Learning to Look for the”Great” In Every Day

by Erin Hollis

When I was a little girl, my dad often drove us to school.  Looking back I think those 15 minutes in the car each day have become some of his favorite moments in life.  He loved to sing loudly, scare us by abruptly screaming out at stop signs and wave to random people as we sped by.  He also found embarrassing us in the carpool line a daily requirement (still does, for that matter…).  Sunglasses with giant royal blue rims were his accessory of choice for the endeavor.  He would wait until we were just about to unload and throw those hideously gigantic shades on his face to greet our friends.  As our teachers and classmates would point and laugh I will never forget what he would say, “What kind of day are we going to have?!?!?”  He would wait until we responded.  Often times we declined.  So he would scream, GREAT DAY!!!”  No matter what kind of mood I was in, that one daily dialogue always brought a smile to my face.

Recently, I needed my dad to remind me of the importance of frame of mind.  The rain was coming down in thick sheets as we traveled down the road.  I had already burned the waffles that morning, slipped and fell down the stairs to the garage and now my oldest daughter needed to go potty fifteen minutes away from our destination.  I was ready to call it a day.  Crawl back in bed and hide under the covers.  As we crested a hill, I noticed a quaint little chapel nestled amongst some tall pines.  At the edge of the parking lot was a sign that read:

Every day will not be great.

But there will be something GREAT about every day.

Wow.  God shows up, doesn’t He?  Right when we reach the brink of desperation, He’s there.  Reaching a hand out to catch us from a fall.

I started to think about the message from the sign that day and my heart realized God was posturing me for an attitude adjustment.  Just like my Dad had done for me everyday as a child.  When we go through the motions each day it’s so easy to get worn down, beat up, exhausted.  That’s completely understandable.  We might even find ourselves leaning towards a “Negative Nelly” mentality at times.  But if we take a moment each morning before our feet even hit the floor to say, “Today is going to be a great day.  I have the gift of another day.  Let’s do this.” we have already taken the first step to start our day on a positive note.

So often in life attitude is everything.  Full disclosure: the fact that you woke up and continue to exist may be the only “great” parts of some days.  Don’t let that discourage you.  If we look at life through a positive lens (take for example giant royal blue rimmed sunglasses) we are destined to see the good in our reality rather than focusing on the bad.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14

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“I am a child of God, a wife and mother to my two greatest blessings. I dearly love my faith, my family and getting the most out of life!” Read her daily at http://www.erinbrownhollis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am That Baby

iamthatbaby1

I looked in the mirror this morning and realized I am the most important person in the world to God. And so is the next person. And the next person. Because God is all-powerful and omnipresent, it’s as if each of us has God entire giving sole attention to us. Do we fail to ask for His attention? If so, we grievously fail ourselves.

I’ve seen a baby ultrasound face picture recently, remembered the one of my daughter, and visited a Chinese friend and her newborn son. As I looked at my face in the mirror, I thought of that, how I was once that beautiful, brand-new creation knit together in my mother’s womb. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, of course, but – also of course – I am just as precious to God today as I was when tiny, helpless, and innocent.

And so are you.

In late September we buried the last of our parents, Jeff’s 93-year-old mother. Pictures from her youth were quite impressive at the funeral visitation. How beautiful she was, an 18-year-old war bride! That face at 93 – the one under the lid of the casket – suffered years of declining health. But no wrinkle, no pallor, no weakness mars beauty except to us, who sometimes forget what beauty is.

In these pictures, granddaughter and grandmother show remarkable family resemblance at similar age!

iamthatbaby3

 

Never forget how beautiful you are, and live accordingly! The world needs your beauty to shine forth in positive words and good works.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14

Betsy Lowery is a native of North Carolina who has lived in Alabama her entire adult life. A Dawson member, she is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an employee at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Her devotional book, Pause: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Women, was published in 2004. She is now offering regular excerpts from the book on Facebook at Books by Betsy Lowery under the heading “PAUSE to Remember.” She shares longer devotional messages at calledoutlife.wordpress.com and has two inspirational novels in the works that she hopes will be published. Betsy loves to spend morning time before work at Panera Bread, knitting or writing over breakfast. Betsy and her husband, Jeff, have two grown daughters.

