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…


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



1175106_10151818009453566_1388293132_nDo you ever get onto Facebook and it reminds you of something that took place on this day, so many years ago? I have a horrible memory – so I’ve come to really value those reminders from the past. Today I got one of those reminders and I couldn’t help but get tickled because it was SO perfect for where the Lord has been taking me in Scripture. It was a small blurb about how my daughter had gotten ridiculously and needlessly angry. Earlier in the week, my three older kids had been preparing for getting to spend Saturday with their grandma. Grandma had thrown some ideas out to the kids but ultimately assured them no matter what they decided they would have fun. That morning when she came to get some love from the baby and pick up the other three – she mentioned to the kids that they would need to put their shoes on because she was taking them to the park to play. Without hesitation, without a breathe,
immediately got angry. “But you said you were going to take us to Celebration Town to jump on the jumpy castles…you said!’, apparently this was one of the options thrown out in their brainstorming. We encouraged Lacie to just get her shoes on and that she was going to have a great day, but she was already too upset. Instant frustration washed all over her face, her voice got loud as she reiterated ‘but you said!’ and she stormed up the steps to get her shoes. Grandma just sat there silently. In moments Lacie was back down, putting her shoes on, inwardly grumbling, and that’s when Grandma decided to speak. She said ‘Lacie, Celebration Town does not open until 10am, so I was going to take you to the park to play until they opened. But now…because of your reaction…we will not be going.’ Ouch!

Tell me this memory is not perfect in light of today’s verses – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ James 1:19-21. I would wager to say that we could think of many such scenarios where our children are in fact slow to listen (do they listen, really?), quick to pop off at the mouth and super quick to let frustration and anger pour out of them. It’s one thing when they are kids…but when we still behave this way as adults…woo. (You will notice I avoided any personal stories of myself here today – that was not by accident. 😉  I have read these verses countless times in my Christian walk. I have quoted verse 19 to my children, to my friends, to myself  – repeatedly. But will confess that I usually don’t think much of the rest of the passage. Now I am a rule follower, ‘get the task done’ kind of girl…so of course when James gives us an instruction… I’m only gonna focus on the instruction itself. But he didn’t just give an instruction – as you can see he also gives the reason for it. And that is something worth noting today. In particular what stands out to me in this passage is the phrase to ‘humbly accept the word planted in you.’ Hhhmmm… ‘which can save you.’ Don’t make the same mistake that I have so many times before. Don’t discount the importance of the words in this verse. For some reason I can’t seem to get this phrasing out of my head and in fact it has me thinking of the parable of the four soils found in three of the gospels. Particularly in Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus is telling a parable about four different types of soils and the seeds that were trying to be planted in each. Following his story, Jesus goes on to explain that the seed along the path is ‘when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart (Matthew 13:19).’ The seed that fell on the rocky places? This ‘is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (Matthew 13:20-21).’ For the seed that fell among thorns, Christ said that it represented ‘the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).’ And finally there is the seed that fell on the good soil…this ‘is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop… (Matthew 13:23).’ 

What I really love is how these words – directly spoken from Jesus’ mouth – are reaffirmed here in James. When Jesus is explaining the parable he tells us that the planting of the seed is when we hear or receive the word of God. If you will notice the first three don’t really listen. They half listen (in one ear out the other, kind of thing) or if they have questions they just don’t care to find the answers. Or they hear but still allow the hardships, or as Jesus said ‘persecutions’, worries and fears to cause them to flee from it. Okay – let’s stop – hasn’t James been telling us to get ready, trials and hardships are coming? You know what he is doing? He is tilling our hearts getting them ready for this seed of God to be able to really take root. Don’t you love that? Even in verse 18 he spoke of how the truth of the word was a first fruits of God. Do you see how God is incorporating these scriptures? Oh, it gets me so excited. Okay, so we see the Lord telling us, through James, that moral filth and evil are prevalent – we also see that in Matthew in the example of the four soils, that if we don’t get deeply rooted in the word, in Christ – it will take barely anything for that to be snatched away.

What a challenge to you and me. If we are not grounded in Him…if He is not the root of hearts…if we are not in the strong rich soil of His Word…if that Word is not planted in us – we will be devoured, our joy robbed and we will go nowhere. And if that weren’t challenge enough, James goes on to talk about how we should humbly accept the Word planted in us. We’ve already heard him explain that we need to be careful to walk in humility, but even Christ demonstrates this idea by explaining that the seed that hit the rocky places – sprang up quick – it was all about the ‘high’, the ‘look at me’ kind of moment. I would even venture further to say it’s the person that takes on the roles of Christian – a door greeter, one who does hospital visitation, who volunteers in the kids area, whatever – the one who becomes all about ‘looking the part’, but never taking the time to really grow in the Lord. Pridefully taking on roles or positions so that others will think – look at her, now that is one Godly girl, getting them-self ‘off the hook’ from having to actually become a Godly girl. (Oh, I would love to say that I have never fallen into that trap). And then – as if there haven’t been enough parallels – James finishes this section by telling us that humbly accepting the Word in us is what saves us! Jesus explained that we can hear the Word all day long, we can even know that He is Christ – but if we don’t let that take root, if we don’t let that change us, and if we don’t reproduce that seed to help yield a harvest – we will be snatched up, devoured, scorched, trampled, choked…in other words we will not survive without His word planted in us! God’s word is amazing. God is amazing!

So what is preventing the Word from being planted in us…well, if we are filled with moral filth and evil – there is no room for His Word to reside in us too. So we need to get rid of that junk. When does the moral filth take root? When our anger gets a hold of us so much that there is no place for His righteousness. Why does our anger get to that breaking point where there is no room for His righteousness and we give way to moral filth and therefore cannot have his word planted in us? When we are slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry. Hhhmmm…Quick to listen? When I think about it – the times that I am furthest from the Lord (where I haven’t been spending time with Him in His Word or in prayer), I have a quick temper, no patience and seem to just get angry on a dime. The times where I am deep in His Word, really seeking His face and trying to be about Him…I have a patience that can’t be explained. Being quick to listen is what got the first three guys in the soil examples into trouble and away the Lord. It got Lacie sitting on the sidelines instead of having fun with jump castles. It is a challenge for us – but such a worthy one, wouldn’t you agree? So are you quick to listen? Are you slow to anger? Time to get into that deep soil and let His word take root in you. Praying for you today.

