12.31.2013

Mutually encouraging each other in the faith.

Dennis was reminiscing about one of his mentors recently, recalling conversations, specific statements, and articulating how this man changed his perspective on life - and therefore, changed him!

And it made me wonder - does this man even KNOW he impacted my husband?  Does he know his words still run through his mind, challenging and encouraging him a decade later?  Does he know that Dennis now asks some of those same questions to the young men he disciples?  I imagine this mentor would be humbled and thrilled to know that he made a difference in the life of a young man ... a young man who is still walking with the Lord ... and is now taking the gifts he was so freely given, and sharing them with other young men who are struggling like he once did.

Do the people who invested in us, leaving a lasting mark on our lives know they have done so?
The only way they will know is if we TELL them!

We have to tell people why they matter!
~ meeting you for lunch to listen to your struggles as a new mom
~ holding you while you cried as you grieved the loss of a loved one
~ listening to your sorrows
~ serving you through acts of love - meals, babysitting, buying you a new outfit when you could not afford it
~ praying for you faithfully
~ sending you notes of encouragement
~ keeping you accountable to read and study the Word because you shared it was a struggle
~ remembering your birthday or the anniversary of a significant event

We do not need to tell them every time we see them, but a thoughtful note or meaningful gift a few times a year is always appreciated.  And needed.  Even your closest friend needs to be reminded why she matters to you.  She may 'know' you love her, but affirmation is a good thing - for all of us!

When we express our gratefulness for the way others have influenced our lives and pushed us towards Christ, they will be encouraged with the knowledge that the Lord used them to stir another up for love and good deeds - and He was glorified because of it.

God created words.  He has a purpose for them!  And when used the right way, they can bring untold joy to the hearer - and make a difference that can last a lifetime.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. 
Proverbs 16:24

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.  Proverbs 25:11

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.  
Proverbs 27:2

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.  Proverbs 12:25

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  
I Thessalonians 5:11

Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.  
Job 4:4

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!  Proverbs 15:23

My end of the year challenge to you is this:

Pray and ask the Lord to bring to mind every single person He has used to encourage you this past year.  I guarantee you will not have to wait long before your hand starts flying across the page writing out every name He brings forth!  And then, place the list somewhere you will see it every day, and write to/call/visit each person over this next year, to say Thank You.

Seeing 1,000 people pour into the seats for a memorial service is a great testimony of a life that influenced and touched the hearts and lives of others.  But singing the praises of someone beloved and adored at their graveside does them no good.  They need to hear from us today.

When you needed them - they ministered to you.  Even when you didn't know you needed that kind word, that kick in the backside, that intimate moment of prayer together ... they were obedient to meet you where God told them to meet you.  And you were changed.

And one day it will be your turn to minister to someone who is hurting, struggling, or sinning - just like you were - and the Lord will use YOU.

Take the challenge.  Ask the Lord to recall every kind word and action shown to you this past year.
And then act on it!

Because when you do, you will be living out one of the most beautiful and always-needed joys of the body of Christ ...

that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  Romans 1:12

12.19.2013

Our Expectations - unrealistic, unfair ... and God's - perfect and beautiful.

While talking with friends about the Tim Hawkins concert, specifically the Q&A session, Dennis said something that grabbed my attention.  He was sharing that the small audience was cool and lacking energy when Tim came out to greet us and then stated, "There is a huge expectation waiting for him every time he enters a room.  He has proven that he is funny, so people expect, if not demand, that he delivers every single time he is on stage.  He probably hits a home run most of the time, but it is ridiculous to expect him to do so all the time." 

And it made me think ...
Isn't this exactly what we do to each other in the body of Christ?

Someone we know, love, and respect ...
remembered our birthday with a lovely card
watched our children for us when we were sick
sent an encouraging hand-written note when we were struggling
prayed with us
brought us a meal when we were sick
sent Scripture verses to encourage us
laughed with us
listened to us when we were hurting
served on a mission team with us, experiencing the highs and the lows
cried with us when our own tears would not stop flowing

... and therefore, we expect them to do these things EVERY time we need or want them.  And, they should do so without being asked, because they should always be aware of everything that is happening in our lives.

And if they don't?  If we do not receive the birthday card or the phone call or find a crock pot of hot soup on our doorstep - we toss them into the "not a good friend" pile of our acquaintances.

WHY?!?

Are we not fallible beings who will never be able to meet the needs of everyone we know, exactly when they need us to meet them?
Has anyone we know, even those closest to us, ever met all of our own needs every time one arises?

So why do we put such unrealistic expectations on one another?  We are hurt when someone does not call to tell us they are praying for us when we are struggling, but we never told them we needed prayer.  We are offended when someone makes a rude comment toward us or about us, but we conveniently forget the times we have spoken rashly or thoughtlessly about others.  We are mad when a friend does not offer to help when we are drowning in trials, but we never told her we desperately needed a break.  Yet somehow - all of these things are the failings of the friend - and we are not responsible.

Shame on us.

Scripture is so clear about how we are to think of others:  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3,4

This verse leaves no room for petty attitudes and bitterness when someone does not "perform" the way we want/need/ expect them to perform.  Yes, we may be hurting more than we ever have.  We may be battling health issues, the loss of a baby, defiant children, financial loss, or the sorrow of loving an unsaved spouse.  But even then the Lord asks us to think of others as MORE important than ourselves.  Not equal to ourselves - more important.  More valuable.  More significant.

