Tuesday, December 15, 2015

~Ripped Saints~

These past few months have provided several opportunities to really notice the saints of God around me.

I am ashamed of my woeful oversight.  Missing the important things and focusing on the stupid things.

Observation and awareness get lost in our fast pace overly busy lifestyles.

I am thankful that God has awakened my eyes to see beyond the surface...

By awakening me...He has encouraged me through the struggle and stoic faith of others.

Before I brag on some of these precious people I want to explain why I refer to them as saints of God.

We usually classify someone a saint that lived an exceptional life here on earth and has now gone on to Heaven.

I hate that.

There are saints alive and well among us.

They live, breathe, work, struggle and tarry in this world just like we do.

They do not live perfect lives.
They are imperfect people serving a perfect God.

~However God has allowed something to be ripped from them.  And they remain faithful to Him.~

He has allowed their health to fail.
He has allowed their finances to dry up.
He has allowed a life-altering diagnosis.
He has allowed the death of a cherished loved one.
He has allowed the present circumstances of their lives to topple over and spill out into chaos bringing fear and helplessness.

These are real people.
I sit next to them.
I sing with them.
I live life walking beside them.
I question and ponder and pray with them.
I watch them with awe, wonder and tremendous respect.

Selfishly my own faith is strengthened because of them.

What makes each of these folks a saint of God in my book is that they have experienced a tearing away.  God has allowed something precious to be ripped from their hands.  The word ripped conjures a strong mental image. It is intended to.

When I think of something being ripped from my hands I immediately think of grasping the object so tightly.  Almost protectively.  Hanging on with every fiber of my being.  Feeling the sting when whatever I am holding is taken.  As if I feel the immediate weight of its absence.

**There is a woman I know that sings like an angel. Seriously...angelic.
She has faced numerous health battles.  Most days she can pull off  walking with only a slight limp. Other days she has to almost hobble.
Yet~ she doesn't stop hobbling.
She doesn't stop singing and worshiping Jesus.
As long as she has breath...she sings for her Lord. Loud and proud.
I am certain she hates the pain that never leaves.  I am certain she wishes she could walk and not wince with every single step.  But still she sings to the One that is worthy.
She sings to the One that allows the pain.

**There is a man that serves as a physician in our community.
The love of his life and the mother of his son died this past year.
I sat next to him not too long ago and just talked about her and the Lord.
His smile was genuine although I am not sure mine would be.
He did not deny his pain.  His utter loss.
He did not shy away from the difficulty of grief that greets him every single day.
Yet~ his love for Jesus was MORE.  More than the grief.
His resolve to serve and live for God was strong and purposeful.
He refuses to shut out the One that allowed his wife to be taken away.
More than that~ the man boasts in the One that sustains him daily.

**There is a family in our midst that astounds us all.
They are facing mountains of fear and uncertainty on every side. Each time they come through a battle,a new and bigger one, takes its place.
They are normal people.  With jobs. Pets. A life.
But for the past month they have literally lived in the ICU of a children's hospital.
They are watching one of their children fight cancer for the second time in her young life.
Each time I encounter them they manage to smile at me.
Seriously....they smile.
Could you do that?
Not without the grace of God.
They pray relentlessly.  They notice others around them that are battling sickness and pray on their behalf as well.
As angry as they may be...as frustrated and exhausted as they must be....they refuse to stop storming the throne of the One that has allowed this diagnosis.
The lives that they know have been ripped from them....YET they cling tightly to the One that can repair and restore anything.

**I know a family that has recently lost a beloved daughter.
An unexpected car accident tragically took her life.
She was a missionary~ giving her days to her the Lord Jesus, her husband and three young daughters.
Her mother and I have known each other for years.
Each time I get the privilege to sit down in her company she glorifies God in the wake of her loss.
She doesn't pretend the ache is not real.
She doesn't act like she is happy about the fact that her son-in-law and granddaughters are missing their wife and mother.
She wishes it was different.
She cries real tears.
She asks real honest questions.
But she refuses to stop loving her Lord and Savior.
She cannot physically touch the daughter she lost but she can AND DOES cling to the Almighty Hand of God that calms her in this devastating time.

My list goes on.

There are other real live people that I know that walk boldly forward when all of the rest of us want to shrink back.
Without the help of answers.
Without the promise of a better situation here on earth.

Don't you ever marvel at people?

Maybe I should say....don't you ever marvel at the Holy Spirit in people??

Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the Hall of Faith in God's Word.

It is one of my favorite pieces of scripture.

Miracles are listed repeatedly....but so are the real live people that lived them out.

These people missed the mark.
They got furious.
They were cheaters.
They were impatient.
They were liars.
They could not figure out God's plan at times....yet they are known as our heroes of the faith.

Because God came through on behalf of plain ol' people.

Yielded people.
Surrendered people.
Willing people.

Hebrews chapter 11 continues on today.

The people that I have described to you are in my personal Hall of Faith.

Their lives are not included in the written Word but their stories are written on my heart.

Their lives help me walk out my faith.  Day in. Day out.

They persevere.  In turn...I want to keep on going as well.

If our lives are a written story for the world to see...faith should be a bold refreshing main character. The unseen being seen in our lives.

By faith~ they press on.
By faith~ they refuse to quit.
By faith~ they wait on God.
By faith~ they trust in His Word.
By faith~ they sob in His Arms.
By faith~ they believe what they can neither see or feel.
By faith~ they live.

May I boldly do the same.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" Romans 1:16-17

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When Faith feels like Failure

Sometimes our journey with God feels completely right.

I mean things can be difficult and falling out of place but still you know that your path is sure and chosen by God.

Other times we look around and wonder where in the world we took the trap door to nowhere.

We find ourselves in a place completely unfamiliar and strange.  No real entrance or exit.  We are just there.

Our first thought or reaction is to go back and trace every thought~ every decision that must have landed us here.

Welcome to our world of late.

Here we sit.

We couldn't have predicted our path.  In some ways we couldn't have even chosen it.  It seems very much that it was chosen for us.  Yet, humanly speaking, it feels as foreign as another country.

Learning to follow God is a humbling experience.

I am not so sure that our purpose here is to serve and love the Lord in the midst of many, many questions.

He has used the process of elimination in our lives to place us exactly where we are.

Closing doors until only one remains.

It has taken me almost a week to figure out that we would not have come to this place any other way.

I have thought about my heroes of the faith and how they must have felt when God used this exact method in their lives.

Moses stood in front of the Red Sea. 

He had just led millions of Israelites out of captivity.  Chosen by God to be the man. Now the Egyptian army was closing in fast.

Moses found himself out of options...save one.
(that whole process of elimination thing)

A sea. 

Can you just place yourself at the scene?

