Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Path of Blessing

After washing their feet , he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, "Do you understand what I was doing?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right because it is true.  And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet.  I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you.  How true is  it that a servant is not greater than the master.  Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them.  You know these things- now do them.  That is the path of blessing."  John 13:12-17


I have never humbled myself to serve someone else that it wasn't a superior blessing for me.

These are our marching orders.

We are messengers sent out to live, speak, and act in a manner that glorifies our Lord Jesus.

We are not greater than the One that sent us out.

Yet.....how many times do we refuse to serve our neighbors?

In the scripture passage above Jesus is about to wash the feet of the men that followed him for 3 years of ministry.
One of these men would betray him.
One of the these men would deny him.
The rest of these men would scatter in fear during the following days....

Yet He served them.

He blessed them by doing something seemingly beneath Him.

What does this look like in my own life?

Will I show kindness to someone that has been hateful to me?
Will I go out of my way for a stranger?
Will I go last when I want to be in the lead?
Will I hold my tongue for another to speak?
Will I mind being overlooked so someone else can be seen?
Will I extend compassion instead of criticism?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are gifts of the Spirit of God intended to be used to show off the character of the God we serve.

Jesus embodied every one of these gifts in his person.

He was the Word made flesh....for us.

And He humbled Himself to not just die on a cross for us...but to wash our feet as well.





Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Needs Hope When You Have Got a Plan?

Got a text early this morning from someone very dear to me.

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of a horrific loss in their life....

Heart-wrenching. Mind-blowing. A punch to the gut kind of loss.

This person had read a devotion for today, and of all topics for today, it spoke of ~hope~.

Now we know our hope is firmly rooted and established in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Hope is found in Him.
It is impossible without Him.

Yet we plan lives for ourselves that usually require little to no hope.

Right?

It all sounds good on paper that Jesus is my hope until your plans fall apart and the screen that is playing your life goes blank.

Where is that hope then?

Well....let's digest this for just a bit.

When our lives are going exactly according to our plan how does hope fit into that equation?

It doesn't.

Smooth sailing doesn't hope for much.  It doesn't have to.

I had a plan.

Get a college degree.
Marry the man of my dreams.
Teach school.
Have babies.
Be a wife and mother.
Follow Jesus the rest of my days.

Sound like yours?

What was not in my plan was needing hope on a daily basis the way I do.

The way my plan would work wouldn't really require hope.

Here are some of the definitions of biblical hope:  expectation, thing that I long for, to anticipate, confidence, faith.

Somehow we look back on our plans....before life ran off of the rails....before the things happened in your life that jilted your faith and lit your anger fuse towards God...and we compare as if somehow those days were hope-filled and the here and now is less so~ even hopeless.

Can you stop for a moment and look at it the opposite way?

Hope is only the glorious gift that IT IS when your plan is disrupted.

When the brakes squeal and the smoke clears and you look around and your plans are stalled out....blessed hope actually has a chance to blossom.

Hopeless living left along with your plan.

Jesus brings hope to those that desperately need it.

And we all do....

So if you feel hopeless today, chances are you have it backwards.

You thought your plan brought you hope.

It didn't.

Only Jesus can do that.

The gift of hope comes to those that fall to their knees and hold ashes in their hands of what they thought would be....

Difficult moments create the needed space for hope.

Loading my 15 year old girl on a bus in a wheelchair was not my plan.
No parent dreams of changing a teenage girl's diaper or feeding her with a tube in her tummy.

That wasn't my plan.

But neither was hope.

Salvation came to me as a 9 year old little girl.  I confessed my need for a Savior.
Hope came to me on June 11, 2002 as a 24 year old woman.

My plan was disrupted.
His plan was falling perfectly into place.

I will end this post with fitting scriptures that include the word ~hope~.

You will notice that it usually shares space in God's Word with sorrow.

After all....that is where HOPE is needed the most.

Psalm 42:5
Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again-
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 40:11-12
LORD. don't hold back your tender mercies from me.
My only hope is in your unfailing love and faithfulness.
For troubles surround me-
too many to count!
They pile up so high
I can't see my way out.
They are more numerous than the hairs on my head.
I have lost all my courage.

Hebrews 10:23
Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.







Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pit-Stops & Pit-Falls

I snapped this picture of a resting bench on the climb up to Clingman's Dome in Tennessee.

My family used a few of these benches to stop, rest and catch our breath on the way up.

