An Important Medal

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power                                                 and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Years after my grandfather died the medals he earned in the military were given to each of us grandchildren. This was very special and something I treasure. Having something of value matters when someone is no longer on earth. A tangible object is a wonderful reminder of an impactful person. My medal has a rather unique inscription. It reads, “Free From Fear and Want”. I wonder what he must have done to earn such an award? Sometimes I would like to pin it to my coat as a reminder to myself that I am free of fear too.

IMG_7285If there is anything that I have lived with for most of my life, it would be fear. It seems to have been imbedded in my DNA. I remember being so afraid as a child and it never seemed to stop as I got older. In fact, it is something that I am so much against as a parent that I do not allow frightful things in our home. We do not even watch scary movies. I find nothing funny about deliberately frightening someone. We never turn away a child that has a bad dream in the night either. A little less sleep is worth a child feeling safe. This chain of fear has been broken.

We read in scripture, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. Be he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). This verse helps shape my words a bit better on how I feel about fear and what seems to be the opposite, love. And while my love by itself is not perfect, the love Christ has placed inside of me by His Holy Spirit is perfect. This is the love I want poured out in our home and anywhere else we go. What a difference that would make! Watching how our kids are growing so quickly reminds to not waste opportunities to give love away here at home. I choose love over fear.

Today in Bible study we read from Acts 18. The Lord spoke some powerful words to Paul and I let them sink deep into my own heart. He said, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you…”(Acts 18:9-10). The constant reminder that the Lord is always with us and living inside of us gives me great confidence. Not in myself, but in my God. This is the place I want our children to grow confident in. Fear will flee when you remember who you are and whose you are. And in the remembering I can picture a beautiful medal pinned to my coat. One that I did not earn, but Jesus Christ gave His life for me to have. Because His perfect love has the power to cast out all my fears. It seems to be that this has been satan’s plan all along. Maybe he thought if he could keep me fearful, then maybe I would be quiet. The opposite has indeed happened. This ingrained fear drove me straight into my Heavenly Father’s arms. And now I can recognize a fearful person in a second and I long to offer them the gift of His love. This invitation is for you to, friends. The choice is up to you. Freedom awaits.

*Go listen to Zach Williams, Fear is a Liar, if you need some encouragement:)

*Medal is from World War II. I addressed the fear part and will dive into the want piece soon. Been set free from that too!

A Good Race

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you                                     from obeying the truth?”  – Galatians 5:7  

A few days ago our oldest daughter said she was running in a 5K and asked me to run with her. She said she needed a running partner. While I really tried to be a runner, I have settled for fast walker instead. However, inspired by her asking and an amazing friend just completing a 50 mile race, I thought 3 miles should be doable. It was a really cold night, so be bundled up, got numbers pinned to our backs and off we went. We had been told the course and that signs would mark our way. It was a beautiful night and started of fairly easy. After a bit it was getting tougher. With my girl offering encouraging words and a few minute walk, we kept going.

IMG_7186She shared her AirPods with me so we each had praise music going through our ears. By sharing we were able to listen to the same music. It helped us keep the same pace. At one point, a song about being with our Heavenly Father was playing and I was getting tired again. The man in charge of the race came up beside us. I told him I did not feel very light on my feet when I ran. He never stopped running, but gave me a few tips. These few adjustments changed everything. He stayed beside us and then when we went through a dimly lit area, he moved ahead of us. There was so much that resembled life as a Christian that I could hardly stand it.

Being asked to come along someone is such an honor. Our children ask all the time when they are younger for us to be close. They want you to read, play, see and hear them. If you do not take the time, they will eventually find someone who will as they get older. I have found as the kids get older that we as parents have to be the one asking more since their lives expand outside the walls of our home. One thing I love is that my husband and our oldest have a standing breakfast date every Thursday morning. This thrills me to no end! He will do the same with the other 6 children. They never outgrow wanting to be valued, worthy of their time by their parents, in my opinion. Keep pursuing your kids.

