Changing Seasons

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

It is has been unbelievably hot here in Texas. Being from North Carolina, hot and October do not go in the same sentence. I think the changing of seasons is what I miss most about the mountains. Time was marked by the weather and I like that. One would think I was use to this climate, but I am not. However, the people and the sunsets make Texas a great place to call home. And the weather man says a “cold front” is making its way here and it should be cooler tomorrow. I pray it happens and we can get on with fall. A change is very much needed.

IMG_5296As I think on change, it always reminds me of the passage in Ecclesiastes about time. It goes from one extreme to the other. “A time of war and a time of peace.” (vs. 8). As I read through the list, I naturally choose the more lovely times. I have no desire for war, loss, hate, mourning and death. I will say that knowing these times makes the other that much more sweet and I appreciate them more. So for that I am thankful. It is during the not so lovely that I have been drawn into the heart of God more deeply. How can I say I do not want such a gift just because it was hard?

I received a text last night from a precious friend. Her husband of 55 years went to be with Jesus. She is in “a time to weep… a time to mourn” (vs.4). She knows the Lord and has hope of “a time to laugh..a time to dance” (vs.4). Do you have this same hope? Do you know there is a purpose to each season? Sometimes it is full of joy and other times joy is a choice. I found myself this morning begging to be out of this season. Goodness, did this bring such a heaviness and that feeling of wanting change. As we walked into church and heard words so specific to what my heart was feeling, I could have just wept. Only the Lord knew what I needed most. Circumstances remain the same, but my heart was reminded of the truth. It made the time at the Lord’s table that much more meaningful.

Friend, I am not sure of your season, but I know the God who does. I pray you have hope today for what is to come. While there may be many seasons before we go to Heaven that make you long for Home, trust the One who knows and loves you. “Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider; Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other…” (7:13-14). Tonight I will remember, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” (Isaiah 26:3). I know who I am dependent on and trust His plans, which are not always visible. May you sleep in peace tonight.

Confession

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteousness person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16

Our family visited a new church today. We have heard about it and wanted to check it out. We had read their core values and they are based on truth, God’s Word. We unloaded the van, walked through the doors and were immediately welcomed by kind people. Since they are a branch off of a larger church, they are small and meeting in an elementary school. The simple approach to church was refreshing. We take up two rows and begin to sing. Just a few instruments and beautiful words. The pastor is teaching a series entitled “Home” and based this sermon on 1 Peter 5:8-10. Powerful words were not watered down and we were not entertained. The goal is transformation, for us to look more like Christ when we leave than when we walked in.

IMG_5169The sermon ended much too soon and we sang a bit more. Then the most interesting thing happened. They break everyone into smaller groups and call them “tribes”. We had no idea where to go, but were quickly directed to a group. I have to mention that the younger kids go to their class during the teaching time and then come back for the close of the service. It is fun worshiping together. Back to the tribes. We circle up and each person is asked to confess in one word a sin they struggle with. Mine is pride. Then the most beautiful thing followed. We took communion. Each sin confessed, the death of Christ, the blood that poured from His body, paid the price for each. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). This is GOOD NEWS!!!

If that were not enough, the church stays after and eats lunch together. Everyone brings things to share and tables were full of food. This so reminded me of the early church that formed after Christ returned to Heaven. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42). We decided not to stay, even though we felt welcome. Adding a family of 9 without bringing something just went against my southern roots. Instead, we ate together as a family and talked about the morning. Our oldest made a statement that really stuck with me. She said, “You can’t hide there.” Interesting observation and so good. When you know who you are because of the accepted life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you desire a life of righteousness and a home shaped by this love. Hiding sin does not fit in this loving, secure truth. The only hiding that remains is, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). My life covered by His sinless life. What an amazing exchange, don’t you think?

*You could wear a name tag and this child decided to go with something different today. He kept saying, “It’s Jimmy, with a Y.” Made us laugh every time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Picture

Just like any relationship, somethings are special and meant just for the two of you. Somethings that happen between the Lord and I that stay just between us. This normally would have been one of those experiences, but after sharing it the other day in Bible study, I think it might need some space here as well. So, here it goes.