A friend did not call to see if we got the results of a biopsy.  A husband did not call to check in, even when he knew that one child was being particularly trying.  A sibling did not remember our birthday.  A pastor did not include us in a ministry event.
Are all of these a bummer?  Sure.
But before we allow emotion to take over and control us, did we even take two seconds to consider:
How is their marriage?
How is her ailing mother - is she having to spend a lot of time helping her?
How is she doing with her husband out of town for three weeks?
I know she battles with depression at Christmas, I wonder how she is doing?

If we take even a few moments to "seek to understand" and look at life through their perspective - we will almost always have a bit more compassion and patience for the seeming "failures" of others.
The people God has placed in our lives have their own hurts and trials and troubles ... and when they are drowning in theirs, they cannot always see our needs.  Sometimes it is selfishness and oversight, but that can be quickly reconciled when honest, loving communication takes place.  Either way - we cannot respond (privately or publicly) with emotions that are based solely on our own selfishness because we did not get what we wanted, when we wanted it, from someone we love.

EXPECTATIONS
: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
synonyms:
supposition, assumption, presumption, conjecture, surmise, calculation, prediction, hope

This is how the world defines expectations - expecting/assuming/supposing/hoping we WILL get what we want, either now or later.

But Scripture says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23  Not one of us will ever do everything right, minister to every need at the precise moment, or meet every expectation set for us.  It is literally impossible to do so because we are sinners who live for self and must fight constantly to walk in the Spirit so we can serve others first.  
Perfection can only be found in Jesus Christ.
It is a fruitless effort to seek it in anyone else.

It is easy to get upset and make declarations of offenses and rudeness when someone ELSE shows their sinful flesh.  But we join them quickly when we sulk and lament over their failings, without acknowledging our own.  Not one of us has ever been the perfect friend, spouse, sister, daughter, or mother.  We must always remember who we are ... sinners saved by grace ... so that we can be obedient to do as Scripture commands:  A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.  Proverbs 19:11

The world says we can and should expect things from others ... but God asks us to SERVE others - because we love HIM.

Oh, Lord, may we lower the human expectations we set upon the backs of others, and seek instead to meet YOUR standards of righteousness.  The more focused we are on Your face, the less we will be able to see the foibles of others, and the quicker we will be to overlook and forgive because we know how many times You toss our own failures and sins into the sea - and promise to remember them no more.
We all have expectations, Lord, and that is okay as long as they are completely rooted and sustained by the truth of Scripture, and what YOU WANT for Your children.
Teach us to love, and accept, one another ... just as You have loved us.  We know we cannot do it on our own, Lord - we need You.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Colossians 3:13

12.14.2013

May my desires become my reality!

The older I get, and the more I learn of the godless, immoral acts of our country, leadership, individuals, and the world at large ... the more I understand why God weeps over nations who have turned against Him.  And, why He judges nations who turn against Him and refuse to yield or submit to His holy authority.
Scripture is clear that God hates sin, and He disciplines both the righteous and the unrighteous. Yet we sit in a state of shock after reading headlines declaring horrific abuses, godlessness, immoralities, slander, lies, the celebration of passions and the flesh and wonder, "How did this happen?"

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes He condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  II Peter 2

The Lord is teaching me that I cannot let my mind, or heart, engage in continual conversation, research, and thought about the state of our country, or the world.  As Ecclesiastes says, "Nothing is new under the sun."  The sins of our nation and the sins of individuals around the world are not unique, creative, or shocking to the Lord.  He has seen the darkness and depravity of men and women through hundreds of generations over thousands of years. 
As Peter reminds us, the Lord has also judged the depravity of man, including His own heavenly angels, over and over again.

We love and serve a patient, long-suffering, and gracious God.
We love and serve a jealous, righteous, holy, and just God.
His justice administers discipline as a consequence of our sins.
His mercy keeps us from getting what we rightly deserve.  Eternity in hell, with no hope of escape.
His LOVE gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly walked the road to Calvary, taking our sins upon His shoulders so that we can find FORGIVENESS … and appease the wrath of a holy God.  It is only because of the blood of Jesus Christ that we may stand before the Father and have His eyes look upon us.  He does not see US … He sees the blood of His Son that washed away our sin and made us whiter than snow.  Jesus Christ IS the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to get to the Father - is to believe in the Son.

I cannot continue to focus on the godless evil of our country and the world.  It does not mature, encourage, or edify me.  It stirs up sinful anger, worry, and fear, and worst of all – it takes my eyes off of Christ and lets them rest on the selfish passions and pursuits of the world.  The world that I am supposed to be passing through – not settling in

What I can do … what I should be doing … is PRAY.
Pray for my country.
Pray for my leaders.
Pray for the enemies of the Gospel.
Pray for those with power and influence.
Pray for our American freedoms to remain freedoms.
Pray for Christians to stand firm instead of swaying with the ever-changing winds of culture.
Pray for our nation to turn back to the God we once loved and obeyed.
Pray for myself.  I am the only one who will stand before the Lord to give an account for my every thought, action, word, and motive.  Therefore, I must pray fervently, with sincerity, and without ceasing that …
my mind would stay focused on Christ. 
my heart will be steadfast and in love with the Savior. 
my convictions will strengthen, and my feet will remain firmly planted in Biblical truth.
my passion for Scripture and prayer will continually increase.
my commitment to Biblical truth will not waiver.
my love for the body of Christ will grow stronger day by day.
my compassion for the world will cause me to love them as Christ loves them remembering that the things of the Cross are foolishness to them – and they need a Savior!
my sin will be ever before me so I will be quick to repent, and then restored to the Lord so I can be used to accomplish His plans, rather than my own.

