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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reminder

“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust him and not be afraid, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”        Isaiah 12:2

Months ago I started noticing pennies. They seemed to be everywhere I went. They would show up in random places or right in my path as I ran errands. I started picking them up and now have quite a collection. If I am wearing something that has a pocket, I make sure to carry one along. This might seem odd, but hear my reasoning. It serves as a reminder because of the words inscribed on each coin – “In God We Trust”. Each penny is a physical reminder of where to place my trust. At times my eyes, heart and mind can forget with all I see. Do you do the same?

IMG_4529With a new school year right around the corner, I will have plenty of opportunities to worry if I so choose. I will try and place my trust in myself and what I think I can control. What if the kids do not have friends? What if there is a car accident? What if college plans fail? What if….? With each “what if” I will say it is God whom I trust. He will give me strength on the days when I am tired. He will keep me quiet and calm when nothing around remotely comes close to these beautiful words if I allow Him too. I will remember this verse as I go about my day. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12). I do love the Lord with all my heart and I know He loves me and therefore I can rest. His love does not depend on my performance or lack of. On the days that I fail, His love does not change. When I forget He is trustworthy, He loves me still. Nothing is more secure than His love. I find rest in His love.

Last year I bought each of the kids a bracelet that had one word of encouragement on it. My husband wore one to serve as reminder to pray for our kids during the day. I wanted something visible to remind them that they belong and are loved. The bracelets wore out, but the belonging and love never will. This year I will be placing a penny in each of their backpacks, all 7 of them. Each time they reach in and their fingers brush over the penny, I pray they remember where to place their trust. If their day is good, trust God. If their day is horrible, trust God. And all the in between days, trust God.

Scripture says this of our trustworthy God, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalms 84:11). God will light each of our children’s path and shield them from anything that will not result in their good or His glory. Sometimes this can be a bit hard to comprehend because we cannot see all He does. Trust Him anyway when nothing makes sense. He will not keep any good thing from His children. Again, we cannot always see the whole picture. Just think about all the good things we have asked for, but a little further down the road we are so thankful we were not given what we asked. There has been plenty of things I have asked for from God and He has not given. I trust that He knows what He is doing and that He loves me. He has my good and His glory in mind.

One of our children has learned a wonderful lesson in trust this summer. As parents, we have a different view than our kids. Faith changes you and the love of the Father brings a security like nothing else can. Because we know whom to ask for wisdom, He helps us guide our kids. This particular child was pretty adamant about what he would not participate in at school. Knowing what we know and feeling strongly about this decision, we guided our child to join a team. Turns out he loves it. Would he have chosen this on his own? No, but is now glad we did. He is actually shining now and we are so thankful! I will apply this to myself and trust my Heavenly Father’s leading. He might lead in a way that I do not like or see as good, but He knows best. I have seen Him do this time and time again, and each time, while sometimes painful, I would not change His plans. He is so worthy of our trust and the cross is the ultimate expression of how much He loves us. God, who sent His only Son to die for all the times we have chosen not to trust Him and sin, died anyway for each of us. Knowing all He knows about us, I would say this is trustworthy love. Where are you placing your trust today?

 

*As I type this one child is singing, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. The Lord your God is with you.” Praise God! He understands where he is to place his trust.

Mercy and Grace

“And when he saw him, he had compassion on him. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine…” Luke 10:33-34

The story of “The Good Samaritan” is known to many. Jesus had been with the 70 appointed to go out in pairs to the cities He would be visiting. The disciples were also a part of this gathering. A question is raised and the conversation goes back in forth before the story is actually told.  Scripture says that the man with questions was “wanting to justify himself” (Luke 10:29). Funny how our sinful hearts can cause us to stand up publicly and we ultimately reveal our heart. “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus answered the lawyer with a question. And then the lawyer responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). The man then wants specifics as to who exactly is his neighbor. And just like true Jesus fashion, He turns everything upside down with His answer in story form.

