Monday, April 10, 2017

Passionate Commitment.

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

I had to pause as I read these verses today. I love verse 6—it’s the promise of Jesus, the Mighty Savior. It’s the promise of the greatest Gift to ever be given—a Son. A Son Who will save and rescue and cleanse and renew. It is so incredible to think that if you—Hey! I’m talking to YOU!—had been the only one Who needed Him, He still would have been given for you. Such love.

I was particularly struck by verse 7 today, though. “The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” The Message puts it like this: “The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.”

How does that make you feel?! The fact that God was so passionately committed to being with you that He made the promise and put His whole self behind that promise. Then He fulfilled that promise. Because of you. Because He loved you so much He would not be separated from you.

As for me, it makes me feel loved and it also makes me feel hopeful. This proves He is for me. If He is so passionately committed to that—to giving His Son—I can’t help but know He is on my side. What a thing—the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is passionately committed to saving me.

And to saving you.

I hope this sinks into our hearts today. I hope we realize that God is not begrudgingly going to help us—He is passionately committed to helping us. He’s not going to love us because He has to—He is passionately committed to loving us. He isn’t in a relationship with us because He is forced to be—He is passionately committed to making that relationship beautiful and holy.

Passionate commitment. That’s what the Lord has for you today, and every day.

Love you all!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making a Difference.

I have seen such love this week as our church has gone through a loss. As our community of women, Glow, has gone through a great loss. An outpouring of love and grace, of “I see you, I hurt with you, I’m here with you in this”. No magic words have been spoken, no waving of any wand that heals all hurts, nothing like that. But arms have been outstretched. Human arms of flesh and bone anointed by the Spirit of the Living God to become the arms of Jesus, wrapping around a family, saying “you are not alone in this”.

How little it takes to make a difference for good. Sometimes we don’t know how to help in hard times, and that is natural. We want to fix things! So many things can’t be fixed. They can only be healed over time, with God leading the way on a healing path, with Jesus holding our hands, even holding us, as we travel on it. I have found one of the greatest ways to “help” as those around us have to go down that hard way is to simply travel along the path with our people. Pick up any rocks we see along the way they would trip on. Stopping to cry when they cry. Stopping to find a bright spot to rejoice in when they do. No judgment, no agenda. Just love and companionship. You’re not alone. You’re not alone. You’re not alone.

You can make a difference today, this week, this year by simply doing that. Travel along with. It may not seem like much in the moment, but it makes a mighty difference along the way.

We spoke in Glow on Tuesday how it is an honor to rejoice with those who rejoice. Romans 12:15: “Be happy with those who are happy…” What an honor to do that! Marriages and anniversaries and fun family events! So many things to rejoice in with one another. The verse continues on to say: “…and weep with those who weep.”

That is also an honor.

It is an honor to walk through dark valleys with our brothers and sisters in Christ. A privilege. Because we get a chance to show the great, unconditional love of Christ with one another in these times. We get to share. Grief, sorrow, hopelessness. We get to lighten the load of those things on each others’ shoulders as we walk along together.

Together. It makes a difference.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Word Up

We have been learning about patterns and processes and practices from God’s Word in Glow lately. Yesterday we explored what I think is the greatest, most important, practice to …practice… in our lives: Reading, speaking, meditating on, memorizing and believing the Word of God. The Bible. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God.” You can’t separate God from His Word—they are the same! So when you are giving your focus and mind and heart over to learn His Word, you are learning about Him.

If I want to get to know anybody that I don’t know and they have written down all the information about themselves, I’ll read it! And I’ll read it first, before I go exploring what other people have said about this person. But I have found that when it comes to God, often times we look to other people first. That’s backwards! Go to the Source!! God has given YOU access everything He has said about Himself and His Kingdom. Don’t let it be a wasted resource in your life. Read it! Learn it!

Learning, knowing, memorizing, meditating on God’s Word is SO important because it’s a word fight. It's always a word fight. You think of all the trouble you’ve gotten into over the years—it's probably because you believed words like “I need acceptance at all costs” or “I won’t be happy unless I do or have this”. Other people’s words have likely influenced you for good or for bad. Do you remember a teacher or parent telling you that you weren’t good at something? You probably carried that with you for a while. Conversely, if someone important to you told you that you were good at something, you probably carried that for a while, too. The power of words. It's amazing.

Even more influential than the words of others are the words we tell ourselves. We may take others words, the good or the bad, and make them our own, but the reason our own words to our own selves are so powerful is because they are repeated over and over and over. Sally isn’t in my ear all day long every single day telling me the same thing over and over again. But I am. I can hear my own words, either building myself up or tearing myself down, every single day, every single hour, every single minute.

