We always hid Easter baskets for our kids when they were little. They absolutely loved finding those baskets, even when it got too hard and they were prompted with the timeless hints of “hot” and “cold”.
Why did they love it so much?
They were expecting a basket full of joy because of all it held inside.
What are we expecting?
Sadly, many of us have grown cold.
We have gotten farther and farther away from the joy that comes in the expected. And in the coldness, time spent with God has become a duty.
Church should never be just a duty.
It’s not a job where you clock in and clock out.
It’s not a “Christmas and Easter only” facility, yet that’s how many of us view it.
What are we expecting when we walk through the doors?
Are we expecting God’s presence to wash over us as we sing to Him?
As we hear His words, are we expecting those words to change our heart and soul?
Are we expecting those words to bring life?
Or, do we simply attend expecting nothing at all and leave with the same emptiness we had before we came?
Clock in. Clock out.
Three days after Christ was crucified a heartbroken Mary went to His tomb.
What was she expecting? She wasn’t expecting emptiness, yet that’s what she found.
She found emptiness because she wasn’t searching for life.
Mary could have left that day with a continued emptiness. With a heavy sorrow.
What was different?
Unlike so many of us, in her emptiness Mary realized how desperately she needed the Savior and it was in that moment that He revealed Himself to her by simply saying her name. Mary.
And she knew. He was alive.
His presence washed over her and her heart was changed. The tomb was empty but her heart was full.
Life can get hard, but it doesn’t have to be. God is always prompting us to draw closer. We don’t have to remain cold.
Just like a child searching for and expecting to find a basket full of joy, let me encourage you to expect the unexpected this Easter.
What can make the difference? Search for life. The difference comes in the expecting.
An empty tomb. A risen Savior.A life changed. A heart full.
A basket full of joy because of all it holds inside.
What are you expecting?
Whatever you are looking for is what you will find~and everything you’re looking for can be found in Christ.
I listened to his breathing. Tears fell unashamedly from my eyes. It was excruciating to hear the labor with every breath that was drawn.
My heart yearned for heaven for him.
I didn’t want him to leave, but I did not want this pain for him.
So many of us have lost loved ones in the last few years. Death seems to be on the forefront of social media, as well as the prayer chains in our churches. Sorrow upon sorrow have hit so many. It has hit me more than I care to think on.
I saw a picture recently that brought it to my mind once again. The sign read~”We know you would be here today, if heaven wasn’t so far away”. I understood the heart behind the words, but I rejoiced in the truth of God’s word and what a difference it can make in the believer’s life.
If you have lost a loved one this might sound like your reality, but my friend~it is not. Heaven is not far away at all. Heaven is only one breath away for the believer. One last breath and you are in the presence of God. There is no waiting.
2 Corinthians 5:8
Just a breath.
My scripture reading has been in the book of Job lately. A book that I desperately need God’s help to wrap my mind around. God never fails. I asked my husband why some preachers act like it’s so wonderful that in the end, Job got a double portion of everything he had previously lost.
Everything except his children.
Every one of Job’s children had been killed. I could not wrap my mind around the idea that yes, Job had more kids, but they could never replace the children he had lost. My husband’s answer convicted me.
God did not replace the children that Job lost, because they were not lost. He would see them again. 2 Samuel 12:23
How often do I forget this when I think on all those that I loved so dearly who have left this earth?
They are not far away at all.
They are as close as my last breath.
Sweet friend, Jesus died on the cross to give us eternal life. Do we dare look at the cross and tell Jesus it is not enough? That what He endured for us wasn’t enough? When we work harder at being good, always hoping it’s good enough. When we give more to the church, as if trying to buy our way in~that’s exactly what we are telling our Savior. The words of Jesus become null and void in our representation of earning our way to heaven.
His words~”It is finished”.
God tells us that absent from the body is present with the Lord, and that the only way to be in His presence after death is through Jesus finished work on the cross. I John 5:12-13, Luke 23:43, Hebrews 7:25.
Our repentance, His forgiveness. Romans 10:9-13
Once that’s our reality, Jesus tells us that no one can pluck us out of our Father’s hand. John 10:28-29. We have a home in heaven one day with our God of mercy, grace and love. No question.
Immediately in His presence.
And so my friend, rejoice in that truth. We might not understand why God chooses to take our loved ones when He does. Job 42:3 We weep, but so did our Savior. He understands our emotions because He lived them. John 11:35 We sorrow because we love, but we sorrow with the hope of heaven bringing light to our sadness. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
And knowing this~ we don’t ever have to be afraid of death, or feel as if God and Heaven are far away. Psalm 49:15, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
If you are sorrowing today, ask God to bring the light of hope to your sadness.
Your loved one isn’t far at all.
Heaven is only one breath away.
Today is Christmas!!
Today we celebrate the day that changed the entire course of all mankind. The birth of our Redeemer. How we celebrate will look different for everyone. Whether you are surrounded by the squeals of happy, little children, whether you are yearning for the cries of a newborn of your own, whether you are holding the aged hand of an elderly parent~ who once held your tiny hand in theirs, whether you are awaiting the arrival of adult children and looking forward to a house filled with laughter or whether you are alone, perhaps looking at the empty seat of a loved one you lost this year. Whatever your story~ today is the celebration of THE story. The story of good news. The story of glad tidings. The story of great joy. The story of hope, and not of fear. And so, whatever story this day holds for your heart, let us celebrate the JOY that came down from heaven for us and let us grasp the gladness that story holds. No matter how different your story may look from that of others~
God’s story is the same for us all.
The story of sacrificial love for you.
Allow the story of Christmas to wrap around your happy heart, but also your hurting heart. Lean into it and let it’s gift illuminate a weary soul. Let it’s wonder light up your room and let it’s message move you to merriment.
Today, allow your soul to sing that glorious message along with the angels~
Good news. Glad tidings. Great joy and~
She sat in catechism and listened to the story she had heard every year on Jesus birthday. The story of a Savior being born to save His people from their sins. Her eyes wandered to the Christmas tree and it’s beautiful twinkling lights. As her teacher spoke her eyes gazed upward to the star on top of the tree and then down, down to the manger where the little baby lay. In that moment, it was almost as if the words of that familiar story came alive.
God came down.
Down to earth from heaven for me. I was beginning to grasp the significance of a religious story I had heard my entire childhood…
And today, I cannot help but think of another little girl. Sitting in a synagogue on the Sabbath, hearing a story of the promised birth of a Savior who would one day save her people. A story that had been told for over 4,000 years. A promise she had been taught her entire life, having no idea the significant role she would have in that promise.
We know the story. That story of Christmas. That story of Jesus. We rejoice this time of year. We thank God for sending us such a gift. But to some~ it’s just a religious aspect of Christmas. A story. Have we truly grasped it’s meaning?
Even though Mary had been taught the scriptures, (Isaiah 7:14) she did not grasp the truth of what she had been taught. When the angel Gabriel told her that she would be the one to carry the Messiah, her simple words~”How can this be?” reveal this truth. Thousands of people have read her very words and know the significant miracle of that moment, because we have read the last chapter. Mary did not and yet, she received it. Despite an unknown future, she put her faith and hope completely in God. When Gabriel explained the very scriptures she probably knew by heart, she believed the words spoken to her.
And that moment changed her entire life.
I am sure as the months went on, the significance of Who she carried so close to her heart became even more real. I am sure she wanted to tell everyone in her little town that the coming Savior was alive inside her, and I am sure that no one believed her. We know this because we have read the story. Mary and Joseph traveled alone to Bethlehem when she was 9 months pregnant. No room in the inn despite the fact that everyone (including family and friends) was required to go there to be taxed.
Maybe they rolled their eyes when she spoke of the One she carried so close to her heart.
Maybe they thought- ‘She’s taking this Jesus thing a little too far.’
Or maybe they were kinder in their reasoning. Perhaps they thought that this whole “Savior thing” might be what SHE believed, but it wasn’t for the them.
It must have been incredibly hard for Mary to hold such a Miracle inside. I am sure she wanted to tell everyone that everything they had been taught from scripture was coming true, and yet no one believed the truth in her words.
Pondering the thoughts of Mary brings me to thoughts of my own little town. It’s very easy for me to sit down and write something for hundreds to read~ ladies I will probably never meet. It’s very easy for me to hide behind a social media screen and be brave in the words that I pen; but actually stepping out of my front door and telling that story to my little hometown is something entirely different.
My town. There’s a comfort in those words. I love my tiny little town so much. And I wonder~ what do they think about the words that I write? Do they look at me and think~ ‘she’s taking this Jesus thing a little too far.’?
Or maybe they reason~’that religion thing might be okay for HER, but it’s not for ME.’
Maybe the story of Christmas Day is one they have heard in church their entire life, but for them it has never come alive in their own heart and soul. A day but not a Deliverer.
We can be taught “religion” our entire lives and still not fully grasp the truth of Christ. We can have a basic concept of church and the meaning of Christmas, but not have His new life living inside of us.
I’m not here to tell you that once you receive The Gift of Jesus life magically becomes better. Heartache has hit home for me time after time. Health issues have been prevalent. No, life doesn’t magically get better, but I know Christ is right there with me through everything. I am never alone. He has given me strength when I couldn’t stand and joy when heartache was all too prevalent. And despite an unknown future, peace and hope in Him.
A peace and hope He longs to give all of mankind, if we will put our faith in Him.
Do I take this Jesus thing too far? Perhaps some might think so, but can I tell you that in my heart of hearts, I can never take it far enough because Jesus took his love so far for me. His love reached down from glorious heaven to a sin cursed world. Without His love there would be no hope of heaven, because there would be no forgiveness of sins. His love went from heaven to earth, from a manger to the cross~
For me. For you.
That magnificent love took our sins as far as the east is from the west, farther than our finite minds can ever comprehend.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9
“As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
The knowledge of this changed my entire life. But it wasn’t just the knowledge, it was the very fact that Jesus is alive and that love lives inside of me.
My heart longs for you to understand these tidings of great joy. The greatest joy. My heart longs for you to receive His gift this Christmas. Not the gift of religion, the gift of God. Forgiveness of sins, a home in heaven, a Savior with you always, through everything.
The only Gift that will change your entire life.
“Then was our mouth filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing…The LORD hath done great things for us; Whereof we are glad.”
