Plead Until the Peace Comes

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:19

Some days, the uncertainty of life is daunting. And sometimes, the certainty of life is just as bad – inevitable break-ups, illnesses, conflict and stress. We may see what’s coming and the anticipation is more than we can bear.

Anxiety is a tough emotion to crack. Once those stomach butterflies take flight, it’s difficult to settle them down. No hand towel sufficiently dries our palms. Our lungs simply can’t get enough air in. Do you know the feeling? I do. And I think Jesus did as well.

In Mark 14, we find Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, a place He often retreated to for prayer. This time, He brought Peter, James, and John with Him. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He says to them. (v. 34) The original Greek word used to describe the state of His soul is perilupos, which means greatly grieved, being sorrowful “all-around,” i.e. engulfed in sorrow.

Think of the numerous words we use to define sorrow – sad, unhappy, brokenhearted, mournful, grief-stricken, remorse, poignance, bereavement, anguish. Jesus Himself, being fully God and fully man, experienced an overwhelming sense of these emotions. I imagine Him resisting the urge to vomit, His stomach turning in knots, head spinning, palms sweaty. Negative emotions take a physical toll on our bodies and it did the same for Jesus. He needed reprieve.

So He went to His Father. Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for You. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (v. 35-36)

Jesus pleaded with God for a different plan. We do the same thing, don’t we? When anxiety is deep within us, we want it to go away. We want God to change the circumstances causing our heartache. Yet, as David mentions in Psalm 94, it’s not the work God does that brings joy, but rather the consolation He extends. God didn’t take the cup from Jesus because the very thing Jesus wanted to avoid was what fulfilled God’s plan – salvation for all. Perhaps the very thing we want God to change is what He will use to fulfill His plan in us as well.

But it’s ok to plead with God until the peace comes, because it will. He will comfort us in our time of need. (2 Corinthians 1:3) He will hear us when we cry out to Him. (Psalm 18:6, 116:1) He will give us the strength to courageously face our greatest fears. After Jesus met with God, He was at peace with the plan. God had provided the comfort He needed to boldly walk to His death, with humility and compassion.

So the next time you’re anxious or overwhelmed by sorrow, plead with God through, praise and prayer, until the peace comes.

Prayer: Our Powerful Parenting Tool

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Sometimes, all we can do is wear out the carpet with our knees. 

God used my son to teach me this valuable lesson during his first couple years of elementary school. I knew he was an energetic kid, but when his behavior started to fall behind his Kindergarten peers, a small seed of worry began to grow. Could he have special needs? A learning disability or ADHD?

Countless attempts at discipline, setting consequences, and rewards without improvement left me feeling defeated. Reassuring the school principal we were handling the situation became harder the following year as the reports kept coming home: Has difficulty focusing. Is a distraction to his classmates. Cannot complete assignments. I dreaded answering the phone when the school called. What if they ask him to withdraw?

Before I knew it, that seed of worry had grown into full blown momma anxiety. I felt ill-equipped to handle the mental strain and emotional stress of a child with academic and emotional delay. 

I needed a plan to fight the fret. Tummy butterflies, shaking hands, and trouble breathing became physical manifestations of a spiritual lack of trust and I simply couldn’t live like that. One night, I went into my son’s room after he fell asleep and knelt beside his bed. I laid my hands on him and began to pray for guidance. 

Psalm 91 has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, but in the shadows of my son’s dimly lit room, I experienced the comfort of being covered by the Lord’s wings. Verse 4 says, He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. I found refuge in remembrance of the Lord’s faithfulness. I knew He was in control and would guide me through the ups and downs of this journey.

As I reread Psalm 91 in its entirety, my anxiety fizzled out as the words became relevant to my circumstances: 

  • God will protect my son. (v. 4) 
  • I have no reason to fear what will happen. (v.5) 
  • This process will not bring harm or disaster to our family. (v. 10) 
  • When I call on Him, He will answer me. He will be with me every step of the way. (v. 15)

Perhaps you understand how the weight of parenting can lay heavy on a momma’s heart. But that’s why prayer is the most powerful tool we have. Consistently going to God lessens anxiety; as our knees wear out the carpet, God lifts our burdens. He protects our children more effectively than we ever could. Let’s put our trust in Him.

Is True Beauty Fleeting?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4

What is your favorite physical attribute? Your smile? Eyelashes? Waistline? I’m quick to recognize what I don’t like about myself, but it’s important to consider what we do like and be grateful. Because it may not always be that way.

I didn’t realize how attached I was to my hair until it started falling out. I simply thought it would always be thick and healthy.

Like many other women, my hair stopped falling out while I was pregnant and then fell out by the handfuls after I delivered my children. But this time was different. I wasn’t with child nor had I recently delivered. My hair was simply falling out for no apparent reason. And I could see exposed scalp beneath thinning hair.

The thought of having permanent hair loss evoked unexpected devastation and worry. What if it never goes back to normal? I began to realize part of my self-confidence was anchored in my hair. I had allowed my perception of personal beauty to be defined by my appearance.

This is far from what God wants for us. In fact, I Peter 3:3 says, Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. God gently reminded me that my worth and beauty does not come from my outward appearance, rather, it should be that of my inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (I Peter 3:4)

As a society, we make judgements based on external appearances. But many of our physical features are inherited and out of our control.

Our attitude, however, it something we can control and that is what God loves – our heart and soul. A gentle and quiet spirit knows how much God loves them, believes He is her perfect creator, and finds confidence in Him alone.

Consider again your favorite attribute. Now, imagine if you woke one morning to find it dramatically altered. Would you view yourself differently? God wants us to focus less on ourselves and more on Him. I pray our inner beauty becomes more important than our outward appearance. Because inner beauty – true beauty – isn’t fleeting.

How to Walk By Faith

For we live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

In the dim light of early morning I reached into the cabinet for a coffee mug. My morning routine – coffee with Jesus. Only today I was out of coffee, so hot chocolate would have to do. 

The word Faith was written on the side of this particular mug, bringing to mind some difficult family circumstances which were threatening my faith. I thought I was trusting God, but disappointment and discouragement had crept into my heart and were making themselves at home. My faith could use some help, I thought.

As I sat down to read my devotion, hot chocolate in hand, my planner, which had Walk by Faith on the front, caught my eye. Ok, I thought, I’m getting the message.

But how does one truly walk by faith? Life can be overwhelmingly negative at times and distractions divert our gaze from God without warning. A pleasant morning in prayer can quickly turn into a chaotic mess by lunch time. Peace is rapidly replaced by fear and anxiety.

Perhaps you know the feeling, too. Some days are tougher than others, but I’d like to share a few ideas God has been working with me on:

1.Expect God to answer our prayers.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
When we expect something, we regard it as likely to happen. In verse 5, the psalmist lays their requests before God and believes he will receive an answer. He is confident the Lord has heard him. He isn’t wishing and hoping to hear back – he expects it. We too, should expect to hear from God when we spend time in prayer. Faith is demonstrated in a posture of confident hope.

2. Anticipate God’s promises to be fulfilled.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2
When we go through tough times, we can be certain of a few things – they will not last forever, the Lord will be with us, and He will keep us safe. Walking by faith means choosing to focus on the brevity of our circumstances in light of eternity rather than the fear of infinite suffering. We choose to acknowledge God’s presence, believing He sees our pain and holds our hand through it. We know that whatever happens is under His control and will not harm us outside of His divine allowance. 

3. Watch for the lives of those around you to be positively influenced.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Act 4:13
When walk by faith, others notice. They can sense peace that passes all understanding. They can feel compassion overcome rejection. They can see heads held high in confidence amidst uncertainty.

We may not always understand why we go through tough times. Sometimes we can’t see what God is doing. But like 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, we, as children of God, live by faith, not by sight.

To me, walking by faith means taking one step at a time with the Lord. It prompts necessary pauses to address my anxiety and worry. It entails confessing my fears to God and allowing His truth to calm me. It includes sharing my experiences with a trusted friend.

What does walking by faith look like to you?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

What do you do when it seems like God is silent? Or maybe it feels like He’s not holding up His end of the bargain. Your heart believes this is His will, you’ve prayed about it, but the pieces just aren’t falling into place. Discouragement and discontent erode the initial peace you had and begs the question, God, why isn’t this working out?

Sarai knows the feeling. God promised her and Abram a son (Genesis 12:7), but years passed and no baby came. In these times of questioning and waiting, we have two options of how to respond – wait on His timing or take matters into our own hands. Unfortunately, Sarai did the latter.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”(Genesis 16:1-2)

For 10 years, Sarai patiently waited on God. But discouragement lead to discontentment and she decided to take action. Abram took Hagar as his wife and she bore him a son. But he was not the son God would use to build His great nation.

How many times have we done the same thing? We force our timing into God’s, hoping He’s on board. And the funny thing is, God allows our stubborn hearts to wonder down roads He never intended us to travel. He gives us free will, the choice to move on our own accord or sit and wait.

