the WOW factor

I was watching a show on NatGeo channel the other day called “Animal Dances.” How could you possibly scroll past that title without checking it out?

So, there they were. All these different animals in different parts of the world showing their “stuff” in mating ritual dances. The females watch the males display their grandeur and stamina before they choose a mate.

One particular bird, from the middle of the jungle, did a dance that you would not believe. He was an interesting looking black bird of paradise with long antennae-looking spires coming from the top of his head. He looked normal enough to me until the females came to watch. Not only did he toss some red berries about on his “stage” for decoration before his dance, but he placed them “just so.” Then, he stood up and his feathers fanned up and out like a huge black skirt as he paraded back and forth, eyes open wide. His spires flowed this way and that with his movements. And perhaps most interestingly, he had a patch of different feathers on his chest that were bright, shiny and colorful like sequins that caught the light to dazzle the ladies.

What a display! All this just to perpetuate the life-cycle of this little bird out in the middle of nowhere. I just thought…. WOW  (expressing astonishment and admiration)! This bird perhaps has no other purpose than to just be amusing to God, and now that we have captured it on film, we humans can also enjoy this amazing bit of nature.

I began to think about it. There are so many bugs, plants, birds, reptiles, sea creatures, and mammals on this planet. In the past several decades, due to technological advances, we have observed and discovered many new species. This means that for hundreds of thousands of years and more, creatures and species like this have existed even without our knowledge. God did it for His own pleasure!

How many little patches of flowers are out in a field that no human eye ever enjoys? But there they are. Part of the cycle of life that God set into motion. My Mom always says, “What a Creative Creator!”

Indeed! What a planet He created for us to enjoy.

The Psalms are full of verses about the beauty and wonder of God’s great earth. For example, Psalm 104:24-25: “How many are your works, O Lord? In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”

Photo by Kristin No. Cal. Coast

Photo by Kristin ~ No. Cal. Coast

I say, don’t get so caught up in life “stuff” and “schedules” and “work” that you let days, weeks, months pass without noticing the little things. The random wild flower amongst the thorns. The tiny ladybug going about her daily routine. The variety of flora and fauna in your local park. The sweet call of a bird as it flits around through the trees.

Life brings it’s ups and downs, but there is always beauty in the world that God created for us. Never cease to be amazed and grateful. Do your part to take care of this amazing earth. Spend time out in nature. Be still, watch and listen. Let it renew your soul.

Never cease to say….. “WOW!” and thank God for all His creative gifts!

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See, I am Doing a New Thing!

I love a new year! It feels like everything old can be washed away as a clean slate is presented to us for writing a new story. I find this both encouraging and daunting. Encouraging because there really is no limit to what God can accomplish through me. Daunting for much the same reason. What will 2016 bring?

The Bible is filled with rich promises of a new beginnings, and I found it so encouraging to read through these verses the other day, I thought they might encourage you as well. My prayer is that you will latch on to these promises and find the HOPE in new beginnings:

Isaiah 43:18-19 

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Oh, how I love that one! It feels like a love letter from God. He is making all things NEW!

LWT_ANewThing

Lamentations 3:22-24 

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Let us not be consumed by worry about what the future holds, or what the past has brought. His mercy and compassion is new EVERY morning! What a great thought!

Ephesians 4:22-24 

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Amen! May we put on a new self daily, as we walk through the new year.

Isaiah 40:31 

31 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.

Want to SOAR this year? The only requirement is that you HOPE in the Lord. Whew! That takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

Matthew 7:7

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

We have not because we ask not. This one hits hard. I’m going to be asking for big audacious things this year – not only from God, but from myself and others as well.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

As much as I’d like everything to happen NOW, I must remember that God makes everything beautiful in its time. In HIS time.

Revelation 21:5

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He is making everything new! Everything. Every. Thing.

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

So why am I trying to do it all myself?

Jeremiah 29:11

11 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 hope and a future.

My future is secure. What a glorious hope!

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Yes. We plan our course. In our hearts, on our planners & calendars. After all that planning, what might happen if we gave the Lord the last word on which things to step into and which to stay away from? I think probably the best year ever, that’s what!

Oh, there are so many more! I invite you to explore the Word of God as you plan your year. Let Him direct your steps and chart your course. If you do, I believe you will look back at the end of the year in amazement at how much more God accomplished through you than you ever could have done on your own!

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Shabbat Shalom

What is the big deal about Shabbat? And why do Jews say this to each other every Friday afternoon?

Well, it is a big deal. God even told us in his Ten Commandments to honor the Sabbath. (Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.) 

This is something that we struggle with in our Western Christian thinking, and it is something that we both miss the meaning of and miss the benefits of because as a society we do not honor it.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters shut down their work places and spend sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday in fellowship together and with the Lord. It is so amazing to be in Jerusalem on Shabbat when the streets literally empty for 24 hours and resume the hustle and bustle of life on Saturday evening. Everyone returns to their routines rested and happy, and ready to work. Let’s discuss the meaning of Shabbat and Shalom.

shabbat shalom

Shabbat in Hebrew literally means “ceasing” or “stopping.” This is the word that is always used for the seventh day, the day work ceases for the purpose of rest. Not only is this a time of rest, but a time for holy gatherings together.

Leviticus 23:3 says, “Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to rest in all your dwellings.”

We know the word Shalom as the word for peace in Hebrew. But the noun Shalom has the more literal meaning of “being in a state of wholeness with no deficiency.”

Therefore, when we put the two words together, Shabbat Shalom, the simple meaning is, “may your day of no work be peaceful.” But, if we dive deeper and look at the literal meaning, it really becomes, “may you become whole during your ceasing of laborious work,” or, “may your wholeness be restored as you cease work on the seventh day.”

This is fantastic, right? So why aren’t we doing this? God actually gave us a day that we should dedicate wholly to Him and to gathering together with our loved ones in His Name. Why do we miss this when it is such a gift?

Now hold on to your hat, because I just learned something that both helped me to understand just how special and important we are to our Creator God, and made me appreciate the Sabbath enough to want to keep it from now on. Ready?

Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth. The 1st Chapter of the Bible tells us how he created all things and then made man at sundown on the 6th day. He made everything in creation perfect BEFORE He made us. He made it for our pleasure because we are the apple of His eye, made in His own Image. Then, once everything else had been made, He formed man. And, He formed man just in time for His Day of rest! Man’s first day on earth was set apart for rest and communion with God. Our first day in existence was Shabbat, spent building our relationship with the One who made us.

I can hardly contain my excitement! We are special, and we were made to be in relationship with God.

We are free in Christ, so we are not bound by law. God does command us to keep the Sabbath and to keep it holy. However, our society does not collectively adhere to the Sabbath. The day of the week doesn’t really matter – what matters is that we unplug once a week and take our God-given gift of a day of rest.

Imagine how our relationships with God and with each other will deepen when we set aside 24 hours a week to rest together in His Presence.

May your wholeness be restored as you cease work one day a week to commune with the One who created you and gave you peace and rest!

Shabbat Shalom!!!

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