Our children’s Christmas play might look a little different this year. Sickness has seem to hit our little town very hard. School activities have been canceled and our children’s midweek program has suffered. Attendance has been light to say the least, and because of this our Christmas program has also suffered. A program that we look forward to every year. A program that fills our little church with parents, grandparents and friends. A program that tells the good news of Jesus birth.
As I prayed about this Sunday, my heart wondered who would even attend? We only had a handful of children participating ~ half of whom were my own grandchildren. I thought about empty pews, and how that might affect them.
But as I prayed God whispered to my heart that it would all be fine, because He brought to my remembrance the very first Christmas. The night the good news of Jesus birth was proclaimed by an angel. Not to a large auditorium full of people, but to shepherds in a field who came to a manger and worshipped a Savior.
Thousands of people were in Bethlehem that night, but God came into the stillness of a silent night and spoke to the humble hearts of shepherds.
And I knew that whether one person came and sat alone in our little auditorium, or 100 people came, God knew all along that the ones who needed the message would be there. Listening to the words of children proclaiming the good news. Watching the faith of a younger generation and having hope again in their hearts.
And I knew that God would be there. Jesus among us~ no matter how small the attendance might be.
This year your Christmas might look a little different, for one reason or another. Lack of family and friends and empty chairs might affect you. Don’t be tempted to look for Jesus in the big. Don’t look for Him in the parties or in the shopping and wrapping. Don’t look for Him in the Christmas music and movies. Don’t look for Him In the festivities filled with all the big Christmas things. Don’t look for His joy and peace in a place. Look for Him in the silent night, with the faith of a child.
That’s where Christmas will be because that’s where God will be. His love fills all the empty places.
Jesus among us.
The precious gift of Jesus~right here in the stillness of your humble heart.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I could hear their little feet tiptoeing down the stairs. They were trying to be quiet, but the old stairs could not lie. Each step made their presence known. I looked over at the clock in the darkness~4:30am. Hadn’t I just gone to sleep a few hours before?
(New rule this year, they will not be allowed out of bed until at least 6am.)
I rolled over and nudged my husband. “The kids are awake”. He let out a quiet groan, but didn’t move. I slipped out of bed and went to the stairway door. It was still shut, at least that rule stayed in tact. I opened it slightly and saw 4 little faces. Excitement was written all over them. “It’s 4:30 in the morning!” I whispered. They giggled and squealed~
”But mom! It’s Christmas!!!”
That’s all it took. Yes, I gave in. That old saying~”I’m only a morning person on Christmas” is 100% me, and their excitement was contagious.
Nothing compares to Christmas morning. When you are a child, it’s the most wonderful day of the year. For a whole month life becomes magical. Christmas countdown calendars are made. Letters are written, cards are signed, cookies are baked, presents are wrapped, music is blaring, lights are twinkling, snow is wished for and excitement abounds. Smiles and dreams lay on pillows at night, and every new day is more exciting than the last.
Oh to be a child again at Christmas.
Oh to be a child again for the entire month of December.
We forget. We grow up. We have responsibilities, and the list of things that brought so much magic and joy to December when we were younger are now on a long checklist of things to do that cause us stress. We have shut the door on December excitement and groaned in the darkness of “to-do’s”.
Yes, we have forgotten that we are still children.
There is so much hope in the wonder of a child. No matter your age, there is still wonder to behold and there is still magic and joy in that beholding.
Because we are GOD’S CHILD.
That in itself should be so exciting to us. This is the month we celebrate the birth of our Savior. This is the month we celebrate the gift God has given us of eternal life in Heaven one day with Him, all because of His gift. The gift of His Son who would take on every sin~ past, present and future~ and die on the cross to take that sin away. If we have received that gift with humble penitence, our lives should be different. Excitement and joy should permeate every day and December should be the most wonderful time of the year.
Don’t lose that excitement as you head into December. Determine in your heart to find the joy of a child in the “to-do’s” and the wonder in each thing December brings.
Instead of dreading the calendar and how quickly each day passes, ask God for the childlike wonder and thankfulness for the gift of salvation that became yours. Experience the happiness in baking and wrapping and Christmas music and yes, even snow. Each thing that makes December so special to a child can be a reminder of all God has done for us~
Blessing us with the delicious ingredients that go into those Christmas cookies, reminding us of the gift of His Son as we wrap each gift we will give this year, gazing at the soft, twinkling lights and remembering the star that shone over a manger so long ago, looking out over a winter wonderland and thanking God that He has washed our sinful hearts and proclaimed them white as snow. Go to sleep each night with smiles and dreams upon your pillow. Dreams of a different December because of a different heart attitude.
The heart of a child. God’s child.
Be a little Christmas crazy. Be contagious in your excitement over the most wonderful time of the year, and when others look at you like you are a Christmas lunatic, smile and respond~
Because that truly says it all.
His eyes twinkled as he hid a surprise behind his back. You could feel his excitement when he announced- “I have a present for you! “ he handed me the bag and watched as I pulled each item out. A ruler, some pencils, his mom’s best pair of scissors, a brand new tube of toothpaste and a folded up piece of sandpaper. I exclaimed over each thing, and then explained to him that mama might need her scissors and she would be looking for that toothpaste later. He agreed to put everything back, except the sand paper. He handed it to me with a smile and said “in case you want to make something”.
We played for a while and then, when I knew he wasn’t looking, I tucked that sand paper far behind some of my daughter’s things on the kitchen counter. I would tell her later that it was there. As I opened the front door to leave, he came running around the corner. “Grandma you forgot this!” he said, and proudly handed me that sand paper. HOW had he found it??? He wasn’t even in the same room when I hid it!!! I couldn’t stop laughing when I got home and told my husband the story.
So often I believe we see the love of God through the lens of our human hearts. We gage the goodness of God on the big picture of our lives. If things aren’t going the way we would like, we tend to feel miserable and defeated. We complain and become ungrateful. We miss the abundance of small gifts tucked away in our lives. Gifts that God has already given to us. We miss the tremendous love God has poured into every single thing we have been so blessed to receive. In our eyes that small piece of sandpaper is worthless and we disregard it.
Or, we look at our own heart and what we have to offer the Lord and often feel just like that piece of sandpaper. We see the talents and possessions of others and wish for what they have. We tend to think we have nothing to offer God because we compare ourselves to others. If only we could give God that shiny pair of special scissors or the brand new tube of toothpaste. But those gifts belong to someone else. They aren’t ours to give. And then we look down at ourselves and think we are worthless, just like that piece of sandpaper. How could God ever love or use us? Surely He must disregard us.
When Little Gabe came running to me, holding that piece of sandpaper that I had so flippantly disregarded, God opened my eyes. He gave me a glimpse not only into all He has blessed me with that I so easily disregard at times, but also the love He has for me when I humbly come to Him with nothing to offer except myself. You see, I wouldn’t want anything else from my grandchildren. That innocent love they have in the giving is enough to make your heart burst, and I realized that’s exactly the way my Heavenly Father sees me. He doesn’t want fancy, shiny Charisse, He just wants Charisse.
God wants us to come to him like a child. We need to stop looking at what we have to offer through our human lens. God wants us to know that He only wants us, not the gifts and possessions we can give Him. If he has our heart, He has everything.
That piece of sandpaper is lovingly displayed on a stack of bibles in my home. It means so much to me. A little piece of paper filled with love and assurance that God my Father can use any of us if we are willing to give Him ourselves. Don’t look for the shiny and the new and forget all the little pieces of beautiful sandpaper He has already blessed you with, and don’t tuck away what you feel doesn’t measure up in God’s eyes.
Today I will whisper thank you to Jesus for all the blessings He has given me that I so easily disregard in seasons of discontent. I will open my eyes to the love and grace He has so readily poured into my life and I will be grateful. I may not ever know how God can possibly find something in me to be used for His glory but as I give Him all the love in my meager, willing, folded up, sandpaper heart,
with a smile I will say-
“in case you want to make something”.
And I will know that that is all He ever wanted.
I Samuel 16:7
One of our nearby towns used to have the very best dollar store.
It wasn’t like dollar stores today. It was a quaint little store downtown with old wood floors, and aisles upon aisles of treasures. Because money was sparse, it was a favorite spot to shop when my kids were little.
Going all out with your decor for the holidays wasn’t as big a deal back then. Perhaps because we didn’t have social media to compare our decor, (or lack thereof) to others. At the time, I can remember watching a Thanksgiving special on television with my children. I saw a mantle lit up with an incredible array of Autumn radiance, and I wished for that. Beautiful Fall leaves in rich colors, with fruits and berries and twinkling lights.
That week when we stopped by the dollar store, I knew I wanted to recreate the look. That wonderful old store had a section full of exactly what I was looking for. Because I couldn’t afford to buy it all at once, every week I would purchase five items to add to my leaf garland, hoping that the following week there would still be more to choose from. I did this for a whole month until I finally had the look my heart had longed for…
With the holidays quickly approaching, it can become easy to lose sight of the bountiful array each holiday represents. Going into a month of humbling gratitude that leads us right into a month of adoration for a Savior born to man.
The whole world seems to skip past the gratitude of this month and fast forward to the “happy” holiday with its festive music, presents and decorations, myself included. It makes us reminisce back to traditions and “feel good” moments. Everyone wants that happy feeling.
But in the rush to achieve this happiness, it ends up alluding us. With the frenzy of skipping right past the gratitude, the stress of all the “to do’s”(with not enough time to do them) comes too quickly and overwhelms us. Instead of enjoying what should be a beautiful time, we miss the wonder of it all and the gratitude for it.
We want that bountiful array, but we want it all right now. Suddenly you’re being asked if you have your decorating and shopping done. If you have your cookies baked. If your tree is up. If you are going to attend the many Christmas activities and parties being held. And in all of that, we miss the gratitude for Jesus.
As the end of 2021 quickly approaches, I want to encourage you today to slow down. Determine to take in every single moment of this month. Don’t rush right past it. Each week pick out 5 things to be thankful for. Ponder them. Cherish them. Treasure them. Don’t try to fast forward to the whole package, instead take one day at a time and with a heart of thankfulness, move into the season of our Savior with overwhelming gratitude instead of overwhelming stress. You won’t have to worry if there will be enough to be thankful for as each week passes, you will have a bounty to choose from if you’re truly looking and your garland of gratitude will become fuller and fuller as you add to it…
I still have that garland and all the items I purchased for it so many years ago. I still put it up every year. I still wonder in amazement as I add each piece and look at that beautiful array when I’m finished. I’m sure that nowadays I could just purchase a pre-made garland full of all the things that make mine beautiful, but I would lose the special joy in adding each piece and remembering. Years and years of thankful memories flood my heart as I slowly put mine together, and I am reminded of all the gifts God has bestowed upon this undeserving soul of mine.
