Lead me, this Good Friday, to the Cross

For forty-plus years, I’d heard the Scripture. I’ve seen movie portrayals of the Passion of Jesus, but several years ago it became real in a way that I neither anticipated nor prepared for. I sat in a meeting and we discussed how powerful it would be to have a cross made that was as close to the one Jesus would have been crucified on. “Can you do it?” “I think so.” We researched the facts and that is what they were, mere facts. Facts about the execution tool used by the Romans in the time of Jesus. We studied the dimensions and I set out to replicate the cross. Replicate the cross that my Savior was hung upon. It was simply a project, until the transformation of plain railroad ties began. The staining, the weathering. The distressing of the wood.  The distressing from being dropped and dragged. The deep imprints from the pounding of nails. The addition of red paint where the stains of blood would have been. It became real.  In all of its gruesomeness and brutality, it became beautiful. When the cross was assembled in the sanctuary it all came so overwhelmingly close. The reality of Jesus broken for me. Jesus broken so that my sins would be forgiven. Standing in front of this rugged cross I had a intimacy with the Lord that I had never had before. I sat with Him in the upper room, prayed with Him in the Garden of Gesthemene. I stood there with Him the day Pilate authorized His death. I walked alongside Him as He carried that cross.  I watched...

A peek into my journal

I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real. I wrote this in my journal recently, and then the next time I picked it up I felt so strongly that I should share it—not because it’s amazing writing, and not because I have the answers, because I don’t—but because I think someone out there needs to know that they are not alone. Here’s the truth: We don’t all feel inspired all the time, and we don’t always know how to pray. Even me—and I’ve published two books on prayer. So please read on and know that each person’s faith life will ebb and flow. Prayer may come easily sometimes and be more difficult at other times. But God remains the same, and He always wants to hear from us. I am so grateful. It’s Saturday morning—really almost noon—and I’m feeling that familiar resistance. I should work; I want to read. I should pray; I want to read. I should be productive—I have so much to do—but I’m tired and just want to indulge myself. Lord, what is it in me that wants to do meaningless, selfish things over spending time with You? Is it the fear—the knowledge—that You know me? That You see through my BS? That You know how far my heart and thoughts are from You in the daily grind? Revive that passion in me, Lord. Please. It was so good for me...

Feeding the Discontent Monster

I was mad. Discouraged. Ready to quit. In the span of a month, I’d been hit hard on every side—physically, emotionally, relationally. And to top it off, an area I’d poured my life into for over a decade seemed to be dying. It wasn’t fair. Wasn’t right. I knew God was in control, which meant—He’d allowed all this. That was what frustrated me most. It felt as if He’d intentionally led me to a painful dead end. These are the thoughts one has late at night, when sleep won’t come and negativity is fed by the predawn darkness. The more I thought about the events—and there were numerous—that had crashed into my nice, pre-planned, agenda-based world, the more upset I became. The heavier my discouragement felt. Until I became paralyzed by inactivity. In truth, by self-centeredness. That’s what it came down to. Entrenched in entitlement, I focused on the have nots instead of the haves. With thought after thought, I fed the Discontent Monster until her insatiable appetite overshadowed every good and precious thing Christ had given. The next morning, groggy, stiff, and still nursing a self-fed negative attitude, I opened my Bible and … read this: “…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Phil. 4:11-12). Why had God allowed all these trials to hit? Why had He seemingly killed that which I was so certain, over a decade previously,...

Behind The Makeup

Over the years I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry at the local church. Most of the time you hope and pray that what you are doing is making an impact, but truth be told you never fully know just what that impact is. A good friend of mine, Michelle Garrison, shared this with me a few weeks ago and I immediately knew that this was something that needed to be talked about with you as well. This is something that many of us wrestle with, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that I talk/write about more than anything else: Girlfriends, vulnerability and being real with each other. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure, but something incredible happens when we start to get behind the makeup. I pray you are as encouraged by her words as I have been…she is not an author, speaker, or even someone that likes to be in the spotlight, she’s a real woman, doing real life and trying really hard to live out her faith and I just love that about Michelle. Her words are from the heart and I know that it will challenge you as much as it did me. As I assessed my face in the makeup mirror this morning, I was so thankful that I was able to hide my imperfections under the mask of makeup. The day before, I hung around the house and wore no makeup. It is amazing how good you feel when you look all put together. On that no makeup day, I wasn’t feeling at my best. Then, my thoughts...

Self Imposed Fog

I read a devotional the other day on trusting God through the fog, the writer recounting a difficult drive down a foggy mountain road and trusting God to take her safely home. I have not had that experience of driving down a foggy mountain road. And yet, recently…I created my own fog on a bright sunny day. Nothing had changed. A blinding fog did not roll in and obscure my view. I just took my eyes off what God can do and let circumstances overwhelm me with doubt and fear. I was not a friend to myself. I was a saboteur of my own journey. For a while I let a thick fog swirl around me and swallow up my hope and faith and pull me into a dark place where discouragement filled my heart. We all have those days when praying, waiting, and working toward something are met with discouragement. We often find we derail our confidence in the Lord with our own weakness and wrong thinking because for a while we take our eyes off of Him and instead let a fog of doubt and worry surround us. The fog comes rolling in when I take my eyes off of the Lord. It is a miserable place to be when we feel like we have lost our way and can’t find a clear solution. There are multiple possibilities for our discouragement. We become impatient because we have already waited a very long time for answers. We might convince ourselves we have asked for too much or too big and back down from our asking. We don’t see...