My prayer for Today…

Lord, again I stand amazed by how connected and intertwined your Word is from one book to the next. I admit Lord, that there have been times where I have been in the wrong part of the field. There have been countless times, even recently, where I have been put to the test – will I be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger or will I only half listen – inserting all of my opinions and judgments into the mix; quick to speak – making sure the stupidity of the situation is made clear, spouting what I believe to be right and true; quick to anger – where in a split second I suddenly become like a cartoon character – eyes bulging, steam pouring from my ears with my head about to blow. First, I thank you Lord that in those moments it has been your Word, your truth, your encouragement found in Scripture that has quieted my voice and calmed my heart. I thank you Lord for the wisdom and guidance found in the words of Jesus, your son, and James, his brother. I thank you Lord for the reassurance that having your Word within keeps the various experiences of this world from devouring my heart and mind. Lord, help me as I hear of wrongdoings to a family member, help me as I hear pains of a friend, help me as I witness a family falling a part, help me when it is all directed at me or inadvertently in my path. May I hold to you, look to you, trust in you. May I remember that for every inch of space I give over to anger, that is one less inch of space for finding joy. The two can’t take up the same space. Which will I choose? Which will my friend here choose? I praise you Lord for your aword and knowing that it can, it does, it has, it will – SAVE us. We praise your name!!! I love you more each day sweet Jesus! In your name I pray – Amen!

Even in the Shadows


shadows‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.’ James 1:16-18 NIV

Today, if you will humor me, I just want to look at the simplicity of these verses.

Every good and perfect gift is from above…how often do we try to chalk things up to coincidence, or attach some other ‘thing’ to it…when clearly, plainly – the things we experience, the things gifted to us are from Him; simply from Him…for us.

Our Father in heaven – does not change like shifting shadows…how often do we humanize God? There are countless people…most people I would dare say…that we encounter who, in time seem to change like a shifting shadow. Their expectations don’t get met. They get bored or uncomfortable. We begin to go in a direction that they don’t desire to go in. They say one thing, but do another. Their behavior completely changes like shifting shadows…and whether intentionally or not, we begin to think that God operates in much the same way. ‘Sure he’s giving us something good now, but it won’t last. He’ll go away; He’ll take it away; He’ll expect something I can’t give,’ and the list goes on.

The word of truth…the Bible we hold in our hands, scroll through on our phones, study in moments of quiet, look to in moments of desperation, sing to in times of worship – His Word, His Scripture…is truth.

Why is it so easy for us to discount what the Lord is doing? Why is so easy to think less of Him than we should? When He allows something good in our life, why do we quietly wait for ‘the catch’ or for the bottom to just suddenly fall out. Why do we sing of how great His love is, but when we are at our worst, feel He could never really love us. Why can be believe some aspects of the Bible (he was born of a virgin, he died on a cross, he rose again), but we question when it says that he takes great delight in us. I don’t know about you , but when I’m at my lowest…when the trials are most painful and the temptations are great…my ‘go to’ question can tend to be ‘God, where are you?’ Today I want to take one of His most precious gifts, His Word, His truth, and see that when He says He does not change like shifting shadows – He backs that truth up again and again. He means what He says. You may be tempted to skip through these…but I challenge you to read each one and allow the truth, the promise and the hope to resonate within you.

He never changes…He is from everlasting to everlasting…

  • Malachi 3:6 – I the Lord do not change.
  • Psalm 90:1-2 – Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
  • Nehemiah 9:5b – Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.
  • Isaiah 40:28 – Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He is eternal…forever…lasting from generation to generation…

  • Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.
  • Daniel 6:26 – I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and
    reverence the God of Daniel. ‘For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.’
  • Lamentations 5:19 – You, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.
  • Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:18 – So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
  • Psalm 100:5 – For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He is the I AM…yesterday, today, forever…

  • Exodus 3:14a – ‘God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM.’
  • Revelation 1:8 – ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’
  • Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
  • Psalm 102:25-27 – In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.

He is our rock…our firm foundation…

  • Psalm 18:2 – The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Deuteronomy 32:4 – He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
  • Psalm 40:2 – He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
  • Colossians 1:17 – He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
  • 2 Timothy 2:19 – Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’

He never fails…He never leaves

  • Luke 1:37 – For no word from God will ever fail.
  • Isaiah 14:24 – The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.’
  • Matthew 28:20b – And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
  • Hebrews 13:5b – Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
  • Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  • Isaiah 43:2-3a – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God.

How often the enemy tries to deceive and tell us something so different from what you see above. How awesome that this list does not even skim the surface of what scripture says about the unending, consistent, solid, powerful, and eternal God that we love and who loves us! What a beautiful reminder of a wonderful God who’s crazy about someone like me…like you. Hoping you are soaking Him in today!

My prayer for Today…

My precious Savior, how I love you. Lord, you have brought me through some exceedingly difficult times. Challenges and changes that I could never have envisioned have quickly and quietly snuck in and out over few years. And Lord, while in my head I know you say you love me and that you will be my refuge, my strength, one that will not leave me – how many times have I questioned – where are you? How patient you are with me. Thank you for the gift of your Word. What I read in one place, you back up in another. What I question, you confirm again and again. I have seen, even just this week, people who operate like shifting shadows. I’ve seen hypocrisy at it’s finest. May I not take those experiences that I’ve witnessed and presume that you would dare operate in the same fashion. What you say – you do. What you promise – you fulfill. No shifting. Nothing hidden in the shadows. You are who you say are. You do what you say you will do. Help me to continue to remember that as truth! What greater reason to find joy! To my friend reading with me today – in the good times or bad, may they hold to the truth of your word. May they find rest in you, hope in your word, joy in your truth. When they don’t have answers, may they look to your Word. When they are discouraged or down, may they trust that they can hide themselves in you. Where even in the shadows you stand strong. Thank you Lord. In Jesus’ sweet name – Amen!

Are you kidding me?


evaporatingdishHave you ever done something completely stupid? Not just a ‘that was dumb’ kind of moment, but an all out ‘where on earth did my brain go’ kind of moment? If you can’t seem to recall such a time then you are a liar…shame on you! 😉 My problem isn’t that I have to answer that question with a big ol’ ‘you know it’; the problem is narrowing down which of those were in fact the stupidest. Out of the blue this morning, one such moment quickly came flooding back to mind…

