The Letting Go

“…you must learn to hold everything loosely…everything. Even your dear family. Why? Because the Father may wish to take one of them back to Himself, and when he does, it will hurt you if He must pry your fingers loose.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him . . . And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” Job 11:13; 18

animals-baby-birds-bird-nest-1275680.jpgA few years ago, a little family of blue birds built their nest in a nook in one of the columns on our front porch. The kids and I would take turns peeking in the nest, watching the eggs, never touching, always on the lookout for momma blue bird. It wasn’t long into the spring that the eggs hatched and we’d peek in on those baby birds, mouths agape, waiting for their momma to bring them dinner. We could hear their chirping and observed as their momma flew out—never very far away—to find a meal for her babies.

One day we noticed the momma was encouraging those babies out of the nest. She was letting them go for a test flight. The birds had a short route from one column to the next and then back to the nest. They never ventured very far. They would fly out and return in the same pattern for days and weeks. Then we noticed they flew a bit further; to the end of our driveway this time. Then back home to the comfort of the nest. One day we saw those blue birds fly out of the yard and we waited and waited, but there was no return home. Those baby birds had grown up and grown strong and were now setting out to do what God created them to do—to soar.

animals-avian-beaks-1156507I remember watching those birds with tears. I recognized the metaphor. My children, at the time, were too young to realize the significance of those beautiful creatures, and how they were piercing my momma heart. I knew my time was coming. The time was quickly advancing when I would need to send my kids out of the nest to do what God created them to do. But it was years away. Then, I blinked.

Now I’m mom to a college junior, a high school senior and sophomore, and a seventh grader. I’ve sent one bird flying out of the nest. She is soaring above the clouds. She is becoming who God created her to be. She is spreading her wings. And I’ve got three plotting and planning their journey to the next adventure. They are anxious to spread their wings and set out on their own, but those wings still need strengthening. I am learning there are more lessons than I expected as I walk through this season of parenting. Here are a few notes I’ve taken so far:

It’s harder than I expected. I knew sending my girl four and a half hours away to school would be tough. I knew my heart would grieve. I didn’t know how much I would miss the little things. Talking with her after a long day at work. Counseling her about friends and life and holding her hand as I prayed with her. Grabbing her up for a spontaneous road trip or movie or hike. Learning with her; editing her papers. Missing her in her chair at dinner or in her usual spot on the sofa. Squeezing her every morning as she wandered down the stairs in a sleepy haze. Seeing her artwork strewn all over the house. I don’t know if I’ll ever not miss those moments, but the joy begins to overtake the sorrows and I am beginning to recognize those memories as sweet gifts.

It’s filled with gifts of grace. You often wonder how your kids will do when they leave the nest. Have you taught them enough? Did you speak truth to them enough? Did you give them the tools they need to stand firm when they face opposition? Did you pray with them and over them enough? I have found God to be true to His Word in every way. Even when I blew it (which was a lot) and even when I missed it (which was a lot), He filled in gaps and taught my girl. I’ve watched her walk in the truth and press into Jesus. She has become desperate for Him. His guidance. His presence. That, my friends, is grace. In spite of my lack, in spite of my mistakes, and maybe even because of them, God has captured the heart of my child.

It’s essential that they struggle. Those baby birds did not succeed in flying every time they left the nest. But the momma bird didn’t keep them from falling. She let them struggle and encouraged them to try again. Through the struggle, the strength those baby birds needed to soar was worked out. It was through their falling they learned how to get up and try again. My girl has struggled. Her first year away at school was tough. I mean HARD. She faced stress and friendship drama and heartache. She wondered if she could. She wondered if she would. And then she did. She learned how to press into Jesus. She learned how to manage her time. She learned how to forgive. She learned how to find comfort in the arms of her Savior. She learned how to be discerning and humble and kind. She learned how to love well and sacrificially. All those spiritual muscles were built because of those hard things she faced.

It’s better than I imagined. I know that’s a paradox, but there has been a certain beauty in watching my little bird soar. I remember looking at that momma bird as her little birdlings soared through the skies and I could have sworn I saw a glint of pride in her eyes. When I watch my girl now, walking in the truth, learning from her mistakes, working so hard, yet learning to rest in His guidance, all I can see is the faithfulness of my God. All those years of tears and abiding and teaching and wondering and feeling like I was failing my kids, all along, He was holding me. He was holding my children. And He still holds them.

animal-1850188_1280I told my children many years ago, there would be a time when they would need to transfer their obedience to me into obedience to Jesus. Their hearts would need to be fully surrendered to their King. My time with them only serves to model what it looks like to honor and obey their Heavenly Father. They practice with me and their daddy. They learn from us what it is to trust and to respect and to honor and to obey and to seek counsel and to learn and to grow. We are imperfect, fallible parents who struggle with our own humanity and sin. But our job, in all our weakness, is to point them constantly to the perfect parent, their Abba Father, and watch them soar in the shadow of His wings.

