Evidence

“Peace is the evidence of a life of forgiveness.” Lysa Terkeurst

Did this quote stop you in your tracks like it did me? It makes perfect sense, I just do not always put the two together. However, if you think about it, watch people who live peaceful lives, do you ever hear them talking negatively about others? Do you hear them string out their offenses like Christmas tree lights? They make the choice to forgive and therefore live peaceful lives. They are like bright candles that draw you in and you know something is different about them. You want to keep company with them and learn what is the reason for their peace. Now we know, they forgive. Sure would make the holiday season much more enjoyable if we go ahead and forgive before we gather around tables and trees. I will go first. Join me?

Unexpected and Undeserved

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

Have you ever had one of those birthdays that just seem to keep going? This has been my experience this year and I kinda like it. There have been so many sweet gifts, texts, messages, cards and surprises. I have so much to be grateful for, all unexpected and undeserved. A reminder of His grace.

In the midst of all the celebrating, I have missed my mom more this year. She was an incredible gift giver and each one had so much thought behind it. Her cards were a work of art and communicated her heart. Her and I had a hard time telling each other how we felt sometimes, so a card gave both of us an opportunity to tell one another that we loved each other.

I had talked to the Lord about this hurt, but no one else. Somethings are just between the two of us. So, with only Him knowing how my heart felt, you have got to hear about the unexpected surprise I found today.

One of our children left a pair of shoes on the stairs for days. I found the owner and went to put them in their closet. On a high shelf I saw one of my moms baskets that I have and pulled it down. Inside was the best cookbook of all time and a few other treasures. There was this notebook that was divided by months and had everyone’s birthdays recorded. Each month had a pocket that would hold cards. I flipped through and guess what I found in the pocket for October? A card for me!!! Can you believe it? More than nine years ago, my mom bought a card for me, not knowing she would not be alive for my next birthday. Only the Lord could have known exactly what I needed. He is a good God. I pray you know Him.

One

“There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” Ezekiel 37:22

We let the kids pick a story out of their Gospel Project Bible every morning to read during breakfast. One of the boys picked the account of the Lord bringing dry bones back to life. It is phenomenal! In that same chapter is an assignment the Lord gave to Ezekiel about writing the name of the two kingdoms on sticks and then making them become one nation. If He did it then, will He do it again for America?

I had a picture of two sticks, one inscribed with Republican and the other Democrat. Only the Lord can bring these two “kingdoms” back into one nation. Can you even imagine what that would be like? What would the nightly news sound like? I am going to pray.

Lord, our nation needs you to bring us back to one. We have made such a mess and it is impossible to bring unity without You. Each party, which neither give us much cause to celebrate, has strong convictions. Both have ideas that line up with your Word, both have some that do not. Bring us back to the cross. Bring us back to your feet, let us see the nails driven deep to pay the price of our sin. May it daily remind us of the deep wedge our sin is causing in this country. You died for the sin our nation has committed and continues to commit against You. May we accept your death on our behalf and raise us up out of these grave circumstances we have chosen. As You did in the days of Ezekiel, do it again today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Reverse

“The secular mind always maps out for itself a way in which self can work and become great, but the Lord’s way is quite the reverse.” C.H. Spurgeon

How I wish I would have had this quote when I was younger. It is so simple and yet shouts of dependency on our Lord. This may sound completely opposite to the worldly mindset many have taught and lived by, but I think that is the point. The Bible is full of examples of people who trusted God’s map for their lives and not their own. Take the life of Queen Esther for example. She was an orphan, raised by her uncle and became queen. Not only that, she went to the king at the risk of her own life and saved the Jewish people who lived in the kingdom. She saw a need and stepped up to help. Who could have mapped out such a plan other than God?

So many unknowns right now and maybe your carefully laid out plans are not working. What are we to do? Perhaps we can follow Queen Esther’s example and see who around us might need our help. Is there a single mom, widow, new business owner, college student or a close friend who needs you to come alongside and support them? Could this be part of His plan for you that you would have missed if allowed to continue your own plans? Do you have the time now to make a phone call, write a note, extend a dinner invitation or buy a cup of coffee? Who needs reminding that are loved and seen by their Heavenly Father?

You might not be asked to rescue an entire people group, but you can be used to rescue one who is struggling. An encouraging note, text, phone call, etc., can mean the world to someone. I know that it greatly encouraged our oldest daughter, when a family in her new town invited her over for dinner. She felt loved, seen and cared for and only God could have worked that plan out. He is amazing like that. We can ask Him today what His plan is for us. We can choose to trade in our map that builds our kingdom of one for His eternal one. One will end with you and the other has no ending. I am going the reverse way. Join me?

*Her shirt happens to say fully loved:)

Repair

“And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” Isaiah 61:4

A quick demo clip from a home building company caught my eye last night. The company made the comment that they demolished a home, that had 57 years of memories, in 3.5 minutes. I thought I might cry. Their point was tearing down the old to build the new. I get it, but who made those memories?

The house reminded me of the stories I hear of businesses, marriages, families, relationships, and the list could go on. Why is demolishing the easy answer? Could we not rebuild, repair and raise up instead? Oh, things might need to be taken down to the studs, the foundation shored up and even added on to, but wouldn’t it be worth it? Perhaps the outcome would be unrecognizable, but maybe that is the point.

In the verse from Isaiah, we see the desolation goes back generations. Maybe we can apply that idea to our own lives. Is there some undealt with family ruins? Have we let it continue? Could be it has nothing to do with our families at all, just our own sin? Friends, there are ruins a plenty right now and becoming more and more evident. What can we do to get the repair process going? I know we can start with prayer. We can start by asking the Lord to search our own hearts and minds, point out our sin; He is full of grace and mercy. If we each took our own sin to the Lord, repented, asked for forgiveness and lived free, we might see others differently. Can you even imagine the “houses” we would see?

