Look up and open your eyes…

I have been captivated by Margaret Feinberg’s new book Wonderstruck. Many other people have been too. It has barely been out a week and it’s already into the 2nd printing!! Before its release on Christmas day, I received an advanced copy of three chapters. The timing for me to read these chapters were definitely God ordained. And I believe God has inspired Margaret to write this book for such a time as this. I’m excited to start 2013 with Wonderstruck.

We are living in a time where the pressures of this world are very over-whelming. So many people I have talked with have lost their joy, their focus, the understanding of their purpose, and the wonder of God. I’m thankful I haven’t lost my job, my house, or anything like so many others have. I can say that other circumstances in life, both, past and present, have had me extremely over-burdened. These things have worked over-time to take the life right out of me for the past few years.

Last month, I was out for a fall run on Pine Mountain. I started out with one thing in mind… to get near to God and for things to change within my life. I am so glad I took the time to listen to God that day. I am thankful I am able to share with you some of the images from the pictures I took. God was speaking to me in ways I didn’t fully comprehend. I’m confident that God is not finished with what he began in me.

As I move into the year 2013, I have adopted one sentence from Wonderstruck that will be my life theme for the coming year.

God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 27).

As I ran on the trail I stopped to take this photograph. Pine Mountain in the shadowsI began to run again and God whispered to me, “Stop and look up.” The sight was beautiful. What I saw were these leaves with the bright blue sky as the back drop. God had painted this beautiful canvas all around me. But it was in the invitation to look up that I really began to understand what his desire has been for me.

I have had my eyes focused on my journey, focused on my surroundings, focused on the darkness, focused on the past and ignoring the moment. His purpose and plan for my life and for your life is far greater than anything either one of us could imagine on our own. Pine Mountain Look Up

This moment is his. His invitation is for us to look up and open our eyes to the wonder all around us. He is all around us. He is inviting us to experience him beyond what we can see. He wants us to seize this moment. He wants us to take the hill and conquer this life and allow ourselves to encounter him.

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 27).

As I look forward to this new year of 2013, my prayer is to get to know God in a fresh and new way… to encounter him. I pray you will also embark on this same journey to encounter him too. He is inviting all of his people to, look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him.

Surrender

Waving the white flag of surrender today…

I want to give up all of my past, my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my future… everything!  I want to lay it all down and surrender. 

Before they ever landed in a prison for their faith they made a decision to surrender to Jesus Christ.  Maybe that’s one reason why they could sing praises in the midst of their situation.  They had already surrendered to Jesus long before they surrendered to those who imprisoned them.

Surrender.  “To give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.”  Surrender doesn’t come too easy for me.  I seem to want to continue to fight on my own terms.  I pray a pretty good game. But if my prayer life is just a game then what good is it?  At times, my prayer-life seems to be lacking surrender… total commitment.  When I pray for myself and/or for others I seem to interject my own selfish twist.

An example we have to follow is found in Matthew 26:39-42 is of Jesus praying with total surrender.

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” (The Message).

I typically pray, “If there is any way, get me out of this…” Then find myself asleep like the disciples.

It’s not just in prayer but throughout life we are faced with decisions and choices we must make.  Our choice: To live a life surrendered to the will of God or to live for ourselves.

 Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday (“Surrender” lyrics by U2)

Fear: Profound reverence and awe toward God

Do you ever feel afraid?  Do certain things, circumstances, or people strike fear within you?

When you find yourself fearful – do you set up your surroundings in order to protect yourself?  Fear can lead to a negative or a positive emotion.  Fear is necessary for one to display courage.  “Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.” Michael Hyatt.

Fear is defined by Meriam-Webster as an, “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”  Another definition is, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  I think we all experience fear to some degree in our lives.  I know when I’m out on a long bicycle ride the last thing I want to do is to experience a dog… that fear I have of being bitten can be overwhelming.  The fear I want to focus on today is the fear of God, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”

I’ve realized fear can be exhibited in a couple of ways.  One is the fear that leads to becoming self-absorbed… to the point of not being able to move (bondage).  The other fear is built on what I listed above, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  This fear of God leads down the path of freedom.