Women and children crying.  Men shouting. The stench of ocean air, animals, sweat and adrenaline hanging in the air.  A sea of water in front of you and a sea of desperate people behind you. Looking to you.  Waiting.

To make matters worse an angry army is closing in.  You can hear the chariots in the distance.  The Pharaoh has shaken off his grief temporarily and wants his slaves back. 

God says to Moses, "Use your shepherd's staff- hold it out over the water, and a path will open up before you through the sea.  Then all the people of Israel will walk through on dry ground." (Ex. 14:16)

For a brief moment...I wonder if Moses felt like a failure?

Each endeavor required faith.

Hearing the voice of God in a burning bush~
Answering the call to go to Egypt~
Making demands before the Pharaoh~
Enduring 10 heartbreaking plagues~

He had been obedient to the Lord.
He had led the Israelites out of slavery.

Whew.  He could breathe easy now.

Surely the rest of this would be a piece of cake, right?!?

God would lead them to safety and comfort.

No more BIG faith leaps...

I wonder if his thoughts wavered like my own.

He had led these people out of slavery and now they faced certain death.  Unless.....

Unless he raised his staff.

Unless God came though.

Unless God performed some miracle and created a dry path through water....can that even happen??

Moses (a man...flesh and blood) probably stood there thinking I am about to raise this staff. 

And look stupid.

But he did it anyway.

There was no other choice.

Foolish or not he either trusted God or he didn't.

I could take time and discuss other heroes of mine.  Daniel.  Esther.  Elijah.  Paul. Abraham. Joseph.

They found themselves in curious situations.  Chosen for them.

God eliminated easy outcomes and left them all with one scary one.

Each one had to demonstrate a faith that felt like utter failure.  Beyond feeling like failure it even looked like failure.

And yet...God had placed them there.

I have been following Jesus for quite some time. My husband and I know better than to make any decision without praying about it first.

Even with prayerful decisions and leaps of faith...it can still feel like failure.

On purpose.

The only option left is trust.

God's way or no way.

Raise the staff in faith (just as Moses did) and wait. 

With heart pounding and shortness of breath...your eyes dart across the water looking for something you have never seen.

And just when you think that is impossible....a path opens.

Friday, November 6, 2015


(Because this post concerns another family...their permission was given.)

The word furious has a couple of definitions that seem to fit me at this particular time.
The first definition means exactly what you think it does, "full of or characterized by extreme anger; raging."

The second definition we know but we use it less often, "full of intensity, energetic or fierce."

I am both.

I have promised to be real before God and anyone that takes the time to read my words.

Two nights ago we, like so many others, received word that a precious 11 year old in our church was very very sick. Again.

This child has battled one form of cancer for the past year.  
After numerous rounds of chemo, lots of sickness, sleepless nights, and countless doctor visits... a clear scan showed that she was cancer free.

Our entire church breathed a sigh of huge relief and glorious praise to God.

In the past few weeks I have grinned as I have seen her hair begin to grow back and the color of life return to her gorgeous cheeks.

Only 2 nights ago this family was hit again.


A different form of cancer.  Potentially one caused by the treatment that was used for the other has now attacked her body.

What was hoped to be an initial check for strep throat at the doctor showed much more.

White blood cell count was up.  Way up.

There was swelling.  

Something was very wrong.

Tests were run.  Prayers were prayed.  

Wednesday morning came with gloomy gray skies and a sickening report.  

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

All I can say is that I, like so many others, are furious.

Raging anger.  The helpless kind.

This family has been through the hell of one cancer.  Now they must walk through another...more aggressive more complex cancer.

I am angry.
These parents are angry.
Her sister is angry.
Our church is angry.

Is that even ok?

By the authority of God's Word I say yes it is.

Think of the 4 friends that carried their brother on a mat and lowered him through the roof to get to Jesus. (Mark ch.2)

Think of the woman with the issue of bleeding for 12 years that pushed her way through just to somehow grab the hem of clothing worn by Jesus. (Luke ch.8)

Think about Jarius as he came to get Jesus and bring him back to heal his dying daughter. Mark chapter five says that he fell at Jesus feet and begged him.

These were real live people.  Full of emotion and weaknesses just like me. They had doubts.  They questioned.  They were exhausted and weary.

No one can tell me that there was not an inherent anger toward the direness of their circumstances.  To say that there wasn't would be less than human.

Appropriate anger dispels apathy.

Fury can birth a fervent heart of faith.

It moves us to action.  

The blessing that I see in my anger is the immediate effect is has had on my prayer life and my faith.

I am engaged and active.

As the second definition describes, I am "full of intensity and energy."  There is suddenly a fierceness to my faith in this situation.

To our great detriment we believers have fallen for the lie that we cannot be angry AND be in the presence of God.

Being furious doesn't mean I lack faith.

Where else do we go??

Let me argue that anger, sorrow, indignation, and fierce passion are usually the only emotions that WILL push us to the brink of desperation.

 Desperate people need a place to go. 

 They need a place to speak the unspeakable.  They need a place to wail and cry and smash something. They need to ask questions even if silence is the only answer. They need permission to lay aside polite etiquette and be the mess that they are. 

God in heaven tells us of  such a place made for us. And a Person that yearns to meet us there.

 He made provision for us through Jesus Christ to come just as we are.

To this place I run.  I won't ever stop....

He meets me there.  He wipes my tears.  He groans with me.  He holds me up and lifts my head.

"...we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and  never stop trusting him.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come BOLDLY to the throne of our gracious God. There we WILL receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when  we need it most." Hebrews 4:14-16

Quit worrying about your anger.  That is only a distraction from the enemy to keep you from running to God.

Is it ok?
Is it too much?
Is it appropriate?

Instead run to the throne.  Help is found.  Burdens are taken. Grace is given.

This throne of grace can be any place that you can breathe the name of Jesus.  

On Wednesday the parents of this dear child and myself found ourselves approaching the throne together in a conference room on the floor in the AFLAC wing of the children's hospital. 

A fresh diagnosis brought forth a very fresh desperation.  

We had few words.  A lot of anger.  A lot of fear.  More questions than we wanted to admit.  Restlessness.  Frustration.  Weariness.  Anxiety.

.........And the tiniest mustard seed of faith..............

We bowed our heads.  Bent our knees.  Breathed His name.  The only name.  We cried out to Jesus.

 Just a couple of pics so you and visualize the angel we are praying for....this was taken last year when she spent the night at our house.

Oh God we are furious.  We don't understand.  We desperately need you to intervene.  Would you heal this sweet child for the glory of Your Name.  Be nearer to them than you ever have been. Strengthen their bodies.  Give rest to their minds.  In the name of Jesus flood them with boundless hope and fresh faith.  Surround them with Your Presence and protect them from  the enemy that wishes to steal and destroy their faith.  We stand with them begging You for a miracle.  Knowing You hear us.  We wait in expectation Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Enemy's Lullaby

This is my 3rd attempt to write this post.

