Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dissonant Notes

DSC_0396By Judy Villanueva

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3)

I came to faith with great energy to hope in God — to wait with expectation for what God would say and what He would do!  Young and full of faith, I climbed out on the proverbial limb and watched for Jesus but, answers to prayer lingered and unwelcomed outcomes arrived instead.  Disappointment in prayer began to undermine the song I wanted to sing from the branches and before I knew it I was on the ground dusting myself off and kicking aside the cracked branch next to me.

Dissonant notes. They are notes that play on the base clef of our souls.  On the treble clef we hear the melody of faith, joy and peace.  We believe God’s word and trust Him.  But, if we listen closely we may become aware of dissonant notes that are also playing, the ones a little off-key that remind us of disappointments, losses, and our wounded souls.  Did you know that it is possible to feel hurt by God?  Now, that may sound irreverent , but I’ll suggest it’s just honest.  It is what happens along our faith journeys in this fallen world when we don’t understand the unexpected things that happen in life.  We believe that God is faithful but we cannot make sense of pain, sickness, and suffering in this world.

So, what do we do with our dissonant notes?  First, it is helpful to listen and allow them to help us understand the hurts inside of us.

In listening we come to realize how pain may have warped our image of God and interfered with our ability to trust Him.

Rather than ignoring our hurts and disappointments, we can offer them a place to heal.  In God’s Word we find powerful and reorienting Truth that creates melodies of hope within us  and purifies the way we see and know God.  Taking time to rest and be still aids in quieting our souls and fosters a sense of  God’s presence.  Here we learn to accept what cannot know or control and trust that God is faithful and able to watch over our lives.  Finally, in worship we learn to sing alongside our off-key notes with melodies of grace that invite them into the larger songs being written through our lives by God — songs of His faithfulness, redemptive power, and everlasting love!

“Lord, I am so aware of my off-key notes, especially when I am discouraged or disappointed. Thank You that all my notes find their place in the song You are writing through my life. Help me to wait and watch for Your faithfulness. Amen.”

What About You?

Are you aware of the notes that play in your soul?  Contented and off-key?

Have you taken time to listen and understand them?

Can you bring your soul full of notes (joys and sorrows) to Jesus…to rest and be loved?

Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> TLRW-TTZB-0PTM-T0A7

Worship

Washing Feet

DSC_0233By Judy Villanueva

John 13:3-8
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Powerful! Can you imagine what it would be like to know to the core who you are, where you came from and where you are going?  What would it feel like to know with confidence to Whom you belong and Whose power fills you?  I read this and felt awed at the freedom Jesus experienced at living fully aware and assured that He came from God and would return to God. It empowered Him for whatever God would call Him to do next, whether that would be washing feet, raising the dead, or hanging on a cross.

I love what comes next! Jesus knows that all things are under His power so, He gets up and wraps a towel around His waist! Incredible!

Is this what is at the center of Divine Love and infinite power?  A servant foot-washer?

Rather than power initiating any sort of domination, it inspired Jesus to bow before His creatures and wash their feet!  These were not the feet of kings or conquering warriors. They belonged to young men still figuring themselves out and often, clueless to the One in their presence. I guess they were feet much like yours and mine.

I remember the first time that someone washed my feet. It was at a retreat and all of the participants sat in a circle waiting for…we did not know what?  Then, the priest entered with a bowl of water and a towel and I, like Peter, wanted out of there!  My heart wrenched and my insides cried out, “No! Don’t wash my feet! They are dirty. I’m not worthy!” “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me”…and it hit me!  If I cannot let this man of God wash my feet, how will I ever accept Jesus dying on a cross for me?  So I sat back in surrender and as my feet were washed and wrapped, the grace of God enfolded me and the pride within me broke! Tears flowed and my heart filled with gratitude! Then came the realization that this is where I’ve come from and where I will return one day…

to a God who kneels before me to wash my dusty feet, and Who, with all things under His power, hung on a cross to cleanse the whole of me with love.