Psalm 27:14 says, Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. I believe God is speaking directly to our tendencies to want what we want when we want it. He acknowledges that waiting is hard, but encourages us to take heart and be patient. It’s as if He’s saying, “Just hold on, I’ve got this.”

Sarai’s choice lead to a great deal of undue stress. Let’s remember that God’s silence may be a reminder to sit still. When pieces don’t fall into place like we thought they would, it may not be His will. He is trustworthy of faithfulness. He kept His word to Sarai and Abram. He’ll keep His word with us, too.

Wounded By Words

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 118:5-6

“You can really hurt someone by the words you speak,” I told my son. Knowing he had felt the sting of criticism in the past, and I reminded him to choose his words carefully.

As I was getting ready for bed later that evening, I realized how much I allow the words of others to influence my mood or opinion of myself. Just that day, I had been feeling discouraged about the critical words and tone with which someone else spoke to me. As much as I wished it had, their comment didn’t just roll off me. It stuck like a glob of glue in my heart and it didn’t feel good.

Then, I came across Psalm 118:5-6. True to God’s nature of perfect timing, He reminded me that His opinion is what matters most. I had been pressed into a state of gloom, allowing another’s statements to steal my joy. But being reminded of God’s love for me, my heart danced off the goo and was free of bondage to the approval of man. What can mere mortals do to me when I have the affections of the God of the universe?

Perhaps you, too, allow the words and actions of others to influence the way you view yourself or the world. It’s hard not to sometimes, especially when those people are close friends or family. We value their opinion.

But if what they’re saying is critical, condescending or simply maligned from the Word of God, then we need to proceed with caution. Taking a moment to pause and reflect may be just what we need to redirect negative thoughts to the truth.

Is what they’re saying true? What is their spirit communicating? Two simple questions point us to clarity and confidence.

If what they’re saying isn’t true, we can stop there and rebuke Satan’s efforts the convince us otherwise. If what they’re saying is true, whether we want to hear it to not, then we need to listen. God may be using them to speak to us.

If their spirit communicates tenderness, we should be grateful God has given us a special friend who speaks the truth in love. But if their aim is to tear us down or build themselves up, then let’s see that for what it is. God is gentle and kind; He never speaks with condescending tones. He may want to get out attention, but He will not do so with criticism. Ridicule is the language of Satan; let’s claim victory over him in those moments.

God wants us to live under His affections, under His supernatural acceptance. His intentions are not for us to seek the approval of man or try to please others. He desires we look only to Him for our true identity and reliance.

We’ll never control what comes out of others’ mouths, but we can control what we say. As I encouraged my son to do, may we not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
(Ephesians 4:29)

Is God Listening?

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.
1 Peter 3:12a

As my kids have gotten older, I’ve let them venture out on their own while at a local playground. Although I no longer need to be right next to them, following their every move, I pay attention from a distance. I keep track of their whereabouts and I’m within earshot if they need something.

Moms have a special way of knowing which screaming kid is their’s. There could be fifty littles running around but they have distinct, individual voices that their moms recognize. Their cry is unique and moms are so familiar with the sound that we are able to filter through all the others as negative noise.

I Peter 3:12 makes me wonder if God responds to us in a similar way. Millions of voices cry out to Him on a daily basis, yet He knows just which ones belong to Him. Peter is reminding the listeners of Psalm 34:15, which says, The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry. God keeps tabs on His children and responds to our needs.

What comfort it is to know that God is attentive to our prayers. The Greek word used is eis, which means “entered into”. God does more than listen, He enters into our prayers. He engages with us. He wants to hear our worship, our praise, our concerns and requests. All because He cares about us. He leans in and pays attention just as a loving mom attends to her children.

If you’re struggling with believing God hears you, be encouraged today that He does. Allow this truth to seep into your soul: He knows your voice. He welcomes your prayers. He loves you.

When Life Is An Upstream Swim

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
Colossians 3:23

Living a life of faith is difficult sometimes. I go through periods when I feel like I’m all alone, swimming against a current of resistance. I’m trying to follow God’s direction while most others around me are living by the world’s guidance. And there are days I want to give up and go with the flow. Weary of defending the choices I make for myself and family, I long for the ease of common ground.

It’s during those hard days that I am encouraged by Paul’s perspective in I Corinthians. In a letter to the church in Corinth, he describes his plans:

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (I Corinthians 16:8-9) 

In the same breath, Paul embraces his calling to preach and the resistance he will face. The importance of his assignment is not altered by its difficulty. He will be like a salmon making the treacherous journey upstream, swimming against the current, navigating fish going in the opposite direction

What strikes me most in this passage is how Paul acknowledges there are many who oppose me – those who wish to undermine his work are just as important as those who are open to it. He embraces both the challenge of spreading the gospel and the opposition he will face as a result. Paul understands that God has specifically chosen him for this challenging, tumultuous ministry because of his courageous dedication to effectively sharing his faith. He will not allow discouragement to replace a passion for sharing the Gospel.

All too often, we can be distracted by the opinion of others. They chip away at our confidence and leave us second guessing our convictions. We may feel the need to defend ourselves, but the reality is, there is nothing to defend when we are doing God’s work. Let us remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

If your life feels like an upstream swim, be encouraged by the promises of God: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10) Let us walk in bold obedience as we live long and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) God has a specific assignment for you just as He did for Paul. So in the words of Dori, just keep swimming.

Let God Have The Ending

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:41

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being a guest blogger for the Godly Chic Diaries. The article, also featuring the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat found in Mark 4, was entitled Power through Panic with Prayer. You can read it here.

To say I was anxious was an understatement. My mind flooded with what if’s the moment I found out my husband was returning home from an 8 month deployment. What if he’s different? What if I’m different? How will the reunion go? I couldn’t help but imagine countless scenarios but the truth was, I had no idea what to expect.

Do you struggle with anticipating a bad ending to a situation before it happens? Our minds race three steps ahead, assuming a negative outcome that may not be true. Perhaps you mentally process how a conversation will play our and then resort to avoiding it because there’s no way it will go well.

In Mark 4, we find the disciples in a boat with Jesus after a long day of ministering. Verses 37-38 say, A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples panicked.

Overwhelmed by the situation, they wake Jesus in dramatic fashion – “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” This was no gentle jostle of the shoulder while speaking in a calm, low volume as to not startle Jesus awake. Panic screamed from their lungs as they shook Him conscious. They had already determined the outcome and it was certain death. They had done all they could and drowning seemed imminent.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

When we experience difficult circumstances, it may feel like they will never end. We may conclude that God doesn’t care. Like the disciples, we may fail to recognize the power of Who is with us. But no suffering lasts forever. And God does care. He allows us to endure the doom in order to develop a dependence on Him. He proves His power through the process, demonstrating His control over the ending.

Isaiah 43:2 reminds us, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. So let’s expect God to calm the storms of life’s unexpected events. Let’s put our faith in the One who orchestrates every detail of our day. Because even the biggest of waves obey Him.

Courage to Stay When You Want to Walk Away

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

“I’m not sure I can do this anymore. No matter how hard I try, nothing changes. I just want to give up.”

My friend was going through a particularly difficult season in her marriage and my heart went out to her because I understand how it feels to want to walk away. Insecurity says, if I could just eliminate this relationship, I would be more confident. Pride says, I’m not letting them treat me this way. Fear says, I’ll never see change, I might as well stop trying. Daily bombardments of negativity cause us to throw our hands up in exasperation and exclaim, this is simply too hard! We want to toss in the towel and leave the pain behind.

Have you ever felt like walking away from a difficult relationship? Hagar did just that. She fled circumstances which left her feeling utterly hopeless. She felt mistreated, isolated, and worthless. She saw no other way out. Overwhelming fear invokes a fight or flight response in all of us. And for Hagar, flight was her default.

We find God’s reaction to her choice in Genesis 16:7. The angel of the Lord finds Hagar near a spring in the desert. He asks her where she is from and where she is going. She admits to running away from her mistress, Sarai. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Sarai was Abraham’s wife and Hagar was her maidservant. Sarai longed to be a mother but had been unable to conceive. She encouraged Abraham to take Hagar as his wife in order to produce a son. He did so and Hagar became pregnant.

A seemingly hopeful situation turned south as Sarai’s jealousy lead her to despise and mistreat Hagar. Hagar could no longer stand it, so she left. The driving force of her desire to walk away stemmed from deep hopelessness. The same is true for us; we feel powerless to change our circumstances and see no other way to escape the suffering.

Even when our pain is caused by another’s choices, we get to choose our response. We are not completely helpless; we do not have to walk away. Walking away is the easier, but temporary option. God wants us to work through the hard times with His help.

The Angel gently acknowledges Hagar’s feelings of rejection and hopelessness, and encourages her by saying, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:11) Recognizing God valued her so much that He sent an Angel to communicate His love for her causes a powerful shift in Hagar’s perspective.