Easter Monday

It is Easter Monday. Tomorrow will be Easter Tuesday and then Easter Wednesday and then…. well, you get the point. For those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, everyday is Easter Sunday. God’s power that resurrected Jesus on Sunday is still at work on Easter Monday.

Easter Monday, when the laundry piles too high.

Easter Monday, when the seven year old wakes up uncontrollably grouchy and you lose your temper, returning her bad attitude in kind.

Easter Monday, when you fought with your best friend of a husband the night before and you think, “Again? I thought we were over this!” And your heart hurts with the pattern on repeat.

Easter Monday morning, with a week full of appointments, meals to cook, counters to wipe, unbelievably sticky floors to mop, and hours of picking up and you think, “Is this what my day is about? It never seems to end.”

Easter Monday, when sticky floors make you angrier than they should.

Easter Monday, when Scripture reminds…

Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. (1 Peter 5:8)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)

At some point on Easter Monday, the reality sets in. Difficulties, frustrations, and trials were not crucified on Friday and a carefree life resurrected in it’s place on Sunday. On this, the day after Easter, the world looks like, well…. the world. Tedious work, tempers, illness, old temptations, encountering others whose hearts are bent on destroying. Even death happens on this Monday after Easter. You are tempted to believe the power and hope proclaimed on Sunday, is rendered ineffective and lifeless today.

Then Scripture reminds…

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

morlandthelivesOn this Resurrection Monday, Jesus is seated in heaven, all accomplished. The fact that, yesterday, He conquered death means that today He can conquer my bad attitude. He can destroy those patterns of thinking and behaving and sinning that break relationship with those I love. Are the, seemingly, insurmountable obstacles on this Monday after Easter really greater than death itself? Simply, NO.

The God who raised His Son after three days in death’s chamber can be trusted to give joy and purpose in the most tedious of tasks.  Work that, when done unto Him, with a thankful heart turns beautiful in its rhythm. This God of Easter restores brokenness, redeems those things the world would like to destroy, and equips us to face life’s challenges each day. This God of Easter is not just for Easter Sunday.

His resurrection power gives new eyes to see the blessings alongside the trials. Outside, I see azaleas and dogwoods and a new bright green that almost burns my eyes after a long winter. From where does this beauty come?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Beside this weary world is the whisper of a Savior who crushed Satan’s head on the cross (Genesis 3:15). While, for a time, the world moves forward in it’s sinful, broken state, His resurrection power is still working, transforming, and creating alongside the stench of a dying world. He is working miracles. Often, these miracles are in the transformed hearts of those who follow Him. Thankfully, I am not the same person I was last Easter. He is progressively changing my heart of worry to a heart of trust.

Because Scripture reminds, I will …

fix my eyes on Jesus , the author and perfector of my faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. I will consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that I will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Every day is Easter for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. We are not yet allowed to see His physical resurrected body but, between Easter Sunday and the unknown future when He comes again, we are given His power, His joy, and His hope. We are called to transform and infuse this broken world with His goodness and grace. I will pray to do just that today, Easter Monday, even as I mop the dirty floor and fold the endless laundry. I will not lose heart.

As Scripture reminds…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com

I Got A Rock

by Kristen Torres

I love to watch the classic Peanut Gang movies every holiday. In “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, when Charlie Brown goes trick-or-treating with his friends wearing a ghost costume with a few too many holes, he has the same unenthusiastic response as he leaves each house, “I got a rock.”  Unlike Charlie Brown, I love collecting rocks! Whether it be a casual walk, a hike in the woods with family, a vacation spot, or simply a memorable moment, I love to find just the right rock for the occasion!

stagnantRecently, I had the opportunity to go on a staff retreat…a true retreat. While taking some personal time to reflect and practice the presence of God, I meandered through God’s glorious creation and, of course, collected a couple of rocks. One rock was found near a pool of stagnant water and the other one near a vibrant stream.