Another resemblance was the music. When words of truth are being heard, received and obeyed, unity comes. The “keeping in step” piece is also in place. There was also the correction. I was not running properly. My steps felt hard as they landed and took extra effort. I listened to someone who knew what they were talking about, corrected my thinking and immediately my steps were adjusted. The race seemed to end too soon and I wanted to keep running. However, a dinner was planned to celebrate and then we ran to our car. What a difference correction can make and how fun it is to celebrate.

A few days before our run, I stumbled upon the verse at the top. “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). What a powerful question, don’t you think? We can look at Christians who start strong, read the Word of God and obey truth, but when things get hard, they stop running and maybe stop talking to God all together. Maybe it was a camp experience and the week away was good, but the reality of home cut in. Perhaps it was a broken heart that cut in, and instead of drawing even closer to the Lord, you somehow blamed Him. Regardless of the who, what, where that cut in, you have left an unfinished race. The time is still ticking and others runners are missing you on the trail. Do you not realize that He has a feast (Revelation 19:7) prepared for those who run home?

I do not know where you are in this story. I pray you are running the race well. I pray that you allow nothing to cut in on you and you press on in truth. There is so much shouting these days and anger abounds. Fear can easily set in and sideline you for the rest of your days. Selfishness can keep you so wrapped up in your own race that you miss the others runners. What a sad opportunity to encourage others. I am thankful for the day with our daughter. It was a gift in so many ways. Don’t miss your race friends.

 

An Age Old Question

“If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” Luke 23:37

We read this verse in church this morning and it hit me like it was brand new. This question was mockingly thrown at Jesus while He hung on the cross for our sins. His authority was in question, but He did not spend the strength to answer. Maybe we should do the same. Does every comment really need a response? When you know who you are, you do not have to defend yourself to everyone that questions you. Some fights are not worth fighting because if a person has a hard heart, nothing you say will make a difference. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words and your response.

IMG_6970The other part that stuck out to me was the demand to “save yourself”. How many times have we heard something similar? This burden is placed on our shoulders and it is up to us to save ourselves. The thing is we cannot save ourselves. We cannot pay the price of sin and no amount of trying will cover our debt. The very thing Jesus was mocked for is the only way to be saved. What kind of King is He that saves sinners like us? King Jesus, the Son of God who longs to have you accept His life in place of yours.

I know it goes totally against our culture today. We are shouted out to make our own way.  Stand up for yourself. Do not go the way of the humble, but rather make a name for yourself. The past two mornings I have been reminded of this verse, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). I would rather walk with my God and make His name famous. I know who He is, my King and all authority has been given to Him. I trust His power and therefore can remain humble.

Maybe you have heard the term, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or maybe that is just a Texas thing. Yes, do your part, but I think it is beautiful to ask the Lord for help. Sometimes He is loud and clear and the path levels quickly. Other times the path feels more like an underground tunnel, but you trust the One who is leading you. I love this verse, “When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8). For me it has been a very long season of being in the dark. However, the Lord is my light and I trust. I do not feel the need to kick and scream my way out, because my noise would only hinder my hearing Him. Instead I do what He has before me today. This time of darkness has grown my roots, so to speak, deep in His love and I am actually very thankful. A weak root system is very unhealthy, especially in a storm.

I once asked an amazing artist and author about her work. She said that people only see the results, but not the 10 years of her hidden work. That has long stuck with me and helped encourage me to keep trusting and depending on the One who knows me full well. He knows the plans written for me before I was born and His love for me is sure. The cross tells me this is so. And if He chose to die on the cross for all the world, then I will spend my days making Him known. I may be in the dark, but that never changes who He is. In fact, I would say He is even brighter to me here. And anytime you want to come sit with me here in this space, I will point you to His light.

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

He Stays Awake

“…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:8

 

As the kids get older, their schedules change. Their days get a bit longer and they stay out later. The season of early bedtimes are gone and therefore requires us to change our patterns. I have tried and cannot seem to become a night owl. Thankfully, I happened to have married a man who can get up early and stay up late. When one of the kids stays out past my bedtime, he remains awake. He waits for them to come home at the agreed upon time. He meets them at the door to make sure the lights are on and to hear how their outing went. If it isn’t too late, they will make a beeline to our room and I get to hear a rundown of the night as my eyes are usually closing. I like that and know it will be one of the million little things I miss as they each leave.

