Author Archives: Sarah Cinnamon

Selling a House

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A4779D99-13EF-4829-82E3-D919F18E157ADid you know that sharing your faith, hope and love in Jesus is not just for the good moments? Over and over in scripture, we are told that we are going to encounter hard times, difficult moments, trials of many kinds. They aren’t quantified with a length of time, a duration of dates, or even a description defining what to expect. We are just told, both plainly and obscurely, that things are going to be tough. 

For a multitude of reasons, far too many to unfold here, this has been one of those seasons for me. Many difficult moments filled with many various trials, all strung together with head-pounding uncertainties. Among those has been our decision to move.

About a year ago, Chris began interviewing with a different company and at the start of 2019, began a new job with an entirely different kind of schedule and routine. While he travels each month, he now predominantly works out of the house. We have a small area for him to do so, but it wasn’t really designed to be used that way (converted closet with no ac/heat piped in). This coupled with the fact that when we moved to SC, Isaac was only 2 and I had only just found out I was pregnant with Lacie days before the moving van pulled out Kentucky, was something of a problem. When we moved into our current home, we had no idea that we would ultimately be blessed with four spice kids. Nor did we factor in that any amount of kids we did have would get bigger. 😉 So space in our home has maxed and a pull on our heart to move was growing. Chris and I being…well, Chris and I…realized in January that if a move was going to happen we would need a plan. We mapped out things we would need to work on, calendared it all out and then laid it down and prayed if this was what were supposed to do. From moment one, we prayed asking the Lord to help us understand if moving was something He had for us or just something we were trying to make happen. We pulled out the list, amazingly found time (and energy) to attack all of our projects and before we knew it we were ready to have our house ‘go live’. It was so clear that moving was what the Lord was asking us to do. The only problem…we had no idea where we would be going. As the months of renovations were underway, we searched, talked, argued, searched some more and slowly began to narrow in on what we were hoping for and what would work for us as a family. The Lord allowed various things to happen to help confirm that the area we had settled on was in fact the right place, but literally nothing – no house seemed to fit the bill. Until the week we went to put our house on the market. That week, the ‘perfect’ house became available. It had everything – the right school district, the right size, the right space – it was perfect, it was beautiful. We found out that the family selling that house was not going to consider any contingencies (like waiting on the buyer to sell their house) so our realtors went into action – confident in the appeal of our home they moved quickly to get our house on the market. We had visited this house on Tuesday, put our house for sale on Wednesday – and were rejected hard on Thursday. The family held true to their decision – they weren’t taking anyone with contingencies and they didn’t. Another offer came into them on that Thursday and they scooped it up. Chris and I were crushed – seriously…it was a bad day here at the Spice Rack. We were so confused. We had spent almost a year – heavily searching. This was the first real something – that just ‘happened’ to come up the week were planning to put ours up for sale? We have never said anything to each other – still haven’t really – but we both believed that was gonna be our awesome God moment in this leg of our journey. ‘I don’t get it God…why? Why dangle something in front of us that wasn’t meant for us? Why give us that glimmer of hope when that wasn’t the plan? Holy cow…why is there still a ‘for sale’ sign in my yard?’ were just a few of the things that floated through my head on repeat. We knew God was calling us to sell – He confirmed that many times. So what were we missing?

Our house went on the market on a Wednesday…within five days, we had seven showings and three offers; one that came in under asking, one right on the money, and one that actually went above the amount we had asked. Less than seven days after putting a sign in our yard, a contract was signed and wheels were in motion. And I waited. I waited for Him to drop a new house out of nowhere. I waited to have my ‘victory in Jesus’ moment to share. I waited for that ‘dream’ house’s deal to fall through. I mean come on – God wouldn’t call us to do something and then not finish that up, not give us any indication of what to do or where to go. God wouldn’t do that.  <Insert almost every Bible story in scripture>
In the last few weeks, God has allowed a home inspection to come back with minimal requests and minor money to be spent. He has allowed an inspection to take place and the house to pass that inspection – even at the higher price. He has given us a contract deal that doesn’t come to a close until December 6. It cannot be denied that God’s hand has been all over the selling of our home. And I have been completely silent about it. I haven’t openly rejoiced Him. I haven’t really even shared this with those I know. See there isn’t a completion to the story. There isn’t an answer to the repeated – and obvious question – where are you moving? So my silence has helped me avoid having to even go there.
And I have been foolish.
I have been painfully human in my fears and worries. I have been sad over silly things like toys I packed from the kids rooms that they are missing and want to play with. Sad over the question of will I be able to decorate for Christmas this year? Fearful over what happens when December 6 comes and we still don’t have a house. God calls us to praise Him even in the storm, through the worries, in the midst of the fears. He asks us to trust that He is a God who never lies. He asks us to keep our eyes on Him even when everything around us seems so unnerving. I suddenly understand how Peter started walking out to Jesus on that water just fine, but when it didn’t quite go as he thought and he saw the waves and processed what that should mean – I get why he began to sink. I understand why the other 10 spies discounted Caleb and Joshua – so focused on the enormity of the people of Ca’naan and that they said ‘no way’. I understand why Zechariah questioned a child at his age even though he had been asking for one. I get it when Moses heard God’s entire plan to set His people free and still made the request ‘please send someone else’. I understand their weaknesses and their fears. God has shown me that His hand is in all of this. He has allowed me to help my kids navigate a first hand object lesson in trusting what you cannot see and leaning not on our own understanding. He is absolutely to be praised – right now – in the middle of it all – even when it doesn’t make sense, even though there are still so many question marks. See, He allows these moments intentionally. It is easy to praise Him when it all works out. It is exciting to share Him when we have beautiful stories and sweet endings. But in the middle of the thing…where we are a hot mess, completely clueless? Yes, even then we are to praise Him, glorify Him and share Him. My biggest prayer right now is to tap into my inner Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who proclaimed, “the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us” – they were so confident – confident enough to follow that with “But even if He does not…” The God I serve has a plan for my sweet family. He has a neighborhood in mind. A mission field in preparation right now even as I type. The God I serve cares so deeply about the details of my heart…knows the fears that well up within my kids, knows the concerns that sweep over my man. He has already shown us His awesomeness in the twelve years we’ve done life within these walls. Of course, He will not leave us. He hasn’t opened this door only to slam it back on us. At the right time, in the right way, He will complete this process He has started and even in my weakest moments – I will praise Him. 
 
Whatever your uncertainty, your fear, your struggle, He has not left you. He is ready to help you navigate through. And though you might not have answers, though you have days where the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ near take you down…praise Him. Praise Him for the lesson in it all. Praise Him you don’t walk it alone. Praise Him when your scared. Praise when you’re heartbroken. Praise Him when you’re angry. Praise Him when you’re lost. Praise when you’re worn slap out. Praise Him for His patience. Praise Him for His forgiveness. Praise Him for His plan. Praise Him for His love. Praise Him in the question marks. Praise Him in the silence. Praise Him through the tears. Praise Him. He has not left you. He has not brought you to this place to leave you stranded. He has a plan. He is at work. Praise Him. 

