Running for the Toy Aisle

The other day I had my youngest daughter in Walmart and as soon as she saw the toy section glowing like a beacon to the mother ship, she began tugging my hand and running up ahead of me, dragging me like an anchor behind her. In her eagerness to find the Barbies, she pulled me so hard I was afraid she would trip and get hurt.

the toy aisle

Do you ever try to run ahead of God? I know I have. I prayed for years that God would reveal His plan for my life. When He finally did, I got so excited that I began tugging and pulling on those nail-scarred hands. “Come on, Daddy! I’ve got to get to the goodies!” Kind of like Abraham and Sarah. God told them that He would give them a son in their old age. They got so excited that they jumped ahead of His Master plan and tried to accomplish the promise in their own way. 

The results were disastrous.

I recently heard David Jeremiah say that even when discovering God’s best for your life, is is necessary to have a time of ‘waiting’. Think about this: Jesus trained his disciples for three years before declaring them ready. And although they were tremendously excited about Jesus, they didn’t fully understand God’s plan. They were easily confused. Ready to take on the world one minute, but scratching their heads the next. It took three years of preparation before they had achieved enough understanding and wisdom to tackle God’s work. Even then, they often got it wrong. faith in god, faith in his timing

There are times when we need to be comfortable with the waiting. Embrace the promise of the future, while resting in the present. 

As hard as it is, don’t run for the toy aisle yet. Sometimes it’s enough to know it’s there and that your Heavenly Father will walk you to it when He sees you are ready. God is never early and He’s never late. He’s always on time.

“My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” ~Psalm 62:5

Tell me about a time when you rushed ahead of God’s plan. What were the results?

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A Special Father’s Day gift from me to you!

daddy and me

I love my Daddy. He’s my hero and has taught me so much about what it means to have courage, patience and a heart that beats for Jesus. He’s a caring pastor, husband, father, son, friend and Papa. When he smiles, with his blue eyes twinkling, I catch glimpses of my Heavenly Father. It’s easy to grasp God’s love for me because it was so beautifully modeled by my own Dad.
daddy 2

Some of you may have a broken relationship with your earthly father. Some of you may not have been hoisted on his strong shoulders or been treated with tender affection. Some of you may still bear the scars of abuse and a child-like innocence that was lost far too young.

Whatever your story, whatever your pain, please know God is there. He loves you. He’s holding His arms open wide for you, ready to give you all the tender hugs, protection and love your bruised heart has always longed for. And for those of us who had the joy of an amazing earthly father, thank God for him. Such men are a priceless treasure.

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” ~Psalm 27:10

papa and the girls

And if you need a giggle, check out my special gift to you for Father’s Day below…my tune “Daddy’s Hair”.

Be blessed, my friend.

Caffeinated Spirituality

I’m a lot more spiritual after I’ve had caffeine.

I know it’s sad but true. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve joked about it. It usually gets a laugh because we all know what it’s like to stumble out of bed, hair tangled and blinking through puffy eyes, unready and unprepared to face another day.

cranky-early-morningSunlight seems like an offense. We mumble and grumble through our morning routine, grouching at loud noises or quick tempers. We snap for others to leave us alone until we’ve had our coffee, our Mountain Dew or whatever our stimulant of choice may be. I’ve even been guilty of calling it my morning devotional.

And then we get our caffeine and all is right with the world. Images come into focus. Our droopy countenance brightens. We have patience again. Colors seem brighter.

Or maybe that’s just me.

And even though I joke about it often, something about the simple revelation niggles at the corners of my mind.

I suppose it’s because deep down, I know that if my spirituality is based on physical stimulants, I’m not really spiritual at all. If my ability to be patient and kind with my children hinges on pouring Diet Coke down my throat, I’m not keeping in step with the Spirit of God.

Fruit of the Spirit is not based on emotion. It doesn’t come naturally. Agape love, the kind of love God tells us to filter all we do through, is an action. It’s choosing to do what is right despite my preferences, opinions or crankiness. It’s knowing that I have God’s Spirit inside me at 5 a.m. as well as 3 p.m. and choosing to let Him have his way in every interaction.

It’s easy to say, “I’d be a lot nicer to my co-worker if he would just show me the tiniest amount of respect” but that is not fruit of the Spirit. Or “If my family weren’t so dysfunctional, I could love them better.” Nope, not fruit of the Spirit either. If our ability to show the love of God hinges on any external factors, we aren’t keeping in step with His Spirit. Ouch.

Every day not surrendered to God is surrendered to the flesh by simple default. Don’t let your circumstances determine your choices. Live above. Live beyond. Live in God’s grace.