“Lord, I can hardly contain my tears at the thought of Your love! I feel so far from being like You and it makes me sad. Fill me with foot-washing love so that I might love you back…and love others with the same power and assurance that comes from knowing that I came from You and will return to You, someday. Amen.”

How about you?

How would you feel having your feet washed by Jesus?

Do you feel any hesitation?

Do you know where you came from and where you will return?

Jesus can give you the peace your heart seeks and can be your full assurance that you are loved. Let Him wash your feet.

Worship

Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
TLRW-TTZB-0PTM-T0A7

Cultivating Joy!

lake louiseBy Judy Villanueva

Psalm 16:11
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

We reached the top and stood facing a full view of the Rocky Mountains iced in snow! The wind was blowing and the air was a warm 63 degrees…spectacular! Have you ever felt joy sweeping you up through your senses? As we walked down the hill I savored the feeling of the sun on my face, the sight of my husband walking slightly ahead of me, and the sound of pines as they sifted the wind. It soothed my soul and placed my worries in a larger context…a joyful one held securely in the hands of God. I love that God made us with eyes, ears, a nose, mouth and skin so that we can literally take in His creation! Genius! If I ever need convincing that God is kind and good I need look no further than how He designed us to share in the beauty and glory of all that He has made!

One of my favorite questions to ask a new friend is “What gives you joy?” “What delights your soul?” “What draws you into the goodness of God?” Problems and challenges seem to find their way to the forefront of our awareness because, like the prick of a needle, pain demands our attention and, unfortunately, can be rather hoggish about it.

Being present to joy amidst and alongside life’s struggles, however, helps us remember that God is good.

Witnessing His love and kindness through the joys that a day offers shifts our attention to hope and to the reality of God with us. He is with us!

When my daughter was little we used to play a game on vacations or wherever we happened to be when we bumped into beauty! I would say, “Stop! Now, freeze this moment and take a mental picture and never forget…” the aspens we were hiking through or the lake we were sitting by or the feel of the wind blowing through us!

Catching and cultivating joy is a powerful spiritual exercise, not to mention its potential to transform our perspectives and enlarge our capacities to see God in, through, before and behind all of life.

But, it requires our engagement and sometimes our willingness to confront old patterns of thinking. God has designed us to share His life and see His glory in the midst and alongside our real lives. He is present with warm winds, sweet fragrances, good friends and countless other secret plans to sweep us up with joy and help us along our way!

“Father, thank you for the gift and grace of our five senses and the way they allow us to take in beauty, sounds, flavors and the feel of Your love around us. Awaken me to the day’s invitations to joy and help me to tuck away your goodness and remember Your history of faithfulness to me. Amen.”


How about you?

What gives you joy? What draws you into the goodness of God?

How might you cultivate joy today?

Can you receive His joy today, however it may come to you, in the midst and alongside your real life?

Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br /><br />
L3IA-KKNW-HGJU-3VAU

Windows

DSC_1207By Judy Villanueva

Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”

I love it when God says “Yes!” What’s not to love? I understand “yes”. “Yes” feels good! “Yes” feels right! Right? There is something about “You got the job!” “Will you marry me?” “You win!” that affirms that we are loved and that Someone good is watching over our lives. “Yes” is like a spring rain or a summer breeze that wraps around us with happy! It usually makes us smile, relieves our hearts, and makes us want to dance! I love it when God says “Yes!”

I’m guessing you know where this is going? There are other times when it can feel like God isn’t listening or doesn’t care because doors close, we don’t win, and someone else gets the job. We pray for God’s will and offer to submit to a “No.” And, we mean it…sort of…or at least until the answer is actually “No.” Then, it’s easy to get lost. Disappointment is tricky and tends to throw everything up for grabs. Is God in control? Why did this or that happen? Did I hear wrong? What can I now expect going forward?

It is at these times that a window opens, a particular moment when God invites us to trust Him with our whole hearts. It is here and now that faith is exercised. Can we accept the “no,” and will we place our hearts in His care?

