An Interesting Week

This week has been one where life has happened in our home and I have slept through much of it. The flu can keep one in bed and cause you to be very isolated. I would wake up and hear things happening, but not have an ounce of energy to engage. I kept telling myself that I would not be sick forever and this will soon pass. Then I would sleep some more. None of my normal activities were possible and my husband took charge of everything. He is one amazing man! Always a hard worker, selfless and kind. I was reminded of the gift he is yet again this week.

IMG_6709When you are alone for long periods of time and do not feel very good, I started to notice some things. When I would have times of being awake, I had a few choices. Reading was hard to do, so listening to some biblical teachings was a good choice. Watching tv was also an option, but one I could not do for long. Have you ever noticed there is a lot of selfishness on home buying shows? It got to be too much. The news was equally depressing, so off the tv went. I made the choice not to let anymore junk into my isolated space. I did not put my head in the sand, but limited how much about what is happening in our world come in. Be careful what you are allowing into your mind, for it will seep into your heart.

I have also been reminded of how much joy I get from being apart of our everyday family life. Being on the outside and not engaged was not what I was made for. In fact, one of my boys came up beside me and spoke such insightful words. He touched my head and let me know I was in fact burning up, but that my heart was just fine. He then said that my eyes were so dim. Who notices things like that?  I thought about that statement when he left and how without purpose, because of sickness or pain, maybe a bit of life leaves our eyes. While only temporarily out of commission, what would happen if you remained outside and unengaged? I wonder if that is why some have lost that sparkle from their eyes? If so, how do you get that spark back? How do you get your life back?

Each person doing their part, fulfilling their purpose is what brings life in my opinion. I think that is pretty simple – love God, love others. My love for God overflows into my family and gives my serving them purpose. I do not do a thousand loads of laundry because I love laundry. I do each and every load because I love the people who wear the clothes that need to be cleaned. When I do not feel like doing one more load, I can choose to ask God for help in loving well. Amazing how His love changes even how you look at laundry isn’t it?

Something else I am aware of now that I am starting to come out of the flu fog – pain and sickness can make you very focused on self. I was too aware of all that hurt and forgot to ask about others. My husbands shoulder has been hurting, but I only asked about it today. One of the boys hurt their back on the trampoline and I didn’t follow up on that. Thankfully, my pain was temporary and I am slowly jumping back in. However, what would happen if my pain remained? Would I be able to take the focus off of my pain and see others? Would I forget my purpose to love God and others? One look into scripture and I would be reminded.

When we read God’s word, we have a choice to make. We can obey because of our love for Him or we can choose to go our own way. One way brings life, the other brings death. There are other benefits. “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8). If you are miserable, without purpose, sick of heart maybe, can I ask you if you have tried living in God’s boundaries? Maybe your old ways just aren’t working for you anymore and you might be hurting enough to try something else. Pick up the Word of God, friend.

Also, who do you love? How are you showing it? Our oldest daughter talks a lot about “The 5 Love Languages” and wants to know how to best show love to others. There are different ways and it helps to know them. As a family we talked about how each of us feel loved. It is a simple concept, but can make such a difference. Love is easy to give and precious to receive. In fact, it also happens to be a command. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). Jesus gave His life for our sin willingly. Are we willingly giving ourselves for others, especially to those we say we love? Want to know what makes giving love away easier? “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22). When you are walking in obedience to God’s word, love is a result. Love is also a sign of life. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14). So many benefits from living the way God designed us too. Let’s get to living!

I pray that 2020 will be a year of really living for each one of us!

 

Uncommon Kindness

Uncommon kindness, those are the words that caught my attention yesterday morning. A few months ago I switched Bibles and these words were in the study notes, written by Dr. David Jeremiah. He is a very knowledgeable teacher, but it is his love for the Lord that I hear most when he teaches. I found myself in the book of Ruth, reading God’s words and notes written by one of His servants. It is a very short book, but one of my favorites. The book is named after a woman who is part of the linage of Jesus. Her character is one to learn from. I plan on staying in this book for awhile, for she bears a likeness to Jesus in how she daily lives.