You Can Learn a Lot from a Cat

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You Can Learn a Lot from a Cat

This season has been one, I pray, that my Lacie will not soon forget. She has had the unique opportunity to take her love for the stage, and experience it in a variety of venues. In an odd twist of timing she has been working on three musicals simultaneously; one through church, one through school, and one through our community theatre. Each one building on the love and pure natural desire of a girl designed to be on the stage, but each vastly different. While there is much my heart could share of the ugliness she experienced through one, and the familiarity she has enjoyed through another – it is the lessons that this mama has learned through that of a ‘cat’ that I lay out here.

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  1. A peron’s a person no matter how small. IMG_4608The whole reason that we even tried out for ‘Seussical’ was purely for the experience of a ‘real’ audition. Though not at all a stranger to the stage or to the spot light – auditioning was something of an unknown. We had long conversations about it, but never followed those up with the likelihood that a part would be on the other side of that process. So when she got the role of a ‘who’ – she was over the moon. She never used words like ‘I’m only a who’ or ‘I wish I were a ______’ – she basked in the excitement to just get to be a part of the show. Every single practice…every…single…practice…she came bouncing out to the car so excited and so pumped up! I would immediately hear things like ‘you should hear Sour Kangaroo – she has THE best voice’, ‘The Cat is so great at her role, mom’, ‘You would love Gertrude – she is doing amazing’ and on and on. She was so proud of each of them…she loved them like family. The role that she herself played – she poured herself into. (Now, I acknowledge my motherly bias…but it is always hard to miss my Lacie when she’s on the stage. She beams…she radiates.) Her focus was always – ‘I am a part of something big.’ It was never the size of the part, but absolutely the love of what she was doing. Through this attitude, I found myself quickly challenged about how often I get frustrated with theIMG_4395 role that I play in this world. I fuss that I want a different part. I wish I had a few less dramatic scenes or was one that others looked to and said ‘she is my favorite.’ I’ve been challenged with the question – what if I just embraced the role I’ve been given – and simply poured myself into it? What if instead of wishing for something more or different, I encouraged those around me, and just lived excited to just get to be a part of the story.
  2. Oh the things you can think. Turns out that I was assigned a part in the musical as well; the role of hair and make-up to my sweet who. Off the cuff, I had no clue on how to do either (non-girlie girl here), but soon figured out a plan. On average, it took me about 45 minutes to create her hair and about 15 for the make-up. Then another 30 to undo it all at the end of the day. With so much time together, we soon began having beautiful heart-to-hearts, laughing together, singing loudly together, and just enjoying each other’s company in a way we hadn’t before. For the schedule our family keeps – long heart-to-hearts aren’t always likely to happen, but something so sweet was beginning to happen because of them. A few performances in though and I noticed that some of the hair on the other ‘whos’ was a bit more simple and for a hot second I re-evaluated my approach to turning Lace into a ‘who’. I could have gone more simple, I could have short-cutted easily…but oh what I would have missed out on. The thought left my head as quickly as it came and what resulted were some of the sweetest moments of conversation, laughter, connectedness and love than the two of us had really ever experienced together. We hear the word ‘shortcut’ and often think that it will be great – oh the the things that we think – but some journeys should definitely be experienced by taking the scenic route. So 275 pipe cleaners and just shy of 18 hours later – the choice to embrace ‘who’ hair was one I will never regret.
  3. Alone in the universe? As a place of honesty, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when embarking on community theatre. It was a ‘we’re about to step into the real world’ kind of feeling. Concerns over her safety, over how she would be treated, over what she might be exposed to washed over me hard, before we ever said yes to this adventure. But then I had to remember Who my ‘who’ belonged to. From the very first audition, Lacie and I talked that if she got a role in this musical it would be because God was opening a door for her. (Now from my experience, God isn’t usually in the business of cracking doors – they are either solidly closed or flung wide open. He is also not in the business of opening doors that He doesn’t intend to walk through with you.) With this in mind, I knew that no matter what she experienced it was something He had purposed just for her. Again, being honest, I was prepared for a more negative experience for her. (I did childhood theatre and will forever remember director, Una Harrison, with her wild hair, tight leather pants, 4 inch red heels, British accent and idioms, and unbendable demand for perfection. Woo!) I had several negative scenarios mapped out in my head; pep-talks were on the ready. But much like a sour kangaroo baffled by one that would think different than herself – I could never have imagined the experiences my girl would actually encounter; a cast that she would come to love as family, a bond that would deepen for the two of us or the unexpected example of Christ in the form of a cat. Yes, you read that last part correctly. At a time when Lacie has questioned how God could really love one like her…a self-proclaimed small speck in this great big world…one wired differently than those around her…one who certainly has felt alone in the universe…He brought into her world beautiful examples of a life lived in Him. He placed in front of her someone who would gently listen and sweetly encourage. Someone who would point her to Him both by example and by a few simple conversations. I say it often – but anytime you look for God, He can always be found…but even I was surprised by the way He showed up for my girl (His girl). IMG_4913

Who knew that a simple audition would unravel all of the opportunities for adventure, growth, and love for one young girl. Who knew this journey would also have so much affect on her mama. From over here in my spot in the seats, I have been challenged in my day-to-day role, challenged in my role as a mama, challenged in my relationship with the Lord, challenged that no matter what may go on behind the scenes – that what I live out is true, authentic, infectious. May I be more consumed by how I play a part in the story regardless of how many even notice that I’m in it. May I be mindful of the moments that come, not trying to blow past them, not trying to make them fit into the mold of what is quick and easy…but experiencing them in such a way that allows the story to unfold deeper and more beautifully. May my relationship with the Lord be evident and my heart always eager to share His love. This experience was beyond what I could have hoped for, for my Lacie, and one that has uniquely resonated in me.  IMG_4601

Count It ALL

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I have had the distinct pleasure of being called to jury duty at least a half dozen times within the last 10 years…and yes, just got another summons a few weeks ago. I have served on several small jury’s and had an encounter just this past fall on the inner workings of a federal grand jury. I have sat in a courtroom countless times and yet regardless of the size case or the severity of the case at hand – there has always been a common thread in the reactions of those awaiting the news of whether or not they would be called to serve.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.54.11 PMJury Duty. It’s funny how those two words stir such disgust in people. I was offered condolences. I was given a multitude of tips on how to get out of serving. And consistently across the board every single person made some kind of awful face at the news. My first time heading to a courthouse here in South Carolina – I put all of the warnings and advice aside, and went to fulfill my duty. And low and behold the attitudes of the people at the courthouse were even worse than those who had warned me not to go. It was a spectacle indeed. There were those overly dressed up and ready to demonstrate that they were just too important to be there. There were others who went to great pains to look awful; from their dress, to their facial expressions, to the way they sat in the chair – everything screamed – ‘you know you don’t want ME on this case’! There were those who appeared to be clueless…but didn’t seem to understand that there is a line between clueless and calculating. There were some who thought if they just looked out the window, they wouldn’t be called on as if this were high school (has that trick ever really worked even in school?). Even the lawyers and presiding judge made comments on the painfulness of this process and that it would all be over soon. I sat through that entire experience and came to one resounding conclusion…people hate trials.