Letting go is painful. Letting go is necessary. Letting go is beautiful. Giving them wings is what we seek to do every day as we point them to the One who created them and will hold them as they set out on their own adventure with the King. And we, as parents, don’t want to hold so tightly that God has to pry our hands away. We learn to hold them loosely. And trust that the One who created them is faithful and will be with them every step of the journey. And He is. So we stretch out our hearts and rest in the hope and security of the Savior and sustainer. We let them go and we watch them soar.

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Christ-Followers & Popcorn

Christ-followers are like popcorn.

No kidding.

Maybe I have too much fall festival, fireside, popcorn moments on my mind right now, but I was suddenly struck with some obvious similarities.

So “How?” you ask.

bowl-food-popcorn-37348.jpgPopcorn is not the same thing when it comes out of the bag or pan as it was when it went in. Popcorn kernels are small, hard, unappetizing, and inedible. I think I’d have to be literally starving to eat one intentionally. It’s not that they don’t contain the same nutrients before and after being popped. It’s simply that they have to be changed before they are consumed as popcorn.

Likewise, Christ-followers are not the same after they come to know Christ as they were before knowing Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) we are told “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We may come to Christ as mean, bitter, hateful people, full of selfishness and underhanded motivations, hard nuts to crack as they say. But when Christ begins wooing us and we turn loose of the reigns on our own life allowing Him to remake us, we become gentle, joyful, peaceful people, filled with the unconditional love of God. The fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives causing us to become tasty morsels that nourish the world and produce usable fruit in our lives. We become those fluffy white buttery bits, rather than closed off hard kernels.

chef-cooker-cooking-8717.jpgPopcorn has to undergo some heated times to fulfill its purpose and become the yummy, useful thing it was meant to be.  I’ve occasionally wondered how popcorn was discovered. Did a mom in ancient days accidentally spill some kernels into the fire as she was pouring them into the pan, only to have a tasty treat pop out and hit her apron a short time later? Who knows. But I do know that it takes fire or extreme heat. Even in the random 100 degree heat of a Southern summer’s day, I have never had the popcorn in my pantry accidentally pop. It takes REAL heat. Fire.

Fire can be dangerous. Going through a fiery trial of life feels dangerous too. You wonder if you’ll survive. But those fires are useful in our lives, just like they are in the life of a kernel of popcorn. If popcorn doesn’t face the fire, it doesn’t become the crunchy treat it was meant to be. It could never be used for food and would not fulfill its designed purpose without great heat being applied. Just like a silver smith, our Father God uses our fiery trials to fashion us into the vessel He means for us to be.

In fact, He uses fiery trials in many ways. As with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He uses those fires to display our faith in Him which causes even the unbelieving Nebuchadnezzars of the world to glorify His name. He uses those fires to guide us in the direction our life should take, just like the pillar of fire guided the children of Israel where to go. He uses the fire to burn away the dross, the sin, in our lives and make us pure silver that accurately reflects His image to the world. He uses the fires to change us, refine us, remake us.

Popcorn doesn’t make itself. It takes something bigger and greater than the popcorn kernels to take them and make them into something new. It takes people like you and me putting the popcorn and oil and salt in the pan and taking the time to do the process to transform them into something better.

And so it is with Christians. It takes someone outside our self, someone bigger and greater than us, to transform us. We cannot remake ourselves. How many times have we tried and failed. We read a self-help book and feel like that is just what I need. We then set out to make ourselves better. That may last 2 weeks or 2 years, but ultimately we discover real change on the inside cannot be self-manufactured. It can ony be produced by our Creator God. He is the only one who can make us into a new creation. He changes us slowly, over time as we abide in Him and His word abides in us. He is the Chief Corn Popper, not us. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (3:6-7 ESV)

popcorn-1433326_1280The aroma of popcorn draws people from all around to want it. Just walk into a theater and you’re hit by the aroma. Mmmm! Your mouth waters and you end up with a bucket in your lap and buttery fingers! Walk into a Baptist preschool hall on a typical Sunday morning and you’ll find a trail of grown ups sniffing out which room has popcorn for refreshments that day. It’s an almost irresistible aroma.