Each time I have begun the writing process I have stalled out.  Rather than forcing it...I have walked away.  And waited.

Here is what the Lord gave me this morning.

A week ago I had the privilege of rocking a little baby girl to sleep at the pregnancy center where I work/volunteer. (just one of the many perks:)

Her mama was exhausted.  She had tried everything to calm and soothe her baby girl.  I asked if I could give it a try.

To my delight her mama graciously accepted my offer.

While her mom watched a parenting video, I found myself resorting to tactics that worked with my own babies.  I wrapped her up tight, held her very close and bounced her while patting her bottom.

She fought me at first but then she gave in and closed her eyes.

I had lulled this angel to sleep.

Lull~  "to put to sleep or rest, to soothe or quiet, a temporary calm, quiet or stillness."

God used this gentle encounter to caution me.

So much I want my life to be free of struggle and strife.

I want to live and just be.  I want to be blind to the fact that I have a real Enemy that seeks to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

I want loving and serving God to be easy.  Peaceful and effortless.

Because I attempt to stay close to the Lord Jesus through bible study and prayer I am less likely to fall for blatant temptations.  Not that I am above it....I just try to be intentional and aware.

However I am prone to being worn down and weary.  Tired of the fight.

The Enemy has always been subtle.  Go back to the garden...his scheme with Eve was to turn God's words around in her mind. (Gen.3:1)

He does that with me too.

He comes to me and LULLS me in a different way.

Here are a few additional definitions of the word Lull: "to give or lead to feel a false sense of safety; cause to be less alert; a pacified or stupefied condition."

This was my warning from the Lord.

The Enemy wants to lull me into a spiritual dullness.

Hebrews 5:11 states that believers can become dull in hearing.  That terrifies me.

I am on the lookout for the BIG SINS.

So I doubt the Enemy is going to attack me in one of those areas.

However if he can tempt me to slack off in some areas spiritually...then that works just as well.

Staying disciplined and walking with the Lord is intentional.  Period.

It means praying when you don't want to.  It means giving when you would rather take.  It means going when you would rather stay.  It means studying the Word when you want to do anything else.  It means not watching that show on tv that dulls your senses to sin.  It means not listening to music that glorifies ungodly lifestyles.
It means kindness when you would rather cuss someone out.
It means loving when all you feel is hatred.
It means serving without any recognition.

Ha.  I bet I have lost some of you.

See what I mean?

We want our minds to be occupied and entertained by things that are fun, thrilling, light, safe and easy.

Herein lies the trap.

Many of us believers are lulled to sleep spiritually.

Just like that baby in my arms we pose no threat to the Enemy.

The Lord needs us to be awake and alert.

He does bless us with times of rest.  But he equips us for battle and makes us "more than conquerors". (Rom.8:37)

Too many of our swords are dull from lack of use.

God wants his kids to mark this world for His glory.

How in the world can we intercede for those that need it when we refuse to set aside time and pray?

How do we hope to change anything without effort, time, and perseverance?

Let's ask God to make us keenly aware of the schemes of the enemy.  Evaluate your life.  Maybe you are good at avoiding sin but you are also good at avoiding meaningful times with the Lord.

What good is avoidance of sin if there is no power from the Presence of God?

How can we possibly be ambassadors of hope to a lost world when we have settled for hopelessness ourselves?

What good is the abundant life offered by Christ if it is housed in a person who has chosen to be dull rather than persist in the discipline of faith?

If prayer and bible study are not consistent in your life then the enemy might be lulling you into a false sense of security.

The most dangerous mindset that believers can possess is this crazy thought that we somehow need less of God the more we grow in Him.

This is a lie.  Do not fall for it.

I have to fight this one constantly.
If I have an amazing prayer time on Monday.  I am tempted not to pray again on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Why is this?  Do I need Him any less than I did on Monday?


It just requires the things of me that are challenging to give to Him. Time. Attention. Vulnerability. Weakness.

God help me.  Too often I want to drop my sword.  I want to be lulled into dullness.  Let it not be.

Refresh and revive me.

Help me to rely on the power that You make available to me.

Help me to resist the devil so he must flee.  (James 4:7)

Sharpen me spiritually.

Awaken your church Lord.

Defeat the dullness and make us sharp by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, September 25, 2015

One Sin Away~

The Lord has brought a phrase to mind over the past two weeks.

As badly as I wish I could shake it off I simply cannot.

The phrase is this: Andrea you are one sin away from anyone else.

You may casually glance at that and be tempted to nod and agree.

Most people do.

However I don't live this way.

I don't live like my foot could be on a banana peel and slip off into blatant sin.

Truthfully I am offended at the very idea of it.

I think too highly of myself.

This, folks, is PRIDE.

The thought of, "I would never do such a thing" is as natural to us as breathing.

We use that way of thinking to make ourselves look and feel better compared to someone else.

Herein lies the ultimate problem.

My standard is Jesus Christ.  Not you.  Not my neighbor.  Not the guy on death row.

Our thought should be, "Oh God help me not to fall and sin against You. Help me resist the things I want to do."

Nothing more.  Nothing less.

But this one makes us squirm.

It goes back to offending our nature.

This constant need for Someone else to help us in our shortcomings and weaknesses makes us feel vulnerable and exposed.

So we opt for pride instead.

This past week I was blessed to study David and Solomon.  This dynamic father and son duo in God's Word were chosen to be anointed men in God's Kingdom.

David was chosen to be the King of Israel.  He is known for being the man after God's own heart.

His son, Solomon, was very wise and was chosen to build the temple of the Lord.

But we also know of the misdeeds done by these men.

As wise and brilliant and honorable and they were....they fell into blatant sin.

Yep~ they both slipped on that banana peel.

Polygamy, adultery, idolatry,  premeditated murder, deceit, and pride mark a few of their pitfalls.

And still they were chosen.

Oh the grace of our God!!!

When you read the Psalm that was written by David's own hand,  you get a glimpse into the heart that beat for the Lord.

David, humbled and grieved by his sin, takes responsibility and begs for mercy.

This is the picture of knowing afresh that we are ALL just one sin away from creating catastrophe in our lives.

Look at some of these words written in repentance and remorse.

Let's learn a thing or two from David~

"Have mercy on me, O God, 
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.

Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.

For I recognize my shameful deeds-
they haunt me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight."

"But you desire honesty from the heart, 
so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being."

"The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit.
A broken and repentant heart, O God, 
you will not despise."

These are just a few excerpts from a broken man.

He has come face to face with his own sin.

I encourage you to read Psalm 51 in its entirety.

I sin every single day.

I harbor bitterness.
I struggle with jealousy.
I don't trust God.
I lie sometimes.
I am selfishly motivated.
I look for the easy way out in situations.
I am easily angered.
My thoughts can turn dark and mean.

