARY 16: {seek the Lord}
so, our forecast calls for a blizzard today. a white out. a you-cant-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face-day. sounds downright thrilling, right?
before moving here, it's what i pictured minnesota life to be like every day. i grew up reading "little house on the prairie." i was impacted by the scene where they almost lost pa traveling from the barn back to the house. i had pictures of us tying ropes from one door to the other. (except we don't have a barn). my childhood dreams were going to come true in moving to minnesota ... we were going to be pioneers facing blizzards!

and even if the forecast is wrong and i don't experience a blizzard today in minnesota, i have experienced them in other parts of life. those blizzards of too much coming at me. blizzards when there's too much blowing and swirling and gusting getting in the way. blizzards of my own busy-ness. blizzards which kick up out of my brokenness. blizzards where i find it hard to see Jesus.

when those blizzard times of life come up, we have to be prepared to seek Him hard. it might be difficult to see His face in the storm surrounding, but Jesus is there. He hasn't moved and He wants to be found. Jesus wants His children to SEEK HIM. it's not a game or an agreement ... but it is evidence of our love for Him. we seek what we love.

blizzard or no blizzard ... are you seeking Jesus today?

"but if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul." ~ deuteronomy 4:29

JANUARY 17: {whiter than snow}
as a mother, the color white is kind of a no-no.
whether i wear it or sit on it or paint it on my walls ... chances are, with my collection of kids, it only begs to be smudged. sullied. soiled.
we have an off-white armchair in our family room -- bad, bad purchase. it is quickly beginning to look more "off" than it is "white." you know what i mean, right? there was a time when wearing white jeans was almost a joke. finger paint or peanut butter or a aqua swipe of toothpaste often became layers on the blank canvas of my bottom half compliments of the artistic toddlers in my home.
so, like any wise woman, i learned to avoid all things white. i thought it weak. vulnerable. open to the corruption and every color of dirt.
and then i moved to minnesota and found winter.
and i have to tell you when it snows here, the white is different. no longer wimpy. it consumes and covers everything. powerful. it's the kind of white you find in a pristine and pretty snow globe.
and it's the kind of white i think david was referencing when he said, "wash me, and i will be whiter than snow." he wasn't talking about a quick dusting or the dirty stuff on the road's edge. he was talking about minnesota snow. well, kind of, he was ...
he was writing about the perfect and powerful cleansing agent of God's forgiveness. "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." (isaiah 1:18).
that, friends, is the kind of white i want. a white which can cover the crimson stain of my sin. and that's the kind of white only God can give.
i love when we get a heavy snowfall. i love when it sticks to each and every tiny branch and blade. when i look at that comprehensive covering, that beautiful blanket, i want to be reminded that that is what the love and forgiveness of Jesus does for us. it covers us. it cleanses us. it coats us in Him ...

singing today ...
"Jesus paid it all
all to Him i owe
sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow."

JANUARY 18 {pure, like silver refined}
isn't it true, the more we dig into God's word, the more it takes on a feeling of pure silver?
and isn't it also true, the more we spend time in His word, the more encouraged (and, yes, convicted) we become to also make our own words words pure ... silver.

proverbs 25:11 says, "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
our words, fitly or aptly or correctly or kindly spoken, are "like apples of gold in settings of silver." a beautiful phrase meant to inspire beautiful words.

so often, i know my own words are anything but. my mother told me when i was just a young girl that i had a silver tongue ... she meant that i could articulate things well, not that it was all that lovely. that quick tongue has brought blessing, yes, but it has also brought its share of heartache. i don't always use it the way God intended. sadly, it has gotten me in some trouble.

only God's words are holy and perfect and clean ... like silver refined. that's why we must spend time in it. when we crack open our bibles or meditate on His word today, let's think of it as a precious gift. priceless and pure. and let us be encouraged to hide this treasure in our hearts, that we might also use our words well; that what crosses our lips might be a blessing to us and a blessing to others ... pure, refined, silver, beautiful.