IMG_5095Monday morning I woke up with such a heavy feeling inside and my shoulders felt like they had huge weights on them. I sat in my normal chair to begin my “quiet time”. If you are new to the whole Christian code, this means time spent in reading your Bible, praying, journaling, reading devotionals and whatever else you and the Lord do together. I immediately got a picture in my mind and it was powerful! It was me sitting at the bottom of a dried up dark well, with stones piled on top of me. The stones filled the well to the top. I had my knees pulled to my chest and my head down. The stones represented every sin I have ever committed over the course of my life. Satan was leaning over the well, shouting down in a loud voice, “Pay what you owe”! I kept saying, “I can’t, I can’t”! When I thought this would go on forever, Jesus steps into the picture. He leans down and in the process, backhands satan in the mouth, which sends him flying backwards and he is silenced. Jesus then begins to remove each stone, one at a time. With each stone He says, “Forgiven”. He then reaches His hand down and distance doesn’t seem to matter. I take hold of His offered hand and He pulls me up. We then take the stones, that have been washed clean, and stack them into a memorial with the cross on the top. Memorials are good to have because they give you a visual reminder. If I ever doubt whether I am truly forgiven, one look at the cross says I am.

After the picture left my mind, the heaviness began to lift and so did the weight my shoulders felt. They did remain a bit sore though and for that I was thankful. I liked the reminder. We fool ourselves into thinking that sin is light or does not really matter. Besides, many argue that the Bible was written so long ago. How can it be relevant today? I can assure you, God takes sin just as seriously now as He did thousands of years ago. If this were not true, the cross that held His Son would not have been allowed to happen. Oh, how He loves us! Can you see that?

Maybe you know the feeling of being in a dark place and your past catches up with you. Maybe you wake up in the night and have a sense of heaviness. I wish I could take your sweet face in my hands like I often do with the kids and tell you that you are forgiven. The Bible says,“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). It also says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). Do not let the weight of your past keep you from the forgiveness that is waiting for you today.

*This picture is from today. These two kids are the best of friends. They have a special bond.

Not Listening

“As for the word you spoke to us in the name of the Lord,                                                 we are not going to listen to you!”  Jeremiah 44:16

 

When you read through the Bible, you see evidence of the sinful state of our hearts. Time and time again, God says do this and we do not listen. If we did, our homes, businesses, churches, schools, government and our world would look very different. We think we know more than God, our Creator, and we go our own way. How do you think this is working for us?

IMG_4776When I ask my children to do something and they argue or disobey, it kinda shocks me. We have this loving relationship and usually they listen. The other day when I was asking our youngest to do something, disobedience followed. I took her aside and told her that when I asked her to do or not do something, it was because I had her good in mind. I was not trying to stop her from having fun or just being mean. I reminded her that I loved her and needed her to trust me. Then it hit me, again. We disobey and do not listen to God because we do not trust His love for us. If we did we would live like it.

His Word is full of instruction and beautiful stories of people who lived in obedience. They trusted in God’s power and love. They had faith in the One who has said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). They saw things that we can only imagine. Remember the parting to the Red Sea? Unbelievable! I want to hear all about that day. I want to learn from Moses, who led the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was given a promise, had a bit of a training time with tending sheep for his father-in-law, and actually heard the voice of God in the burning bush. These simple words astonish me. “So Moses thought, I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t this bush burning up? When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ‘Here I am,’ he answered.” (Exodus 3:3-4). I love his response.

The story continues and God gives the assignment of leading to Moses. He has a few questions for God. “Who am I that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). I hear God’s response to this understandable question echo to us even now. “So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you.” (Exodus 3:12). If God was with Moses, will He not be with us now? I know I am leaving much out of the story, but this is what is sticking out to me at the moment, the faith of Moses. He listened to God, even though what God was telling him sounded impossible.

I want to be like him. God may not be asking me to lead thousands of people, but He has entrusted me with 7. I want to read God’s Word and do what He says. I want to take seriously His commands and instructions. When He says, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8), I actually want to do this every minute of my life. When I read, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14), I want to live this way. Words have flown out of my mouth way to carelessly at times. The truth is, they reflected more of my heart than I care to admit. For this there is repentance on my part and forgiveness from God. For this too Christ died.