*Caught this heart in our home

Anxious Heart

“Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not’…” Isaiah 35:4

Anyone have an anxious heart today? What is causing your anxiety? Perhaps you need the words from Isaiah reminding us to be strong and not to fear. We could give a long list of the fear possibilities, but let’s give our hearts a bit of a break. Instead, we can choose to obey the word of God and ask Him to give us strength. Anything we try on our own is temporary and incompatible to what He can supply.

Sounds much easier to tell you to do this and I can keep spinning in an anxious twirl. However, that is not something I can do, ask you to do something hard and not live it myself. So, let me pray for us both in this space today.

Lord Jesus, we need what you have, strength and peace. We look around us, listen to the news, hear about hard places people are walking, sickness lurks, so many unknowns and we can cave in anxiety. I know this is not your desire for us. So we ask you to rule our minds and calm our fearful hearts. Others are watching, Lord, and we want to reflect you. As your child, remind us that we are watched over, cared for and loved. Give us faith when so much is uncertain. Give us eyes to see those who are drowning in fear. Use us Lord to love anyone you place in front of us. As you said through Nehemiah, “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. We ask for your joy to be our strength, for ours is failing. You are God and we are not. We trust you to be who you have always been. In Jesus name, Amen.

Deciding

“What you are in love with decides what you live for.” -Ann Voskamp

Such a thought provoking question, that can make you stop and truly decide what you love, don’t you think? It did for me when I read it. What do I love with all my heart? There are not qualifiers, just the question. What would be your answer? I know my answer would be different now that it was years ago. Knowing what one would want to hear would have come tumbling out, but that was based on my desire to win/earn my worth from whomever happened to be in front of me.

Because of what the Lord in His love has given and taken away, I can honestly say it is Him that I love with all my heart. It is out of this love that makes all the difference in how I live. Perfectly without sin? Are you kidding me?! Did you hear me let the boys have it when they were fighting on their top bunk bed? Were you in my thoughts as I had doubts or an unkind thought towards a person? Did you see my frustration with one child who struggles with wanting to dress like a princess, but finds the clothing much too uncomfortable and makes getting ready for school a royal nightmare? If I could design a children’s clothing line that was comfortable, beautiful and affordable, you bet I would!

No, deciding what we love does not leave us without sin, but it sure shapes our heart differently and repentance springs forth much easier. To have anything between you and your first love just it too painful. So maybe today as your time allows, ask yourself what you are in love with and see how it has shaped what you live for. Be honest, He knows and loves you just the same.

Grace upon Grace

“From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1:16

One of our children had their first car accident last night. They ended up in a ditch, tried to get out and in the process leveled a stone mailbox. It was at this point, while still in the ditch, they called their dad. He was on the scene quickly and got the car back on level ground. The homeowners, friends of ours, were beyond gracious and rebuilding will happen soon. No one was hurt and an incredible lesson was learned.

There are times in this life where we all end up in a ditch. All kinds of reasons put us there, but our response will make all the difference. What this child learned last night is that once they found themselves stuck, the first thing they needed to do was call their dad. In calling for help, the car and mailbox would have been unharmed. We talked about the importance of calling out to our Heavenly Father for help right away. Our self efforts fall short and no amount of striving will work. It is a matter of time before you end up in the same ditch. In calling out we get to experience “grace upon grace” that our God is known for and is beyond amazing. The choice is always ours to make. Give Him a chance to demonstrate today.

Observing

Yesterday I got the opportunity to spend the day with some sweet two year olds. Each child was so different. Personalities ranged from outgoing and friendly to quiet and comforting. One would pat me on the back like I need consoling, it was precious. Most of them trusted me right away, asked questions or wanted to just be held. Just a few years old, still so shiny and new. I prayed for the kids silently and would encourage with words the smallest of accomplishment. And it all made me feel think, can we go back to that as adults?

The biggest argument for a quick no response to that question would be how impossible this would be because of the world in which we live. While I can see that point, I have another idea that began to form while listening to a short teaching on leading by Paul David Tripp. He gave an incredible case for humility. Each byproduct of true, biblical humility reminded me of these kids. They were loving, quick to forgive, did not care if they were first or last and for the most part, got along just fine. They were not after their own glory, but wanted to make me smile. I had a clear shield on so they would be sure to see.

If perhaps we are feeling pretty negative about our current world, ourselves or others, could humility be the key to take us back to that childlike faith? Like the kids yesterday, they were provided for and cared for by their parents. Is our Heavenly Father not able to care and provide for us? I have my doubts sometimes when things do not add up or my heart hurts, but I have seen enough to know He does. What about you?

Disruption

“Fear disrupts faith and becomes the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God.” -John Ortberg

Some months back my uncle sent me a book about fear and faith. It’s one of those reads that you take a bit at a time because it causes questions to arise. Some answers do not come quickly, but as you keep walking by faith. The timing is perfect for the days we are all living.

What is causing you to fear? Have you been up against this fear before? What was the outcome? Is there anything you need to do differently this time around? From my years of walking with God, I can honestly say He is the God of second chances. He has given me more chances than I deserve to trust Him, not what I can see. So often my first response is fear, but it never feels right. When I shift into faith, I know this is truth to live.

So friend, I do not know what is causing you to fear, but I pray we see it as the obstacle it is and choose faith. It takes practice as most things do. And years down the road, maybe we can write our own books accounting God’s faithfulness during the year of 2020.

*Thank you Uncle Doug for sending If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.