IMG_6700Ruth stood in a moment where she had a decision to make. She lived in Moab and married a man from Bethlehem. Her father-in-law and husband died and she remained with her mother-in-law, whose name was Naomi. Because of a food shortage, Naomi decides to return home to Bethlehem. She has gotten word from home “that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them” (Ruth 1:6). So Ruth, Naomi and the other daughter-in-law start their journey. Namoi tries to convince the women to go back to Moab and speaks a blessing over them. One returns home, “to her people and her gods.” (1:15). Ruth decides to go forward. If she turned back, what awaited her was the grave of her husband, her family and all that was familiar.

Naomi makes another attempt to turn Ruth back towards her home. “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” (1:16). Ruth also made a life changing decision when she chose God that day. Don’t miss this. The matter was settled right then and there it seems, and the two women made their way to Bethlehem. They arrived just in time for the barley harvest. They came from a place where food was scarce, into a town whose name literally means “house of bread”. However, Naomi’s painful losses followed her into town as well. She had not only lost her husband, but her two sons as well. She was hungry for more than just bread I imagine. She must have been starved for joy too.

Her heartbreak was so great that she asked the towns people to call her “Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.” (1:20-21). I wonder what Ruth must have thought when she heard those words? Naomi was not alone because Ruth was right there with her. Grief can make one feel all alone, but that is not reality. God was also with her and had great plans in store. Her return would not be in vain. Neither is ours.

Ruth decides to go and pick up the leftover grain during this harvest time. This provision was put in place early on in order to care for those in need. Ruth and Naomi were in need. Ruth ends up in a field belonging to Boaz who takes notice of her. He asks his overseer about her and is told of her request. “She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters. She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (2:7). Don’t you just love this dear woman? She is well aware of her need, asks permission to take what she has not planted and then works to gather food for Naomi and herself. God provided for their physical need in Bethlehem and more was to come.

God also allowed Boaz to see Ruth’s heart. For when he talked to her and told her to stay in his field, she was blown away. “She asked him, ‘Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” (2:10). His response is beautiful. “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” (2:11). Ruth had suffered a great loss, but look what she did. She cared for her mother-in-law and left everything to continue her care. Uncommon kindness indeed.

In loss we have have two choices as we see in this story. One is to turn bitter and inward and the other is to turn outward in love. Naomi took her choice so far that she renamed herself. Ruth’s choice gave her compassion, a servants heart, an incredible work ethic, gratefulness, courage and favor. Do not miss that both women now have the same God. Because of the choice Ruth made, Boaz recognized a woman of great value. He even spoke a blessing to her. “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (2:12). In his blessing I hear familiar words of a later descendent, King David. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 63:7). Both Ruth and David knew where help came from no matter the circumstance.

The story continues and Boaz ends up marrying Ruth. They have a son named Obed. Can I just tell you that as I typed his name, autocorrect changed his name to obedience. Obed was the result of one woman’s obedience to a very faithful God. When Ruth left the grave and familiar behind, she had no idea the outcome. Nothing was certain for this dear woman, but she moved forward nonetheless.

I recently read how we can turn certainty into an idol, something we worship. I have been guilty of this before. Uncertainty requires faith in a God we cannot see. Certainty is much more comfortable. Even pain can become something familiar, but the result is bitterness I am afraid. Control will also creep in because to remain comfortable, you have to control what is certain. Fear will also rear its ugly head as one stands guard against change to remain in control. We can stay in Moab, so to speak, or step out in faith and obedience and journey to Bethlehem.

Our God did a wonder here in the life of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. In fact, these words were spoken at the birth of Obed. “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (4:14-15). Love was on display here for all the town to see. What started as uncommon kindness, led to Ruth taking Naomi’s God as her own as they headed towards their uncertain future.

I will tell you this one last thing. Years ago, I was given this verse for the year. “Those who go out weeping; carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” (Psalm 126:6). When I was handed this verse, my sweet friend asked if I got the right one. I replied “yes” because I had spent years sowing tears over the loss of my mom. I was more than ready to harvest joy. However, the Lord had other plans and more tears to sow. When He is the One in control, the songs of joy do return, no matter how long the sowing takes. I have also found the sheaves to be compassion, kindness, faith, courage, gratefulness and love in abundance.

