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In Hot Pursuit—Be Free

December 16, 2016

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free . . .” (Galatians 5:1). As believers, though we’ve been set free in Christ, we can find ourselves in bondage once again in numerous ways. Video #3 in the series speaks to the need to free ourselves so that we can run unhindered.

May the Lord give us grace to run free!

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It’s No Coincidence . . .

November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving pictureIt’s no coincidence that Thanksgiving fell on this week.

The week the grand jury here in St. Louis decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.

The week businesses and cop cars burned in Ferguson.

The week protests spread from coast to coast and beyond, in the aftermath of the decision.

The week social media erupted with vitriol and spotlighted indifference—within the body of Christ.

It’s no coincidence because God is sovereign, in all things. He gave us a day to pause. To lift our gaze above suspicion and accusation. To settle—maybe even check—our hearts. To remember that we are not all-wise or all-knowing, and would do well to humble ourselves . . . and our opinions. To reflect, seek, pray.

We’ve been given a special day to give thanks. For hope and peace in the midst of a troubled world. For certainty in a sea of chaos. For the gift of power, love, and a sound mind instead of fear. For eyes that see beyond, ears that hear within, and love that holds us close. For the promise that God is faithful, and righteous, and true, and just, and always . . . always . . . sovereign.

There’s no end to the list of reasons to give thanks. And yet, there’s one that says it all . . .

Jesus.

May He fill our gazes, saturate our hearts, uplift our thoughts, and renew our spirits.

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.” Psalm 86:12

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

What’s the blog family doing today??

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The God Who Sees

November 9, 2014

God seesWe live in an age of public life. We know what many of our friends and family are doing, when they’re doing it, and where—often in real time. Ministry life is no exception. We see posts and pictures about engagement in the community and in the lives of individuals. And we’re “killin’ it” if engagement is from a stage. There’s sure to be much made of that.

But for most of us, much of what we do is practically hidden. When we rise in the night to check a sick kid’s temperature. When we wipe a nose, change a diaper. When we pray for those whom the Lord has put on our hearts. When we know workers by name at the local store and show them kindness. When we show up for our jobs on time and work with excellence and integrity. When we do laundry, mop the floor, or note that our husband is running low on his favorite coffee, and we replenish it.  When we read aloud to our little ones or prepare the day’s homeschool lesson.

It can seem as if these things aren’t “big” things. You’ve likely heard someone say, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom” or “I just [do this job or that].” Our kids don’t post, “My mom is “killin’ it” in getting dinner on the table or taking time to listen to their hearts or to teach them what they need to know about life and God. But that’s what many of us do. Every day. Quietly.

I love these verses:

“Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

Whatever you do . . .

If you think that what you do is small or inconsequential, know that God thinks differently. How can it be inconsequential, if it’s done in the name of the Lord Jesus? God values the hidden work of the heart and home. He delights in that which brings Him glory, even if we’re the only ones who know we’re doing it. In fact, in this social media age, we should check our hearts before posting about good works. The public accolades might be the reward, rather than an eternal reward from “your Father who sees what is done in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

I’m so glad He sees. And I’m thankful He gives us the grace to press on, living unto Him and Him alone . . . for His glory . . . whether or not anyone else sees.

Have you felt that “whatever you do” is small or inconsequential? Are you tempted to compare your “whatever” to others? Does it encourage you that God sees?

 

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A Psalm 51 Prayer

November 2, 2014

Psalm 51 Prayer

Sunday morning before church I was reading a few Psalms. I came upon Psalm 51 and noticed it was bare—that is, no colored pencil marks. I got a new Bible some months ago, and part of me wishes I could somehow transfer all the markings I made in my other Bibles. But I also love reading it “fresh” and marking words/phrases that may not have struck me before.

So I got out my pencils and marked what stood out. “Sin” seemed to be everywhere in the first few verses, along with “iniquity” and “transgressions.” Then I saw “cleanse,” “clean” (2x) and “whiter than snow” . . . and marked those.

But what struck me next were the imperatives.

Be gracious to me . . .

Wash me . . .

Cleanse me . . .

Purify me . . .

I made a list and was moved by the beauty of the prayer—and the ever-present need for the prayer. King David wrote this psalm in godly sorrow over his affair with Bathsheba. But these words extend beyond those circumstances. Always, I desire the Lord to be gracious to me, to sustain me, to deliver me (from worry, doubt, fear, or whatever might take hold), to renew and restore, and so on.

