My Heart Is Full

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. I can feel time slowing down, even in the midst of meal prep, plans for Black Friday shopping, and the beginning of decorating for Christmas. Slowing down to the day of thanks.

A day set aside to be especially grateful for all our blessings.

Throughout the year, each day brings new gifts.

So many times, I take for granted all that I have. It is too easy to allow that to happen.

Stopping now, to write them down…..the gifts…each and every one.

My heart is full.

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Thankful for: 

*a warm house

*a new puppy

*all my animals

*quilts

*hot cocoa on cold days

*a supportive husband

*new adventures

*a weekend away with my husband

*healthy children

*a son enjoying college

*watching a movie with my daughter

*time with the oldest

*all my needs taken care of, and most of my wants

*family time

*holidays

*love

What Is Man, That You Take Thought Of Him?

Today my husband asked me to watch a Louie Giglio video with him. I wasn’t feeling all that great, and didn’t know if I really felt like taking the time to really pay attention, but it is difficult to hear this man speak and not be drawn into the message. I was glad I tuned in. In this particular video he was discussing the physical universe that we live in, more so about how small our planet is in the big (very big!) scheme of things. The scientific facts alone, that he mentioned, were thought provoking. The pictures of the stars and how immense they actually are, the light and heat of the sun in space, and where we are in the context of our galaxy and all the universe. Yes, over the years I’ve learned about space and astronomy, but as I listened, the thought struck me…..this is what Psalm 8 is all about.

 

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When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!”

Psalm 8:3-5 

 

 

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Stop.

Reread those verses again. Let it sink in. God created it all. He created the very elements that are the building blocks for all other things. The sun burns hotter than any nuclear reactor we have ever witnessed. We are in the exact spot to not be too hot or too cold to sustain life. The Earth is really not more than a speck in the vastness of this incredible universe. And on this tiny speck, we live.

He made us, humankind, in His image. He tells us over and over again, in scripture, of His love for each of us. Even after the darkness of sin permeated this world He created, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. He is not, nor has he ever been, a God who created us and then left us alone. His love is amazing, glorious, fulfilling and overwhelming.

My God is big…it is He that created everything, out of nothing. The vastness of the universe is filled with His creative glory. The stars show the story of His love.

My God is so intimate, that He knows the count of the hairs on my head. He knew me while I was still being created in my mother’s womb. My name, among others, was on His mind, when the words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, were uttered from his lips.

Yes, my God, the Lord of all heaven and earth…..knows me. This tiny speck in all of the cosmos….and He calls me by name.

I continue to stand amazed.

 

 

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What Is Your Name?

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A short word. Only four letters and one syllable. My name. A name that means “daybreak” and “awakening”. I’ve always liked my name, although depending on where I’ve lived, the pronunciation changes. In my Mid-Atlantic home state of Maryland, I grew up with the “aw” strongly pronounced. When I lived in east Tennessee I became Dawn pronounced “Dooowwwn”, the southern drawl giving the word an extra syllable…or two. Now, I live in the Midwest and my name often sounds like it’s male counterpart “Don”. Over the years I have just learned to go with the flow.

Names are interesting, aren’t they? Our parents choose the word or words that will define us, the letters which we will respond to, grow into, love or hate. We own it. It is ours.

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Maybe the reason I love sunrises and the quiet of early morning is because it is my namesake. As I’ve grown older I think about the other definition of my name, “awakening”. Much like “the dawn of a new civilization” I feel like I am at a turning point in my life. I am looking at situations differently, trying new things.

God thinks names are important. Names and their meanings are mentioned often in Scripture. God chose to call Himself “I AM”, when speaking to Moses. Not “I was” in the past, or “I will” in the future, but “I AM” in the present. A powerful representation of who He is.

13Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” 15God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.…

Exodus 3:13-15

God gave people new names, maybe because there was a change in their lives, something new had happened to them. Abram became Abraham, “father of multitudes”. Jacob, stealer of the blessing, became Israel, “having power with God”, Simon became Peter, “the Rock”, and Saul the persecutor became Paul the ardent evangelist.

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Although there are probably thousands of people in this world that claim the name Dawn, there is no one else in this entire world that is just like me. I am unique….and no matter what your name is, you are too. God knows each of us. We are never forgotten by Him. He calls each of us by name.

