The hardest yes ever spoken

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:28) Let’s prepare to dive in As we dive into Scripture, it is important that we understand the culture. I have been learning more about the culture of the Middle East in the first century, and this learning has blown the Bible wide open. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I think now is the time to truly understand how difficult Mary’s response was. The culture of Jesus was a culture of honor/shame, a culture of hospitality, and a culture of community. Today, the Middle East can be defined in the same way. These three points of their culture are significant to help us understand the magnitude of Mary’s yes. The hardest yes Saying yes to birthing Jesus means Mary is saying yes to bringing shame on her entire family. She is an unmarried, teenage girl. Saying yes could result in Mary’s death. There were laws against such immoral acts, laws often enforced. We focus on the message Gabriel speaks, but rarely have I considered its implications. An unwed, but engaged, woman becoming pregnant was not about only Mary. Shame would be heaped on her family, and on Joseph. Joseph could have divorced Mary, or have had her stoned. But a visit from an angel changes Joseph’s mind. Still, the risk of incredible shame remains. Not once does the angel Gabriel offer clarity or reassurance. He does not say the coming child will be welcomed. Gabriel never reveals whether Joseph and his family will be accepted in society, a...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 23 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan. This baby isn’t due YET.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car, a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first...

How To Get Your Heart Right This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and yet if I’m being honest there are days in this season of life when it is just plain hard to be thankful. Shocking, I know. I shouldn’t be saying that to you, I should put on my Patty perfect pastor’s wife hat and pretend to have it all together…but, I just can’t do that anymore. You and I both know that being real with each other is so much healthier than some pretend story of how someone else’s life is more put together than yours. Plus, it is a reality that many can relate to right now. I can count my blessings, I can try to be positive, but let’s face it–life is hard sometimes and it’s not enough to know that fact in your head, you’ve got to give it time to get your heart. So, what are you supposed to do when you should have a heart of thanksgiving but your heart and your head aren’t talking to each other? That’s a great question and I’ve found some incredible wisdom for us right here in this verse; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Let’s dig right in because this is just too good to wait on…if we are anxious then chances are we aren’t going to have a heart of thanksgiving, will we? We’ll be, well…anxious. Worried, frazzled, distracted and trying...

A Fast from WHAT?

Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 It sat in my inbox for nearly a week. The title simultaneously stirred me and scared me. I knew I NEEDED to read it. I knew simply by the title of the email that I needed some time to prepare to enter this ring. The other day, I felt like a boxer prepared to fight. I opened the email. The email with the subject header: A Fast from Judgement. This could take awhile. We are undeniably a culture of JUDGEMENT and this was a challenge to fast from judgement. I was hoping for coffee. I was convicted not only to read it, but study what the Bible really says about it and take a long, hard look inward. It doesn’t take much to see that we’re caught up in it y’all and it’s making us a hot mess. It’s destroying what Jesus died for; the heart and soul of mercy and grace. Okay. It may be just me, but my judgement comes in the form of THOUGHTS and unspoken ATTITUDES rather than vocalized social media commentary and since it’s just between ME and JESUS, it’s justified, and considered discernment, right? Uh, no. It’s still merciless. It’s conclusive without ever seeking Jesus. The unspoken thoughts and attitudes are just as relevant, destructive and sinful as ones openly expressed and for me, a fast was in order to expose the weakness of my flesh and to draw me into Jesus. Let’s be clear. There seems to be some confusion, especially in a social media obsessed,...

How to Embrace Seasons of Change

Change: we all go through it at some point in our lives and it happens whether we want it to or not. So what do we do when the winds of change start to blow and we simply don’t want things to change? Do we stomp our feet like little kids and cross our arms, forbidding change to happen? Do we jump on an imaginary surfboard and ride the waves of change like a free spirit? Do we go through the motions of change, doing what we gotta do, all the while wondering, “what just happened?” If you are anything like me, you’ve probably done all three at some point or another in your life. This year though, has been different. This year has been all about change in every single arena of my life. Okay, so not every single arena. I am still very much happily married, but pretty much everything else has changed and this has proven to be one of the most emotional, gut wrenching, spirit checking, soul searching seasons in my life. I’ve always pictured myself as an “adventurer” type of person. The one who leads change, blazes new paths, plows right ahead. It wasn’t until everything changed that I realized just how comfortable my life was and how much I liked it that way. Isn’t that usually the way it is in life? You think things are one way, then quickly realize you were off in your view of reality. This has absolutely been the case for me, and while I wrestle with all the change, I’m slowly starting to let the words from...