In Altar’d, we are reminded that “in the symbol language of Scripture, a rock is the symbol for Jesus and water is the Holy Spirit.” (p. 170) Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38) flowing

On my walk and talk with the Lord, I listened…a lot. I thanked Him that His Spirit in me does not look like a stagnant and mucky pool of water (rock #1) and I recognized, once again, the precious gift of Living Water flowing through me (rock #2).

Near the end of the trail, when I found a patch of moss shaped like a heart, the Spirit led me to hum the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Over time, I’ve found many rocks for my collection but none more precious than the Rock of Ages.

moss

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;

and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;

here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Leaning In

Last weekend, we were able to visit our daughter and her family in Louisiana. Theirs is a busy life full of the activities of four children, ages 3 months to 7 years. I love my time with them.

Their 7 year old, Jonathan, is my first grandchild. He is a typical first child and all boy. I’m not sure there is anything he thinks he cannot do. “I’ll do it Nana!” or “I can do it Nana!” filter our every conversation. His tremendously strong will has served him well and, yes, there are so many things he can do – all by himself! However, there really are some things his seven year old self cannot do and there are some things that he could do better with some help and instruction. God has His hand on him and I know He will use every dab of who he is to make Jonathan the man He wants him to be.

When Sunday came, he opted to miss children’s worship and sat by me in “big church.” He sang, completed his handout from Bible study, and, as the hour went by, he continued to scoot closer and closer to me. Soon, he was tucked under my arm and leaning on me with the weight of his entire 7 year old, strong willed, active body. “Oh how I love this boy!” I whispered to God. My heart was full and I could feel the peace in his. That may be my favorite memory of the weekend.

When I came home, back to my Altar’d challenge, that phrase “lean in” continued to jump out to me. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Altar’d, said “When I live by faith in Jesus, I live by the faith of Jesus. Jesus expresses His own faith through me when I rest the weight of my personality on Him. Lean in.” (Page 52)

Instead of leaning in, I surely must be pushing in. All me. That is a picture completely different from what I experienced with Jonathan. So much of me is like my oldest grandchild. I might as well be saying “I’ll do it God,” or “I can do it God!” Even my obedience to Him is a task I have given to my flesh. “I am choosing to obey. Now do it flesh!”

Oh, but Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

The Message says it this way. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God Himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.”

My flesh has deceived me and made me exhausted as a result! This pocket of flesh is crucified in Him – I’m leaning in!

When did Jesus Suffer?

“Jesus had no unrighteousness because He never let unrighteousness take root…But as a human, He had needs and instincts through which unrighteousness can enter. This is why He could be tempted.” (Altar’d, page 115)

Because He never let unrighteousness take root, He did not sin. In Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Sin has no access to God and He is completely immune to it”,  (Altar’d, page 111). That is true. However, Jesus was fully human and sin DID have access to Him.

Jesus was tempted. The most notable account is in Luke 4 when He was tempted by the devil for forty days. Certainly, that was not the only time He was tempted. Those human needs and instincts were with Him for His entire life on earth. I guess I’ve always thought of Jesus flicking temptation away like a pesky flea. The temptation came because He was fully man but at the same time He was fully God so in my thinking, He did what God does and it was over.

That is not what scripture says!

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

38blogphotoWhen I think of Jesus suffering, I think of Him suffering on the cross, which He did! But He suffered more than that. Scripture says He learned obedience through His suffering (Hebrews 5:8-9). Ultimately, all of the suffering made Him ready to be “obedient to death – even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:2) becoming the author of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). All that suffering was before the cross, in preparation for the cross!

In my un-altar’d state I try desperately to flick temptation away like I thought Jesus did. After all, I ought to be able to do that since He is in me. And here I am again, trying harder, instead of dying deeper. When I do that, I am still living under the law. The law tells us what we should be doing but does not provide the power needed to do it. “The law came to the flesh from the outside, demanding obedience but not providing the power to obey”, (Altar’d, page 119).