Savor in the sacredness of the season to come by slowing down and focusing on today and the bountiful array of glory God has given you to be grateful for. Don’t miss it. Don’t try to grasp for happiness without thankfulness. Happiness comes from a thankful heart. Thankfulness for the little pieces of beauty God adds to every day and gratefulness for a Savior born to take away the sins of all of mankind.
Yes, savor in the sacredness and sacrifice of your Savior and look back on this season in grateful amazement at the array of wonder you hold in your heart.
Wonder you will treasure for years to come.
I Thessalonians 5:18
There are times that God just awes me.
Moments that might not mean a thing to someone else.
Every time an awe moment hits, I feel the closeness of His presence. The tears and praises intermingle as my soul acknowledges the fact that the very God who created my great big world is also sitting right next to little me, giving me a much needed hug.
As I play the piano week after week for our church services, I am often in awe that my hands can actually create a melody. Every aspect of it has me amazed. It’s not that I’m good at it, because I definitely am not (and that’s not me pretending to be humble. It’s simply the facts). It’s the very idea that I can play the melodies to hundreds of well loved hymns that stir my soul. My hands. God using my hands. You would think that after 52 years of playing it wouldn’t surprise me anymore, but it hits me every time. As I look down at the fingers that touch each key to create such a melody, I am almost in disbelief. It’s something I will never take for granted.
There are so many other things that God uses to awe me.
Looking into the precious eyes of my grandchildren is like looking into a miracle. I am in awe as I view the childhood eyes of my husband, myself and my children all in the same sweet child standing before me.
Watching my adult children with a humbling pride (if there can be such a thing) at the amazing ways God is using the talents He has given each of them to further His kingdom.
Having a “me” moment and feeling sorry for myself, yet not praying about my feelings or even sharing those emotions with a single person. In turn~receiving 4 unexpected acts of encouragement within 12 hours that blessed my heart and soul to its core. Knowing that it was God and not taking a single one for granted.
There are awe moments in so many things. The little girl dreams I had that have come true for me. My husband and best friend, who loves me despite me. A home filled with beautiful things that I love. Not just physical things, but memories of my babies. Love and laughter. Seasons of change. Memories yet to be made.
My church right next door and the wonderful facilities God has blessed us with. My church family that has become everything to me. My hometown and the sunsets over our lake that always take my breath away.
The Bible. The very words of God that I get to hold in my hands. Words that are so often taken for granted.
Jesus dying on the cross and saving my sinful soul, taking away every sin~ past present and future. Jesus, who holds my hand through every scary situation, who takes away every anxious thought, who hugs a heartbroken soul, who turns my sorrow into laughter.
God who created my great big world, yet sits right here with little me.
Too often we are tempted to ask~ “Where is God in all of this?” Sweet friend, God is in the still small beauty that surrounds you at this very minute. Take your eyes off of the messiness and look right in front of you.
Don’t dwell on the sad. Don’t fill your mind with all the negative. When you feel yourself slipping down that dark tunnel of despair, turn your eyes back to the light. Look for your own awe moments. All the gifts that God has given. Gifts that surround you at this very moment.
Those moments that don’t mean a thing to someone else~ those are your own God moments. We take so many of them for granted. We don’t deserve a single one, and yet God in all His magnificent love has seen fit to bless us with them. Open your eyes and see your world for the very first time. The great big world that belongs to you…
And realize that God is sitting right there with you, no matter how small you feel.
Above every other awe moment~
that is the one that truly brings me to my knees.
That is the one that causes tears and praise to intermingle. That is the one that will never cease to take my breath away.
He is here.
Right here with me.
I wore my mom’s wedding dress when I got married.
I can remember staring at her wedding picture as a child and thinking she looked like a fairy tale Princess. I always thought it was so beautiful and elegant. I had a Christmas wedding complete with fur muffs, Christmas trees and Christmas carols. It was such a fun day.
When my daughters were ready to pick out their own wedding dresses, it never really bothered me that they didn’t want to carry on a tradition of wearing my mom’s dress. On their wedding day they took a new name because they were beginning a new life, one that would start with the dress of their choosing.
I thought about that wedding dress this week. I thought about my parents and how they raised me. I thought about the traditions we shared and the comfort those memories brought. And I thought about all the ways God continues to bring up the concept of “comfort zones” in my daily life. This week it came up in an area that I never really thought about before, that of traditions.
There is comfort in traditions.
I am a traditional girl, a creature of habit. I am the kind of person who would have no problem eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every single day for the rest of my life. I find a level of comfort in monotony.
Here’s the thing~Satan knows that. For me, when week after week goes by where that routine is constantly being interrupted, I can easily feel like my life is spinning out of control.
We all have our “areas”. Satan knows where our comforts lie. He knows our personalities and what would disrupt our lives and make us unhappy. He also knows what gives us a false sense of security and comfort. He knows how important traditions are to humans and without us even realizing it, he uses that against us.
Here’s the crazy thing~
One of the biggest areas Satan uses to trick our souls is a tradition many of us think of as good and needful. Our religion.
I’m going to make a bold and somewhat scary statement here~
He WANTS us to be religious.
He makes us believe that our traditional upbringing and bond is so strong, we could not nor should not ever change~ even if we know deep in our hearts that something is missing and that our upbringing might not be teaching the truth of God’s word.
We end up choosing comfort.
That routine that makes us feel secure.
I am not here to promote one religion over another. I am here to promote Jesus. I am here to promote God’s word. I am here to challenge you to open the Bible and find out why you believe what you believe and based on the truths in scripture, decide whether the tradition you have stayed with for so long truly lines up with what God says in His word. John 5:39-44
The devil will be more than happy to make sure you never open your Bible. He’s more than happy to make sure you stay stuck in a tradition that is not truth. He’s more than happy to lie to you and tell you you’re good, don’t worry about it. Colossians 2:8, Mark 7:7-13
But we aren’t. We aren’t good. Romans 3:23
Satan wants you to be religious because often the people who are the most religious don’t have a relationship with God, God the Son Who took all the sins of mankind on Himself and died for you on the cross. Romans 5:8 The basis of their entire religious experience is tradition and trying to be good enough to someday enter heaven.
My heart yearns to tell you that there is SO MUCH MORE. You can have a real relationship with the Son of God. You can know Him personally. You can talk to Him any time and anywhere. Hebrews 4:14-16 He can be your most trusted, intimate friend. A true friend. A real friend.
The ONLY mediator between you and God is His Son Jesus. Not a man, not a reverend, not a preacher, pastor or priest.
I Timothy 2:5, I John 2:1-2
Just Jesus. He can be your comfort.
All the comfort and security you would ever need. John 14:26
Today I urge you~ please don’t remain stuck in traditions. You may think it’s your comfort zone but it’s not a lasting comfort. It’s not a comfort for eternity.
I love my mom’s wedding dress. The memory of me wearing it is even more precious to me now because my mom is in heaven. That’s the comfort I’m talking about. Without a single doubt, the knowledge and security of a home in heaven one day. John 14:1-6 Not because of tradition, not because of religion but because of the love of Jesus. Jesus, Who took away my sins on the cross. and forgave me. Romans 3:24-25, 6:23, John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21
Just Jesus ladies~
and the new life that HE can and will give you the day you call on His name. Jeremiah 33:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17
My kids got me a great gift for Mother’s Day. It’s called StoryWorth.
Every Monday a new question is emailed to me. The questions are always unique. Something to do with my life, my childhood, my marriage or even my personality. I can add pictures to each reply, and at the end of the year it will all be published in a wonderful book.
I loved this idea and found myself wishing I had a keepsake of memories like this from my own parents and grandparents.
That got me thinking about Memorial Day.
A day we set aside to remember all those who have given their lives for our freedom and our country. What a legacy these brave men and women leave behind and what thankfulness we should embody as we remember the sacrifices they made.
And that got me thinking about the legacy and the memories you and I will someday leave behind.
Will it be a story worth telling? A story worth cherishing? As we add to our story every minute of every day, as we hold pictures in the memories of our hearts or add them to the hearts of those we love, will it be a story we want remembered by our loved ones and friends?
As I thought about what I might be writing about every week, I have to admit I did not think I had a story worth telling. Nothing phenomenal has happened in my life. I have done no great thing to be remembered. I’m a normal girl who grew up to be a normal wife, a normal mom, a normal grandma. The end.
But God told me something different.
He showed me that my story~
and yours~ are the most beautiful stories ever written. Not because they are about us, but because they are about Christ in us.
That beauty and glory needs to be shared.
If you are a child of God, your story is much like mine~
The Book of Life
Wretched, Lost and Sinful~
Hopeless, Condemned and Alone
Repentant, Redeemed and Rescued
Found, Forgiven and Free
Adopted, Atoned, Covered,
Thankful and Worthy
Nothing can or ever will separate me from that love. (Romans 8:35-39)
You see, when you become a child of God it’s not your story anymore. It’s Jesus story in you. It’s a story my heart yearns for you to know.
All the wonderful memories mixed in, all the sad situations and joyful expectations, all the amazing wonder of every day of your life is the story God wrote and will finish for you. (Hebrews 12:2). Until you see Him in glory, He is still writing. He’s adding beauty to ashes (Isaiah 61:3) and giving hope to the hopeless. (Romans 15:13) He’s sending comfort to the broken (John 14:18) and peace where you thought it could never be found.(Philippians 4:7) He is conquering every set back (Romans 8:37) and bringing victory to every battle. (Exodus 14:14) He’s adding every period and exclamation mark. He is your beginning and your ending. (Revelation 1:8)
He is the ultimate Happily Ever After. (Zephaniah 3:17, Revelation 21:3-7, 22-27)
What is your story worth?
It’s worth everything.
Don’t ever hide it or think otherwise.
Jesus thought your story was worth His very life.
I was wrong in my thinking that nothing phenomenal has ever happened to me. Chapter 2.
He is beyond phenomenal, and if you haven’t met Him yet, I’d love to tell you all about Him.
If you have met Him, you have a legacy to share. A memorial for generations to come.
The beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness and love. Make every moment of every chapter a reflection of that glory.
Yes sweet friend, your story is worth sharing!!!
II Thessalonians 1:5, 11, Acts 5:41, Amos 9:6
In the last week I have been asked a very similar question on two separate occasions. The question went along the lines of~ What has God done for you this year?
