Ready, Set, Go…

countryside-2360038_1920When we feel God calling us to new places , we may not want to go. Fear of the unknown is common to the human experience.  When given the choice between safe passage to a destination we choose and a path that is unknown and leads somewhere we know nothing about, most people would not choose the latter.  In our daily lives we make choices designed to meet our needs and wants.  Self-preservation is part of our survival instinct.  We navigate situations with our reliable five senses and our ability to rationalize based on the information at hand.  God gave us these gifts to protect us.  Why then does He ask us to ignore them at times, and virtually leap into the abyss of the unknown?  

I, for one, have a tendency to cling to the edge of the cliff for as long as possible until the strength of my hands gives out.  Clinging when God says “let go” only delays the inevitable.  God does not send us plunging into nothingness.  There is a ledge waiting, just beneath the point of letting go that stops our fall and leaves us wondering what we were afraid of in the first place!  God promises us a safe landing if we will trust in Him…

Alone on the Ledge

Change leads us away from our routines and into potential chaos. When we leave the familiar ground we are accustomed to, we also leave the people and places that made up our comfort zone.  The faces and routines that we have come to count on are not there to reassure or guide us.   The good news is that when God closes a door and opens another one, you can be sure He has a purpose.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

New Ground

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Leaving behind the familiar is like being lost, wandering through a barren land. Recently, my family and I moved away from our home of thirteen years.  You can bet we were very comfortable there!  We had close friends and family, jobs we had held for many years, and events that had become family traditions.  We knew every inch of our town, had been to every store, restaurant, and park.  We had a church family and ministry we were close to.  Then God said, “time to go”.  It started as a feeling my husband and I began to have, and then little by little, through prayer and circumstances, we began to trust that God was indeed closing doors in our comfort zone and opening doors into a big unknown future. He was leading us to a new place with new people and new challenges.  Letting go was hard. Like leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. 

Far and Away

When God led His people out of Egypt and into the dessert, they had no idea what was in store for them.  It was in this place that God would prepare them for their future as His chosen people.  They would wander for 40 years and in that time would grow weary, lose faith, and disobey God.  But God was faithful; when the time came for the people to cross over the Jordan river into unknown territory, full of enemies, Moses spoke to them; he instructed the people to be brave because God was with them:

“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.”   

Deuteronomy 31:6

The View and the Vision

Egypt-Desert-Trek-1We don’t see what God sees.  He is Emmanuel, God with us.  We blindly walk through life with limited vision and it is only when we take hold of His guiding hand that we begin to move toward our Promised Land.  The Israelite’s journey, geographically, should have taken eleven days, instead it took forty years because of their constant rebellion. When they left Egypt, the Lord pointed His people in the direction they should go but they continued to turn from it.

When we are going through a time of change we need to ask ourselves, “what is God pointing me toward in this season?”

“And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers.”

Deuteronomy 6:23

When God brings us out of a place it is always to bring us into something better.  He positions us for increase.  We may struggle and suffer in the process but if we are seeking the Lord, the fruits of the spirit will be evident in our lives as we grow closer to Him. (Galatians 5:22-23) We take comfort in the knowledge that He is with us.

A Firm Foundation

home-sweet-home-1458160407CDu.jpgWhen we left our home for a new place, I wanted desperately to plan ahead.  I wanted to find jobs and a house and a church, a new foundation.  All these things represented security to me.  When the things we have been relying on for stability are removed, it gives us the opportunity to remember where our security should come from and who our Promised Land really is.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

A New Land

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God’s word is a road map for leading us where we need to go. During this time of change, my family and I made plans but remained open to God’s leading in our lives.  What unfolded over our first six months was a chain of seemingly unrelated changes and challenges that God worked together for our good.  We moved from one city to another, struggled to find work, faced health issues and more major changes than we were prepared for.  We had to lean on God for needs we could not meet in our own strength. Through it all, God miraculously did a work in each member of my family that would not have been possible if we had stayed where we were.  

“Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid…”

Hebrews 13:5

Where We Should Live

The changes in our lives are not always physical moves.  Anything that brings us out of something we are comfortable in and into something we are not used to, is either a place God leads us to for a purpose, or a place He can use for His good purpose.  Sometimes we choose those places, sometimes they choose us. We can search the Bible and find story after story of the men and women of God who were used by Him in places they never planned to go and in ways they never imagined.