IMG_4090Jesus tells about a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho that was attacked brutally by thieves. They leave him stripped and badly beaten on the road. A priest passes by, but literally goes to the opposite side of the road to avoid the injured man. Do we do the same when we pass by those in need? Another man comes along, looks and moves to the other side too. And then it finally happens, the man who happens to be a Samaritan comes along and does not pass by or avoid the injured. “…he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper; and said to him, ‘Take care of him, and whenever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” (Luke 10:34-35). Can you even imagine being the giver or the receiver in this story? The very thought is humbling.

What stood out to me this time was what was used to treat the mans wounds, oil and wine. Both had to be pressed to be made into something that could be used to treat a wound. I remember once, a dear man saying to my husband, “We all go through a pressing”. I have found it is what comes from the pressing that the Lord can then use for healing others. If I were to label my bottles of wine and oil, they would be Mercy and Grace. He is not finished yet, but I trust Him.

For many, we go along our days and sometimes do not stop and notice those wounded in our path. No, to keep moving sounds less costly. If we stopped, our time is taken, we might be late to where we were going, we might get dirty and it might cost us money too. This is not normally something that is built in our schedules or budgets. But, what if we did something different tomorrow? What if before we started our day, we packed our “oil and wine”? What if we sat down and thought about what we have been through- good and bad? What did we learn? How were we ministered to during times where we felt broken, wounded or unnoticed? What scripture comes to mind that you clung to during times where peace was a fight? My Bible is marked up with notes and dates. The margins read more like timelines. The common thread being God is faithful and His love is extravagant. He uses others along the way to notice, stop, pour encouragement into our days, bandage us up, carry us and love us well. Never waste an opportunity to do the same when you are back on your feet. To always stay the wounded one does not seem healthy.

Back to the original question, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). After Jesus tells this story, He asks, “So, which of these three do you think was the neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” (Luke 10:36). I love the words that come next. “And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37). Should we not be doing the same? Maybe just maybe God will use us to show mercy to others. And in doing so, we reflect Him. Remember how the lepers cried out, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13). Jesus tells them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests. And so it was as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:14-16). I want to learn more about these Samaritan people, don’t you? They are different.

The story continues with Jesus asking another question. “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). When we are healed, we can return and give glory to God. We can be the Samaritan who does the uncommon and uses our oil and wine to help others who are in need of healing. We can be the Samaritan who is available and lives a life that daily wants to give glory to God. We are not here to serve ourselves, but others. Needs are everywhere. People are hurting everywhere, maybe even in your own home or family. It is very common for us to have a time where it feels like we have fallen among thieves who have stolen our joy and peace. May we all have eyes to see, hearts that love and minds that remember to always pack our oil and wine. Our world is hurting now more than ever. What difference will we make?

*I took this picture at Abilene Christian University.

 

 

The Best Company

“Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire? Yes, of course, your majesty, they replied to the king. He exclaimed, Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like the son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

I will never forget the day so much changed for our family. One email and we immediately felt like we had been thrown into the fiery furnace. The sad part was I was bound but unaware. Fast forward a few years down the road and on the same day, more heat was turned up, 7 times hotter. This time the Lord showed me what had me bound. He graciously freed me from those ties and I now walk in freedom, while in the midst of the fire. Like the three men who were thrown into the fire, they had no idea if God would save them and if He did, how long would the furnace time last. But their statement to the king gives me much needed strength, especially today. “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). 

IMG_1993These men refused to bow and worship, as was commanded, to a gold statue. I may not have a “ninety feet high and nine feet wide” (vs. 1) statue, but I sure was giving my worship to created things. What consumed my thoughts became what I worshiped and I was soon bound. It is amazing how tight those ties can become. However, my time in the furnace has been heart opening. There has been much repentance, confession, conviction, heartbreak and weakness. There has also been the peace, love, joy and strength that comes in surrender with freedom at its heals.

There is this beautiful song called Another in Fire by Hillsong. I could have written every word. “All my debt left for dead beneath the waters. I am no longer a slave to my sin anymore. And should I fall in the space between, what remains of me and this reckoning, either way I wouldn’t bow to the things of this world, and I know I will never be alone.” Beautiful, isn’t? When we are made new by the acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer bound by sin. Do we still sin? Yes, we are not home yet. However, our sin has been paid for. Seems like I was determined to tie myself up when Jesus died to set me free. Fire quickly reduces, refines and burns that which does not look like Christ. Praise God!