Here is the bottom line...

Our posture toward Jesus Christ and others should always be one of humility.

Humility is completely and utterly refreshing in a culture where blame is cast quicker than the clock can tick.

Someone admitting guilt and accepting consequences is so rare.  But somehow when I see genuine repentance my heart leaps in forgiveness.

God's does too.

When Christ followers can live in a way that honors God, even in their mishaps, the world cannot help but take notice and like what they see.

When my children disobey me and try to lie and cover it up.
I remain angry.

When my children admit their disobedience and ask for forgiveness I gush with joy. I simply cannot wait to forgive them.

This is the picture.

Humility is not weakness.

Humility is gorgeous admission of wrong in our lives.

Humility glares in the face of haughty pride.

Humility is knowing I have been redeemed by One so much greater than myself.

Humility realizes that though I love my Lord I can still be enticed by sin.

Humility reminds  me to stay close to my Savior.

Humility never showcases our strength. Humility sets the stage for God to be glorified in a life.

Humility is not a life beaten down.  It is a heart free to bow in grateful obedience.

1 Peter 5:6-8  "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you.  Give all of your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.  Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."

Isn't it interesting that humility was mentioned just before a warning about our enemy?!?

Pride can not only make us so vulnerable to attack; it is also the trait that most repulses others away from our faith.

The enemy will take either one of those....

Stay low people.  Press on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Mighty Pretty Sight

Social media can be a bear.

It can be the vacuum that sucks up our time and energy.

It can be the place we lose sight of what is important.

It can breed discontentment as we compare and compete with others.

But....I argue that social media can also serve a wonderful purpose.

It can be a tool that blesses the lives of others.
It can be a stage where Jesus can shine bright in your life.
It can be the encouragement that makes someone else's day.
It can be a vessel to speak truth in a world tormented by lies.

This past June our family posted a request on social media.

Our oldest daughter, Caroline, would be turning 13 on her birthday.

What she wanted most was a bicycle.

Unfortunately an adaptive bicycle is crazy expensive.  We are talking thousands of dollars.

With the help of sweet friends and family our community raised enough money on social media for our girl to have her very own bike.

It took 2 months to be built and shipped to us.

But here is a look at this long legged girl on her long-awaited ride!

Her joy will light you up.

I wish to extend our sincere thanks to the many who gave money and passed the word to make this girl's wish come true.

God used social media for good y'all.

We were so blessed by the generosity of others.  Many people I don't even know to thank because they chose to remain anonymous givers.

If you read this post and you know someone that gave~ pass this on.  Help me thank them.

(On a side note I am certain that you noticed my Ava walking beside her sister in many of these pictures.  The Lord uses real life situations to speak to me all the time.  As I watched Ava help and encourage her sister I was reminded of our purpose in this life.
There was a time in my life when I was weak and broken. As I cried our to the Lord...He strengthened me.  His Word breathed life into my bones.  He sent wonderful people to befriend me and walk patiently beside me.  
Those of us who have been redeemed by a loving God are to walk beside those who are broken and needy.  We are to assist and cheer and help them.  This is our purpose in Christ Jesus.)

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Brutal Kind of Beautiful

(Before I even begin this post I am asking that the Holy Spirit would direct my thoughts and words to honor this family and Jesus Christ.)

A week ago Friday morning I woke up angry.

Actually I had gone to bed angry the night before.  Shep and I were in a disagreement about a particular issue.  In my selfishness and anger~ I had shut down any and all conversation.

My phone had been silenced. It had been placed across the house in the kitchen and out of my sight.

Friday morning Shep woke me up with coffee and kind words.  I was still irritated and I wanted him to know it.  So I gave him the proverbial cold shoulder.

Once he left for work I got up and starting doing our usual morning routine.

I think I heard my phone vibrating on the counter.  As I pulled up the messages I couldn't believe how many texts I had missed since the  previous night.

It was an unusually large number for 6:00 in the morning.

As I started scrolling down I stopped mid text and my mind began to race....

There were several texts that I had missed from my friend Chelsey.

(Chelsey and I met 5 years ago on a mission trip.  Our lives intersected at an ordained time by God.  We could not be more different.  She is a gorgeous tom boy...awesome at sports.  I am very girly and would rather steer clear of a ball of any sort.  She is also 12 years younger than I am.  We are in different seasons of life.  She is single.  I am married with 3 kids.  However we both love Jesus and we are both passionate in our pursuit.  Somehow we settled into a mentoring type of relationship.) 

As I read through the missed texts from her I soon learned that something beyond terrible had happened.

Chelsey's older sister, Kyra, had been killed in a horrible car incident.

I had to read the words out loud to even make sure that I was reading the text correctly.

As I read the text out loud I was hit with sudden and strangling fear.

Fear that these words were real.  Fear that this wasn't a dream.  Fear that my friend and her family were in mind-blowing shock and grief.

I was saddened and sick to my stomach.

I had gone to bed angry with my husband for ridiculous reasons.  As I laid there stewing in my bed the previous night my friend was experiencing a horrible tragedy.

She had sent text after text trying to reach me...needing me.

I immediately called my husband and through sobs I began to explain to him what Chelsey's text had revealed.  I asked his forgiveness for my anger and selfishness from the night before.  All of a sudden a shrill perspective had shown light on my shallowness.

After that call I immediately began trying to get in touch with my Chelsey.

In the shock of the previous night's events she had broken her phone and needed me to help her get it fixed.

After dropping my kids off at school I headed straight to her parent's house to get her.

The whole way there I prayed for God's comfort and peace to overwhelm this family.
I prayed that I would know what to say and what NOT to say.
I asked God to help me not fall apart.  I begged him for strength that I knew I did not have.

Kyra was the oldest of 3 girls.  She was a missionary serving in Rome, Italy along with her husband, Reid. They were raising three of the cutest little girls you have ever seen.  They were home for a 6 week break and were scheduled to fly back to Rome just 2 days after the accident.

As I pulled into the driveway, Chelsey came out the front door.  We locked eyes and ran to each other.

That sweet gorgeous tall tom boy friend of mine melted in my arms.  I melted with her.  There was nothing else to do more appropriate at that moment than to cry, wail, and embrace.

This encounter would set the tone for the following week.

A person's grief is their own privilege to have.  Witnessing that grief is also a privilege.

Chelsey spent her next days surrounded at her home by family and friends.  The outpouring of love and support from their home church and community of believers was something to behold.

She would come to my house in the evenings and sleep here.

Night after night there was nothing to do but simply be a witness to the grace that was so obviously carrying her.

It was brutal.

Waves of grief would overtake her.  Memories would flood.  Reality remained in tact.

Shock and numbness took turns.

There was nothing to do but weather it with her.  Sit.  Listen.  Cry.