Acceptance and trust are things we do on our knees and often, on our faces.

Surrender. Breathing in rug-dust, placing our hearts before the King, we ask for mercy, strength to trust and a sense of His love to hold us and help us go forward. He is here. He is good. He waits at the window to be our spring rain, our summer breeze…our supreme and beautiful happy.

“Lord, how I need you to move in close when a “no” has pushed me over. On my face, I come to You and surrender with my whole heart. Help me today not to lean on what I think I know, but to come to You for comfort and strength to trust. Amen.”

What about you?

Have you experienced a disappointing “No” in life?

Do you need God’s help with acceptance and trust?

What would it be like to trust God with all of your heart?

God is faithful. He loves you and watches over your life.

Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected<br /><br />
AQLM-VM1G-EJ9R-QJOI

I Know My Sheep…

DSC_1115By Judy Villanueva

John 10:14
I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me.

John 10:27
My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.

It was the day of our reindeer excursion and as we hiked behind a young, red-haired Scot, I realized that this was not going to be the petting zoo I had expected! When we finally arrived, we found ourselves atop a thousand-acre preserve overlooking fields of grass bowing under the force of the highland winds and littered with the last blooms of heather. After some instructions about what to do and not do around wild reindeer, Zac, our guide and reindeer shepherd, put his hands to his mouth and drew a deep breath! The sound of the call that he bellowed over the landscape gave me the chills and we all stood in silence watching for what would happen next. One after another, reindeer were running toward the sound of their shepherd until close to a hundred magnificent creatures had gathered in anticipation of a morning snack! Zac began telling us their names, their position in the herd, and about their specific personalities. He pointed out Hamish, the dominant male, and Elvis, the young up and comer. He told us about the baby albino and, literally, the number of hairs per square inch that made up their coats!

This experience gave a whole new meaning to Jesus’ words, “I know My sheep.” We aren’t just one of the herd! He knows our names, what we look like, our quirks and unique personalities. He recognizes my crooked smile and your funny toes! Jesus knows us intimately! He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, and the number of hairs on our heads. He knows the parts of us we like to show everyone and the parts that we hide and protect. He listens for our voices, contented or disturbed, so that He can attend to our needs, guide us and be our place of shelter. He keeps track of us and knows where we are at all times. He watches over us and protects us, even when we feel alone and on our own. Jesus calls to us in the middle of our days to come to Him…and be fed. The question is, do we hear His voice?

Recognizing the voice of our Good Shepherd is no great mystery, although it sure can feel like it at times! Like all relationships, we grow in familiarity by spending time together. Hearing God may seem ethereal, but His voice becomes clearer, more discernable as we regularly read the Word, pray, and learn to pay attention to ordinary revelation. We tend to only “count” extraordinary revelation (lightning bolts and the miraculous) but the reality is, God is always speaking and learning to tune in to His voice around us can become a gift of His presence all day long! The sun rising and setting becomes a declaration of His power, order and goodness. It’s comforting. The Word written on our hearts becomes a whisper that directs us toward truth and God’s will. It’s guiding. Worship music bypasses thinking and sings God’s love over our soul. It’s nourishing. And, the prayers we pray alone or alongside a friend become experiences of talking with God and learning to hear His voice. Pay attention to daily revelations of God’s love, run toward His voice wherever you hear it, and rest…knowing you are known and watched over by our good and faithful Shepherd.

“Jesus, thank you for being my good Shepherd. It touches me to think that you actually know my name, my goofy smile and what is important to me. I want to recognize Your voice in my days. Help me to hear You calling to me through all the ways You’ve created. Help me to stop, listen and run to You. Amen.”
DSC_1062
What about you?

Do you know the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice? Do you recognize His voice when He calls?

How does it feel that God knows you and all your ways?

Where and how do you hear God best?

God knows your name and cares about you. Talk to Him and learn to hear His voice.

Copyrighted.com Registered & Protected<br /><br /><br />
3D6H-EFUV-NFXO-ARKL