That’s The Kind Of God We Have!

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When I first asked this question to a group of kids, most of them answered a week with Jesus. One kid turned the question around on me and asked what I would choose. I quickly answered that I too would like to spend a week with Jesus. I thought it would be life changing. I pictured myself sitting across a table with a cup of coffee chatting with my savior. Just think about how cool that would be. The kids giggled at my enthusiasm as I explained my reasons.

Last week during bible study we read Jesus appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-39). I’ll bold the part that stuck out to me the most.

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Doubt. After all the disciples had seen and heard. They had doubt. They thought Jesus was a ghost! I mentally jotted down the question, “How often do we doubt His presence?”.  Bible study continued on then it was over. Matt and I left, commented on how good it was, and went on with our day––err shall I say days?

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Yesterday, as I was cleaning my house, it was like a strong breeze swept over me. Then as forceful whisper I heard, “How often do we doubt His presence?”  I fell right into my chair and my bible flew open to just the right page. Just kidding. Actually it was a lot less exciting. It is more like this: My mental notebook has a way of recalling things much later than I want it to at times. See, I wanted to come home right after church and jot down my question. Nope, didn’t happen. Yesterday I decided to review the bible verses simply because I wanted to. I grabbed my bible, sat down, and my dog nestled in my lap. Before I read the verses I remembered the question and jotted it down. It was an ordinary moment, like much of life is. Those are the moments we can doubt the power of His presence the most. Right?

As I was flipping through my bible, I found the index card and I began thinking about my answer again. I still would choose a week with Jesus. I still picture sitting across a table from him with a cup of joe in hand. I feel a bit differently now. I automatically assumed it would be life changing. Maybe it would. I hope it would.

I now see how doubt crept into the disciples, not just here but other times as well. I see how doubt creeps into me. I wonder if my story was in the bible, what parts of His presence and power in my life would others see that I simply overlook because I’m in the midst of it? Reading these verses again,I also remembered something that came after this. The Holy Spirit came! Like really, we have the Holy Spirit and how often do we overlook this gift?

All I can say is thank God for His working through our weaknesses (despite our weaknesses). Yeah, that’s just the kind of God we have!

Questions:

  1. Would you rather spend one hour in Heaven or one week with Jesus on earth?
  2.  Is there anything different that sticks out to you the second time reading this?

Jesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-39)

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

 

 

My Dear Stranger

Lying awake in the middle of the night, I think of my stranger. I wonder how he is doing. His words replay in my mind. Are you a praying person? Will you pray for me, a stranger? My name is Matthew. I looked for him after that day, but never did I see him again. My stranger is a part of me now. He changed me. He opened my eyes and I will forever be thankful to him for that.

Dear Matthew,

Little did I know the impact a stranger could have on my life. I almost didn’t walk Luke to school. He fell walking out to the garage and had a bit of a meltdown. It was an act of tough love. I knew he wasn’t as injured as he was acting. He was a dramatic three year old and I was a mother who wanted to run off some of the extra weight I had accumulated during the pregnancy of my second child. I put my baby in the jogging stroller and told Luke he was still going to walk to school. Luke’s “pain” quickly diminished and he returned to the boy who loved walking to school. That alone was enough to turn my day around.

Then there you were. Standing at the edge of the church’s parking lot with your head down. I noticed you right away. Why is this man just standing there? I almost didn’t cross the street at my usual spot. What is he doing? But then, I looked at you again. You looked sad, but gentle and composed as well. My motherly instinct felt no harm. There were people all around. I decided to cross. I glanced over at you once more before we started to walk toward Luke’s school. Our eyes met and then you spoke. Your request was simple, as was my response.

I told you I would pray for you. I did. I still pray for you. It is just, I didn’t exactly do it with love at first. Well, maybe my first prayer was sincere. Then I began to question you. I judged you for asking me, a stranger, to pray for you. I wondered what horrible thing you had done, I even checked the internet for missing kids in the area. But then, shame crept in. Not only for judging you, I felt ashamed for all the judging I had ever done.

I will never know why you asked me and I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with that. I am thankful I do not know. Vagueness can have a way of making things more profound. Plus, it is never our job or right to determine who’s worthy of sincere prayers.

Since our encounter, whenever I feel the urge to judge someone, I see you. I feel your presence. I hear your words and I am humbled all over again. Because of you, I love more and deeper. I realize I need people, even strangers, to strengthen my faith and to show me the error in my ways. I will continue to pray for you. Thank you, my dear stranger.

Broken Wings

6AB7FB23-80D2-4A5E-9C1F-E8C885DFF0BB.jpegIt was early morning and the boys energy was rising quicker than the sun. I went into our room to grab something and noticed my husband in peaceful slumber. I decided to change out of my pajamas and take the boys down to the beach so Matt could catch up on some much needed rest.