She responds by calling the Lord El Roi, which means “the God who sees”. Genesis 16:13 says, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” He sees you, too, my friend. He knows what you’re going through. You are valuable to Him and He wants to help. He has plans and miracles to perform in and through us but we’ll never know them if we walk away.

If you’re facing an impossible hardship and feel powerless make changes, please know you are not alone; God cares for you and He will meet you wherever you are. Only He can give us the courage to stay when we want to walk away.

Is Self-Care Self-ish?

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.
Galatians 6:4

My role as a mom and wife is dearly rewarding but often leaves me depleted with little time for myself. The coming new year marks time of reflection and one theme keep recurring in my mind – self-care.

I’ve often thought of self-care as somewhat self-ish, believing it meant neglecting care for others in order to do what I wanted to do. But is that really true?

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season I spent more time baking, volunteering, and cleaning than exercising, reading my bible, and resting – all essential acts to maintain my health. And I felt it. I couldn’t run around with my kids, I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings, and my pants were too tight!

I started realizing that self-care is not selfish, it’s actually a necessary part of giving of ourselves to others. I won’t be my best mom-and-wife-self if I’m not healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Galatians 6:4 reminds me of three important things relevant to self-care:

1. Self-care is my responsibility. Each one should test their own actions... Testing my actions means assessing my efforts to nurture my soul. Am I spending enough time with God? Am I eating healthy? Am I exercising? No one can take care of me as well as I can nor should I expect someone else to.

2. Self-care leads to confidence. Then they can take pride in themselves alone... When we tend to our personal needs, we feel better about ourselves. We can take pride in the choices we make knowing it honors God to respect the body and heart He has given us.

3. Self-care is personal. Without comparing themselves to someone else. I have many friends who do not understand how getting up an hour early to read my Bible couldn’t be anything but exhausting, but for me it’s just what I need. Other friends don’t struggle with a love of carbs; they don’t have to restrict their diet. It’s important to avoid comparing the ways we differ in methods of self-care. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. What matters is that we make self-care a priority because doing so allows us to give our best to others.

Taking better care of myself is my New Years resolution for 2020 – what’s yours?

Old Saint Nick Loves Jesus

Today’s post is one I wrote as a guest blogger for Devotional Diva a couple years ago. I hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once again. Costco is in full swing mode, every aisle filled with all you need for “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Yes, I am writing this the day after Halloween, but who’s paying attention to that? Although it is the most wonderful time of the year and I absolutely LOVE Christmas, there once was a time I dreaded it.

A few years back, while standing in the checkout line at a local grocery store, a kind woman asked my three-year-old sons, “What is Santa bringing you this year?” They simply stared at her, dumbfounded by her question. I scrabbled to bridge the awkward silence, “We haven’t really talked about that yet, have we, boys?” It was a true statement – we hadn’t talked about Santa yet.

Because we didn’t celebrate Santa. You see, I grew up understanding the meaning of Christmas to be all out Jesus. My siblings and I didn’t visit Santa at the mall or fill out wish lists to mail to Him at the north pole or set out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. And I’m okay with that; I enjoy celebrating Christmas for what it is – Jesus’ Birthday.

But, wanting to avoid future awkward grocery-store-checkout-line conversations, I began researching the history of Christmas and Santa. Why Do We Call It Christmas? by Phil Vischer beautifully explained how the Santa we know today evolved from Saint Nicholas, a Catholic Bishop who generously gave to his community in need.

Once, he tossed a money bag into the house window of a few poor girls and the coins landed in the stockings they had hung out to dry. Hence our tradition of stocking-stuffers. Saint Nick gave to others because of what God had given him – the gift of salvation through Jesus.

As I read the book to by sons, warm, fuzzy feelings filled my heart because nothing the world does to secularize Christmas will eliminate the root of it all – Jesus’ birth.

Now, we are prepared for the holiday season – my sons know who who Santa is and I don’t mind celebrating him – because doing so doesn’t take away from Jesus when we understand history. And God wouldn’t have it any other way!

Our Hearts: Cramped or Comfy?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

We’ve all been there – the dreaded middle airplane seat. Wedged between two strangers, it’s impossible to get comfortable. I was there recently and God used the experience as an interesting analogy.

For an individual with a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index of 18-24) the middle seat is not much of an issue. It’s certainly no plush Lazy Boy recliner, but it suffices. But if the middle seat occupant is flanked by a couple larger individuals, it can feel like a sardine tin. Little room is left to move about as our arms are either pinned down to our sides or midline T-Rex levers. We feel cramped and uncomfortable.

Have you ever wondered if God feels the same way about your heart, His home? I Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that our body’s are the temples of the Holy Spirit, the place where He resides. We are a shrine for His presence. Does He dwell there in comfort with plenty of room to move about and be used? Or is it a cramped environment where He competes with things your heart finds more important?

If I were inviting Jesus to my physical home, I would want the floors scrubbed and vacuumed, the couch cushions perfectly placed, and the counters clear. I would want the aroma to be fresh and clean, perhaps a freshly baked batched of cookies on the table. And those things will not happen by themselves, I would need to do the work to make it happen.

The same is true for the condition of our hearts and physical bodies. We should take pride in caring for ourselves in ways that provide God a comfortable, welcoming environment both spiritually and physically. Take a minute and think about what that may look like for you.

For me, it looks like eating nourishing foods and exercising. I struggle with indulging too often and putting off my workouts. The combination leads to lethargy and a lack of motivation to do what God may be asking me to do.

It also looks like feeding my spirit with uplifting music, tv shows, and limiting my time on social media. I can keep my heart home healthy by practicing mindfulness to produce less of the messy and more of the meaningful.

I don’t want God to feel like He’s squished between worldly distractions rivaling my attention. I want Him to feel welcomed and at home in my heart. Putting Him first does just that and reciprocates the commitment He has made to us.

During this busy holiday season, consider God’s place in your heart – wedged between life’s perceived demands or comfortably engaged in cozy conversation with you?

Living With The End In Mind

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

I turned 40 last week. Many people have differing opinions about age, but for me, the days leading up to my birthday were hard. Physical ailments drew my attention toward my mortality. Stress levels waxed and waned with the behavior of my children. Am I truly living the life I want to live? Am I being intentional or simply allowing time to pass?

These questions lead me to spend time in self-reflection. In doing so, I recognized that many of the decisions I’ve made evolved around the opinions of others. I’ve allowed fear of rejection to have a subtle but influential part of my life. I’ve preferred to blend in rather than boldly stand out. I’ve been held back by an unwillingness to take risks to reach for the more I’ve longed for.

One thing was for sure – God was using my 40th birthday to get my attention. It was time to re-evaluate who I was living for. Has He ever done the same with you? Perhaps you can relate to facing a fork in the road of your journey. You know it’s time to make a change but it’s a little unnerving to take the leap. I believe it’s worth it.

Colossians 3:17 says, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. I’m reminded that God’s opinion of me matters most. Not what my peers think about me, how much money I make, or which neighborhood I live it. Those are earthly things that will have no meaning when I meet my Savior face to face.

But when I set my mind on things above – the transforming power of Jesus Christ, His overwhelming forgiveness and grace, and the unconditional love His has for me – I get a glimpse of eternity. I find purpose in His calling for my life. I seek His approval over the acceptance of others.

Now, I’m looking forward to my next 40 years with anticipation. I will embrace the unknown and look for the Lord’s leading amidst trials. I will accept that my aging physical body will begin to breakdown, but my eternal spirit will grow in wisdom. I will set my mind on things above and gain perspective on earthly matters.

It’s never too late to start living with the end in mind. No matter what you’ve gone through, mistakes you’ve made, or the distance you’ve drifted away from God, He has great affections for you. He longs to welcome you in with open arms. He offers us all a way to live in the light of eternity.

Distracted By Many Things

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Luke 10:41-42

There are days when I feel overwhelmed my by to-do list. A lot needs to be done in a little amount of time and regardless of how much I accomplish, it never seems to include everything. Can you relate?

I bet Martha can. In Luke 10, we find her scurrying around the house, meal prepping while scooping the countertops clear of miscellaneous items and fluffing pillows. Jesus has been welcomed into her home and it’s a big deal. While wanting to make a good impression, she is clearly overwhelmed by her to-do list.

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? I begin to talk faster than normal and at a higher pitch than normal. My furrowed brow communicates stress to all who glance in my direction. And when the task is an urgent one, it’s best if you get out of my way.

Needless to say, feeling overwhelmed is not a pretty experience. And it wasn’t for Martha when she asked for help:

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40)

Martha had been drawn away from Jesus, her attention diverted to the tasks. While focusing on the list, she was missing out on the gift – the presence of Jesus.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42

I can completely relate to Martha’s struggle. The dishes are not going to wash themselves and food doesn’t miraculously show up on the table. But what Martha is missing is that those things can wait. Jesus wasn’t about physical appearances. He wasn’t impressed by upgraded kitchens or well-coordinated shades of grey in the living room. He didn’t awe at the size of her tv. He was about relationships – communion with others – and we should be too.