I am embarrassed to admit that both times my mind went blank.
My immediate thought was~He took my dad. And for some reason I couldn’t get past that.
I didn’t want to answer. I wanted to get up and leave the room, partially because younger family members were waiting for my reply and partially because I’m a pastor’s wife, so shouldn’t I have my act together? Shouldn’t I come up with a million things God has done for me?
I could have plastered on a fake smile and given a rehearsed, cliche answer on God’s abundance. I knew all the right words to say. In my heart I know He has given me countless blessings, but in that moment that was all that I could think of.
My dad. He took my dad.
As I contemplated what to write for a post this week I knew that I wanted it to go along with Easter, but again my mind was drawing a blank. For some reason I had writer’s block. I mentioned it to my husband only minutes before I was asked for the second time~
what has God done for you this year?
I went down to my bedroom later and felt shame that I hesitated and could not answer in a way that would glorify my Savior.
As I lay in bed in the quiet darkness that night, I mulled over that question again and again and I truly believe God answered me.
A tender compassionate answer full of mercy and grace, patience and love~
Yes I took your dad Charisse, but that’s not the end of your story. I took him to heaven. I brought him home. Not only is he in the presence of the many loved ones that have gone on before him, but he is in My presence. That has given Me joy. He is home with me.
And I wept.
If it wasn’t for Easter. If it wasn’t for the horrific death Christ endured on the cross, my dad wouldn’t be in heaven today.
The breathtakingly beautiful part of the glorious story of Easter doesn’t end with the horror of that death. It begins with life after death and the incomprehensible knowledge that~
Jesus did it all with joy.
He was beaten and nailed to that cross. He hung in agony as He took the sins of all mankind upon Himself. He died for me and for you and he did it with joy.
Did you get that? Do you truly understand that?
He did it with JOY.
Because that’s how much He loves us.
That’s how much He loves my dad. That’s how much He loves you.
No matter what we go through or how hard our circumstances are, I have this hope to cling to~ Jesus did it with joy. For me.
If I had to do it over, my answer would be so different. God has done so many amazingly beautiful things for me each and every day. I know there will always be trials, there will always be sorrow and pain, sickness and suffering. There will always be heartache in the permanent form of death, but none of these things are the end of our story.
Love is. Jesus is. Heaven is.
And Easter is our promise of that joy.
What has God done for me this year? Everything. He’s done everything. And to know that He has done it with joy makes my heart sing. A love like that is almost unbelievable. How do I know it exists? I know because not only has He told me in His word, He continually reminds me when sorrow makes my heart forget.
I truly believe God gave me writer’s block because He wanted to be the author and finisher of my faith. Easter is the perfect first chapter. It’s ending is a beginning. A beginning overflowing with pure love and absolute joy.
Easter. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross that we might become the children of God. My dad is partaking in that reality in heaven even now. I get to partake of that reality here on earth.
All because of Jesus.
And because of that reality, my story has only just begun.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God...”
1 John 3:1
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Whoever finds a palm tree first gets a pickle...
I don’t know where my granddaughter Clara came up with this game, but we all started laughing. Five grandkids in the back of our vehicle, only minutes away from our vacation destination. The excitement could not be contained.
It got me thinking about Palm Sunday and the excitement Easter holds, and I couldn’t help but think of the verse~ “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard... the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”
I Corinthians 2:9
Do you know what I like about Palm Sunday? Despite knowing the future anguish Christ would endure for all of mankind, God did not stop there. We can praise God for the promise of Easter and the knowledge that one day in heaven we will have eternity to shout Hosanna! So today, I’d like to share with you a place, a problem, a Person and a promise.
I’d like to tell you about a place.
It’s a place that isn’t popular to talk about in this “feel good” generation, when so many are scared to even go out of their homes, and just want to escape into the unreality of television and social media. It’s a place whose destination has been joked about, and even bragged about at times. It’s a place called hell. It isn’t great material for jokes,
it’s a horrifying place of fire and darkness.
It’s real and it’s eternal. (1)
It’s a destination for all sinners. There will be no so social gatherings there.
There will be no parties or camaraderie.
Only torment and pain. (2)
The cost of our sin. (3)
I’d like to tell you about a problem.
The problem that lies within each and every one of us. A problem we are all born with, myself included. (4) That problem is sin. From murdering to the little white lie, sin is sin. None of us are sinless. I am as much a sinner as the murderer on death row or the sweet, little old lady down the street. (5) Being a pastor’s wife does not make me exempt.
No one is exempt. There is nothing we can do, no good deeds we can accomplish, no church we can attend, no charity we can give to that can take away that sin. (6)
And because of the depravity of our sinful hearts, the punishment for that sin is separation from God and eternity in hell. (7)
I’d like to tell you about a Person.
The only sinless Person Who took all our sins upon Himself so that we would not have to face that punishment. That Person isn’t me. It isn’t my pastor husband. It isn’t the priest or the preacher down the street.
That Person is Jesus. (8)
Born in a manger, He took the form of a human baby for the love of a people who don’t deserve it, but desperately need it. (9) Jesus Who, with joy endured the brutal beating and death on a cross to save our wicked souls from eternity in hell. (10) Jesus Who rose again from that death and sits on the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for us, praying for us even now. (11) That person Who we owe everything to.
That person is inviting you to a promise. (12)
I’d like to tell you about that promise.
To have faith in that belief that Jesus took your sins upon Himself on that cross. (13)
To joyfully except His invitation by repenting and turning away from the blindness sin has caused (14) in allowing you to somehow be fooled into thinking that hell isn’t that bad, and heaven isn’t that good, and Jesus death was just a bible story for little kids in Sunday school. The lie that the Bible and church is for religious people or fanatics and that you’ll be just fine, because you aren’t that bad a person. You’re actually pretty good.
There is nothing good about us. (15)
Our hearts need the grace only Jesus can give. (16) Our hearts need the faithful believing that His shed blood on that cross washes away sins. (17) Our hearts need sorrow for that sin and repentance. Our hearts need Jesus. (18)
And once we have Jesus, He promises us that we are forever His child. Nothing will ever separate us from Him. He promises us a home in heaven when we leave this earth. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to be with us always. (19)
A palm tree and a pickle. A place, a problem, a Person and a beautiful promise. Are you excited about your destination after death? We have hope in the Person and His promise. Freedom from the fear of death. (20)
The hope of heaven and not hell, but so much more that that~
The hope that we get God.
We get Jesus.
Our Father, our Friend, our forgiveness.
We get a love beyond anything our human hearts have ever, or could ever comprehend. (21)
Yes, there is a place and a problem, but there is a Person with a Promise. And that embodies peace. (22)
(1) Psalm 11:6
(2) Luke 16:22-31
(3) Romans 6:23 (4) Romans 5:12
(5) Romans 3:23 Revelation 21:8
(6) Ephesians 2:8-9
(7) Romans 5:10 (8) I John 2:2, 4:9-10
(9) Philippians 2:7 (10) Hebrews 12:2
(11) Romans 8:34 (12) Revelation 3:20
(13) I Peter 2:24 (14) 2 Corinthians 4:4
(15) Romans 7:18 (16) Romans 5:15
(17)I John 1:7-9 (18) 2 Corinthians 7:9-10
(19) Hebrews 13:5 Matthew 28:20
(20) I John 4:18 Hebrews 2:14-15
(21) Ephesians 3:16-19
(22) Philippians 4:7
“I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”
Way back when I was in college, before cell phones and instant communication, my university had this cute mail system set up. Every night the guys and girls would send and receive letters from each other, and at a set time each evening the letters would be delivered. The heavy aroma of cologne filled the air as each letter was slipped under your dorm room door. Giggles and excitement always ensued.
After I was married, I will never forget the correspondence I received from my sister in law who was attending that same college. Mike and I would just sit and laugh at the things she wrote. At first she wrote all about this “crazy” guy who was pursuing her. He was sending her letters every night, but she had NO interest in him whatsoever. As the months continued on, her correspondence to us changed.
Her letters changed because of his letters.
Her letters were filled with joy.
It was the unfolding of a beautiful love story. He never stopped pursuing her or expressing his love for her and as she read his letters, she got to know him more and more and eventually she fell deeply in love with him...
And so we take another step on our journey to joy. My next point on this journey is:
Ask God to speak TO you through prayer and scripture, instead of you constantly speaking AT God.
Besides praying for God’s help when we are going through hard circumstances, one of the most important things we can do is to listen to God and not just speak AT Him. The best way to listen is to read His love letters to us. How crazy to think that we have God’s very words at our fingertips, love letters that cannot be compared to any love our human hearts have ever experienced and yet, we never pick them up and read them.
If you’ve grown up in church like I have you probably know verses like the back of your hand. At times when I’ve been through some gut wrenching moments I just want to scream~
“I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! I’ve read these verses a thousand times. I can quote them in my sleep!!! I know what they say, but it isn’t helping me!!!”
I think those are the moments I just want to wallow in self pity, feel sorry for myself and scream at the world that
“IT ISN’T FAIR!!!”
When I find myself in situations like this, God has shown me time and time again that this is all just satan’s manipulation. I can’t just quote a verse and expect it to heal my heart immediately. Even verses that I’ve known to be truth my whole life will not mean a thing during sorrowful circumstances if I don’t stop. II Chronicles 20:17
*Stop talking at God about my pitiful life and start listening to what He is trying to teach me. *Listen for God speaking to my broken heart through those words.
*Meditate on them and realize that they are God’s words, not just letters on a page. They are God’s personal words to my soul and mind, my thoughts and heart. The deepest parts of my being that I’m not even aware of,~but God is.
Hebrews 4:12, Psalms 1:2, 63:6, 119:48, Joshua 1:8
Let me put it this way. Do we ever tire of hearing the words “I love you” from another human being? As wonderful as those words are, there are times that we as humans say them out of habit without really thinking about it. That doesn’t mean that we mean them any less. If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, they just come natural. I can remember having a particularly stressful day once and Mike teasing me as he was leaving to drive the bus. I told him “I love you” and with a smirk he said- “are you sure?” We both laughed, but between taking out our stress on each other, the circumstances of our day and the familiarity of the words, they didn’t seem to mean as much. On the other hand, the times that we choose to stop and focus on our relationship and truly listen to each other are the times the familiar words “I love you” come alive to us. They comfort us because we know them to be true.