(Thank the Good Lord)
My breathing was labored.  My heart was pounding in my ears.
My legs were screaming from the incline.

I also noticed a few people stopping on the benches to rest and then deciding to just stay there.  They would tell their families to go on without them and pick them back up on the way down.

God in His sweet way used these encounters to speak to my heart.

Each of us in on a journey.

Some folks have a mighty steep climb.

Death, depression or despair have knocked the wind out of you and taking the next step in the climb ahead seems like too much to ask.


God provides places along our way to stop and rest.

I call this a pit-stop.

It is a place to catch your breath.
It is a place to appreciate how far you have come.
It is a place to rest, repair, and refuel.
But it is also a place to pass through.

It should never be a place where we retreat and go backwards or where we lay down and refuse to get up.

If we do...it becomes a pit-fall.

Here is the scary definition of a pit-fall: a trap, snare, a camouflaged pit used to capture and hold men or animals; hidden or unexpected difficulty.

Anybody other than me ever fall into a trap like this?

Anybody else ever stopped to rest and instead decided to use the break to look around and become jealous of others easily walking by, or worse, become insanely sorry for yourself??

Our Sovereign God calls us to great faith.
Building faith in my life has meant many many uphill climbs.

God remembers we are made of dust....he knows we become weary and we need rest. (Psalm 103:14)

So He provides places of rest.

It's funny sometimes when we sit and rest we even begin to think that we aren't going forward at all....

But the rest IS part of moving forward.

Don't allow pride to push you past a pit-stop when you feel the Holy Spirit telling you to sit for a bit.

I was a little embarrassed to have to stop and rest on those benches.

I am young(ish) after all.

But no one cared or counted who all had stopped when we got to the top to enjoy the incredible view.

Those pit-stops were provided in my journey.

I would have been foolish not to use them.

Jesus says this in Matthew 11:28,   "Come  to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

Did you notice it is an invitation?

He graciously invites us to come to him.  Sit.  Dwell. Abide. Rest.

If you already do this...good for you.

I am terrible at thinking that I can rest later.  Always later.  There is too much to do now and I can put off the rest.

LISTEN TO ME....when I do that....I am at serious risk of finally stopping to rest and that pit-stop becomes a full on pit-fall.

I have done it so many times.

Rest was there for me before.

But I pushed right past it.

I kept going in my own strength.
This was the delusion I believed.

It was the lie of pride.

So when I finally stopped to rest out of exhaustion instead of obedience~ I stayed longer than I should.  I focused on others people with seemingly easy lives (also a lie) and got angry and jealous.  I thought of how difficult my own path was and got mad at God.  I began the comparison game.  Criticism set in and any goodness of God was hard to find.

THIS IS A PITFALL.

If this sounds like you or your thoughts please cry out to the One that even rescues us from the pits we make for ourselves....

Listen to this beautiful scripture~

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded.
They will put their trust in the LORD.

Ps.40:1-3

Repent to Jesus.

Enjoy the pit-stops.

Avoid the pit-falls.

Enter into His glorious rest.









Monday, June 26, 2017

"...always pressing on toward Jerusalem"

I feel compelled to write again.

For over a year or more I have stepped away from what used to be like therapy to my soul.

Sitting at this keyboard and pounding words that spill out of a desperate heart used to be more natural.  Now it is an all out fight.

Sometimes I have nothing to say.

Other times I don't want to shouldn't say what I have to say.

And more often than not~ I let ease and apathy win.  The couch (along with Netflix) beckons me and I lay this body down and give my brain a rest.

Not thinking is a form of escape that I will gladly take.  #guilty

I have started this post about 4 times....

I almost spilled the beans about a meltdown I had  two weeks ago in the car. For the life of me I felt life and pain closing in on me from all directions.  All I could do was cry (literally) and cry out to God.  My arthritis had decided to flare up and do a number on my joints.  In addition to hot and inflamed hands and wrists, I went through some hostility toward the Lord.  I soaked in  my own pity for a few days...wondering why God would give me a severely disabled girl that needs so much hands-on support yet give me hands that hurt and throbbed with the slightest bend or touch of pressure.  

It took four days of being quiet before God and simply clinging to His Word and His promises. Doing little else than just that. 
It took my husband who was willing to pray like crazy for his wife and pick up the slack I simply couldn't do.
It took some pretty amazing friends that did not need me to explain anything~ they willingly took on some of my burdens and stormed the gates of Heaven on my behalf.

4 days later...the fog lifted.