When I rush through the grocery store check-out line so I can quickly drop the cold items at home before making it to yoga, I miss the opportunity to identify the hurt in the cashier’s eyes. I fly past a God-ordained encounter to be used by Him. Distracted by many things, I omit the one thing.

If your to-do list is long and overwhelming, take it to God. Ask Him to show you which items are most important to accomplish in a given day and schedule the others in elsewhere. While grabbing a quick cup of coffee, take the time to observe your surroundings. Ask the Lord to prompt you to speak if a stranger needs an encouraging word. With His help, we can incorporate our many things with His One Thing.

Moms: We Can Do It; He Can Help

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…
2 Peter 1:3a

I used to think I was a pretty nice person. I didn’t cause a lot of trouble among friends, didn’t like conflict, and tried to be kind and thoughtful. I would have considered myself easy-going and laid back.

Then I had kids. And parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Now, I find myself saying and doing things that are not kind at all. Its not uncommon to end the day – or end the first hour of the morning for that matter – with thoughts of inadequacy. Why did I have kids? I’m horrible at this. What was God thinking letting me be a parent? Some days I honestly believe I’m doing them more harm than good. I envision one kid leaving the house after high school graduation vowing never to return and the other winding up in Juvenile Hall. 

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world because there are lives at stake. Souls hanging in the balance. It is perhaps the biggest, most important privilege God bestows upon us. He gives us the opportunity to lay crate in the hearts and minds of little people who are more like amoebas than independent thinkers. It’s a job we have been doing for thousands of years and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks they’re failing at it.

This Was His Idea
So now what? Do I throw in the towel on a task God has assigned specifically to me? Psalm 37:23 says, The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (NLT) Nothing I face as a mom is an accident. God has led me to this particular time in my life to grow me into the woman He wants me to be. He believes I’m the right mom for these boys. I need to believe it, too. His plans for me are not to cause harm or evil, they are plans of prosperity and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) His confidence in my ability lifts my spirit from the fog of failure and I find the courage to try again. 

It’s Not Going to Kill Me… or Them.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 2 Corinthians 4:8 (NLT) In this battle for the souls of my children, I must expect to have difficult days. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when they challenge my orders or relentlessly try to get their way. I’m reminded how important it is that I spend time in the Word, finding comfort in the fact that I am not crushed by my circumstances. I have not been driven to despair, even though I am routinely perplexed by how to respond. Filling my mind with God’s truth combats negative thoughts about my ability to parent as seemingly mountainous conflicts shrink to molehills. 

Present, Not Purchase
There’s a unique difference between buying an item and being given a gift. It flips a selfish decision into a selfless gesture of generosity. Rather than buying a new purse on my own, I bring my husband along to buy me a “present”. It makes me feel special and I get to brag on him when I receive compliments.

Similarly, I didn’t choose my children; they have been given to me by God. He has granted me the privilege of motherhood. It’s an awesome thing to ponder – Wow, God gave this exact child to me and only me. Psalm 127:23 says, Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (NLT) Although I’d like to believe I controlled the decision to become pregnant, I would be wrong. My role as a mom was given to me. God considers me equipped to parent difficult children so much so that He calls them a reward.

Hidden Power Source
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7) When I try to parent in my own strength, it doesn’t go well at all. I must rely on the treasure of Jesus to get me through. As the first part of 2 Peter 1:3 says, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. He provides glowing illuminations of joy as fuel for a worn out parent; persistent patience when we are at our end; self-control when we’re on the verge of loosing it. When God’s presence is evident in our lives, our children see Jesus. And isn’t that what we all hope for?

Dear friend, be encouraged today that you are a mom on purpose, for a purpose. No one is perfect; mistakes made along the way will be forgiven. Your children are a gift, even when they drive you crazy. And God will give you what you need, when you need it.

I Know He Can, But Will He?

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:2

Trusting God feels like an impossible feat sometimes. I believe God can do anything, but I get stuck at will He. The Bible is full of convincing evidence of God’s ability to perform miracles, but what about those times when He doesn’t?

I wonder if Sarah felt that way when she learned God would grant Abraham a son. Did she think, “I know God can use me, but will He?” For many years, she was unable to conceive. Doubt prompted her to give her slave, Hagar, to Abraham and she bore him a son.

Perhaps you’ve been praying for a child but it hasn’t happened yet. You know God can perform a miracle in your womb, but will He? Does He need the assistance of IVF technology? Or maybe you’ve been longing for a husband with little prospects on the horizon. You believe God can bring Mr. Right at any moment, but will He? Maybe the date you went on with Mr. Average was better than no date at all?

Sometimes the desires of our hearts are so strong that we can’t believe they aren’t from God. Like Sarah, we step in, take control, and make things happen according to our plans rather than God’s. We walk a fine line between honoring God and playing god.

When we think, but will He?, what we’re really asking is, God, will you do what I’m asking you to do? Will you answer this prayer the way I think is best? But when we start to believe we know better than God, we are no longer trusting in Him.

Psalm 31:14 says, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” The Hebrew word for trust here is batach, which means secure and confident but also careless and complacent. When we trust in the Lord, we are assured that His plan is the best plan. We aren’t negligent in how we live, but rather release the reigns of control, sit back, and watch God meet our needs. Actively trusting God means passively depending on ourselves. We boldly put faith in Him to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14) God will always satisfy His will. In other words, God exists to fulfill His wishes and desires in your life and in the life of others. His will for Abraham was to have a son with Sarah. God’s will for Sarah was to be the mother of nations; for kings to come from her (Genesis 17:16). And that’s exactly what happened. At the ripe old age of 90, Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac. (Genesis 21:2)

It can be very challenging to trust God is in control when it feels like He isn’t. When I wonder if He will answer my prayers, I take a step back and remind myself that whatever He has planned is better than what I could put together. Whatever happens, I can trust that He is actively accomplishing His perfectly divine will for my life. Do you believe He is doing the same for you?

Ready for Answered Prayers?

Have you ever considered the difference between waiting and anticipating Wait for a pot of water to boil… or anticipate the delicious pasta it will soon be cooking. Wait for a baby to be born… or anticipate her arrival.

Waiting references a need for time to pass; it has little emotional association. Anticipation, on the other hand, refers to expectations, excitement, and hopefulness. It evokes an emotional response and often prompts action. That delicious pasta needs a sauce to go into and that baby girl needs diapers, clothing, and nourishment. Anticipating a certain outcome mentally prepares us to get ready.

Are you waiting for God to answer a specific prayer? Or are you preparing in anticipation of His response? In Luke 2, we meet two people who had spent decades looking forward to the day they would meet the Messiah:

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:22,25-26)

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:36-37)

Simeon and Anna both met Mary and Joseph in the temple courts because they were lead by the Holy Spirit to do so. The years they spent in prayer heightened their ability to discern God’s voice. Decades of dedication prompted swift obedience.

Can you imagine their excitement? To hear a still small voice whisper, He’s here. It’s time. Go meet the One you’ve been waiting for. The greatest one thing they were hoping for their entire lives was happening. God made good on His promise by answering their prayer. Simeon remarks, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Luke 2:29) Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

Simeon and Anna weren’t surprised by God’s faithfulness and we shouldn’t be either. I John 5:14-15 encourages us to be confident that God hears our prayers and gives us whatever we ask for according to His will. Perhaps God has placed a calling, longing, or vision on your heart – are you waiting for it to fall into place? Or are you eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of His promise? Believe that His timing is always perfect. Find purpose in the preparation. And embrace the expectation of answered prayers.

Childlike Forgiveness

Have you ever seen children peacefully playing together, sharing, and taking turns? Perhaps for a short time, but more commonly, they snatch, bicker, and frequently yell, “mine!” Sharing may not be a child’s strong suit, but they seem to do pretty well with forgiveness. They could be fighting and biting one minute, then hugging and holding hands as they trot back to the sand box as if nothing ever happened.

What makes it so difficult for adults to forgive in the same way? Often, our first instinct is to hold a grudge against someone who has offended us. We are quick to judge their motives and protect ourselves from being mistreated or embarrassed. We forget that just this morning we needed to ask forgiveness from someone else.

As we age, the experiences of life create wounds and as a result, we develop insecurities or push down unwanted negative emotions. We acquire sensitive areas representing these wounds in various stages of healing. When we are hurt by someone else’s words or actions, these sensitive areas are pressed and it doesn’t feel good. We react in defense rather than respond with forgiveness.

Children, however, haven’t accumulated a bank of negative experiences and live under the bliss of short term memory loss. They are wired to live in the moment, quickly moving between emotional responses. They have the ability to forgive and forget.