So, even though there is no end in sight and no help to be found, we walk free in the fire. We are very aware that we are not alone. The song also has these encouraging words for us. “There’s a grace when the heart is under fire. Another way when the walls are closing in, and when I look at the space between where I used to be and this reckoning, I know I will never be alone. There was another in the fire, standing next to me. There was another in the waters, holding back the sea. And should I ever need reminding, of how I’ve been set free, there is a cross that bears the burden, where another died for me. There is another in the fire.” Goodness, how I need that grace today!

Some months ago a house down the street went up in flames. It was the biggest fire I have ever seen. We heard painters lit a cigarette while using varnish. The windows exploded and brick flew off. It was powerful. The house was completely destroyed, burnt to the ground. However, in the midst of the ashes, a glorious sight was caught by one of our neighbors. She took a photo of the only thing that remained, a metal cross. This was not a decoration, but must have been building materials. I keep this image in my mind and a prayer in my heart. When the day comes when we are taken out of the fire, may all that remain be Christ. Him and Him alone. What a glorious day that will be!

*Photo credit: Johanna Gabrielle Barron

Diving In

I read a great question this morning and it sank deep into my heart. The question was, “Did you learn to love”? I asked this first of myself and was reminded of one of my most favorite, life built on verses. “We love because He first loved us.” (John 4:19). Yes, I have learned to love. It has been costly and so often I have fought it, but I have learned to love. Ask yourself the same question and be honest with your answer. Does repentance, surrender, forgiveness, selfishness, bottom line – sin, need to be dealt with? It has been paid for on the cross, so why not acknowledge this ultimate sacrifice, the cost of love today? Brennan Manning puts it this way, “…the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception.” The thing is, when you know and believe you are loved, you live like it. The Bible is full of examples of people radically changed by this heart knowledge, sinners changed to saints.

IMG_4079.jpgBack to the original question. After I examined my own heart with this question, I soon turned towards our family. With our oldest diving into her senior year of high school, I had to ask myself if I have taught her to love? Has our home been a place where love is not only known, but shown in every word and action? Has she watched our example and  seen the reflection of Christ’s love for her? Do we make much of Him and His love or is self held high? Have our sins been confessed and have we turned towards love and lived differently? Has she witnessed two humble sinners, who are saved by grace because of our faith? I will say she has not seen this in me as often as I would like to claim. My early days of parenting, while covered in grace, reveal a very broken mom. I am so thankful that God loves me enough to have taken the time to unravel all that entangled me and now I can get back to His original design of love. I have said it before, but I have been reduced to love and I have never been more full. Praise God!

As our daughter plans on leaving for college this time next year, I do not worry about have I prepared her to live on her own. No, my concern is whether or not she has been taught to love. For love makes all the difference. Her roommate will get a front row seat to love or she will be hit with selfishness. My first roommate got that from me. I am sorry, Erin. Years later, after we were married and my husband became my “roommate”, he was the recipient of me not living loved. He now lives with someone who has been made new by love. I am sure he is happy about that, as are our children.

Everyone she comes in contact with now during her senior year and the years following, will know pretty quick if she has been taught to love. Her teachers know, her friends know, her youth leaders at church know, those she babysits for will know and her brothers and sisters will know. She has an amazing opportunity to be a wonderful example of love right here in our home. Will she take it? Based on what I have seen so far, the answer if a very loud YES! This child, while not perfect, lives loved everyday. Will this carry on as she journeys on next year? I pray it does and that she will know amazing grace when she forgets.

So, as we dive in to all this senior year holds, may I look for opportunities to remind this precious daughter of love. May she soak up all the love that is poured out each day. And when the time comes, may she give away that which has been lavished on her, not just by us, but extravagantly by her Heavenly Father. He is the source of love and His love never ends or even runs low. Let each of choose today to, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

Senior year here we come!