The pain somewhat eased in my hands and wrists.

The window outward was less dim and light chased some of my shadows away.

His faithfulness was there.  
He was there.
As was the pain.

His Presence and his promises held true even as pain had its way.

I was never alone...even if the enemy whispered to me that I was.
His love for me never failed...even if my love for him did.

Well I guess I spilled the beans after all.  Maybe someone needed it.

Tonight as I read through the precious Word of God my eyes fell on the tail end of a nondescript verse.

One might just miss the value and importance of what doctor Luke penned in chapter 13 verse 22 of his gospel.

This verse is just more proof that hope so often tags along with the mundane things of life.

The verse simply says, "Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem."

Did you catch it?

This seemingly informational verse describes the activity of Jesus in his daily life. 

He taught everywhere he went.

But it points to more. 

It points to a man that is making his days count as he marches toward his mission.

Jerusalem was the end of the earthly road for him.  Yet He pressed on always towards that very place.

His mission was our redemption.

But my redemption, and yours, cost Him dearly.

His mission was always to die for me.  For you.  For every wretch that has ever lived and questioned him.  For every prodigal son and daughter.  Even for those that never would choose Him.

He always pressed on.

As His follower....those are my instructions as well.

Getting back up is a rare trait these days.

Perseverance will serve us well.

Let's press on always.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit.  2 Corinthians 4:8


4:7 Greek We now have this treasure in clay jars. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.



Friday, May 19, 2017

the Hell in our Heads

I have noticed an unprecedented amount of God's people battling for clear, concise, and godly thoughts.

I will admit I am at the top of this list.

God has opened some pretty cool doors for me...

He allows me the opportunity to facilitate ladies bible studies through our church.

He also allows me to serve as a lay counselor at an incredible Christ-based Resource center here in town.

More recently a new and completely surprising door opened for me to do one-on-one Chaplain visits at our local jail. (only with women:)

These roles allow me to meet with lots and lots of women.
Across the board the ladies I get to know are vastly different in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background and religious upbringing.  I know women who love Jesus with every fiber of their being and I hug the necks of strippers, addicts and prostitutes who have lost every semblance of hope.

Here is an observation...

A lot of women are walking around battling hell in their heads.

As I listen to godly ladies from bible study tell their stories...they battle discouraging thoughts in their minds.
As I counsel ladies in crisis ....they battle debilitating thoughts in their minds.
As I meet with women in the jail....they battle the exact. same. thing.

Thoughts are powerful.

They are invisible to the eye yet they dictate much of how we act.
Thoughts cannot speak for themselves yet they work their way out of our mouths and usually into trouble.
Thoughts, if left unchecked, can be incredibly dangerous.

The enemy of our soul knows that as believers we have an eternal home in Heaven with Jesus.
We will not know the torment of hell.

Yet many of us have allowed the torment of hell into our heads....

This internal mind battle keeps us paralyzed by fear, held captive in the clutches of comparison, worn down and frazzled with weariness.

Most of us are doing good to guzzle down a cup of coffee (or 5) and press through our day.

Meanwhile our enemy has accomplished the second best way of bringing us to ruin and rendering us ineffective.

He simply whispers lies to us and we mindlessly believe them.

Another observation from women across the board is that we seem too tired...too stretched thin...or too distracted to really even notice the severity of our own legs being cut out from underneath us.

The enemy has our number.

He certainly has mine.

If you want be zapped of energy~ keep cycling those thoughts.
If you want to embrace depression~ then continue to be deceived.
If you want to feel like you are going crazy ~then give those thoughts a place to take root.
If you want to quench faith in your life~ believe how you feel instead.

This is how many believers live their lives.

BUT hell was vanquished for us on the cross of Calvary.
When Jesus rose from the grave victorious....our victory was in tact as well.

So let's not just be saved from a literal hell.

Let's be also saved from an internal one as well.

Just as our eternal security is determined by faith in Jesus.
Ongoing daily strength and security is determined the same way.

Faith.

It takes faith to rejects lies.
It takes faith in Jesus to trust that His Word is truth.
It takes faith to fight for freedom in your mind.


"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."  
2 Corinthians 10: 3-6

Faith moves us to action.

Faith helps us wage war with divine power that CAN destroy strongholds.

Faith gives us courage to recognize arguments and lofty opinions IN OUR MINDS that attempt to raise themselves against the knowledge of Almighty God.

Faith pushes us to take thoughts of our flesh captive.