Oh, Lord, how much work I have to do!  Make the desires of my heart become the REALITY of my living!

12.02.2013

A heavy heart - and a God who gives immeasurable peace.

My heart is heavy tonight.

The weight of different bits of information I received today has grown heavier as the hours pass, and I find myself asking the Lord, "What are You doing?  How will this be used to glorify You? Will people come to know You through these tragedies and trials?  Will believers be jump-started to take their faith seriously as they process these happenings?  You control life and death, Lord.  You are not surprised or shaken by the actions of men.  But we have no control ... and we are continually surprised and shaken.  And sometimes trying to figure out the 'why' and the 'what' causes more frustration and pain than letting go ... and trusting You in the unknown.
Reveal Yourself in these circumstances, Lord.  In the tiniest of details, and in the big picture. People need You.  Your wisdom.  Your peace.  Your SAVING grace.  Let them see You, Lord.  Please.  Let them see YOU."

The death of a man.  He was a beloved father, son, brother, nephew, grandson, and friend.  And tonight they cry and grieve and mourn the loss of him ... knowing they will never see him, hug him, hear his voice, hear him laugh, or talk to him again. 
Such a helpless feeling. 
There was no preparation, no warning, no goodbye.  Just the phone call that he was gone.
And now hearts are breaking ... and weeping will last through the night.
But the Lord will be there in the morning, calling out, bidding those who know Him to "Come." And find peace in Him. 
Just as He calls out to all He came to save ... for He desires that all men should come to repentance ... everyone - if they will accept the gift of salvation He so willingly and freely gives.
Lord, let them see You in their pain.  Do not let this death be in vain.  Let it push people to seek after You with all of their hearts.
They need You, Lord.  Not just to endure the pain of this loss.  But to endure life - and life eternal.
Meet them where they are, Lord.  Open their eyes to the truth of who YOU are.  And may they answer the call.

The death of a ministry ... because of sin and pride.
The results:  Confusion.  Hurt.  Disillusionment.  Anger.  Bitterness.
But the Lord is bigger than all of it.
He forgives every sin, large or small, when a repentant heart cries out to Him.  Whether it was one day or a decade of disobedience ... God forgives His children.
He restores.
He heals.
He REDEEMS.
But in the hours, days, and months between the sin and the redemption ... we must wait for the Lord to work.  And we must trust Him to work - in His time, and in His way.

The death of dreams, skills, a career ... because of a devastating illness that has left a woman without the ability to live the life she once knew.  The life she loved.
Depression.  Sadness.  Hopelessness.  Family life crumbling.  She does not see the end.
But still she clings to her Savior.
Through the heartache.  Through the pain.  She knows He is REAL.  And she continues to trust. Even when she doesn't think she can go on.
And He is there.
Hearing every word of anguish and complaint.
Watching every tear.
And holding her when she breaks down and weeps in the darkness.
He is there.
Because He is God.  And He cares for her.

Death is real.  It is the end of every man, and every woman.  And we cannot pretend differently. Today is the day of repentance.  TODAY is the day we decide to continue following self - or surrender self to follow the Savior and live forever with Him in the splendor and glory of heaven.  
T O D A Y.  We have no promise of tomorrow.

But there is another kind of death - the death of relationships, dreams, ministry, marriages - a death that never allows for closure or healing because the person/thing still exists.  But the pain, the consequences, the broken trust ... they are real.
Forgiveness needs to be sought - and granted.
Humility needs to be captured - and put on with expediency and grace.
Trust needs to be exercised - and patience must be allowed to grow and mature.

This world is full of sorrow and trials.  It will never change.  There is only one hope - one joy - one answer.
Jesus Christ.
The author and perfecter of our faith.
The Son of God who takes AWAY the sins of the world, and replaces them with mercy, allowing us to stand blameless before a God who hates our sin, but loved us enough to send His Son to die in our place.

The end of a life.
The end of a reputation and legacy.
The end of independence.

No one would ask for any of these ... the pain is great ... the effects are far reaching.  But in all of them, the Lord is GOOD.  His mercies never end.  He is forever faithful.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  He loves His creation.  And He desires that all of His creation would love Him.  Freely. Willingly.  With joy.  Our God is not a God who drags people kicking and screaming into the Kingdom.  He lets us choose.  He is patient with us.  He is long-suffering.  Waiting for us to turn to Him - seek after Him - RUN to Him - and fall into His arms, knowing that He is the ONLY One who can heal our hurts, soothe our pain, and fill us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  
Psalm 34:18

11.21.2013

A gift. A joy. And a challenge.


Today has been a day of joy and reflection ... and both were needed for the hurting and weary heart that beats in my chest.

This morning I was given the glorious gift of an entire hour to myself!  My children were gone, my tennis shoes were laced, and I embarked on the long walk I had been dreaming of for days.

It had just stopped raining, so the temperature was crisp, the streets were wet, and the air smelled fresh and clean.  For this rain-loving girl it was the perfect setting for my time alone.

The streets in our neighborhood are lined with trees, and the leaves are falling at a rapid rate.  I collected a few as I walked - favoring the deep red ones - and brought them home as a memento.  I love seeing them in my kitchen ... not just to remind me of a wonderful morning stroll in God's creation, but because they remind me that things change all the time.  Nothing can stay the same forever.  No one can live forever.  And everything we are ... everything we have ... comes from the Lord, so I must praise Him - and live for right NOW - because 'now' is the only thing I am sure of.
My life, and the lives of everyone I hold dear, are securely wrapped in the hands of the Father ... never to be let go ... never to end one moment before He decrees.  The question is - do all I hold dear love Him?  If not, am I praying for them?  Telling them the beautiful story of our Savior? And if they do profess Christ as their Savior, am I encouraging them in the faith?  Am I stirring them up for love and good works?