 

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Gideon and His 300

Moses was chosen by God, Jonah tried to runaway but God turned Him around, Gideon resisted and Mary surrendered.  All of them left what they had known for the call God placed on their lives. They were not equipped for the task before them.  They each faced an enormous “cliff”, but as they trusted in God, He supplied their need. Regardless of where God finds us, or the condition of our hearts, He will get us to where we need to go, if we will just follow Him…

 

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As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62

Jesus is our Promise Land.  Even when following Him means leaving what we love, we can be sure He is leading us where we need to go.  He is El Roi, the God who sees.  Take His hand and trust the journey you are on is good.love-1340263_960_720

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking us to new places.  Thank you for the chance to see things in a new way.  Help us to trust and obey, help us to remember you are our firm foundation and our safe place.  Comfort us in times of isolation, fear and worry.  May we take our thoughts captive and put our minds on our Heavenly purpose, for we know you have created us for good works which you have prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).  We praise you for the gifts you give and receive with open hearts your plan for our lives.  May we go in your name Jesus, Amen.

 

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Love, God

butterfly-888503_1920This month I prayed for a word from God, a word that conveys His theme or message for my walk with Him this year.  I’ve been doing this for about eight years now. Prior to this, the thought of asking God for “a word” seemed strange and a little radical. Apparently, following God is a radical thing to do as He takes you to places you never thought you’d go! The journey is where God’s love story unfolds…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

These days, I eagerly look forward to the time each new season when I Pray and ask God for a new word for me.  What would you say if I told you that God has a word for you too, in fact, not just a word, but an entire poem, stanza after stanza of personal expressions of His deep, unfailing love?  As you read my story, I pray that you would consider how God has spoken to you or may be speaking to you right now.  I pray that the lines of your love poem would begin to take shape as God speaks them into your heart and mind in His perfect timing.

It is easy to forget how much God loves us, especially in seasons when we are feeling unloved, overlooked, or forgotten.  People may reject us, ignore us, or leave us, but God never will.  He never does.  Of course, we can reject Him, ignore Him, and walk away from Him.  Sadly, we often do.  I believe if we truly understood how much He cares for us, we would not reject, ignore, or leave our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we would run to him!

The first time God gave me a word, I didn’t ask for it.  It was in a season of great trial and tribulation.  I was in a place of oppression and bondage and desperately desired to be free from my circumstance.  I prayed this prayer often in fact during that time and one day, I heard the Holy Spirit speak into my mind, “be bold”.

pexels-photo-551588Everything changed that day.  I was in a deep pit, trapped in a cycle of abuse, a cycle that began when I was child.   I felt worthless, weak, lost.  When God spoke those words, I felt anything but bold.  I wanted to cry.  I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or be bold in a way that wouldn’t result in pain and rejection and the potential loss of the only security I knew.  This was ironic because I lived in fear, fear of many things, not physical harm, but deep unrelenting emotional and mental pain.  The sad truth about abuse is that it becomes the place we are most comfortable.  Our prisons become our homes.

Well on that day, with two small words, God gave me my eviction notice.  “It’s time to move forward”, He said.  It was time to stand up and face what was breaking me.  We tend to think that it’s other people that are our problem.  That if they would not do this or if they would start doing that, we would be better.  But the truth is, in every case, we are the ones who need to change.  

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Bible, NIV. Matthew 7:3-5)

Ouch!  Hypocrite! Not me?!  In truth, we are all sinners, we all fall short.  The moment we are able to humble ourselves enough to even consider that we may be “hypocrites”, no matter what someone else has done, we are positioned to see the truth; “and then you will see clearly…” This is what our loving Father needs us to see, that if we focus on our relationship with Him, admit our own weakness, and in doing so acknowledge our need for a Savior, then we will see clearly. The lies we have been believing will be revealed, the darkness can begin to fall away as God replaces it with light.  The light of His word and His love.

Humility is a difficult place to get to sometimes. Pride provides a sturdy shelter, nothing gets in or out.  But shelters built on pride are nothing more than places we hide.  Better to stand in the open air of humility and prepare to weather the storm, because God is the only shelter that protects and provides.

imagesI wasn’t there yet when God spoke to me.  I was still in the “what plank? I don’t have a plank…” stage.  But His voice resonated and repeated in my mind…  “Be bold”.  Clearly the message here was that I was not being bold.  So what was I being?  I had to really think about what I was doing that would make God speak these words into my life.  I began to prayerfully ask God to show me what these words meant for me, in this time, at this place. How could I be bold?