Because we’re human, we can tend to feel the same way toward God. God’s words are truth. Sometimes we just can’t hear that truth because it has become too familiar to us and the familiarity has made us complacent. We allow self pity and the things of this world to drown out the very words God is speaking over us. His word will always be truth because He cannot lie.
We can lie to ourselves, satan can lie to us, but God never will. Titus 1:2
So whether you “think” they will help or not, you ask God to speak them over you. Again and again and again. Because only His truth will set you free from the bondage of your circumstances that satan has over you. Psalms 94:19
Perhaps you aren’t like me, perhaps you don’t know God’s word at all. Maybe you have a Bible on a shelf somewhere in your home but you never pick it up and read it. Too often we look at God’s word as if it were a self help book. We only pay close attention to it when we need something or when we’re going through the tough times and want an instant fix.
Or, I hear people say that reading the Bible is too hard or boring. They don’t know where to start, or what to read or they don’t understand what they are reading. They give up on it far too quickly and decide it’s not for them. If God’s word does not make sense to you, I humbly ask you to search out your heart and ask yourself if you have ever had a time when you asked Christ to forgive your sins and to be your Savior. Without that relationship, you will not understand what the Heavenly Father is speaking to you. If you truly are a child of God, He promises us in His word that He will help us to understand it. The Holy Spirit will speak it’s truths to our very hearts as we read. John 16:13, 17:17. We just have to pick it up and read it!
And so, I go back to my original story.
Imagine if my sister in law never opened a single letter she received? Imagine if she just put each letter on a shelf without ever reading it? She would never have gotten to know her soul mate and the deep joy and love that relationship held. The same is true for us. Maybe you do find it hard to read and understand. Maybe you don’t know where to start. My simple advice to you would be to ask God for help and to ask Him to speak to you. Start with a Proverb a day. There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs so it’s a perfect book to read each month. Or start with the book of John and all his words about the love of our heavenly Father. Wherever you choose, ask God to open your heart and eyes and don’t stop reading. I guarantee that once you have gotten to know the Healer of your soul and read of the tremendous love your Savior has for you, you will fall in love with the Author. You will find yourself excited to pick up the Bible and read His words to you. You will understand more and more each day. You will know the deep joy that can be found in a relationship with Jesus, just by reading His words of love to you.
God’s letters will change your life on your journey to joy. They will be the unfolding of a beautiful love story. A love story that not only ends with Happily Ever After but with joy.
A joy unspeakable and full of glory. I Peter 1:8
Romans 15:13, Psalms 16:7-11,
How can I get my joy back?
If I was asked this question a year ago, I would have been very confident in how I responded.
Today I don’t know.
I guess that isn’t 100% true, sometimes I just “feel” like I don’t know. My emotions feel like a jumble of “I don’t knows”.
Even though there are a lot of good answers on how to find joy, I can tell you this, not all circumstances merit that cliche answer many people like to throw out there.
ie~ “choose joy”.
It isn’t always that simple. The “fake it till you make it” mentality doesn’t work when it comes to joy. Sure we can change our attitudes and mindset to reflect happiness, but in some circumstances the darkness is still buried deep inside, no matter our good intentions .
The good news is, there is Someone Who will always be our answer. THE answer to every heartbreaking circumstance this world throws at you.
Jesus~ first and foremost.
Actually, only Jesus.
He’s the answer.
God obviously knew that our human hearts would still struggle. He knows our frame. (Psalms 103:13-14) He is our strength through every circumstance. We’re the ones who forget. So he gave us His word. The Bible. And in it we find a wealth of wisdom on how to find joy.
The hard part is applying that wisdom to our everyday lives.
How do you find joy when you’ve lost more loved ones in the last year than ever before? How do you find joy after coming home from a heart wrenching funeral of the dearest friend, only to find your precious daddy gone without warning the very next day? How do you smile when your heart hurts terribly for friends and loved ones going through their own heart wrenching moments? Sickness, job loss, accidents, affairs, abusive relationships, death. When sleep won’t come because you can’t stop hurting for them? Or for yourself? When you feel like joy and Jesus are very far away?
And in the unexpected moments when you do catch yourself smiling and feel a little spark of that joy, you immediately feel guilt along with it.
Our little church has been bombarded with heartache lately. Truly tough stuff. It’s knocked the air out of our lungs as my husband and I try to minister.
Last week I woke up feeling like this heavy cloud was hanging over my life. Our lives. I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted to sit in front of my cozy fire, oblivious to my circumstances and forget everything. I wanted to smile again. I wanted to go back to when things were predictable and happy.
When I woke up feeling that way, I could almost picture that black cloud hovering above me and all I could utter was~
“God please help me.”
And He did.
God immediately reminded me of the story in the Old Testament about the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. (You can read about it here~Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38, Numbers 9:15-23, Psalms78:14)
If you’re not familiar, God led them with a cloud by day.
The moment God brought that picture into my head felt like freedom.
God was in that cloud.
It was His reminder to me that He is always with me, even in the dark clouds hanging over my life. He is in control and despite feeling hopeless, He is in that cloud protecting and guiding me.
Not only did God lead and protect them with a cloud by day, He also gave them a pillar of fire by night. Just as I longed for my predictable life and the comfort of sitting next to my cozy fire, I saw that pillar of fire that God provided as comfort too. (John 14:8)
If you continue digging deeper into God’s words you will find that the pillar of cloud and fire were continually leading and when they stopped, the people were to stop and set up God’s tabernacle. That tabernacle was God’s gracious presence. A place to reside for a time. A home. A dwelling place.
God showed me that He is always leading. Sometimes my moments might feel cozy, warm and comfortable and other times I might feel like a dark cloud is parked over every facet of my existence. That’s when God wants me to stop. Stop wandering on my own and just be home with Him in His beautiful presence, beside the still waters (Psalms 23) and among the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) . He tells me I can stay as long as I need because He will never leave. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) He is my dwelling place no matter what circumstances look like all around me. (Psalms 46:1-2, 91:1-9)
Despite that phenomenal story of God’s leading in the Old Testament, His children still complained. They were still afraid. They wanted to go back to their predictable lives back in Egypt, even though they were slaves in that predictable existence. They missed all the beauty that was ahead for them. All that God had prepared for them.
I don’t want to miss the beauty God has ahead for me. I don’t want to just exist and be a slave to my circumstances. I don’t want you to miss God’s beauty either. That dark cloud that you might feel is constantly looming overhead, that cloud is guiding you.
Whatever your cloud might be, God is in it.
In the next few weeks I would like to take you on a journey with me. The journey to find joy again. I want to help you to see that God is in that cloud. I want to show you specific ways God has shown me how to find joy again, despite the deeply sorrowful circumstances we might be in.
I want to share with you my Savior’s solutions.
He is there. Don’t let go of that hope.
Joy will come again.
My heart is glad. My whole being rejoices. My flesh rests in hope.
(Psalm 16:7-11, 30:5, 34:17-19, Isaiah 41:10)
In that moment, I saw God.
Not an angry God. Not a disappointed God.
A forgiving God. A loving God.
A God full of joy.
Let me take you there...
My grandson’s big blue eyes held a lot of fear for such a little guy.
He was confessing to his parents.
He was asking for forgiveness.
You see, moments before in Sunday school I had taught a lesson on that very subject. Forgiveness.
His little 5 year old mind couldn’t seem to grasp the concept, so I made up a story to illustrate. A fictional story about him, a little boy who broke something of his moms without her knowing. The little boy hid what he broke, but later that night as he lay in bed his heart seemed to hurt.
He knew he had to tell her what he had done.
He needed to confess.
So he went to her bedroom and explained everything. With tears he told her he was sorry and asked her to please not be mad for what he had done.
He asked for forgiveness.
As I told that fictional story his eyes seemed to increase in size with every detail,
and then I found out why.
He told me his own story.
We both decided it was something he needed to confess to his parents.
So here we were, in the front pew after church. With his sweet little lisp he spoke-
“Last summer, I climbed up on top of the shelves in the garage and reached for some of your pottery and one piece fell and broke... so I buried it in the dirt behind the garage. I’m sorry”.
There was no hesitation in his parent’s reaction. They could see his repentance. He was their child. They smiled (and almost laughed) they pulled him close and hugged him and told him he was forgiven.
And with childlike faith, it was over.
He smiled and ran to play.
In that moment I saw forgiveness. I saw freedom and release. I saw unconditional love. Little Gabe did not carry that weight with him. He let it go and with unabashed joy he laughed and played
as if it never happened,
and in amazement I watched it all unfold.
This 55 year old grandma was reminded again of the love my Father has for me.
This was God. Our Father.
How often do we feel the weight of guilt for the things we have done? How often do we worry that God is angry with us? We might try to hide our sin, or we might recognize it, repent and ask for forgiveness, but deep down we struggle with believing that our past truly can be forgiven. We might view God as an angry God who expects perfection and if we don’t measure up, punishment will ensue.
But this is not God at all.
Our God is the God of that little child.
You are that child.
He is our God full of mercy, grace and love. Our “It is finished” Father.
Our God who wants us to have faith as a little child. To leave it all with Him and to experience the freedom, joy and peace of repentance and forgiveness.
At times I think we make it too hard. We’re human and we tend to look at God as if He were human too. He holds no grudges as we do. Whether it’s broken pottery or a broken past, with absolutely no hesitation He pulls us close and hugs us. He tells us~
“It is finished my child~
All has already been forgiven”.
With the beauty this knowledge holds, how can we not be filled with unadulterated, pure joy in that freedom?
Our Father is smiling down at us~
let us run and play again.
No thought of the past. No fear of the future.
As little children.
Children full of faith in the love and forgiveness of our heavenly Father.
I John 1:7, 9
II Corinthians 5:21
I stumbled downstairs last Sunday and with sleepy eyes poured myself a cup of coffee. At the moment, I definitely did not feel excitement. I was tired and wouldn’t have minded crawling right back into bed. And then it hit me. Today was my anniversary, and immediately I thought about Charisse 35 years ago on this day. The barely 20 year old who couldn’t sleep. The young girl who couldn’t wait for this day and the beginning of a life full of beautiful. The thankfulness her heart felt toward God for blessing her with everything this day held.
Yet here I was, 35 years later muttering about how tired I was. Wishing for bed instead of worship.
