Lick The Bowl

Addy and I made brownies one evening this week.  I had a sweet tooth craving and she didn’t feel like going to bed on time, therefore baking brownies together seemed like a logical solution.  Those sweet times are fewer and farther between these days, as she is wanting more and more time with her friends and less and less time with me.  But I digress.

After carefully cracking the eggs into the bowl containing the brownie mix (did I mention it was lazy brownies from a box?) Addy started the hand mixer.  After everything was sufficiently combined I poured the batter into the pan.  That’s when Addy asked to lick the beaters.  And I told her no.

She was so disappointed.  I mean, what is the point of baking brownies with your mom if you can’t even lick the beaters right!?  I told her she couldn’t lick the beaters because I knew I was going to give her the whole bowl to lick.  She didn’t know that was going to happen, but she trusted me when I said no.  Granted, she wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t a big meltdown either.

So often in our lives we ask God for the beaters and he says “no”.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and  not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  This isn’t a promise of prosperity, but it is a statement that we can trust in God no matter what.  God knows us.  He knows the greatness and the goodness that He has in store for us.  When we miss out on the beaters, sometimes it is so we can lick the bowl.

If you’re at a “no beaters” point in your life, be encouraged today.  God sees you, he loves you and He is going to grow you to be more like Christ with each day and every circumstance.  Hold strong in your faith; God is worthy of your trust, love and faithfulness.  The bowl is worth the wait.

James 5:10-11 – As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Psalm 8:3-4 – When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Romans 5:2-5 – Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

 

Suffocating Reality

Today I was suffocating in the reality of life.  Nothing bad really, just stress upon stress.  I had to get some air.  Do you ever have those times when you envision taking a plane to a remote location on the other side of the earth where no one will find you, where you have zero guilt or regret, and you run away from all your problems?  I needed to step outside my world to reflect and breathe a minute.

Every minute of every day we are dying.  Every second that goes by is a second closer to death.  And we get to choose how we spend those seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades.  We get to choose if we want to live free in Christ or live suffocating without him.

In taking a time-out to breathe, I realized I wasn’t trusting in God.  My plan, my way, my ideas were better than his.  He wasn’t going to handle my problems how I wanted them handled.  Then I surrendered.  Lord, I surrender all to you.

The moment you surrender everything to God you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.  We are not meant to carry the burdens of this world alone.  For it is through those trials that we lean on Christ the most and, by leaning on Christ, we grow closer to Him.

If you are suffocating in the reality of life today, stop and breathe.  In your moment of stillness, surrender, truly surrender, all of your problems and worries to God.  He will take care of them in ways that are bigger than you could ever imagine.  Trust that His plan is greater than yours.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

You’ve got this sister.  You CAN do this.  You WILL make it through.  To God be the glory for ever and ever.

Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Isaiah 40:28-31 – Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:31 – What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So Lush and Green!

My favorite road to drive down is Ottinger Rd. in Westlake, TX.  The trees on opposite sides of the road are so full and lush that they form a canopy over the road.  When you drive you’re transformed into a different world, one of beauty and possibility.

Here lately the trees have been extra green and the grass has been extra lush.  We’ve had rain almost every day for the last week, and the landscape is loving the relief from the heat of summer.  It makes the drive down Ottinger that much sweeter.

Just like the grass and trees, we, as individuals, can’t grow without the rain.  Sometimes rain in our life is gentle, sometimes the rain is a harsh, pounding storm.  For whatever reason (probably my own hard headedness!), my life seems to be comprised of more hurricanes and tornadoes than gentle lulling rain showers.

It’s through the greatest trials in life that God’s glory can shine the brightest.  God uses our sufferings in life to reach others for Christ in a way that only God could orchestrate.  He has grown my trees, watered them abundantly and woven them together intricately to display his beauty through his creation, my life.

Our lives are on display for all to see, dead or alive, messy or clean, perfect or not.  I pray my life appears abundant and lush like the trees on Ottinger Rd., and I pray that God continues to bring me storms so that I might continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of Him.