Childlike forgiveness is what God offers to us and how He desires we forgive others. In fact, it is such an integral part of our walk with Him that He included it in the Lord’s prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The greek word used for forgive is aphiémi which means to send away, let go, release. Imagine our sins to be like a balloon filled with helium. As we confess them to God, we are letting go and He simply watches them float by. He does not snatch them up, adding them to the millions of balloons we’ve confessed over the years. No, He sends them away. He remembers them no more. (Hebrews 8:12)

So why, then, do we hold on to the sins of others against us? When we do, we position ourselves above God as judge, deeming it our responsibility to keep track of their balloons. Inevitably, our balloons mingle with theirs making it nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two. We cannot expect to openly receive forgiveness from God with our hands tightly gripping a bundle of balloon strings.

But who are the debtors we need to forgive? A debtor is someone who sins against us or withholds the love and respect owed to us. We often view forgiveness as a willingness to accept the sin itself. This is difficult because we want heinous offenses to be unforgivable. We want our pain validated.

Alternatively, what if we could shift our focus from the act of sin to the lack of respect or love we have received as a result? Choosing to forgive what we have been deprived of rather than the offense itself can revolutionize how we forgive. Because our ultimate need for love and respect comes from Christ and not from other humans, we experience the freedom to let go of what has been done to us and receive healing from God.

We are not responsible for how we are treated, but we are responsible for how we respond. We need the forgiveness of God as Matthew 6:14-15 says For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Forgiving frees us from the bondage of grudges and clears our slate with God.

Are you clinging to a handful of balloons? Whether they are your unconfessed sins or the sins of others against you, open your hands and release them all. Consider forgiveness through the lens of a child. To truly forgive means to truly forget, as if the offense never happened.

Just Keep Sowing

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.
Mark 4:27

Do you ever wonder if the good you’re trying to do really makes a difference? Take parenting, for instance. There are times when it seems my children will never learn to treat each other with kindness, or to patiently wait their turn, or to truly know how much God loves them. I can’t help but feel like a broken record playing among deaf ears.

We can get so caught up in how our children are responding to our direction that we gauge our success as a parent on their behavior. If our words and actions are producing fruit within them, then we must be doing the right thing. But what if it’s not? Or not within the timeline of what we expect?

One of my sons has a difficult time with emotional regulation and despite my best efforts to remain calm, I often loose my cool with him. I can’t help but think, if I could just manage him better, he would make progress.

Thankfully, God never intended us to be in control of another person’s behavior. While reading Mark 4 recently, I found an explanation of what He does intend for us:

“A man scatters seed on the ground… As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (v. 26,29)

Our job is to scatter the seed on prepared soil – to plant buds of faith in our children. To prepare their hearts to receive God’s love, and to spark an interest in knowing Him personally.

In verses 27-28, we learn that part of the harvesting process is out of our hands:

“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, thought he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”

When we think of the life of a farmer, a great deal of work is done on the front end, but there is no way to predict the outcome. He does not control the amount of rain that falls or the amount of time the sun shines. He does not control the air temperature or the bugs and birds that attempt feast on his crop. He does the best he can to prepare the soil and plant the seeds; the rest is left to God.

Just like a farmer, we are responsible for preparing our children’s hearts and scattering seeds of faith. We can do this my reminding them daily that God loves them and that He created them just the way he wanted them to be. We can model the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. We can present the stories of the Bible as exciting and relevant to our lives today.

But how these seeds grow and develop is up to God. No amount of stress or worry will change the outcome – only prayer can do that. There will be seasons where our children make great strides and bear the fruit of growth. There will be seasons where no crops are evident. Seasons of rain, seasons of drought, seasons of warmth, and seasons of frigid blizzards. Through it all, if we just keep sowing God’s truth into our little ones, we can trust that He will be faithful to complete a good work in them.

Be encouraged today that your efforts for good are not in vain. They do make a difference, here on earth and in the heavenly realms. And as Dory might say, “Just keep sowing, just keep sowing.”

His Presence is the Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

Elijah was one of the Lord’s passionate prophets of the Old Testament. While many Israelites during that time began serving Baal, an idol, Elijah remained firm in conviction and challenged them to return to the One True God. He called fire down from heaven. He earnestly prayed for the end of a long drought and it began to rain. (I Kings 18) He gave of himself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, leaving his soul depleted and fatigued. He needed rest and restoration but Queen Jezebel was threatening to kill him.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (I Kings 19:2-5)

Elijah was ready to throw in the towel. Spending his life as a prophet for the Lord seemed pointless in that moment. Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps you’ve tried to do right by God in many aspects of your life but continue to wait for that coveted blessing. Like Elijah, our wounded, hurting hearts needed comfort. We need relief from the pain.

An angel tended to Elijah in the wilderness, giving him food and water. He rested. Then he got up and traveled for forty days and forty nights, reaching a cave at Horeb, the mountain of God, before resting again. It was there, in a chilly, damp cavern where he expresses the ache in his heart:

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (I Kings 19:9b-10)

Was everything he had done been for nothing? Would God hold up His end of the bargain? It would be reasonable and understandable if Elijah wondered these questions – I know I have. It’s frustrating to dedicate time and energy to the Lord’s calling without seeing the fruits of our labor.

Elijah was ready to walk away at this point. What could God possibly say to change his mind?

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (I Kings 19:11-13)

What could God possibly say to change Elijah’s mind? Nothing. Because God doesn’t need words. His presence provides the comfort we need to keep going.

Matthew Henry comments, “Gracious souls are more often affected by the tender mercies of the Lord than by His terrors. The Lord could have spoken within the fierce wind, earthquake or fire. But instead, He chose a gentle whisper. In that moment, Elijah needed to be redirected to the mission at hand, but not before he reconnects with how much the Lord cares for him.”

Living for God can be exhausting. It’s ok to need a break. When faced with discouraging opposition, fear and anxiety may follow. It’s ok to want to run away. But the best part is that God will always meet us right where we are. He may not change our circumstances or tell us what we want to hear, but He wraps our frazzled souls in the soothing warmth of His presence. He renews and restores our heart’s passion to serve Him.

And that’s all the comfort Elijah needed.

Are You Wrestling With God?

Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
Job 22:21

This past weekend my sons competed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), a martial art focused on ground hand-to-hand combat. Points can be earned by executing specific techniques of take-down and control, but the ultimate goal is to win by submission through joint locks and chokeholds. Elementary-aged children aggressively compete under the supervision of a referee and coaches. It is intense and exciting to say the least!

In BJJ, a submission is fought for. There is strategy, skill, and strength involved. Force is used against an opponent who is desperately trying to avoid loosing. All it takes is one move and the match will be over.

With God, submission is the opposite. He will not wrestle us into compliance. It does not take strength, skill, or strategy to surrender to the will of God. And rather than a singular burst, God desires a willing heart, dedicated to following Him daily.

This is what Eliphaz was referring to in Job 22. In the midst of great loss, Job was looking for understanding as to why God allowed him to continue suffering. His friends erroneously thought Job was the cause, that somehow he was not right with God. If Job would just willingly submit to God, the wrongs would be righted and he would experience the Lord’s blessing again.

Ironically, Job was a strong example of a man postured under the will of God. Chapter one tells us Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. Satan set out to shatter his faith by destroying his family, servants, and livestock. Job was stripped of everything all at once and yet he did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22)

How many of us can honestly say the same? Personally, I’m quick to question God’s plan when life gets rough. My trust in Him weakens. I am less willing to submit my heart to Him when difficult circumstances arise – I find myself wresting against God rather than surrendering to Him.

Job 22:21 reminds me to “Submit to God and be at peace with Him.” The Hebrew word for submit used here is cakan, which means “to be of use or service”. Submitting to God means we yield our will to the Father, allowing Him to use us as He sees fit. Be at peace with Him is described by the term shalam which means “to be complete”. Therefore, we are complete in the Lord when we surrender our hearts and minds to His leading.

May we never forget the way Jesus demonstrated a willingly compliant spirit by praying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Is there something God is calling you into but you are resisting? Perhaps you’re wrestling with God to see prayers answered the way you want them answered. Be encouraged that He is trustworthy. He can handle whatever life is throwing at you. It may feel scary to leave the familiar, to walk away from routine, or to step out in faith; God will be with you every step of the way, coaching you to victory in Him.

**Personal side note: currently, my goal is to post to my blog weekly on Mondays, preferably in the mornings. After a busy weekend of family birthdays, it just wasn’t going to happen.

When I asked the Lord what He wanted me to write about this week, He gave me the word submit. But rather than “submitting” immediately, I thought it would be more efficient to complete a work of writing I had already begun rather than starting from scratch.

So I sat in Starbucks this morning, desperately trying to complete something worth reading. Nothing. My mind was completely blank. Finally, after 30 minutes of writer’s block, I gave in. I began writing this post and the Lord poured the words through my fingers onto the screen. He was teaching me the very lesson I hoped to encourage others with – submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog! xoxo

A Word to the Anxious Heart

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 
Isaiah 35:4

“What is the world coming to?” I overheard a conversation between two ladies as they watched the news playing on a tv perched above the bar at the airport.