As I follow my Savior am I drawing a line of people, and creating a furor by those trying to get what I’ve got? If I’m walking in His ways, spreading His aroma, I will be. Sweet sister, if you find yourself worn out from one more needy soul asking you to pray with them or seeking your godly counsel, a stranger pouring out their burdens to your compassionate heart as you sit on the bench at the park watching your kids play, or a pastor asking you to teach another study, then there is a sweet smell of Jesus attached to you! I’m not telling you to never say No and wear yourself out, I’m telling you keep smelling good! The hungry, needy, perishing world needs to be drawn to the sweet fragrance of Christ in us.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 ESV)    

alcohol-background-bar-452744.jpgIts saltiness improves its taste. Whenever I eat popcorn, I grieve for people on low salt diets. I would probably never eat it again if I couldn’t use salt on it. It just isn’t good.

Our world is just not good without the influence of Christ-followers. We hear the rudeness, the cursing, the downright mean-spirited comments of the world almost daily through social media and television. Woe be unto us if we are participating in it rather than being salt and light: the peacemakers and spreaders of love, hope, faith, mercy, and the Gospel. Our world is as tasteless as unsalted popcorn when we are not being Christ’s ambassadors and letting Him pour us out of the salt shaker.

So as you sit ’round the fire this fall munching on your warm buttery popcorn, let it remind you to evaluate your life. Are you in the fire in life? Then God will use it to make you who he intended for you to be. Are you spreading the aroma that draws people to your Father? Are you adding saltiness to the world?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

Sin Sickness

I do not love vomit. I would venture to say I am in the majority more than the minority on this one. After all, how many people do you know that say “I love vomit.” My Mama and my Husband both say they “refuse to vomit.” There are times though when one just can not help himself, or herself, times when the Tummy Bug hits and emesis is an inevitable nemesis.

Recently I was doing what I do, I was just meeting a little one, when she looked at me and without warning vomited all over me. I was covered in soured milk colored mucus filled vomit. Her vomit lying on my skin. Inside I was squirming. I wanted away from that nasty throw-up, yet the little one who was now in my arms – I had instinctively picked her up – needed my help. I reassured her all would be well. I spoke gently to that little Lovey and told her even though we had not yet been formally introduced, I was pleased baby-child-close-up-47090to make her acquaintance and was there to help. She showed no gratitude. She didn’t smile. She did not wrap her sickly arms around my neck and express to me how grateful she was that I was wearing her vomit and aiding her. Rather she cried and fought and smeared the vomit further. After I did a quick wipe, bathed her, wrapped her in a warm blanket and set about seeing to my own hygiene, the King does what He will do oftentimes. He showed me something beautiful.

I was wearing the yuck of another, of one who did not even know me. I had taken upon myself the gross of someone who was not grateful and did not have the capacity to do so. I was wearing the sick of one who needed my help yet could not ask for it. As I washed in the sink beyond my elbows for sometime and cleanliness began to take over I saw my King hanging on a cross wearing my sin, a substance far worse than vomit. He willingly allowed Himself to be covered in it so that I could take on His Righteousness. I wondered in that moment, as He hung on that wretched cross, having endured a beating that left Him unrecognizable, if He was squirming on the inside as I had been. I wondered if He wanted to rid Himself of the nastiness of my sin and ugliness of heart. As I rinsed and readied myself for my next task I gave Him thanks for His willingness to exchange my proverbial vomit for His literal righteousness and healing.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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Stories of the Rescued

On our journey, we will face difficulties that cannot be remedied with human wisdom or skill.

We are not alone.

Psalm 107 tells the story of the suffering and rescue of four groups of people.

1. Wanderers.

Wanderers aimlessly follow the wrong path looking for home.
Wanderers suffer hunger and hopelessness.

Some wandered in the desolate wilderness,
finding no way to a city where they could live.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their spirits failed within them. (Psalm 107:4-5 CSB)

2. Prisoners.

Prisoners experience the consequences of rebelling against God’s Word and despising God’s counsel.
Prisoners suffer darkness and chains.

Others sat in darkness and gloom—
prisoners in cruel chains—
because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the counsel of the Most High. (Psalm 107:10-11 CSB)

3. Fools.

Fools are afflicted with physical suffering because of their rebellious ways.
Fools suffer pain.

Fools suffered affliction
because of their rebellious ways and their iniquities.
They loathed all food
and came near the gates of death. (Psalm 107:17-18 CSB)

4. Workers.

Workers go about normal daily business when a sudden storm beyond their skill to navigate overtakes them.
Workers suffer uncertainty and fear.

Others went to sea in ships,
conducting trade on the vast water.
They saw the LORD’s works,
his wondrous works in the deep.
He spoke and raised a stormy wind
that stirred up the waves of the sea.
Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths,
their courage melting away in anguish,
they reeled and staggered like a drunkard,
and all their skill was useless. (Psalm 107:23-27 CSB)

Can you relate to these stories?

Somewhere along our journey, we will experience, or see others experience, hopelessness or darkness, pain or illness, uncertainty or fear.

