He Hears Us

We are so blessed to have the opportunity to go to Colorado each year, really just about any time we want to, and stay at my mother in laws cabin in the mountains. There are many wonderful things to do there, but one of our personal favorites, is to go to Mount Princeton Hot Springs and swim in the heated pools. On one particular visit during this past vacation, there were quite a few families swimming at the same time we were. I kept trying to relax and read, but then I would hear a child say, “Mom, Mom!” And I would look up with a start; scan the pool, my heart pounding, but the majority of times I realized the cries were from someone else’s children, their parents already responding, so back to my book I would go. Every so often though, I would look up to find one of the cries was from one of my kids, and those times, I jumped up to see what was needed. Those of you who are parents know, we always have a watchful eye and listening ear out for our kids. If they have a need, we are the first to jump in to save the day, to bring encouragement or comfort; to calm the storms and quiet the tears when needed.

God responds to us, His children, the same way – 1 John 3, verse 1 says,” How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” And Psalm 34:17 says, “The righteous (that’s you and I) cry out, and the LORD hears us; He delivers us from all of our troubles.”

Did you catch that? God hears us and delivers us – that’s you and I, his children. That means his ears are always in tune to each of our cries individually, and the needs that we have personally, and he is able to listen and respond to all of us at any given time.

You know I can not imagine that. When my four kids have needs at the same time, I have to say – “Wait, Wait, I can only hear and respond to one of you at a time.” And I have to quickly assess whose need is most important – it could be who’s bleeding, or maybe who’s bleeding more, or who is really just scraped but is here saying they are bleeding because they just want the attention and a band- aid, and who just wants to show me a butterfly that just flew by their nose… I have to assess the needs and determine what is most important because I am limited in my ability to respond.

I am thankful that God is not like that – He is not limited in his ability to respond to us, His children. He is always listening 24/7 and is able to respond to each of us personally, simultaneously. Whether we are in the midst of an emergency and are in need of a rescue or just want some attention and a little TLC, He is always available. So, I want to encourage you – If you have a need today, don’t try to handle it alone. Don’t assume God is too busy or uninterested. He loves you. He wants to help you, and He is tuned in to you… cry out to Him today.  

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

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But God

Can you imagine sailing through life thinking you were living right, maybe even passionately pursuing God the best way you know how… only to find you were off track? In the bible, we can read about a man named Saul who lived the early part of his life that way. We first see him in Acts 7, where he was observing Stephen’s stoning. Any questions we might have had about Saul’s reaction to Stephen’s stoning are laid to rest in Acts 8:1 where we read, “And Saul was there, giving approval to His death.” You see, Saul was a Pharisee, and he was passionate about his Jewish faith.

After Stephen’s death, a great persecution broke out against the church, and Saul was at the heart of it, as he went house to house dragging men and women out and putting them in prison. The Christians scattered, preaching everywhere they went, and the church grew. But Saul’s plans to stop them grew as well. He got permission to travel to Damascus to capture Christians that had fled there to bring them back to Jerusalem. He was willing to go the distance and do whatever it took to stop the church from spreading! Permission granted, he was on his way until something amazing happened – Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, literally bringing him face to face with the truth of the gospel. Paul surrendered to Jesus, and His life was never the same.

This is a powerful story of God’s grace in action! Saul became Paul, and went on to become one of the greatest leaders, preachers and writers of the New Testament. These words found in Ephesians 2:4,5 (one of the books Paul wrote) show us how much his life was transformed, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Paul knew he was undeserving that day he put His faith in Jesus, after He met him on the Damascus road. Only love could explain the way God stepped in and turned his life around. You could say he had a ‘but God’ moment… ‘But’ because of His great love for him, ‘God’ stepped in and made him alive in Christ, and God does the same thing today for us as well. He reaches out to us where we are, he sees where we can be, and by His grace he gets us there.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

It is Finished

This past Friday my family and I had the opportunity to walk through Stations of the Cross, an annual Easter event our church puts on, which provides attendees an opportunity to walk through a fifteen station depiction of Jesus’ last hours on earth, to his death and resurrection. Being that this was the third year for our family to participate, I was focused on not taking it for granted. I wanted to take the time to reflect and pray; allowing God to minister to me where I am today and speak to my heart in new and fresh ways. So, I made a point to walk slowly through each station and really press in during the reflection time.

The first few stations were really, only minimally impactful for me. That all changed about midway through, when I came to the station with the standing cross with splatters of red representing Jesus’ blood, and a small cloth draped over it, representing the cloth Jesus wore at the time of his death. As I stood at the base of the cross, looking up at it; I began to picture Jesus on it, looking down at me, and I couldn’t help but wonder – If I could have been there that day, standing at his feet and looking into his eyes; what would I have seen in them? Would I have seen agony and anguish? Would I have seen a fiery, ‘Go get ‘em, Tiger’ look, something along the lines of- I’m dying for you now go and live for me?

As I pondered what his expression might have been, I saw none of those things in my mind’s eye. Instead, I saw misty eyes tenderly looking down at me full of sincere, piercing compassion – for all the heartache I have had to suffer, all the pain, for every hurt, for the affects of sin in my life – either by others or of my own choices. I began to cry. I couldn’t help but wonder how could Jesus, hanging in pain, be thinking of me; feeling compassion for my hurts and sorrow, for my pain and sin? But he did. And not only did he die thinking of me – he died thinking of you as well. Isaiah 53:4,5 says, “Surely he took up our infirmities (that’s mine and yours) and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds, we are healed.” He was thinking of you, he was thinking of me – he loves each of us that much.