We recently lost a brother in Christ, and at the memorial service, two of our dear young adults videoed the memories and thoughts of those in attendance.  They asked several different questions, including, "If you had to describe Virgil in one word, what would it be?"
And it made me wonder ... what word would people use to describe me?  Would it be a word that reflected Christ?  Would it be a word that produced thoughts of eternity?  Or would it be an earthly, temporal word that bears no fruit?
I asked Dennis the question, and he was also stopped in his tracks.  One word?  One word to sum up a person's ENTIRE life?  Wow.  That word would be our legacy ... what do we want it to be? Because honestly, we cannot be described in a way that is not lived out - day by day - with passion and purpose.
Lord, may my life be a reflection of YOU so that when I am gone, others remember more of You than they do of me!

Rain, beautiful leaves, a prayer walk, and ... candles!  My sweet groom purchased these fun candle holders for me last night, and today's blustery weather was the perfect atmosphere to light the candles for the first time.  There is something so soothing about flickering light ... 

Josiah and the littles were still gone, and the older boys were quietly working on school projects in their room.  The house was peaceful. And I - had nothing to do! Laundry, dishes, dinner, bills ... everything was done.  After standing in the middle of the family room wondering what in the world a person is supposed to do with herself in the middle of the day, I looked over and spied my collection of note cards.

The Lord took me through a time of "remembering" a couple of months ago after studying a Psalm of David in church.  In the quiet of the evening, I read the Psalm again and filled pages and pages with memories of God's goodness and provision in my own life.  It was such a sweet time!  As I wrote, He brought to mind specific women who impacted my life as a child, and prompted me to write and tell them so.  As a child I knew they loved me and I knew they were good to me, but the full impact they made was never as clear as it was that night.  I could not rest until I placed their sealed envelopes in the mail box, knowing that within a few days they would know the depth of my gratitude.

I asked the Lord to remind me of more people - more moments - that I need to acknowledge. Specific moments that people touched my life, encouraged me, or challenged me.  And He has been faithfully bringing them to mind for weeks now!  It is actually kind of fun to see what He comes up with ... some are so random and vague they make me laugh, and some things I have not thought about in years.

And then, about a week ago, I received an unexpected note from a young woman in our youth group.  She was not thanking me for anything I did - she was thanking me for being me.  I have to admit, I stood there staring at the letter for quite some time, letting her thoughtfulness and the emotion of the moment wash over me.  How often do we hear words of praise and affirmation just because?  Not nearly enough I fear.

And that is why there is a stack of note cards on my counter, with stamps and a pen close by.
I want to be ready to write a note of thanks or appreciation the moment the person comes to mind. No delays - no "I'll get to it" - just ACTION!

Sometimes the Lord is just asking me to tell someone why I love them! Why I call them my friend. Why they are valuable to me.
We need to acknowledge the value and importance of the people in our lives!  We need to be specific - descriptive - genuine.  When we shout, "I love you!" as they are leaving our home, what does that mean?  I love mint chip ice cream too!  How is he/she different than my favorite snack?

When someone dies we are so good at waxing eloquent about the life they lived, their impact on us, their influence in the community, and their love for others.  But the person is dead.  They cannot hear such words of praise.  They are not enjoying the fruit of their obedience after thinking of others as more important than themselves.  They are not hearing the gratitude of those they served faithfully for decades.  Beautiful, glowing tributes at a funeral are a delight to hear for those present ... but they serve no purpose because the person who needed to hear those words ... the person who was longing for affirmation and acceptance ... the person who wondered if she had any impact on the world - is gone.  We need to tell those we love why.we.love.them. NOW.

It does not have to be a twelve page hand-written letter expressing deep emotion and affection.  It can be as simple as a few words scrawled across the note:  "Thank you for always smiling when I see you."  "I love that you are always focused on me when we are talking to each other."  "I appreciate the way you ask me how you can pray for me whenever we are together."  "You make me laugh more than anyone else I know!"  "I appreciate your love of beauty and color."  "You are a talented musician."  "I always enjoy our deep conversations."
The options are limitless!!!

You do not have to be best friends.  Soul mates.  You can even be estranged from one another in some way.  But EVERYONE God created was made in His image, and therefore, everyone God created has something beautiful and wonderful to notice, and enjoy.  Sin entangles us all ... but the mark of the Creator still shines forth from those He designed with purpose - and pleasure.

Will you do this?  Will you ask the Lord to bring to mind people who could use a word of encouragement?  A word of praise?  A specific verse to lift their spirits and set their eyes back on their Savior?  A note of thanks.  A note of appreciation.  A note that takes you three minutes to write, but will stay in the mind and heart of the one who receives it - forever.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24,25

11.11.2013

A convicting quote ... and one we should live out day by day.

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8

We should learn to look at the blemishes and faults of others - only through the eyes of love, with sympathy, patience, and compassion. We do not know the secret history of the lives of others around us. We do not know what piercing sorrows have produced the scars we see in people's lives. We do not know the pains and trials which make life hard, to many with whom we are tempted to be impatient. If we knew all the secret burdens and the heart-wounds which many keep hidden beneath their smiling faces - we would be patient and gentle with all people.  (J.R. Miller)

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

It is ALWAYS worth it.