So what solution does Psalm 107 give for this kind of suffering?

Cry out to God.

Psalm 107 tells us that wanderers, prisoners, fools, and workers alike cried out to God in their suffering.

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
he rescued them from their distress. (Psalm 107:6 CSB)

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
he saved them from their distress. (Psalm 107:13, 19 CSB)

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress. (Psalm 107:28 CSB)

God is our deliverer.

In our trouble, He can rescue.
In our trouble, He can save.
In our trouble, He can bring us out.

For the wanderer who cries out, He will lead them by the right path to a city where they can find a home.

For the prisoner who cries out, He will break their chains and lead them out of darkness.

For the fool who cries out, He will send forth His word and heal them.

For the worker who cries out, He will still storms to a whisper and guide them to the harbor they long for.

And how do the rescued respond?

They give thanks.

Let them give thanks to the LORD
for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all humanity. (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31 CSB)

Some difficulties are consequences of our own choices.
Some difficulties are simply a result of living on this broken planet.

In every difficulty, God is our deliverer.

His faithful love is unconditional.

His faithful love endures forever.

He is good.

He is our Redeemer.

God doesn’t just rescue us from difficult circumstances. He redeems us from the power of the enemy. He buys back every despicable thing we’ve ever done, having already paid the price for our sins on the cross. He blesses us with new life today, and eternal life to come.

Let’s join the rescued in giving thanks to the LORD and telling others what He has done.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim
that he has redeemed them from the power of the foe (Psalm 107:1-2 CSB)

Father, You are my deliverer. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank You for the reminder today that You can rescue, You can save, and You can bring me out of every difficulty. You are good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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James Spann’s Labcoat & The Fried Green Tomatoes

I like a good southern food. Years ago I learned to cook green tomatoes, okra, potatoes, chicken, squash… all the same, and the best way… fried. Dredged in flour or cornmeal fried in oil in a cast iron skillet. That’s the only way I know to do it. Perhaps I am the only one, but as I have said before, I am food weird. I do not particularly enjoy the foods I cook. There is one exception to this rule, and that would be when I make southern home cooking. I come from a long line of “Pickers” while they cook. Just seeing that in print looks weird – I should clarify. When one prepares food one may “pick” meaning to taste one’s food during the “fixing” phase or one does not “pick” meaning one does not partake of one’s food during its preparatory stages.

I tend not to be a picker, again when making southern foods, this is the exception. I am compelled to eat that first bite of fried okra, fried green tomato, steam-fried potatoes and onions, or fried squash. I am convinced that southern fried foods must line the Marriage Banquet table of the Lamb and His Bride, but I have one complaint about such near to manna from heaven.

My one complaint about fried food is how it makes the house and my clothing smell. It annoys me terribly for the aroma of fried foods to infiltrate my clothing and walls forcing me to smell it long after the I’ve cooked and consumed such delicacies. The odor serves to taunt me.

Recently I found myself frying up some green tomatoes. My Mama had joined us for supper and as we ate them she said, “These taste just like my Mama’s.” She turned to my youngest child and said, “Your Mama makes the best fried green tomatoes.” I might’ve blushed a little at such an esteemed statement of praise. As supper drew to an end and we cleaned up, suddenly I remembered James Spann’s lab coat. It had been in my kitchen and surely had taken on the aroma of supper’s fried smell side effects.

man-1378638812bhr.jpgScott Martin was the something-or-other of the Weatherreadyfest of 2018. As the something-or-other he was responsible for helping to get things ready and prepared for an event in St Louis. One of Our local favorite meteorologists, James Spann, was scheduled to do something that requires a lab coat. Scott Martin mentioned this in a to-do list kind of passing, and I set my eyes to looking for and acquiring said lab coat. Scott Martin knows me well enough to know if I am given a task I will do my best to accomplish it. Lab-coat for local celebrity needed, must be minimal is cost, and “not dingy-looking.” Consider it taken care of.

As it would happen I found the perfect specimen at a local discount store. The kind of discount store that is random at any given time, boasts a variety of “discounted” items and is not necessarily known for its neat and organized appearance. The kind of store that doesn’t give you the hangers when they wad up your purchase and toss it into a flimsy plastic bag with some other store’s name on it. Perhaps if I had of received a hanger none of the following would have happened.