I believe in the same God of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was given a second chance and her bitterness turned to joy. Ruth was recognized for her care of her mother-in-law and was ultimately woven into the lineage of Jesus. And both women were blessed by one mans uncommon kindness. Our God is a redeeming God!

There isn’t a person out there who does not know loss. It is the response that makes all the difference in how we journey forward. I pray we all follow Ruth’s example. Generations to come will be impacted by our choice. I believe they are counting on us. So, may obedience be the response this new year. May we choose uncommon kindness as we continue to move towards home. If bitterness has been your choice, then I pray the Holy Spirit softens your heart and gives you eyes to see the needs of others. May our Almighty God bless us with favor as we remain faithful. And may we all reap a harvest of joy!

*This picture of our kids is a beautiful picture to me of God’s uncommon kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lantern

When we go to the beach, we always find our way to my favorite book store. It is a small shop called The Hidden Lantern. The furniture is comfortable and an art gallery is next door. A great coffee shop is close by too, the perfect combination. The shelves are filled with lots of interesting books and I could spend hours in this small shop. So many pages to turn, so much to learn and ideas to dream. I found a bookmark from that favorite shop recently and the logo caught my idea. It had a simple lantern at the top of course. Contained light, but is light meant to be hidden?

IMG_6793Our oldest daughter has been in Atlanta this week. She is with a group of friends at the huge event called Passion 2020. The ministry exists to encourage this next generation to live for what matters -Jesus. The lineup of godly speakers was amazing and I can only imagine the music! I pray that the words she heard sink deep into her heart and cause her to fall even more in love with Jesus. I pray as she comes home, goes back to school and then prepares for college, that her love for Him continues to grow. I pray that this light, a flame of love that has burned bright, will become even more intense. That His light in her will not be hidden, but shine and impact many. Love has a way of doing that. To remain hidden is perfect for a well known bookstore, but not for the light of Christ.

One of the speakers at Passion, Tim Tebow said, “Could you imagine if 65,000 people said we’re going to count the cost, it doesn’t matter, because we are all in.” This many high school seniors and college kids could make an impact on this world. Homes, schools, churches, cities, states and countries will benefit from this light. I am excited to cheer them on and support in any way we can. I pray that our home is a place for them to learn and grow even brighter with their love for Jesus. We have a lot of love to give.

Just this morning I was in my closet when I heard a bird hitting the window. The light was on and he kept banging his beak against the glass. As soon as I turned the light off, he flew away. Made me think that even birds are drawn to light.

One of my prayers this year is that we are all drawn more to the light Christ offers than the artificial light the world gives. A great way to begin each day is in the Word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105). I have found this to be a wonderful source of light and I know you will too. Lets lead this generation coming up by setting an example by being known for actually living what the Bible says. Get in the Word yourself and discover who He is and the love He has for you. It will make 2020 a year to remember. The love you find in the pages of scripture will give you what no other source can. You were created by the God who inspired each and every word. He knows how you were made and what will satisfy you. You need the words He has given you.

Start the new year off with the best resolution you will ever make. Love is waiting on each and every page. You won’t have to keep flying to any other source of light once you are filled by love Himself.

“The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us.” -Oswald Chambers

 

*This picture was taken by our daughter. She has a way of capturing light.

 

 

Colors

Leading up to this new year, messages filled my inbox about a blank canvas, a fresh start, a new page and on and on it went. Resolutions, goals and change for the better speeches were loud. I read about taking time away to dream for the upcoming year and thought that was a nice idea too. However, my heart seemed to sink deeper and deeper into despair. It was a physical feeling, spiritual as well and one that required a fight. In fact, I had a dream a few nights of go where I was swimming to the surface of a deep ocean. The light at the top was very visible and my feet were propelling me upward quickly. I was almost out of air, but I knew to push through and keep kicking to the top. One can wear themselves out if it is your own strength you are kicking your way through life. Such a lie from satan that it all depends on you. I was not buying his lie, but I was very tired.

IMG_6730When you are running low on air, darkness is a very dominate color. Thankfully, this was not a long lived state. Yesterday found me sitting with the Lord and another picture came to mind. One of me sitting in a white room with windows up high. The room was large, the floor a bit cool. I wasn’t afraid, just knew I was safe and right where the Lord would have me. As I sat and thought of what I could see, the absence of color was so cold and dull. All of a sudden, one wall began to have all different colors of paint run down it. It was a bit overwhelming and I told the Lord so. I felt it ok to ask for my favorite color, blue, to run down the wall. Beautiful shades of blue ran down the wall and it was a work of art!