be Still

In our society, we are always on the go. Our to-do lists are constantly running through our heads and chances are even as we skim over this we are thinking of all the other things we still have to do today. Oh my, sweet friends, it’s time for us to stop the running, the chasing, and the endless pursuit of what the world tells us that we should want– – money – status – stuff – more _______ (fill in the blank) …and stop long enough to simply be still. Just for a moment. Come on, try it. Just be still, take a deep breathe in then exhale slowly. Don’t text, tweet, instagram or update your status (ha, caught you!) — there’ll be time for that later. Right now though, let’s try to simply be still and see what God does. Listen, I’m not great at this either, I’m about as “Dory” as they come, but it is something I’ve been challenged on lately and wanted to share some of what I’m learning through it with you. Here’s what you can do to get started on learning to be still. Ask Him to join you in your be still and silent moment. Release all the distractions clamoring for your attention. Take a few deep breaths in and really start to slow yourself down a bit. Wait for Him to come sit beside you. I’ve found that it’s best to do before your days gets away from you, but here’s a little heads up as you get started. I can guarantee you that it will not be easy at first. Everything around you...

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...

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...

It’s Not Up to You

It was my first real, paid, speaking engagement. A church halfway across the country had invited me, Jennifer Slattery, Midwestern mom of one, to be their keynote speaker. I was more than intimidated. I was terrified, to the point my stomach felt as if army ants, butterflies, and nasty spiders had declared war within me. Not wanting to reveal the extent of my ignorance and ineptitude, I spent hours crafting and rehearsing my speech and fine-tuning my Power Point. Then the day came. I’d spent so much time preparing and rehearsing I could give my speech backwards. In my sleep. I’d become so confident in my abilities, in fact… God needed to do some confidence-stripping. It started with a casual conversation between me and the educational minister. “What do you plan to talk about?” This struck me as odd, for I’d already sent him my outline. But perhaps he’d forgotten, so I shared my main points, certain he’d be pleased. Turns out, he had a different vision for the presentation entirely. This meant I needed to prepare a completely different speech, and quickly. Those warring critters returned with a vengeance, and cold sweat broke out on my face. On my entire body, actually, only it wasn’t cold. It was insanely hot as we were in Texas at the peak of summer. Except I had little time for a shower. Twenty minutes later, with new Power Point slides and graphics in place, stopwatch in hand, I prepared to spend the next two hours practicing until I’d cemented each word permanently in my brain. Once again, God had other plans. “Come...

I Got Suckered By A Scam Artist

I walked past the shivering transient without really seeing her. I barely glanced up as I hurried to get out of the rain. I rushed through the door into the hotel lobby, but my steps slowed when I heard a baby cry. Turning my head, I looked more closely. The woman sat huddled under the overhang. She had a little boy on her lap and a stroller by her side. The stroller was covered with a blanket and plastic bags stuffed with odds and ends overflowing from the basket underneath. She held a cell phone in her hand and stared at the screen, seemingly oblivious to the wailing of her infant. I watched for a moment and then walked away. I was cold and tired, ready to check in to my room and get some rest after a long day of training. As I handed the hotel clerk my credit card, I argued with myself. She might be waiting for someone. There are plenty of other people here who could help her. She has a cell phone. If she can afford a cell phone, she can afford a room. As I finished my transaction and turned to grab my bags, my eyes were drawn back outside. It was dark and I could barely see through the rain, but the screen from her cell phone cast a little bit of light. Her toddler was now running up and down the sidewalk. He splashed through the dark, stomping his feet in the puddles. She didn’t seem to notice him as he played. She is oblivious to everything around her. She is probably on drugs....