The day we made the purchase, I hung the bag with the wadded attire on a chair in the kitchen with every intention of hanging it up and ironing it as needed. Then I had planned on carefully packing and sending it to St Louis for the event. By the time I realized I had left it there in that bag, it was too late. Fried green tomato smell permeated the white cotton coat. I imagined for a moment Mr. Spann walking around the stage, giving his presentation alongside Ginger Zee, both getting a whiff of old fried green tomatoes every time he raised his arm and directed the audience’s attention to tornados and polygons. I imagined him stopping mid-sentence, looking for a plate and Ginger smelling his coat which served as a reminder of her time in Alabama. I imagined him slinging the taunting garment aside and mumbling something about a dry cleaner and some Febreeze. As my active and hardly accurate imagination took over I was reminded about the King’s Word and what it says about smells. Aromas.

That we are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15 “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

We are to be so covered by Christ that he infiltrates every part of our lives in such a way that folks know we are a part of Him. His love should be like that Fried food infused coat that we put on and it permeates everything that we do. In essence, the aroma of Christ is Love, and that love should stick with you and wherever you go, just like the aroma of southern fried goodness.

Colossians 3:12-14  (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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Throw Away the Measuring Stick

6 Tips for Success for the Godly Woman

(When my church, GFBC, was doing the Rachel & Leah study, by Nicki Koziarz, this fall, I wrote some encouragement notes to the ladies that were going through the study with me.  One of those notes developed into this blog post.)

In the study we took a deep look into the lives of Rachel & Leah and learned how to combat comparisons in our own lives.  The last week topic or truth was “Let the success of others encourage you, not discourage you.”

So how do you measure success?

Do you measure it by the worlds standards of Fame and Fortune?  Do you let the success you see around you discourage you in pursuing your own desires and goals?  Has your road to success become your idol?  We are all constantly taking out a measuring stick and measuring our lives up against those around us.  The problem is, we use the world’s standards as our measuring stick instead of God’s standards.   Here are just a few things to remember when you are looking at your measuring stick:

  1. God already has a successful plan mapped out for your life; you just have to be obedient and follow it. When King David was dying he told his son, Solomon, “Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.” (1 Kings 2:3 The Message) We have to do things God’s way not the world’s. God’s course is always the best, and we will succeed when we follow His plan.
  2. You have to start somewhere. Don’t forget it is your journey. Not your neighbors’, friends’ or the person that is doing exactly what you want to succeed in doing.   Zechariah 4:10 says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”  If God has called you to do something, don’t be discouraged when you see others succeeding more rapidly in the same task. Their journey may have a different purpose in God’s master plan.  You will never progress on your journey unless you start.  God rejoices when you take the steps of obeying and following His plan.
  3. You have to stay focused on the Goal and know that God is the source of your success. Don’t let the success of others remove your focus from what God has called you to accomplish.  Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”   Don’t look back – keep your eyes focused forward and know that God is the source of “every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)”
  4. Let the success of others spur you on in your journey, not hinder you. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)  “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” ( Titus 3:8 )  “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)  Look in Hebrews 11 to see all that have come before us, to encourage us in our walk of Faith.  We can see how God used each one in his plan, but don’t stop there, look around you and let the success of others encourage you to succeed.
  5. God has gifted you with all you need to succeed. God gifted you with talents when he formed you in the womb.  When you became a believer, He gifted you with a Spiritual gift.  He has already equipped you with all you need to bring Him Glory and become a success in His eyes.
  6. Your Ultimate Goal is for your success to bring Glory to God. Success is knowing that you have done everything you can do, both in thoughts and actions, to become the best that you are capable of becoming.  Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When you pull out that measuring tape to measure your success, ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I possibly can to bring glorify to God?”

So throw away the measuring stick with the world’s ideas of success, and pick up your Bible and study God’s idea of success.

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Christ and the Corrective Lenses

My friend MJ lay next to me snoring lightly, the big drops of rain falling from the tree tops that were adjacent to our “treehouse” retreat accommodations sounded like something entirely different from than the peaceful pitter and tinkling I was used to. I surmised it was my, until now, not-so-close proximity to the roofline. Despite the sleep promoting environment, I was awake. Wide awake. I figured if I was going to be awake I should go ahead and be a little productive and be about my favorite early morning activity, studying the King’s Word. The open blinds let in just enough light for me to see outlines and large objects. In order to not wake my friend MJ I would have to rely on my dimly lit phone.

I reached for the little yellow case holding my contacts.

Fact: Minus corrective lenses I can see nothing clearly.

Fact: I wear my glasses while I sleep so that when I awaken I know where I am. Too many close calls have yielded such a strange practice.

Fact: I now require readers to see small print so I have to put in my contact lenses and then don said readers. Double Corrective Lenses. Bifocals are the next step but I am just not ready to surrender to that one.

blur-blurry-bokeh-347139.jpgMy relationship with corrective lenses began some 32 years ago. I was 8. I had no idea people had faces, trees had actual leaves, or billboards were sources of information. I was in the 4th grade. I had the standard old school eye exam. When asked what the first letter on the chart was I answered honestly, “What chart?” Needless to say my mama got the note that a follow-up eye exam was required.