It doesn’t matter whose trial it is…trials are inconvenient, stressful, painful, and hard. And yet… James, brother to Jesus, tells us to consider them pure joy. Specifically, he says Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’  (James 1:2-4) Surely, that is a typo right? No, after checking almost every translation available they all say to consider trials as pure ‘joy’ in each one. The only differing verbiage comes from The Message and it says that we should ‘consider it a sheer gift’ – what?! Trials, a gift? A joy?

lilypadsAbout 30 min from my house is a really unique place called Cypress Gardens. It is one of the area plantations – a sweet mix of history and beauty filled with random wildlife and scenic views. Sadly it bore the brunt of some major damage in a massive flooding we had this past fall and is currently closed to the public as they try to rebuild. When I was there a few years ago I loved so much about my experience, but was overcome by the massive swamp that encompassed a huge portion of this 170 acre plantation. The swamp was edge to edge lily pads. It was ridiculous. And in many cases there seemed no break – no glimpses of the water they floated in. It was amazing. The ‘water’ was about as disgusting as you could imagine; covered in a nice thick, green, slimy film; a perfect oasis for the many alligators that I knew lay hidden beneath. Why I found this to be so remarkable were the countless waterlilies laced throughout the entire swamp. Waterlilies that were pure white, unblemished, in full beautiful bloom – gorgeous – and all I could do was ask ‘how?’ How on earth could something so beautiful come out of something so disgusting?

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Intrigued by the beauty of the waterlilies I went home and ‘googled’ how they could grow in all of that yuck. Turns out – they were designed for the yuck. Rooted deep in the ground beneath the swamp waters – they rise tall and strong so that that their blossoms and their leaves come up tall above the swampy waters. For each lily pad you see on the water – a beautiful bloom was once attached.

James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds’; ‘you will face trials of many kinds- when you do think of it as pure joy’; ‘my friends consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way’; and my favorite – ‘consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.’ I hear that, I read that, I clearly see it printed before me and all I can do is ask ‘how’? How on earth can something so hard be counted as pure joy?

In Romans, Paul echoes these same thoughts… Romans 5:3-5 – “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.’

Peter later confirms…in 1 Peter 1:6-9 – “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And just in case, we haven’t quite gotten the picture just yet…

1 Peter 4:12-13 – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

There is not one of us that has escaped the experience of trials. Very rarely are they a once in a lifetime thing. For myself, trials have always been an underlying reality – in a way, like the waterlily, it seems as though I too was designed for the yuck. When I was little I lived in a home that had some pretty peculiar experiences. The youngest of three sisters we each had our own room – and we were each to stay in our own room. We had to ask permission to come downstairs – and that was usually only to ask a question, never to just hang out or play or watch TV.  I never learned to ride a bike, don’t remember ever playing on our swing set (though we did have one) and only once did I ever have a friend come over. We were not allowed to be in each other’s rooms. I often say it was like we were baby dolls placed on a shelf. When my mom wanted to play with us, she’d bring us off our shelf otherwise that is where we stayed. Now for me, as a mom of four very active children – in need of interaction and quality time and affection and conversation and fuel to their overactive dramatic minds and hearts – I am blown away by the reality that was my childhood. There were times of great sadness and loss, there were times of great fear and insecurity, and the details (too great and too numerous for any retelling) were anything but beautiful. That said, I can tell you that I absolutely look back and count it all joy. I found solace in the comfort of stuffed animals. I found creativity in the multitude of coloring books and stories that filled my shelves. I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone…as my sisters each endured and struggled. Oddly I look back on my childhood and it looks strikingly like the swamps of Cypress Gardens. Gross, disgusting, nothing you would want to swim in and yet out of it came something beautiful. I am not defined by my past or my upbringing. I have no disclaimers that say ‘because of these choices, because of these trials, Sarah is this …’

As an adult, the trials simply took on new form. I can easily think of financial trials and countless trials over failing cars. I can go back to multiple times of stress and busyness that placed a strain on my marriage. I can recall difficulties that arose in my pregnancy with Lacie and the hard questions and decisions regarding her health and life. I have vivid memories of enduring a miscarriage alone in the floor of my master bathroom. I can recall a few toxic friendships and poor choices in college. I can still instantly tear up as I recall the Lord allowing everything I loved – friends, work, church, and at the time…my purpose and heart – to be ripped from me with no clear explanation. I cringe a bit at the uncertainties of job changes and the unknowns of ‘what’s next’ that even face me right now. In John 16:33, John sums it up simply ‘in this world you will have trouble…but take heart (find joy, realize the gift) I (Jesus) have overcome the world.’

My sweet friend when it comes to the trials that we face in life – find comfort in the fact that we were designed to rise above the trials. We need to root ourselves into the deep soil that is Jesus Christ – and when we have, He will help us to rise tall and strong even in the most unlikely of scenarios. We have to stop looking angrily at the trials that come our way or that were our past. We have to look for how His hand held onto us…how His hand holds us still. A great pastor, Wayne Corderio explained it this way (and I’m merely paraphrasing) ‘sometimes we go through times of trial where instead of God lifting us over it he grabs us by the hand and drags us right through it. Sometimes that process of dragging us on the ground is repetitive. We are battered and beaten, but even in the dragging – he never let’s go of our hand.’ …even in the dragging – he never let’s go of our hand!

It is a fair question to ask…how on earth can something beautiful come from something so disgusting? Perseverance, character, hope, endurance, and a deepened faith in Christ – beautiful! Thank you Lord – if this is what brings me closer to you then keep on dragging me Lord – yes, I will count it ALL joy!

Caught Off Guard

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As a mom of four, a children’s director to 100’s and a Christ follower for over three decades – I am always looking for God in everything. I try to find the teachable moments that will resonate for my kids; those tangible moments where you can take a scripture or a truth from God’s word and watch it come alive through an illustration, an experience or even a story. Last week I was overwhelmed by such an encounter and sat down to capture it here so that I could remember. Now, normally when I write, I average a cool 15 or so folks reading it at best. So imagine my surprise when my simple retelling of a night at the movies hit numbers in the 6 digit range as it was shared all over the world.

I confess that the reaction has caught me somewhat off guard. I wasn’t writing it so much to illicit a response as I was hoping to just capture a moment. But as I am prone to do – I have spent the week trying to find God through this experience. What was the reason? What was the take away? What was He trying to teach me? It’s a funny thing, seeking after God – you will undoubtedly always find Him, but He will not always give you the answers you are after; a purposeful twist in having us continually looking for Him further. 😉

I can’t really say ‘and here is why the Lord allowed this,’ but here are a few take aways that it has brought to mind.