Here’s the picture that began to emerge in the days that followed as I prayed, read the Bible, and sought the counsel of believers wiser than me:  I was stuck.  I was not acting like a person who knew that God loved her and would never leave her (the plank).  That was the  truth that I needed to embrace to begin to end my suffering and the suffering of those around me who were caught in the trial with me. To be bold, I had to trade my old identity for the new one I had been given many years before I’d lost my way.  I had accepted Christ, asked Him into my life, then slowly over time ignored Him and turned away. I needed to remember who God was, who He said I was. His words gave me the courage I needed to step out in faith.

What then shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us then who could ever stand against us? (Romans 8:13)

Speaking these words out loud, claiming them, planting them in my heart, I stepped forward in the boldness of the Lord, letting go of all that had held me captive and choosing instead to let the love of Jesus set me free! I was afraid, but I acted bold as the Lord continued to lead me one step at a time.

cross-2713356_1920It’s true what the Word of God says, there is no love that compares to the love of God, it is beautiful and pure and beyond our comprehension.  In letting go of my safety, my dependence, my pain, I lost nothing and gained everything.  I left my toxic relationships and God restored them.  I left my loss and pain and found joy and peace.  I left the comfort of old habits and found new freedom.  God is love, and He is good!

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, plans to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

rainbow_over_ocean_wallpaper“Be bold” was the beginning of a beautiful love poem God gave me over the next eight years. He is composing new lines in my heart and in my life to this day, words that guide and heal, that bring joy and revelation, each one leading me closer to Jesus.

What word has the Lord given you?  Can you remember His simple messages to you over the years?  If you take the time to write them down, you will begin to see the personal, perfect, passionate poem He has authored just for you.  God truly LOVES you my friend, rejoice and remain in Him!

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

 

Shannon,

Be bold

Trust in me

Love your neighbor

Surrender your will

Pray for my people

Give glory to me

Rest

Abide

Awaken

                       Love, God

In God We Can Trust…

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Can you really trust God?  Can you trust that He is good?  That He loves you and cares for you?  Can you trust Him to provide for you?  Can you trust that He has a plan for your life?  Does He really hear your prayers?

People are imperfect and we let eachother down.  Relationships can teach us that trusting others is dangerous, risky, painful. Over time, we may hesitate to trust others and begin to guard our hearts not just against people but against God too.  We may perceive that God is letting us down when bad things happen but that is a lie from the enemy. 

The Word of God is the truth. If we believe that God is who He says He is, then we are called to put our trust in Him completely, holding nothing back, no area of our lives hidden or withheld from Him.

Can I trust God?  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Can I trust that He is good?

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

Does God love me unconditionally?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” 1 John 3:16-17

Can I trust Him to provide for me?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

Can I trust that He has a plan for me?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Does He really hear my prayers?

When we pray our hearts must be right before God letting go of unforgiveness, confessing our sins, grateful to Him for all things.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phillipians 4:6

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

You can trust that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He knows our pain and our hurts.  He knows how hard it can be for us to trust in Him, to act on faith alone.  But miracles happen when we step out on the water.  Jesus calls to us…

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“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, You are my servant, I have chosen you, and have not cast you away. Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10

Dear God, thank you that we can trust you!  We love you Lord and know you love us.   Forgive us our sins and trespasses. Help us to let go any areas of our lives that we are holding back our trust in you; help us to bring our relationships, our plans, our jobs, our finances, our struggles, our hopes and dreams to you Lord.  Give us peace and courage as we lay them all at your feet.  In Jesus’ name, amen!

 

Practical Help for Provision:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Learning-to-trust-in-God’s-provision

The Bunny vs. Jesus

What is a bunny compared to the greatest miracle man has ever witnessed?  I know, “but that bunny is so cute…and the colored eggs and treats…” What child can resist the bright colors and sweet surprises that the Easter Bunny promises?

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How can we, as parents, bring our children into the Gospel story in a way that does it justice and helps them relate to the true meaning of Easter?  What can we do to show them that the promises of God are far greater, than the ones the Easter bunny delivers?