My encouragement to you today is to actually get in the Word of God for yourself. See how exciting this book is. Your life will be forever changed! Will hard things still come?Yes, we are not Home yet, but you will go through them differently with these life-giving words in you. Start in the book of John if you want and meet Jesus. Read through the Psalms and see if your heart doesn’t know exactly what the writers are talking about. Go to the book of James and gain wonderful instruction. Read in the very first book, Genesis, about how the earth was created. Want a beautiful story of loyalty, redemption and romance? Read the book of Ruth. Need a great adventure? Read the book of Jonah. The Bible is never boring. We have got to get back into scripture if we are to know truth for ourselves. I cannot wait to hear what you are reading and how it impacts your daily life!

Who I Am

We have been in school for several weeks now. To say we have gotten into the groove would be a stretch. However, we are thankful for our schools and the teachers each of the kids have been given. So far it has been a good year. It has been especially fun seeing all the new skills our little kindergartener has been learning. She can hardly wait to do homework each night. This has been a dream for her and she will probably ask for extra. While each child is different in their approach to school, she is one who belongs in the classroom. Bring on the worksheets, textbooks and tests. She will have her No. 2 pencils lined up and sharpened.

IMG_4982One of the booklets she brought home had a title on it that caught my eye. It said, “Who Am I?” She had written her name above the title. While the book was not about her, it is a question she will have to answer. It also reminded me of the movie I just saw called, Overcomer. That was a question asked and one that some of the characters had a hard time answering. Who you are is not the same thing as what job you do, what your marital status is, economic status or what your class rank happens to be. Who you are has so much more to it. It was bought with a price by our Creator and it defines who I am.

At one point if I had been asked the question, my answer would have been a pretty surface one. Those days are long gone and my identity is secure in who God says I am in His Word. Anything else is shakable, changeable and unreliable. If we based our identity on say our wealth and then one day it was gone, who would you be? If you had worked for one company for 20 years in a certain position and then one day you were let go, who would you be? If your church that you were a huge part of suddenly split, who would you be? If your identity came from your outward appearance and then this whole aging thing sets in and this image is not sustainable, who would you be?

This identity thing is a big topic right now in our country. So much confusion and it is heartbreaking. Why is gender such an issue? You were made one or the other. Your birth certificate can clear it up if one starts to question. Beyond that takes a bit more digging. If you grew up in a Bible based church, you have heard plenty of stories about Jesus and have heard about His love for you. Just look at the cross. There is a good starting point. You are loved. Let that one sink in. It might take awhile. Because of our sin, the cross was necessary to pay what we owed to purchase our forgiveness. Jesus did that for each person, no matter how long or little they lived. You are forgiven. All you have to do is believe, confess and receive. Not hard, very simple in fact because children do it all the time.

My prayer for our family and you today comes from a wonderful teaching I heard while in pickup line. “I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) When you can say this is true of you, your identity will no longer be in question.

I Know and Believe

“And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”                          1 John 4:16          

Sometimes pictures reveal more to our hearts than they do to our eyes. I found this to be very true last week, when our oldest smiled over and over again for her senior pictures. I tried to stay out of the way and let our friend do what she does best. When you are not the one behind the camera, you do not know exactly what was captured. I knew from experience that we would be blown away by how well these images turned out. What I did not expect was the picture taken at the end of the day. I was hot and had not planned on being photographed. You do a bit more when the camera is aimed at you. However, I am so thankful for a picture with my girl. She is moving from being a teenager with a parent/child relationship into one of friend. It is an incredible blessing.

IMG_4857After the photo shoot, we hurried home and I met a group of younger moms that come over once a month to talk and pray. If there is anything I try and communicate to them is the importance of being in God’s word. You can not give what you do not have. If you want to give your family Him, be in His word. So much pressure is taken off when it is Him and His wisdom you are living from. We laughed a lot as a group and prayed about hard things. I am so thankful for each of these girls. What a privilege to take what has been learned and share. Mistakes seem to be redeemed when you can warn others not to follow your example. It is also encouraging to see that despite my sin, God works wonders in our children.

Just a few days ago, this oldest child, her dad and I were on our way to a potential college informational meeting. We talked about lots of things and again laughed a lot. Somewhere along the way, she asked how much housekeepers get paid. We told her what we use to pay for our home to be cleaned. Now we do it as a family. Put music on really loud and it becomes not so boring and the time goes by quickly. She thought maybe she could clean a house or two as a job in college. I was shocked at her humility. When I was her age, this would have never crossed my mind because I lived to be served. She has a heart to serve. When we got to the meeting, the admissions guy was talking about the kind of students they are looking for at this particular college. He said they do look at test scores and GPA, but what they were after were students that showed servant leadership. They want kids who know the heart of Jesus and live by His example. This made me smile.