True Thanks Giving

It snowed last night, and most of the morning. The local schools were cancelled due to the weather, and I find myself sitting here at the kitchen table, staring out the window, enjoying the snowy  weather. Yes, it is not even winter, and yet it looks like the middle of January. There are several inches of snow and a nice stiff breeze to go with it!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and to be honest, I can hardly believe it. Do you feel the same? The months seem to rush, while I am left trying to hold tightly to the sands of time. I need time….time to slow down and give thanks, because there is much to be thankful for.

It seems as if Thanksgiving often times get overlooked, as a less important holiday, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Without taking time to give thanks for all that we have, we forget. We forget all the things in this life that God gifts us with, from the small daily joys to the larger life changing miracles. We need to stop. Stop and recall. When we recall all the ways He loves us, we can understand true thanks giving.

Psalm 69:30  I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.

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How I Lived in Sin for Years (and if you’ve gone to church for years, you might have too)

The author of this post is Scott Gibson, Dawn’s husband, and is prompted by a recent post about today’s churches (or more importantly, tomorrow’s churches), which generated some interesting and necessary discussion.

Normally, I would not make a confession in such a public way, but today, I feel I must. Why?

Two primary reasons, divided between two categories of readers:

  • To readers who have not trusted Jesus as their Savior, I want you to know first that I’m a sinner (we all are), and second, that God so loved the world (and that includes you and me) that He sent His only son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sin by dying on the cross (and yes, importantly, He rose again). Too many people today shun, even hate Christianity, because Christians often fail to communicate that they aren’t going to heaven because they’re good people! They’re sinners, but they’re going to heaven because Jesus died for them — and the greater news is He died for you and me, too, and He wants you to accept His gift of Salvation.
  • To readers who have trusted Jesus and who go to church regularly, I want you to know that God is working in my heart, and I hope He is working in yours too! In fact, I challenge you to read carefully and think through these issues as I have, and see whether you are or have been guilty of similar sin.

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I was raised in a Christian family, and I accepted God’s gift of Salvation at a young age. I have attended church literally all of my life.

Through my 50 years of life (so far), I’ve lived in 6 different locales and attended or joined 11 different churches (for some extended period of time).

As most Christians who have attended church for any length of time, early on, I formed ideas of what “church” should be like. These ideas were based largely on what I experienced.

Didn’t most of us “learn church” this way?

Obviously, there were many sermons and Bible lessons that taught about “church” from the scriptures, and I was content that the way we “practiced church” was close enough to what the Bible says, certainly didn’t violate scripture in any significant way. And, I wasn’t too troubled that those other denominations “practiced church” differently than we did — as long as we didn’t allow our practices to look too much like theirs.

Through the years of spending time in different churches (even of the same denomination), I found slightly different views on various topics, and found myself contriving arguments why my idea of church was right or had more merit than someone elses. The more this happened, the more I stepped away from being so dogmatic on certain things, and started calling these “preferences” (though, in my heart, I knew they still had more merit, but I just couldn’t put my finger on why).

In the last several years, there have been specific points in time — specific discussions even — where I had to step back further and really question myself and these views that had become such an ingrained — even arrogant — part of my thinking.

As we see more and more churches in late stages of life-support, God has prompted me to ask myself the critical question:

Are my views on what should constitute church my views or are they God’s views?

I have come to the incontrovertible conclusion that my views don’t matter. Only God’s views matter. And, where can I find God’s views? One place: the Bible.

Plainly, if it’s not in the Bible, then I shouldn’t place such importance on it.

The Bible has a lot of things to say about what makes up a church, but they pretty much boil down to a short list, most of which are somewhat vague in their application. At the risk of having some real theologians point out things I’ve overlooked, I’ll make an abridged list (no particular order):

  • A church is an organized group of the “members” who are Christians (those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior).
  • There are two specific offices for which scripture gives qualifications: Pastor (aka Elder, Bishop, Overseer, Shepherd) and Deacon (literally, servant).
  • Pastor’s are to preach God’s Word.
  • We are to carry out the two ordinances of Baptism and The Lord’s Supper (Communion).
  • We are to worship God.
  • We are to gather together regularly (not forsake gathering together).
  • We are to give cheerfully.
  • We are to study and teach God’s Word.
  • We are to pray together and for one another.
  • We are to fellowship together (probably didn’t exclusively mean eating).
  • We are to pursue purity (as the bride of Christ).
  • The primary purpose of the church is summed up in the Great Commission (both locally and through sending of missionaries):
    Go, Disciple, and Teach

My purpose here is not to exhaustively list the functions and responsibilities of the church. It is to say that, while churches do indeed fulfill many of these things today, most of us who make up the church, both lay and leadership, have long since adopted our own views as “the standard” or “the definition” of church, and are often far too dogmatic on things that God never said.