More time spent in prayer and scripture and peace returned. The heaviness lifted with the return of color and air. For some reason, I felt the prompting to read the introduction to my favorite devotional book called New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp. (If you do not have this book, I highly recommend you order it today.) I read words of truth and encouragement and then a line that only the Lord knew I needed. “God’s mercies don’t come in-one color; no, they come in every shade of every color of the rainbow of his grace.” Looking back over the picture He had given me, in light of these words, had my eyes wide and my heart overwhelmed. I had asked for one color, but our Creator wanted to give me so much more. Just before this wonderful sentence, he wrote a list of some of God’s mercies. While you wait for your book to arrive, I will list a few here: “Strengthening mercies, heart-exposing mercies, rescuing mercies, transforming mercies, glory-revealing mercies” and the list goes on. Do you need any of these today? What colors do you want to see the Lord paint on the walls of your heart this upcoming year? He is the Creator of all things in Heaven and on Earth. Each creation intended for His glory. Hand Him your heart today and just see the masterpiece He reveals this year.

Happy New Year, Friends!!

*My artist friend, Megan Skeels, sent me this picture she captured a few days ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping In Step

As soon as the kids got out of school, we headed to North Carolina for Christmas. When we arrived, a party was in full swing. As we walked through the door of my dad’s new home, we were met with hugs and smiles by lots of relatives. I think everyone should be greeted this way after a very long journey – it’s good for our hearts. We laughed a lot, caught up on life, exchanged skincare tips, heard about adventures and spoke of grace. There was plenty of food, but that did not draw my attention. It was the people who held my focus and I did not want to miss a thing. My husband commented later that night when all was quiet, how I seemed to be in my element. He was very right. I love family, encouraging conversations, laughter and grace.

IMG_6731The next morning, I quietly came downstairs and found my way to a familiar chair. To have time with my Savior is also good for my heart. With the Christmas tree lit and coffee in hand, the silence was interrupted by the ticking of three different clocks that were totally out of sync. Do you know how loud clocks can be? It was a bit annoying and distracting. However, I ignored the sound after awhile when God’s word captured my full attention. I thought to of how the festivities of the day before had totally drowned out the noise of the clocks. Good words and laughter can have a wonderful affect on many things.

As the days went by and the clocks kept ticking, I started noticing what was also out of sync. People we encountered around town were sometimes angry and in a hurry. Everywhere we went seemed to be crowded and I got caught up in the need to try and beat the crowds to make sure we had a place. Beautiful mountains surround Asheville, but too small streets for an enormous amount of people, made me want to run home to the open spaces of Texas. When change of any kind is rushing into what seems like a small space and the desire to remain the same collide, I feel out of sync in a town or in my heart. The only thing that never changes is God, His Word and His love. To hold back moving forward can cause one to become angry, rushed and blind to beauty. So I move forward in the new today, but firmly planted in the unchangeable. Makes my steps much more confident, a bit slower and more friendly I like to think.

These were the thoughts that I was thinking about yesterday morning as the day began. One of my sweet boys and I headed out to buy much need groceries. We had just driven home and we were out of pretty much everything. He wanted to spend time together and off we went. We needed to reconnect. While we were in North Carolina, he was the one I felt like I was watching constantly to make sure he didn’t mess anything up or break something. You never know what he is going to say and that can keep you on your toes. The whole thing was exhausting for him and me. Instead of looking for the good, I watched for mistakes. While he is a bit immature, he is also very insightful and fun. One misses that when you do not have eyes of grace. Out of step again.

After shopping and loading everything into the car, I noticed eye makeup that had not been rung up but remained in my cart. To leave the makeup in my cart and drive home was an option, but not the right one. So, we walked back in, paid for the makeup and walked out hand in hand. He said, “Mom, look at our feet, we are walking the same!” I told him that we were walking in sync and this is how we are to walk with God. We were keeping in step with one another. He then said, “And I am following your footsteps.” I told you he was insightful.