I was somewhat braced for the brutality of this.  I give God the credit for that.  I believe He prepares and equips us for what He calls us to do.

But I was not braced for the beauty of it as well.

Several nights we would venture out onto the back deck.  It would be close to midnight and all would be dark and still.  Chelsey would play the guitar.  I would sing.  As she played songs of worship to God, a worship flowed forth that was the most beautiful thing I may have ever seen.

Words didn't come.  Tears didn't even come.  Just a melody from aching helpless hands strumming a guitar.

It was what she could do.

She couldn't pray.  She was cried out.  She couldn't plan. She couldn't answer the why's of it all.
She couldn't grasp.  She couldn't change the outcome.

But she COULD play a song of praise to her God.

I almost felt like an intruder.  This worship was other-worldly.  It was her offering.  Her sacrifice.

I just stared and watched the ministry of the Holy Spirit comfort in a way that is not humanly possible.

For children of God this should encourage and console us deeply.

Whenever our brutal moment of life occurs there will be One that is unseen but strongly felt.  One that will sing beautiful songs of deliverance in the midst of our living hell.

This IS the essence of hope my friends.

These eyes have seen it.

Day after day I have beheld a smothering grief that was matched only by a surpassing grace.

Don't we need to know it?

Don't we need to know that the Spirit really does help us in our weakness? (Romans 8:26)
Don't we really need to know that grace is sufficiently given to us according to our need? (2 Corinthians 12:9)

As I think about the words brutal and beautiful they seem like polar extremes.

Death IS brutal.

The death of a vibrant young missionary wife and mother of three goes beyond even that.....unthinkable.

Only God could bring beauty in any of it.

Shattered dreams and broken pieces of this current pain will eventually make a gorgeous mosaic of His glory.

I don't know about you but I need to know that.

The same God that allowed Kyra to be taken from this world also watched His precious Son die a brutal death on a brutal cross.

The outcome brought us grace.  Beautiful, life-giving, life-changing GRACE.

Those words~ brutal and beautiful.  Brutal makes us want to turn our heads and run away, Beautiful beckons our eyes to look and take it in. One repels and one attracts. One incites fear and one brings peace.  One makes us squirm and one appeals to our senses.

No one knows the length of time they have on this earth.

Kyra's time was brief.
Her impact was huge.

Her life spurs me on to imitate Jesus more.  She served Jesus well by serving others well.

I still ache for the family.

I still have questions that will probably never get answered this side of heaven.

But I am also still entrusted with a misison.

Grief and lack of understanding do not give me a free pass to not exercise my faith.

I am very much alive.

One day my time will come and God will call me home.

But until then life is to be lived.  God is to be glorified.

We move forward and become what is beautiful in a brutal and broken world.

Just as Kyra was...

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

For anyone that would like to view the celebration of Kyra's life and ministry please click the link below.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

He Gives Rest

I walked into Caroline's room this morning and turned on the lamp.

There was no movement.  All was still.

I just stood there.  Stunned.

She was asleep. 

Her body was completely relaxed.  Her breathing steady and strong.

Caroline is usually the last one asleep and the first one awake. 

There are still plenty of nights she will wake up in the middle of the night.  Restless.   Fitful.

For all of her life she has struggled with sleep.

It turns out that a lot of severely disabled children struggle in this way.

We have racked our brains and tried everything.

What we have come to realize is that she has to wind down.....

The rest of us walk and talk and eat and exercise and usually fling ourselves into bed from exhaustion.

She can't release stress in any way.

So night time has always been hard.

There is a lot of screaming.  If you think about it that is one thing  she can do to let off a little (or a lot) of steam.

She will kick the sheets off.  She will turn herself over.  She will kick the bedrail. 

We are used to all of that.

What we are not used to is ~rest~.

When I looked down and saw her sweet little frame enjoying rest I was overcome with joy. 

For her.

It thrilled my heart to see her enjoying the safety of her bed in her room that has been provided for her to enjoy.

I hovered there not wanting to even breathe because I just knew at any moment she would wake up.

But she didn't. 

She slept on. 

Finally I could not stand it any longer.  I crept out and grabbed my phone to snap a picture.  I couldn't wait to send it to my husband who could also appreciate the oh-so-rare moment.

(Turns out the flash did wake her up:)

After getting the kids off to school and beginning my routine I felt the Lord speak in His tender way....

"The same joy you felt to see Caroline at rest is but a taste of My joy when I see you receiving the rest I give you. Come to me.  You are carrying burdens too great for you to bear.  I give rest.  I hover over you my child in the same way you hovered over her.  There is faith in rest.  Strength is given. I created your body and soul to need it."

I closed my bible and slipped under the blanket on the couch.  I laid still and intentionally calmed myself before God.  Eyes closed.  Breathing steady. I simply fixed my thoughts upon Him.

I sensed His joy in my obedience.

In the same way that seeing my child at rest had blessed me~

I had just blessed my God.

"Cease striving and know that I am God...." Ps. 46:10 NASB

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Friday, August 7, 2015

Disappointed Part 2

Trials and difficulties give us opportunities for faith or fizzle.

In my last post I admitted to a season of disappointment.

Let me clarify:  God does not disappoint. But I believe He is ok with us being disappointed.

God is consistently good.  God is always at work to produce fruit in our lives.

Allowing us to face difficulties, some of them lasting for years, has a way of producing such richness in us that God knows the pain and disappointment will be worth the outcome.

I believe God is good with that.

I always go back to Job.

How can we not?

The illustration is just too easy.

Job was hand-picked by God Almighty to experience pain, loss, grief and terrible disappointment.

God is about the process and proving Himself and us to be genuine.

He knows His own character.

He wants us to know it.  REALLY know Him.

Have you noticed that joy is sweeter after grief?

Grief is actually the catalyst that helps us really grasp joy.

A life without pain can't even really experience the depth of joy.

Y'all....God is all about depth.

Depth takes time.

"God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." Ecc. 3:11

Whatever time God has appointed for your life right now...it is a beautiful for its own time.

It is accomplishing a purpose.

This disappointment can be a beautiful thing if I continue to allow it to accomplish its work.

My pride and ego hate this.

I want to work harder.
Do more.
Pray more.
Sing louder.
Do something to make it about my good works....somehow prove myself to God.

That is my default.

All the while God is trying to help me stop striving. Just sit tight.  Listen and stay close to Me.

That is all.

To the multi-tasking OCD girl that I have become...this method is offensive to me.

"What do you mean slow down? Rest? Listen?"

"How is that doing  anything?"

Here is the gist:  in all of my striving I am really doing nothing. 

But in my resting...He IS DOING EVERYTHING.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Disappointment. Devotion. Living.

We are a fickle bunch.