When I was in school, without question, I detested science. There was not a single grade level where I found it enjoyable; there was not a single facet that I wanted to engage in. Science made me want to be physically ill. It was because of this hatred that I intentionally put off taking Chemistry until my senior year in high school. Chemistry, in my opinion, is just the most evil of all the sciences but unfortunately one of those necessary evils to get to graduation. I held off taking it until my senior year for one very specific reason though – the ability to exempt the final exams. As you can see, I came at it with a distinct plan in mind. I was ready to attack it. The third day of my senior year we were preparing to do our very first experiment. Beakers were out, test tubes, the bunsen burner, goggles – the works. I have no clue what we were testing, but I remember we had to assemble the stand for our beaker to sit on. We had to light the burner and then, using these big old tongs, carefully place the beaker over the little flame. All was going great – I made my little notations, I did my little measurements, I was rocking this experiment – take that ‘science’, I’m kickin’ butt here. When I had completed my assignment, I then had to go about the task of taking my station back down and putting everything away. I diligently went about snuffing the fire out, putting my goggles away, and cleaning up the beakers and tubes, leaving the bunsen burner for last. I so carefully used the tongs to take the beaker down thinking the whole time ‘be careful – this is going to be hot.’ Slowly I was able to get the steaming glass over to the sink and breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had made that transition without burning myself or spilling the scolding hot contents all over. I went back to take the bunsen burner and ring stand apart and as I was mentally patting myself on the back, I grabbed ahold of the metal ring that the beaker had been sitting on. Did you catch that? I reached out, with my bare hand, and grabbed the metal ring that had been supporting the glass beaker over the hot fire. Interesting fact – when heating a beaker, anything that the beaker may be sitting on will also get hot. I had so carefully removed that blasted beaker only to come back to my stand and grab ahold of the scolding hot ring it had been sitting on. Are you kidding me? One moment, I was as careful as could be, the next I had second degree burns on the entire palm of my left hand. Are…you…kidding me?!?

James 1:13-15…”When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Temptation! Here again, in this section of scripture, we see that James is just a cool guy. He has such a clear understanding of the human heart and mind. How we play the blame game; how we think way more highly of ourselves then we should. What I love is that for the first twelve verses he has really been addressing the idea of trials. The hardships and times of fear we face, that ultimately grow us stronger in the Lord. And then he ever so gently eases over into the idea of temptation – an area that we would rather just deny we struggle with and just say well, this is just the Lord too. But what we fail to get, and what James so pointedly is telling us here, is that trials (for the most part) are testings that happen on the outside, and temptations (for the most part) are the things happening on the inside. What he’s trying to drive home here is that if we aren’t careful, the testings on the outside may become temptations on the inside. Did you catch it? Read that again…if we aren’t careful the testings on the outside may very well become temptations on the inside.

When I was doing that experiment – all signs pointed out my need to be careful and that if I wasn’t I could get very hurt. I stayed alert to those signs for a little while, but then in my arrogance, in my stupidity of thinking I had done enough to stay safe, I fell right into getting hurt. That wasn’t the fault of my teacher. I couldn’t blame the students working around me. That was on me.

In the case of falling into temptation, there is always that gut reaction moment of wanting to blame God – we see that as far back as Genesis when Adam proclaimed…’That woman you put here with me…’, but as James states – God cannot be tempted and does not himself tempt us. Let’s face it – it’s so much easier to pass the blame then to face the reality. At any given time we could always try to make the argument that situations and things that other people do define us and cause us to act out on our temptations. But the Lord, has so graciously shown me the error of that thought process. In the same way that trials are a lifetime guarantee – temptations will always be along our path as well. If we don’t take seriously the danger that lies within those temptations (as James says, it will result in death) then we are walking a very dangerous line. That is why God so graciously left us His Word. He has placed scriptures, such as these powerful verses here in James, all throughout the Bible for us to learn and know, hear and understand, and most of all rely on in times where temptations want nothing more than to suck us in. We can try to say – I will never be able to stop…, we can claim that we make the choices we do because of the horrible upbringing we had…and we can stay trapped in a cycle that will do nothing but bring about death – but we are lying to ourselves. God however…, His word IS true. He IS the God from which everything comes. Every good and perfect gift IS from above. Even when that gift is wrapped in a trial that He helps us overcome. Even when that gift stays wrapped up for years, untouched by us. He IS a consistent God. He IS the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When His word tells us of how he encouraged Moses to ‘Be strong and courageous’ to ‘not be afraid or terrified’, that ‘the LORD your God goes with you’ and ‘will never leave you or forsake you’. He is telling us those exact same words! And even when our friends struggle or our children seem to struggle, He will reach down and whisper those words in their ears as well. He does NOT change like shifting shadows! He IS all about loving us! Yes, there will be times where trials may tempt us to handle them in sin. Yes, there will be times that we make that choice. But praise God…no, I mean it PRAISE God that He loves us so much! Praise God that He stands ready to help us overcome that sin. Praise God that when we do fall, He is the one that picks us up. Praise God that we have been given the opportunity to live this life in the freedom of His grace and mercy and not bound in captivity.

It is not always easy. You know how that memory of my Chemistry catastrophe came to mind this morning? I was cooking on the stove. I had cooked up a little something  and in my haste to keep them from burning, moved them from the back burner where they had been cooking to the front that was nice and cool. In the rush of my putting the things together I sat my spatula too close to the back burner that had just been cooking – and burnt the top of my finger. I’ve walked this road before…and yet did it again! Are you kidding me?!?! Even if that is how you feel over the most gripping of temptations you face – where you thought you’d learned enough not to go there again…know that your God is not there trying to trip you up and make you fall – He is waiting to help pull you back up. There is such hope and so much joy to be found in that truth!

My prayer for Today…

Lord, I would so love to pretend like I am not faced with temptations and better yet would love to say I avoid all of the temptations that come my way. But… The enemy would love nothing more in those times where we fall into temptation, than to cloud our mind with thoughts that would question you, doubt you and be angry with you. Thank you Lord for the assurance that you would not tempt us into evil. Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us when we feel we are just too weak to resist a temptation or that we are a failure for having given in. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for the promise that you are working to make sure that we lack nothing. Thank you for being our rescuer. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for mercies that are new every morning. When the fear of falling overwhelms, thank you for being our peace. So humbled by your love this morning. Thank you Lord. Amen.