Mama Bear Love

“That brings out the mama bear in me,” a friend exclaimed. Most parents love their children with a love so powerful it’s scary. New parents are blown away by love when they see their newborn baby. It’s been said that becoming a parent is like having your heart walking around outside your body. Such fierce love causes parents to struggle with their children growing up in a world filled with danger, evil, and potential pain. We make it our goal to control our child’s life. We take on the impossible task of guaranteeing our child’s safety. Adding to our fear is the realization our child has the freedom to choose, and we can’t control their choices. When our child is forty-five, we’ll still want their safety, well-being and happiness. Once a parent, always a parent. Recently, our twenty-four year old son mentioned a health issue he has and indicated he has no plans to have it taken care of. I couldn’t sleep that night. I started imagining all the possible results. In my mind, he was headed to an early grave because he left this issue untreated. The next morning, I read about Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 21. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, even though Sarah was well past childbearing years. Sarah decided to help God by offering her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so he could have a son by her. Her plan was to then raise this son as Abraham’s heir. Hagar had a son but it didn’t work out the way Sarah thought it would. A few years later, God fulfilled His promise...

Reading Music

    My son has been playing piano since he was four years old. Now at age 12, he is very good at playing solo music. He has an amazing gift of listening to music and finding the keys by hearing. Whenever he plays a song, he memorizes the music first. This can be a good thing because he can play music without having the notes in front of him. But it can be a bad thing because he reads music slowly since he leans so heavily on his hearing. He can’t just sit down with a piece of music and play each note. He has to study each note first, memorize their order and then play the song. This happens a lot with piano players since much of their study is done alone. In order for my son to get better at reading music, he tried out for our local youth symphony. He made the string ensemble, but the maestro understood that although my son plays very well, his music reading is slow. My son will have to work on reading each note as he plays them and develop that skill. At the first rehearsal, my son felt lost. Not only had he never played with other instruments before, he also fell behind in playing the music. He couldn’t read the notes nearly as quickly as the other students playing violin and cello who had learned to play their instruments among the orchestra. My son who excels in solo playing appeared disoriented and slow. Although he has been playing piano for 7 years, his talent did not show...

Untangling Our Will From God’s

Decisions, the ones that really matter, are difficult. And no matter how hard we try to view a situation objectively, more often than not, each choice will be enmeshed in emotion and obligation, tainted by our sinful nature, and … hopefully, ultimately resting on a desire to be obedient. So how can we separate the latter from the former? Is that even possible? What are some steps we can take to surrender our will to Christ’s and zero in on His guidance? First, we need to understand that we are, by nature, sinful people, prone to pride, selfishness, and self-deception. If not dealt with, these sins have the capacity to squelch the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first step is prayer, asking God to cleanse our hearts. Consider making Psalm 19:12-14 a daily prayer, especially during times of indecision. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (NLT). The next step, which is an ongoing one, is to listen. Throughout Scripture, God promises to lead and guide us. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left” (NLT). Sometimes God will guide us by gently whispering to our heart. Many times He’ll speak...

Stuck in My Own Little World

 I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6b NIV Stuck. In the same car line. In the same seats at church. In my own little world. Over the last few weeks, God has really been nudging at my heart to start looking at what He has really called me to do. I mean…really nudging me. So much so that I had to mentally pull off the side of the road and throw my hands up in the air with a “what gives?” reply. I serve your people at church. I support, love and encourage my husband and kids. I lead the Kids and Women’s ministries at our church. I run… I… I… I… Herein lies the problem. In laying out all the things I was doing for God, I realized that this is not actually what He has called me to. The light bulb finally come on and God showed me that I have been stuck in my own little world for far too long. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV It is right there in Scripture. We call it the Great Commission and if you wanted to peel everything...

He Gives Rain… In.Due.Season.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,  then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.” Leviticus 26:3-5 (ESV) – emphasis added The land was vast, and yet, seemingly desolate. A desert of sorts, the people knew that, unlike the Egyptians who had the fertile Nile to irrigate their crops, Israel was solely dependent on the rain season to be able to harvest bountiful crops. When I visited Israel many years ago, I remember listening to the tour guide describing the abundance of its harvest. I had never tasted fresher fruit and vegetables before. Indeed, this tiny piece of land yields some of the most beautiful crops on earth. I find it especially interesting that of all places on the planet, God would choose to place His chosen nation in a land that would completely depend on rain to produce successful harvests. But then again, The Holy God of Israel knew the heart of His people. Had he chosen Egypt as the Promised Land, the people would gladly depend on their own ability to channel the waters of the Nile into their crop beds. Rain would not have been a deal breaker every year, necessarily. However, the success of any given harvest season in Israel did not depend on...