Before we can lead our children we need to take an honest look at where we are with our faith.  Ask yourself these important questions:

  • Am I reflecting Christ inside our family home? 
  • Does my daily routine show my children that God is my top priority?

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 If not, Easter is the perfect time to re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord and ask Him to take back the throne of our lives.  

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” Matthew 6:24 [Full Chapter]


Our children need to know we know them and love them for who God created them to be.  The only way to accomplish this is by spending quality time with them just as we need to spend quality time with the God.

images-3“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller

By spending quality time with them we will begin to  “train up a child in the way he should go…” Proverbs 22:6

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Here are 5 practical things you can do with your children to make Jesus the focal point of Easter:

  1. Find a great kid’s Easter devotional to do together as a family: http://www.lifeway.com/kidsministry/2016/03/11/free-easter-devotional-guide-for-families/
  2. Bake resurrection crescent rolls, sharing the symbolism and Easter story as your kids learn to make this tasty treat:  http://www.food.com/recipe/empty-tomb-crescent-rolls-293915
  3. Take art into nature and make a cross out of items you collect together. crossYou may collect seashells, stones, flowers, or other objects together. Take pictures to share with friends and family digitally. Say a simple prayer of thanksgiving, when you finish your creations, for Jesus dying on the cross for our salvation.
  4. Share your story with your children.  In simple terms, tell them why you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Pray about how much of your story God wants you to share with them in advance.  They are not always ready to hear our complete testimony, focus on the key elements of your faith.
  5. Do make attending church the center of your Easter Day celebration.  When it is prioritized as the best part of your Easter celebration, you are pointing your children’s hearts toward God.  If you are not able to physically go to church, find an online sermon that you can watch as a family. Here are some suggestions:

Hillsong Church: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSYGkbzVd5-EzAMEpf3EaGg

Bayside Church:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdFz8W4dgHo


These 5 practical things will not only open the door for conversations about God with your children, they have the potential to bring you all closer to God and closer to each other.

The Easter bunny may make an appearance this Easter, but your children will know the true meaning of why we rejoice on Easter Sunday.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24: 45-48

Unknown-1May you and your families be blessed this Easter with renewed faith, dedication, and love for our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Happy Easter!

I Surrender!

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Have you felt restless, confused, or discouraged about the direction your life was headed? Like stepping off a subway only to realize you got off at the wrong stop. It’s funny how we can feel so unsettled and out of place in our own lives.  As a Christian, I desire to walk in God’s will. The trouble is, I can so easily get off track. The world is loud. So loud, in fact, that sometimes it is all we can hear.

Where is God?

I have experienced gnawing restlessness so strong that it made me anxious and full of doubt. I could not shake these unsettled emotions and worries about upcoming decisions. I was fearful and discouraged despite my faith and trust in the Lord. I was not able to sense God’s presence and His will for my life. These are common feelings in a world full of choices, changes, and distractions.  So what do we do about it?

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

He is With Us

God is with us even when we are not sure He is there. During a recent time of confusion I felt I had all the answers right in front of me but could not find peace in any sort of decision.  The choices seemed very logical, as if  I should be able to just move forward in one direction or the other.   But one word kept popping into my head, “wait”.  I needed to seek God in prayer and faithfully expect an answer. I committed to doing nothing until I knew I had heard from God.

A pastor once said, “…people are God’s hands to meet your needs and answer your prayers.” This is a beautiful truth. As I was seeking God, my women’s small group decided to do a study by Priscilla Shirer called He Speaks to Me. The revelation and wisdom in this teaching came from God at the exact moment I needed to hear it!

prayer-888757_960_720In the midst of this study I came across a video of another Godly woman, Jennie Allen, speaking to a group of women on YouTube. She wrote a book entitled Restless. I bought the book and was struck with awe and wonder as each page I turned spoke directly into my heart and circumstances. God wove together the two teachings in a beautiful and amazing way for me. 

Surrender

Still searching for answers, I knew I needed to continue to position myself to hear from God.  Complete surrender was the next step. The ministry of these two gifted women led me to write a special prayer to God about the struggle I was in:

Lord, I am afraid to make this prayer. I know that you are good, but I don’t know if I have the courage to go where you will call me. The, “what ifs,” are holding me back, Father, but I have committed my life to you and want to live a life of obedience that will glorify you. So I pray; God, I will do anything, anything you ask of me.