The One About the Tooth


During my senior year of high school, Chris and I somehow found a way to ‘date’ long distance as I lived in Richmond, VA and he in Louisville, KY. We wrote letters and had the occasional phone callPD0369 (but as there was no such thing as free long distance and phone bills got into the hundreds of dollars – those calls were few and far between). Yet somehow we were boyfriend/girlfriend, he drove in to be my date for prom and came back to see me graduate. The difference on that particular trip was that I got to go back to KY with him. My sister and brother-in-law were living in KY and had graciously opened their home for me to live with them that summer before I headed off to college. I was so excited. Here I was about to live with my sister…who was my best friend…THE person who understood me like no one else, who just ‘got’ me AND I was going to be near my boyfriend. We would actually get to go on a real date – what? Excitement didn’t quite cover the depth of emotions. It was an excellent summer. Jennifer and I grew close, I drove my brother-in-law nuts, and Chris and I … well, fell that much more in love (cue the ‘ooos and aahhs’ or for those with a weaker constitution cue the vomit noises). A few weeks before I was to leave for college Chris gave me a beautiful Bible and a ‘promise ring’. I was on cloud 9. Cloud 199. It was all so dreamy and fantastic. And then…(this is where you go ‘dun dun duh’) it was the weekend that I was to leave. My parents were on their way – due to arrive any minute – so Chris, my sister, my brother-in-law and I popped out to kill some time helping them look at potential apartments. On this particular day, it was raining. Raining is a sweet description – it was torrential downpours. Buckets of water dumped from the skies and for some unknown reason we all thought it would be smart to try and make a mad-dash from the car to the office clear across the grounds. (Because staying in the car and waiting for the rain to ease up was far too brilliant an idea). One by one we all took off. Yelling and laughing all the way. It didn’t take long for the combination of blinding rain and uneven pavement to take my feet out from under me. As is typical for any moment when I make a fool of myself – I instantly began to howl laughing. Here I was feeling so dumb a.) for trying to outrun the monsoon, and b.) landing on my tush in a puddle. It was hysterical…for about 2 seconds. You see Chris had been running directly behind me. He was making as fast a mad dash as I was and wasn’t prepared for me to suddenly stop and take a little break in the middle of the sidewalk. As I landed and began to laugh my uncontrollable, ‘all gums showing’ kind of cackle – Chris’ knee came smashing into my mouth. As fast as his knee hit me in the mouth, it managed to lodge onto my front tooth and quickly rip it from its resting place – root and all. It took less than half a second for my cackles of laughter to turn to screams of pain. Blood was everywhere – everything happened so fast no one knew what was going on. I was whisked to an emergency after care facility while Chris and Rusty, my brother-in-law went out to search for my tooth. It was horrible. In a second…everything got flipped upside down. Horrific!

This story came to mind this morning as I read the next few verses in James 1:9-12. As I have been thinking about these verses – I remembered having to read them in a different version of the Bible some time ago, called The Message. This version of the Bible is not one that you would want to use to actually study the Word, but I like to see the poetic way they simplify verses from time to time. And this is one of those moments that I love the simplicity The Message places on this passage. It says When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.’  I love the way that James tries to paint as clear a picture as possible.  He doesn’t mess around. He is quick to tell us that trials should be considered pure joy – remember why? Because it means God is about to do a work in us, to test and strengthen our faith. He then talks about how we need to seek wisdom – remember from who? God – so that we won’t be tossed around, but stand confidant in Him. Do you notice a theme here? Our mindset needs to adjust and realign back to being on Him…in trials – think on how God is moving in you and experience joy. In decisions that need to be made – think on what God has for you and stand firm in His truth and you won’t be tossed about, further confused. If we persevere, if we stand the trial, if we walk in humility we will receive the crown of life. If we get consumed by the trial, if we fret and stress going back and forth in how to handle the situation or if we forget that everything is but for a fleeting span of time…we will not find joy and we will miss what He has promised for us. Relationship with our God, trust in him, humility in being his and focus on him – this is what we need to focus our time and energy on. Everything else…withers and fades and can disappear in a second. That summer all that I had held onto and focused my attentions on were gone in a second. Securities of what I saw when I looked in the mirror, plans that I had in place, all suddenly changed. The following year was a trial of recovery. But it was all worth ‘giving a cheer’ because the Lord was seeking to correct my focus and get my mind set on Him. What is your mind focused on? Are you persevering in Him? Are you holding the things, the people, the plans of this world higher than your God?

My prayer for Today… 

Lord – I thank you so much for how your Word both challenges AND encourages. None of us ever seem to be thrilled with the trials that come our way – no matter how big or small – but there is purpose behind each one. You remind us that they WILL come. You tell us to be prepared for that – but then you encourage us to remember that it is to strengthen our relationship with you; it is to build our trust in you. You remind us that those who persevere are blessed in you. The things in our lives that we get so caught up in can steal all of our focus, can steal our hope, can steal our joy. They can pull us down, pull us away from you – ‘things’ that are here for a moment and then quickly gone. My prayer for myself, for my friend reading…may we persevere in you today. May we stand the test. May we draw closer in to you. May we remember that you have promised to be with us through each of these moments – good or bad. Thank you for the promise of your crown. Thank you for the hope. In your sweet name we pray – Amen.


Wisdom? I got this.


So trials are inevitable; they come as an attempt to strengthen our faith and bring us to a place of completion; we should consider that pure joy. One would think that, having barely touched the surface of the subject; James would really continue diving down deep into that subject. But that doesn’t exactly seem to be the case…check it out…”If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8 So it seems we are taking a bit of a detour…or are we? At what point in our lives do we need wisdom more than in times of trial? When we are in a season of testing, is that not the time we most need counsel? In the face of these storms…when clearly scripture tells us to consider these times with a spirit of joy…there has to come the question, how? Wouldn’t you agree? So to whom are we asking that question?

As a society, I have to say, we have come up with some pretty creative ways to seek wisdom and counsel, affirmation and answers. Social media. This has become a great outlet to express what’s on our mind, to complain about our day, to ask for recommendations from everything from what to have for dinner to a good family doctor. We read of problems that others have expressed and even find ourselves scrolling through the responses that have come from people we don’t even know – just to see what others might have said. We are always looking for wisdom, for answers, for understanding. But James is ‘politely’ pointing out here that we are looking in the wrong place and with the wrong heart.

As I have pointed out before, Chris and I met when were quite young – just teenagers. Needless to say, the quick way in which we became so serious about each other did not exactly thrill Chris’ mom and therefore I was not a particular ‘fan favorite’ for quite some time (or at least that was my 17 year old perception). But in fairness, there were several things going against me. Chris was her firstborn. I lived eleven hours away. He was at a place where he needed to be making decisions on college, not a spouse…to name but a few. Now having a good relationship with his mom was very important to me, and I began to process ways that I could get into her good graces. This was never something that I prayed about. At no time did I ever get on my knees and ask the Lord for wisdom in how to find favor with Denise or how to build a real relationship with her. At the time, it seemed a silly prayer. If I was going to be in Chris’ life, by default I was going to be in hers so why pray for what was going to happen (Did I mention I was very young and clearly stupid at the time?). I wrestled with how to become close with Denise for a long time, and finally I came up with a brilliant, beyond brilliant plan. I was going to become an elementary school teacher. Denise was an elementary school teacher…how perfect would that be? We would have common ground, similar interests. I would be able to go to her for advice and talk through experiences with her and we would become close. I sought no other opinion, but merely stepped out and applied to college, making all the right preparations and choosing all the right classes that would set me up for a teaching degree. I even got a job at an elementary school as an instructional assistant. Perfection! Well, perfection…on paper…reality was something much more different. I struggled horribly with classes. I faced such internal struggles – ones that I could never quite put my finger on. By this point, Chris and I were married and were both working full-time jobs while going to school full-time – not exactly stress free years. I soon grew to a point where I began to hate my classes. I lacked motivation, I just didn’t want to be there – and so I didn’t go. The problem was I never told Chris that I wasn’t going, never dropped the classes and tried to hide the semesters that I had flunked out of every class. It was in those moments, that I began to pray…prayers of fear – what if I’m found out, what will Chris say, how can I get out of this? I never acknowledged that maybe I was trying to force something that wasn’t intended for me. I never laid it all down before the Lord or sought His direction and I certainly never asked for His plan or wisdom in what to do. And yet I continuously asked myself the question of why was I in this mess?