Check out The Day of the Ugly Cry and also Blessings by Laura Story for additional encouragement.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:17-18 – Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

No Perfection Here

My life is messy, like stupid messy.  It’s highly likely that I bring all the drama on myself; however, I presently choose to live in denial on that subject.  You definitely won’t find the key to stress-free living on this blog!  Hopefully, to God be the Glory, you will find hope, joy, love, grace and mercy-filled living, though!

My heart has recently been greatly burdened by a personal ongoing trial.  It’s the kind where the situation’s tentacles reach into every orifice of every facet of your life.  I felt  so lost and overwhelmed (and still struggle with those emotions!).  My quiet time consisted of a lot of tears, a little snot and an empty heart.  I cried out “God, I don’t know what I’m doing!”  I was lost and seeking resolution to my hurt and relief for my pain.

When you have those situations where you don’t know what to do, pray to God.  Surrender control of the situation to Him.  He has all the answers and, not just the answers, but the perfect answers.  When you are lost and don’t know which way is up, pray to God that He show you the way.  Looking for God’s direction?  Stop, pray, seek and ye shall find.

It’s painful when sometimes the answer is “wait” while we are amidst our suffering.  There’s no clear “solution” to my situation at the moment.  There’s no do or don’t do, stay or go, lift or drop.  That means the solution is to wait and pray.  My calling at this moment is to love God and that includes loving Him through my suffering.

I pray that God would bless others through the trials in each of our lives.  Live your life as a witness to God’s grace, love, mercy, joy and hope.  May God be glorified through our sufferings and pain.  Lord give us the strength and wisdom to surrender all to you even when it hurts.  Bless, encourage and uplift us as we weep at your feet.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

Philippians 4:7-9 – And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Psalm 31:7-8 – I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.

The Parts We Don’t Like

Okay, I can’t speak for all men, or even for all women, however it seems to me that almost every woman has a part about her body that she doesn’t like.  Thick ankles, mommy tummy, love handles, too big “this” or too small “that”, the list is endless.  In a day and age that glorifies personal appearance and self worship, we are all too apt to focus in on those areas of our bodies that we don’t like.

And I’m no exception.  Regardless of my pant size I don’t like my midsection or shape.  I don’t like my scars from past surgeries.  My body is bent from scoliosis.  Insecurities, each and every one.  (Public confession has to be good for the soul right!?)  I can’t change my scars or my spine, but I like to pretend I have control over my pant size.  The constant striving to drop pounds and inches will drive you mad!!

The Bible says to lose is to gain (Luke 9:24-25) and while God wasn’t talking about weight, or even body issues for that matter, that scripture got me thinking.  I’ve been so focused on what I want to lose that I haven’t focused on what I stand to gain.

Our battle over sin isn’t about losing/stopping the act of sin itself, it’s about a heart change that leads to loving, submitting and serving God more and more.  If you are stuck in the cycle of sin, don’t try and focus on eradicating the action of sin.  Instead, pray for a heart that would love and serve God more.  Pray that God would intervene in your habit of sin.  You’ll find that the more your heart centers on a growing relationship with Christ, the more that sin will die.  For where light is, present darkness cannot exist.

Luke 9:24-25 – For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Psalm 119:25-29 – I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.  I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.  Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.  My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.  Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law.

Hebrews 10:23-27 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

1 John 1:7-9 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Mark 8:35 – For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

 

 

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Honking Horns

I hate being honked at! It makes me jolt and become disoriented, worrying more about what I did wrong than what I should be doing to drive my car forward.  I don’t get honked at frequently, but when I do and the initial “what did I do wrong” thought goes through my head, I then start to blame the person who honked the horn. “They didn’t even give me a chance to see the light before laying into me.”  or “They didn’t have to honk so loud; a polite tap would have done the trick.”  This is all in Texas where the commutes are as easy as apple pie when compared to New York City or Los Angeles.  My nerves would be shot before I ever started driving out there.