Who hasn’t muttered a phrase of similar persuasion in the past few years? It seems as if violence is becoming a regular occurrence, fear an all-too-common emotion. Many of my friends are also moms who voice concerns about the environment their young children will be growing up in. We worry if they will be adequately equipped to handle the struggles they may face. We question our ability to instill Godly conviction in them. We wonder, will they turn out ok?

I imagine our concerns may be similar to those of the remaining faithful Jews living in Israel while the vast majority had walked away from religious traditions. In the book of Isaiah, we find a message of judgement in response to the Israelite’s rejection of God. Impending doom for God’s chosen people must have evoked fear and worry in the hearts of those who desired to obey. Perhaps they questioned if their commitment would be enough. Would the Lord remember His promises to Abraham and King David if their descendants forgot about Him? They may have felt desperate for change yet powerless to do anything.

Have you every felt that way? I wish I had a crystal ball telling me how things turn out in the end. My hope is that my sons grow up to be kind, independent, and courageous Christ-followers. I want them to find God’s path for them, but worry that the noise of this world will cause great distractions.

That’s why I find Isaiah 35:4 particularly comforting. In this chapter, we see a shift from the message of death and destruction to one of encouragement and hope for restoration.

And I think it speaks to a specific group of people – those of us who have a tendency to worry. We believe in God and trust His authority, but relinquishing our need for control is extremely difficult. The verse says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear; your God will come, He will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution, He will come to save you.'”

Say to those with fearful hearts; the Hebrew word used here is leb, which refers to a fearful mindset. The heart, mind, or will of a man is in a state of concern or alarm. It’s a tendency to anticipate a bad outcome. It’s an ever-present unsettled feeling, rather than being scared about a specific situation. A fearful mind finds it extremely difficult to trust God. We want to manage our circumstances with substantiated evidence of tangible control; believing an invisible God will give us what we need is uncomfortable and nerve-racking.

But God has a tender spot for those who long to be brave. He cares deeply for those who are fighting fear and worry day in and day out. He wants to whisper in our ear, “I’ve got this. I see what you’re facing and I’m in control. There’s nothing too big for me.”

If your heart has a tendency to worry rather than trust, be encouraged today that God has a special message just for you. He calls us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) for our benefit. God doesn’t want us trying to play god – He’s the best one for that position. He longs for us to experience His peace (John 14:17) but tranquility and turmoil cannot co-exist. It is impossible to live a joyful life when our minds are consumed with the possible outcome of circumstances beyond our control. When we know The One who has the authority to command the wind and seas to obey (Matthew 8:27), we can rest assured that He will take care of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Is It Really ‘My Pleasure’?

My favorite thing about Chick-fil-A, besides their delicious, mouth-watering chicken sandwiches, is the friendly service I receive there. No matter which location I go to, it will be the same – in response to a “thank you”, I hear, “my pleasure”.

That phrase invokes warmth within me. It somehow means more than “you’re welcome” or “no problem”. It’s as if they had eagerly anticipated my arrival so they could prepare a meal just the way I liked it. It was their pleasure to do so; not a burden, a mundane task, or an obligation.

Recently, after having Chick-fil-A for lunch, I kept thinking about that response – “my pleasure”. As I shuffled through the routine of dinner preparation, homework completion and bedtime rituals, I couldn’t help but wonder, is it really my pleasure to serve the members of my family?

In all honesty, delight was far from what I was feeling. Resentful was more like it. Obligated. I was going about my perceived duties begrudgingly. My heart rambled, I’ll do it, but I don’t have to like it. Have you had similar thoughts?

What if these were Jesus’s dishes? My subconscious began to wrestle my pride as I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” I had decided in my heart to give, but did so reluctantly.

The Hebrew translation of reluctant is lupe, which means pain of body or mind, physical or emotional distress”. I was allowing a messy kitchen to pain me emotionally. I felt coerced, like it was my sole mandatory responsibility, rather than my privilege, to do the job. My hunched shoulders communicated the weight of household chores being nearly too much for me to bear – like the slouched pout I get when I tell my children to clean their rooms. They make sure I understand just how miserable they feel about it. I would much rather they pipe, “Sure, mom!” as they gleefully bound up the stairs. My heart would fill with pride, delighted by their cheerful attitude. The same is true for God. It brings Him joy to see us serve with willing fervor.

I’ve typically considered 2 Corinthians 9:7 in the context of tithing, and it is often referenced that way, but I think there’s more to it. If God wants us to do everything as if unto Him (Colossians 3:23) and He loves a cheerful giver, then we should take pleasure in serving others as if unto Him. It becomes less about the importance of the task but rather our attitude towards completing it. Serving hundreds of orders of fried chicken sandwiches can become monotonous day in and day out when considered a “job”. But when it’s an opportunity to serve, it becomes much more. It spreads cheer. It puts smiles on faces. It turns a boring day into a special day.

It can certainly be challenging to be cheerfully ready to serve others through the monotony of daily tasks. If this is an area of struggle for you as well, consider these ideas to help:

  1. Decide in advance to have a positive attitude. Start the day by asking God to help prepare your heart to embrace the chores of the day ahead. Lord, that mound of laundry won’t fold itself. Teach me to see it as an opportunity to bless my family.
  2. Approve of what needs to be done before being asked. Each morning, I know my sons will ask me to help them get dressed, eat breakfast, or any number of other things. When I mentally agree to assist before being asked, its a privilege rather than an nuisance.
  3. Determine to serve with joy. My response to requests for help can either be laced with willingness or irritation. Joy is not a feeling; it’s an attitude stemming from a spiritually compliant heart. Pause amidst frustrating moments to allow the Lord shift your perspective.

We can take pleasure in serving others because we know God loves a cheerful giver. He takes delight in us when we eagerly anticipate opportunities to give and embrace them with enthusiasm.

So they next time you’re told, “Thank you”, try replying with, “My pleasure”. And mean it!

Keeping Score… In A Good Way

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

My mind raced as aggravation consumed me. In less than one minute I had tallied all the things I was doing and how little I was receiving in return. Thoughts like, I shouldn’t be treated this way and I deserve better, swirled me dizzy as I sunk deeper into a whirlpool of of negativity.

Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps you’ve been mistreated at a job, spoken to disrespectfully by a family member, or given the cold shoulder by a friend. It’s easy to dwell on all the things that person is doing wrong and everything we’re doing right.

This message hit home for me while listening to a podcast about relationship dynamics. The speaker challenged the listener to ask one important question – “What is it like being in a relationship with me?” In other words, am I easy to get along with?

I was hit with an embarrassing realization that I often keep score in a bad way. Focusing on the shortcomings of others builds my self-confidence and centering my attention on how I’m not doing those things allows me to feel better about myself. But only temporarily. And it’s exhausting to hold onto these offenses.

God never intended relationships to be that way. We can’t build each other up as we’re called to do in I Thessalonians 5:11 by tearing each other down and when we keep track of mistakes, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Philippians 4:8 gives examples of what our thought life ought to be like – whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think on these things.

Choosing to think about what God wants us to think about changes our mood and outlook on our circumstances. Looking for the good helps us forgive the bad as we mentally tally the positive.

Now, when I find myself focusing on the negative, I take inventory of my thoughts by asking three questions:

  1. Are my thoughts true? There may be truth to the negative thoughts I’m having, but it’s likely I’m exaggerating the circumstances a bit. No, they down always speak with a rude tone. No, they’re not always on my case. We can release agitation by keeping the situation in proper perspective, thus being set free from a negative thought cycle (John 8:32).
  2. Are my intentions pure? If my intentions are to build myself up, I need to shift my heart from a position of defense to one of peace-keeping. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” When I keep score of how others are offending me, I miss the opportunity to love them. It takes intentionality and mindfulness to extend grace when we’re being rubbed the wrong way. Keeping pure thoughts towards one another leads us to forgive.
  3. Does God admire my thoughts right now? This one is a real show-stopper for me. I’d like to believe that what stays inside my head is concealed, but Psalm 139:2 says God perceives my thoughts from afar. Nothing is hidden from Him. Imagine the prick of disappointment God experiences when we think harshly of His other children. Knowing how much Jesus loves me stirs a passion to please Him with my thoughts, words, and actions. It takes practice, but we can learn to redirect our hearts and minds to think on what God would deem admirable.

Taking inventory of my thoughts diverts them to a favorable pathway. I’m reminded that the person I am criticizing is loved by God just as much as I am. This shift in perspective leads me to consider their good qualities, tallying positive marks for them and releasing my bitterness and resentment in the process. And that, my friend, begins my method of keeping score in a good way. Ready to give it a try?


At the Intersection of Chaos and Calm

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (NIV)


Do you ever have trouble sleeping?

This is unusual for me as I am chronically fatigued from the mental and physical demand of raising three young, energetic boys. Our days are filled with curiosity, conflict, and craziness. Needless to say, bedtime is an event I look forward to daily. 

I typically fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. But recently, I cant seem to get my brain to turn off. I think about all the mistakes I made that day, all the conversations I could have handled better. I wonder if Im following Gods plan for my life. Insecurity about my mothering skills, anxiety about the future, and feelings of loneliness steal my peaceful dreaming. 