The day finally came where Chris found out the truth of how I had been handling my college career. It was a painful time in our relationship and yet a groundbreaking one for reasons I’ll save for another day. But together we decided that I should stop trying to pursue a degree. Fast forward, about a year. I was working for a Christian bookstore as their gift buyer and assistant manager. One afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who was a part of a national women’s conference. She was in town because they were holding their conference at a local church and she was in doing some promotion. Somehow she and I struck up a conversation and she quickly asked me if I would take my lunch break with her. For the life of me I would not be able to tell you the details of that conversation; I could not even tell you her name but it was the most life changing conversation I’ve ever encountered. As I sat listening to her talk of doing ministry and being on mission for God, affecting the lives of women and reaching the lost for His glory…the Lord gently and firmly interrupted the conversation. I sat listening to her rather intently, when I was overwhelmed by Him saying…’you know… this is what I have for you’. Now granted His voice was not audible…she had no clue He had interrupted her and I certainly played it off, but it was very much like He had slipped into the booth beside me, nudged me and began to talk. He continued, ‘do you hear what she is saying…that is what I want for you…for your life, your walk, your career.’ I cannot tell you how excited and bubbly I became in that moment. I wanted to shout out ‘OKAY!’ but before I could He completed His thought…’but there’s something you need to do for me first. You need to go back to school.’ Now I’ve got to tell you – the woman who was talking to me probably thought I had completely lost my mind because I went from completely excited and bubbly to completely nauseous – turning all different shades of green all the while not telling her of the conversation God and I were currently having. I can ONLY imagine what expressions kept randomly running across my face. From inside my head I screamed at God – ‘WHY?!?!’ to which He directly replied ‘so that I might have that victory in your life.’ I inwardly confessed that I couldn’t do it – I would fail – that I would start and (to quote James) merely end up blown and tossed by the wind. And do you know what His response was? ‘You’re exactly right…you will.’ I suddenly realized in that moment that this was a trial, a test that I had failed – miserably. Everything in me knew that I would, without question, fail at it again if not for one thing. I needed to seek help from Him. I clearly lacked the wisdom on how to succeed in this – I needed Him. I had tried semester after semester telling myself ‘you can do this’; knowing that I wouldn’t be able to. I had tried to go down a career path that the Lord had not prepared for me. And I had tried to manipulate a relationship with my mother-in-law that the Lord had designed to be beautiful in His time. I had asked with doubt plaguing my heart and mind and the result had been nearly drowning from being tossed about in the waves so much. I realized that this would hang over me forever, not just as an area where I had failed, but where I hadn’t allowed the Lord to win. I could not do it without Him. Exactly a year from that lunch I walked across the stage of the coliseum, dawning a cap and gown, accepting my diploma and praising my God – who, because I had asked Him (over and over and over that year) for wisdom, had given it to me generously without finding fault.pd0059-xl

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Are you seeking Him? Do you believe He will give you the wisdom you seek? Is your faith in Him, man or yourself? He stands ready to give…generously…won’t you allow Him to?

My prayer for Today…

Precious Lord, I realize quickly as I think through foolish decisions I’ve made in my lifetime – I come to one resounding understanding – you are a massively patient God. I also see that I am far more stubborn and thick headed than I realized. There are times where I have encountered situations and sought wisdom and opinions from everyone I could think of, but you. There have been times where I’ve just rested in the knowledge of what I felt and wanted to do. In my ignorance, in my stupidity…I fail often to seek that wisdom from you. But, as you promised, you have never forsaken, never failed, never left me – no matter how many times I have forsaken you, failed you, and walked away from you. I need your help Lord to remember to lean on you and look to you during the hardest of trials, but Lord may I not forget to look to you for the day-to-day. If you are the one who has laid this path I’m on before me – why on earth would I look to others for direction. May I hold to you and look to you – always. I pray for my friend who has been gracious to read my ramblings today – I pray that when they have questions, concerns, need wisdom, or question the trials that surround them currently – that it is You that they look to and lean on. Precious Lord – thank you for loving us so desperately, intently, and completely. I love you. In Jesus name…Amen!

Trials! Really?


hgtv-feat-kitchbnaSo I hate to admit it, but several years ago, I had an addiction. In truth, I haven’t really confessed this to anyone outside of my Christopher but I was addicted…to HGTV. It started off innocently enough; having recently delivered our fourth little one, I would find myself like many mommies – facing the middle of the night looking for something to help pass the time. On one of these sleepless nights I innocently stumbled across this channel. It didn’t take long before I found myself in awe of the transformations that came as an old dilapidated house was transformed into a thing of beauty. I found myself entranced with the way knocking a wall out, completely changed the look and feel of a home. And yes, I even found myself questioning…will they love it or list it? I would watch a show here or there, but then I began to record them so that when those quiet times came up I would always have a selection of programs to entertain me. This should have been my first sign that this was slowly becoming an addiction, but what clinched it for me was when I began to look around my home. Suddenly our home of seven years was showing much more wear and tear then I had realized and the ‘quick fixes’ that I saw transpire on TV seemed completely doable. But it was when I began to watch these shows when Chris was in the room that I realized I had a problem. I watched them quietly…making sure not to say anything like ‘don’t you think that would be cool’ or ‘why don’t we do something like that’. I just let them play until that exciting day when Chris began to brainstorm ‘what if’ home improvements with me. Ha Haaa! It was a wonderful moment of excitement and shame all mixed together. 🙂

Following one of these conversations we began to talk through what it would look like to put in ‘hardwood’ floors. We even went to Lowes to get an idea of pricing and then came home to see what kind of square footage we were looking at. Chris diligently went about spouting measurements off to me and then together we sat down to determine the square footage. A little multiplication here, some dividing there and we got to an answer – 8910. We hurried on to figure how much flooring we’d need and more importantly how much it would cost and when I hit ‘=’ on my calculator, I sunk into the chair…$26,000. WHAT?!? We did all of our calculations again…and again…$26,000. Good glory! We sat there dumbfounded. Chris just shook his head as that was a good 13 times greater than what he was expecting. I sat there thinking HGTV had lied to me. Deflated we both began to squint at the filthy carpet, conceding that maybe it really wasn’t THAT bad. Sigh. It wasn’t until the next day as we sat lamenting that it suddenly occurred to Chris that we made a completely crucial mistake…8910 was correct but that was the calculation in inches not feet (an important little detail as we had in fact calculated it as feet.) We were apparently going to lay hardwood flooring for the entire street – you’re welcome neighbors. Glory! It was a horrible miscalculation and NOT one of our finer moments.