If we are disappointed with service at a restaurant~ we usually don't go back.
If we are disappointed with a person~ we lose trust.
If we are disappointed with a song~ we change the music selection.
If we are disappointed with circumstances~ we look for a way out.

Disappointment is a tough thing.

All of us, in some way or another, are dealing with disappointment.

Or are we?

Maybe you just don't admit that you are disappointed.

Maybe you just don't deal with it.

Disappointment in our culture calls for a quick fix....a change.

People refuse to live disappointed.

Marriages end, relationships fall apart, rules don't seem to matter when disappointment is on the line.

We look for anything and everything to help us NOT BE disappointed.

But what about when nothing helps?
When a quick fix won't fix anything at all?

When the disappointments settles and you are left to feel and absorb and DEAL with every bit of it.

I will be completely honest.

Right now I am in the midst of disappointment.

It would be easier to lie and act like I am not dealing with unmet expectations and deferred hope.  The fake smile would make you feel better and it might make me feel better too.

But I can't muster it up.

A week or so ago I told the Lord that all I had to bring to Him was my disappointment.

How is that for a devoted follower of Christ???

I felt such guilt and shame for even admitting it.

How could I not muster up some measure, however meager, of gratitude and thanksgiving?!?

I had none.  And today~  I still don't have much.

God's Word has been some solace for me.

My man and a few very close friends have spoken truth to these ears.

I have taken days to process and meditate....and there are more to come.

God has remained so true to His nature.

I don't sense any anger.

He is loving me through this.
He is letting me rest where I am.
He is tenderly leading me at a slower and more gentle pace.
He is not leaving or forsaking his disappointed child.

He is simply loving her back to wholeness.

I am broken and tired and weary and sad and disappointed.

And He knows it.

But I am also abiding.

I am devoted to my Savior and my God.

Disappointment and devotion can coexist.

They can walk together and hold hands and wait for God to illuminate the next step.

My pastor preached a sermon this past Sunday entitled, "Grace to do the Hard Things Well".  Tears streamed down my face as I drank in each word and prayed for continued grace.

I do not feel like I am doing anything well these days.

But He can.

He is faithful when I am completely faithless.

He is strength when I am sapped.

He is water when I am dry.

He is full when I am empty.

He is hope when I have none.

He simply IS everything I need.

He is devoted to me when I am disappointed.

Today He nudged me toward a passage of scripture that He knew would speak to me.

John chapter 11 tells the account but I will give you the high points.

Mary was a follower of Jesus.

She had a brother that she dearly loved name Lazarus.

She and her sister, Martha, sent for Jesus when Lazarus became sick unto death.

They knew of His ministry.  They knew he could heal and restore.

Jesus did not come.

Here was a devoted follower of Jesus dealing with disappointment.

A couple of days later Jesus did come to their home.

Martha rushed out to meet Jesus.

Mary did not.

I have always thought that Mary was angry with Jesus.

Maybe she was.  But maybe she was just empty...and tired....and sad...and disappointed.

Maybe she didn't want to bring her disappointment before the Messiah.

In verse 28 of John chapter 11 we read that Martha goes and gets Mary.  We read that Jesus wanted to see her.

That is Him.

He wants us. He calls us by name.  He wants us close.  Even in our disappointment.

He knew her sadness and He knew He was her solution.

Devotion met disappointment.

He doesn't shrink back from us.  He isn't angered by us.  And (I have to remind myself of this one) He doesn't tolerate us.

He loves us.


Just as he called Mary that day in the midst of her disappointment I sense Him calling to me in mine.

Mary had a choice.

She could get up and go to him or choose not to.

Verse 29 gives us her choice.  It says, "so Mary immediately went to him."

These 6 seemingly inconsequential words describe me and probably so many others as well.

In our disappointment~ we still go to Him.

I choose Jesus.

The disappointment lingers and the wonderful truth is that He never leaves.

In times of grief and pain you see friends who cannot sit through it with you.

But then there are those who refuse to leave your side.

There are the friends that stay even when they cannot say anything or do anything to make it better.

They simply cannot leave.

Because they love.

He is that and so much more.

There is character to be built. There is perseverance and faith that must be proven genuine....

Somehow disappointment is part of this teaching process.

So I am choosing to trust my Teacher.

He is my God.
He clothed His glory in skin and came to this earth to live and die for me.
He rose again and claimed victory over death.
He sends His Holy Spirit to encourage and equip me.
He spoke the world into existence.
He knows the end from the beginning.

My disappointment does not make Him anything less than He is.

But it teaches me more about the depth of His grace, mercy and love for me.

Come ye sinner poor and needy
weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
full of pity, love and pow'r.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Problem with Sin

God has given me the awesome privilege to counsel and mentor ladies in our community and in our church.

The honor to pray for others and walk beside them is precious to me.  

Just recently I was discussing the only biblical answer to sexual sin with a sweet gal.  I think she may have been shocked by my answer but it could not line up more with God's Word.  

When in a precarious situation the best thing to do is RUN. (2 Timothy 2:22)



God doesn't tell us to get down and pray about it.
He doesn't tell us to try to explain our position and get everyone to agree.

He says....GET OUT OF THERE.


Because our flesh wants to sin.

Here is the problem with my sin.

I don't want to think of it as sin. 

That seems entirely too harsh.  Too heavy.  Too dirty.  

I would prefer to think of it as an issue.  A hardship.  A struggle.  A problem.

Those words seems to clean it up a bit.

Unfortunately I can call it whatever I want to but the One that matters calls it sin.  So SIN it must be.

In recent days as our surrounding culture falls prey to more and more moral decline it is essential that I not lose sight of my own part in this.

2 Chronicles 7:14 has become the go-to verse for perilous times.  

"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land."

Somehow we buy into the lie that becoming a Christian means we are no longer going to sin.


We even act like we can hang out with whoever we want, listen to whatever we want, watch whatever we want and somehow be immune from the temptations of this world.


If we do not recognize our capacity to sin then we certainly won't recognize our need for the Holy Spirit.  

The struggle against sin is life long.  
We don't get the luxury of a break until we are called home to heaven.

But victory is ours for the taking.

As badly as I may want to sin.....I don't have to.  

I am not a slave to sin any longer.

So here is what the Holy Spirit has been preaching to me.

"Andrea...you are called by My Name.  Walk humbly. We both know that you are capable of horrible things. Give me credit for everything.  Any good trait you exhibit is from ME.  Trust Me and not your desires.  Seek Me constantly for your heart will lead you astray.  Turn away...RUN from your wicked ways."

As I stare at these words my flesh wants to recoil.

Who is God to speak to me like that?  
I am a good person.

These thoughts and more can begin take root if I give them any chance to.  

But I know better.

This is pride.  

This is SIN.

See how quickly it happens?!?

Oh Lord forgive me.

His Words are truth and life.  We can make a profound influence around us by admitting our part in wickedness and turning from it.

