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.

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)

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.

 

Easy like Sunday Morning

bible-1031288_1920I’m easy like Sunday morning…

That song popped up in my head this morning. I guess it goes to show how much sarcasm is simply wired in my brain. Oh boy, at least I make myself laugh. ‘Cause let me tell you, this lovely Sunday morning started out as anything but easy.

My youngest had a hard time staying in his Sunday school class. We eventually bribed him. Mom of the year award, right? He eventually walked in the classroom and plopped on the floor with his arms crossed. Just as sarcasm flows through my veins, stubbornness flows through Oliver’s. At least he isn’t crying, I thought and off I went to meet Matt to head to our bible class. After I checked on him a couple more times, that is.

After dealing with that, we weren’t eager to get to class. We went, of course. It took a few minutes and a few deep breaths to be able to focus. The subject was on slowing down, something I actually just blogged on recently. Gotta love the way God reinforces things for us. There is something about slowing down that sometimes leads us to feel guilty. We shouldn’t, but it’s as though we feel we can’t say no. We feel like we are being lazy if our calendars aren’t filled to the brim. Anyway, the leader even had all of us stop and sit silently for a full minute. Powerful to think of a room full of adults in complete silence.

After class and before worship started, Matt whispered how he was glad we went to class this morning. I nodded and added how funny it is that Satan works hard on those Sunday mornings when you really need to hear something. Satan sure is a jerk!

Like I have said before. Don’t just turn to God. Turn away to God. Turn away from the busyness, the distractions, and all the other noise of this world. When we don’t stop and sit at the feet of Jesus––when we don’t stop and study His word––just think of what we are really missing. His still small voice is what we are missing and that is what we need more than anything in this crazy world.

Freedom

rain.jpgScattered heavy raindrops began to fall from the sky as I played in a nearby tennis court with my friends during our brothers baseball game. Slowly, the sporadic rain turned into a steady rainfall. My friends and I lifted our arms high and tilted our heads back as we allowed the rain to land in our open mouths. I remember the laughter that flowed from us and the glances that bonded us in that moment. Time slowed and we were nothing else but free.

Sitting here thinking of that moment, I can almost feel the same freedom I felt that day. I believe if it were to start raining right now I would want to run outside and try to relive it. I wouldn’t actually do it though. Well, unless my kids were with me. I would feel like an idiot standing in the rain by myself.

We all yearn for freedom. Look at the world around you. People are always seeking and fighting for it. Or, they’re in pain because they can’t find it or simply don’t have the strength to fight for it. What I see are people clinging to the the wrong kind of freedom or things that are not freedom at all. They just think or hope it is. Because those freedoms are always in exchange for something else. I wonder if deep down they feel a void knowing it isn’t what they really need to be seeking. Those freedoms are only temporary, they are shallow puddles that will soon dry.

Like me standing in the rain. That free feeling ceased. My friends and I became bored and cold. I remember having no towel in the car and I couldn’t wait to get home to change into dry clothes. Dry socks never felt so good. The rain was a fleeting childhood freedom. Some of my best memories surround such freedoms. Childhood freedoms, although innocent and pure, will never give us what we need.

There is only one real freedom in this life and that is freedom in Christ. Many of us “adult” christians know this already. Yet, we hesitate like I do when the thought of playing in the rain crosses my mind. Why can’t we fully embrace this freedom? We’re all sinners, duh. I wonder though…what would happen if we started running and clinging to Him like a child, regardless of what sin was standing in the way? Childlike faith, I believe it’s called (wink wink).

Would we better sway people away from the false freedoms they are rooted in if they saw us clinging more to the truth our hearts hold so dear? I think about my kids and the type of faith I want them to carry throughout their lives. I picture them standing in the rain with their arms up high and heads tilted back because they know freedom, real freedom, never will cease.

Floating

IMG_0474One of the things I have taken from my life changing moments, the big and the small, is the realization of how tiny I am in the big picture. Yes, I know my tiny self can make a huge impact. I like to compare it to being a piece of the puzzle. One piece can close gaps and bring fulfillment. The thing is, until I see the other pieces being important as well, I cannot truly fit. I must be able to see beyond myself.

Sometimes, I try to wriggle my way in to find I don’t fit. I need to see that I may be trying to fit in the wrong puzzle. I want to fit where I want to fit. I see the place that makes the most sense. I see the place that is easy and comfortable. Maybe at one time I did fit in a particular puzzle, but something changed. I grew or simply changed…or the other pieces around me changed. I could go on forever with the possibilities.

Let me just face it. I am not carved piece of cardboard. The puzzle is simply a metaphor, a weak one if that. I don’t just belong to one puzzle. I am moldable and so is everyone else. Isn’t that beautiful? Inspiring? Scary? Yes, yes, and definitely yes.

For someone like myself, the transition from one place to the next is terrifying. It can feel as though I am floating around frantically looking for my safe place to land. I like having my place. Not just in the physical sense, of course. Even in friendships or other relationships, I need my place. I’m not thinking of any friendship or such right now, though. My point is that I seek purpose in all aspects of my life. Is it good or bad? Maybe it is both.

When I find myself floating around I must remember He is molding me or molding those around me. My safe place is not always in the purpose of today or where I fit into the puzzle, but it in the purpose of the days to come and where I may soon fit. It is in trusting His lead that my faith is strengthened. It is in the floating into the unknown that His power is shown.

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

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

 

 

 

What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now, here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away, he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head. It is because of this I am led to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

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.