 

Whose Invited In

“We are the temple of the living God.”  2 Corinthians 6:16

Most days are pretty ordinary in our home. We each have our morning routines, break at noon for lunch, followed by an hour of quiet time/rest time, activities, chores, dinner, scripture reading, play and then bed. Then we get up and do it all over again. However, somedays have more added to them. Yesterday was one of those days. Our entire family climbed in the van and traveled to a college our oldest wanted to check out. Some of us went on the campus tour and some played at the park and got ice cream. We talked on the way home about what we liked and how it compared to other colleges we have seen. The distance of the school from home seemed to be the only thing we did not care for. There were long stretches of nothing and cell service went in and out. My husband was already thinking of ways for our daughter to be protected on the way home, mainly by him.

IMG_4083I love how he models the Father’s love by the way he is very intentional in how he protects our kids. It is not smothering or controlled by fear. Quite the contrary. We both know it is a privilege to protect the children we have been entrusted with. I do not want to be found asleep in this role and nor do I want to be fearful. It seems the enemy would love to keep us believing it is easier to do both. It only takes a few seconds for evil to enter our homes. We have learned this the hard way.

We have a great software on our devices that blocks access to all the web has to offer. Do you find it interesting that spiders also have webs and most of its victims do not realize they have been caught until they are trapped? Funny how similar the two can be. Recently, one of our kids downloaded a social media app that we had said no to. The whole point of taking pictures is to remember after the moment is gone. So why have an app where pictures disappear in 20 seconds? However, those 20 seconds can brand an image onto a mind. Now my child is stamped with images of the opposite sex that are far from appropriate. The boundary was in place, but the popular thing to do was more important and the protective line was crossed. While the images were not asked for, they were sent. My heart breaks for the ones that did the sending and for my child. Innocence seems to be erased with lighting speed in todays world. Only God can restore what has been stolen.

Because of this incident, it has caused us to reexamine the guards we have in place to make sure they are secure. It is exhausting at times, but souls are at stake here. Can I as a parent do anything less than fight? Talk to anyone whose life has been derailed by sin and I know they would have given anything for someone to love them enough to fight on their behalf. I am loved by the God of the universe, who is all powerful and He gives strategies, ideas and insight like you wouldn’t believe to fight for what is precious to Him. I ask and He directs. You would be surprised at what we have uncovered.

For example, so many kids have an XBox long before they have a cell phone. There is something called Microsoft Edge that is built into the gaming system. We had no idea about this feature. This gives kids direct access to the internet. While other devices have guards, this one is wide open but had not been activated by my kids. My husband typed in a few words to test it and nothing was off limits. He searched and found a way to set controls to stop the access to say porn and music with lyrics that will make you turn 10 shades of red.

Can I stop a minute and talk about music? With so much music and so many creative artists, why listen to words that are pure evil? I am not against any genre of music, but I am against disrespect and exploitation of woman, violence and cursing. Put those words into your thoughts and tell me they do not change you. It is popular because it gives an outlet for frustration, ignorance and hate. Keep promoting it, gathering listeners in and it becomes accepted because evil is now being celebrated by the masses. Such a waste of creativity! In my opinion, it sounds like death with the beat of hell drowning out all the true life God offers every human being. Why are we allowing this into our children’s ears, minds and hearts? Reminds me of this promise, “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:6). Please consider what is thumping through kids AirPods and their consequences.

This I know because God’s Word is always true, we are His temple. What we allow in, we are allowing into the very place God dwells. This can be the worst decorating decision we could make. Think about it, would we plaster the inside of our sanctuary walls with these lyrics as wallpaper? Would we play these music videos on our big screens for all to watch? Back to the images that last for 20 seconds. Can you imagine a video with these disappearing images? It would be considered child pornography. Jail time is the punishment for those who partake.