  • People are funny. I received an outpouring of thoughts and comments on the things that I wrote and among those were some pretty funny questions. Questions that I will not be answering, but found funny nonetheless.
    • Am I going to start doing movie reviews on all movies now?
    • Your kids don’t really talk that way do they?
    • (and my personal favorite) You are aware that you’re not a perfect mom, right? 😉
My only response to these and other questions posed: ‘For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.’  Galatians 1:10 HSCB

 

  • IMGP6694You are watched even when you’re not paying attention. The first thing that came to mind through this experience was a game of hide-n-seek that I played with my first born when he was just three years old. He thought he was so perfectly hidden behind the curtains in his room – when as you can see from the picture – it was pretty evident where he stood. Very often we don’t pay attention to those around us – we don’t notice if they are watching us or if they hear the things we say. We throw a thought or comment on social media, we go about our daily routines, we carry on…normally with our own objectives and plans in mind and little else. We forget that people might be observing the things we say or do. We underestimate the example we are or the witness we could be. If we claim to be followers of Christ – people will be listening, people will be observing. Do the things you believe and claim match the life you live? Are you someone that draws others toward Christ or make them want to run the other direction?
‘For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.’ John 13:15 HSCB

 

  • Words are powerful. I am a lover of ‘words’. Words have the power to bring forth untapped emotions. They can bring healing and hope. They can tear down and destroy. They can be used to demonstrate unbelievable amounts of love or to inflict unspeakable levels of hurt. Words that have been written can be revisited over and over or used as walls to hide behind as we throw out anything and everything toward another. In the course of this last week I experienced both sides of that coin; powerful words of encouragement and gratefulness…biting words of disagreement and anger. While I did not feel the need to respond to either of these positions – how it resonated that it was because of my words that these strong emotions rose up. Our words are powerful. Are we building each other up? Are we tearing each other down? Are we driving anger or hate or are we seeking to bring moments of hope? The gift of words has been given to each of us – how are we yielding this powerful weapon?
‘I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’ Matthew 12:36-37 HSCB

 

  • My God is far bigger than me. I don’t really need to elaborate much on this one. I am mess of a woman. I am flawed in many ways. I am terribly busy with the things of this life. I am hopelessly sarcastic. I am insecure. I have a long list of titles (mama, wife, best friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, boss, teacher, writer, enemy, Christ-follower…). I am just ‘me’. But God can and does do a lot with the ‘just me’s’ of this world. My plan was to capture a moment, God clearly had something else in mind.
‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ Proverbs 19:21 NIV

 

  • The rocks WILL cry out. At the end of the day I have absolutely no clue why that article spread to so many so quickly. I don’t know how the Lord fully used my words, and I am totally aware and fully confident that this time next week I will be resting comfortably again with my faithful 15. What I do know is that at every moment and in every opportunity I want to bring Him glory…in what I say, what I do…what I write. If I take nothing else away from this…if I can do nothing but encourage you – may it be in this…In the good moments – proclaim His glory. In the difficult times – praise His name. In the random, in the planned, in the unexpected, in the funny, in the serious…in all things at all times may we see Him, honor Him, praise Him, glorify Him and point others toward Him.
‘Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…’ ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭96:2-4‬a NIV

 

An Unlikely View…a Different Review

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untitledAs I sit here this evening – I am overwhelmed with words and emotion and yet unsure how to express either. Days ago, I walked into a movie theater to view a movie I had been excited about since I had first heard it was in the works. Beauty and the Beast. I was 15 years old when the animated version came out. I remember watching it with my sister when she was home on break from college. I remember at the time feeling so moved by such a beautiful movie. The story hit me personally somehow; the music moved me; the characters impacted me. I remember even then thinking – how can this beautifully crafted cartoon have such an affect on me? So to say that I was both excited and nervous about the live action version is a bit understated. Excited to revisit a favorite in a new way and yet nervous because what if they totally destroyed the story I loved so much (it is after all Hollywood, where that is pretty par for the course).

Weeks before the movie was to be released – the world suddenly seemed turned on it’s side – as various reports about additional elements in the movie began to spin. I listened and observed an anger rise up in many; I heard the actual cries of ‘kill the beast’ at the hint of an ugliness that may be present in the film. Based on little information – I saw decisions made, lines drawn, and judgments locked in. I began to research sources that I trusted, and their reviews didn’t seem to align with the many angry voices I kept hearing. So four days ago, with girlfriends in tow, I went to see this newest version of my all time favorite animated movie. It was overwhelming. The cinematography, the music, the costumes, the littlest details, the story. It was far more beautiful than I was prepared for. The story so true to the original and the additional elements that were laced in – so perfectly placed and rich. For as much as I was swept away and entrenched into this poor provincial town – I did view certain moments and characters through the lens of the reviews I had heard before walking into the theater. Did I notice anything? Was there an agenda? Was there a moment? Those things couldn’t help but cross through my mind – as I watched from the perspective of ‘mama’, ‘minister’ and even just ‘friend’ for I knew I would be questioned from each of these vantage points. As I processed, I was so very moved by the character in question; watching a transformation of heart and conscience change him – I felt so proud. Then watching a hopeless ‘beast’ understand where his choices had lead him and yet he was able to hope again and an absolute jerk of a character, who swayed the masses and yet never learned a thing…I cannot say enough.

IMG_3599I knew that I wanted to take my two oldest children – my 12 year old – who is wired just like his mama with a deep heart and an overall love for theater and musicals; and my 9 year old, who has struggled thus far in life in often living out the role of Gaston more times than not. As we made our way to the theater, I had a little heart-to-heart with the kids. I asked them to do me a favor as they watched the movie tonight…I asked them to watch it with God in mind. I challenged them both to see if they could find any ‘God moments’ in the film. The opening monologue that spoke of there being no good in the beast – immediately had my 12 year old leaning over – saying ‘right there…that’s a God moment. Without God – there is no good in any of us’. The movie carried on and it soon got to the scene where the beast saves Belle from the wolves. My 9 year old leaned over and asked ‘why would he do that mama? why would he save her?’ – My simple answer in the moment was ‘because he is not evil’ – Her response ‘It’s God in us that would cause us to make decisions like that, isn’t it?’ Needless to say, I laid a challenge down to my kids and they both quickly affirmed they were up for that challenge. I soon began to look at the movie through this lens as well. Can I tell you how even more remarkably beautiful this movie became with God in mind?

free in christAs we walked out of the theater – my oldest was choked up. ‘Mom…the scene where the beast changes back to a man. That’s what happens when we give our hearts to Christ. The bad choices we made, the ugliness that may have been all over us – is cleared away. We are made new in Him.’ My Lacie chimed in ‘Mama, he had no hope. He thought he would be a beast forever – but with love he found that hope. That’s God, right? If God is love, we can find our hope in him, right?’ Back to my oldest…’The character of Gaston was a lot like Satan. Satan often makes himself look ‘beautiful’ but there is no good in him. There was no good in Gaston – none – and yet everyone (except a few) were swayed by his appearance. What a scary realization that so many can be so easily swayed by the enemy.’ The conversation continued the entire way home.

This movie was not created to be a catalyst for the gospel. It was not designed with an agenda to lead people to the cross or challenge them in their walk with the Lord…and yet that is exactly what our family took away. Was there sin in the movie – yes. There was a hateful man that treated women and men like the dirt beneath his feet, who lied, who abused, who lifted himself above everyone else. There was the inclusion of magic, of prejudice, the belittling of women, the hint of homosexuality, the abuse of the elderly, the worship of idols to name just a few. Not a one of these sins greater than the next; not a one less ungodly than the the other. None of them so blatant – all just a piece of the tapestry of the film. As a mama, I had a choice. I could have pointed out all of these things to my children before going into the theater.I could have painted a picture of hating all of these things and they would have watched the movie through that lens – absolutely. Instead, I asked them to view with God in mind. They did observe those same things, these sinful moments, but with the perspective of God in mind they viewed them with a broken heart, from a place of understanding our need for Jesus in this world. My little girl hopeful that she too would come to a place where she trusted the hope that is in Jesus – that she doesn’t have to be a ‘beast ‘ forever. My oldest challenged in his faith, strengthened in his walk. Their mama moved beyond what she can adequately express.