Jennie Allen shares in her book Restless, that she and her husband said a similar prayer together. In fact, her first book was titled Anything.  I read and learned that they had walked where I found myself walking too, and, out of a heart of faith and obedience, positioned themselves to be used by God to bless others.

He Answers

The questions I was wrestling with about life decisions suddenly fell away in the weeks that followed my “anything” prayer. As we finished our Bible study I continued reading Restless, in place of this unsettled heart, God truly did give me answers, not the ones I was expecting, but ones that gave me peace and something I can only describe as Holy contentment. If I had not been waiting on Him to answer my prayer, I would have missed the blessing completely.

images-1If you are feeling like you don’t know where you are going, or what your purpose is at the moment, stop. God has something important to tell you. Simply ask Him, and you can be sure He will answer through His word, His people, and His Holy spirit. The answers God gives us are immeasurably better than the ones we come up with on our own! Trust Him, He has great plans for you…

“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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…” Jeremiah 39:11-14

Dear Lord, help us to remember that your ways are not our ways. Open our hearts and minds to whatever your purpose is for us. Help us to discern our gifts and strengths so that we may grow into your plan for us God. Thank you that we have a Holy purpose in this life as wives, mothers, children and so much more. Lord, help us to see the ministry right before us. Every person in our lives is there for a reason. Show us how to love and serve them Father that we may honor you and bring glory to you, in Jesus name, amen.

 

Why God?

I shared a story about a difficult Christmas in my last post.  It was our family’s first Christmas after my parent’s divorce.  Divorce is a difficult reality most of us will face either directly or indirectly.  It is the result of brokenness.  For many years I spent a lot of time crying out to God, asking him “why”?  Why was my family broken, why did He let this happen?  It tormented me and kept me stuck in my emotions and feelings of loss.

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The difficult Christmas night I sat in my car alone, watching a happy family through their window (really it wasn’t creepy), something in my heart was formed-  a strength and fortitude I would not be aware of until many years later.

In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote,

But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. … What do people mean when they say “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good”? Have they never even been to a dentist?

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God is for us.  Do not be deceived by the emotions in the midst of pain.  They cloud our vision and blind us from what is good.  It is hard to look for good when our hearts are broken, but it is there.  If we can not see it in the moment, have faith, we will see it in God’s good time.

Because I experienced the suffering of a broken family, I understood the cost of quitting.  When I got married several years later and took my vows, I understood every word; in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, to honor and obey, ’til death do us part.  I promised God to persevere through the trials of my marriage, because I knew too well the cost.  God knew I would need this resolve.  He knew my story before it began.  He knows yours too.

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What suffering have you endured that God has redeemed for good?  Or are you stuck in the middle of your pain, unable to see any purpose?  When we can’t see beyond our trial, we can’t see God.  He can not redeem what we do not bring to Him.

 

Jesus spoke to His disciples whom He knew would suffer greatly in his name:

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”  John 15: 5-6

The worst thing we can do in the midst of trials is forsake the goodness of God because we are bitter, angry, or frightened.  God calls us to stay with Him and abide in Him, so He may uphold and guide us.  God answers our cries of “why” in Romans 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 5: 3-5

And herein lies the redemption of our suffering.  It is for a purpose.  We may not see it, but it is there.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

Dear God bless the families who have endured or are enduring the trials of divorce and brokenness in their homes.  Pour your Holy power over them God and give them strength to save what can be saved and let go what must be released to you God.  Through faith in Christ we are adopted into your eternal family God.  I pray for the souls who read this and do not know you, that they will choose today to surrender their lives to you Father. Yours is a family that will never be broken. Heal the families afflicted by divorce God, bring others alongside them to minister to them and love them God, especially the children.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

The Family of God…

Life often leaves us feeling empty and lost.  As the holiday season approaches, for many, those feelings are overwhelming and hard to cope with.  The holidays are a time filled with memories and traditions that are best when shared with loved ones.  But relationships can be complicated, and circumstances can be devastating.  In difficult times, we don’t always see clearly, we are vulnerable, and the worst thing we can do is isolate ourselves whether by silence or distance.images-5

God desires us to be in community.  He designed us to be relational and He blesses us through others.  When we don’t have this community, one where we are loved and accepted for who we are, where we feel safe to share our challenges and hurts, we feel disconnected.