And this is where I have found myself.

We have a word for these “views” or “standards” that we have developed over time: tradition.

We also have a word for adding rules on top of what God has told us: legalism. It’s sin.

Traditions themselves are not necessarily a problem. Making those traditions “the standard” is legalism and it’s wrong.

And, just exactly why does this matter so much?

The ramifications of making my views the standard rather than God’s are immense and frankly, this changes everything.

On a personal level, this is sin to put words in God’s mouth — to declare that God’s standards are different than God Himself has told us.

On a corporate level, the problem is that this legalistic adherence to tradition is impacting the church’s ability to effectively meet its fundamental charter. We actively or passively enforce a traditional style of worship so that, when people visit our church, they really don’t find it worshipful and don’t want to come back. We actively or passively judge people who don’t fit our traditional views, thereby deterring them from either salvation or joining our church.

The sin is legalism aka loving our traditions more than God and more than the people we claim we’re trying to reach for Christ.

What should we do? Evaluate each and every thing we think is a “sacred cow” and decide whether those things are indeed mandates from scripture or whether they are just one way of accomplishing the mandates scripture has given us.

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If you think carefully about what scripture actually does say about the church, the focus is more about the responsibilities that individual Christians have and less about “club rules”.

If we’re not careful, our churches will die with us in our traditions.

Each Day Is Precious

Many times I go through my days, captured in the ordinary. The routines in the moments are strung together to form my days. How many times do I allow myself to be so caught up in the minutia, that I forget the bigger picture? It is easy to do. To forget, I mean…. forget that each day is valuable and precious. The days are each bound together to create this one life, spent well.

Reminding myself today that life is good….when I choose to keep my eyes wide open to all the ways that He loves me.

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1. gray November days

2. swirling flakes of white

3. playing with puppies

4. Ace getting better at the vet’s

5. a cleanly mopped floor

6. sweet fruit and dip

7. waiting for the mailman

8. family that loves

9. Hallmark movies

10. warm sweater

11. cozy blankets

12. a great book

13. emails from friends

14. music that lifts the spirit

15. soul rest

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV 

Take A Seat At The Table

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This is the question my husband and I are passionate about….. “How do we, the Gen X’ers, and the Boomers reach the younger generation?” The Millennials are roughly between the ages of 14 and 34 years. This generation has known the benefits and the pit falls of technology for most of their lives, they tend to be more cynical about formal “institutions”, they long for real and lasting relationships beyond social media, and they need to know they can truly trust someone before they will believe a word that is said. This group is the future, and yet so many of them do not appear interested in “going to church”. Even those that have grown up in the church community are leaving. Church, the way it has been traditionally done, is no longer a valid option.

My family and I have had long and hard discussions about the “old church” and the “new church” and what makes individuals want to join the community? And if the Millennials are leaving…where will we, as a church body, be a decade from now? There are some tough, even painful, questions to ask ourselves. Quite frankly, if current church members aren’t willing to take a seat at the table and talk, and even make some real changes…..well then, we are already dead in the water.

Do not misunderstand. I am not talking about changing the message. The message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, never needs to be changed. It is just as awe inspiring, and life changing as it was the first time that Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) or “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16 NET Bible)

But, I do believe that the way we, as church members, deliver that message, most definitely can change….and should. We do not need to stay stuck in traditions that aren’t even scriptural. “We’ve always done it this way” is nothing but a hollow excuse. Is it worth it to cling to old traditions and in essence then slam the door on the faces of those who desperately need to know that they are loved, by the God who gave His own son to take their place? No. My answer is definitely, no.

I am willing to change. I am willing to do whatever it takes. These young people matter to me that much.