Walking along the shore and simply soaking up the peace the morning brings, I listened to the waves rolling in and my boys laughter as they fell into the rhythm of beach life. Luke ran up to me with a large piece of something and asked what it was. As I recognized it, fragmented childhood memories arose of walking along the shores of our favorite island with my two brothers collecting the same wonder my son was now holding it his hand. “Those are called sand dollars, Luke. There’s a beautiful legend of them, but I cannot remember all of it. When we get back to the condo I can look it up. Okay?” I described what they look like when they are whole and Luke became determined to find one or as many pieces as possible to put together.

Back at the condo, Luke gathered all his pieces and began placing them together in a circular shape. I grabbed my phone and began reading the legend:

“The legend of the Sand dollar
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus Christ
Found in this lowly shell.
If you will examine closely,
You’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by a Roman’s spear.
On one side the Easter Lily,
It’s center is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
And led them from afar.
The Christmas Poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday,
Our joyous Christmas tide.
Now break the center open
And here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread good will and peace.
This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me.
To help to spread His Message
Through all eternity.”

-Author Unknown

The remainder of our vacation, Luke tried to find a whole sand dollar. The place most likely he could have found one, we weren’t able to make it to this trip. I found some in a shop and surprised him Easter morning. When we broke one open, there was one perfectly shaped “dove”. We held them in our hands and basked in the awe of how much they resembled actual doves. We then set them aside and got ready for church.

Throughout the day, I began thinking of creative ways to preserve the fragile reminders. The one was so perfect, I wanted to display it somehow. Necklace maybe? Frame it somehow? Just thinking of possible ideas was exciting me.

Later in the day, the neighborhood boys showed up at our house. It was their after Spring Break reunion. They shared vacation stories and ran around our house playing. Luke was in the kitchen and saw the doves. He picked up the “perfect” one to show his friend. I looked over and saw our perfect little dove dropping to the ground. Both wings broke at the tips. Luke was devastated.

Luke became quiet and Oliver stepped in explaining the significance of the dove. I whispered to Luke that it was okay. He nodded and then explained to his friend as well. After their friend left, I told the boys how proud I was of them of how they handled the situation. It wasn’t perfect, but they still managed to share their faith. That is what matters most, I told them.

Sitting here today after I have fully come to terms with our perfect dove being broken, I decided I’m still going to find a way to display the dove. Why? Because now there’s even more value to the dove. Think about it. That is the beauty of the gospel. That’s the beauty in spreading good will and peace to others. We have to see and accept our own broken wings to grow our faith and trust in God. And, we need to see and accept everyone else’s broken wings to share our faith and to love the way God loves us.

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Human Trafficking and Love

I went to a nursing seminar with my mother-in-law today. The nerd in me loves, loves, loves seminars. I think I could sit through a seminar on a subject that I could care less about and still enjoy it. Maybe not, but you get my point. Today, though, was the first time I sat through one and had to fight back tears. I learned some new things and also received a great reminder on life and love.

We’ve all heard stories on social media about Human Trafficking. Most of them consist of a mom being at a grocery store with her child and a stranger approaches them. It is scary and sad and makes us always look over our shoulders in parking lots. It makes us look suspiciously at people in stores who may have glanced at us and our children one too many times. I cannot imagine how shook up I would be in a situation like that.

Did you know that those situations make up only 2-3%? Trust me when I say that I am not diminishing those stories by any means by pointing out the 2-3% of those forced into such a horrible life. But after listening to the speakers I cannot help but want/need to share my feelings on one of the more common forms of Human Trafficking.

As I’m sitting here trying to figure out where to begin with all of this, I look down and see my new phone case that my husband got me. It is purple. Purple has been my favorite color since I can remember. Many times when I see the color purple, I think of my 8th birthday. My parents locked me out of my room for about a week. There was some work they had to do and it wasn’t safe to go in there, they told me. The morning of my birthday, they unlocked the door and all I could see was purple. The walls, my bookshelf, my dresser, and even my comforter on my bed was the most beautiful color in the world. I felt loved. I felt special. Actually, I more than felt it. I knew that I was loved and special. As a matter of fact, I am crying right now as I type because there hasn’t been a day in my life where I haven’t felt loved. Yes, there have been days where I didn’t feel love from a particular person––but I have always had others that I knew loved me.

Not everyone has that. I met someone today who bravely shared her story and reminded me of how many of us carelessly forget not everyone has real love. Yes, it is carelessly that we do. Because, if it wasn’t carelessly, we’d be fighting more to stop it. We’d be judging less and loving more the way God wants us to.

I know I cannot do her story justice, but I will try to share what I got out of it. She was in and out of foster care homes. One day, her mom contacted her and said she set up for her to go live with her sister and brother-in-law in a different state. She, for the first time, felt her mom loved her and was trying to take care of her. She went. She remembered an exchange of money before getting in the car to go to there. She didn’t think too much of it. Her mom was taking care of her for the first time. She was feeling good.