So with that frustration tucked away, let’s rejoin James.Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ James 1:2-4 ESV  

Yesterday we opened this lovely letter from James, received a simple (yet challenging) greeting and then BAM! James doesn’t waste a single second – he throws out a huge challenge. Count it all joy when you meet trials. I’m sorry, count it all joy when I meet trials? Count it all joy when I meet trials? Does this seem counter-intuitive to anyone besides myself? Trials – when there never seems to be time to get all of the laundry done. Trials – when the children test your patience and you find yourself at a loss. Trials – when finances are tight and you’re unsure how you’re going to cover all that needs to be taken care of. Trials – when a loved one gets sick or hurt. Trials – when a long-time friendship suddenly ends. Trials – when you lose your job. Trials – when a parent once again hurts you with their words or actions. Trials…Okay, clearly I get that we will experience or ‘meet’ trials of various kinds – and sometimes they may even happen simultaneously. I understand that trials can come at any degree, for any length of time; one at a time or all piled up together. I understand that there will be trials. But I am to count it all joy when they come? If we stopped reading after ‘count it all joy’ we’d simply walk away confused, frustrated and shaking our heads. But James goes on to explain why. Is it because trials are fun? No. Is it because suffering is enjoyable? No. In truth it has nothing to do with ‘the moment’ or even the trial itself. If you look at what James says here, he explains that it is a testing of our faith. They test our faith – will we hold to Christ? Will we trust Him with the outcome? Will we try to work through it alone or will we lean on Him? Will we lose hope? Yes, it is our faith that is tested.

Sometime ago, I shared with a friend an example of just that…
I was almost twenty weeks pregnant with our second child. My husband and I were preparing for that exciting visit where we get to have an ultrasound. Where technology would allow us a sneak peek of our newest miracle and where, if possible, we would get to find out if we were expecting a boy or a girl. Chris took off work, we found a sitter for our two year old and off we went; giddy, giggly, and talking through all kinds of ‘what ifs’. We were ushered into the ultrasound room and soon saw our little one. It has to be a mama thing…but what makes a blurry white blob just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? The technician went about measuring quietly – very stoic and somber. She only spoke to ask if we wanted to know what we were having and then obligingly informed us we would be having a little girl. Holy cow…a girl! The technician wrapped up what she was doing and said the doctor would be in to talk with us soon. She had barely left the room and Chris and I immediately began gushing. We talked about how his mom would be SO excited, how much fun it would be to have both a boy and a girl, and that always favored question…what will we name her? As we were talking, we were interrupted and asked if we could make our way down to the doctor’s office. This seemed a bit odd, but as this was our first time with this obstetrician we didn’t think much of it. We entered his office and slowly watched his welcoming smile fall as he began to express to us the concerns of what they saw on the ultrasound pictures. The conversation began to blur as I heard statements like ‘we don’t see her intestines’, ‘there is too much fluid surrounding her heart’, ‘we can’t find her liver’, ‘we’re unsure of her survival rate’; ‘you may lose her’. Somehow my body remained there…but my mind kept trying to escape. Plans were made for us to go to the hospital for a more in-depth ultrasound and for us to make a game plan. Out of courtesy of our emotions we were escorted through the back of the office and like923107_10152229776648566_1755021014_n that … we found ourselves sitting numb in the car. I’m sorry, but I’m supposed to find joy in this? I’m supposed to be glad that our baby girl may die? Is that what James meant? No…here is what James meant. About a week later…a painful, gut wrenching week later…it was time to go to the hospital to find out the fate of our daughter. I sat on the bed, head down, trying to remind myself to breath in and out. Chris came and sat beside me and I will never forget his words…he looked at me and said, ‘Sarah, whether we get a lifetime here on earth or an eternity with her in heaven – she’s our girl and we are her parents. We will love her and she will always be ours.’ I can’t explain it, but a peace washed over me as I realized that the God who I felt hidden from in the moment – had this. He had her fate in His hand – if that were to be with us or with Him – both were worthy of praise and I rejoiced. I looked at this man beside me…scared and worried…but strong in faith and realized that we would walk this together and I rejoiced. I sat in a place of complete helplessness, fear and uncertainty and yet knew my Jesus would not forsake me, would comfort me, and would love me through this and I rejoiced.

Trials come. As James says ‘there will be many kinds’ – trials will come in relationships, in health, in finances, in experiences…in all kinds of ways, they will come. For those of us who call on Christ, these trials are opportunities to see Him work, to hide in Him, to hold to the truths of His word. They are opportunities where through Him we persevere, we endure…so that when the next trial comes we look to Him quicker and believe in Him more. We have a God who is so crazy about us that He doesn’t want us to lack anything…and when trials come and we still doubt…we lack, so He wants to eliminate that for us. See the joy isn’t in the trial. The joy isn’t in the suffering. The joy isn’t in the fear. The joy is in Him! That sweet place when everything else is a mess, our world is rocked and what comes next is unknown – He is constant, He is steady, He has it all in His hands. We must put our joy in Him for there is no better place to find it and there is so much wanting to steal it away.

Don’t be foolish like Chris and I were when we were trying to calculate our square footage. In our rush, in our desire to skip to the end – we did not count the cost correctly. In fact, we were horribly off base. We are to count it all joy. Don’t miscalculate. Don’t underestimate. Don’t discount. You have a God who wants you to lack nothing. What joy!

 My prayer for Today – 

Lord, I love you. When everything around me is chaotic and crazy – that one thing I know – I … love … you. Precious Lord it is no surprise to you that this scripture, while filled with such hope, gets under my skin. My flesh wants to fight the truth in this verse for all it’s worth. I want to have my pity-parties. I want to get frustrated and just yell. I want to hide under my covers. I want to stand face-to-face and let that other person have it. I want to scream. I want to sob. I want to freak out. I want to make a plan that will solve it all. But you didn’t say, ‘Consider yourself challenged when faced with trials’, you didn’t say ‘See how tough you can be when faced with trials’, nor did you say ‘because of your mistakes, your failures, your ineptness – you will face trials’. You asked me first to consider them joy and then you explained that it’s because you are doing a work in me. You explain that you want me to be complete not lacking anything. You are giving me hope – not in how the trial will turn out, not in a quick end, not that it won’t return, not even that it will all resolve sweetly – you are giving me hope in YOU. You are testing my faith – my trust in you – the depth to which my relationship with you goes. In conflict, chaos, fear, uncertainty, heart-brokenness or even simple frustration – you desire for me to cling to you, to trust that you will strengthen me through these things and to know that no matter what the outcome you are in control – you’ve got this. Please help me when I forget these things. Forgive me when the trials that surround me, I allow to consume me. Forgive me for my lack of faith and for not finding that joy that is in you. For my friend, praying along with me – I ask that you help them to see that the trial they are facing needs to be laid down. They need to fuss, cry, pout, shout out their fears and concerns to you. May they see that you are wanting to use these moments to have them draw closer to you – to test their faith. I thank you Lord for your patience with me when I miss the mark and lose my joy. I thank you that when the trials in front of me are fighting for position – I can rest in the joy that I find in knowing you are a God who can either move the mountain or lift me up over it. Please help me daily find my joy in you. In Jesus name…Amen!

