Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

Caution: Road Block Ahead

imageMy normal twenty-minute trip of taking Oliver to school took me about 45 minutes this morning. Even my alternative route was closed.  So I had to go another way, then another, and another. I got home and made myself a cup of coffee before I took off again to go shopping…by myself. Any parent knows the joy it brings to shop alone. I cannot tell you the frustration I felt when I looked out my window and saw my road was blocked. Yep, I live on the corner of a court with no other way out. I felt trapped and completely ticked.

All I could think of was how the construction is messing with my life and plans.  

I took a few deep breaths and then sat in my favorite chair. My 72 pound lap dog jumped up on my lap and nestled in. Ranger’s drowsy eyes looked up at me before his big wrinkly head landed on my hand. He loudly exhaled and then closed his eyes.  Within a minute he was snoring.

Apparently my dog was quite pleased with the construction that led to my being trapped. I rubbed his head with my free hand and began to relax. I realized I probably needed my dog and favorite chair more than I needed shopping. I began to sip my coffee and my thoughts carried me away.  I wish I could say they carried me away from construction, but it was not so.

It dawned on me how easily we become frustrated with road blocks. Sometimes it is all we think about.  Sometimes it trickles down into every aspect of our lives.

I’m not speaking the literal sense of a road block. I’m sure you’ve already picked up on that, though. You may even be nodding you head and are thinking of a situation in your own life. You are ready to move on. You want to go where you think/know you want/need to go, but you just can’t get there for because of the stinking road block.

Presently, I do not have any major road blocks. At least none I am aware of. I can recall the ones I’ve had in the past. I remember the frustration. I remember the only if’s. Only if…then my life would be better. I could accomplish more. I could be a better mom, spouse, friend, or whatever. I could be more faithful.  I could be more…

What we fail to see is the significance of the road block. God needs for us to stop so He can do the construction needed within us and around us. He is the one who knows the best path. We need to trust Him when He takes us on unexpected or inconvenient ways.

Amazing how with just a twist of perspective, the meaning of trapped and inconvenienced transforms into our ever-loving God fixing and beautifying us and our path called life.

What if we are known by…

IMG_0134Here it goes…

We may not understand why things happen. We may think things aren’t fair. We compare our lives to others and think we deserve what the other has or even more than what they have. We like to think of ourselves as good and we like to think our way of thinking makes the most sense.

We get disappointed in others and play the ‘what if’ game.  What if I was raised in a nicer neighborhood?  What if my parents were nicer to me?  What if I had sisters instead of a brothers? What if my parents took me to church as a child? What if…?

What if we stopped? What if we actually began to realize God places us where we need to be?  I know there are many people out there that loathe the “everything happens for a reason” response to life.  I have felt this way as well.  Because, let’s face it, life can completely suck at times. Some people coast through life and others don’t.  The problem is––we begin to lose our trust in His perfect plan when we stop believing God has us where He needs us.

Maybe that is what Satan wants.  He wants us to believe we are greater than others and when bad things happen it isn’t fair.  (Let the arm crossing and stomping and slamming doors commence.)  I cannot recall anywhere in the bible where it says life is supposed to be fair.  There is sin in this world. Life will never be fair. I know I sound insensitive. But, think of it this way. How fair was it when Christ died on the cross for every bad thing you ever have or will do?  He was without sin.  Think of all the sins you commit in one day because you justify them.  You think it is okay because you are having a rough day or week or year.

Trust me, I am preaching to myself as well here.

We need to stop thinking we are so great.  We need to stop believing life owes us more than what it can give us.  We need to rise up and humble ourselves.  We need to fully trust God.  We somehow think we can be of this world when it suits us.  As a result, our fruit is withering.

How do we expect to bring others to Christ when we are living just like them? None of this has anything to do with earning salvation.  None of this has anything to do with being better than others. We can’t earn anything and we are no better than others.  But we can be more fruitful if we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. Have Christians become lazy?  Do we think since we have salvation through the blood that we can do as we please? I am just so very frustrated.  I know there is more we can be doing.

God gave us all beautifully unique gifts.  We need to be thankful for these gifts and use them.  We need to open our bible no matter how busy and unfair life becomes.  Faith is more than a Sunday morning thing.  It is more than an hour of your time during bible study.  Those things are still important, of course, because they are there to prepare us to share the good news.  Sharing the good news is the point, right?

We all know that sharing the good news is more than the words we speak. Again this may not be fair…but…people are watching you because you are a christian.  When they see you living like everyone else they become desensitized to the importance of Christ’s blood. Let us show them the way by the fruit we bear.  Aaah, just imagine all we could do.

So I ask, what are you known by?

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

~Matthew 7:16-20

 

Fly

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If…

We want to instill a strong faith in our kids.  We want them to stand up for their faith and not be ashamed.  We want them to have eternal life.