It began with mental abuse. A slow breaking her down. Then physical abuse. Then sexual abuse. All by her brother-in-law.

Then it really began. Her brother-in-law threw her a “party”. He said it was because he was proud of the beautiful young lady she was becoming. This “party” started with a doctor doing an exam. Then one man, another, and another and another…it was six total men she was forced to have sex with in one night. In between each encounter the doctor came in and reexamined her. It only stopped at six because the last one broke her nose for crying. Her brother-in-law was furious and kicked the man out. He and the doctor swept in and cleaned her up. They took care of her. She felt loved because she had never been shown what real love was. This continued from the age of thirteen to seventeen. A friend at school reported some bruising and said she just knew something was going on. She was taken out of the home. Now, years later, she fights against Human Trafficking.

I’ll share one more story from the main speaker, a nurse. There was a patient––a frequent flyer to the Emergency Department. You know the one, she is always drunk. She doesn’t take care of herself and on and on. She’s the kind of patient most of the staff rolls their eyes at because she’s back again with the same old thing. Here’s the thing with this patient, with this human being. She was drunk because the only way she could cope with her life (because she was a human trafficking victim) was to drink day and night. They found that out. Yep.

Oh, one more thing. Many victims of trafficking have what is called Stockholm Syndrome. They have loyalty to their trafficker, to their pimp. Why? Because they don’t know what real love is. We are all created with a need to be loved and taken care of. They have never been given this basic human need.

Just think about all of this as you go about your day.

It is what he does!

What was it like in Eden? To walk with God, like literally walk with him? My feeble mind cannot even fathom. I used to get near angry when I would think about how they could screw up something so perfect and peaceful. I used to wonder why God would let them screw up. I used to wonder why Eve would converse with a serpent in the first place. Why listen to something so wrong, and ugly over good and God?

I’ve been a bit distraught, a bit fixated, a bit taken down by suicide and drugs. No matter how well things are going in my life, these thoughts are always there lingering in my mind. I know it’s because the last couple years I’ve lost two family members and an old friend to these evils. All three of these people were smart…actually really smart people. If you know me and my lifestyle, you would see why I cannot stop thinking about it. It isn’t something I am used to. Two of these people became lost in their addictions––to the point you wouldn’t know how beautiful and smart they were at one time. The other was just tired of all the pain. Why, why, why has been stomping around my mind for way too long now. I finally see. I finally understand. I still don’t like it, but I see and understand.

Last Sunday during bible study, all my settled questions that had nestled comfortably in my mind were escorted out by a retired pastor who was subbing for the day. I guess I never even thought to go to the beginning to find my answers. The beginning, as in Genesis 3: The Fall of Man.

How many times have I heard this? My goodness, I know he was a crafty serpent. I truly didn’t think I would get much out of the study until he pointed out things I always brushed right past. He then, in a mockingly tone, repeated the words of the serpent, “Did God really say?” He said it over and over again and I pictured myself standing amongst a group of teens. I pictured the ‘popular’ leader of the pack. She rolled her eyes, mocking her friend who was repeating her parents rules. “Did your parents really mean? Will your parents ever even find out if you do this just once with us? Come on, everyone’s doing it…”

He then asked us what we thought the serpent looked like. Oh, the looks on our faces as we pondered this. Hmm. No where in Genesis 3 does it even hint Eve was scared of this serpent. We don’t know for sure what the serpent even looked like. In my limited mind, I always pictured the serpent as scary. I always picture evil as ugly. But, as we all know, evil is many times wrapped in beauty. Our eyes deceive us, our minds fall prey to believing because we want to feel cool and capable and free. Think about Eden the best you can and then ask if Eve would have been scared of the serpent. I know it is hard, for we are sinners from birth. Eve existed for some time before the fall. Peace exuded all around her. She wasn’t exposed to what we’ve been exposed to. She still chose wrong!

It will always hurt when I think about the ones who lost their lives in horrific ways. My questions are gone though. Again, I don’t like it, but I now understand. It’s really quite simple. If the serpent could tempt Eve who lived in Eden, he surely can tempt others in this broken world. The crafty serpent came to them and wrapped the drugs and suicide in an idea that didn’t scare them, but instead preyed on their weaknesses. It is what he does!

 

All About That Grace (‘Bout That Grace)

image“Oliver, please stop talking about this stuff,” Luke pleaded.

Oliver rolled his eyes, looked at me and replied, “What do you think someone like me is going to talk about? Oooh look at this food. It is so good. Haha, I’m not going to talk about stuff like that!” 

“Yea, Oliver. We all know you only like talking about deep stuff,” I said laughing.