Now where is my decaf latte?

coffee crazy

There’s No Pit So Deep…

Sometimes we’re so busy living in shame, beating ourselves up for our past, that we neglect to remember what God forgives.

Can Jesus forgive you if you’ve had an abortion? Absolutely.
Can Jesus forgive you if you’ve dabbled in drugs and alcohol and are now battling addiction? Without a doubt.
Can Jesus forgive you if you’ve had an affair? Of course.
Can Jesus forgive you if you’ve delved into the dark world of pornography and contaminated your mind? Yep.
Can Jesus forgive the backslidden, the judgmental, the prostitute, the lukewarm Christian, the legalist or the abuser? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

He can and He has.

Satan is the great accuser. Not only does he go to God and accuse us, he accuses God. He hisses, “God couldn’t possibly love you now. Look what you’ve done.” “You don’t deserve to be happy.” “Your mistakes are too great. There’s no going back now.”

Wrong. Satan is a liar. Don’t believe him. Don’t even listen to him. Jesus already took the sin of every wrong thing you’ve ever done and ever will do and nailed it to His cross. It’s finished. Paid. Done. Believing the enemy’s lies that God couldn’t forgive you is like saying that Jesus’ blood isn’t strong enough to wash you clean. God knew we would mess up. That’s why He sent a Savior.

For the contaminated, He washes away the grime until we’re whiter than snow.
For the broken, He binds up our wounds.
For the empty, He fills us.
For the hurting, He soothes.
For the tattered heart, He sews it back with threads of grace.
For the rejected, He embraces us.
For the fallen, He lifts us back to our feet.
For the depressed, He gives hope.
For the unwanted, He adopts.
For the weary, He gives rest.
For the unlovable, He says, “I love you.”

“There is no pit so deep, God’s love is not deeper still.” ~Betsy Ten Boom

Be blessed, my friend.

Stop It!

by Tara Johnson

Have you seen the “Stop It” sketch starring Bob Newhart? A friend recently showed it to me on Youtube and I confess, it left me in stitches.

Let me give you the quick run-down: Bob Newhart is playing a therapist and a woman enters his office as a first time patient. He tells her he only charges five dollars for a five minute therapy session. She looks baffled but pleased. How often can you get a deal like that?

He listens to her confess her terrifying phobia of being trapped in a box, a debilitating neurosis that has left her life in a cycle of paralyzing fear. After nodding, he tells her he has two words that will change her life.

She eagerly grabs her pencil and paper to write down his advice. She watches him carefully, ready to absorb his wisdom. After a pause, he leans in and yells, “Stop it!” The woman looks dumbstruck.
Image
With every phobia or fear she confesses his answer is always the same. “Stop it!” In the end, and fearing he can’t get through to her because of her frustration with his therapy advice, he yells, “Stop it or I’ll lock you in a box!”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw(external link)

Although the skit had me laughing, I confess a niggling unease as I watched it. An unease because I fear this is what is happening in many of our churches.

Whatever the past abuse or trauma, no matter the circumstances or crushing blows the enemy launches against his people, too often we give this very same advice to the hurting. “Stop it!” “Don’t do that.” “Do what’s right and stop doing what’s wrong.” It’s the old parental, “Because I said so” routine.

Churches are filled with hurting people, broken people desperately seeking help, love and guidance. They come and offer their shattered hearts and expose their secret shames, their addictions, their struggles and scars. They reveal the most vulnerable parts of themselves and instead of compassion and mercy, they are met with a cold list of dos and don’ts.

Too often, our responses resemble Newhart the therapist. “Well, stop it!” Oh, if only sin were simply a matter of will power. If that were the case, we would have no need of a Savior.

If we aren’t careful, we can resemble the one James spoke of who said, “Go be warmed and filled” but offer no food or clothes. Instead of compassion, we give rules. Instead of being willing to be an accountability partner, we just tell them to read their Bible more. Instead of giving them the tools they need to break free of addiction, we heap guilt on their shoulders.

When hurting Christians don’t fit into the ‘mold’ we’ve created, it creates fear. In general, people become fearful when things are out of their control. So the easy way to gain control again is to create black and white rules. Follow the rules, check your list and everything will be rosy. But the enemy continues to throw his fiery darts and the wounded waffle between confusion and guilt. In short, fear leads to legalism. And legalism has never, ever healed a shattered heart.

Legalism is basically the law. And if the Law couldn’t save us, why do we continue to demand it of others? The problem with legalism is that it leaves no room for grace.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t obey what God’s Word says is right. Far from it! Obedience is key to finding freedom in our walk with God. And yes, sometimes a person needs a good, blunt, spiritual kick. Unfortunately, most kicks are not because we sense that’s what the hearer needs, but is an ungraceful, fleshly response when we are frustrated. Truth must always be paired with love and gentleness. Always. If we can’t be said in love, it shouldn’t be said at all.