There are times in life when the community we are in is broken and not as God intended.  One Christmas in particular stands out in my memory as especially difficult for me.  My family was broken.  I was just 18 and my parents had been divorced for a year.  The reality of two separate households was a revelation that unfolded slowly, like pulling stitches from a tender wound, one bleak insight at a time.

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It was Christmas Eve and being a devoted daughter, my game plan had been to do whatever I could to please both my parents (not much of a plan!).  With good intentions I headed to mom’s only to find that she was having her own struggles with our new reality that were coming out in odd and uncomfortable ways.  Despite my best efforts, when it came time for me to head to House #2, my mom was not ok.  I left on a sour note and found that it was not much better at dad’s; he was not in a good place mentally or emotionally so, despite our best efforts, Christmas unfolded that year like an unrehearsed melodrama staged by party clowns, strange and hard to watch. It wasn’t pretty, but hidden within the struggle was a purpose.

images-4As I got in my car to leave at the end of that cold winter night so long ago, I saw through an open window a family smiling and celebrating.  It was a family I’d known for many years, a family like ours used to be.  My heart hurt to think of the terrible loss of our once close and devoted family.  I knew on a deep level that it would never be like that again for us.  The sadness overwhelmed me.

In that moment, Christmas was all about my pain and my circumstances, Jesus was nowhere to be found.  I had pushed Him out; there was no room with so much pain and sadness swimming around in my heart and mind.

images-3I wish I had known then that if I had let Him in and kept Him the center of my world, Christmas would have looked very different!  I could have ministered to my hurting parents and my own suffering would have been diminished under the sheltering wing of God’s eternal love and peace.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

images-2More than 20 years later, I can testify to how God has restored our family and used our trials for instruction and a greater purpose.  In the moment, I could not see how anything good would come of our situation and the ugliness that surrounded us. We let our circumstance overshadow the Truth.

The truth is, the Family of God is Eternal and rooted in love.  The beautiful truth about our pain and suffering is that God can make beauty from ashes, he redeems our brokenness, and by His grace all we need is faith.

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

images-6Dear God, Help us keep our eyes on you this Christmas!  The birth of Christ is a light into the darkness of our world.  Help us rejoice, even in our suffering, for the glorious gift of Jesus.! You came to heal the broken ,save the lost, and love the unlovely.  We stand in awe of you.  Fill us with your strength, peace, and holy joy so that we may overcome whatever difficulties we face in this world.  Bring us into community Lord, and help us to be more like you as we love the people in our lives in a way that reflects who you are and brings glory and honor to you, Father God.  We praise you and thank you, in Jesus’ name, amen!

 

Angels and Guardians • Part 1

Every now and then the extraordinary happens; something, or someone, set apart, enters the world and lives are changed for the better.  For many years I was unaware of the miracle I was born into.  A story was unfolding in my family and I was an unknowing witness to events and circumstances that were being shaped by God for His greater purpose and glory.  Even today, I can only see the edges of His plan as I look back on the characters He cast…

One day on a trip to the grocery store I noticed a little girl staring at my aunt as we made our way through the parking lot.

“What is she looking at?” I wondered. I looked at my aunt and saw her for the first time, through someone else’s eyes…She was not tall, in fact short by most standards. Her back was curved which made her hunch forward. She did not walk like other people. She wore bulky metal braces on both her legs that went from her hips to her feet. Her strong hands gripped the handles of long metal crutches she used to propel her body in a forward motion by swinging her torso to move her legs forward, over and over again. She moved differently from every other person on the planet, her physical limitations and adaptations unique to her.

I understood for the first time that this is what some people saw when they looked at her, someone physically disabled, strange, different.

But this was not who she was.

I’d seen pictures of my aunt when she was little, before she contracted polio. She was unusually beautiful with perfectly placed features, a delicate nose, rosy red lips and big bright blue eyes. She had naturally curly brown hair and a contagious smile.

When she was 5 years old she became very ill. She would suffer the torment of doctors who did not understand how to treat polio, and who performed surgeries and procedures that left her crippled and in constant chronic pain.

But this was not who she was.

UnknownWhen my Aunt was diagnosed with Polio, they put her in a quarantine ward in Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. At one point, no one, not her mom or dad or any family members were permitted to see her. She lay alone and frightened surrounded by strangers in contamination suits; nameless, faceless shadows that moved in and out, they could offer neither hope nor healing.