Then…

Why do adults not live the faith we would want our kids to have?  Why are we ashamed to strongly stand up for our beliefs?  Why are we so quiet in our worship (daily lives)?

I feel like I’ve been shoved in a cage.  Have faith but don’t fly.  Don’t share your faith too strongly or else you’ll be judged.  Water it down girl.  Just water it down.

The thing is that I don’t want to water it down.  I believe that is what child-like faith is supposed to be like.  I feel a joy that hurts when I don’t let it out.  I feel the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am grateful for all He does in my life. I want others, especially my kids, to see His love through me.

That’s all.

 

 

Dirty Little Feet

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Bathtime. I can’t say I dread or despise it.  It is more of a “going through the motions” time for me. There are always things I’d rather be doing or things that I feel are more productive.  My oldest is pretty independent in the bath. My three year old, of course, is not.  I am forced to stop what I am doing to sit in there with him.  I should look forward to the downtime but I do not. Maybe it is because I’d rather spend my downtime reading with him––instead of washing his dirty feet.  Don’t get me wrong, his dirty feet are adorable, but you know…who looks forward to washing feet?

As I was thinking this it struck me that when it comes to my kids I (sometimes) lose my servant heart. I could rationalize this by saying it is just washing feet.  But when I think of the significance of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and the purpose of him doing so, it puts things into perspective. Mostly, I put all I have when it comes to serving in my church, even with the little things. When I worked I did the same. But when it comes to certain things with my kids, I simply do not.

I know I cannot joyfully do everything in life.  I cannot be perfect in parenthood. I need to show myself grace. I know I am a good mom. At the same time though, I need to point out things I can improve on. That is all a part of growing and striving to always become a better person…a better mom. So, next time I wash his dirty little feet, I will think of all the steps and jumps they have made through the day.  All those step and jumps are a part of his journey. I will think of what a gift it is to have dirty little feet to wash.  I will thank God for giving me the responsibility of taking care of dirty feet and everything else I take for granted as a parent.

God gave me and my husband two amazing boys to raise up to be men of God.  We need to show them, even through the little things, how important it is to serve others.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

~John 13:12-15

His Land, or Mine.

 

 

Deuteronomy 11:10-15

10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

I used to loathe the Old Testament.  The older I get, the more I love it. It feels so alive and enlightening and relevant…

I look at the many parallels between the Israelites and my life (our lives) and I feel a bit ashamed. Before, I would read their story and roll my eyes at their stupidity.  Hello!  They had God there with them showing them signs such as bread falling from heaven.  He spoke through burning bushes.  He parted the Red sea, for goodness sake.

This morning I read these verses as the rest of my family was still asleep. I allowed the words to penetrate every part of me.  I closed my eyes and envisioned a gate.  A gate that is always there, where ever I go…it is right there. I open it and walk through.  I see all the things He has planted and cared for.  I am taken care of. I can relax and breathe in His peace.  His flowers bloom in their appropriate seasons.  I don’t need to water them, his rains fall as He sees fit.  But then, I get impatient.  I think this flower should have already bloomed. So, I water it myself.  I water it too much and it dies.  The gate reopens and the winds blow me back into the barren land. I am just as stupid as the Israelites.

He sometimes allows me to stay in the barren land.  I grumble just as they did.  But then, I feel His presence.  He has never left me.  He simply waits for me to allow Him to care for the land He has provided.  Only He knows how long I need this reminder.  When He knows I am ready, the spirit leads me to reopen the gate.

How many ways can you see these verses?  There’s literally, of course.  That is how I first see it. It is history. Then, I see my life before and after Christ. I see my life now when I try to control things instead of following His lead.  I see how humbling it is to let go and allow Him to care for me.  I want to stop, be still, and let Him hold me.

 

Conflict

For someone such as myself who usually avoids conflict, I have to admit (at the present time) how grateful I am for it.  Through conflict I am forced to examine where I stand and why.  For without it, my comfort would thicken and thus my growth would lag…

Conflict. One side is right, the other is wrong. Both sides are right, both sides are wrong.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, there is always something for all to learn.  If you go through conflict and do not, I would suggest you are wrong even if you are right. You don’t need to be the wrong one to be the one to learn a lesson. Maybe it is that God wants you to draw nearer to Him because of what He has planned for your next step.

I struggled with this recently.  I wanted clarity from the other side, the side I feel was/is wrong. I always strive to find clarity to the point it is a strength and a weakness. Sometimes it is not mine to have. Sometimes handing it to God and allowing Him to do His job is what I should be striving for. When I reminded myself of this, I saw why things sometimes linger.

God’s timing is not my timing. I feel as though I need to repeat. God’s timing is not my timing! Some have thicker walls built up around their hearts.  It takes longer for them to see the lesson and sometimes it just isn’t their time. Maybe all that was meant for them was to chip away one more layer so that the next conflict or the one after can knock down the rest of the wall.