What’s in a Word?


16689_10151351824413566_1868162756_nIt was November of 1993. My sister Jennifer, a new youth pastor at a church in Louisville, KY, had just taken one of her youth out for a ‘thank you/get to know you’ dinner. She sat across from a tall 17 year old boy, chatting about the move he had just helped her and her husband make into their new home. Chatting, that soon turned to the age old question that every teenage boy is asked…’So do you have a girlfriend?’ Now I’m not sure the exact response, but whatever words he uttered were met with ‘Oh, you sound just like my sister.’ And for the next 45 minutes she spoke of me. Again, not knowing what words she said…a young Christopher Andrew went home and said to his mom ‘I’ve just heard about the girl I’m going to marry.’ We were married three years later and we have just crossed over the 20 year mark as husband and wife. There is power in the spoken word!

About a month following that encounter, Chris asked my sister if she had my address because he wanted to write me a letter. (Yes, an actual pen to paper, put it in an envelope, place a stamp in the corner, put it in the mailbox – letter. We were pre-email my friends!). Who knew that simple request would turn into 6 months of writing back and forth. Who knew that genuine feelings would spring forth and that two teenage kids would fall in love – never having talked face-to-face, never having been on a date, never having spent any time together. Love that came through writing letters. There is power in the written word!

I have always been an introvert! Always. I’ve learned to put myself out there, but that takes a concerted effort because to my very bones I’m an introvert all the way. Add in a strong dose of low self-esteem and insecurities and it’s a wonder I ever spoke as a child. But give me a pen and a piece of paper or a keyboard and a blank screen and I can’t seem to fill it fast enough. I think it is for this reason I am so drawn to the letters written in the New Testament, but to the letter James wrote in particular. He didn’t just write a letter…he got real and to the point better than most of the New Testament writers (in my opinion). He uses illustrations that not only make you think, but also smack you upside the head. I love that! 😉 I have read his letter countless times, I have even attempted to pray through it once before – given this current season that I am in – I cannot seem to stay away from it. Every time I read it, I glean something entirely new. There is power in THE Word!

So it is clear to say that several decades ago, I fell in love through letters. Something that I thought was completely unique and could never happen again. And then I began to pour over the Bible. Grabbing verses here and there, devouring entire books, flipping through to the ‘favorites’ and low and behold not only did I come to realize that I have a God who loves me like crazy…but that is how I came to love Him too. There is purpose in His holy word.

Then I look at the very simple first verse found in James. James 1:1 and it says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” I’ll confess that for the longest time I thought this was a ‘throw away verse’. Nothing super life-changing in this simple little opening. Not really a verse that I’m going to quote when a friend comes to me for encouragement or give as a verse to live by. Not one that I’m gonna spend much time on because lets face it, in the book of James there are some meaty verses in there – let’s skip this one and get to the good stuff…i.e. a throw away verse. But when I stop to realize that ALL of scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16) well, then I can’t really throw this verse away, but instead better look at it that much closer. There is a lesson in His holy word.

To get much out of this verse, it is helpful to know a little something about James, in particular that he is the brother of Jesus. He has been with Jesus his entire life – he has eaten with him, washed with him, done chores with him and yet as it states in John 7:5 ‘even his brothers did not believe in him.’ In fact, it wasn’t until Jesus was resurrected that James believed. And here he is not just finally believing but pouring his life out to make the name of Jesus known. I think about the weight of that truth. He could have taken on the attitude of a name dropper…’I am James. The brother of Jesus. You know the one who performed miracles, raised folks from the dead, walked on water – oh yeah and came back to life himself after being dead for three days? Yeah, you know him? I am his brother.’ I’m relatively sure the rest of the book would have unraveled had that been his starting point. He could have also taken the approach of ‘ashamed’ – all those years, all of that access to the one true Messiah and he never believed. He could have hung his head in regret and shame, anguished by the years of wasted time and had he done so there may not have been book at all. But the approach he took – the word he used? Servant. He didn’t boast in his title or hide in his shame. He made it clear from the very first line of his letter that it wasn’t about him at all. ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’. There is meaning in His word.

When times get difficult. When conflict arises and fractures begin to appear (in relationships or any situation), we always have a choice of how to address it. We can puff ourselves up with an attitude of ‘don’t you know who I am’, we could get completely defeated with an attitude of regret and ‘I should have never come here’ or we can set ourselves aside. We can remember that in the end – it is not about us, it is not for our glory, it is not for our sympathy…it is about being His. If I would start every argument with ‘Hi, I’m Sarah, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ there’s not going to be much anger that follows that statement. If I would start every scenario of conflict, fear, worry or stress with ‘I, Sarah, a servant of God…’ then …   As a servant, I’m not in control. As a servant, I’m not ‘all that and a bag of chips’. As a servant, I’ve been called to serve and therefore have worth. As a servant…   There is conviction in His word.

How about you? Which approach are you taking with others? Do you approach based on making a name for yourself? Do you cower in insecurity? What prevents you from simply being His servant? What stops you from drawing close to His word?

My prayer for today…

Precious Lord, I come before you empty, worn and completely uncertain about so many things. I have given the enemy so much freedom to play with my thoughts and wreak havoc on my heart. I find myself bouncing around focusing on so many other things when my focus – to every day, to every situation, to everything that I do should be as your servant, as your girl. Sometimes I bend toward the side of wanting to show others where they are wrong…that is your job – You are God…I am your servant. Sometimes I want to hide away from all of the unknowns, all of the changes, all of the uncertainties…but you knew of these things before the foundations of the earth – You are God…I am your servant. I am in a season where I am confused by the doors you are opening and those you are closing. I want to take control, check all of my boxes, and wrap it up in a nice tidy little bow…You are God…I am your servant. I have been blessed to have had you in my heart for over thirty years. There have been times where I have felt you dance with me, times where I’ve relied on you to carry me, times of deep conversations and sweet songs. I confess that while I see the challenge of this one simple verse in James – and I pray it out before you here – I struggle to truly let all else go and just trust that being your servant is sufficient. Lord I want so much to fall in love with your Word all over again. I need to be reminded of how much you love me – and remember that nothing else matters. I desire to be your girl, to find rest in you, and to boldly lay all else aside to just serve you. Help me find a renewed joy in serving you. Help my sweet friend who may be reading this now be bold enough to proclaim to be yours, to put down selfish desires or insecure excuses and just hold to being yours. Help them to see the power that is in your word, the purpose and lesson that you have placed in it for them. Open their hearts to what you need from them – as a servant in the church, as a servant in their home, as a servant in their relationships, as a servant for you. Lord while I know you continuously promise you will never leave or forsake – I also know that I have to take those steps to stay closer to you. I am excited to dive deeper into your word. I need you Lord. I love you so very much. I pray all of this in your precious Son, Jesus’, name – Amen! 