Many things went wrong on the day of our wedding. A huge snow storm hit that day. The limo my parents ordered to drive us to the wedding never showed up. My father in law’s cummerbund got misplaced, so at the last minute my fiancé drove in the storm to the tuxedo shop to get another. He then got hit by a car due to slippery roads. My grandparents were late due to the storm and almost didn’t make it. The snow worsened by the minute and we weren’t sure anyone would show up. None of this swayed my joy. None of this made me want to go back to bed so I didn’t have to think about all the “bad”.
All I could focus on was him, Because I loved him.
As I remembered that day, it gripped my heart. It’s the season of Christmas and yet, so many of us are focusing on the bad. The countless number of times I have heard or read that “2020 is the worst year in history” has been staggering. I can’t help but think about God and the murmuring He hears coming from those of us who are supposedly His children. Praise has not been on our lips, including my own. Thankfulness has not filled our hearts, but instead continual complaining about all we are subject to.
There is no joy.
There will always be something to complain about. We live in a sin cursed world where the wrong seems to outweigh the right. We can complain about our government or injustice or this pandemic and the rules we are asked to abide by. We can complain about not seeing family members or the fear of catching this sickness. But I would like to remind you that the good can outweigh the bad, we just haven’t been looking for it. We have been focusing on the bad so much that we have lost sight of all the incredibly good things God has blessed us with.
Lives filled with beautiful.
I would like to challenge you today to focus on Him. I have found in my own life that when I take my focus off of Him and place it on myself, I find all kinds of things to complain about. But, when I shift my focus to Him I find countless reasons to be thankful. That’s when joy floods my heart and soul.
Think back to a special day in your own life. A day that you remember that feeling of pure joy and the reasons you felt that joy. That’s a beginning. That’s the first step in telling God thank you. If we could just decide in our hearts that we are going to choose thankfulness and praise over complaining, our lives will be transformed.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the bad. I’m sick of social media and the news and the constant “bad” that is bombarding us. I want to focus on the good. All that is good in our life is only because of God.
I want to focus on Him.
I know there are hard days. I’m not always the picture of happiness and joy. Sweet friends have gone home to heaven this year. My precious dad went home to heaven. Covid has hit our little town. Family won’t be with us to celebrate this year. Our children’s Christmas program has been canceled. Just yesterday I broke down while shopping. The memory of Christmas shopping with my dad just last year hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to hide out in the underwear section until the tears subsided. We all have bad days, but later my husband reminded me of what a precious memory that was to have. Christmas shopping with dad.
Our wedding day ended up being my fairy tale. All my dreams came true. Over 500 people came out in that storm to celebrate our union. Happiness and joy filled the church that day. A day I will never forget. Don’t ever forget when Christ filled your heart. A heart that once was dark, now filled with His light and love, joy and happiness. What if we all chose to celebrate Christ’s birth differently than the rest of the world, despite the storms we have all been facing?
Find the good. Find the thankful. Find the gladness and joy. Find the beautiful. It’s right there where you are, you’ve just been missing it. This Christmas, focus on Him.
And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:”
Psalms 105:1-5, 43 KJV
Psalms 78:22, 32, 37-39, 42, 53 KJV
The other day my husband handed me a piece of mail that contained coupons.
Apparently he had not looked at them. The computers now keep track of previous sales and give you coupons for the specific things you have purchased in the past. I think this is great. I’ve been very careful to keep us on a healthy diet, so coupons are always good. I opened them up and funny thing~
there were coupons for organic orange juice, fresh fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef....
I looked up at him with a smirk.
“I don’t remember buying Pringle’s or peanut M&M’s” I said. He tried his hardest to keep a straight face but we both burst out laughing.
No way out of this one.
He thought he hid the evidence but he’d been caught.
Tomorrow we will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. That’s pretty baffling to me when I think about it. When I was little, I vividly remember my mom complaining about turning 35 because she thought it was so old.
I don’t know why that stuck with me,
but here I am.
Married that long.
To the same man. Haha
The man that can literally drive me insane. He can make me cry and scream and mutter things a pastor’s wife shouldn’t say under her breath.
But I adore him.
He’s my rock. He loves me no matter what. He makes me laugh when my heart slides down into dark places. He pulls me back out and shows me how to smile again. I love him with my everything and I’d do anything for that man, despite the Pringles and peanut M&M’s. 😉
Mike and I do not have a perfect marriage. We argue and fight and say things we shouldn’t say. Anger, bitterness and grudges have visited us. We’ve gone through some hard things. We definitely aren’t the epitome of the perfect couple, but in my eyes, everything about our marriage is beautiful.
When I think about how much I love him, I don’t think it could be possible for my heart to be any more full.
.....I know I’ve said this before, but it’s
just so phenomenal to me~
When I think about that kind of love, I can’t help but think of the overwhelming love God has for me, despite me.
There’s no hiding the evidence of my sins from God. He knows my every thought and deed. Can you grasp that? Our perfect, sinless God knows our EVERY thought and deed. Every single one. And yet, He loves us. He doesn’t hold it against us. He forgives us and has mercy and grace.
Just like Mike and I are celebrating our love on our anniversary tomorrow, in a few weeks we will be celebrating that amazing love God has for us. Christmas. The day He sent His Son to a little town called Bethlehem to be born for the sins of the whole world. The sins He took upon himself when He died on the cross.
Marriage isn’t always easy. There have been times I have not wanted to forgive. Times I was hurt and felt justified in holding onto the anger my heart felt. I’m sure Mike has felt the same way about me at times too. But when you love someone more than you love yourself, when you offer mercy and grace and put their needs above your own, it’s a beautiful thing.
Thank God He always forgives. Thank God that because of the blood His Son shed on the cross and the gift of salvation He offers, we are justified in His sight. Just as if we never sinned. In God’s eyes everything about us is perfect. And that’s a beautiful thing.
His love is the love that will make you laugh. That will pull you out of the dark places. That will give you joy. His love is the love that will never be angry or hold a grudge. His love is the love that knows about the Pringles and M&M’s of our lives, the things no one else knows, and yet loves us still. His love is perfect and beautiful and I adore Him.
As I celebrate with the love of my life tomorrow, that’s the beautiful I want our story to portray. That’s the beautiful I want you to behold and celebrate this Christmas. God’s perfect, beautiful love.
A love that causes me to adore Him,
but even more unfathomable is the knowledge that God adores me.
He adores me!!
He adores me with His everything,
And that’s such a beautiful, beautiful thing.
The morning sun shimmered across a blanket of heavy snow.
It was breathtaking. Each crystal captured a single ray of sunshine and turned the world into diamonds.
Andrea’s feet touched the cold floor as she slipped out of bed, her sisters still fast asleep. She tiptoed into Michael’s room and they quietly made their way downstairs. They didn’t want to wake up dad. This was something they wanted to do on their own.
Moments later, adorned with coats and scarves, boots and mittens, they quietly stepped outside. The chill took their breath away, but it didn’t matter. The excitement they held warmed them from head to toe.
“Stay behind me,” Andrea cautioned. “Step into my footprints as I walk so we don’t mess up the pretty snow.” The weight of what she was carrying made the journey more difficult, but she was determined. Michael followed close behind, carefully stepping into each footprint her tiny boots made. Finally they made it to the road. “Dad will be so happy we did this for him” Michael said, but just as the words left his mouth a truck pulled up. The man rolled down his window and said “Hey kids! No trash pick up today! It’s Christmas Eve. Let your dad take care of that after Christmas”
All the worry of keeping the snow as perfect as possible. All the worry of trying to make their father pleased.
All for naught.
Some of you might be more like my children than you realize. You try so hard. You try to obey God’s words, carefully stepping into each rule you think is necessary to get you into heaven. Working so hard to be good and to receive the acceptance of your Father. Taking step by step, commandment by commandment.
And yet, despite all your striving, there you stand~somehow still holding the garbage of sin that makes you feel unworthy. Wishing your heart was empty of it, yet feeling the weight as it gets heavier and heavier every day. Wondering if you will ever be good enough. Wondering if God will be pleased with you.
My friend, all our works at trying harder are for naught, because no matter what we do, how hard we try, how we work to make our hearts as white as snow~
we will still be left holding our sin. Just like my children were left holding our garbage.
The good news is~ that’s not the end of the story.
On the very first Christmas Eve our world was in darkness. Up until that day we were left holding our sin with no one to take it from us. But on Christmas...
He broke through that darkness.
The God Who created the universe took on the form of a newborn baby.
He was born for you and for me. He was born to take away the sins of the world.
My friend~ He wants you to hand Him the weight of your heaviness, the burden of your sin. He wants to cleanse your heart and empty it of every heartache and disappointment, of everything you’ve been trying so hard to fix and then he wants to fill that emptiness with Himself.
You don’t have to hold that burden anymore. That’s the gift of Christmas.
No more trying for perfection and failing. He doesn’t want perfection.
He just wants us.
The very next morning~on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve snow covered up the empty prints my children had left. They were filled with beautiful new snow. No trash on the curb, no more emptiness in the path they had trod. Only beauty. The beauty of the gift of Christmas.
Turn and look at the footprints you’ve been trying so hard to stay inside. If we could ever be that perfect, there would be no need for Christmas at all. There would be no reason for Christ to be born. He was born for one reason. To die on the cross for our sins. For all the things we think we can somehow clean up ourselves. Hand Him your heart that’s holding on to all the garbage that’s crippling you. Hear His words this Christmas season as He whispers into your emptiness~
”Stop trying so hard to pick up your trash my child. Its Christmas! Let your Father take care of that. It’s the reason I was born so long ago.
Give it all to Me~
believe in Me and I will wash you whiter than snow”.
Psalm51:7, Isaiah 1:18
I made my daughter a pot of chili the other day. It’s one of her favorites. She sent me a text later that read~” this chili tastes like heaven in my mouth”. 😂😂
I needed that laugh.
It got me thinking~
What does heaven on earth mean to you?
To some it might mean the comfort of a hot bowl of soup or a slice of deliciousness drenched in chocolate. To some it might mean cuddling with your spouse on date night. To some it might mean having your entire family home for the holidays. And to some it might mean freedom from crippling depression or anxiety, no more worry over pandemics or politics.
But what does heaven on earth look like to Jesus?
It doesn’t look like my yesterday’s have looked this month. Grief has left an emptiness but it has also left empathy. Thousands of women are wishing and praying for a glimpse of heaven on earth as the holidays approach.
This week as I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:9-10 “thy will be done~ on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN” they had a different meaning to me. Heaven seems so much closer to me as every year passes,
but Jesus doesn’t want heaven to only be something that we look forward to ‘someday’. He wants us to live and experience heaven on earth today.