So, what do we do as parents to protect our children who are the temple of God? We wake up and we stand up! Who has been entrusted with much here and who has the years of experience to look back and see that sin does not deliever what it promises? What gift are we giving them by allowing an open door to sin? I love my kids too much to skip out on the whole “train up a child in the way they should go”  and the promise that goes with it of, “even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). Oh, the way is narrow and very unpopular. Honestly, I gave up the popularity thing and what it costs a long time ago. I have more than today in mind with this temple training.

With our families desire to be the house all the kids friends want to be, this attack as I see it, does not surprise me. One more shot by the enemy and a black mark on my child for having a mom who exposed sin. I would do it again and will do it again. These temples are worth it because they are “fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14). That which is precious is worth protecting. It may mean protection on a highway or a device, but I trust the One who does the equipping. And like the days of old when the original temple was being built, God provided. “And now, I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman skilled… to accomplish any plan which may be given to him..” (2 Chronicles 2:13-14). He knows the understanding and the skills we need to raise our children in todays world. Let’s keep building temples who are glorious reflections of grace, mercy, life and love!!

*Image was taken at Abilene Christian University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titles

I read something interesting this morning and the question went something like this, what would your life be entitled? For me, I think more in chapters and then pages, not always life as a whole to be captured in a title. This made me stop and think what that would be and also led to the reading of the book of Colossians. I think what I want my life to be known for and what often plays out, contradict one another. Do you have this same struggle?  Do you walk away replaying events or conversations and wish you could go back and clarify, add to or subtract words and actions? The continuous thought that seems to plague me is that I made much of self instead of Him. My hearts desire is to bring Him glory not me, but I often fail.

IMG_4026Another question presented itself in my reading. What gospel does your life preach? What I pray overshadows all my daily failings is this, “…He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14). Does my family see a mom who lives the gospel of freedom because I have been completely forgiven? Do they see a mom who is truly alive? One who knows that I am chosen, holy, dearly loved, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient? I took this list from Colossians 3:12-14 by the way. On the flip side, what would the opposite look like? A few words come to mind like desperate for significance, worldly, lover of self, unkind, prideful, abrasive, impatient and lacking compassion. This sounds like pages taken straight out of my high school days. However, I now see words like FORGIVEN, GRACE and MERCY stamped in red across each and every page.

The only way to now live truly alive is by faith. I trust that what God has written about us is true. When I read, “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (Colossians 2:9), I am reminded who and what live inside of me. Also, look at this verse, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7). The very nature of God, made possible to us by Christ’s death and resurrection, is given to us and is called the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that is the source of our power. It is this power that brings us to life. Anything short of this is manmade and will not last. Trust me, I have tried.

If all of this seems like I am repeating myself, well I am. Just like I have to wake my kids up sometimes for school or church, I feel like many of us have been living kind of asleep. When we forget the power that lives inside of us and what was the cost, we begin to drift.   A long winters nap might work for a bear, but not for believers in Christ. We are ALIVE and have power because of who our God is and what He has entrusted to each of us. Does this not feel you with hope?

This might sound a little too fairytale like or impossible. Read with me this verse, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15). When I tell my children something or ask them to do something, they trust me. It may sound like I am asking them to do something hard or impossible. At times what I ask goes against what they want and we have a conflict. Other times I have to remind them of my love for them because they act like they have forgotten. Disobedience is such a red flag for forgetting you are loved. Sometimes we all need to be reminded.

Sometimes we need the reminder, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” (Colossians 3:13). What makes this possible for me is by taking a look at the cross. I have been forgiven much because I am loved much. With this in mind we are reminded to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2). We are reminded that, “You serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24). Knowing who we serve and where we focus our minds, we remind our hearts continually that, “…my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father, be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19). I am counting on His riches, not mine for this life and eternity.

May the living Christ, present in every believer, bring our God glory today as we live out a page or two of our book. This makes me think of my book title! I will entitle it simply Glory. That sounds just about perfect to me. 

 

 

 

Returning Comfort

He comforts us in any kind of affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

It has been a little over 8 years since my mom died. I remember all the comfort my relatives extended to our family. They too were hurting and in such sorrow, but they saw past themselves and came to comfort us. My dad would be at the hospital with my mom, so one aunt and uncle kept their dog. Another aunt and uncle did his laundry. Friends and family traveled a ton of miles to surround us with such love. Cards poured in with words of comfort. Dear friends brought over meals, called and texted often with comfort. Each was such a selfless act and even more appreciated as the years have gone by.