There is a popular Christian song which contains this line:

This is your life, are you who you want to be?

I have heard this song and bellowed the words over and over again, but today, as I was lying on my bed, weary in mind and body, I actually thought about them.

And the answer was "No!  No, Lord.  I am not who I want to be!  Because every time I rejoice over taking off another filthy, sinful rag made foul by my flesh, I turn around and see another one. I know the gleaming, white, flawless cloak of righteousness will never be my only clothing this side of heaven.  And I am okay with that.  It is the purpose of my life is it not?  To strive for holiness? To seek after You and become more like You every day?  I know this is what You have called me to!  It is what I want.  
But I have to admit, Lord ... it is hard.  I feel like I am constantly at war with myself - always seeking taking my thoughts captive, denying lies the enemy continually flicks my way, focusing my mind on You instead of others, forcing myself to think of others instead myself, choosing to sacrifice my wants for the needs of another, joyfully meeting the needs of my husband and children even when it is the last thing I want to do ... 
Will there ever come a day when all of these things are effortless, Lord?  Will I ever master my flesh?  Paul never did.  Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel ... none of them were wholly sanctified, even though each of them loved You with an all-consuming passion.  
I know You are the only perfect One ... the only sinless One ... and no human can ever be fully like You as long as we dwell in the flesh.  But, Lord, thank You for the promise that one day - one day we WILL be like You - we shall see You as You are, in the fullness of Your glory, and we will finally be made complete.  Because You promise,

... being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

What a precious promise this is to the heart and mind of one who is feeling worn down, discouraged, weary, and wondering if she will ever seek and desire her Savior more than she seeks to satisfy self.
You have to be our everything, Lord.  You will not accept second place in the lives of Your children. And too often, I do place You beneath self.  It is a choice - You gave us free will for a reason ... so we would choose to seek You ... to obey You ... to love You - with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

This is my life, Lord, and I am not who I want to be, because I do not look enough like YOU.  It is a little scary to ask You to make me look more like You - because the process is always a bit painful. But it is always worth it."

Make me like You, Lord
Make me like You
You are a servant, make me one too
Lord, I am willing, do what You must do
to make me like You, Lord, make me like You

11.04.2013

My trust can only be - in HIM.

I shared about my struggle with FEAR recently and how the Lord completely erased all of my fear after confessing my sin to my husband and praying for the Lord to remove it so I would trust only in Him.

Every morning since then, when I wake up after a deep and restful night of sleep, I thank Him - and praise Him for being faithful.  It is a feeling I never want to lose - the feeling of PEACE.  And not just any peace ... the peace that surpasses all understanding because it is granted by the only One who can offer such a wonderful gift.

I thought the Lord was finished with this lesson, so imagine my surprise when our Scripture study for Sunday morning was this passage:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Psalm 127: 1-2

Isn't that fantastic?!?  I smiled as soon as I read it knowing the Lord was confirming everything He has been teaching me the past week.  I love when He does that!

I have read this passage many times, but I am usually focusing on the "building of the house" portion as it pertains to family and home life.  This time, I soaked in the rest ... the vanity of trying to guard and protect our little sphere of life, rising early to make sure all is well, staying up late to ensure that nothing goes awry, worrying about the 'what ifs' ... the futility of it all.  Because - it is the LORD who builds our house, it is the LORD who protects it, it is the LORD who watches over every detail, and it is the LORD who grants us peace and contentment to go to sleep each night knowing that He is fully capable, and in control.

"He gives His beloved sleep."  What a lovely phrase!

As much as I loathed walking in the sin of fear far longer than I desired, I am thankful the Lord opened my eyes to the truth and reminded me that I belong to a God who cares about my heart and my mind.  He does not want me to walk in fear.  He commands me not to walk in fear!  He tells me in His Word that fear does not come from Him, for He is a God of peace and gentleness.  But instead of dragging me to Himself, He kept nudging me gently ... prodding me ... asking me to look up at Him ... until I finally obeyed and saw what I had been missing.  I forgot who my God was because I was too busy looking at, and listening to, the details of the world and all of the heartache and trials it has to offer.  But once I looked at HIM - and saw the tenderness, the love, the care, and the desire He has for me as His child to trust Him, with all of my being, the fears vanished, and I was left with peace, contentment, and trust - knowing that nothing can happen to me, to my husband, to my children - without the hand of the Lord allowing it, and doing so with a Divine purpose that will refine me, and bring glory to Him.

Thank You, Lord!  Thank You for reminding me where I need to take all of my fears, and where I need to place my trust.  Only ... in You.

11.01.2013

He IS peace.

I have been carrying a large burden for a few months now.  I did not even realize how heavy it was, or how much it was affecting me, until a few days ago ... when I felt like I was about to collapse under the weight of it.

Fear.

I think the root found nourishment when Dennis started traveling out of the country.  I have never favored sleeping alone at night in the dark, but doing so while responsible for protecting six children?  Without a man to defend us and fight for us?  O v e r w h e l m i n g.

But, of course, I did not talk about it, and I did not complain about it.  I just pushed through like I always have - like I always do.  There is a time and place for that, of course, as we are not to be controlled or driven by emotion, but sometimes the emotion must be exposed so it can be addressed, and put back in its proper place.

The Lord kept pressing me to share my fears with my husband.  So, when we crawled into bed Tuesday night, I took a deep breath, and before I could even start talking Dennis asked, "What's on your mind, hon?"