When others see a real Christian admitting real sin it does something.  It speaks.  It points to our Savior.

When we are prideful.  Admit it. Repent. Turn.
When we are arrogant.  Admit it. Repent. Turn.
When we cheat. Admit it. Repent. Turn.
When we lie. Admit it. Repent. Turn.
When we lose our temper. Admit it. Repent. Turn.

This is daily.  
Maybe even hourly.  

He will hear us when we do. He will come and heal and restore.  

What better thing is there?

If I will get serious about my own sin and humbly walk before God and seek Him~ the world can't help but notice.

He is contagious.
He is better than any sin that tempts me.

The world wants to see authentic faith.  

Dealing with sin is a part of that.

Be a breath of fresh air to the world around you.  

Be real about your sin and brag on Jesus.  

Friday, July 3, 2015


This was a favorite hymn to sing at the conclusion of our Sunday sermons.

I can remember thinking how appropriate the lyrics were for this time in the service.  

The words seem to beckon a prodigal down the aisle toward repentance.

The truth is...I have always associated this song with salvation.  

Last night that changed a little bit.

The spiritual blahs had descended upon me with suffocating fullness.

It seemed as though I was looking for anything and everything to set me off.

And when I am looking for a fight...it's funny...I usually find one.

For me embracing the blahs means becoming consumed with myself.

Tunnel vision.

In addition to nauseating self-thoughts I also become angry at God.  I allow my mind become a dump heap of doubt and fear and self-pity.


The things I hate and despise I gladly embrace when my mind is in a bad place.

For me a walk by faith requires intentional thought and deed.  

Spiraling downward requires letting down that guard.  I simply quit being intentional about my walk.  
It is fascinating.

You would think that it would take a long time to spiral down.  

It doesn't.

For me it can be moments.

When I simply think on myself.  
My wants.
My doubts.
My worries.
My fears.
My comparisons.
My insecurities.
My questions.
My issues.

The capacity I had to focus on God becomes filled with me.

He hasn't left me.

I have shifted my focus...and left Him.

Here is another fascinating point. 

The more I continued to focus on myself the more justified I felt in my anger.

Isn't this so true?

My chest filled with indignation against God.  My fists raised in the air in angst and frustration.

And this is how He found me.

I decided to run a bath because there seems to be no better place to drown self-pity.  Getting still in the water with a racing angry mind I heard these words~

Just as I am without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidst me come to thee
Oh Lamb of God I come.  I come.

Just as I am tho tossed about
With many a conflict many a doubt
Fightings within and fears without
O Lamb of God I come. I come.

There was no sermon.
I didn't need for my soul to be saved.

But I was being invited to come.



Running to Him on a spiritual high is glorious.
Running to Him when I am sad is sweet.

But anger and hurt is different somehow.

Not only do I not want to come....I don't even think I can approach His throne with my anger and hurt bubbling out.

But He invited it.

He welcomed me.

He was bidding me to come.

That song took on an additional meaning to me.  As sure as He delighted to save me from hell, He wants to save me from me.

The enemy cannot have my soul.  But he knows how to attack my mind with defeated thoughts.  He knows that my salvation is sure but my faith is shaky.

His chief aim is to make me question the character of God.

Today I have purposely and intentionally focused on my blessings.  All given from a loving God.

Hope comes back and just as quickly I begin climbing out of the hole from night.

On this eve of Independence Day may I be ever mindful of the freedom I have in Jesus Christ.

He freed my soul on Calvary when He died.
He frees me every day from the sin that so easily entangles...when I allow Him to.

When I come to Him JUST AS I AM.

Galatians 5:16-18
 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law."

Friday, June 12, 2015

pain AND gain

Yesterday she became a teenager.

Look at that smile.

It can light up any space.  She can look at you with eyes so clear that you would swear she knew your every thought.

So much of her face and features remind me of my side of the family....except her eyes.  Her eyes are the size of big almonds.  Just like her daddy. 

She really likes ice cream.

She likes to watch the Food Network with me.

She loves swaying on a porch swing.

Certain people can make her laugh uncontrollably just by the mere mention of their name.

We have figured out that purple is her favorite color.

This year we have seen some great progress.  She has done so well with her braces. 

She seems to be more motivated at times to do things that she has not done before.

We praise God for each and every little new thing we see....

Her birthday always conjures up tough memories.

It was the glorious day that I became a Mother.

I will never forget holding her for the first time. (It was actually 2 days after she was born and after I came out of a comatose state) All I could do was stare.  Each feature was so delicate and perfect and tiny.  She was gorgeous and smelled new.  Somehow the tubes and the fact that she was in the NICU seemed beyond me.  SHE was all I could see.

For the next 2 months I sat in that same NICU and drank her in. 

I learned about my "different" little girl.

We learned how to care for her and what the potential future might hold.

But here we sit 13 years later.....

There has been pain. There is still pain. Daily.

Shep and I are somewhat used to it now.  We go through the motions because what else is there to do?

G-tube feeds 4 times a day.....diaper changes every few hours....manual bathing....wiping drool....watching her flail when she can't express herself.....loading and unloading wheelchair/equipment when everyone else just walks on by...

All of that is painful. 

And today I am not even going to touch the emotional part of the pain.  But you can imagine.
Missed milestones.  Missed conversations.  Missed moments that you always imagine.

Thinking back to the beginning of this journey~ there was so much shock and a chronic feeling of being overwhelmed.  All the time. 

Doctors offices were the norm.  Weight issues, eye issues, brain injury issues, feeding issues....instead of enjoying a new baby girl it felt like we lived in a world of issues beyond our control.

I descended into such a deep pit of despair.  I stayed there for a while.

I nursed an offense toward God.  A serious offense.

I could not believe He (in His providential wisdom) had chosen this overwhelming all consuming and painful course for my life.

Anyway, like I said, life was just bigger than we could handle.  It seemed as though my senses could only see, hear, taste, touch, and feel PAIN. 

The slow process of allowing God access into the deep hurt places of my heart put me on the long road of healing.

His Word alone healed me.


His Word spoke hope into the hollow places that echoed with fear and uncertainty.

His Word helped my faith grow.

His Word gave me patience and perspective to persevere.

His Word forced light to shine on those that I needed to forgive.

His Word reminded me that He can do anything.

His Word began to abide within my very bones.

His Word changed me.

It is still changing me.

Only in recent years have I really begun to see that all of this pain has really been about the gain.

Oh goodness so much gain.

I can hardly contain it when I really think about all of the blessings that have showered down from heaven in the midst of pain.

The gain of faith.
The gain of courage.
The gain of compassion.
The gain of hope.
The gain of perspective.
The gain of people.
The gain of a testimony.
The gain of vulnerability.
The gain of experience.
The gain of joy.
The gain of growth.
The gain of depth.
The gain of genuine worship,
The gain of keeping on keeping on.