And as Jesus was dying, He said the words, “It is finished.” These words ushered in at the end of His life, marked the end of us as we were, and the beginning of us as we were meant to be (L.Giglio). As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sin earns us death and separation from God; those are the wages we deserve. But Jesus willingly paid the price for our sin, and in so doing He gives us the opposite of what we deserve. For all who put their faith in Him, he gives the gift of forgiveness and right standing with him.

As we celebrate His resurrection, we celebrate not only our appreciation for Jesus’ love and grace represented on the cross; we also celebrate that when he rose again he conquered death, hell, and the grave. We celebrate that God does what he says he will do; He who promises is faithful. We celebrate that no matter how bleak things seem, we are never with out hope. We celebrate the amazing power of our God, power we have access to daily in our lives through Christ. And we celebrate the relationship we get to have with Him both now in this life, and in the life to come… there is nothing like it. And it all comes down to grace – God granting us what we can not earn and do not deserve – an amazing gift available to us all. Thank you, Jesus!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

What a Gift!!

Two weeks ago we had our Shoreline Women Collide Retreat. Friday night was spectacular. After it was over, I was wired and tired, and I stayed up a little too late after the evening ended. I had to get back to the Shoreline South building early Saturday morning, and so before I drifted off for a quick few hours of sleep, I set my alarm to be sure I’d get up on time. Saturday morning rolled around, and I did something I never do. I turned my alarm off in my sleep. I don’t even remember it going off. All I remember is waking up in a panic, realizing it was almost time for me to leave the house, and I wasn’t even out of bed yet!! Now, I am a girly girl, so I knew I was in trouble. So I quickly hopped up and got to it, only to get hit a few minutes later with texts from others already on their way saying IH 35 was at a complete standstill. The dark side of me was happy that everyone would be late also. But the more level headed side knew I just had to get there in time to be available to help set things up for Saturday to be a great day. David and I checked the routes, and I headed toward the toll road instead of IH35, which is the opposite direction I normally drive in the mornings. The toll road is east of my house, and as you know, the sun rises in the east. As I eased up to the stop sign leaving my neighborhood, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. I was captivated by the beauty of it, so many colors and textures, and I knew – this was for me – a special God touch of love as I started the day. It was like God was saying, “I am with you, and everything is going to be okay.” And, it was – I made it in plenty of time for things to run smoothly.  I didn’t do anything special that morning to earn such a display.  It was a God gift, and it made my day.

This past week, I was again reminded of God’s love and grace in a special way. I had gotten upset with David and lost my temper. I even threw my nail file at him during the heat of the moment. The next day, I felt so guilty. I asked for David’s and God’s forgiveness and felt better, but through out the day David was being so sweet, and the guilt tried to creep back in. For a minute, I went there, but then I heard a little Holy Spirit whisper, “What are you doing? You’re forgiven, all of your sins – past, present and future. Jesus bore them on the cross.” And I knew, it was for me. It was as if God was saying again, “I am here I am with you and everything is going to be alright.” Another God gift, unearned, unmerited – my burden lifted.

In each of those two situations, God’s gift of grace shined through. He didn’t pull away when I was rushing before Collide and mumbling under my breath, or when I was feeling guilty about fighting with David. He simply met me where I was in the moment; and He loved me there. Grace came to my rescue. What a gift! It reminds me of Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’

Maybe you are feeling panicked about something today, or feeling like you have messed up,  or perhaps you are feeling like you need a special God touch today; a reminder of His love and grace. My prayer for you is that you will have eyes to see his love on display in the world and people around you and ears to hear his whispers as he calls your name and speaks words of love and grace to your heart. He is for you, He is with you, and He loves you beyond measure; rest in the beauty of His love and grace today.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Nothing is Impossible

I imagine, if I were to ask you if you have ever faced a situation that for all appearances seemed impossible, you would say yes. I think we can all relate; we have probably all had times when our faith has wavered, our dreams have seemed a million miles away, and it appears as if God has forgotten us.

 In moments like those, I love having the Bible to look back on to see how others walked through similar faith-challenged moments. We can look at stories like that of Abraham and Sarah, who waited 25 years from the time God promised them a son, to his actual birth. Abraham had been promised that He would be the Father of many nations, and he hadn’t even had the rightful heir it was all supposed to come through. When the time was approaching for Isaac to be born by God’s time table it seemed impossible from Abraham and Sarah’s perspective, because they were past childbearing years. God’s response to their faith wavering moment was this question, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”

In the New Testament, in Luke Chapter 1, we see a similar response given to Mary when the angel visited her to foretell of Jesus’ birth. She didn’t see how it could be possible for her to have a child when she had never even been with a man, to which the angel replied in verse 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

 We can also read of people being healed of diseases, raised from the dead, protected in a fiery furnace, and of one man who was rescued from a lion’s den without a scratch on him. We can read of prison doors opening miraculously, of words being given to speak when needed, of provision being met. And with all of these true life stories we are again reminded that with God all things truly are possible.

I don’t know what you are facing today, but I do know that it hasn’t knocked God off the throne! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still the God that moves mountains. Our God is still in the miracle working business. Nothing is too big or too hard for Him – For Nothing is impossible with God!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.