The day she took me, was like any other. I rode in a car with faceless but familiar people,
I entered a large foreboding yet vague structure and sat in a chair. My information supplied by my other senses, the smell of potatoes chips, candy, and cleaners mingled together. It smelled like the place I got shots, the pediatrician’s office; it didn’t sound that way though, there were no crying and coughing babies. The chair felt different, they were grown up chairs and the pediatrician’s office had my size chairs.

As per my usual I began to ask questions. Where were we? What were we doing here? Would it hurt? How long would we be here?

I have always been a question asker, it is my primary source of information and learning. Sometimes my questions intimidate people; sometimes they think I am criticizing them and their way of doing things. In my adult life I have learned this and have altered how I communicate in just such a situation. I ask the King questions daily. I used to be almost ashamed of that, like I didn’t trust God when I questioned. I understand now that is simply how I learn, and because He loves me, He welcomes my questions. He often answers me back with questions.

*****

“Lord, I’m struggling. I feel overwhelmed and unsure. Why Lord?”

“What is your name?”

That is The question He asks me most. Just last night I was talking with Him and he whispered over and over,

“Don’t you remember?” “What is your name?”

My answers always initiate a pondering that answers my questions. I digress… again.

*****

As I completed my eye exam, I cautiously answered questions and waded carefully into a sea of unknowns that this day had brought to me. When the eye doctor placed the cold metal Phoropter (I did not know its actual name – the Google helped me with that answer when I asked that question) over my face, the cold sensation of the metal and ability to see simultaneously cemented in my memory. I still remember that feeling of joy and elation.

I. Could. Finally. See. The. Chart.

adorable-beautiful-black-and-white-325687.jpgI rattled off those letters like an expert. I knew them and I boldly proclaimed their names to the eye doctor. It wasn’t until he moved the miraculous Phoropter that I was deflated. How could it be? My joy instantly turned to sorrow. He escorted me to my mom, spoke to her briefly and she walked me over to another mysterious section. She told me to pick out some glasses frames I liked. One needs to see one’s image in the mirror clearly to determine if one likes one’s glasses. Needless to say my first pair of corrective lenses were less than attractive. Despite their appearance they were life changers. I’ve come to realize that is often the truth of life. It is oftentimes the seemingly small moments, seemingly insignificant things that are life changers.

I could see. An entire new world opened up to me. My senses worked in tandem to give me information and reveal the world around me. My mama says I read every sign from here to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and if she had to hear “Bates House of Turkey” one more time she was going to scream. (I should probably bring to her attention the fact that at least I don’t do that now – where every other signs boasts a difficult to pronounce name of an attorney. She really would scream before we got to the Tank Farm heading southbound on 65.)

When we come to know the King, to have a relationship with Him, it completely changes our perspective of the world. Like putting on corrective lenses for the first time. In the Book of John, Chapter 9 there was a blind man whom Jesus made to see. He was born blind and upon meeting Christ he was healed and made to see. This caused a great debate among the ones who needed rationalization of the process. The man’s response is a classic. It is recorded in verse 25.

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25

One Thing I DO know is I was blind, but now I see. Simple isn’t it? The gospel itself is simple. With Jesus our entire perspective changes and in areas where we once were blind, with Jesus as the Change Agent, we now can see as well as a fourth grader with her first pair of glasses seeing her Mama’s face clearly for the first time in her life.

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The Journey: Coming and Going

Have you ever noticed that there sure is a lot of coming and going in the Gospels? Jesus came to the crowd. He came to Capernaum. He went to a solitary place. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to Golgotha. He called the disciples to “Come!” And he told them to “Go” sell their possessions and give to the poor and to “Go” make other disciples.

Sometimes our journey of life gets hectic. We feel like all we are doing is coming and going. My Mama used to say she was so busy she “met herself coming and going.” But in our comings and goings from day-to-day we can have purpose. We can be like Jesus.

What can we learn from Jesus’ comings and goings.

architecture-blurred-buildings-303066.jpgJesus went TO places, but He went FOR the people. The Bible documents Jesus traveling to many towns and regions of the countryside: Jerusalem, Bethsaida, Samaria, Galilee, Genneseret, mountainsides, the Sea of Galilee. In each place He went, scripture reveals more to us about His interactions with the people He encountered rather than about the random daily things He did. We don’t know where he spent his nights or what he ate or if He and the disciples ever found a big field and played ball together just for fun. We see him healing and teaching and driving out demons and talking with the hurting people He met.