Luke then rolled his eyes and said some sarcastic remark. You know, the usual big brother remark. We all laughed because what Luke said was actually pretty funny. A sense of humor is the one common bond we all have in this house. Luke and Oliver are polar opposites when it comes to conversational topics. Oliver can talk about deep subjects for hours on end. Luke likes to move on after a bit and keep things light. Luke gets weary from thinking too much and Oliver gets exhilarated from thinking too much.  You get my point.

Oliver finished his snack and then came over and sat on the couch next to me. “Mommy, we sure have talked about some good stuff today. Haven’t we? We talked about Jesus. Then Heaven. Then…”

Something Oliver had talked about got me thinking about something that always weighs heavy on me. He wanted to know why everyone doesn’t believe in Jesus. Why do people believe in different things? What exactly is it that other people believe in? I love to counter him with other questions. So, I asked him what we should do if we have a friend who has different beliefs. Do we stop being friends with them? His response was awesome. He said no, not at all. You should be even nicer to them.

Grace, give them grace.

It was a proud momma moment, but it was also a good reminder to myself. I’m telling you, my kids point me back to Christ with their childlike faith! I love it. Anyhow, back to my point. Christianity is all about that grace. That’s what sets us apart. We can tell people the difference between right and wrong. We can post scripture on Facebook. We can tell them to go to church and get involved. We can wear our ‘Jesus Loves Me’ t-shirts. We can do everything we feel Christians should do. But, if we are not ending everything we do and say with explaining and showing the power of God’s grace, we are failing terribly. I am failing terribly.

We are not just failing, we are driving people away from the beauty of the cross––the one thing we all yearn for and need. God loves us so much that he offers us grace powerful enough to work through us despite the fact that we will always fall short. Good stuff, isn’t it?

Next time I want to differentiate between right and wrong…next time I want to post scripture…next time I want to invite someone to church…next time I want to show or display my Christianity, I will end it with what every imperfect human needs to hear. Why? Because it’s all about that grace (’bout that grace).

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-24)

 

 

Like a Tree in a Field

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There is something about a tree in a field that triggers my contemplative side. I want to pull over to the side of the road, get out, simply sit under it, and just be. I often wonder where the fascination came from or why one would be so drawn to a tree in the field.

It’s just, I cannot help but to notice their beauty and their sense of not caring that everything else around them is a part of something they are not. Everything else is growing differently and everything else will have much more in common.  The tree proudly stands with its own purpose. Rooted in the same soil and yet so different and less plentiful than the others.

Today and most days, I feel the same. It is as though I am alone or at a distance from others like me. I am rooted in a field that yields something I cannot conform to. Just like a tree in a field, I can stand proud in my own purpose…in God’s will.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

The Mosaic Is Me.

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Who am I?

A jumbled mess and a masterpiece.

Mentally and spiritually strong, yet weak.

Shaping, bewildering, molding, and tearing me.

All these things, how can they be?

I fall to my knees.

I beg and plead.

Show me the truth, so I can see.

My soul quickly swells with a binding peace.

The answer’s clear. I now can see!

A man, a cross, and shed blood made it be.

The beautiful and the wretched, the mosaic is me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Tires.

tire-416189_1280Driving fast down an old dirt road, I kept glancing in the mirror at my kids in the backseat. Their eyes told me their discomfort was rising. My husband’s tension was evident by his firm grip on the wheel. The low tire pressure alert lit up on the dashboard. We just wanted to get to where we were going. We had too many things to do. We kept going.

Soon, we could feel the tire wouldn’t last much longer. We stopped at a gas station and filled it with more air. The old dirt road once again wore the tire down. I reached over for my husband’s arm. When his eyes met mine, we nodded without saying a word. We pulled over to the side of the road.

I told the kids to get out of the car. “But mom, we have things to do,” my oldest said.

“I know son, but we cannot keep driving on a tire that keeps losing air. It must be fixed. Everything else will have to wait,” I said as I pulled him close and kissed the top of his head.

My husband began working on the tire. I laid a blanket down in the grass and sat patiently with the boys. Instinctively, the boys quickly fell into the rhythm of waiting. At times, my husband took a break from his work and we simply existed together as a family. Time slowed down. With the slowing down, our vision cleared and our hearts began to beat as one.

Once the worn down tire was fixed, we realized the other tires needed work as well. Once the work was done, we climbed back in and continued on our journey. Feeling refreshed, renewed, and refocused, a sense of freedom and peace overcame us…

Today, we roll down our windows and breathe in the fresh air. There is strong admiration of the scenery and no sense of hurry. We turn down the road of 2018 feeling like a new shiny car that is full of hope, love, and excitement.

The love in a family makes it possible to endure a year like 2016. The love of God is what gives us the guidance to stop and be still––so we can gather the strength needed for the journey He intends for us. I thank you, God.

The end.