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” Romans 8:3-4 MSG

As believers, we have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. Jesus suffered in temptation but He overcame it by leaning in to Father God. His human flesh did not do it, so why do we think ours can? “His obedience was in keeping His man soul subjected to the indwelling Spirit,” (Altar’d, page 120). Our obedience is in dying to ourselves and yielding to that same Holy Spirit’s resurrecting power – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (Ephesians 1:19-20)

Jesus suffered in temptation. What does that mean to you?

Box of Rocks

“Everyone has their own box of rocks,” my friend said. That stuck with me for the rest of the day and I woke up the next morning with that box of rocks still on my mind. What a great analogy for painful life experiences. Life beats us all up. No matter who you are, if you live very long, the rocks are coming. And they contribute significantly to who we become.

What are we to do with that box of rocks we have collected? marilynjohnsonphoto

Some of those who have been hurt by rocks hold them close to their chest and thrust those same rocks at anyone who comes near.

Some bury their head so far into their rocks they become almost unrecognizable. Their most glaring attribute is the markings of the rocks pressed into their face.

Some hold onto the rocks with a death grip. The rocks become a trophy that cannot be pried from their fist.

Still others don’t appear to have any rocks. Where is their box? What is the difference?

In Jeremiah 17:5-10, God gave us a comparison of two men who had the same rocks thrown at them. Both men faced heat and drought. However, one man is “like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” While the other is “like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” (The Message)

Same rocks, different results. Why? One man trusted in himself. Because our rocks are so personal, we are sometimes deceived into thinking we have to deal with them ourselves. We let God “help” but ultimately we think it is our responsibility alone. Flesh delivers death.

“…flesh thinks only flesh can straighten flesh out, so flesh had better be vigilant.” (Altar’d, page 17)

The other man? I believe he had altar’d his flesh. Died to control. Died to self pity. Died to personal expectations. What we see in his life is the power of resurrection. Spirit gives life!

“When we read that He [Jesus] is able to help those who are being tempted because He Himself was tempted, I think it is not simply saying that now Jesus knows how it feels to be tempted, so He can cheer us on when we are tempted. I think it is saying that Jesus overcame sin and won the victory over temptation . . . Therefore, when we are facing temptation, we need only yield to His life and His power running through us. . . Don’t fight harder against the temptation; instead yield more fully to his life.” (Altar’d  page 117-118)

Jesus had rocks thrown at Him in every sense of the word. He took every one of those rocks and claimed victory over temptation. He did it for me and you.

Give Him your box of rocks and rest in His victory! Altar’d rocks! Oh what He could do with that!

Marilyn is a wife, mother of two married children, and Nana to six precious little boys and one baby girl. After retiring from teaching Math at Jacksonville State University, she and her husband now live in Birmingham, AL. She holds the Basic and Advanced Women’s Ministry Certificates from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a heart for ministering to women and a passion for teaching the Word of God.

Thirsty

thirsty Vincent has been in the garage for at least an hour.  He is bent over paper; paint and markers in hand at our new garage craft center.  His glasses slide down his nose so he peers over them like an old man, his hair sticking up in the back, paint smeared on his shirt and pants.  I check on him between loads of laundry and the unloading and loading of the dishwasher, between the refilling of Luisa’s straw cup.  Eventually, the back door slams.  He steps into the kitchen, creation in hand.

“Momma for you!”  He peers at me over his glasses with a big, proud smile.

I am struck speechless for a moment then exclaim, “I LOVE IT!”

I stare at the painting and the lesson hits deep in my heart.  You must grow weary with me, God.  Always having to be so obvious.  Having to send a child to bring home the point You’ve been whispering to my heart over the last few months.

In my son’s artwork I see streams running down from the cross.  Surely Vincent was not thinking of streams of Living Water as he painted his cross creation?

“Vincent, what is this a picture of?” I ask.

“Momma you know that place we go where we dress up?”

