Amazement Continued

“And they were amazed at His teaching” (Luke 4:32)

Amazement often describes how people reacted to Jesus in the Bible, but it rarely describes the modern Christian today. Why are we often not in awe of Jesus in our life today? Sometimes I’ve wondered if our experience within the church walls have dulled our sense of wonder. We don’t leave Jesus much room to wow us when the sermons must land on the precise cue of the music. And often I’ve noticed our “praise” songs have little to do with Jesus and a lot to do with how hard we have tried.

But if we study the Jesus of scripture, we discover surprise and wonder. The crowd was amazed at His authority in teaching. (Luke 4:32) They were amazed at the way He talked about government. (Matthew 22:22) They were amazed at the way He connected with women (John 4:27) and of course people were amazed by His miracles of healing and provision. (Mark 5:42)

I want to focus on just one of those stories that wowed me recently: In Luke 5 we read a story where a professional fisherman (Simon Peter) has worked all night but come out empty-handed. We can pause there and acknowledge we all share a similar experience, not necessarily in fishing but in life. We’ve worked hard for four years to get a degree and then not been able to find a good job. We’ve labored patiently over children and marriages only to have our personal lives spin out of control. We have scrimped and saved to afford a better life only to have it torn away through a wicked and unjust world. It is surely a place of vulnerability to come up empty where we have worked hard and invested much of our energy. 

Peter, a fisherman, caught no fish.  Jesus, a spiritual leader, told him to try the net on the other side of the boat. We can just feel the patience dripping from Peter’s voice as he tells Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Peter thinks he knows what he’s doing, so, he agrees to pacify Jesus to check the box of teachability.  Sometimes we actually feel noble about our sacrifice and serving as we patiently explain to God our situation. Peter did this, and we all know how the story plays out: so many fish swam into the nets that the nets are breaking and two boats can’t contain it all.

Peter’s response is what grabs me by the throat. There’s not a hallelujah brother let’s just praise the Lordresponse. There’s the horrible realization as Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8) Peter realized in the glorious presence of God Almighty, he was not enough. Even in his area of strength and expertise, Peter had the shocking realization that he couldn’t control outcomes. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” I love that Jesus answers his despair with comfort and with purpose: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10)

Maybe we don’t experience the same awe and wonder because we still think we are pretty good fishermen. What I mean is that maybe we haven’t had that horrible realization that causes us to crumble at His feet and cry out I’m not worthy, God! We insulate our experiences with God so that we aren’t frightened or feel bad. We sing nice little songs that end right on time so that we can go have a nice lunch. And be nice people.

Here’s what I pray for me and for you:  one, that we would be absolutely wrecked by the goodness of God in our lives, and two, our humility about it and gratitude toward Jesus would be the first thing anyone notices. I’m not ashamed to admit that God has been ridiculously good to me even though I have not deserved it one bit. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Let’s share the amazing goodness of Jesus with our world this week. Let your awe and wonder of Him be known! Check out www.MargaretAllen.org for resources and to sign up for the blog every Monday.


Establishing Your House

I’m just waking up from a turkey-induced coma. Life has pretty much consisted of cooking, eating, and talking about cooking or eating. But the beauty of God’s word still shines into whatever saturates our week. A new favorite chapter is 2 Samuel 7. The background is that David felt blessed and desired to honor God. He said, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” (2 Samuel 7:2) David wanted to bless and honor God by building Him a house.

Do you know how God responded? Something to the effect of, you want to build Me a house? How about I build you a house?! God said, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever!” (2 Samuel 7:16) David, who wrote 75 of the Psalms, described as “a man after God’s heart” was so full of worship and gratitude toward God that he wanted a tangible symbol of his honor for God. But God took that symbol and went Almighty with it. God honored David! God said, after David passes, “I will establish your seed and his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13) God kept this promise through Jesus, son of David, our risen Lord and Savior.

How many times have we felt so blessed that we just wanted to show our honor and praise to God? This week as I’ve gazed upon my beautiful children, laughed with my family and friends, I’ve ached with the desire to show God how grateful I am. I have prayed along with David when he just SAT before the Lord and said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18) It doesn’t make sense to me that God pours out honor and blessing and favor on His people. But I am grateful. I hold to the promise that Jesus made in John 12:26, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” 

Mary Oliver’s poem “I Wake Close to Morning” reminded me this week that the goodness of God will be obvious to anyone looking in:

Why do people keep asking to see

            God’s identity papers

When the darkness opening into morning

            Is more than enough?

Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.

Think of Sheba approaching

            The kingdom of Solomon.

Do you think she had to ask,

            “Is this the place?”