To walk with God matters and if I choose not too, what would happen to this child? If I allowed noise, distractions, anger, to want to go back, remain the same or have this ever changing worlds opinion on truth to cause my steps to move away from God, how would this affect him? I make mistakes like how I acted towards him on this trip. Thankfully, there is grace given by God and repentance on my part for my mistakes. As with this child and for the rest of our kids, I have found them to be very forgiving. I also know that God’s love for me never changes and I am secure because of His love. Also, things change as the days, months and years tick by and I am changing too. To want to go back or hang onto what was will keep me from moving forward. As I move forward day by day, there is so much more I have found God has in store for me. Just when I think things cannot getting any better or sometimes any worse for that matter, the Lord surprises me. My faith is strengthened and I fall that much more in love with God.

Read with me these words, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:25).  The Spirit is what comes to dwell inside of us when we accept Christ as our Savior. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that causes us to change more into the likeness of Christ. It is the Spirit that keeps us in sync and our footsteps worth following. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17). This conflict plays out in all of us and can become heightened during the holidays. What was is not anymore and places are overcrowded, time is short and expectations are high. The sound of time ticking becomes heightened and our hearts beat fast and out of sync. Then our thoughts, actions and words follow. We forget others, especially our children, are watching and are influenced by our steps.

So what do we do to get back in sync? We quiet our hearts, read His word, repent and ask the Lord how He would have us walk. He word is full of guidance and love. His ways are not rules to follow, but boundaries to keep our steps close to His. Why would we want to move away, falling and tripping our way through life? I want my steps to cause my children to see Christ. I want my life to reflect Him and not my flesh. When they walk beside me, I want them to imitate what will matter in eternity. I want them to see my eyes turn to them in love and not carefully watching for mistakes. Some days I do this better than others because of this whole flesh thing, but tomorrow is a new day. As we walk towards a new year, I am reminding myself of these words – “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Importance of a Name

Time or place do not matter, but the words have stayed with me. I bent down to help a little boy put his shoes on the right feet. He just sat down right there in the middle of a busy hallway, so I joined him. The shoes were on their proper feet, but he remained seated. His sweet eyes met mine and he said, “I can’t remember my name.” He knew what his name was now, but he was once called by another name. The frantic search in his mind could not find it. We talked for awhile and I asked questions. How does one forget their name?

IMG_5996As I have thought often about this question, I am reminded of how easy it has been to forget the name the Lord calls me, Beloved. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12). What love can compare? Do I live like a girl who knows her name or do I try and remember as I walk through my days? Somedays I forget and my actions or words follow.

Yesterday was one of those days where I forgot. The morning time was good as I sat with the Lord in study, prayer and listening. As the day wore on, the list of what needed to be done snowballed and I let myself forget. The day ended with one little girl crying and saying, “Just tell me what I did wrong.” Heartbreaking words to this mom. She was picking out pajamas to wear to school because that is what was requested. She wanted one pair and I wanted another, a cuter pair. What she looked like was more important than her heart in this situation. One thing I never want to do is elevate appearance over her heart and I had. We worked it out and she curled up beside me and said, “I just want to be with you.” Funny how acceptance draws one near. I asked if she would forgive me and said I was sorry. She forgives easy and our relationship was restored. She looked cute as a button in her pajamas today, by the way.

The Lord has entrusted us with raising, shaping four daughters. What I speak and live have got to line up. When I remember my name, who He says I am, they have a mom they can trust. They see compassion, patience, kindness and gentleness. This verse often comes to mind as my years increase, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman that fears the LORD, she will be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30). Appearance is not praised, but fear of the Lord, living on His terms, is what matters. He created us and knows how we can tend to forget and get distracted. Reminding ourselves that we are loved, chosen and accepted stops the striving for external, fleeting beauty. I want my daughters to know and see this in our home.

