“Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.” Psalm 21:19
One can never read a Psalm and not find encouragement. We could all use some of that right about now. This particular verse summed up my prayers for our world. So much darkness, evil flashing on every screen. Unrest is apparent on so many faces we pass as we go about our day. What would you have us do, Lord? What do you want us to know?
I will echo back to you these words. In times of weakness, be our strength. As leaders and citizens grow weary, give your strength. Will you exalt yourself for every eye to see? You are powerful and worthy of continual praise! You see every human that you have made, read every mind and know each one of our hearts. Location makes no difference to you, that joins us under the cover of your sight. For nothing escapes your notice. What peace that brings! And we will continue to trust in you our Lord.
“Teach me, LORD, the meaning of your statues, and I will always keep them. Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.” Psalm 119:33-34
Here we are celebrating another birthday. This time it is our sweet fourteen year old daughter. She is kind, loyal, honest, compassionate, funny and authentic. She has this confidence that surfaced at an early age and has never left. Friendships are a top priority and drama is a waste of time. She loves well and navigates middle school with strength and calmness. She finds her hair to be a challenge, but does not let that keep her down. She knows this too will pass. Her reflection is one of a girl well loved and that is absolutely stunning. The biggest weight she carries is her backpack, but all else she takes in stride. She laughs easy and dances often, carefree is her style. She enjoys learning about Jesus and studies to become more like Him. And I think she looks a bit more like Him everyday.
“And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.” Galatians 4:6-7
The other day some women and I gathered around to discuss this forth chapter of Galatians. The identity piece is what stood out to me the most, this daily lived out relationship God longs to have with us. It is the core of the truth we believe about ourselves and invades every part of our lives. We daily bear evidence of our identity – a slave or child? It is actually possible to cover this mindset that we are still slaves after our adoption, trust me I use to do it. You see, words mean nothing if our mindset and actions say otherwise, because eventually it all sorta caves in and you cannot continue to keep up the charade. Our Father seems to not want us to believe a lie about the cost of the life and death of Jesus, which made our adoption possible. What love He has for us and is so kind during the uncovering process!
As we talked, I wanted to contrast these two opposing mindsets as a way to bring this out into the light. A slave lives in fear, separation, has to earn everything you have making works top priority, punishment and pain are expected, would not think of asking for grace, no sense of belonging so that too must be found. A child has a heart full of peace, rests in their Father’s love, belongs, does not think twice about asking their Father for what they need, is at home and receives everything as a gift. See the difference? We closed our time asking our Father to reveal any traces of this slavery mindset that remain. A beautiful way to live, wouldn’t you say?
“Instruct the wise, and he will be wiser still; teach the righteous, and he will learn more.” Proverbs 9:9
Eighteen years ago you arrived and I have been admiring you ever since. Your perseverance in all things speaks of your character and your kindness to others reveals your heart. Hard work is just something you do, no need to be reminded. You can make us all laugh and have brought so much joy to our family. Humility is something I have heard you pray for often and the Lord has answered your prayers, it is evident. Perfection is not the standard here, relationships around the table hold far too much value. You are investing well and this too makes me smile. Every kid needs a big brother like you.
So today on your eighteenth birthday, I want you to know how grateful I am to be your mom. I love you unconditionally and pray you remain teachable all your days. May you be known for wisdom and righteousness all your days as you walk closely with the One who made you.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” John 15:9
Last night was the daddy-daughter date night at our elementary school. Our youngest struggled to find what she wanted to wear and then didn’t want my help in getting ready. I thought adding a little extra curl or sparkle would be fun. To her, it communicated that she was not pretty enough as she was; words actually spoken in response to my suggestion. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, this exchange gave more evidence for the role love plays in a child’s level of confidence. She has no reason or desire to impress, simply wants to be herself. Whatever the event, she arrives loved and ready to enjoy others. She is free to participate or observe, nothing waits for approval. Perhaps this is not taught, but lived day in and day out. Living loved by our Father, remaining in His love, and then extending this love to others, especially our children. Maybe it is when we step out of this love cycle that we begin to self-protect and self-promote to hide our true need, to be loved.