As Christians, it seems we are rarely willing to honk our horn for Jesus.  And when we do honk it, we give it a little love tap that sounds more like “peep peep” than “HONK HONK.”

We are called to be disciple-making disciples (Matthew 28:19).  How are we going to make disciples if we don’t first let the world know that we stand for Christ?  You can honk your horn by hanging a Christian sign in the yard.  Or by wearing Christian t-shirts while running errands or mowing the lawn.  Put a bumper sticker for God in the back windshield of your car.  Email everyone in your department at work inviting them to Bible study.  HONK that horn, don’t love-tap it.

Make sure to pray for God’s direction on when and where you should honk the loudest.  Just because we should honk doesn’t negate the fact that we need to follow Christ while doing so.

Check out Waving Flags for additional encouragement on this topic.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 4:19 – And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 3:34-35 – Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Everything Dies

This post may be more therapeutic than purposeful but I pray God will weave His words through my fingers so that He will be glorified, and that His glorification will find its way to your heart.

Our AC unit is a year and a half old.  People kept saying it was too hot in our house for it to be working properly, but I lived in denial.  I didn’t want to have an AC problem.  We called a repair company out, and then another and another.  Our lifetime warranty with the original installers apparently meant nothing since they are now out of business, and you hear “your call cannot be completed as dialed” when you call them.

A couple of days later, the dishwasher died.  We knew that it was dying for a while but, with everything else going on in life, we ignored the problem until one day it was done.  We’ve been without a dishwasher for three weeks now.

Then a couple of days after that, our two-year-old, still-under-manufacturer’s-warranty fridge died.  It’s been almost three weeks and we still don’t have a fridge.  Samsung told us Thursday that it isn’t repairable.

All within 6 days.  It has been an interesting last three weeks to say the least.

What situations in your life are you ignoring until you are forced to confront them?  What relationships are you neglecting?  What are you turning a blind eye to?

Had I fixed the dishwasher when it first started going out we wouldn’t have been without a dishwasher for a month.  Had we used a reputable AC company instead of trying to save money we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now.  Not everything is fixable, some things can’t be saved, but you do move forward.

I urge you today to address those situations which you’ve been ignoring.  Seek repair in the relationships you find the most trying.  And don’t forget about repair in our relationship with Christ.  Without repair in our relationship with Christ no other repair is possible.

You may not have the same job, the same friends, or even the same house (I’m frustrated with ours at the moment, venting!), but you will always have the same God.  He loves you even through all this mess.  He wants nothing more than to walk you through the repair and break the cycle of fear, anger, remorse and grief.

Everything dies and is made new in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Philippians 4:12-13 – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1 Peter 5:10 – And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

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There’s Always More

There is always a never ending list of stuff to do, things to buy, places to go and busyness to partake in.  Grocery store lists, errands to run, phone calls to return, kids’ activities to race to, it’s the stuff that makes life, life.  It’s also the stuff that makes life suffocating.

I find that the busier I am, the less quiet time I spend with God.  The day is busy from the moment the alarm goes off, and there “isn’t time” to start the day with prayer and relationship with God.  The busier I am, the more I rely on myself to get stuff done and the less I rely on God.  “I can get it all done,” “I can make it happen,” “I can get it accomplished”—there’s no room for God in any of those thoughts of the heart.  The more time that goes on like that, the wider the chasm in my relationship with Christ.

Our God is a good, good Father and He is waiting for us to return to His arms.  I imagine him sitting on the front porch, light on, waiting expectantly for our return home.  He wants nothing more than to spend time with us each day, just sitting and talking one-on-one.

If you are far from Christ today, or maybe just haven’t had a focused quiet time in a while, now is the time to stop and spend time with your Lord.  He is waiting for you.  He can’t wait to hear your heart and share his love in return.

Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Psalm 73:28 – But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

James 4:8 – Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Mark 1:35 – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Psalm 62:1 – Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Revelation 3:20 – Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Isaiah 2:17 – The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

Psalm 73:25-26- Whom have I in heaver, but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but my God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

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The Day of the Ugly Cry

We’ve all had the ugly cry.  The one with tears pouring down uncontrollably.  Snot running, mixing with the tears, no tissues within sight.  Shoulders heaving, chest tightening, body in uncontrollable waves of sobs.  That ugly cry.  We each have a memory that comes to mind when someone says “ugly cry.”  When we are at our absolute lowest of lows, God is there.  He lifts our face and smiles love and hope into our hearts.  That doesn’t always mean it is puppy dogs, rainbows and unicorns though.  (Can you tell I have two little girls?)

I’ve had two big “God gripping my life” ugly cries.  It seems when God needs to get my attention gentle words aren’t effective; I need my head beat against the concrete instead, but I digress.  First ugly cry was the Sunday after I filed for divorce.  Yes, Christians can be divorced, we sin just like the next person (another blog for another day).  That was the first time in many years that I attended church and I sobbed through the entire sermon.  I don’t think I heard a word the pastor said and found myself sobbing and weeping at the front steps of the sanctuary begging for absolution of my sin and confirmation of my salvation in Christ.  (Luke 7:36-50 was me!) That was 8.5 years ago.

The second big ugly cry was in the parking lot at UT Southwestern before my neurosurgeon appointment, to receive a 3rd opinion on my spine and neurological diagnosis.  The first two opinions were not encouraging.  I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed for longer than I’d ever prayed just for that one appointment.  Seriously, when the Bible talks about praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:16-18) that’s what I was doing, for weeks!  Before walking in for the appointment it came down to do I really believe that God is good?  Do I really believe that living the rest of my life in constant nerve pain that cannot be medically improved is God’s best and God’s “good”?  How could a good God really do that in my life?

I decided before I walked in to the appointment that God was good, no matter what.  Then I wiped all the snot and tears away, using at least 10 napkins, gathered myself (and water because I was dehydrated after all that!) and went inside.  The appointment didn’t go well.  I didn’t get good news and the doctor didn’t have the best delivery of the unfortunate news.

However God is good, and he is faithful.  He has used my journey of pain and suffering to reach others for Christ in the most miraculous ways one could imagine.  I met a random woman suffering in constant pain at the exact moment her husband was across the world in the Sea of Galilee praying for help for her pain.  God gave us to each other to love and mentor each other through this journey.  She is now pain free, I am not.  And that’s okay.  I’ve been able to share Christ openly in several doctors offices.  Nurses have been able to see the example of my love and joy through suffering and have received encouragement.

God has used my pain for His glory.  He has used my suffering for His glory.  But the biggest result of my big ugly cries was God changing MY heart towards Him.  I had to pray incessantly to God which forged a new level of relationship with Christ.  He taught me to trust Him even when it doesn’t feel good.  God lifted my head, ignoring my running snot, looked into my eyes and said “Peace be with you.” (Philippians 4:7 ringing in my head).  God taught me it isn’t about this moment, it’s about the future discipleship of others using the giftedness God has given me, which includes my pain.  My pain is a gift from God.  And God is good.

If you are struggling today my friend, be encouraged; God is WITH you and God is FOR you!  He will absolutely give you more than you can handle just so you will rely on Him to make it through.  If you are having a hard time, I encourage you to sit and worship with these songs today: “Blessings” by Laura Story, “Thy Will” by Hilary Scott, and “Hallelujah” by Pentatonix.  These three songs have gotten me through the last 9+ years of pain and worship, worship in pain.

Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah 54:10 – Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

 

 

Weary and Discouraged

There are times in life when we feel lost and disconnected.  Void of emotion to connect with others and lacking any “give a poop” to try, we sit stagnant, sinking deeper and deeper into a place of apathy and discouragement.  It is frustrating when we pray and pray yet our prayers seem to go unanswered.  Fighting the fight day after day with no end in sight makes us weary.  We each go through these times and phases.  If you are feeling far from God, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

It is in the deepest valleys that God’s glory shines brightest.  It is in the deepest despair that we cry out to God the most and in doing so draw closer to Him.  Light shines brighter in darkness than in light.  Mercy and grace are more meaningful when received while experiencing guilt and shame.  The farther we are from God the greater our need for Him becomes evident.