So I asked Him how.
Through the darkness of grief, how do I live heaven on earth?
He opened my heart to hundreds of possibilities and this post was the very first way. Sharing the immense beauty of heaven with others who are going through depression and sadness or stress and anxiety. I needed to get myself up, dust myself off and realize that my grief is not unique.
I needed to focus on others.
I needed to focus on Jesus.
Simple acts of serving and loving are a huge way of living heaven on earth. Two words that perfectly describe Jesus. He was constantly serving during His ministry here on earth and then with a sinless, pure, unconditional love~
He died in the cross for all humanity and it’s only because of Him that heaven is possible. Philippians 2
In order to experience heaven on earth we must realize our great need for God’s presence, provision, love, redemption, grace, peace and mercy.
Heaven is Jesus. Plain and simple.
Every one of us needs Him.
When I fixed my thoughts on all these things, the beautiful light of heaven and God’s glory broke through my dark and empty heart and through the praise and thankfulness of worship I truly felt heaven on earth.
And that made me want to share that joy and happiness with all of you. Everywhere we go we have the opportunity to share a piece of ourselves. We can choose to share sadness or grumpiness and allow it to rub off on everyone we come in contact with or we can choose to switch our focus to Jesus and share the crazy joy and happiness that He gives. Do we even realize the power our attitudes hold? Can you imagine if we all chose to share the good? To share the light of Jesus and His joy as the holidays approach?
That’s heaven on earth guys.
Love, joy, serving, sharing.
We are His body. Let’s make sure heaven is shining from the inside out bringing glorious light to all the darkness so many are going through today.
If you are feeling the weight of that darkness, let me introduce you to Jesus. Let me help you experience heaven on earth. Reach out to me today and allow me to share from God’s word what that means.
And if you already know Jesus, worship Him right now in this moment. Thank and praise Him. Share His beauty and joy. Feel heaven wash over you today.
Let’s carry it with us wherever we go and through everything we do because joy is the serious business of heaven,
the joy that only Jesus can bring.
“Joy is the serious business of heaven.”CS Lewis.
It was the sweetest visit.
The time went by way too fast, but it was precious. Three full years, almost to the day. Right down my street. He came and he stayed, with no rush or agenda. Just sitting, visiting and reminiscing.
We laughed so much. Sometimes we cried. We went on Father Daughter “dates” and drank the best cup of Main Street coffee (his favorite). I rocked with him every summer night on his porch. I signed every note and card “Daddy’s Little Girl”. He told me so many stories about his life that I never knew.
I didn’t think I could love him more than I already did. His visit changed all that, and my love grew deeper every day.
I wanted happiness for him, yet even through the fun times and the laughter, there was always a bit of loneliness in his eyes for home. For his sweetheart.
At times I could tell he was physically in pain, but he would never complain. He always smiled. He always laughed. He joked with me and he worried about me. Each conversation was like a comforting hug. Each “goodnight text” and each “good morning” Santa emoji made me smile.
I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay long, but in my heart I had hoped it would be longer.
He didn’t like goodbyes, so the day he left shouldn’t have been a surprise. He wouldn’t have wanted to say goodbye. He wouldn’t have wanted any sadness, so he quietly left. He went home. Home to his sweetheart. Home to his Father.
I didn’t want him to leave. The pain seems unbearable to not have him here with me anymore. I wonder if the tears will ever stop. At times I am completely broken and feel I can’t go on.
He moved in, right down my street on October 6, the week of Homecoming. We got to watch the school parade together. He got to see his great grandchildren marching and calling “Hi Pops!”
Three years later on October 8 he left.
The week before Homecoming.
Now he is truly Home.
And I think of him and how happy he is to be there. No more pain or loneliness or sadness. His little girl could never have taken that away from him while he was here, no matter how hard I tried.
I’m so thankful God gave us that three year visit. What a precious, happy time. I know without a doubt that I will see him again. I will get to go to his home and it won’t just be a visit. We will have eternity to laugh together with our Heavenly Father. No more tears or sadness, pain or loneliness.
It was the very best visit. Every day mattered. I’m so glad I realized that sooner than later. I’m so glad I rode my bike down to his house every day. I’m so glad I cooked him meals and took him to doctor appointments. I’m so glad he got three wonderful years with his grandkids and great grandkids. I’m so glad I didn’t have to say goodbye. It was just a visit and I will see him again soon. He isn’t gone forever, just for a while.
Thank you Jesus for allowing him to visit me. Thank you Jesus for writing me a love letter that gives me the assurance that this was not goodbye. Thank you Jesus for preparing a home for him. Thank you Jesus for preparing a home for me. Not a home on Prospect Street in Caseville. A home on streets of gold. Next door to my daddy in the presence of our Father.
He isn’t home in heaven today because he was such a great dad or grandpa. He’s not home because he went to church or tried his best to be good. He’s home because of Jesus taking away his sins on the cross. He’s home because he knew he was a sinner that needed a Savior. Jesus transformed his heart and life.
All of us are truly just visiting. This world isn’t our home for eternity. We don’t ever have to say a final goodbye. I’d love for you to know that you can have a home with my dad and my Heavenly Father someday. I’d love for you to meet the man that made my heart so happy and the Father who’s joy is my strength.
We can be free of the fear of death because of Jesus.
That’s something my daddy would’ve wanted you to know.
No sad goodbyes.
Just a sweet and precious visit.
The raw humanity of grief has overwhelmed my soul the last few weeks.
My heart feels such a hurting emptiness. My emotions have gone from despair to anger to joy, almost as if I’m on a roller coaster.
Despair that I will never say I love you to my dad again, or visit with him on his porch. No texts, no meals together, no more reminiscing about the beautiful life God blessed us with. Despair at the feeling that my childhood has been taken from me and I am left alone without the comfort of a mom or a dad to love me, as only a mom and dad can.
Anger when others have told me God won’t give me more than I can handle. Anger that someone would tell my kids they shouldn’t be so broken hearted. Anger when others have told me my dad wouldn’t want me sad, or how much sweeter heaven gets every day.
My selfish heart wants that sweetness back. My selfish heart wants them here with me again.
I am ashamed to even admit this.
I know in my heart that the despair and the anger are not where God wants me to stay, but I also know He understands. He understands the despair. He understands the anger. When you lose someone you loved with all your heart, He understands the tears.
The tears fell this week.
I cried out to God.
I told Him I don’t want to be strong,
I just want my dad back.
I begged God to help me.
As I cried out to Him, somehow through the tears and the despair, through the anger and the weeping~joy came.
Joy because God showed me how very much He loves me. His love is infinitely greater than my own. It’s infinitely greater than the love of my mom or my dad.
God’s love is greater than life itself.
As I wept over the fact that I lost my dad so close to Christmas and that we would not be sharing our favorite holiday together, as I tried to hold on to hope amidst the ache my heart felt~God reminded me of a song my daughter sang last Christmas Eve.
A song my dad loved.
I have listened to that song over and over again this week.
The words have filled me with unexplainable joy~
“Wondrous Gift of heaven, the Father sends the Son. Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love.
He will carry our curse~
and death He’ll reverse~
so we can be daughters and sons.
Who would’ve dreamed, or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands? The Giver of life, born in the night revealing God’s glorious plan.
To save the world.
To save the world.”
He knew the pain of death and separation from our loved ones would be a pain we could never bear on our own. He knew the sin of the world would bring death. And so~
He sent His Son.
God sent His Son to save the world.
He sent His Son to save me.
He sent His Son to save you.
That is the joy I will focus on.
The joy of the wondrous gift God gave me. The gift of His Son. He reversed death and gave me the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him. The gift of being carried home to my people someday. The gift of being in the presence of God almighty. The gift of falling into the arms of my Jesus, my Savior and my Redeemer. The gift of knowing that my mom and my dad are in Gods presence even now.
Because God gave His only begotten Son.
The rawness of my broken heart will probably never go away until the day I see Jesus, but I will cling to that joy in the brokenness because those I miss so very much are in the presence of Jesus.
And one day I will be too. I can never stop thanking Him for such a beautiful gift.
I miss my dad~
but I am God’s daughter.
He is a Father to the fatherless.
He is my Father, a Father of infinite love.
Love greater than life itself.
Do you think you are stronger than Jesus or more powerful than God?
The majority of people reading this would laugh and say no.
I would laugh and say no. But I’d be wrong.
I know I have written about this recently, but in my heart I believe someone needs this today~
because I needed this today. Again.
Satan has a way of twisting my thoughts and subtly making me believe that I have more power than Jesus does.
Do you want to know how?
By making me believe that I’m a big disappointment to God because I’m not doing enough to earn His favor.
What’s wrong with this mindset?
Good works are not wrong. They become wrong when we begin to believe that in doing these things God will love us more, He will answer our prayers or He will bless our lives. They become wrong when we believe if we don’t do these things He will be angry with us or even punish us.
And in believing that lie, we give the power to ourselves.
Read that again~
WE GIVE THE POWER TO OURSELVES. Somehow we believe that our power trumps Christ’s. Matthew 28:18
It is only through placing our faith in Jesus and his shed blood on the cross that we are given grace. Ephesians 2:8-9
There’s not a single thing we can do that would make God love us more, because His unconditional love for us rests in the death of His Son on the cross and there is no love greater than that. John 15:13,
I John 4:10
Religions everywhere proclaim that if you just do more, God will be happy with you. Some teach that you have to dress a certain way or listen to the right kind of music. Sadly in the teaching, grace gets buried and good works and rules become the focus. We believe if we mess up the works, God will certainly chastise. With this mindset we tend to look down on others who do not obey our set of “rules” and trick ourselves into believing we are more righteous because of what WE do and not what CHRIST already did. In other religions the teachings switch to what you must do just to get into heaven. Confession to someone other than God, communion, steps and degrees of holiness, gaining God’s favor by giving to charities or serving (with the fear that this favor could be lost at any time). Once again, a religion of rules that buries grace.
All the while the religions are teaching that what we are doing somehow outweighs what Jesus already did.
Here’s the difference~
JESUS ISN’T A RELIGION.
JESUS IS A RELATIONSHIP.
It is certainly wonderful to have good works, but not out of guilt or want of reward. Our works should be an outpouring of our love for our Savior.
Please hear me friend.
You are not stronger than Jesus.
There is nothing you can do that could earn you a ticket to heaven.
You do not have that power.
There is nothing you do that can separate you from God’s love.