I got a beautiful glimpse of the love of God for us this week. Time and time again I was reminded that God is believable and His love is quite amazing. One look at my husband, our kids or when I listen to the words they say, I am reminded that God loves me. He took a girl who was not very lovable and moved into my heart and has done a mighty work. I pray the work He has done and continues to do, will be passed down from generation to generation. My prayer for our family is, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. And His commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:1-4). May our family be strong in following God’s commands, beautiful servants, known for love and conquering faith as we all continue to grow up in the image of Him.

 

Unwrapped

Jesus said to them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go.” John 11:44

This picture that Jesus paints in John 11 is quite amazing. You will need to read it for yourself, but I will summarize it a bit. A friend of Jesus named Lazarus got very sick and died. He was placed in a tomb and his family and friends were days into mourning this heartbreaking loss. Jesus steps into the scene and before long He is telling the people to move the stone that covered the tomb, thanks His Father for hearing Him and then tells the dead man to come out of the tomb. The stone blocking the exit has been moved, words of thanks spoken from the Son of God, in complete faith, have filled the air and a command has been given. What happens next is a miracle! “The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his faced wrapped in cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go.” (11:44). Can you even imagine witnessing such an impossible resurrection?

IMG_4404I read a teaching from Jill Briscoe the other day where she talked about the grave clothes that Lazarus was wearing. These linen strips and face cloth needed to be taken off of this very much alive man. She said the most interesting thing at the end of her lesson. “Throw away your grave clothes; they are poor dress for a living person!” This got my attention and had me asking the Lord if there were any areas in my life that looked like I was still bound in grave clothes. Then the words “linen strips” stuck out to me from the verse. Linen strips were also used as bandages for wounds. Bandages are necessary for a time as a wound heals, but eventually need to be removed. How many of us have bandages on from 20 years ago?

The Lord does not speak out loud to me, but His Holy Spirit does speak inside of my head and heart. I heard Him say that there were a few bandages I still had wrapped around me. They have been worn for so long that they just seem normal. The wounds have been healed, now unwrap them and live. Bandages are part of the healing process and we are all left with scars. But in my opinion, they do not need to be worn as almost an identification badge. Yes, there is past sin and yes hard things happen to us all, but we are alive! We have been brought from death to life because of Jesus. Forgiveness had a price and it has been paid.

These linen strips can keep us from moving and seeing properly. If we were looking through a piece of linen, images would not be very clear. We would see the fabric first and then what was in front of us. With the linen gone, we can see people in a fresh way and not distorted by our wounds. Life can be quite exciting when this freedom takes place! When we are free from anything that binds us, we can move. We can go to places that we have never been. We can explore. We can run. We can use each step as an act of worship. Think about the difference in our homes with this unbound living approach. We would not throw 10 year old hurts back into our spouses face. We would not remind our children of all the times they have messed up. Think about the freedom this would give them! When we are truly living, everyone we come in contact with gets a glimpse of love. Why would we go through this life any other way?

 

A Stormy Morning

“Greater than the roar of a huge torrent- the mighty breakers of the sea-the Lord on high is majestic.” (Psalm 93:4)

 

Oh, what a morning we had! I will start off by saying that our family has routines in place and they work for us. To get everyone out the door, on time and filled with truth, takes planning. We planned and nothing went according to plan. Scripture went unread around the table, breakfast was uneatable, hair was not cooperating and a storm was coming outside. The storm hit inside first. There were angry words flashing like lightening and chaos like only a good storm can swirl up. A wonderful way to start the day, don’t you think? How can one walk inside of a school, carrying the whirlwind of the morning and expect to learn, much less listen and behave?

IMG_4733As I drove the two lane road to school, the kids counted lighting strikes. Since we hadn’t read, I asked them to tell us stories from the Bible they remembered and our space was filled with the remembrance of truth. Then one prayed for us all. As the storm picked up outside, the storm inside calmed. I told them that when they got home, instead of the punishment they deserved, they would receive grace. I told them how much I loved them and because of this love, grace is what they received. My were they thankful! I dropped off kids that were ready to start their day.

I drove home thankful and reflective. The storm rages even now, but I am safe inside. It made me think of things that come into our lives that are hard. We feel tossed about and unable to find a place of safety. Rest and peace are a mere dream. However, another thought that has been stirring since yesterday came quickly. This picture of fighting back, charging into the battle or storm. Regardless of the conditions and weather, we have this ever present help living inside and outside of us. The maker and allower of the storm has given us the Holy Spirit as our internal helper. God Himself is well aware of us, His child and grace is ours for the taking. His Word awaits all who would open it and find truth to anchor in the midst of chaos. It makes all the difference.

Friend, I do not know your storm, but I do know our God. I am very aware of the enemy, who would love nothing more for you to stay out in the rain, helpless as can be in your own strength. The thing is, regardless of which you choose, the storm is still here. Rain pours, thunder booms and lightening flashes. What will it be? “As for me and my house, we will worship the LORD.” (Joshua 24:5). 

 

Another Lesson

“Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.”  Matthew 5:26

 

I love chapter 5 in the book of Matthew. So much of it contradicts the way of the world today. Jesus  has a way of turning things upside down. He lives a life of forgiveness, unconditional love, sacrifice, servanthood and confidence. He shines a light on our normal, human bent way of selfish living with tenderness, but all the while drawing us to freedom. He invites us to rely on Him to truly live. Some of us have been trying to survive in our own strength, knowledge, possessions and truth. Can I ask how you are doing?

IMG_4298I can ask because I know this way of life. I recognize fellow prisoners because I have been one. Chains are not always visible to the naked eye. Let’s look at the verse I mentioned at the top of the blog. Freedom is not granted until the debt has been paid in full. This made me think of others that we may put into prison and keep them there until they have paid us back. The problem is, not everything can be paid back and therefore prison doors remain locked. However, in reality sometimes it is your heart that is keeping that person or group out. You are the one who is actually locked away. You might have decorated your cell up quite nice and a little light filters in. You might have plenty of visitors and the food is good, but the fact remains that you are not free.

So, what is the payment that is being demanded? Did your spouse leave you and now every man or woman who wants a relationship with you is allowed only so close? Did it start much earlier, say childhood and you were abused in some way? Will fear take you to a lifestyle that says you are not who God made you to be and you go against His design and you pay a price for protection? This requires a fight and gathering of “open minded” people to get this perversion accepted. Are you willing to pay? Were you rejected by the church and now all religious institutes are dead to you and you pay the price of eternal separation from God? Did you fail at a business and now are stuck in a job that is miserable, but it pays the bills, so you stay? Now the world misses what you were gifted to do. What about family? Everyone is so different from you and you just can not find your place, so you stay away. Your friends are safe and accept you after all. Your family pays the price of your absence.

The other day I got a picture of people in prison clothes. The sad thing was it was me who issued the clothes and marched them into their cell. Hurt feelings tend to trigger a feeling of anger and my response is to block them from my heart, but I have never had such a visual picture before. It was up to me as to how long they would stay. I got to decide when the last penny was paid. What could they do to unhurt my feelings? We can go back further and ask the same question. What amount would give back time or mend a broken heart? The answer is nothing can give you time back or un-break a heart. But you know who can? The maker and creator of both hearts and time.

Believe me when I say He is the mender of broken hearts and restores time. No, I cannot go back in time, but those years that have been lost can and are being redeemed. In fact, they have been used to shape me in a very unique way. Yes, there was pain and much I wish did not happen. And to own my part, my choices cannot be changed, but they do not have to be repeated. I do not have to spend another day in a prison as the jailer or the prisoner. Prison life is confining, boring, dangerous, dark, lonely and joyless. You have to produce experiences, feelings, company and excitement to satisfy or distract from reality. With God and the freedom following Him offers, this striving is not necessary.

In fact, take the words in will you? “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts in under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15). This light is bright and brings others in. People are drawn to light and then question where your light comes from. Also, you then can go back and light the way out for other prisoners. For the price has been paid, every last penny. When Jesus died on the cross, all our sin was paid for. Not only ours, but the sins committed against us. Once and for all paid for. Debt cleared. We were bought with the most precious currency, the blood of God’s one and only Son. We cannot pay, but He did.