I want to walk the path of freedom.  To choose freedom is to choose to trust God in all things.  It is reverence and awe I have for God that enables me to be able to lay down my fears on His altar.

Psalm 128:1-2, 4 in The Message states,

All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!2 You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming. Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! 4 Stand in awe of God’s Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

Choose today to stand in awe of God.  Take this moment now to thank Him for His goodness.  My prayer for you today is you will be amazed by God and that you will walk in great faith in His power.

The Clouds…

I stepped outside last night and the feel of the cool air was refreshing.  I gazed up into the sky to look at the stars.  It’s a beautiful sight just to stare at what God has created.  Throughout time men and women have looked up and seen the same site I looked upon last night.  As I could feel the breeze coming in from the west I could also see the clouds moving in to obstruct the beautiful view.

The winds of change can bring so much that impact our lives.  Some times these winds bring news of great hope, love, joy, and happiness.  Other times these winds bring clouds of  hurt, disappointment, and despair.

We all experience these winds at some time in our lives. We have experienced them with our friends and loved ones:  The bad news of cancer, the unexpected death of a friend, the loss of a job, or the horrible end of a marriage – all bring it…

If we aren’t alert to the troubles that these clouds bring, we will fall into a trap that will blow us off of the path God has intended for our lives.  I’m sure if we are both honest we have all been there at some point in time within our faith walk.  Margaret Feinberg writes about her life where the “marvel of life” was misplaced.

Faith invites us into an enchanting journey—one marked by mysteries of divine beauty, holy courage, irrepressible hope, unending love. But in my life, any sense of the splendor of God had faded. I knew I needed a fresh encounter with God to awaken me from my sleep, to dis- turb me from my slumber.

And so I prayed for wonder.

Palms extended, wide-eyed with expectation, I waited for an answer. And God did not disappoint. For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 7).

When we look through the lens of the Holy Spirit we can see the good in all things. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (NIV).

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. (Psalm 91:1-2, The Message).

Seeking doesn’t always bring answers but rather more questions.  These are lyrics by The Choir, in TheLoudestSoundEverHeard_covertheir song, The Forest, from their newest album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard.

More is hidden than revealed. Sometimes the path to understanding is concealed. It hurts to be alive, your pain is real. Go on laugh until you cry, it’s good to feel

The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you. The sun will shine. The sun will shine on you.

I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend. I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons. Even now the sun is breaking through the clouds again. But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons

So, in the wake of unanswered questions how do you deal with change that comes throughout the seasons in your life?  I have found praying and reading the Bible are two of the best ways to deal with that which I can’t understand on my own.  Just as those stars have been there throughout time – God is always here with us.  He is not out there somewhere but right here among us.  If the clouds have obstructed your view of God – pray! Pray that He will reveal his marvelous love… may you be filled with the wonder, excitement, and joy of his love.

The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8, The Message).

The wonders of God are all around

My friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God,which releases Christmas Day. This is a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. This book will turn your prayer life upside down, stir your desire to live more abundantly, and take your relationships with others to the next level.Blog Post Wonderstruck Cover Art Image

To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video.

Margaret recently posted a great warning on her site that those who have read Wonderstruck[www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck]have experienced the following symptoms:

-An inability to stop smiling

-An uncontainable desire to pray

-A loss of interest in judging others

-A quiet, unshakable confidence in God

-A renewed ability to see the wonders of God all around

And from what I’ve seen, they’re all true! I wanted to share some thoughts that stuck out to me as I read a sneak peek of Wonderstruck:

Margaret’s ability to draw my attention to the most simple and basic thoughts concerning God and His pursuit of a relationship with me are beautiful.  Her introduction has drawn me to a place to pray – to ask God for wonder.  I am confident you will also have a similar experience as you read Wonderstruck.  I pray I never lose my sense of wonder in my pursuit to know Him more.  That’s why as I embark on this journey through Margaret Feinberg’s, “Wonderstruck,” I’m joining her and praying for wonder.  I hope you will too. 

Many of us say we want to experience God, but we don’t look for his majesty. We travel life’s paths with our heads down, focused on the next step with our careers or families or retire- ment plans. But we don’t really expect God to show up with divine wonder.