JANUARY 19: {lonely places}
we don't always choose lonely places, do we?
sometimes they just happen. sometimes they are forced upon us. sometimes we find ourselves off alone, disconnected, isolated and removed whether we wanted to be or not. winter can do this. different seasons of life can do this. circumstances can play a part.
maybe this year, your january is feeling a little "shut in" or a little "closed off." feeling shut in isn't just for the elderly, i remember being a young mom with a bunch of little kids and feeling this way too -- closed off, removed and kind of alone. it was a lot of work getting my crew out of the house (and that was when we lived in the south and didn't have to bundle up in 17 layers of snow gear)!
regardless of the reason, if this is the season you're in, i want to encourage you to see what God might have for you in this time of quiet ... even in this time of loneliness.
sometimes He removes us from activity or He removes us from others so we can focus in on Him.
and THAT is what this january journey is about -- growing closer to Him.
maybe for you it is about being in a place more desolate and dull than you'd willingly choose. maybe it's even being a little bit lonely --- if this is the case, my prayer is that you will use this time to come closer in communion with Jesus.

"and rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark,
he departed and went out to a desolate place,
and there he prayed." ~ mark 1:35

JANUARY 20: {your paths}
one of the things about january is that the entire year stretches out before us.
and, yes, that can be good ... but it can also be a little intimidating.
january is the starting line for 2014 and i'm sure you've probably had a moment or two this month where you've paused and wondered what the rest of this year's race will bring.

maybe for some of you, there are big decisions to make. there are plans to arrange and directions to determine. you wonder what you'll be doing or where you'll be or how things will look up ahead. i get that. we have those same kinds of questions floating around our house too! and when i begin looking down that path, i'll be honest, i have a tendency to hyperventilate a tad. the road seems too big, too open, too unknown, too uncertain.
who is going to make all those decisions? and how are we going to get there? and what is "there" going to be like?

yeah, that stuff ...
you know -- those 2 am worries which wake us up and make us wonder.

so if you have any of that jumbling around inside of you today, i just want to encourage you (and me, too) --- God's got a plan. did you hear that? God has a plan and He knows 100% where we are headed. He know's what's down the road. He know's how it will all shake out and shape up --- He knows the future. all of it. every bit of it.

the important thing for us to remember here at our january starting line is that we follow His lead; that we ask Him to show us the way; that we walk in His truth.

no, dear ones, we can't know the future, but we can know with certainty the One who holds our future.

"for I know the plans I have for you,
declares the Lord, plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you
a hope and a future." ~ jeremiah 29:11

JANUARY 21: {you know me}
when our kids were little, they went through a time when they worried about "getting lost." it was a short-lived phase for each of them, but very real. they had some anxiety thinking we wouldn't know where they were; that somehow we wouldn't be able to find them.
maybe it had something to do with their mother always looking for something -- her keys, phone, purse, coffee mug, book ...
maybe it was that.
or maybe we are all wired a little bit this way --- worried, that we might not be found or known or kept track of -- or even matter ...

i find these words in psalm 139 comforting. God knows me. even when i'm not quite sure of me. even when i don't know exactly who i am or what i am doing or where i am going -- He does! He knows it all. He is well aware of even the most minute movements of me -- when i sit and when i rise.

and that is reassuring, because as i dig into this new year with all of it's plans and preparations i can quickly feel the room spinning a little bit out of control. i can quickly become overwhelmed with what i'm supposed to be doing or thinking or being... and, in this, i can also quickly convince myself that i might get lost ... lose my way ... (even) lose my mind!

but psalm 139 is like a cool cloth on my worry and what ifs. these words help me take a deep breath, remembering: God knows me. He has searched me and He knows me. in fact, He knows my every thought. i cannot get lost in the mix or in the muddle. there is no mayhem which hides His child from Him.

He won't set me down in His busyness and forget where He put me. that might happen in my house, but it's not like that with God.