One night, alone in her sterile hospital room she wondered if anyone was coming to check on her. She wondered if she might die alone and what that would be like; and she wondered if there was a God and if He was watching.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9

She was staring out the doorway of her empty room when an “angel” appeared on the edge of her bed. It did not speak, and yet she knew why it was there; God was letting her know she was not alone, that He was watching over her. She felt the full comfort and hope of a loving God in that moment of pain and loneliness, and it changed everything.

Fast forward 20 years and several miracles later, by the time I was born, Aunt Bonnie was the loving face that looked down at me, changing my diapers and holding me close. She was the warm hand that held mine when I stood close to her for comfort. She was the maker of many home cooked meals and special family gatherings. She was the one who picked me up after school when my parents could not. She was the one who sat with me when I was sad or discouraged and took my mind off my own troubles by effortlessly cheering me up.

She didn’t let me feel sorry for myself.  She showed me how to be grateful for what I have, and not waste time thinking about what I don’t have.

Aunt Bonnie knew what was important and what was not. She was a rock and a comfort to all who knew her.  Her family leaned on her, not the other way around.

This was who she was. Smiling in the face of pain.

Today, God speaks to me through my Aunt’s life. I realize this is how He sees us, the way I see my Aunt, through the eyes of love not the lense of brokenness.

The message of The Cross is love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

This was who she was. She was a child who saw an angel sent from God and found a hope and strength that few posses. She became a light to other children and families stricken with polio.

I often though of my Aunt as my guardian angel, never seeing her as anything less. I will forever be grateful that despite the doctors certainty that she could not possibly live past age 7 or 8, God had a different plan, a perfect plan…

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesian 3: 14-21

Ephesians 3: 14-21 reminds me that the love of God is stronger than any disease. It reminds me of the extraordinary things He does through the weak and broken, and it reminds me that when we are firmly rooted in this love, miracles can happen.

Thank you God for the extraordinary people you raise up, for the angels and guardians you send to watch over and protect us. Give us eyes to see them among us so we may be blessed with hope and courage by your loving protection and provision. Thank you, that you love us and will never forsake us, that you go to prepare a place for us in Heaven.  Let our prayers intervene for those who can not call on you Lord, for you alone are mighty to save! In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Leaving Home

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I dropped my oldest daughter off at college recently and I feel like I am in the spin cycle of an industrial size washing machine. I can’t seem to slow down the myriad of emotions that keep steamrolling through my mind and body; I miss her, but I am excited for her, I am happy she is boldly following her dreams, but I am sad for the loss of her presence in our home, I am scared that I can’t protect her from so far away, but I am proud of her courage and independence. I know God is with her as the journey leading to this moment was marked by confirmation after confirmation that she is truly on the path He has set before her. This alone should give me transcendent joy and peace. I know this. I want to embrace it. But it is so hard to let go.

1901348_10152592136409842_2465773142710084956_n Where did the time go, I ask God? There were so many things I wanted to do as a mom over the course of her childhood. Here at the end it feels as though it was over just as it had begun. My heart aches with wanting more time; more time together for simple things like walks and talks in the park, sitting and listening to what is going on with her, brushing her hair, holding her close, putting everything else aside to just be with her.  I wanted to read her books that were magical in my childhood, sharing with her life lessons and beloved characters.

There were so many things I wanted to teach her that we simply never got to. I am shaken with fear over the things that I missed, the memories that were never made because I was too busy, or distracted, or just plain focused on myself, and my circumstances.

How much time did I lose with her, worrying about money, plans, errands, social agendas and other distractions that were inconsequential? There are things that need to be done in life, no question, but my regret lies in losing sight of what was most important. In the midst of busy life everything seems important at the time, but looking back, only one thing remains, love.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

God’s word reminds me that our relationship with Him is the same, nothing else will matter in the end. I know this but find myself being pulled by the world and it’s priorities. He gently reminds me in this season to keep my eyes on the prize, to refocus and choose with intention where my treasure lies.