So I better make my words count for my good.

I believe the best way to do that is to not use my own words at all, but to use God’s Words. After all, He made me. He knows my future. He knows what He created me to be and do and experience. Also, my words can be wrong. They are based on feelings, and oh how my feelings are prone to change. But not God’s Words. His Words are faithful, and they are forever.

Will you join me in this? Start repeating the real Truth—God’s Word—to yourself. Often. Daily. It’s a practice, after all.

Here are some examples we can work on this week:

Instead of repeating to ourselves, “I can’t”, why don’t we put God’s Words in our mouths and in our minds: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Instead of the refrain, “I’m tired”, start saying what God says in Isaiah 40:29-31: “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

How about we stop saying “I’m too old”, and start really believing: “He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!” Psalm 103:5

In the same vein, “I’m too young” is replaced with “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

When you hear that familiar “I don’t feel forgiven”, remind yourself that God has said in 2 Corinthians 5:21: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

When your voice tells you “I’m afraid”, counter that feeling with the Truth of Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (I particularly love the Amplified version of this Verse: “Fear not, there’s nothing to fear…”)

These are just a few examples of how we can counter our negative thoughts, which spring from feelings and are subject to change at any given moment, with God’s Words, which are the most powerful weapon in a word fight. Ephesians 6:17 calls it “the Sword of the Spirit”. Believing God’s Words about me—and to believe them I have had to read them, recite them, think about them over and over---has been the thing that has grown me spiritually more than any other. Because in the process, in the practice of this, I have gotten to know God. I have reminded myself that His Words are truer than mine, and He has shaped me more into His image as I have submitted to this process.

It is a process. It does take practice. It’s a practice worth starting.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


I spent last week in the hospital with my husband. Loooooong story, but he is fine. He is, however, without a bb that has been with him since he was first grade! Like I said, long story. It also made for a long week. Hospital stays are never fun, but when they are completely unexpected it makes for a scrambled mind trying to figure out who will do the things you are supposed to be doing. I was spent.

And, then, every day I got rejuvenated just a bit, at the oddest times. Every time I went downstairs to get coffee. Every time a nurse came in. Every time I had to leave to go home and get new clothes. You may find it hard to believe, but this is a true story.

Everyone was so….kind.

The person in scrubs hurrying by who was obviously on a mission, yet stopped to open the door for me unasked since my hands were full of coffee. The lady manning the cafeteria who gave me a water for free when she saw that mine had gotten stuck in the vending machine, even though the cafeteria was closed and the vending machines did not belong to the actual hospital. The men at the security stations who took the time to smile and wish me a good day. The guy driving me to my car in the complimentary golf cart in the pouring rain who had so many people to cart around, and still took the time to ask about my day. The lady at the cash register in the cafeteria who consistently complimented what I was wearing. Now, I know I looked a raggedy mess, but she just made my day anyway. The young girl working the café in the lobby who brightened with a smile when I came down for more coffee and encouraged me each time. The nurses, all the nurses, who had such compassion on a bewildered couple whose plans did not include a hospital stay. The doctors who sat and took the time to explain what tests and procedures were needed, and why. Particularly the doctor, who I later learned had to be an extremely busy man, who was so kind to give us time to pray and decide about a surgery we were unsure of, even though he was recommending it. He graciously said he would come back in an hour or two, and lo and behold, he did.

Complete strangers, every one.

Man. What a change kindness made in my life this week. I am sure every last one of these people had stresses and life situations that would have made very good reasons to be unkind to a total stranger. After all, why should they be kind to me? They don’t know me and will likely never see my face again. Yet they chose kindness anyway.

It made all the difference.

And, funny thing about kindness—it spreads. It’s contagious. I know from experience there are a lot of things you do not want to catch in the hospital, but I am so glad I caught kindness. I was able to serve my husband in kindness from the blessing of others’ kindness toward me. God’s Fruit of the Spirit is cool like that. You can pick it and it give it away and share it and use it and it will never, ever run out.

I think being in an exceptionally vulnerable state helped me be more aware of the small, and great, kindnesses offered me. I hate to think what my week would have been like had I experienced the opposite. I’d like to tell you that wouldn’t have been contagious, but I know better. Around our house, we call it getting slimed. Someone is mean or unkind or impatient or frustrated with you, and you carry those things right on to someone else. Hey—let’s don’t do that.

