Monthly Archives: January 2016

Glum

DSC_0335By Judy Villanueva

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:19-24)

Driving down the highway in the pre-dawn light, my thoughts returned to a conversation I had with my husband just the evening before.  I sensed the Spirit inviting me to revisit my responses or, to be more accurate, my reactions.  It was one of those times when I was pretty sure a correction was coming and I knew I had a choice to be open or — turn on the radio!  I decided to listen.  I didn’t have to wait long before an old cartoon character filled the screen of my thoughts.  His name is Glum from Gulliver’s Travels and he says things like, “It’ll never work!  We’re doomed!”  In an instant, I recognized the echo of my own voice.  Good grief!  Is that how I sounded to my husband?  Is there a Glum, a naysayer, a doubting Thomas in me that needs to be forgiven and find her way to Jesus?

As I’ve prayed since this particular car ride, it occurs to me that one conversation does not a bad attitude make and it quickly becomes clear that I, like the frog who gets boiled on a low heat, have subtly developed a disposition of unbelief.   Not all at once but, little by little, and one disappointment at a time I have unwittingly become Glum.  It explains a lot like, why I have lacked peace lately and why it has felt difficult to hope.

Not trusting God is hard on the soul!

And, even though it stung, I am grateful for God’s correction because truly — I don’t want to unwittingly become anything.

 I want to live for Christ on purpose and honor Him with my best believing!

That is what He deserves no matter how I might feel on any given day.   I live with a man of strong faith who reminds me of the little boy who digs through a pile of manure convinced that a pony waits to be discovered!  In good times and bad, he holds fast to the truth that God is always working behind the scenes for His glory and our good.  It has been a long week of reflection, confession and listening for God.  And, while I feel refreshed and forgiven, I also feel exhorted that I need to spend time looking at God — in His Word, in silence, in flowers and in music that leads me to worship. I must put myself in front of Jesus!  When I do, I can feel the power of Who He is touch my glum heart and say to my soul, “Everything is possible for the one who believes.  Trust me!”

“Father, increase my faith!  I want to honor you with a believing disposition and trust you with all of my life.  Help me to draw strength from who you are today and always.  Amen.”

What about you?

Is there a Glum in you that needs to be forgiven and led to Jesus?

Are you aware of who you are becoming?

How do you help yourself remember who God is?

What is God saying to you through this passage of Scripture?

Trust God.  I think it pleases Him when we dig for ponies!

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Child of God

DSC_0259.JPGBy Judy Villanueva

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1John 3:1)

“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.  You are precious in my eyes, because you are honored and I love you…the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken” (Is 43:1, 4; 54:10)

Piggy-back rides to bed, family dinners at 6:00, sledding down muddy hills on rainy days, and giggling when dad kissed mom — I loved being a child of Bob and Linda! Their love was a blanket of warmth that spread out over our home as they set limits, listened to our hearts and taught us how to love and be loved. Growing up, I did not appreciate the gift of “footing” that being their child gave me nor did I have the slightest idea how their covering shaped a “Yes” in me to becoming a child of God.

Have you thought about what it means to be a child of God lately?

Words can become so familiar that their meaning evaporates and we end up living with ideas rather than realities.  The phrase “child of God” is such a massive concept that it’s no wonder it’s hard to grab and drag into the middle of our lives but, don’t you want to?  I have heard it said that our beliefs shape our feelings, attitudes and outlooks, so I can imagine that believing I am the daughter of the King, the Creator and Author of Life, the all powerful, all knowing First and Last might just make me feel — kind of special!

When I awake each morning I become aware of God’s invitation to live as His child.  On the best days, I open up the Word to look at His face and listen to His voice.  It helps me return my thoughts to all that is true and it is often there, that I begin to remember who God says I am — Redeemed. Named. Precious. Honored.  Forever loved!

Dragging the reality of being God’s child into the middle of our lives changes the ways we think and feel about everything.

It’s a prayer that sets our feet on solid ground,  gives us courage to trust beyond what we see and helps us hope from underneath a blanket of Love that spreads out over every part of our lives.

“Father, thank you that you made me your child. Help me to live in the reality I am precious to you.  You are faithful!  Amen.”

What about you?

How does being a child of God impact your daily life?

How does it affect the way you think and feel about the trials you face?

What does it feel like to hear God call you precious, honored and forever loved?

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Worship

Presence

DSC_0243By Judy Villanueva

Psalm 5:3

I say this prayer to you, Yahweh, for at daybreak you listen for my voice; and at dawn I hold myself in readiness for you. I watch for you.

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present…the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

The sound of happy squeals filled the living room on New Year’s morning. The Rose Parade was on in the background while the foreground enjoyed an eruption of four-year old giggles! Our grandson stumbled into a game where he would jump behind grandpa on the couch, and eagerly wait for him to lean back! “Stop, Papi, stop!” he would cry, and Papi would then lean forward so that our little one could squirm free. It amazed me that each time he got squished was a new moment of fresh joy…over and over again! I quietly marveled at the beauty of presence and the capacity of children to free-fall into the middle of it!

As the year begins, like most of us, I find myself thinking about fresh starts and living more “on purpose”.  Watching my grandson makes me hungry for the freedom to get lost in present moments…to welcome and not hurry them away.  It reminds me of Brother Lawrence’s experiment where he endeavored to practice God’s presence throughout the day.  His goal was to live in expanding awareness of God.

Our lives are lived entering and exiting divine awareness. We awaken to God one minute and forget Him the next.

Responsibilities and schedules tend to tempt our attention away from God incrementally, until sadly, we can find the day spent without much thought of Him at all.  I wonder if the fullness of life that the Bible speaks of doesn’t have everything to do with

remembering God and allowing His beautiful presence to shower our moments with love and hope and wonder and blessed expectation.

And, I wonder if our capacity to free-fall into the middle of moments grows as we live with God in expanding awareness, play in His presence,  and lose all track of time in the pleasure of His company!

“Father, help me to enter and re-enter awareness of your presence throughout the day. I am easily derailed by work and worry…good things and careless things. Thank You that Your attention is constant and real. Amen.”

What about you?

What would it be like to live a day ready and watching for God?

How do you do at “practicing God’s presence” throughout the day?

Do you experience “fresh joy” and freedom to lose track of time with God?

The practice of returning to awareness of God’s presence is a powerful and life-transforming prayer!

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Worship