 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  1 Peter 1,2

For this realization I am grateful in the midst of what feels like a terrible loss, the loss of a precious stage of life. I was not prepared for what this would feel like, perhaps we always feel cheated, like the time was not enough. But as I lean in to God He comforts and guides me.
The truth is, with Christ, it is all gain. I am gaining a young woman who I love no less and who needs me as much as ever. From this day on I will remember what this feels like and focus with intention on where and how I spend my time. How blessed I am to have the future with her ahead and time to make more precious memories. When the spin cycle ends, the truth is I don’t have to let go, I need to hold on. After all, in Christ, we have eternity.

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 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Is There an App for God?


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Life is a constant struggle to do what is right. Our schedules rule our worlds. Men and women both often find themselves overwhelmed, overwrought and overworked in our high-tech culture. The blessing of technology also means we have more options and opportunities than ever before. As a result, we are racing just to keep up.  God forbid an opportunity pass us by.  If you blink you might miss something!

Just this week I discovered the “Amazon Echo”. It’s a robot that looks like a tall speaker! It sits on your counter top and awaits your verbal command to execute almost anything an app can do; which today seems to be endless. I had to stop and pause for a long time to fully absorb the reality and ramifications of this new tech.. Once again, daily life has the potential to be drastically changed. From the era of smartphones and Google-Mania comes a mighty temptation to rush to keep up and forget what we are doing, and why.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

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As believers we desire to walk in the will of God. This is not some fairy tale ideal. Once we surrender our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit shows us where, and how, we have been blinded by incorrect thinking and beliefs. He gives us a spirit of discernment and wisdom that grows as we make choices in line with the Word of God. Despite our best efforts we often get off track.  It is harder than ever to focus in a world flooded with new and amazing distractions!

…you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Dueteronomy 13:3

God in His infinite patience and mercy walks us through our trials and missteps. He sets our feet upon a path that leads to Him if we remain faithful. Nothing apart from this is worth our time or energy. This is radical thinking when you are caught up in other things, but “other things” lead to sin. For Christians, sin is anything that separates us from our relationship with God or comes before Him. In my life, that means I have to be intentional about the amount of time I spend with “technology” compared to the amount of time I spend in prayer, in the Word, and seeking God in my daily choices. Let’s be honest, we could spend all day on our Smartphones if we aren’t careful and it doesn’t stop there…

If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy…

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God gives us opportunities daily to know Him more.  What happens when we are too busy to slow down and act on those Godly opportunities? How many times have you gone from one thing to the other, and before you know it, the day is over and you have not thought about God for more than a fleeting moment?  How many days do we go without praying, acting in our own strength, making choices that do not honor God but distract us from our true purpose?  Most of us struggle with this regardless of how long we have been Christians, we are too easily distracted, and the Devil knows it.

We are called to simple acts of kindness and love, ministering to others in need. These meetings have Heavenly consequences. When we can slow down and listen to the prompting of the Holy spirit, we don’t miss out on divine appointments set by God.  It’s shocking to think that we could miss out because we are playing Mine Craft, Candy Crush, or some other equally addicting game.  They seem harmless in isolation, but we must ask ourselves if we have unconsciously shifted our attentions away from God’s calling on our lives and given up precious time.

A  famous Christian Pastor tells of how he was in a busy hotel when he was a young man and a bellman offered to help him with something. He felt that he really didn’t need help.  He was about to say “no thank you” as he was in a hurry to get back to his room and check his email. But years of walking with God had taught him the importance of listening to that voice inside, the God voice, asking him to do something against his better judgment or desire. That voice told him the boy needed to speak to him. The pastor chose to slow down and listen.  He was able to comfort the boy and minister to his needs.  The boy was blessed, but in the end that meeting blessed the pastor in a way he never expected. That divine appointment led to another meeting that led to the pastor publishing his first book. That book went on to be a best seller and impact thousands of lives for Christ.

Is there an app for God?  We are the God app.  He writes the code for our lives, He is the Master Designer.  He works through us and in us.  God has an infinite wireless connection to every soul He created, that never glitches, disconnects, or becomes obsolete.  Technology is amazing and we should embrace what is new, as long as we keep our eyes on the real prize…

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 18:30

Heavenly Father we praise you for the miracles and wonders in the world around us. Guide us in your ways.  Help us to choose wisely how and where we spend our time, resources, and money. Remind us who we are in you, and that you have a purpose for our lives. Let our identity be in you God. We are who you say we are; beloved children, created in your image for good works in your name so that more may come to know you God. Help us stay on course Father, make us intentional in putting you first above all else, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.