And everything - every thought - every concern - every 'what if'- every fear - came tumbling out of my mouth and landed in the lap of my groom.

He did not mock me, brush me off, or try to fix it.  He just listened.  And then he would dig a little deeper, quietly drawing out more, asking questions ... and I was surprised to find how many things had burrowed into my mind.  How many wrong things.  I know better than this!  My God is not a God of fear!  He commands us dozens of times in Scripture, "Fear not!" because He knows it is our fleshly default when we feel out of control.  I know fear is a sin.  I know it is the opposite of trust.  And I know I cannot live there!

Dennis let me finish, took my hand and said, "Let me pray for you."

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healedThe prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

I have not been the same since that moment.  I am FREE from the burden of fear, no longer carrying a heavy load that was never meant to be on my back.  The Lord used my husband to lift the sack, dig through its contents, declare it unworthy of time or attention, and dispose of it.  Just as God designed him to do!  As my husband, a man, and a brother in Christ, it is his calling to bear my burdens, to deal with me as the weaker vessel, and to quiet my fears.  And he did.  Gently and faithfully.

And I have enjoyed three nights of peaceful, sound sleep because of his tenderness towards me.

Scripture does not lie.  Confession does bring healing.

And only God can give a peace that surpasses all understanding.  Because He IS peace.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

10.20.2013

Quote.

"It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, 
even when we have no strength to hold Him." 
- John Piper

10.15.2013

He will be the same tomorrow.

We continue to work through the Psalms on Sunday mornings as a church body, and a few weeks ago we studied Psalm 27.  The focus of the Psalm is faith - David trusting God to deliver him because he has seen God work in the past and believes He will work again in the future.

We paused there to look at the WHY.  Why was David able to have such confidence in the Lord? Why was he able to trust so easily - to have such peace while being tormented by his enemies?

Psalm 77 gives a descriptive testimony of how David came to have an unwavering confidence in the Lord.

cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and He will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will ponder all Your work,
    and meditate on Your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
    You have made known Your might among the peoples.  
                                                 Psalm 77

David had confidence in God because he REMEMBERED who God was.

When we remember who our God is
what He has done
how He has proven faithful
answered prayer
provided for us
healed us
restored and forgiven us ...
we can stand secure knowing that He is still that God!

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What He did before - He will do again.

Our
God
does
not
change.

My church journal entry for that day is filled with notes like this one ...

REMEMBER!!!

The entire sermon was fantastic. The truths about faith and trust were poignant reminders to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, rather than what is happening around us.

It was the part about ‘remembering’ that resonated so deeply with me.  I thought about it all day, and when Dennis and the kids left for a few hours later that evening, I sat down with paper and pen and literally walked through my entire life ... starting as early as I could remember ... writing down every good thing the Lord has done for me.  I filled pages.  

The funny thing is ... when you look for the good, you often have to take a peek at the bad.  We cannot recognize the blessings, especially the smallest ones, unless we remember what we were saved from ... how He spared us ... how He sustained us in the dark moments.  When the people of Scripture set up pillars and altars, they were not always remembering moments of pure rejoicing.  They were mixed with mourning a past ... the pain of sin ... the consequence of disobedience.  But then the Lord rescued, restored, and redeemed them, and they wanted to remember His goodness – forever.
It was a wonderful exercise.  A difficult exercise.  But in the end, after walking through childhood, the teen years, early marriage, children, and ministry – I can see the perfect outline of the Lord’s workings in my life with great clarity and detail.  Even seeing how the things He allowed and rescued me from as a child prepared me for where He has me right now.  And though I would not have willingly chosen some of the trials or the heartache, I can honestly and sincerely praise Him for ALL of it - because good or bad, painful or joyous, my God is my God - faithful, just, loving, compassionate, patient, long-suffering, and gracious.

I know who my God is - who He has always been - and I can trust Him with every unknown because

He will still be the same God tomorrow.

10.10.2013

Safe and secure in His love.


As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.  Psalm 103:13

Last night, as I was walking down the hall to say goodnight to the little boys, I heard Dennis praying with Ellie.  I peeked into her room and saw this image ... Dennis on his knees, bending over her little body, their arms wrapped tightly around each other as He prayed for our daughter.

I had to capture the moment.

I love everything about this photo.  The crazy, bright pillowcase, the messy table in the back, the outlet on the wall ...
Ellie's curls, her little arm curling around Dennis, the expression on his face, his hand over her head like a protective covering.

Everything about this photo makes me feel happy.  Secure.  Thankful.

Dennis loves his daughter.  He adores her.  He will protect her.  Fight for her.  He would die for her.  Because Ellie is HIS.

When I first saw this photograph it struck me how much this must look like the Lord when He is ministering to us.

Dennis was not standing in the doorway, bellowing out a prayer, and waving good night to our daughter.  He was purposeful.  Personal.  Intimate.
He chose to go to her room.  To enter in.  To put himself at her level, arms around her, holding her tightly as he offered a prayer to God on her behalf.

Does not God do the same for us?
Does He not make Himself available?
Waiting patiently for us to come and sit with Him?
Offer us rest?
Let us cling to Him when are hurting or fearful?
Fix His gaze on us so we can focus on Him and find confidence and strength in His power and might?
Does He not embrace us with tenderness and compassion to encourage us and give us the energy to keep moving forward?
Intercede for us before the Father so we might stand blameless before Him?