Some dear woman shared how their grandchildren are blessed with a new name. They pray and ask the Lord to give them a name for each one. Servant Leader and Peacemaker are two of many. I thought about how amazing that would be to have this bestowed on you as a young child. The desire to grow into who they see the Lord has made you to be, must give security. What this has to do to their heart astonishes me and had me longing for such a gift. Since this is the Christmas season and I thought what a wonderful treasure to give to each of our children! They may not have received this from my lips when they were born, but they can hear it now. Many prayers have been prayed for them and I see how the Lord is shaping them daily, but a name sums up so much. So, under the tree this year, each of the kids will receive the gift of a new name all wrapped up. I am praying for each one and look forward to treasuring them in my heart. May they grow to look more and more like Christ and who He says they are, Beloved for starters.

Merry Christmas!

Morning Words

Getting seven kids out the door for school is not an easy task. Breakfast and lunches need to be made. Scripture and prayer go into our minds and hearts and then there is the clothes, backpacks and snacks. We double check folders to make sure everything is signed and that homework was indeed done. This is a team effort and everyone has a part to play. One of the things I do is help with getting hair fixed. Some do their own, but some do not and often the older ones need just a bit of help getting it just right. I am happy to help. It is a time to encourage, pray and physically touch their precious heads before they head out.

IMG_6397When I was fixing one little boys hair this morning, he said the most unusual thing. He told me, “Make room, make room in your heart. Sometimes to make room in your heart, you have to go to the hospital.” The conversation then turned to something else and I was left speechless. Just minutes before I had been spending time praying, reading my Bible and listening. I had been looking back over this past year and then over the last nine. His words perfectly described this past year in the most unique way. Allow me to explain.

It has taken years of the Lord gently removing from me that which does not look like Him. Pride was alive and well for starters. Then there was bitterness and anger, not very attractive. Events broke me in the best way and added to this emptying. High places, idols were worshipped and had to be taken down. God will not share His glory. Then this past year, after what has felt like being empty, there were some wounds that I honestly thought had turned to scars. Beth Moore recently said that scars do not hurt anymore, but wounds do. We all have scars, but some of us are walking around with wounds too. I had a few of my own. This has been a year of surrendering these wounds. The picture that has often come to mind during this process is lying flat and letting the Lord examine each one. He then bandages them up and once they are healed, the bandage comes off. Only a scar remains and it is no longer painful. Memories may remain, but they no longer carry anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and cause us to withhold love.

When my sweet boy said those words I just was stunned. With the empty and the healing there is a life that is surrendered and available for the Lord to completely fill. His Holy Spirit has been in me since I accepted Christ, but there remained some of my old self that took up space and I acted out of this. Now He takes up every inch and I can honestly say there is nothing more freeing. Read with me, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Do you want to have the best Christmas ever? Then allow the Lord to fill you completely with His Holy Spirit. It is the best gift you can ever receive and give to your family and friends. May this be a Christmas of freedom for each and everyone of us!

Keeping Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

We are barely into December and there have already been so many opportunities to take the Lord up on His promise of peace. I must do my part and keep my eyes, heart and mind focused on the One I trust. Having scripture verses ready helps and so does remembering. Another way is to just tell the Lord what is on my mind. I have found Him to be the best listener. Often times He whispers back something that only my heart can hear. It might be a bit of correction that will lead to repentance or it might be a loving word. This I know and is always what I need for peace.

IMG_6302We dove into the month, which is one of my favorites, having just celebrated Thanksgiving. It was good and restful. We then celebrated our youngest turning 6 years old and were reminded of the blessing she is to our family. When I picture her, I often think of her twirling. She is the most graceful little person I have ever known. Her beauty was evident literally from the minute she was born. She is very much full of life and brilliance. One of the things she recently said, that brought tears to my eyes, was the answer to a very important question. I asked, “Why do you love Jesus?” Right away she said, “Because He loves me”. Simple but life changing words. She never complicates truth and this is a gift.

The day after celebrating, we were given the most amazing gift. Some friends opened their beautiful home up for a silent retreat in preparation for this Christmas season. It was a wonderful morning and I am still processing all that was whispered. As I sat in a precious little room and wrote the date at the top of my journal page, a wave of remembrance crashed over me. Two years ago on that same morning, we learned that the little baby that was to become part of our family, had died. I sat for a minute not knowing where my heart would land. Then peace calmed the waves and I thought of all the Lord has done in the mending of me since then. Thanksgiving was my response. Only a God of peace can make this happen.