If only I could calm the chaos and get some rest, I think as the moments tick by. Have you ever felt that way?

The network of our minds is similar to that of a carefully designed map of a large, heavily populated city. Thoughts travel the highways and byways like lightning fast race cars, and if we let them, they will overtake our ability to live a healthy life. The overwhelming thoughts I was having were an indication I had gone too far without a break. Rather than heeding the caution of yellow stop lights, Id rush through the intersection full speed ahead. But taking breaks are crucial to our well-being and we have Jesus example as proof.

In Luke 5, we find Jesus beginning His ministry. He has been baptized by John, tempted by Satan, and called the disciples. Now, He is performing miracles. While in one of the towns, a man with leprosy approaches Jesus, asking for healing. Jesus heals the man and orders him, Dont tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them. 

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:14-15 NIV)

Can you imagine? Crowds of people came to hear Jesus preach and ask for healing. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people followed after Him. I think its Jesus can relate to feeling overwhelmed. He understands what it feels like to be in high demand. And He knows what it takes to maintain calm amidst the chaos as the next verse explains. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)

From the beginning, Jesus carefully and diligently set aside the duties of ministry to commune with the Lord. I dont know about you, but I have a tendency to recognize my need for rest well after I am exhausted. For Jesus, solitary moments with His Heavenly Father were a necessity. They provided the energy needed to continue preaching and healing. In those moments, Jesus was refueled and recharged. 

We are unable to control the amount of chaos we face, but we can control how we respond. At the intersection of chaos and calm, we find Jesus. There, the craziness of life meets order. Anxiety meets peace. Fear meets courage. Insecurity meets confidence. Jesus is waiting for our daily visit and as our key verse mentions, His presence will go with us, and He will give us rest. 

If youre feeling overrun by your thoughts today, find hope in the promise of peace Christ offers – From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your peace that passes all understanding. May we be mindful of our tendency to press through fatigue as You teach us to purposefully pursue time with You as Jesus did. Restore our hearts, minds, and souls, equipping us to be used by You.


Freedom from Mom Guilt

Those who look to him are radiant; 
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

The first hour of the morning is often the worst part of the day in my house. The hustle and bustle of getting three boys dressed, fed, and lunches packed while they are constantly distracted to do anything but leaves me anxious and frazzled. I can’t tell you how many times I’m heading to work wishing I could have a do-over.

Since do-overs are not possible and the morning logistics are not changing anytime soon, I began to wonder what can be done? No matter how well I plan my time in the mornings, doing as much as I can before the children awake, things happen. Namely, emotions happen. They’re tired or whiny. They don’t want to get dressed or eat as quickly as I want them to. I feel my patience thinning as I make second and third requests for shoes to be put on.

When I don’t tend to my emotional state, the irritation grows to anger and I end up speaking louder and with more condescension in my voice. And that’s what I feel guilty about. That’s what leaves me wanting a do-over. It’s not that we are late or that bellies are empty or arms are bare on a chilly morning. The actual stuff that needs to happen, happens. It’s the way in which it happens that I want to change. I want to handle myself differently.

As I look to free myself from this mom guilt, I’m reminded of Psalm 34. This passage was written by David after he had done something extremely shameful. While running from King Saul, who was trying to kill him, David pretended to be insane in order to avoid being identified. In fear, he allowed saliva to fall to his beard, a sacred part of his body. This helped him escape, but I’m sure he felt the sting of guilt afterward. He had dishonored the Lord and himself. I imagine he would’ve liked a do-over.

But what strikes me most is the way David deals with his shame. He knows exactly where to go for comfort – the Lord. He begins the chapter with praise, having already accepted the forgiveness God so freely offers. David understood that God was not an irritated, condescending Father who would shake His head or turn away when David repented. David understood the character of God to be loving and forgiving like that of a parent who welcomes a child in after making a bad choice and sits them down over warm chocolate chip cookies and ice-cold milk to discuss. Verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me;  He delivered me from all my fears.” God didn’t make David feel worse about what he had done – the magnitude of his choices did not elude him. Instead, the Lord’s radiance extended to David’s face, cleansing him from the guilt and shame.

On my most difficult mornings, I have the opportunity to do the same with Jesus. When I pause to look at Him rather than the chaos around me, I find peace. I can be free from mom guilt because He always extends an arm around my shoulders, comforting me and calming my fears of failure. He doesn’t reprimand me or say, “You better get it right next time, or else!” He’s more like a warm hug of encouragement saying, “You can do this. Just keep your eyes on me.”

I’m never going to be the perfect mom. Thankfully, I don’t have to be. God’s grace covers what’s been done so I can embrace what’s to come. Freedom from mom guilt provides a fresh slate to move forward upon. And who knows, maybe I will get it right the next time.

To Walk Where Jesus Walked

If I had to describe my recent trip to Israel in one word, it would be overwhelming. While there, every part of my being was overcome with stimuli – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. From the time we arrived until we departed I struggled to get my bearings on what I was experiencing.

Previous journeys I’ve taken out of the US have been to South America, to which travel time was short with minimal change in time zones. I had no idea how physically taxing a trip around the world is. Sitting on an airplane for 16 hours prompted neck, back, and leg soreness which I tried, in vain, to alleviate by frequent trips to the restroom.

I left my airplane seat for good once we arrived in Tel Aviv at 9 am. Our hotel rooms would not be ready until the afternoon, so we made good use of the day in Joppa (also called Jaffa). We walked and walked, ate some lunch, then walked some more. By early afternoon, I could no longer keep my eyes open. Thankfully, it was time to check into the hotel and I took a nap. Little did I know then that I would fight to keep my eyes open nearly every day of the trip.

We covered hundreds of miles by bus and on foot while in country. My shoes collected mud from Mount Arbel. I wiped sprinkles of rain from my face in Capernaum. Fierce wind atop Mount Carmel blew my hair into a frenzy. My legs felt the gentle sway of the Sea of Galilee. My eyes witnessed place where Jesus was crucified and the empty tomb where His body had been laid. My heart skipped a beat upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane. From climbing the southern steps to tunnel navigation through the City of David, our bodies were physically challenged every day.

Our tour guide made sure I was mentally challenged each day as well. Her understanding of the history of Israel and the Jewish people and how they both have Biblical relevance was astounding. I willed my mind to recall what limited Old Testament knowledge I have, but was frequently lost in the details. As if drinking from a fire hydrant, my mind was overloaded with information at every stop. Methodically trying to download as much as my brain could handle, I vowed to read my Guide to the Holy Land book later that evening. Yeah, that never happened.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the trip was the emotional roller coaster we road. Each day invoked a variety of feelings ranging from anticipatory happiness to sobering reverence. I imagined the excitement of those who saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey via the Palm Sunday Road. Sadness settled in my spirit as I sat under an Olive Tree, remembering the time Jesus begged for an alternative to the cross. Peace washed over me as I envisioned Jesus on a hill, teaching the people of God’s care for the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and for them. Love swelled my heart as I began to understand the Lord’s sovereignty for His people.

Last, but not least, was the way my spirit was overtaken during my time in Israel. On more than one occasion, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as chills covered my body in response to the Holy Spirit. His presence gradually pealed back layers of callus built up on my heart from years of trying to pretend I have it all together. Day by day, my heart softened to the truth of His love. On the southern steps of the Temple, I came face to face with a clear picture of the way God sees me – a priceless, beloved daughter worth dying for. I was undone by the weight my sin and the price He paid for me to have eternal life. It was then that I realized how nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I accomplish or fail to accomplish influences my position as His child. His love overshadows all offenses made against me and compels me to forgive others as He has forgiven me.

Jesus didn’t just walk the streets of Israel two thousand years ago, He walks them still today. His footprints have left an indelible mark on that land and because of that, I will never be the same.

It Was Never About Pharaoh

Do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37:7

The bad guy has a special way of making it all about him, doesn’t he?

While at the movies with my kids recently, we watched the new spider man movie. The villain, Kingpin, is seeking revenge against Spiderman after his violence toward Spiderman is witnessed by his dearly loved wife and son. Frightened by the sight of her husband’s anger, Kingpin’s wife flees with their son. Unfortunately, they are both killed in an auto accident. Kingpin is devastated and blames Spiderman for the loss. He will stop at nothing to get them back, building a time machine – called the collider – in an attempt to do so.

His agenda consumes the movie as spider people from other dimensions arrive in his world as a result of this collider machine. As viewers, we want to bad guy to pay for his irresponsible choices – it’s not okay for him to get away with his agenda while many others suffer as a result.

Pharoah has a similar track record. He has an agenda – to maintain control over the Israelite slaves – and he will stop at nothing to reinforce it. When Moses arrives on the scene to tell him God wants His people let go, He refuses. He disregards the well-being of his Egyptian people as the water in the Nile turns to blood, the city is infested with frogs, gnats, and flies, and the livestock are killed. He lacks compassion when they suffer with boils, when some of the crops, livestock, and people die in a hailstorm, only to be finished off by locusts. He spends three days in total darkness, standing his ground against God and Moses.