The door is wide open and freedom awaits. Do you need to release captives or do you yourself need to walk out? Find a “city on a hill” and learn what this upside-down living looks like. It is more amazing than can be described. Not all the time easy, but that kind of life is not promised to anyone. Can you imagine the impact this would have in our families, schools, cities, churches, government, nation and world? What would our economy look like or imagine the things that could be created! Think about how crime would stop, illegal drugs would no longer be peddled, sex-trafficking would be abolished, abortion would be stopped, marriage would be back to its original design as one man and one woman. I doubt the foster care system would be necessary. Schools would be safe and communities would be united. People loving people is a beautiful thing.

While we dream of this as our reality, pick up a copy of the scriptures and read Matthew 5. Read the teachings of Jesus and consider what He is offering. It will hit you as impossible and not “the way things have always been done”, but I pray it draws you in and you consider the alternative. We have tried prison living long enough, don’t you think? Freedom awaits and our world is waiting to see your light. What will you do now that you know?

Learning to Run

“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”                                                             Colossians 3:2

On this last day of summer, we started something new… running. All summer long we have gotten up early and gone on a walk. Sometimes it is just my husband and I and other times kids come too. It has been nice to get out before the Texas heat cranks up and being inside is a much cooler option. We have also been in a long season that has worn us out, so walking has been our speed. Honestly at times, that to seemed too fast, but we walked anyway. But this morning we ran. Now, keep in mind it was with a very kind app that had you walk and run in intervals. Also, you need to know that I am not a runner, never have been.

IMG_4401What hit me this morning is how often I wanted to quit. One time we were running up a bit of a hill and it was getting hot. We made it to the top, turned around and ran down with the best breeze cooling us off. The hill was worth it and I was thankful. It also helped to have someone, who has been a runner, by my side cheering me on and setting a good pace. We all need people like this beside us. Something else that I found helpful was playing scripture verses through my mind when I wanted to walk instead of run. My favorite one was, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). This will be a verse I am pretty certain I will be saying a lot this school year. Perseverance is a big deal when it comes to planting, tending, waiting and finally reaping when it comes to parenting. It requires a lot of setting your mind on things above and what matters in God’s Kingdom, not what is common.

We have spent the summer planting and tending, but mostly waiting. I will not give up, but will instead run with my God. Because it is He who is ultimately living inside me encouraging, correcting and all the while loving me towards home. Paul tells us, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). What that means as a Christian is the empowering of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us, working from the inside out. I do not have to depend on my own strength, but His. What comes from this “in step with the Spirit” living is fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22). When I walk or run on my own, the result is more likely to result in fear, anger, pride and impatience. You do not want me as your running buddy if this is the fruit I am bearing, trust me.

Something else that happened on our walk/run this morning that was encouraging as a wife. As we came close to the last running interval, my husband said he was sprinting ahead. I told him to go ahead and kept my slower pace. It occurred to me how thankful I am to have a husband that takes the lead spiritually. I like having him a bit ahead of me in this race. He loves the Lord with his whole heart and has surrendered his life to Him. He has his eyes fixed on the Lord and desires to bring Him glory, not himself. He is a man who lives by faith. My prayer for him is, “just like Abraham who believed God, and it was  credited to him for righteousness…those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.” (Galatians 3:6-9). I ask that the Lord bless him in all that he does, above and beyond what he could ever imagine.

As we race into this school year, I will pray for each of our kids too. I pray that they will live with this mindset,  “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). With the Holy Spirit living inside of my kids, I pray they bear much fruit at school. I pray their teachers can count on them to be kind, joyful, patient, gentle and self-controlled. I pray they love their classmates well and serve them expecting nothing in return. I pray they look for the ones on the outside and invite them in. May they know where their help comes from and not give up. I will be praying for them often as they are “running” at school. No, this way is not easy or normal, but neither was the life of Christ.

You know what is interesting? Our oldest son, who is a runner, has been training early each morning with his cross country team. Last week he was sick and did not run his best. Today he is well and shaved 5 minutes off his 5 mile time. When we are healthy spiritually, running comes easier too don’t you think? So, let’s press on towards home, running in step with the Spirit and empowered by Him and not our own strength. I have a feeling that it is going to be a good year!

*Picture was taken in the mountains of NC a few weeks ago on a morning walk.