IMG_3991All this came to mind this morning while I was reading my New Morning Mercies devotional. Paul David Tripp wrote, “God puts you in hard moments when you cry out for his comfort so that your heart becomes tender to those near you who need the same comfort.” As a parent, nothing frustrates me more than when one of the kids does not go back and help a younger sibling. On the flip side, it brings me such joy when an older kid comes alongside a younger one to tell a bit of what to expect and how to navigate unknown circumstances or to offer help. It is fun to see their relationships become one more of building up than tearing down. I get a glimpse of maturity and security when they make this choice. I pray they never get so into themselves that they forget the grace they were given in their time of need.

When we are in a hard place, whether it is our fault or not, having someone beside us that has “been there” can make all the difference. If you are the “been there” one, in my opinion it can stir such gratitude in your heart to God. He was beside you during that hard time, carried you through and now sends you back to do the same. How amazing that He would use you and your suffering to not only bring Him glory, but to comfort one of His dearly loved children. Can you think of anyone who might need you now?

Tripp made several convicting points in my reading this morning. “Sometimes we are quicker to judge than to comfort.” I remember one lady telling me if my mom would have done… then she would have lived. That did nothing but stab my heart. I wish I would have responded, “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) and sent her along the receiving line at my moms funeral. Only grace given by the Lord gives us eyes to see those who need true comfort that we have experienced. It may be possible that this woman did not know comfort yet. “When we have named ourselves as strong, wise, capable, mature, and righteous, we tend to look down on those who have not achieved what we think we have. So God humbles us. He puts us in situations where our weakness, foolishness, and immaturity are exposed.” (Paul David Tripp). I know the valley of humiliation and I am thankful for the lessons it has seared on my heart. Judgement is not my job as I once thought it was. Praise God!

Sometimes I wonder if we were more open with our struggles and louder about how God gave us grace and comfort, maybe people would come to us more. If we are seen as perfect and having it all together, we may be viewed as unapproachable. It is those who are honest, loving and humble that make wonderful comforters. If our stories were known more in our churches, maybe when another has heartache, they will know whom to ask to come alongside them. Maybe we need lists of emergency contacts printed in our church directories for times when comfort is needed. What would be beside your name?

The other night at dinner with friends, I heard my husband offer help to another person who is struggling in ministry. My husband has been there and would have welcomed someones help. I love that about him. He is a wonderful comforter, encourager and friend. He does not pretend to have all the answers, but is quick to recognize need. In his quiet way, he either takes care of the problem or walks side by side on the journey. I have watched him do this with our kids, with me and with friends. How wasted our lives can be if we are not meeting needs of others with what the Lord has given us. May we never waste an opportunity to go back and comfort, to meet a need, offer a word of encouragement, pray and sometimes just sit quietly beside someone. Seems just the thing Jesus was found doing when He walked this earth. Should we not be doing the same? May we each spend today with eyes and hearts on Jesus who is an incredible example.

P.S. Happy Birthday Damon! You are one of a kind and our family is so thankful for you!!

Pass it Down

We did this skit in Young Life a number of times and I think it was called “Pass it Down”. It was funny and seemed to never get old. A couple is on a date and end up not sitting beside each other in the movie theater. The guy starts passing down popcorn, a drink, candy and evidentially a kiss through other people to his date. It does not end well for the guy. The problem was they had too many people between them. Somethings can get lost that way. This was not only true in this made up skit, it is true in so many things. The Word of God can get watered down and becomes not even close to the truth. The original design is always best and it is important for us to stay close to the Source by reading the Bible for ourselves.

IMG_3956I think of the original design God had for man and the relationship He planned. A look at Genesis gives us a glimpse of the close fellowship Adam and Eve had with God and the first reaction of sin. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the LORD God  among the trees of the garden. So the LORD God called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?” (Genesis 2:8-9). Knowing what we know about God, no amount of trees can hide us. In fact, it was a tree, fashioned into a cross, that held the body of His one and only Son to pay for all sin, hidden and known. So, hiding does not work and it is now possible to be back in right relationship with God. Amazing, isn’t? Now this is good news worth passing down!