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The lessons I gleaned with God in mind tonight…are too many to elaborate on in an already long message. However, in one of the new songs written for this version of Beauty and the Beast – the words read ‘Love is beauty, love is pure. Love pays no mind to desolation. It flows like a river through the soul. Protects, proceeds, and perseveres and makes us whole.’ How can we not see God in those words?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

I will simply say … when we look for evil, we will find it – every time. It won’t be hard to find and we won’t even have to look too deep…if humans are a part…sin will be present. When we look for God – He can and will be found. Every time. Put that lens of ‘looking for Him’ on – it is amazing what He will allow you to see.

How to free a hummingbird…

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IMG_6516About 4:00pm on Tuesday, I was getting ready to prepare dinner – homemade lasagna night! 😉 Got all of the ingredients out and realized that we had used all of the cheese on taco night the evening before. Cheese is a pretty crucial ingredient when cooking lasagna and I had already gotten it locked in my head that this is what we were having so I loaded up the kids and started off to the store. I had gotten as far as our neighbor’s house when I heard my, then, sweet four year old say – ‘I don’t have shoes.’ Sigh. Brakes. Garage door open. Out he runs as fast as his little legs could take him and just as fast he was back – shoes in hand – yes, hand – but at least we had them. Around 20 minutes later we were back at the house and to my surprise the garage door was open. Somehow with the in-and-out of my little man, I had not closed it as I pulled out. Oops.

As I drove into the garage, Isaac matter of factly said, ‘Mom, there’s a hummingbird in the garage.’ To which I quickly responded ‘No there isn’t!’ Several rounds of this back and forth commenced until I finally got out and looked at our ceiling and brilliantly said, ‘There’s a hummingbird IN our garage.’ Bless this sweet hummingbird’s heart – he was so very scared and so very dumb. As we began to watch him (and of course name him – Squeakers), he just kept flying to the ceiling. He kept looking up, hitting his head on the ceiling – over and over and over. I tried countless things to try and get him out – even pulling the car back out of the garage so that nothing would block his exit out. None of this worked. He just continued to flutter across the ceiling. Soon my concern for him melting in the heat of my garage became frustration over how dumb a bird are you? There is a massive opening a foot below you – and you won’t look down and go out?!? Dumb bird!Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.09.55 PM

 

A few days ago, I shared this story with some friends and did so from the perspective of a mama’s role in leading her children. But as I work my way through the book of James, stumbling onto today’s verses in James 2:12-13 – ‘Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.’ I suddenly see this real life illustration played out in a much different way. It was roughly 95 degrees in our garage that day. I tried for several hours to encourage this bird to get out and no matter what I attempted to do – he continued to hit his head on the ceiling or hide on top of the garage door. I wanted him to be free. I knew that the conditions he was currently in would literally be the death of him. My approach began gentle and sweet, but as time ticked by and my dinner began to get delayed – I began to just get frustrated. And yes, even coming to that moment of ‘well if you want to stay in the garage and get hungry, hot and die – that’s on you bird!’ But instead of leaving him to his own demise, I Googled ‘how to remove a hummingbird from your garage.’ First words were ‘It is very easy to remove a hummingbird from your garage.’ Like poo it is – we’ve been at it for over two hours and that stinker is still hanging out in there! But with simple suggestions of being mindful of it’s fears, helping to create a focus, and having everything point clearly to the light outside that gives freedom – he will quickly leave. We removed the kids, set out red objects to help focus it’s attention, kicked on the headlights and soon he flew right out. When I tried to get in the way, with my attempts of freeing it – it only scared it more and sent it flying in the wrong direction. When I gave up, judging it as a dumb bird – it gave up and just sat – still stuck – in our garage. But when I realized that I wasn’t going to be the thing that saved it and set it free…when I realized that my attempts were only condemning it – I knew I had to change my approach. 

My approach with people has to change as well. I am not to judge, not to think I know what is best for what will set them free or that I can help them see the light. Did you catch verse 12? God’s law is what gives freedom. If I judge others, if I intervene with my opinions and thoughts, I’m not extending grace or mercy and may very well be sending them in the very opposite direction. Mercy triumphs over judgement. Stop casting judgement, start showing mercy. Thank you ‘Squeakers’ for this reminder!

My prayer for Today…

IMG_6513Lord – It is such a temptation to want to cast judgment on others. It is so easy to think my words or opinions could be THE thing that will help someone else see the light. Woo, glory forgive me for those moments of such arrogance and pride. May I never forget that I will never see all of what is going on in the heart and life of that other person. I may not – but you do. May I realize that my words, my actions, my judgements may in fact turn them off to Christ. But mercy Lord! That is what you’ve called me to. ‘Mercy’ – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone
whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. My words could so easily hurt, my actions could so easily punish…but that is not what you called me to. You in fact say that you’ve got that covered. Mercy – compassion over punishment; forgiveness over harm. Glory Lord. May I love them as you’ve called me to – you are the one that will teach them the lessons they need to
learn; you are the one that will challenge them, grow them and refine them. May I not just listen to these words Lord – may I DO them. Thank you for the mercy you have continually shown to me Lord. Continually! Love you so greatly! In Jesus name – Amen!

Do I REALLY have to touch THAT?

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So…for a wordsy girl, I am feeling a little quiet this afternoon. (And everyone breathes a sweet sigh of relief! 😉 Finding myself with a few – highly sought after – quiet moments – the thoughts and burdens of ministry seem to be sitting heavy on my chest. God called me to be a wife, He called me to be a mama, He called me to lead in my church, He called me to be a friend – there is not an aspect of my life that isn’t drenched in ministry. There is so much joy in it, and there is so much heaviness to it. There are moments you feel so high and excited as you see light bulbs go off in the eyes of another, as you hear His word spoken, as you see love wash all over the face of your child…and there is such sadness when the realization there is only so much you can do hits. All of it – the joys and triumphs, the helplessness and sadness – bring with it a roller coaster ride of various forms but it truly is so worth it – as it all ties back to my relationship with Christ. There are moments in ministry, in family, in life where we are faced with a choice. Let it consume us or let it glorify Him. Reminded me of an experience I had sometime back…

Many years ago my husband selflessly allowed me to sneak away for a weekend alone so that I could have some one-on-one time with my Jesus. No, I didn’t go to any kind of conference. No, I didn’t go with a laid out or detailed plan. No, I didn’t take anyone with me. It was just me, my Bible, my praise music, my Bible study on James and my Jesus. It was a sweet time. It held moments of great emotion, moments of intense excitement (LOVE studying His great and powerful word!), and just tender moments of working through the hidden areas of my heart. But those details…I will keep between me and my sweet Jesus.

photo (11)This weekend stands out in my mind, honestly, because of what I found when I arrived at my get away retreat. Forgive the picture, but I needed the visual for you to understand. When I arrived and pulled into the driveway…this little guy pictured here was laying in the middle of the driveway. Seriously, gross, right? Now maybe I’d been hanging out with my, then, three adventurous kids for too long, but I had to check him out. Not that I am going to ask you to, but if you click on it and look closer the little bugger is completely missing a leg. I don’t know what this thing got himself into…but love his heart it did not come out well for him. And suddenly I found myself with a dilema…what do I do with him?

