My prayer for you this Christmas

As I prepared to write about the joy of Christmas, I was reminded of how HARD Christmas can be. I want all the family together. I want to give amazing gifts. I want to prepare mouthwatering recipes that will be requested for years to come. I want…well, I want “perfect.” Thing is, life’s not perfect. Families certainly aren’t. As if a “perfect” family Christmas wasn’t enough of a challenge, there is so much to DO in December: Christmas plays and concerts, visiting Santa, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, company dinners and Christmas parades. The list of things to do and places to be is endless. Now, add to ALL that the social stress that comes with living in a country where not everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. Christians are offended when stores promote “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We remind everyone that CHRISTmas is about CHRIST, but do we really believe that? Have we bought into the world’s version of Christmas? I’m afraid we have. I think that we have made Christmas about family, Santa, gifts and feasts. I think that we celebrate Christmas just like “the world” does…. and, I think that is the real root of all the stress and anxiety we feel at Christmas. Maybe you’re thinking “Not me. I know that Christmas is about Jesus.” If you aren’t sure where you stand on this,  here are the questions I asked myself earlier this week: If there was no tree and no twinkling lights, would it still feel like Christmas? If there were no presents, would it still feel like Christmas? If there was no family, would it still feel like Christmas? If ALL you had was...

A Season of Joyful Thankfulness and Deep Gratitude

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) November comes with all sorts of opportunities to express thankfulness. The things at the top of my “Things I’m Thankful For” list are not surprising. They include salvation, family, friends, church, home, and career.  These have not changed in years and I doubt they will change in the future. However, the things further down my list have changed significantly as time has passed. For example, my parents’ divorce ranks high on the list now. For most of my life, I considered myself and my family  damaged beyond repair because my parents don’t love each other. Divorce broke our family. That is for certain. Divorce is NOT God’s plan…also for certain. Even so, I have grown to be thankful, not for my parents’ divorce, but for what God did in spite of it and through it and even because of it. He gave me two sets of parents who love me dearly and four sets of grandparents who do as well. He gave me siblings, nieces and nephews I’d not have otherwise. While my parents’ divorce is something that caused me pain for years, I eventually saw the blessings that God has given me because of it and, while I would love for my parents to have had  a “happily ever after,” I have become deeply grateful for the family I’ve been given as a result of their divorce. The deep gratitude I feel for my parents’ divorce is very different from the joy-filled thankfulness I feel for my family and friends....

“Shower the People You Love With Love”

Last month I wrote about Tyler, who was killed in a car accident in August. We buried him on a Monday. On Tuesday, a childhood friend took his own life. On Wednesday, my friend Jane lost her battle with congestive heart failure. That was a hard week. My heart still hurts. My heart hurts because Tyler felt unloved and unpopular while he was living. He wasn’t here to see the outpouring of love in the days after his death. I wish he’d known how many people loved him. Jane and I worked together for almost fifteen years. She was proud to be a Jesus follower and always ready to share her faith. The day she died, our office was filled with stories about her strong faith and infectious laugh.  She was an encourager, helpful and dependable. She was a tremendous asset to our office. Many of my coworkers said they wish they’d let her know these things. Now they can’t. Riley took his life. This absolutely wrecks my soul. What hopelessness he must have felt to think that death was the only way to soothe his heart. And I wonder… did he know Jesus? That question steals my breath. His family’s social media is full of memories of Riley’s smile, of his sweetness, of the mark he left on people’s lives, and of how very much he will be missed. Did he know that so many people loved him? We spend so much time looking at what needs to be fixed in people. We focus on how they disappoint us or let us down. Too many times, it isn’t until someone dies that we realize their value, their strengths, their gifts, and how...

Our Mission Field

Brian (my oldest) and Tyler are seniors. Tyler works at Sonic and the only time I see him these days is when I go for a half-price milkshake, but there was a time when he was a big part of my life. Tyler and Brian played little league baseball together when they were boys. Tyler lives with his grandfather just down the street from us, so many times the boys would ride to and from baseball together. After baseball, they’d climb trees and race bikes and do whatever little boys do on Saturday afternoons. In Brian’s words, they were “tight.” Now, Brian had a system when he was little. When he realized that one of his friends didn’t know Jesus, he’d invite him to spend the night on Saturday so they could go to church with us on Sunday. He’d just keep inviting him to spend the night until we had opportunity to talk to them about Jesus. This was easy with Tyler because he usually came home with us after baseball anyway. Eventually, we’d pick Tyler up for church when he didn’t spend the night and, when my kids decided it was cool to ride the church bus, the bus picked Tyler up too. His mom was deployed back then, so when Tyler got saved, we waited until she could get leave to come home for him to be baptized. It’s amazing to me how things worked out… all because our boys just “happened” to be on the same little league team. When the boys hit junior high, Tyler went one way and Brian another, but Tyler is one of several boys that hold a special place in my heart because...

Why do “good” people suffer while “bad” people prosper?

Recently, a co-worker gave me a wonderful perspective on this dilemma. Maybe the seemingly unfairness of “bad people” appearing to be blessed while “good people” suffer is evidence of God’s love for those who do not know Him. MAYBE He is allowing unsaved people to be blessed now because HE truly understands how terrible hell is and knows that their eternal fate will be horrendous. MAYBE  He knows that the only joy they will have will be in this life and so He, in His abounding love, allows them joy and success here on earth. Likewise, He truly understands how utterly incomprehensibly amazing Heaven will be and MAYBE He allows the saved people to suffer here because He knows that their faith in Him through trials will lead others to faith in Him. He sent Jesus to die so that we could be saved from Hell; it makes sense to believe that He would allow His children to suffer so that others would come to know Him. Besides that, He also knows that they will spend eternity in perfect peace, comfort, and joy, forgetting the troubles of this life in an instant.  If we really believe that Heaven, hell and eternity are real, then we must believe that this life is a mere blip in time and neither the blessings nor troubles in this life will compare to what we experience for eternity. If we, as Christians, truly believe that Heaven, hell, and eternity are real, then we should be wrecked over people not choosing to live for Jesus, rather than lamenting the seeming lack of justice of this life.  It is natural to be discouraged by the...