What a wonderful thing it is that our Heavenly Father loves us with an all consuming love that allows us to feel safe and secure when we willingly sit under the protection of His sovereignty and grace.
As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

10.09.2013

Our God is still BIG.

As you know, I do not partake in any kind of political discussion/debate/bashing on this blog.  I firmly believe the truth of Scripture that says God places each ruler on the throne - either for blessing or judging a nation.  We may be a democratic country with the right to vote, but make no mistake!  The God of heaven and earth chose our current leadership - and He did so with a purpose.  We need not fear - we need not go crazy with frustration and anger - we need not rant and rave and wonder "what is going on?!?!"

We KNOW what is going on.  'Nothing is new under the sun' as Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes.  As in the days of Noah, and in the days of the judges, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  People, leaders, and governments have been corrupt, evil, arrogant, and self-serving since the moment satan seduced Eve.  America is a nation that does not fear God.  We have compromised and sat in silence while the enemy worked quietly in the dark ... twisting hearts and corrupting minds ... and now, we are paying the consequences of our weakness and unwillingness to stand up for what is right - to stand up for what is godly.

Every generation has proved arrogant.  Ignoring threats that caused a little spark here and there because "that will never go anywhere - no one would allow it!"  But there is always someone who allows it.  The enemy has his people in places of power just as the Lord does.  And he never grows weary of making them do his bidding.

But guess what?  We have a God, THE ONE TRUE GOD, who not only never grows weary, but will one day destroy the enemy, and reign over this earth in perfect splendor with all authority! EVERY knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ IS Lord, and the whole earth will see His glory - and know that HE IS GOD.

America is a mess.  But what nation has not been so?  America was born because people were fleeing the tyranny and persecution of other lands.  Did we really think Americans would not compromise?  That we would not forget our past?  Where we came from?  The Israelites forgot what God had done just weeks after witnessing a major miracle!  We get so frustrated with them when we read those accounts, don't we?  And yet the truth is - we are looking at our own reflection in the mirror!!!!

We, too, forget who our God is.
We forget His character.
We forget His demand for obedience - in all things.
We compromise in the small areas until it becomes easy to compromise in the large.
We whine and complain that things are not as we want them, instead of giving thanks "in all things."
We participate in the things of the world and wonder why we are discontent.
We bow down to other gods - sports, fashion, music, entertainment, technology, physical vanity, and wealth.
We question God.
We give excuses why we cannot be in the Word and prayer every day, and then wonder why we do not feel close to God and cannot find peace or contentment.
We respond in anger and frustration in response to our government, even though we refused to vote, make phone calls, and stand up to say NO when it could have made a difference.

We are reaping what we have sown.

And for one reason and one reason only:  We have forgotten our God.

The God who created the universe with a word.
The God who parted the Red Sea to protect His people from Pharaoh.
The God who spared Joseph from his brother's wrath.
Protected Daniel in the lion's den, and Shad, Rach and Ben from the fiery furnace.
The God who let nations repent, and be spared.
Made the lame walk and the blind see.
Calmed the storms of a raging sea.
Raised people from the dead.
Died, and ROSE AGAIN, crushing the power of death.

Our God is the SAME yesterday, today, and forever.
He does not change.
He cannot lie.
He always forgives when we repent and turn our face from evil.
His mercies are always knew.
He is faithful.
Tender.
Compassionate.
And loving.

We have to REMEMBER!  We have to cling to the God we know.  He is just as faithful now as He was in the days of Abraham .. Isaac ... Noah ... Daniel and David.  He is the same God!

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  
Psalm 46:10

But there is another part of God's character that we tend to forget, or rarely choose to think on, because it is uncomfortable.  Even scary.  The God of the universe is JUST.  He is RIGHTEOUS. He hates sin, and He punishes disobedience.

Our God flooded the entire earth because of a wicked generation.
He wiped out entire cities because they worshiped other gods.
He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin.
He sent plague upon plague to destroy Egypt, and the house of Pharaoh because he refused to submit to God.
He made Nebuchadnezzar into a human lawnmower for seven years.
Generational cursing pervaded the family lines of kings and priests because of their godless disobedience.
He killed Ananias and Sapphira instantly when they were caught in their lies.

God holds His people accountable.
He holds nations accountable.

We serve, love, and worship an amazing God who designed this world with a word from His mouth, and sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins.
We serve, love, and worship a God who is righteous and just, and punishes the sin and iniquity of people who refuse to bend their knee and submit to His holiness.

America is no longer a nation that fears God.  We care more about our happiness, our pocketbook, and our freedom to do-what-we-want-to-do-when-we-want-to-do-it than we care about thanking and praising a God who brought us to a free land where we could worship Him without fear.

Until America, its leaders and its people, is willing to bend its knee to the God of heaven and earth, we will continue to emulate the days of Noah and the judges ... when everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  And Christian, we cannot look like them!  We MUST be different.  We must say NO to culture and YES to Jesus Christ - in all things, no matter the cost.

And we must pray.  Our God is STILL BIG.  And He is powerful enough to change the hearts of an entire nation to know, love, and follow HIM.

