…But God

28336287_815976635255540_3059514132005764890_oRead:  “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” Acts 3:15

Consider: Easter is around the corner. I find it curious that on my 2018 calendar Easter and significant day’s leading up to Easter are actually sharing their days. I’ll give you a clue. You may have seen couples out for a romantic evening on Valentines with well placed ashes on their foreheads. And I’m wondering what angst may be displayed on Easter Sunday in the good humor of April Fools’ day. Also, in my family Good Friday is the same day as our youngest child’s 21st birthday. As I consider this I smile because it is just like Jesus to  move into my calendar and my life and remind me that He is the author of my life and wants to be a part of it. He is the author of my life and wants me to trust Him, thank Him and tend to thirsty souls.

No matter what is on my calendar or going on around me, I want to trust that God is working. Acts 3:15 says, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” Now if I pull out from this verse only the words “You…but God”, I am reminded to not focus on myself and what I’ve done or on others and what they’ve done. But instead to focus on what God has done.

Have you had times in your life when circumstances were tough, but God brought tremendous strengthening and growth. Or perhaps the unimaginable happened and you still don’t understand, but God has given you peace and hope that He will bring beauty out of the ashes.

I was sitting in a small group discussion a few weeks ago listening as a mother and daughter shared about a time in their lives that was filled with hurt, pain and addiction. Their story captivated me and as I leaned in to hear more, the mother explained, “But God brought beauty out of the ashes.”  The whole tone of their testimony expressed gratitude. I didn’t hear them taking credit and explaining how they had done this or that to fix their lives. Instead, I heard, “but God”. I heard quiet acknowledgement that God brought healing.

Last month, before moving from Florida to Texas, I went for a sunrise walk on the beach. As I was walking, I received a text from a dear friend with this “but God” reminder. “Thinking about you and praying for you both as you make this next journey in your life. For some reason the woman at the well popped into my head this morning as I was thinking about you both. You may have some thirsty souls waiting for you at the end of your trip. How awesome that God has entrusted you both with drawing the water from the eternal spring. I know this is what you brought us 28 years ago as both of you began your journey here.”  My friend was good to challenge and remind me that God’s purpose for moving me is to remember to share Jesus with thirsty souls. Acknowledging “but God” moments and sharing them can ignite hope in the thirsty souls around us.

As Easter approaches remember “…..but God raised him from the dead”. Do you have a “but God” story to share? Who will you share it with? God raised the author of life from the dead and we can trust that He is working. We can thank Him when we see beauty come from ashes and we can remember to tend to the thirsty souls in our lives with the good news of Jesus.

Pray: Great and Mighty God we acknowledge that you can take whatever is going on in our lives and bring beauty from ashes. Thank you for raising Jesus from the dead and giving us a new life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

True Treasures

Beth Bible studyIt has been so meaningful to receive all the prayers and well wishes concerning our move to a new ministry work in Midland. What a blessed way to begin a new year and a new work with such affirmation and love. With every comment or message received I am reminded of sweet memories and the unique stories behind each relationship. All of this has reminded me that there are a few things I know for sure.

1. Connecting between friends is a true treasure in life this side of heaven.  To quote Alan Loy McGinnis in the Friendship Factor, “If we build more windows and fewer walls we will have more friends.

2. Connecting with Christ’s Church is a true treasure in life this side of heaven. This is where we have the chance to walk into people’s lives with the love and living truth of the gospel that has the power to change everything. I have benefited from and watched Christ’s Church love unconditionally and leave the changing to God. What a beautiful thing.

3. Connecting with God through His Word and prayer is a true treasure in life this side of heaven. I often wake up with an unsettled mind, but reading scripture and praying brings inexpressible comfort and direction to my unorganized thoughts. Since this month has been a whirlwind of moving preparations and goodbyes I knew I needed a simple and doable daily Bible study so I decided to read through the Proverbs a chapter a day  (31 chapters = 31 days in January). Proverbs gave wisdom to me for our new adventure.

There is so much good that can come from connecting with friends, Christ’s Church, and with God through prayer and scripture. Today my heart is full and thankful for all the reminders of the true treasures in life.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” ~Proverbs 24:3-4.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be Still and Know

1538784_10202061766479213_448304659_n

Read:

 

“Be still and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10a

 

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place call Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36

 

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,” Matthew 14:22-23

 

Consider:

Standing in the checkout line at my grocery store at 5:30 in the evening is to see a myriad of tense and tired faces lined with a multitude of concerns. The weight of their busy and distracted lives has them burdened and dominated by their circumstances and schedules, many of which I would imagine they believe they have no control over. Is there any hope? Jesus, through his words and example, shows us a way through.   If we can settle our minds, we can figure out what to do best with our time and our lives.

 

When Jesus went to Gethsemane Garden he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His circumstances were dire and inevitable. He kept his community close, but distanced himself enough from their demands and distractions to settle his mind and consider his priorities. His priorities guided him through and he was able to fulfill his purpose of saving the world.