In this final month of 2020, I pray that honor and gratitude fill your house. I pray that the beauty of each new day is enough to warm and inspire you. And I pray that the graciousness of God shines richly throughout your home!

Get my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion for yourself or as a gift this holiday season anywhere books are sold.


Give God Praise

My worry list is long enough. I have to set it down and focus elsewhere. I started listing all the ways I could give God praise and I’ll tell you what, I had to shout!  Has God been good to you? Has He provided a way when there was no way? Has He repaired a breech, a broken place, that you thought would never get straight? Has He comforted you in your worry or fear?  Oh my goodness, let me just list a few ways I’ve seen His love displayed recently.

When I struggle with insecurity He answers with encouragement. I begin doubting the impact of my book and God graciously sends an encourager. Women I don’t even know have messaged me to say how my words inspired them. Just this week a young mom sent me this note (I share with her permission): “I’m on chapter 4 of your book and I can already say this is exactly what I needed to read at this time in my life.  I had been feeling the need to be a light and share more love and peace in this world and your book inspires me and shares all the ways I can do this.  It is a life changing way—a godly way—and I love it!” She concluded, “I thought I should share with you that your book moves me towards humanity and God.” Do you think God nudged her to share this on the very day I needed to hear it? He doesn’t have to encourage me this way; it is His goodness to do so.

My daughter has been looking for a job. She wasn’t certain about the direction to take with her career. She was prayerful in the process and sought out all kinds of good advice. Can I just give God praise right now? He didn’t have to, but I totally sense God’s hand in the direction she has taken. After a month of interviewing she got a great offer, and not for just a job but a career. He was watching over her entire process with kindness and provision.

Another daughter is working remotely. Her heart’s desire was to work from LA near her college friends while she could. It touched this mamma heart to see her pray about this hope and have opportunity after opportunity fall through. Just when she had pretty much given up on that dream, an email came inviting her to join a group of awesome Christian women in an apartment one block from the beach!

Even in our struggles, our lives are a showcase for God’s goodness! He loves to bless and encourage His children. We may battle doubts, insecurities, uncertainties, or just unmet dreams, but God is faithful to care. He is faithful to provide and protect. He makes a way where there is no way! God reassures us in scripture: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

These are just a few of the ways God has been good to me recently – how has God been good to you? If your immediate reaction is, well He hasn’t, I encourage you to look at your life with a different lens. Where has He helped you, protected you, provided for you? His goodness is waiting to be discovered.

Find my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold.


Easing into Gratitude

Did you know when people are feeling positive they are 30% more creative and productive than they are at negative, neutral or stressed? I don’t know about you in 2020, but I’ve been straining just to get to neutral. Goals of creativity, productivity, positivity are melting into a coronavirus ooze of Netflix, Zoom calls, tired cooking, and boundaryless life-work tension.  Like me, are you searching for ways to lift your mental health

We learn to scan the landscape of our lives for good. My daily gratitude practice is outlined in my book, Gracious Living. Gratitude begins with posturing our heart toward God. Here’s a starter: “I take a few minutes to turn my affection toward God. Some days, I have more time, but at a minimum, I spend five minutes loving Him and celebrating His friendship in my life. It can simply be turning my face upward toward the sun for a few moments; dancing when a song comes on; or cherishing the sweetness of a moment in prayer.  Every day I also jot down three things for which I’m grateful.” (p. 43) You see, telling God thanks helps us to relive those good moments along with all the positive feelings. It’s way more productive than reliving every negative conversation or thought.

Besides my gratitude list of three every day, I practice another habit that has significantly impacted my life. Again, from my book, Gracious Living: “I send an encouraging text or email to someone every day. Whoever comes to mind, I take that as a sign from God.  I send them a Bible verse, tell them why I’m grateful for them, or share what I’m praying for them.  You might ask, ‘How does this help you, Margaret?’ If I consistently speak life over others, it will stand out as incongruent if I speak poorly to myself.  If I’m better to others, I will be better to myself, plain and simple.” (p. 43) Try it out: send an encouraging text or email a few mornings this week and see if your mood is lifted!

The Bible is a plumb line for me. When my thinking starts to spiral toward negativity, I review this honest word from Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) So my friend, when you walk into the kitchen, what do you dwell on? When you interact with fellow employees or family members do you dwell on what is true and honorable and worthy of praise?

This attitude of gratitude will ripple outward into every area of your life. Let the goodness of God shape your thinking so that you can be positive in this present moment. If you need some inspiration, find my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion at MargaretAllen.org. The kindle version is on Amazon. Thank you for reading my blog today and let me hear how your gratitude practice is going!