... if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  II Chronicles 7:14

10.04.2013

In honor of a friend who will soon see the face of God.

my brother in Christ,

today you were told you are dying
you have been dying for months
cancer has been growing inside of you, devouring your body
you get treatments
take prescriptions
you keep working
going to church
eating
talking to friends
encouraging the brethren
being intimate with your wife
laughing
sleeping
reading
watching your favorite sports teams

all the while
you know you are dying

you keep fighting
trying anything that might prolong your days
even though you know the Lord has already determined your final day, your final moment, and has a purpose for your life ending sooner than anyone expected or desired

you hear the words you have been hoping would never come
"you only have a few days to live"

you believe the doctor, but your will-to-live screams, "He is WRONG!!!  I'm not ready to go!
and yet you say, "Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done."

you look at your wife
your children
you imagine your daughters walking down the aisle
your son throwing his first touchdown pass
your grandchildren

but the Lord keeps pulling your thoughts toward heaven

what will it be like?
will I see His face the moment I take my final breath?
will everything be revealed to me?
does heaven look like what I have always imagined in my mind?
will I remember my earthly life?
will I still have emotion in heaven?
will I literally praise God all day long, or will I also get to roam the golden streets and talk with saints of old?

O, Lord ...

I want to see Your face
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know what angels really look like
hear their voices raised in hymns of praise and adoration
I want to be whole again, without pain, without sadness or fear

but, Lord ...

my family
my beautiful wife
my children
my parents
my friends
how I love them!  I cling to this earth because of them, even while I long to see You.
how do I let go?
how do I say goodbye?
what do they need to hear from me - the words they will remember forever - what should they be?

your only desire is to hold them
touch them
smell them
hear their laughter
see their smiles
listen to them talk
encourage them in the Lord
pray with them
protect them from the sorrow that is to come

but the Lord says,

"Trust Me, son.  I know what I am doing, and I have already prepared a way for each of them.  I will never leave them.  I will wipe away every tear and destroy every fear that threatens to overpower them.  When they are weak, My strength will double.  When they are aching with grief, my compassion will consume them.  When they feel like they cannot go on, I will scoop them up in My arms and carry them as far as they need to go.
It's okay, son.
You have loved them with a faithful, loyal, tender, strong, compassionate love all of your days.
You have done well.
And now ...

it is time to come HOME."

JOY in the body of Christ.


One of my girls brought me these lovely flowers for my birthday.  Don't you feel happy just looking at them!?

A beautiful and touching letter accompanied her gift with a wonderful quote inside of it:

May you have ...
the wisdom of Solomon
the faith of Abraham
the tenacity of Jacob
the devotion of David
the kindness of Dorcas
the determination of Noah
the patience of Sarah
the confidence of Paul
the loyalty of Uriah
the thankfulness of the leper
the humility of Ruth
the courage of Daniel
and the belief and obedience of Mary.

What a fantastic blessing from a friend and sister in Christ!

The joy of being a part of the body of Christ is absolutely limitless!

10.03.2013

Quote - on death for the believer.

"They are without fault before the throne of God!" Revelation 14:5

Death for the Christian
, only . . .
  washes out all his sins and stains,
  shatters the crust of his mortality,
  sweeps away all his moral spots, blots, infirmities, weaknesses, follies, limitations and blemishes -
and then life expands into perfect freedom, fullness, joy, and power.

The translation of a Christian from earth to Heaven, is but like the removal of a tender plant from a frigid northern garden, where it is stunted and dying - into a tropical field, where it puts out most luxurious growth and covers itself with splendor!

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore!" 
Psalm 16:11
                                                                                                          ~ J.R. Miller

9.25.2013

A small thing that makes a big difference.

A couple of years ago I was blessed by a sweet sister when she surprised me with a gift.  It still hangs in our home - right in the center of the house - and I still love it.

I had the pleasure of meeting her about a year ago and found her to be as delightful as I had imagined.  We enjoyed dinner together with a mutual friend, and as we talked and talked, she handed me a bag with a new piece of art I had ordered, and tucked inside I found a sweet surprise - note cards!  (yes, I like stationery that much!)  They were fabulous - every single one covered in Scripture.

There were two cards that jumped out at me right away, and I knew I would never send them to anyone.
When I returned home I took both cards, cut them, grabbed a piece of cardboard, glued the fronts to each side, and promptly set it on my kitchen windowsill.

When I am feeling confident, energized, purposeful, and strong ... this is the side that shows:



This is one of my favorite phrases from Scripture.  I fully believe the Lord created us for a specific time, a specific people, and a specific culture.  We serve a God of purpose and He promises that He has a plan for each of us.  What a wonderful truth to cling to!

However, if I am feeling overwhelmed, despondent, fatigued or beaten down ... this is the side that shows:

Aren't these wonderful?  Not only do they reflect the current state of my heart and mind, they draw my thoughts back to the Lord and remind me that HE is the reason I am here - right now - and HE is the One who can get me through any trial, great or small.

One little 5x5 piece of cardboard.
Two truths of Scripture.
A sweet gift given by a lovely sister.
The value:  Priceless.

8.20.2013

He restores us.


The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul ...

What a beautiful passage of Scripture.
What a wonderful promise.

Sometimes there is nothing actually wrong.
There are no trials to bear.
Life is smooth and unruffled.
We are safe, secure and loved.

And yet, there is a cry from deep within that begs for peace ... quiet ... stillness ... and rest.

And in that moment, the Lord hears.

He is the One who says, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, 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." Matthew 11

He makes us lie down in green pastures because He knows we need rest.
He leads us to sit beside quiet waters because there we will find refreshment.

Both places are quiet and still ... the perfect places to hear His still, small voice ... the voice that bids us, "Come ... and I will give you what you need.  Just as you are.  Come."

He calls us.
He listens.
He understands.
He intercedes.
He shows compassion.
He gives grace.
He forgives.
He fills us up with Himself and sets us on our feet once again.

Because He loves us.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul ...