Monday, July 31, 2017

Good From Bad.

How has your summer been? Full of so many summery things that you wish it could last forever? Full of so many summery things that you have actually had your fill and are ready for fall? Too short? Too long? Not what you expected? Mine falls in that last category.

I had a certain type of summer planned out in my mind back at the end of May. Then…I’m sure you know what happened next…life happened. Family things came up, ministry things came up, all sorts of things came up! Some good, some not so good, and all unexpected. The hardest thing was definitely my husband breaking his ribs in late June. Boooo. And hissssss. And booooo again. Obviously the boos and hisses are for all the pain he has been in, but also for all the plans that had to be put on hold. But you know, that is only part of the story.

The other part is that I had my husband home alone for a couple of weeks with—wait for it!—nothing to do. Nothing. To. Do. This is unheard of! And it was doctor’s orders, which of course makes it official! And it was something unexpectedly bad that was turned to an unexpected good. I love when that happens. You start to be so mad at a circumstance or situation, so angry that it happened to you, then God starts to show you the good that He can bring from it. He is so great like that. He can turn things around.

Romans 8:28 tells us God does that exact thing. I realize this sounds like a pat answer to many people. “Going through a hard time? Hey, its okay! God will just turn that sucker around for good!” Of course we don’t want someone to gloss over our hard times, toss out a Bible verse to us, and move on thinking it will fix all our ills. Or to imply that our hard times aren’t that hard because one day it will be better. Of course not. We are called to love. Love is action. Love is getting off our high horse and getting into the ditch with people. But I really do want to be loved with God’s Word. I really do want you to bring His Word in the ditch with when you come for me.

In case you don’t know the verse, it says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” And it is absolutely true. And I absolutely need to be reminded of it over and over and over. He does this, this bringing good from bad, for me because He loves me. And I need to be reminded of that.

Certainly my husband’s broken ribs are not as heartbreaking and life-draining and breath-stealing as what many of you are going through. I, however, have walked through other kinds of hell these past couple of years. Dark times. Hard times. Feeling like my nose is just barely above the water while the rest of me is sinking times. And that verse? It gave me hope. Reason to breathe. What a reminder that HE IS HERE. He is real. He sees the horrible times, the somewhat horrible times, the laughably horrible times, and the good times as well, and holds all of them in His hands. I need to remember during all of these times that He’s watching. He’s gonna love me through it. He knows.

A few chapters later in Romans we get these words in verse 9:Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” And then verse 15 tells us, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” We’re called to act like God, so I have to believe this is how God is to His children. He is happy with us in the good times. He weeps with us in the bad. And, yes, He works all of the times out for our good in the end. That doesn’t mean it will all tie up with a bow and a happy ending. It doesn’t mean every event will be explained to us. But it does mean that, as the Message Bible puts it, “…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” He can work unimaginable pain into peace. He can heal emotional wounds. Scars that no one else can see can be soothed. It's possible, but only with God.

I understand that people want others to keep cliché sayings to themselves. Sometimes we just can’t help it in hard times. We want to say something, but don’t know what to say. Our motives may not be bad, but our words can be questionable. Not so with the Word of God. The motive is always His love for us. He only thinks good thoughts toward us, never evil ones. He sees us through the eyes of His Beloved Son Jesus if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior. If you haven’t, you can ask Jesus into your heart right now—give your heart to Him and ask Him to forgive you for the ways you’ve lived your life wrong, ask Him to lead you from now on. It's not complicated, it's not a religious thing. It's entering into the relationship you’ve been waiting your whole life for. (And if you want a little direction for what’s next, click here.)

So the motive. It's always good. And God’s Word? It can never be reduced to a cliché. It is living and active. It is for our good.

The summer was different than I thought. At first glance, not good different. But it sure turned out to be pretty amazing. Good from bad. I’m thankful for the reminder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Through A Child’s Eyes

Jason and I had a wonderful few days with our grandson this week. So fun to see the world through a child’s eyes! Things that are a part of my everyday look different when I see them through an 18 month old’s eyes. The big yard. The extra large dog that must look like a horsey to him. The wide open beach. The vast ocean that seems to have no end. So much to explore and see and touch and, for him at least, to taste! It was an absolute delight to see things anew, with a spirit of adventure and curiosity.

It made me think how God made this whole big world for us to explore and enjoy alongside Him. He must delight in us as we have new experiences He created for us. He must be thrilled as we curiously journey through this life He has given us, led by the Holy Spirit. The wonderful outer world of yards and horseys and beaches and oceans, of course! But also the inner world of living by faith and walking in love and joy and peace and looking to His Word for life.

You know what else? Jack never wanted to explore apart from us. He always wanted to hold onto our hands or our pants leg. If he ran ahead, he would look back, just to make sure we were still with him. So precious. I want to be that way with God. What good would it all be if He weren’t with me? I want to hold onto His hands, keep close to Him so I know He’s there on this giant adventure with me.

Jack doesn’t know this yet, but we would never, ever leave him! Our eyes are glued to that little sucker!! He just needs to reassure himself sometimes. You may not know yet, but I assure you that God will never leave you. Hebrews 13:5, “I will never abandon you.” So when I reach for His hand or turn my eyes up to make sure He’s there, it is not Him I am doubting. I am well aware of my wanderings and how easily I can forget about Him. And I don’t want to forget about Him. I want Him to be involved in every single part of my life. He wants that, too. I want to immediately look to Him—“Hey God, did you see that?”, “Wasn’t that so cool, God?”, “Whoa! That was amazing, God!”

I want to follow the Leader right into that abundant life He has promised me. I hope you follow Him, too, this week and that you have a fun, adventurous week!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday Shenanigans

We are empty nesters. Still getting used to that, though it’s been a while now. It’s hard to put on the brakes after you spend your whole adult life doing a particular thing, hard to shift to a new season. But—spoiler!—its also FUN. So much fun. Jason and I had our daughter before we were married and our whole married life was raising children until recently. We’ve never lived alone, just the two of us. It has been an adventure of the best kind to learn what that’s like. It has led to many shenanigans! We are trying new things, learning, growing into this new season. Seeing what sticks, what we like as a couple without kids in the house to fill our time. Again, so much fun.

Jason surprised me this spring with paddleboards! We’ve talked about this forever and tried it out once in the Keys. When you live surrounded by water, it seems a shame to not take advantage of it, and paddleboarding is just one way we can.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because life with Jesus is meant to be full. Meant to be abundant. Meant to be full of possibility and hope. I never thought I would love to paddleboard, never been one for sporty kind of adventure. But Jesus knows me better than I know myself! He made me, can see around corners of the future that I can’t, and knows what will put the abundant in my life. My part is to let Him.

How many times do we tell ourselves and others, “No—I couldn’t possibly do that. I’ve never been that kind of person.” From traveling to trying new foods to sharing how we fell in love with Jesus to speaking to a group of women to writing to leading a Bible story to paddleboarding! So many times we shut off avenues that God has specifically put on our path because we just won’t open our mind to new possibilities. And we figure it's probably not God anyway, so what’s the big deal?

It can be a very big deal. It can be an avenue of rest and renewal and revitalization and revival. Think about a long road trip. You’re headed from one part of the country to the other—coast-to-coast. You know you’ll only do this once so you want to make it count. You don’t barrel through, nose to the grindstone, just getting it done. You want to see things, you want to rest overnight, you want to take a few back roads that you’ll never have the chance to see again. You want to have stories to tell! Souvenirs to show!

God didn’t put you on this earth to barrel through with your nose to the grindstone, just getting it done. He put you here to know Him, He gave you life—and then the life of His Son Jesus—so you could have abundant life. John 10:10: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”

Hey friend, He knows when you need rest and renewal and revitalization and revival. Maybe it’s in your mind or your spirit or your body or your marriage. So He puts a little off-ramp for you to follow. It’s not taking you off your purpose. It’s adding to your purpose. You’re picking up little things that will enhance your trip. You’re appreciating your Creator more as you realize just how well He knows you. You’re going to be able to share this part of your adventure with others—how you didn’t even realize you needed this avenue, but it appeared, and you followed God right onto it, and amazing things have happened because of it. “See this souvenir of joy? I got that on this particular side road! Hey—look at this peace I found on this dusty new road!”

I have no idea what this looks like for you. Maybe a certain avenue will lead to new friends, new opportunities, new knowledge. But you have to be willing! Don’t be afraid of new. And don’t dismiss “non-spiritual” things as having no spiritual value. God is an all-encompassing God. He so wants to give you what you need, even if you don’t know you need it.

I could’ve said, “Nah. I’m not a paddleboarding type of girl. Watching someone paddleboard in a Netflix show is more my speed.” And really, I’ve said similar things to a myriad of offroads. But I didn’t this time. And because I said, I’ll try it!, I’ve picked up some pretty cool souvenirs for my life and my marriage. I highly recommend it.