With this relationship made possible by the good news, and the love, freedom and joy that comes with it, incredible legacies are passed down. Can I tell you about one? Years ago a couple were entrusted with a family. The only son in this family has now grown up and runs the camp that our daughter went too. From all the reports we hear, wonderful things are happening at this property. Because of the leadership that has his foundation securely built on Christ, lives are impacted. Staff, volunteer leaders, campers and adult guest experience the fruit only God can produce. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). One generation, close to the Vine, passes much to the next and what an impact for the Kingdom this family has made.

Our family has been blessed immeasurably by the parents that raised this man, so they did not just stop with their own kids. We are so thankful! Our lives intersected and we have stayed connected. I hear about their kids and grandkids and the compassion, unconditional love and encouragement they continue to pour out. In fact, the dad and son talk daily. They stay connected across the many miles that separate them. What a gift and one we plan on putting into place as our kids move from home. Relationship matters and can be such a reflection of our Heavenly Fathers love. With the pressure that must come from running a camp, how the load must lift when they talk. I hope you have someone in your life that does this for you.

So today, what are you passing down? Will it matter not just for today, but for eternity? I ask myself the same thing, of course. Will my words build up or tear down? Will I come alongside and encourage with truth or place more burdens on my family? Maybe you do not have a family at home, but you do see people. What are you passing down to them? A smile and kind word can sure go far. I know, I have been the recipient of many words and smiles. The Lord knows exactly when I need them and what a difference they make. I know I have typed out this message before, but it bears repeating. Time keeps on moving forward and what you pass down can have an incredible ripple effect.

*Picture of Damon and Maggie 17 years ago. I love that he is wearing a camp t-shirt from the very place she just returned from. God is faithful and this dad is passing down quite a legacy to our family.

Outstretched Arms

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

Moments ago a sleepy five year old little girl stumbled into the kitchen and immediately stretched out her arms to me. She didn’t say anything, just wanted to be picked up and held. She wrapped her skinny little arms and legs around me and laid her head on my shoulder. A few minutes passed by and she began to ask questions about the day. She told me what she wanted and we talked about it. Her requests are not that big, but I am glad she asks. Today it was for sidewalk chalk to add to our driveway masterpieces. She has a love for art and I want to fan this into flame by encouraging her to create.

IMG_1881You know, one of my most favorite things to do is pick her up and I know those days are quickly flying by. Our other kids have gotten too big to be picked up and some tower over me. However, their need to be picked up emotionally, held physically or helped spiritually never seems to go away. I do not think it ever does even as an adult. With this parenting gift we have the opportunity to model daily our love for them and our love for our Heavenly Father. It is His love for us and in us that should overflow to them.

This glimpse into our home reminded me of my times in the morning. With coffee in hand, I carefully fall into my favorite chair and what feels like my Heavenly Father’s arms. I wrap my arms around His word and lay my head on His truth. I tell him my needs, fears, joys and tell Him of the many things I find praiseworthy. He listens and responds by directing me to specific scriptures. When I need discipline, He lovingly guides my heart by not allowing me to be at peace and I feel restless until I come to Him. I confess and turn from my sin because in turning I turn back into His arms. Sin keeps me away from Him. Sin keeps me angry, fearful, bitter, unforgiving and judgmental. All are smoke to distract from the real heart issue. One breath of His Holy Spirit and the distraction clears. Truth is made clear, I repent and we move on, relationship restored. I am already forgiven, but in need of more grace and mercy.

I do not know what you are reaching for today, but may I encourage you to reach for Him. He has not left you. You were created in His image and belong. I know I talk of this often, but I just do not think it can ever be said too much. We all need the reminder. So, I pray you walk through this day, wrapped tight in dependence and your heart at rest in His love. It is your choice to whom your hand holds.

*Picture from 2013