Our journeys with God are a process. It’s marked with lavish grace and many failures. Is it frustrating when those around keep doing the opposite of what they know to be right and good? Absolutely. But then again, it must grieve God’s heart when we disobey too.

davidWhen Michaelangelo completed his statue of David, an admirer stood staring at the masterpiece in awe. The story goes that the man turned to Michaelangelo and asked, “However did you create such a glorious work?” Michelangelo’s reply? “It was easy. I just chipped away the parts that didn’t look like David.” (paraphrased)

That’s what grace is— walking alongside God and letting Him chip all the hard places within each of us until we resemble his Son. It isn’t automatic. It doesn’t come naturally and Satan will do his best to discourage us. Our journeys are a cycle of failed attempts, victories, grace and mercy. Show the grace that you want to receive. Love like Jesus. And if you think you can’t, well, just stop it! Through Him, you can!

Have you ever fallen prey to the “Stop It” syndrome? Do you think it’s easier to see in others or ourselves? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Apology Letter: The Day I Learned to Stop Being Dr. Phil

There it was. The screaming. The wailing. The crying. Audible proof that my two girls had engaged in another battle of wills as they cleaned their room. I braced myself for the onslaught of “she said”s and “It’s all her faults”s as I climbed the stairs to their room. Sure enough, one was accused of pushing her work off on the other. The pushee called the pusher a creep. The pusher called the pushee a jerk…you get the idea. cranky 2

As I listened to their wails of injustice, I groaned in spirit. I know I’m not alone. Moms all over the world groaned with me. Thankfully, I’ve reached the point in my journey through motherhood where I no longer get sucked into their spiral. I stay calm, listen, am patient with them but still, the fighting wears me out. I get tired of trying to play mediator. Tired of trying the same old tactics. And since they both refused to budge their stubborn little hearts, I knew I would have to intervene. What would it be this time? Making them compliment each other? Time-outs? Handcuffing them together until they learned to get along?

tired mom

I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I want you both to sit down, open your Bibles and write out the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 while I go figure out what to do. No talking, no fighting, just write.” (You know 1 Corinthians 13, right? It’s the whole “Love is patient, love is kind, is not easily angered…” Yeah, that one.) I then walked downstairs, searched for chocolate and tried to come up with a suitable solution. Honestly, my Mommy reserves were tapped dry.

After fifteen minutes of chocolate-filled quiet, I trudged my way back upstairs, determined to lay down the law. After all, they had to learn how to get along. What would happen to them after their Dad and I died? Would they spend the rest of their lives embroiled in legal battles simply because I failed? This was it. I would make them understand. I would make them love each other…whether they liked it or not.

As I approached the top of the stairs, I heard soft giggles. Entering the room, I saw my oldest daughter slide a note to her sister. They weren’t supposed to be passing notes! Didn’t they realize this was serious, soul-searching discipline time?

Snatching the note away, I read the scrawled writing…and then smiled.

The note read: “Sorry…I was kinda acting like a jerk. Please forgive me. Love u…”. I turned the note over to see her sister’s response. “Sorry that I said you were a lyieir (liar) and a jerk. P.S. Can you forgive me?”

beth's apology letter

I glanced down to see both of them smiling at me, their Bibles open to Corinthians. “I don’t understand. I thought I was going to have to come up here and knock your heads together.”

Bethany giggled. “Nah, God did that for you. Hey, Callie, you wanna play with me?” And just like that, all was forgiven.

How often do we think we have to fix things for others? Sometimes I think we give ourselves too much credit for being the answer to the world’s problems. We don’t have to drop that perfect pearl of wisdom to help a heartbroken friend. We just need to love them.

It’s not up to us to be everyone’s go-to guru for advice. That’s God’s job and I certainly don’t want to play god with anyone’s life. The responsibility is far too great for my feeble shoulders.

It’s certainly not up to us to convict others when they stray. Only God can do that. Just like the situation with my kids, I could beg, plead, threaten and coerce all day, but all the jewels in my Mommy-wisdom box were no match for the simple, convicting power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Perhaps instead of thinking we should be the Christian world’s Dr. Phil, we should just be loving folks to the feet of Jesus. Encourage, lead, but let God do the convicting. He does a much better job of fixing things than we ever could anyways.

Have you ever struggled with trying to fix everyone’s problems? What was the outcome? Tell me…I would love to hear about it! What do you do when the Mommy-well is tapped dry?