As I read the account, I can’t help but wonder why God allowed this to go on? Does Pharaoh really think he can withstand the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? God is allowing him to believe he has control. But in fact, it’s not about Pharaoh at all. Exodus 10:1-2 tells us it was all for the Israelites. “For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Pharaoh was simply a means to an end as God wrote the story of Israelite freedom. He was in complete control the whole time. The exit from Egypt would not have been nearly as memorable if Pharaoh had conceded on the first round. Or even the second. The Israelites would have not believed how valuable they were to the Lord if the fight to free them had not been so great. They may not have even been motivated to leave if the conditions had been less severe.

Sometimes in life, it may seem like the bad guy is winning. It may feel like his agenda is being placed before the greater good and those beneath him are powerless to stop it. But the amazing story of how the Israelites were freed from Egypt reminds us that God is in complete control. In fact, there are 15 instances in the first 14 Chapters of Exodus referring to Pharaoh’s hardened heart being caused by God. Nothing that has happened or will happen is outside of God’s allowance.

In the end of the SpiderMan movie, the spider people work together to save each other, restore order in all the dimensions, and arrest the bad guy. The battle between good and evil is over; the heroes are victorious.

The same is true for the Israelites – God wins the battle with Pharaoh and they are freed.

I love how this story is a reminder that God always has the final say. He will always finish victorious. As Exodus 14:17 says, He will gain glory through Pharaoh.

Are you in a battle right now, perhaps feeling defeated or disenchanted by how the enemy seems to be winning? I’ve been there. It’s not easy, but we have hope it will not always be that way. Psalm 37:7 has been a key verse in helping me stay on track:

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this reminder that You will gain glory through our challenging circumstances. Help us to focus on what You are doing rather than what we wish was happening. Teach us to find comfort in knowing You love us more than we could ever imagine.

Enduring Friction

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Is it really possible to prevent our hearts from hurting?

Being rejected is a difficult pill to swallow. In most cases, it leaves that weird sensation of having something stuck in our throat. Each time we swallow, it’s there, reminding us of the sting only rejection leaves.

Truthfully, I’m new to this whole rejection thing. Not that I haven’t had my share, but in the past I would bend over backwards to avoid offending others and would jump at the opportunity to make it right. I simply couldn’t just sit in the muck of unresolved conflict. But in the past few years, the Lord is teaching me that a little friction here and there can be healthy, although it certainly isn’t pleasant.

Thankfully, we have a Father who understands what it feels like. Isaiah 53:3 says, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. And yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. (v.10) 

The rejection Jesus faced wasn’t pleasant either. I’m sure He’d much rather have been welcomed with open arms into every city He went. He would have enjoyed the Pharisees recognizing Him for the long awaited Messiah He was. It would have felt good to be accepted as King of the Jews.

But if that had been the case, how well would He relate to us? Not very much, I’m afraid. His suffering by rejection served a purpose – to empathize with the hurt we feel at times. We know He can identify with our suffering. He’s familiar with the dull ache hitting the pit of our stomach when we hear…

…you’re not good enough.

…you’re a failure.

…you’re nothing special.

He understands what it’s like to reject those lies by replacing them with the truth of God’s Word:

I am worthy. (Psalm 139:13-15)

I am valuable. (Matthew 6:26)

I am precious. (Isaiah 43:4)

Jesus silenced the critics with scripture. He knew that conflict was par for the course in His journey, and it is for ours as well. John 16:33 says, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. We can expect to experience rejection, pain, and difficulties. But we call also expect to be loved, accepted, and comforted by the God of the Universe. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

The answer to the question above is no – it’s not possible to prevent hurting hearts. Relationships will go through rough spots, harsh words will be said, and poor choices will be made. But the good news is, just like ointment relieves rug burns, God’s love is a soothing balm for the heart enduring friction.

Lord, thank you for Your Word that reminds me that I will have trouble in this world from time to time but that You have overcome it all. I can find peace in knowing You understand what it feels like to endure hardships and will give me the strength to do the same.

Destructive Restoration

The Lord has done what He planned;
He has fulfilled his word, which He decreed long ago.
Lamentations 2:17

What is so captivating about home renovation reality tv shows? If you’ve seen one, perhaps you are just as amazed as I am at the remarkable transformation taking place in a short period of time.

As viewers, we don’t know the anticipated outcome, but the renovators do. Talented builders and designers envision something from nothing. Their plan is executed through methodical sequencing of destruction and restoration, often creating a brand new product nearly unrecognizable from the original.

In a similar fashion, the Lord has renovated my heart. First came the destruction – He stripped me of all the self-made pillars I thought were supporting my outward appearance of a well-kept life. The truth was, my infrastructure was beginning to crumble under the weight of stress in my life. I had to be remodeled from the inside out.

The Israelites, too, experienced of destructive restoration in their blessed city, Jerusalem. After many years of warnings, second chances, and grace, the Lord’s wrath wreaked havoc on the city, destroying the temple, the arc of the covenant and many lives in the process. Lamentations 2 describes the devastation: dwellings were swallowed up, the kingdom brought to the ground, laid to waste, her gates sunk into the ground, their bars broken and destroyed. aftermath to those who remained. The author writes,

My eyes fail from weeping,
    I am in torment within;
my heart is poured out on the ground
    because my people are destroyed (v. 11)

But it was through the destruction that God began His restoration project. Isaiah 61:3 describes the year of the Lord’s favor – to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

The renovation God does is more than physical change – it is spiritual, transforming hearts and the character of those who allow Him in. He wipes our tears of sadness, cleanses the filth of our sin, and breaks our chains of fear to reveal a beautifully accepted and adored creation.

It took time for the city of Jerusalem to be rebuilt just as it took time for me to work through layers of insecurity and feelings of worthlessness. It took hard work to rebuild a healthy infrastructure of confidence and value. The process was nerve-racking and scary at times, but God is seeing me through. Just as Lamentations 2:17 says, the Lord is doing what He has planned, fulfilling the word He decreed long ago.

Is there a room in your heart in need of destructive restoration?

Dear Lord,
Only you have the perfect design plans for our lives. You know just how to tear down the old and create new, lasting lives of beauty. Thank you for loving me enough to perform destructive restoration in my heart.

The Path to Happiness

Happy New Year!
After a few months of inconsistent posting, I’m ready to get back on track! I’d like to start with this poem I found by Patricia Guinn. It describes a common longing for a life of happiness and where to find it. Hope you enjoy!

The Path to Happiness by Patricia Guinn

Where lies our horn of plenty
Will we find it here on earth
Does it reside within our heart
From the moment of our birth

Where lies the path to happiness
That many strive to find
Is it born within our soul
Is it planted in our mind

Do our decisions lead us
Or has God alredy paved the way
Can we change what will become
Do we even have a say

Will our love and faith in Him
Bring the promise He foretold
Will He walk beside us now
To ease our heavy loads

Not all of us get to live this life
With ease and security
Hard luck knocks on many doors
The future we cannot see

But we have the hope of His promise
And by keeping our eyes on Him
Someday these things won’t matter
For He has forgiven our sin

If we give our lives to Jesus
And try to walk His road
We can look ahead to a future so bright
Where there will be no heavy loads

~Patricia Guinn

Is Kindness A Burden?

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:3-4

Loving difficult people is grueling sometimes. Constructive conversations dissolve into arguments as their strong will pursues a personal agenda above all else. Perhaps you know someone who struggles to possess genuine empathy for others. It’s hard not to want to put them in their place and let them know how hard it is to get along with them. Showing them kindness feels more like a burden than a privilege.

Unfortunately, I was having similar thoughts not too long ago. My bible reading was in I John and I experienced heavy conviction as I came to chapter 5 verse 3, which says, The commandments are not burdensome. Reality hit me like a sudden slap across the face: I was allowing myself to be crushed by the weight of faithful responsibility. God has called me to demonstrate the fruit of the spirit because His spirit is in me. I was allowing His tree of life to wither with criticism and judgment. Grace had become foreign to me. I wanted the other person to know just how much I disapproved of their behavior.

But that’s not what God calls me to do. God has given two specific instructions: to love Him and to love my neighbor. Matthew 22:37-40 says, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Those two commandments are the core values of our faith and without them, we are only a resounding gong or clanging symbol. (1 Corinthians 13:1) Love is the essence of who Jesus is and why He sacrificed Himself for us. Love conquers death. It shows grace to life-long criminals. Without love, there would be no kindness.

As a child of God, I have the responsibility to turn my heart towards Him. Doing so reminds me that my calling is not to put others in their place, but to point them to Jesus. Showing kindness isn’t a burden when I take myself out of the equation and allow God to love them through me. Because, who knows, we may be the only glimpse of Jesus they ever get to see.