“Church?”  I reply.

“Yes.  This is church,” he states matter-of-factly.

I see the dome now and yet I ask him about the blue.

“That’s where we walk up,” he says.

He sees the blue going up, a sidewalk of sorts, and I see the blue flowing down.  I wonder if the brown paint ran out and blue was the next best thing?  Yet I know what God is trying to say to me through Vincent’s sweet creation.  Living Water.  Living Water.  Living Water.

“‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

Grown people.  Tiny humans.  Relationships.  My inability to muster enough self-control and strength to live the holy life I am called to live.  These things make me thirsty.  At times, they make me weary.

Disease.  Sickness.  Current events.  They suck the life out of us, literally and figuratively.  We just might collapse under the weight of it all.

In these times we need to remember to drink of the Living Water found only in Jesus Christ.

As Jennifer Kennedy Dean reminds us on Day 14 of her book Altar’d:

You must decrease and He must increase.  Let your littleness be absorbed by His greatness.  Let your weakness be swept away by His strength.  Let your failure, your fear, your struggles, your bitterness…. let it all be flushed out by the powerful flow of His life in you.  Take your eyes off yourself.  Fix your eyes on Him.  Hide yourself in Him.

In my closet I have a place of prayer.  Pinned to the wall are prayer requests, quotes, scriptures, and one tiny painting.  An orange cross, a blue stream flowing down, a reminder to drink deeply of the Living Water offered me in Jesus Christ.

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com

Running the Show…

cactus flowerWhen you come across people and circumstances that engage your flesh, you are at a crucifixion moment. Altar that anger, or offense, or fear, or defensiveness, or possessiveness. Right then, before flesh starts running the show. It’s there, but it’s altar’d. Flesh might show up, but it won’t take over. Altar it again and again until one day it doesn’t show up. The altar has done its crucifixion work and you are free of that particular flesh pattern.
(p. 61, Day 11, Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean)

My flesh seems the most determined to run the show in my marriage and in my mothering. I always thought of myself as a patient, loving, hold no grudge kind of person. Then I was married. Suddenly I found myself sharing a 550 square foot apartment with my new, highly organized, Type A husband. Being somewhat Type B and definitely not organized, I stubbornly refused to cooperate with systems that would make our tiny living quarters more manageable. Labels for our medicine cabinet? Well, no thank you; one large bucket with all the medications thrown in will do. Band-aids in the band-aid box? Nah, searching for translucent band-aids under a mountain of cold/flu bottles builds perseverance! Looking back now I see the flesh of self-centeredness and pride. At the time, I just wanted to win the battle.

Patience? Long-suffering? Wise and temperate words? They are hardly my go-tos in mothering. Flesh. Flesh wants to make its appearance first.

Then there are times God alters our neatly calculated plans for life, motherhood, children, or work and we find ourselves at a crossroads, an altar before us. Will we lay on the altar our expectations of how we thought our lives would be, trusting that God’s plan is eternally more significant and beautiful than anything we could imagine? During the last eight years of mothering I have altar’d my expectations time and time again. Yet it was not until my husband and I were given the privilege of stewarding a special needs child did my knees truly buckle at the altar before me. Total submission to His plan, whether or not I could see the good (Romans 8:28) was His requirement of me. This mothering of precious children, this coming alongside my husband, this caring for a beautiful but vulnerable daughter – this life journey will surely bring me to the altar day after day. May I take my eyes off what I am laying down and raise them instead to the holy God who makes no mistakes; to the God most worthy, most capable of running the show.

Heavenly Father,
You are Perfect Love, Awesome Provider, Righteous Judge
I ask today for the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Please convict me of those patterns of flesh trying to run the show in my work and in my relationships.
I ask today for the strength to submit to the circumstances You have sovereignly allowed in my life.
I open my hands and lay before you my disappointments, my broken dreams, my will.
Loving Father, fill my empty hands with You so that I might accomplish Your purposes for this day.

Amen

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children. A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time. With a cup of coffee by her side Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com