You do not have that power.
Once you have accepted that Jesus is the only way to heaven and truly believe that God’s gift in sacrificing His Son is the only gift of grace~and not anything you could ever do~then you will be free from the bondage of works. Titus 3:4-7. You will be free from the chains of guilt and trying harder. You will have a relationship with a Father Who continually gives amazing grace. Who will never leave you. Who will always love you.
No matter how hard we try we will always fail because we are human. We measure God’s standards by our human standards but praise God, He is not human and we aren’t Jesus. Psalm 103:10-14.
I too often find myself scared that God is angry with me. Scared that I screwed up again. So I try a little harder. I do a little more, but I fail time after time. All of this really hit home for me last summer. We took all 5 of our grandchildren (ages 2-8) up north to our family cottage. Our grandchildren absolutely love it there. Excitement filled the car the entire drive up. As we got closer they began chanting “Higgins lake, Higgins lake” over and over with smiles on their faces. The cottage isn’t anything spectacular. It’s a tiny two bedroom on a lot in the woods, but to our grandchildren it’s everything. It’s memories and love and time with family. We didn’t make them do a single thing to enter that cottage when they got there. We allowed them in because we love them. They are family. The following day Mike and I were surprised to see those kids outside raking and pulling weeds. They were working as hard as their little bodies would allow. With smiles on their faces. I asked why they were doing it and Ethan’s reply was “for Bapa, because we love him so much”
Ya that brought tears.
Do u see where I’m going here? Yes we need to realize how sinful we are but the moment we do and we ask God for forgiveness and for the gift of His salvation through His Son’s shed blood on the cross, we will always have a home in heaven~ because we are family. We become God’s child. We will be excited about our walk with God. We will want to serve and pray and give out of sheer love for our Savior.
Not for reward. Not out of guilt or shame or worry of punishment.
Simply out of love. The closer we get to Jesus, the more love out pours from our hearts and we find rest in His power to save us from ourselves.
AND THAT MY FRIEND IS GRACE.
Galatians 2:16-21, II Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 3:7-12.
Do you know how to pray?
I’m confessing my faults here.
It doesn’t always come easy for me.
I’m not a morning person at all,
and I’m not a social butterfly. Two things that really seem to hinder my prayer life at times.
I’ve written articles on this before but even after 54 years, I can’t say I’ve got it down.
I don’t wake up and automatically talk to God. I’m one of those “don’t talk to me for 2 hours” kind of non-morning people.
I wish when that alarm went off I was praising Jesus instead of grumbling all the way to the coffee maker.
From the moment I wake up, a thousand thoughts run through my head. The first ten or twenty are usually “I want to go back to sleep”, but then I start thinking ahead about my day and my schedule.
I have a hard time just sitting and being still. My hands are always doing something. My mind is always thinking ahead. For me, bible reading comes easy. It’s a task that I am physically doing.
Prayer not so much.
I am an introvert, a quiet thinker but not a big talker.
For some reason I dread even talking on the phone. I’ve heard that women talk way more than men, but in my case my husband must say three times the words I do in a day.
And then, as soon as I do start talking to God, my mind begins to wander and I’m thinking of everything I want to accomplish that day.
I know that’s not God, that’s Satan trying to limit my prayer life. He knows what our weaknesses are and he knows how to use them against us.
When I think of goals, I often think about the account of Moses shining so brightly after he talked to God. Deep down that is my desire. To just shine for Jesus. To just talk to Him so big and so often that everyone knows He is my Jesus. He is my everything.
Listening to sermons and reading devotions and going to church can all motivate but having a personal one on one time with Jesus is the only thing that will truly help us get to know God and learn what it means to talk to Him as a Father and Friend.
To shine from the inside out.
You might be completely different than I am. Prayer might come easy to you but Bible reading is harder. Either way, I hope these next tips can challenge you as you talk to God on a day to day basis.
1. First and foremost, I want you to ask yourself~am I a child of God? I know that I mentioned in my last article that my first tip will always be to ask God for help, but before you can
do that~ Do you know if you are
truly His child? We are not all
“good”. All of us have sinned.
We are born sinners. Romans
3:12,23. From that tiny white lie
that you told to the murderers
on death row. We were all born
with a sin nature and can never
be good enough or do enough
good deeds to somehow make it
to heaven when we die.
That’s why Jesus had to come
and die for our sins. He paid the
debt we owed to God for all the
wrong we’ve ever done. We
have to believe in Him, repent
and receive Him to be
permanently forgiven of our sins
and become God’s child.
Romans 10:9&10. This isn’t a
“get out of jail free” card or a
ticket you hand to God when
you die that says “I said a
prayer, so I get one free pass to
heaven”. This is a true prayer of
repentance and forgiveness
from the heart that leads to a
beautiful relationship with God
for all of eternity. John 3:16. If
you don’t have a relationship
with God, the rest of this article
will be of no help to you. If this is
something you have questions
about, please message me. With
all my heart I would love to talk
to you further about this.
~So, with that being said~
2. ASK God for help. If you don’t know where to start, if you don’t know what to say. If you feel like you are talking to a wall and you can’t feel His presence. KEEP asking for help. Every single day. All day. Keep asking. God wants a relationship with you. He wants you to communicate with Him all day long and He wants to help you with this. Pursue Him and don’t give up. Romans 8:26
3. Get to know God better by reading His words. I wrote a post about this that you can read here~ https://www.cbcofcaseville.org/blog/read-through-the-bible
A big part of the problem many
people have with prayer is that
they don’t really know God. You
might know about Him but until
you open His word and read
about His tremendous love for
you, prayer will not become
real to you.
4. Make it a habit to talk to Him all day long. Prayer doesn’t have to be a special time set aside. Prayer is simply talking to God. Talk to Him, cry with Him, sing with Him. Sit in silence and listen to Him. Thank Him. Prayers of thanksgiving can change everything about your prayer life. I encourage you to read my post about that here~ https://www.cbcofcaseville.org/blog/a-prayer-that-can-change-your-life#comments
All of these things are a part of
prayer. His presence is ALWAYS
with you, so why not talk to Him
5. Once you are a child of God, nothing can separate you from His love. Romans 8:39, John 10:28&29. You will always be His child but if you know deep down that you have sin in your life, make sure you ask Him to forgive you and restore your relationship. Psalm 66:18.
Just like in any relationship, if
you have wronged someone,
that relationship can’t move
forward and flourish until you
ask for forgiveness.
Now that we got past some basics, here are a few new things God showed me this week about my own prayer life.
1. Quit viewing it as a job, a duty or a mandate and start viewing it as an expression of love. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard on the importance of bible reading and prayer. ~You need to read and pray~ has been ingrained into me since junior high. It seemed as if it was almost portrayed as a command and if that command was not followed, punishment would ensue. As the years went by, I didn’t realize I began to view prayer as a duty to God. A job. Something every Christian is “supposed” to do. Prayer can too easily become mechanical. This is not what God intended at all. Think about the person you love most on this earth. Do you ever think about talking to them as a duty? No, that’s ridiculous. We WANT to talk to them. It comes natural because we love them so much. That is how it should be with God. We should wake up excited to speak to Him. We should want to share everything with Him about our day, we should lay all our burdens and anxieties at His feet. He should be the first person we want to go to when problems arise and when overwhelming happiness floods our souls. All because we love Him and all because He loves us.
2. I’ve heard women say that it’s too hard to talk to someone who is not physically there with with them, yet we talk to ourselves all the time. Think about that. Let it sink in.
Our inner thoughts command
our steps without us even
realizing it. Women have
thousand of thoughts running
through their minds at once. It’s
how we were created. Not all our
thoughts are good. Not all our
thoughts are uplifting. We can
beat ourselves up with negative
thinking. We listen to our
criticizing inner voices and we
believe them. Isaiah 55:8&9,
Jeremiah 17:9. Why is it so easy
to talk to ourselves and to listen
to those inner voices, yet
convince ourselves that we can’t
talk to God or hear from Him?
Whenever my inner thoughts
start getting the best of me, I
have tried to make it a habit to
stop listening to them and bring
all those thoughts to God. 2
Corinthians 10:5. I talk to Him
about everything going through
my mind. It’s so much easier to
give the burdens to Him. I Peter
5:7. Try this practice the next
time your inner thoughts are
gaining a negative control on
your life. Romans 12:2
3. I’ve read a lot of helpful tips on what to do if your mind wanders like mine does. Things like praying out loud, praying in a room with no distractions, kneeling when you pray etc. What has helped me most is to first ask the Holy Spirit for help, and second to remind myself that Jesus is literally right there with me. I can talk to him so much easier when I picture Him there with me. I can laugh and I can allow Him to hold me as I sob tears of heartache or shame. Because He is right there. Once your mind gets a hold of this truth, prayer is life changing.
We are all created different. God knows this. He understands this. Our prayer lives will all look different. There isn’t a magic cookie cutter mold that God expects us to master. God loves you just the way you are and He will love your conversations with Him, because He will know that’s you. He knows everything about you. He knows the deepest thoughts and feelings of our hearts. Nothing is hid from Him, so why not be real and raw when you talk to Him?
Don’t try to pray like someone else.
Let your prayers be the words your heart speaks.
You pray you.
And it will change your life.
Don't ever let Him become just a nonessential habit.
A check list.
Let His love break you to the point that nothing in this world compares.
Determine that each day you will not talk to others until you talk to Him.
When you speak to Him in public, or in private, may you never forget that you are speaking to the King of Kings~ your Almighty Father.
Focus on that thought every single time you hear the words "let's pray".
That every thought, every word, every action and every reaction is all abandoned to Him and His glory.
Let His love be blinding in its brilliance as it shines from your heart.
Let Him be so real to you that you can hear His voice in every decision, that you can feel His presence no matter where you are that you can feel His peace no matter what you are going through.
Be addicted to Him and Him only.
Let thoughts of the cross and His love for you bring you to your knees.
Worship Him incessantly.
Praise Him endlessly.
Pray to Him continually.
Don't ever take His grace for granted.
Let His mercy move you and His Word always awe you.
Be so consumed with Christ that thankfulness is always in your thoughts and on your lips.
Always have the selfless heart of the Servant your Savior was.
See the world through the eyes of your Savior as He suffered on the cross for your sins and mine.
Don't ever get used to it.
Let it be renewed in your heart every minute of every day.
What does Love require?
It required everything.
And that’s exactly what He gave.
Make Him your Everything.