Sinners in Need of a Savior

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11 NIV When I met Jesus, I was very much like this woman. Broken. Beaten up by a life of rebellion and bad choices. When I met Jesus, I expected Him to condemn me… I believe this woman expected him to as well. Understanding that I could not accept the forgiveness He offered and continue to live my life contrary to His Word, I chose to follow Him, and “leave my life of sin.” In return, He forgave me, embraced me, healed me, and filled up...

Lessons From An Encourager

I recently met a tremendously encouraging woman. Well, I haven’t actually “met” her. We’ve never talked or had coffee. I’m not even sure what state she lives in. Still, she is my encourager.  She encourages me with a few simple words… “Great Post.” “Thank you for this.” Or my favorite: “Bless you, dear one.” She simply lets me know that someone out in cyberspace is reading these words God puts in my heart. I didn’t think much of it, other than it was really nice, until her comments on my blog stopped. After a few days I realized that I missed her. A week or so passed and I realized I missed her a lot. We are in the same circles on social media and we have a mutual friend, so I did a little poking around and discovered that she’s been sick…for a while…a long while…as in the whole time she’s been sending me words of encouragement. I’m amazed. Here’s a lady who is having a really hard time and she is so full of Christ’s love that it seems to spill out of her and splash all over the rest of us. Don’t you love people like that? Don’t they amaze you? Leave you scratching your head and wondering how they stay so positive? Make you wish you had whatever they have that keeps them from having a bad case of the grumbles? I’ve noticed a few things about my encourager friend. She talks about Jesus and almost never talks about herself or her ailments. She is focused on Christ, on the hope of heaven, and on God’s presence in her life. She trusts God’s...

Wise Counsel

Our water bill went up from $60 to $80. Higher than normal, but acceptable.  It went up to $100 and we were a bit concerned. When it went up to $200, we realized we had a leak. Calvin (the hubs) discovered a leak in our shower, and we were talking about how we could tear out the shower and redo that bathroom when our friend Tim called. Calvin told him what was going on, and he came over and looked at the shower. Tim said that the shower just needed a little caulk and suggested that we rule out a leak in the yard before we started tearing up our house. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15 (ESV) As we investigated further, things pointed to a leak under our slab. We got upset, but Tim reminded us to rule out a leak in the yard and he was right; the leak was in the yard. They dug up the yard to run new line from the meter to the house, and we have a $60 water bill in our future! I am so thankful for Tim’s guidance and thrilled that we didn’t start tearing out walls and busting up concrete looking for the leak. We’d have done much more damage to our home had we not listened to Tim’s wise counsel, which reminds me of the necessity of wise counsel when dealing with sin. When sin is wreaking havoc on our lives, we need wise counsel. While sin may leave a mark (like the fresh dirt in my yard), wise counsel can prevent more catastrophic damage (like...

The Most Important Thing

I’ve spent the past few months feeling a terrible need to write about what we “should” do. Forgive so that we can be free. Trust God with our brokenness. See the benefit in times of painful growth. My intentions are good.  It crushes my soul that women accept spiritual defeat. Living in bondage to sin and Satan’s deceit is not acceptable to me and I feel a tremendous responsibility to shine light on Satan’s schemes. I still believe that these things need to be said, but lately I’ve felt an all-consuming desire to make people see Satan’s deceit. It’s been the absolute most important thing to me. Until Riley got burned. Riley is 4. He suffered 3rd degree chemical burns on about 1/4 of his body at the end of January.  That night, I met his parents at the ER, and felt completely and utterly useless. No words could offer comfort. No wisdom about how God uses trials seemed appropriate. We were all completely helpless against the chemical that was burning through his flesh.  We prayed for comfort and peace in those first moments and the in days and weeks that followed as he had surgeries and skin grafts. As we waited and prayed during the last days of January and the month of February, I began to realize that I’d lost sight of what people REALLY need when things are really bad. During that dark time, I sent the following in an email: “There is so much hurt in this world. We live in a broken place with broken bodies. Thank God for the promise of heaven. There would be no hope without it!” As soon as I typed the words, God convicted my...

Search Me

What competes with Christ for your attention and affection? I am guilty of letting things…mostly good things…draw my affection from my Savior. I don’t like to admit it.  It is embarrassing and humbling to be reminded that Satan still deceives me.  Oftentimes I am not even aware that he is working on me until sin causes unrest in my soul. It’s only then that I realize I am struggling spiritually.  Thankfully, when I ask God to show me what’s causing me to struggle, He is faithful to reveal sin I so easily overlook (or ignore). Lately, this has been my prayer: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) When Jesus searches my heart, the process can be painful. Just this week, he revealed to me that I have been leaning on  Christian friends where I should be leaning on Him. I sought validation from them rather than Him. I made choices based on what would make them happy rather than on what would bring God glory. This seems relatively harmless when compared to things like murder, adultery, gossip, lying, or sexual sin. Even so, allowing my friends to take up space in my heart that belongs to God caused me to struggle spiritually. Satan is crafty and can use ANYTHING to draw our affection from God. I read somewhere that idolatry can be described as worshiping a gift instead of the Giver of it. Just like murder and sexual immorality, idolatry is a sin. Sin separates us from God, which is what causes unrest in the...