In our lives, as we come and go, are we more focused on the tasks at hand – get the kids to soccer, buy the groceries, have the oil changed in the car – or have we learned yet that life is about the people we encounter on the journey? Our Father loves hurting people, whether it’s us or a friend or a stranger. He will put His children in the right place at the right time to meet very specific needs. Are we even aware? Or are we so busy being on our way to work or on our way to school or on our way to church that we overlook the lonely, the sick, the hurting, and the desperate around us? Are we more like the compassionate Samaritan on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, or, on a typical day, do we very much resemble the Priest or the Levite who was too busy and distracted to help a wounded man?

Faith-Christian-hands-pray-praise-worship_credit-ShutterstockJesus invited people to “Come” and commanded them to “Go.” Notice how the disciples were gently invited to come along with Jesus and learn from Him and allow Him to change them into fishers of men. “Come.” He calls us as well. Come. Gently, patiently, often in a whisper. Come. Early in the morning stillness. Come. Amidst the confused hustle and bustle of life. Come. In the midst of the raging storm. Come. He calls us as much for our good as for His purposes, because His purposes are for our good! We shortchange ourselves and miss out on an opportunity to learn and grow and join with Christ in His healing work here on earth when we ignore the call to come to Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

activity-adult-barbecue-344102As gently as Jesus calls us to come, He is equally firm about His command to “Go.” Jesus commanded a rich man to go sell his possessions and give to the poor. (Matthew 19:21) To an expert of the Mosaic law He said go and show mercy. (Luke 10:37) To the woman at the well He told her to go face Her past sin and come to Him to quench her heart’s thirst. (John 4:16) To the woman condemned by man He offered free-dom from condemnation and the challenge to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) And to all His disciples, then and now, He commands us to…

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 

Let us respond to His invitation to “Come!” and obey His command to “Go!”

winding-road-1556177_1280.jpgJesus took time to go to a solitary place to pray. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus pulling aside to pray. As Jesus faced the toughest moment of His life He pulled away to pray alone. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane, left His disciples behind, and prayed about the trials He faced. Many of our most difficult times will feel very lonely. Our Father is there for us in those moments, just as He was for Jesus, for us to come to Him in prayer.

The crowds get wearying. The demands of life leave us frazzled. Work and family and school and commitments pull us in a dozen different directions. We too need to pull away to a solitary place to pray. If Jesus needed to, then we need to exponentially more so. We don’t need to pull away to social media or to TV or to a glass of wine or to friends even – we need to pull away, alone, to our Father and pour out our hearts to Him in prayer and listen to what He has to pour out to us! That is where true refreshing of the soul resides.

“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35

Jesus went to Golgotha for you and me. He made the greatest sacrifice of all time. He went to the cross and lay down His life for us.

As we come and go and mingle with friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers from day-to-day Jesus will call us to lay down our lives as well. We probably won’t be called upon to physically die for someone today, but it will sometimes feel like dying to do the compassionate things He asks us to do. That is what dying to self is all about. We lay down our rights and our plans and our wishes to go to that one in need. To come up to someone we don’t know well and offer to pray. To share the good news of Jesus as we go throughout this journey of life.

Are you tired of your rat race of coming and going? It’s time to give in to your Master who says “Come to me and I will give you rest.” It’s time to find strength and refreshment in Him. Not only in His gentle “Come,” but in being obedient to His command to “Go!’

Come!

 

Invisible Bugs

I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a recent business trip. He had saved up air miles for me, so I was excited about a week at the beach. Since his usual hotel choice was not located in this area, he spent extra time selecting the place for our stay. He knows I like to stay right on the beach whenever possible because I do not have access to a car when he is on a business trip. He chose an Inn for our stay.

I had never stayed at an Inn, well, except for the Holiday Inn. My mind flashed to Hallmark movies on Nantucket or some island paradise. I thought it was going to be a fun adventure. When we checked in at the Inn, we were told about the amenities available to us. I was so ready for some beach time. Then, I was given a bottle of insect animal-beetle-biology-1114318repellant. I was told about the tiny little bugs that I would not be able to see but were on the beach early in the morning and late in the evening. I thought “oh great!” Not only would I have to be coated in sunscreen but I would need to have bug repellant also. I am not a fan of bugs. I don’t like fat bugs, skinny bugs, walking bugs, flying bugs, big bugs, or little bugs, and especially bugs I cannot see.

As I sat on the beach I would see tiny bugs, but I would know there were bugs that were even smaller than they were. I saw some ants but knew that the bugs were smaller. I didn’t let it spoil my trip bug-hand-insect-1119264but I was very aware of bugs. As I waited for the onslaught of the non-imaginary bugs that were going to attack me at any moment, I was reminded of how what seems like the tiniest of sin can attack.