 

Separating ourselves on a daily basis from our busy and distracted lives allows us to pause and consider our priorities. It is in those 10, 20 or 30 minute moments of stillness that we remember that God is… he simply is. And with this acknowledgment we turn to him and read his word. This form of self-care is not selfish. We are keeping ourselves from being overwhelmed by our busyness. We are pursuing the path God has called us to.

 

With this mindset, a mother will choose to let kitchen clean up wait and linger longer at the dinner table to laugh and enjoy a silly moment with her family. When we settle our minds, we are allowing ourselves to not be dominated by our circumstances. We have choices. We can choose to allow our priorities to show us how to navigate busy seasons.

 

Breathe:

Exhale being overly busy and distracted. Inhale doing the best you can and trusting God with the rest.

 

Pray:

Praise you, Jesus, for showing me how to settle my mind and live with purpose. Please help me to not waste my life by choosing anything that takes me off the path you have for me.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Choosing Perseverance

1513647_223800627806480_2134561882_nThe gymnasium atmosphere was filled with energy. Players dribbled up and down the court minus the sound of squeaky shoes. Instead a hand to rubber sound permeated the air as the players maneuvered their wheelchairs into position.

Growing up I watched many of these wheelchair basketball games played out at my neighborhood recreation center. There were also countless games I played in with my legs firmly beneath me. However, these players who relied almost entirely on their upper body strength taught me the meaning of the word perseverance. I would imagine that some of them had been in wheelchairs their entire lives while others had been placed there through accidents in life and war wounds. No matter the reason, perseverance had become a part of the atmosphere of their lives.

Persevering through and capitalizing on disappointment and heartbreak successfully, means acquiring new attributes. There is a strengthening of hope that can take place, just as the upper body muscles of the ball players were strengthened. When one has been dealt the crippling blows of life’s disappointments, reliance upon God gives perspective and strength.

Perhaps you look back over a hard period in your life when you experienced the unimaginable. When you look back, not to delve into self-pity, but for a momentary glance in the rear view mirror to note that God has been with you every step of the way. He carried you through. You are still here. The sage old song lyrics ring out:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

You may look back and realize that you are now more filled with wonder. You may have found that in your deepest sorrow and pain, you have found pleasure like never before in a sunrise, butterflies and the moon in the evening’s mist.

When everything you know to be true is questioned, God’s Word shines true and constant. Jesus answered the devil’s questions with scripture and won the battle. He was physically, mentally and emotionally weak, but the truth in scripture sustained Him. The truth in scripture can sustain you too.

Prayer is the gateway to hope. Prayer disciplines the heart that is struggling through disappointment, confusion, and unfulfilled dreams. Prayer disciplines the heart from becoming overwhelmed. As long as there is prayer, there is hope.

When perseverance becomes a part of the atmosphere of your life, you are not destroyed. In matters of faith scripture says:

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:39)

We gain perspective beyond the here and now and the strength to not succumb to self-pity all the while acknowledging that God was always there. Acknowledging that while we may have to play the game a little differently, we have acquired new attributes that were born out of our pain.

(Photo Cred: Micah Holland)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Rhythms

15541902_612817132238159_7142898464247370504_nIf all of your life is visible to others, from the time we get up in the morning until we fall into bed at night, then we’ll be as unsteady as a ship with no keel. Indeed, the more of us is invisible, hidden from the world in quiet, in study, in planning and in prayer, the more effective our visible life will be.”–A. Ortland

Tucked away in Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are these words, “…and find out what pleases the Lord” (5:10). A fresh new year is approaching and with it most of us encounter pre-determined new rhythms: a new fiscal year, a new semester, a new calendar in a new planner and the desire for a fresh new start. I am a Christian and as such I truly want to please the Lord in this new year. But how do I know what pleases the Lord? Daily reading of the Bible, intentional prayer and journaling for the purpose of processing what I am learning from scripture and what insights I am gaining through prayer all help me to know what it means to please the Lord.

When I read one Bible verse or take the time to do an in-depth study on a particular topic I come into contact with truth. “Be very careful, then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) How is reading the Bible different from scrolling a blog or reading a news report? The former is spiritual and never changing, the later is merely gaining knowledge or opinion. Hebrews 5:12 explains, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” When I approach Bible study for the purpose of finding out what pleases the Lord in a particular area of my life I am laying that area at the Lord’s feet and asking Him to give me His wisdom above my own thoughts and attitudes.

Intentional prayer also helps me to know what pleases the Lord. “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (I John 5:14-15) I can seek to know His will in specific areas of my life by asking Him for wisdom. Just like when I seek for truth in His Word, I pray to know that truth and to have the strength to apply that truth in my life.

Journaling is a tool I use that helps to clear away distractions and to instead focus on the issue of the problem at hand. Psalm 119:15 explains, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. And verse 11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When I take my thoughts, desires and God’s truth and put them on paper I am meditating on and wrestling with my reality and how I may respond to it in a way that pleases the Lord. In Psalm 119:11 David wrote, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your will.” Journaling can be used as a tool to process through what are “worthless things” in my life and what is going to lead to pleasing the Lord.