God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him. This isn’t a passive expectation but an active one, the kind prompting us to elbow our way to Jesus, knowing he longs to meet us with a hearty embrace and sometimes even twirl us through the air. (26-27).

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.95 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble for all you savvy shoppers.

God cares about every detail that concerns us…

Almost 2 years ago I was taught a valuable lesson through some very difficult pain.  I had a break out of Shingles.  I went to the doctor, I had shots, took medicine that was prescribed, and laid around in a lot of pain.  It had spread from my waist and hip, up my side, and down my leg.  I prayed!

The valuable lesson was in the praying.  James 5 came to mind and I began to read.  Verse 10 refers to Job and how God restored him in the end of the misery he endured.  “That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (The Message).

Verses 13-15 are key to what God was teaching me during this season.Iron Hill Loop

13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and 
anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out. (The Message).

There are three key points God highlighted for me,

  1. “Are you hurting?” Pray.   I’ve thought about how many times I had something going on and instead of praying I called a friend and asked them to pray for me.  It had become a way of life.  I had begun to talk with my friends about things in my life more so than talk with God.  I think I had friends praying more for me than what I was doing for myself.  God opened my eyes to this while laying there in physical pain.  I admitted this to God and asked for forgiveness.  God showed me I was desiring the end result but not the intimacy with Him that would be gained by spending time with Him.
  2. “Do you feel great? Sing.”  Again, God is saying here I want to be close to you.  He desires, wants, and he deserves ourthanksgiving.  He wants our praise to Him.  I began to think about how often I was blessed by Him and realized that I had not been singing.
  3. I sent a txt to my pastor, “Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.” His response, “I’ll bring the oil.”  I said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

It was that Sunday morning after my pastor and the elders laid their hands on me and prayed for healing that I began to heal.  There was more that God wanted to do in me that day.  I know God wanted me to share the depth of what I had been learning through this situation.   He had given me a message for all of them that morning and I shared it.  I was at one of the lowest times in my life at that moment.  Yet, God was taking care of the details I couldn’t even see.  As I look back I can see His hand at work in me then.

At that time, I was the volunteer that led the intercessory prayer efforts at our church.  God was telling me if I was going to lead in this area – I needed to lead and by example!  God cares about the path we chose to walk.  We need to let Him have his way in us as we walk.  I know at times our path is hard to see and we get lost in the forest of choices we find in our lives.  He is with us and as we walk by faith – He will guide us.

I truly believe that God wants to accomplish all that concerns us.  He wants to give good gifts to His children and to perform miracles.  I also believe our part of that is to pray without ceasing and to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  We need to live with heavenly perspective.

We are each faced with options each day.  We have the option to follow Jesus or to follow the crowd.  We need to believe by faith He has already weighed out our options.  It’s our place to live and walk by faith.  It’s our responsibility to pray.

“The person who believes God, is set right by God – and that’s the real life.  (Galatians 3:11-12, The Message).

Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God

My friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)—a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video.

Blog Post Wonderstruck Cover Art ImageAs you may or may not know, I’ve been a fan of Margaret Feinberg and her books for the last few years. I recently received the insider’s scoop about Margaret’s new book. Here are some highlights from the interview:

Where did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck book and Bible study come from?

Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? Most people who have worked in ministry have experienced those seasons—some may be in one right now.

My husband, Leif, and I had just gone through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.”

God did not disappoint.

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”?

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before.

Why are you calling people to #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK?

If you look in the Gospels, what you’ll discover is that those who encountered Jesus were constantly left in wild amazement. They were awestruck by the teachings of Christ, the healings of Christ, the mind-bending miracles of Christ. Within the Gospel of Luke we see words like “awe” and “wonder” and “marvel” at every turn. If this is the natural response to encountering Christ, how much more should it be for you and I—who are invited to live in relationship with Christ as sons and daughters of our God Most High?  We even created a free PDF that looks at some of these Scriptures. For a free copy, email us at wonderstruck@margaretfeinberg.com and we’ll send you one.

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on TwitterFacebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.57 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble for all you savvy shoppers.