"where can i go from your Spirit?
where can i flee from your presence?
if i go up to the heavens, you are there;
if i make my bed in the depths, you are there.
if i rise on the wings of the dawn,
if i settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast." ~ psalm 139:8-10

JANUARY 22: {flowing streams}
so, how are you doing with this winter thing?

i know as we creep further away from the holidays and closer to the end of january, it takes on a different feeling for most of us.
snow is pretty at christmas and all the lights and holiday dazzle seem to keep us delighted. but when january slows and winter digs deep and the days begin to drag, it can feel a little dreary, right?
and all of a sudden we feel ready to move on.
we feel ready for the next thing.
and i have to tell you, at least in minnesota, we aren't moving on. nope.
right now, we are locked up in cold and kind of frozen in ice. there's no thaw in sight ... no hint of a next season. no trace of a warmer tomorrow. we aren't going anywhere fast.

occasionally, i catch a flash of wildlife and i wonder how they are doing it. the kids and i read up on what happens to small critters and birds during this kind of cold -- fascinating survival stuff, not to mention rather miraculous, considering the temperatures!

though the deer are especially quiet this month, occasionally one or two shows up in our yard.
i bet they're also ready for this winter-thing to end.
as this verse says, they "pant for flowing streams." ... they long for, they wish for, they want ...
as i sit typing this morning, i can see the stream in our backyard, and let me tell you, there's nothing "flowing" about it at the moment. no, it's frozen shut. sealed tight. closed off completely and covered in snow.

friend, i don't know what kind of winter you're living in right now, but if that's where God has you, than you're probably longing to get out. you're probably, like these deer, panting to move on. and you probably know what david meant when he wrote, "so pants my soul for you, O God." because when we are stuck in cold places, hard places, dark places, that's really what our soul wants -- God.
we want Him to come fresh and flowing. and we want Him to fill us with new life.

and though the winter places can be tough, the panting-for-God-places are tender ... and good. it might not seem so this morning, but the winter will end. streams will flow and new life will come.

JANUARY 23 {a lamp to my feet}
our series this month {a january journey} has been, in part, preparing to step into our year in a fresh and faith-filled way. clearly, it is a perfect time to start new. and clearly, it is about going forward.
and i can't think of a better way to encourage y'all than to suggest you take God's word with you. that you let His word be the lamp to your feet and the light to your path.
it's a dark month for sure. the christmas lights have been turned off and the daylight is at an all-year low. by 5pm in minnesota, the light is dim and we are finishing homework and cooking dinner in dusk. we light candles and fires and turn up lights doing our best to ignore the dark.

but God's word can brighten any darkness, it can light any path, and it will illuminate our journey ... we need only remember this guidebook God has given. it's not meant to sit dusty on a shelf or to be pulled out for poetry or some occasional inspiration.
no, it's a survival guide, it's the first thing to pack for your pilgrimage.
i don't know where it is God has you going this year ... but i do know that at the top of your list you'll want His word.

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." ~ 1 john 1:6

JANUARY 24: {a new name}
my bible study group started new material this month studying the book of revelation. i'll admit, i'm kind of intimidated. i've never spent much time in revelation and all that prophetic imagery stuff scares me a little. but i am eager to learn ... and so far, so good.

i came across this verse the other day in my reading and wanted to share it here. this white stone engraved with a new name is a perfect picture for what we're talking about this month.

the white stone was handed to those "victorious" ( to those overcomers or believers in Christ). it signified healing --- spiritual healing. this stone will be given to declare us clean, forgiven and healed by Christ -- what a wonderful image; what a wonderful reminder.

let's stop and think about that for a minute. close your eyes and picture Jesus placing a white stone in your hand ... a symbol of how we are handed His righteousness and His perfection when we become His. and this kind of white and this kind of clean is well beyond our human comprehension. it is holy.

what's more, on this perfect, pure stone is our name engraved -- our new name. a name chosen by Him because we belong to Him and because we are new in Him. "therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ..." 2 corinthians 5:17. pretty amazing, right?

and then later in revelation, He reminds us again, "behold, I am making all things new!" (revelation 21:5).
yes, this january may be considered the month of "new," but Jesus is the maker of new. the new which etches our name into white stone and is placed clean in our hands. healed. holy. whole. and His.