Daily reading of scripture, intentional prayer and journaling what you are learning from scripture all help you to know what it means to please the Lord. There will be unknowns in the coming year. However, as a Christ follower you have the assurance that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. He is there for you in His Word and is always available to hear your prayers.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

God is Good

1401980_199771223542754_1963378960_oI was emerging from my morning quiet time with God when I stepped into the kitchen and laid this new realization on him, the realization that God is good. When he looked at me I could read his mind, “well yeah…”. I leaned against the counter and started the water boiling for another cup of hot tea. To this day, I can recall the clarity I felt. I looked at him and began to explain that when you have encountered the evil, ugly side of people it only magnifies the good in God. I wondered why I didn’t see this truth before. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Ps 34:8.

There are seasons of our lives that pass when darkness seems more prevalent. The pain and disappointments are experienced as steady blows, as though cornered in a boxing ring. We become bleary eyed and confused. And eventually Solomon’s words lift from the pages of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to search and a time to give up”. There is a time to give up searching for answers when circumstances are confusing. People do confusing and hurtful things, however the Lord is good, and there is no darkness or shadow in Him. James 1:16-17 says, “…the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” There are no shadows in God. He is entirely good.

I find myself saddened by the evil that I have witnessed and even the persistent reminder of my own failings. Perhaps this is what drives us to justify gossip and slander: the lie that somehow all of that evil in us will go away with the pointing of the accusing finger. And does this really help anyone feel better? Maybe for a brief moment, for accusing fingers always come back at us in the arguments played out in the mind. Peter writes, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” I Peter 2:1-3

It may be that I am late in coming to this understanding. Or maybe I am just now understanding this at a deeper level much the same as when an artist progresses from using primary colors to various tints, shades and tones bringing out the deeper understanding and meaning of a painting. Whatever the reason, what I am sharing with you is a new realization that has altered how I view evil in the world. I believe with all my being this deep truth; God is good.

So, during the hard times, the times when people aren’t good, when they tear down, when they allow their fear, insecurities and personal agendas to bruise the heart and soul of another, remember this: God is good. He is always good. If the lost person will take Him in, if the sinning saint will take Him in, God will heal. There is hope if we remember that the evil can be overcome with good. And there is only one that is truly good. God. “The Lord is my shepherd…I will fear no evil…surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

(Artwork by Ashley Holland)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homeschooling: Was it Worth it?

SCAN0058I must confess that I’ve been more emotional lately. Having completed his freshman year of college, I recently sent my son back to school thinking, “Okay, I think I’m finally getting used to him being a thousand miles away. Whew…now maybe life can settle back down to normal and I can be done with that adjustment.”  Well, the promise of that thought was short lived as my daughter walked into the room and asked, “When are we planning on having my high school senior pictures taken?” And so begins another adjustment!

I want to say upfront that I have looked forward to this season, often counting down the years.  However, I had a blind side….I didn’t realize just how much God had answered my prayer to knit our hearts together.  At this point my heart may be more knit to theirs, than theirs to mine.  There is a natural pulling away that is necessary as they move toward all their hopes and dreams. Never the less, the seams are pretty tight.

You see, we were together. A lot. Soon fifteen years of homeschooling will be behind me and I wonder, was it worth it? Was all that time together worth it? It might be a little soon to answer this question fully, but for now I say yes and here are five reasons why:

1. God used homeschooling to knit our hearts together. Homeschooling is not the only way this can happen in a family. But our decision to homeschool allowed us to spend a lot of time together in many life situations. I remember hearing a young adult woman speak years ago regarding her mother’s untimely death.  She explained that the years growing up with her mother were multiplied because of the sheer essence of time together homeschooling.

2. Much like filling out adoption papers caused us to wrestle with why we wanted children, homeschooling forced us to be intentional about what we wanted to teach our children.  The early years allow for great opportunities to teach as you go.  “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) Kids test and question. Therefore there is a need for a foundation to be laid during the early years upon which to have those hard, and sometimes even fun, conversations about the hot topics of their generation.  I always told my children that it wasn’t wrong to question because we aren’t afraid of the truth.  While my blood pressure might go up during some discussions, it is healthy for them to flesh out their beliefs with us.  I often start out at the front end of these conversations and thankfully my husband usually has more endurance to finish them!

3. Schooling at home allowed us to persistently hunt for each child’s area of greatest potential. In other words,  the way God designed them to go (Proverbs 22:6). With the goals of being warm, responsive, and setting an example, we tried to provide an environment that encouraged constructive work, play and service to others, as well as learning how to think. All the while we were looking for the skills and abilities God put into them and the best way to sharpen those abilities.

4. Homeschooling afforded us the opportunity to teach our children how to learn and how to love learning.  We believed, with the appropriate tools and the ability to learn independently, they would be able to gain information when they needed it.  It was a lot of fun exploring and learning with them.

5. Finally, we wanted to appeal to them often to choose Jesus as their Savior and to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as loving others as they love themselves.  Doing this in the context of homeschooling usually resulted in trying to incorporate a biblical perspective into all of life and serving together.  We believed it important to be very strategic in making this training a priority.

Yes, as I look back, I believe all that time together was worth it!  And as I look forward to life after homeschooling… I’ll just think about all the good that is to come.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments