I Can Only Imagine

On date night, Damon and I went to see the movie I Can Only Imagine. It was a powerful movie and one I highly recommend. The story is a bit hard to watch at times and honestly hit on some things that were painful for me. However, the overall theme for me was redemption. You see someone go from one extreme to the other and a father-son relationship restored. It gave me hope that change is possible for us all.

The other part that greatly encouraged me was the forgiveness given. Sometimes certain situations just don’t seem possible to forgive. If someone cuts you off in traffic, no big deal. Thats easy to forgive and move on. However, if someone has stolen something or hurt you, especially if you were a child, now that is another level. What about words spoken over you? Are we able to forgive those too? If I started rattling off the words that have come my way, you would be amazed. We aren’t going there and when they have come to mind, I want to forgive the persons who spoke them. I’m not sure the good it would do for me to hang on to them anyways. Some have taken longer and if there is truth in them, well that needs to be dealt with too. And make no mistake, I’ve done plenty of damage with my words as well. That too needs forgiveness.

What I saw in this movie gave me hope. We are still here on this spinning world with work to do. Maybe we need to have a relationship restored and its us that needs to make the first move. Perhaps we need to ask for forgiveness for actions or words. Other times, it wasn’t us that were wrong and restoration isn’t possible. Know what? God knows that situation too. Take it to him. Pour out your heart – He can take it. He’s the one who created your heart. If you want to keep carrying around all of this, it will and is costing you greatly. The choice is up to you. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

Start today and spend time talking with the Lord. Ask Him to search that heart of yours and see what needs to be dealt with. What are you waiting for?

Love

It happened again this morning, old and familiar became new. How many times have we read over the verses in Luke 7, where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman? I have loved this story and wondered about this lady. What courage and desperation she must have had to walk into someone else’s home. A Pharisee’s home none the less, uninvited. The scripture states that she was a woman who lived a sinful life, but her reputation didn’t seem to matter at the moment. She ends up pouring perfume on the feet of Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair and her tears. Just picturing this scene usually brings tears to my eyes. Today it was the last part that brought my tears. Jesus says in verse 47, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Isn’t that simple truth amazing?

When your eyes are opened to your sin and your need of forgiveness, it changes you. This woman, I bet when she was a little girl, she didn’t dream of living a life of sin. I know I sure didn’t. Jesus sees this woman’s heart and says, “her sins have been forgiven”. Do you know what this feels like and the freedom that follows? There is nothing like it. This freedom also sets you free to love others. You know how deep your sins are, but that God’s love for you runs far deeper. You are free to spend your love on others and never worry about running out.

With this kind of love you look at people different. Sometimes you see such bondage and other times pain, but lots of times there is joy. There isn’t a need to look down on others or judge their sin. Do I still do it, yes, and it hurts my heart. I have been forgiven much and want to love even more. My words shouldn’t be spent bashing someone and their choices, views, opinions and where they stand on certain issues. How about I pray for them instead and let the Lord judge their heart? If I’m asked my views, I will always be truthful and stand up for truth, but condemnation isn’t my job.

This woman in the story got it right. She heard about Jesus and didn’t seem to waste much time getting to his feet. I see her heart in the perfume and tears. She left changed and so do we.

A Question

Sometimes stories from the Bible become so familiar that I end up reading them the same and don’t expect to see anything new. I guess that can carry over to so many areas in our lives too. It’s something to guard against that is for sure.

Yesterday morning was like any other morning. I was headed somewhere specific in my Bible and ended up stopping in the book of Mark. My eyes fell on the verses in chapter 10 where blind Bartimaeus receives his sight. I began reading, but the story became new to me. The first thing that stood out was the boldness in this mans desperation. I’m not sure how long Bartimaeus had been blind, but he knew for certain who Jesus was and the power he had. He begged, “Jesus, of David, have mercy on me”! The people around him tried to get him to be quiet, but “”he cried out all the more”! Jesus heard him. Bartimaeus could not see the moment Jesus stopped and asked someone to call him over. However, when he heard the news, he threw his cloak off, jumped up and went to Jesus. He didn’t hesitate, even though he could not see. Jesus asks him a simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?”. This stopped me again. What if Jesus was physically walking by me, stopped and asked me the same question? How would I respond? How would you respond? I could not get my journal and pen out fast enough! The responses flew out of my heart! It was different than my normal prayer requests. I felt like my spiritual eyes had been opened up just a bit more by the time I was finished writing. This mans boldness, lack of hesitation, faith, need for mercy and the fact that he would not be silenced, amazed me. May this be true of me too after reading this anew.

After our day was winding down and we sat around our table, I told my family about my morning time. We began to share what we would ask Jesus if we were given the chance like Bartimaeus. I loved hearing the kids answers! One said they would ask for boldness. One said they would want to be incredibly fast. One would ask for amazing baking skills. And another said they would ask to fight battles. The answers continued and I caught a glimpse into their hearts.

The truth is, we don’t have to sit and wait to talk to Jesus. We are free to talk with him anytime we want. We can ask anything, trusting him to be faithful and good. This mans life was forever changed by what he asked of Jesus. Yours could be too…

Words

Good Morning! I hope you rested well and are looking forward to today. You just never know what or who the Lord will put in your path on any given day. So, we shall see what the day holds. Before Viv and I head out to run some errands, I wanted to tell you a story of something that I just remembered. Again, it happened around our table.

We were wrapping up dinner and one child slipped quietly out of their seat and came to my side. There was something to say, but it wasn’t for all to hear. A little back story is this particular child had been bullied for an entire semester. The boy doing the bullying was he himself being bullied by his father. Scripture is pretty clear on how we are to treat our children and the consequences that come, so I’ll leave that there. Anyway, this child quietly says to me, “You know how Evan* says really mean and ugly things to me?”. My response was yes. He then goes on to say, “His words come in and they go into my heart, but they can’t stay because my heart is full of love.” Did you hear that truth? When our hearts are full of God’s love, the words and actions of others cannot find a place to root down in our hearts! Oh they sure do hurt, but they do not have to remain. It is our choice, it is always our choice.

My most favorite verse lately is “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19. So much of this truth was spelled out to me in a recent teaching by Beth Moore. Let His love of you first sink deep and fill your heart. What will come out will amaze you!! Watch how your thoughts, words to others, actions and even social media posts change.

This is something I know to be true and I know this because I have watched it lived out. ¬†Just spend time with someone who genuinely knows they are secure in God’s love for them. Listen to their words. Look in their eyes and notice the spark. I love being around these kind of people!! Honestly, I had always wanted to be one of these people, but that truth was not rooted down in me most of my life. Friend, it is now and will not be pulled up.

*the boys name has been changed

Figuring It Out

It’s been a restful Sunday. We worshiped, ate at our favorite restaurant (Uncle Julio’s) and ran a few errands. Most of the kids are occupied with chores, basketball, playing outside and one is protesting in timeout. The oldest has her head bent over an embroidery project and it makes me smile. I’m also listening to a very detailed weather forecast, given by my dishwasher unloader. Just a glimpse into our home life today.

If you were to ask me if I ever dreamed this would be my everyday life, I would answer honestly with a “no”. Would I have thought I would leave North Carolina and move to Texas, marry a man that has a heart of a true servant and have 7 children, who are so different from one another that it makes my mind spin – again “no”. However, because the Lord had this all planned out before time began, here I am. Is it easy having a big family? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. What I would say has been the hardest is not knowing how to be a mom. I had ideas and a picture in my head of what it would look like, but how to actually carry this out, now that is a different story. At first, I parented from a place where behavior and appearance were high priorities. That was a disaster and I am so thankful. I can’t find anywhere in scripture where this is modeled, expect by the Pharisees. I have absolutely no desire for them to be my role models! So, the search contined and the Lord placed incredible women in my life to show me how to “Train up a child in the way he should go….” Proverbs 22:6.

