The Garden Prayer

For years, the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane puzzled me. I couldn’t get past the following train of thought: “If Jesus is God, then He knows what God knows. If God knew that the only way to redeem humanity was for Jesus to be crucified, then Jesus knew that. Then why on earth did He ask God to ‘let this cup pass from me’ if He knew that wasn’t an option?” I dissected the account of Jesus in the Garden more times than I can count. I looked for answers, prayed for answers, asked others for answers… and got a lot of nothing. I was trying to make sense of my second cancer diagnosis when I was drawn back to the account of Jesus in the Garden … and it finally clicked. In the Garden, Jesus showed us how to go to Our Father and ask Him to take the hard things from us. He asked for another way to deal with the sin of mankind while remaining completely submitted to God’s will. The account is there for me (and for you). Scripture says this: Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39 HCSB Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:43 HCSB   In the Garden, Jesus shows us this beautiful truth… When life presses on you so hard that you can’t rest, your chest hurts, and you have a hard time breathing…...

Cling Tight Dear One

When life seems to keep knocking you down and you start to wonder when will you see the sun again just remember to cling tight, dear one. This has been the four words that God keeps pressing on my heart these last few months. Oh how I wish that I could tell you that the Christian life was all sunshine and roses, but truth is that it’s not always easy. Yes, there are times when It’s full of sadness, disappointment, and hurt, but there are also times full of happiness, joy and love. Thank goodness for that, because can you image how hard it would be to even get out of bed each day if it was only the hard stuff? Here’s what I will tell you — I’ve grown more as a believer in the hard times than in the easy times. Sit there for a minute. It’s a hard truth, for sure, but it’s true. It’s when things are tough than we run (not even walk) to God. It’s not when things are going smoothly. So, what’s one supposed to do when you are buried deep in the middle of the hard times? Well, that’s where these four words come in handy…cling tight, dear one. These four words have been on my mind for months now. Every single time I cry out to God for help, relief or comfort I feel Him say to me, “cling tight, dear one”. Why those four words and why every single time I pray these days? I think I’m beginning to understand and it’s my hope that these four words will...

No matter what… Grace

Do you really understand grace? I don’t. But oh, how much beauty there is in the sliver of comprehension that I can wrap my head around. I recently read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and it transformed my faith. Well, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. It validated the beliefs I’d already formed and pushed me even farther in that direction. I think grace is one of those words we throw around in the church and don’t really think about. It’s often defined as unmerited favor, but even that is misleading. It’s true that it’s not dependent on us; our merits don’t qualify us for it. But it’s also true that in the very act of offering so much to us, God makes us worthy. We’re not qualified, but God loves us enough to give us absolutely everything we need for all of eternity: His love. His forgiveness. His mercy. His compassion. His transforming power. Grace means that God loves us no matter what. He calls to us, woos us, pursues us, transforms us. It means that there is nothing else we could do that would make God love us more than He already does. It also means there is nothing we could ever do that will make Him love us less. There is no way to stop Him from loving us. There is no way to earn more—He’s already offered it all. Every last bit of it. It’s all held out to us, His Almighty arm fully extended. He doesn’t love me more after that really powerful quiet time I have than He did before I sat down...

You Can Go Your Own Way Or You Can Seek God’s Will

 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. ~ 2 Corinthians 8:5 Have you ever tried to do things your own way? When the focus is on trying to do what you want instead of what God’s will is for the situation? Me too! Truth be told, I am somewhat of a “control freak.” There, I said it. Whew, I feel a little better now. You know you are a control freak when you will do whatever it takes to make sure that things are done “just right”–whether it is the dishes, the laundry, the project at work, or even your hair. The catch twenty-two with this though is that people around you like that you things get done and that they can count on you when the going gets tough, but it can also frustrate and tear down some of those same relationships, not to mention the fact that it keeps us focused on what “we” can do. When our focus is on what we can do, handle and get done then the weight of the burden rests completely on our shoulders. We start to feel the weight of all these things we’ve picked up along the way because we are get it done girls who like things done the “right way”. Each step we take throughout the day seems harder and heavier until we feel like we can’t take another single step. In our pursuit to do things our way we somehow managed to sidestep God. We left Him out and...

What do you do when you fall?

I lacked grace. Mercy was nowhere in sight. Instead, I chose to be headstrong, stubborn, and consumed with my own judgements. I was right, my friend knew it, and I certainly knew. In the heat of the moment, I was hell bent on making sure my thoughts were heard. Truth needed to be spoken, right? Yet, I sounded like nothing more than a clanging cymbal because I lacked love (1 Corinthians 13:1). As I focused solely on being right, I lost sight of the person standing before me. I diminished her situation, her struggle. I diminished her as I hurled my words at her. Negating the reason she had approached me, the reason the conversation began, I became wrapped in my own knowledge and insights. I puffed myself up to the point I nearly imploded. There she sat in front of me, wincing as I rubbed salt into her already wounded heart. I can prophecy and move mountains with my faith, but am nothing without love (1 Corinthians 13:2). While nearly breaking my arm patting myself on the back with how accurate my rebuttal was, I finally paused to look at my friend. Her head hung down. Her shoulders hunched forward as a gentle stream of tears flowed down her cheeks. What had I done? How could I have been so callous, so prideful? Was being right more important than helping her to navigate the situation she faced? Yes, she had made a poor decision, but now, so had I. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7), but my words had lacked love. I had fallen hard,...

Encouragement to Continue

Are you facing a challenge that has left you with countless questions? I’ve been there. Several years ago, my husband Steve’s, position at work was eliminated. If you’ve ever lost a job, you’ve experienced the stress of financial pressures and lack of medical insurance. It’s no picnic. It was nine months before my husband found a suitable job. During that time, the pastor of our church died. And not many months later, my dad passed away. Doubts & questions The doubts and questions were relentless. Why was it taking so long for Steve to find a job in his field? What would happen to our church without a pastor? How could I deal with the death of my dad on top of everything else? In His grace, God gave me hope and encouragement to continue. God’s Word is filled with countless examples of people who chose to trust Him during really tough circumstances. Ruth’s story Ruth is one of my heroes. She went through some hard times, suffering the death of both her father-in-law and husband. The choice she made when faced with a life-changing decision is inspiring. Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, had lived in Moab for ten years and her husband and two sons had died. Now she was heading back to her home town. Naomi advised her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to go back to their people. Orpah found it hard to leave, but took Naomi’s advice. Ruth was different. She saw something in Naomi that caused her to leave all she had ever known – family, friends, her home town, and culture – and trust God...

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...

No Ordinary Love

Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth.  As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth. Hebrews 13:5b And God has said, “Never will I leave...

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...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...