A Stroll Through Hell


photoIt was the week of fourth of July, Caleb was about seven weeks old and my in-laws had come to visit. It was exciting to show off our baby, and even more fun for my then 2-1/2 and 5 year old to play with their grandparents. We decided to venture out to the beach to soak in some rays and allow the grandparents from Kentucky a little time to dip their toes into the ocean. We loaded up the car and were on our way…that’s when I noticed it. The diamond in my engagement ring was gone. I sat shocked for a moment, and continually rubbed my fingers over the sharp claws that once held that small gem. I looked throughout the car, shook out my clothes, shook out the kids clothes and once at the beach went all through the beach bag. No diamond. I sat on the beach heartbroken. I had worn this ring for almost half my life and what it symbolized, and who it meant I belonged to were extremely valuable to me. Losing a part of that was simply put…sad. We went home that evening and I searched everywhere – even vacuumed just to search through the dust collector – no diamond showed up. The sharp prongs kept cutting into my finger and I slowly realized the ring had to come off. Heartbroken. For those who do not talk to themselves this will sound odd, but I sat myself down and had a ‘what is your problem girl’ conversation. Why was I so sad by the loss of this gem? Was I any less married to Chris because it was gone? Was I less of a woman? Outside of the amount of jewelry I was now wearing – had anything changed? No. I took a few deep breaths, tightened up my big girl britches and low-and-behold carried on with life.  😉

Not all moments of sadness and disappointment can be handled quite that well. Some moments are much more difficult to maneuver. My most difficult, without question, has been going through a miscarriage. I have never journeyed through something so horrific. First, there is the loss of the dream of a precious little one. After finding out we were pregnant, I would sit down and think of our little one, and would do so by continually looking at our other kids. Would this one be as dramatic as the others? Will he or she have Lacie’s smile or Caleb’s laugh? Would Isaac’s tender heart reside in this one as well? The bits and pieces of who our newest dream might be, lay in front of us – and my mind continually wondered how the pieces would come together. But that was lost. I am ridiculously in love with my Christopher – experiencing the joy of a little of him and little of me and a whole lot of God coming together to form these treasures that we call our children is one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. But this new treasure, this new part of the two of us was lost. There’s no sweet way to express it – miscarriage breaks your heart. Hell.

That is the loss that my heart and mind went through, and then there was the loss of the pregnancy itself. As gently as I can express it – the actual miscarriage was hell. A hell on earth that I didn’t understand before this moment. There were weeks of exhaustion, pain and bleeding that wore my body down. There were so many unknowns – Will it be today? Will it happen on it’s own? What will it entail? The questions, the number of unknowns weighed heavy on my heart and mind. Then the actual miscarriage took place. It began on a Thursday evening – for several hours, I cried as my body began to sort through what needed to be done. Friday morning I woke up feeling okay, and for much of the morning wondered ‘was that it? did it happen?’ And then my body very graphically made sure I knew it had not yet taken place. There are no words to express what I went through, no horror movie that can compare to what I experienced, and no delicate way to explain. Nearly blacking out twice, I laid quiet that evening, numb in my heart, exhausted in my body, and desperately finding ways to block the experience from my brain. Hell.

I went to the doctor today – hoping to close the chapter – only to hear that more blood tests and another visit are still ahead just to ensure that I’m now not anemic or secretly housing some sort of infection. Sigh. I was doing well as I sat and listened to him talk until he began to talk about how strong I am. He admitted that he was surprised that not only did I go through the experience on my own, but that I did not cave in and go to the hospital. He fully expected that though I was hoping to avoid the hospital that I was going to end up there regardless. And he looked at me and commented on my strength. In that moment, I inwardly fell apart. He soon walked out and Chris even wondered why (having received good news that I would not need surgery) I was crying. I couldn’t verbalize in that moment, but suddenly the weeks of being strong hit the wall. Having to be physically strong to get through the ordeal; having to be mentally strong to get through the conversations that surrounded the subject; having to be strong for my kids so as not to scare or concern them; having to be strong for my Christopher so he could stay focused on work and church; having to be strong for myself so as not to cower in a corner somewhere. In one moment of a doctor acknowledging that strength – the rope broke. In a matter of seconds, strength turned to instant weakness. My body suddenly felt the pain and exhaustion. My heart felt 100 pounds heavier. My mind was suddenly fried. Strong? Me? No where even close. Hell.

Last night while the kids were eating their dinner, I took advantage of their having to be captive audiences to their dinner and decided to clean their rooms up. The normal routine of removing hidden toys from under beds, straightening up shelves, and clearing the floor. Halfway through cleaning up Isaac’s room I saw something out of the corner of my eye laying in the middle of his floor. I leaned down to pick it up and my feet collapsed under me. There laying in the fibers of the carpet sat a small tiny gem. My breath caught in my throat and my mind continually repeated – there is NO way! Picking it up I headed downstairs to the secret resting place of my engagement ring. Slowly I placed the sparkling gem into the broken setting and wouldn’t you know…a perfect fit. Three years have passed. Numerous adventures have been held in that room, countless runs of the vacuum…and yet there it lay. Impossible.

I have thought about it all day. There are a million things that could have (and should have, given the residents of this house) happened to that diamond. It should have been lost forever. Everything said to me that finding it again was impossible and yet there it was. Through this miscarriage, and even today as the bottom seems to have fallen out a bit – I am reminded that this isn’t forever. It has been hell, yes, but it’s a not a hell I have to live in. It does not have to continue. It is hell, but merely a stroll through it not a residency in it. Hopeful.

There are times that God feels distant, quiet, unseen and just not there. A considerable amount of time can go by where I can walk right by him and just not notice…but he is there; has always been there, will always be there. He is who gives me strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9). He makes himself known at just the right time and in just the right moment. He is the beautiful gem that fits perfectly into my broken heart. He himself has ‘strolled’ through hell – knows the walk, the pain, the inexpressible experience of it all – who better to lead me out of it? I am not strong, but I am gripping to him with all that I have and repeatedly saying ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD (my) God goes with (me); he will never leave (me) nor forsake (me).’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). And I wait, with great anticipation, for him to help me through. What is broken can be made whole again. Thankful!

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