On the same day, we received some other news that tested the peace that we had earlier taken hold of. Would we panic or trust? We decided to trust and peace returned. During all of this, our sweet dog of 10 years started not acting like himself. Three vets could not figure out what was wrong. Then last night he took a turn and died. Another loss and there were many tears. As the news was setting in, one of the kids responded with words of faith. He said, “We need to pray for Jesus to bring him back to life.” I love that kind of childlike faith! I pray we all have more of that. While the answer was not life for our dog, it was an opportunity to trust Him and ask for His peace and comfort. I have never found our Lord to withhold either.

Read with me this amazing verse. “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. Who Jesus is to us, was planned before He was even sent to earth. God knew we would need a counselor, a father and a prince of peace. We would also be given a glimpse of our Mighty God in the form of the Son of Man. He knew that the weight of government would need more than mans shoulders, so He placed in on Him. Never doubt who God puts in office, for He is in complete control. Pray for those He has placed there. Also as you pray, ask for what you need this season too. Is it peace, a father, counselor or maybe God to be God? For me, I love the picture that comes to mind when we read “Prince of Peace”. A royal robe, a crown and radiance that lights up the darkness, fills my imagination.

As we go through this season that holds so many feelings and memories, remember who He is and what we have been given in Him. I am praying that peace, joy, strength, comfort, wonder, excitement, anticipation and overwhelming love flood your hearts and overflow to everyone you encounter. May this be a Christmas season to remember!

 

Shaping and Celebrating

Last week was a good week. We picked my dad up from the airport and the fun began! We celebrated one of our boys turning 10 years old and ate very well on Thanksgiving. We laughed a lot as a family and spent time playing new games together. Have you ever played the game Spoons? With a table of 10, it can get pretty loud. It reminded me of growing up around my grandparents table. My grandmother would make a delicious dessert and some game would be played. I remember thinking that I could not wait to grow up and get to play. Now I am the grown up and our kids join in the fun. I would rather them not have to wait to play. However, observing like I did as a child had many advantages too, like never losing.

IMG_4354We also went to the movies one day and some of our girls and I saw the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is a story based on an interview with Mr. Rogers.  There was so much that I loved about the movie, but I will not ruin in for you here. I also picked up the book and there is wisdom within the pages. One of the scenes in the movie and then a quote in the book, really stood out to me.

“Take a minute to think of  at least one person who helped you become who you are inside today. Someone who was interested in you for who you really are. Just one minute…one minute to think of those who have made a real difference in your life.” -Fred Rogers 

Sometimes thinking of those who helped us become who we are today, might press a tender place in your heart. Some might make you smile and others might cause you to laugh. The impact people have in our shaping is of high value. It makes me wonder if we kept this in mind when we speak, especially to children, if our words would be considered a bit more carefully. Imagine being a person someone thinks of when they look back at how they became who they are today. We all have this potential.

There are also the ones who shaped us, but they were not at all kind. When I think of these, forgiveness follows. I am sure I have done the same as well. We can sometimes blame everyone else and not take responsibility for our own words and actions. However, sometimes the affect of a person on us had nothing to do with us at all and we are not responsible for their sin. There is forgiveness for this too. The cross paid the price for sin and it is our gift for the receiving. Will you open it today?

When I think of people who influenced me for the good, many images surface. One is of a great uncle who had the most calm, kind and strong voice I have ever heard. He spoke of God so freely and was never in a hurry. He had a great impact on my mom too. For him I am thankful. There are Sunday school teachers who taught me week after week about the Bible. I loved to learn. There are my parents who were entrusted to care for me and the Lord used them in a mighty way. I was given so many opportunities to learn and grow. Some I fought and others I loved. All have been used by God for my good and His glory.

This idea of the shaping of people is pretty big. I had an idea that those who have any encounter with children, should be investigated very carefully. Teachers should not step foot in a school if they do not love children. Principals should not renew contracts of those who are causing damage to the heart of children. The cost of repair is very high. Will these teachers foot the bill? Parents should not be able to leave the hospital if they do not know the great treasure they are being given. If they were not raised as important, how will they give what they do not know? The cycle will continue unless someone steps in and repairs what is broken.