“Then the king asked me, ‘What is your request?” Nehemiah 2:4
The book of Nehemiah has been one of my favorites for some time now. This verse made me pause today, wondering what I would request if the king asked. It also brought to mind the scene in Mark, where Jesus asks the blind man what he wanted him to do. Both seem like moments where one would have a hard time breathing, making it hard to answer the question. Could you even concentrate? Just to be in the presence of a king, much less the King would be overwhelming. Knowing their response would change us forever.
What I notice about Nehemiah and this blind man is they both ask for what will bring restoration. One wants time away, letters for safe passage, and supplies to restore his beloved Jerusalem. The other asks for his sight to be restored. Both requests are answered with yes. Amazing isn’t it? So, what would you ask the King for? What needs to be restored in your life today? May we find favor in His sight and may He be merciful to His children today as we present our request.
Yesterday I watched and listened as my husband spoke on parenting. I could have sat in my seat all night and let the big game pass on by. Nothing on tv compared to what I was witnessing. Generations could be and will be affected because of this man’s faithfulness to God, me, our children, and the parents that sat in the class. His relationship with our Heavenly Father is evident in all he does and was apparent in every word he spoke. Grace is almost tangible when he speaks and it is humbling. He loves so well.
So, on this Valentine’s Day, I had to say that my view of love has been greatly impacted by this man. Words similar to Job from scripture come to mind; I had heard about love, but now I have truly experienced it and appreciate the blessing even more.
I heard one of our favorite bands talking about an acoustic performance. One of the members commented on how it’s different because they are stripped down and there is nothing to hide behind. It is just each person, playing their instrument or using their voice, with nothing added. My first thought was what a way to live an authentic, true to your identity, free life!
I can say that these last few years have sure stripped me and there is nothing left to hide behind. And if I am being honest, I do not think I would have called it hiding, it is just what I knew. God, in His amazing grace has done this slow and tender work in my heart, and opened my eyes to the things I added to appear worthy and enough. Why? Maybe because the enemy is very good at deceiving all of us into believing our acoustic version, our true sound, will be unloved. What an absolute lie! Is the death of Jesus on the cross that forgettable? Of course not, but sometimes we all need to be reminded. He loves us that much to use whatever it takes to bring His likeness out in us. Our acoustic sound must be beautiful to His ears don’t you think?
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
We were reminded in church today that people watch us, maybe especially so when they learn we follow Christ. I again wondered what people see? For me I can say that there were plenty of years I did not live transformed. The truth that, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ in me”, had yet to work its way fully through my mind and heart. One of the ugliest things that remained was my lack of love for myself and others. Fear, insecurity and a false identity make a heart of stone tough to break. Until slowly it began to happen as I got to know love Himself, my heart was changed from stone to flesh. The false things were brought into the light, held up to Him and taken away. Exposed as lies because Love will always tell you the truth. Then as if able to see in color for the first time, you see yourself and the hearts of those around you and your heart breaks again. For many of our brothers and sisters have been hurt by our judgement, words, bits and pieces of scripture thrown in their face, doors slammed, no longer welcomed at the table. It’s as if lines have been drawn, teams picked and camps formed within the body of Christ. The only ones welcomed, loved even, are the ones that agree. So join me as I remind myself, it is love for one another that will prove to this dark world to whom we belong. For a body that fights against itself proves nothing but disease, and we are in desperate need for health.
When we read the Bible, from the first word to the last, we are being invited into an eternal kingdom story. God begins by inviting us into His creation, we being the created one, and then He tells us not to separate from Him. He pursues us with unfailing love on every page whether we recognize it or not. Some pages are filled with tragedy, many we see ourselves as the main character, separating and going our own way. Others are marked with hope and instruction to turn back, beautiful words to guide us in daily life and relationship. All words of love.
As we read the scriptures, we do so in thanksgiving for those that have lived before us. For when we take time to enter into someone elses story, we are invited to become more compassionate, understanding, forgiving, honest, loving, more like Christ whose image we bear. The fingers pointed in blame fold in prayer, asking our Creator to be merciful for judgment that comes quick these days. Perhaps critical people are fearful people and we have no reason to fear, for we are His beloved. And then we remember that His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness to His created.