The book of Job (in the Bible) is a struggle, more like argument, between man and God.  If you are struggling today, be honest with God about your feelings.  Tell him your anger, your hurt, your disgust, your frustration, your sadness.  He already knows how you feel, but trust me, it feels good to tell him.  It feels good to be honest.  By freely admitting where your heart is at today you can begin to rebuild moving forward.

The song Blessings by Laura Story got me through divorce and the aftermath.  I have countless memories of singing this song, tears streaming down my face, while wrestling with God about how my life ended up in such a shambles.  The song Thy Will by Hillary Scott recently helped me through grief and anger from a devastating medical diagnosis.

There will always be times of weariness and discouragement in life.  God is faithful to help us make it through, even when it doesn’t feel like He’s there.  He won’t wave a magic fairy wand and end your suffering, but he will wrap his arm around you and give you a shoulder to lean on each and every step of the journey.

Start by praying.  If you are at a place where you can’t even pray then just close your eyes; God knows the words without you having to say them.  Surrender all, lay your hurt at the foot of the cross.  God’s love will chase you down and fight until you’re found. (Reckless Love by Cory Asbury)

1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Psalm 34:17-19 – The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Isaiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Bumps and Bruises

Bumps, scrapes, bruises and blood are all common around our house.  With a rough-and-tumble kid there is no telling what adventure and injury the day will bring.  We’ve had three days of school so far this year, and she’s been to the nurse every single day.  She’s also my child who had four concussions in two years and still continues to be a daredevil to this day.

Life can be a beating as well.  Sometimes there are physical scars but more often there are emotional scars.  The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is a lie.  Words hurt.  We are left hurting and wounded by people’s words, careless actions and senseless deeds.  Sometimes our wounds are temporary and will heal with time.  Other times we are left with permanent scars showing our former hurts and forever wounds.

Be encouraged today.  Bumps, bruises, scars and wounds mean you are actively living life.  If you don’t get in the game of life you won’t have pain and suffering, but you also won’t reap the rewards.  Life is messy.  Life is painful.  Life hurts.  But with Christ, it is worth every bruise, every scar and every wound.  Christ came to save the world not condemn it. (John 12:47)  Jesus loves you and wants to heal your hurts today.  Accept God’s love, grace, mercy and hope today.  Expect joy in Christ in your life today.

PS:  Imagine our scars compared to Jesus’ scars.  Mine will be NOTHING compared to his!

John 12:47 – If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Psalm 34:4-6 – I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

2 Corinthians 3-5 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Psalm 6:1-10: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, nor chasten me in your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.  And my soul is also greatly troubled; But you, O Lord – how long?  Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.  For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?  I am weary with my mourning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of my grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my please; the Lord accepts my prayer.  All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

The Emergency Room Visit

At a recent visit to the ER, it struck me that hospitals are the great equalizer of life.  It doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic status is, you still feel terror accompanying a loved one in the ER.  It doesn’t matter your ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, age, your anything, because there is still the fear, crisis, emotional exhaustion, grief, etc. in your heart.  At the ER you are not in control.

Which reveals the true question, who IS in control?  It clearly isn’t me because, if it were, I’d like to think we wouldn’t be in this mess.  Is it the patient?  Probably not because it’s doubtful they would choose to be in such a place voluntarily.  Could it be the doctors and nurses?  No.  They would have all the answers and the magic cures if they were in control.  Most people (visitors, patients, medical staff, etc.) would agree that a higher power is in control.

God isn’t just in control at the ER in the hospital, he’s in control of all the emergencies in life as well.  Whether it’s the loss of a job, the death of a spouse, a recent divorce or trouble with children, you can rest assured knowing that God is in control.  Even when you walk through the fire you will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2).