Faith isn't afraid of repentance.

Faith surrenders in obedience.

Faith fights the hell in our heads and it will win.

We must choose it.

Over and over and over again.....





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

3 Days After Easter....

There were a couple of things that my pastor said at our Saturday Easter service that quickened a longing that is deep within me.

As he welcomed the church he said something to this effect, "there is nothing in your life~ no difficulty, loss, depression, anger, heartbreak that a good Resurrection cannot fix."

I agreed with a hearty "Amen".

Later in his message he asked the congregation a rhetorical question, "who here needs an Easter miracle?"

I did not verbally "Amen" to that one.  Instead I let the words fall on me. Sink in.

Every Sunday believers gather to worship and celebrate Jesus Christ.  His death on the cross purchased our freedom- if we so choose Him.

The exchange of His righteousness for my filth is more staggering to me the longer I live.

When I met Jesus as a 9 year old I did not understand the sin battle that would plague me until heaven.

My sins are forgiven.
But I have a flesh that still wants to go its own way.  My heart cannot be trusted.  And many times I give into the lure of pride.

Easter IS miraculous.
The miracle of the resurrection changes everything.

For those of us that have a relationship with Jesus we know firsthand the difference that grace can make in a life.

But, on this past Saturday evening, my thoughts for resurrection and a miracle led me straight back to a longing that has not let up for almost 15 years....

Anyone else have one???

I bet I was not the only one in that sanctuary that has tasted the goodness of grace and salvation yet...we still long for a miracle~ a resurrection of sorts.

I mean~ HELLO.  The pastor asked for crying out loud.  "Does anyone need an Easter miracle?"

Who doesn't have something?

Even if you won't say it to anyone else or even out loud.....we can think of something we want or need that seems impossible for us to get.

I looked over at my 14 year old daughter strapped into her wheelchair and wondered like I have a million times before what it would be like for her brain to be healed and her body to work correctly.

I wanted to run down to the altar and sob loudly.

Seriously.

I wanted to lay flat out and just wail. For the many days and years of believing and not yet seeing...

But pride holds me back from making such a spectacle.

What would everyone think?
What would people say?
How would people react?

I wonder if their child was strapped into a wheelchair if they would care to be a fool and sob at the altar too?

Longing makes us care a little less.

I do care.

But sometimes my desperation gets the best of me and I want to be like the woman that pushed and shoved her way to Jesus...just to make contact with the hem of his garment.  (Matthew 9:20-21)

12 years.

She had hemorrhaged for 12 long years.

I wonder if she felt as hopeless on the day she was healed as I did in the Easter service?

I believe God Almighty still miraculously heals.
I believe He will heal my girl on this earth.
I believe He has grown my faith into something less flippant and flimsy because of years of persevering in faith....glory to His Name.

I sit here 3 days after the celebration of Jesus' resurrection filled with gratitude for a Savior that rescues.

But I also sit here in my longing.

Right smack in the middle of it.  It hasn't waned one bit.

Whatever it was that urged the lady to find a way to Jesus after 12 years of bleeding still urges me today.

So often we gauge what we think God will do based on time.

She didn't allow 12 years of sameness to solidify her fate or to hold her back.

She shoved.  She pushed.  She took a leap of faith that something might just happen.

She took her longing (all 12 years of it) to the hem of Jesus' clothing.

I would say that is mustard seed faith.

May I not allow 14 years to taint my faith.

My God does not change.
He is the same yesterday.  Today. And forever.

He delights in persistent tenacious stubborn faith....unbroken by the passage of time and passing doubts.

My bet is that others in that crowd would not have encouraged this lady to even think of a miracle after 12 years.

Aren't you glad she didn't ask their opinion?

She shoved her way to the One that knew her deepest longing and honored her faith.

So I ask.

Who among you needs a miracle?

Come push your way up to Jesus with me.  Elbow your way into His Presence.

You may feel like your request might as well be dormant.  Forgotten.  Even forsaken.

You may think that time passing by somehow means that God has answered....

But what if it all changed because you asked again?

What if faith is continuing to be compelled to ask?

Don't we want to know that IT IS God who fuels the very faith that pride desires to extinguish?

I am NOT embarrassed because I long for my girl to be healed.

I AM embarrassed that somehow I lose the gumption to push my way up to Jesus...yet again...that I focus on the glares of others rather than a glory I cannot really fathom.

Faith is outlandish y'all.

We will look foolish and feel even more so....