So, it was going to simply be a handy list in the margin of my Bible. Until I was moved to transfer it to a picture graphic . . . and then moved to share it on the blog. I love praying Scripture. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. There’s so much in just two words like, “Sustain me . . .” And oh, His sustaining power!

What words from the Psalm 51 prayer stand out to you?

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If You Knew You Didn’t Have Long . . .

October 28, 2014

The Sea of Galilee

I finished writing Hidden Blessings a year ago. Yet, maybe more than any other book I’ve written, themes from this one have stayed with me. This may be the biggest—that time is short.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” –James 4:14

In various ways, this truth has motivated me these past months. It has burdened me. And this past week, it grabbed me even tighter.

I received a text message about a friend named Carissa. I met Carissa and her husband on our trip to Israel in February. In fact, we were on the same plane out of Newark, though we didn’t meet until we landed in Tel Aviv. We hit it off right there in the airport, found out we were both married twenty years, both homeschoolers. Over the course of the trip, Carissa’s smile was ever present, her laughter infectious. And I loved that she took my finicky-eating son under her wing. When lunch one day consisted of pizza, and she learned he hadn’t eaten because he doesn’t like cheese, she dug into her bag, produced a chocolate Kind bar, and made him eat it. With a smile, of course.

We saw Carissa three weeks ago in Houston, when a few of us from the Israel trip attended a wedding. Afterward, our “Israel family” gathered at a Cracker Barrel, ate, and lingered in rocking chairs on the porch. Carissa was her usual bubbly self, full of smiles and laughter.

Then I got this text last week. It said Carissa had been diagnosed with cancer in her lungs, rib, and hip bones, and that it was inoperable—Stage IV. I stared at my phone. Surely it didn’t say what it said. I contacted Carissa directly, and tears welled when she confirmed. In her early forties with seven children (college-age down to preschool), she’d only gone to the doctor for chest pains. She was given a devastating diagnosis. (By the way, she has never smoked.)

Carissa and her husband love the Lord, and their faith is strong. Her husband posted this on Facebook when they got the news:  “Our hope has always been in the Lord and remains securely there. He has always been faithful and will continue to be – it is His very nature – as is His mercy. His Name is worthy to be praised as the sun rises this morning.”

Carissa’s family and friends (including her Israel family) are praying, believing, asking God for mercy, healing, strength, grace, peace, and beyond.  We know that no one has the final say but God, who numbers our days.

And in the midst of this, I am burdened all the more with that same thought . . .

Time is short. For us all.

If God Himself told me I only had a few months to live, what would I do with that time? How many conversations would I have with people about the Lord? How many would I tell that God so loved the world, He sent His only Son, so that we would not perish but have everlasting life? Would I fear rejection or persecution over sharing the truth of God’s Word, if I knew I didn’t have long? Would I people-please? Tarry in sin? Would I be more diligent about obeying the promptings of the Spirit?

How much small stuff would I sweat?  How much would I worry?  Would I be slow to forgive an offense?  How many more “little” moments would I pause to enjoy?  Or sunsets.  Or gentle breezes.  What kindnesses might I show a stranger?

Would I spend more time with the Lord, if I knew I would soon be in His very presence? Would His Word mean more? Would I feel an urgent sense of purpose?

However my focus would change if I knew my time on earth was short . . . that’s the focus I pray to have now. Because my time is short. Soon I will be in the presence of my Savior and Lord, in a glorious place that does not compare with this world. And I want to live accordingly, making the most of the days I’m given here.

How about you? How would your focus change if you knew you didn’t have long on this earth? Does James 4:14 motivate you to make any of those changes now?

Carissa WeddingP.S.  Here is a picture of Carissa and her sixteen-year-old daughter from earlier this month at the wedding, before her diagnosis. I asked Carissa if I could post her story. She said, “Absolutely! Give God all the glory!” Would you please say a prayer for my dear friend and her family?

 

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Open House

September 18, 2014

Open-House-Sign-28be2cIt’s shaping up to be a fairly eventful week! On Tuesday, I was celebrating the release of Hidden Blessings. Now I’m inviting you to an open house—for my new blog. I’d had the old design for four-and-a-half years, and was ready for a change, like, two years ago.

Hold it, though!

Have I really been blogging that long? Actually, I was blogging even before that, at my old blogspot address. Seems forever ago.

If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been blogging this long. I’m just not into blogging for blogging’s sake. And I never bought into the whole, “you need to blog in order to build a ‘platform’ to gain ‘followers’” thing. Um . . . yuck.