IMG_4944I was thinking about this the other day and what a picture it is of God. How He is always awake, ever watching over us and it brought such peace. The example I see each and everyday of the loving father these kids have, floods my heart with gratitude. He waits up because he loves them. He asks questions, listens, helps, is available, goes out of his way to show them they are loved, wants to spend time with them and it is remarkable. I am in no way putting him on a high place and idolizing him, for that throne is reserved for God and God alone. No person belongs there, for they will fail. However, I am saying that this shows our kids a glimpse of their Heavenly Father.

When I think on the living God watching over me because He is never asleep or distracted, it reminds me that I am loved. It reminds me that He has my life fully under His control and I can rest. I can trust Him to always be available and His help is perfect for my need. Sometimes it feels like He has fallen asleep because I do not see anything changing, but that is not the truth. Funny how feelings and truth can get tangled up in my heart. When that happens, my thoughts and words follow suit and it is a mess. Even still, He waits with the light of His Word shining bright and welcomes me home into His presence. How can I not love Him?

As the kids continue to grow up, I pray they remember, not only does their earthly father love them no matter what, but that their Heavenly Father will never stop loving them either. The teacher of the class I took last week really drove that truth home too. One look at the Bible in its entirety takes that option of God ending His love for us off the table. I am so thankful and goodness, this sure makes me love Him even more. And as far as parenting goes, I have found this to be a wonderful truth as well. Kids respond so well to unconditional love.

 

*Picture was taken years ago on Father’s Day. I think we need to do this again!

Too Much

“…and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19

 

I have spent the past three days increasing my knowledge of the Bible. Our church has a great partnership with a local seminary and they host classes at our church. It was a class that walked through the entire Bible, presenting the grand story of our God. What I can tell you after this class is I love God now more than I did before it started. It was remarkable to see His His love on display. It was also a prayer I have been praying for awhile now that my love for Him increases and my heart has expanded in love for Him.

IMG_7029It reminded me of when I met my husband and getting to know each other was so exciting. We could not spend enough time together and living in different states made that a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, that distance gap closed when I got a job here and moved. Looking back at that move still shocks me. I lived alone for the first time ever, in a new city and with only knowing a few people. Funny how this city is now our home and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. It also amazes me the courage that came with knowing this was part of God’s plan for me. I should not have even gotten the job, but I did. Now over 20 years later, looking back I am so thankful for His plan for me. I cannot deny His love, even in hard things. I also still love getting to know my husband too. He is easy to love.

Back to my class experience. One of the sweetest things happened even before the class began. I was about to walk in and I saw one of our pastors. Years ago I had emailed him because I was troubled with a few things in our church. He responded kindly, but my heart was arrogant. I later apologized in an email and sent encouragement a time or two, but there is something good about a face to face apology. I told him my name and what I had done. He looked at me and said some amazing words. He said he didn’t remember, but that in every criticism there is some truth. He told me it was forgotten and forgiven and to never mention it again. If I reminded him then he would remember and we weren’t doing that. A load lifted from my shoulders that I did not know was there. Forgiveness is a good thing to receive and to give.

I had only taken a few steps away from this conversation when I heard my name. A friend was there and then another one joined us. We were all so excited to learn and quickly found a seat. Even where we sat was a gift because I met some precious people. There was also one lady that sat behind me that would say softly some amazing words at times when the teacher was talking. I quoted her in the margin of my Bible because it impacted my heart. For three days I honestly felt saturated in love.

So how do we respond to love? You live loved in your everyday. You share the Good News, you pray for others, you smile, you offer help, you give your time, you encourage, you laugh, you spend time getting to know God and His Word. I pray we live loved well this week! And GO CHIEFS!!

*This picture was taken a few days ago at the rodeo. It also perfectly mirrors how I felt the past three days.