But that woman walked away from Jesus without any regrets that day.

Let's ask.

Let's ask again.  And again.

Shove with me through doubt, glares, laughter, fear and a mob of others where you may feel unnoticed or unimportant.

Reach out in hope even if the gesture feels stupid and small....and we might just walk away with a miracle.
















Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Our Words Come Back to Bite Us








These kids of mine are a bunch of fun.

And a bunch of work.

Somebody is almost always having a meltdown, a crisis, a secret, a lapse in judgement, a belly laugh, a fear, a concern, a practical joke (our whoopee cushion constantly changes locations) and let's not forget...a question.  Or about a thousand.

This phase of life with my kids gives me such appreciation for my parents and some of my friend's parents that allowed me to hang out at their house a lot during my teenage years.

I am learning alot as I teach my own kids about life, Jesus, consequences, responsibility, and so on...

Striking a good parenting balance between easy going and uptight is my goal.  But I usually end up being more one or the other rather than a good mix of in between.

Lately I have gotten pretty uptight about stuff left all over the house. Every day.  Multiple times a day...

A deck of cards.
Random jewelry.
Shoes.
Shoes.
Shoes.
Jackets.
Nerf guns.
Craft supplies.
Chapstick.
Books.
Shoes.
Nerf bullets.
Candy wrappers.
Blankets.
Hangers.
Shoes.

I huffed through the kitchen stomping and talking to no one in particular in a rather loud voice about how I felt more like the maid than the mom.

Shep looked at me and said, "Babe, we can give them serious consequences for this.  We need to come down harder on them and make them believe us when we say we do not want them leaving stuff all over the house."

I stopped in my tracks and said, "I know we can punish them and make them mind.  I just wish they would obey us because they love us."


And there it was.

Truth.  And my desire...for my children to obey and not be punished.

Haven't I heard that (or read that) somewhere before?

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  John 14:15

The Lord expects of His kids the same thing we expect from our own.

Obedience.

Not out of obligation. Not out of manipulation.  Not out of aggravation.

Obedience out of LOVE.

It hit me pretty hard.

Parenting is not as clear cut as I want it to be.
I desire for my kids to grow up and be considerate, responsible, and honest folks that love their Lord and love others.

However, just like me, they are bent to go their own way and do their own thing.

Like.......leave their junk all over our house all. the. time.

If I love them~
I will correct them.  At times with gentle reminders and mercy.  At other times with discipline and punishment that is as unpleasant for me as it is for them.


Because He loves us...He is faithful and kind to correct us.
Because we love Him...we obey Him.


And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

L.O.V.E.

There is an all surpassing love that can be known and experienced.

There is a love that covers any wrong.

There is a love that can pay any debt.

There is a love that most only dream of....the stuff of legends and fairy tales.

This love can melt stone and move mountains.
This love can part a sea and drive out fear.
This love resurrects dead things and brings life anew.

Past the retirement of feelings, this LOVE is steadfast and immovable.  Never shaken.

We cannot bend it.
We cannot pervert it.
We cannot purchase it.

This other-worldly love does indeed exist.

It rescues lives every single day.
It seeps into cracks where the tiniest bit of faith thrives.
It changes landscapes and makes our difficulties into stepping stones of grace.

This LOVE is patient and kind.
This LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
This LOVE does not even demand its own way.
This LOVE is not irritable.
This LOVE keeps zero record of wrongs.
This LOVE hates injustice.
This LOVE rejoices whenever the truth wins.
This LOVE never gives up.
This LOVE never loses faith.
This LOVE is always hopeful.
This LOVE endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13)


I honestly cannot measure up.  As much as I want to love those closest to me in this fashion I fall short.
My heart is impatient and self seeking even on its best day.
I lose heart and want to give up so easily.
My hopes can be dashed as quickly as a light turning red.

But this LOVE holds me.
This LOVE has me.
This LOVE is working inside of me.

This LOVE so astounds me that I cannot help but want to see others held in a LOVE like this.

Most days we don't acknowledge it.
Hours pass and life ticks off a day at a time without us stopping to pause over a LOVE that changed everything in our lives.

I want to relish this LOVE that was so freely given to me and so costly to the Giver.
I want to delight in it and see its boundless expression.

Let's not live like we are unloved.
His LOVE has purpose.  It saves the lost.  It frees the captive.
Shamelessly proclaim all this LOVE does for you...and watch it do the same for others!


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it."
John 3:16-17