We think of sin in categories such as being a big sin or a small sin or a sin with a capital “S”. When God sees sin, it is sin. There is no big sin or small sin. Romans 3:23 tells us “For all have sinned.” The Bible doesn’t tell us that there are degrees of sin. God would have told us if that were true and would have defined sin very carefully. God’s Word does not do that. As I thought about the tiny bugs and sin, I compared the tiny bugs to sneaky sins that kind of creep into your life or slip in a back door. The kind that make you think “I didn’t just do that” or “I didn’t just think that.”  God has convicted me lately to be careful what thoughts jump into my head. I want my thoughts to be pure and uplifting instead of critical or mean.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV says

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, watch out for those tiny bugs that you cannot see that bite before you know what is happening. Stay aware of the thoughts and activities that start out seemingly harmless but move quickly into a dangerous place. To protect yourself from sin, be sure to wear your spiritual insect repellant every day. The only place I have found spiritual insect repellant is in God’s Word. 

Ephesians 6:10-11  ESV tells us 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

 

The Moral to the story:

As we were packing up to come back home, my husband asked about the insect repellent. I told him that since I had not been on the beach early or late in the day I had not used it. He asked if I had read the ingredients and I told him that I had not. He said that it contained Hemp which is another name for Cannabis Oil. 

The next time someone offers me insect repellant to protect from invisible bugs, I am going to tell them that I don’t need any weed. I will take my chances with the bugs.

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10

Crowns and Heaven

“Mama what kinda crown you want?”

“Whatever kind you think will be good Mags! Thanks!”

She had asked me from the kitchen. Her Daddy had spent the better part of the last several days working at a makeshift office on the kitchen table. It’s fairly portable and we “clear the table” for meals. I had taken over the living room office, in preparation for some jam-packed weeks to come.

Scott Martin rarely complains, he just unpacks and packs up his work stuff, transitions with ease and with an almost alarming flexibility just “rolls with it.” Once he sat on our unmade bed, held a borrowed microphone and recorded radio segments for some not so local radio stations because the Martin homeschoolers with an armload of new science books had taken over every room but our bedroom.

He knew “partly sunny with a high of 89” might not bode well with “Look at this blobfish!!! It’s just like it says ‘a rainbow of ugly!’ Bahahaha” thereby eliminating another opportunity at recording said weather segments. He never once complained. I would have. I’d’ve raised the dead yelling about it. He just keeps on rollin’ with it.

The night she asked me about the crown, I entered the kitchen-slash-office-turned-crafting-center to prepare for dinner. As I entered the multipurpose room, the chaos and disarray of it all slowly absorbed into my already weary mind. I started to open my mouth to complain but instead choose to look not just see. There at the table, my youngest, the one that struggles desperately, chatting away. Nonstop asking her Daddy questions,

“Is there really a dark side of the Moon? Has anyone seen it?”
“Do blind people dream in color?”
“Why didn’t Noah put the dinosaurs in the ark?”
“If you lived in a treehouse where would you go to the bathroom?”
“Why do I only like blueberries in a muffin?”
“Can we take our dog to a dog psychologist to see why he keeps getting on the kitchen table?”
“What makes Pepper so spicy?”

He nodded and worked, she kept crafting and cutting, all the while talking, like a magpie that never quits chirping she went on and on. We have learned she questions when she is anxious. A week of unknowns had thrust her into an anxiety-ridden baseline that causes her counterparts their own anxiety. They’d long ago sought shelter elsewhere; The Scarlet Letter preferred to their youngest sister’s anxiety influenced behavior.

Her Daddy sat working. She stood. Evidently she’d been standing a while. He nodded and responded appropriately. He patiently answered her questions for the umpteenth time. He encouraged her crown making from paper, noting she “is good at arts and crafts.” He joked with her and made her giggle. He patiently reminded her for the second time it was time to clear the table for supper. She smiled and acknowledged that even though “Mama wouldn’t let her watch tv she was sorta glad.” He agreed, he was sorta glad too.

As I took it all in I took a picture. That paper crown perched perfectly atop his head. He wore it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. If it’d have been a new custom-made baseball cap with his favorite team he would have worn it just as proudly. It wasn’t until later I saw that she’d made it to match his shirt. As I watched them briefly just before my presence interrupted them, gratitude washed over me. Gratitude for this exchange. Grateful for patience that extends beyond my own. Gratefulness for a Daddy for who loves his children wholly. Grateful that he sees the fragility of the one before him and he loves her anyway.

Grateful for a glimpse again of the King and how He loves me, brokenness and all. I suppose when I get to Heaven I’ll know for sure, but for a brief moment in time that night, in our humble kitchen I saw from behind what Heaven is like and it is a beautiful thing indeed.

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