 

 

Love, Love, Love some more He says.

Love is in the air as of late.  Not the mushy kind of love you usually think of. Real love.  The kind of love defined in the bible.  I know I already blogged about this. But I just cannot get it off my mind and He keeps reminding me in one way or the other how important it is.

So here I go again.  This time I will focus on myself. I believe I can say, without seeming as though I am boasting, that I am a kind person.  I give and I help a lot…some people say I give and help too much. But still, I have a love problem and I believe we all do. I get stingy with my love sometimes.  I feel taken advantage of and maybe I am. Maybe it is more that people know I care and am willing to give them the love they need…and deserve.  See how Satan will twist things in our minds?

I feel as though God expects from us what we can give.  So when I feel like I give enough and He tells me to give more…I need to stop fighting it. When it comes to love, He expects a lot from me.  Maybe He expects more from me in the love department than He does of most.  That is because of my gifts (especially the gift of mercy). God would never expect me to sing in front of the church because He did not give me that gift.  Am I making sense?

Anyway, I naturally love people and He has given me this ability to absorb others feelings.  Sometimes it is draining.  I actually avoid certain people sometimes because I feel so much of their pain.  I feel ashamed even admitting this. I use the excuse that it is a defense mechanism (this avoidance) because I need a chance to recharge.  I do need to recharge, that is part of being an introvert.  But if I am going to be fully honest with myself…then I should say…I am always good at finding time to do so.  So when I use the excuse, it is just an excuse. It is Satan telling me it is okay to avoid people.  Because sure enough when I bring it to God, He always gives me a way to use my gifts without draining me too much. Imagine that.

Whatever gift He has given you–use it!  Stop trying to control what He has given you.  Bring it to the One who gives you strength.

 

 

Broken Glasses

I noticed Luke’s glasses were not on his face as he crossed the street.  He stopped in front of me and raised his hand where his broken glasses lay.  I felt the pain as I looked in his eyes and he told me, “My friend broke them on the bus.”  I looked up as the bus pulled away.  I tried to motion for the bus to stop but it was too late.

I was a bit perturbed that the driver did not take the time to tell me of the incident and I knew getting a story out of an upset Luke would not be easy. For someone with such low vision like Luke, his glasses are truly a part of his body.  So to have someone break them is the equivalent of getting a black eye from someone. He was sad and mad at the situation.  Long story short, I kind of got the story of what happened and have also spoken to the school. I am not happy about it and I am not happy about how kids behave on the bus.  They were rough housing and his friend took it too far.

What I am happy about is how Luke has handled it since.  Luke decided after the incident that he no longer wants to sit with this kid.  I so admire him for making this decision on his own.  I know how hard it can be to make a decision such as this.  Luke told me he doesn’t like how they play mean and doesn’t want to be friends with him.  The more I think about it, the more proud I become.  In life, you must choose your friends wisely.  Sometimes it isn’t just about how a friend treats you.  It is also about how you feel and how you act around a person.

Love, Love, LOVE!

Love.  It boils down to love. Sadly, I think our definition of love has shifted. I think we need to start shifting it back. I think it is our responsibility as Christians to do so.

I believe all people crave the type of love defined in the bible.  We are not giving it as fully as we should.  We’d bring a lot more people to Christ if we did.  There is no one beyond saving.  I fully believe that.  We need to stop worrying about what others may think.  There is nothing to be ashamed about.

What do you think is worse? Downplaying our beliefs or being so passionate about our beliefs that we cannot contain them?  I think many are afraid to act “too Christian”.  As if that is going to push people away.  This laissez-faire attitude does nothing for someone who is struggling.  If I am on the fence on something and I see someone jumping for joy over a cause…they get my attention.  Not the person who whispers, “I am a Christian. But don’t worry, I won’t bother you with my beliefs.”  They should be looking at us and thinking, “What are they so excited about?”

Where do we start?  With love, of course.  With real love.  The kind of love we receive from Christ.  Love is supposed to be selfless, not selfish.  Yet, we are not doing all we can to share it with others.

We need to remember we are all sinners.  We all fall short.  Christians have the gift of salvation.  So, if we are given this gift (that we did nothing to earn) we need to be thankful for it. We shouldn’t be selfish with it.  We should want everyone to have this gift.  Since we are not God, who are we to decide who should hear about it and who should not?  Our job is to love and share the gospel with everyone.

Love has given us forgiveness of our past, present, and future sins.  That is something to be excited about every single day. The blood He shed for us–I will never deserve.  But yet, I can be certain of my hope.  I will be in heaven one day because of what He did for me.  We all need to remember this.  Love will never be easy for us this side of heaven, but we should never stop trying to love as He loves us.