 

Options…

  1. Though obviously dead…back the car over him repeatedly to verify death.
  2. Find something to throw over it – covering it up so I don’t have to look at it.
  3. Pretend like I never saw him (though being right in the middle of the driveway…that was going to be a stretch).
  4. Find a shovel and remove him to his final resting place in the woods.
Now put a pause on this scene from the nature channel…and fast forward to why I went away that weekend. I went away for some focused time with my Jesus, but what does that mean exactly? Well, it was time to pray over those the Lord has placed in my life. It was time to dive deeper into His Word and try to learn more about this great God. But it was also a time to get real with the Lord; to look at those areas of my heart and my life, that I have been trying to hide away from the Lord. Those areas that we (who are all sinners) should always be seeking to unravel and allow the Lord access to. I don’t know about you but this can be a scary thing to do sometimes. Do I allow the Lord full access into my heart? Do I allow him into places that I myself sometimes don’t want to go? And suddenly I am faced with some options…
  1. Do I replay past events, past choices, past sins repeatedly to verify that I am worthless?
  2. Do I find something to throw over that area of my life to cover it it up so I just don’t have to look at it?
  3. Do I pretend that those areas just don’t exist? Why even bring them up with the Lord – let’s focus on the good stuff and pretend those aren’t there?
  4. Do I get down on the ground, even it takes an ocean of tears, even if it’s painful, even if it gross…and just remove it and allow the Lord to put the junk in it’s final resting place?
Back to my little friend…as I considered my options I really did begin to lean toward pretending it wasn’t there and just trying to avoid it…but it became all I could think about. First of all it was just icky. But let’s say I did leave it – what if it encouraged other critters to come out and feast on it right there by my car? ‘Ick’ intensified. As much as I wanted to just walk away – that was not a viable solution. I wish you could have seen me remove this thing. It’s not like I even had to get my hands dirty. I just had to grab a shovel, scoop it up (although scooping was more like pushing it across the driveway until I could gain some traction to scoop) and walk a few yards toward the woods. I barely touched it and that gag reflex came over me and I stood there shuttering. After a quick ‘man up’ speech…I pushed, scooped and carried the little bugger to it’s final resting place (head turned away the entire time). And like that…the problem was solved, the yuck was gone and I could move on.
You know where I’m going now, right? 😉 I won’t drag it out…don’t continue to beat yourself up over past choices. Don’t try to hide it away – hoping others but more importantly Jesus won’t see it. Don’t try to pretend that it doesn’t bother you, isn’t ‘that big a deal’ or think that avoiding it will prevent further pain. Avoiding it will only prevent further healing. Similarly don’t let current circumstances or situations have such victories in your heart and mind. Don’t beat yourself over what you could have done or should be doing. Don’t hide away and think that absense will just make it all go away. Don’t pretend there isn’t something there hurt, heavy or weighing. Grab your shovel…fall to your knees…there’s only one choice friend…
Praying for you.

NOT my favorite…

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IMG_6462A few years back, we decided to load the kids up and head to Carowinds Theme Park – just a short two and a half hour drive north. We had only been there twice before, never with a baby in tow, and never during a season when their waterpark area was also open. So this was a new experience to say the least, but was surprisingly fun for everyone. Well, on the whole it was fun, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that there were times throughout the day where someone struggled just a little. The struggle, surprisingly, wasn’t in the waiting in lines or in enduring the weather, as we had timed our trip for a less busy day and God blessed us with overcast conditions. No, the overall struggle that reared it’s head in several different ways was with fear.

We had been to Carowinds before where Isaac had come face-to-face with a roller coaster called ‘The Intimidator’. A large red coaster with lots of deep drops and that went pretty fast. At the time, he was not quite tall enough to ride it, but since that trip he has stressed and worried about the day when he would be tall enough. For months preceding this current trip – he would come downstairs well after he was supposed to be asleep – and tearfully share his concerns over the safety of this ride. Would it break? Would he get hurt? What if…? He had no knowledge of this coaster other than what his little eyes had taken in and therefore what he assumed about it. And the judgment call that his mind made was that it was scary and dangerous and that filled him with all kinds of fear and stress.

We were not at the park very long before we were able to get in line for the ‘Woodstock Express’ – a fun little wooden coaster that even my then four year old Caleb could ride. Caleb was excited to get to be my riding buddy and was ready for the adventure. We got into our seats, belted in and off we went. Suddenly that excitement disappeared. Where he had gotten into the car with his hands already flung high into the air, they soon lowered as we began to move and before the first turn he was gripping my t-shirt. When he saw the first little hill, well little to me, that we began to go over – he was done. Something in him realized that this is not normal and he was instantly afraid to get back on, claiming ‘it was too fast. Fast is NOT my favorite.’ He had placed judgement that the speed was too much, that he was unsafe and therefore he wanted to write it off.IMG_6476

Later in the day, I had a chance to ride a bigger coaster with Isaac and Lacie. It was the kind where the bar drops in over your head and your feet dangle in the air. I sat looking in the seat beside me and Lacie suddenly looked so small. And instant fear came through me as we began to move – ‘what if she falls out.’ I was overcome with anxiety over the safety of my children and yes, as silly as it sounds, prayed for their protection the entire ride.

I have thought of each of these moments on and off as I have been processing today’s verses from James. These are the first four verses found in chapter two and they read, ‘“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”‘ Stay with me a moment as The Lord has been pressing a thought in my mind that connects what James is saying and what I experienced. At face value, I look at the illustration James paints here and know that there have been times when I have made similar judgement calls. I have allowed the appearance of a person or situation to factor into my reaction and  my response. Making such judgement calls goes against so many things that the Lord asks us to do – ‘Love others more than yourself‘, ‘Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’, and on and on. In light of this situation, it is easy to see why one would pick a favorite – I have even see the reverse where the one who was dirty and poor was thought of more highly than the rich one. But what keeps ringing in my head is not that we tend to choose favorites, that we tend to make assumptions, that we tend to do for one and not another…what keeps blasting in my head is – why? Why do we do these things? Why is it that so often we can make assumptions, judgments and even decisions based on very little. In my opinion, it is because it is easier. Going after the one that looks like they have it all together, on the surface, makes it seem like we won’t have to get so dirty ourselves. Less work, less time, less energy, less time needing to pray about it and take it before the Lord…it just looks easier. What concerns me is how much of our lives we live in this way, making these assumptions, choosing favorites, looking for the nicely packaged deal. In relationships we look for the best friend, not the absolute mess. In jobs, we look for the most money with the least amount of work. In extra curricular time, we look to the fun not more work. We do these things for a number of reasons (selfishness, pride – sure), but I think there is fear in choosing the wrong thing. There is fear in being in a relationship with someone who requires more time and has nothing to offer to you. There is fear in working a job that is hard and offers just enough to live on. I think we tend to let the fears of this world, and our personal short-comings, overtake us. I think we tend to forget that we are to cast all of our cares on the Lord, that He desires to carry the burdens that this world places on us, that He loves us so much and that we are filthy rags that he reached down to make clean again. We let fear and uncertainty consume. We try to justify. We try to find the loop hole that makes it okay. Do you take every situation, every decision, every thought captive and to the Lord? Or do you let fear consume? Do you let uncertainty overwhelm? Do you let laziness dictate your actions and thoughts?