The gain...of pain.

Romans 8:31-39
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, 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."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fresh Bread

There is a dear friend in my life that puts me to shame with her cooking skills. 

She just goes for it.  She isn't afraid to cook anything too hard or too time consuming or with too many ingredients. 

Usually those sitting around her table are glad for it.

But she recently taught me how to use a bread machine and prepare fresh baked yeast rolls for my family.

I must say...without hesitation...that fresh baked bread is something quite special. 

It is warm and sweet and savory all at the same time.  

Recently I was reading through a devotion book.  The NLT bible pointed out that a priest offered David (a man on the run for his life) the only food he had...the holy bread. 

This would have been the Bread of Presence.  It was placed before the Lord once a week in the tabernacle.

We don't typically make big deals about certain foods being holy unto the Lord.  But this bread would have been just that.  Incredibly holy. 

This bread was laid before the Lord out of reverence and obedience.

And here....David (frenzied and probably freaking out because the king had a bounty on his head) was being offered THIS bread for sustenance.

I was thinking about my past month or so. 

Frenzied certainly fits.

We have ended our school year.  Finished off soccer season and ballet.  We have had chorus concerts and award ceremonies.  Birthdays have been celebrated and anniversaries cherished.

Honestly when my life gets this way....my relationship with Jesus takes a serious hit.

The energy and zeal to get up and dig in God's Word for fresh truth just isn't there.  I would much rather snooze....

Staleness sets in and I find myself looking to rules instead of really enjoying my relationship with Jesus.

When I read this passage in 1 Samuel 21 I identified with David and my heart once again melted over my God. 

David...the man that will one day be known as the "man after God's own heart" is in a crisis.  He is on the run.  The king hates him and wants to see him dead.  He flees to the city of Nob.  He even lies to the priest about why he is there.

And still  God offered him bread.

The Bread of Presence.

Holy Bread unto the Lord.


My translation says it had just been replaced that day.

I wonder if he felt unworthy because he lied to the priest?
I wonder if he felt like a coward for running for his life? 
(this guy was known for being an insane warrior...songs were sung for his fame)
I wonder if hunger pangs took over?

Here is the bottom line: David was frenziedGod delivered freshness

When I still myself before Him...He does the same for me.

His love, although enduring...is fresh to me each day.
His mercies, abundant...are new every morning.
His grace, amazing....never runs out.

Oh Father~ do a fresh work in my life.  Speak fresh words of hope and life into a frenzied and stale heart.  Fresh implies new.  I would love new zeal and new faith. Fresh.  Invigorated.  I cannot muster this as badly as I may want to.  But I can surrender.  Wake me up to new wonders in your blessed Word.  Meet me in new and unexpected places.  My heart is yours Jesus. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


Shep here.

                I was riding back from somewhere with Andrea before we were married.  I told her it was about to rain.  She scoffed at me and asked how I could say such a thing with such certainty.  I told her I was part Cherokee and that I was in touch with the elements.  She thought I was full of it…until it started raining.

                The truth is that it had little to do with any Indian blood and more with living a life outside and paying attention to the signs.  FYI- if you are outside, or riding down the road, and see the underneath side of the leaves- get your raincoat.  It’s about to storm. 

                I am not sure about the science of it. But when the cool air swoops in and lifts the leaves so that you can see the bottom of them, there is about to be a storm.  I learned that as a boy.  I remember being out in our back pasture.  Maybe I was fishing, or cutting hay.  Maybe it had been as sunny and warm as it could be…but when I began to feel that cool breeze, and saw the underneath of the leaves, I knew it was time to head back.  And sure enough, pretty soon the entire sky would turn black and the rain would begin to pour.

                In north Georgia, when a thunderstorm blows up, it covers everything you can see.  One minute all is sunny and beautiful, the next minute you are looking for a place to hide.  And when it blows up, it blocks out everything else.  Because of the terrain, your horizon is limited.  Trees and hills keep you from seeing anything except what is directly above you.

                I assumed that it was like this everywhere until I made a trip out west.  My brother and I loaded up one evening in Rocky Face and began heading north.  We went through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and watched the sun come up over Chicago.  We kept driving into and across Wisconsin and Minnesota and finally stopped to sleep in Fargo, North Dakota.

                The next morning we struck out again, headed west.  Now, the land in North Dakota, just west of Fargo is flat as a pool table.  We were headed due west on I-something, when I looked off in the distance to my north and I saw something I had never seen.  There was a thunderstorm raging.  Lightning was popping and thunder was crashing.  And it was miles away.  Above us was nothing but blue skies.

                Then I looked to the south, and there was another one.  I could see the storm miles away, ripping across the landscape.  Above me, and all around me, there was nothing but blue skies.  We rode all the way across that state and into Montana that day, and I saw no less than 5 thunderstorms, but never had a drop of rain hit our windshield.  Underneath the black clouds the rain was falling in sheets.  I’m sure the wind was howling and the lightning crackling and I’m sure that the folks underneath those clouds felt like there was nothing above but black, smothering storm.

                I remembered this just a few days ago, and was shocked by the voice of God in it.  I was having the type of day that I couldn’t see out of.  It was black everywhere.  Now, I started the day in prayer.  I willed myself into a better frame of mind.  I tried my best to have an attitude of thanksgiving.  I served my family as best I could before I left for work, but somehow by about 9:15, everything just clouded up on me and I couldn’t see out. 

On the way home, though, everything changed.  This North Dakota memory blew into my thoughts, and I know God was reminding me that there were blue skies ahead.  If I could have seen as God sees, then I would have known that this despair would not last forever…and probably not even for very long.  When you are in the storm, you can’t see out.  You run for shelter, oftentimes, too late.  You feel the wind, see the lightning and hear the thunder.  Your whole world is enveloped by forces that no one in this world can even hope to control. 

                But take heart.  The sun is still shining.  It may be just over the horizon, but it is there.  If you could see as God sees, you would know that the storm is temporary.  It came to pass.  It came to blow fear and chaos into your life and to teach you where to hide.  Sure, it may be dark and gloomy where you are.  If it is a true storm, it will be completely out of your control.    But the one thing you can’t do, is quit.  Pull up from the tailspin.  Remember the storms of days gone by and the deliverance that you received.  Thank God for the sun and for rain boots.  If you can hold it in the traces for long enough you will eventually find the sunny slopes of tomorrow that were there waiting on you all along.  And if, by God’s grace, you manage to negotiate the tempest, you will learn a new song.

                In 1776 Augustus M. Toplady was traveling in England across the barren landscape when just such a storm blew up.  He found shelter in the cleft of a rock face and there penned the words to a hymn that I remember my mama singing in the kitchen when I came sprinting back just ahead of the rain, barefoot and winded…

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.