I am thinking about a blog my daughter wrote not too long ago where she said kindness takes such a short amount of time and costs absolutely nothing.  I need to remind myself of this. And if I’m tempted to forget, I pray the faces of those who blessed me last week will pop up in my mind and I will remember the tremendous effect it had on me. It didn’t take them long, it was completely free to offer, and I was better because they did.

If you’ve done something small or great lately out of sheer kindness for another person, thank you. Maybe they didn’t get to tell you what a difference it made, but you can be assured it did. If you haven’t, you can start today! The next person you come upon can be blessed with your smile, a hello, a kind word. I know we are busy. I know we are focused. But God has been so kind to us. And Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…”. Oh, to have a tender heart! Let’s try it out this week.

Love you all!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swapping Goodness

I learned so many things when I moved to Florida. First of all, it IS kind of weird. Have you ever noticed that 99.99% of the weird and bizarre news stories take place in Florida? I think there have been actual studies done. So, yes, I fit right in, thank you. Also, it is paradise. For me. Maybe your paradise is the mountaintop in Colorado or the desert in Arizona. Aren’t you glad God made us so different? Cause it would be really hard to fit us all in here at the beach.

I don’t know if you have ever moved from one kind of place to another kind of place, but if you have you have probably experienced culture shock. Our family totally did. In so many ways. We learned all kinds of things the first bit of time here. We learned the language of surfers: things are sooooooo goooooood. We learned to surf. Okay, okay. The rest of my family learned to surf. But I learned to paddle really, really well. I tell people that I paddle and they say, “Oh, you mean paddleboard!” No. No, I do not. I paddle. I can paddle my surfboard out, I can paddle my surfboard in. Don’t judge me.

I like to think I brought a little bit of culture here as well. If you are from any part of the south you know what Rotel is. NO ONE HERE KNEW WHAT ROTEL WAS. I’m sorry I had to shout that at you, but it is so shocking that I needed you to feel the full emotion of it. Everyone who came to my house—and there were lots of folks since we were starting an actual church in our house—came hoping for “that dip”. People—it is just a block of Velveeta and two cans of Rotel tomatoes. No secret sauce here. Did they believe that? No. They thought I must mix in some Tennessee magic to make it addictive. I tried to tell them it was just that good old pasteurized cheese that kept them coming back for more. To this day, 10 years later, people come over and ask if I will make that “cowboy dip”. Just stop and think about that, please.

So, Florida, you are welcome. How you existed on this planet without Rotel is beyond me, but I’m glad to be using my gifts.

I learned so much more from my new culture, of course. Deeper things like just because it's sunny and 80 doesn’t mean life is grand. Just because you have a great tan and a bikini and a convertible doesn’t mean you are happy. Conversely, I have learned that sometimes beautiful days are just a God-invitation to go to the beach and enjoy His world. And life doesn’t always have to be so serious all the time.

It is my deep hope that I have taught some things as well. That my Savior Jesus is so awesome and you shouldn’t believe everything you hear about Him—you can know Him for your very own self in the Bible. That there is a Love that is truly unconditional and perfect and it is for you.

What a great exchange of ideas we can have if we are open to it.

A friend told me the other day about a couple of friends of hers whose business and personal relationship broke up because of the election. Man. That is just too bad. And sad. Too sad. I’m sure there were different opinions, I’m sure they were both passionate about their opinions, I’m sure they felt they just couldn’t go on with the relationship due to such stark differences. I don’t know them, but I feel this had to be the case since they were closing such a meaningful chapter in their lives because of disagreement.

I don’t know that I have ever met anyone I completely agree with. I have been married for nearly 22 years, and Jason and I most certainly do not agree on everything. My daughter is my best friend and she and I openly disagree on many issues. My son is the most fun and funniest person I know, yet he and I have very different views on several things. And these are the people I am closest to!! I am so thankful we don’t let these things define our relationship. I’m so grateful we talk, we listen, and sometimes we just leave it at that. Life doesn’t become consumed by proving we are right and they are wrong.

I’ve learned a lot from my family. They will tell you they have learned a lot from me. And here we go, walking through life, far from perfect, far from identical, just learning and going and growing.

I hope you take time to learn from someone today. Many times, time isn’t exactly what it takes, it takes a lowering of the pride guard. I hope you lower the pride guard enough to learn today. I hope you listen. The Bible speaks to this in James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Goodness. If we would all follow just that one maybe our world could change for the better.

I hope you exchange some goodness today. And if someone gives you nastiness instead, that’s okay. Let them keep your goodness anyway.