I’m here for the sisterhood. I’m here because I’ve seen the Lord’s hand upon this little community, moving us to share struggles, encourage and pray for one another, confess the difficulties of this Christian walk while praising God for His faithfulness—all with women we’ve never met “in real life”. That’s why despite the busy seasons that rendered me unable to post for weeks and even to wonder if I should continue—I keep coming back. I have to. It’s a total God thing.

So hey, if you’re getting this in your inbox, drop by! If you’re already here, make yourself at home! I’d love to hear what you think.

I feel like this is a new season, and not just because it’s September and the weather’s turning. :-)  Anybody else feel like a new season is upon you?

 

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HIDDEN BLESSINGS Available Now!

September 15, 2014
Hidden Blessings high res cover

Hidden Blessings high res coverThe build-up to a book release is an interesting thing. You spend hundreds of hours writing the book, dozens more hours editing, months waiting as it cycles through various stages and finally heads to the printer, and then more waiting until the release date. Then it comes out, people read it in a couple of days, and it’s on to the next thing.

Which is why I intend to savor this day to the utmost!

I’m savoring because I know how many times I contemplated throwing in the towel, and God said, in a myriad of ways—No. I’m savoring because I felt the hand of God upon me as I wrote. I’m savoring because I believe God will use this book to minister to people in ways I can’t even imagine—and I’m praying He will do just that, with every single reader.

I’m savoring because life is hard, trials are hard, sorrow is hard—and yet, I know that I know that there is a true and living God whose love and strength and joy and faithfulness overpower any and everything that comes at us. I believe that. And I pray that the Lord uses this book to convey that.

So I’m celebrating today!

And to celebrate, I’d love for us to share a hidden blessing we’ve seen lately. Here’s mine… Last Saturday evening, I had several situations coming at me at once. I woke up vexed and frustrated, going over everything in my head as I moved about the kitchen. In the midst of my frustration, the Lord stopped me, and I heard this question in my heart:  Did you notice how you struck up a conversation with Me about all of this, as if talking to a friend?

Suddenly, I did notice. I realized. I turn to Jesus, no matter the situation. I’d been praying to see hidden blessings, and here was a big one—Jesus was my Friend. In that moment, the situations didn’t matter. I was basking in the intimacy that our Savior allows us to have with Him.

What about you? I know there have been many hidden blessings in your life of late. What have you seen?

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Missing the Glory

September 3, 2014

iStock_000005465343XSmallLately, I’ve been loving my time with John on the treadmill—the Gospel of John, that is. I started memorizing this book way back in 2003, fell off for a good while, and picked it back up again last year. I probably won’t be done before I die or Jesus returns, but meanwhile, I’m having a great time slow-walking with Him through these verses.

I’ve realized at least one reason why I’m having a great time—memorizing narratives brings the words to life in a whole new way. Without thinking about it, my tone changes as I find myself inhabiting the people, and I gain more insight in the process. The realization came in chapter five.

Remember the man who had been lying by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years? When Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well, the man replied that he had no one to put him into the pool when the water was stirred up. “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’” (John 5:8) And of course, because this is Jesus, “Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.” (John 5:9)

But it’s the Sabbath. And this is what unfolds:

“So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’” John 5:10

Try it. Pretend you’re one of the Jews and say this part aloud:

“It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”

Doesn’t your voice drip with indignation? It’s the Sabbath! Who do you think you are? This is not permissible! It puts you in the scene, helps you inhabit the dynamics at play.

Now the cured man’s response. Say this aloud too:

“He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’”

My voice turns apologetic, even pitiful, when I say it.  Did yours?

Now switch roles again, back to the Jews:

“Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk?’”

Okay, pause. I think I was right here, in the middle of the interrogation, when it hit me on the treadmill—Is this really the conversation that’s happening right now? People have seen this same man lying around for thirty-eight years. Now the man is walking. Yet, no one is saying, “Wow! What happened? How were you cured?” No one praises God that he’s been delivered from decades of infirmity. How about someone help him carry his pallet, since his legs might be a little wobbly?

Instead, the cured man is chastised for carrying his pallet on the Sabbath, and they want to know—not who cured him, but who had the audacity to tell him to pick up his pallet and walk with it.

Jesus, the Son of God, in their midst. A miracle done in their midst. Yet, focusing on the rules of the Sabbath, they missed the Lord of the Sabbath. They missed the Glory.

I pondered that today. How often do I miss the glory? How often am I too focused on one side of a circumstance, and miss the God-side of the circumstance? Even more convicting, how often do I interrogate one of my teens based on a “rule” when God is doing a greater work in them, right in my midst?

Can you use this prayer too? Lord, help us not to focus on lesser things, or things that might not matter at all—and miss Your glory.