IMG_6465When we stepped into the theme park that day – we immediately went to ‘The Initimadator’ – knowing that it would ruin Isaac’s entire day if he had to stress and fret over this ride. We talked with him about how, as his parents, we would never intentionally put him in danger. We asked him to trust. When he got off of the ride, he looked at me and said ‘That was awesome.’ (followed by ‘I am a man!’ – ha!).

When we got off of ‘Woodstock Express’ and Chris saw the fear and tears in Caleb’s eyes – he scooped him up and said, ‘Come on, go ride this with your daddy’. He then began to tell Caleb – he was a Cinnamon. Cinnamons loved fast. He asked him to trust. Caleb got off the ride – ‘That was so cool. I love fast!’

As I sat, wrestling with my own fears – the Lord just washed over me – reminding me that no matter what He’s got in store for us – whether that’s here on earth or in heaven with him. He asked me to trust. And I got off the ride, big smiles and hugs – and told the kids ‘That was great!’ IMG_6479

God didn’t call us to the pretty. He didn’t call us to the easy. Not that we won’t have pretty, easy people and encounters in our lives. He called us to trust in Him, to love others more than ourselves and to be His. Favoritism, making judgments – shuts a door – let Him direct your thoughts, your decisions, your path. And praise Him, that He does not choose favorites himself! 😉

My prayer for Today…

Precious Lord, In everything may I make my requests to you. When faced with relationships – no matter how deep or surface-y; no matter the length of time I will spend with them (building deep trust or talking in the grocery store line) – may I look on them through your eyes. May I not turn away from one for another. May I not think I’m better. May I not be afraid of getting down on the floor and getting dirty. May I not be afraid that I’m less than. May I not get so consumed in my thoughts and fears, but be more concerned with loving as you have loved me. In situations where I have the opportunity to make a judgement call – may I look to you – what would you have me do, how would you have me respond. May I trust that in hard times you will hold me. May I trust that you don’t always call us to the difficult – but you do promise no matter what that you will be there to see us through. Forgive me for the many times I have chosen favorites. For the many times, I have been selfish and prideful. For the many times, I have just been so scared to seek you and trust you. I love you Lord. Thank you for not turning me aside, for not looking away, for not being afraid to get dirty, to take on both my pain and shame, for loving me so completely. For my friend reading this today, Lord, how I pray for them. I pray that they would trust you with an unwavering trust. I pray that every situation, every opportunity, they would put ‘self’ aside, they would seek you and they would trust your ‘whys’, they would trust your lessons, they would trust your outcomes. I thank you for loving them so perfectly, so deeply. May they feel that in immeasurable ways today Lord. Humbled by you today Lord. In you Jesus’ sweet name – Amen!

How to be His girl…

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The church I grew up in…

The home that I grew up in was fractured at best. I was a preacher’s kid. My father preached and my mother lead the choir. At church we were always dressed in our Sunday best, always smiling. We had to look the part and in most cases I believe we pulled that off. We had to keep superficial relationships, but even those remained at arms length because to get too close meant you might see imperfection, you might see chaos, hurt, anger, loneliness and levels of dysfunction too deep and painful to speak of here. What went on within the four walls that we called home was nothing of what was seen at church on Sunday…not even a shadow of the truth because we were a ‘religious’ family. We hid behind our title, we made sure that we did all of the right things and had all of the right appearances, most of all we made it a point to never tell the truth of what home life was like to anyone. Part of keeping up with those appearances was not only in what we didn’t say it was in what we didn’t do. We were religious…so that meant no joining the band, no going to parties, no real friendships with anyone ‘unchurched’, to name a mere few. There was never an option ‘to be real’ but always – always – we were to have it together. Somehow my parents, and many of their generation, thought they were adhering to these verses found in James – ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:26-27  They thought that by avoiding or ignoring the things of this world that was ‘keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.’ But that is NOT what James means here. How did they miss such obvious truth?

It has taken many painful years to learn to be genuine, to learn that ‘being religious’ is not the goal. I do not have it together -and to try to spend all of my time trying to convince you I do and not be concerned about your heart or your walk is foolish, and that time worthless. This is such a tender subject to me as it brings up childhood memories I would very much like left hidden away, but it is a subject that still rears it’s head up even today. Praise the Lord…let me say that one more time…PRAISE the LORD that He brought me out of that home and into a true understanding of what being His entails.

James concludes his thought by simply expressing that we need to be compassionate down to the ones who are at the lowest and most vulnerable position. That means we’re gonna have to get our hands dirty and we’re gonna have to risk our own hearts for the heart of another. Here is my paraphrasing – ‘You say you love Jesus. You say he is in your heart and who you live your life for. If that’s true that’s gonna be evident in how you live, how you love, how you accept, how you forgive, how you’re compassionate. It’s more than talk. If you’re just talking the talk – be quiet. If it is genuine – it will be evident by how it pours out of you. It’s gonna mean that you’re gonna have to step down from your high horse and get down and dirty. When you do get out in the world – to love the unloved, to encourage the broken, to hold the abandoned, to protect the insecure…protect your heart. In your attempts to love those of the world…don’t fall victim yourself.’ James NEVER says don’t be in the world. He NEVER says don’t reach out to the world. Just merely – remember that when you have faith in Jesus, he goes with you, he’s in you – don’t pollute that, don’t lose that, don’t neglect that hope. It’s not about being religious. It’s not about following an endless list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not about appearances. It’s about loving a God who is crazy in love with us. It’s about taking that love into the world. It’s about holding tight to Him so that the world that wants to suck us in can never get that grip. May we stop desiring to be religious and just desire to be His!

My prayer for Today…

Lord…this subject hits such a tender nerve with me.   Lord, at the end of the day…I want nothing more than to be your girl. I want to be a genuine reflection of the relationship that I have with you; loving others as you would love them, spreading the truth of your great love. I desperately long to lose the title of ‘religious’ and just simply be ‘yours’. Help me where I stumble…hold me when I fall. I love you…Amen.