JANUARY 25: {reflect the Lord's glory}
bella and i were playing in the yard this week after (yet another) fresh snowfall, when the sun came out. "look mom," she said pointing at the snow, "it's like a million diamonds everywhere!" and she was right. when the sun hit the snow it looked like we were walking in an ocean of glitter. we both stopped and marveled at what we were seeing -- our own beautiful sea of sparkles.
"mom, where did these sparkles come from?" she continued, "they weren't here a few minutes ago." and it's true, there were no sparkles until the sun showed up.
it's about reflection.
snowflakes resting on top of a blanket of snow act like a mirror, reflecting a portion of the sun’s image toward the eye. (i read that somewhere). each ‘sparkle’ is a reflection of the sun’s image from a single crystal. and the sparkle we see is about light bouncing back and forth. when there's no light the snow is flat, dull, opaque, but when sunlight enters the scene it comes alive ... or as bella likes to say, "sparkly!"

kind of like us. kind of like how we were before we met Jesus -- flat and dull. but when He came along and shined His light on us the sparkles began to ... well, er, um ... sparkle! because we come alive in the presence of His light. our unveiled faces reflect His glory and we become radiant! (i'm not really good at science, but i think that is so, so cool).

have you ever met a new christian who just seems to glow? it's beautiful! and it's more than just a thin dusting. it's deep and it's a radiance which should be found on our faces whether we are new christians or old. because either way, we should never stop reflecting God's glory. God's light is transforming us in His image. think about that -- HIS image.

makes me stop and think for a minute:
am i reflecting God's glory?
is my face shining with His radiance?

am i "sparkly"?

Lord, shine on me today in the midst of this busy saturday, that i might sparkle with your light and reflect your radiant love. a-men.

"the Lord bless you, and keep you; 
and be gracious to you; 
the Lord lift up His countenance on you, 
and give you peace." ~ numbers 6:24-26

JANUARY 26: {when i consider...}
last year, we had this amazing experience living on lake minnetonka. this was the view from the back windows of our home. it didn't matter what season or what time of day ... it was always beautiful ... always breathtaking.
i snapped this photo last january. the lake was frozen and snow covered, but, you'll probably agree, exquisite under the lavender sky.
and that moon -- oh, that moon ...
i could have stared at it all the night long.
i remember this night in particular, because i had grabbed my camera and snapped no less than three dozen photos. and what i remember most, is thinking, oh Lord, how lovely of you to give this gift to me. (for, of course, this moon on the snow in the lavender sky was for me alone! right)?
i had been having a kind of hard week. and it had been a really hard day ... and then to glance out the window and see this. THIS!
God knows i am so motivated and moved by the beauty of His creation. it felt like He had gift wrapped this "moon over minnetonka" for me alone. ME! (that's my story and i'm sticking to it).
but, seriously, that God would give me the gift of a perfect moon on such an imperfect day, felt like an embrace from my Father.
God cared for me. God cares for me.
He is MINDFUL of me -- me -- little ole me.
the God who created the heavens and earth and the moon and the stars and THIS ... this glowing orb in lavender sky shining on snow --- THIS! He created all this glory and majesty and magnificence, but He didn't forget about me. what an amazing thought!
"when i consider" ... when i consider all this God-glory and Creator-beauty ... and then realize that He didn't just one day CREATE, but that He actively, every day CARES ... "what is man that you are mindful of him?"
oh my.

have you ever had a moment like that while standing before the handiwork of God? up on a mountain? out on a lake? deep in the woods? gazing at the ocean? studying a snowflake? catching a sunset? skipping rocks in a river? dancing in the rain? staring into the face of your newborn?

does this resonate? oh, i sure hope so!

and i don't know about you, but that makes me want to worship ...

"bless the Lord, o my soul! o Lord my God, you are very great! you are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He rides on the wings of the wind ..." ~ psalm 104:1-3

if led, share a moment where you've had this kind of moment. or just share where you were ... or what you were looking at. i'd love to hear!

a blessed sabbath to you all!