God told us that we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33) but to be in peace knowing that He has already conquered all the hurt and pain that this world brings.  If you are living in the bondage of fear, anxiety, stress, pain, guilt and shame, you can be free!  You can be delivered through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you are already a Christ follower, lean not only on God’s word, but also on your fellow brothers and sisters to help carry the burden (Galatians 6:2).  Remember, also, that God is completely committed to our spiritual growth through the trials we encounter.  “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Romans 8:18 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fullfill the law of Christ.

Subway of Life

Mom and I talk during my morning commute each day.  The conversation always starts with one of us sharing about what their day holds.  There is never a lack of insanity scheduled, much less unscheduled, each day in my life.  She routinely tells me that the recitation of what the coming day holds for me stresses her out.  While it is therapeutic for me (hearing it out loud somehow brings order to the impending mayhem) it is most certainly not therapeutic for her.

Such is the subway of life.  Sometimes we feel in control, sometimes we feel out of control but, no matter what, it is always a high speed pace.  As life goes on, the speed increases more and more.  I once heard that, as children, time feels longer because it is a larger percentage of our overall life and that, as we age, the years become a smaller and smaller percentage of our life.  Therefore, time seems to speed up more and more.  So far, the theory seems to hold true in my life.

The beauty of it is, we get to pick which subway line we get on, and there are only two trains to choose from.  You can even switch trains mid-life if you feel so inclined.  You can either travel on a subway headed for life or you can travel on a subway headed for death.  Both involve living your life, both involve making conscious choices to participate in your life and both move at high speeds.  But both don’t end at the same destination.

You can choose death, with eternal separation from Jesus, which is hell.  Or, you can choose eternal life with Jesus in heaven.  There is only one way to switch from the subway of death to the subway of life, and that is by believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was resurrected on the third day and that salvation through Him is the one and only way to eternal life.

It is never too late to switch which subway line you’re traveling on.  Today is the day to choose life, not death.  You will never make a more freeing decision as the one to accept Christ as your savior.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9-10 – 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.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Mark 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Centrifugal Force

Recently Livi and I were making the 40 mile drive from work to home (she loves when she gets to go to work with Mommy) when, out of nowhere, a rock hit the windshield.  A tiny pebble is probably more accurate.  She and I both jumped when it hit and immediately looked around to find the source of the flying pebble.  It appeared that a nearby road crew was to blame.  It’s crazy to think that a pebble somehow wound up at the exact right location so that it could be hit at the exact right moment for it to be slung with centrifugal force into the just right trajectory as my car was passing by at the exact second to be hit by the flying rock.  That’s a whole lot of arranging to take place for one teeny tiny moment in time to occur.

And if God put that much thought and energy into strategically placing and slinging a pebble, imagine the thought and energy that he is, and always has, poured into your life for all the just right moments to occur.  Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.  Not one encounter is by chance.  Not one interaction is for naught.  Sometimes you are the pebble in someone’s life.  Sometimes people are the pebble in your life.  You need to choose what kind of pebble you are going to be.  Are you going to shatter their world for Christ, changing their life and trajectory forever?  Are you going to listen to Christ as he uses others to shatter your windshield and change your trajectory?

Today I choose to be used by God to make an impact in people’s lives.  I choose to follow God wherever he may lead, trusting in him to set my trajectory.  Praise God, for all the glory is His forever and ever amen!

Proverbs 16:9 – The mind of man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.

Ephesians 5:15-17 – So be very careful how you live.  Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely.  Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times.  So do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do.

Proverbs 10:17 – Whoever heeds discipline shows the way of life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

The Missed Opportunities of Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve

I’m going to screw this all up.  It should’ve been a better article had I not waited until midnight to write it.  I could’ve been in bed cuddling my two girls had I not wasted time earlier.  I would’ve been sleeping by now if I had made different choices.  We all do it, all day long.  The could have, should have and would have moments of life are all too prevalent in the back of our mind.  I could have been better.  I would have done more.  I should have accomplished more.

Missing cuddle time with my girls is tragic; it’s moments that I will never get back.  Feeling my little one’s fingers stroke my hair as she falls asleep is priceless.  It is a snapshot of time that will never happen again.  When you miss it, you miss it for good.