Mirror, Mirror…

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clover-antique-silver-decorative-framed-wall-mirror-516607-0-1343678445000Mirror mirror on the wall, why must I look at you at all? Okay, let’s just get to it…”Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.’ James 1:22-25 NIV

Reading through this section I have to laugh, again, at how perfect James paints an illustration where I can relate. I can only speak for myself here, but I am not a fan of mirrors. I’m not really sure where this dislike for them originated, but nonetheless I’m not a fan. I am your atypical ‘glancer’. I glance quickly to make sure my outfit looks all right. I throw my hair up in some fashion and glance quickly to see that it doesn’t look too awful. And on the occasion that I put on make-up I don’t use a mirror at all. I’ve never really gotten caught up in how I look – not that this is a good thing – just one of my silly quirks. So I fully understand what James is talking about here. I look so quickly in and out of the mirror that I really don’t have a clue when I walk away of what I really look like. But I love this analogy because if we want to evaluate how we look our number one tool for doing that is by using a mirror. There is no real way to assess our appearance any other way. If I want to make sure my hair looks cute, my teeth are free of debris, that my skirt isn’t riding too high or if I need to get something out of my eye – I only have one recourse. We can go for a while avoiding mirrors, but eventually – we need to take that time to get things in check. God’s word, as James points out here, operates in very much the same way. If we think of His word as a mirror – it too is something that we peer into in order to see ourselves as we really are and we use it to adjust things so they are better. Knowing this, there are times that we want to just take a quick glance and keep going because if we look too closely we may see that we are not matching up to what is in His word. Or we may take the time to read – checking it off our list – but then walk away and live our lives the exact same way we did before we read – forgetting what we read almost instantly. Nothing changes, nothing is convicted and therefore nothing is altered, and very often we forget what we read anyway. I have to quote commentator, Warren Weirsbe, here – “If we are to use God’s mirror profitably, then we must gaze into it carefully and with serious intent. No quick glances will do. We must examine our own hearts and lives in the light of God’s Word. This requires time, attention, and sincere devotion.’ I think sometimes the reason that we only glance at God’s word is because we are afraid of what we might see. Because, as James says here, we can’t just read the word, we can’t even just hear the word, we MUST do what it says. I don’t know about you, but I feel the Lord convicting me more and more to search His word and let it become a part of whom I am. I am so guilty though of not taking the necessary time that might require. I make excuses; I give into distractions (sleep, schedules, laziness…) and don’t take that sweet time alone with Him. That is part of my challenge in this time, I think, to push myself to be in His word, to let it speak to me, to let it cast a light on areas of my life that needs altering, to have it push me, refine me and even encourage me.

This section of scripture really does feel like James is giving a lesson in simple math. Let’s break down what he’s saying here…

‘Do not merely listen to the word’ – There is more required to time in the Word than just hearing it preached on Sunday or by influential speakers. There is more required than just quickly reading through it on your own. More is required, but what?

‘Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves’ – If you just listen to a great podcast or make your way into a church building come Sunday morning – you are lying to yourself if you think that is going to ‘fix’ what’s stirring in your heart or even take you further in your walk with Christ. If you quickly read a few verses from your Bible or read through a powerful devotional and then go about your day without giving it any more thought – you are deceiving yourself to think that your life, troubles, relationships, experiences will be effected and impacted for Christ. If you think the checklist of listening and reading is good enough – you are lying to yourself.

‘Do what it says.’ – Short of grabbing a bottle of white out or scrolling quickly past this 4 word sentence on your phone…there is no way to misinterpret the meaning here. Don’t just listen, don’t just read…DO what it says. If we want to find peace through the storms and trials that come – we can read the Bible until we’re blue in the face and we won’t be able to weather the winds of those storms any better. Until we DO what His word says…Cast our cares on Him; trust in the Lord with all our heart; lay our sacrifice on the altar and go reconcile…we have to put what we read, what we hear into action in our lives. We HAVE to let His word – which is alive and active and living – transform our lives, our hearts, our attitudes, our words, our reactions, our emotions, our concerns…everything. Otherwise – we are lying to ourselves. Glory.

And then in case we are a little slow, stubborn (or not really listening to His word to begin with) he breaks it down just a little bit more. ‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror’ – now let’s stop here. Can we take a quick lesson from this man? He goes immediately to an example that not one single soul (short of some third world remote individuals) is unable to relate. Have you ever tried to explain your faith or your love for Christ and felt yourself get a little preachy or felt you had to articulate in some huge way? James is shooting that approach right in the foot. He’s bringing the gospel…Christ’s desire is that we understand Him and that He be accessible to us is so that He can in fact change our lives. He puts it in terminology and gives examples that we can immediately relate to and understand. What a fabulous example for us as we seek to bring people to the thrown of God! We can relate to looking in a mirror. We can feel the insecurities of what we see when we look in and how that affects the way we look in the mirror or the length of time. Instantly we are drawn into that emotion and experience – oh that we can speak the gospel with such transparent speech.

‘…and after looking at himself, immediately goes away and forgets what he looks like.’ If we immediately forget…did we really soak it in? Did we really ask ourselves the questions of how the verses could apply to our lives? Did we see hope and want to praise the Lord? Did we come away with questions and continually talk to Him throughout the day looking for answers? Were we challenged to go love, to go forgive, to ask for forgiveness, to let go, to turn away? If none of those things happened – what were we doing?

‘But whoever looks intently…’
* Firmly fixed; concentrated
* Engrossed
* Having the mind and will focused on a specific purpose – Oh! To look at His word                     like that…may that be our prayer!

‘…into the perfect law that gives freedom…’ – note it doesn’t say ‘that gives you lists and lists of rules that you must adhere to’; it doesn’t say ‘that is hard to understand and leaves you frustrated and confused’; it doesn’t say ‘that is just fluff with no real purpose or meaning’ – NO – it says ‘that gives FREEDOM’ – why are we skipping over this so quickly? Why aren’t our quiet times more intentional and focused? Why do we hope the morsels tossed at us on Sundays will be enough to keep us fed throughout the week? His word gives freedom.

…not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it’ – yes, he’s clearly already said this, but isn’t repetition the father of learning? In other words…he’s trying to drive home a lesson here!

Looking intently + the perfect law that gives freedom + continually doing this + not forgetting + DOING it = being ‘blessed in what they do’. Simple math that we WAY overcomplicate.

When is the last time you sat gazing into His Word? More then just listening to His Word – what is He is calling you to DO? What is causing you to forget; what is preventing you from doing?

My prayer for Today…

Lord, I love reading your word. I love how practical and identifiable you drive your message home. I confess that these verses hit a nerve in me Lord. Far far too often I merely glance at your word – and think that the tidbit of truth I consume will be enough to hold me for long periods of time. I read, but then trials come up and suddenly the truth of your love, your plan for me, your grace, your magnitude suddenly jump out of my head and I forget how big of a God you are. Forgive me Lord for my pride – thinking I can manage any portion of my life without having you intentionally guiding my steps. Forgive me for my arrogance – thinking that ‘good enough’ is what you’ve called me to . Forgive me for knowing the things you’ve called me to do, but for a slue of reasons, I just don’t do them. Lord – it is so clear here . May I dive deeper into your word. May I realize it will be the answer to all of my ‘what if’ questions, it will give me the direction I seek, it will affirm your love for me. But then once I take that time, may I actually DO what it says I should do. Thank you for the simplicity. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for my friend here – may they look intently on you and do what your words says, as well. We love you so preciously! – Amen