JANUARY 27: {the wind}
it's early monday morning. the house still sleeping, the fireplace warming, the coffee brewing and oh my goodness ... the wind blowing!
i can hear it hitting the windows, whipping into the cracks. pounding. whistling. whining through the trees.
the forecast calls it "gusty." i'd call anyone out in it "gutsy."
schools are closed. roads are empty. the temperature is minus-something-ridiculous, the windchill is -35 and dropping.
yesterday afternoon, my 10 year old son, husband and dog decided to walk out on the lake (we do that in minnesota). they didn't get far, when it became clear, they'd have to turn around. the wind was blowing too wild. connor described it, "mom, it was so powerful it was holding me up! i was leaning into it and trying to fall backward and it just held me up!" he was incredibly impressed.

we don't, often, think of the wind as something impressive, do we?
it can't be seen.
it can't be caught.
at least not by us.

i'll have to inform my son, there will be no walks out on the lake today. i cannot fathom being out in this, let alone trying to chase it or capture it or hold it in my hands. but God does exactly that. God, in His power, CAN DO exactly that.

"Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!" proverbs 30:4

the same God who created the earth can gather the wind and wrap up the waters. the storm beats wild outside my window this morning, but there's no storm and no wind which God cannot contain or control.

i don't know what's blowing fierce through your life today, but be reminded this morning, whatever the windchill and no matter how wild the storm, we have a God who can gather it all in His hands.

JANUARY 28: {warm enough}
i woke this morning to a balmy -18. and the first thing out of bed, was to find extra socks, slippers and my zip up fleece. it's a cold morning in minnesota, folks!
thankfully, our situation isn't quite like haggai ... we CAN put on clothes and warm up. we minnesotans with our northface and our smartwool and our patagonia and our thermal-high-tech-insulated this and that ... we're all okay.

but haggai wasn't writing about minnesota cold.
haggai was addressing the Jewish people who had just come out of captivity. they had been told to rebuild the temple. but their answer was, "not now ... not yet ... we're busy." they weren't exactly rebellious, but they were reluctant rebuilders looking for excuses not to do God's work. instead of following God's lead, they focused on their own "to-do" lists. they, basically, chose to ignore God. (not ever a good idea, mind you).

and God's answer to them? this --
now this is what the Lord Almighty says:
“give careful thought to your ways.
you have planted much, but harvested little.
you eat, but never have enough.
you drink, but never have your fill.
you put on clothes, but are not warm.
you earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

He's pretty clear, isn't He? seek after your own things and your own desires and your own plans and you'll end up dissatisfied, discontent, disappointed. when we seek our own things more than the things of Christ we will never have enough. our stuff can never be enough.

and, guess what? the new testament agrees!
"but seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." ~ matthew 6:33

in this new year, what does Jesus have for you? what kingdom work is He calling you to? i'm not suggesting it has to be moving to uganda and opening up an orphanage! but i am suggesting there's probably something God has divinely appointed you to -- what is it for you? for me? for us?

are we going to be reluctant rebuilders making excuses and tending to our own little ways?
or are we going to be open ... willing ... and wanting to dig into His divine calling?

remember back to that first blog post describing this JANUARY JOURNEY? i wrote that if we truly wanted "new" it wouldn't be about us "trying harder," but about "trusting Him deeper."
do we really want something new this year?
than let's lay down our own lists and ways and wants and pick up what Christ has purposed for us in 2014.

and, by all means, stay warm y'all!

JANUARY 29: {He restores}
i know this month we are talking about moving forward ... moving on ... moving ahead. january is about finding the new in a new year. but i also know how easy it is for a few of us to be dragging some of the old into this next year. we might have stepped into january with high hopes and a fresh outlook, but we just might have brought with us the baggage or burden or brokenness from something last year ... or longer.

and even if we think we've moved on and moved away from whatever that yuck was, it's possible a part of us believes we can never fully leave it behind; we can never fully escape the effects; we can never fully regain what was lost.

any of that sound familiar? i hope not. but if it does, than today's post is for you!