The same is true for missed ministry opportunities.  I could’ve had my quiet time today if I hadn’t slept in.  I should’ve talked to that person about Christ, but I was scared.  I would’ve volunteered, but no one asked.  When you miss these opportunities, you miss out on the best God has for you in that moment.

God is ever present (Psalm 46:1), always loving, freely giving of grace, hope, love, mercy and joy.  All you need to do is follow Him.  Follow him freely, openly and completely.  Say “yes” to every moment of every day.  Search for opportunities to serve Him.  Talk to the stranger you encounter about Christ.  Serve and give freely of your time and talents.  Seek and ye shall find.

Should’ve, could’ve and would’ve moments in your walk with Christ have eternal consequences.  Today is the day to seize the moment.  Today is the day to walk blindly in faith.  Today is the day to say “I am all yours God.”  Don’t miss the opportunities in Christ, you can never get these moments back.

Romans 12:11 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

John12:26 – Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

1 Corinthians 13:13 – So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Thank You For Your Service

How often do we thank our service men and women for their service in the armed forces? Anytime someone is in uniform or shows a USAA insurance card, they are waving their flag for our country. They need the encouragement and the prayer support of their fellow brothers and sisters to show we are united with them and support and appreciate each of them.

But, how often do we thank the janitors at our church for their service to God? Do they not also need the same encouragement and support as you and I? Do they serve a lesser place in the kingdom because of how they are specifically called right now? Matt Chandler’s (President of the Acts 29 Network and Pastor at The Village Church) first job was as a janitor in a church.

So often we are feeling in a “less than” place in our lives.  We tell ourselves “I am less than because of my position,” or “I am less than because I have less than others,” or “I am less than because my ministry isn’t as big as others.” Hear this today: God doesn’t create anything less than another! We are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in the image of God. Do our lives look different, yes. Are we each called differently, yes. But there is no “less than”.

Know that you are seen and you are loved for who you are, not who you desire to be.  Janitors, executives, addicts, criminals, housewives, hurting and lost, we are all children of the one true God who loves and delights in us. He weeps for our sin, he rejoices in our victories and he cheers us on in our “church janitor” phases.

No matter where you are in your walk today, remember that you are seen, you are known and you are loved. Encourage your brothers and sisters today. Pray for your family in Christ, known to you and unknown.  Look for the invisible people in your world.

Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 115:1 – To you alone, O Lord, to you alone and not to us, must glory be given because of your constant love and faithfulness.

John 6:37 – Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as while as wool.”

Psalm 149:4 – For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

Garage Door Clicker vs. House Key

Don’t laugh…I don’t have a key to my house.  I usually get in by using the garage door clicker and by leaving the door into the house from the garage unlocked.  It works.  Apparently it’s abnormal to not have a key to your own house but for my life it’s normal daily life.

Everything was fine, for two years I might add, until one day the garage door broke.  Without the garage door working I couldn’t get into the house.  My work-around solution that had worked so well was no longer a viable option.  I no longer had a way into the house.

“The gate [to heaven] is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14)  It’s hard to live the straight and narrow life that we are called to live as Christians.  There’s only one way to heaven and that is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  There’s no work-around for having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We try our hardest to create work-arounds, though.  The “Kingdom of Self” is a big one: being a Christian but being self-reliant and focused on your wants, your needs, your abilities.   Trusting in money and things to satisfy us.  Always wanting more money, bigger house, nicer car, more stuff, always more, more, more.  Things will never satisfy our heart, because our hearts weren’t designed to be satisfied with anything less than Christ.  There’s no work-around for having a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  My garage door clicker instead of a house key will never suffice.