With amazing examples, praying a lot, reading my Bible and being invested in different Bible study groups over the years, the Lord is leading me in this parenting adventure. Plenty of times I mess up and have to ask my kids for forgiveness. Sometimes fear comes flying in and I want to gather them all up and never leave our house. Other times, I want to pull them all out of public school and run to a Christian school. Each time, the Lord is kind and patient and I keep trusting Him to guide our family. He loves each one of us so much and I am trusting in that love.

If you are anything like me and need some encouragement, I would love to offer you what I have found helpful. Get a good Bible thats translation is easy for you to understand. Sometimes study Bibles have great notes to explain verses or give background to the time period it was written in. My current favorite is the She Reads Truth, CSB Bible. It has great devotions woven throughout too. Grab a journal to write down scripture you want to remember, prayers and anything else that you find helpful. Find a quiet place and time where you can read and pray. For me and I do not say this in a boastful way, just what I have found works for me, I get up early. I pour a cup of coffee and slip into my favorite chair. My time goes quickly and it seems like I always want more. I just don’t see how I can serve my family and pour out into them until I have been poured into. My heart is changed during my morning times. One writer wrote something along the lines of putting Christ on the throne of your heart and removing yourself. When He is in His place, I am in mine. It changes everything.

It’s time to start dinner, but I have more to say on this….

A Remarkable Act

Hello! The rain has finally stopped and the sun is out. The kids are outside playing, Damon is doing yard work and I know what’s for dinner. I have a minute and thought I would tell you one of my favorite stories that happened awhile ago around our table. We have lots of routines in place and one is reading and praying after dinner. We read scripture and a devotion, choose a Christmas card that has been sent to us over the years and we pray for that family and most recently, have added praying for precious women in prison that send requests to a friend. It is one of the highlights of the day. On this one particular day, we began our reading and Eli was just having a hard time listening. He quickly became a huge distraction and after being warned, was asked to head on to dad’s office to await punishment. I remember that waiting feeling. Dread sets in and you just want to get it over with. Anyways, the rest of us continued on and Paxton got up and started to walk towards the office. I asked what he was doing and he said “I’ll take his place”!! What? Taking his place was probably going to mean something pretty unpleasant. He knew that, but still willingly volunteered. We let him continue walking on and the remaining kids went crazy around the table!! Comments like, “That’s just what Jesus did for us!” and “No way!” were being shouted. My eyes quickly filled with tears and knew no punishment was going to happen now. What a remarkable act of love and self sacrifice. He has done this several times since and it gets me every time.

I don’t remember a time that I ever took someones punishment. Growing up, I was way more concerned about myself and would have never wanted additional consequences, especially if I didn’t deserve them. He was just 7 years old at the time, but already had such a grasp on the gospel. His simple, childlike faith is such an example to our family. The gospel he understands and believes wholeheartedly really isn’t complicated. We were created by God and made for a relationship with Him. Sin entered the world with Adam and Eve and separated us from God. In order for our relationship to be restored, a sacrifice had to be made. That sacrifice was God’s own son, Jesus. He willingly and in total obedience, died on a cross to pay for our sin. He ¬†took our place. This was the only way. However, the best news is Jesus didn’t stay dead. Oh no, our powerful and loving God, put life back into His Son and he came out of that grave. This doesn’t sound believable does it? However, doesn’t something in your heart want it to be true? Can you imagine feeling free and clean? No more striving, trying to be good enough. All our efforts just fall short and you end up feeling lost. Only accepting this gift for our willful sin and believing Jesus is the Son of God who is alive and well, covers what we can not. Believing and accepting this changes your eternity, but it also changes the now. When you really let the truth of how much God first loved you and continues to do so, it changes everything. Trust me!