hidden away in joel, this quiet little book in the bible, is one of the most amazing promises God gives. He tells us that He CAN and WILL restore lost years -- "the years that the locust has eaten." not only does He forgive us and wipe clean our slate, but He RESTORES those years. He (don't ask me how) RESTORES what was eaten, taken, abused, broken, damaged, hurt.

haven't seen any locust lately? probably not. but, keep in mind, that's figurative language. God is referring to ANYTHING which might have taken a bite out of us ... a bite out of our life. a bite out of our spirit.

years of addiction or abuse? complacency or chaos? laziness or lust? rebellion or resistance? anger or anguish?

oh dear one, i don't know if this is new news for you -- but before we step into another month next week, let's really believe God for what He promises. He says it. He means it. He will do it.
don't short change God. don't limit His goodness or His grace. and, by all means, don't underestimate His glory! if He promises to RESTORE the messed up, the screwed up, the broken up years -- He will do it.

He is faithful to His promises -- all of them.

february is just around the corner, let's step into it believing fully that we -- and whatever our eaten years --- are fully restored.

JANUARY 30: {buried with Him}
it's the end of january and i'm wondering if anyone else is starting to feel a little bit buried by winter?
it seems every morning i look outside to find another inch or two (or ten) has been added to our wintry sea of white.
oh, it's beautiful alright, but, good grief, it's a lot of snow! and somedays i just feel kinda buried trudging through it to the mailbox or on a walk with the dogs or even just getting in and out of the car. snow is heavy and, i'm telling you, it can weigh a girl down.
but when the temperatures move above zero, my kids love nothing more than playing outside in this stuff and one of their favorite things is to bury themselves deep in the powder. "it's warmer when you're buried, mom, " they tell me.
(i'll take their word for it).
but either way, it seems kind of strange. it seems kind of contrary, to be better off buried. odd.
but that's what paul is writing about here in romans. when we become followers of Christ our sinful selves are buried with Him through baptism. it is about DYING that we might LIVE. it is about burying ourselves with Him in His death that we might have NEW LIFE.
and so the bottom line really is: we ARE better off buried!
(my kids were right).
amazing to think about, isn't it? contrary to our culture, of course. we don't want to die to ourselves. there's something in us which wants to keep our feet pedaling and our heads above the surface. there's a part of us which just wants to do it our way.

but God tells us there's another way to live, a better way to live, and that's to die to us.

c.s. lewis says it like this ...
"Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

JANUARY 31: {faithful and true}
it's our final day of january and i'll be honest, i'm a little sad. i've enjoyed putting together these morning pictures and posts.
and on this final day of this first month of a new year, i want to leave you with the image of a white horse. the white horse found in revelation 19 who Jesus rides when He comes again. Jesus comes for the wedding supper of the Lamb and for the final war with the beast. it's a brilliant picture which revelation paints. and it's real.

"His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean ... On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." ~ revelation 19: 11-16

oh my goodness ... can you picture it?

we've spent a lot of time this month talking about "new," and all of it leads to this -- to the new heaven and the new earth, when Jesus comes again. it's great to want a little bit of new here at the start of another year, but, dear ones, let's not be mistaken, nothing will replace or rival the NEW Jesus brings when He comes again on the white horse. He will ride as Christ. He will ride as King. He will ride as Conqueror. He will come claiming His own and defeating the devil and all darkness.

and, friend, on this last day of our january journey, my hope is that every word that was written here this month pointed clearly to this moment when King Jesus returns. when He comes again, i want to be on His side. i want to ride with the One on the white horse called Faithful and True when this earth dissolves and a new heaven and new earth are ushered in.

“look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. there will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, FOR THE OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.” ~ revelation 21:3-4

"He who was seated on the throne said, “I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!”

Jesus, the One on the white horse ... Jesus, the One who is Faithful and True.

* * * * * 

next month ... in february i'll be starting something different. because of some other commitments, i won't be posting daily, but i will be sharing weekend posts. i hope you can join me!
starting tomorrow, february 1st: "love is ..."

for more of these daily posts in our JANUARY JOURNEY ... click on my facebook page where i post each morning. you're invited!

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