Stop and think, what does my life center around today?  Does my life center around Christ, or do I fit Christ into my existing priorities?  I would encourage you to pray that God would show each of us ways that we can walk better in His straight and narrow path so that we can serve within His will.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Colossians 3:1-3 – Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the top right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

2 John 1:9 – Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

John 10:9 – I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

The Rule of 7’s

One day, a friend gave me some of the best advice I’ve received and, quite possibly, the best advice I’ve ever passed along to others.  Life is messy.  It’s chaotic, it’s frustrating and sometimes infuriating.  People act senselessly and recklessly creating ripple effects that tear through hearts and lives.  Some days there seems to be no end to the nightmare.  That’s when the rule of 7’s comes into play.  How will this moment look and feel in 7 days, 7 months and 7 years from now.

Wow.  Talk about perspective changer and attitude changer.  I found that my daughter’s meltdowns while frustrating in the moment, won’t be our reality in 7 years.  The frustrating situations at work won’t even be memories in 7 months.  And the battle over healthy food vs. peanut butter and jelly (or even just jelly straight up) won’t be an issue in 7 days.  The messiness of today won’t matter in the future.  Will it shape it, sure.  Will it define it, not unless you let it.

Today you can choose how you will respond.  Do you continue the messy, ugly ripple effects created by other people’s poor choices, or do you stop and consciously choose to not let this small moment define your future reality?  I choose love for others, grace for others, mercy for others and joy, joy for myself.

God is ever constant.  Never changing.  Always good, even in what feels bad and messy.  The one and only choice you will ever make that will absolutely make a difference in 7 days, 7 months and 7 years, is the decision for salvation.  If you are tired of riding the emotional roller coaster of inconsistency then choose Christ today.  He is right there with you, just waiting for you to take his hand.  Expect joy today.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

1 Peter 1:8-9 – Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

2 Corinthians 12:10 – That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Are You Blessed?

You know those people who always say “be blessed!” when you check out at the grocery store?  Or the customer service rep on the phone who concludes the call with “Have a blessed day!”  I love it when they say that.  It feels good to be blessed and to be reminded to have a blessed day.

But what does it mean to “be blessed” or to have a blessed day anyway?  Beautiful words but what do they mean in real life?

Matthew 5:4-10 says “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Did you identify with one or more of those people above?  I did, several of them.  God is so good, all the time, even in the hurt and the pain and the pure messiness of life.  The next time someone says “be blessed” to you, remember Matthew 5:4-10 and remember God’s promise to you and to your heart.

You are loved, you are cherished, you are blessed, just as you are.

Philippians 4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus

Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 138:7 – Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.  You stretch out your hand against the anger of the foes; with your right hand you save me.

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work

John 1:16 – Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

Psalm 1:1-3 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.

White Paint

Two years ago we moved into our house.  We love our “little” house as we call it.  God called us to downsize significantly and we couldn’t enjoy it more.  It is easier to clean, maintain, and best of all we can’t shop for stuff because we don’t have room.  Love saving money!  Both Addy and Livi got to pick the paint color for their room.  Addy picked a forest green, deep dark forest green.  In her brain she picked turquoise, but that is definitely not what the color card looked like.  She was greatly disappointed when she saw it for the first time.  It didn’t meet her expectations.

I made her live with the forest green for two years.  She picked it, she made a choice, she should live with the consequences.  Nice mom or mean mom, I’m not sure, but it’s better to learn consequences from choices now rather than later in life.  And a paint color is a great painless way to learn.

Today I started the re-painting process.  She wants a unicorn candy themed room, complete with toile, lights, unicorns, candy, hand painted murals and more.  Pinterest and I are about to spend a lot of time together.  And I will probably fail her expectations.

The white primer paint on the dark forest green is a stark contrast.  Two opposite ends of the spectrum.  It reminds me of Jesus’ salvation in our lives.  We are dark with sin without Christ.  When we accept Jesus Christ as our savior we become white as snow.  We do a complete 180, opposite end of the color spectrum, turning from our sin to righteousness in Christ.  We are made pure in the eyes of Jesus; all of our sins are forgiven because of his sacrifice.

Thank you God for sending your Son to die for me.  Thank you for transforming me from dark forest green sin to reflective white.  Please let your righteousness shine through me so others can be reached for Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away, behold, new things have come.

Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Ezekiel 18:31 – Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!  For why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 36:26 – Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.