It is time for this world to wakeup and see value in every human. Each person, regardless of age, color, convictions and true gender, matter to God and they should matter to us. May we be used to call out in anyone we meet who they are in God’s sight. They are loved, sin paid for and made for worship. Maybe today you will see someone that needs to be reminded. Ask the Lord to give you the words they need to hear. Speak the words in love and leave the results up to Him. I bet your day will be much more exciting.

I have watched our new 10 year old boy live his life pouring out love, validating people. He sees people, has no fear and chooses to be selfless. He has the biggest brown eyes and smiles a lot. He speaks truth with courage and boldness. He knows and loves God with all his heart and that makes all the difference. He feels deep and can easily get his feelings hurt. He reads people well and is cautious when necessary. Age has no meaning to him and he is as comfortable with a 5 year old as he is with a 50 year old. While not perfect, he is looking more and more like Christ with each passing year. He is a treasure for sure and shapes people in the best way. I bet he will be on the list of many! I pray the same for you as well. Today, chose to be a good shaper.

 

Be the One

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” Luke 17:15

When a particular story comes up three times in one week, I have to take notice. Such was the case with the story found in Luke 17:11-19, of the ten lepers who were healed. It begins with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. The destination was set, but healing happened along the way. I have seen this in my own life. Heaven is the aim, but much takes place in the in between. Also, I have watched how the Lord uses circumstances in my daily life to bring much healing and encouragement. Seems like He is always shining His light on areas that need healing to be whole again, to be returned to the original design. This causes me to praise Him when I have eyes to see.

IMG_5881As Jesus was traveling by, “ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (verses 12-13). Because of their disease, they could not be in contact with others, even Jesus. Even from a distance, they recognized Jesus for who He is. The response of our Savior is beautiful. “When He saw them, He said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (verse 14). Friend, if you have ever felt the eyes of Jesus on you, you are never the same. He sees all of our disease, our sin, and desires healing. The condition that separates us from Jesus is true for every human, but God has made a way for us to be eternally healed. When our high priest, Jesus, “who has become a high priest forever” (Hebrews 6:20) sees us, what do you think He sees? Because of the death on the cross and the resurrection from the grave, payment for our sin, through faith we are now seen as healed in God’s sight. Another word would be righteous.

Now back to the lepers. “As they went, they were cleansed.” (verse 14). No questions are recorded, just obedience. Then something remarkable happens. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him…” (verses 15-16). Why did only one return? Why do so few of us share the good news of Jesus after we are healed? Do we praise God with a loud voice and fall at His feet in worship? I must confess, I sometimes remain silent or focus on what is still troubling me. Jesus wondered why only one of the ten returned, but offered kind words to the one at His feet. “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (verse 19). I want to be the one at the feet of Jesus.

I love the details given in these few verses. The lepers cried out for pity in a loud voice and the healed man used the same loud voice for praise of Jesus. Have you done the same? When you know you have been forgiven and accepted, do your words change to praise? Do you long to hear our Savior say, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”? Funny thing how Jesus brings up faith here, because just a few verses earlier, “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). He gives them such a visual example with the healing of the lepers. When we see the power of Jesus, our faith is increased. He is the One who can truly heal and in doing so, increase our faith before our very eyes.

So, what is our response going to be? We have some choices to make, don’t we? The first would be, do you want to be healed? Do you want to believe and accept healing for your sin? Do you believe that God created you, sin separated you and God sent His One and only Son to pay the debt we owe because of our sin? “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). Friend, it is not that complicated, but the cry must come from your mouth. Jesus is passing by today, call out to Him and be saved. What are you waiting for?

For those who have already accepted this gift, let us use our voices today and around our Thanksgiving tables. May words of praise and gratitude flow like gravy and be as sweet as pumpkin pie. Our words matter and can completely change the atmosphere in a room. Be the one that returns thanksgiving because of healing and eternal life received. Our sin is cleansed and we are healed!! This is good news and others need to hear it. I do not know who will be in your gatherings on Thursday, but I pray they hear you praising our Lord. May your faith increase and bold words that shine with His grace and mercy bring healing around your tables.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

*Recently, one of our daughters had some friends over. I looked out and saw them praying before dinner. These same girls had just moments before gathered in the kitchen and were each sharing with me their favorite Bible verses. Made me smile and give thanks to the Lord.